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Edge dies a death of a thousand cuts as Microsoft switches to Chromium

Čet, 12/06/2018 - 19:10

Enlarge (credit: @AndreTelevise)

As reported earlier this week, Microsoft is going to use Google's Blink rendering engine and V8 JavaScript engine in its Edge browser, largely ending development of its own EdgeHTML rendering engine and Chakra JavaScript engine. This means that Microsoft will be using code from—and making contributions to—the Chromium open source project.

The company's browser will still be named Edge and should retain the current look and feel. The decision to switch was motivated primarily by compatibility problems: Web developers increasingly test their pages exclusively in Chrome, which has put Edge at a significant disadvantage. Microsoft's engineers have found that problematic pages could often be made Edge compatible with only very minor alterations, but because Web devs aren't using Edge at all, they don't even know that they need to change anything.

The story is, however, a little more complex. The initial version of Edge that shipped with the first version of Windows 10 was rudimentary, to say the least. It was the bare bones of a browser, but with extremely limited capabilities around things like tab management and password management, no extension model, and generally lacking in the creature comforts that represent the difference between a bare rendering engine and an actual usable browser. It also had stability issues; crashes and hangs were not uncommon.

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Report: Microsoft is scrapping Edge, switching to just another Chrome clone

Tor, 12/04/2018 - 18:25

Enlarge (credit: Getty / Aurich)

Windows Central reports that Microsoft is planning to replace its Edge browser, which uses Microsoft's own EdgeHTML rendering engine and Chakra JavaScript engine, with a new browser built on Chromium, the open source counterpart to Google's Chrome. The new browser has the codename Anaheim.

The report is short on details. The easiest thing for Microsoft to do would be to use Chromium's code wholesale—the Blink rendering engine, the V8 JavaScript engine, and the Chrome user interface with the Google Account parts omitted—to produce something that looks, works, and feels almost identical to Chrome. Alternatively, Redmond could use Blink and V8 but wrap them in Edge's user interface (or some derivative thereof), to retain its own appearance. It might even be possible to do something weird, such as use Blink with the Chakra JavaScript engine. We'll have to wait and see.

Since its launch with Windows 10, Edge has failed to gain much market share. The first iterations of Edge were extremely barebones, offering little more than a basic tabbed browser—no extensions, little control over behavior. Early releases of Edge were also not as stable as one might have liked, making the browser hard to recommend. Three years later on and Edge is greatly—but unevenly—improved. The browser engine's stability seems to be much better than it was, and performance and compatibility remain solid (though with the exception of a few corner cases, these were never a real concern).

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The next version of HTTP won’t be using TCP

Pon, 11/12/2018 - 23:41

Enlarge (credit: Andy Maguire / Flickr)

The next version of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP)—the network protocol that defines how browsers talk to Web servers—is going to make a major break from the versions in use today.

Today's HTTP (versions 1.0, 1.1, and 2) are all layered on top of TCP (Transmission Control Protocol). TCP, defined as part of the core set of IP (Internet Protocol) layers, provides reliable, ordered, and error-checked delivery of data over an IP network. "Reliable" means that if some data goes missing during transfer (due to a hardware failure, congestion, or a timeout), the receiving end can detect this and demand that the sending end re-send the missing data; "ordered" means that data is received in the order that it was transmitted in; "error-checked" means that any corruption during transmission can be detected.

These are all desirable properties and necessary for a protocol such as HTTP, but TCP is designed as a kind of one-size-fits-all solution, suitable for any application that needs this kind of reliability. It isn't particularly tuned for the kinds of scenarios that HTTP is used for. TCP requires a number of round trips between client and server to establish a connection, for example; using SSL over TCP requires subsequent round trips to establish the encrypted connection. A protocol purpose-built for HTTP could combine these negotiations and reduce the number of round trips, thereby improving network latency.

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This is fine: IBM acquires Red Hat

Pon, 10/29/2018 - 17:34

Enlarge / This will be... interesting. (credit: IBM)

This is no trick, and whether it's a treat remains to be seen: IBM and Red Hat executives announced Monday that IBM is acquiring the open source software and cloud services company in a $34 billion cash deal.

Red Hat will remain a standalone business unit within IBM, and an IBM spokesperson said that IBM "will remain committed to Red Hat’s open source ethos, its developer community and its open source community relationships." Red Hat will maintain its current leadership team and remain in its current headquarters and facilities. The culture will remain as well—though it's possible IBM and Red Hat may cross-pollinate a bit more than they have in the past.

In a webcast, IBM Senior Vice President of Hybrid Cloud Arvind Krishna and Red Hat Executive Vice President and President of Products and Technologies Paul Cormier echoed the spokesperson's statement, stating that all of Red Hat's existing partnerships with other cloud providers and all of Red Hat's open source development projects—including Red Hat Enterprise Linux, the OpenShift implementation of Kubernetes-based containers, and the OpenStack cloud computing platform—would continue as before. Likewise, Krishna said that IBM would continue its partnerships with other Linux distributions.

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GitHub is now officially a part of Microsoft

Pet, 10/26/2018 - 16:31


satyan@redmond:~/src$ git checkout -b microsoft-acquisitions Switched to a new branch 'microsoft-acquisitions' satyan@redmond:~/src$ scp satyan@github.com:/github . satyan@redmond:~/src$ git add github satyan@redmond:~/src$ git commit -m "Microsoft announced in June that it > was buying the Git repository and collaboration platform GitHub for > $7.5 billion in stock. That acquisition has received all the necessary > regulatory approvals and has now completed. Nat Friedman, formerly of > Xamarin, will take the role as GitHub CEO on Monday. > > The news of the acquisition sent ripples through the open source world, > as GitHub has become the home for a significant number of open source > projects. We argued at the time that the sale was likely one of > necessity and that of all the possible suitors, Microsoft was the best > one due to common goals and shared interests. Friedman at the time > sought to reassure concerned open source developers that the intent was > to make GitHub even better at being GitHub and that he would work to > earn the trust of the GitHub community. Those views were reiterated > today. > > Since then, Microsoft has joined the Open Invention Network, a patent > cross-licensing group that promises royalty free licenses for any patents > that apply to the Linux kernel or other essential open source packages. > This was a bold move that largely precludes Redmond from asserting its > patents against Android and should mean that the company will no longer > receive royalties from smartphone manufacturers. > > Sources close to the matter tell us that Microsoft's decision to join > OIN was driven in no small part by the GitHub acquisition. GitHub is > already a member of OIN, which left Microsoft with only a few options: > withdraw GitHub from OIN, a move that would inevitably upset the open > source world; acquire GitHub as some kind of arm's length subsidiary > such that GitHub's OIN obligations could not possibly apply to > Microsoft; or join OIN too, as the most straightforward approach that > also bolstered the company's open source reputation. Microsoft took > the third option." [microsoft-acquisitions baadf00d] Microsoft announced... 1 file changed, billions of insertions(+), 0 deletions(-) satyan@redmond:~/src$ git checkout microsoft-corp Switched to branch 'microsoft-corp' satyan@redmond:~/src$ git merge microsoft-acquisitions Updating cafef00d..baadf00d Fast-forward billions-of-files | billions ++++++++++++ satyan@redmond:~/src$ git branch -d microsoft-acquisitions

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Firefox 63 blocks tracking cookies, offers a VPN when you need one

Tor, 10/23/2018 - 18:06

Firefox 63, out today, includes the first iteration of what Mozilla is calling Enhanced Tracking Protection (ETP), a feature to improve privacy and stop your activity across the Web from being tracked.

Tracking cookies store some kind of unique identifier that represents your browser. The cookie is tied to a third-party domain—the domain of the tracking company, rather than the site you're visiting. Each site you visit that embeds the tracking cookie will allow the tracking company to see the sites you visit and, using that unique identifier, cross-reference different visits to different sites to build a picture of your online behavior.

The new option to block third-party tracking cookies but permit other third-party cookies. (credit: Mozilla)

Firefox has long had the ability to block all third-party cookies, but this is a crude solution, and many sites will break if all third-party cookies are prohibited. The new EPT option works as a more selective block on tracking cookies; third-party cookies still work in general, but those that are known to belong to tracking companies are blocked. For the most part, sites will retain their full functionality, just without undermining privacy at the same time.

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Microsoft promises to defend—not attack—Linux with its 60,000 patents

Sre, 10/10/2018 - 18:58

Enlarge (credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft has made billions from its extensive library of software patents. A number of Android vendors, including Samsung, pay the company a royalty on each phone they ship to license patents such as the ones covering the exFAT file system. But that situation may be coming to an end with the announcement today that Microsoft is joining the Open Invention Network (OIN).

The Open Invention Network is a group of about 2,400 companies around the world that have agreed to cross-license their patents on a royalty-free basis for use by the "Linux System," a collection of projects including the Linux kernel, many tools and utilities built on top of Linux, and large parts of Android. Member companies also promise not to assert their patents against the Linux Community.

This move should put an end to the lingering threat of patent lawsuits from Microsoft that many Linux and Android companies have faced. With that threat gone, it should also put an end to the royalties that the company was collecting from Android vendors.

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Bing starts serving AMP pages as Google prepares to reduce its control

Čet, 09/20/2018 - 18:45

Enlarge / Bing on a mobile device showing the AMP-powered carousel and an AMP story served from Bing's cache. (credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft's Bing search engine has started showing AMP pages to mobile searchers in the US. Pages using the proprietary tech will now be prominently displayed in search listings on the mobile website. Previously, Microsoft made limited use of AMP in some of its mobile apps but didn't use it on the Web.

AMP ("Accelerated Mobile Pages") is a project spearheaded by Google to improve the performance and embeddability of mobile content. It imposes tight restrictions on the scripting that pages can use, and it performs special handling of embedded images and media. To do this, Google uses a number of proprietary extensions to HTML, and AMP content all gets cached. Google serves AMP pages from its own servers, Bing uses Microsoft's servers, and Cloudflare also has an AMP caching service.

Though there is widespread acknowledgement that AMP is addressing real problems—the abundance of trackers, advertisements, and client-side scripts makes many webpages bandwidth-heavy and slow to load—many within the industry are unhappy at the proprietary, Google-controlled extensions, regarding them as anathema to the open Web.

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Running Ubuntu VMs on Windows just got a whole lot more streamlined

Tor, 09/18/2018 - 21:20

Enlarge / Hyper-V Quick Create.

Microsoft and Canonical have been working for some time to make Ubuntu and Windows play nice with each other. Ubuntu was the first distribution supported in the Windows Subsystem for Linux, and now an Ubuntu image is available through Hyper-V Quick Create, which offers three-click creation of Virtual Machines.

The system image has Ubuntu Desktop 18.04 LTS configured and ready to go, and this showcases some of the other Linux integration work that Microsoft has been doing. The Hyper-V virtual machine client, Virtual Machine Connection, has two ways of working. The normal way is to display the output of the virtual video card that the virtual machine uses and, similarly, to emulate PS/2 mouse and keyboard input, as if the client were the physical hardware. This works with any operating system (the virtual video card supports rudimentary modes like VGA and the text mode used by DOS; it can also support high-resolution graphics modes when used with a suitable display driver). But it is relatively slow and inflexible.

The other way, used automatically with modern Windows VMs, is "Enhanced Session Mode." In an Enhanced Session, the virtual machine transmits a variation of RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol, Microsoft's protocol for Windows' Remote Desktop features) directly to the hypervisor, which then delivers it to the Hyper-V client. Enhanced Sessions have a number of advantages: you can resize the client window, and the VM is notified of the change of resolution; you can copy and paste between the virtual machine and the host; there's automatic sharing of folders between guest and host; and the mouse doesn't get trapped inside the client window.

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Linus Torvalds apologizes for years of being a jerk, takes time off to learn empathy

Pon, 09/17/2018 - 16:20

Linus Torvalds flips off Nvidia. (credit: aaltouniversityace)

Linux creator Linus Torvalds has apologized for years of rants, swearing, and general hostility directed at other Linux developers, saying he's going to take a temporary break from his role as maintainer of the open source kernel to learn how to behave better.

For many years, Torvalds has been infamous for his expletive-filled, aggressive outbursts on the Linux Kernel Mailing List (LKML), chewing out developers who submit patches that he believes aren't up to the standards necessary for the kernel. He's defended this behavior in the face of pushback from other developers, insisting that people being nice to one another was an American ideology.

But that may be coming to an end. In a lengthy email posted to the LKML on Sunday night, Torvalds expressed a change of heart. Taken to task over attacks that he recognizes were "unprofessional and uncalled for," he says he now recognizes that his behavior was "not OK" and he is "truly sorry." He's going to step back from kernel development for a while—something he's done before while developing the Git source control system—so that he can "get help on how to behave differently."

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Microsoft splits VSTS five ways to build new Azure DevOps platform

Pon, 09/10/2018 - 18:09

Enlarge / Azure DevOps Pipeline. (credit: Microsoft)

Visual Studio Team Services (VSTS), Microsoft's application lifecycle management system, is to undergo a major shake-up and rebranding. Instead of a single Visual Studio-branded service, it's being split into five separate Azure-branded services, under the banner Azure DevOps.

The five components:

  • Azure Pipelines, a continuous integration, testing, and deployment system that can connect to any Git repository
  • Azure Boards, a work tracking system with Kanban boards, dashboards, reporting
  • Azure Artifacts, a hosting facility for Maven, npm, and NuGet packages
  • Azure Repos, a cloud-hosted private Git repository service
  • Azure Test Plans, for managing tests and capturing data about defects.

VSTS has been broken up in this way to further Microsoft's ambition of making its developer tooling useful to any development process and workflow, regardless of language or platform. The division into individual components should make it easier for developers to adopt portions of the Azure DevOps platform, without requiring them to go "all in" on VSTS. The reduced scope of each component means that it's cheaper than the VSTS pricing, making incremental adoption more palatable. For example, a Pipelines process could build and test a Node.js service from a GitHub repository and then deploy to a container on Amazon's AWS cloud, without requiring use of any of the other Azure DevOps components.

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Data vandal changes name of New York City to “Jewtropolis” across multiple apps [Updated]

Čet, 08/30/2018 - 16:42

Enlarge / Multiple applications, including Zillow, Snapchat, and Citibike, displayed vandalized map data to users identifying New York City as "Jewtropolis." (credit: Snapchat, Zillow, Citibikes)

Late yesterday, users of Snapchat and a number of other applications began to report that the label on in-application maps for New York City had been changed to "Jewtropolis." That change in data from the mapping developer kit company MapBox had been pulled in from OpenStreetMap—a community-driven mapping project also used by Wikimedia.

Whatever mapping service that Snapchat, CitiBike, StreetEasy, (perhaps others) use — it seems — is showing New York City as "Jewtropolis" this morning. pic.twitter.com/nsVe8goLyo

— Micah Grimes (@MicahGrimes) August 30, 2018

The same map data made its way to the real estate application Zillow:

Couldn't find a way to report directly to @streeteasy or @zillow or @openstreetmap so here's a screen shot of a condo located in "Jewtropolis". Assuming they've been hacked. Might want to get on that and fix it. #Antisemitic @ADL_National pic.twitter.com/Z36GdrzLo9

— Brian P. Klein (@brianpklein) August 30, 2018

OpenStreetMap has frequently had to deal with data vandalism, rolling back malicious changes to map data by trolls. In one case in 2010, someone created a fictional town of "West Harrisburg" and imported GPS traces for nonexistent streets over what was actually forest and farmland. One vandal with the username MedwedianPresident was recently blocked after committing a series of changes to roadway names and other map details in New York, including changing the name of the Manhattan Bridge to "Ku Klux Klan Highway," changing the name of Franklin Delano Roosevelt Drive to "Zionist Cannibal Drive," and renaming the Hugh Carey Tunnel (formerly the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel) to "Adolph Hitler Memorial Tunnel," among other things.

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