Last week you had the chance to ask ESR about books, guns, and open source software. Below you'll find his answers to those questions.
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SternisheFan writes to note that ArsTechnica's Peter Bright has reviewed the leaked Windows 8.1 update that was temporarily available from Microsoft's own servers. Here's how the article starts: "Leaks of upcoming versions of Microsoft's software are nothing new, but it's a little surprising when the source is Microsoft itself. The Spring update to Windows 8.1, known as Update 1, was briefly available from Windows Update earlier this week. The update wasn't a free-for-all. To get Windows Update to install it, you had to create a special (undocumented, secret) registry key to indicate that you were in a particular testing group; only then were the updates displayed and downloadable. After news of this spread, Microsoft removed the hefty—700MB—update from its servers, but not before it had spread across all manner of file-sharing sites... Just because it was distributed by Windows Update doesn't mean that this is, necessarily, the final build, but it does present a good opportunity to see what Microsoft is actually planning to deliver."
mattydread23 writes with an opinion piece naming a few reasons Firefox OS is likely to succeed "It's geared toward low-powered hardware in a way that Google doesn't care as much about with Android, it's cheap enough for the pre-paid phones that are much more common than post-paid in developing countries, and most important, there are still 3.5 billion people in the world who have feature phones and for whom this will be an amazing upgrade." I'd push greater commitment to keeping the essential components of the system under FOSS licenses onto the head of that list.
The Glamor driver for X11 has sought for years to replace all of the GPU-specific 2D rendering acceleration code in X.org with portable, high performance OpenGL. Unfortunately, that goal was hampered by the project starting in the awkward time when folks thought fixed-function hardware was still worth supporting. But, according to Keith Packard, the last few months have seen the code modernized and finally maturing as a credible replacement for many of the hardware-specific 2D acceleration backends. From his weblog: "Fast forward to the last six months. Eric has spent a bunch of time cleaning up Glamor internals, and in fact he’s had it merged into the core X server for version 1.16 which will be coming up this July. Within the Glamor code base, he's been cleaning some internal structures up and making life more tolerable for Glamor developers. ... A big part of the cleanup was a transition all of the extension function calls to use his other new project, libepoxy, which provides a sane, consistent and performant API to OpenGL extensions for Linux, Mac OS and Windows." Keith Packard dove in and replaced the Glamor acceleration for core text and points (points in X11 are particularly difficult to accelerate quickly) in just a few days. Text performance is now significantly faster than the software version (not that anyone is using core text any more, but "they’re often one of the hardest things to do efficiently with a heavy weight GPU interface, and OpenGL can be amazingly heavy weight if you let it."). For points, he moved vertex transformation to the GPU getting it up to the same speed as the software implementation. Looking forward, he wrote "Having managed to accelerate 17 of the 392 operations in x11perf, it’s pretty clear that I could spend a bunch of time just stepping through each of the remaining ones and working on them. Before doing that, we want to try and work out some general principles about how to handle core X fill styles. Moving all of the stipple and tile computation to the GPU will help reduce the amount of code necessary to fill rectangles and spans, along with improving performance, assuming the above exercise generalizes to other primitives." Code is available in anholt's and keithp's xserver branches.
cyclomedia writes "The Decibel Kid — the "AudioVisual Artist" responsible for last summer's Ipswich Zelda Map — has unveiled his new website. Modeled on Amiga OS it supports changing the wallpaper, window dragging, resizing, minimizing, and that z-index shuffle button. The mobile site is a completely different beast, modeling itself as a low-res LCD." There's even a drum machine. If you're pining for the "real" thing, there's always UAE (if you can find a ROM). Update: 03/05 15:45 GMT by U L : polyp2000 pointed out a better simulation, and a simulation of Workbench 1.5.
MojoKid writes "Microsoft has been loudly and insistently banging a drum: All support and service for Windows XP and Office 2003 shuts down on April 8. In early February, faced with a slight uptick in users on the decrepit operating system the month before, Microsoft hit on an idea: Why not recruit tech-savvy friends and family to tell old holdouts to get off XP? The response ... was a torrent of abuse from Windows 8 users who aren't exactly thrilled with the operating system. Microsoft has come under serious fire for some significant missteps in this process, including a total lack of actual upgrade options. What Microsoft calls an upgrade involves completely wiping the PC and reinstalling a fresh OS copy on it — or ideally, buying a new device. Microsoft has misjudged how strong its relationship is with consumers and failed to acknowledge its own shortcomings. Not providing an upgrade utility is one example — but so is the general lack of attractive upgrade prices or even the most basic understanding of why users haven't upgraded. Microsoft's right to kill XP is unquestioned, but the company appears to have no insight into why its customers continue to use the OS. "
sfcrazy writes "Linux is on a roll. After conquering the smartphone space, Android is now dominating the tablet space. According to a new study by Gartner, 'the tablet growth in 2013 was fueled by the low-end smaller screen tablet market, and first time buyers; this led Android to become the No. 1 tablet operating system (OS), with 62 percent of the market.'" Also, everyone is buying tablets.(~200 million sold in 2013 vs ~115 million in 2012). Microsoft still only has 2% of the tablet market.
An anonymous reader tips news that Apple's efforts to bring iOS to cars will be shown at the Geneva Motor Show next week. 'Drivers will be able to use Apple Maps as in-car navigation, as well as listen to music and watch films. Calls can be made through the system, which will tie into the Siri voice recognition platform so that messages can be read to the driver who can respond by dictating a reply.' Apple's partners in the automotive industry will be Volvo, Ferrari, and Mercedes Benz to start. Apple first said they were working on this system at last year's WWDC.
An anonymous reader writes "Microsoft is exploring whether to release a free version of Windows to increase the number of computers using the latest operating system. Currently the company seems to be testing a new version of the OS called 'Windows 8.1 with Bing', which will include Microsoft's key modern apps and services."
Freshly Exhumed writes "As Apple issued an update for Mavericks, Mountain Lion, and Lion yesterday, Snow Leopard users have not seen a security update since September, 2013. This would not be noteworthy if Apple, like a host of other major software vendors, would clearly spell out its OS support policies and warn users of such changes, but they have not. Thus, the approximately 20% of Mac users still running Snow Leopard now find themselves in a very vulnerable state without the latest security updates."
exomondo writes "Following hot on the heels of the iOS (and OS X) SSL security bug comes the latest vulnerability in Apple's mobile operating system. It is a security bug that can be used as a vector for malware to capture touch screen, volume rocker, home button and (on supported devices) TouchID sensor presses, information that could be sent to a remote server to re-create the user's actions. The vulnerability exists in even the most recent versions of iOS and the authors claim that they delivered a proof-of-concept monitoring app through the App Store."
innocent_white_lamb writes "Ford has announced that their in-vehicle technology called Sync will be based on Blackberry's QNX operating system and will no longer use Microsoft Windows. My own 2013 Ford Escape has the Windows-based Sync system. I wonder if they will issue an update to change it to QNX." Anonymous sources inside Ford cited reliability problems with Windows and lower licensing costs for the switch to the classic realtime OS.
theodp writes "A conversation with an angry young developer prompts Microsoft Program Manager Scott Hanselman to blog about 'Microsoft Haters: The Next Generation.' 'The ones I find the most interesting,' says Hanselman, are the 'Microsoft killed my Pappy' people, angry with generational anger. My elders hated Microsoft so I hate them. Why? Because, you wronged me.' The U.S. and Japan managed to get over the whole World War II thing, Hanselman notes, so why can't people manage to get past the Microsoft antitrust thing, which was initiated in 1998 for actions in 1994? 'At some point you let go,' he suggests, 'and you start again with fresh eyes.' Despite the overall good-humored, why-can't-we-get-along tone of his post, Hanselman can't resist one dig that seems aimed at putting things into perspective for those who would still Slashdot like it's 1999: 'I wonder if I can swap out Chrome from Chrome OS or Mobile Safari in iOS.'"
SmartAboutThings writes "At a special event at the Mobile World Congress, Microsoft has announced the 'spring' update for Windows 8.1. Joe Belfiore, who is the head of platform at Microsoft for smartphones, tablets and desktop devices, said the Windows 8.1 update will come with improvements for non-touch devices. Belfiore also said the update will focus on bringing back some of the 'old' features to Windows 8.1, such as the much-hyped start button, but this won't have a negative impact on the touch experience."
Trailrunner7 writes "The certificate-validation vulnerability that Apple patched in iOS yesterday also affects Mac OS X up to 10.9.1, the current version. Several security researchers analyzed the patch and looked at the code in question in OS X and found that the same error exists there as in iOS. Researcher Adam Langley did an analysis of the vulnerable code in OS X and said that the issue lies in the way that the code handles a pair of failures in a row. The bug affects the signature verification process in such a way that a server could send a valid certificate chain to the client and not have to sign the handshake at all, Langley found. Some users are reporting that Apple is rolling out a patch for his vulnerability in OS X, but it has not shown up for all users as yet. Langley has published a test site that will show OS X users whether their machines are vulnerable."
kc123 writes with this except from Bloomberg News: "Microsoft is cutting the price of Windows 8.1 by 70 percent for makers of low-cost computers and tablets as they try to fend off cheaper rivals like Google's Chromebooks, people familiar with the program said. Manufacturers will be charged $15 to license Windows 8.1 and preinstall it on devices that retail for less than $250, instead of the usual fee of $50. The discount will apply to any products that meet the price limit, with no restrictions on the size or type of device."
Eloquence writes "Pitivi is perhaps the most mature, stable and actually usable open source video editor out there. They're now looking to raise funds to support the project's ongoing development. The lack of decent open source video editors has been one of the things keeping people locked into proprietary platforms, and video editing has been identified as a high priority project by the Free Software Foundation. 2014 may still not be the fabled year of the Linux desktop, but here's hoping it'll be the year of open source video editing." Work continues as well on the crowdfunded transition to cross-platform, open-source video editing with OpenShot, and developer Jonathan Thomas is presenting the work done so far at SCALE this weekend.
wiredmikey writes "Users of iOS devices will find themselves with a new software update to install, thanks to a certificate validation flaw in the mobile popular OS. While Apple provides very little information when disclosing security issues, the company said that an attacker with a 'privileged network position could capture or modify data in sessions protected by SSL/TLS.' 'While this flaw itself does not allow an attacker to compromise a vulnerable device, it is still a very serious threat to the privacy of users as it can be exploited through Man-in-the-Middle attack,' VUPEN's Chaouki Bekrar told SecurityWeek. For example, when connecting to an untrusted WiFi network, attackers could spy on user connections to websites and services that are supposed to be using encrypted communications, Bekrar said. Users should update their iOS devices to iOS 7.0.6 as soon as possible." Adds reader Trailrunner7: "The wording of the description is interesting, as it suggests that the proper certificate-validation checks were in place at some point in iOS but were later removed somehow. The effect of an exploit against this vulnerability would be for an attacker with a man-in-the-middle position on the victim's network would be able to read supposedly secure communications. It's not clear when the vulnerability was introduced, but the CVE entry for the bug was reserved on Jan. 8."
An anonymous reader writes "Sailfish, the Linux-based mobile operating system developed by Finnish devicemaker Jolla, has reached version 1.0. Sailfish arose from the ashes of several failed and interrupted projects to bring a new, major Linux-based platform to mobile devices. It's already running on phones sold in India and Russia, but more importantly, Sailfish was designed to be easily ported to existing Android devices. It's also built to support many Android apps. Jolla will begin providing complete firmware downloads during the first half of the year."
paugq writes "NuttX is a real-time operating system (RTOS) with an emphasis on standards compliance and small footprint. Scalable from 8-bit to 32-bit microcontroller environments, the primary governing standards in NuttX are POSIX and ANSI standards. Additional standard APIs from Unix and other common RTOS's (such as VxWorks) are adopted for functionality not available under these standards, or for functionality that is not appropriate for deeply-embedded environments. NuttX was first released in 2007 by Gregory Nutt under the permissive BSD license, and today the 100th release was made: NuttX 6.33. Supported platforms include ARM, Atmel AVR, x86, Z80 and others."