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Solving the mystery of the OP1 processor in the Chromebook Plus
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-02-23 00:10:43

Turns out the processor/SoC in the latest two ChromeBooks - the Samsung models - are part of a wider program by Google.

The OP1 is built by Rockchip, which has made ARM processors for a while and isn't especially well-regarded among US consumers. And, strangely enough, even discovering that Rockchip makes the OP1 took a bit of sleuthing. The company doesn't have its brand anywhere near the Chromebook Plus. Also, the chip is called the OP1, which implies that there's going to be an OP2 and OP3 and so on. What exactly is going on here? Just what is OP?

Well! Turns out there's a website for answering that exact question, helpfully named whatisop.com. OP is a designation for SoCs that are optimized for Chrome OS. Naturally, I assumed it was a Rockchip brand - but that's not the case at all. And the website ostensibly designed to explain OP to us doesn't tell us who owns it (and it's even registered anonymously), so OP strangely mysterious.

Mystery solved: OP is a trademark owned by Google, and bestowed on SoCs that meet a Google spec for a good Chrome OS device. Basically, if a Chromebook has an OP processor, it means that Google certifies that it’s been optimized for Chrome OS.

Everybody is racing towards ARM laptops. Intel's decision to sell Xscale is probably going to be looked back upon as one of the worst decisions in technology history.

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7 earth-size planets identified in orbit around a dwarf star
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-02-22 22:43:35

Not just one, but seven Earth-size planets that could potentially harbor life have been identified orbiting a tiny star not too far away, offering the first realistic opportunity to search for biological signs of alien life outside of the solar system.

The planets orbit a dwarf star named Trappist-1, about 40 light years, or about 235 trillion miles, from Earth. That is quite close, and by happy accident, the orientation of the orbits of the seven planets allows them to be studied in great detail.

One or more of the exoplanets - planets around stars other than the sun - in this new system could be at the right temperature to be awash in oceans of water, astronomers said, based on the distance of the planets from the dwarf star.

Science is awesome.

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AMD launches Ryzen
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-02-22 22:42:06

AMD's benchmarks showed that the top Ryzen 7 1800X, compared to the 8-core Intel Core i7-6900K, both at out-of-the-box frequencies, gives an identical score on the single threaded test and a +9% in the multi-threaded test. AMD put this down to the way their multi-threading works over the Intel design. Also, the fact that the 1800X is half of the price of the i7-6900K.

If these promises and benchmarks hold up, Intel will be facing some incredibly tough competition on the desktop/laptop side for the first time in a long, long time.

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EU privacy watchdogs say Windows 10 still raises concerns
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-02-21 12:33:03

European Union data protection watchdogs said on Monday they were still concerned about the privacy settings of Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system despite the U.S. company announcing changes to the installation process.

The watchdogs, a group made up of the EU's 28 authorities responsible for enforcing data protection law, wrote to Microsoft last year expressing concerns about the default installation settings of Windows 10 and users' apparent lack of control over the company's processing of their data.

Remember Scroogled? Good times.

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It's a weird time to be in charge of Sweden's Twitter account
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-02-20 23:13:11

When Max Karlsson found out that he was going to be in charge of Sweden's official Twitter account this week, he was looking forward to sharing some of his photography, or riffing about music and technology - nothing too different from how hundreds of others have used the handle since Sweden opened it up to ordinary users in 2011.

"My thought was to speak about the interests and values that I have," Karlsson, 22, said in a phone interview Monday evening. "And then Trump hit."

I find it fascinating that the official Twitter account for Sweden changes hands every week between Swedish citizens. In this particular case, it gives an ordinary Swede the opportunity to use facts to dispel a bunch of nonsense from the most powerful man in the world, who is apparently incapable of separating fact from Fox News-infused fiction.
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Library Hand, the neat penmanship style for card catalogs
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-02-20 23:06:51

In September 1885, a bunch of librarians spent four days holed up in scenic Lake George, just over 200 miles north of New York City. In the presence of such library-world luminaries as Melvil Dewey - the well-organized chap whose Dewey Decimal System keeps shelves orderly to this day - they discussed a range of issues, from the significance of the term "bookworm" to the question of whether libraries ought to have a separate reference-room for ladies.

They then turned their attention to another crucial issue: handwriting. As libraries acquired more books, card catalogs needed to expand fast in order to keep track of them. Though the newly invented typewriter was beginning to take hold, it took time and effort to teach the art of "machine writing." Librarians still had to handwrite their catalog cards. And this was causing problems.

Fascinating story - and funny how I was taught something very close to Library Hand cursive script (the one from A Library Primer listed in the article) when I was a kid.

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Linux 4.10 released
By special contributor diegocg on 2017-02-20 19:10:42

Linux 4.10 has been released. This release adds support for virtualized GPUs, a new 'perf c2c' tool for cacheline contention analysis in NUMA systems, a new 'perf sched timehist' command for a detailed history of task scheduling, improved writeback management that should make the system more responsive under heavy writing load, a new hybrid block polling method that uses less CPU than pure polling, support for ARM devices such as the Nexus 5 & 6 or Allwinner A64, a feature that allows to attach eBPF programs to cgroups, an experimental MD RAID5 writeback cache, support for Intel Cache Allocation Technology, and many other improvements and new drivers. Here is the full list of changes.

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IBM AIX for PS/2
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-02-17 22:40:04

I'm pretty sure all of you are aware of Advanced Interactive Executive, or AIX, IBM's high-end, professional UNIX operating system. It has been in development since 1986, and is currently at version 7.2, released in 2015. It's one of those operating systems you hear relatively little about here on OSNews, if only because it sits in a part of the market where few of us ever encounter it.

Which is why I was pleasantly surprised to learn that AIX hasn't been confined to (relatively) exotic non-x86 hardware such as IBM Power and PowerPC-based systems. During my research into the IBM PS/2, I discovered that IBM released versions of AIX for PS/2 systems. The first release was AIX 1.1 1989, followed by 1.2 in 1990, and the last release, 1.3, in 1992.

From the AIX 1.3 PS/2 announcement letter:

Performance tuning in AIX PS/2 Operating System Version 1.3 offers increased throughput for Input/Output (I/O) in both raw and block mode, in addition to kernel performance enhancements and smaller size requirements available through the availability of serviceable shared libraries usage in applications written to utilize them. Enhancements have also been made to the pager and swapper areas of memory management that have resulted in performance increases.

Improvements in the windowing and Graphical User Interface (GUI) areas are highlighted with the introduction of the X Windowing System V11 R5 from MIT available in AIX PS/2 X-Windows Version 1.3 and AIXwindows Environment for PS/2 Version 1.3 and OSF's Motif 1.1.3 available in AIXwindows Environment for PS/2 Version 1.3 along with AIXwindows Desktop. Support for the IBM Xstation 120 and Xstation 130 is provided in the AIX PS/2 Xstation Manager Version 1.3 Support for XGA-2 provides non-interlaced, high resolution graphics on those displays that support it.

The internet is a great thing, and IBM AIX 1.3 for PS/2 can be found on abandonware sites, and there are some repositories with more information. The full AIX 1.3 PS/2, with all the additional packages you had to buy separately, comes in at a whopping 94 1.44 MB floppies. The installation procedure is complex, and I haven't yet been able to get it installed in VirtualBox. I want to give this some visibility, because maybe someone with more experience with AIX can get AIX PS/2 to run inside VirtualBox or some other virtualisation tool.

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ReactOS 0.4.4 released
By Thom Holwerda, submitted by AmineKhaldi on 2017-02-16 23:09:57

Today marks the fifth release of the ReactOS 0.4.x series, as well as the fifth following the 4 month release cycle started by 0.4.0 itself. Progress has continued steadily, with a great deal of work going on in the background to improve ReactOS' general usability and stability. Many of these improvements were on display at the FOSDEM convention in Brussels that took place on the 4th and 5th of this month. Certainly one of the more notable albeit less visible additions was the incorporation of basic printing support by Colin Finck. At present ReactOS is only capable of sending print commands to a parallel port printer, but this is the first step towards universal support and Colin should be applauded for his effort.

It seems ReactOS can run Office 2007 now. That's actually quite neat.

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ToaruOS 1.0.3 released
By Thom Holwerda, submitted by kragil on 2017-02-16 23:07:42

ToaruOS 1.0 was released 18 days ago, and since then, several bugfix releases have been released. The latest release - the one you want to test - is 1.0.3.

ToaruOS is a complete hobby operating system, including a kernel and userspace with many graphical applications. This is the first release considered to be "user-ready", but please keep in mind that ToaruOS is a hobby project and it may not be stable or suitable for any purpose you might have for an operating system. This release represents the culmination of many years of development, research, and learning.

IT's a remarkably fun operating system, and runs without any problems in VirtualBox. I've played with it a bit during the day, messing around with the basic but elegantly simple UI, browsing the file system, installing a few packages through the graphical package manager, and playing some Quake. It's rare for hobby operating systems to achieve this level of functionality in a 1.0 release, so colour me pleasantly surprised.

ToaruOS's kernel in its current form is 32-bit, non-SMP, monolithic (but modular), and Unix-like. It supports processes, threads, shared memory, files, pipes, TTYs, packet-based IPC, and basic IPv4 networking. Driver modules allow for access to EXT2 and ISO9660 filesystems, PATA and ATAPI disk access for hard drives and CDs, framebuffer support on most virtual machines (as well as bootloader-assisted generic framebuffer support), networking on AMD PCnet FAST, Realtek RTL8139, and Intel PRO/1000-series NICs, PS/2 mice and keyboards, audio on Intel AC'97 chipsets, as well as special support for VirtualBox's guest additions.

The userspace includes a dynamic linker, a full-featured compositing windowing system, many Unix-like utilities, a port of Python 3.6 (including many binding libraries for the ToaruOS windowing environment), and several graphical applications (including a package manager).

The code's on github.

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