Submissions

NeXTBSD, aka FreeBSD-X

by
in bsd on (#JQ97)
FreeBSD hackers Jordan Hubbard and Kip Macy surprised an audience of Bay Area FreeBSD Users in August 2015 by laying out their version for a new architecture, based vaguely on BSD but with a microkernel and an event-driven framework consisting of something like libdispatch and launchd. Those are big changes if you are familiar with what FreeBSD has looked like for all of its life.

The good news is, this doesn't mean the destruction of the FreeBSD we all know and love. In fact, Hubbard, who is also the CTO of iXsystems (developers of FreeNAS and PC-BSD, both products derived from FreeBSD) aren't aiming to impact FreeBSD but rather change the fundamental architecture of iXsystems' own products.

The slide deck walks you through the proposed, new architecture. Better still, watch the talk yourself, before heading herefor some useful comments to help sort it all out. Others are watching this project with suspicion, too. Check out this excellent rebuttal on the DarknEdgy blog, which suggests, among other criticisms, that the Mach microkernel is an anachronism.

As a FreeBSD fan, I'm glad they're treating this as a separate product and not hacking up the FreeBSD source tree: that gives us time to see how this shakes out.

More than half of Australians training for soon-extinct careers

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in robotics on (#JQ85)
The article comes out of the Australian press, but unless there's something truly unique about the Australian job market, it's almost certainly true elsewhere as well: a recent study shows more than half of young Australians are receiving college education to persue careers that will soon no longer exist. Thank robotics, industry consolidation, and the nature of the markets for the shrinking number of ways you will some day be able to earn a living.

There's a flip side to the debate, of course: there are certainly new things coming that haven't even been invented yet, that will provide job opportunities. But the trick is positioning yourself appropriately to take advantage of the new chances.
The not-for-profit group, which works with young Australians to create social change, says the national curriculum is stuck in the past and digital literacy, in particular, needs to be boosted. Foundation chief executive Jan Owen says young people are not prepared for a working life that could include five career changes and an average of 17 different jobs.

She says today's students will be affected by three key economic drivers: automation, globalisation and collaboration. "Many jobs and careers are disappearing because of automation," Ms Owen said. "The second driver is globalisation - a lot of different jobs that we're importing and exporting. And then thirdly collaboration which is all about this new sharing economy."
How does one future-proof his/her life and career?

A user's guide to the Win10 Privacy Policy

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in microsoft on (#JNF0)
Windows 10 might be a welcome respite from recent, unloved versions of Microsoft's flagship operating system, but it's now well-known that Win10 captures an unusually large amount of user data and sends it back to Microsoft. That might have passed muster 20 years ago (happy birthday, Windows 95!) but customers these days are increasingly aware and concerned over their personal data and what becomes of it.

Enter the Verge, with a User's guide to the Windows 10 End User License Agreement (EULA), which combs through the document and tries to make sense of the implications for users. Problem is, even if you take a Microsoft-friendly approach to the analysis, the language obviously gives Microsoft lots of leeway to interpret key provisions as it sees fit.

Had your daily dose of irony yet? Then be aware the Verge has some privacy issues of its own. In fact, it's now known that the Verge sells your user data to upwards of twenty other companies. Better to browser this one with Lynx or with every script-blocker you own set to "maximum."

Microsoft releases sneak preview of Sharepoint 2016

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in microsoft on (#JNE8)
story imageWork in just about any big office and you have almost certainly been subjected to a semi-built corporate Sharepoint site your boss or the HR department hopes you will use rather than circulating important documents via email. And if you are like most tech-savvy folks, you have found it bafflingly difficult to use.

Microsoft hopes to correct that well-deserved reputation, and is launching a preview of Sharepoint Server 2016 to raise expectations about the new product.
Microsoft says its made “deep investment in HTML5” to give you “capabilities that enable device-specific targeting of content. This helps ensure that users have access to the information they need, regardless of the screen they choose to access it on.” And your users get a consistent experience whatever device they choose to wield, including on touch-enabled devices.

A new “cloud hybrid search” will permit users wielding “SharePoint Server 2013 and Office 365 to retrieve unified search results through a combined search index in Office 365.”

The index for that search resides in Office 365, one of many features billed as letting you take advantage of hybrid cloud. The idea is that your on-premises SharePoint can pop the index, or other data, into Microsoft's cloud so you get the on-prem performance you want without having to bulk out yours servers. But of course you do get into PAYG territory with the cloud.
That certainly qualifies as what the Register calls "Buzzword Compliant" but maybe there's true improvement there, too. Search for the expression "Sharepoint sucks" today and you'll get 209,000 hits including this one. Stick around and see if next year Microsoft turns the corner and makes Sharepoint something people find useful and effective.

The internet backbone

by
in internet on (#JKEF)
story imageJapan is home to an extremely important vessel: it's the ship that lays the trans-oceanic cables that form the backbone of telecommunication, that is, the Internet. Satellites play an increasingly important role in shipping packets, but the bulk of the connections pass through underwater cables.
The laying process involves checking submarine geography to avoid steep rises and falls, and then calculating tide movements and the trajectory of the falling cables in relation to ship speed, the firm said. Only then are the cables laid and buried by the Subaru, which was built in 2000.

The cables, encased in sheaths of rolled metal, are laid and buried deep — at an average of 1,000-1,500 meters below the sea surface — so as not to interfere with fishing vessels. However, the Subaru can lay cables much deeper at 8,000 meters below the waves.
Speaking of backbones, the Internet's backbone - in the protocol sense of the word - remains unfortunately vulnerable. The issue is the Border Gateway Patrol protocol, at the heart of routers everywhere. And its vulnerabilities are not being tackled with a level of effort commensurate with their importance.
Large routers operated by Internet service providers and major corporations use BGP to figure out how to get data between different places. Each of these major routers turns to others like itself—ones operated by other companies—for the information it needs to most efficiently dispatch data to its destination. Companies operating the routers manually choose which other routers theirs will trust.

Unfortunately, BGP doesn’t have security mechanisms built in that allow routers to verify the information they are receiving or the identity of the routers providing it. Very bad things can happen when routers spread incorrect information about how to route data, intentionally or otherwise.

That problem has been known for decades. It was the basis of the hacking group L0pht’s 1998 claim before Congress that they could take down the Internet in 30 minutes. But incidents that have illuminated BGP’s flaws have prodded some security companies to take it more seriously.
Read more about it at Technology Review, who is reporting on one of the important presentations revealed at the 2015 Blackhat Conference discussed here on |. earlier this month.

Samsung's Note 5 gets good reviews despite shortcomings

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in mobile on (#JJ6H)
story imageIt's hard not to look at one of Samsung's flagship phablets without feeling a pang of nostalgia for Palm's products back in the day, stylus and graffiti handwriting recognition and all. Samsung bucked the trend as Steve Jobs defiantly maintained, "if your device has a stylus, you have failed." Instead, Samsung's Note line of devices use an integrated, touch-sensitive stylus to permit new applications and unlock new ways of interacting with software.

The Note is in its 5th incarnation in 2016. Engadget has taken a look at it and finds it pretty compelling overall, despite changes that will turn off many: no microSD support, no swappable battery, a wimpy single speaker, and only 32GB and 64GB options.
Let's cut to the chase: This is the most attractive, most comfortable-feeling Galaxy Note that Samsung has ever made. ... The generous curve of the backplate and the trimmed-down bezels surrounding the 5.7-inch, Quad HD, Super AMOLED screen make the Note 5 much easier to hold than any of the previous-gen Notes, ... More importantly, the screen is an absolute champ under the sweltering summer sun. With brightness cranked up all the way, I had no trouble ... If you've fiddled with a Galaxy S6, you know exactly what to expect here. The Note 5 comes with a TouchWiz-ified version of Android 5.1.1, and once again, I appreciate the lighter touch Samsung has been taking with its software. It's not my favorite skin and I still think it pales in comparison to the stock Google Now Launcher, but I'm pleasantly surprised by how much less obnoxious TouchWiz is these days. All of Samsung's mainstay features are here, and they all work as well as you'd expect them to.
Other reviews are similar. Check them out at Gizmodo and Tech Times. Forbes has discovered you can screw up your device by sticking the stylus in its receptacle the wrong way. So, don't do that then, dummy.

"Bring your own device" failing to live up to its promise

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in mobile on (#JJ6G)
With the rise of mobile computing came a swell of frustration by people who preferred their fancy, personal devices to the locked-down devices (if any) provided for them at work. Eventually, corporations relented, opening the door to a plethora of "bring your own device" policies that IT staff detest owing to increased security risk and the unacceptable co-mingling of personal and private data.

We've been working in this environment for a few years now, and increasingly, tech directors are willing to speak out about this model's deficiencies. But users aren't unanimously happy with the compromises made either. One small example:
In an interesting test case in California, a worker is reported to be suing her former employer for invasion of privacy and wrongful termination of employment.

The person claimed they were sacked after deleting an app (Xora iPhone app) from her company-issued handset that she believed allowed her employer to spy on her. She claims the app tracked where she was – using the device GPS – including how fast she was driving, even when she wasn’t working.
The Register takes a look at the pros and cons of what has become a pre-selection of pre-approved devices, i.e. "CYOD" or "choose your own device."

What about |.ers? Are you bringing your own device, or saddled with the corporate choice, or avoiding pocket computing all together? Which model worked the best for you?

2015 may be remembered as the most severe El Nino ever

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in science on (#JGA9)
story imageScientists' understanding of the El Nino phenomenon - in which a reversal of warm and cool currents in the Pacific Ocean brings wet weather to America's West Coast and elsewhere while areas used to monsoon rainfall remain dry - is better than ever. But that hasn't helped our ability to accurately predict El Nino years, and of course even prediction does nothing for mitigating the sometimes disastrous effects.
El Niño-watchers at America’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) noted worrisome ENSO-related changes in both sea temperature and air pressure earlier this year. They declared the return of the Boy in March. Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology decided to wait until May. Such forecasts can be wrong. Despite signs of the phenomenon last year, no monstrous event actually emerged. But during July the surface temperature of the central equatorial Pacific was almost 1°C higher than expected, and its equivalent in the eastern Pacific was more than 2°C above expectations. Among other things, that puts the temperatures in these areas well above the 26.5°C minimum needed for the formation of tropical storms. Right on cue, on July 12th, six such cyclones spun in the Pacific—more than on any previous day in over four decades.
Mike Halpert, the deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Centre, believes the current Niño could be among the strongest since records began in 1950. That one was responsible for 21,000 deaths and $36B in damages on houses, bridges, and culverts.

Time to get out the raincoats and umbrellas?

Amazon ends flash adverts due to vulnerabilities, blocking

by
in internet on (#JGA8)
Adobe's Flash has earned a reputation for insecurity through a litany of vulnerabilities through the years since its inception in the late 1990s. But it hasn't made many friends among users, either, who are increasingly either turned off by bandwidth-sucking video advertisements, or are nervous that running Flash adverts leaves your machine open to all sorts of vulnerabilities.

Amazon.com is now coming around to that point of view as well. Since so many users either block or are fearful of flash adverts, the marketing juggernaut has decided to henceforth refuse to use them. Amazon is only one of many Internet sites, but it's a high profile one, and their refusal of Flash adverts may finally tip the market in a direction it should've headed long ago. Could this be the end of Adobe Flash?

Monday Poll: why I love Pipedot

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in ask on (#J92J)
Our Monday poll is essentially a blatant pitch by zafiro17 for site feedback. I personally bounce among several sites for my tech news but always find myself back at Pipedot, and that got me thinking about what I like about the site that keeps me coming back for more. In this Borda poll you'll find choices related to the subject matter and the community, but also a small subset of some of the technical innovations that make Pipedot unique. Rank your choices from 1 (the strongest reason I like the site) and continue downward, assigning 2 to your second strongest preference, and so on.

For a list of some of Pipedot's features, check out the Pipedot category of this site: there are possibly some you haven't discovered yet. If I've forgotten anything, tell us about it in the comments.
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