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Ars on your lunch break: Tim O’Reilly on why the future doesn’t have to suck

Čet, 08/02/2018 - 17:00

Enlarge / In a weird and gross way, these two subjects complement each other. (credit: @ThePracticalDev)

Below you’ll find the third installment of the After On interview with legendary tech publisher and prognosticator Tim O’Reilly. Please check out parts one and two if you missed them. Otherwise, press play on the embedded player, or pull up the transcript—both of which are below.

In today’s installment, Tim rejects the fashionable forecast that automation will eradicate all human jobs next week. Being closer than most of us to Jeff Bezos, he knows a thing or three about operations at Amazon, which presents a fascinating case in point.

The company began a hugely successful two-year robot buying spree in 2014. The robots automated countless repetitive and dangerous human tasks. And during that time, the company hired more than 100,000 new people in its warehouses. It turns out, these robots amplify the productivity of the folks who work with them. And when bosses get more bang for their buck from a category of worker, they tend to hire more of them.

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Ars on your lunch break: Tim O‘Reilly discusses the birth of “open source”

Sre, 08/01/2018 - 17:00

Enlarge / When release rolls around, the gorillas simply freeze to death. (credit: @ThePracticalDev)

Below, you’ll find the second installment of the After On interview with legendary tech publisher and prognosticator Tim O’Reilly. Please check out part one if you missed it. Otherwise, press play on the embedded player, or pull up the transcript—both of which are below.

O’Reilly and I start off today talking about The Whole Internet User’s Guide & Catalog, which he published in 1992. And yup—that’s a two at the end of that number. As in, a full year before the first release of the Mosaic browser. Of course, there was a World Wide Web before Mosaic—and all 200 of its sites are listed in this book (along with various non-WWW Internet stuff that was around back then).

Jumping forward many years, O’Reilly tells us about convening a small summit of tech honchos, which quite literally named open source software. The nameless-ish phenomenon was already a big deal by then and was destined to become a huge one. But names do matter (and their lack even more so). The summit’s real purpose was to stridently promote this new approach to code to the both industry and the press in hopes of terminating the suffocating reign of Microsoft and others.

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Today’s the day that Chrome brands plain old HTTP “not secure”

Tor, 07/24/2018 - 18:24

Enlarge (credit: Tony Alter / Flickr)

Since February, Google has planned to brand non-HTTPS sites as "Not Secure," and today, with Chrome 68, that change is being rolled out to a wide audience.

With the change, every site now gets a label in its address bar: "Secure" if the site is loaded over HTTPS, "Not Secure" otherwise. In September, Google will make another change and remove the "Secure" label, marking the transition to a world where secure HTTP is the default rather than the exception.

Most major online sites and services do now support and default to HTTPS. Correctly configured, servers should redirect any attempt to access a page over insecure HTTP to secure HTTPS, ensuring that a site cannot be intercepted or tampered with. However, Troy Hunt—creator of the Have I Been Pwned service—has found that a number of popular sites can still serve content insecurely.

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Google’s iron grip on Android: Controlling open source by any means necessary

Sob, 07/21/2018 - 14:56

(credit: Aurich Lawson)

In light of the $5 billion EU antitrust ruling against Google this week, we started noticing a certain classic Ars story circulating around social media. Google's methods of controlling the open source Android code and discouraging Android forks is exactly the kind of behavior the EU has a problem with, and many of the techniques outlined in this 2013 article are still in use today.

The idea of a sequel to this piece has come up a few times, but Google's Android strategy of an open source base paired with key proprietary apps and services hasn't really changed in the last five or so years. There have been updates to Google's proprietary apps so that they look different from the screenshots in this article, but the base strategy outlined here is still very relevant. So in light of the latest EU development, we're resurfacing this story for the weekend. It first ran on October 20, 2013 and appears largely unchanged—but we did toss in a few "In 2018" updates anywhere they felt particularly relevant.

Six years ago, in November 2007, the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) was announced. The original iPhone came out just a few months earlier, capturing people's imaginations and ushering in the modern smartphone era. While Google was an app partner for the original iPhone, it could see what a future of unchecked iPhone competition would be like. Vic Gundotra, recalling Andy Rubin's initial pitch for Android, stated:

He argued that if Google did not act, we faced a Draconian future, a future where one man, one company, one device, one carrier would be our only choice.

Google was terrified that Apple would end up ruling the mobile space. So, to help in the fight against the iPhone at a time when Google had no mobile foothold whatsoever, Android was launched as an open source project.

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Microsoft’s plan for GitHub: “Make GitHub better at being GitHub”

Čet, 06/07/2018 - 22:42

Enlarge / From left to right: current GitHub CEO Chris Wanstrath, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, and former Xamarin CEO, soon-to-be GitHub CEO Nat Friedman (credit: Microsoft)

As part of Microsoft's $7.5 billion purchase of cloud source code repository GitHub, the company is installing a new CEO. Once the deal closes (which is expected to happen later this year), out will go GitHub co-founder Chris Wanstrath and in will come Nat Friedman. Friedman is the former CEO of Xamarin, the cross-platform .NET implementation that Microsoft bought in 2016.

Friedman brings solid open-source bona fides: core parts of the Xamarin stack were open source, and Friedman's previous company, Ximian, was created to develop the open-source GNOME project. His appointment should quell many of the fears that open-source developers have about the takeover. To engage with the community further, Friedman today did a Reddit AMA to answer questions about the acquisition.

The main thrust of his replies? Microsoft doesn't really intend to change much at GitHub. When asked if GitHub users should expect any big alterations, Friedman answered that Microsoft is "buying GitHub because [it] likes GitHub" and intends to "make GitHub better at being GitHub." Although there will be "full integration" between GitHub and Visual Studio Team Services, there won't be any radical changes in trajectory or service offerings.

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Everyone complaining about Microsoft buying GitHub needs to offer a better solution

Tor, 06/05/2018 - 00:45

Enlarge (credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft is buying GitHub for $7.5 billion dollars, and predictably, there's a developer backlash.

GitHub, though notionally a for-profit company, has become an essential, integral part of the open-source community. GitHub offers free hosting for open-source projects and has risen to become the premiere service for collaborative, open-source development: the authoritative source repository for many of these projects, with GitHub's own particular pull-request-based workflow becoming a de facto standard approach for taking code contributions.

The fear is that Microsoft is hostile to open source and will do something to GitHub (though exactly what isn't clear) to undermine the open-source projects that depend on it. Comments here at Ars, as well as on Slashdot, Reddit and Hacker News, suggest not any specific concerns but a widespread lack of trust, at least among certain developers, of Microsoft's behavior, motives, and future plans for the service.

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Microsoft snaps up GitHub for $7.5 billion

Pon, 06/04/2018 - 14:56

Enlarge

Microsoft has reached an agreement to buy GitHub, the source repository and collaboration platform, in a deal worth $7.5 billion. The all-stock deal is expected to close by the end of the year, subject to regulatory approval in the US and EU.

Decade-old GitHub is built on Git, the open source version control software originally written by Linux creator Linus Torvalds. Git is a distributed version control system: each developer has their own repository that they make changes to, and these changes can be propagated between repositories to share those changes. GitHub provides a repository hosting service: a place to put those repositories so that other developers can readily access them. Since its inception, it has become a mainstay of the open source world, with countless projects—including Microsoft projects such as the Visual Studio Code text editor and the .NET runtime—using GitHub repositories as a place to publish their code to the world and coordinate collaborative development. In total, some 28 million developers use GitHub, and there are 85 million code repositories.

On top of its core Git foundation, GitHub has built its own workflows ("pull requests") to ease the merging of changes from one repository to another. It also has integrated issue tracking, a Web front-end for browsing repositories, and a marketplace for a wide range of commercial add-ons and extensions.

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As the Web moves toward HTTPS by default, Chrome will remove “secure” indicator

Čet, 05/17/2018 - 19:46

Enlarge (credit: Indigo girl / Flickr)

Back in February, Google announced its plans to label all sites accessed over regular unencrypted HTTP as "not secure," starting in July. Today, the company described the next change it will make to its browser: in September, Google will stop marking HTTPS sites as secure.

Before and after representation of the removed "Secure" label. (credit: Google)

The background to this change is the Web's gradual migration to the use of HTTPS rather than HTTP. With an ever-growing fraction of the Web being served over secure HTTPS—something now easy to do at zero cost thanks to the Let's Encrypt initiative—Google is anticipating a world where HTTPS is the default. In this world, only the occasional unsafe site should have its URL highlighted, not the boring and humdrum secure site.

Type data into the form and the "Not secure" message goes from gray to red. (credit: Google)

Most HTTP sites will get a regular gray "Not secure" label in their address bar. If the page has user input, however, that gray label will become red, indicating the particular risk the page represents: Web forms served up over HTTP could send their contents anywhere, making them risky places to type passwords or credit card numbers.

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Ubuntu 18.04: Unity is gone, GNOME is back—and Ubuntu has never been better

Sre, 05/09/2018 - 15:30

Canonical recently released Ubuntu 18.04, the company's latest iteration of its popular Linux distribution, nicknamed Bionic Beaver. Ubuntu 18.04 is a Long Term Support (LTS) release and will receive updates and support from Canonical until April 2023. But more notably...

Unity is gone. GNOME is back. And Ubuntu has never been better.

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Firefox will show sponsored content that’s personalized but private

Tor, 05/01/2018 - 17:45

Enlarge / The Pocket recommendations on Firefox's New Tab page.

Mozilla plans to add sponsored content to its Firefox browser in a bid to increase and diversify its revenue stream.

Since the start of the year, the company has been showing some Firefox users links to recommended content on its New Tab page. Some proportion of the recommendations are sponsored, with content producers paying to be included in the list of recommendations. Those links are now also available in the nightly and beta releases. In Firefox 60, due to ship on May 9th, the feature will roll out to all Firefox users in the US.

The recommended links are personalized, with Mozilla saying that the links should be valuable content that's worth taking the time to read. Normally, such personalization raises privacy concerns because effective personalization requires the tracking of personal preferences and habits to ascertain what things a person is likely to be interested in. But Mozilla's personalization is different: it happens entirely on the client side. The browser will download a list of recommended links each day. Each link will also have a list of related websites, with similar kinds of content to that in the sponsored links. The browser will then compare these related sites to your browsing history; if there are lots of matches, Firefox will assume that you're interested in the recommended content and show it to you.

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A first look at Ubuntu 18.04 LTS desktop

Pon, 04/30/2018 - 22:08

Last week, Canonical released Ubuntu 18.04 LTS (codenamed "Bionic Beaver"), the latest long-term support version of the Ubuntu Linux distribution. Ars is working on a full review of the release, but I wanted to share some first impressions of the desktop, which is a major advance over the last LTS version.

Canonical made a bit of a U-turn in its interface plans while developing the last interim release of Ubuntu (17.10, codenamed "Artful Aardvark")—dropping development of its homegrown Unity interface and application launcher (as well as development of an Ubuntu phone), saying goodbye to the Ambiance interface theme of old and embracing the GNOME 3.28 desktop instead. Also significant is the integration of Snapcraft's "snap" format—a universal containerized installer format for packaged applications on all Linux platforms—into Ubuntu's application store.

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