Loongson 3A5000 benchmarks for these new Chinese CPUs built on the LoongArch ISA

While Loongson has been known for their MIPS-based Loongson chips that are open-source friendly and have long been based on MIPS, with MIPS now being a dead-end, the Chinese company has begun producing chips using its own “LoongArch” ISA. The first Loongson 3A5000 series hardware was just announced and thanks to the company apparently using the Phoronix Test Suite and OpenBenchmarking.org we have some initial numbers.

Announced this week was the Loongson 3A5000 as their first LoongArch ISA chip that is quad-core with clock speeds up to 2.3~2.5GHz. Loongson 3A5000 offers a reported 50% performance boost over their prior MIPS-based chips while consuming less power and now also supporting DDR4-3200 memory. The Loongson 3A5000 series is intended for domestic Chinese PCs without relying on foreign IP and there is also the 3A5000LL processors intended for servers.

Performance isn’t even remotely interesting – for now. The Loongson processors will improve by leaps and bounds over the coming years, if only because it will have the backing of the regime. I hope some enterprising people import these to the west, because I’d love to see them in action. Nothing in technology excites me more than odd architectures.

Google will update very few devices to Wear OS 3

Google has provided a few more details about the upcoming release of Wear OS 3, which combines Samsung’s Tizen with Google’s Wear OS. Sadly, but not unexpectedly, pretty much no existing Wear OS devices will be updated to Wear OS 3.

Wear OS devices that will be eligible for upgrade include Mobvoi’s TicWatch Pro 3 GPS, TicWatch Pro 3 Cellular/LTE, TicWatch E3 and follow on TicWatch devices, as well as Fossil Group’s new generation of devices launching later this year.

It would seem existing devices simply aren’t powerful enough, so the four existing Wear OS users – I’m one of them – are shit out of luck.

Google messed up all those Chromebooks yesterday because of a single typo

Google can’t seem to catch a break when it comes to Chrome OS 91. First we saw many users reporting their devices using an egregious amount of CPU after upgrading to 91.0.4472.147. While Google pulled the update shortly thereafter and rolled everyone back to 91.0.4472.114, that managed to lock out Linux apps. Now we’re seeing the arrival of 91.0.4772.165, and this update introduces an awful bug that’s breaking Chromebooks left and right.

[…]

So what happened? Thanks to the work of an eagle-eyed user on Reddit, we now know that a single typo appears responsible for locking so many users out of their Chromebooks. By looking at the diff in this file, we can see that Google forgot to add a second “&” to the conditional statement, preventing Chrome OS from decrypting your login information (required to log you in).

This kind of sloppiness is what you get in an industry where there really aren’t any consequences to speak of for screwing things up. It’s not like software development is a real industry with strict product safety laws or anything.

California sues Activision Blizzard over a culture of ‘constant sexual harassment’

California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) says that renowned game publishing studio Blizzard Entertainment, and its owner Activision Blizzard, have created a culture of “constant sexual harassment” and gender-based discrimination, in a new lawsuit filed Tuesday that claims top executives were aware and/or involved. And in the hours since the suit was revealed, numerous women have already stepped forward to corroborate the allegations.

The details are so disturbing that we’re going to start with a trigger warning right now. The idea that male employees held “cube crawls” is one of the tamer allegations in the lawsuit.

This is by far the worst case of structural sexual abuse at a gaming company to date, and you really need to the read the full complaint to understand just how criminal the behaviour of male Activision Blizzard employees and managers has been, but some of these examples should give you a good idea. It even led to the suicide of one of the female employees at the company.

The abuse was so widespread, so pervasive, so depraved, and so institutionalised, that in my view, we’re dealing with a criminal organisation that ought to be shut down and banned, much like any other criminal organisation. The fact this is a company (or a religious institution, for that matter) should be of no consequence.

The complain itself is the result not of a single employee or one particular case, but of a two year investigation by California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

Plasma Mobile 21.07 released

Plasma Mobile 21.07 has been released, with a ton of improvements and fixes. The shell is now more responsive, by improving performance of the panel. On top of that, there’s countless fixes and improvements in the various applications, such as the podcasts application, the dialer, the SMS app, and more.

Reverse-engineering the Mali G78

After a month of reverse-engineering, we’re excited to release documentation on the Valhall instruction set, available as a PDF. The findings are summarized in an XML architecture description for machine consumption. In tandem with the documentation, we’ve developed a Valhall assembler and disassembler as a reverse-engineering aid.

Valhall is the fourth Arm Mali architecture and the fifth Mali instruction set. It is implemented in the Arm Mali-G78, the most recently released Mali hardware, and Valhall will continue to be implemented in Mali products yet to come.

Excellent and important work.

Windows 11 is getting an LTSC version, but not yet

When Windows 11 arrives this holiday season, there is going to be a ton of changes. It looks totally different, supports Android apps, and more. There are also changes coming to how Windows 11 is updated and how it’s supported, so just in case you were worried about it, you’ll be pleased to know that there will be a Windows 11 Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) version.

Good news for people not interested in Microsoft’s update schedule.

Revealed: leak uncovers global abuse of cyber-surveillance weapon

Human rights activists, journalists and lawyers across the world have been targeted by authoritarian governments using hacking software sold by the Israeli surveillance company NSO Group, according to an investigation into a massive data leak.

The investigation by the Guardian and 16 other media organisations suggests widespread and continuing abuse of NSO’s hacking spyware, Pegasus, which the company insists is only intended for use against criminals and terrorists.

Pegasus is a malware that infects iPhones and Android devices to enable operators of the tool to extract messages, photos and emails, record calls and secretly activate microphones.

Is anyone really surprised? Smartphones are the ideal tools for authoritarian regimes – cameras, microphones, GPS, and other sensors in one neat little package, always on the person, ready to be exploited. Of course criminal regimes are going to abuse them, and of course no smartphone is safe.

The perils of M1 ownership

In the next few days those using M1 Macs will be updating to Big Sur 11.5, blissfully ignorant of how, as an admin user, their Mac could refuse to update. Because now, in addition to regular users, admin users and root, there’s another class of admin user: the Owner. Let me explain.

Just something to be aware of.

IBM, dominance, and big tech

Recently, popular Apple blogger John Gruber has been on a mission to explain why, exactly, tech companies like Apple don’t need any stricter government oversight or be subjected to stricter rules and regulations. He does so by pointing to technology companies that were once dominant, but have since fallen by the wayside a little bit. His most recent example is IBM, once dominant among computer users, but now a very different company, focused on enterprise, servers, and very high-end computing.

Gruber’s argument:

It wasn’t too long ago — 20, 25 years? — when a leadership story like this at IBM would have been all anyone in tech talked about for weeks to come. They’ve been diminished not because the government broke them up or curbed their behavior through regulations, but simply because they faded away. It is extremely difficult to become dominant in tech, but it’s just as difficult to stay dominant for longer than a short run.

Setting aside the fact that having to dig 40 years into the past of the fast-changing technology industry to find an example of a company losing its dominance among general consumers and try to apply that to vastly different tech industry of today is highly questionable, IBM specifically is an exceptionally terrible example to begin with.

I don’t think the average OSNews reader needs a history lesson when it comes to IBM, but for the sake of completeness – IBM developed the IBM Personal Computer in the early ’80s, and it became a massive success. Almost overnight, it became the personal computer, and with IBM opting for a relatively open architecture – especially compared to its competitors at the time – it was inevitable that clones would appear.

The first few clones that came onto the market, however, ran into a problem. While IBM opted for an open architecture to foster other companies making software and add-in cards and peripherals, what they most certainly did not want was other companies making computers that were 100% compatible with the IBM Personal Computer. In order to make a 100% IBM compatible, you’d need to have IBM’s BIOS – and IBM wasn’t intent on licensing it to anyone.

And so, the first clones that entered the market simply copied IBM’s BIOS hook, line, and sinker, or wrote a new BIOS using IBM’s incredibly detailed manual. Both methods were gross violations of IBM’s copyrights, and as such, IBM successfully sued them out of existence. So, if you want to make an IBM Personal Computer compatible computer, but you can’t use IBM’s own BIOS, and you can’t re-implement IBM’s BIOS using IBM’s detailed manual, what are your options? Well, it turns out there was an option, and the company to figure that out was Compaq.

Compaq realised they needed to work around IBM’s copyrights, so they set up a “clean room”. Developers who had never seen IBM’s manuals, and who had never seen the BIOS code, studied how software written for the IBM PC worked, and from that, reverse-engineered a very compatible BIOS (about 95%). Since IBM wasn’t going to just hand over control over their platform that easily, they sued Compaq – and managed to find one among the 9000 copyrights IBM owned that Compaq violated (Compaq ended up buying said copyright from IBM).

But IBM wasn’t done quite yet. They realised the clone makers were taking away valuable profits from IBM, and after their Compaq lawsuit largely failed to stop clone makers from clean-room reverse-engineering the BIOS, IBM decided to do something incredibly stupid: they developed an entirely new architecture that was entirely incompatible with the IBM PC: MCA, or the Microchannel Architecure, most famously used in IBM’s PS/2.

In the short run, IBM sold a lot of MCA-based machines due to the company’s large market share and dominance, but customers weren’t exactly happy. Software written for MCA-based machines would not work on IBM PC machines, and vice versa; existing investment in IBM PC software and hardware became useless, and investing in MCA would mean leaving behind a large, established customer base.

The real problem for IBM, however, came in the long run. Nine of the most prominent clone manufacturers realised the danger MCA could pose, and banded together to turn the IBM PC into a standard not controlled by IBM, the Extended Industry Standard Architecture (with IBM’s PC-AT of the IBM PC renamed to ISA), later superseded by Vesa Local Bus and PCI. Making MCA machines and hardware required paying hefty royalties to IBM, while making EISA/VLB/PCI machines was much cheaper, and didn’t tie you down to a single, large controlling competitor.

In the end, we all know what happened – MCA lost out big time, and IBM lost control over the market it helped create entirely. The clone makers and their successful struggle to break it free from IBM’s control has arguably contributed more to the massive amounts of innovation, rapid expansion of the market, and popularity and affordability of computers than anything else in computing history. If the dice of history had come up differently, and IBM had managed to retain or regain control over the IBM PC platform, we would have missed out on one of the biggest computing explosions prior to the arrival of the modern smartphone.

To circle back to the beginning of this article – using IBM’s fall from dominance in the market for consumer computers as proof that the market will take care of the abusive tech monopolists of today, at best betrays a deep lack of understanding of history, and at worst is an intentional attempt at misdirection to mislead readers.

Yes, IBM lost out in the marketplace because its competitors managed to produce better, faster, and cheaper machines – but the sole reason this competition could even unfold in the first place is because IBM inadvertently lost the control it had over the market. And this illustrates exactly why the abusive tech giants of today need to be strictly controlled, regulated, and possibly even broken up. IBM could only dream of the amount of control companies like Google, Apple, and Amazon have over their markets and users, and we are far, far beyond the point where the “market” can even dream of taking care of them.

There are other examples in technology that unfolded similarly to the story of IBM. The browser wars are sometimes cited as examples of tech giants not needing any regulations or oversight either, but just like how the clone makers could only beat IBM by breaking IBM’s control, browser makers – specifically, Mozilla – could only challenge Microsoft’s Internet Explorer because for all its countless faults, Windows is a fairly open platform, and Windows users were, at the very least, free to use and set as default any browser they wished.

Imagine if Microsoft had done an iOS, and had not allowed Windows users to use anything but Internet Explorer (or Internet Explorer skins). Do you honestly believe Mozilla would’ve stood a single chance in hell of breaking Internet Explorer’s stranglehold on the browser market?

There are countless examples from the past, in all kinds of industries, where monopolised or otherwise strangled markets had to be forcibly fixed by governments or the legal system. Take, for example, the strangehold the Wright Company and the Curtiss Company had on the airplane industry at the onset of World War I in the US – so tight was their control, that the production of new airplanes had all but stalled, and technological development in aviation in the US had come to a standstill. The United States government was forced to step in and force the industry to set up a patent pool every manufacturer was forced to join, thereby dislodging the market.

IBM lost its dominance exactly because the market became more open, less controlled, and easier to enter. By using IBM’s story as an argument, you’re arguing that we need more openness in the market, not less – and much like IBM 40 years ago, Apple, Google, Amazon, and others are not going to relinquish that control willingly.

History has taught us that if we want more innovation, more competition, and more choice, we need to curtail the big technology companies, and I think we’re well past the point where forced break-ups should be on the table.

Because I really wouldn’t want to live in a world where the IBM PC was the only game in town.

Haiku boots to desktop on real RISC-v hardware

Hot on the heals of yesterday’s summary about recent Haiku news, we’ve got a big one – Haiku’s desktop running on real RISC-V hardware, the HiFive Unmatched.

I finally managed to run desktop. Crashes was caused by unaligned access to framebuffer, access seems to require 16 byte alignment. I made some quick hack to enforce alignment in app_server when copying to front buffer, but it currently introduce artifacts.

I don’t know why 16 byte alignment is required, radeon_hd driver works fine on Acer W500 tablet without alignment tricks.

This is a big milestone.

Haiku’s latest activity report, more RISC-V news, and a small delay for beta 3

A random collection of Haiku news today – starting with the latest activity report. With the release of beta 3 creeping every closer, there’s a lot to report in this one, from improving POSIX support, to improvements to the Intel video driver, to work on the bootloader, and a lot more.

Secondly, there’s news on the RISC-V front. Two months ago, a lot of progress was made on porting Haiku to RISC-V, and earlier this month, the Haiku project decided to really support this effort by buying RISC-V hardware and donating it to the developer in question. The HiFive Unmatched board has made its way to the developer by now, so expect a lot more progress on this front in the future.

Lastly, the project has decided to push back the release of beta 3 by one week. There’s one remaining nasty bug in the WebKit port, and since the team wants to make sure the browsing experience is the best it can be, they’ve decided to give the developers a bit more time to iron out this final bug.

Amazon just got Fakespot booted off Apple’s iOS App Store

Fakespot, known for its web browser extensions that try to weed out fake product reviews, suddenly no longer has an iPhone or iPad app — because Amazon sent Apple a takedown request, both Amazon and Fakespot confirm, and Apple decided to remove the app.

The giant retailer says it was concerned about how a new update to the Fakespot app was “wrapping” its website without permission, and how that could be theoretically exploited to steal Amazon customer data. But Fakespot founder Saoud Khalifah tells The Verge that Apple abruptly removed the app today without any explanation. Apple didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.

Two abusive monopolists walk into a bar.

Microsoft launches Windows 365, a Windows desktop in the cloud

Today we’re excited to announce Windows 365, a cloud service that introduces a new way to experience Windows 10 or Windows 11 (when it’s generally available later this calendar year) for workers from interns and contractors to software developers and industrial designers. Windows 365 takes the operating system to the Microsoft Cloud, securely streaming the full Windows experience—including all your apps, data, and settings—to your personal or corporate devices. This approach creates a fully new personal computing category, specifically for the hybrid world: the Cloud PC.

As silly as this sounds, I’m actually somewhat interested in this. I have a Windows 10 VM for some Windows-only translation software I sometimes need to use, but managing and updating Windows is a pain, so the idea of just paying a few euros every month to have a Windows instance on some faraway server actually seems like a much better alternative.

Valve unveils handheld console running Linux and Steam

Update: It runs Arch Linux, and the Steam Deck interface is built on KDE’s Plasma.

The Verge reports:

Valve just announced the Steam Deck, its long-rumored Switch-like handheld gaming device. It will begin shipping in December and reservations open July 16th at 1PM ET. It starts at $399, and you can buy it in $529 and $649 models as well.

The device has an AMD APU containing a quad-core Zen 2 CPU with eight threads and eight compute units’ worth of AMD RDNA 2 graphics, alongside 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM. There are three different storage tiers: 64GB eMMC storage for $399, 256GB NVMe SSD storage for $529, and 512GB of high-speed NVME SSD storage for $649, according to Valve. You can also expand the available storage using the high-speed microSD card slot.

This is an excellent value for money, and what’s awesome is that this is a Linux device (it can run Windows too, if you choose to install it, since it’s just a PC). It runs a new version of SteamOS, using the amazing Proton to run Windows games. This is how I’ve been playing my games for a long time now, and I can’t reiterate enough just how good Proton has become. At this price point, with these features, and with Steam’s massive reach, this device is going to be a massive hit.

My fiancée and I have already decided we’re getting one, since it’s just so perfect for what it offers. I’ve been looking at similar offerings from Chinese manufacturers, but they usually come with compatibility problems, far higher prices, and Windows. This new device from Valve seems to fix a lot of these issues, and I can’t wait to see if it’ll hold up in reviews.

Porting QEMU to Redox OS

I am one of the RSoC (Redox Summer of Code) participants (students) this year (2021). As part of RSoC, I have been working on porting QEMU to Redox OS for the past one month. This is my first post detailing my project in order to give you an insight into it and what the future might hold.

This will be an interesting project to follow.

Libre-SOC releases first non-IBM OpenPOWER chip in decade

The Libre-SOC project, a team of engineers and creative personas aiming to provide a fully open System-on-Chip, has today posted a layout that the team sent for chip fabrication of the OpenPOWER-based processor. Currently being manufactured on TSMC’s 180 nm node, the Libre-SOC processor is a huge achievement in many ways. To get to a tape out, the Libre-SOC team was accompanied by engineering from Chips4Makers and Sorbonne Université, funded by NLnet Foundation.

Based on IBM’s OpenPOWER instruction set architecture (ISA), the Libre-SOC chip is a monumental achievement for open-source hardware. It’s also the first independent OpenPOWER chip to be manufactured outside IBM in over 12 years. Every component, from hardware design files, documentation, mailing lists to software, is open-sourced and designed to fit with the open-source spirit and ideas.

This is an impressive milestone, and I can’t wait until this is ready for more general use. With things like RISC-V and OpenPOWER, there’s a lot of progress being made on truly open source hardware, and that has me very, very excited. This also brings an OpenPOWER laptop closer to being a real thing, and that’s something I’d buy in less than a heartbeat.

A look into CBL-Mariner, Microsoft’s internal Linux distribution

First thing to understand about Mariner is that is not a general purpose Linux distribution like Ubuntu or Fedora, it was created by Microsoft’s Linux System Group which is the same team at Microsoft which created the Linux kernel used for Windows Subsystem for Linux version 2, or WSL2. The goal of Mariner is to be used as an internal Linux distribution for Microsoft’s engineering teams to build our cloud infrastructure and edge products and services.

Of course Mariner is open source and it has its own repo under Microsoft’s GirHub organization. No ISOs or images of Mariner are provided, however the repo has instructions to build them on Ubuntu 18.04. There are a series of prerrequistes listed in this GitHub page that roughly include Docker, RPM tools, ISO build tools and Golang, amongst others.

Not surprising, of course, but still quite interesting to poke around in.

Biden signs executive order targeting right to repair, ISPs, net neutrality, and more

President Joe Biden has signed an executive order meant to promote competition — with technology directly in the crosshairs.

The order, which the White House outlined earlier this morning, calls on US agencies like the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to implement 72 specific provisions. The topics include restoring net neutrality provisions repealed during the prior administration, codifying “right to repair” rules, and increasing scrutiny of tech monopolies.

Good intentions, but these are just executive orders – not actual bills that can withstand the test of time. I understand executive orders are the best the US can get with its broken and gridlocked political system, but it’s simply not enough – the next president can just wipe them off the desk.