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Exploring the Future of Computing

FaviconWindows 10 Fall Creators Update: lots of small changes 18 Oct 2017, 6:44 am

Overall, the Fall Creators Update is a nice set of improvements to Windows. Windows 10 continues to get better with each update. Its grab-bag nature continues to underscore just how Windows development has changed. As the Fluent work makes clear, Windows today is in some sense never finished. That's not something to be scared of; any piece of actively maintained, supported, updated software is in a sense "not finished." With the new approach to developing and delivering Windows, that "unfinished" nature is more overt than it used to be. I'm sure some of the semi-annual Windows updates will feel larger in scope than others, depending on how the development work is going; others will feel a bit smaller. Because so much of the ground work was laid in the Creators Update, albeit hidden from view, this feels like a smaller update. It's a list of relatively small and disjointed features, but I still really like this update. Especially the Fluent Design changes to applications are very welcome, and make Metro applications feel less... Dead? Less cold? They have more warmth now, which is definitely something missing from pre-Fluent Metro and current iOS UI design (not so much from Material Design, which is rife with colour and depth). The very, very subtle blur effect, the 'highlight' when hovering over buttons and menus, and the odd animation here and there really address the concerns of people who feel Metro takes the "flat" design trend too far to the extreme. As a sidenote, "flat" really is a terrible term, since none of these UI design styles are really flat. Fluent, Material Design, and whatever iOS has are actually anything but flat, and have far more Z-depth than anything that came before - but I digress. The emoji picker is really nice, but it baffles me why it's emoji-only; as someone with a deep, deep hatred for special character input on Windows, it baffles me that it doesn't include special characters. The new GPU panel in Task Manager is also very nice, and it feels like Edge is less flakey, too. All in all, a nice free update.

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FaviconThe new MacBook keyboard is ruining my life 18 Oct 2017, 6:42 am

I was in the Grand Central Station Apple Store for a third time in a year, watching a progress bar slowly creep across my computer's black screen as my Genius multi-tasked helping another customer with her iPad. My computer was getting its third diagnostic test in 45 minutes. The problem was not that its logic board was failing, that its battery was dying, or that its camera didn't respond. There were no mysteriously faulty innerworkings. It was the spacebar. It was broken. And not even physically broken - it still moved and acted normally. But every time I pressed it once, it spaced twice. "Maybe it's a piece of dust," the Genius had offered. The previous times I'd been to the Apple Store for the same computer with the same problem - a misbehaving keyboard - Geniuses had said to me these exact same nonchalant words, and I had been stunned into silence, the first time because it seemed so improbable to blame such a core problem on such a small thing, and the second time because I couldn't believe the first time I was hearing this line that it was not a fluke. But this time, the third time, I was ready. "Hold on," I said. "If a single piece of dust lays the whole computer out, don't you think that's kind of a problem?" The keyboard on the MacBooks and MacBook Pros is an unmitigated disaster. In pursuit of thinness nobody else is looking for, Apple severely crippled its most important Mac product line - and that's even without taking the Touchbar into account.

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FaviconDragonFlyBSD 5.0 released 16 Oct 2017, 5:14 pm

DragonFlyBSD 5.0 is the first release with preliminary boot support for HAMMER2, the project's new filesystem. Preliminary HAMMER2 support has been released into the wild as-of the 5.0 release. This support is considered EXPERIMENTAL and should generally not yet be used for production machines and important data. The boot loader will support both UFS and HAMMER2 /boot. The installer will still use a UFS /boot even for a HAMMER2 installation because the /boot partition is typically very small and HAMMER2, like HAMMER1, does not instantly free space when files are deleted or replaced.

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FaviconMicrosoft shows off its Fluent Design changes to Windows 10 16 Oct 2017, 6:47 am

All of the new design changes to Windows 10 are demonstrated in a new video from Microsoft. It’s a good showcase of how subtle the changes are, but it doesn’t tease much for the future. Microsoft’s Fluent Design System is designed to be the true successor to Microsoft's Metro design, and will appear across apps and services on Windows, iOS, and Android. Microsoft is focusing on light, depth, motion, material, and scale for its Fluent Design, with animations that make the design feel like it's moving during interactions in Windows. Like Metro applications before them, these Fluent applications look really nice, but it's all for naught. Microsoft showed off its redesigned Outlook application for Windows (and macOS), and guess what? It's a Win32 application. If not even Microsoft itself is interested in making Metro/Fluent applications, why should anyone else? Microsoft's approach to Metro/Fluent has been baffling from day one, and it doesn't seem like anything's changing any time soon. They made really great Metro Office applications, but then proceed to hide them from the Windows Store behind the "mobile" tag, and artificially cripple them by not allowing you to open more than one document per Office application. Even when Microsoft does make great Metro/Fluent applications, they artificially cripple them. I have no idea what Microsoft is doing, and I don't blame developers for giving them the finger. They are telling an unreliable, unfocused, unclear, and chaotic developer story, and any developer worth her salt wouldn't touch the Windows Store/Metro/Fluent with a ten-foot pole.

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FaviconWhere is Haiku R1? 14 Oct 2017, 9:24 am

With all the infrastructure changes and improvements, paired with the bug fixes in our master Haiku branch, we are slowly and steadily moving towards the R1 Beta 1 release which will live in its own R1(!) branch. R1 Beta 1 installations should slowly roll towards the final R1 release via package updates. R1 Beta 1 is going to be a big step towards our first stable release. The exact dates are still not solid. I know we have been saying "soon" for quite a while... But soon. ...

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FaviconChrysaLisp: an assembler/C-Script/Lisp 64bit OS 14 Oct 2017, 9:09 am

Assembler/C-Script/Lisp 64 bit OS. MIMD, multi CPU, multi threaded, multi core, multi user. Runs on OSX or Linux for x64, PI64 Linux for Aarch64. Will move to bare metal eventually but it's useful for now to run hosted while experimenting. When time allows I will be doing a VM boot image for UniKernel type appliances and a WebAssembly target to play around within the browser. Allows modelling of various network topologies with point to point links. Each CPU in the network is modelled as a separate host process, point to point links use shared memory to simulate CPU to CPU, point to point, bi directional connections. There is no global bus based networking on purpose.

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FaviconWhat nobody told me about the Netherlands 14 Oct 2017, 9:08 am

Some years ago, already working in 'active transport', and seeking to deepen my understanding around urban design, I took the opportunity to take a family holiday for a week in the Netherlands. Among many many reactions to the experience, one big one I experienced was simply surprise that nobody had told me about most of the amazing things I'd see. I've been meaning simply to write a list of these amazing things for years now. Unfortunately I'm not all that sure that there is any way to convey the 'amazingness' to those who haven't visited. The Netherlands is one of the most - if not the most - densely populated western countries, which forced urban planners to get creative. Growing up and living in The Netherlands it's easy to take for granted just how good we are at traffic and urban design. That is, until you take a trip abroad to pretty much any other country - even our beloved neighbours like Germany or Belgium - and realise just how terrible everyone else is at properly segmenting and protecting cyclists and pedestrians, even in densely populated and tightly packed cities. Urban design is a fascinating subject, and once you start paying attention to it here in The Netherlands, you'll discover an endless array of affordances to protect cyclists, pedestrians, and cars (yes!), while also creating neighbourhoods that usually have only one entry/exit point for cars so they can't be used for through traffic, all designed with the goal of corralling cars away from where people actually live. I often wonder - will this make The Netherlands a haven for self-driving cars, or a hell?

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FaviconMicrosoft breaches Dutch data protection law with Windows 10 14 Oct 2017, 8:44 am

Microsoft breaches the Dutch data protection law by processing personal data of people that use the Windows 10 operating system on their computers. This is the conclusion of the Dutch Data Protection Authority (DPA) after its investigation of Windows 10 Home and Pro. Microsoft does not clearly inform users about the type of data it uses, and for which purpose. Also, people cannot provide valid consent for the processing of their personal data, because of the approach used by Microsoft. The company does not clearly inform users that it continuously collects personal data about the usage of apps and web surfing behaviour through its web browser Edge, when the default settings are used. Microsoft has indicated that it wants to end all violations. If this is not the case, the Dutch DPA can decide to impose a sanction on Microsoft. Kind of weird how Microsoft is found to be breaking the law, but they don't get punished for it; only if they refuse to stop breaking the law will they be fined. Interesting.

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FaviconSamsung CEO to resign citing 'unprecedented crisis' 13 Oct 2017, 5:38 am

Kwon Oh-hyun, Samsung Electronics' CEO, vice chairman, and the head of its hugely successful components business, has announced his resignation. He will step down from the CEO role, as well as his positions on the board and as CEO of Samsung Display, in March 2018. "It is something I had been thinking long and hard about for quite some time. It has not been an easy decision, but I feel I can no longer put it off," Kwon said in a letter sent to employees. "As we are confronted with unprecedented crisis inside out, I believe that time has now come for the company start anew, with a new spirit and young leadership to better respond to challenges arising from the rapidly changing IT industry." The unnamed "crisis" in Kwon's letter no doubt includes the imprisonment of Lee Jae-yong, the de facto leader of the entire Samsung group, on corruption charges. While Lee didn't take a hands-on role in Samsung Electronics' regular business, Kwon's resignation is the first sign that the scandal could have a major impact on the company's operations and culture. South Korea are a bunch of amateurs. Everybody knows real freedom-loving countries legalise corruption and rebrand it as Lobbyingâ„¢ so that companies like Apple, Google, and others can legally bribe politicians and buy political favours without fear of being imprisoned. Get with the program, South Korea.

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FaviconSailfish 2.1.2 released 12 Oct 2017, 5:31 pm

This update, 2.1.2 alias Kiiminkijoki, fixes dozens of bugs reported by our community and adds many improvements. It makes the new Dropbox service interface available and improves some security features. 2.1.2 also contains the basic support for Sony Xperia X devices for development purposes (available for a limited user group only). This might be the first release I've seen which contains a feature or fix that isn't coming to the original Jolla Phone - namely, the updated Android support. The original Jolla Phone was released in December 2014, so that's not a hugely terrible run.

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FaviconTwinKick: dual Kickstart boot via floppy for Amiga 1000 12 Oct 2017, 5:19 pm

A "new" piece of software, quietly created 15 years ago, that allows Amiga 1000 users to load their Kickstart 1.3 or 3.1 (or "morph" between the two on a soft reset after loading 3.1) off a single disk has been discovered. The software is called TwinKick and is downloadable via Aminet. The linked post includes detailed instructions on how to create this disk. Being able to switch between the two Kickstarts is pretty incredible. Although seeing 3.1 load onto a Amiga 1000 - off a floppy - is pretty mind blowing by itself.

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FaviconKDE Plasma 5.11 released 10 Oct 2017, 7:49 pm

Today KDE publishes this autumn's Plasma feature release, KDE Plasma 5.11. Plasma 5.11 brings a redesigned settings app, improved notifications, a more powerful task manager. Plasma 5.11 is the first release to contain the new "Vault", a system to allow the user to encrypt and open sets of documents in a secure and user-friendly way, making Plasma an excellent choice for people dealing with private and confidential information. This screenshot of the new Vault feature with a selection in a selection because you like selections is just so KDE - and I mean that in a teasing, loving way.

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FaviconDisabling the Intel Management Engine 10 Oct 2017, 7:45 pm

The Intel Management Engine ('IME' or 'ME') is an out-of-band co-processor integrated in all post-2006 Intel-CPU-based PCs. It has full network and memory access and runs proprietary, signed, closed-source software at ring -2, independently of the BIOS, main CPU and platform operating system - a fact which many regard as an unacceptable security risk (particularly given that at least one remotely exploitable security hole has already been reported). In this mini-guide, I'll run through the process of disabling the IME on your target PC. Apparently, the IME co-processor runs... MINIX 3. That is incredibly fascinating. This means every post-2006 Intel PC runs MINIX.

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FaviconMicrosoft finally admits Windows Phone is dead 9 Oct 2017, 3:44 pm

In a series of tweets, Microsoft's Joe Belfiore has revealed that the software giant is no longer developing new features or hardware for Windows 10 Mobile. While Windows Phone fans had hoped Microsoft would update the platform with new features, it's now clear the operating system has been placed into servicing mode, with just bug fixes and security updates for existing users. I was a first adopter of Windows Phone 7 - so much so I imported a device from the US during launch week. It was an amazing operating system to use, and I loved it. Soon, however, it became clear Microsoft was unable to attract developers to the platform, and even those applications that did make it weren't particularly good - not even the ones written by Microsoft itself, which were often simple HTML-based apps, which simply weren't good advocates for the platform. As a Windows Phone user, you were always scraping the very bottom of the barrel when it came to applications. To make matters worse, the move to Windows NT with Windows Phone 8 was a disaster. Existing phones weren't updated, and instead, only got an entirely pointless Windows Phone 7.8 update. This didn't do anything to enamour users to the platform, which makes it all the more weird when Microsoft did it again when Windows Phone 10 was released. In any event, Windows Phone 8 did mature over its short lifetime, gaining many features other platforms had had for ages. Sadly, the application situation never improved, and to this day, the Windows Store is a ghost town. It really sucks that Windows Phone became a victim of blatant mismanagement and market forces, because I still love the operating system and its unique UI. One day, I'll have to sit down and write the counterpart to my Palm retrospective, covering the entire PocketPC/Windows Mobile/Windows Phone era. It's been a wild ride.

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FaviconReverse engineering the macOS High Sierra supplemental update 9 Oct 2017, 3:26 pm

Reported by Matheus Mariano, a Brazilian software developer, a programming error was discovered in Apple’s most recent operating system, High Sierra, that exposed passwords of encrypted volumes as password hints. A serious bug that quickly made the headlines in technology websites everywhere. Apple was prompt to provide macOS High Sierra Supplemental Update to customers via the App Store, and ensured that every distribution of High Sierra in their servers included this update. I decided to apply a binary diffing technique to the update to learn more about the root cause of this bug and hypothesize about how the defect could have been prevented.

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