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Cyanogen Inc. is undergoing major layoffs, may "pivot" to apps
By Thom Holwerda on 2016-07-23 00:14:21

We're hearing from multiple sources that Cyanogen Inc. is in the midst of laying off a significant portion of its workforce around the world today. The layoffs most heavily impact the open source arm of the Android ROM-gone-startup, which may be eliminated entirely (not CyanogenMod itself, just the people at Cyanogen Inc. who work on the open source side).

[...]

We have been told by several sources [ed. note: confirmed by Re/code] that the company plans to undergo some sort of major strategic shift, with one claiming that this involves a "pivot" to "apps."

Quoting myself, early this year: "Don't buy into Cyanogen. Just don't."

Cyanogen, Inc. has been misleading, grandiose, megalomaniac. I wish the people who got laid off all the best in the troubling weeks and months ahead, but I shed no tear for the megalomaniac, misleading, and arrogant way this company conducted its business.

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Unique SNES-CD prototype fixed
By Thom Holwerda on 2016-07-22 23:30:06

Back in the early '90s, a number of game consoles of the time got CD-ROM based add-ons, such as the the Mega-CD for the Mega Drive (or Sega CD and Genesis, respectively, in North-America). Nintendo wanted in on this trend as well, and in cooperation with Sony - which already made several of the SNES' chips - Nintendo explored the idea of a CD-ROM based add-on for the SNES. The plan was for the device to be connected to the SNES using the 28-pin expansion port located underneath the SNES.

The device - called the SNES-CD or Nintendo Play Station - eventually morphed into a single unit capable of playing both SNES games and new disc-based games, all in a single package. It never made it to market, though, and only 200 or so prototypes were ever made, which all seemingly were destroyed, or so the story goes. Sony took what it learned during its stint with Nintendo, and in 1994, unveiled the PlayStation.

Until in 2015, Terry and Dan Diebold by pure luck stumbled upon one of the presumed lost prototypes - probably the rarest console in existence. The SNES part of the device was in working condition (mostly), but the CD-ROM part was void of any signs of life. It seemed like the Nintendo Play Station would continue to hide its secrets.

That is, until now - Ben Heck has managed to fix the SNES-CD, and get it back into working order. The entire process is chronicled in two videos. In the first video, Heck takes the SNES-CD apart and analyses its insides, trying to figure out what each chip and component does. In the second video, the real magic begins - fixing the device.

I'm not going to spoil why, exactly, the device didn't work - it's too good of a story and too much of a fun surprise to spoil upfront. Grab something to drink, and enjoy an hour of delicately poking at the insides of one of the rarest pieces of technology.

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Assessing IBM's POWER8
By Thom Holwerda on 2016-07-22 23:02:28

It is the widest superscalar processor on the market, one that can issue up to 10 instructions and sustain 8 per clock: IBM's POWER8. IBM's POWER CPUs have always captured the imagination of the hardware enthusiast; it is the Tyrannosaurus Rex, the M1 Abrams of the processor world. Still, despite a flood of benchmarks and reports, it is very hard to pinpoint how it compares to the best Intel CPUs in performance wise. We admit that our own first attempt did not fully demystify the POWER8 either, due to the fact that some immature LE Linux software components (OpenJDK, MySQL...) did not allow us to run our enterprise workloads.

Hence we're undertaking another attempt to understand what the strengths and weaknesses are of Intel's most potent challenger. And we have good reasons besides curiosity and geekiness: IBM has just recently launched the IBM S812LC, the most affordable IBM POWER based server ever. IBM advertises the S812LC with "Starting at $4,820". That is pretty amazing if you consider that this is not some basic 1U server, but a high expandable 2U server with 32 (!) DIMM slots, 14 disk bays, 4 PCIe Gen 3 slots, and 2 redundant power supplies.

Classic AnandTech. This is only part 1 - more parts are to follow.

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Fun with the Windows Subsystem for Linux
By Thom Holwerda on 2016-07-22 22:55:42

In this post, I m going to show you a few of the features of WSL that I personally find very interesting, as well as point you to some resources to help you learn more. First, I'll show the integration of staple commands like ssh for working with Linux servers and devices. Second, I'll demonstrate the ability to use Bash scripting to automate tasks in a very natural way. Third, I'll have a little fun with the great command-line compilers, other tools and the *nix compatibility offered, and play a little NetHack. Finally, I'll show you the ability to use existing Python and other scripts available on the web.

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France orders Microsoft to stop tracking Windows 10 users
By Thom Holwerda on 2016-07-21 22:37:04

France's data protection commission has ordered Microsoft to "stop collecting excessive user data" and to stop tracking the web browsing of Windows 10 users without their consent. In a notice published on Wednesday, the CNIL said that Microsoft must also take steps to guarantee "the security and confidentiality" of its users' personal information, after determining that the company was still transferring data to the US under the "Safe Harbor" agreement that an EU court invalidated in October. Microsoft has three months to comply with the orders, the CNIL said.

I was reminded of just how much stuff Microsoft tries to collect earlier today - I had to reinstall Windows on my workstation because my SSD had mysteriously died yesterday, and the number of things you have to turn off is just crazy.

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"Can someone explain the origin of the OS/2 table's name?"
By special contributor dungsaga on 2016-07-21 22:33:47

In a discussion at TypeDrawers, Greg Hitchcock (from Microsoft) shares a bit of the history regarding OS/2 table's name in the TTF font format:

Because the design of fonts between OS/2 and Windows was very similar (the same folks at Microsoft did most of the graphics for both OS/2 and Windows - with some input from IBM based on their FOCA values) we decided to consolidate the OS/2 and WIN tables into just one table - OS/2. This is why the spec says "...a set of metrics that are required by OS/2 and Windows." The parting with IBM occurred later in 1990. Microsoft had already made enough fonts using the OS/2 table that we decided it would be too expensive to rename the table to the WIN table.

[...]

Ultimately the OS/2 table has become somewhat of a catch-all for additional bits of data, which is why we are now on the 6th version of the table.

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EFF lawsuit takes on DMCA Section 1201
By Thom Holwerda on 2016-07-21 22:29:42

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) sued the U.S. government today on behalf of technology creators and researchers to overturn onerous provisions of copyright law that violate the First Amendment.

EFF's lawsuit, filed with co-counsel Brian Willen, Stephen Gikow, and Lauren Gallo White of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, challenges the anti-circumvention and anti-trafficking provisions of the 18-year-old Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). These provisions -contained in Section 1201 of the DMCA - make it unlawful for people to get around the software that restricts access to lawfully-purchased copyrighted material, such as films, songs, and the computer code that controls vehicles, devices, and appliances. This ban applies even where people want to make noninfringing fair uses of the materials they are accessing.

Great move.

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Windows File System Proxy: FUSE for Windows
By Thom Holwerda on 2016-07-21 10:02:22

WinFsp is a set of software components for Windows computers that allows the creation of user mode file systems. In this sense it is similar to FUSE (Filesystem in Userspace), which provides the same functionality on UNIX-like computers.

Interesting project. They also provide details on how it works:

WinFsp consists of a kernel mode FSD (File System Driver) and a user mode DLL (Dynamic Link Library). The FSD interfaces with NTOS (the Windows kernel) and handles all interactions necessary to present itself as a file system driver to NTOS. The DLL interfaces with the FSD and presents an easy to use API for creating user mode file systems.

It's open source, using the AGPLv3 license.

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Twitter has no obligation to protect your right to free speech
By Thom Holwerda on 2016-07-20 23:03:11

Twitter has banned one of its most notoriously contentious voices. On Tuesday evening, the microblogging service permanently suspended the account of [a notorious troll], a day after he incited his followers to bombard Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones with racist and demeaning tweets.

"People should be able to express diverse opinions and beliefs on Twitter," a company spokesperson said in a statement provided to BuzzFeed News. "But no one deserves to be subjected to targeted abuse online, and our rules prohibit inciting or engaging in the targeted abuse or harassment of others."

With platforms like Twitter and Facebook having become the de-facto space where people come to voice their opinion and a central axis in world events - think the attack in Nice, the failed coup in Turkey, which effectively took place on Twitter and Facebook - a lot of people lose sight of what these platforms really are: glorified, very large and very popular online forums.

There's no difference between that forum you run for the community of frog statuette collectors you're a part of on the one side, and Twitter on the other. If people on your forum post insulting messages, harass your fellow frog statue collectors, or send in waves of trolls to post racist, hateful, and abusive messages at them, you'd ban them, remove their comments, delete their accounts.

Twitter is no different. Twitter, like your frog statuette collector forum, is a private enterprise, a personal space, where you set the rules regarding what's allowed and what isn't. I do the same here on OSNews. Banning people from your forum, from OSNews, or, indeed, from Twitter, is not a freedom of speech issue. The right to free speech protects you from the government, not from Twitter, forum moderators, or me deleting your hateful comment from OSNews. Or, for that matter, from deleting your perfectly valid and well-argumented comment (which I don't do, but you get the point). Platforms like Twitter may have become a popular forum for expression, but it has no more obligation to "protect" the "right to free speech" than you have the obligation to accept people walking into your house and saying hateful comments to you or your loved ones.

Twitter and Facebook face huge problems with systematic abuse from trolls, and banning this particularly nasty troll is nothing more than lip service to a famous actress and comedian, and it does nothing to address the core problem the platform faces. Twitter might consider spending less time screwing over third party developers and creating nonsense nobody wants, and focus on the real problems many of their real users have to face every single day.

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Exploring the App Store's top grossing chart
By Thom Holwerda on 2016-07-20 22:42:10

If you regularly browse the App Store's Top Charts most of these results would likely serve to confirm what you had already assumed. Most obviously, if you were to randomly pick an app from the Top 200 Grossing charts, chances are extremely high that you would pick a free app with IAPs and it would most likely be a game. But what is particularly suprising is the degree to which free apps with IAP dominate the charts with essentially no paid apps or no apps without IAPs.

I guess the hollowing out and complete destruction of the indie development world was totally worth it.

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