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LinuxSecurity - Security Advisories

  • Fedora 33: xen 2020-306b84fd07>
    x86 pv: Crash when handling guest access to MSR_MISC_ENABLE [XSA-333, CVE-2020-25602] (#1881619) Missing unlock in XENMEM_acquire_resource error path [XSA-334, CVE-2020-25598] (#1881616) race when migrating timers between x86 HVM vCPU-s [XSA-336, CVE-2020-25604] (#1881618) PCI passthrough code reading back hardware registers [XSA-337, CVE-2020-25595] (#1881587) once valid event

  • Debian LTS: DLA-2383-1: nfdump security update>
    Two issues have been found in nfdump, a netflow capture daemon. Both issues are related to either a buffer overflow or an integer overflow, which could result in a denial of service or a local code

  • [$] Toward a "modern" Emacs
    It has only been a few months since the Emacs community went through an extended discussion on how to make the Emacs editor "popularagain". As the community gears up for the Emacs 28 development cycle,(after the Emacs27.1 release in August)that discussion has returned with a vengeance. The themes of thisdiscussion differ somewhat from the last; developers are concerned aboutmaking Emacs — an editor with decades of history — seem "modern" to attractnew users.

  • Calibre 5.0 released
    Version 5.0 of theCalibre electronic-book manager has been released. "There has been alot of work on the calibre E-book viewer. It now supports Highlighting. Thehighlights can be colors, underlines, strikethrough, etc. and have addednotes. All highlights can be both stored in EPUB files for easy sharing andcentrally in the calibre library for easy browsing. Additionally, theE-book viewer now supports both vertical and right-to-left text."Another significant change is a port to Python 3; that was a necessarychange but it means that there are a number of plugins that have not yetbeen ported and thus won't work. The status of many plugins can be foundon thispage.

  • Security updates for Friday
    Security updates have been issued by Debian (rails), openSUSE (chromium, jasper, ovmf, roundcubemail, samba, and singularity), Oracle (firefox), SUSE (bcm43xx-firmware, firefox, libqt5-qtbase, qemu, and tiff), and Ubuntu (aptdaemon, atftp, awl, packagekit, and spip).

  • [$] Saying goodbye to set_fs()
    The set_fs() function dates back to the earliest days of the Linuxkernel; it is a key part of the machinery that keeps user-space andkernel-space memory separated from each other. It is also easy to misuseand has been the source of various security problems over the years; kerneldevelopers have long wanted to be rid of it. They won't completely get theirwish in the 5.10 kernel but, as the result of work that has been quietlyprogressing for several months, the end of set_fs() will be easilyvisible at that point.

  • PostgreSQL 13 released
    Version 13 of the PostgreSQL database management system is out."PostgreSQL 13 includes significant improvements to its indexing and lookupsystem that benefit large databases, including space savings and performancegains for indexes, faster response times for queries that use aggregates orpartitions, better query planning when using enhanced statistics, and more.Along with highly requested features like parallelized vacuuming andincremental sorting, PostgreSQL 13 provides a better data managementexperience for workloads big and small, with optimizations for dailyadministration, more conveniences for application developers, and securityenhancements."

  • Security updates for Thursday
    Security updates have been issued by Fedora (firefox, libproxy, mbedtls, samba, and zeromq), openSUSE (chromium and virtualbox), Red Hat (firefox and kernel), SUSE (cifs-utils, conmon, fuse-overlayfs, libcontainers-common, podman, libcdio, python-pip, samba, and wavpack), and Ubuntu (rdflib).

  • [$] OpenPGP in Thunderbird
    It is a pretty rare event to see a nearly 21-year-old bug be addressed—manyprojects are nowhere near that old for one thing—but that is just what hasoccurred for the Mozilla Thunderbird emailapplication. An enhancementrequest filed at the end of 1999 asked for a plugin to support email encryption, but it has mostlylanguished since. The Enigmail plugin did comealong to fill the gap by providing OpenPGP support using GNU Privacy Guard (GnuPG or GPG), but wasnever part of Thunderbird.As part of Thunderbird 78,though, OpenPGP is now fully supported within the mail user agent(MUA).

  • Six stable kernels
    Stable kernels 5.8.11, 5.4.67, 4.19.147, 4.14.199, 4.9.237, and 4.4.237 have been released with importantfixes. Users should upgrade.

  • [$] Removing run-time disabling for SELinux in Fedora
    Disabling SELinuxis, perhaps sadly in some ways, a time-honored tradition for users of Fedora, RHEL, and other distributions that feature thesecurity mechanism. Over the years, SELinux has gotten easier to toleratedue to the hard work of its developers and the distributions, but there arestill third-party packages that recommend or require disabling SELinux inorder to function. Up until fairly recently, the kernel has supporteddisabling SELinux at run time, but that mechanism has been deprecated—inpart due to another kernel security feature. Now Fedora is planningto eliminate the ability to disable SELinux at run time in Fedora 34, which sparkedsome discussion in its devel mailing list.

  • Security updates for Wednesday
    Security updates have been issued by openSUSE (libetpan, libqt4, lilypond, otrs, and perl-DBI), Red Hat (kernel-rt), Slackware (seamonkey), SUSE (grafana, libmspack, openldap2, ovmf, pdns, rubygem-actionpack-5_1, and samba), and Ubuntu (debian-lan-config, ldm, libdbi-perl, and netty-3.9).

  • [$] Python 3.9 is around the corner
    Python 3.9.0rc2 was released on September 17, with the final version scheduled for October 5, roughly a year after the release of Python 3.8. Python 3.9 will come with new operators for dictionary unions, a new parser, two string operations meant to eliminate some longstanding confusion, as well as improved time-zone handling and type hinting. Developers may need to do some porting for code coming from Python 3.8 or earlier, as the new release has removed several previously-deprecated features still lingering from Python 2.7.

  • [$] Accurate timestamps for the ftrace ring buffer
    The functiontracer (ftrace) subsystem has become an essential part of the kernel'sintrospection tooling. Like many kernel subsystems, ftrace uses a ring buffer toquickly communicate events to user space; those events include a timestamp toindicate when they occurred. Until recently, the design of the ring bufferhas led to the creation of inaccurate timestamps when events are generatedfrom interrupt handlers. That problem has now been solved; read on for anin-depth discussion of how this issue came about and the form of itssolution.

  • Linux Journal is Back
    Linux Journal has returnedunder the ownership of Slashdot Media. "As Linux enthusiasts and long-time fans of Linux Journal, we were disappointed to hear about Linux Journal closing its doors last year. It took some time, but fortunately we were able to get a deal done that allows us to keep Linux Journal alive now and indefinitely. It's important that amazing resources like Linux Journal never disappear."

  • Firefox 81.0
    Firefox 81.0 is out. This version allows you to control media from thekeyboard or headset, introduces the Alpenglow theme, adds ArcoForm support tofill in, print, and save supported PDF forms, and more. See the release notesfor details.

LXer Linux News

  • Build a successful community using a Linux leaders playbook
    I love books about technology. My idea of a relaxing weekend is—legitimately—settling in with my copy of DocBook: The Definitive Guide (TDG to those of us who us who[he]#039[/he]ve read the whole series). I love learning to understand and integrate technology, and so those are the books I read.

  • COM quartet showcases Intel’s Elkhart Lake Atoms
    TQ announced four “TQMxE40” compute modules with Intel’s 10nm “Elkhart lake” Atom x6000E SoCs in SMARC, COM Express Mini Type 10, and Compact Type-6 form factors. TQ-Embedded announced a quartet of TQMxE40 modules with Intel’s new Elkhart Lake Atom x6000E, Pentium, and Celeron SoCs. No OS support was listed, but Linux and Windows should work […]

  • How to fix sound issues on Ubuntu 18.04
    Ubuntu 18.04 was possibly the most compatible and powerful of all Ubuntu versions. There are however some sound problems with certain types of hardware or even configurations.

  • Manage Remote And Virtual Machines With Gnome Boxes
    This guide explains what is Gnome Boxes and how to install Boxes on various Linux distributions and then how to manage remote and virtual machines with Gnome boxes from a Linux desktop operating system.

  • How to Install Putty SSH Client on Ubuntu 20.04 LTS
    Putty is the most widely used SSH and telnet client for Microsoft Windows operating systems. It is used to remotely access and configure devices such as servers, switches, and routers. Putty, being a free and open-source utility, is also popular among Linux users. In this article, we will explain how to install Putty on Ubuntu 20.04 LTS system.

  • 8 Best Free and Open Source Console Email Clients
    For the traditionalists, emails remains a fundamental part of the operating system. Fortunately, there is a wide selection of free email software available on the Linux platform which is stable, feature laden, and ideal for personal and business environments.

  • Compute module features new embedded Tiger Lake variants
    Adlink’s Linux-ready “cExpress-TL” COM Express Compact Type 6 module features the embedded-focused Tiger Lake ULP3 “E” CPUs unveiled by Intel this week. Highlights include 2.5GbE, PCIe 4.0, 4x 4K displays, and AI acceleration. In conjunction with Intel’s ”Elkhart Lake” Atom x6000E announcement this week, the chipmaker launched three embedded focused 11th gen, 10nm SuperFin fabricated […]

  • Musiko – cross-platform music player
    Musiko is a free to use, open source and cross platform music player. It supports a good range of audio formats including both lossy and lossless formats. Musiko uses JavaScript, Electron, VueJS, the music-metadata module and a few others.

  • Initcalls, part 2: Digging into implementation
    Part 2 of this blog series on Linux kernel initcalls. Read on as we go deeper into implementation, with a look at the colorful __device_initcall() macro, the rootfs initcall, and how modules can be executed.

  • How to Install Mantis Bug Tracker on CentOS 8
    MantisBT is a free, open-source and web-based bug tracking software written in PHP. It is simple, easy to use, user-friendly, and comes with a lot of tools that help you collaborate with teams to resolve bugs and issues quickly.

  • Manjaro Linux Installation
    In this guide, we'll perform an installation of Manjaro Linux. Manjaro is a versatile and user friendly Linux disribution with minimal system requirements. It's quickly rising in popularity and making a name for itself in the Linux world. Now is a great time to get into it.You'll be able to follow along with the steps in this tutorial whether you are installing Manjaro onto a physical system or as a virtual machine.

  • Geppetto carrier design service licensed by Toradex for Arm Linux modules
    Toradex has licensed Altium’s online Geppetto embedded board prototyping and design tool for customers using its Arm-based, Linux supported Verdin and Colibri modules. Gumstix, which was acquired by Altium, has long been known for its Geppetto Design-to-Order (D2O) custom board design service for customizing carrier boards based its own Linux-driven modules and those of partners […]


  • 'Google App Engine' Abused to Create Unlimited Phishing Pages
    Google's cloud-based service platform for developing and hosting web apps "can be abused to deliver phishing and malware while remaining undetected by leading enterprise security products," reports Bleeping Computer, citing a startling discovery by security researcher Marcel Afrahim:  A Google App Engine subdomain does not only represent an app, it represents an app's version, the service name, project ID, and region ID fields. But the most important point to note here is, if any of those fields are incorrect, Google App Engine won't show a 404 Not Found page, but instead show the app's "default" page (a concept referred to as soft routing)...   Essentially, this means there are a lot of permutations of subdomains to get to the attacker's malicious app. As long as every subdomain has a valid "project_ID" field, invalid variations of other fields can be used at the attacker's discretion to generate a long list of subdomains, which all lead to the same app... The fact that a single malicious app is now represented by multiple permutations of its subdomains makes it hard for sysadmins and security professionals to block malicious activity.   But further, to a technologically unsavvy user, all of these subdomains would appear to be a "secure site." After all, the domain and all its subdomains come with the seal of "Google Trust Services" in their SSL certificates. Even further, most enterprise security solutions such as Symantec WebPulse web filter automatically allow traffic to trusted category sites. And Google's domain, due to its reputation and legitimate corporate use cases, earns an "Office/Business Applications" tag, skipping the scrutiny of web proxies.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • 'Why Modeling the Spread of COVID-19 Is So Damn Hard'
    Slashdot reader the_newsbeagle writes: At the beginning of the pandemic, modelers pulled out everything they had to predict the spread of the virus. This article explains the three main types of models used: 1) compartmental models that sort people into categories of exposure and recovery, 2) data-driven models that often use neural networks to make predictions, and 3) agent-based models that are something like a Sim Pandemic.   "Researchers say they've learned a lot of lessons modeling this pandemic, lessons that will carry over to the next..." the article points out:  Finally, researchers emphasize the need for agility. Jarad Niemi, an associate professor of statistics at Iowa State University who helps run the forecast hub used by the CDC, says software packages have made it easier to build models quickly, and the code-sharing site GitHub lets people share and compare their models. COVID-19 is giving modelers a chance to try out all their newest tools, says biologist Lauren Ancel Meyers, the head of the COVID-19 Modeling Consortium at the University of Texas at Austin. "The pace of innovation, the pace of development, is unlike ever before," she says. "There are new statistical methods, new kinds of data, new model structures."   "If we want to beat this virus," says Mikhail Prokopenko, a computer scientist at the University of Sydney, "we have to be as adaptive as it is."

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Silicon Valley Tech Workers Angered By Proposal to Make Some Mandatory Telecommuting Permanent
    "The Metropolitan Transportation Commission, a regional government agency in the San Francisco Bay Area, voted Wednesday to move forward with a proposal to require people at large, office-based companies to work from home three days a week as a way to slash greenhouse gas emissions from car commutes," reports NBC News:  It's a radical suggestion that likely would have been a non-starter before Covid-19 shuttered many offices in March, but now that corporate employees have gotten a taste of not commuting, transportation planners think the idea has wider appeal. "There is an opportunity to do things that could not have been done in the past," said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, a member of the transportation commission who supports the proposal. She said she felt "very strongly" that a telecommuting mandate ought to be a part of the region's future...   Some of the nation's largest companies are headquartered in the Bay Area, including not only tech giants Apple, Facebook, Google, Intel and Netflix, but Chevron, Levi Strauss and Wells Fargo... The idea of a mandate was a surprise to residents, many of whom first learned of the idea this week from social media and then flooded an online meeting of the transportation agency Wednesday to try, unsuccessfully, to talk commissioners out of the idea. "We do not want to continue this as a lifestyle," Steven Buss, a Google software engineer who lives in San Francisco, told the commission. "We are all sacrificing now to reduce the spread of the virus, but no one is enjoying working from home," he said. "It's probably fine if you own a big house out in the suburbs and you're nearing retirement, but for young workers like me who live in crowded conditions, working from home is terrible."  Many callers pointed out that the situation exacerbates inequality because only some types of work can be done from home. Others worried about the ripple effects on lunch spots, transit agencies and other businesses and organizations that rely on revenue from office workers. Still other residents said that if car emissions are the problem, the commission should focus on cars, not all commutes... Dustin Moskovitz, a cofounder of Facebook who usually keeps a low public profile, mocked the idea as an indictment of the Bay Area's general failure to plan for growth. "We tried nothing, and we're all out of ideas," Moskovitz, now CEO of software company Asana, tweeted Tuesday.    The mandate would apply to "large, office-based employers" and require them to have at least 60 percent of their employees telecommute on any given workday. They could meet the requirement through flexible schedules, compressed work weeks or other alternatives.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • The US Space Force Will Use Blockchain-Based Data Protection - and SpaceX's Reusable Rockets
    "The service branch protecting U.S. interests outside the stratosphere may use blockchain to render its computer systems, on earth and in space, unhackable," reports CoinDesk: Last week, Xage Security won a contract from the United States Space Force to develop and roll out a blockchain-based data protection system across its networks. Called the Xage Security Fabric, the blockchain verifies data and protects the network from third party intervention, so confidential data sent from satellites to earth isn't intercepted en-route.   It also ensures security remains consistent across the entire United States Space Force network, preventing hackers and other malicious entities from identifying and exploiting any weak spots.   And UPI reports: The U.S. Space Force will start to fly missions on reused SpaceX rockets next year to save millions of dollars, the service announced Friday.   The Space Force will fly two GPS satellites into orbit on a Falcon 9 first-stage booster. The lower cost that SpaceX charges for reused rockets will save taxpayers $52.7 million, a statement from the military branch said... Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX's president and chief operating officer, said in a news release that the company was pleased the Space Force saw "the benefits of the technology."

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Researcher Discusses Whether Time Travel Could Prevent a Pandemic
    University of Queensland student Germain Tobar who worked with UQ physics professor Fabio Costa on a new peer-reviewed paper "says he has mathematically proven the physical feasibility of a specific kind of time travel" without paradoxes, reports Popular Mechanics:  Time travel discussion focuses on closed time-like curves, something Albert Einstein first posited. And Tobar and Costa say that as long as just two pieces of an entire scenario within a closed time-like curve are still in "causal order" when you leave, the rest is subject to local free will... In a university statement, Costa illustrates the science with an analogy   "Say you travelled in time, in an attempt to stop COVID-19's patient zero from being exposed to the virus. However if you stopped that individual from becoming infected, that would eliminate the motivation for you to go back and stop the pandemic in the first place. This is a paradox, an inconsistency that often leads people to think that time travel cannot occur in our universe. [L]ogically it's hard to accept because that would affect our freedom to make any arbitrary action. It would mean you can time travel, but you cannot do anything that would cause a paradox to occur...."   But the real truth, in terms of the mathematical outcomes, is more like another classic parable: the monkey's paw. Be careful what you wish for, and be careful what you time travel for. Tobar explains in the statement:   "In the coronavirus patient zero example, you might try and stop patient zero from becoming infected, but in doing so you would catch the virus and become patient zero, or someone else would. No matter what you did, the salient events would just recalibrate around you. Try as you might to create a paradox, the events will always adjust themselves, to avoid any inconsistency."

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • The World's Largest Concentrations of Java Programmers are in Asia and Germany
    "To celebrate Java's 25th anniversary this year and the latest release of Java 15, JetBrains has compiled data from multiple sources to look at what the current state of the language," reports SD Times:  The largest concentration of Java developers is in Asia, where 2.5 million developers use it as their primary language. JetBrains believes this may be due to the fact that it is common to hire offshore developers in countries like China and India to build Android apps. "We might have expected the USA to have a high percentage of Java users, but it also makes a lot of sense that they don't. There is a big technology stack to choose from and often a lot of the tech companies are at the forefront of that stack, so it could be that developers there don't need the power or stability of Java and are using languages that allow them to build and test quickly," JetBrains wrote in a post.   The post on JetBrains notes that the six countries with the highest percentage of developers using Java as their primary language are: China, South Korea, India, Germany, Spain, and Brazil:  The reasons Java is most likely so popular in the first 6 countries include the free use of Java, governmental support, and open-source... Germany is also very high which could be attributed to Java being the most popular language in Germany for software engineers as it is used to build highly scalable applications for a multitude of industries. Most enterprise services rely on Java to power the applications that enable the day-to-day running of businesses, such as payroll, inventory management, reporting, and so on. Germany also has a big financial sector that uses Java heavily for their homegrown tech, such as trading bots, retail banking systems, and other applications that the finance industry requires in order to remain competitive...   According to the State of the Developer Ecosystem Survey 2020, more than a third of professional developers use Java as a primary language and Java remains the second primary language among professional developers after JavaScript. Expert analysis: It is not surprising to see JavaScript and Java taking the leading positions as they are kind of paired together; developers who work with Java often write their frontend and any quick scripts in JavaScript. Python is probably third place due to the spread of machine learning. In general, we expect the web to be a big part of the developer ecosystem and so JavaScript, HTML and CSS, and PHP will always have solid standing. SQL is also always going to be around as there isn't much that doesn't require databases in some capacity. C++ is also kind of a solid language in that it is used for a lot of embedded applications, so it won't be disappearing off the charts any time soon. C# though seems to be losing ground, and I guess if Java is high then C# will be low, as they are both very similar in terms of capabilities.   As to why I think Java is so high in the sphere of professional development — it's similar to what was mentioned about Germany. Most enterprise business services rely on Java to make them tick along. It's not just the IT sector either — almost every company, be it in distribution, manufacturing, or banking, has IT services as part of their infrastructure, and these services, such as payroll or inventory management, are generally built with Java in the backend. So Java is used a lot by professional developers who work for these companies.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • NASA Launches New $23 Million Toilet to International Space Station
    First, PetaPixel reminds us that Estee Lauder's products will be launching into space this week: The cosmetics giant Estee Lauder is paying NASA $128,000 for a product photography shoot onboard the International Space Station. Bloomberg reports that the company will be paying the space agency to fly 10 bottles of its Advanced Night Repair skin serum to the orbiting space station on a cargo run that will launch from Virginia on Tuesday and dock on Saturday. Once the product is on board, astronauts will be tasked with shooting product photos of the serum floating in the cupola module, which has sweeping panoramic views of Earth and space.   NASA charges a "professional fee" of $17,500 per hour for the astronauts' time.  In a possibly-related story, the same flight will also be carrying a new $23 million space toilet to the station as part of a routine resupply mission "to test it out before it's used on future missions to the moon or Mars."

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Microsoft Updates Edge With New Features To Challenge Chrome
    Forbes looks at new features Microsoft added to Edge "as it looks to beat Chrome in the browser wars." It's now going to be possible to search for work files directly inside the Edge browser directly from the address bar. To use this you need Microsoft Search configured, then type "work" and press the Tab key to search your company's network for your work files. Another work-related Microsoft Edge update is also about to launch to let IT admins manage specific work related apps on user devices as well as the browsing users do from their Work Profile in Edge.   Integration with other Microsoft products is a key factor as the IT giant looks to entice more business users to use the updated Edge browser. Edge now supports native policies for Microsoft Endpoint Data Loss Prevention, which are used to find and protect sensitive items across Microsoft 365 services, Microsoft said in a blog highlighting the firm's security credentials. Another soon to launch feature of note highlighted by Bleeping Computer is Sleeping Tabs, which Microsoft says can improve memory usage by up to 26%. It can also reduce CPU usage by 29% potentially resulting in battery savings...   The browser is also adding security features such as alerts for the Edge password monitor if a compromised password is detected.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Tesla's Elon Musk Promises Full Self-Driving Autopilot Beta In 'A Month Or So'
    "I think we'll hopefully release a private beta of Autopilot — the full self-driving version of autopilot — in, I think a month or so?" CEO Elon Musk said this week at Tesla's annual shareholder meeting/Battery Day event. "And then people will really understand the magnitude of the change," said Musk adding, "It's profound. You'll see what it's like, it's amazing."  CNET reports that attendees then showed their approval "by honking the horns of their safety bubbles."  "It's kind of hard for people to judge the progress of Autopilot," Musk told a crowd of shareholders present at the event, each social distancing in their own Tesla Model 3, drive-in style. "I'm driving a bleeding edge, alpha build of Autopilot, so I sort of have insight into what is going on."  Musk went on to explain how Tesla's engineers recently had to overhaul major parts of the Autopilot, including a rethinking of how the system sees the world. "We had to do a fundamental rewrite of the entire Autopilot software stack... We're now labeling 3D video, which is hugely different from when we were previously labeling single 2D images," Musk explained, referring to the way the Autopilot software understands what the objects it sees with its eight cameras are, and how it should react to them. "We're now labeling entire video segments, taking all cameras simultaneously and labeling that. The sophistication of the neural net of the car and the overall logic of the car is improved dramatically."

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Python Developer Builds a Raspberry Pi That Alerts Drone Pilots
    "A Raspberry Pi, a USB SDR dongle, an LCD a buzzer and a little bit of coding in Python and C has created a very useful alarm for drone and RC model aircraft operators," explains long-time Slashdot reader NewtonsLaw . The device allows users to set an "alarm" perimeter around their operating area and automatically alert them whenever a manned aircraft with ADSB fitted intrudes into that area. While there are apps like FlightRadar24 that allow you to monitor ADSB-equipped air traffic, this is the first stand-alone hand-held unit that isn't reliant on cellular or Wifi data and which not just monitors aircraft movments but also sounds an alarm according to user-defined parameters.   sUAS News reports: "As an avid proponent of safety within the drone and RC communities, I decided to put my background in electronics engineering and computer software to good use by developing a device that has the potential to ensure the skies remain safe," said Kiwi drone and RC model enthusiast Bruce Simpson.   "The alarm I've developed is not a silver bullet but it is an extremely valuable tool for improving safety... I will be publishing some DIY videos showing people how they can build their own from readily available parts. This will ensure it remains cheap enough to be used by everyone..."   Drone users now call on the manned aviation community to ensure that they play their part by equipping their aircraft with the ADSB technology that has become such an important part of safety in the 21 st century.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Firefox 81 Released, Can Now Be Your Default Browser in iOS
    Engadget reports: One big benefit of iOS 14 is that you can set non-Apple-made apps as your default, including for email and web browsing. Hot on the heels of you being able to set Chrome and Gmail as your clients of choice, Firefox is enabling you to make its browser the default on iPhones and iPads. Naturally, you'll need to have both the latest version of the operating system and the apps, and then just make the switch inside settings.   Meanwhile, Bleeping Computer profiles some of the new features in this week's release of Firefox 81, including:   The ability to control videos via your headset and keyboard even if you're not using Firefox at the time  A new credit card autofill feature for Firefox users in the U.S. and Canada  A new theme called AlpenGlow  Firefox can now be set as the default system PDF viewer

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Bug Allowed Hijacking Other Firefox Mobile Browsers on the Same Wi-Fi Network
    "Mozilla has fixed a bug that can be abused to hijack all the Firefox for Android browsers on the same Wi-Fi network and force users to access malicious sites, such as phishing pages," reports ZDNet:  The bug was discovered by Chris Moberly, an Australian security researcher working for GitLab. The actual vulnerability resides in the Firefox SSDP component. SSDP stands for Simple Service Discovery Protocol and is the mechanism through which Firefox finds other devices on the same network in order to share or receive content (i.e., such as sharing video streams with a Roku device).   When devices are found, the Firefox SSDP component gets the location of an XML file where that device's configuration is stored. However, Moberly discovered that in older versions of Firefox, you could hide Android "intent" commands in this XML and have the Firefox browser execute the "intent," which could be a regular command like telling Firefox to access a link...  The bug was fixed in Firefox 79; however, many users may not be running the latest release. Firefox for desktop versions were not impacted.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Bored Developer Creates 'DOS Subsystem For Linux'
    Long-time Slashdot reader Bismillah quotes iTnews: A software engineer in Melbourne is whiling away the city's lockdown by creating a tool that DOS users so far have lacked: an integrated Linux environment similar to what Windows 10 users enjoy...   "I first started out just seeing if I could get Linux booting from the DOS command line, and that turned out to be straightforward enough so I thought it'd be fun to see if I could continue executing DOS once Linux was running," Charlie Somerville said. "I'm mostly surprised by how smoothly the whole thing works given how *dodgy* it all is haha," he added. DOS Subsystem for Linux runs a real copy of MS-DOS under the QEMU virtual machine, and starts up from that, Somerville said...    "Helpfully Linux seems to leave the first megabyte of memory (where DOS lives) intact during its own boot process, so it's just a matter of jumping back to the right place to continue DOS execution," he added. Somerville had it pointed out to him that this approach of running DOS under vm8086 is actually how early Windows worked.  "Kinda cool to rediscover the technique so many years later," Somerville said.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • While Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube Announce Hate Speech Action, Some Advertisers Remain Skeptical
    "Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter have agreed on first steps to curb harmful content online, big advertisers announced on Wednesday, following boycotts of social media platforms accused of tolerating hate speech," Reuters reports:  Under the deal, announced by the World Federation of Advertisers, common definitions would be adopted for forms of harmful content such as hate speech and bullying, and platforms would adopt harmonized reporting standards... The platforms agreed to have some practices reviewed by external auditors and to give advertisers more control over what content is displayed alongside their ads.  "This is a significant milestone in the journey to rebuild trust online," said Luis Di Como, executive vice president of global media at Unilever, one of the world's biggest advertisers. "Whilst change doesn't happen overnight, today marks an important step in the right direction..."  The CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, one of America's largest groups opposing hate speech, told Reuters there were many details that still need to be resolved. "These commitments must be followed in a timely and comprehensive manner to ensure they are not the kind of empty promises that we have seen too often from Facebook."   And in a follow-up article, Reuters notes that despite the agreement, advertisers who'd boycotted Facebook and other social media sites "are not all rushing back". Unilever, one of the world's biggest advertisers, told Reuters the move this week was "a good step in the right direction," but would not say whether it would resume paid advertising on Facebook in the United States next year after stopping over the summer. Coca-Cola also remains paused on Facebook and Instagram and declined to say if this changed its view. Beam Suntory, maker of Jim Beam bourbon and Courvoisier Cognac, plans to stay away from paid advertising for the rest of 2020 and reassess in 2021 based on how Facebook adjusts its approach...   "Brands are very concerned about having any affiliation with the disinformation that runs through the big tech platforms," said Michael Priem, CEO of advertising technology firm Modern Impact...    Campaign organizers remain skeptical and pledged to keep up the heat. "We cannot assume progress from yet another commitment to change until we see the impact and breadth of policy enforcement by these companies," said Rashad Robinson, president of Color Of Change, a backer of the Stop Hate for Profit campaign, which organized the boycott.   "As long as these companies continue to abdicate their responsibility to their most vulnerable users, we will continue to call on Congress and regulatory agencies to intervene."   The chief brand officer at Procter & Gamble tells Reuters that with half of all media spending now devoted to digital ads, "It's time for digital platforms to apply content standards properly."   A Facebook spokersperson pointed out that 95% of hate speech removed by Facebook is now detected before being reported — whereas in 2017, that number was just 23%.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Imprisoned 'Anonymous' Hacktivist Martin Gottesfeld Files His First Appeal
    In early 2019, Martin Gottesfeld of Anonymous was sentenced under America's "Computer Fraud and Abuse Act" to 10 years in federal prison for his alleged role in the 2014 DDoS attacks on healthcare and treatment facilities around Boston. (Gottesfeld was sentenced by the same judge who oversaw the Aaron Swartz case.)   Gottesfeld has just filed his first appeal, and Slashdot reader Danngggg shares this new interview with Gottesfeld's attorney Brandon Sample. The upshot?  Brandon Sample: If the court agrees with our arguments, for example, on the Speedy Trial Act, then that would result in dismissal of the indictment against him. And so, he would have no conviction at that point. There's a variety of different outcomes that could potentially flow from the arguments that have been raised in the appeal. If he wins, say for example, the argument that his lawyer should have been allowed off the case, well, then that would undo the conviction as well, and he would be entitled to another trial.   If the indictment is dismissed, then the government is going to have to make a decision about whether or not this is really a case that they want to prosecute all over again...   Daily Wire: Do you see this being successful, a strong case?  Brandon Sample: The appeal? I think we have a really good chance. I do.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

The Register

  • Can The Register run Crysis Remastered? Yes, but we don't see why you would want to
    It's the 'gaming funk' edition, also starring Wasteland 3, Crusader Kings 3, and Among Us
    The RPG Greetings, traveller, and welcome back to The Register Plays Games, our monthly gaming column – the "funk" edition. Maybe you've experienced the sensation, maybe you haven't, but after finishing our last subject, Death Stranding (which was great by the way), we found ourselves in a quandary. WTF do we play next? And can we bring ourselves to write about it?*…

  • Is your data center straining? The answer isn’t just more processor cores
    Join us next month to feel the Intel® Optane™ Effect
    Webcast Whatever the computing problem is, the traditional answer has been to throw more servers at it, which today means throw more processor cores at it. AI model building? More cores. Ecommerce? More cores? Pharma development? More, more, more.… offline for now


  • NVIDIA GeForce vs. AMD Radeon Vulkan Neural Network Performance With NCNN
    With having added Tencent's NCNN tests to the Phoronix Test Suite with Vulkan acceleration, here is a look at the real-world impact by using RealSR-NCNN for scaling up with RealSR. Various NVIDIA GeForce and AMD Radeon graphics cards were tested for this initial NCNN / RealSR-NCNN Vulkan comparison.

  • Trenchboot Secure Launch Support For Linux Sees New Patches
    For a while now Oracle engineers and others have been working on Trenchboot as a means of secure launch/boot support when paired with the likes of Intel TXT and AMD SKINIT for trusted execution and configuring each piece of the software boot chain for trusted/secure handling. The latest kernel patches have been sent out for review for secure launching of the kernel...

  • Fedora 33 Beta To Be Released Next Week
    After missing the preferred target date of 15 September and the secondary beta target date of this week, Fedora 33 Beta is now on track to ship next week...

  • AMD Ryzen 9 3900XT CPUFreq Governor Comparison With Linux 5.9
    One of the most frequent questions received at Phoronix in recent times is whether the "schedutil" governor is ready for widespread use and if it can compare in performance to, well, the "performance" governor on AMD Linux systems. Here are some benchmarks of an AMD Ryzen 9 3900XT using the latest Linux 5.9 development kernel in looking at the performance differences between the CPUFreq governor options of Ondemand, Powersave, Performance, and Schedutil.

  • Intel Engineers Begin Landing Open-Source Support For TDX, Intel Key Locker
    Last month Intel published a whitepaper on TDX as Trust Domain Extensions as a means of better securing virtual machines. TDX allows for isolating VMs from the hypervisor and other non-VMM system software. Intel TDX builds off other recent work around MKTME memory encryption and other features. We are now beginning to see that software side support roll-out along with the also-new Key Locker instructions...

Engadget"Engadget RSS Feed"

  • BMW's motorsport division announces first EV based on the i4
    BMW M, the German automaker’s motorsport division, has announced that it’s developing its first battery-electric car based on the upcoming i4 EV. According to CarAdvice, BMW M CEO Markus Flasch has made the revelation during a press event for Australian media, where he also said that the car will be unveiled next year and will fall under the company’s “performance segment.”

    Flasch said:

    “Next year we will launch the first battery-electric M car in the performance segment, based on the i4, as something to confirm. Then we’re working on hybrid electrified performance and high-performance cars, but it is too early to disclose which ones it is going to be.”

    As CarAdvice noted, it likely means that the vehicle will be sportier than the standard i4 but won’t be able to match the division’s “high-performance” models, such as the BMW M3 and M4. Flasch explained that current battery technologies still don’t have the capability to power its high-performance cars and that it will take more time to design one that can. The company still has to figure out a few more things to be able to develop a full-blown M EV, as well: “[T]he biggest question to answer is,” he said, “how to handle weight of a battery electric car and still offer M-specific, or M-style, dynamics.”

    The CEO didn’t have a lot of details to share about the car, but if it’s a sportier i4, then we can probably expect better specs than the standard version. BMW previously revealed that the i4 will have a 390 kW motor that can accelerate from zero to 60 miles per hour in about four seconds. It will have a max speed of 124 miles per hour and an 80 kWh battery that will give it the capability to run for approximately 373 miles on a single charge. The standard i4 is expected to be available in 2022, which means you may have to wait more than a couple of years before the M version comes out.

  • SpaceX's reused rockets will carry national security payloads for the first time
    SpaceX has been reusing rockets for years, but they’ve been off-limits for some crucial launches. They’ll get more use soon, however. The private spaceflight company has signed a contract with the US Space Force to reuse a Falcon 9 booster rocket for the first time on a National Security Space Launch mission. The previously-launched vehicle will carry the fifth GPS III satellite to orbit in 2021.

    The firm had been allowed to recover boosters for GPS III missions, but had to use fresh examples for new launches.

    There’s clearly a pragmatic incentive to allow reused rockets. The Space Force expects to save $52.7 million for the GPS III missions alone. It might also be difficult to insist on brand new rockets. SpaceX is shifting its focus to Starship, and might not be eager to make more Falcon 9 rockets than necessary.

    This also reflects added trust in SpaceX. Although the company has clearly played a crucial role in US government launches through projects like Crew Dragon, the contract represents another level of confidence.

  • Hyundai's next electric race car hints at the future of sporty road-going EVs
    Hyundai’s electric sports car ambitions didn’t end with a spruced-up Veloster. The automaker has unveiled an RM20e Racing Midship Sports Car that not only promises to boost its motorsport plans, but reflects the “next generation” of N performance cars — it’s billed as the company’s first “high-performance” electric sports car of any kind. It’s powerful, as you’d expect from racing EVs, but Hyundai is also promising a balanced design that could even be ready for the street.

    As the name implies, the 810HP motor sits at the middle of the body. That not only lets the RM20e reach 62MPH in less than three seconds and 124MPH in 9.88 seconds, but allows for the traction, balance, and braking you’d hope for in a race car. Even so, the design supposedly offers “daily-driver quietness” and responsiveness.

    The machine also claims a top speed over 155MPH. The battery is relatively small at 60kWh (not surprising given the need for a lightweight design), but 800V fast charging helps it get back to the track relatively quickly.

    Not surprisingly, Hyundai is using the RM20e as a tentpole for its overall green transportation push. It’s hoping to deliver 44 eco-friendly models by 2025, and that clearly involves N sports cars. While they won’t necessarily look as stylish as the Prophecy concept, you will get options that are more exciting than the usual mix of sedans and crossovers.

  • Polestar will put its eco-friendly Precept car into production
    Polestar’s Precept won’t suffer the same grim fate as many concept cars. The Volvo sibling has revealed that it will turn the Precept into a production car after a strong public response. While Polestar didn’t say just how the mass-produced version would differ, it expected “much” of the concept’s sustainable design to reach the electric vehicle you can buy.

    The firm said it would build the Precept at a new carbon neutral facility in China. There wasn’t any mention of when production would start.

    The Precept’s cabin uses a slew of recycled and reclaimed material, including plastic bottles, cork vinyl and fishing nets. You’ll also find a flax composite in both the interior and exterior. However, it’s also a reflection of Polestar’s goals for semi-autonomous driving. LiDAR offers “increased driving assistance,” while the grille from the Polestar 2 has been replaced with a camera and radar sensors.

    The Precept also has a sleeker, more original look than the Polestar 2, which was based on the Volvo Concept 40.2.

    It’s not shocking that Polestar would manufacture the Precept. It’s still a young standalone brand with just two vehicles in its stable — this could be a more upscale option for those who want a pure EV. It also has obvious competition from rivals like Tesla. The Precept won’t necessarily offer a direct challenge to cars like the Model S, but it could provide a viable alternative.

  • SpaceX scales back plans for Starship's first high-altitude flight
    You might want to dial back your expectations for the first high-altitude SpaceX Starship flight. Elon Musk now says the flight with the SN8 prototype will top out at 15km, or close to 50,000ft, instead of the 18km and 60,000ft he’d mentioned earlier. It’s not clear what prompted the lowered expectations, but Musk added that the rocket would get its nosecone and front flaps “next week.”

    He also showed current progress on the prototype, noting that the rear body flaps were already in place. An SN9 prototype is due in October.

    Don’t be surprised if that timeframe moves. Musk said on September 13th that he expected SN8 to be ready about a week from then, and clearly that didn’t happen.

    While a 50,000-foot trip won’t be quite as ambitious, the goal should remain the same. SpaceX wants to show that Starship can perform more than short hops. If the high-altitude test is successful, it’s much closer to providing a fully operational rocket. The company is betting its future on Starship in hopes it will enable space tourism and interplanetary trips, and that won’t happen without major milestones like this.

    Starship SN8 with rear body flaps
    — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 26, 2020

  • Tesla will boost your Model Y's acceleration for $2,000
    How eager are you to improve the performance of your Tesla Model Y? Eager enough that you’d pay a hefty sum for what’s ultimately some code changes? Now’s your chance. Electrek reports that Model Y owners with Dual Motor AWD variants (but not Performance) now have an option to buy a $2,000 Acceleration Boost that improves the 0-60MPH time from 4.8 seconds to 4.3. So long as you have the latest software, you can have a faster electric crossover almost immediately.

    The company offered a similar update for Model 3 buyers in December.

    Tesla has a long history of including features in hardware and locking them with software to help simplify its production while keeping costs in check. However, this is one of the most obvious examples of it — your AWD Model Y can already accelerate this quickly, it just hasn’t been given the option until now.

    This is also a defensive move. Tesla has tried to block unofficial performance hacks for a while. An Acceleration Boost might reduce the temptation to use those hacks while giving the automaker a way to profit well after you buy an EV.

  • Hitting the Books: The invisible threat that every ISS astronaut fears
    Despite starry-eyed promises by the likes of SpaceX and Blue Origin, only a handful of humans will actually experience existence outside of Earth’s atmosphere within our lifetime. The rest of us are stuck learning about life in space second hand but that’s where How to Astronaut by former ISS commander Colonel Terry Virts comes in. Virts shares his myriad experiences training for and living aboard the ISS — everything from learning Russian and space-based emergency medicine to figuring out how to unpack an autonomously-delivered cargo shipment or even prep a deceased crew member for burial among the stars — through a series of downright entertaining essays.

    And where many titles of this genre can become laden with acronyms and technical jargon, How to Astronaut remains accessible to aspiring astronauts of all ages. Just maybe don’t read the story below about how the ISS crew thought they were all going to die from a toxic ammonia leak to your 6-year-old right before bed.
    Excerpted from How to Astronaut: An Insider’s Guide to Leaving Planet Earth by Terry Virts (Workman). © 2020.

    For all the emergency training I went through as an astronaut, I never expected to be holed up in the Russian segment of the ISS, the hatch to the US segment sealed, with my crew waiting and wondering—would the space station be destroyed? Was this the end? As we floated there and pondered our predicament, I felt a bit like the guy in the Alanis Morissette song “Ironic,” who was going down in an airplane crash, thinking to himself, “Now isn’t this ironic?” This is how we ended up in that situation.

    Every space station crew trains for all types of emergencies—computer failures, electrical shorts, equipment malfunctions, and more serious fire and air leak scenarios. However, on the International Space Station, the most dangerous of all is an ammonia leak. In fact, our NASA trainers used to tell us, “If you smell ammonia, don’t worry about running the procedure, because you’re going to die anyway.” That sure instilled confidence.

    A few months after arriving in space, we were having a typical day. My crewmate Samantha Cristoforetti and I were each in our own crew quarters, going through email and catching up with administrative work, when the alarm went off. The sound of the ISS alarm is exactly what you would think a proper space alarm should sound like—a cross between a Star Trek alarm and a sci-fi B-movie klaxon. When it goes off, there is no doubt that something significant is happening. Sam and I both popped our heads out of our respective quarters and glanced at the alarm panel.

    When I saw the ATM alarm lit up, my first thought was, “Atmosphere— there must be an atmosphere leak.” The ISS had occasionally had an air leak false alarm over its fifteen-year history, and I thought it must be one of those. However, that is not what ATM means—it stands for toxic atmosphere, most probably from an ammonia leak. Significantly, this alarm was going off for the first time in ISS history. My brain couldn’t believe it, so I said to Samantha, “This is an air leak, right?” To which she immediately responded “NO—ammonia leak!”

    Jolted back to reality, we jumped into action. Gas masks on. Account for everyone; we didn’t want anyone left behind. Float down to the Russian segment ASAP and close the hatch between the US and Russian segments. The US segment uses ammonia as a coolant, but the Russian segment doesn’t, so the air should be safe there. Remove all clothes in case they’re contaminated. Nobody smelled ammonia, so we skipped this step! Close a second hatch to

    keep any residual ammonia vapors on the American segment. Get out the ammonia “sniffer” device to make sure there isn’t any of that deadly chemical in the atmosphere on the Russian segment. All clear. Then, await word from Houston. . . .

    Fifteen long, suspense-filled minutes later, we got the news—it was a false alarm. We let out a collective sigh of relief; the station wouldn’t be dying today! Whew. Similar to frequent fire alarms and rare air leaks, ammonia leak was just added to the collection of ISS false alarms. We put away the ammonia detector, floated back to the US segment, and started to clean up the mess that we had left floating in midair when that alarm went off.

    Then we received an urgent call. “Station, Houston, execute ammonia leak emergency response, I say again, execute emergency response, ammonia leak, this is not a drill!” Pretty unambiguous. Only this time the warning had come via a radio call, not via electronic alarm. After the false alarm I knew that an army of NASA engineers were in mission control, poring over every piece of data they had, trying to determine if this had been a false alarm or the real thing. Now that mission control had confirmed that it was an actual leak, there was no doubt in my mind that this thing was real. No way all those NASA engineers got this call wrong. Having worked in mission control for nearly a decade myself, I had complete confidence in our flight director and flight control team. When they said, “Execute ammonia response,” I put the mask on, shut the hatch, and asked questions later.

    It was like a scene out of European Vacation—“Look kids! Big Ben!”—or maybe Groundhog Day. Oxygen masks activated—check. US segment evacuated with nobody left behind—check. Hatch between US and Russian segments closed and sealed—check. Get naked—nope. No ammonia in the Russian atmosphere—check.

    By this point, we had run the ISS ammonia leak procedures twice within an hour of each other. We had a quick debrief as a crew to discuss how we handled the emergency, what checklist steps were missed, what could have been done better, and what we needed to report to Houston. By this point, it was very obvious that there would be a lot of meetings happening in Houston and Moscow and that everybody in the NASA chain of command would be aware of our predicament.

    Very quickly the gravity (pun intended) of the situation hit us. Using ammonia as the coolant for the American half of the ISS had worked well for decades, but we were acutely aware of its danger. Thankfully, the engineers who designed the station did a great job making a leak extremely unlikely, but the possibility was always there. On the other hand, the Russian glycol-based coolant is not dangerous, which is why the whole station crew would safe haven there in the event of an ammonia leak.

    Besides the danger of the crew breathing in toxic fumes, there was a risk to equipment. The ISS has two ammonia loops, a series of tanks and pipes that carry heat from the station’s internal water loops to the external radiators. If one leaked out to space, there would still be a second available to cool equipment. It would be a serious loss of redundancy for the station, especially given that there is no longer a space shuttle to restock the station with the massive ammonia tanks needed to fill a loop. It would be ugly, but survivable.

    What is not survivable, however, is having that ammonia leak to the inside of the American segment. First of all, if the entire contents of an ammonia loop came inside the station, it would probably overpressurize and pop the aluminum structure of one or more of the modules, like a balloon being overfilled with air. Mission control could avert this problem by venting the ammonia to space—we would lose the cooling loop, but it would prevent the station from popping. Months after returning to Earth, I learned that Houston had been seriously considering that option during our emergency, and it was only averted because of a tough—and ultimately correct—call by our flight director. That’s why those guys get paid the big bucks—they are some of the smartest and most competent people I have ever worked with. However, even if you averted a catastrophic “popping” of structure, there would still be the problem of ammonia in the US segment.

    If even a small amount of ammonia were present in the atmosphere, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to remove. The only scrubber we had was our ammonia masks, so theoretically you could have an astronaut sit in a contaminated module, breathing the contaminant out of the air and into the mask filter, and over time enough of this scrubbing would lower the ammonia concentration, but as the poor astronaut sat there cleaning the air he would also be covered in ammonia, and convincing his fellow crewmates on the Russian segment to allow him back to their clean air would be problematic, to say the least. There would need to be some sort of shower and cleaning system to completely clean him up, which of course doesn’t exist in space. It would be a similar situation to soldiers in a chemical warfare environment, or the Soviet soldiers in the recent miniseries Chernobyl. Dealing with a toxic environment on Earth is difficult enough, but in space it would be nearly impossible. The reality is that an actual leak into the American segment would make a significant portion of the ISS uninhabitable, and if there were no crew there when the equipment broke down, there would be nobody to fix it.

    A real ammonia leak would eventually lead to the slow death of the US half of the ISS, which would then lead to the end of the entire station. We knew this and spent our afternoon staring at each other, wondering out loud how long it would be before they sent us home, leaving the space station uninhabited and awaiting an untimely death.

    Later that evening, we received a call from Houston. “Just kidding, it was a false alarm.” That was a huge false alarm. It turned out that some cosmic radiation had hit a computer, causing it to kick out bad data regarding the cooling system, and it took Houston hours to sort out what was really happening. Because that call from Houston had told us that it was a real leak, we all believed it—we knew that the folks in mission control were some of the best engineers in the world and that they would be 100 percent sure before making a call like that. So we were very relieved to get that call.

  • US slaps trade restrictions on China's top chipmaker
    The US didn’t waste much time blocking sales to China’s largest chipmaker. According to after Huawei. While the effect of the ban won’t be clear until the Commerce Department decides who (if anyone) gets a license, it could represent a significant blow to Chinese tech as a whole. SMIC may have to turn to non-US technology whenever it wants to upgrade its manufacturing or maintain hardware, and there’s no guarantee it will find what it needs. It could find itself trailing behind rivals that have access to a wider range of equipment.

    This could have a knock-on effect for companies that depend on SMIC. Huawei needs SMIC to make some of the Kirin chips in its phones, especially after losing access to partners like TSMC — it might have further trouble if SMIC can’t meet demands under the new restrictions. It won’t be surprising if the Chinese government retaliates with comparable restrictions on American companies.

  • Microsoft outlines recent Edge browser improvements
    In a new post on the Microsoft Edge blog, the browser’s Principal PM Lead Kim Denny has outlined how the company made it faster and more efficient over the past few months. To help users perform their tasks as quickly as possible, the team rolled out Profile-Guided Optimizations (PGOs) in Edge 81 Stable Channel and Link-Time Optimizations (LTOs) in Edge 83 back in March.

    PGOs prioritize the most important parts of the code, while LTOs optimize memory usage. The two techniques apparently improved Edge’s speed by as much as 13 percent compared to previous versions, based on Speedometer 2.0 benchmark. Microsoft also introduced improvements to the browser’s scroll animation and enhanced how scrolling looks, feels and reacts to your touch in general back in April. Denny says those changes make Edge feel smoother and more responsive.

    The Edge team is also continuing to work on reducing the amount of memory and CPU power the browser needs. The Windows 10 May 2020 Update, for instance, reduces the browser’s memory usage by up to 27 percent based on the tech giant’s internal tests. Finally, Microsoft shrunk Edge’s size by half over the past year so that it doesn’t take up too much storage on your device.

    Microsoft’s Edge browser recently overtook Firefox as the most popular Chrome alternative, according to NetMarketshare stats. Chrome still has the lion’s share of the market with over a 70 percent share, and Firefox isn’t that far behind, but Microsoft’s contender has been slowly gaining popularity.

  • Watch Amazon's entire new hardware event right here
    If you have to see the Ring Always Home Cam in action to believe that Amazon made a flying security drone for your house, then check out the video of its hardware event. The live stream wasn’t available publicly yesterday, but now you can click through the highlights on a YouTube stream (or just check out a 30-second ad for the Ring drone that’s also embedded below).

    If you prefer text, we have a full rundown right here that covers all of the Echo, eero, Fire TV and Ring hardware unveiled.

  • Roland's WM-1 turns your instruments into (MIDI) cord cutters
    Let’s face it, when you start building out a fleet of synths, cable management can quickly become an issue, with all those wires connecting everything creating an inescapable rat’s nest. Enter Roland with its new WM-1 Wireless MIDI adapter. It’s a combination 2.4GHz and Bluetooth dongle you plug into your MIDI-compatible instrument that allows it to wirelessly communicate with other MIDI hardware (provided that instrument has a wireless connection as well) and your computer or iOS device. No wires needed. Besides note data, the WM-1 can transfer MIDI sync for tempo, effects, LFOs and loops.

    If you have access to a macOS computer or an iOS device, you can connect to the WM-1 over Bluetooth. With Windows computers, you’ll need to buy the $80 WM-1D USB dongle. You can also use the WM-1D to ensure you get the lowest possible latency when playing your instruments. Using the included Fast mode, Roland claims there is a 3ms delay transferring data between devices. That’s better than the internal speed of many hardware devices, according to the company. 

    Wireless MIDI adapters aren’t a new concept, but it’s not often you see a large, well-known company like Roland dabble in the category. Before today’s announcement, one of the biggest companies making a wireless adapter was CME with its WIDI Master dongle. At $59, the WIDI Master is more affordable than the $70 Roland WM-1. Of course, both will set you back more than a simple cable, but for some musicians, the extra cost will be worth it.

  • How 'Microsoft Flight Simulator' became a 'living game' with Azure AI
    Microsoft Flight Simulator is a triumph, one that fully captures the meditative experience of soaring through the clouds. But to bring the game to life, Microsoft and developer Asobo Studio needed more than an upgraded graphics engine to make its planes look more realistic. They needed a way to let you believably fly anywhere on the planet, with true-to-life topography and 3D models for almost everything you see, something that's especially difficult in dense cities.

    A task like that would be practically impossible to accomplish by hand. But it's the sort of large-scale data processing that Microsoft's Azure AI was built for. The company was able to push 2.5 petabytes worth of Bing Maps satellite photo data through Azure machine learning to construct the virtual world of Flight Simulator. You could say it's really the cloud that brings the game to life. Azure also helps to model real-time weather. (That's how some players were able tochase recent hurricanes.)

    The franchise's hardcore fans were eager to more realism in a new title,according to Jorg Neumann, Microsoft's head of Flight Simulator. Specifically, they asked for visual flight rules (VFR). "It basically means the pilot can orient themselves by just looking out the window," Neumann said. "And in order to do that, the planet below needs to look extraordinarily close to reality. So that was the mission."

    After a bit of investigation, Neumann realized that Bing Maps' data set essentially covered the entire planet. The only problem? It was all in 2D. After using some of that data to build a flyable 3D version of Seattle, Neumann turned to the Azure team to craft a machine learning method for converting the entire planet into a giant 3D model.

    "AI has just tremendously grown in the last few years," said Eric Boyd, CVP of Azure AI, in an interview. "It's really driven by the massive amounts of data that are now available, combined with the massive amounts of compute that exist in the cloud ... The results you can see are really pretty spectacular where you can come up with algorithms that now look at literally every square kilometer of the planet to identify the individual trees, grass and water, and then use that to build 3D models."

    Azure's integration goes beyond the shape of the world. It also powers the flight controller voices using AI Speech Generation technology, which sound almost indistinguishable from humans. It's so natural that many players may think Microsoft is relying solely on voice actors.

    Since the company began exploring ways to bring Azure AI into the game in 2016, the capabilities of machine learning have also evolved dramatically, according to Boyd. ”The AI algorithm space has really grown in the last several years,” he said. “And so vision algorithms, which is what's heavily used to identify all these different trees and buildings and classify them exactly, those have come a tremendous way."

    Since it leans so heavily on the cloud, Flight Simulator is a "living game" in the truest sense, Neumann said. All of the machine learning algorithms the game relies on will steadily improve over time, as the company irons out bugs and optimizes the engine. (And perhaps becomes more aware of potential issues, like the typo that created a 212-story tower in Melbourne.)  But he points out the algorithms can only be as good as the source data, so Microsoft is working harder to refine that as well.

    "Right now we have a bunch of planes flying overhead on the Northern Hemisphere because there's no clouds, so we're giving we're getting new satellite and aerial data," Neumann said. "We're going to process all that data with machine learning, and we'll have a 'world update.' We're going to have world updates every two months or so, is the plan. We're picking a region of Earth and putting some focus on it."

    The first of those updates isaimed at Japan and will launch on September 28th, but Microsoft is also planning to look at areas of the world where private pilots aren't nearly as prevalent, like South America and Africa. Neumann hopes that exploring those untapped areas may make more people interested in flight simulation in general, and perhaps even spark a love for real-world aviation.

    That's partially why he's so focused on capturing realism wherever possible. Take the weather: The game breaks the planet's atmosphere into 250 million boxes, where it can track things like temperature and wind direction in real-time. That means you're guaranteed to have a different flight experience every time you play. Neumann is particularly excited to see how the game will change during winter, when there's snow in the sky and entirely new types of weather patterns.

    Flight Simulator's reliance on Azure will only grow stronger, especially if Microsoft stars bringing in more data from sources like satellites that track wildfires, or planes monitoring wind turbulence. "Yes we can have that data, but how do we use it?" Neumann said. "How do we get it to people? That's why this whole stack for me is fascinating and it enables experiences like this, but it's really just the beginning of what we're seeing."

  • The next generation of wearables will be a privacy minefield
    Facebook recently gave us our best glimpse yet into its augmented reality plans. The company will be piloting a new set of glasses that will lay the groundwork for an eventual consumer-ready product. The “research project,” called Project Aria, is still in very early stages, according to Facebook. There’s no display, but the glasses are equipped with an array of sensors and microphones that record video, audio and even its wearer’s eye movements — all with the goal of helping scientists at Facebook’s Reality Labs “figure out how AR can work in practice.”

    Though the project is in its infancy, Facebook is clearly enthusiastic about its potential. “Imagine calling a friend and chatting with their lifelike avatar across the table,” the company writes. “Imagine a digital assistant smart enough to detect road hazards, offer up stats during a business meeting, or even help you hear better in a noisy environment. This is a world where the device itself disappears entirely into the ebb and flow of everyday life.”

    But if you’re among those who believe Facebook already knows too much about our lives, you’re probably more than slightly disturbed by the idea of Facebook having a semi-permanent presence on your actual face. 
    Facebook, to its credit, is aware of this. The company published a lengthy blog post on all the ways it’s taking privacy into consideration. For example, it says workers who wear the glasses will be easily identifiable and will be trained in “appropriate use.” The company will also encrypt data and blur faces and license plates. It promises the data it collects “will not be used to inform the ads people see across Facebook’s apps,” and only approved researchers will be able to access it. 

    But none of that addresses how Facebook intends to use this data or what type of “research” it will be used for. Yes, it will further the social network’s understanding of augmented reality, but there’s a whole lot else that comes with that. As the digital rights organization Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)noted in a recent blog post, eye tracking alone has numerous implications beyond the core functions of an AR or VR headset. Our eyes can indicate how we’re thinking and feeling — not just what we’re looking at.

    As the EFF’s Rory Mir and Katitza Rodriguez explained in the post:

    How we move and interact with the world offers insight, by proxy, into how we think and feel at the moment. If aggregated, those in control of this biometric data may be able to identify patterns that let them more precisely predict (or cause) certain behavior and even emotions in the virtual world. It may allow companies to exploit users' emotional vulnerabilities through strategies that are difficult for the user to perceive and resist. What makes the collection of this sort of biometric data particularly frightening, is that unlike a credit card or password, it is information about us we cannot change. Once collected, there is little users can do to mitigate the harm done by leaks or data being monetized with additional parties.

    There’s also a more practical concern, according to Rodriguez and Mir. That’s “bystander privacy,” or the right to privacy in public. “I'm concerned that if the protections are not the right ones, with this technology, we can be building a surveillance society where users lose their privacy in public spaces,” Rodriguez, International Rights Director for EFF, told Engadget. “I think these companies are going to push for new changes in society of how we behave in public spaces. And they have to be much more transparent on that front.”

    In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson said that “Project Aria is a research tool that will help us develop the safeguards, policies and even social norms necessary to govern the use of AR glasses and other future wearable devices.” 

    Facebook is far from the only company to grapple with these questions. Apple, also reportedly working on an AR headset, also seems to be experimenting with eye tracking. Amazon, on the other hand, has taken a different approach when it comes to the ability to understand our emotional state. 

    Consider its newest wearable: Halo. At first glance, the device, which is an actual product people will soon be able to use, seems much closer to the kinds of wrist-worn devices that are already widely available. It can check your heart rate and track your sleep. It also has one other feature you won’t find on your standard Fitbit or smartwatch: tone analysis. 

    Opt in and the wearable will passively listen to your voice throughout the day in order to “analyze the positivity and energy of your voice.” It’s supposed to aid in your overall well being, according to Amazon. The company suggests that the feature will “help customers understand how they sound to others,” and “support emotional and social well-being and help strengthen communication and relationships.”
    If that sounds vaguely dystopian, you’re not alone, the feature has already sparked more than one Black Mirror comparison. Also concerning: history has repeatedly taught us that these kinds of systems often end up being extremely biased, regardless of the creator’s intent. As Protocol points out, AI systems tend to be pretty bad at treating women and people of color the same way they treat white men. Amazon itself has struggled with this. A study last year from MIT’s Media lab found that Amazon’s facial recognition tech had a hard time accurately identifying the faces of dark-skinned women. And a 2019 Stanford study found racial disparities in Amazon’s speech recognition tech. 

    So while Amazon has said it uses diverse data to train its algorithms, it’s far from guaranteed that it will treat all its users the same in practice. But even if it did treat everyone fairly, giving Amazon a direct line into your emotional state could also have serious privacy implications. 

    And not just because it’s creepy for the world’s biggest retailer to know how you’re feeling at any given moment. There’s also the distinct possibility that Amazon could, one day, use these newfound insights to get you to buy more stuff. Just because there’s currently no link between Halo and Amazon’s retail service or Alexa, doesn’t mean that will always be the case. In fact, we know from patent filings Amazon has given the idea more than a passing thought.

    The company was granted a patent two years ago that lays out in detail how Alexa may proactively recommend products based on how your voice sounds. The patent describes a system that would allow Amazon to detect “an abnormal physical or emotional condition” based on the sound of a voice. It could then suggest content, surface ads and recommend products based on the “abnormality.” Patent filings are not necessarily indicative of actual plans, but they do offer a window into how a company is thinking about a particular type of technology. And in Amazon’s case, its ideas for emotion detection are more than a little alarming.

    An Amazon spokesperson told Engadget that “we do not use Amazon Halo health data for marketing, product recommendations, or advertising,” but declined to comment on future plans. The patent offers some potential clues, though.
    Google Patents/Amazon
    “A current physical and/or emotional condition of the user may facilitate the ability to provide highly targeted audio content, such as audio advertisements or promotions,” the patent states. “For example, certain content, such as content related to cough drops or flu medicine, may be targeted towards users who have sore throats.”

    In another example — helpfully illustrated by Amazon — an Echo-like device recommends a chicken soup recipe when it hears a cough and a sniffle. 

    As unsettling as that sounds, Amazon makes clear that it’s not only taking the sound of your voice into account. The patent notes that it may also use your browsing and purchase history, “number of clicks,” and other metadata to target content. In other words: Amazon would use not just your perceived emotional state, but everything else it knows about you to target products and ads. 

    Which brings us back to Facebook. Whatever product Aria eventually becomes, it’s impossible now, in 2020, to fathom a version of this that won’t violate our privacy in new and inventive ways in order to feed into Facebook’s already disturbingly-precise ad machine. 

    Facebook’s mobile apps already vacuum up an astounding amount of data about where we go, what we buy and just about everything else we do on the internet. The company may have desensitized us enough at this point to take that for granted, but it’s worth considering how much more we’re willing to give away. What happens when Facebook knows not just where we go and who we see, but everything we look at? 

    A Facebook spokesperson said the company would “be up front about any plans related to ads.”

    “Project Aria is a research effort and its purpose is to help us understand the hardware and software needed to build AR glasses – not to personalize ads. In the event any of this technology is integrated into a commercially available device in the future, we will be up front about any plans related to ads.”

    A promise of transparency, however, is much different than an assurance of what will happen to our data. And it highlights why privacy legislation is so important — because without it, we have little alternative than to take a company’s word for it. 

    “Facebook is positioning itself to be the Android of AR VR,” Mir said. “I think because they're in their infancy, it makes sense that they're taking precautions to keep data separate from advertising and all these things. But the concern is, once they do control the medium or have an Android-level control of the market, at that point, how are we making sure that they're sticking to good privacy practices?”

    And the question of good privacy practices only becomes more urgent when you consider how much more data companies like Facebook and Amazon are poised to have access to. Products like Halo and research projects like Aria may be experimental for now, but that may not always be the case. And, in the absence of stronger regulations, there will be little preventing them from using these new insights about us to further their dominance. 

    “There are no federal privacy laws in the United States,” Rodriguez said. ”People rely on privacy policies, but privacy policies change over time.”


  • Microsoft is bringing Xbox remote play to iOS
    Just a few days after opening up Xbox remote play to Android users, Microsoft has confirmed it’s testing the feature on iOS devicesas well. The Verge’s Tom Warren got a look at the new Xbox app in beta, and it works just like you’d expect: It connects directly to your Xbox One (or upcoming consoles), and lets you play anything that’s already on your system. To be clear, this is different from Microsoft’s xCloud service because it’s running off of your own console, something Sony is already doing with its Remote Play app.

    So what does this mean for the rest of us? The new iOS Xbox app looks pretty stable, and Warren says that he expects it to arrive on the App Store soon. Microsoft isn’t being specific on availability either, but hopefully it arrives in time for Xbox Series X and S owners to play some games on the go.

  • Google reportedly plans to ban post-election day political ads
    Google will not run any election-related ads after polls for the US presidential election close on November 3rd, according to Facebook. The company recently clarified its stance on election day ads, saying it would not accept new ones in the week leading up to November 3rd. It also stated it plans to reject ads from political campaigns that declare victory before official results are available.

  • Elektron's Analog Four and Rytm get both design and software upgrades
    Elektron’s Analog Four MKII and Analog Rytm MKII are both serious high-end instruments. They’re $1,399 and $1,699 respectively. But, despite being at the top of the Elektron heap, they’ve been missing some of the big features that make its more affordable Digi- and Model: lines so exciting. But, with Analog Four OS 1.50 and Analog Rytm OS 1.60 both are finally adding step recording mode and trig probability. That gives them both the full sequencing power that Elektron devices enjoy. Now you can manually build out drum patterns or punch in chords even if you fingers are fast enough to play live. Probability also brings a dash of randomness so that things don’t get stale. You can also easily preview trigs in your sequence now, without having to hit play and listen through your whole pattern.

    Both Analogs are also now class compliant USB audio sources. That means your don’t need Elektron’s Overbridge or a separate audio interface to connect them to your computer or mobile device. So now it’s much easier to get your glitchy drums off the Rytm and into your DAW of choice, whether that’s Ableton on a Windows PC or GarageBand on an iPhone.
    Now that the software features are more inline with the Digi series they’re looks are being updated too. Gone is the light gray and subdued colors of the original MKIIs. And now both the Analog Four and Rytm sport sleek black coatings and bright multicolored backlights. They’re also loaded with all new factory samples and presets to celebrate the fresh coat of paint.

    The OS updates for both instruments are available for free from the Elektron website and the redesigned Analog Four and Rytm are shipping now.

  • Apple iPad (2020) and iPadOS 14 review

    Ever since Apple released its first basic iPad in 2017, we've basically said the same thing every time a new one came along. Sure, you could always find cheaper tablets, but Apple's entry-level option offered the best blend of performance and value. After living with the 2020 model for a while — and at the risk of sounding repetitive — our verdict remains the same. Thanks for reading, we'll see you next time!

    Yeah, right. Like I could get away with that. Here's what you need to know: This year's cheap iPad might not have gotten a massive overhaul, but it is slightly better in some important respects. And more than anything, it's an excellent way for new tablet owners or people in need of an upgrade to get acquainted with all the work that was gone into iPadOS. That's why we're trying something a little different this time: Since Apple's new software is just as big a deal as its new(ish) hardware, think of this as an iPad and iPadOS review double feature. 
    If you're thinking of picking up a new tablet and don't want to drop loads of cash, the 8th-generation iPad is an excellent option. The first decision you'll need to make is how much storage you need. The base, $330 iPad comes with just 32GB of space, but if you're the type to hold onto your gadgets for years, the 128GB model ($430) might be the safer bet. You'll also need to make a decision about connectivity since the LTE models command a $130 premium before you start paying for wireless service.
    Familiar hardware
    Let's start with the iPad since it's by far the most straightforward of Apple's big updates. 

    When it came time to design the 2019 iPad, Apple threw out its old game plan and gave it a surprising overhaul. The 9.7-inch displays that iPads used for years were gone, replaced by a 10.2-inch screen that also plays nice with the Apple Pencil. And just like the iPad Pros, Apple's redesigned budget model got a side-mounted Smart Connector, so you could magnetically attach keyboard cases and, uh, use this one Logitech charging dock. (Apple's plans of nourishing an ecosystem of Smart Connector accessories clearly never panned out.) 

    Meanwhile, other iPad design elements remained untouched. Apple left the home button where it was, which means, the Touch ID sensor stayed put, too. There's still a plastic "window" sitting high on the iPad's back, to let wireless signals pass through more easily. And yes, there's still a headphone jack. That Apple mixed and matched components for this updated iPad is the peak of supply chain pragmatism, but hey: It did succeed in bringing once-premium features to its most mainstream tablet. 

    There's a tendency for people who love gadgets to want extremely visible improvements every time there's a new one, and you're not going to see many of those here. Still, when you consider the work that went into the last iPad, then, it's no surprise that Apple recycled that design for this year's model. And for the most part, that's fine with me.

    Its 10.2-inch screen features plenty of handsome colors and is bright enough for reading in the park (when you’re done binging Netflix on your couch). And while the display might not be dramatically bigger than before, the extra screen real estate gives websites and apps running side by side ample room to breathe. What else? Well, at about 1.08 pounds, this iPad is slightly heavier than its similarly sized siblings -- and I do mean slightly. Apple's cheap tablet is about one AA battery heavier than the 11-inch iPad Pro, but it's still easy enough to hold for long stretches of time. And while sticking with a Touch ID sensor was almost certainly a cost-saving measure, I've come to prefer fingerprint sensors now that we live in an age of near-constant mask use. 

    This is still a completely workable design, and it’s going to feel familiar to a lot of people. But that doesn't mean there are things I wouldn't change. 

    For one, the $329 entry-level iPad comes with 32GB of storage, which already felt a little anemic last time. That's probably fine if you rely heavily on streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, and Apple Music, but keep in mind that iPadOS 14 alone takes up a little over 6GB of space. Meanwhile, the 1.2-megapixel front camera can capture the occasional passable selfie, but it’s just not up to snuff in now that we have to be on Zoom all the time. (The 8-megapixel rear camera is considerably better for photos, but you're still better off whipping out your phone for those.)

    It also would've been nice if Apple had gone with a laminated screen this year, in which the display panel itself is fused to the glass layer that protects it. These kinds of screens don't just look better -- they feel and sound better too since you won't hear a hollow plonk every time you prod at the screen. Trust me, if you have fingernails, it'll happen more often than you think.

    The thing is, all of this is old news. The compromises Apple made to keep iPad cheap were acceptable last year, and they mostly remain acceptable now. Apple did make one notable change, though: It gave the 2020 iPad an A12 Bionic chipset. Yes, that's the same sliver of silicon that powered the company's 2018 flagship phones and yes, that's a big deal.
    In use 
    My biggest issue with last year's iPad -- and I promise this is the last time I'll mention that thing -- is that it used a chipset that was almost too old for the job. The A10 Fusion made its debut in 2016's iPhone 7, and Apple squeezed it into a cheap iPad in 2018. The problem was, Apple used the A10 again last year. I don't care how good the company is at chipset design -- running modern, demanding apps on a three-year-old processor won’t always feel great.

    In fairness to Apple, the 7th-gen iPad never felt too slow -- it's just that you'd see little hiccups while playing games or while interacting with multiple apps in Split View mode sometimes. Thankfully, those hiccups are all but gone, courtesy of the A12 Bionic. 

    In case you were wondering (and since you're reading Engadget, I suspect you were), the A12 packs a six-core CPU: Two cores tackle high-performance tasks while the other four handle lower-priority tasks that don't need as much power. Throw in a quad-core GPU and we're looking at a significant power boost. This tablet has consistently handled everything I've thrown at it.

    But first, the basics. iPadOS offers a few ways to multitask: You can run two apps (or the same app twice) side by side in Split View mode, or you can summon one app to float in a smaller window on top of the other as needed. The iPad handles both situations with zero stutters. Of course, you're not always going to be using this thing for work, and I'm glad to report that even graphically lush games run well here. I spent longer than I care to admit poking around the sprawling worlds of Oceanhorn 2 and The Bradwell Conspiracy, and they both ran beautifully.

    To get a real sense of the power on offer here, I cobbled together a half-hour, nine-gigabyte supercut of 4K video in LumaFusion and Adobe Premiere Rush, and the iPad didn't falter as I chopped up footage and shifted clips around each app's timeline. (I would've tried to edit our review video on this iPad too, but since we prefer leaving that to our talented crew of non-goobers, that idea died on the vine pretty fast.) 

    The real test was transcoding and exporting those videos as 1080p video clips, and the results were pleasantly surprising. When rendering those files in LumaFusion, the $330 iPad finished within seconds of a $1,000, 12.9-inch iPad Pro. I was slightly confused by the photo finish, so I ran the test again in Premiere Rush and saw a more pronounced difference: The iPad Pro finished in just under five minutes, while the regular iPad took an extra minute and a half. When you consider the vast price difference, that's not shabby at all. Is this the sort of thing most people will wind up doing with their $330 tablets? Probably not — if it wasn’t already clear, this is a machine that’s best suited to the usual iPad things, like web browsing, watching movies and a bit of gaming here and there. Still, I'm pleased to say there’s a surprising amount of oomph here if you ever need it.

    Of course, none of this would matter if the iPad had lousy battery life, but it remains as solid as ever. Apple rates this model for 10 hours of use on a charge, but in my experience, they tend to lowball that number a bit. When it comes to putzing around on the internet, expect closer to 11.5 hours, depending on what other apps you might occasionally need. When I played a marathon of Double Shot at Love episodes purchased from iTunes, the iPad lasted for about 10.5 hours before needing a charge. 

    Thankfully, charging happens faster now because Apple ditched its old 12W power adapter for a tiny 20W brick that uses a USB-C-to-Lightning cable. Practically speaking, that means taking this iPad from bone-dry to completely charged now takes about three hours, instead of four or five.
    Life with iPadOS 14
    Too often over the years, software built by both Apple and third-party developers treated iPads like giant iPhones, rather than canvases for specialized kinds of experiences. We knew they could do better, and the initial release of iPadOS 13 seemed like Apple’s acknowledgment that they knew it too.

    Among other things, that first release included more information-rich home screens, actual on-device file management, desktop-class web browsing in Safari, multitouch gestures for editing text, and the ability to run multiple instances of the same app. Later updates added support for mice and trackpads, narrowing the productivity gap between iPads and more conventional PCs. And now, iPadOS 14 is here to give Apple's tablets an even more distinct identity.

    There are a few things I should mention up front, though. We’re working on a separate deep dive into iOS 14, and since there’s so much overlap between update and iPadOS 14, I’m just going focus on tablet-specific updates here. Also, as I sort of mentioned earlier, Apple already laid a lot of functional groundwork — the means the changes found in iPadOS 14 can come off a little less substantial. They certainly seemed that way to me at first. Over time I came to appreciate all of the update's disparate bits more, but anyone expecting the kind of dramatic overhaul we got last year is just asking to be disappointed.

    One of the first things you'll notice about iPadOS 14 is how much more informative it can be at a glance thanks to expanded support for widgets. (And let me stop you right there -- yes, Android had these first. Google was right.) 

    Anyway, iPadOS comes with several widgets pre-installed for Apple's own apps, and they really run the gamut. Some, like the battery and weather widgets, are must-haves. Others offer a steady stream of depressing headlines or a curated selection of photos. And then there are the select few that just don't make much sense. Look at Apple's Podcast app widget, for instance. You'd think it would offer media controls or something helpful, but all it ever shows is what podcast you're listening to or what new episode just dropped. Um, great?
    That said, there are some frustrating limits to how thoroughly you can tweak the way the iPad looks. You might have seen people on Twitter sharing their ornate iOS 14 home screens, festooned with widgets placed meticulously across multiple windows. Sorry! That's just not possible here. Widgets can only be placed in the small "Today View" window that sits on the left of your home screen, and even if you make sure that panel remains visible, it'll still vanish the moment you hold the iPad upright. (You can technically swipe to open Today View again, but that essentially just replicates how widgets used to be displayed in iOS.)

    I should also point out that one of the iPhone's best new features, an overflow area for rarely used software called the App Library, isn't part of iPadOS. I’ve heard that the team's main focus was making sure the App Library worked as intended on iOS, and while that's certainly their prerogative, I can't help but miss it here. Bigger screens mean more app icons, more folders, and (for me, at least) more disorganization. Here's hoping Apple sorts this out soon. 

    Meanwhile, Apple made other design changes that further blur the line between the iPad and Mac. Some of Apple's apps, for example, have been redesigned with disappearing sidebars that offer faster access to options and controls you'd normally have to hunt around for. Calendar, Notes, Files, Music -- all of them are a little easier to interact with thanks to those sidebars, whether you're using your finger or a mouse. And in those rare cases where a user has more experience with Macs than iPads, it helps that the updated designs make these apps look like dead ringers for the desktop counterparts. Ideally, Apple would require (or at least strongly suggest) developers use more sidebars in their apps because they're so damned convenient, but I'm not holding my breath.

    Other interface changes have been equally satisfying, like Apple's revamped approach to search. It used to be that if you searched for, say, Gmail, iPadOS would throw a whole screen of results at you. You might get a shortcut to the app if it was installed, along with a link to its settings, some Siri-suggested websites, and maybe a few links to similar software in the App Store. I'm sure some people appreciated getting a full wall of results to skim through, but there’s a better way.

    What's nice about Apple's new search feature is that it looks and runs almost exactly the way Spotlight does on a Mac. You’ll still get the same results; Search just doesn’t fill your entire screen with them anymore. Theoretically, that might mean a few extra taps to get exactly the hit you were looking for. But, more often than not, the first search result was what I was looking for. Having fewer results to scan made the whole process feel a bit faster. 

    So yeah, it would appear the convergence of Apple's Mac and iPad software is well underway. There's one more thing we need to talk about, though: the Apple Pencil. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't bummed this iPad uses Apple's first-gen stylus from five years ago, but at least iPadOS 14 gives you more ways to use it.

    The most notable Pencil-focused addition is Scribble, which lets you just start writing in any text field. From there, iPadOS does its best to render your chicken scratch into machine-readable text. You don’t have to get your pen strokes smack in the middle of the field either! As long as you're close, iPadOS will figure out where you actually meant to write and take it from there. 
    Now, I'll be the first to admit my penmanship ranges from pretty good to doctor-level illegible depending on how fast I'm going, but I've been surprised by how accurate the results have been. Of course, mistakes happen, and thankfully it's easy enough to fix errors with a cluster of on-screen controls that appear at the bottom of the screen. This is my one quibble with Scribble: If you flub a URL or a Google search term, having to move your hand down to those controls can get you out of a groove pretty quickly. I know how minor this sounds, but if you're like me and make back-to-back typos all the time, the back-and-forth gets old fast. 

    The smart move would've been for iPadOS to dynamically place that "palette" on screen depending on where the text field you're writing is. I'm adding that to my wishlist for iPadOS 14.1. Still, if you're the type of person who uses the Pencil frequently anyway, I can't overstate how helpful Scribble is; it means you don't have to put the Pencil down to use all your other software. 

    Speaking of other software, the Notes app has been revamped with a slew of new Pencil features. If you deal with diagrams frequently, Notes will "quantize" your doodled polygons, arrows, and hearts, turning them into geometrically precise figures. If marking up flowcharts isn't your thing, you can double-tap anything you’ve written to select it -- from there, you can select as much of your scrawl as needed and paste it as plain text, or just rearrange it on the page. Perhaps best of all, the Notes app is constantly processing what you write as soon as you write it, so it knows to treat some snippets differently than others. 

    Did you just get someone's number? In a pandemic? Nice. If you jot it down in Notes, iPadOS will recognize it as someone's digits and underline it. After that, you can tap it to get shortcuts for adding them to your contacts, sending them a message or just calling them immediately. (Don't be too eager.) The same trick works for dates, addresses and hastily written URLs, and honestly, this might be enough to lure away from organization apps like Notion.

    Unfortunately, it's impossible to get a feel for some of the update's features because a) they aren't being widely used yet; and b) life in the COVID era means some of the most obvious use cases aren't as feasible as they used to be. App Clips might be the best example. Apple pitches them as miniature versions of apps that perform just one or two tasks, like unlocking a Lyft scooter or ordering a turkey sandwich from Panera Bread. It's a potentially neat shift in software design that could trim some friction out of infrequent interactions, but we'll have to wait until more developers adopt it to know for sure. 
    The competition
    Ironically, the 2020 iPad's biggest competitor might just be another iPad. Just moments after Apple revealed its cheap and cheerful refresh, it showed off a new iPad Air with a colorful Pro-inspired design and the same A14 Bionic chipset that will soon power the company's new iPhones. If you can afford $600, you'll get a tablet that outguns this model in just about every way, and I suspect quite a few people itching for a new tablet may just wait for that instead. (Considering the chipset it uses, we expect the new Air to go on sale alongside the iPhone 12 in October.) 

    But that's not to say this year's iPad doesn't face competition elsewhere. Earlier this year, Samsung released the $350 Galaxy Tab S6 Lite, which packs a cleaner design, a 10.4-inch TFT display, a microSD card for extra storage space and an included S Pen. Its looks are appealing, as is the fact you don't have to pay extra for one of its most valuable accessories. That said, its screen runs at a slightly lower resolution than the iPad, and is a smidge dimmer too. 

    Beyond that, its octa-core Exynos 9611 chipset -- while perfectly adequate during testing -- can't quite stack up to the iPad's A12 Bionic. (In fact, as far as Geekbench results go, the 2020 iPad's two-year-old chipset scores closer to the new Galaxy Tab S7 and its Snapdragon 865 Plus.) It's a great Android tablet option, but the iPad's better performance and stronger tablet app ecosystem give it a considerable edge.
    There will be some people who wanted Apple to do more with the cheap iPad this time, and I can’t say I disagree. Since it got such a noticeable redesign last year, the 2020 model was always going to be more... straightforward by comparison. Ultimately Apple delivered a well-rounded package for the price, and what it lacks in flashy thrills it makes up for with more consistently competent performance. Meanwhile, iPadOS 14 packs plenty of design tweaks, and gives this basic tablet some of the software tools it needs to shine as an inexpensive productivity machine. Taken together, they're enough to -- once again -- make this year's cheap iPad the best tablet deal you'll find out there.

  • Facebook wants users to be able to set Messenger as the default on iOS
    Facebook wants you to be able to choose Messenger as the default messaging app on iOS, select alternative web browser and email apps, Facebook is renewing its Messenger push. 

    “We feel people should be able to choose different messaging apps and the default on their phone,” Stan Chudnovsky, a Facebook VP, told The Information. “Generally, everything is moving this direction anyway.”

    Messenger probably isn’t the greatest option for your main messaging app, but being able to reset the default could let you choose apps that offer a better experience than Messenger or Apple’s Messages.

    Android’s mobile OS already lets users choose their preferred messaging app. Sadly, Apple is probably not going to give users that choice. Apple’s Messages app is still one reason that people buy Apple hardware, and Apple uses the encrypted messages to brag about its privacy practices. 

    But not allowing users to choose their default messaging app could add to the argument that Apple practices “monopolist behaviors.” The company is facing increased criticism over its App Store fees, and it is the target of multiple antitrust investigations. Today, Epic Games, Spotify and others announced the Coalition for App Fairness, an alliance to pressure both Apple and Google to change their app store rules and other restrictive policies. 

  • Readers compare and contrast the Galaxy S20 lineup
    Samsung updated its flagship lineup with three models earlier this year: the S20, the S20+ and the S20 Ultra. When Engadget put them through their paces as part of our official reviews, editor Cherlynn Low liked the screen, refresh rates and camera of the S20, the battery life and build quality of the S20+ and the S20 Ultra’s performance. But we wanted to hear from readers who purchased the phones, asking them to review their handsets this past summer. Here’s what they said about each phone, from size and display to cameras.
    The physical design of the handsets themselves received mixed feedback. The S20 was “too big” according to Henry, though Sneak liked “that it is slightly narrower than the S10” and “fits comfortably in my hand.” Meanwhile, Ryan said those who were interested in the S20+ should “be aware that this is a tall and wide phone that will often require two-handed use; if you prefer one-handed, I would go with the regular S20.” Ultra owners were okay with its size — Steve said he’d like it even bigger, but admitted he didn’t care about one-handed operation, while Charlie said he didn’t notice the weight difference at all, even coming from a Note 10+
    Cherlynn Low/Engadget
    Henry also mentioned the S20’s build quality, saying it “didn’t feel as premium as past phones” and that it “would have been nice to get a proper black color” for the handset. Jun Jie was likewise disappointed with the colors on the Ultra: “You went from Aura-ish colors on the Note10+ to Cosmic Grey on the S20 Ultra that’s more dull than my future. Why?” And both Henry and Steve wanted a headphone jack on the S20 and S20 Ultra, respectively. 
    The screens on all three handsets hit big with users. Sneak said the S20’s display is amazing, Ryan found the screen on the S20+ beautiful, adding that he can use the 120Hz with no noticeable difference in resolution. However, he did say that the “screen glass is easily susceptible to scratching,” and that “after a month of careful use, there are three or four small scratches noticeable when the screen is off. The notion that Gorilla Glass is somehow impervious to scratching is clearly a myth.” 
    Cherlynn Low/Engadget
    When it came to the 120Hz refresh rate on her S20+, Brianna was enthusiastic, saying she “loves the buttery smooth refresh rate” and that she “never knew I needed 120Hz in my life until I saw it in person! Never going back!” Charlie called the screen on the S20 Ultra beautiful, Jun Jie found it glorious and Steve admitted the large screen was one of his “killer apps” on the Ultra, but he skips using the 120Hz mode because it drains the battery.
    There was very little negative feedback about the camera features of the S20 lineup. The S20 and S20+ both have a 3x optical zoom system, while the S20 Ultra boasts a 100x Space Zoom with a 4x optical zoom. Sneak liked the camera on their S20, but Nick was disappointed that his S20+ didn’t feature a real telephoto camera and will instead crop a 64MP frame. 
    Cherlynn Low/Engadget
    S20 Ultra users were more detailed about their experiences. Derek called the camera cool, despite having to return his initial handset because of an issue with it. Steve said he “uses the Pro mode all the time and I love the level of control. I have used the 100x zoom, and while it’s not perfect, it’s better than not having the option at all.” And Charlie found the camera to be amazing, adding that “it has focus issues sometimes but I expect that to be fixed with software updates in the near future. The zoom capability is incredible and very helpful in my job.” 
    The battery life of the phones was only briefly mentioned by the reviewers. David and Nick felt let down by the battery life of their respective S20 and a S20+. David said he was “disappointed with my phone’s battery life compared to my previous phones, and the phones of others in my family.” 
    Cherlynn Low/Engadget
    Meanwhile, Ryan and Jun Jie had the opposite experience. Jun Jie listed battery life as one of the many advantages of going with an S20 Ultra, and Ryan said the battery on his S20+ lasts “considerably longer than my S7, and I can use the phone all day without worrying about recharging.” 
    Our users were fairly critical with regards to comparing their handsets to other phone models. David said “one of my biggest frustrations with the S20 is the tediously slow on-screen fingerprint unlock, to the point that I am considering switching back to an LG V series.” He felt that “overall, the S20 is a satisfactory phone but … my previous flagship, the LG V30+, gave a better ownership experience.” Ryan, who upgraded to the S20+ from an S7, said it took him a few weeks to adjust to the size of the newer phone. Nick, who also owns an S20+, felt it was a bad thing that the handset “is so similar to all other A-series Samsungs that you cannot easily tell the difference. It’s not a very shiny flagship, as previous models were. I was twice as excited when I bought my S7 Edge, which it replaced.” Steve was pragmatic about his S20 Ultra, saying “this phone is good for a while but next time I’ll probably look at the ‘A’ series. Better bang for the buck.” Derek was less matter-of-fact about his S20 Ultra: “I’ve learned my lesson and this is the last S series phone I will buy. I’m going back to the Note phones I was buying. This phone was not worth the price.” 
    Cherlynn Low/Engadget
    However, a few users of each handset were more pleased with their purchases. Sneak was “extremely glad that the Bixby button is gone, and I’m also glad that Samsung didn’t put the power and volume buttons on the ‘wrong’ side like they did with the Note 10 and 10+.” And Jun Jie and Charlie were both happy with their S20 Ultras, with Jun Jie stating there are “many praises to be sung about this phone,” and Charlie finding it an “incredible phone in many ways.” 

  • What Activision’s YouTube deal says about Call of Duty esports
    This January, Activision signed a multi-year deal with YouTube, making it the exclusive home of both the Call of Duty and Overwatch leagues, ditching Twitch entirely. The Call of Duty League has 1.1 million YouTube subscribers, and its 2020 championship bout earned a peak viewership of 330,000 people, all on Google’s video platform.

    The esports channel for League of Legends, the most popular professional video game franchise on the planet, has 3.29 million YouTube subscribers, and its 2019 world finals attracted 44 million peak concurrent viewers across YouTube and Twitch.

    The disparity between these two leagues can’t solely be explained by Twitch viewership. The 2019 Call of Duty finals drew a peak concurrent audience of just 182,000 on Twitch, according to doesn’t have a ranked mode, and developers at Infinity Ward said they designed its maps to be easier for new players to navigate.

    The reason Modern Warfare has trash maps is because they were designed to give new players a “safe space” to camp in LMFAOOO look how stunned he is when asked if the hardcore fans will be affected by this
    — Anthony (@OMGItsBirdman) October 31, 2019
    These moves have pissed off plenty of competitive players, including 100 Thieves CEO and former Call of Duty pro, Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag. He laid out some of his issues on an episode of recurring concerns about the league’s stability, partially tied to Activision’s annual release schedule for Call of Duty games, which means the competitive scene is uprooted each year. Star talent like Scump and FormaL are aging and no one is showing up to replace them. Players and fans are growing increasingly vocal about Activision’s perceived mismanagement of Call of Duty esports. 

    “They’re very passionate,” Snow said. “We learn a lot from that passion, and quite frankly, they have a lot of good ideas that we need to be very mindful of.”

    The rebranded CDL held its inaugural season in 2020, alongside a new competition format, minimum salaries and benefits for players, and a location-based franchise model, with teams spending a reported $25 million apiece to participate. Twelve teams competed in 2020, and after a mid-year format change, all of them were ushered through to the playoffs. 

    Activision is playing a multi-pronged game, and esports are only part of it. Call of Duty is a blockbuster franchise outside of the pro scene, and its support systems are mainly geared toward engaging that massive, core player base, not catering to the smaller competitive crowd.

    On YouTube, this means dropping more story- and personality-driven content in VOD format. The goal, Snow said, is to expand the CDL audience by creating videos that will attract lapsed or casual Call of Duty fans, and pull them into the pro scene. 

    Naturally, this also means diversification. Right now, the CDL audience is heavily male, with a large concentration in ages 18 to 35.

    “We absolutely have to diversify and get more broad in who engages with the league,” Snow said, noting that inclusion was one of the top objectives for himself and CDL Commissioner Johanna Faries. “We want to deliver what the core likes to see, but we wanted to find ways to engage a broader audience, I'll call it a casual gaming audience,” he said.

    Snow described the Call of Duty market as a dartboard with 200 million points, or fans, on it. Hardcore players are the bullseye, but there are plenty more points in the surrounding layers.

    “We're very much focused on, how does the product we put out there in CDL not only engage with the center of our bullseye, but just tapping into that 200 million will help us engage a massive audience that should be much more broad than we are today,” Snow said. “And I think we're laser-focused on figuring that out. And hopefully we'll be trying a bunch of different things next year, around different products we've got in the Call of Duty franchise to help us get there.” 

    He didn’t specify what those products would be, but he talked about ongoing efforts to expand the Call of Duty brand, like Call of Duty Mobile, Warzone and Cold War. The goal is to stay true to the franchise while simultaneously adding components to tempt casual players, maintaining a robust competitive scene, and growing a new league exclusively on YouTube.

    “It can be a balancing act, but we believe it's possible,” Snow said.


  • Firefox Nightly flips on new JIT Warp! code for greater JavaScript performance
    Warp aims to improve the Firefox JavaScript performance by reducing the amount of internal type information that is tracked along with other optimizations. Warp can lead to greater responsiveness and faster page load speed. Numbers cited by Warm developers are normally in the 5~15% range. As of yesterday, Firefox Nightly now enables Warp by default. The enabling in Firefox Nightly is seeing 20% faster load times for Win64 Google Docs, 13% faster for the Android Reddit SpeedIndex, 18% faster for PDFPaint, and other measurable improvements elsewhere. Thats a big improvement, and sadly, due to the state of the modern web, a very, very welcome one.

  • Microsoft’s Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 source code leaked online
    The source code for Windows XP SP1 and other versions of the operating system was allegedly leaked online today. The leaker claims to have spent the last two months compiling a collection of leaked Microsoft source code. This 43GB collection was then released today as a torrent on the 4chan forum. This is a massive leak of old code, and other than Windows XP, it also includes Windows Server 2003 and various versions of MS-DOS and Windows CE. One of the funnier tidbits weve already learned from the leak is that Microsoft was working on a Mac OS X Aqua theme for Windows XP, probably just to see if they could. I doubt much of this code will be useful to any serious projects, since no serious developer working on things like ReactOS or Wine will want to be found anywhere near this code. That being said, individuals, tinkerers, and those crazy people still making community-updated builds of Windows XP will have a field day with this stuff.

  • Swift System is now open source
    In June, Apple introduced Swift System, a new library for Apple platforms that provides idiomatic interfaces to system calls and low-level currency types. Today, I’m excited to announce that we’re open-sourcing System and adding Linux support! Our vision is for System to eventually act as the single home for low-level system interfaces for all supported Swift platforms. Never a bad thing to see potentially useful code enter the open source world.

  • Edge for Linux coming in October
    If you were brave and bored enough to read through this long, long list of enterprise babble from Microsoft, youd eventually come to the interesting bit: Our mission to bring Microsoft Edge to the platforms our customers use daily takes its next step: starting in October, Microsoft Edge on Linux will be available to download on the Dev preview channel. When it’s available, Linux users can go to the Microsoft Edge Insiders site to download the preview channel, or they can download it from the native Linux package manager. And just like other platforms, we always appreciate feedback—it’s the best way to serve our customers. Microsoft announced that Edge would come to Linux earlier this year, but now theyve set a date for the availability of developer builds. I wonder if it will come with the old and by now well-tested VA-API patches to enable hardware accelerated video decoding, something Google is refusing to enable for Chrome for Linux.

  • The Fairphone 3+ is a repairable dream that takes beautiful photos
    A few weeks ago, I found myself in need of a repair for a borked camera lens on my iPhone 11. I do everything in my power to essentially encase my Apple products in bubble wrap, but a nearly imperceptible fracture in one lens had greatly impacted the functionality of my phone’s camera. I hadn’t anticipated that repairing it was going to be a whole thing, but finding a way to get it repaired quickly in my area turned out to be futile. And repairing it myself? Pfft, forget it. This inability to quickly remedy such a small issue stuck with me as I was demoing the Fairphone 3+, a £425.00 (roughly $550) modular phone currently only available overseas. I desperately wish it or something like it were available in the United States because it makes it so easy to repair that just about anyone can fix their own phone—a rarity in this gadget repair dystopia we’re living in. This should be more normal than it is.

  • Facebook says it will stop operating in Europe if regulators don’t back down
    Facebook has threatened to pack up its toys and go home if European regulators don’t back down and let the social network get its own way. In a court filing in Dublin, Facebook said that a decision by Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) would force the company to pull up stakes and leave the 410 million people who use Facebook and photo-sharing service Instagram in the lurch. The decision Facebook’s referring to is a preliminary order handed down last month to stop the transfer of data about European customers to servers in the U.S., over concerns about U.S. government surveillance of the data. 0is this supposed to be a threat? Because it sounds more like a gift to me. Please, Zuck, go home! I think we here in Europe will do just fine without your criminal enterprise.

  • Sculpt OS 20.08 released
    The new version of Sculpt OS is based on the latest Genode release 20.08. In particular, it incorporates the redesigned GUI stack to the benefit of quicker boot times, improved interactive responsiveness, and better pixel output quality. It also removes the last traces of the noux runtime. Fortunately, these massive under-the-hood changes do not disrupt the user-visible surface of Sculpt. Most users will feel right at home. Its really time I set up a specific category for Genode-related items. Its been appearing here on OSNews for years and years now.

  • ARM is now backing Panfrost Gallium3D as open-source Mali graphics driver
    Most information presented during the annual X.Org Developers Conference doesnt tend to be very surprising or ushering in breaking news, but during todays XDC2020 it was subtly dropped that Arm Holdings appears to now be backing the open-source Panfrost Gallium3D driver. Panfrost has been developed over the past several years as what began as a reverse-engineered effort by Alyssa Rosenzweig to support Arm Mali Bifrost and Midgard hardware. This driver had a slow start but Rosenzweig has been employed by Collabora for a while now and theyve been making steady progress on supporting newer Mali hardware and advancing the supported OpenGL / GLES capabilities of the driver. This is a major departure from previous policy for ARM, since the company always shied away from open source efforts around its Mali GPUs.

  • US will ban WeChat and TikTok downloads on Sunday
    The Commerce Department plans to restrict access to TikTok and WeChat on Sunday as the Trump administrations executive orders against the two apps are set to take effect. The Department said Friday that as of Sunday, any moves to distribute or maintain WeChat or TikTok on an app store will be prohibited. Apple and Google didnt immediately respond to requests for comment. While users who have already downloaded the apps may be able to continue using the software, the restrictions mean updated versions of the apps cannot be downloaded. This will hit American companies doing business in China hard, since virtually all consumer purchases there take place via WeChat.

  • Rust on Haiku: the case of the disappearing deceased threads
    For a long time I have been maintaining the build of the Rust compiler and development tools on Haiku. For this purpose, I maintain a separate tree with the Rust source, with some patches and specific build instructions. My ultimate end goal is to have Rust build on Haiku from the original source, without any specific patches or workarounds. Instead we are in the situation where we cannot build rust on Haiku itself (instead we need to cross-compile it), and we need a customization to be able to run the Rust compiler (rustc) and package manager (cargo) on Haiku. This summer my goal would be to find out the underlying issue, and fix it so that the patch will no longer be necessary in the future. Let’s go! There seems to be quite a bit of excitement around the Rust programming language, so it makes sense for Haiku to jump on the bandwagon as well.

  • Intel’s Tiger Lake 11th Gen Core i7-1185G7 review and deep dive: baskin’ for the exotic
    The big notebook launch for Intel this year is Tiger Lake, its upcoming 10nm platform designed to pair a new graphics architecture with a nice high frequency for the performance that customers in this space require. Over the past few weeks, we’ve covered the microarchitecture as presented by Intel at its latest Intel Architecture Day 2020, as well as the formal launch of the new platform in early September. The missing piece of the puzzle was actually testing it, to see if it can match the very progressive platform currently offered by AMD’s Ryzen Mobile. Today is that review, with one of Intel’s reference design laptops. AnandTechs deep dive into Intels new platform, which is the first chip to use Intels much-improved graphics processor.

  • iOS 14, iPadOS 14 released
    Apple has released iOS 14 and iPadOS 14, the newest operating system updates designed for the iPhone and iPad. As with all of Apples software updates, iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 can be downloaded for free. iOS 14 is available on the iPhone 6s and later, while iPadOS 14 is available on the iPad Air 2 and later. The link contains all the information youd ever want  including the most prominent new features. As always, Apple manages to release their latest operating system update for quite a few older devices as well  the iPhone 6s is 5 years old, so this adds another year to its useful life span for people who dont always need, want, or can afford the latest and greatest.

  • IBM open sources its A2O POWER processor core through the OpenPOWER Foundation
    The A2O core is an out-of-order, multi-threaded, 64-bit POWER ISA core that was developed as a processor for customization and embedded use in system-on-chip (SoC) devices. It’s most suitable for single thread performance optimization. A follow-up to its parent high-streaming throughput A2I predecessor, it maintains the same modular design approach and fabric structure. The Auxiliary Execution Unit (AXU) is tightly-coupled to the core, enabling many possibilities for special-purpose designs for new markets tackling the challenges of modern workloads. Intels current troubles and the rise in popularity of alternatives is creating a very rare and ever so small opportunity for smaller ISAs to gain some traction. Ill take what I can get in our current stratified technology market.

  • Red Hat has been working on new NVFS file system
    Yet another new file-system being worked on for the Linux/open-source world is NVFS and has been spearheaded by a Red Hat engineer. NVFS aims to be a speedy file-system for persistent memory like Intel Optane DCPMM. NVFS is geared for use on DAX-based (direct access) devices and maps the entire device into a linear address space that bypasses the Linux kernels block layer and buffer cache. I understood some of those words.

  • “I have blood on my hands”: a whistleblower says Facebook ignored global political manipulation
    Facebook ignored or was slow to act on evidence that fake accounts on its platform have been undermining elections and political affairs around the world, according to an explosive memo sent by a recently fired Facebook employee and obtained by BuzzFeed News. The 6,600-word memo, written by former Facebook data scientist Sophie Zhang, is filled with concrete examples of heads of government and political parties in Azerbaijan and Honduras using fake accounts or misrepresenting themselves to sway public opinion. In countries including India, Ukraine, Spain, Brazil, Bolivia, and Ecuador, she found evidence of coordinated campaigns of varying sizes to boost or hinder political candidates or outcomes, though she did not always conclude who was behind them. Facebook needs to be investigated, broken up, and its executives prosecuted. I dont care who does it  the United States, the European Union  but its clear this company is one of the very worst excesses of the tech industrys arrogance and dominance, and it needs to be held accountable.

Linux Journal - The Original Magazine of the Linux Community

  • Linux Journal is Back
    by Webmaster   
    As of today, Linux Journal is back, and operating under the ownership of Slashdot Media.

    As Linux enthusiasts and long-time fans of Linux Journal, we were disappointed to hear about Linux Journal closing its doors last year. It took some time, but fortunately we were able to get a deal done that allows us to keep Linux Journal alive now and indefinitely. It's important that amazing resources like Linux Journal never disappear.

    If you're a former Linux Journal contributor or a Linux enthusiast that would like to get involved, please contact us and let us know the capacity in which you'd like to contribute. We're looking for people to cover Linux news, create Linux guides, and moderate the community and comments. We'd also appreciate any other ideas or feedback you might have. Right now, we don't have any immediate plans to resurrect the subscription/issue model, and will be publishing exclusively on free of charge. Our immediate goal is to familiarize ourself with the Linux Journal website and ensure it doesn't ever get shut down again.

    Many of you are probably already aware of Slashdot Media, but for those who aren't, we own and operate Slashdot and SourceForge: two iconic open source software and technology websites that have been around for decades. We didn't always own SourceForge, but we acquired it in 2016, and immediately began improving, and have since come a long wayin restoring and growing one of the most important resources in open source. We'd like to do the same here. We're ecstatic to be able to take the helm at Linux Journal, and ensure that this legendary Linux resource and community not only stays alive forever, but continues to grow and improve.

    Reach out if you'd like to get involved!

    Update Wednesday, September 23rd @ 3:43pm PST: Thanks for the great response to Linux Journal being revived! We're overwhelmed with the thousands of emails so it may take a bit of time to get back to you. This came together last minute as a way to avoid losing 25+ years of Linux history so bear with us as we get organized.
        Go to Full Article          

  • Linux Journal Ceases Publication: An Awkward Goodbye
    by Kyle Rankin    IMPORTANT NOTICE FROM LINUX JOURNAL, LLC: On August 7, 2019, Linux Journal shut its doors for good. All staff were laid off and the company is left with no operating funds to continue in any capacity. The website will continue to stay up for the next few weeks, hopefully longer for archival purposes if we can make it happen.  –Linux Journal, LLC

    Final Letter from the Editor: The Awkward Goodbye

    by Kyle Rankin

    Have you ever met up with a friend at a restaurant for dinner, then after dinner you both step out to the street and say a proper goodbye, only when you leave, you find out that you both are walking in the same direction? So now, you get to walk together awkwardly until the true point where you part, and then you have another, second goodbye, that's much more awkward.

    That's basically this post. 

    So, it was almost two years ago that I first said goodbye to Linux Journal and the Linux Journal community in my post "So Long and Thanks for All the Bash". That post was a proper goodbye. For starters, it had a catchy title with a pun. The post itself had all the elements of a proper goodbye: part retrospective, part "Thank You" to the Linux Journal team and the community, and OK, yes, it was also part rant. I recommend you read (or re-read) that post, because it captures my feelings about losing Linux Journal way better than I can muster here on our awkward second goodbye. 

    Of course, not long after I wrote that post, we found out that Linux Journal wasn't dead after all! We all actually had more time together and got to work fixing everything that had caused us to die in the first place. A lot of our analysis of what went wrong and what we intended to change was captured in my article Go to Full Article          

  • Oops! Debugging Kernel Panics
    by Petros Koutoupis   
    A look into what causes kernel panics and some utilities to help gain more information.

    Working in a Linux environment, how often have you seen a kernel panic? When it happens, your system is left in a crippled state until you reboot it completely. And, even after you get your system back into a functional state, you're still left with the question: why? You may have no idea what happened or why it happened. Those questions can be answered though, and the following guide will help you root out the cause of some of the conditions that led to the original crash.

    Figure 1. A Typical Kernel Panic

    Let's start by looking at a set of utilities known as kexec and kdump. kexec allows you to boot into another kernel from an existing (and running) kernel, and kdump is a kexec-based crash-dumping mechanism for Linux.
     Installing the Required Packages
    First and foremost, your kernel should have the following components statically built in to its image:
    You can find this in /boot/config-`uname -r`.

    Make sure that your operating system is up to date with the latest-and-greatest package versions:
      $ sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade  
    Install the following packages (I'm currently using Debian, but the same should and will apply to Ubuntu):
      $ sudo apt install gcc make binutils linux-headers-`uname -r`  ↪kdump-tools crash `uname -r`-dbg  
    Note: Package names may vary across distributions.

    During the installation, you will be prompted with questions to enable kexec to handle reboots (answer whatever you'd like, but I answered "no"; see Figure 2).

    Figure 2. kexec Configuration Menu

    And to enable kdump to run and load at system boot, answer "yes" (Figure 3).

    Figure 3. kdump Configuration Menu
     Configuring kdump
    Open the /etc/default/kdump-tools file, and at the very top, you should see the following:
        Go to Full Article          

  • Loadsharers: Funding the Load-Bearing Internet Person
    by Eric S. Raymond   
    The internet has a sustainability problem. Many of its critical services depend on the dedication of unpaid volunteers, because they can't be monetized and thus don't have any revenue stream for the maintainers to live on. I'm talking about services like DNS, time synchronization, crypto libraries—software without which the net and the browser you're using couldn't function.

    These volunteer maintainers are the Load-Bearing Internet People (LBIP). Underfunding them is a problem, because underfunded critical services tend to have gaps and holes that could have been fixed if there were more full-time attention on them. As our civilization becomes increasingly dependent on this software infrastructure, that attention shortfall could lead to disastrous outages.

    I've been worrying about this problem since 2012, when I watched a hacker I know wreck his health while working on a critical infrastructure problem nobody else understood at the time. Billions of dollars in e-commerce hung on getting the particular software problem he had spotted solved, but because it masqueraded as network undercapacity, he had a lot of trouble getting even technically-savvy people to understand where the problem was. He solved it, but unable to afford medical insurance and literally living in a tent, he eventually went blind in one eye and is now prone to depressive spells.

    More recently, I damaged my ankle and discovered that although there is such a thing as minor surgery on the medical level, there is no such thing as "minor surgery" on the financial level. I was looking—still am looking—at a serious prospect of either having my life savings wiped out or having to leave all 52 of the open-source projects I'm responsible for in the lurch as I scrambled for a full-time job. Projects at risk include the likes of GIFLIB, GPSD and NTPsec.

    That refocused my mind on the LBIP problem. There aren't many Load-Bearing Internet People—probably on the close order of 1,000 worldwide—but they're a systemic vulnerability made inevitable by the existence of common software and internet services that can't be metered. And, burning them out is a serious problem. Even under the most cold-blooded assessment, civilization needs the mean service life of an LBIP to be long enough to train and acculturate a replacement.

    (If that made you wonder—yes, in fact, I am training an apprentice. Different problem for a different article.)

    Alas, traditional centralized funding models have failed the LBIPs. There are a few reasons for this:
        Go to Full Article          

  • Documenting Proper Git Usage
    by Zack Brown   
    Jonathan Corbet wrote a document for inclusion in the kernel tree, describing best practices for merging and rebasing git-based kernel repositories. As he put it, it represented workflows that were actually in current use, and it was a living document that hopefully would be added to and corrected over time.

    The inspiration for the document came from noticing how frequently Linus Torvalds was unhappy with how other people—typically subsystem maintainers—handled their git trees.

    It's interesting to note that before Linus wrote the git tool, branching and merging was virtually unheard of in the Open Source world. In CVS, it was a nightmare horror of leechcraft and broken magic. Other tools were not much better. One of the primary motivations behind git—aside from blazing speed—was, in fact, to make branching and merging trivial operations—and so they have become.

    One of the offshoots of branching and merging, Jonathan wrote, was rebasing—altering the patch history of a local repository. The benefits of rebasing are fantastic. They can make a repository history cleaner and clearer, which in turn can make it easier to track down the patches that introduced a given bug. So rebasing has a direct value to the development process.

    On the other hand, used poorly, rebasing can make a big mess. For example, suppose you rebase a repository that has already been merged with another, and then merge them again—insane soul death.

    So Jonathan explained some good rules of thumb. Never rebase a repository that's already been shared. Never rebase patches that come from someone else's repository. And in general, simply never rebase—unless there's a genuine reason.

    Since rebasing changes the history of patches, it relies on a new "base" version, from which the later patches diverge. Jonathan recommended choosing a base version that was generally thought to be more stable rather than less—a new version or a release candidate, for example, rather than just an arbitrary patch during regular development.

    Jonathan also recommended, for any rebase, treating all the rebased patches as new code, and testing them thoroughly, even if they had been tested already prior to the rebase.

    "If", he said, "rebasing is limited to private trees, commits are based on a well-known starting point, and they are well tested, the potential for trouble is low."

    Moving on to merging, Jonathan pointed out that nearly 9% of all kernel commits were merges. There were more than 1,000 merge requests in the 5.1 development cycle alone.
        Go to Full Article          

  • Understanding Python's asyncio
    by Reuven M. Lerner   
    How to get started using Python's asyncio.

    Earlier this year, I attended PyCon, the international Python conference. One topic, presented at numerous talks and discussed informally in the hallway, was the state of threading in Python—which is, in a nutshell, neither ideal nor as terrible as some critics would argue.

    A related topic that came up repeatedly was that of "asyncio", a relatively new approach to concurrency in Python. Not only were there formal presentations and informal discussions about asyncio, but a number of people also asked me about courses on the subject.

    I must admit, I was a bit surprised by all the interest. After all, asyncio isn't a new addition to Python; it's been around for a few years. And, it doesn't solve all of the problems associated with threads. Plus, it can be confusing for many people to get started with it.

    And yet, there's no denying that after a number of years when people ignored asyncio, it's starting to gain steam. I'm sure part of the reason is that asyncio has matured and improved over time, thanks in no small part to much dedicated work by countless developers. But, it's also because asyncio is an increasingly good and useful choice for certain types of tasks—particularly tasks that work across networks.

    So with this article, I'm kicking off a series on asyncio—what it is, how to use it, where it's appropriate, and how you can and should (and also can't and shouldn't) incorporate it into your own work.
     What Is asyncio?
    Everyone's grown used to computers being able to do more than one thing at a time—well, sort of. Although it might seem as though computers are doing more than one thing at a time, they're actually switching, very quickly, across different tasks. For example, when you ssh in to a Linux server, it might seem as though it's only executing your commands. But in actuality, you're getting a small "time slice" from the CPU, with the rest going to other tasks on the computer, such as the systems that handle networking, security and various protocols. Indeed, if you're using SSH to connect to such a server, some of those time slices are being used by sshd to handle your connection and even allow you to issue commands.

    All of this is done, on modern operating systems, via "pre-emptive multitasking". In other words, running programs aren't given a choice of when they will give up control of the CPU. Rather, they're forced to give up control and then resume a little while later. Each process running on a computer is handled this way. Each process can, in turn, use threads, sub-processes that subdivide the time slice given to their parent process.
        Go to Full Article          

  • RV Offsite Backup Update
    by Kyle Rankin   
    Having an offsite backup in your RV is great, and after a year of use, I've discovered some ways to make it even better.

    Last year I wrote a feature-length article on the data backup system I set up for my RV (see Kyle's "DIY RV Offsite Backup and Media Server" from the June 2018 issue of LJ). If you haven't read that article yet, I recommend checking it out first so you can get details on the system. In summary, I set up a Raspberry Pi media center PC connected to a 12V television in the RV. I connected an 8TB hard drive to that system and synchronized all of my files and media so it acted as a kind of off-site backup. Finally, I set up a script that would attempt to sync over all of those files from my NAS whenever it detected that the RV was on the local network. So here, I provide an update on how that system is working and a few tweaks I've made to it since.
     What Works
    Overall, the media center has worked well. It's been great to have all of my media with me when I'm on a road trip, and my son appreciates having access to his favorite cartoons. Because the interface is identical to the media center we have at home, there's no learning curve—everything just works. Since the Raspberry Pi is powered off the TV in the RV, you just need to turn on the TV and everything fires up.

    It's also been great knowing that I have a good backup of all of my files nearby. Should anything happen to my house or my main NAS, I know that I can just get backups from the RV. Having peace of mind about your important files is valuable, and it's nice knowing in the worst case when my NAS broke, I could just disconnect my USB drive from the RV, connect it to a local system, and be back up and running.

    The WiFi booster I set up on the RV also has worked pretty well to increase the range of the Raspberry Pi (and the laptops inside the RV) when on the road. When we get to a campsite that happens to offer WiFi, I just reset the booster and set up a new access point that amplifies the campsite signal for inside the RV. On one trip, I even took it out of the RV and inside a hotel room to boost the weak signal.
        Go to Full Article          

  • Another Episode of "Seems Perfectly Feasible and Then Dies"--Script to Simplify the Process of Changing System Call Tables
    by Zack Brown   
    David Howells put in quite a bit of work on a script, ./scripts/, to simplify the entire process of changing the system call tables. With this script, it was a simple matter to add, remove, rename or renumber any system call you liked. The script also would resolve git conflicts, in the event that two repositories renumbered the system calls in conflicting ways.

    Why did David need to write this patch? Why weren't system calls already fairly easy to manage? When you make a system call, you add it to a master list, and then you add it to the system call "tables", which is where the running kernel looks up which kernel function corresponds to which system call number. Kernel developers need to make sure system calls are represented in all relevant spots in the source tree. Renaming, renumbering and making other changes to system calls involves a lot of fiddly little details. David's script simply would do everything right—end of story no problemo hasta la vista.

    Arnd Bergmann remarked, "Ah, fun. You had already threatened to add that script in the past. The implementation of course looks fine, I was just hoping we could instead eliminate the need for it first." But, bowing to necessity, Arnd offered some technical suggestions for improvements to the patch.

    However, Linus Torvalds swooped in at this particular moment, saying:

    Ugh, I hate it.

    I'm sure the script is all kinds of clever and useful, but I really think the solution is not this kind of helper script, but simply that we should work at not having each architecture add new system calls individually in the first place.

    IOW, we should look at having just one unified table for new system call numbers, and aim for the per-architecture ones to be for "legacy numbering".

    Maybe that won't happen, but in the _hope_ that it happens, I really would prefer that people not work at making scripts for the current nasty situation.

    And the portcullis came crashing down.

    It's interesting that, instead of accepting this relatively obvious improvement to the existing situation, Linus would rather leave it broken and ugly, so that someone someday somewhere might be motivated to do the harder-yet-better fix. And, it's all the more interesting given how extreme the current problem is. Without actually being broken, the situation requires developers to put in a tremendous amount of care and effort into something that David's script could make trivial and easy. Even for such an obviously "good" patch, Linus gives thought to the policy and cultural implications, and the future motivations of other people working in that region of code.

    Note: if you're mentioned above and want to post a response above the comment section, send a message with your response text to
        Go to Full Article          

  • Experts Attempt to Explain DevOps--and Almost Succeed
    by Bryan Lunduke   
    What is DevOps? How does it relate to other ideas and methodologies within software development? Linux Journal Deputy Editor and longtime software developer, Bryan Lunduke isn't entirely sure, so he asks some experts to help him better understand the DevOps phenomenon.

    The word DevOps confuses me.

    I'm not even sure confuses me quite does justice to the pain I experience—right in the center of my brain—every time the word is uttered.

    It's not that I dislike DevOps; it's that I genuinely don't understand what in tarnation it actually is. Let me demonstrate. What follows is the definition of DevOps on Wikipedia as of a few moments ago:

    DevOps is a set of software development practices that combine software development (Dev) and information technology operations (Ops) to shorten the systems development life cycle while delivering features, fixes, and updates frequently in close alignment with business objectives.

    I'm pretty sure I got three aneurysms just by copying and pasting that sentence, and I still have no clue what DevOps really is. Perhaps I should back up and give a little context on where I'm coming from.

    My professional career began in the 1990s when I got my first job as a Software Test Engineer (the people that find bugs in software, hopefully before the software ships, and tell the programmers about them). During the years that followed, my title, and responsibilities, gradually evolved as I worked my way through as many software-industry job titles as I could:
     Automation Engineer: people that automate testing software.    Software Development Engineer in Test: people that make tools for the testers to use.    Software Development Engineer: aka "Coder", aka "Programmer".    Dev Lead: "Hey, you're a good programmer! You should also manage a few other programmers but still code just as much as you did before, but, don't worry, we won't give you much of a raise! It'll be great!"    Dev Manager: like a Dev Lead, with less programming, more managing.    Director of Engineering: the manager of the managers of the programmers.    Vice President of Technology/Engineering: aka "The big boss nerd man who gets to make decisions and gets in trouble first when deadlines are missed." 
    During my various times with fancy-pants titles, I managed teams that included:
        Go to Full Article          

  • DNA Geometry with cadnano
    by Joey Bernard   
    This article introduces a tool you can use to work on three-dimensional DNA origami. The package is called cadnano, and it's currently being developed at the Wyss Institute. With this package, you'll be able to construct and manipulate the three-dimensional representations of DNA structures, as well as generate publication-quality graphics of your work.

    Because this software is research-based, you won't likely find it in the package repository for your favourite distribution, in which case you'll need to install it from the GitHub repository.

    Since cadnano is a Python program, written to use the Qt framework, you'll need to install some packages first. For example, in Debian-based distributions, you'll want to run the following commands:
      sudo apt-get install python3 python3-pip  
    I found that installation was a bit tricky, so I created a virtual Python environment to manage module installations.

    Once you're in your activated virtualenv, install the required Python modules with the command:
      pip3 install pythreejs termcolor pytz pandas pyqt5 sip  
    After those dependencies are installed, grab the source code with the command:
      git clone  
    This will grab the Qt5 version. The Qt4 version is in the repository

    Changing directory into the source directory, you can build and install cadnano with:
      python install  
    Now your cadnano should be available within the virtualenv.

    You can start cadnano simply by executing the cadnano command from a terminal window. You'll see an essentially blank workspace, made up of several empty view panes and an empty inspector pane on the far right-hand side.

    Figure 1. When you first start cadnano, you get a completely blank work space.

    In order to walk through a few of the functions available in cadnano, let's create a six-strand nanotube. The first step is to create a background that you can use to build upon. At the top of the main window, you'll find three buttons in the toolbar that will let you create a "Freeform", "Honeycomb" or "Square" framework. For this example, click the honeycomb button.

    Figure 2. Start your construction with one of the available geometric frameworks.
        Go to Full Article          

Page last modified on October 08, 2013, at 07:08 PM