posted 3 months ago on OSNews
Last Friday's news that Nest CEO Tony Fadell would be leaving the company he founded with Matt Rogers and stepping into an "advisory" role seemed like the culmination of months of stories about Nest’s demanding culture - particularly the frank displeasure of former Dropcam CEO Greg Duffy, who openly regretted selling his company to Nest. These reports have largely focused on Fadell, whose management style has been polarizing. But another dynamic playing out may have been even more important, according to interviews with insiders: Google's restructuring into Alphabet last year, which placed new financial pressures on Nest to perform that some say limited its ability to innovate. I've never really been able to form an opinion on Nest's products - they seem kind of interesting, but I just don't see myself paying that much for a thermostat or a fire alarm.

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
Ever since Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859, evolution has been the grand unifying theory of biology. Yet one of our most important biological traits, consciousness, is rarely studied in the context of evolution. Theories of consciousness come from religion, from philosophy, from cognitive science, but not so much from evolutionary biology. Maybe that's why so few theories have been able to tackle basic questions such as: What is the adaptive value of consciousness? When did it evolve and what animals have it? The Attention Schema Theory (AST), developed over the past five years, may be able to answer those questions. The theory suggests that consciousness arises as a solution to one of the most fundamental problems facing any nervous system: Too much information constantly flows in to be fully processed. The brain evolved increasingly sophisticated mechanisms for deeply processing a few select signals at the expense of others, and in the AST, consciousness is the ultimate result of that evolutionary sequence. If the theory is right - and that has yet to be determined - then consciousness evolved gradually over the past half billion years and is present in a range of vertebrate species. I know this really isn't what you'd generally expect to be posted here, but the concept of consciousness - one of a small set of words in the English language I cannot spell from the top of my head without making errors - is one of those things that, when you think too deeply about it, you enter into a realm of thinking that can get deeply uncomfortable and distressing, like thinking about what's outside the universe or what "existed" "before" (quotes intentional) the big bang. Personally, I'm one of those insufferable people who ascribes the entire concept of consciousness to the specific arrangement of neurons and related tissue in our brain and wider nervous system - I don't accept religion or some other specific magical thing that makes us humans (and dolphins? And chimpansees? And whatever else has some level of consciousness?) more special than any other animal in terms of consciousness. I also don't like the controversial concept of splitting consciousness up into an easy and a hard problem, because to me, that just opens the door to maintaining the religious idea that humans are somehow more special than other animals - sure, science has made it clear some other animals have easy consciousness, but humans are still special because we are the only ones with hard consciousness. It reeks of an artificial cutoff point created to maintain some semblance of uniqueness for homo sapiens sapiens so we can feel good about ourselves. You can take the whole concept of consciousness in every which way, and one of my recent favourites is CGP Grey's video The Trouble With Transporters, which, among other tings, poses the question - if you interrupt your consciousness by being teleported or going to sleep, are you really the same person when you rematerialise or wake up? Have fun!

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
We're sticking with our impromptu theme of old hardware for another item, this time around about the DB-19 connector, which is pretty much impossible to buy anywhere - until perseverance, hard work, and smart thinking solved the problem. This is a happy story about the power of global communication and manufacturing resources in today's world. If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, then you've certainly heard me whine and moan about how impossible it is to find the obscure DB-19 disk connector used on vintage Macintosh and Apple II computers (and some NeXT and Atari computers too). Nobody has made these connectors for decades. [...] But just as I was getting discouraged, good luck arrived in the form of several other people who were also interested in DB-19 connectors! The NeXT and Atari communities were also suffering from a DB-19 shortage, as well as others in the vintage Apple community, and at least one electronics parts supplier too. After more than a year of struggling to make manufacturing work economically, I was able to arrange a "group buy" in less than a week. Now let's do this thing! I love success stories like this one.

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
One of the tricks you can do on the C64 involves manipulating the video chip into reading the graphics data at an offset from where it's usually located. This allows you to scroll the display horizontally, and the trick is called VSP for Variable Screen Position. However, some machines crash when you attempt this, and the reason for that has always been a mystery. Not anymore. Fascinating.

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
This year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of a home computer built and operated more than a decade before 'official' home computers arrived on the scene. Yes, before the 'trinity' of the Apple II, the Commodore PET and the Radio Shack TRS-80 - all introduced in 1977 - Jim Sutherland, a quiet engineer and family man in Pittsburgh, was building a computer system on his own for his family. Sutherland configured this new computer system to control many aspects of his home with his wife and children as active users. It truly was a home computer - that is, the house itself was part of the computer and its use was integrated into the family's daily routines. "It is not easy to be a pioneer - but oh, it is fascinating! I would not trade one moment, even the worst moment, for all the riches in the world." (Elizabeth Blackwell).

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
Last week, Microsoft silently changed Get Windows 10 yet again. And this time, it has gone beyond the social engineering scheme that has been fooling people into inadvertently upgrading to Windows 10 for months. This time, it actually changed the behavior of the window that appears so that if you click the "Close" window box, you are actually agreeing to the upgrade. Without you knowing what just happened. Previously, closing this window would correctly signal that you do not want the upgrade. So Microsoft didn't change the wording in the window. It didn't make an "Upgrade now" button bigger, or a non-existent "don't ever upgrade" button smaller. It pulled a switcheroonie. It's like going out to your car in the morning and discovering that the gas pedal now applies the brakes, while the brake pedal washes the windshield. Have a fun commute! Insanity. No better than those web ads that use dialogs to prevent you from closing them. In fact - this is probably even worse.

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
It's not clear whether either of the public warrants were filled. No Google-based evidence was presented in Graham's trial, and the other suspect plead guilty before a full case could be presented. Still, there's no evidence of a legal challenge to either warrant. There's also reason to think the investigators' legal tactic would have been successful, since Google's policy is to comply with lawful warrants for location data. While the warrants are still rare, police appear to be catching on to the powerful new tactic, which allows them to collect a wealth of information on the movements and activities of Android users, available as soon as there's probable cause to search. Odd that this is news to anyone - and especially odd that police are seemingly only now catching on to this. I, myself, find this a fun and useful feature - especially while travelling - and since you can turn it off completely, I personally have little trouble with it, and I have fully considered the pros and cons of using this feature. That being said - the average user won't know a lot about this feature and won't weigh the options, leaving them exposed to potential warrants. I wonder if there's a way Google could ever set this up in a way that doesn't potentially expose the data to police, much like end-to-end encryption does for instant messaging, while the data still remains useful for targeted advertising (Google's bread and butter). Would it be possible to develop a system where only computers have access to the data for targeted advertising, without human intervention? Fully automated and closed? If not, Google might want to reconsider this avenue of targeted advertising - which would mostly be for PR reasons, since carriers still have very comparable - if slightly lower-resolution - data.

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
The Genode project has released the version 16.05 of the operating-system framework. The new version comes with a fundamentally reworked component API, basic support for the Rust programming language, new ACPI infrastructure, and upgraded device drivers for Intel wireless, Intel graphics, audio, and USB. The Genode API and the programming styles for developing components evolved over the years. Being born out of the L4 community, the sole reliance on synchronous inter-component communication was deeply ingrained in the developer's mindset when the project was started ten years ago. It took the project a few years to overcome this misconception and embrace asynchronous communication primitives. Most modern Genode components use a mix of both synchronous and asynchronous inter-component interactions. At the API level, however, the two forms of communication remained to exist side by side instead of being integrated in one holistic design. With respect to programming styles, the project underwent a similar evolution. Coming from C-programming background, many parts of the original API resembled a C-ish programming style such as the prominent use of pointers, format strings, side effects via global function calls, or integer error codes. Over the years, however, the expressiveness of the C++ language got fully embraced and the programming style evolved towards functional programming. Today, most modern Genode components are designed as single-threaded state machines, triggered only by signals and RPC requests originating from other components. There are almost no dynamic memory allocations. If so, allocations are not anonymous but accounted to a specific allocator. State is explicitly passed as arguments, not captured in the form of globally accessible objects. Thanks to this style, certain classes of bugs such as race conditions or memory leaks are greatly alleviated by design. Genode 16.05 cultivates the modern style of Genode components in the form of a fundamentally revised API. The new API is less complex, much safer, and easier to reason about. To account for this profound change, the release documentation is accompanied by a new edition of the "Genode Foundations" book (PDF). The second major focus of the current release is the updated arsenal of device drivers. All drivers ported from Linux were upgraded to the Linux kernel 4.4.3. Specifically, the drivers are the Intel wireless stack, the Intel graphics driver, the USB driver, and the TCP/IP stack. Thereby, Genode users are able to leverage the same drivers as up-to-date Linux distributions but with each driver being encapsulated in a dedicated protection domain. The audio driver, which originates from OpenBSD, received an update to OpenBSD 5.9. The device drivers are complemented with new infrastructure that makes ACPI platform controlling and monitoring features available to Genode users. Further highlights are the added ability to use the Rust programming language in Genode components and the enhanced support for using the GNU debugger on top of the NOVA microhypervisor. Details about all improvements and API changes are provided by the extensive release documentation of version 16.05.

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
When the Blue Lion project was announced at the American WarpStock in October 2015, the name was only temporary. Following the close of events at WarpStock Europe, Arca Noae managing member Lewis Rosenthal noted in an interview that the final product name for the new OS/2 distribution is ArcaOS 5.0. The significance of the version number relates to IBM OS/2 4.52 - the last maintenance release of the platform released by IBM in 2001. ArcaOS 5.0 is expected to be released in the fourth quarter of 2016, but Blue Lion remains as a code name, in much the same way "Wily Werewolf" is the code name of Ubuntu 15.10. ArcaOS is a sort-of continuation of eComStation, since it's founded by several eCS developers who felt eCS had ground to a halt.

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
Remember the story about Microsoft spamming the Android notification tray with ads for applications I had already installed? BetaNews talked to Microsoft about this, the company first said this: Our team is actively investigating the occurrences of these notifications. However, after BetaNews pressed on, Microsoft changed its tune and said this a few days later: Microsoft is deeply committed to ensuring that we maintain the best possible experience for our customers in addition to complying with all applicable policies. We have taken the action to turn off these notifications. This update will be reflected in the coming days. Well, I guess I indirectly actually did something useful.

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
When I asked President Ilves how he observes Estonia’s technological, social, and cultural changes from 2006 until now, the first thing he mentioned was the advent of fully digital prescription. Estonia, like nearly every other EU member state, has universal health care. Since 2002, Estonia has issued digital ID cards to all citizens and legal residents. These cards allow access to a "citizen’s portal," enabling all kinds of government services to exist entirely online: essentially any interaction with the government can be done online, ranging from paying taxes, to voting, to even picking up a prescription. "In the United States, 5,000 people die a year because of doctor's bad handwriting," he said. "It's very simple. You go to the doctor, and he writes the prescription in the computer, and you go to any pharmacy in the country, and you stick your card in the reader, and you identify yourself, and you get your prescription." As he pointed out repeatedly, "the stumbling blocks are not technological," but rather, are bureaucratic. I'm pretty sure we have the same digital prescription system here in The Netherlands - it really is as simple as the doctor sending out his prescription to the pharmacy for you, so it's ready for you right as you pick it up after the doctor's visit. I have no idea if this system I encounter here in my small, rural hometown is nationwide. In addition, I'd also assume that in the US, not every doctor is still using paper prescriptions - it's probably a patchwork of digital and paper. Setting that all aside - I have never heard a head of state speak this eloquently about digital matters, the internet, open source, and similar topics. Looking at my own politicians, who barely know how to hold a smartphone, yet decide on crucial digital matters, this is a huge breath of fresh air. I know too little about the man's policy positions and history other than what's being said in this interview, so it might be that Estonians who know him will hold a different view. Really do watch the video interview.

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
The maximum length for a path (file name and its directory route) - also known as MAX_PATH - has been defined by 260 characters. But with the latest Windows 10 Insider preview, Microsoft is giving users the ability to increase the limit. The recent most Windows 10 preview is enabling users to change the 260 characters limit. As mentioned in the description, "Enabling NTFS long paths will allow manifested win32 applications and Windows Store applications to access paths beyond the normal 260 char limit per node." Did anyone ever run into this limit? It seems like something that would really be bothersome on servers.

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
After Oracle's expected and well-deserved loss versus Google, Oracle's attorney Annette Hurst published an op-ed about the potential impact of the case on the legal landscape of the software development industry. The op-ed focuses on one particular aspect of Google's position, which author puts as following: [B]ecause the Java APIs have been open, any use of them was justified and all licensing restrictions should be disregarded. In other words, if you offer your software on an open and free basis, any use is fair use. This position, as she claims, puts GPL in jeopardy: common dual-licensing schemes (GPL+proprietary license) depends on developers' ability to enforce the terms of GPL. It is pretty obvious that the danger of this case for the GPL and the open source community is heavily overstated - the amount of attention this case have received is due to the fact that the developer community never really considered header files as copyrightable assets. The whole "GPL in jeopardy" claim, as well as a passage saying that "[n]o copyright expert would have ever predicted [use of header files for reimplementation of an API] would be considered fair", is merely an attempt to deceive readers. The interesting bit is why Oracle's lawyer tries to pose her client's attempt at squeezing some coins from Google as an act of defending the free software community. Does Oracle still think the open source proponents may regard it as an ally, even after Sun's acquisition and the damage it dealt to OpenSolaris, OpenOffice and MySQL projects?

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
Jason Snell, in an article about Google's iOS applications importing Material Design into iOS: Users choose platforms for various reasons, but once they’ve chosen a platform, they deserve consistency. Someone should tell this to Apple and virtually all iOS application developers, because iOS is an inconsistent mess of an operating system. Here's a few examples taken from my never-to-be-published iPhone 6S/iOS 9 review that I wrote during the six months I used the thing (up until a few weeks ago, when I went running back to Android because iOS couldn't even get the basics like multitasking and inter-application communication right). Take something like application settings. In Outlook, tap the settings icon in the bottom bar. In Alien Blue, tap the blue dot in the top right, then settings. In Tweetbot, tap your account picture (!?), then settings. In the Wikipedia application, tap the W logo, then "More..." (!?). For many cross-platform applications that are also available on Android, tap the hamburger, then find something that sounds like settings. For Apple's own applications, close the application (I wish I was joking), open iOS' Settings application, scroll down for days, figure out in which unnamed grouping it belongs, then tap its name. [...] So it goes for settings, so it goes for many other things. Navigating between main parts of the user interface of an application is sometimes done via a tab bar at the bottom, sometimes it's done via a full-screen root-level list menu, sometimes it's done with a slide-in drawer, sometimes there's a tab bar at the top. Sometimes you can swipe between tabs, sometimes you can't. Animations for identical actions often differ from application to application (e.g. closing an image in iMessage vs. closing it in TweetBot). [...] It goes deeper than that, though. The official Twitter application, as well as Apple's own compose tweet dialog, for instance, replace the enter key on the iOS keyboard with a pound sign, hiding the enter key in the numbers panel. Why is this even allowed in the first place? Or, even more infuriating: the "switch between keyboards button" (the globe) is actually in a different place on the Emoji keyboard compared to regular language keyboards. So when I'm cycling between my keyboards - which I do a million times a day - from English to Dutch, the process comes to a grinding halt because of the Emoji keyboard. The problem is that while Google's efforts on first Holo and then Material Design have given Android developers a relatively clear set of rules and instructions on how Android applications should look, feel, and behave, there's no such set of clear rules for iOS. The iOS HIG is vague, open to interpretation, and Apple itself regularly casts it aside to do whatever it feels like (look up the section on where to put application settings. It's comically open to interpretation so as to be effectively useless). That's how you end up with impenetrably convoluted applications like TweetBot - often held up as a shining light of iOS application design - where you can perform up to 15-20 different actions with various gestures, taps, taps-and-holds, hard-taps, etc., both operating system-level and application-level, on a single tweet in its timeline (good luck not mixing those up, either because you used the wrong gesture or tap or because the operating system's touch/tap algorithms buckle under the pressure). Or, the popular and praised Overcast podcasting application by iOS star developer Marco Arment, which ditches the standard iOS fonts for its own comical font because... Reasons? And on it goes. I've been a strong proponent of militant consistency in user interface design and behaviour for as long as I can remember, and while neither iOS nor Android are shining examples of the concept, there's absolutely no doubt in my mind that Holo and Material Design have done a far better job of propelling at least a modicum of consistency in Android application design than anything Apple has ever done for iOS. From that same never-to-be-published iOS review: Interactions with a smartphone tend to be quick, focused, and often involve cycling through a number of applications very quickly. Unlike desktops or laptops, we tend to not use the same application for long periods of time, but instead quickly jump in and out of a number of applications, and then put the phone back in our pocket. Given this usage pattern, the less you have to think about where stuff is and how to do a thing, the more fluid and pleasant your workflow will be. And this is one of the many reasons why using iOS is such an incredibly frustrating experience for me. Every step of the way, I have to fight with iOS to get it to do what I want, whether it's every application doing things in its own specific way, applications not at all talking to each other, the inability to set default applications - it all adds up to an experience where I have to spend way too much time and energy thinking about how to get around iOS' limitations, iOS developers' auteur application design, and Apple's inability to write, apply, and consistently enforce its own HIG - even after six months of exclusive use and spending €800 (I really tried). It's great to ask of Google to make its iOS applications consistent with iOS' design principles - but you might want to ask Apple what those are, exactly, first. Read more on this exclusive OSNews article...

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
At the end of their third day of deliberation, the jury found that Google's use of the declaring code and the structure, sequence, and organization of the Java APIs in the Android code was a fair use. After the verdict was read aloud, Judge William Alsup thanked the jury for their service, noting that the jurors - who often came to court even earlier than the set start time of 7:45 AM, and lingered after hours to pore over their notes - had been "attentive" and "worked hard." Great news for the industry.

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
Jolla C is the first ever Sailfish OS community device, with a limited 1,000 units available for our developer and fan community. It is expected to ship in July 2016. Jolla C is used by Jolla developers and community members, and its users will naturally get all the latest vanilla Sailfish OS releases. Selected Jolla C users will be also invited to test Beta OS releases. With a quad-core Snapdragon™ processor, 2 GB memory, beautiful 5” HD display and dual SIM, the Jolla C works beautifully with Sailfish OS. You will get to keep the device for yourself after the Program. Jolla is releasing a new smartphone, but in a very limited number - only a 1000 pieces - for selected users. It's not exactly a massive step forward compared to the first Jolla device, but it's a nice spec bump nonetheless. It's unlikely many of us will own this one.

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
Plan 9 is a research operating system from Bell Labs. For several years it was my primary environment and I still use it regularly. Despite its conceptual and implementation simplicity, I've found that folks often don't immediately understand the system's fundamentals: hence this series of articles. Bookmark this website, folks.

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
The Raspberry Pi 3 is not hurting for operating system choices. The tiny ARM computer is supported by several Linux distributions and even has a version of Windows 10 IoT core available. Now, it looks like the Pi is about to get official support for one of the most popular operating systems out there: Android. In Google's Android Open Source Project (AOSP) repository, a new device tree recently popped up for the Raspberry Pi 3. A great little device for Android on the desktop - where Android is going.

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
The Raspberry Pi 3 is not hurting for operating system choices. The tiny ARM computer is supported by several Linux distributions and even has a version of Windows 10 IoT core available. Now, it looks like the Pi is about to get official support for one of the most popular operating systems out there: Android. In Google's Android Open Source Project (AOSP) repository, a new device tree recently popped up for the Raspberry Pi 3. A great little device for Android on the desktop - where Android is going.

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
Microsoft is signalling the end of its Nokia experiment today. After acquiring Nokia's phone business for $7.2 billion two years ago, Microsoft wrote off $7.6 billion last year and cut 7,800 jobs to refocus its phone efforts. Microsoft is now writing off an additional $950 million today as part of its failed Nokia acquisition, and the company plans to cut a further 1,850 jobs. Most of the layoffs will affect employees at Microsoft's Mobile division in Finland, with 1,350 job losses there and 500 globally. Around $200 million of the $950 million impairment charge is being used for severance payments. Everything about this entire deal needs to be investigated for all kinds of shady practices. My gut is telling me there's a bunch of people that perhaps ought to be in jail on this one. Meanwhile, this is absolutely terrible for all the people involved. I've got the feeling thousands of people's jobs have been used as a ball in a very expensive executive game. Luckily, the remnants of Nokia in Finland seem to be doing well, so that's at least something, and in case you've got a hunkering for the good old days: there's a video out of Nokia Meltemi on a device called the Clipr - a very rare look at a Linux-based mobile operating system Nokia was developing around 2012.

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