Big Tech &
Google launches its third major operating system, Fuchsia (3 minute read)
Fuchsia is Google's latest operating system for the Google Home Hub. The OS is only available for the first-generation Home Hub devices. Fuchsia was launched quietly. It wasn't even mentioned at Google's I/O conference last week. Fuchsia is a built-from-scratch operating system that uses a microkernel that was developed in-house. Its primary app-development language is Flutter. The new system isn't expected to change the UI or functionality of the Home Hub. Google may expand Fuchsia to smartphones and laptops by 2023.
Exclusive: Valve is making a Switch-like portable gaming PC (4 minute read)
Valve has been secretly building a Switch-like portable PC to run games on the Steam PC platform via Linux. The latest version of Steam has new hardware-related code for a device named SteamPal. Previous versions of Steam used a different codename, Neptune. Switch-like PC devices have exploded in popularity in recent years. At least one SteamPal prototype is wider than the Nintendo Switch. It will likely be able to dock to larger monitors through a USB Type-C port. Valve has a history of creating, incubating, and canceling projects, so things can change at any time.
Microsoft uses GPT-3 to let you code in natural language (3 minute read)
Microsoft is now using OpenAI's GPT-3 natural language model in its Power Apps service to translate spoken text into code. Power Fx focuses on Power Apps formulas, making the tool similar to the natural language query functions available in Excel, PowerBI, or Google Sheets. Users will still have to understand the logic of the application they are building, but Power Fx will give more people access to advanced app building and also help train people to use low code tools. The new features will go live for users in North America by the end of June.
New ‘Morpheus’ CPU Design Defeats Hundreds of Hackers in DARPA Tests (3 minute read)
A new processor with the codename Morpheus continually rewrites its own architecture, making it impossible for attackers to use side-channel attacks that affect conventional x86 processors. Morpheus was able to fend off 580 experts who spent a collective 13,000 hours trying to hack a system run by it. With Morpheus, even if a hacker finds a vulnerability, the information needed to exploit it disappears 50 milliseconds later. The approach doesn't stop every kind of attack that can be launched against it, but it demonstrates that better protection from side-channel attacks is possible.
Programming, Design & Data Science
immudb (GitHub Repo)
immudb is a database with built-in cryptographic proof and verification. It is immutable, so old records can never be changed or deleted. This means that critical data can be stored without fear of it being changed silently. immudb can handle millions of transactions per second.
Fig (GitHub Repo)
Fig adds apps, shortcuts, and autocomplete to iTerm2 and the native Terminal on macOS. It pops up subcommands, options, and contextually relevant arguments as you type. A GIF demo is available in the repository.
Redditors Aim to 'Free Science' From For-Profit Publishers (3 minute read)
Sci-Hub is a site that gives free access to a huge database of scientific papers that would otherwise be locked behind a paywall. It has been the target of multiple lawsuits. Members of the subreddit DataHoarder have come together to archive the 77TB of data that is on the site. They aim to have approximately 8,500 people torrenting the papers and to create a new uncensorable website. The subreddit community has previously completed a similar mission by archiving 33TB of data from Library Genesis. Much of the science published in these articles is publicly funded.
Heat Listed (19 minute read)
The Chicago Police Department is using an algorithm to predict whether citizens will be involved with a shooting incident. While the system identifies people who might be involved with an incident, it doesn't say on which side the citizen might be involved. This resulted in a citizen with no record of violence being continually contacted by the police, which caused the person to be targeted twice by violent crime. The system uses data from police stops and arrests to make educated guesses about what might happen. Using this kind of system could put entire populations at risk of over-policing.