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Antique BeOS Content by Scot Hacker
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-01-17 00:43:52

In late 2002, Byte.com decided to combat falling ad revenue by charging admission to its archives of computing content. I have first-hand experience tring to harvest enough revenue from the Internet to pay operating costs, and fully support Byte's decision to move to a subscription model. However, my BeView columns on Byte.com are now virtually hidden from search engines and thus from the Internet, and hundreds of incoming links (which now redirect to a subscription page) might as well be broken.

The BeOS content I provided to Byte.com over the two years I wrote for them is tailored to a very specific niche audience. BeOS itself is, for practical intents and purposes, completely dead. Even though these articles were surprisingly well-trafficked at the time, it is hard for me to imagine that anyone would pay for access to the Byte archives just to read a few old nuggets.

Scot Hacker's BeOS columns for Byte, neatly archived. What an amazing treasure trove. I don't think this archive is new by any means, but it's the first time I've seen it.

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Apple changed the future of laptops 10 years ago today
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-01-17 00:37:49

"It's the world’s thinnest notebook," said Steve Jobs as he introduced the MacBook Air 10 years ago today. Apple's Macworld 2008 was a special one, taking place just days after the annual Consumer Electronics Show had ended and Bill Gates bid farewell to Microsoft. Jobs introduced the MacBook Air by removing it from a tiny paper office envelope, and the crowd was audibly shocked at just how small and thin it was. We'd never seen a laptop quite like it, and it immediately changed the future of laptops.

The unveiling of the original MacBook Air was a watershed moment for laptop. Sure, the first model wasn't exactly a speedy machine, and it had an incredibly hefty price tag, but it changed the entire market. Later models became incredibly successful, and for years it formed the backbone of Apple's laptop lineup. Every other manufacturer would eventually copy most of its design and construction, to the point where every laptop in the €800-1200 range sported the MacBook Air-like design.

It became the benchmark every other similarly priced laptop was compared to.

It's still for sale today, but it's an outdated machine mostly kept around for its low price, ironically enough. Interestingly enough, just today, I bought a new keyboard for my iOS laptop (a 2017 iPad Pro 12.9"), which gives it a look very similar to a MacBook Air - just without the legacy operating system. The spirit of the Air definitely lives on in laptops of the future.

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Google memory loss
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-01-16 22:10:06

Tim Bray, former Google employee, currently working at Amazon, writes:

I think Google has stopped indexing the older parts of the Web. I think I can prove it. Google’s competition is doing better.

It's an interesting theory for sure, but it seems hard to back this up with any tangible evidence. How would you even test this? You can pick specific web sites to test this with, but that will always be an incredibly small - infinitesimally, unbelievably small - subset of web sites, and there's no way to extrapolate any of that to the web as a whole. To make matters worse, Google tailors search results to the information they have on you, making this even harder.

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New bill aims to ban US gov from using Huawei, ZTE phones
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-01-16 22:04:25

US lawmakers have long worried about the security risks posed the alleged ties between Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE and the country's government. To that end, Texas Representative Mike Conaway introduced a bill last week called Defending U.S. Government Communications Act, which aims to ban US government agencies from using phones and equipment from the companies.

Almost all phones and electronics - including most "American" or "European" phones - are made in China. This seems more like a battle in a wider trade war than something related to spying.

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Wrong dropdown menu selection led to false missile warning
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-01-15 21:09:27

Around 8:05 a.m., the Hawaii emergency employee initiated the internal test, according to a timeline released by the state. From a drop-down menu on a computer program, he saw two options: "Test missile alert" and "Missile alert". He was supposed to choose the former; as much of the world now knows, he chose the latter, an initiation of a real-life missile alert.

"In this case, the operator selected the wrong menu option," HEMA spokesman Richard Rapoza told The Washington Post on Sunday.

A dropdown menu with just two options. That's incredibly bad user interface design.

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Reading disks from 1988 in 2018
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-01-13 23:59:34

I used an Apple IIe computer throughout high school and into my second year in college, before I bought a Mac SE. That following summer I sold the Apple IIe and everything that came with it - the monitor, floppy drives, and dot-matrix printer - and pocketed the cash. What I was left with were two boxes containing two dozen 5.25-inch floppy disks.

I could've thrown the disks away - I had already transferred all the files I cared about to the Mac. But for some reason I saved them instead. And the two dozen floppy disks stayed in two battered boxes for the next 27 years.

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Apple's iOS security document
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-01-13 23:56:08

Apple designed the iOS platform with security at its core. When we set out to create the best possible mobile platform, we drew from decades of experience to build an entirely new architecture. We thought about the security hazards of the desktop environment, and established a new approach to security in the design of iOS. We developed and incorporated innovative features that tighten mobile security and protect the entire system by default. As a result, iOS is a major leap forward in security for mobile devices.

This document provides details about how security technology and features are implemented within the iOS platform. It will also help organizations combine iOS platform security technology and features with their own policies and procedures to meet their specific security needs.

Some light reading over the weekend.

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What really happened with Vista: an insider's retrospective
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-01-13 23:53:40

I enjoyed reading Terry Crowley's thoughtful blog (What Really Happened with Vista). Terry worked in the Office organization and did a fantastic job covering the complex machinations that went into Windows Vista and the related but doomed Longhorn project - from an outsider's point of view.

He correctly identified many of the problems that dogged the project and I don't mean to rehash any of them here. I figured it was only fair to try to offer an insider's view of the same events. I can't hope to be as eloquent or thorough as Terry but hope to shed some light on what went wrong. Ten years have gone by since the original release date of Windows Vista but the lessons seem more relevant now than ever.

I really enjoy these stories from people involved with the Vista project. Even though we complained left and right about Vista itself, the release was still hugely important and many of Windows NT's core systems were rewritten from scratch, and we still profit from those reworks and rewrites today.

Doesn't retroactively make using Vista any less painful, though.

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See the long-lost NES prototype of SimCity
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-01-12 23:52:53

Gamers of a certain age probably remember that Nintendo worked with Maxis to port a version of the seminal SimCity to the brand-new SNES in 1991. What most gamers probably don't realize is that an NES version of the game was developed at the same time and cancelled just before its planned release.

That version of the game was considered lost for decades until two prototype cartridges surfaced in the collecting community last year. One of those prototypes has now been obtained and preserved by the Video Game History Foundation's (VGHF's) Frank Cifaldi, who demonstrated the emulated ROM publicly for the first time at MAGFest last weekend.

I'm a SimCity 2000 person myself, but the original SimCity is a classic, and I love that they finally managed to preserve it.

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Apple is moving its Chinese iCloud operations to a local firm
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-01-11 00:28:53

Apple is moving its Chinese iCloud operations from its own datacenters to a local Chinese company run by the government.

The firm is called Guizhou-Cloud Big Data (GCBD). It's based in Guizhou Province and supervised by a board ran by government-owned businesses. In emails to mainland Chinese customers, Apple says that the move enables "us to continue improving the speed and reliability of iCloud and to comply with Chinese regulations."

But there's also the chance that closer ties with the Chinese government might mean more regulation, which Apple has a record of abiding closely to in the past. Last July, Apple deleted VPN apps from the App Store that had helped netizens evade Chinese censorship, "because it includes content that is illegal in China." Those who aren't happy with the move at least have the option of closing their iCloud accounts.

Read into it what you will, but the ties between Apple and the Chinese government are strengthening. One has to wonder how long until Apple has to open up iMessage's encryption.

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