posted about 1 month ago on OSNews
Google wants to put Android in the next wave of smart devices that'll be vying to fill up your home. It's launching a version of Android today called Android Things that can run on products like connected speakers, security cameras, and routers. The OS is supposed to make it easier for companies to start shipping hardware, since they'll be able to work with the Android dev tools they already know. Android Things is a new name, but the operating system itself isn't strictly new. It's basically an update and a rebranding to Brillo, an Android-based OS for smart devices and Internet of Things products announced a little more than a year and a half ago. Brillo has - publicly, at least - gone close to nowhere. It was more or less a no-show at CES last year, and there's been little mention of it since. Insert some quip about Google and naming here.

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posted about 1 month ago on OSNews
Copland was Apple's failed attempt to modernize the classic Mac OS in the mid 1990s. While parts of it would end up in Mac OS 8, the dream of a modern Mac operating system wouldn't be realized until after Apple bought NeXT. Copland is a really interesting (and sad) chapter in the Mac's history. Here are some documents I've collected over the years about it. A digital treasure trove if there ever was one.

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posted about 1 month ago on OSNews
Alarmed that decades of crucial climate measurements could vanish under a hostile Trump administration, scientists have begun a feverish attempt to copy reams of government data onto independent servers in hopes of safeguarding it from any political interference. There's a war going on. A war waged by religious extremists (of at least two major world religions), the extreme right, and fossil fuel-funded politicians, against the very foundations of our secular, post-Enlightenment, post-scientific revolution society. You think I'm exaggerating? I wish. Extreme right websites are asking their readers to pick up arms against scientists. That's where we are. Religious extremists, the extreme right, and fossil fuel-funded politicians know all too well that science, secularism, and a clear, non-negotiable separation between church and state are grave threats to their continued existence. We - as a species - have come a long way these past few hundred years, but it feels like today, with the all-out attack on science by these deplorable parts of our society, we are regressing backwards into the dark ages. Science is the only foundation of progress. Any who seek to erode this foundation are the enemy of the Enlightenment - mankind's greatest invention. Pick your side carefully.

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posted about 1 month ago on OSNews
Indus OS - a mobile phone operating system built in India - has become the country's second-most popular smartphone platform, surpassing Apple's iOS. That looks interesting. Now, it's not exactly a new operating system built from scratch, but the developers have tweaked the Android platform to meet the unique demands and culture of India. Oh.

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posted about 1 month ago on OSNews
"Funky Fantasy IV" is a 100% machine-translated version of Final Fantasy IV for the Japanese Super Famicom. The project is still unfinished, with little bits and pieces of untranslated menu text still strewn about, but all of the main and important text has been run through Google Translate. Looks like my venerable profession is safe. For now.

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posted about 1 month ago on OSNews
Google released a keyboard app for the iPhone some months back called Gboard, and everyone was wondering if it would come to Android. Well, now it has as the v6.0 update to Google Keyboard. It's not only a name change, though. There are a few important new features, including a search shortcut and true multi-language support. Finally - finally - Google adds true multi-language support to the official Android keyboard. iOS added this in - I believe - iOS 10. Are the sheltered men of Silicon Valley finally realising vast numbers of people live multilingual lives on a daily basis and that technology is woefully ill-equipped to deal with that fact? We'll know for sure once things like Wear and the Apple Watch no longer require full wipes and resets just to switch input languages.

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posted about 1 month ago on OSNews
"Adventuresome" is perhaps a kind way of describing Pebble's year: 2016 started in crisis. The year before, the once-profitable company dropped into the red, and hit the second half 2015 by not meeting its sales goals. Pebble would never be profitable again. In March of 2016, Migicovsky laid off a quarter of his staff of 160, just as the company moved from its cramped, loft-like Palo Alto headquarters into a gleaming, spacious new office tower in downtown Redwood City. In its optimism, the company had rented two floors; now it fit on just one. It turned out that both Pebble - and, incidentally, Apple - had misjudged the wearables market. The idea of an iPhone on the wrist hasn't caught on. The one killer app for wrist devices, at least so far, seems to be fitness. Active people find it useful to wear something that quantifies your biometrics and tracks your runs. Apple's emphasis on fashion and Pebble's on productivity and third-party innovation were costly detours - the smartwatch market is rooted in health and fitness. "We learned late, and Apple is learning this as well," says Migicovsky. (He acknowledges that notifications are perhaps the other key function smartwatches perform.) "We did not get this in 2014 - if we had come out then as the smartwatch fitness wearable, maybe it would be a bit different." It seems my doubts about the viability of the smartwatch market are turning out to be on point. Just as I predicted - turns out people really don't want to strap an ugly calculator on their wrists, not even when it has a shiny Apple logo.

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posted about 1 month ago on OSNews
Programs written to run on conventional operating systems typically depend on OS abstractions like processes, pipes, signals, sockets, and a shared file system. Compiling programs into JavaScript, asm.js, or WebAssembly with tools like Emscripten or GopherJS isn't enough to successfully run many programs client-side, as browsers present a non-traditional runtime environment that lacks OS functionality. Porting these applications to the web currently requires extensive rewriting or paying to host significant portions of code in the cloud. Browsix is our answer to these challenges. Neat.

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posted about 1 month ago on OSNews
Consumer safety remains our highest priority and we've had overwhelming participation in the U.S. Note7 Refund and Exchange Program so far, with more than 93 percent of all recalled Galaxy Note7 devices returned. To further increase participation, a software update will be released starting on December 19th that will prevent U.S. Galaxy Note7 devices from charging and will eliminate their ability to work as mobile devices. One the one hand, it's great these potentially dangerous devices can be rendered inoperable. On the other hand, it's a deeply unsettling - especially in the current US political climate - feeling that devices can just be shut off at a moment's notice.

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posted about 1 month ago on OSNews
Basically: not having a headphone jack might not be enough to deter sales of a phone, but it's still really annoying and requires users to spend additional money to reclaim very basic functionality from their devices. And most of that money flows back to the device vendor, effectively increasing the price of the phone. We've taken something simple and universal, and turned it into something complex and proprietary, for no obvious benefits. It's a bad trade-off. It's... user-hostile and stupid. There's just no getting around it. There's no tangible benefit to ditching the universal 3.5mm jack - whether Apple does it, or Samsung does it, or anyone else does it. We're months and months into this discussion now, and to this day, nobody - not Apple, not Samsung, not John Gruber, not any commenters anywhere - has given me a real, valid, tangible reason why removing the 3.5mm jack is a good idea. Lightning audio is stupid because only the iPhone/iPad support it (not even Macs comes with Lightning ports), and wireless audio is garbage - something even Apple is only now finding out. Those wireless AirPods Apple unveiled to much fanfare? They have been delayed and delayed, and are actually still unavailable, because Bluetooh audio is complete and utter garbage. It almost feels like removing the 3.5mm jack was a sociological science experiment to determine just how far people were willing to go to defend and rationalise a deeply dumb idea.

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posted about 1 month ago on OSNews
Last year I created an account on Twitter to create a targeted feed for my hobby content and tweets for like-minded retro-gaming folk, separate from my personal account. On this hobby account I mainly follow retro-gaming and Commodore fans. When you use Twitter in a very targeted way like this, it actually can be extremely useful and enjoyable. In any event, during this time I began to see a healthy amount of discussion around BBS'es (Bulletin Board Systems) becoming "a thing" again for retro-computing nerds. And, amazingly, a few popular BBSes were being served off of 8-bit machines. "8-Bitters" were connecting to them, having virtually "off the grid" discussions and playing games outside the watchful eye of Google and the rest of the internet. I wanted to connect to them, too.

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posted about 1 month ago on OSNews
The architect of this reorganization - known as "Alphabetization" at the ever-sunny Google - was Ruth Porat, the new chief financial officer. Porat, who was born in England but grew up in Palo Alto, led Morgan Stanley's technology banking division during the first dot-com boom, served as an adviser to the Treasury Department during the bailouts of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and became Morgan Stanley's CFO in 2010. She joined Google in May 2015 with a mandate to bring discipline and focus to a company so awash in cash that it never needed much of either. She instituted rigorous budgeting and, according to people familiar with Alphabet's operations, forced the Other Bets to begin paying for the shared Google services they used. Projects hatched with ambiguous timelines of 10 or more years in some cases had to show a path to profit in half the time. At most big companies, such financial controls are standard operating procedure, and Alphabet's investors are pleased. Its stock is up 35 percent since Porat joined. But within the Other Bets, Porat's tenure has been controversial, earning her an unflattering nickname: Ruthless Ruth. "She's a hatchet man," says a former senior Alphabet executive. "If Larry isn't excited about something," the executive continues, referring to CEO Page, "Ruth kills it." I love these stories of problems few of us will ever have to deal with.

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posted about 1 month ago on OSNews
It's official: Microsoft is taking another stab at Windows on ARM, but this time around, it seems like they're taking it a lot more seriously. First, in collaboration with Qualcomm, Microsoft has created 32bit win32 emulation for Windows on ARM. This allows all 32bit win32 applications to run on ARM, unmodified. Microsoft showed win32 Photoshop running on an ARM machine. Second, Microsoft seems to be going beyond tablets this time around - they're promising laptops and desktops, too. And technically, there's nothing stopping them from allowing ARM phones to run win32 applications (e.g. when docked) either. This is something I personally really, really want to see: a phone that can become a full-fledged PC just by connecting it to a display and input devices. While such a device won't be a powerhouse, it'd be great for the kinds of office workloads I'd want it for. There's no technical details on the implementation of the emulation yet, but look for those to arrive over the coming months.

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posted about 1 month ago on OSNews
Jean-Louis Gassée: When the Apple smartphone project started, the key decision was the choice of software engine. Should Apple try to make a 'lite' version of OS X (as it was then known)? Go in a completely new direction? It appears that a new direction may have been tempting. At the time that Apple's smartphone project began, an Apple employee and former Be engineer offered Palm Inc. $800K for a BeOS "code dump" - just the code, no support, no royalties. The engineer was highly respected for his skill in mating software to unfamiliar hardware; BeOS was a small, light operating system; draw your own conclusion... Palm, which had purchased Be a few years before that, turned him down. Interesting historical footnote. This would be the second time that Apple tried to buy BeOS.

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posted about 1 month ago on OSNews
Jean-Louis Gassée: When the Apple smartphone project started, the key decision was the choice of software engine. Should Apple try to make a 'lite' version of OS X (as it was then known)? Go in a completely new direction? It appears that a new direction may have been tempting. At the time that Apple's smartphone project began, an Apple employee and former Be engineer offered Palm Inc. $800K for a BeOS "code dump" - just the code, no support, no royalties. The engineer was highly respected for his skill in mating software to unfamiliar hardware; BeOS was a small, light operating system; draw your own conclusion... Palm, which had purchased Be a few years before that, turned him down. Interesting historical footnote. This would be the second time that Apple tried to buy BeOS. I've been told that while Forstall (who wanted OS X) and Fadell (who wanted the iPod's Pixo) were battling it out, a former Be engineer then working at Apple wanted to prove BeOS was a viable iPhone candidate, and thus tried to buy it. As history knows, Forstall won out, and only after the fact did the Apple engineer inform the higher-ups of what he tried to do. Apparently, this happens more often inside Apple's culture.

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posted about 1 month ago on OSNews
An amazing QEMU disk image every day! Brightening your days in the winter holiday season. This is a great idea.

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posted about 1 month ago on OSNews
What's interesting is that there is evidence in the design of an intellectual tension between safety and pushing the boundaries. Samsung engineers designed out all of the margin in the thickness of the battery, which is the direction where you get the most capacity gain for each unit of volume. But, the battery also sits within a CNC-machined pocket - a costly choice likely made to protect it from being poked by other internal components. Looking at the design, Samsung engineers were clearly trying to balance the risk of a super-aggressive manufacturing process to maximize capacity, while attempting to protect it internally. Fascinating look - with photos - at the (possible) cause of the Galaxy Note 7 fires.

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posted about 1 month ago on OSNews
The Supreme Court has overturned Apple's $400 million award in its long-running patent lawsuit against Samsung. Apple won the case in 2012, convincing a federal court that a number of Samsung devices had infringed upon iPhone design patents - including one for a rectangular device with rounded corners and bezels, and another for a home screen comprised of a grid of colorful apps. The Supreme Court’s decision today does not reverse Apple’s win, but does mean that the case will be returned to the Federal Circuit so that the damages can be reassessed. Yeah, this thing is still going on.

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posted about 1 month ago on OSNews
Here's what you don't want to do late on a Sunday night. You do not want to type seven letters into Google. That's all I did. I typed: "a-r-e". And then "j-e-w-s". Since 2008, Google has attempted to predict what question you might be asking and offers you a choice. And this is what it did. It offered me a choice of potential questions it thought I might want to ask: "are jews a race?", "are jews white?", "are jews christians?", and finally, "are jews evil?" Are Jews evil? It's not a question I've ever thought of asking. I hadn't gone looking for it. But there it was. I press enter. A page of results appears. This was Google's question. And this was Google's answer: Jews are evil. Because there, on my screen, was the proof: an entire page of results, nine out of 10 of which "confirm" this. The top result, from a site called Listovative, has the headline: "Top 10 Major Reasons Why People Hate Jews." I click on it: "Jews today have taken over marketing, militia, medicinal, technological, media, industrial, cinema challenges etc and continue to face the worlds [sic] envy through unexplained success stories given their inglorious past and vermin like repression all over Europe." Hatred, lies, and stupidity spread easily on the internet - it's a perfect storm of the ease of technology and - very bluntly put - the stupidity of people. Most people have absolutely no understanding of the scientific method, and lack the basic mental tools to objectively assess information and its source. The end result is swaths of people believing that the moon landings were faked, man-made climate change isn't real, that witches exist, or - indeed - that Jews, women (try it!), and so on are "evil", because uncle Jimmy's neighbour's aunt's niece thrice removed posted it on Facebook. This is a problem that's going to be very tough to solve. Stupid people have always existed - but the internet is new.

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posted about 1 month ago on OSNews
Amazon Go is a new kind of store with no checkout required. We created the world’s most advanced shopping technology so you never have to wait in line. With our Just Walk Out Shopping experience, simply use the Amazon Go app to enter the store, take the products you want, and go! No lines, no checkout. (No, seriously.) Our checkout-free shopping experience is made possible by the same types of technologies used in self-driving cars: computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning. Our Just Walk Out technology automatically detects when products are taken from or returned to the shelves and keeps track of them in a virtual cart. When you're done shopping, you can just leave the store. Shortly after, we'll charge your Amazon account and send you a receipt. I find this absolutely fascinating and immensely desirable. I live in a small rural town in the middle of nowhere, and only very recently did we finally get a brand new supermarket with the latest self-checkout and contactless payment technologies (voted most beautiful supermarket in the country, I might add, and a 73-year old family business - we're proud of our own), and it's just so much more convenient than old-fashioned cash registers. I know a number of people prefer being served by a cashier, but honestly - to me it's just wasted time I could spend on something useful. In any event, the idea of just taking stuff off the shelves, without even having to scan them or pay for them at a terminal seems like the next logical step. I don't like the idea of online grocery shopping (I want to see how fresh my produce is before buying it), so this is an excellent compromise.

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posted about 1 month ago on OSNews
The FireBee is a new Atari-compatible computer. Ataris and Atari-Clones are special computers with their own hard & software. They aren't PC's, Mac's nor Amiga compatible. A FireBee is similar to an Atari Falcon and works very much like that. It will run most of the Atari compatible software that would run on a Falcon. Different to older Ataris and their clones, the FireBee is a modern computer that supports almost everything you'd expect from a today's machine, like USB ports, Ethernet, DVI-I monitor connector, SD-card reader and more. This brand-new Atari compatible is not cheap, but much like the current Amiga computers, if you're worried about the price, you're probably not the intended audience. Note that even though the order page says "pre-order", I think that's a typo - you can order them directly from the Swiss company that makes them, too. I love that people and companies are passionate enough to keep developing, building, and selling machines like this - it's a vital effort to keep platforms alive well into the future.

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posted about 1 month ago on OSNews
The Windows' NTFS file system has supported symlinks since Windows Vista. However, it hasn't been easy for Windows developers to create symlinks. In our efforts to continually improve the Windows Developer experience we're fixing this! Starting with Windows 10 Insiders build 14972, symlinks can be created without needing to elevate the console as administrator. This will allow developers, tools and projects, that previously struggled to work effectively on Windows due to symlink issues, to behave just as efficiently and reliably as they do on Linux or OSX. Pretty sure a few developers out there are rolling their eyes, sighing 'finally'.

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posted about 1 month ago on OSNews
Last month we did a quick exercise aiming to see how far we could get in a few weeks in porting Sailfish OS to a new kind of mobile device, an Android smartwatch. Compared to the competition, Sailfish OS’s interaction paradigm is particularly suited for small screens, it being gesture-driven and designed to maximize display estate available for the user content. We also had the watch demo with us as a teaser in Slush 2016 this week, to emphasize to journalists, partners and other people how versatile platform Sailfish OS is. And naturally an implementation like this, could fit nicely also into our licensing strategy. This looks pretty good, actually, but as an owner of the limited edition version of the Jolla Phone and the incredibly elusive and rare Jolla Tablet - what I want is not more device categories, it's applications. This has been the platform's number one weakness since its inception, and they seem unwilling to do anything about it.

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posted about 1 month ago on OSNews
Late yesterday it was reported by The Information that Fitbit is close to buying wearable startup Pebble, news that has since been independently confirmed by The Verge. Fitbit and Pebble have been in the final stages of the deal since before the Thanksgiving holiday; the buying price has not yet been confirmed. While it ultimately might not be as good of a deal as Pebble would have hoped for, there are a lot of reasons why a Pebble-Fitbit deal makes sense. Pebble is popular among OSNews readers, so those of you with a Pebble might want to keep an eye out for the future of this possible deal.

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posted about 1 month ago on OSNews
Following the feature-rich release in August, with the new version 16.11, Genode's developers took the chance to work on long-standing architectural topics, most prominently the low-level interplay between parent and child components. Besides this low-level work, the release features much improved virtual-networking capabilities. Originally introduced in the previous version, Genode's network-routing mechanism has become more versatile and easier to use. Further topics include the added support for smart cards, kernel improvements of the NOVA hypervisor, and a virtual file system for generating time-based passcodes. The efficient interaction between user-level components is one of the most important aspects of microkernel-based systems like Genode. The design space for this interplay is huge and there is no widely accepted consensus about the "right" way. The options include message passing between independent threads, the migration of threads between address spaces, shared memory, and various flavours of asynchronous communication. When the Genode project originally emerged from the L4 community, it was somehow preoccupied with the idea that synchronous IPC is the best way to go. After all, the sole reliance on unbuffered synchronous IPC was widely regarded as the key for L4's excellent performance. Over the years, however, the mindset of the Genode developers shifted away from this position. Whereas synchronous IPC was found to be a perfect match for some use cases, it needlessly complicated others. It turns out that any IPC mechanism is ultimately a trade-off between low latency, throughput, simplicity, and scalability. Finding a single sweet spot that fits well for all parts of an operating system seems futile. Given this realization and countless experiments, Genode's inter-component protocols were gradually shaped towards the combination of synchronous IPC where low-latency remote procedure calls are desired, asynchronous notifications, and shared memory. That said, Genode's most fundamental inter-component communication protocol - the interplay between parent and child components to establish communication sessions between clients and servers - remained unchanged since the very first version. The current release reconsiders the architectural decisions made in the early days and applies Genode's modern design principles to these low-level protocols. The release documentation contrasts the original design that was solely based on synchronous IPC with the new way. Even though the new version overcomes long-standing limitations of the original design, at the first glance, it gives the impression to be more complicated and expensive in terms of the number of context switches. Interestingly, however, the change has no measurable effect on the performance of even the most dynamic system scenarios. The apparent reason is that the parent-child interactions make up a minuscule part of the overall execution time in real-world scenarios. Even though the architectural work mentioned above is fundamental to the Genode system as a whole, it is barely visible to users of the framework. With respect to user-visible changes, the most prominent improvement is the vastly improved infrastructure for virtual networking, which is covered in great detail in the release documentation. Further topics are the added support for using smart cards, a new VFS plugin for generating time-based passcodes, and updated versions of VirtualBox 4 and 5 running of top of NOVA. Speaking of NOVA, the release improves this kernel in several respects, in particular by adding support for asynchronous map operations. Each of the topics is covered in more depth in the release documentation.

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