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Inside the iPhone repair ecosystem
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-08-14 22:34:20

There's a thriving market for unofficial, aftermarket iPhone parts, and in China, there are entire massive factories that are dedicated to producing these components for repair shops unable to get ahold of parts that have been produced by Apple.

The entire Apple device repair ecosystem is fascinating, complex, and oftentimes confusing to consumers given the disconnect between Apple, Apple Authorized Service Providers, third-party factories, and independent repair shops, so we thought we'd delve into the complicated world of Apple repairs.

Just as for cars, all repair and spare parts information should be publicly available to third party repair shops. The fact that this even has to be a shady business to begin with is preposterous.

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Why Apple had a secret meeting with app developers
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-08-14 22:25:13

10 years later, the App Store isn't new anymore, and Apple continues to tweak its rules so that developers can create sustainable business models, instead of selling high-quality software for a few dollars or monetizing through advertising. If Apple can't make it worthwhile for developers to make high-quality utilities for the iPhone, then the vibrant software ecosystem that made it so valuable could decay.

Apple's main tool to fight the downward pricing pressure on iPhone apps is subscriptions.

The application store model is a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing since it made it very easy for developers to get their code to users, but that ease also caused the supply side of applications to grow exponentially. The end result is something we are all aware of - application stores are littered with garbage, prices of software have plummeted to unsustainable levels, which in turn has all but killed off the independent application developer. The top application lists are now dominated by either high-profile applications such as Facebook or Twitter, or predatory pay-to-win gambling "games". Doing any search in a modern application store reveals piles of useless junk.

The next step is obvious: Apple (and perhaps Google) will attempt an almost Netflix-like app subscription service, where you pay Apple a monthly fee for unlimited use of applications available in the store. It's the next step in milking the last possible drop out of third party developers, and while it will surely allow application store proponents to continue to claim the model is working, it's just a stay of execution.

Developing quality software is a time-consuming and expensive task, and the current application store model - with or without subscriptions - is simply incompatible with it. Either software delivery on modern computing devices gets rethought completely, or even the last remaining bits of quality software will simply disappear from application stores.

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NVIDIA reveals next-gen Turing GPU architecture
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-08-14 18:53:09

Moments ago at NVIDIA's SIGGRAPH 2018 keynote presentation, company CEO Jensen Huang formally unveiled the company's much awaited (and much rumored) Turing GPU architecture. The next generation of NVIDIA's GPU designs, Turing will be incorporating a number of new features and is rolling out this year. While the focus of today's announcements is on the professional visualization (ProViz) side of matters, we expect to see this used in other upcoming NVIDIA products as well. And by the same token, today's reveal should not be considered an exhaustive listing of all of Turing's features.

If you've been holding off on upgrading a 10x0 or earlier card, you're about to be rewarded - at Gamescom next week, NVIDIA is expected to unveil the consumer cards based on the Turing architecture.

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Why use an FPGA instead of a CPU or GPU?
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-08-14 18:49:49

Recently, Intel bought Altera, one of the largest producers of FPGAs. Intel paid a whopping $16.7 billion, making it their largest acquisition ever. In other news, Microsoft is using FPGAs in its data centers, and Amazon is offering them on their cloud services. Previously, these FPGAs were mainly used in electronics engineering, but not so much in software engineering. Are FPGAs about to take off and become serious alternatives to CPUs and GPUs?

FPGAs are used extensively by e.g. the Amiga community to recreate older chipsets.

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How Michael Dell saved his company from the brink
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-08-13 22:40:39

So CEO Michael Dell presented shareholders with a $25 billion buyout that would take the company private, giving it space away from the public limelight (and pressure from investors) to rethink and reposition the struggling computer company for the future.

Fast-forward to 2018, and Dell's prospects seem far better. Dell is now worth an estimated $70 billion - nearly triple what the buyout valued it at five years ago - and it has announced a bid to return to the public sector in a $22 billion buyout. It’s an astounding transformation. Dell and his investment partners at Silver Lake transformed the company from a struggling consumer electronics company into an enterprise powerhouse.

It's indeed a pretty amazing turnaround. A few years ago, I would've never seriously considered a Dell. These days, though, their XPS 13 and 15 laptops are some of the best laptops you can get, with Linux editions available as well.

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PC-RETRO Motherboard Kit: IBM clone computer
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-08-13 18:13:59

The PC-RETRO Kit Beta (Catalog #PC-RETRO) is a hobby electronics kit for building a faithful reproduction of the classic IBM PC 5150 motherboard from 1982. We have been in development on this new product offering for over 1 year. We started with the original circuit diagrams, as published by IBM in their Technical Reference Manual. These open source circuit diagrams launched the explosion in PC clone products that followed the IBM PC introduction. Reverse engineering the original IBM board was a substantial undertaking, as we found many differences between the 'official' circuit diagrams and actual board construction. Additionally, you can imagine the complexity of trouble-shooting this board and verifying the correct operation! Not to mention the logistical challenge of sourcing the original vintage electronic parts. You will receive all the components to build a PC Motherboard exactly as shown here.

At a mere $189.50 (including international shipping; $149.50 for domestic US customers), this is an absolute steal. I'm very tempted to look into getting this, but my utter lack of even the most basic soldering skills makes me a little nervous. Might be a better idea to get some soldering test kits before attempting a project like this.

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The AMD Threadripper 32-core and 16-core review
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-08-13 18:08:20

If you live by the workstation, you die by the performance. When it comes to processing data, throughput is key: the more a user can do, the more projects are accomplished, and the more contracts can be completed. This means that workstation users are often compute bound, and like to throw resources at the problem, be it cores, memory, storage, or graphics acceleration. AMD’s latest foray into the mix is its second generation Threadripper product, also known as Threadripper 2, which breaks the old limit on cores and pricing: the 2990WX gives 32 cores and 64 threads for only $1799. There is also the 2950X, with 16 cores and 32 threads, for a new low of $899. We tested them both.

Do I need a Threadripper machine for my job? Nope. Do I want a Threadripper machine for my job? Hell yes. The AnandTech review of the Threadripper 2 line is in, so sit back and enjoy the pretty numbers.

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AP: Google tracks your movements, like it or not
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-08-13 18:03:41

Google wants to know where you go so badly that it records your movements even when you explicitly tell it not to.

An Associated Press investigation found that many Google services on Android devices and iPhones store your location data even if you've used privacy settings that say they will prevent it from doing so.

Computer-science researchers at Princeton confirmed these findings at the AP's request.

Is anyone really surprised by this? Everything tracks you. Your smartphone, your smartphone's operating system, the applications that run on it, the backend services it relies upon, the carrier it uses, and so on. Even feature phones are tracked by your carrier, and of course, even without a phone, countless cameras will pinpoint where you are just fine.

This ship has sailed, and there's nothing we can do about it.

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Palm's new Android phone has a tiny 3.3" screen
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-08-12 19:17:21

What you're seeing above is the first Palm smartphone since the Pre 3 was announced in 2011. Currently codenamed 'Pepito,' this new handset is headed for Verizon, and it's the possibly the weirdest Android phone of 2018. Sporting a tiny 3.3-inch 720p LCD screen, Pepito is easily the smallest Android device in years to be sold in the USA, and probably one of the smallest in the world. The diminutive size doesn't end at the display - this phone will have a tiny 800mAh battery, we've been able to confirm. That probably doesn't make this phone much of an all-day device, and it really is a bit of a head-scratcher.

The Pepito is powered by a Snapdragon 435 processor and, oddly, has 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage according to our source. Of course, it's possible there could be multiple storage and RAM SKUs depending on region and operator. We don't have any information about where this device is being released aside from Verizon here in America.

Not the highest-specced phone, but I like the elegant design and tiny size - bucks the trend, really, in a welcome way. The logo needs some work though.

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The VU meter and how it got that way
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-08-11 20:26:34

Given its appearance in one form or another in all but the cheapest audio gear produced in the last 70 years or so, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the ubiquitous VU meter is just one of those electronic add-ons that's more a result of marketing than engineering. After all, the seemingly arbitrary scale and the vague "volume units" label makes it seem like something a manufacturer would slap on a device just to make it look good. And while that no doubt happens, it turns out that the concept of a VU meter and its execution has some serious engineering behind that belies the really simple question it seeks to answer: how loud is this audio signal?

I love analog VU meters, and I'm kind of sad regular, non-professional music equipment has done away with them entirely.

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