19 May 2018

feedOSNews

Inside the 76477 Space Invaders sound effect chip

The 76477 Complex Sound Generation chip (1978) provided sound effects for Space Invaders and many other video games. It was also a popular hobbyist chip, easy to experiment with and available at Radio Shack. I reverse-engineered the chip from die photos and found some interesting digital circuitry inside. Perhaps the most interesting is a shift register based white noise generator, useful for drums, gunshots, explosions and other similar sound effects. The chip also uses a digital mixer to combine the chip's different sound generators. An unusual feature of the chip is that it uses Integrated Injection Logic (I2L), a type of digital logic developed in the 1970s with the goal of high-density, high-speed chips.

19 May 2018 8:39pm GMT

18 May 2018

feedOSNews

iOS developers form union to pressure Apple

A number of prominent third-party iOS developers have formed a union to put pressure on Apple to change several App Store policies. We believe that people who create great software should be able to make a living doing it. So we created The Developers Union to advocate for sustainability in the App Store. Today, we are asking Apple to publicly commit - by the tenth anniversary of the App Store this July - to allowing free trials for all apps in the App Stores before July 2019. After that, we'll start advocating for a more reasonable revenue cut and other community-driven, developer-friendly changes. I've railed against the long-term sustainability of the application store model for years now, long before it became en vogue in wider developer circles. I absolutely love the idea of independent developers forming a union - even if it's not a literal union - as a means to put pressure on Apple, Google, and other owners of application stores to take better care of developers. At the same time, I fear that they are too late - the vast majority of the App Store's revenue comes from crappy pay-to-win mobile games, not from well-made, lovingly crafted applications. I simply don't think these developers are important enough to a bean-counting bottom-liner like Tim Cook.

18 May 2018 10:25pm GMT

Google's Duplex will warn that calls are recorded

Since Google revealed a robo-caller that sounds eerily human earlier this month, the company has faced plenty of questions about how it works. Employees got some answers this week. On Thursday, the Alphabet Inc. unit shared more details on how the Duplex robot-calling feature will operate when it's released publicly, according to people familiar with the discussion. Duplex is an extension of the company's voice-based digital assistant that automatically phones local businesses and speaks with workers there to book appointments. At Google’s weekly TGIF staff meeting on Thursday, executives gave employees their first full Duplex demo and told them the bot would identify itself as the Google assistant. It will also inform people on the phone that the line is being recorded in certain jurisdictions, the people said. They asked not to be identified discussing private matters. A Google spokesman declined to comment. This is a good step, and while the technology is awesome, I'm still quite reluctant about whether or not we really need this. Aside from the very legitimate use cases for people with disabilities, to whom this technology could be life-changing, I'm wondering just what regular users get out of it.

18 May 2018 10:17pm GMT

Pie menus: a 30 year retrospective

Today (May 15, 2018) is the 30 year anniversary of CHI'88 (May 15-19, 1988), where Jack Callahan, Ben Shneiderman, Mark Weiser and I (Don Hopkins) presented our paper "An Empirical Comparison of Pie vs. Linear Menus". We found pie menus to be about 15% faster and with a significantly lower error rate than linear menus! This article will discuss the history of what's happened with pie menus over the last 30 years (and more), present both good and bad examples, including ideas half baked, experiments performed, problems discovered, solutions attempted, alternatives explored, progress made, software freed, products shipped, as well as setbacks and impediments to their widespread adoption. Fantastic read with fantastic examples. Set some time aside for this one - you won't regret it.

18 May 2018 10:15pm GMT

GDPR hysteria

In another week the GDPR, or the General Data Protection Regulation will become enforceable and it appears that unlike any other law to date this particular one has the interesting side effect of causing mass hysteria in the otherwise rational tech sector. This post is an attempt to calm the nerves of those that feel that the(ir) world is about to come to an end, the important first principle when it comes to dealing with any laws, including this one is Don’t Panic. I’m aiming this post squarely at the owners of SME’s that are active on the world wide web and that feel overwhelmed by this development. A bit of background about myself: I’ve been involved in the M&A scene for about a decade, do technical due diligence for a living (together with a team of 8). This practice and my feeling that the battle for privacy on the web is one worth winning which has led me to study online privacy in some detail puts me in an excellent position to see the impact of this legislation first hand as well as how companies tend to deal with it. The GDRP is not nearly as draconian or complex as people are scared into believing (mostly by people who conveniently also sell GDRP compliance services). Over the past few weeks and months, I've translated countless internal and external corporate documents about the GDPR from companies both big and small, for all kinds of sectors, many of which you know, and none of them are freaking out and none of them find this particularly difficult or complicated. Even a legal simpleton like me understands it just fine, and all I need to do is translate texts about it.

18 May 2018 8:26pm GMT

17 May 2018

feedOSNews

The soon-to-be-extinct embedded software engineer

Embedded systems have started to become extremely complex. The big push to connect every device to the internet to create the IoT is causing a demand for embedded software engineers that has not yet been seen in recent history. This big push is causing a vacuum in which companies can't find enough embedded software engineers. Instead of training new engineers, they are starting to rely on application developers, who have experience with Windows applications or mobile devices, to develop their real-time embedded software. The problem, of course, is that these engineers don't understand the low-level hardware, but only high-level application frameworks that do all the work for them. Is this actually true? It's very difficult to gauge this, since most focus when it comes to development is on "sexy" development, such as smartphone applications or websites - there's very little media visibility for lower-level engineering such as embedded developers, kernel engineers, and so on. Since I know how easy it is to fall into the trap of believing that everything was better in the past, I genuinely wonder if this is really actually a problem, or that we just perceive it as such.

17 May 2018 11:05pm GMT

Bitcoin to use 0.5% of world's electricity by end of 2018

The bitcoin network is run by miners, computers that maintain the shared transaction ledger called the blockchain. A new study estimates that this process consumes at least 2.6GW of power - almost as much electric power as Ireland consumes. This figure could rise to 7.7GW before the end of 2018 - accounting for almost half a percent of the world's electricity consumption. Bitcoin is - quite literally - destroying our environment. It's erasing the meagre progress we've made on reducing our overal energy consumption, for a glorified Tulipmania.

17 May 2018 10:59pm GMT

Selfish Ledger is an unsettling vision of Google social engineering

Google has built a multibillion-dollar business out of knowing everything about its users. Now, a video produced within Google and obtained by The Verge offers a stunningly ambitious and unsettling look at how some at the company envision using that information in the future. The video was made in late 2016 by Nick Foster, the head of design at X (formerly Google X), and shared internally within Google. It imagines a future of total data collection, where Google helps nudge users into alignment with their goals, custom-prints personalized devices to collect more data, and even guides the behavior of entire populations to solve global problems like poverty and disease. This is exactly as dystopian and deeply creepy as you think it is. My biggest concern is not that this video exists or that companies such as Google are thinking about this - my biggest concern is that a whole generation of people already seem to accept this as the new normal even before it's a reality.

17 May 2018 10:19pm GMT

Evolving Chrome's security indicators

Previously, HTTP usage was too high to mark all HTTP pages with a strong red warning, but in October 2018 (Chrome 70), we'll start showing the red "not secure" warning when users enter data on HTTP pages. Seemingly small change, but still hugely significant. Right now, HTTPS pages are marked as secure, and HTTP pages are not marked at all. In the future, HTTPS pages will not be marked, while HTTP pages will be marked as insecure.

17 May 2018 10:02pm GMT

The Xbox Adaptive Controller may change gaming forever

The operative word is "adaptive". XAC's potential truly begins with its back-side strip. There, you'll find a whopping 19 ports, all 3.5mm jacks. No, this isn't a giant middle finger to the headphone-jack haters at Apple and Google. Rather, these ports see Microsoft connecting with, and loudly celebrating, what has long been an open secret in the world of gaming peripherals: the community of add-on devices designed for limited-mobility gamers. Oversized buttons, finger switches, blowing tubes, foot pedals, and other specialized inputs have long been built for gamers who can't hold onto or efficiently use average controllers (gamepads, keyboards, mice). Recent speeches from company heads like CEO Satya Nadella and Xbox chief Phil Spencer have paid lip service to "inclusivity" in computing and gaming, but this device, the XAC, aims to do the trick by connecting niche add-ons to standard Microsoft hardware. This is a hugely important device for gamers with limited mobility. Nothing but praise for Microsoft for developing a device like this.

17 May 2018 12:13pm GMT

Senate votes to reinstate net neutrality

The Senate has voted to save net neutrality, but don’t get your hopes up: there’s still a long, likely impossible journey ahead if the policy is to be saved in the immediate future. In a 52-47 vote today, senators voted to overturn the Federal Communication Commission’s Restoring Internet Freedom Order, which took net neutrality rules off the books. They were able to do so using the Congressional Review Act, or CRA, which allows Congress to reverse recent decisions by government agencies. Republican control of Congress means that such a measure wouldn’t normally even make it up for a vote; but the CRA allows senators to force a vote by obtaining 30 signatures. All 49 Democrats voted in favor, as well as Republican Senators Susan Collins, of Maine; John Kennedy, of Louisiana; and Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska. This is a step in the right direction for the US, but corruption runs deep, so this fight is far, far from over. Still, a victory is a victory.

17 May 2018 12:08pm GMT

16 May 2018

feedOSNews

The desktop belongs to Electron

This doesn’t have to be forever. Maybe in the future, developers will start using React Native to build desktop applications. Or perhaps Flutter! Electron apps have a bad reputation for using too much RAM, have potential security issues, can’t (yet) match the speed of C++, and they often lack the polish and familiarity of a great native app. But it seems clear to me that OS-specific SDKs are becoming a liability for desktop OS vendors. Developers want to use the technologies they know, and they want maximum reach for the products they build. And they’re smart enough to get what they want. A lack of cooperation on the part of Apple, Google, and Microsoft will only hurt users. Say hello to your new Electron overlord. At 33, I'm perhaps staring to show signs of becoming an old man, but I really don't like Electron applications. I use Discord every day, and it just feels slow, cumbersome, and out of place on my virtually 100% Modern/Fluent Design Windows desktop, Surface, and my iPhone X. I greatly prefer proper, platform-specific native applications, but I feel that ship may have sailed with things like Electron and Progressive Web Apps. I'm not looking forward to this future.

16 May 2018 11:09pm GMT

Twitter to intentionally cripple third-party clients

Twitter has long had a strange disdain for third-party Twitter apps, but it's allowed many of them to pass under the radar for the last several years. That's starting to change this summer, when Twitter will revoke a key piece of access that developers currently have to the service, replacing it with a new access system that limits what they can do. The changes aren't going to make third-party Twitter clients useless, but they are going to make the apps somewhat worse. The changes, which go into effect August 16th, do two main things: first, they prevent new tweets from streaming into an app in real time; and second, they prevent and delay some push notifications. Neither of these are going to break Twitter apps completely, but they could be very annoying depending on how and where you use it. As good a moment as any to stop using Twitter altogether. Twitter is actively making Twitter worse for those that use Twitter the most and since the longest time, which seems like a terrible business decision. They want us to use their crappy non-chronological, advertisement-ridden first party clients, which in my case simply isn't going to happen. I use Twitter for fun, and these needless changes suck that fun out of it. Meanwhile, the Nazis are still on Twitter. Just so you know where the company's priorities lie.

16 May 2018 11:01pm GMT

AsteroidOS 1.0 released

Four years ago, I envisioned an open-source operating system for smartwatches that would eventually become known as AsteroidOS. This project has steadily grown and gathered contributions from about 100 contributors from all around the world, all united behind the idea of an open wearable platform. When I first started, I never imagined how big this project would become and the quantity of work required to reach a stable version for daily usage. Today, it is my great pleasure to finally announce the availability of AsteroidOS 1.0, the first stable release of this project! This is a remarkable achievement. AsteroidOS is a Linux-based operating system using Wayland, Qt5, and various other open source technologies. It is quite full-featured, and currently works on seven Android Wear smartwatches. Sadly, I don't own one of the supported devices, because I'm incredibly curious to try this out.

16 May 2018 8:30pm GMT

A collection of Windows 95 UI components for iOS' UIKit

This is a little exploration into applying '90s-era design & principles into a modern platform with some primitive components. The assets and design metrics were (for the most part) taken from an actual installation of Windows 95. These are pixel-accurate renditions of the original design. There's something refreshing about seeing Windows 95's controls and widgets running on a modern smartphone.

16 May 2018 8:29pm GMT

19 Oct 2016

feedThe Register - Software: Operating Systems

Who killed Cyanogen?

Well, it's hanging on in there, but why didn't it conquer the world?

Analysis Does European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager's team pay close attention to the tech news? If not, perhaps they should.…

19 Oct 2016 10:24am GMT

17 Oct 2016

feedThe Register - Software: Operating Systems

Bits of Google's dead Project Ara modular mobe live on in Linux 4.9

Linus Torvalds teaches devs a lesson with early rc1 release

Google may have killed off its modular smartphone Project Ara idea, but some of the code that would have made it happen looks like coming to the Linux Kernel.…

17 Oct 2016 6:58am GMT

BART barfs, racers crash, and other classic BSODs

Your weekly Windows entertainment large and small

This week's worldwide BSOD roundup starts with what looks to your writer like a virtualisation launch bug. Submitter Alexander tells us it came from Peterborough Station, in Cambridgeshire.…

17 Oct 2016 6:28am GMT

14 Oct 2016

feedThe Register - Software: Operating Systems

Apple’s macOS Sierra update really puts the fan into 'fanboi'

Look out! It's gonna blow!

Something for the Weekend, Sir? "Ooh, I'm so hot! And I'm getting even hotter for you, big boy!"

14 Oct 2016 9:07am GMT

13 Oct 2016

feedThe Register - Software: Operating Systems

VMS will be ready to run on x86 in 2019!

Or 2018 if you're brave. For now, we have a boot screen!

VMS Software Inc (VSI), which became the custodian of the venerable OpenVMS in 2014, is getting close to its Holy Grail of running the OS on x86.…

13 Oct 2016 4:03am GMT

12 Oct 2016

feedThe Register - Software: Operating Systems

Google sets the date for first sniff at Android 7.1

Holding back Assistant and apps drawer for Pixel

Developers can get their hands on Android 7.1 by the end of the month, Google has said.…

12 Oct 2016 12:06am GMT

11 Oct 2016

feedThe Register - Software: Operating Systems

Cyanogen mods self away from full Android alternative

Board shakeup and new 'buy our code McNuggets' plan follows lousy sales

Android alternative Cyanogen looks to have given up on trying to sell a full mobile operating system.…

11 Oct 2016 5:03am GMT

10 Oct 2016

feedThe Register - Software: Operating Systems

FreeBSD 11.0 lands, with security fixes to FreeBSD 11.0

Bootleggers, don't ignore the official version

If you were one of the sharp-eyed users who downloaded FreeBSD 11.0 from the project's FTP servers before official release, it's time to upgrade again. The release version has landed and it's not the same as the bootleg.…

10 Oct 2016 9:41pm GMT

07 Oct 2016

feedThe Register - Software: Operating Systems

Windows updates? Just trust us, says Microsoft executive

'Rather than you approving which patches you want, we are saying let them all flow'

Interview At Microsoft's recent Ignite event in Atlanta, The Reg sat down with Brad Anderson, Corporate Vice President of Enterprise Client and Mobility.…

07 Oct 2016 5:05pm GMT

06 Oct 2016

feedThe Register - Software: Operating Systems

Windows 10 market share fell in September

Not by much and we know mass enterprise adoption is still to come

Microsoft may have used its Ignite conference to trumpet Windows 10 now running on 400 million devices, but the operating system's market share went backwards in September according to two of three traffic-watchers we track each month.…

06 Oct 2016 6:02am GMT

05 Oct 2016

feedThe Register - Software: Operating Systems

Google melts 78 Android security holes, two of which were critical

Chinese hackers thanked for help finding flaws

Google has crushed 78 Android security flaws in its October bug blitzkrieg, repairing critical core Android services along the way.…

05 Oct 2016 3:58am GMT

Linus Torvalds admits 'buggy crap' made it into Linux 4.8

Devs have 'NO F*CKING EXCUSE to knowingly kill the kernel', says Linux lord

Linus Torvalds gave the world Linux 4.8 earlier this week, but now appears to wish he didn't after spotting some code he says can "kill the kernel."…

05 Oct 2016 2:27am GMT

04 Oct 2016

feedThe Register - Software: Operating Systems

Lenovo exec: Nope, not building Windows Phones

'Not convinced Microsoft is committed long term to the OS'

Canalys Channels Forum 2016 Lenovo will not build smartmobes running on Microsoft's Windows operating system because it doubts the software giant's long term commitment to the market.…

04 Oct 2016 9:32am GMT

03 Oct 2016

feedThe Register - Software: Operating Systems

Apple to automatically cram macOS Sierra into Macs – 'cos that worked well for Windows 10

And they say Microsoft never innovates anything…

Apple is taking a page from Microsoft's Windows 10 playbook and will push out its latest macOS (ex-OS X) update as an automatic download.…

03 Oct 2016 9:09pm GMT

28 Sep 2016

feedThe Register - Software: Operating Systems

Our Windows windows will be resizable, soooon, vows Microsoft

Back to the '80s

Ignite Microsoft this week promised to increase desktop users' productivity by bringing resizeable overlapping windows to Windows™ - a feature notably missing today. A spokesman also expressed hope that Mr Gorbachev's new policy of "perestroika" would continue, bringing real benefits to Soviet citizens.…

28 Sep 2016 11:32am GMT

27 Sep 2016

feedThe Register - Software: Operating Systems

Official: Windows 10 has hit the 400 million device mark

Pro version accounts for growing share of business PC sales

Microsoft's self-installing Windows 10 operating system has reached the 400 million mark, the firm announced at its Ignite conference in Atlanta this week, up from the previous high of 350 million in August.…

27 Sep 2016 12:18pm GMT