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80-characters-per-line limits should be terminal, says Linux kernel chief Linus Torvalds

As he gives us version 5.7 with support for Apple power tech and better exFAT


Linux kernel overlord Linus Torvalds has railed against 80-character-lines as a de facto programming standard – and has moved to make reminders to keep things short a thing of the past.

Torvalds weighed in on a Linux kernel clean-up post that somehow strayed into the topic of line lengths. Some advocated for the retention of 80-character lines on grounds that they're a long-standing convention and that large monitors can handle many small windows when column width is limited.

Torvalds respectfully disagreed on grounds that limiting lines to 80 characters makes for lots of line breaks.

"Excessive line breaks are BAD. They cause real and every-day problems," he wrote.

"They cause problems for things like 'grep' both in the patterns and in the output, since grep (and a lot of other very basic unix utilities) is fundamentally line-based."

His main point appeared to be that wrapping lines after 80 characters means catering to a niche audience.

"I do not care about somebody with a 80x25 terminal window getting line wrapping," he wrote. "For exactly the same reason I find it completely irrelevant if somebody says that their kernel compile takes 10 hours because they are doing kernel development on a Raspberry PI with 4GB of RAM."

And he kept going with this, too:

People with restrictive hardware shouldn't make it more inconvenient for people who have better resources. Yes, we'll accommodate things to within reasonable limits. But no, 80-column terminals in 2020 isn't "reasonable" any more as far as I'm concerned. People commonly used 132-column terminals even back in the '80s, for chrissake, don't try to make 80 columns some immovable standard.

"If you choose to use a 80-column terminal, you can live with the line wrapping. It's just that simple," he added. "And longer lines are simply useful. Part of that is that we aren't programming in the '80s any more, and our source code is fundamentally wider as a result."

Torvalds appears to have put some code where his mouth is, with this commit to stop warnings appearing when coders go beyond designated line lengths.

Linux 5.7

The 80-line action happened on Friday, but by Sunday Torvalds was on track for his usual look at whether the current release candidate of the Linux kernel is ready for public consumption.

His answer was "Yes" and Linux 5.7 was therefore loosed on a locked-down world.

Linus Torvalds drops Intel and adopts 32-core AMD Ryzen Threadripper on personal PC

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Notable new features include a Samsung-derived exFAT driver that will make for better performance of SD Cards, a fix for early 2020 Intel graphics bug CVE-2019-14615 and support for Intel's newish Tiger Lake graphics. Apple admirers get a driver for Cupertino's fast-charging tech and there's also the usual swathe of newly supported Arm devices and general tidying up.

Torvalds is hopeful this release avoids the fate of its predecessor, which shipped with a dud Wi-Fi driver. ®

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UK vaccination booking website had accidental function as jab status checker

Wanna find out if Jane Brit has had a shot? Just lob her postcode and DoB into this NHS site

An NHS Digital-run vaccine-booking website exposed just how many vaccines individual people had received – and did so with no authentication, according to the Guardian.

The booking page, aimed at English NHS patients wanting to book first and second coronavirus jabs, would tell anyone at all whether a named person had had zero, one or two vaccination doses, the newspaper reported on Thursday.

All you need, it says, are the date of birth and postcode of the person whose vaccination status you wanted to check up on. These details are not difficult to find online with some obvious search terms.

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The quest for faster Python: Pyston returns to open source, Facebook releases Cinder, or should devs just use PyPy?

Official CPython is slow, but there are many ways to get better performance

Facebook has released Cinder, used internally in Instagram to improve Python performance, while another faster Python, called Pyston, has released version 2.2 and made the project open source (again).

Python is the world's second most popular programming language (after JavaScript) according to some surveys; but it is by no means the fastest. A glance at benchmarks tells us that Python 3 computation is often many times slower than compiled languages like C and Go, or JIT (Just-in-Time) compiled languages like Java and JavaScript.

One reason is that the official implementation of Python, called CPython, is an interpreted, dynamic language, and its creator Guido Van Rossum has resisted optimising it for performance, saying in 2014 that "Python is about having the simplest, dumbest compiler imaginable, and the official runtime semantics actively discourage cleverness in the compiler like parallelizing loops or turning recursion into loops."

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Vulnerability in Snapdragon 855 SoCs could pwn Android modems, allow baddies to snoop on conversations

Good thing researchers spotted it, but no evidence of exploit in the wild

A heap overflow vulnerability in Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 modem system-on-chips used in Android devices could let malicious people run arbitrary code on unsuspecting users' devices, according to Check Point.

The vuln, tracked as CVE-2020-11292, can be abused to trigger a heap overflow in devices that use a Qualcomm Mobile Station Modem (MSM) chip, thanks to some in-depth jiggery-pokery in the Qualcomm MSM Interface (QMI) voice service API.

"If exploited, the vulnerability would have allowed an attacker to use Android OS itself as an entry point to inject malicious and invisible code into phones, granting them access to SMS messages and audio of phone conversations," said some not-at-all-excitable researchers from Israeli security firm Check Point in a blog post today.

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Just one in 5 Googlers plan to swerve the office permanently after COVID-19

Free breakfast, lunch and dinner? Listening to Ryan Reynolds talk shit? Massages for gratis? Why the hell wouldn't they return

One in five Googlers will be permanently working from home once the pandemic abates but for the majority it seems free meals in staff canteens, guest celebrity speaker appearances, resident gyms and massage therapy are irresistible lures.

A pre-Christmas directive from the Chocolate Factory was for the majority of employees to work from home until September, with a hybrid model being tested that involves a mix of office-based and remote working.

Now Sundar Pichai, CEO at Google and parent company Alphabet, has provided a written update to explain how he thinks the set-up will work, saying that in areas where the organisation has opened up offices on a “voluntary capacity”, around 60 per cent of staff has chosen to “come back”.

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Day 3 of the Apple vs Epic trial: What actually is an iPhone anyway?

Microsoft Xbox exec called up to explain differences with gaming console

The legal spat between Epic Games and Apple entered somewhat philosophical territory on Wednesday as the battling sides debated over whether the iPhone legitimately constitutes a general-purpose computing device, or is merely a locked-down platform with a specific purpose, such as a games console.

Epic Games, which has alleged Apple's tight control on the way iOS software is distributed and monetised is tantamount to an antitrust abuse, called up Lori Wright, Microsoft's head of Xbox business development, as a witness.

During her testimony (audio-only link to the hearing here), Wright divided devices into two categories. Special-purpose devices like the Xbox, she said, are purchased by consumers because they perform a specific function. While the Xbox can be used to stream content on Spotify or Netflix, its raison d'etre is playing games.

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There may have been problems with the JEDI deal but you still wouldn't have won, Oracle told by US govt

They were not the cloud we were looking for, says DoD in brief to Supreme Court

In another chapter to a saga that refuses to die, the US government has recommended [PDF] that the Supreme Court rejects Oracle’s efforts to overturn a Department of Defense decision to award the $10bn JEDI contract to Microsoft.

Acknowledging there were problems with the controversial contract award, which fellow bidder AWS is also contesting, these would not have affected Oracle’s chances of winning the deal, the government claimed in its brief. Security concerns over the geographic distribution of data centres were the main reason Big Red failed to win.

The US government asked the justices of the Supreme Court to reject Oracle’s challenge, saying that the Court of Federal Claims and the Federal Circuit had been correct in concluding that Oracle would need to show it had a “substantial chance” of winning the contract in order for procurement errors to be addressed.

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Microsoft has gone to great lengths to push its tech, but survey suggests many devs slipped through the .NET

Among the findings, WPF remains most-used desktop framework despite years of promotion for UWP

The Microsoft-sponsored .NET Foundation has released a survey-based "State of .NET" report showing that efforts to broaden the appeal of the technology beyond its own platform have had limited success so far.

The .NET Foundation was set up by Microsoft in 2014, around the time that the cross-platform and open-source .NET Core was first announced, the idea being to support the .NET ecosystem.

Between November 2020 and March 2021, it conducted its first survey of .NET developers, the results of which have just been made public.

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You've been a good developer all year. You have social distanced, you have helped your mum. Your reward? The return of Visual Basic 6

(Almost.) Why? Kickstarter and nostalgia of those who have forgotten the pain

The beast is back... almost. A "100 per cent compatible Visual Basic 6 solution" has been promised to the backers of a Kickstarter. There is, however, no word on how much it would cost to ensure it stayed dead.

Visual Basic 6 was the last hurrah in a succession of languages first introduced in 1991 and seemingly killed off once and for all in 2008 (a decade after Visual Basic 6 first shipped in a hefty cardboard box.)

Although devs may sniff at the old thing nowadays, a good many IT professionals owe their start in the computing world to the Rapid Application Development world of Visual Basic. While Visual Basic 1 and 2 could be filed in the novelty drawer (this hack has a particular fondness for 1992's Visual Basic for DOS) it was Visual Basic 3 and its bundled Jet database engine that captured corporate imaginations.

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Which? warns that more than 2 million Brits are on old and insecure routers – wagging a finger at Huawei-made kit

Default passwords, no updates, and your data's flowing through these

Consumer org Which? reckons more than two million Britons are connected to the internet through routers that were last updated in 2016.

This eye-catching finding came from a Which? survey launched today, seemingly criticising UK ISPs for not complying with a proposed law whose first draft hasn't been introduced to Parliament. The proposal in question is Secure by Design, where the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) will be asking phone, tablet, and IoT gadget makers to state when they'll stop providing security updates for new devices entering the market.

Pre-legislative oddities aside, there was a useful point in the survey of 6,000 UK adults carried out in December 2020: six million Britons are using routers that last received security patches in 2018, while 2.4 million of that number are using boxes that might not have been updated for five years.

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OVH outlines three-point 'hyper resilience' plan after Strasbourg fire

Please insert tape number 363 of 4087*

French cloud provider OVH has outlined a three-point plan designed to avoid a repeat of the loss of data and services resulting from the fire which engulfed its Strasbourg operations on 10 March.

Dubbed "Hyper Resilience", the plan employs the combinations of a revamped approach to internal backups, external customer back-ups and a new policy of fail-over between three data centres per region.

OVH founder, chair and CFO Octave Klaba and CEO Michel Paulin outlined the plans in a tweeted video address, viewers of which were implicitly being asked to avoid the conclusion that they were closing the stable door after the horse had not only bolted but bought airline tickets to Cancun where it was now sipping mojitos on a beach.

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Crane horror Reg reader uses his severed finger to unlock Samsung Galaxy phone

On the other hand he was fine

Graphic images Everyone knows the trope. The baddies smash their way in and gun down the guard standing in front of the vault. "Dammit," says the lead bad guy, "it's a biometric scanner, we'll never get in!" His most grizzled henchman turns round, holding up the dead guard's lifeless arm. "Oh yes we will…"

A Reg reader recreated this scene in real life (bits of it) using his Samsung Galaxy A20 phone – and the severed tip of his index finger, parted from his hand thanks to an industrial accident involving a crane.

Kieran Higgins, a semi-retired auditor living in Spain, showed El Reg that his phone's fingerprint sensor read his two-weeks-dead fingertip's print and happily unlocked the device.

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