Archive for the ‘operating systems’ Category

Rumor: Internet Explorer 10 Metro to Run Flash After All

The consumer preview of Windows 8 with no Flash support in IE 10 Metro.

Microsoft seems to have changed its mind about Adobe Flash and will include a bundled version of Flash with its upcoming Metro-style Internet Explorer 10 web browser. Previously Microsoft announced that the Metro version of IE 10 would run without plugins like Adobe Flash or even Microsoft’s own Silverlight.

The rumor of an about-face on Flash comes from leaked Windows 8 screenshots that have turned up on rumor sites WinUnleaked and WithinWindows. Microsoft declined to answer Webmonkey’s questions for this post, noting only that “Microsoft does not comment on rumors and speculation.”

Rumors and speculation though the conclusions may be, the screenshots tell the story and the story is simple: The latest developer builds include support for Flash in Metro IE 10.

To get around the “no plugins” policy for IE 10 Metro, Microsoft appears to have included the Flash runtime in the actual browser, meaning that it’s not technically a plugin. But even with the new plugin that’s not a plugin, don’t expect Flash to work everywhere. Instead, Metro IE 10′s Flash support looks more like a last-ditch effort to make sure that big-name legacy sites with popular content will work in the Metro version of IE 10.

Flash in Metro isn’t going to work everywhere, though. In fact, Microsoft will maintain a white-list of sites that can access the Flash player in Metro. Microsoft’s previously published Internet Explorer Compatibility View lists dozens of sites including Hulu, CNN, Amazon, Adobe Labs and other popular sites with older, Flash video. (Wired is on that list as well.)

It’s unclear how much of the leaked info represents a change in Microsoft’s policy toward HTML5 video and web standards. Historically, Microsoft has gone to great lengths to maintain backward compatibility and it may be that dropping Flash entirely was simply too much for the company to stomach all at once. Also bear in mind that these leaked screenshots are of early builds and things may well change considerably before the final version of Windows 8 is released.

Relaunch Your OS Nostalgia With ‘The Restart Page’

Are you sure you want to restart?

The Restart Page is a web-based recreation of all the startup screens you’ve ever been forced to sit through, twiddling your thumbs while you waited for the operating system to launch. The site is nothing more than the restart sounds and splash screens for a dozen or so operating systems, but it’s much more than that as well — an exercise in operating system nostalgia, if you will.

If you’d like to experience the joys of restarting OS 2, classic Mac OS, Windows 1 or even Amiga Workbench, head on over to The Restart Page (which naturally will load and then abruptly reload). The Restart Page was created and designed by Soon In Tokyo and built by the developers at Rehab Studio.

If you journey through the various restarts in chronological order one thing that jumps out is how much less information newer startup screens offer — a simple progress bar or spinner has replaced the detailed messages and loading icons found in older systems. In many cases holding down a key at startup will display a more detailed screen, but it’s almost never the default these days.) While we’ve no desire to return to the good (bad?) old days there is something about the slow march of system extension icons across the Mac OS 8 splash screen that’s oddly satisfying, even when it’s simulated.

Mozilla Eyes Mobile OS Landscape With New Boot to Gecko Project

Mozilla has announced a new experimental project called Boot to Gecko (B2G) with the aim of developing an operating system that emphasizes standards-based Web technologies. The initial focus will be on delivering a software environment for handheld devices such as smartphones.

The current mobile landscape is heavily fragmented by the lack of interoperability between each of the siloed platforms. Mozilla says that B2G is motivated by a desire to demonstrate that the standards-based open Web has the potential to be a competitive alternative to the existing single-vendor application development stacks offered by the dominant mobile operating systems.

The project is still at the earliest stages of planning. Mozilla has some ideas about how it wants to proceed, but seemingly few concrete decisions have been made about where to start and what existing technologies to use. The project was announced now despite the lack of clarity so that contributors will be able to participate in the planning process.

Mozilla also intends to publish the source code as it is developed rather than waiting until it can release a mature product. These characteristics could make the development process a lot more open and inclusive than the practices that Google uses for its Android operating system.

Mozilla’s current tentative plan is to adopt a slim layer of existing code from the lower levels of the Android operating system for hardware enablement purposes and then build a completely custom user interface and application stack around Gecko, the Firefox HTML rendering engine. Android was chosen because it will theoretically offer compatibility with existing hardware, but Mozilla ultimately intends to use “as little of Android as possible.” It will not use Android’s Java-based environment and it will not support programming in native code.

A foundational goal of the B2G project is to explore and remedy areas where current Web standards are insufficient for building modern mobile applications. Instead of haphazardly grafting vendor-specific markup or extensions into the application runtime, Mozilla will seek to propose new standards to address the challenges that emerge during development. It wants the applications developed for B2G to eventually be able to run normally in any conventional standards-compliant Web browser (yes, that presumably rules out XUL).

Building an operating system seems like an excessive approach to fulfilling the stated goals of the B2G project. It would be simpler and much more straightforward to focus on building a standalone Web application runtime—like an open alternative to Adobe AIR—rather than building a complete operating system from the bottom up.

There are a lot of fundamental issues that make developing software with Web technologies less practical than using conventional user interface toolkits. HTML’s document-centric approach to layout and the lack of standardized mechanisms for binding programmatic data models to user interface views pose many challenges. It’s not really clear if Mozilla is interested in addressing those issues or will continue to leave that as an exercise for third-party JavaScript toolkits.

It seems like the areas where Mozilla is interested in pursuing new standards are basic platform integration and access to hardware. It wants to have uniform and predictable ways for Web applications to access a platform’s contact and messaging capabilities, geolocation functionality, cameras, and dialer.

Of course, Mozilla is also interested in tackling some the issues relating to security and privilege management that are implied by giving Web applications such deep access to underlying platform components. Those areas are, perhaps, where building the whole operating system becomes advantageous.

There are a number of existing products and open source software projects like Titanium, PhoneGap, Webian, Chrome OS, and webOS that cover some of the same ground. None, however, really have the same scope and focus as B2G. It’s possible that there are some opportunities for collaboration.

A code repository is hosted on GitHub, but doesn’t have anything yet besides a README file. For some additional information about the project (there aren’t many details yet) you can refer to the B2G wiki page.

This article originally appeared on Ars Technica, Wired’s sister site for in-depth technology news.

File Under: Humor, operating systems

20 Questions for Fake Linus Torvalds

There’s a particular badge of honor you earn in web culture when you gain a high-profile impostor — Fake Steve Jobs comes immediately to mind.

But Linus Torvalds, creator of the Linux kernel and a bona fide hero within the free software community, is so beloved, he’s gained four pretenders.

For the last month, four Fake Linuses have emerged, each one posting 140-character bursts of humor and insight to Twitter and Indenti.ca, a free software alternative to Twitter that’s gained some traction among open source devotees.

All four pranksters are voiced by high-profile individuals within the Linux community, but their real identities have been kept secret by the Linux Foundation. The nonprofit advocacy group is running a contest between the four Fake Linuses. The one who does the best (and funniest) impersonation of Linus will be unmasked publicly and given an award at LinuxCon, which begins Sept. 21 in Portland, Oregon.

Webmonkey scored an exclusive interview with one of the Fake Linuses (FLT#2, we’re told). We communicated over e-mail to ensure the poser’s identity would be kept under wraps.

The real Torvalds, who has remained suspiciously mum about the whole thing, has a reputation for being both genial and bristly in his internet communications — he once famously compared OpenBSD developers to “a bunch of masturbating monkeys.”

Thankfully, we found his doppelganger to be just as audacious.

Webmonkey: You’ve been active on the web since its inception, but you’re new to Twitter. What’s more fulfilling, tweeting or posting to Usenet?

Fake Linus Torvalds #2: That’s hard to say. Usenet attracts a very specific group of people, so my flames hit their targets more directly. On the other hand, Twitter is a larger and more varied group, which means I get more flames from all sorts of folks.

Webmonkey: Have you ever asked for help with the Linux kernel on Twitter? If so, what was the response like?

FLT: Me? Need help with the Linux kernel?? Pfftt…

Webmonkey: As a web service, Twitter is notoriously flaky. Any ideas for improving its stability?

FLT: You mean, besides making it open source? Seriously, with so many people depending on Twitter to get up-to-the-second updates on what their friends are eating and which games they’re playing on company time, we need to get an open source development community involved to make it stable and, um, even geekier.

Webmonkey: What other social networks are you on?

FLT: Identi.ca, of course, because that’s where The True Believers hang out. But, I’m not all that “social,” if you haven’t noticed. I prefer to hang out on the kernel mailing list.

Webmonkey: Do you also only have those accounts because the Linux Foundation makes you?

FLT: Nobody makes me do anything. That’s what so great about this job. I spend many days simply trying to learn Napoleon Dynamite’s dance moves. If [Linux Foundation director] Jim Zemlin weren’t always bragging about his moves, I wouldn’t spend so much time on it.

Webmonkey: Which feels more sacrilegious, Twitter on Android or Identi.ca on the iPhone?

FLT: Hands down: Identi.ca on the iPhone is more sacrilegious. Look at it like this: If you’re using Identi.ca, then you’re open-source-minded and tech-savvy enough to know better. The only reason you bought that iPhone was to look cool.

Webmonkey: How difficult is it to compress a complex insult into a 140-character tweet and still assure yourself OpenBSD developers will be able to understand it?

FLT: The BSD crowd generally has trouble reading anything longer than 140 characters, so tweets work quite well for the purpose of insulting them.

Webmonkey: How do you feel about Richard Stallman’s campaign to have Twitter renamed GNU/Twitter?

FLT: Well, is it any surprise, really? He failed to get Linux renamed as GNU, so now he’s trying for Twitter. If that fails, he’ll go after Apple next. Just keep working his way down the food chain. Maybe someday he’ll realize no sane person wants to name their product after a wildebeest.

Webmonkey: What’s up with that guy who has @linus?

FLT: It’s rather charming. It got a little creepy, though, when I caught him going through the garbage cans behind my house. Funny thing is: A lot of people actually thought he WAS me on Twitter. So now I’m trying to be less predictable: I’ve even thrown a few bugs into Linux, just to keep things fast and loose. The bizarre thing is that Microsoft copied them! Those guys…

Webmonkey: On average, how many direct messages does @jzemlin send you each day?

FLT: These days, I have no idea. I had to block him once I started receiving pointless messages every 10 minutes. “So, whatcha thinking about?” “Just heard this song and I thought of you.” “How come you haven’t responded to my messages?” Yeah, pretty weird.

Webmonkey: What was the message that drove you to finally block him?

FLT: I think the tipping point came when he sent me this DM: “Did you know that ‘Linus’ means ‘love’ in Swahili?” It was then that I realized: this bromance had come to an end. I considered a restraining order, but then I remembered that he cuts my paycheck.

Webmonkey: Why can’t the KDE people just give it up, already?

FLT: I can’t venture to guess. But, legend has it that Matthias Ettrich started KDE because his girlfriend could not use the desktop applications of the time. Who’s he kidding? Matthias knows he’s never had a girlfriend.

Webmonkey: As the story goes, you met your wife over e-mail. Do you think there’s any opportunity for people to find love on Identi.ca or Twitter?

FLT: Thanks to the internet, and services like Identi.ca and Twitter, people can search for love 24/7, without ever leaving their parents’ basement.

Webmonkey: About a month ago, Novafora, the company that acquired Transmeta, ceased operations. As a former Transmeta employee, how do you feel about this — in 140 characters or less?

FLT: Sad to see Novafora and Transmeta disappear, but in Silicon Valley, such is life. Companies come and companies go. Only Linux is forever.

Webmonkey: How do you say “tweet” in Finnish?

FLT: Tyhjiöfluoresenssinäyttö. OK, not really. But all Finnish looks the same, doesn’t it?

Webmonkey: Do Fins tweet much?

FLT: Fins love to tweet! How else can they tell their friends about the 20-pound perch they caught ice fishing, without having to set down their beer or turn down the volume on the heavy metal?

Webmonkey: Does Tux tweet?

FLT: It’s hard to tweet when you have flippers instead of fingers.

Webmonkey: You’ve been gravely injured, and you only have the energy for one status update with which to cry for help. Twitter or Indenti.ca?

FLT: I’d cry for help on my Identi.ca account, which automatically feeds to Facebook and Twitter. Triple my chances for help! Microsoft, don’t get any ideas. You come after me, you’ve got to take the whole Linux community down, too. Ain’t gonna happen, baby!

Webmonkey: Can we have your #followfriday list?

FLT: @linuxfoundation, @linuxdotcom, @patricknorton, @donttrythis, @snackfight, @darthvader.

Disclaimer: Fake Linus Torvalds #2 is not the real Linus Torvalds, and these statements do not reflect the opinions of Linus Torvalds or the Linux Foundation. The identities of all four Fake Linus Torvalds will be revealed on Sep. 21 at LinuxCon. You can vote for your favorite FLT — the one with the most votes will receive the coveted Silver Penguin cocktail shaker at LinuxCon.

The Latest Wired.com Logfile Lowdown

Every time we dig through our server logs, we uncover some interesting user data. Today, we dove a little deeper than usual, and as a result, our mining session turned up some particularly unique discoveries. I’ve assembled the most interesting data points below.

Note: These results are for all of Wired.com — stories, blogs, photo galleries, magazine content and the How-To Wiki. Product Reviews and Webmonkey are reported separately, but I’ve included the relevant data points for Webmonkey wherever there’s something interesting to point out.

Browsers:

  • Almost half of Wired.com’s readers are Firefox users. Mozilla’s open-source browser accounts for just over 48% of our web traffic. That’s far more than any other browser. Webmonkey’s audience skews a little higher, at around 55% using Firefox.
  • Firefox 3, which is over a year old, is the most popular browser among Wired.com readers by a very wide margin. Firefox 3.5, which was released three weeks ago, doesn’t show up until #23 in our rankings. We have more Chrome users than Firefox 3.5 users.
  • By contrast, just over a third of our readers with Safari are running the most recent version, and two thirds of our readers with Chrome have 2.0, the most recent version.
  • Internet Explorer 7 is the most popular version of Microsoft’s browser we see. The dreaded IE6 is the next most popular, then IE 8 in third. The people we have the most pity for are the poor souls running IE6 for AOL (#34 on the list).
  • The only version of Opera that shows up in our top 50 is Opera 10. Go early adopters!
  • Firefox 1.0 shows up at the bottom of the list, at #50.
  • The oldest browser within the top 50 is Netscape 7.0, which came out in 2002. Please, sir or madam, upgrade.

Operating Systems:

Not too many surprises here. Windows XP is number one, followed by Vista, then Mac OS X. Linux is fourth, followed by Windows 7.

Yes, Wired.com sees more Linux users than Windows 7 users. It’s the same on Webmonkey. Be fair — Windows 7 isn’t even out yet.

And speaking of Be, there’s some funky old junk out there surfing the tubes! This is the bottom bracket in our breakdown of top 30 operating systems:

22. OS/2

23. AIX

24. HP-UX

25. BeOS

26. Amiga OS

27. IRIX

28. Windows 9x/NT

29. VMS

30. OSF/1

Kudos to the BeOS holdouts — does NetPositive have JavaScript yet? And Huzzahs to the Amiga faithful! For the uninitiated, “Huzzah” is what they say at renaissance faires when you tip the beer wench. If you had an Amiga, you’d know that.

But, wow… IRIX? VMS? Windows NT? Anyone who wants to lay claim to those, please do so in the comments.