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I returned to Windows 10 Mobile in 2018
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-11-10 00:35:38

The mobile platform I chose was put to bed last year, with no new hardware or software features planned. As such, when Microsoft's Corporate Vice President of Windows 10, Joe Belfiore, confirmed that Windows 10 Mobile was no longer of "focus" to Microsoft, I threw in the towel. I've used both iOS and Android devices since then, and I can't say I've found my new home yet. Nothing I've used has been a full-time replacement for my Windows phones.

So, after over a year of hunting for my next true mobile companion, I've temporarily given up the search to go back "home". I jokingly called this Windows 10 Mobile's last voyage, but in a funny way, it's true. Outside of security updates, Windows 10 Mobile is no longer being maintained, meaning there are some issues that are starting to arise.

Windows Phone 7/8 was the only modern smartphone operating systems I've truly ever liked. The design, the applications, the fluidity - it felt like it was designed for me. I found it a joy to use, but it quickly became apparent that few developers were building applications for the platform, and the general public was never interested. This article is interesting, as it shows that using Windows 10 Mobile is like today.

I feel like I should snap up an HP Elite x3 for my collection of devices running dead platforms.

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APEX furthers the Android modularization started by Treble
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-11-10 00:15:46

At a technical level, APEX has been compared to Magisk, which works by mounting folders into the system partition at boot, rather than modifying the system partition directly (which is detectable). APEX appears to extend that same functionality over into core Android packages, separating out things like the Android Runtime into their own packages, separate from the system partition. That means they can be individually and separately updated from the system image.

It's possible that modularized OEM modifications could then be distributed on top of a Google-maintained system image - basically meaning the version of Android itself on a given phone could potentially be updated by Google, but the bits responsible for an OEM skin could be present, updated, and maintained as separate components. That's not to mention how it could ease ROM development, as Treble has.

It's good to see Google working to go beyond Treble, because the cold and harsh facts are that Treble hasn't made any serious dent in the update problem at all. The problem is as big as it's ever been.

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What's new for WSL in the Windows 10 October 2018 Update
By Thom Holwerda, submitted by garyd on 2018-11-09 23:55:29

On October 2, 2018, Microsoft announced that the availability of the Windows 10 October 2018 Update. This post will cover what you can expect to see in WSL for the October 2018 Update, Windows 10 version 1809, and from recent Windows Insiders builds. You can find additional information on our detailed release notes.

Mind you, as you can see in the previous news item, 1809 was pulled and hasn't been rereleased yet. I'm not entirely sure why this blog post detailing these changes is still up without acknowledging that.

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Microsoft's silence on the Windows 10 1809 delay is deafening
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-11-09 23:51:36

Microsoft skipped over Release Preview with Windows 10 version 1809, and four days later, the update was pulled from Windows Update. This was mainly due to some users' files being deleted upon upgrading. Moreover, it turned out that the issue had been reported to the Feedback Hub, but it hadn't been upvoted enough times for anyone to notice.

The company published a blog post a few days after that, explaining the issue and saying that you'll now be able to indicate severity of a bug in a Feedback Hub report. There was a slight apology, and a sign that Microsoft will do at least the bare minimum to make sure that this doesn't happen again.

Microsoft hasn't said a word about it since.

Not a good few weeks for Windows Update and related services.

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Classic Amiga emulation on the X5000
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-11-09 01:37:39

Speaking of Amiga, Mark Round has written a great blog post about running old AmigaOS 3.x software on AmigaOS 4, and the best ways to do so.

While I’ve been having a lot of fun with the new software written specifically for AmigaOS 4, the bulk of my software is still “classic” titles that used to run on my A1200. One of the first things I did when I set up my X5000 was to transfer my old Amiga’s hard drive over so I could continue running this library of software. I also wanted to set up an emulation of my A1200 so I can quickly launch a classic Workbench 3.9 session and pick up all my old projects and bits of code I’d written over the years.

Fortunately, the X5000 and AmigaOS 4 offers a variety of ways of running all your old software.

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Icaros Desktop 2.2.4 released
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-11-09 01:30:43

A brand new version of Icaros Desktop is now available to everyone. V2.2.4 includes new brilliant features and applications, small but important fixes and, for you Amiga lovers, a vintage GUI that can be selected after installation, which reproduces the plain old Amiga OS 3.1 interface.

Icaros Desktop is one of the easiest ways to experiences AROS, the open source Amiga-like operating system for x86.

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Some Windows 10 Pro licenses are mistakenly deactivated
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-11-08 15:57:23

Some Windows 10 users are having problems with their Pro licenses today, as users on the company's Community Forums and Reddit are reporting that their Windows 10 Pro systems are saying they are not activated, and telling users to install Windows 10 Home instead. Most of the reports appear to be coming from users who obtained the Windows 10 license thanks to the free upgrade path Microsoft offered back in 2015, suggesting that the issue is somehow related to it.

According to some of the reports, while the system says that users have a Windows 10 Home license, the Microsoft Store link in the settings page blocks them from attempting to buy a Pro license.

This happened to my workstation today, and it was a bit of a frightening moment - I earn my living using this machine, so seeing the big "Windows not activated" watermark certainly made me feel quite uncomfortable. Luckily, a reboot fixed it, but it does highlight just how problematic Microsoft's activation systems can be. I begrudgingly understand that Microsoft needs some way of determining the legitimacy of Windows installations and that it needs to deter piracy, but major bugs like this really shouldn't happen, ever.

Update: as it turns out, the reboot didn't fix my issue at all. After running for a little while, my machine again reverted to a deactivated state. This means a watermark on the desktop interfering with things like video games, and all personalization options - colours, backgrounds, etc. - are disabled. It also seems this issue is quite widespread.

Microsoft has not provided any official statement (!), and all we have to go on is an unofficial statement on its support forums that reads:

Microsoft has just released an Emerging issue announcement about current activation issue related to Pro edition recently. This happens in Japan, Korea, American and many other countries.I am very sorry to inform you that there is a temporary issue with Microsoft's activation server at the moment and some customers might experience this issue where Windows is displayed as not activated.

Our engineers are working tirelessly to resolve this issue and it is expected to be corrected within one to two business days.

This is clearly unacceptable. Users' machines currently have functionality disabled, and a big watermark is interfering with everything you do on your computer. Microsoft is basically saying "yeah just deal with that for a few days", which is entirely, utterly, and completely unacceptable.

Sadly, there's absolutely nothing users can do about this. As always, software is special and not held to the same standards as other products, so nothing will come of this - no fines, no government investigations, no lawsuits, nothing. If this happened to a car or even a goddamn toaster, recalls would be all over the news and heads would roll. Not with software, though - because software is special, and releasing garbage software under pressure from managers is entirely normal and acceptable, and repercussions and consequences are words entirely alien to consumer software companies.

Sadly, it is what it is.

Update II: the issue is now truly fixed. Affected users can go to Settings > Update & Security > Activation and click on the troubleshooter.

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Apple walks Ars through the iPad Pro's A12X
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-11-08 00:52:36

Apple's latest iOS devices aren't perfect, but even the platform's biggest detractors recognize that the company is leading the market when it comes to mobile CPU and GPU performance - not by a little, but by a lot. It's all done on custom silicon designed within Apple - a different approach than that taken by any mainstream Android or Windows device.

But not every consumer - even the "professional" target consumer of the iPad Pro - really groks the fact this gap is so big. How is this possible? What does this architecture actually look like? Why is Apple doing this, and how did it get here?

After the hardware announcements last week, Ars sat down with Anand Shimpi from Hardware Technologies at Apple and Apple's Senior VP of Marketing Phil Schiller to ask. We wanted to hear exactly what Apple is trying to accomplish by making its own chips and how the A12X is architected. It turns out that the iPad Pro's striking, console-level graphics performance and many of the other headlining features in new Apple devices (like FaceID and various augmented-reality applications) may not be possible any other way.

During Apple's event last week, the company didn't even mention Intel once, and profusely made it very clear just how much faster the A12X is compared to all other laptops - even its own - that obviously all run on Intel (or AMD) processors. It seems like with this exclusive Ars Technica article, Apple is continuing its A12X marketing blitz, which all just further solidifies that Intel's days inside Apple's Macs are almost over.

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Samsung shows off its smartphone with foldable display
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-11-08 00:43:55

At Samsung's Developer Conference earlier today, the company gave a short glimpse of its smartphone with foldable display.

Samsung's folding phone will actually have three screens - a large display that will unfold the phone into a small tablet, and a smaller display which sits on the outside of the phone for use in one-handed operation. Samsung calls this smaller screen the "cover display," and it definitely seems smaller than what you get on a modern, large-display smartphone. The idea is that since the "large" tablet display can only be used in the full-size mode, you'll need this secondary display for more day-to-day smartphone functions.

The demo device was inside a "black box" to disguise the actual industrial design, but that suggests this phone is getting pretty close to being done (also, the bezels won't be that large - it's deliberate obfuscation). Samsung says production of Infinity folding panels should be ready in the coming months, suggesting the phone could launch in the early part of next year.

Meanwhile, Google has announced that Android will support foldable displays, so that applications can seamlessly shrink and expand based on the state of the foldable display.

I love the technology that makes all this possible, but I think it'll take a few generations and iterating before these foldable displays truly become useful.

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AMD outlines its future: 7nm Zen 2, Zen 3, Zen 4
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-11-07 00:44:24

On the CPU side of things, AMD talked extensively about the forthcoming Zen 2 architecture. The goal of the original Zen architecture was to get AMD, at the very least, competitive with what Intel had to offer. AMD knew that Zen would not take the performance lead from Intel, but the pricing and features of its chips made them nonetheless attractive, especially in workloads that highlighted certain shortcomings of Intel's parts (fewer memory channels, less I/O bandwidth). Zen 2 promises to be not merely competitive with Intel, but superior to it.

Key to this is TSMC's 7nm process, which offers twice the transistor density of the 14nm process the original Zen parts used. For the same performance level, power is reduced by about 50 percent, or, conversely, at the same power consumption, performance is increased by about 25 percent. TSMC's 14nm and 12nm processes both trail behind Intel's 14nm process in terms of performance per watt, but with 7nm, TSMC will take the lead.

These Zen 2 processors using the 7nm process will hit the market in 2019, so it seems like next year is the perfect moment to make any transitions from Intel to AMD. Intel has been milking its 14nm process for all its worth, because it just can't seem to get its 10nm process to work properly. With AMD moving to 7nm, it definitely seems the company will actually leapfrog Intel next year.

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