Category: Software

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.

Linux developer loses case against VMware

dead linuxLinux kernel developer Christoph Hellwig has lost his case against virtualisation company VMware.

Hellwig claimed the outfit had violated version 2 of the GNU General Public Licence and says he will appeal against the verdict.

“I’m disappointed that the court didn’t even consider the actual case of reusing the Linux code written by me, and I hope the Court of Appeal will investigate this central aspect of the lawsuit,” he said in a statement.

The case claimed that VMware had been using Hellwig’s code from 2007 and not releasing source code as required. The Linux kernel, which is released under the GNU GPL version 2, stipulates that anyone who distributes it has to provide source code for the same.

However the court said that Hellwig had failed to prove which specific lines of code VMware had used, from among those over which he claimed ownership. The case revolved around the claim that the company had used a module which was released under GPLv2 with its own proprietary kernel, known as vmkernel. The central question was whether this made the module a derivative work.

Hellwig had the financial backing of the Software Freedom Conservancy, which said it had discovered in 2011 that VMware had failed to provide or offer any source code for the version of BusyBox included in VMware’s ESXi products, an enterprise-class, type-1 hypervisor.

BusyBox combines several stripped down Unix tools in a single executable.

Both the Conservancy and Hellwig claimed that VMware had combined copyrighted Linux code, licensed under the GPLv2, with their own proprietary code called “vmkernel” and distributed the entire combined work without providing or offering complete, corresponding source code.

The court was a little odd about all this.  It It did not allow expert testimony while making its decision and more or less decided on the Judge’s own expert knowledge of software.

In December last year, the SFC was forced to issue an appeal for funds, with the organisation saying a drop in donations had become noticeable after VMware was sued. This year the Linux Foundation came under scrutiny when it changed its rules to make it impossible for community representatives to be elected to its board because of the VMware case.


Intel reaches Nervana for its intelligence

In_Utero_(Nirvana)_album_coverChipzilla has decided that AI smells a bit like teen spirit and is going to write a cheque for Nervana Systems.

Intel is tsarting to see AI as the next big thing and it is buying in expertise. Nervana which has not been the same since its lead singer killed himself appears to have got itself involved with cutting edge AI reseach [are you sure that is the name Nervana? Ed].

Intel wrote in its bog that the buy out will help develop Intel’s artificial intelligence portfolio and enhance the deep learning performance of Intel Xeon and Intel Xeon Phi processors.

The company is led by former Qualcomm researcher Naveen Rao and has raised $25 million in venture funding and also has a contract to work with In-Q-tel, the U.S. intelligence community’s venture arm.

It has not said how much it paid for the company but investors in Nervana include Global Playground, CME Ventures, Lux Capital, Allen & Co and AME Cloud Ventures so it looks like a large amount of money must have changed hands. It has been rumoured that Intel had to pay $350 million,



Google’s well minging plans to kill Flash

flash_gordon_2From the end of next month Chrome will block that irritating Flash content that loads behind the scenes.

Google claims that this sort of flash rubbish accounts for more than 90 percent of the Flash on the web. In December, Chrome will make HTML5 the default experience for central content, such as games and videos, except on sites that only support Flash.

It is one of the nails in the coffin of Flash as the web slowly moves away from plugins in favor of HTML5. Since last year Chrome 45 began automatically pausing less-important Flash content (ads, animations, and anything that isn’t “central to the webpage”).

As Mozilla and Microsoft are expected to follow.  However it looks like Google is already planning to move ahead. In an email the search engine outfit said:

“The end goal for all these browser makers is to push as many sites as possible to HTML5, which is better for both performance (lowering memory and CPU usage while boosting battery life) and in terms of web standards (which makes life easier for developers). Given Flash’s various vulnerabilities, there are obvious security gains as well.”

Google plans to have Chrome serve HTML5 by default in Q4 2016. Now the timeframe has been narrowed to December.

Windows 10 anniversary edition is coming your way

live_tv_windows_10Microsoft has released the Anniversary Update, just as you finally gave up and installed the old version.

The new Windows 10 Anniversary has things which users will notice and feature updates and tweaks to the user interface.

The Start menu has been tweaked and been made into three-columns with the All Apps list always on view. This saves a click but is still not as good as the simple Windows 7 Start menu.

There are a few changes to Cortana.  Firstly, it cannot be disabled in the normal user interface and you can use it from the lock screen. Notifications can sync across devices.

When we get it installed we will see if Microsoft has fixed its biggest problem with Windows 10, namely the ability to find a file on your PC without Cortina opening Bing to find it on the web. Windows 10 search capability on cloud files is pretty good, but it has difficulty finding files on the hard-drive.  Opening Bing is just annoying.

Microsoft has also spruced up its Edge Browser. Firstly it finally gets JavaScript-based Extensions, using a similar model to that in Google Chrome.

Extensions are installed from the Windows Store, and there is AdBlock, Translator, LastPass, Evernote Web Clipper, and Office Online.

Edge also has a tree view for Favourites, a warning if you try to exit the browser when a download is in progress, default save location, tab pins to the top bar of the Edge window and new APIs including Web Notifications, Beacon interface (for asynchronous data upload), Canvas Path2D, WOFF 2 fonts, and more.

This version now scores 460 out of 555 when it comes to handling HTML 5, putting it ahead of Firefox 47 at 456 but behind Chrome which is 492.


RedMonks crown JavaScript king

8618453583_80b765a28dUK Analyst outfit RedMonk just added up the numbers and divided by its shoe size and worked out that JavaScript is the most popular programming language followed by Java and PHP.

This has been unchanged now for six months, but one of the biggest surprises is the “performance of programming languages relative to one another on GitHub and Stack Overflow”.

Here is RedMonk’s top 10

1. JavaScript

2. Java

3. PHP

4. Python

5. C#

5. C++

5. Ruby

8. CSS

9. C

10. Objective-C

Writing in his bog  [shurely cell.ed]  RedMonk analyst Stephen O’Grady said that the positions have solidified and it will take a serious push—or crisis—to significantly alter the dynamics of the top tier absent minor and statistically irrelevant drifts from quarter to quarter.

O’Grady thinks this is due to “a predictable period of consolidation” in development tools.  Farther down the list, though, RedMonk’s rankings do show at least a bit of movement since January. Here’s the second half of RedMonk’s top 20 (note the tie for the 20th position, which actually pushes the list to include the top 21):

11. Shell

12. R

13. Perl

14. Scala

15. Go

16. Haskell

17. Swift

18. Matlab

19. Visual Basic

20. Clojure

20. Groovy

R has jumped ahead of Perl into the 12 spot, following Microsoft’s acquisition of Revolution Analytics. And Visual Basic owns the number 19 position.



Mozilla allows Firefox to rust

Red-Panda-pik-2-10alwllBig cheeses at the Mozzarella Foundation have announced that its Firefox browser will ship with a large dose of rust.

For those who came in late, Rust is a programming language developed as a safer alternative to C++ with a unique construction that reduces the chances of having dangerous memory exploits. It also never sleeps.

The first ever Rust components will arrive in Firefox 48, scheduled for release on 2 August, 2016, just two days before the anniversary of Britain entering WW1.

Memory corruption issues such as use-after-free and buffer overflows are the main source of security bugs and the reason why our editor keeps banging on the door of the Kite, even when it closed months ago.

Mozilla has been a key player behind Rust for the last seven years ago and teased a version of the browser with Rusty features last year. What we will see is a new media stack component that’s entirely coded in Rust. Media components are the most likely to execute malicious code when parsing multimedia files.

Those testing Firefox are yet to see a crash or issue in the Rust media component, a spokesMozilla said.

In mid-June, Mozilla released the first versions of Servo, a minimal browser created in Rust code alone.

Oracle asks a Judge to forget Java ruling

Consulting-the-Oracle-JWW-1884Optimistic lawyers working for Oracle have asked a Judge to set aside a landmark jury trial which prevents it screwing shedloads of cash from Google and its Android operating system.

A jury found Google rightfully helped itself to Oracle programming code to create the Android operating system.

The law allows use of copyrighted material in limited circumstances based on the scope of use, to what extent the purpose is commercial, and the effect of the use on the material’s value or market potential.

For six-years, Oracle had been seeking up to $9 billion in damages from Google. A judge already rejected a bid in May by Oracle to get the verdict thrown out. But the software and cloud company hasn’t given up.

It has filed a motion in San Francisco U.S. District Court again asking the same judge, William Alsup, to toss the verdict. It has cited case law suggesting use is not legal if the user “exclusively acquires conspicuous financial rewards” from its use of the copyrighted material. Google, said Oracle, has earned more than $42 billion from Android.

It is unlikely that Judge Alsup would agree. He had noted in rejecting Oracle’s first attempt at scuttling the verdict that the jury could have “reasonably found” that the commercial use also “served non-commercial purposes as well, i.e., as part of a free and open software platform, namely Android.”

Google has consistently argued that the Java code was free and open to all and that its use of the code was transformative. More over Sun Microsystems, which created Java in the 1990s long before it was bought by Oracle, had no problem with Google using the code without a license.

Larry Page, CEO of Google’s parent company Alphabet, told the court said that Google did not pay for free and open things.