posted 2 months ago on OSNews
If you're like me, you might have opened up your Windows 10 laptop today only to see a giant ad for Square Enix's Rise of the Tomb Raider plastered across your login screen. This is the work of the "Windows Spotlight" feature in your Personalization settings, and thankfully, you can turn it off for good. Isn't the future fun?

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posted 2 months ago on OSNews
As part of this commitment I am pleased to announce today that Microsoft has signed an agreement to acquire Xamarin, a leading platform provider for mobile app development. In conjunction with Visual Studio, Xamarin provides a rich mobile development offering that enables developers to build mobile apps using C# and deliver fully native mobile app experiences to all major devices - including iOS, Android, and Windows. Xamarin's approach enables developers to take advantage of the productivity and power of .NET to build mobile apps, and to use C# to write to the full set of native APIs and mobile capabilities provided by each device platform. This enables developers to easily share common app code across their iOS, Android and Windows apps while still delivering fully native experiences for each of the platforms. Xamarin's unique solution has fueled amazing growth for more than four years.

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posted 2 months ago on OSNews
The Aqua Fish is following Jolla's "traditional" design which was found on the Jolla smartphone. The phone sports a namely modest but practically beastly (according to my testings), Quadcore 1.3Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon 212 (don't let the 200-series name fool you. We'll get to that in a moment!), 2GB od DDR3 RAM, 16GB of expandable storage, 5" HD IPS display panel with a resolution of 1280x720, a 2500mAh battery and dual-SIM support, all packaged in a neat package of black and orange plastic. This looks a lot like the phone Jolla should've made halfway 2014 as a successor to the original Jolla phone instead of that silly tablet most of us are still waiting on and that nearly tanked the company. Sadly, this one will only be available in India for now, and there's no word on further availability. I'm glad there's 3rd party interest in Sailfish OS, but I'm afraid the window's already closed on this one.

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posted 2 months ago on OSNews
If there's one thing tech enthusiasts love more than an underdog, it's an underdog with high specs. The Meizu Pro 5 Ubuntu Edition is just such a device. It's powered by the same 14nm Samsung Exynos processor as the flagship Galaxy S6. It has a 21-megapixel camera with laser-assisted phase-detect autofocus and a Hi-Fi audio chip from ESS. Clad in an aluminum unibody shell and sporting an AMOLED display, it's as modern and good looking as any smartphone out here at Mobile World Congress. But it runs Ubuntu, and that makes it too much of an underdog. With non-iOS and non-Android smartphone operating systems dropping like flies left and right, it's commendable that Canonical is still trying with Ubuntu. Too bad that even on such powerful hardware, and after years of development and promises, Ubuntu is still slow and cumbersome on smartphones.

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posted 2 months ago on OSNews
As mods, 3rd party applications that were previously isolated can now take advantage of platform APIs to implement unique experiences directly within Cyanogen OS. Users can install a variety of mods to extend the functionality of their devices. For example, through Cyanogen's partnership with Microsoft, a user can install the Skype mod directly into their dialer to add VoIP calling functionality or they can install the Cortana personal assistant mod to power features like voice-activated selfies. Cyanogen OS, which isn't CyanogenMod, is introducing MODs, that plug into Cyanogen OS and CyanogenMod. At this point, they are intentionally muddying the waters, right? This is the system Microsoft is using to integrate its services into Android, and now, everybody can use them. The wording here is a bit strange, though, because one of the core strengths of Android is that applications are not isolated, unlike on iOS, where every application looks, feels, and functions like an island. It's all pretty nifty, and all made possible because of two things: first, Android in and of itself is incredibly extensible, and it contains a ton of APIs for these sorts of things. A lot of this integration can be achieved simply by installing applications from Google Play. Second, it's made possible because Android is open source, so that Cyanogen can make a few changes and claim they're taking Android away from big, bad Google who is giving them Android in the first place, and without whom Cyanogen wouldn't exist, or wouldn't continue to exist. In any case, let's see if other 3rd parties are going to adopt this. It seems like Android as-is is extensible enough, so I don't see much life in this for most developers and users.

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posted 2 months ago on OSNews
Following the letter from Tim Cook, Apple has now published a set of questions and answers regarding the case of the FBI demanding, via a court order, that Apple create a backdoor into iOS for the FBI to use. Overall, I find the questions and answers a strong showing by Apple, but two parts really stood out to me. First, the FBI is apparently a little bit incompetent. One of the strongest suggestions we offered was that they pair the phone to a previously joined network, which would allow them to back up the phone and get the data they are now asking for. Unfortunately, we learned that while the attacker's iPhone was in FBI custody the Apple ID password associated with the phone was changed. Changing this password meant the phone could no longer access iCloud services. This is incredibly cringe-worthy. The agency now asking to weaken the security and harm the rights of all iOS users, is the same agency who made beginner mistakes such as this one. If you are a true cynical, which I am, you might think the FBI changed the password on purpose in order to force this case. The second part that really stood out to me is also by far the weakest part: Apple seems to be contradicting itself regarding the question whether or not it unlocked iPhones for law enforcement in the past. Has Apple unlocked iPhones for law enforcement in the past? No. We regularly receive law enforcement requests for information about our customers and their Apple devices. In fact, we have a dedicated team that responds to these requests 24/7. We also provide guidelines on our website for law enforcement agencies so they know exactly what we are able to access and what legal authority we need to see before we can help them. For devices running the iPhone operating systems prior to iOS 8 and under a lawful court order, we have extracted data from an iPhone. Emphasis mine. So, did Apple unlock iPhones in the past, or not? This is a pretty glaring contradiction, and it makes me feel uneasy about Apple's motives and past and present roles in this case. As with any corporation, of course, Apple is beholden to its shareholders, and if this stance starts to lead to political - and thus, financial - headwinds, shareholders will pipe up, forcing Apple to give in. This contradiction only strengthens this fear for me.

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posted 2 months ago on OSNews
Over the weekend, news broke that Linux Mint's servers were compromised, and ISO images were replaced by compromised versions with a backdoor. Everything was made public, and int responded in the only way they could: disclosure, site taken down. Sadly, it turns out that Linux Mint has somewhat of a bad name when it comes to security. To conclude, I do not think that the Mint developers deliver professional work. Their distribution is more a crude hack of existing Debian-based distributions. They make fundamental mistakes and put their users at risk, both in the sense of data security as well as licensing issues. I would therefore highly discourage anyone using Linux Mint until Mint developers have changed their fundamental philosophy and resolved these issues. Let's hope this issue raises a number of red flags for the Mint team so they can start to take steps to better the situation.

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posted 2 months ago on OSNews
Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (Xenial) is only a few short weeks away, and with it comes one of the most exciting new features Linux has seen in a very long time... ZFS -- baked directly into Ubuntu - supported by Canonical. A very welcome addition.

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posted 2 months ago on OSNews
Both Samsung and LG announced their new flagship phones for the year, and lo and behold, there's actually something interesting to discuss. First, let's get the new Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge out of the way: even though they look very similar to the S6 and S6 Edge, Samsung has brought back a few things that many here will like: water resistance, and a microSD card slot. In addition, Samsung has revolutionised the smartphone industry by making the S7 and S7 edge slightly thicker to fit a much, much bigger battery and to reduce the camera hump. The new LG G5 is more interesting. The phone is, of course, kitted with all the latest processors and RAM and whatever, but at the bottom of the device, there's a slot that you can use to snap on all kinds of additional hardware. Two of these new accessories plug directly into the LG G5's bottom. A small key on the side of the phone pops open its lower section, which can be pulled out along with the battery, then the battery is fitted into the next module and that straps back into the phone. The whole process sounds finicky, but there's nothing flimsy about the way LG has constructed either the phone, its battery, or the extras, so everything can be done quickly and forcefully. And yes, it really does feel like loading a fresh clip into your gun. If this reminds you of Handspring's Springboard, you're not alone. As with virtually everything in mobile today - everything can be traced right back to Palm. In any event, as much as I personally always like these kinds of experiments, the problem is that generally, nobody ever builds anything worthwhile for it. These expansion slots always tend to kind of fizzle out, with few actually, really good accessories to ever be released. Which, in turn, raises the question of why you would invest in it in the first pace. That being said, let's give it a year or so and see what LG and possible third parties are going to do with this. I like the G5 overall, and the expansion slot is a fun and gutsy move (the fact that it is tells you a lot about the state of the industry, sadly). As always, be careful with these phones if you care about running the latest Android: flagships or no, updates for these things will be messy.

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
A mutex is a common type of lock used to serialize concurrent access by multiple threads to shared resources. While support for POSIX mutexes in the QNX Neutrino Realtime OS dates back to the early days of the system, this area of the code has seen considerable changes in the last couple of years. Read more on this exclusive OSNews article...

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
Earlier today, a federal judge ordered Apple to comply with the FBI's request for technical assistance in the recovery of the San Bernadino gunmen's iPhone 5C. Since then, many have argued whether these requests from the FBI are technically feasible given the support for strong encryption on iOS devices. Based on my initial reading of the request and my knowledge of the iOS platform, I believe all of the FBI's requests are technically feasible. A look at the technical aspects involved.

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
The FBI has won a court order demanding Apple help the bureau in accessing the data on the iPhone 5c of one of the San Bernadino gunmen. The judge ruled Tuesday that the Cupertino-based company had to provide "reasonable technical assistance" to the government in recovering data from the iPhone 5c, including bypassing the auto-erase function and allowing investigators to submit an unlimited number of passwords in their attempts to unlock the phone. Apple has five days to respond to the court if it believes that compliance would be "unreasonably burdensome." In response, Apple's CEO Tim Cook has published an open letter opposing the court order. We have great respect for the professionals at the FBI, and we believe their intentions are good. Up to this point, we have done everything that is both within our power and within the law to help them. But now the U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create. They have asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone. Specifically, the FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation. In the wrong hands, this software - which does not exist today - would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone's physical possession. The FBI may use different words to describe this tool, but make no mistake: Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor. And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control. It should come as no surprise that I strongly, deeply, and vehemently agree with Tim Cook, and I applaud the company for trying to fight this court order every step of the way. It would be great if other technology companies - Microsoft, Google, whatever - publicly join Apple in trying to fight this court order. Strength in numbers. That being said, it will be in vain. Apple - and thus, all of us - will lose this war. They might win this particular battle, but they won't win all the battles to come. All it takes is for one important country to demand a backdoor and Apple caving - due to financial pressure, sales stops, etc. - for the whole house of cards to come tumbling down. This is a hard fight, that we will lose. Get ready.

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
Nearly ten years ago the ReactOS Project released version 0.3.0. Today we are proud to announce the formal release of version 0.4.0. A great deal of work has gone into making this release happen and as we look back it is remarkable to consider how far the project has come since that release a decade ago. This release is both a celebration of and a testament to everything that the ReactOS team and community has achieved together. Thank you to all of you for having stood by the project for this long and we hope rewarding journey. For those of you chomping at the bit to check out the release, go to the download page to get it now. This is a huge release, and highlighting just a few new features - such as wireless networking, USB support, sound support, etc., etc., - would be a disservice to all the other stuff they worked on.

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
After initially thinking this would be great for people who want to do some of the stuff usually done on PC without the expense, now I'm not so sure who it suits. It fits only very simple work, ideally just in the browser or in Google apps; it's not enjoyable or smooth enough for leisure time use; for viewing content you'd be better off with a set-top box; and you can just plain forget playing games on it. The Remix Mini has its appeals and uses only for pretty basic work. But as it is, here and now, it's not the post-Windows solution that some of us are looking for. I applaud what Jide is trying to do, but at this point, with Google having openly stated they are working on bringing Android to the desktop, and giving it proper multi-window and all other features that come with it, I see little to no reason to invest too much into these products.

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
Khronos launched the Vulkan 1.0 specification on February 16th, 2016 and Khronos members released Vulkan drivers and SDKs on the same day. Below you will find everything you need to come up to speed on Vulkan and to forge ahead and explore whether Vulkan is right for your engine or application.

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
Microsoft has announced the Lumia 650, and there's already a review of the thing. This is such a shame, as this would have been a great Windows phone if only it had a decent processor inside it. Battery life was very respectable at 11h 36m in our continuous video playback test with the screen brightness set to 170cd/m2, and its screen and build quality are practically second to none in its price range. However, when it's so crippled by its bad choice of chipset, the Lumia 650 just can't measure up to its infinitely superior predecessor. If you're looking for a cheap Windows handset, the Lumia 640 is still your best choice, as you can now pick one up for £120 SIM-free or £90 on pre-pay. The only silver lining is that this could be the basis for a great mid-range Windows phone just around the corner. I have no idea what Microsoft is doing with Windows Phone at this point. Nobody wants an underperforming Windows Phone device, and those that buy one without being aware of the bad chipset will just feel bitten. Either give Windows Phone the proper love and attention it so badly needs in both software and hardware, or just kill it with dignity. What Microsoft is and has been doing to Windows Phone is a travesty.

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
Tails (The amnesic incognito live system) is a live OS based on Debian GNU/Linux which aims at preserving the user's privacy and anonymity by using the Internet anonymously and circumventing censorship. Installed on a USB device, it is configured to leave no trace on the computer you are using unless asked explicitly. As of today, the people the most needy for digital security are not computer experts. Being able to get started easily with a new tool is critical to its adoption, and even more in high-risk and stressful environments. That's why we wanted to make it faster, simpler, and more secure to install Tails for new users. One of the components of Tails, the Tails Installer is now in Debian thanks to the Debian Privacy Tools Maintainers Team. On a related note, Tails 2.0.1 was released a few days ago as well.

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
A team of scientists announced on Thursday that they had heard and recorded the sound of two black holes colliding a billion light-years away, a fleeting chirp that fulfilled the last prediction of Einstein’s general theory of relativity. That faint rising tone, physicists say, is the first direct evidence of gravitational waves, the ripples in the fabric of space-time that Einstein predicted a century ago. (Listen to it here.) It completes his vision of a universe in which space and time are interwoven and dynamic, able to stretch, shrink and jiggle. And it is a ringing confirmation of the nature of black holes, the bottomless gravitational pits from which not even light can escape, which were the most foreboding (and unwelcome) part of his theory. More generally, it means that a century of innovation, testing, questioning and plain hard work after Einstein imagined it on paper, scientists have finally tapped into the deepest register of physical reality, where the weirdest and wildest implications of Einstein’s universe become manifest. The entirety of today I've been in awe over just how far science has come. The idea of measuring a ripple in spacetime at 1/100,000 of a nanometer, about the width of an atomic nucleus, using lasers and mirrors - I don't know, it's just awe-inspiring what we, as humans, can do when we get together in the name of science, instead of fighting each other over endless strings of pointlessness.

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
Microsoft has tried a variety of different Start menus over the years, but the Windows 10 version is the best combination of the modern ideas the company has attempted and the classic menu. The Start menu is iconic, and it's the identity of Windows. As long as Microsoft doesn't have any crazy ideas, it's probably here to stay for many, many more years. Twenty years is a long time for any software, so let's take a look at how exactly the Start menu, and by extension, Windows itself, has changed since Windows 95. I am still a huge fan of the original Start menu as it existed in Windows 95 through 2000 (and as an option in XP): a simple, straightforward menu that you could organise yourself. It may not have been very pretty or user-friendly (we've all run into those people who never organised their Start menu), but for me personally, it was really, really great. I'm really not a fan of the thing we have now in Windows 10, where you can't even do any organisation, and the "All apps" button just gives you an endless alphabetical list of crap. Search obviously helps a little bit here, but applications' Start menu folders often contain other useful tools that you might not know the name of. In any event, it's definitely an iconic piece of UI.

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) are introducing a bill today to effectively override bad state-level encryption bills. The ENCRYPT Act of 2016, or by its longer name, the Ensuring National Constitutional Rights of Your Private Telecommunications Act, would preempt state and local government encryption laws. The two men said today they are "deeply concerned" that varying bills surrounding encryption would endanger the country as well as the competitiveness of American companies. The argument is that it wouldn't be easy or even feasible to tailor phone encryption capabilities for specific states. We're going to need a lot of these laws - all over the world.

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
Community mapping applications come in all shapes and sizes. There are apps to help drivers avoid speed traps, maneuver around traffic jams, and find cheap gas. And now there's one that helps people avoid being pulled from their car by the Ershad - Iran's morals police. Anonymous developers in Iran recently released an Android app that is intended to help young Iranians share intelligence about Ershad checkpoints. Called "Gershad," the app depends on crowdsourced reports from users to help others avoid being stopped, harassed, or even possibly beaten or arrested for failing to adhere to the Ershad interpretations of Islamic morality. Fascinating what technology can do for people.

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
But in bounding after large screens, phone makers seemed to ignore the usability issues that accompany them. Small studies have shown before that 4.3 inches is about as big as a phone can get before people start struggling to use it. The time to operate the phone slows down significantly because one-hand use is awkward - and that's for average men's hands. Assuming a normal distribution, for half of men and most women, a phone bigger than 4.3 inches - like the current smallest iPhone - is too big. The increasing size of smartphones is one of the big mysteries of the technology world. The mystery lies not in phones getting larger - a lot of people prefer it - but in smaller phones, which a lot of people also prefer, disappearing, or being treated as second-class citizens. Such an odd development.

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
Major desktop browsers push automatic security updates directly to users on a regular basis, so most users don't have to worry about security updates. But Linux users are dependent on their distributions to release updates. Apple fixed over 100 vulnerabilities in WebKit last year, so getting updates out to users is critical. This is the story of how that process has gone wrong for WebKit.

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
I've often predicted the current crop of smartwatches - be they Wear or the Apple Watch - are designed to end up in drawers, forgotten, unloved. However, I had no idea that even Marco Arment would eventually realise the same thing. Shortly before Christmas, I accidentally found the first mechanical watch that infected my mind so much that I actually wanted - quite badly - to own it. I had many doubts: Would I look ridiculous wearing it? Would I hate setting or winding it? Would I miss notifications, activity tracking, and weather on my watch? Would I wear it briefly but then run back to my Apple Watch and let the mechanical rot in a drawer? Nope. Well worth a read. Turns out that even an ardent Apple fan's smartwatch ends up in a drawer, replaced by a real watch.

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
The latest FreeBSD Quarterly Status Report is out. Efforts to bring our BSD high standards to new architectures continue, with impressive work on arm64 leading to its promotion to Tier-2 status and a flurry of work bringing up the new RISC-V hardware architecture. Software architecture is also under active development, including system startup and service management. A handful of potential init system replacements are mentioned in this report: launchd, relaunchd, and nosh. Architectural changes originating both from academic research (multipath TCP) and from the realities of industry (sendfile(2) improvements) are also under way. It is heartening to see how FreeBSD provides a welcoming platform for contributions from both research and industry. Everything you need to know to be up to date with FreeBSD.

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