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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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Valve’s “Steam Play” uses Vulkan to bring more Windows games to Linux

Sre, 08/22/2018 - 00:42

(credit: Aurich Lawson)

Valve announced today a beta of Steam Play, a new compatibility layer for Linux, to provide compatibility with a wide range of Windows-only games.

We've been tracking Valve's efforts to boost Linux gaming for a number of years. As of a few months ago, things seemed to have gone very quiet, with Valve removing SteamOS systems from its store. Last week, however, it became clear that something was afoot for Linux gaming.

The announcement today spells out in full what the company has developed. At its heart is a customized, modified version of the WINE Windows-on-Linux compatibility layer named Proton. Compatibility with Direct3D graphics is provided by vkd3d, an implementation of Direct3D 12 that uses Vulkan for high performance, and DXVK, a Vulkan implementation of Direct3D 11.

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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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