Category Archives: Computers, Science & Technology

MAME Goes Open Source!

Good news for old time gamers!

In a big shift, MAME is going open source

ExtremeTech – By: Jamie Lendino – “In a big shift, MAME is going open source MAME, the Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator and darling of fanatical retro arcade gamers, is going open source for the first time in its 18-year history. MAMEdev.org, the non-profit group behind the emulator’s continuing development, announced the move in a surprise tweet Thursday.

This has apparently confused some around the Internet, but it’s actually a simple and important distinction. For as long as I can remember, the project has always made the source code available under a modified BSD license that prohibited commercial applications, and it’s already up on GitHub for a while. But now it’s official that anyone can contribute to or modify the code base.

The current version of MAME, 1.61, supports several thousand classic arcade games from the late 1970s through modern times. It’s available in various versions for Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms. The main goal of the project has always been the preservation and reference of the inner workings of emulated arcade machines in case the last known machine of a particular title stops working and would otherwise disappear forever.

‘Of course, in order to preserve the games and demonstrate that the emulated behavior matches the original, you must also be able to actually play the games. This is considered a nice side effect, and is not MAME’s primary focus,’ the developers say on their site.

MAME engineer Miodrag Milanovic told Gamasutra the BSD license was put in place not only to prohibit reselling it with ROMs or other ‘misuse,’ but to also prevent museums that charged entry fees from showing MAME in exhibits. ‘There was intention to do this for years,’ Milanovic said. ‘Our aim is to help legal license owners in distributing their games based on MAME platform, and to make MAME become a learning tool for developers working on development boards.’

ExtremeTech has covered MAME over the years, including in a 2004 print book from Wiley titled Project Arcade: Build Your Own Arcade Machine, and in a retro gaming blowout I wrote in 2010 that I’ve been meaning to rewrite and update for a while now. I’ve used MAME pretty much since its release in 1997; as fans of the project know, as MAME expanded and became more accurate, you had to download different (some say improved and more accurate) ROM images in order to play the same games as before.

Speaking of which, the latest shift to pure open source doesn’t mean MAME developers will begin packaging ROMs with the code, of course. The ROMs themselves remain under copyright from all of their respective owners. The MAME project is also fully integrated with MESS, the Multi-Emulator Super System. All of this reminds me, it’s probably time to break out the X-Arcade TankStick Pro and get back to work on improving my Missile Command and Kung-Fu Master skills.”

Amazon Echo Allows Re-Ordering From Amazon

Amazon EchoI am waiting for my Echo to ship from Amazon. My wife got it for me last Christmas… but, no ship date yet! It looks like it will be fun!

Amazon Echo is finally becoming your shopping assistant

SlashGear – By: Chris Davies – “Back when Amazon launched its Echo, a digital personal assistant squeezed inside a cylindrical speaker, the obvious question was “why can’t I shop?” Now, roughly six months into its slowly-staged roll out, Echo is finally getting the ability to do voice-controlled shopping, with a new firmware update pushed out today adding support for re-ordering items you’ve previously purchased, all using nothing more than spoken commands.

In fact, it’s as straightforward as saying ‘Alexa,’ – or whatever wake command you’re using – “reorder [item].”

Amazon goes hunting through your previous orders through the account Echo is registered to, and will tell you the current price and ask if you want to re-order it. You’ll need to have a Prime subscription first, however, and Echo can only order things eligible for Prime shipping.

Although Amazon is positioning the functionality as only for items you’ve previously bought, in actual fact there’s at least limited support for ordering new things.

For instance, if you ask for something that Echo can’t find in your recent order history, it will automatically make a suggestion based on its most recommended alternative.

‘I didn’t find that in your order history, but Amazon’s Choice for [item] is [product name]. The order total is $[price]. Should I order it?’

Should no Choice-recommended item be available, and no previous order be found, Amazon will simply add the item to your shopping list for review when you’re next using a more traditional device with a browser.

If you make a mistake, meanwhile, the instruction “Alexa, cancel order” should pull the plug on the last thing you purchased.

The new support is an obvious addition to Echo, which uses voice-recognition and a sensitive microphone array to respond and react to spoken commands. So far, that’s been used to order up music streams and answer general knowledge questions, but it was really only a matter of time before Amazon weighed in with its most obvious method to monetize the $199.99 speaker.

It’s another example of Amazon’s recent push to add more straightforward ordering abilities to a broader range of devices. Last month, for instance, the retail behemoth added Apple Watch support, supporting voice search and purchasing from the wrist.”

Windows 10 – Different Flavors For Different Folks

Which one will YOU use?

Windows 10 will come in many flavors and be free for most

Fox News – By: Brooke Crothers – “Windows 10 will come in six core editions and arrive this summer, Microsoft said on Wednesday.

In announcing the new editions, the software giant reiterated that the full versions of Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Pro will be free for ‘qualifying’ Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 devices that upgrade in the first year after launch.

Windows 10 for the PC is the follow-on to the widely-unloved Windows 8.1, which introduced a hybrid operating system model, running a ‘modern’ touch interface side by side with a more traditional mouse-and-keyboard desktop.

Windows 10 Mobile, for smartphone and tablets, will also be offered as a free upgrade for Windows Phone 8.1, Microsoft said.

Window 10 editions include:

Windows 10 Home: This is the desktop edition for consumers. It will include the new Edge browser, a so-called ‘Continuum’ tablet-mode for touch devices, and Windows Hello biometric authentication, which uses your face, iris, or fingerprint to unlock devices. It will also bring the Cortana virtual assistant, similar to Apple’s Siri, to the Windows desktop. Cortana is already available on Windows Phone. Universal Windows apps like Photos, Maps, Mail, Calendar, Music and Video will also be included.

Microsoft will also bring Xbox gaming to Windows 10, which will give gamers access to the Xbox Live gaming community.

Windows 10 Pro: This is similar to Windows 10 Home but adds features for small businesses. These features include the new Windows Update for Business, which Microsoft says can rein in management costs, provides controls over update deployment, and offers faster access to security updates.

Windows 10 Mobile: This is designed for smaller, mobile, touch-centric devices like smartphones and small tablets. Windows 10 Mobile will allow some new devices to take advantage of Continuum for phones “so people can use their phone like a PC when connected to a larger screen,” Microsoft said. This also includes universal Windows apps.

Other editions are Windows 10 Enterprise for medium and large sized businesses, Windows 10 Education for school staff, administrators, teachers and students, and Windows 10 Mobile Enterprise for business customers on smartphones and small tablets.

There will also be versions of Windows 10 Enterprise and Windows 10 Mobile Enterprise for industry devices like ATMs, retail point of sale, handheld terminals, and industrial robotics, Microsoft said. There is also a Windows 10 IoT (‘Internet of Things’) Core for small footprint, low cost devices like gateways.

Other changes coming to Windows 10 to keep in mind:

–Windows 10 will unify Windows across all Windows devices including PCs, phones, Xbox One, and the new HoloLens smart glasses.

–New Desktop: Microsoft is designing Windows 10 so there is a less jarring transition (if the user so chooses) between the traditional desktop and the touch-friendly (referred to sometimes as the “Modern” interface). This includes changes to the Start menu and changes to allow Modern apps to run within Windows on the desktop.

–Touch-friendly Universal Office apps will be coming to Windows, too. Early this year, Microsoft announced the upcoming availability of Universal Office apps for Windows 10, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and OneNote that can be installed on PCs, tablets and phones.”

Windows 10 Will Have Candy Crush Pre-Installed!

Candy CrushOh, you have GOT to be kidding?! Microsoft has sold it’s soul!

Windows 10 will ship with Candy Crush Saga preinstalled

PC World – By: Hayden Dingman – “Remember Chip’s Challenge? Jezzball? FreeCell? Minesweeper?

Well with Windows 10, Microsoft has a game it’s betting you’ll love just as much as those old classics: Candy Crush Saga. Wait, did I— That can’t be right. Hold on, I think there must be some sort of mistake here…

Nope. Candy Crush Saga, the game that’s enslaved millions of people’s attention on phones, will come pre-installed on Windows 10, regardless of whether you upgrade or do a clean install. From Microsoft’s official announcement:

‘Solitaire. Hearts. Minesweeper. These are games that have been played millions of times over the years in Windows. And they are coming back in Windows 10…In addition to these games, we’re also working with partners to bring some of their great games to Windows 10 too. And we’re excited to be able to announce today that King will bring their game, Candy Crush Saga, to Windows 10. Candy Crush Saga will be automatically installed for customers that upgrade to or download Windows 10 during the launch!’

It’s that exclamation point at the end that really gets me. ‘Are you not entertained?’ Microsoft asks, holding a gun to your head. ‘You wanted DirectX 12? Well you can have DirectX 12, as soon as you play Candy Crush Saga. Look how good Candy Crush Saga looks running on DirectX 12, you ungrateful little—’

Ahem.

Listen, I’m sure there will be some people excited by this news. Candy Crush Saga has millions of users for a reason, and that reason is that it exploits your easily-exploitable human psychology and tricks you into wanting to play it. (And buy those in-app purchases, of course.) Nevertheless, people like it! And that’s good for Microsoft!

But it’s the ‘pre-installed’ bit that sticks in my craw. It’s a staggering reversal from Windows 8, where even first-party apps like Solitaire and Minesweeper were banished to the Windows Store—the correct move, in 2015.

For anyone who doesn’t want to play Candy Crush Saga, this is bloatware plain and simple. Third-party bloatware. To have it included in clean installs of Windows 10 because of, what, a revenue-sharing deal? Disgusting. OEMs already stick enough garbage on computers without Microsoft aiding them at the operating system level.

We’ll update you as soon as we hear what other fun surprises Microsoft is embedding in Windows 10. If we’re lucky, maybe each copy of Windows 10 will also ship with Superfish.”

The Google Cars Are Coming!

Google CarsSo, keep your eyes open this summer. The Google Cars are coming!

Green lights for our self-driving vehicle prototypes

The Official Google Blog – “When we started designing the world’s first fully self-driving vehicle, our goal was a vehicle that could shoulder the entire burden of driving. Vehicles that can take anyone from A to B at the push of a button could transform mobility for millions of people, whether by reducing the 94 percent of accidents caused by human error (PDF), reclaiming the billions of hours wasted in traffic, or bringing everyday destinations and new opportunities within reach of those who might otherwise be excluded by their inability to drive a car.

Now we’re announcing the next step for our project: this summer, a few of the prototype vehicles we’ve created will leave the test track and hit the familiar roads of Mountain View, Calif., with our safety drivers aboard.

We’ve been running the vehicles through rigorous testing at our test facilities, and ensuring our software and sensors work as they’re supposed to on this new vehicle. The new prototypes will drive with the same software that our existing fleet of self-driving Lexus RX450h SUVs uses. That fleet has logged nearly a million autonomous miles on the roads since we started the project, and recently has been self-driving about 10,000 miles a week. So the new prototypes already have lots of experience to draw on—in fact, it’s the equivalent of about 75 years of typical American adult driving experience.

Each prototype’s speed is capped at a neighborhood-friendly 25mph, and during this next phase of our project we’ll have safety drivers aboard with a removable steering wheel, accelerator pedal, and brake pedal that allow them to take over driving if needed. We’re looking forward to learning how the community perceives and interacts with the vehicles, and to uncovering challenges that are unique to a fully self-driving vehicle—e.g., where it should stop if it can’t stop at its exact destination due to construction or congestion. In the coming years, we’d like to run small pilot programs with our prototypes to learn what people would like to do with vehicles like this. If you’d like to follow updates about the project and share your thoughts, please join us on our Google+ page. See you on the road!”

More Info on the New Edge Browser Released!

It will be SO good to get rid of Internet Explorer!

All about Edge: Extensions, high performance asm.js, and no more ActiveX

Ars Technica – By: Peter Bright – “Microsoft has spent the past few days talking about the new browser formerly known as Project Spartan: what it will do, what it won’t do, and what it won’t do yet but will do soon.

We already knew that Microsoft Edge would remove much of the legacy technology that’s found in Internet Explorer. Microsoft has given perhaps the fullest rundown of what’s not in Edge this week. The two traditional ways of extending Internet Explorer, ActiveX and Browser Helper Objects, are both gone. This means no plugins, no toolbars, no Java, no Silverlight. It doesn’t, however, mean no Flash; that’s a built-in capability. PDF rendering is also built-in.

In their place are Chrome-like extensions built in HTML and JavaScript. However, these aren’t coming immediately. Although Microsoft has demonstrated the popular Reddit Enhancement Suite running in Edge with (the company says) minimal changes from its Chrome version, the initial release of Edge won’t support these extensions. There’s no specific timeline on when they’ll be added.

The new extensibility support will be quite broad. Internet Explorer currently has lots of extension points for developers; they can add, for example, custom download managers, custom protocol handlers, context menu entries, sidebars, and security filters. All of these and more will be handled by the new extensibility system when it’s available.

The company has also said that it has a ‘long-term goal’ of bringing extension support to its mobile browser, though initial support will be for PC only. More specifically, it will be for Windows 10 only. There are ‘no plans’ to make the browser (or its core engine) open source, and doing so would apparently come at ‘massive cost.’

Unlike Internet Explorer, Edge won’t try to mimic older browsers in order to work around page bugs and glitches. This means that document modes and layout quirks are both gone. Edge will always be at the cutting edge, offering Microsoft’s newest take on Web standards. This commitment to standards also means that various non-standard technologies are being removed: Edge won’t support VML vector graphics, VBScript scripts, DirectX filters and transitions, or non-standard scripting techniques for responding to events or accessing CSS styling.

In Edge, Microsoft is also committing to not adding new proprietary stuff in the future. Significantly, this means that it’s no longer going to use the vendor prefix system for providing early access to features that are still experimental or in the process of being standardized. Instead, developers will have to enable experimental features using configuration flags. Microsoft has also proposed development of a system in which browser developers could, in a limited way, enable trial usage of experimental features so that new capabilities can be tested ‘in the wild,’ but in such a way that doesn’t allow experimental or non-standard features to become entrenched.

Joining extensions in the ‘planned for some time after the Windows 10 release’ timeframe are support for the Object RTC specification, used to build realtime voice and video communications in the browser; Pointer Lock, used to constrain pointer movement (important for gaming); and a greater variety of Cortana scenarios.

As for a final feature that should make it in the first version, Microsoft announced back in February that it was investigating adding support for asm.js, the high performance JavaScript subset, to its Chakra JavaScript engine. The Edge build released in Windows 10 build 10074 last week includes experimental asm.js support (though it has to be enabled manually), and some benchmark scores published by Microsoft suggest that it can provide some huge performance boosts.

In a WebGL benchmark using the Unity 3D engine, Edge without asm.js support is about 50 percent faster than Internet Explorer 11. Turn on the asm.js feature, and performance doubles, making it three times faster than the old browser. Physics simulations and artificial intelligence showed the biggest gains.

All told, Edge is shaping up to be a very different browser from Internet Explorer 11. Microsoft says that in total, some 220,000 lines of code, and 300 old APIs, have been removed from Edge. 300,000 new lines of code have been added, with more than 4,200 fixes made to improve Edge’s interoperability and compatibility with other browsers. Soon the only thing it’ll have in common with its ancestral predecessor will be its blue ‘e’ icon.”

Windows 10 – The Final Version of Windows?

They are betting the farm on Windows 10!

Windows 10 will be final version of Windows

Telegraph.co.uk – By: Rhiannon Williams – “Windows 10 will be the last major Windows release, with all subsequent updates issued as regular instalments, Microsoft has confirmed.

Developer Jerry Nixon told a crowd at Microsoft’s Ignite conference that ‘Right now we’re releasing Windows 10, and because Windows 10 is the last version of Windows, we’re all still working on Windows 10′.

The company confirmed Mr Nixon’s comments in a statement issued to the Verge, emphasising there would continue to be a ‘long future of Windows innovations’.

‘Recent comments at Ignite about Windows 10 are reflective of the way Windows will be delivered as a service bringing new innovations and updates in an ongoing manner, with continuous value for our consumer and business customers,’ a spokesperson said.

The company’s comments suggest Windows 10 will receive small free incremental updates in the vein of Apple’s Mac OS X.

The newest version of Microsoft’s operating system is due for release around the end of July, according to chip maker AMD. Though designed to be used universally across all Windows platforms, including HoloLens and Xbox, the PC version will be the first made available, while Windows Phones users will have to wait.

New feature Continuum has been designed so individuals using Windows 10 with a mouse and keyboard will see the new system in classic desktop mode, but switching to a tablet or smartphone will transform it into touchscreen mode.”

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