Operating Systems

Google's Fuchsia OS On the Pixelbook (arstechnica.com) 63

An anonymous reader quotes a report from 9to5Google: Our early look at Fuchsia OS last May provided a glimpse into a number of new interface paradigms. Several months later, we now have an updated hands-on with Google's future operating system that can span various form factors. This look at the in-development OS eight months later comes courtesy of Ars Technica who managed to get Fuchsia installed on the Pixelbook. The Made by Google Chromebook is only the third officially supported "target device" for Fuchsia development. As our last dive into the non-Linux kernel OS was through an Android APK, we did not encounter a lockscreen. The Ars hands-on shows a basic one that displays the time at center and Fuchsia logo in the top-left corner to switch between phone and desktop/tablet mode, while a FAB (of sorts) in the opposite corner lets users bring up WiFi controls, Login, and Guest.

Only Guest is fully functioning at this stage -- at least for non-Google employees. Once in this mode, we encounter an interface similar to the one we spotted last year. The big difference is how Google has filled in demo information and tweaked some elements. On phones and tablets, Fuchsia essentially has three zones. Recent apps are above, at center are controls, and below is a mixture of the Google Feed and Search. The controls swap out the always-displayed profile icon for a Fuchsia button. Tapping still surfaces Quick Settings which actually reflect current device battery levels and IP address. Impressively, Ars found a working web browser that can actually surf the internet. Google.com is the default homepage, with users able to visit other sites through that search bar. Other examples of applications, which are just static images, include a (non-working) phone dialer, video player, and Google Docs. The Google Calendar is notable for having subtle differences to any known version, including the tablet or web app.

Portables (Apple)

10 Years of the MacBook Air (theverge.com) 152

Ten years ago today, Steve Jobs introduced the MacBook Air. "Apple's Macworld 2008 was a special one, taking place just days after the annual Consumer Electronics Show had ended and Bill Gates bid farewell to Microsoft," The Verge recalls. "Jobs introduced the MacBook Air by removing it from a tiny paper office envelope, and the crowd was audibly shocked at just how small and thin it was..." From the report: At the time, rivals had thin and light laptops on the market, but they were all around an inch thick, weighed 3 pounds, and had 8- or 11-inch displays. Most didn't even have full-size keyboards, but Apple managed to create a MacBook Air with a wedge shape so that the thickest part was still thinner than the thinnest part of the Sony TZ Series -- one of the thinnest laptops back in 2008. It was a remarkable feat of engineering, and it signaled a new era for laptops. Apple ditched the CD drive and a range of ports on the thin MacBook Air, and the company introduced a multi-touch trackpad and SSD storage. There was a single USB 2.0 port, alongside a micro-DVI port and a headphone jack. It was minimal, but the price was not. Apple's base MacBook Air cost $1,799 at the time, an expensive laptop even by today's standards.
Android

Google Pulls 60 Apps From Play Store After Malware Exposes Kids To Porn (gizmodo.com) 49

Cyberthreat intelligence firm Check Point on Friday disclosed the existence of malicious code buried inside dozens of apps that displays pornographic images to users. Many of the apps are games reportedly geared toward young children. As a result, Google quickly removed the roughly 60 apps said to be affected from its Play Store. Gizmodo reports: While they appeared as such, the pornographic images displayed were not actually Google ads. Google supposedly maintains tight controls on all ads that appear in what it calls "Designed for Family" apps. The company also maintains a white-list of advertisers deemed safe for children under the ages of 13. None of the affected apps were part of Google's "Family Link" program, which is the category of recognized kid-friendly apps available across Google's platforms. The malware, dubbed AdultSwine, is said to have displayed the highly inappropriate images while also attempting to trick users into installing a fake-security app, or "scareware." After the fake "ads" were delivered, users would've received a "Remove Virus Now" notification, or something similar, designed to provoke users into downloading the scareware. The affected gaming apps included at least one which may have had up to 5,000,000 downloads -- Five Nights Survival Craft -- as well as many others which had between 50,000 and 500,000 downloads.
Cellphones

'I Tried the First Phone With An In-Display Fingerprint Sensor' (theverge.com) 70

Vlad Savov from The Verge reports of his experience using the first smartphone with a fingerprint scanner built into the display: After an entire year of speculation about whether Apple or Samsung might integrate the fingerprint sensor under the display of their flagship phones, it is actually China's Vivo that has gotten there first. At CES 2018, I got to grips with the first smartphone to have this futuristic tech built in, and I was left a little bewildered by the experience. The mechanics of setting up your fingerprint on the phone and then using it to unlock the device and do things like authenticate payments are the same as with a traditional fingerprint sensor. The only difference I experienced was that the Vivo handset was slower -- both to learn the contours of my fingerprint and to unlock once I put my thumb on the on-screen fingerprint prompt -- but not so much as to be problematic. Basically, every other fingerprint sensor these days is ridiculously fast and accurate, so with this being newer tech, its slight lag feels more palpable. Vivo is using a Synaptics optical sensor called Clear ID that works by peering through the gaps between the pixels in an OLED display (LCDs wouldn't work because of their need for a backlight) and scanning your uniquely patterned epidermis. The sensor is already in mass production and should be incorporated in several flagship devices later this year.
Slashdot.org

See a Random Slashdot Story from 2017 (destinyland.net) 38

An anonymous reader writes: Happy New Year, Slashdot! To say goodbye to 2017, I've created a web page that displays random Slashdot stories from the year gone by.

It chooses a page from over 6,600 different URLs -- every story that Slashdot ran in 2017. And every time you reload this page, it pulls up a different story from 2017.


Technology

That '70s Show: the Conference That Predicted the Future of Work (wired.com) 40

theodp writes: Over at Wired, Leslie Berlin writes about Futures Day at the 1977 Xerox World Conference, an invitation-only demonstration of the Alto personal computer system developed at Xerox PARC. It's an excerpt from Troublemakers: How a Generation of Silicon Valley Upstarts Invented the Future. Both Berlin's book and Brian Dear's recent The Friendly Orange Glow: The Untold Story of the PLATO System and the Dawn of Cyberculture are shedding light on groundbreaking systems of the '70s that were ultimately done in by the less-featured but low-cost Apple II (yes, $2,638 for a system with 48 kB of RAM was 'low cost'!) and other personal computers. Interestingly, Dear notes that the Xerox Parc and PLATO teams sent people out to see and learn and exchange ideas with each other over the years. Their interactions included 'tremendous battles' over the advantages and disadvantages of mouse interfaces [Xerox] vs. touch screens [PLATO], as well as plasma displays [PLATO] vs. other, cheaper display solutions [Xerox]. As is the case with many debates, both teams proved to be "right." Apple wouldn't introduce the masses to a mouse interface until 1984 [Macintosh] and a touch screen interface until 2007 [iPhone].
Christmas Cheer

Tesla's Newest Holiday Update Includes an Easter Egg: 'Santa Mode' (engadget.com) 90

An anonymous reader quotes Engadget: Dive into the Easter egg section on your EV and you'll discover a reindeer button that invokes a Santa Mode. To say it brings a Christmas vibe to your car would be an understatement. It turns your car into Santa's sleigh on the dash display (and other cars into reindeer), but that's really just the start of the flourishes. The new mode plays the late, great Chuck Berry's version of "Run Rudolph Run" when it first kicks in, for one thing. You'll also hear sleigh bells when you invoke a turn signal. And if you're fortunate enough to have a car with Autopilot, the road ahead will suddenly turn icy.
The article includes a video showing that the voice command to enable Santa mode is -- of course -- "Ho ho ho."

Engadget calls it "one of the perks of owning a Tesla in the first place. The combination of all-digital displays and frequent software updates lets Tesla add little delights that you couldn't get if you had to stare at an old-school instrument cluster."
Iphone

Samsung Could Make $22 Billion Off Next Year's iPhones (cnet.com) 43

According to a report by Korean outlet ETnews (via The Investor), Apple placed an order for 180 million to 200 million OLED displays from Samsung's manufacturing branch, Samsung Display, for the next round of iPhones. Each display is estimated to cost $110, which could mean the deal is worth up to $22 billion. CNET reports: The recently released iPhone X was Apple's first phone to feature an OLED display, rather than an LCD panel. Samsung, on the other hand, has been using OLED displays in its phones for quite some time. Currently Samsung holds a near monopoly on the world's manufacturing of OLED screens. As a result, Apple had little choice but to turn to its rival for this type of screen. This isn't the first deal of its kind. Earlier this year it was reported that Apple bought 60 million OLED displays from Samsung, apparently for what would later become the iPhone X. According to the report, Apple's next order is up to four times larger than this previous order. Demand is so high that Samsung considered opening a new manufacturing plant to process Apple's order, the report said, but has been able to manufacture enough of the panels to fill Apple's order.
Google

Google's Record Fine of $2.8 Billion Was a 'Deterrent,' EU Says (bloomberg.com) 71

The European Union was aiming for a "deterrent effect" on Google and other technology giants when it ordered the Android-maker to pay 2.4 billion euros ($2.8 billion) for breaching antitrust law over how it displays shopping ads. From a report: Regulators weighed "the need to ensure that the fine has a sufficiently deterrent effect not only on Google and Alphabet but also on undertakings of a similar size and with similar resources," the European Commission said in a 215-page document laying out details of its seven-year investigation into the company. The "particularly large" revenue of Google's parent, Alphabet, also determined the size of the fine, the EU said. The penalty, levied in June, was more than double an earlier 1 billion-euro fine on Intel and came with a threat of more daily fines for Google if it didn't comply with an order to offer equal treatment to rival shopping-comparison services. Big numbers for big technology names have been a theme for EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who ordered Apple Inc. to pay back some 13 billion euros in taxes last year.
Toys

Ask Slashdot: Are There Any Good Smartwatches Or Fitness Trackers? 254

"What's your opinion on the current state of smartwatches?" asks long-time Slashdot reader rodrigoandrade. He's been researching both smartwatches and fitness trackers, and shares his own opinions: - Manufacturers have learnt from Moto 360 that people want round smartwatches that actually look like traditional watches, with a couple of glaring exceptions....

- Android Wear 2.0 is a thing, not vaporware. It's still pretty raw (think of early Android phones) but it works well. The LG Sport Watch is the highest-end device that supports it.

- LTE-enabled smartwatches finally allow you to ditch your smartphone, if you wish. Just pop you nano SIM in it and party on. The availability is still limited to a few SKUs in some countries, and they're ludicrously expensive, but it's getting there.

Keep reading for his assessment of four high-end choices -- and share your own opinions in the comments.
AMD

First AMD Ryzen Mobile Laptop Tested Shows Strong Zen-Vega Performance (hothardware.com) 85

MojoKid writes: AMD Ryzen Mobile processors are arriving now in retail laptops from the likes of HP, Lenovo and Acer. With the first CPUs to hit the market, AMD took quad-core Ryzen and coupled it with 8 or 10-core Vega GPUs on a single piece of silicon in an effort to deliver a combination of strong Ryzen CPU performance along with significantly better integrated graphics performance over Intel's current 8th Gen Kaby Lake laptop chips. AMD Ryzen 7 2700U and Ryzen 5 2500U chips have 4MB of shared L3 cache each, but differ with respect to top-end CPU boost clock speeds, number of integrated Radeon Vega Compute Units (CUs), and the GPU's top-end clocks. Ryzen 7 2700U is more powerful with 10 Radeon Vega CUs, while Ryzen 5 2500U sports 8. Ryzen 7 2700U also boosts to 3.8GHz, while Ryzen 5 2500U tops out at 3.6GHz. In the benchmarks, Ryzen Mobile looks strong, competing well with Intel quad-core 8th Gen laptop CPUs, while offering north of 60 percent better performance in graphics and gaming. Battery life is still a question mark, however, as some of the very first models to hit the market from HP have inefficient displays and hard drives instead of SSDs. As more premium configurations hit the market in the next few weeks, hopefully we'll get a better picture of Ryzen Mobile battery life in more optimized laptop builds.
Android

Samsung's Galaxy S9 Will Appear At CES In January, Says Report (venturebeat.com) 41

According to VentureBeat, Samsung is planning to show off its next-generation Galaxy S9 and S9+ smartphones at January's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Some of the information about the devices will be shared at CES, but Samsung is still apparently holding an official launch event in March, as it did this past year for the Galaxy S8 and S8+. From the report: Codenamed Star 1 and Star 2 -- and going by model numbers SM-G960 and SM-G965 -- the S9 and S9+ will feature the same 5.8-inch and 6.2-inch curved-edge Super AMOLED "Infinity" displays, respectively, as their predecessors. While no specific processor was mentioned, it is said to employ 10-nanometer fabrication techniques, which is highly suggestive of the upcoming Snapdragon 845 from Qualcomm (and likely a similar Exynos model for some regions). Besides a bigger screen, the S9+ will reportedly offer more RAM (6GB versus 4GB) and a second rear camera, similar to the Note8. Both models pack 64GB of internal storage, supplemented by a microSD slot, and both leave the 3.5-millimeter headphone jack intact. Regardless of rear camera configuration, both phones orient the elements on the back of the device vertically -- with the fingerprint sensor on the bottom, in acknowledgement of one of the most frequent complaints about all three of Samsung's 2017 flagship handsets. Another change that's sure to be well-received is the addition of AKG stereo speakers. Finally, Samsung plans to introduce a backward-compatible DeX docking station that situates the phones flat and utilizes the screens as either a touchpad or a virtual keyboard.
Medicine

Study of 500,000 Teens Suggests Association Between Excessive Screen Time and Depression (vice.com) 128

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Depression and suicide rates in teenagers have jumped in the last decade -- doubling between 2007 and 2015 for girls -- and the trend suspiciously coincides with when smartphones became their constant companions. A recent study places their screen time around nine hours per day. Another study, published on Tuesday, suggests that suicide and depression could be connected to the rise of smartphones, and increased screen time. Around 58 percent more girls reported depression symptoms in 2015 than in 2009, and suicide rates rose 65 percent. Smack in the middle of that window of time, smartphones gained market saturation.

In Twenge's new study, published in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, the researchers looked at two samples: a nationally representative survey by ongoing study "Monitoring the Future" out of the University of Michigan, which is administered annually to 8th, 10th, and 12th graders, and the Centers for Disease Control's Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, a sample of high school students administered by the CDC every other year. (Both surveys began in 1991.) Altogether, over 500,000 young people were included. The study authors examined trends in how teens used social media, the internet, electronic devices (including gaming systems and tablets), and smartphones, as well as how much time they spent doing non-screen activities like homework, playing sports, or socializing. Comparing these to publicly available data on mental health and suicide for these ages between 2010 and 2017 showed "a clear pattern linking screen activities with higher levels of depressive symptoms/suicide-related outcomes and non-screen activities with lower levels," the researchers wrote in the study. All activities involving screens were associated with higher levels of depression or suicide and suicidal thinking, and activities done away from a screen were not.

Iphone

Apple Could Launch Two New Full-Screen iPhones Next Year (theverge.com) 117

Reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo expects to see two new full-screen iPhones next year: one will have a 6.5-inch OLED display, essentially making it a Plus version of the iPhone X; and the other will have a 6.1-inch LCD display, likely making it more like a full-screen version of the current Plus-sized iPhone. Both are said to have the notch. The Verge reports: In his research note, which was reported by MacRumors, Kuo writes that Apple is hoping to "satisfy various needs of the high-end market" by expanding its full-screen product line. At the high end will be the 6.5-inch OLED iPhone; beneath that will be an updated version of the 5.8-inch OLED iPhone X; and finally, the 6.1-inch LCD iPhone will sit below both them. Kuo predicts that the 6.1-inch phone will be priced somewhere between $649 to $749 and be set apart by having a less-dense screen resolution, offering a worse picture. If Apple does introduce a 6.1-inch LCD iPhone, $749 certainly seems too cheap for it to sell at -- the iPhone 8 starts at $699 as it is, and the 8 Plus starts at $799. The 6.1-inch phone sounds like a step up from the existing Plus model, so it would make more sense to sell it for, say, $899, right between a refreshed version of the Plus and a refreshed version of the X.
Science

Your Visual Skills Are Not Correlated To Your IQ (vanderbilt.edu) 201

Science_afficionado writes: Psychologists at Vanderbilt University have conducted the first study of individual variation in visual ability. They have discovered that there is a broad range of differences in people's capability for recognizing and remembering novel objects and this ability is not associated with individuals' general intelligence, or IQ.
Or, as the article puts it, "Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching."
Iphone

Some iPhone X Displays Plagued By Mysterious 'Green Line of Death' (thenextweb.com) 76

Some iPhone X owners are reporting a random green line appearing on their displays. According to The Next Web, "the defect has already started to take on the endearing 'Green Line of Death' moniker." From the report: Several users across Apple forums and social media have reported the error -- I've counted over a dozen accounts, and MacRumors mentions it's read "at least 25" such reports. Oddly, the issue doesn't appear to affect users immediately, only showing up after some time with regular usage. In some cases it alternates with a purple line, for variety. It generally appears towards the right or left sides of the display, and sometimes it simply disappears altogether. Weird. Either way, it appears to be a hardware defect affecting a small number of users, and Apple appears to be replacing affected units. Mac Rumors first reported the issue.
Businesses

iPhone X Costs Apple $370 in Materials: IHS Markit (ihsmarkit.com) 120

Engineers at marketing research firm IHS Markit cracked open the base version iPhone X, which Apple is selling at $999, this week. After preliminary physical dissection, the firm estimated that the iPhone X carries a bill of materials of $370. From their findings: With a starting price of $999, the iPhone X is $50 more than the previous most expensive iPhone, the 8 Plus 256 GB. As another point of comparison, Samsung's Galaxy S8 with 64 GB of NAND memory has a BOM of $302 and retails at around $720. "Typically, Apple utilizes a staggered pricing strategy between various models to give consumers a tradeoff between larger and smaller displays and standard and high-density storage," said Wayne Lam, principal analyst for mobile devices and networks at IHS Markit. "With the iPhone X, however, Apple appears to have set an aspirational starting price that suggests its flagship is intended for an even more premium class of smartphones." The teardown of the iPhone X revealed that its IR camera is supplied by Sony/Foxconn while the silicon is provided by ST Microelectronics. The flood illuminator is an IR emitter from Texas Instruments that's assembled on top of an application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) and single-photon avalanche diode (SPAD) detector from ST Microelectronics. Finisar and Philips manufacture the dot projector. IHS Markit puts the rollup BOM cost for the TrueDepth sensor cluster at $16.70.
Businesses

IBM's Quest To Design The 'New Helvetica' (fastcodesign.com) 172

IBM released its new bespoke typeface IBM Plex in beta this week. The company is hoping that the new typeface would become just as iconic as Helvetica in the years to come. From a Fast Co Design story: "When I came to IBM, it was a big discussion: Why does IBM not have a bespoke typeface? Why are we still clinging on to Helvetica?" Mike Abbink, the typeface's designer and IBM's executive creative director of brand experience and design said. To uncover what the typeface should express, Abbink and his team took a deep dive into IBM's archives. They were especially interested in the company's history in the postwar years, when its design-led business strategy first took shape and the legendary practitioner Paul Rand, who defined design as a system of relationships, created its famous eight-bar logo. In Rand's logo, Abbink and his team saw a contrast between hard edges -- the engineered, rational, and mechanical -- and curves -- the softer more humanistic elements. It's a reflection of the man-and-machine relationship that runs through the company's history -- a dynamic that is reflected in the final form of IBM Plex. The Plex family includes a sans serif, serif, and monospace versions. The designers also created a rigorous style guide that's akin to a digital standards manual and includes a type scale, which plays into responsive displays; eight different weights (a nod to how the IBM logo is composed of eight horizontally stacked bars); and usage guidelines, which dive into everything from information hierarchies to color and ragging. All together, it's easy to see Plex as a gentler, friendlier, more casual Helvetica for a broad range of uses both digital and print-based.
Displays

iPhone X Has the 'Most Innovative and High Performance' Smartphone Display Ever Tested (macrumors.com) 233

The display in the iPhone X is produced by Samsung and improved by Apple, says screen technology analysis firm DisplayMate. The company has released a display shoot-out for the iPhone X, praising Apple's technology in areas like the higher resolution OLED screen, automatic color management, viewing angle performance, and more. Mac Rumors reports: According to DisplayMate, the iPhone X has the "most innovative and high performance" smartphone display it has ever tested. DisplayMate also congratulated Samsung Display for "developing and manufacturing the outstanding OLED display hardware in the iPhone X." iPhone X matched or set new smartphone display records in the following categories: highest absolute color accuracy, highest full screen brightness for OLED smartphones, highest full screen contrast rating in ambient light, and highest contrast ratio. It also had the lowest screen reflectance and smallest brightness variation with a viewing angle. The iPhone X's 5.8-inch OLED display includes a taller height to width aspect ratio of 19.5:9, 22 percent larger than the 16:9 aspect ratio on previous iPhone models (and most other smartphones). Because of this DisplayMate noted that the iPhone X also has a new 2.5K higher resolution with 2436x1125 pixels and 458 pixels per inch. The iPhone X's display resolution provides "significantly higher image sharpness" than can be analyzed by a person with normal 20/20 vision at a 12-inch viewing distance. DisplayMate said this means that it's now "absolutely pointless" to increase the display resolution and pixels per inch of the iPhone any further, since there would be "no visual benefit" for users.
Stats

No, the Linux Desktop Hasn't Jumped in Popularity (zdnet.com) 187

An anonymous reader quotes ZDNet: Stories have been circulating that the Linux desktop had jumped in popularity and was used more than macOS. Alas, it's not so... These reports have been based on NetMarketShare's desktop operating system analysis, which showed Linux leaping from 2.5 percent in July, to almost 5 percent in September. But unfortunately for Linux fans, it's not true... It seems to be merely a mistake. Vince Vizzaccaro, NetMarketShare's executive marketing share of marketing told me, "The Linux share being reported is not correct. We are aware of the issue and are currently looking into it"...

For the most accurate, albeit US-centric operating system and browser numbers, I prefer to use data from the federal government's Digital Analytics Program (DAP). Unlike the others, DAP's numbers come from billions of visits over the past 90 days to over 400 US executive branch government domains... DAP gets its raw data from a Google Analytics account. DAP has open-sourced the code, which displays the data on the web and its data-collection code... In the US Analytics site, which summarizes DAP's data, you will find desktop Linux, as usual, hanging out in "other" at 1.5 percent. Windows, as always, is on top with 45.9 percent, followed by Apple iOS, at 25.5 percent, Android at 18.6 percent, and macOS at 8.5 percent.

The article does, however, acknowledge that Linux's real market share is probably a little higher simply because "no one, not even DAP, seems to do a good job of pulling out the Linux-based Chrome OS data."

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