Category: Software

Microsoft lifts its kimono for Brazilian conspiracy nuts

brazilSoftware king of the world Microsoft is going to show its source code to the Brazilian government to re-assure conspiracy nuts that it has no back doors which allow US spooks to spy on people.

Vole opened a centre in Brazil where officials can inspect its programming code, in an attempt to allay suspicions in the region that its software programs are vulnerable to spying.

It is the fourth ‘Transparency Centre’ that Vole has established and it is only a little bit transparent. It has reinforced walls and the sort of strict security settings a bank would be proud of.

Experts from Latin American and Caribbean governments can see the source code of its products.

To be fair, Edward Snowden revealed that the United States had been spying on Brazilian communications including those of former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.

Microsoft prevents anyone from copying the massive amount of coding on display – as much as 50 million lines for its email and server products. Viewers inspect copies of source code on computers connected only to local servers and cut off from the internet. The copies are later deleted.

Viewers can use software tools to examine the code, Microsoft said, but it was not immediately clear whether experts would be able to run deep code analysis necessary to uncover back doors or other bugs.


Microsoft flicks off lightswitch

il_fullxfull.781035219_7evySoftware King of the World Microsoft has flicked off its LightSwitch technology.

For those who came in late, Visual Studio LightSwitch is a simplified self-service development tool that lets you build business applications quickly and easily for the desktop and cloud.

Vole always pitched it as a simplified development environment which allowed punters to focus on the business logic instead of the application infrastructure.

According to a SpokesVole, LightSwitch was to supposed to accelerate the development of line-of-business apps, but the landscape has changed significantly since it was released. Mobile and cloud had churned out more connected and relevant choices for business app development.

Visual Studio 2015 is the last release of Visual Studio that includes the LightSwitch tooling and as expected Microsoft will continue to support users with existing LightSwitch apps as per the Microsoft Support Lifecycle.

Microsoft is no longer recommending LightSwitch for developing new apps, instead, they are pointing customers towards PowerApps. PowerApps is also a modern solution to build custom business applications that enables increased productivity with business apps that are easily created, shared and managed.

Chrome will suck less RAM

SheepGoogle has announced that it has finally sorted out Chrome’s tendancy to suck up RAM as efficiently as a Dyson vacuum when visiting javascript heavy sites.

The search engine outfit said that it will roll out an update on December 6 that will slash the amount of RAM Chrome uses by up to half.

By using less RAM, Chrome will let keep more open tabs and run more apps without slowing down your computer as much.

It could also help if your computer is on the low-end in terms of memory, which ranges from four gigabytes and below.

Chrome 55 will include an upgraded JavaScript engine which requires less RAM to work. Given that many modern websites thrive on JavaScript, this should lead to some dramatic improvements.  Google says it has a few other ideas in mind which will also speed up Chrome and should make an appearance in future versions.

AI beats humans at Doom

Dads Army Frazier - doomedTwo students at Carnegie Mellon University have designed an artificial intelligence program that is capable of beating human players in a death match game of 1993’s Doom.

Guillaume Lample and Devendra Singh Chaplot spent four months developing a program capable of playing first-person shooter games. The program made its debut at VizDoom (an AI competition that centered around the classic shooter) where it took second place despite the fact that their creation managed to beat human participants.

According to Lample and Chaplot their AI “allows developing bots that play the game using the screen buffer.” What that means is that the program learns by interpreting what is happening on the screen as opposed to following a pre-set series of command instructions alone. Basically it  learns to play in exactly the same way a human player does.

Apparenlty the AI won one of the competition games by learning to duck and therefore making itself much harder to hit.

If it is developed then it could improve video game artificial intelligence design with your game AI getting better the longer you play the game. The next cunning plan is to get the game playing Quake, which uses a more complex 3D environment.

Bugs got into new Linux

Mr SwearySoftware’s Mr Sweary, Linus Torvalds, is furious that some “buggy crap” got under the bonnet of his nice new Linux kernal.

Torvalds released Linux 4.8 earlier this week, but now it turns out that it contains some code he thinks can “kill the kernel”.

Torvalds a said sorry yesterday on the  Linux Kernel Mailing list for a bug fix gone bad.

“I’m really sorry I applied that last series from Andrew just before doing the 4.8 release, because they cause problems, and now it is in 4.8 (and that buggy crap is marked for stable too).”

The “crap” was fixing a bug that’s been present in Linux since version 3.15. Torvalds rates the fix for that bug “clearly worse than the bug it tried to fix, since that original bug has never killed my machine!”

Torvalds is fuming at kernel contributor Andrew Morton, who he says is debugging with a known bad use of BUG_ON().

“I’ve ranted against people using BUG_ON() for debugging in the past. Why the f*ck does this still happen?” Torvalds writes, pointing to a 2002 post to the kernel mailing list outlining how to do BUG_ON() right. He later adds “so excuse me for being upset that people still do this shit almost 15 years later.”

Morton seems to have put his hand up for the Torvalds’ criticisms. But Torvalds also thinks he could and should have done better, as he writes:

“I should have reacted to the damn added BUG_ON() lines. I suspect I will have to finally just remove the idiotic BUG_ON() concept once and for all, because there is NO F*CKING EXCUSE to knowingly kill the kernel.”


Windows 10 update is stuffed again

turkey_with_apples_-_croppedrszSoftware King of the World Microsoft has packed off another Windows 10 update which broke some users’ PCs.

Update KB3194496, is not installing correctly and when it fails some machines are forced to restart, often multiple times. Apparently this is because  Windows 10 has problems getting rid of the failed update. Worse, after a restart, the file will attempt to install again resulting in the loop of failed install, reboot, re-install and failure again.

Oddly the cumulative update did install correctly on the second or third attempt while others have said that it fails every time.

What is also weird is that the bug was reported before the update was released, but for some reason Vole issued it anyway.  It does not bode well for Windows 10, which Vole sells on the basis that its updates are really important and all you every need to think about. Obviously if they tigger your system, you are going to be thinking about them for a long time.

IBM says banks rushing to adopt block chain

blockchainBiggish Blue claims that banks and financial institutions are falling over themselves to test and deploy blockchain set-ups.

IBM said that banks and other financial institutions are adopting blockchain technology “dramatically faster” than initially expected, with 15 percent of top global banks intending to roll out full-scale, commercial blockchain products in 2017.

More than 65 percent of banks expected to have blockchain projects in production in three years’ time, with larger banks – those with more than 100,000 employees – leading the charge.

IBM asked  200 banks about their plans and were told that the areas most commonly identified by lenders as ripe for blockchain-based innovation were clearing and settlement, wholesale payments, equity and debt issuance and reference data.

Blockchain, which originates from digital currency bitcoin, works as an electronic transaction-processing and record-keeping system that allows all parties to track information through a secure network, with no need for third-party verification. Ironically it was a solution touted by Ecorp in the television series Mr Robot as a way of solving its hacking problems.

Almost every major bank has said it is looking into the technology, widespread financial adoption has been thought to be at least five to ten years away.

“The industry is hurtling toward blockchain adoption far faster than many expected. 2017 looks to be the year banking on blockchains shifts from zero to sixty.”

Accenture tinkers with blockchain

blockchainAccenture is changing a feature of blockchain by patenting a system that will allow data processed and stored using the technology to be edited.

This will effectively kill off a defining feature of the technology which makes it impossible to change. The consultancy said data would only be edited under “extraordinary circumstances,” to resolve fat-finger-type human errors and meet legal and regulatory requirements and address wrongdoing.

Obviously some blockchain users thought this idea was pants.  Blockchain is the latest investment by the financial services industry in the nascent technology, which promises to cut costs, reduce settlement times and increase transparency.

Normally the blockchain underpinning digital currency bitcoin is kept secure by data being shared across a global network of computers, which are incentivized by competing to win new bitcoins by data “mining”.

Technologists say that not being able to edit the technology makes blockchain unique and that without it, the term becomes meaningless.

Gary Nuttall, founder of blockchain consultancy Dislytics said that an editable blockchain was just a database. The whole thing about blockchain is that it’s immutable, so this just defeats the object.”

Because so-called “permissionless” blockchains like bitcoin’s have no centralized authority, it is essential that transactions cannot be tampered with.

Accenture claimed its prototype would be for the private “permissioned blockchains” favoured by banks, which would have designated administrators who manage the network under agreed governance rules.

Richard Lumb, Accenture’s group chief executive for financial services said that for financial services institutions faced with a myriad of risk and regulatory requirements, absolute immutability is a potential roadblock.

Why Kaby Lake and Zen is Windows 10 only

Windows 10Microsoft raised a few eyebrows when it announced that only Windows 10 will support Intel’s and AMD’s next-generation processor microarchitectures – codenamed Kaby Lake and Zen.

It appears that there are a few features on Kaby Lake and  Zen that require significant updates to Windows 10 to optimally function.

Kaby Lake uses Intel’s Speed Shift technology that make it possible to change power states more quickly than Skylake. Because Kaby Lake can make Speed Shift transitions faster, 7th Gen Core processors based on the architecture can increase and decrease clocks quickly. Speed Shift is hardware enabled but it uses the OS to function properly.

Intel’s Turbo Boost Technology 3.0  with Turbo Boost Max 3.0 technology improves single-thread performance by identifying the fastest core on a particular processor die and prioritising critical workloads for that core. This pushes up the processor’s frequency when needed and  workloads are also directed to the fastest possible core available. Support for that technology needs to be in the operating system.

AMD’s Zen-based processors have fine-grained clock gating with multi-level regions throughout the chip. Zen will bring in newer Simultaneous Multi-Threading technology for AMD chips. Microsoft will  have to make updates to the Windows kernel and system scheduler, which is more involved than a driver update. Vole did something similar to add proper support for Bulldozer-based processors with Windows 7.

So as far as AMD, Microsoft and Intel are concerned getting rid of support for older systems makes perfect sense. You can’t lock these chips into something which was released seven years ago. Windows 8 is similar to Windows 10 but about as popular as the Boston Strangler it is just not worth trying to update.

While corporate customers might like to remain on Windows 7 and incorporate next-gen hardware into their infrastructure, there will not be many of them. Older versions of Windows and alternative operating systems will still install and run on Kaby Lake and Zen, but they just won’t do the cool stuff.

Google grows a new Fuchsia operating system

stalin-googleGoogle appears to be working on another operating system which is different from its Android flavour.

The code, which can be found in the Git repository, is dubbed Fuchsia OS, and it may be meant for mobile phones, computers, and other devices and is completely new.

The description in the repository says “Pick + Purple == Fuchsia (a new Operating System), and those colours do not represent either Android or Chrome OS.

Travis Geiselbrech, who worked on NewOS, BeOS, Danger, Palm’s webOS and iOS, and Brian Swetland, who also worked on BeOS and Android, are all understood to be involved in this project.

Powered by the Magenta and LK kernel. The LK kernal might mean that the OS might be used for embedded applications, but Magenta targets modern phones and modern personal computers with fast processors, non-trivial amounts of RAM with arbitrary peripherals doing open-ended computation.

Google is saying nothing for now and since Fuchsia OS is early in development it is unlikely we will discover what Google is up to for years.