The surprising truth about pixels and accessibility

Should web developers use pixels or ems/rems for accessible fonts?

It’s an emotionally-charged question because there are a lot of conflicting opinions out there, and it can be overwhelming. Maybe you’ve heard that rems are better for accessibility. Or maybe you’ve heard that the problem is fixed and pixels are fine?

The truth is, if you want to build the most-accessible product possible, you need to use both pixels and ems/rems. It’s not an either/or situation. There are circumstances where rems are more accessible, and other circumstances where pixels are more accessible.

↫ Joshua Comeau

The linked article isn’t just an explanation of why, but also a tutorial.

Reddit sells training data to unnamed AI company ahead of IPO

On Friday, Bloomberg reported that Reddit has signed a contract allowing an unnamed AI company to train its models on the site’s content, according to people familiar with the matter. The move comes as the social media platform nears the introduction of its initial public offering (IPO), which could happen as soon as next month.

Reddit initially revealed the deal, which is reported to be worth $60 million a year, earlier in 2024 to potential investors of an anticipated IPO, Bloomberg said. The Bloomberg source speculates that the contract could serve as a model for future agreements with other AI companies.

↫ Benj Edwards at Ars Technica

Properly paying for the content you’re feeding into your “AI” model is a huge improvement over just taking it without users’ consent, but it does add yet another area of concern for users of all kinds of platforms. Whatever you write, create, or post might be fed into “AI” models without you ever realising it, and while the platform you use gets paid for that, you aren’t.

In any event, OSNews is not selling your comments to an “AI” company, but with how old we are, there’s no doubt both your comments and our stories have already found their way into countless “AI” black holes.

GhostBSD 24.01.1 released

This new release is based on FreeBSD 14.0-STABLE. Update Station got a significant change to upgrade to a major FreeBSD version, allowing upgrading GhostBSD from 13.2-STABLE to 14.0-STABLE. Also, a major change to the installer is the user created is an admin, and the root user gets the same password as the admin. If the admin password is changed after the installation, the root password will not change.

↫ GhostBSD’s website

GhostBSD is a user-friendly, desktop-first ‘distribution’ of FreeBSD – a project which, in my humble view, should be part of the FreeBSD project-proper. With some old-time Linux feeling a sense of disenfranchisement towards Linux due to things like Wayland and systemd, FreeBSD could serve as an excellent alternative, and an official desktop-first ISO could play a role in that.

Of course, that’s not exactly core to FreeBSD’s mission, and they really shouldn’t be listening to idiots like me, but I think it’s an idea worth pondering.

Fully documented source code for Lander on the Acorn Archimedes

This site contains reconstructed source code for Lander, David Braben’s epic game for the Acorn Archimedes, with every single line documented and (for the most part) explained.

Lander was the very first game to be released for the ARM processor, and it is both a milestone and a masterpiece.

My hope is that this site will be useful for those who want to learn more about Lander and what makes it tick. It is provided on an educational and non-profit basis, with the aim of helping people appreciate the second classic game from this legend of 3D coding (the first classic being Elite, of course).

↫ Mark Moxon

An incredibly valuable resource.

Running GNU on DOS with DJGPP

I remember using DJGPP back in the 1990s before I had been exposed to Linux and feeling that it was a strange beast. Compared to the Microsoft C Compiler and Turbo C++, the tooling was bloated and alien to DOS, and the resulting binaries were huge. But DJGPP provided a complete development environment for free, which I got from a monthly magazine, and I could even look at its source code if I wished. You can’t imagine what a big deal that was at the time.

But even if I could look under the cover, I never did. I never really understood why was DJGPP so strange, slow, and huge, or why it even existed. Until now. As I’m in the mood of looking back, I’ve spent the last couple of months figuring out what the foundations of this software were and how it actually worked. Part of this research has resulted in the previous two posts on DOS memory management. And part of this research is this article. Let’s take a look!

↫ Julio Merino

Having access to tools such as this, including the source code, must’ve been a huge deal to a lot of people, even if ti was “strange, slow, and huge” as the author notes.

The First Developer Preview of Android 15 released

We’re releasing the first Developer Preview of Android 15 today so you, our developers, can collaborate with us to build a better Android.

Android 15 continues our work to build a platform that helps improve your productivity while giving you new capabilities to produce superior media experiences, minimize battery impact, maximize smooth app performance, and protect user privacy and security all on the most diverse lineup of devices out there.

↫ Dave Burke on the Android Developers Blog

This being the first Android 15 Developer Preview, the tentpole features it would contain are not here yet. We’re looking at a lot of under-the-hood features most users will never actively notice, but are still very welcome. The Privacy Sandbox has been updated, it adds Health Connect, a secure place to store health data, partial screen sharing, and a lot more.

Apple intentionally kills web applications for EU users in iOS 17.4 onward to spite its EU users

With the second beta of iOS 17.4, Apple disabled much of the functionality of Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) in the European Union. There was some speculation that it could be a temporary change or a bug related to some of the updates to the app ecosystem in Europe, but Apple has confirmed that PWAs were intentionally removed and won’t be returning.

↫ Juli Clover at MacRumors

When users in the European Union install iOS 17.4, all functionality regarding progressive web apps will be removed from iOS. This means that when you pin a PWA on your iOS home screen, instead of it opening ‘like an application’, so without any browser chrome but with additional other odds and ends to make it feel more like a native application, it’ll just open inside the full browser instead.

It’s typical Apple behaviour – vindictive and petty. Their stated reasoning – it was too hard and too much work to implement this for engines other than WebKit – is a bunch of utter nonsense, since Apple had no issues with developing like 600 new APIs and a whole bunch of new complex frameworks and administrative layers just to support their malicious DMA compliance to ensure they wouldn’t lose a single cent of protection money when a developer wants to distribute an application outside of the App Store. PWAs were the only way you could get an application-like experience on your iPhone from something not controlled, owned, and monetised by Apple, so it had to go to force developers to choose either of Apple’s new, maliciously DMA compliant monetised distribution options in the EU.

Every time this company does anything, it’s just… Slimy, scummy, sleazy, and anti-user.

WoWMIPS: MIPS emulator for Windows

Recently, I began a new project – developing a MIPS emulator for Windows. Although Windows NT is commonly associated with x86-based architectures (and more recently ARM64), historically some lesser-known editions were released for other chipsets. MIPS, a RISC architecture, briefly featured on Windows NT 3.51/4.0 alongside the DEC Alpha and PowerPC before being discontinued with the release of Windows 2000.

[…]

Having been predominantly x86-focused until now, I have no prior experience with MIPS – or RISC architectures in general. As with the Win16 emulator, my plan is not to achieve 100% compatibility with complex software. Instead, I aim to emulate enough core functionality to successfully run some of the built-in Windows games and utilities. I would like to achieve this in the most universal way possible, relying on minimal hardcoded “fixes” and hooks.

↫ x86matthew

A very impressive project, and a fun one, to boot. Do note that the series of articles is split up, and you can move to the next one in the series at the bottom of each article.

European Court of Human Rights bans weakening of secure end-to-end encryption

The European Court of Human Rights yesterday banned a general weakening of secure end-to-end encryption. The judgement argues that encryption helps citizens and companies to protect themselves against hacking, theft of identity and personal data, fraud and the unauthorised disclosure of confidential information. Backdoors could also be exploited by criminal networks and would seriously jeopardise the security of all users’ electronic communications. There are other solutions for monitoring encrypted communications without generally weakening the protection of all users, the Court held. The judgement cites using vulnerabilities in the target’s software or sending an implant to targeted devices as examples.

↫ EU Reporter

Excellent ruling, and it throws up another roadblock to weakening end-to-end encryption in the EU, after the European Parliament also took a stance against such weakening.

Reverse engineering a forgotten 1970s Intel dual core beast: 8271, a new ISA

Around 1977, Intel released a floppy disc controller (FDC) chip called the 8271. This controller isn’t particularly well known. It was mainly used in business computers and storage solutions, but its one breakthrough into the consumer space was with the BBC Micro, a UK-centric computer released in 1981.

There are very few easily discovered details about this chip online, aside from the useful datasheet. This, combined with increasing observations of strange behavior, make the chip a bit of an enigma. My interest in the chip was piqued when I accidentally triggered a wild test mode that managed to corrupt one of my floppy discs even though the write protect tab was present! You can read about that here.

Can we reverse engineer a detailed understanding of how it works? What wonders will we find?

↫ Chris Evans

This thing is wild.

Closing in on a COSMIC alpha

We’re on approach towards an alpha version of the new COSMIC desktop environment for Pop!_OS and other distros. Meanwhile, COSMIC testing has expanded to more users around the office. This month, we’re providing updates to the checklist we published in January on remaining tasks for releasing the alpha.

↫ System76’s official blog

COSMIC is feeling very close now, and this update has a ton of new things and improvements in it, and COSMIC being new, it’s a lot of stuff that’s table stakes. There’s a screenshot utility now, you can tab various windows together, kind of like Haiku can, the design for the on-screen display notifications has been finalised, there’s new animations, and so much more.

I’m very excited to try this out.

Updating Microsoft Secure Boot keys

Microsoft, in collaboration with our ecosystem partners, is preparing to roll out replacement certificates that’ll set new Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) Certificate Authorities (CAs) trust anchors in Secure Boot for the future. Look out for Secure Boot database updates rolling out in phases to add trust for the new database (DB) and Key Exchange Key (KEK) certificates. This new DB update is available as an optional servicing update for all Secure Boot enabled devices from February 13, 2024.

↫ SochiOgbuanya

This update will replace the Windows 8-era certificates, set to expire in 2026, with new ones.

The text file that runs the internet

The robots.txt file governs a give and take; AI feels to many like all take and no give. But there’s now so much money in AI, and the technological state of the art is changing so fast that many site owners can’t keep up. And the fundamental agreement behind robots.txt, and the web as a whole — which for so long amounted to “everybody just be cool” — may not be able to keep up either.

↫ David Pierce for The Verge

Another thing “AI” does not respect.

Mozilla downsizes as it refocuses on Firefox and AI

Specifically, Mozilla plans to scale back its investment in a number of products, including its VPN, Relay and, somewhat remarkably, its Online Footprint Scrubber, which launched only a week ago. Mozilla will also shut down Hubs, the 3D virtual world it launched back in 2018, and scale back its investment in its mozilla.social Mastodon instance. The layoffs will affect roughly 60 employees. Bloomberg previously reported the layoffs.

Going forward, the company said in an internal memo, Mozilla will focus on bringing “trustworthy AI into Firefox.” To do so, it will bring together the teams that work on Pocket, Content and AI/Ml.

↫ Frederic Lardinois for TechCrunch

I’d like to remind everyone that I’ve been warning the Linux world about the precarious, uncertain future of Firefox for years now. The single most important desktop Linux application is in a death spiral and entirely dependent on free Google money. Not a good base to work from.

With today’s news, I only feel strengthened in my conviction that the major desktop projects in the Linux world need to come together in a serious manner to discuss the establishment of a browser project optimised for Linux. Pick an engine, let the GNOME and KDE developers build a native UI on top, and take matters into your own hands. If you can build the two best desktop environments in desktop computing today, you can build a first-class browser together.

This is existential.

Microsoft is bringing Copilot “AI” to Notepad for Windows 11

Microsoft plans to make Copilot AI inseparable from Windows. After releasing Copilot for Windows 11 and 10 and adding it to Microsoft apps, you can now use Copilot AI in Notepad to get simplified explanations. You can install the Notepad app update via the Microsoft Store to use this feature, but remember, it only works in Dev or Canary channels.

Notepad version 11.2401.25.0 adds the “Explain with Copilot” option in its context menu. After highlighting a chunk of text (sentences, code snippets, etc), right-click and select the “Explain with Copilot” option. Or you can press the Ctrl + E shortcut to invoke this feature.

↫ Abhishek Mishra

I wonder if you could replace this new, butchered Notepad with a an older, working copy.

FreeBSD 15, 16 to end support for 32 bit platforms

FreeBSD is deprecating 32-bit platforms over the next couple of major releases. We anticipate FreeBSD 15.0 will not include the armv6, i386, and powerpc platforms, and FreeBSD 16.0 will not include armv7. Support for executing 32-bit binaries on 64-bit kernels will be retained through at least the lifetime of the stable/16 branch if not longer. (There is currently no plan to remove support for 32-bit binaries on 64-bit kernels.)

↫ John Baldwin on freebsd-announce

I don’t think this is too egregious of a timeline, but there’s always someone with some weird edge case that gets bit hard by deprecations like these.

Running UNIX on a Nintendo Entertainment System

Who wouldn’t want to run a UNIX-like operating system on their NES or Famicom? Although there’s arguably no practical reason for doing so, decrazyo has cobbled together a working port of Little Unix (LUnix), which was originally written for the Commodore 64 and 128 by Daniel Dallmann. The impetus for this project was initially curiosity, but when decrazyo saw that someone had already written a UNIX-like OS for the 6502 processor, it seemed apparent that the NES was too similar to the C64 to not port it.

↫ Maya Posch for Hackaday

This is peak computing.

Broadcom VMware ends free VMware vSphere Hypervisor closing an era

Broadcom’s VMware division took a big step today, ending its free VMware vSphere Hypervisor. This is one of those announcements that we were expecting after we covered VMware End of Availability on Many VMware vSphere Editions and VMware Updates its EOA Plan Providing Guidance for Some Subscription Transition, but it is a big deal for many STH readers. It now sets VMware down the path of mainframes.

↫ Patrick Kennedy at ServeTheHome

A massive blow for the homelab community.

How to get the retro WordArt back in Microsoft Word

Graphic design is my passion so naturally I love the vintage, 1990s WordArt. This was a feature in Microsoft Word that allowed you to create timeless “3D” renderings of any text you wanted. It was perfection, but for some reason Microsoft overhauled the feature in the late 2000s, basically ruining it.

[…]

These are a soulless simulacrum of the WordArt of yore. The true WordArt remains, however, embedded deep in the code of Microsoft Word itself. But some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend. Legend became myth. And for twenty years WordArt passed out of all knowledge. 

But it can be found again.

↫ Justin Pot at Popular Science

I had no idea this stuff was still in there, but I guess it makes sense – people absolutely adored this stuff, and it was all over the place for a very long time. You would see it in restaurants, hotels, schools, stores, everywhere – from high-end, luxury places to bargain basements. Now that I think about it, I’m not at all surprised it’s still accessible.