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Jailbreaking Super Mario World to install hex editor, mod loader
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-05-29 23:25:07

Cooper Harasyn found a Super Mario World save corruption glitch, and we worked together to create a jailbreak that works on real, unmodified cartridges and Super Nintendos.

They managed to install a hex editor and a mod loader onto unmodified Super Mario World cartridges running on unmodified Super Nintendos. With the mod loader, you can, for instance, give Mario telekinesis powers. This is somewhat reminiscent of a similar extraordinary feat in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night we talked about earlier this year.

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PC DOS 1.0, but not quite
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-05-28 22:29:58

Astute readers will notice that that's exactly the same message as PC DOS 1.0 (August 1981) shows, but this COMMAND.COM did not prompt for the date. That's because this disk is not from August but rather early June 1981 - newest file is timestamped June 6, 1981 - which may make it the oldest known surviving piece of software written for the IBM PC (not counting the IBM PC ROMs which are dated April 1981). It’s certainly the oldest known surviving PC operating system.

I'm starting to sound like a broken record on this topic, but it can't be said often enough: the preservation of software - whether important world-changing or not - is crucial if we want to document the history of where software came from, and where it's going to.

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A year of Google and Apple maps
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-05-28 22:26:29

Shortly after I published my Cartography Comparison last June, I noticed Google updating some of the areas we had focused on.

Coincidence or not, it was interesting. And it made me wonder what else would change, if we kept watching. Would Google keep adding detail? And would Apple, like Google, also start making changes?

So I wrote a script that takes monthly screenshots of Google and Apple Maps. And thirteen months later, we now have a year's worth of images.

This is a fascinating article. Google is changing the look of the actual maps in Google Maps a lot, and improving its data all the time - whereas Apple seems to lag behind, and contains far less places of interest, stores, and so on.

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postmarketOS: aiming for a 10 year life-cycle for smartphones
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-05-27 09:33:34

It is 2017. Pick an average PC from 2007 and install a minimal GNU/Linux based operating system. You will be able to do basic computing tasks (eg. surfing the web, reading E-Mails, listening to music, chatting) just like on an expensive modern PC. You will even get security updates, so your old computer is protected, just like as a new one.

postmarketOS (I love the name) aims to do the same for smartphones. A small Linux distribution with a phone interface, designed to be easy to update and maintain to solve the problems Android poses in this area. The project is in its infancy, so it needs a lot of help to further realise its vision.

This is a great idea, and it could breathe life into devices not even LineageOS can keep alive.

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Apple is working on a dedicated chip to power AI on devices
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-05-27 09:26:23

Apple is working on a processor devoted specifically to AI-related tasks, according to a person familiar with the matter. The chip, known internally as the Apple Neural Engine, would improve the way the company's devices handle tasks that would otherwise require human intelligence - such as facial recognition and speech recognition, said the person, who requested anonymity discussing a product that hasn't been made public. Apple declined to comment.

It's interesting - and unsurprising - that while Google is investing in server-side AI by developing its own custom AI hardware, Apple is apparently investing in keeping AI local. It fits right into the different approaches to privacy by these two companies, which is why I find this entirely unsurprising.

As a sidenote - isn't it interesting how when new technologies come around, we try to offload it to a specific chip, only to then bring it back into the main processor later on?

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Arcan 0.5.2 released
By special contributor Bjorn Stahl on 2017-05-26 19:55:25
OSNews covered the One night in Prio article, and now a new version of its umbrella project, Arcan, has been released (which only happens two or three times a year). The actual details are covered in the release post.

So, what is Arcan?

Arcan is a powerful development framework for creating virtually anything between user interfaces for specialised embedded applications all the way to full-blown standalone desktop environments.

At its heart lies a robust and portable multimedia engine, with a well-tested and well-documented interface, programmable in Lua. At every step of the way, the underlying development emphasises security, performance and debugability guided by a principle of least surprise in terms of API design.

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Google starts tracking offline shopping
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-05-24 23:08:48

Google already monitors online shopping - but now it's also keeping an eye on what people buy in physical stores as it tries to sell more digital advertising.

The Internet giant said Tuesday that a new tool will track how much money people spend in merchants' bricks-and-mortar stores after clicking on their digital ads.

The analysis will be done by matching the combined ad clicks of people who are logged into Google services with their collective purchases on credit and debit cards. Google says it won't be able to examine the specific items bought or how much a specific individual spent.

Well, this seems like something our politicians should prevent. This is such a terrible idea.

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Amiga X5000: an alternate universe where the Amiga never died
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-05-24 23:03:08

Ars reviews the Amiga X5000, and concludes:

The X5000 is different. It feels like an exotic car: expensive, beautifully engineered, and unique. If you bought one, you'd be one of a proud few, a collector and enthusiast. It practically begs for you to dig in and tinker with the internals - the system comes with an SDK, a C compiler, Python, and a huge amount of documentation for things like MUI, the innovative GUI library. On top of that, there is the mysterious XMOS chip, crying out for someone to create software that leverages its strengths. It feels like a developer’s machine.

Should you buy one? That depends very much on what your needs are. If you are simply after the best price-to-performance ratio for a desktop computer, this is not the machine for you. But if you are interested in something very different, something that is pleasant and fun to use, and yet can still be used for modern desktop workloads, then the X5000 is worth a look. I have had this review unit on my desktop for over a month now, and frankly I don’t want to give it back.

I reviewed the sam440ep with AmigaOS 4 way back in 2009, and came to a relatively similar conclusion - these machines are a ton of fun, but they're just prohibitively expensive, meaning only existing AmigaOS users will really get their hands on these. They really, really need a more accessible machine or board - a few hundred Euros, tops.

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The largest Git repo on the planet
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-05-24 20:02:07

Over the past 3 months, we have largely completed the rollout of Git/GVFS to the Windows team at Microsoft.

As a refresher, the Windows code base is approximately 3.5M files and, when checked in to a Git repo, results in a repo of about 300GB. Further, the Windows team is about 4,000 engineers and the engineering system produces 1,760 daily "lab builds" across 440 branches in addition to thousands of pull request validation builds. All 3 of the dimensions (file count, repo size and activity), independently, provide daunting scaling challenges and taken together they make it unbelievably challenging to create a great experience. Before the move to Git, in Source Depot, it was spread across 40+ depots and we had a tool to manage operations that spanned them.

As of my writing 3 months ago, we had all the code in one Git repo, a few hundred engineers using it and a small fraction (<10%) of the daily build load. Since then, we have rolled out in waves across the engineering team.

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Microsoft is placing a big bet on its new Surface family
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-05-24 19:59:30

A week after introducing the Surface Laptop to the world, he's sitting in a room in Microsoft's Building 88 ready to show off his team's latest creation: the new Surface Pro. At first glance, it looks a lot like 2015's Surface Pro 4, but it's part of a bigger lineup of the entire Surface family that Microsoft is now ready to take worldwide.

For the first time in Surface history, Microsoft will start shipping two new products (Surface Pro and Surface Laptop) worldwide at launch. June 15th will see these new products launch, and a big expansion for the Surface Studio all-in-one PC, too. It's clearly a date that Microsoft has been working toward for quite some time, and as I walked around Microsoft's secretive Surface building located at its Redmond, Washington, campus, it's easy to see that the Surface family of devices is now coming to life.

Be honest with yourself: which line of devices feels more innovative and exciting: Surface or Mac?

Easy answer.

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