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Rust 1.27.0 released
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-06-21 22:49:45

Rust 1.27.0 has been released! As regular readers will know, I'm not a programmer and know very little about the two main new features in this release. The biggest new feature is SIMD.

Okay, now for the big news: the basics of SIMD are now available! SIMD stands for "single instruction, multiple data".

The detailed release notes have more information.

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Why the Supreme Court's software patent ban didn't last
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-06-21 22:45:04

The shifting rules about software patentability reflect a long-running tug of war between the Supreme Court and the Federal Circuit. The Federal Circuit loves software patents; the Supreme Court is more skeptical.

That fight continues today. While the Federal Circuit has invalidated many software patents in the four years since the Alice ruling, it also seems to be looking for legal theories that could justify more software patents. Only continued vigilance from the Supreme Court is likely to ensure things don't get out of hand again.

The 40-year-old Flook ruling remains a key weapon in the Supreme Court's arsenal. It's the court's strongest statement against patenting software. And, while software patent supporters aren't happy about it, it's still the law of the land.

That's the third US legal article in a row, but it's a great article that looks at the history of the tug of war between the Supreme Court and the Federal Circuit.

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California net neutrality bill gutted due to AT&T bribes
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-06-21 22:41:51

A California net neutrality bill that could have been the strictest such law in the country was dramatically scaled back yesterday after state lawmakers caved to demands from AT&T and cable lobbyists.

While the California Senate approved the bill with all of its core parts intact last month, a State Assembly committee's Democratic leadership yesterday removed key provisions.

"What happened today was outrageous," Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), the bill author, said. "These hostile amendments eviscerate the bill and leave us with a net neutrality bill in name only."

Corruption works.

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Online retailers can be forced to collect tax, high court rules
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-06-21 22:37:40

The U.S. Supreme Court freed states and local governments to start collecting billions of dollars in new sales taxes from online retailers, overturning a ruling that had made much of the internet a tax-free zone and put traditional retailers at a disadvantage.

News of the ruling caused shares of Internet retailers including Amazon.com Inc. and Wayfair Inc. to fall.

The court's 1992 decision involving catalog sales had shielded retailers from tax-collection duties if they didn’t have a physical presence in a state. Writing for the 5-4 court Thursday, Justice Anthony Kennedy said that ruling was obsolete in the e-commerce era.

The sticker price not being the actual price you pay at the register is one of those things that always baffles and annoys me whenever I'm visiting the US. It seems odd to me that physical retailers have to charge tax, but online retailers don't. Seems like an odd loophole that needed fixing.

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Intel CEO resigns over past relationship with employee
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-06-21 13:25:54

Intel Corporation today announced the resignation of Brian Krzanich as CEO and a member of the board of directors. The board has named Chief Financial Officer Robert Swan interim chief executive officer, effective immediately.

Intel was recently informed that Mr. Krzanich had a past consensual relationship with an Intel employee. An ongoing investigation by internal and external counsel has confirmed a violation of Intel's non-fraternization policy, which applies to all managers. Given the expectation that all employees will respect Intel's values and adhere to the company's code of conduct, the board has accepted Mr. Krzanich's resignation.

Companies have these rules for a reason - and it's good to see the consequences of violating them apply to the CEO as well. That being said, I doubt Krzanich will be living in a cardboard box any time soon.

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Firefox is back - it's time to give it a try.
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-06-21 07:44:31

Mozilla recently hit the reset button on Firefox. About two years ago, six Mozilla employees were huddled around a bonfire one night in Santa Cruz, Calif., when they began discussing the state of web browsers. Eventually, they concluded there was a "crisis of confidence" in the web.

"If they don't trust the web, they won't use the web," Mark Mayo, Mozilla's chief product officer, said in an interview. "That just felt to us like that actually might be the direction we're going. And so we started to think about tools and architectures and different approaches."

Now Firefox is back. Mozilla released a new version late last year, code-named Quantum. It is sleekly designed and fast; Mozilla said the revamped Firefox consumes less memory than the competition, meaning you can fire up lots of tabs and browsing will still feel buttery smooth.

Firefox is in a good place right now, and has gained a lot of momentum since the release of Quantum. With Chrome's dominance, I'm really glad people are looking at alternatives such as Firefox and even Edge (the latter being my browser of choice for some inexplicable reason).

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Verizon and AT&T will stop selling your phone's location
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-06-20 23:25:35

Verizon and AT&T have promised to stop selling their mobile customers' location information to third-party data brokers following a security problem that leaked the real-time location of US cell phone users.

Good news for Verizon and AT&T customers, but one has to wonder who's going to pay for this. They're going to have to recover the lost income somewhere, and that's probably going to be, well, you.

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What if Apple loses its Supreme Court App Store antitrust appeal?
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-06-20 22:46:25

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court officially picked up the long-running antitrust case Apple v. Pepper. The court will decide whether iPhone users can sue Apple for locking down the iOS ecosystem, something the suit's plaintiffs say is creating an anti-competitive monopoly.

Apple v. Pepper could theoretically affect how tech companies can build walled gardens around their products. The Supreme Court isn't going to make a call on that specific issue, but its decision could affect people's relationship with all kinds of digital platforms. Here's what's at stake when the Supreme Court case starts, which should happen sometime in the next year.

Sideloading code on a computer you own should not void any warranties.

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Oppo's Find X ditches the notch for pop-up cameras
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-06-20 22:44:26

If there's a singular trend to point to for phones in 2018, it's the effort to cram as much screen into a device as possible. Oppo's new Find X, which is being officially announced at a live streamed event in Paris today, combines a number of trendy design ideas, plus some even newer tricks, to fit an extremely large 6.4-inch display into a phone that you can still hold in one hand. The Find X’s design is so space efficient that Oppo claims it has a screen to body ratio of 93.8 percent. And it does this without utilizing a notch, which should make at least some people happy.

The most interesting aspect of the Find X's design is its camera system, which is completely hidden when the phone is off or the camera app is closed. When you turn the Find X on and open the camera app, the entire top section of the phone motorizes up and reveals a 25-megapixel front-facing camera, 3D facial scanning system, and 16-megapixel + 20-megapixel dual rear camera. Close the camera app and the whole assembly motors back into the phone's chassis. Oppo says the camera can open in just 0.5 seconds, and based on my experience, that seems fairly accurate.

I have my doubts about the longevity and durability of motorized camera systems like these, but there's no denying it's a pretty neat trick.

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Shortcuts: a new vision for Siri and iOS automation
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-06-19 23:28:07

On the surface, Shortcuts the app looks like the full-blown Workflow replacement heavy users of the app have been wishfully imagining for the past year. But there is more going on with Shortcuts than the app alone. Shortcuts the feature, in fact, reveals a fascinating twofold strategy: on one hand, Apple hopes to accelerate third-party Siri integrations by leveraging existing APIs as well as enabling the creation of custom SiriKit Intents; on the other, the company is advancing a new vision of automation through the lens of Siri and proactive assistance from which everyone - not just power users - can reap the benefits.

While it's still too early to comment on the long-term impact of Shortcuts, I can at least attempt to understand the potential of this new technology. In this article, I'll try to explain the differences between Siri shortcuts and the Shortcuts app, as well as answering some common questions about how much Shortcuts borrows from the original Workflow app. Let's dig in.

Workflow was an amazing iOS application, even with the inherent limitations imposed by iOS. Now that Workflow is owned by Apple and properly integrated into iOS, it should provide an even better experience. While I'm not particularly interested in Shortcuts on my iPhone X, I can't wait to dig into it on my iPad Pro.

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