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The FireBee: modern Atari clone
By Thom Holwerda on 2016-12-04 01:16:32

The FireBee is a new Atari-compatible computer. Ataris and Atari-Clones are special computers with their own hard & software. They aren't PC's, Mac's nor Amiga compatible.

A FireBee is similar to an Atari Falcon and works very much like that. It will run most of the Atari compatible software that would run on a Falcon. Different to older Ataris and their clones, the FireBee is a modern computer that supports almost everything you'd expect from a today's machine, like USB ports, Ethernet, DVI-I monitor connector, SD-card reader and more.

This brand-new Atari compatible is not cheap, but much like the current Amiga computers, if you're worried about the price, you're probably not the intended audience. Note that even though the order page says "pre-order", I think that's a typo - you can order them directly from the Swiss company that makes them, too.

I love that people and companies are passionate enough to keep developing, building, and selling machines like this - it's a vital effort to keep platforms alive well into the future.

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Improved symlink handling comes to Windows 10
By Thom Holwerda on 2016-12-03 00:36:04

The Windows' NTFS file system has supported symlinks since Windows Vista. However, it hasn't been easy for Windows developers to create symlinks. In our efforts to continually improve the Windows Developer experience we're fixing this!

Starting with Windows 10 Insiders build 14972, symlinks can be created without needing to elevate the console as administrator. This will allow developers, tools and projects, that previously struggled to work effectively on Windows due to symlink issues, to behave just as efficiently and reliably as they do on Linux or OSX.

Pretty sure a few developers out there are rolling their eyes, sighing 'finally'.

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Case study: Sailfish Watch
By Thom Holwerda on 2016-12-02 21:43:46

Last month we did a quick exercise aiming to see how far we could get in a few weeks in porting Sailfish OS to a new kind of mobile device, an Android smartwatch. Compared to the competition, Sailfish OS’s interaction paradigm is particularly suited for small screens, it being gesture-driven and designed to maximize display estate available for the user content. We also had the watch demo with us as a teaser in Slush 2016 this week, to emphasize to journalists, partners and other people how versatile platform Sailfish OS is. And naturally an implementation like this, could fit nicely also into our licensing strategy.

This looks pretty good, actually, but as an owner of the limited edition version of the Jolla Phone and the incredibly elusive and rare Jolla Tablet - what I want is not more device categories, it's applications.

This has been the platform's number one weakness since its inception, and they seem unwilling to do anything about it.

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Why Fitbit buying Pebble makes sense
By Thom Holwerda on 2016-12-02 00:06:19

Late yesterday it was reported by The Information that Fitbit is close to buying wearable startup Pebble, news that has since been independently confirmed by The Verge. Fitbit and Pebble have been in the final stages of the deal since before the Thanksgiving holiday; the buying price has not yet been confirmed. While it ultimately might not be as good of a deal as Pebble would have hoped for, there are a lot of reasons why a Pebble-Fitbit deal makes sense.

Pebble is popular among OSNews readers, so those of you with a Pebble might want to keep an eye out for the future of this possible deal.

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Genode 16.11 revisits low-level protocols
By special contributor nfeske on 2016-12-01 20:42:02

Following the feature-rich release in August, with the new version 16.11, Genode's developers took the chance to work on long-standing architectural topics, most prominently the low-level interplay between parent and child components. Besides this low-level work, the release features much improved virtual-networking capabilities. Originally introduced in the previous version, Genode's network-routing mechanism has become more versatile and easier to use. Further topics include the added support for smart cards, kernel improvements of the NOVA hypervisor, and a virtual file system for generating time-based passcodes.

The efficient interaction between user-level components is one of the most important aspects of microkernel-based systems like Genode. The design space for this interplay is huge and there is no widely accepted consensus about the "right" way. The options include message passing between independent threads, the migration of threads between address spaces, shared memory, and various flavours of asynchronous communication.

When the Genode project originally emerged from the L4 community, it was somehow preoccupied with the idea that synchronous IPC is the best way to go. After all, the sole reliance on unbuffered synchronous IPC was widely regarded as the key for L4's excellent performance. Over the years, however, the mindset of the Genode developers shifted away from this position. Whereas synchronous IPC was found to be a perfect match for some use cases, it needlessly complicated others. It turns out that any IPC mechanism is ultimately a trade-off between low latency, throughput, simplicity, and scalability. Finding a single sweet spot that fits well for all parts of an operating system seems futile. Given this realization and countless experiments, Genode's inter-component protocols were gradually shaped towards the combination of synchronous IPC where low-latency remote procedure calls are desired, asynchronous notifications, and shared memory. That said, Genode's most fundamental inter-component communication protocol - the interplay between parent and child components to establish communication sessions between clients and servers - remained unchanged since the very first version. The current release reconsiders the architectural decisions made in the early days and applies Genode's modern design principles to these low-level protocols. The release documentation contrasts the original design that was solely based on synchronous IPC with the new way. Even though the new version overcomes long-standing limitations of the original design, at the first glance, it gives the impression to be more complicated and expensive in terms of the number of context switches. Interestingly, however, the change has no measurable effect on the performance of even the most dynamic system scenarios. The apparent reason is that the parent-child interactions make up a minuscule part of the overall execution time in real-world scenarios.

Even though the architectural work mentioned above is fundamental to the Genode system as a whole, it is barely visible to users of the framework. With respect to user-visible changes, the most prominent improvement is the vastly improved infrastructure for virtual networking, which is covered in great detail in the release documentation. Further topics are the added support for using smart cards, a new VFS plugin for generating time-based passcodes, and updated versions of VirtualBox 4 and 5 running of top of NOVA. Speaking of NOVA, the release improves this kernel in several respects, in particular by adding support for asynchronous map operations. Each of the topics is covered in more depth in the release documentation.

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Oracle rumoured to end Solaris development
By Thom Holwerda on 2016-12-01 20:41:19

There's a rumour going around that Oracle is close to ending all development of Solaris, effectively killing the operating system.

Solaris being canned, at least 50% of teams to be RIF'd in short term. All hands meetings being cancelled on orders from legal to prevent news from spreading. Hardware teams being told to cease development. There will be no Solaris 12, final release will be 11.4. Orders coming straight from Larry.

It's just rumours for now, but they've been gaining steam over the past few days.

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Nokia making a comeback in 2017, Android phones inbound
By Thom Holwerda on 2016-12-01 20:35:45

Back in May, we heard that HMD Global - a new mobile company made up of ex-Nokia staffers - is looking to use the Nokia name to manufacture smartphones running Android as well as feature phones. Today, HMD has announced that it has secured exclusive licensing rights to Nokia's branding for 10 years.

The first batch of Android smartphones bearing the Nokia name will make their debut in the first half of 2017.

HMD is a Finnish company staffed with ex-Nokia people, so it makes sense they'd be working together on this. Hopefully this means Nokia can focus on what it does best - the backend - while the smaller, more nimble HMD san focus on making great phones.

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AmigaOS 4.1 Final Edition Update 1 pre-release for AmigaOne X5000
By Thom Holwerda on 2016-12-01 00:43:20

The pre-release version of AmigaOS 4.1 Final Edition Update #1 is an official update to AmigaOS 4.1 Final Edition released by Hyperion Entertainment in 2014. It is the combined result of many many years of effort by the core AmigaOS developers, translators and beta testers and includes a number of bug fixes and updates to the original AmigaOS 4.1 Final Edition release.

The naming and versioning system could use some work.

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The linguistic evolution of 'like'
By Thom Holwerda on 2016-11-30 23:18:37

Like LOL, like, entrenched in all kinds of sentences, used subconsciously, and difficult to parse the real meaning of without careful consideration, has all the hallmarks of a piece of grammar - specifically, in the pragmatic department, modal wing. One thing making it especially clear that the new like is not just a tic of heedless, underconfident youth is that many of the people who started using it in the new way in the 1970s are now middle-aged. People's sense of how they talk tends to differ from the reality, and the person of a certain age who claims never to use like "that way" as often as not, like, does - and often. As I write, a sentence such as There were like grandparents and like grandkids in there is as likely to be spoken by a forty-something as by a teenager or a college student. Just listen around the next time you're standing in a line, watching a talk show, or possibly even listening to yourself.

Great article.

Just goes to show how complex and deep language can be. This is a good, detailed article on the changing use of the word "like", which, despite its length, doesn't even touch upon another now-common use of the word "like" that has even transcended borders and languages: Facebook's "like", which has become a noun in several languages - including my own - and carries with it a new verb meaning: to click that particular Facebook button.

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Facebook can and should wipe out fake news
By Thom Holwerda on 2016-11-30 20:57:30

Walt Mossberg:

So, yes, in my view, Facebook has a direct responsibility to get rid of fake news, and it cannot simply rely on its audience or others to shoulder the burden. I'm happy to see tools made available to readers that help report such trash, and happy that Facebook is working with third-party fact checkers. But the ultimate responsibility is Facebook’s.

Nobody wants Facebook to tinker with legitimate news and opinion - again, except for hate speech. But getting rid of purely fake news from purely fake sources is an eminently achievable task, especially for a well-funded, tech-savvy, huge media company serving nearly 2 billion people.

I've written about my thoughts on this subject before, but I want to make them clearer by presenting you with an example.

Consider this clip from Fox News' Bill O'Reilly.

Everything in this clip is not true. Everything said in that clip about Amsterdam and The Netherlands is literally - literally literally, not the fake kind of literally - made up. It's all lies. Flat-out, bold-faced lies. This is clearly, unapologetically, fake news.

Yet, I doubt people like Mossberg and other people who claim it's easy as pie for Facebook and Twitter to 'block' fake news would agree with me that Facebook should block this kind of news from their sites. Even though it's nothing but flat-out lies, it would not be considered 'fake news'.

And therein lies the problem with this whole outrage over 'fake news'. No matter how many times people say it's easy to separate real news from fake news, there's going to be so many edge cases to trip up generic algorithms, and it's simply not feasible to have human curation on sites as large in volume as Facebook and Twitter.

Is it really Facebook's job to solve for people's stupidity? In my view, it really isn't. On top of that, I somehow doubt the tech media would be as worked up over this as they are now had Clinton won the election - and all of you know my political leanings well enough by now to understand the value of me saying this.

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