Archive for the ‘Open Source’ Category

Any Steam game can now use Valve’s low-latency, DoS-proofed networking

March 15th, 2019
Any Steam game can now use Valve’s low-latency, DoS-proofed networking

Enlarge (credit: massmatt)

Valve is opening up its latency-reducing, DoS-protecting network relay infrastructure to every developer using its Steamworks platform.

A few years ago, large-scale denial-of-service attacks against game servers were making the news and becoming a frustratingly frequent occurrence in online gaming and e-sports. To protect its own games, Valve has for a number of years been working on developing a networking infrastructure that makes the system more resilient against denial-of-service attacks and lower latency to boot, and the company is using this system for both Dota 2 and CS:GO.

At 30 different locations around the world, Valve has established relaying servers that route networking traffic between clients and servers. These relay points provide DoS-resilience in several ways. They're equipped with an aggregate of several terabits of bandwidth, so they can handle a certain amount of flooding in any case. Games can also switch from one relay to another without necessarily interrupting their connection. This switching can be to another relay in the same location or even to another point-of-presence entirely.

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Posted in APIs, development, Gaming & Culture, networking, Open Source, PC gaming, Tech, Valve | Comments (0)

Next Windows release will include DTrace support

March 11th, 2019
The bits in the dashed box are the CDDL parts that are more or less common to every platform offering DTrace.

Enlarge / The bits in the dashed box are the CDDL parts that are more or less common to every platform offering DTrace. (credit: Microsoft)

The forthcoming Windows 10 feature update will bring support for DTrace, the open source debugging and diagnostic tracing tool originally built for Solaris. The port was announced at the Ignite conference last year, and today the instructions, binaries, and source code are now available.

DTrace lets developers and administrators get a detailed look at what their system is doing: they can track kernel function calls, examine properties of running processes, and probe drivers. DTrace commands use the DTrace scripting language, with which users can specify which information is probed, and how to report that information.

After its initial Solaris release, DTrace spread to a wide range of other Unix-like operating systems. Today, it's available for Linux, FreeBSD, NetBSD, and macOS. The original Solaris code was released under Sun's Common Development and Distribution License. Microsoft has ported the CDDL portions of DTrace and built an additional driver for Windows that performs some of the system-monitoring roles. The latter driver will ship with Windows; the CDDL parts are all a separate download.

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Posted in debugging, DTrace, microsoft, Open Source, Tech, Windows | Comments (0)

Microsoft proves the critics right: We’re heading toward a Chrome-only Web

March 11th, 2019
Microsoft proves the critics right: We’re heading toward a Chrome-only Web

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One of the greatest fears when Microsoft announced that it was ditching its EdgeHTML rendering engine and switching to Chromium—the open source engine that powers Google's Chrome, along with a range of others such as Vivaldi, Brave, and Opera—is that Web developers would increasingly take the easy way out and limit their support and testing to Chrome. That would leave Mozilla's Firefox, Apple's Safari, and any other browsers, present or future, out of the fun.

This is, after all, substantially what we saw during Internet Explorer's heyday. Microsoft's browser grew to about 95 percent of the market, and wide swathes of the Web proudly announced that they were "best viewed in Internet Explorer," often to the point of not working at all in any other browser. IE's hegemony presented an enormous challenge for the upstart Firefox browser, which was built to support Web standards rather than Microsoft's particular spin on those standards. Though Internet Explorer was eventually displaced—by Chrome—this arguably would have gone much quicker if developers had been less fixated on Microsoft's browser.

Last week, Microsoft made a major update to the Web version of its Skype client, bringing HD video calling, call recording, and other features already found on the other clients.

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Posted in chrome, codecs, EDGE, Firefox, google, microsoft, Mozilla, Open Source, open standards, Tech, Web, WebRTC | Comments (0)

calc.exe is now open source; there’s surprising depth in its ancient code

March 7th, 2019
calc.exe is now open source; there’s surprising depth in its ancient code

Enlarge (credit: jakeandlindsay)

Microsoft's embrace and adoption of open source software has continued with the surprising decision to publish the code for Windows Calculator and release it on GitHub under the permissive MIT license.

The repository shows Calculator's surprisingly long history. Although it is in some regards one of the most modern Windows applications—it's an early adopter of Fluent Design and has been used to showcase a number of design elements—core parts of the codebase date all the way back to 1995.

The actual calculations are performed by this ancient code. Calculator's mathematics library is built using rational numbers (that is, numbers that can be expressed as the ratio of two integers). Where possible, it preserves the exact values of the numbers it is computing, falling back on Taylor series expansion when an approximation to an irrational number is required. Poking around the change history shows that the very earliest iterations of Windows Calculator, starting in 1989, didn't use the rational arithmetic library, instead using floating point arithmetic and the much greater loss of precision this implies.

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Posted in calculator, GitHub, microsoft, Open Source, Tech | Comments (0)

Google partially backtracks on Chrome changes that would break ad blockers

February 18th, 2019

Google has said that it will revise the proposed changes to Chrome's extension API that would have broken or reduced the functionality of a wide range of ad-blocking extensions, to ensure that the current variety of content-blocking extensions is preserved. The initial plans generated a wide backlash from both the developers and users of those extensions, but Google maintains that "It is not, nor has it ever been, our goal to prevent or break content blocking" [emphasis Google's] and says that it will work to update its proposal to address the capability gaps and pain points.

The advertising company is planning an overhaul of its extension interface to, among other things, increase user privacy, make it harder for extensions to perform malicious actions, and make the browser's performance more consistent. Together, this work is documented as Manifest V3.

One of these changes in particular had grave consequences for ad blockers. Currently, ad blockers make extensive use of an API named webRequest. This API allows extensions to examine every single network request made by a page and either modify it (to, for example, redirect it to a different address or add or remove cookies), block it altogether, or allow it to continue unhindered. This has both a substantial privacy impact (an extension can see and steal your cookies and hence masquerade as you) and, Google said, some performance impact, as every single network request (of which there may be dozens in a single page) has to wait for the extension to perform its analysis.

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Posted in ad blockers, chrome, Chromium, development, google, Open Source, Tech, Web | Comments (0)

With experimental “Never slow mode,” Chrome tries to stop Web devs making it slow

February 6th, 2019
The word SLOW has been painted on a street for the benefit of drivers.

Enlarge / Google wants less of this. (credit: Vegansoldier / Flickr)

Since Chrome's very first release, performance has been one of Google's top priorities. But Google is against a competing force: Web developers. The Web of today is a more-complex, bandwidth-intensive place than it was when Chrome was first released, which means that—although Internet connections and the browser itself are faster than they've ever been—slow pages remain an everyday occurrence.

Google engineers have been developing "Never Slow Mode" in a bid to counter this. Spotted at Chrome Story (via ZDNet), the new mode places tight limitations on Web content in an effort to make its performance more robust and predictable.

The exact design and rationale of Never Slow Mode aren't public—the changelog for the feature mentions a design document but says it's currently Google-internal. But taken together, that design and rationale will ensure that the browser's main thread never has to do too much work and will never get too delayed. They will also ensure that only limited amounts of data are pulled down over the network. This should make the browser more responsive to user input, lighter on the network, and a bit less of a memory hog than it would otherwise be.

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Posted in browsers, chrome, Chromium, google, HTML, Open Source, Tech, Web | Comments (0)

Firefox taking a hard line against noisy video, banning it from autoplaying

February 5th, 2019
No red pandas were harmed in the making of this image, I promise.

Enlarge / No red pandas were harmed in the making of this image, I promise. (credit: Aurich / Getty)

Last year, Chrome introduced changes to try to prevent the persistent nuisance that is pages that automatically play noisy videos. Next month, Firefox will be following suit; Firefox 66, due on March 19, will prevent the automatic playback of any video that contains audio.

Mozilla's plan for Firefox is a great deal simpler, and a great deal stricter, than Chrome's system. In Chrome, Google has a heuristic that tries to distinguish between those sites where autoplaying is generally welcome (Netflix and YouTube, for example) and those where it isn't (those annoying sites that have autoplaying video tucked away in a corner to startle you when it starts making unexpected sounds). Firefox isn't doing anything like that; by default, any site that tries to play video with audio will have that video playback blocked.

Firefox users will be able to grant autoplay audio permission on a site-by-site basis.

Firefox users will be able to grant autoplay audio permission on a site-by-site basis.

Firefox users will be able to override this block on a site-by-site basis, so those sites where autoplay is inoffensive can have it re-enabled. This permission is automatically extended to sites that have previously been granted access to microphones or webcams, so that audio and video communications apps built using WebRTC will work as expected. Firefox will also allow muted video to play back automatically.

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Posted in browsers, development, Firefox, Open Source, Tech, Web | Comments (0)

Unlimited private repositories now available to free GitHub users

January 8th, 2019
Cartoon mascot of a cat in an octopus costume, maybe.

Octocat, the GitHub mascot. (credit: Github)

The significant change to GitHub announced today by CEO Nat Friedman might be the first major change since Microsoft bought the company last year: free accounts can now create private repositories.

GitHub has become the home for a huge number of open-source projects. Some of these are major, widely used projects such as the Node.js server-side JavaScript platform, but many of them are small, personal projects, half-written programs, and experiments. These projects are typically open-source not because their authors have any particular desire to share them with the world but because GitHub gave them no choice: free GitHub accounts could only create public repositories.

As such, GitHub represented a trade-off: you could use GitHub's services for free, but you had to share. If you didn't want to share, you had to pay.

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Posted in git, GitHub, microsoft, Open Source, Tech | Comments (0)

TIL: Firefox has a little-known feature to spare your blushes on the new-tab page

January 7th, 2019
That "Top Sites" section should never contain anything too embarrassing.

Enlarge / That "Top Sites" section should never contain anything too embarrassing.

For many of us, our browsers' new-tab pages are something of a liability. Whichever browser you use, they all follow a fairly similar style: a bunch of boxes linking to the sites that we use and visit regularly. This is great when your regular sites are Ars, Gmail, and Twitter. But all too often, sites of a less salubrious nature find their way onto our new-tab pages, disclosing to the world our dirty habits when nobody's watching. While we can, of course, clean up our new-tab pages by Xing out the buttons for the offending sites, a moment of inattention can all too easily expose our pornographic predilections to the world.

But one browser is working to protect our secrets: Firefox. A redditor spotted (via Techdows) that Firefox contains code to spare your blushes. The browser contains a hard-coded list of adult site domains, and if one of your most-visited sites is one of those domains, it will automatically be hidden from the new-tab page. As long as your porn viewing is reasonably mainstream, you never need to worry about Firefox spilling the beans.

It turns out that this isn't actually a new feature. Much like Chrome's advanced tab management capabilities, it's an old feature that's been newly spotted. Mozilla added the code to the browser about four years ago. It wasn't actually created to prevent potential new-tab page embarrassment; rather, it was to aid Firefox's commercialization efforts. Mozilla experimented with having sponsored content on the new-tab page, allowing companies to pay to have their sites promoted in those buttons. Many advertisers don't relish the thought of having their precious brands juxtaposed with Internet filth, so the Firefox developers added the blacklisting capability to try to prevent porn from appearing alongside sponsored content.

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Posted in browsers, Firefox, Open Source, Privacy, Tech | Comments (0)

Chrome’s getting a dark mode on Windows to match the one for macOS

January 3rd, 2019
Chrome's dark mode.

Enlarge / Chrome's dark mode.

Chrome 73 is going to include support for macOS 10.14's dark mode, with an alternative color scheme for its user interface that cuts the brightness. It's now clear that a Windows version of the same is in development, though it seems to trail the macOS version.

A bug report was spotted by Techdows, and preliminary work has been started to bring Windows its dark mode. Unlike its macOS counterpart, which should track the operating-system mode, the Windows dark mode currently has to be forcibly turned on with a command-line switch. Adding "--force-dark-mode" to the command line of current builds of Chrome 73 makes everything dark.

The dark theme is still unfinished, hence this menu with almost illegible black text on a dark grey background.

The dark theme is still unfinished, hence this menu with almost illegible black text on a dark grey background.

The macOS work has top priority (P1). The Windows work is only P2 (originally P3), surprisingly suggesting that it's less important, enough though Chrome has far more Windows 10 users than it does macOS users. Development of the Windows theme was at least, for a time, hindered by one of the developers not having a Windows laptop to use.

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Posted in browsers, chrome, dark mode, microsoft, Open Source, Tech, Windows | Comments (0)