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AmigaOne X5000: first impressions
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-04-21 23:02:24

Many were waiting for the day when new and strong Amiga(One) will appear. That happened now. Currently, the X5000 can be purchased with the dual-core processor. In the future, a more powerful machine will be available. Is it worth buying the current model or wait for a four-core version?

A look at the new X5000. Note that the author is Polish (I think), and English isn't her or his first language.

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Google plans ad-blocking feature in popular Chrome browser
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-04-20 09:18:34

Alphabet Inc.'s Google is planning to introduce an ad-blocking feature in the mobile and desktop versions of its popular Chrome web browser, according to people familiar with the company's plans.

The ad-blocking feature, which could be switched on by default within Chrome, would filter out certain online ad types deemed to provide bad experiences for users as they move around the web.

Google could announce the feature within weeks, but it is still ironing out specific details and still could decide not to move ahead with the plan, the people said.

An ad-blocker from Google? Something tells me this won't go down well with antitrust regulators.

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Apple promises to stop mining for rare-earth materials
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-04-20 09:12:59

Apple has one of the most aggressive sustainability and recycling programs in tech, but it still pulls plenty of metals and toxic rare-earth materials out of the ground to make iPhones, iPads, Macbooks and other products.

That's about to change. The company is set to announce a new, unprecedented goal for the tech industry, "to stop mining the earth altogether".

Apple plans to stop mining for rare-earth materials, and exclusively use recycled materials (from iPhones and other Apple products, presumably). Incredibly ambitious goal - one among many environmental goals the company revealed yesterday - and quite laudable. They have the money to blaze these trails, and I'm glad they're using it for this.

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TouchWiz is actually pretty nice
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-04-19 20:54:24

I challenge anyone to receive a notification on Samsung s Galaxy S8 and not be charmed by the elegant blue pulse of light that traces the contours of the phone's gorgeous screen. This sort of subtlety, this sort of organic, emotive, instant appeal is not something I ever expected Samsung would be capable of. But the company once judged to have cynically copied Apple's iPhone design has exceeded all expectations this year: the 2017 version of Samsung's TouchWiz brings its software design right up to the high standard of its hardware.

I have always hated TouchWiz. It was ugly, overbearing, complex, and annoying.

Keyword here is was. As per my philosophy to never rot stuck in a single brand or platform, I replaced my Nexus 6P with a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge a few weeks ago. I was assuming I'd have to root it and install a custom ROM on it within days, so I had the proper files and reading material ready to go the day the phone arrived.

But as I was using the phone for a few days, it dawned on my that TouchWiz on the S7 Edge was... Not that bad. I buy off-contract, so I didn't get any carrier crapware (as far as I know, Dutch carriers don't really do crapware to begin with), and even Samsung's own stuff was remarkably sparse, and you could hide most of Samsung's stuff anyway. I was pleasantly surprised.

I was even more pleasantly surprised when it dawned on me that several parts of TouchWiz were superior to Google's stock Android versions. The stock Android alarm/clock application is a UI disaster, but the TouchWiz version is clean, simple, and much easier to use. TouchWiz' contacts application, too, sports a cleaner look and I find it easier to use than the stock version. Most of all, though, Samsung's settings application is so much better than the stock Android one in terms of looks, organisation, search capabilities, and so on, that I'm surprised Google hasn't copied it outright.

Within just a few days, I thought to myself "...okay right so that's why Samsung dominates Android and has 80% smartphone market share in The Netherlands". Samsung has truly cleaned up TouchWiz, and I'm curious to see if I hit that thing everybody is talking about where Samsung phones get slower over time, something that didn't happen to my Nexus devices.

CGP Grey once said, in one of his videos:

The trick is to keep your identity separate from your opinions. They're objects in a box you carry with you, and should be easily replaceable if it turns out they're no good. If you think that the opinions in the box are "who you are", then you'll cling to them despite any evidence to the contrary.

Bottom line: if you always want to be right, you need to always be prepared to change your mind.

I try to apply this as much as possible, including here on OSNews. Any longterm reader of this site knows I haven't been kind to TouchWiz over the years. A few weeks with a modern Samsung phone has completely changed my mind.

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File system improvements for Windows Subsystem for Linux
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-04-19 20:38:03

In the latest Windows Insider build, the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) now allows you to manually mount Windows drives using the DrvFs file system. Previously, WSL would automatically mount all fixed NTFS drives when you launch Bash, but there was no support for mounting additional storage like removable drives or network locations.

Now, not only can you manually mount any drives on your system, we've also added support for other file systems such as FAT, as well as mounting network locations. This enables you to access any drive, including removable USB sticks or CDs, and any network location you can reach in Windows all from within WSL.

There's a lot of work being done on WSL.

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Introducing power throttling
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-04-19 20:36:26

Most people running Windows like having multiple apps running at the same time - and often, what's running in the background can drain your battery. In this latest Insider Preview build (Build 16176), we leveraged modern silicon capabilities to run background work in a power-efficient manner, thereby enhancing battery life significantly while still giving users access to powerful multitasking capabilities of Windows. With "Power Throttling", when background work is running, Windows places the CPU in its most energy efficient operating modes - work gets done, but the minimal possible battery is spent on that work.

My biggest worry with technology like this is that it affects unsaved work. Luckily, you're supposed to be able to turn it on and off.

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The curious case of the New York Times' Galaxy S8 coverage
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-04-18 20:28:22

The review embargo for the Samsung Galaxy S8 was lifted today, so there's reviews all over the place - and they're all pretty much universally positive, so also kind of uninteresting.

An article in The New York Times stood out, though.

When a splashy new smartphone hits the market, consumers often weigh whether to place an order right away or to wait and see how others react to the device.

But with the Galaxy S8, Samsung's first major smartphone release since the spontaneously combusting Galaxy Note 7 was discontinued last year, there isn't much of a debate. Your best bet is to wait to buy the roughly $750 device - not just for safety reasons, but also because other uncertainties surround it.

Since I think you should never rush out and buy a complex and expensive device like a smartphone on release day anyway, this is sage advice. However, it is quite unusual for a major publication to just flat-out tell consumers to wait and not buy the latest and greatest new smartphone from Samsung (or Apple, for that matter) in such an overt, put-it-in-the-headline kind of way.

The next paragraph in the NYT article makes me suspicious.

Samsung declined to provide an early review unit of the Galaxy S8 to The New York Times, but several consumer electronics experts who tried the device ahead of its release this Friday were cautiously optimistic about the product. Even so, they said the phone had some radical design changes that might make people uncomfortable, a few key features were unfinished and Samsung’s recent safety record remained a concern.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say the above article would not have been written had the NYT been given a review unit of the Samsung Galaxy S8. The tone of the entire article is mildly vindictive, like it was written by someone scorned. It feels a little unprofessional for a publication like the NYT to do this.

That being said - the advice still stands: don't rush out on release day for expensive and complex equipment like a smartphone. Wait a few weeks to see if there's any teething problems before plonking down hundreds of euros.

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Steve Ballmer serves up a fascinating data trove
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-04-18 20:16:14

On Tuesday, Mr. Ballmer plans to make public a database and a report that he and a small army of economists, professors and other professionals have been assembling as part of a stealth start-up over the last three years called USAFacts. The database is perhaps the first nonpartisan effort to create a fully integrated look at revenue and spending across federal, state and local governments.

Want to know how many police officers are employed in various parts of the country and compare that against crime rates? Want to know how much revenue is brought in from parking tickets and the cost to collect? Want to know what percentage of Americans suffer from diagnosed depression and how much the government spends on it? That’s in there. You can slice the numbers in all sorts of ways.

This is exactly the kind of thing technology should be used for in a democracy: to provide (relatively) easy insight into otherwise incredibly obtuse and splintered government data. Well done.

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Ubuntu 17.04 Zesty Zapus released
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-04-17 21:18:40

Sorry for the delay on this one - it's been a... Busy weekend for me personally, so I'm only just now catching up with most of the news from the past few days.

Codenamed "Zesty Zapus", Ubuntu 17.04 continues Ubuntu's proud tradition of integrating the latest and greatest open source technologies into a high-quality, easy-to-use Linux distribution. The team has been hard at work through this cycle, introducing new features and fixing bugs.

Under the hood, there have been updates to many core packages, including a new 4.10-based kernel, and much more.

Ubuntu Desktop has seen incremental improvements, with newer versions of GTK and Qt, updates to major packages like Firefox and LibreOffice, and stability improvements to Unity.

This is possibly the last release to feature Unity, which makes it oddly notable. Interesting, too, how that lines up with the Z name.

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Early Macintosh emulation comes to the Archive
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-04-17 21:12:16

After offering in-browser emulation of console games, arcade machines, and a range of other home computers, the Internet Archive can now emulate the early models of the Apple Macintosh, the black-and-white, mouse driven computer that radically shifted the future of home computing in 1984.

I'm not entirely sure on the legalities of what the Internet Archive is doing - since I don't see any confirmation Apple is participating in this - but I'm obviously very happy they're doing this.

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