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Android collects locations when location services are disabled
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-11-21 16:09:50

Since the beginning of 2017, Android phones have been collecting the addresses of nearby cellular towers - even when location services are disabled - and sending that data back to Google. The result is that Google, the unit of Alphabet behind Android, has access to data about individuals' locations and their movements that go far beyond a reasonable consumer expectation of privacy.

Quartz observed the data collection occur and contacted Google, which confirmed the practice.

The cell tower addresses have been included in information sent to the system Google uses to manage push notifications and messages on Android phones for the past 11 months, according to a Google spokesperson. The were never used or stored, the spokesperson said, and the company is now taking steps to end the practice after being contacted by Quartz. By the end of November, the company said, Android phones will no longer send cell-tower location data to Google, at least as part of this particular service, which consumers cannot disable.

Raise your hand if you're surprised.

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"Desktop compositing latency is real and it annoys me"
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-11-21 16:03:57

I wiped off my Windows 10 installation today. It wasn't because of the intrusive telemetry or the ads in the start menu but desktop composition. It adds some slight but noticeable latency that makes typing feel uncomfortable. In Windows 7 you can turn it off.

If you're fine with unresponsive UI operations and graphical tearing, then, sure, go back to Windows 7 or earlier and turn off compositing to get a few ms back when typing.

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Google adds Fuchsia support to Apple's Swift
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-11-20 21:56:51

Google's in-development operating system, named 'Fuchsia,' first appeared over a year ago. It's quite different from Android and Chrome OS, as it runs on top of the real-time 'Magenta' kernel instead of Linux. According to recent code commits, Google is working on Fuchsia OS support for the Swift programming language.

There's a tiny error in this summary form AndroidPolice - Fuchsia's kernel has been renamed to Zircon.

All this has been playing out late last week and over the weekend - Google is now working on Swift, and some took this to mean Google forked Apple's programming language, while in reality, it just created a staging ground for Google to work on Swift, pushing changes upstream to the official Swift project when necessary - as confirmed by Chris Lattner, creator of Swift, who used to work at Apple, but now works at Google.

Zac Bowling, a Google engineer working on Fuchsia, then highlighted a pull request that Google pushed to the main Swift repository: Swift support for Fuchsia. He also mentioned a few upcoming pull requests:

FYI, in the pipeline after this we will have some PRs related to:

  • adding ARM64 support for the Fuchsia SDK
  • fixing cross-compiling issues for targeting BSD, Linux and Fuchsia targets from a Darwin toolchain
  • adding support for using lld for linking specific SDK stdlibs (part of getting a Darwin toolchain capable of cross compiling to other targets)
  • supporting unit tests on Fuchsia

Regarding Fuchsia's purpose, this is yet another little puff of smoke. Sadly, we still haven't found the fire.

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Intel plans to end legacy BIOS support by 2020
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-11-20 21:42:58

Computer users of a certain age will remember BIOS as ubiquitous firmware that came loaded on PCs. It was the thing you saw briefly before your operating system loaded, and you could dig into the settings to change your computer's boot order, enable or disable some features, and more.

Most modern PCs ship with UEFI instead. But most also still have a "legacy BIOS" mode that allows you to use software or hardware that might not be fully compatible with UEFI.

In a few years that might not be an option anymore: Intel has announced plans to end support for legacy BIOS compatibility by 2020.

This most certainly affects many older operating systems - especially older hobby and alternative operating systems that were never updated with UEFI support.

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IBM Blue Lightning: world's fastest 386?
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-11-20 20:41:15

The Blue Lightning CPU is an interesting beast. There is not a whole lot of information about what the processor really is, but it can be pieced together from various scraps of information. Around 1990, IBM needed low-power 32-bit processors with good performance for its portable systems, but no one offered such CPUs yet. IBM licensed the 386SX core from Intel and turned it into the IBM 386SLC processor (SLC reportedly stood for "Super Little Chip").

Fascinating footnote in processor history.

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Sun's Project Looking Glass debuted 14 years ago
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-11-20 20:37:25

Almost 14 years ago, way back in 2003, Sun Microsystems unveiled Project Looking Glass, a 3D desktop environment written in Java and making extensive use of Java 3D. The demo, by Jonathan Schwartz, always stuck with me over the years, and since YouTube recommended the demo to me today, I figured it'd be interesting to you remind you all of simpler times, when flipping windows around and 3D rendering in Java actually managed to get us excited (something no other project would ever manage to... Wait.).

Project Looking Glass was developed for about three years, and it actually saw a 1.0 release in late 2006. It's one of those random projects exploring what we then thought could be the future of computing, right before the iPhone came onto the scene and changed everything. While nothing came out of Project Looking Glass, Schwartz' demo did teach me the phrase "arbitrarily clever", which I'm unusually attached to.

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Did Microsoft manually patch their Equation Editor executable?
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-11-17 11:51:53

Really, quite literally, some pretty skilled Microsoft employee or contractor reverse engineered our friend EQNEDT32.EXE, located the flawed code, and corrected it by manually overwriting existing instructions with better ones (making sure to only use the space previously occupied by original instructions).

This... This is one hell of a story. The unanswered question is why, exactly, Microsoft felt the need to do this - do they no longer have access to the source code? Has it simply become impossible to set up the correct build environment?

Amazing.

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How to set up a Pixelbook for programming
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-11-16 22:47:19

Well, I've really done it. I've taken a pure and unsullied Google Pixelbook, which at one time was fast and secure in all ways, and made it into a crashy mess. My crime? The desire to code.

I'm going to walk you through my process for converting this machine into something that's marginally desirable for programming, but I just wanted to warn you before I begin: this isn't easy, clean, intuitive, or practical. There are rumors that Google is working on better ways to make Chrome OS a host for other flavors of Linux or Linux apps, but right now we're basically working with hacks, and hacks hurt.

Because these hacks hurt, I'd implore you to read this entire guide before attempting any of the steps so you know what you're getting yourself into, and if you, in fact, desire the results.

I think the PixelBook is a stunningly beautiful and fast machine, and while Chrome OS isn't nearly as useless as people often think it is, it clearly isn't the kind of operating system many OSNews readers would prefer. This is a guide to getting a traditional Linux setup up and running.

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RISC-V port merged to Linux
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-11-16 21:56:37

The RISC-V port was just merged to Linux a few minutes ago. This means we will be in the 4.15 release, which should be out about 10 weeks from last Sunday. As soon as the tarballs are created, the RISC-V Linux ABI will be stable, and since we'll ideally be in a glibc release that comes out soon after that we'll be fully ABI stable by early in February.

RISC-V is a completely free and open ISA that hasn't seen much adoption just yet.

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Scripting the Haiku GUI with 'hey'
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-11-15 23:59:56

Haiku's GUI is in principle entirely scriptable. You can change a window's position and size and manipulate pretty much every widget in it. The tool to do this is hey. It sends BMessages to an application, thus emulating what happens if the user clicks on a menu, checkbox, or other widgets.

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