posted 2 months ago on OSNews
Three years ago I came across an interesting paper written up by a Microsoft employee, Kent Sullivan, on the process and findings of designing the new user interface for Windows 95. The web page has since been taken down - one reason why I’m a bit of a digital hoarder. It specified some of the common issues experienced from Windows 3.1's Program Manager shell and looked at the potential of developing a separate shell for 'beginners'. Admittedly my inclination was that this was possibly inspired by Apple's At Ease program that was reasonably popular during the System 7 days. I remember At Ease well during my primary school years, so kids couldn’t mess with the hard disk in Finder. So here's what Kent had to say verbatim in his paper titled "The Windows 95 User Interface: A Case Study in Usability Engineering" so it’s not lost altogether. However you feel about Windows 95, there's no denying that its user interface is probably one of the most iconic and well-known user interfaces ever designed and developed. Literally everyone knows it and has used it, and it singlehandedly defined what a personal computer's UI should work like. It's incredibly fascinating to read about the thought processes behind its development.

Read More...
posted 2 months ago on OSNews
The theme for this release has been stabilising the MATE Desktop by replacing deprecated code and modernising large sections of the code base. We’ve also improved our window manager (Marco) and added support for HiDPI. Along the way we’ve fixed hundreds of bugs. Squished ‘em dead! GNOME 2 is, in my view, one of the best desktop environments ever created, and surely the best desktop environment ever made on Linux. It was consistent, reasonably fast, had a lot of great, high-quality themes, stayed out of your way, and struck a decent balance between configurability and ease of use. Ever since GNOME 2, I've been sorely disappointed with the Linux desktop environments. MATE is a godsend.

Read More...
posted 3 months ago on OSNews
The most important parts of Intel’s new Vaunt smart glasses are the pieces that were left out. There is no camera to creep people out, no button to push, no gesture area to swipe, no glowing LCD screen, no weird arm floating in front of the lens, no speaker, and no microphone (for now). From the outside, the Vaunt glasses look just like eyeglasses. When you’re wearing them, you see a stream of information on what looks like a screen - but it’s actually being projected onto your retina. This looks amazing. I'm not entirely sure if I, personally, have any use for this, but such basic, simple, handsfree information could be invaluable to, for instance, construction workers, farmers, police officers, or other people who do hard, dangerous work with their hands.

Read More...
posted 3 months ago on OSNews
Windows 10 S, the Microsoft Store-only version of Windows, is going away, but not really. Currently, Windows 10 S is a unique edition of Windows 10. It's based on Windows 10 Pro; Windows 10 Pro has various facilities that enable system administrators to restrict which software can be run, and Windows 10 S is essentially a preconfigured version of those facilities. In addition to locking out arbitrary downloaded programs, it also prevents the use of certain built-in Windows features such as the command-line, PowerShell, and Windows Subsystem for Linux. For those who can't abide by the constraints that S imposes, you can upgrade 10 S to the full 10 Pro. This upgrade is a one-shot deal: there's no way of re-enabling the S limitations after upgrading to Pro. It's also a paid upgrade: while Microsoft offered it as a free upgrade for a limited time for its Surface Laptop, the regular price is $49. Nothing much actually seems to be changing; it just turns Windows 10 S from a version into a mode. Pretty much a distinction without a difference. My biggest issue here is that you can't go from regular Windows 10 back to Windows 10 S if you ever had a reason to do so (e.g. if Windows were ever to be usable with just Metro apps in the future and you want the additional security Windows 10 S provides). Seems like an odd restriction.

Read More...
posted 3 months ago on OSNews
In November last year I wrote about the forgotten and obscure feature of early Windows 95 builds that lets you run Windows 3.1 in a window on Windows 95. Since then I was wondering if this would still work on the final build (950) of Windows 95, considering so much has changed since build 58s. I won't spoil it.

Read More...
posted 3 months ago on OSNews
Such a development would cause a soul-shattering upheaval in my mental life. Although I fully understand the fascination of trying to get machines to translate well, I am not in the least eager to see human translators replaced by inanimate machines. Indeed, the idea frightens and revolts me. To my mind, translation is an incredibly subtle art that draws constantly on one's many years of experience in life, and on one's creative imagination. If, some "fine" day, human translators were to become relics of the past, my respect for the human mind would be profoundly shaken, and the shock would leave me reeling with terrible confusion and immense, permanent sadness. As a translator myself, I can indeed confirm Google Translate is complete and utter garbage, but the idea that I would "mourn" the end of translators seems outlandish to me. The unstoppable march of technology has eliminated countless jobs over the course of human existence, and if translators are next, I don't see any reason to mourn the end of my occupation. Of course, it'd suck for me personally, but that's about it. That being said, I'm not afraid of running out of work any time soon. Google Translate's results are pretty terrible, and they only seem to be getting worse for me, instead of getting better. There's no doubt in my mind that machine translation will eventually get good enough, but I think it'll take at least another 20 years, if not more, to get there.

Read More...
posted 3 months ago on OSNews
When users attempt to launch a 32-bit app in 10.13.4, it will still launch, but it will do so with a warning message notifying the user that the app will eventually not be compatible with the operating system unless it is updated. This follows the same approach that Apple took with iOS, which completed its sunset of 32-bit app support with iOS 11 last fall. This is good. I would prefer other companies, too, take a more aggressive approach towards deprecating outdated technology in consumer technology.

Read More...
posted 3 months ago on OSNews
China's most popular messaging app, WeChat, has always had a close relationship with the Chinese government. The app has been subsidized by the government since its creation in 2011, and it's an accepted reality that officials censor and monitor users. Now, WeChat is poised to take on an even greater role: an initiative is underway to integrate WeChat with China's electronic ID system. WeChat is a remarkably clever move by the Chinese government. Everybody over there is already using it, and by basically co-opting it, they get a free statewide monitoring and control platform. Ban a few western alternatives here and there, and you're done. Western nations are toying with similar ideas - see e.g. Germany's new laws - and it doesn't take a genius to see the dangers here. While you may 'trust' your current government to not abuse such wide-ranging laws and technical capabilities, you might not be so eager with the next one. If Americans can vote for a Trump, Europeans can, too.

Read More...
posted 3 months ago on OSNews
The Faery Tale Adventure was a computer game that I created for the Amiga in 1987. It was moderately popular for its day, and was ported to a number of platforms, including MS-DOS and the Sega Genesis. I decided to write this account because, much to my surprise, there is still interest in the game - I occasionally get fan email or inquiries as to whether there will ever be a sequel. And so I thought it might be interesting to tell the story of how the game came to be, and what happened afterwards. An account by David Joiner of a game he wrote for the Amiga. One of those stories that's just fun to read, no ifs and buts. Grab a coffee and enjoy.

Read More...
posted 3 months ago on OSNews
Essential - the phone company led by Android co-founder Andy Rubin - has had some difficulty in getting a stable 8.0 Oreo update released. After three beta releases, the company is not quite satisfied that the update is ready for general release. Because of these protracted issues, Essential has announced plans to skip the 8.0 release entirely in favor of 8.1, which will "push the public release back a couple weeks," according to the company. Not even a phone with close to stock Android, built by the very same person who developed Android in the first place, can be updated to a newer Android release without delays, stability issues, and general problems - to the point where they're skipping a version altogether. Android is a mess.

Read More...
posted 3 months ago on OSNews
AMD reported its fourth quarter and full year results for 2017 yesterday evening. The company's financial results are easily the best its posted in five years and arguably some of the best results we've seen in a decade (this last needs a bit of unpacking, but we'll get to that). And fully deserved, too, despite the somewhat overly adulatory attitude many seem to have towards AMD.

Read More...
posted 3 months ago on OSNews
Third party phone repair shops say that phone makers like Apple and game console makers like Sony and Microsoft have effectively monopolized repair, using their size and power to drive smaller companies out of business. Verizon and Apple have worked in union to thwart such bills in several states, but traditionally don't like to publicly talk about their lobbying on this front. They now have another state to worry about, with Washington State considering their own right to repair bill, created in the wake of outrage over Apple's decision to throttle the performance of older phones to (Apple insists) protect device integrity in the wake of failing battery performance. I've said it a million times by now, but I see no reason why computers should be treated any different than cars: PC and phone makers should be forced to publicise the necessary information to allow third-party repair shops to repair their devices, all without voiding warranty.

Read More...
posted 3 months ago on OSNews
Third party phone repair shops say that phone makers like Apple and game console makers like Sony and Microsoft have effectively monopolized repair, using their size and power to drive smaller companies out of business. Verizon and Apple have worked in union to thwart such bills in several states, but traditionally don't like to publicly talk about their lobbying on this front. They now have another state to worry about, with Washington State considering their own right to repair bill, created in the wake of outrage over Apple's decision to throttle the performance of older phones to (Apple insists) protect device integrity in the wake of failing battery performance. I've said it a million times by now, but I see no reason why computers should be treated any different than cars: PC and phone makers should be forced to publicise the necessary information to allow third-party repair shops to repair their devices, all without voiding warranty.

Read More...
posted 3 months ago on OSNews
For several years, Apple has been steadily designing more and more of the chips powering its iPhones, iPads, Macs and Apple Watches. This creates a better user experience and helps trump rivals. Recently the company got a fresh incentive to go all-in on silicon: revelations that microprocessors with components designed by Intel Corp., Arm Holdings Plc and Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. are vulnerable to hacking. [...] That original “system-on-a-chip” has since been succeeded by increasingly powerful processors. Today, Apple packs its devices with custom components that process artificial intelligence tasks, track your steps, power game graphics, secure Face ID or Touch ID data, run the Apple Watch, pair AirPods to your phone and help make Macs work the way they do. The result: a chip powerhouse that could one day threaten the dominance of Qualcomm Inc. and even, eventually, Intel. Apple's chip business really puts the company in a unique position. No other phone or PC maker van rely on such a powerful chip division, with the exception of Samsung, but Samsung's own ARM chips are nowhere near as powerful as Apple's. Assuming Apple manages to turn their chip prowess into real-world advantages for users, it'll be hard for competitors to catch up.

Read More...
posted 3 months ago on OSNews
Microsoft has released an update that disables Intel's microcode Spectre mitigations. Intel has reported issues with recently released microcode meant to address Spectre variant 2 (CVE 2017-5715 Branch Target Injection) - specifically Intel noted that this microcode can cause "higher than expected reboots and other unpredictable system behavior" and then noted that situations like this may result in "data loss or corruption". Our own experience is that system instability can in some circumstances cause data loss or corruption. On January 22, Intel recommended that customers stop deploying the current microcode version on affected processors while they perform additional testing on the updated solution. We understand that Intel is continuing to investigate the potential effect of the current microcode version, and we encourage customers to review their guidance on an ongoing basis to inform their decisions. This whole thing is a mess.

Read More...
posted 3 months ago on OSNews
Firefox Quantum continues to make news as Mozilla incorporates even more innovative technology into the platform. The development team behind the WebExtensions architecture is no exception, landing a slew of new API and improvements that can now be found in Firefox 59 (just released to the Beta channel).

Read More...
posted 3 months ago on OSNews
Following the publication last year of the data collected by Windows 10's built-in telemetry and diagnostic tracking, Microsoft today announced that the next major Windows 10 update, due around March or April, will support a new app, the Windows Diagnostic Data Viewer, that will allow Windows users to browse and inspect the data that the system has collected. While I doubt this tool will alleviate any of the concerns some people have over Windows 10's data collection, it does at least give some insight into what's being sent to Microsoft - assuming, that is, you trust the reporting to be truthful and accurate.

Read More...