Software

RAD Basic – the Visual Basic 7 that never was – releases third alpha

Spend your weekend wallowing in the good old days


RAD Basic has edged a little closer to bringing Visual Basic 6 back to your PC with the release of 0.5.0 Alpha 3.

We last looked at RAD Basic a year ago and soaked in a warm bath of nostalgia for a time when Windows applications could be knocked out with the same skills needed to persuade Sinclair or Commodore hardware to display naughty words in a 1980s computer shop.

While Microsoft ditched Visual Basic 6 in favor of .NET and C# many years ago, there remain plenty of IT professionals who owe their career to the language and an abundance of lashed-up solutions still underpinning substantial chunks of the corporate world.

With the growing buzz around "low" and "no code" solutions, it might not be a simple case of misplaced nostalgia that leaves IT professionals thinking fondly of the halcyon days of Visual Basic 6.

The brainchild of Carles Royan, RAD Basic – sometimes described as the Visual Basic 7 that never was – is now into its third public release (albeit only to Patreon subscribers following an unsuccessful Kickstarter campaign).

The latest has focused on the IDE, although its alpha nature is underscored by "New" features in the release notes such as "Added support for creating new projects" and "Added support for adding, moving and removing controls in Form Designer."

So, it has a bit of a way to go and, like its illustrious inspiration, is very much closed source.

RAD Basic is not the only game in town. Alternatives in varying stages of development include twinBASIC, which also aims to be backwards compatible with VB6 and VBA; and FreeBASIC, which implements much of what lurked in Microsoft QuickBASIC (and has a nifty IDE in the form of VisualFBEditor).

Alternatively, one can relive the days of the whole BASIC/Pascal rivalry with Delphi-compatible Lazarus.

As for RAD Basic, we're delighted to see that Royan has continued to put out releases, if not as rapidly as this writer was able to churn out apps built with VB6 back in the day. Then again, even in its alpha state, it's hard to imagine RAD Basic being any more unstable than those masterpieces of yesteryear.

DoEvents() and On Error Resume Next anyone? ®

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Who had money on Samsung and Red Hat joining forces on next-gen memory software?

Cloudy server testbed coming, open source code filtering into RHEL promised

Samsung and Red Hat have pledged to work together on developing software to get the best from emerging memory technologies.

The Korean giant points out that a bunch of storage and memory tech – NVMe SSDs, Compute Express Link, the combination of high-bandwidth memory and processing-in-memory, and data fabrics – all need enabling software if they are to work well with the kind of demanding applications they're promised to, well, enable.

The tech is likely to be used in different tiers, while sharing memory across devices is well and truly on the agenda as part of a renewed push for composable infrastructure.

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How Intel can use its Granulate acquisition to maintain cloud dominance

Software-tuning suite could be used to show where and how Xeon trumps rivals, if customers can believe it

Analysis Intel is facing tough competition in the server CPU space, and one way it's trying to stand out — besides trying to make better chips — is its newly acquired Granulate cloud optimization software business that aims to improve application performance and reduce infrastructure costs.

The chipmaker has pitched its most recent software acquisition — which was announced in March and closed earlier this month — as a way to continuously optimize complex and older datacenter workloads for modern CPU cores without needing to make any code changes. This, according to Granulate, can help organizations reduce infrastructure costs by as much as 40-60 percent.

But in a presentation at the Intel Vision event, company representatives hinted at how Granulate's software could help the x86 giant defend its waning dominance in the cloud market.

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Clearview AI wants its facial-recognition tech in banks, schools, etc

I get knocked down but I get up again, Italy, Canada, UK, ACLU, Facebook, Google, YouTube, Twitter... are never gonna keep me down

Clearview AI is reportedly expanding its facial-recognition services beyond law enforcement to include private industries, such as banking and education, amid mounting pressure from regulators, Big Tech, and privacy campaigners.

The New York-based startup's gigantic database contains more than 20 billion photos scraped from public social media accounts and websites. The database was used to train Clearview's software, which works by performing a face-matching algorithm between input images and ones stored on its database to identify individuals.

These images were downloaded without explicit permission from netizens or companies. Although Clearview has been sent numerous cease and desist letters from Twitter, YouTube, Google, Facebook and more, it continued to collect more images and grow its database. The demands to stop scraping public-facing webpages, however, were not legally binding, unlike the settlement agreement Clearview entered into to end its lawsuit against the American Civil Liberties Union.

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Predator spyware sold with Chrome, Android zero-day exploits to monitor targets

Or so says Google after tracking 30+ vendors peddling surveillance malware

Spyware vendor Cytrox sold zero-day exploits to government-backed snoops who used them to deploy the firm's Predator spyware in at least three campaigns in 2021, according to Google's Threat Analysis Group (TAG).

The Predator campaigns relied on four vulnerabilities in Chrome (CVE-2021-37973, CVE-2021-37976, CVE-2021-38000 and CVE-2021-38003) and one in Android (CVE-2021-1048) to infect devices with the surveillance-ware. 

Based on CitizenLab's analysis of Predator spyware, Google's bug hunters believe that the buyers of these exploits operate in Egypt, Armenia, Greece, Madagascar, Côte d'Ivoire, Serbia, Spain, Indonesia, and possibly other countries.

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If you're using the ctx Python package, bad news: Vandal added info-stealing code

Domain associated with maintainer email expired, taken over in supply-chain attack

The Python Package Index (PyPI), a repository for Python software libraries, has advised Python developers that the ctx package has been compromised.

Any installation of the software in the past ten days should be investigated to determine whether sensitive account identifiers stored in environment variables, such as cloud access keys, have been stolen.

The PyPI administrators estimate that about 27,000 malicious copies of ctx were downloaded from the registry since the rogue versions of ctx first appeared, starting around 19:18 UTC on May 14, 2022.

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DigitalOcean sets sail for serverless seas with Functions feature

Might be something for those who find AWS, Azure, GCP overly complex

DigitalOcean dipped its toes in the serverless seas Tuesday with the launch of a Functions service it's positioning as a developer-friendly alternative to Amazon Web Services Lambda, Microsoft Azure Functions, and Google Cloud Functions.

The platform enables developers to deploy blocks or snippets of code without concern for the underlying infrastructure, hence the name serverless. However, according to DigitalOcean Chief Product Officer Gabe Monroy, most serverless platforms are challenging to use and require developers to rewrite their apps for the new architecture. The ultimate goal being to structure, or restructure, an application into bits of code that only run when events occur, without having to provision servers and stand up and leave running a full stack.

"Competing solutions are not doing a great job at meeting developers where they are with workloads that are already running today," Monroy told The Register.

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Patch now: Zoom chat messages can infect PCs, Macs, phones with malware

Google Project Zero blows lid off bug involving that old chestnut: XML parsing

Zoom has fixed a security flaw in its video-conferencing software that a miscreant could exploit with chat messages to potentially execute malicious code on a victim's device.

The bug, tracked as CVE-2022-22787, received a CVSS severity score of 5.9 out of 10, making it a medium-severity vulnerability. It affects Zoom Client for Meetings running on Android, iOS, Linux, macOS and Windows systems before version 5.10.0, and users should download the latest version of the software to protect against this arbitrary remote-code-execution vulnerability.

The upshot is that someone who can send you chat messages could cause your vulnerable Zoom client app to install malicious code, such as malware and spyware, from an arbitrary server. Exploiting this is a bit involved, so crooks may not jump on it, but you should still update your app.

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Google says it would release its photorealistic DALL-E 2 rival – but this AI is too prejudiced for you to use

It has this weird habit of drawing stereotyped White people, team admit

DALL·E 2 may have to cede its throne as the most impressive image-generating AI to Google, which has revealed its own text-to-image model called Imagen.

Like OpenAI's DALL·E 2, Google's system outputs images of stuff based on written prompts from users. Ask it for a vulture flying off with a laptop in its claws and you'll perhaps get just that, all generated on the fly.

A quick glance at Imagen's website shows off some of the pictures it's created (and Google has carefully curated), such as a blue jay perched on a pile of macarons, a robot couple enjoying wine in front of the Eiffel Tower, or Imagen's own name sprouting from a book. According to the team, "human raters exceedingly prefer Imagen over all other models in both image-text alignment and image fidelity," but they would say that, wouldn't they.

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Facebook opens political ad data vaults to researchers

Facebook builds FORT to protect against onslaught of regulation, investigation

Meta's ad transparency tools will soon reveal another treasure trove of data: advertiser targeting choices for political, election-related, and social issue spots.

Meta said it plans to add the targeting data into its Facebook Open Research and Transparency (FORT) environment for academic researchers at the end of May.

The move comes a day after Meta's reputation as a bad data custodian resurfaced with news of a lawsuit filed in Washington DC against CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Yesterday's filing alleges Zuckerberg built a company culture of mishandling data, leading directly to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The suit seeks to hold Zuckerberg responsible for the incident, which saw millions of users' data harvested and used to influence the 2020 US presidential election.

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Toyota cuts vehicle production over global chip shortage

Just as Samsung pledges to invest $360b to shore up next-gen industries

Toyota is to slash global production of motor vehicles due to the semiconductor shortage. The news comes as Samsung pledges to invest about $360 billion over the next five years to bolster chip production, along with other strategic sectors.

In a statement, Toyota said it has had to lower the production schedule by tens of thousands of units globally from the numbers it provided to suppliers at the beginning of the year.

"The shortage of semiconductors, spread of COVID-19 and other factors are making it difficult to look ahead, but we will continue to make every effort possible to deliver as many vehicles to our customers at the earliest date," the company said.

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Microsoft shows off Windows updates at Build dev event

Amazon Appstore preview goes wider, plus Windows on Arm platform with Neural Processing Units – Project Volterra

Microsoft Build Windows still rules the enterprise, and among all the Azure and Power Platform action during Microsoft's annual Build event for developers, the company had news for users of its flagship operating system.

The first followed this week's revelation that Windows Subsystem for Android is now running on Android Open Source Project (AOSP) 12.1, and concerns the Amazon Appstore preview.

After an inexplicable delay, Microsoft is finally adding countries on top of the US. Users in France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the UK will by the end of the year be able to join in previewing the Amazon Appstore, although there appears to still be no official way to get access to apps outside of those brought to Windows 11 via Amazon.

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