The Rise and Fall of Visual Basic

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Technology writer Matthew MacDonald began writing QuickBASIC code back in 1988 on the DOS operating system, sharing it on a 3.5-inch floppy disk. “I still remember writing code in white text on its cheery blue background…”

He tells his readers on Medium that “I have a confession to make. Before I became a respectable developer working with modern curly-bracket languages like C# and Java (and that hot mess of a platform we call JavaScript), I was a dedicated fan of the wildly popular misfit Visual Basic…”

At the same time that Microsoft released Windows 3.0 — the first version that was truly successful — they also launched Visual Basic 1.0. Here was something entirely new. You could create buttons for your programs by drawing them on the surface of a window, like it was some kind of art canvas. To make a button do something, all you had to do was double-click it in the design environment and write some code. And you didn’t use cryptic C++ code, with piles of classes, complex memory management, and obscure calls into the Windows API. Instead, you wrote friendly-looking VB code, like a civilized person.

All the graphical pizzazz was impressive, but the real secret to VB’s success was its practicality. There was simply no other tool that a developer could use to sketch out a complete user interface and get coding as quickly as VB… By the release of VB 6 — the last version of classic Visual Basic — it was estimated that there were ten times more coders writing in VB than in the unforgiving C++ language. And they weren’t just mocking up toy applications. Visual Basic wormed its way into company offices and even onto the web through ASP (Active Server Pages), another monstrously popular technology. Now you could create web pages that talked to VB components, called databases, and wrote HTML on the fly…

Today, Visual Basic is in a strange position. It has roughly 0% of the mindshare among professional developers — it doesn’t even chart in professional developer surveys or show up in GitHub repositories. However, it’s still out there in the wild, holding Office macros together, powering old Access databases and ancient ASP web pages, and attracting .NET newcomers. The TIOBE index, which attempts to gauge language popularity by looking at search results, still ranks VB in the top five most talked-about languages. But it seems that the momentum has shifted for the last time. In 2017, Microsoft announced that it would begin adding new language features to C# that might never appear in Visual Basic. The change doesn’t return VB to ugly duckling status, but it does take away some of its .NET status….

Visual Basic has been threatened before. But this time feels different. It seems like the sun is finally setting on one of the world’s most popular programming languages. Even if it’s true, Visual Basic won’t disappear for decades. Instead, it will become another legacy product, an overlooked tool without a passion or a future.

He remembers that the last versions of Visual Basic even supported object-oriented programming with interfaces, polymorphism, and class libraries, but argues that to create .NET, Microsoft “had to throw away almost all of classic VB.”

For example, “Classic VB programmers had to change the way they counted array elements. No longer could they start at 1, like ordinary people. Now they had to start at 0, like official programmers.”

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Python Passes C++ on TIOBE Index, Predicted To Pass C and Java

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Python reached another new all-time high on the TIOBE index, now representing 8.5% of the results for the search query +”<language> programming” on the top 25 search engines. Python overtook C++ this month for the #3 spot, now placing behind only Java (#1) and C (#2).

That’s prompted TIOBE to make a bold prediction:

If Python can keep this pace, it will probably replace C and Java in 3 to 4 years time, thus becoming the most popular programming language of the world.

The main reason for this is that software engineering is booming. It attracts lots of newcomers to the field. Java’s way of programming is too verbose for beginners. In order to fully understand and run a simple program such as “hello world” in Java you need to have knowledge of classes, static methods and packages. In C this is a bit easier, but then you will be hit in the face with explicit memory management. In Python this is just a one-liner. Enough said.

InfoWorld reports:

Also on the rise in the June Tiobe index, Apple’s Swift language is ranked 11th, with a rating of 1.419 percent. Swift was ranked 15th at this time last year and 18th last month, while its predecessor Objective-C language ranked 12th this month with a rating of 1.391. Tiobe expects Objective-C to drop out of the top 20 within two years.

InfoWorld also notes that Python is already #1 in the Pypl index, which analyes how often language tutorials are searched for on Google. On that list, Python is followed by Java, JavaScript, C#, PHP, and then C/C++.

Python was also TIOBE’s fastest-rising language in 2018 — though in 2017 that honor went to C, and in 2015 to Java…

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Ask Slashdot: Should All OSs Ship With a Programming Language Built In?

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dryriver writes: If anybody remembers the good old Commodore 64, one thing stood out about this once popular 8-bit computer — as soon as you turned it on, you could type in BASIC (Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) and run it. You didn’t have to install a programming language, an IDE and all that jazz. You could simply start punching code in, and the C64 would execute it. Now that we live in a time where coding is even more important and bankable than it was back in the 1980s, shouldn’t operating systems like Windows 10 or Android also come with precisely this kind of feature? An easy-to-learn programming language like the old BASIC that greets you right after you boot up the computer, and gives you unfettered access to all of the computer’s hardware and capabilities, just like was possible on the C64 decades ago? Everybody talks about “getting more people to learn coding” these days. Well, why not go the old C64 route and have modern OSs boot you straight into a usable, yet powerful, coding environment? Why shouldn’t my Android phone or tablet come out of its box with a CLI BASIC prompt I can type code into right after I buy it from a store?

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Google Made a Video Game That Lets You Build Video Games

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Game Builder is a new video game from Google that allows you to create simple Minecraft-style games for yourself and others to play through. “The game lets you drag and drop characters and scenery into an empty sandbox to construct your world, then use preset commands to string together how things interact,” reports The Verge. “It’s free to play and available on both Windows and macOS.” From the report: The game comes from Area 120, Google’s incubator for experimental projects (some of which have quickly disappeared, others of which have made their way into other Google products). Game Builder has actually been available through Steam since November 1st last year (it already has 190 reviews, with a “every positive” score), but Google only publicized it today, which is certain to get a lot more people playing. Game Builder has a co-op mode, so multiple people can build a game together at once. You can also share your creations and browse through the games made by others. The interaction system works with “if this then that” logic, and players can craft their own interactions with JavaScript if they’re familiar with it.

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Google Maps Will Tell You If Your Taxi Driver Is Veering Off Course To Rack Up a Higher Fare

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Google Maps is rolling out a new feature that will tell you if your taxi driver goes off-route in an attempt to rack up a higher fare. Sure, you could always use Google Maps to pick the shortest route possible, but the newest feature does the work for you. BGR reports: The feature is especially useful in cities you don’t know, but also at home, allowing you to get live updates on your route. Google Maps will send an alert to your phone every time you’re off-route by 500 meters, xda-developers explains. Moreover, your route will not be rerouted automatically, which is what happens when deviating from your route while using Google Maps for regular navigation. That’s because the feature will help you stick to your chosen route rather than continuously adapting it.

Once you start receiving the alerts, you should notify the driver that you’re aware of the changes he or she made, and ask to revert to the shortest route possible. It’s unlikely they’ll try to cheat again once it’s clear you’re keeping tabs on the journey. And don’t believe them when they say that traffic is the reason for the detour unless you can verify it with Google Maps, which should give you an idea of what traffic to expect on your route. It’s unclear whether the feature will be available in other markets or when it’ll launch. You’ll want to be on the lookout for new Maps buttons that says Stay safer and Get off-route alerts in the navigation menu to take advantage of it.

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Apple Debuts SwiftUI and New Xcode Interactive Development Experience

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Apple today announced SwiftUI, a framework that complements its open source compiled programming language for iOS, macOS, watchOS, tvOS, Linux, and other platforms alongside a reimagined development experience in Xcode 11. VentureBeat reports: SwiftUI lets developers specify UI with simple declarations. In practice, it reduces hundreds of lines of code to just a few, and it provides default support for common features like localization for right-to-left languages. That’s in addition to built-in support for animated transitions, live previews, and the newly announced dark mode and accessibility tools in iOS.

Apple says it’s fully integrated with the aforementioned Xcode development experience and native frameworks for Apple Watch, tvOS, and macOS apps. Within the new Xcode, speaking of, library views live in a left-side drawer from which they can be dragged and dropped onto the app design canvas; as they’re added, code populates the editor on the left. Meanwhile, views can be adjusted with custom-tailored inspectors or the code converted into a scalable list, and previews can run directly on connected Apple devices, including iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple Watch, and Apple TV.

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John Romero Finally Releases Fifth Episode of ‘Doom’ For Free

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John Romero has finally released Sigil, his unofficial fifth episode of Doom with nine new single-player levels and nine deathmatch levels. It’s available for free on Romero’s web site (though you’ll also need the original Doom to play it). Hot Hardware reports:
If you want to know what Sigil is about, Romero explains it best. He wrote, “After killing the Spiderdemon at the end of E4M8 (Unto the Cruel), your next stop is Earth — you must save it from hellspawn that is causing unimaginable carnage. But Baphomet glitched the final teleporter with his hidden Sigil whose eldritch power brings you to even darker shores of Hell. You fight through this stygian pocket of evil to confront the ultimate harbingers of Satan, then finally return to become Earth’s savior. In summary, rip and tear!”

Kotaku calls it “some of the most punishing and devious Doom I’ve ever played… I’ve been playing it all day, and it owns…”
What makes Romero’s designs work so well is how unabashedly excited he seems to be about them. Levels are teeming with enemies, including many tougher ones such as the beefy, energy hurling Barons of Hell. Each new maze is punctuated with fights that mix and match Doom’s precisely-designed enemies… There’s a real giddiness here, a sense that a master is excitedly returning to his favourite tools… The default difficulty is tricky; higher levels feel like borderline trolling. Screw it, let’s just toss a few cyberdemons at the start of this level. You know how to dodge, right?

In the old days, we used to call all first-person shooters “Doom clones”. But there’s nothing else like Doom. There’s a particular, nearly impossible to describe playfulness that even the 2016 reboot sometimes misses. A single run through Romero’s new levels feels positively joyous, a chance to see fantastic level design in action and observe a master at play.

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Teen Makes His Own AirPods For $4

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samleecole writes: Apple’s AirPods are a tragedy. Ecologically, socially, economically — they’re a capitalist disaster. The opposite of AirPods, then, is this extremely punk pair of DIY wireless earbuds that someone on Reddit hacked together using an old pair of wired Apple headphones and some hot glue. “I started this project roughly two months ago when my friend got a new pair of AirPods for his birthday and I thought to myself, ‘that’s quite a lot of money for something I can make at home,'” Sam Cashbook, who is 15, told Motherboard in a Reddit message.

Cashook started watching videos of people making their own AirPods, but mostly found people chopping the wires off of Apple headphones as a joke. He decided to take his own approach. He bought a hands-free bone conduction headset from eBay, and took apart the casing to reveal the electronics. Then, he desoldered the wires from the original speaker in the headset, and connected his old Apple earbud speaker to the headset’s printed circuit board. Maybe a little uglier, but the headphones work well, he said. The set has buttons for power, pausing music, volume controls and skipping tracks, and the battery is rechargeable.

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Moto Z4 Brings Back Headphone Jack, Is 5G Ready For $500

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Motorola’s $500 Moto Z4 is finally official, bringing an updated design with a near-notchless 6.4-inch OLED display, headphone jack, and support for the company’s Moto Mods. Other specs include a Qualcomm Snapdragon 675 processor, 4GB of RAM with 128GB of storage (expandable via microSD to 2TB) and Android 9.0 Pie, with Motorola promising an update to Q in the future. CNET reports: To improve photography Motorola has added what it calls “Quad Pixel technology,” which uses pixel-binning to allow for 48-megapixel shots with the rear lens, following a trend of other recent higher-end midrange phones including OnePlus’ 7 Pro. Around front is a 25-megapixel shooter which takes advantage of the same “Quad Pixel” tech. Motorola says both sensors should offer improved details and colors as well as better low-light performance. The company has even added its own rival to the Pixel 3’s Night Sight called Night Vision.

In some brief hands-on time with the phone, the phone feels more premium than the rival cheaper Pixel 3a, which starts at $399. Videos looked sharp on the OLED display and the Night Vision did a solid job of enhancing images taken in a dark room. Whether the Z4 can rival the Pixel 3A’s camera or if its cheaper price can top the value of $669 OnePlus 7 Pro’s performance remains to be seen. An optical fingerprint sensor is built into the display, similar to the technology used on OnePlus’ 6T and 7 Pro. As with the OnePlus phones, setup was seamless and unlocking was responsive during our brief use of the phone. Wireless charging isn’t present nor is IP-rated water resistance (Motorola says the phone can withstand spills and rain). The phone will be available from Verizon on June 13, and will support the carrier’s 5G network via the 5G Moto Mod (sold separately).

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Asus ZenBook Pro Duo Is an Extravagant Laptop With Two 4K Screens

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Asus always likes to use its hometown trade show of Computex, which also happens to be the world’s biggest computer hardware event, to show off a wide and occasionally wild lineup of new products. And it’s really outdone itself this time — the headline announcement is one of the most decadent laptops ever created. From a report: The ZenBook Pro Duo has not one, but two 4K screens. (At least if you’re counting horizontal pixels.) There’s a 15-inch 16:9 OLED panel where you’d normally find the display on a laptop, then a 32:9 IPS “ScreenPad Plus” screen directly above the keyboard that’s the same width and half the height. It’s as if Asus looked at the MacBook Pro Touch Bar and thought “what if that, but with 32 times as many pixels?”

Unlike the Touch Bar, though, the ScreenPad Plus doesn’t take anything away from the ZenBook Pro Duo, except presumably battery life. Asus still included a full-sized keyboard with a function row, including an escape key, and the trackpad is located directly to the right. The design is very reminiscent of Asus’ Zephryus slimline gaming laptops — you even still get the light-up etching that lets you use the trackpad as a numpad. […] Asus has built some software for the ScreenPad Plus that makes it more of a secondary control panel, but you can also use it as a full-on monitor, or even two if you want to split it into two smaller 16:9 1080p windows. […] No word on pricing yet.

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Microsoft Teams With Alphabet’s X and Brilliant For Online Quantum Computing Class

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“Learn to build quantum algorithms from the ground up with a quantum computer simulated in your browser,” suggests a new online course.

“The very concept of a quantum computer can be daunting, let alone programming it, but Microsoft thinks it can offer a helping hand,” reports Engadget:

Microsoft is partnering with Alphabet’s X and Brilliant on an online curriculum for quantum computing. The course starts with basic concepts and gradually introduces you to Microsoft’s Q# language, teaching you how to write ‘simple’ quantum algorithms before moving on to truly complicated scenarios. You can handle everything on the web (including quantum circuit puzzles), and there’s a simulator to verify that you’re on the right track.
The course “features Q# programming exercises with Python as the host language,” explains Microsoft’s press release.

The course’s web page promises that by the end of the course, “you’ll know your way around the world of quantum information, have experimented with the ins and outs of quantum circuits, and have written your first 100 lines of quantum code — while remaining blissfully ignorant about detailed quantum physics.”

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Apple Updates Top-End MacBook Pros With Tweaked Keyboard and Faster Processors

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Apple is refreshing its top laptops again by announcing newly updated specs for its 15-inch and 13-inch MacBook Pro models. It’s bringing faster Intel processors and some slight changes to the much-maligned keyboard that Apple says should reduce issues. From a report: The biggest changes are coming to the 15-inch model, which is getting Intel’s 9th Gen Core processors. The base model now starts with a 2.6GHz, 6-core i7 processor, which can turbo boost up to 4.5GHz. The next-step-up model is getting a 2.3GHz, 8-core i9 processor — the first ever on a MacBook — which can turbo boost up to 4.8GHz.

And for those of you who want the most power possible, Apple will also offer a custom top configuration of an even more powerful 8-core i9 chip with a 2.4GHz base speed, which can boost all the way up to 5.0GHz for what Apple calls “the fastest Mac notebook ever.” The 13-inch Touch Bar models are getting similar (albeit less exciting) processor refreshes: the base model now comes with a 2.4GHz 8th Gen quad-core i5 processor that can boost to 4.1GHz.

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PlayStation Gamers Are Now Authoring Their Own Games With ‘Dreams’ For PS4

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dryriver explains the new buzz around “Dreams” for PS4 (now in open access). Created by the studio that made PS4’s Big Little World, Dreams “is not a game. It is more of an end to end, create-your-own-3D-game toolkit that happens to run on PS4 rather than a PC… essentially an easy to use game-engine a la Unity or UnrealEngine.”

Dreams lets you 3D model/sculpt, texture, animate and create game logic, allowing complete 3D games to be authored from scratch. Here is a Youtube video showing someone 3D modeling a fairly sophisticated game character and environment in Dreams. Everything from platformers to FPS games to puzzle, RPG and Minecraft type games can be created.

What is interesting about Dreams is that everything anybody creates with it becomes available and downloadable in the DreamVerse and playable by other Dreams users — so Dreams is also a distribution tool like Steam, in that you can share your creations with others.
While PC users have long had access to 3D modeling and game authoring tools, Dreams has for the first time opened up creating console games from scratch to PS4 owners, and appears to have made the processs quicker, easier and more intuitive than, say, learning 3D Studio Max and Unity on a PC. Dreams comes with hours of tutorial walkthroughs for beginners, so in a sense it is a game engine that also teaches how to make games in the first place.
Back in January Push Square gushed that “There’s simply nothing like this that’s ever been done before… This is one of the most innovative, extraordinary pieces of software that we’ve seen on a console in quite some time…”

“And it can be browsed for hours and hours and hours. It’s like when you fall into a YouTube hole, and you’re clicking from recommended video to recommended video — except here, you’re jumping from minigames involving llamas to models of crustaceans to covers of The King of Wishful Thinking…”
“It’s an astounding technical achievement with unprecedented ambition.”

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Ask Slashdot: Are the Big Players In Tech Even Competing With Each Other?

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dryriver writes: For capitalism to work for consumers in a beneficial way, the big players have to compete hard against each other and innovate courageously. What appears to be happening instead, however, is that every year almost everybody is making roughly the same product at roughly the same price point. Most 4K TVs at the same price point have the same features — there is little to distinguish manufacturer A from manufacturer B. Ditto for smartphones — nobody suddenly puts a 3D scanning capable lightfield camera, shake-the-phone-to-charge-it or something similarly innovative into their next phone. Ditto for game consoles — Xbox and Playstation are not very different from each other at all. Nintendo does “different,” but underpowers its hardware. Ditto for laptops — the only major difference I see in laptops is the quality of the screen panel used and of the cooling system. The last laptop with an auto stereoscopic 3D screen I have seen is the long-discontinued Toshiba Satellite 3D. Ditto for CPUs and GPUs — it doesn’t really matter whether you buy Intel, AMD, or Nvidia. There is nothing so “different” or “distinct” in any of the electronics they make that it makes you go “wow, that is truly groundbreaking.” Ditto for sports action cameras, DSLRs, portable storage and just about everything else “tech.” So where precisely — besides pricing and build-quality differences — is the competition in what these companies are doing? Shouldn’t somebody be trying to “pull far ahead of the pack” or “ahead of the curve” with some crazy new feature that nobody else has? Or is true innovation in tech simply dead now?

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Minecraft Earth Goes a Step Beyond Pokemon Go To Cover the World In Blocks

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Microsoft is working on an ambitious new Minecraft game with an augmented-reality spin that hopes to one up Niantic’s wildly popular Pokemon Go mobile game. The Verge’s Tom Warren sat down with Microsoft’s HoloLens and Kinect creator, Alex Kipman, to take a look Minecraft Earth, a new free-to-play game for iOS and Android that lets players create and share whatever they’ve made in the game with friends in the real world, away from TV screens and monitors.

“We have covered the entire planet in Minecraft,” explains Torfi Ilafsson, game director of Minecraft Earth. “Every lake is a place you can fish, every park is a place you can chop down trees. We’ve actually taken maps of the entire world and converted them to Minecraft.” Warren writes: These maps, based on OpenStreetMap, have allowed Microsoft to start working out where to place Minecraft adventures into the world. These adventures spawn dynamically on the Minecraft Earth map and are designed for multiple people to get involved in. This is really where Minecraft Earth starts to get interesting and beyond anything I’ve played in other AR games like Pokemon Go. I tried a variety of adventures during my brief Minecraft Earth gameplay demo, and they range from peaceful and friendly to a little more risky, knowing you enter them and might lose all your treasure if you die to a monster. The fascinating part of adventures is that you can be side-by-side with friends, all experiencing the same game on the exact same spot of a sidewalk or in a park at the same time. Microsoft is doing some impressive behind-the-scenes computational magic (more on that later) so that when you play an adventure, it’s in a precise location, beyond regular GPS coordinates, so that everyone is experiencing the same thing. You can fight monsters, break down structures for resources together, and even stand in front of a friend to block them from physically killing a virtual sheep.

All of the blocks that are collected during an adventure are shared with fellow players, so there are no player-versus-player battles here to kill each other and steal materials. You’ll even see the tools that fellow players have in their hands on your phone’s screen, alongside their username. The idea is that you essentially become your phone in Minecraft Earth, and your camera is a lens into this virtual world. Once you’ve gathered lots of resources, you can then start building. Every player will have a library of build plates, with some that are as big as 200 x 200 feet. You can use build plates to sit a Minecraft build down on a table and build something with friends. Every piece of material that a friend uses on your own plate will then be part of your build, so it’s a collaborative effort to create giant structures; playing solo will mean a lot of searching around for materials. Once you’ve completed a build, you can then share a link to it for friends or followers to then play with your creation on a table or in giant scale in an open space. The game will be available in beta on iOS and Android this summer.

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Lenovo Launches HoloLens Competitor

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Lenovo is launching a new AR-and-VR system targeted at businesses. It’s called ThinkReality, and from the looks and description of the device and platform, it looks like a competitor for Microsoft’s HoloLens. Engadget reports: There are two parts to the new ThinkReality system — the AR headset and a software platform. The ThinkReality A6 is a comfortable 380-gram headset with two fisheye cameras on the front, as well as depth sensors and a 13-megapixel RGB sensor. There’s also microphones onboard for voice control, and the headset can also detect where you’re gazing to optimize resolution or navigation. You’ll also be able to interact with your virtual environments using an included 3DoF controller. Untethered, the A6 can last up to four hours with its 6,800mAh battery, and you can still use the device while it’s plugged in and charging.

The headset connects to an SSD-sized compute box that contains a Snapdragon 845 CPU running an Android-based platform. There’s also an Intel Movidius chips powering waveguide optics here, and each eye on the A6 offers a 40-degree diagonal field of view and 1080p resolution. By comparison, the HoloLens 2 uses a Snapdragon 850 CPU and packs two 2K MEMS displays. Microsoft also squeezes all the computing components into the headset rather than in a separate box like Lenovo does. While I’m not a fan of having to carry around an additional accessory to power a headset, this setup does make the ThinkReality A6 lighter, so it’s a compromise I’m willing to make. You can wear the box on a belt clip or an armband, which should make it easy to move around when wearing this setup at work. Lenovo claims this is “one of the lightest fully featured AR headsets in its class,” and during a brief trial with a non-working model, I certainly found the A6 lightweight.

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OnePlus 7 Pro Boasts a 90Hz Screen, Three Cameras, and Costs $669

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Chinese smartphone maker OnePlus has revealed two flagship smartphones: the OnePlus 7, and the OnePlus 7 Pro. From a report: The OnePlus 7 Pro’s headlining features include a 6.67-inch AMOLED display (resolution: 3120 x 1440 pixels) with a 90Hz refresh rate, upgraded fast charging, and a telephoto lens — and they don’t come cheap. At $669, the 7 Pro’s sticker price is far higher than that of previous OnePlus devices. The OnePlus 7 Pro’s edge-to-edge waterproof design is very “of the moment,” and that’s not a knock against it. Much like the displays on Samsung’s Galaxy S10 series and Huawei’s P30 Pro, the OnePlus 7 Pro’s is rounded at each corner along the contours of the frame and slightly tapered at either edge, slightly curving toward the rear cover. Other features of the OnePlus 7 Pro include a Snapdragon 855 SoC; 6GB or 8GB, or 12GB RAM; 128GB or 256GB UFS 3.0 storage; 4,000mAh battery; “Warp charge” fast charging (no wireless charging). For its camera system, the OnePlus 7 Pro has three different cameras on the back, with a 48-megapixel main sensor, a 16-megapixel ultra-wide camera, and an 8-megapixel telephoto camera. There is a 16-megapixel on front in a motorized module that pops up out of the top of the phone — meaning the display has notch, or any other cut out. The phone runs Android 9 with OxygenOS skin. Now, about the OnePlus 7: So the OnePlus 7 won’t hit U.S. stores. It makes do without a retractable selfie cam (it’s got a notch instead) and it omits the 7 Pro’s curved screen edges in favor of a thicker border between the display’s left and right side and the frame. The ultra-wide angle sensor is missing in action, but as something of a consolation, the OnePlus 7 features a slightly larger battery — 4,150mAh — that’s compatible with Warp Charge. The OnePlus 7’s price has yet to be announced, but it’s expected to be a good deal cheaper than the OnePlus 7 Pro.

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Google Merges Nest and Home Brands, Debuts $229 Nest Hub Max

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At its Google I/O developer conference today, the company announced that Google and Nest are combining into a single smart home brand aptly called Google Nest. For now, the newly announced Google Nest Hub Max and Google Home Hub, which will now be called the Google Nest Hub, are the only products that will carry the new name in their official branding. CNET reports: Other products are expected to be rebranded in the future. All of Nest’s smart home products will fall under this brand, which includes the company’s famous smart thermostats and security cameras, although their names won’t change retroactively. Google’s smart speakers, including the Google Home; smart displays such as the Google Home Hub; Google Wifi routers and Google Chromecast streamers will also fit under the purview of Google Nest. Several products under the new brand are getting a price cut, including the Google Home Max, which now costs $100 less than before at $299.

As part of the new unified brand, customers with Nest accounts will be encouraged to merge them into Google accounts. You can control your Nest devices with the Google Home app. You won’t be able to set up new Nest devices using that app yet, so customers can’t remove the separate Nest app from their phones entirely. Nest accounts will be moved to a maintenance mode, where they will still get security updates, but Google will provide new features only to Google accounts. Similarly, companies that had joined the Works with Nest program will be encouraged to use Actions on Google — a platform that allows third-party developers to create commands for Google Assistant — to be compatible with the new joined brand. As for the Google Nest Hub Max, it’s basically a big Google Assistant smart display with a camera on top that can be used for video calls and home security monitoring. It’s coming this summer, and it will retail for $229. The Verge reports: Like the smaller $149 Google Home Hub, the Nest Hub Max has a matte display that adjusts its color temperature to match the room. The 10-inch screen often looks more like a regular photo in a frame than a standard LCD panel. It comes in both gray and white, though the bezel around the display will always be white. Also, it lets Google know when you’re home, and it can recognize your face so it can show customized personal information on the screen. […] The other thing that’s bigger is the sound. There are two front-firing 10W tweeters and one 30W woofer on the back. I wasn’t able to do a real sound-quality test in the couple of hours I spent with the Hub Max, but I can tell you that it’s definitely louder than the smaller Hub, and it didn’t obviously distort at high volumes. But a Sonos One or Apple HomePod this is not…

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‘Why I Prefer Go Over Python or Java’

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Stefan Nilsson, a computer science professor at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, recently explained “why I prefer Go to Java or Python,” arguing that Go “makes it much easier for me to write good code.”

Go is a minimalist language, and that’s (mostly) a blessing. The formal Go language specification is only 50 pages, has plenty of examples, and is fairly easy to read. A skilled programmer could probably learn Go from the specification alone. The core language consists of a few simple, orthogonal features that can be combined in a relatively small number of ways. This makes it easier to learn the language, and to read and write programs. When you add new features to a language, the complexity doesn’t just add up, it often multiplies: language features can interact in many ways. This is a significant problem — language complexity affects all developers (not just the ones writing the spec and implementing the compiler).

Here are some core Go features:

– The built-in frameworks for testing and profiling are small and easy to learn, but still fully functional. There are plenty of third-party add-ons, but chances are you won’t need them.

– It’s possible to debug and profile an optimized binary running in production through an HTTP server.

– Go has automatically generated documentation with testable examples. Once again, the interface is minimal, and there is very little to learn.

– Go is strongly and statically typed with no implicit conversions, but the syntactic overhead is still surprisingly small. This is achieved by simple type inference in assignments together with untyped numeric constants. This gives Go stronger type safety than Java (which has implicit conversions), but the code reads more like Python (which has untyped variables).

– Programs are constructed from packages that offer clear code separation and allow efficient management of dependencies. The package mechanism is perhaps the single most well-designed feature of the language, and certainly one of the most overlooked.

– Structurally typed interfaces provide runtime polymorphism through dynamic dispatch.

– Concurrency is an integral part of Go, supported by goroutines, channels and the select statement.

The professor points out that the Java® Language Specification is 750 pages, and blames much of its complexity on feature creep (for example, inner classes, generics, and enum). And he also applauds the strict compatibility guarantees of Go 1 for the core language and standard packages, as well as its open source, BSD-style license, and Go’s code transparency.

“There is one standard code format, automatically generated by the fmt tool,” he writes, arguing that “Your project is doomed if you can’t read and understand your code.”

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Ask Slashdot: Why Are 3D Games, VR/AR Still Rendered Using Polygons In 2019?

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dryriver writes: A lot of people seem to believe that computers somehow need polygons, NURBS surfaces, voxels or point clouds “to be able to define and render 3D models to the screen at all.” This isn’t really true. All a computer needs to light, shade, and display a 3D model is to know the answer to the question “is there a surface point at coordinate XYZ or not.” Many different mathematical structures or descriptors can be dreamed up that can tell a computer whether there is indeed a 3D model surface point at coordinate XYZ or behind a given screen pixel XY. Polygons/triangles are a very old approach to 3D graphics that was primarily designed not to overstress the very limited CPU and RAM resources of the first computers capable of displaying raster 3D graphics. The brains who invented the technique back in the late 1960s probably figured that by the 1990s at the latest, their method would be replaced by something better and more clever. Yet here we are in 2019 buying pricey Nvidia, AMD, and other GPUs that are primarily polygon/triangle accelerators. Why is this? Creating good-looking polygon models is still a slow, difficult, iterative and money intensive task in 2019. A good chunk of the $60 you pay for an AAA PC or console game is the sheer amount of time, manpower and effort required to make everything in a 15-hour-long game experience using unwieldy triangles and polygons. So why still use polygons at all? Why not dream up a completely new “there is a surface point here” technique that makes good 3D models easier to create and may render much, much faster than polygons/triangles on modern hardware to boot? Why use a 50-year-old approach to 3D graphics when new, better approaches can be pioneered?

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