Jef Raskin’s Canon Cat

Few things in technology excites me more than an amazing computer I have never heard of before – especially one with pedigree.

Many people take a casual glance at this machine and say, “Isn’t that an overgrown word processor?” And one could certainly think so, in part because of its keyboard-centric operation, but mostly from the utterly uncomprehending way Canon advertised it in 1987. Canon dubbed the Cat a “work processor” because of its built-in telecommunications, modem and word processor even though Jef Raskin, its designer, had intended it as a “people’s computer” that could be inexpensive, accessible and fully functional — all things he had hoped to accomplish at Apple after first launching the Macintosh project, prior to departing in 1982.

Canon, however, never fully grasped the concept either. Apart from the tone-deaf marketing, Canon sold the device through their typewriter division and required the display to only show what a daisywheel printer could generate, limiting its potential as a general purpose workstation.

↫ Cameron Kaiser

Wait, wait, wait. You mean to tell me there’s a unique, well-designed computer that seemed ahead of its time, sold by a printer and copier company, that failed in the market due to botched marketing and grotesque misunderstanding among management of what the device is supposed to be? What are the odds this happens twice?

The Canon Cat was designed and built by Jeff Raskin’s – of Macintosh fame – company Information Appliance, Inc., and licensed to Canon. It’s an all-in-one 68000-based computer with a bitmap display, an operating system stored in ROM, and a comprehensive Forth environment easily accessible despite the device autostarting to a word processor (because Canon).

Much like some of the predecessor machines Raskin had worked on before licensing the Cat to Canon, the Cat has an intriguing input method that I’d never seen before. Instead of a mouse or even cursor keys, it has two keys labeled “Leap” that are used for manipulating the text cursor.

In fact, there aren’t even conventional cursor keys. The Cat has the same “leap” keys as the Swyft and SwyftCard, in a bright but tasteful pink, and they work the same way to jump to portions of the document or into other documents. You can also use them to scroll with the SHIFT key, or move by single letters, sentences or paragraphs. The LEAP keys are also how you highlight text blocks to manipulate by LEAPing to the beginning, LEAPing to the end, and then pressing them together.

↫ Cameron Kaiser

The Forth programming environment is also very interesting. It was hidden in that Canon didn’t really want you to use it, but Raskin’s company made no secret of it, and it was easily accessible. It uses a special dialect of Forth, which can be used at either a traditional OK prompt, or just by typing Forth code into the word processor, highlighting it, and executing it with a keyboard shortcut, after which any output will be displayed in the word processor as well.

The Canon Cat was a market failure, and hence it shouldn’t be a surprise it’s exceedingly rare. The article further details the internals, some fixes that were required and performed, and much, much more. A follow-up article will delve deeper into the software, too.

Microsoft published minimum system requirements, CPU support for Windows 11 LTSC 2024

Aside from that, the company also announced Windows 11 IoT Enterprise LTSC 2024 this week. The company has also published the minimum system requirements as well as supported processor families. They have been categorized as Preferred and Optional. Interestingly, SSD has been added as a minimum system requirement, which has been a rumour about the client OS since mid-2022.

↫ Sayan Sen at NeoWin

The LTSC release, which is not really supposed to be used by average consumers, is still remarkably popular. It contains a fixed feature set and gets far fewer updates than regular Windows releases, it omits otherwise stock applications like Edge, and gives its users far more control over which updates are and are not installed. LTSC also enjoys 10 years of support from Microsoft.

Interestingly enough, the minimum specifications for the IoT version of LTSC do not require a TPM 2.0, unlike the regular version of Windows, which infamously does require one. I would assume that the “preferred” minimum requirements, which does require TPM 2.0, line up very well with the minimum requirements for the regular LTSC version of Windows 11. Both will become available later this year, alongside the regular release of Windows 11 24H2.

Evolution of the ELF object file format

The ELF object file format is adopted by many UNIX-like operating systems. While I’ve previously delved into the control structures of ELF and its predecessors, tracing the historical evolution of ELF and its relationship with the System V ABI can be interesting in itself.

↫ MaskRay

The article wasn’t lying. I had no reason to know this – and I’m pretty sure most of you didn’t either – but it turns out the standards that define ELF got caught up in the legal murkiness and nastiness of UNIX. After the dissolution of the committee governing ELF in 1995, stewardship went from one familiar name to the next, first Novell, then The Santa Cruz Operation, then Caldera which renamed itself to The SCO Group, and eventually ending up at UnXis (now Xinuos) in 2011. In 2015, the last maintainer of ELF left Xinuos, and since then, it’s been effectively unmaintained.

Which is kind of wild, considering ELF is a crucial building block of virtually all UNIX and UNIX-like operating systems today. The article mentions there’s a neutral Google Group that discusses, among other things, ELF, but that, too, has seen dwindling activity. Still, that group has reached consensus on some changes; changes that are now not reflected in any of the official texts. It’s a bit of a mess.

If you ever wanted to know the status of ELF as a standard, this article’s for you.

MSI shows off motherboard with CAMM2 memory

Earlier this month, we talked about the arrival of the new CAMM2 memory module standard, specifically designed to make replaceable memory modules as fast and capable as soldered memory. There’s technically no reason for CAMM2 to not also be beneficial to desktop use, and it turns out MSI is experimenting with this.

MSI on Thursday published the first image of a new desktop motherboard that supports the innovative DDR5 compression attached memory module (CAMM2). DDR5 CAMM2 modules are designed to improve upon the SO-DIMM form factor used for laptops, alleviating some of the high-speed signaling and capacity limitations of SO-DIMMs while also shaving down on the volume of space required. And while we’re eagerly awaiting to see CAMM2 show up in more laptops, its introduction in a PC motherboard comes as a bit of a surprise, since PCs aren’t nearly as space-constrained.

↫ Anton Shilov at AnandTech

This MSI motherboard is a bit of an experiment, as it also contains other more experimental choices like back-mounted power connectors. While CAMM2’s space savings won’t mean much for most desktop builds, it does leave more room for CPU coolers, and it looks a bit cleaner, too.

IceWM 3.5.0 released

IceWM, the venerable window manager we’ve all used at some point in our lives, has released a new version, 3.5.0. It’s a relatively minor release, so you’ve got things like a new install option which will install an extra theme, a fix for porting to NetBSD 10, translation updates, and more such small improvements. The AddressBar, a command line in the taskbar that can be summoned with ctrl+alt+space, also got some love, with file argument completion and support for the cd and pwd commands.

You can compile IceWM yourself, of course, but it’ll most likely find its way into your distribution’s repository quickly enough.

Google just updated its algorithm, and the Internet will never be the same

But Google results are a zero-sum game. If the search engine sends traffic to one site, it has to take it from another, and the effects on the losers in this Reddit equation are just as dramatic. “Google’s just committing war on publisher websites,” Ray says. “It’s almost as if Google designed an algorithm update to specifically go after small bloggers. I’ve talked to so many people who’ve just had everything wiped out,” she says.

A number of website owners and search experts who spoke to the BBC said there’s been a general shift in Google results towards websites with big established brands, and away from small and independent sites, that seems totally disconnected from the quality of the content.

↫ Thomas Germain at the BBC

These stories are coming out left, right, and centre now – and the stories are heartbreaking. Websites that publish truly quality content with honest, valuable, real reviews are now not only having to combat the monster of Google’s own creation – SEO spam websites – but also Google itself, who has started downranking them in favour of fucksmith on Reddit. Add to that the various “AI” boxes and answers Google is adding to its site, and the assault on quality content is coming from all angles.

I don’t look at our numbers or traffic sources, since I don’t want to be influenced by any of that stuff. I don’t think OSNews really lives or dies by a constant flow of Google results, but if we do, there’s really not much I can do about it anyway. Google Search once gaveth, and ever since that fateful day it’s mostly been Google Search taketh. I can’t control it, so I’m not going to worry about it. All I can do is keep the site updated, point out we really do need your support on Patreon and Ko-Fi – to keep OSNews running, and perhaps maybe ever going ad-free entirely – and hope for the best.

I do feel for the people who still make quality content on the web, though – especially people like the ones mentioned in the linked BBC article, who set up an entire business around honest, quality reviews of something as mundane as air purifiers. It must be devastating to see all you’ve worked for destroyed by SEO spam, fucksmith on Reddit, and answers from an “AI” high on crack.

After you die, your Steam games will be stuck in legal limbo

It turns out that digital rights management and its consequences extend even beyond your passing when it comes to Steam. Valve has made it clear that no, you cannot will your Steam account or games to someone else when you die.

The issue of digital game inheritability gained renewed attention this week as a ResetEra poster quoted a Steam support response asking about transferring Steam account ownership via a last will and testament. “Unfortunately, Steam accounts and games are non-transferable” the response reads. “Steam Support can’t provide someone else with access to the account or merge its contents with another account. I regret to inform you that your Steam account cannot be transferred via a will.”

↫ Kyle Orland at Ars Technica

My wife and I make sure we know each other’s passwords and login credentials to the most important accounts and services in our lives, since an accident can happen at any time, and we’d like to be somewhat prepared – as much as you can be, under the circumstances – for if something happens. I never even considered merging Steam accounts, but at least granting access to the person named in your will or your legal heir seems like something a service like Steam should be legally obliged to do.

I don’t think Steam’s position here – which is probably par for the course – is tenable in the long-term. Over the coming years and decades, we’re going to see more and more people who grew up almost entirely online pass away, leaving behind various accounts, digital purchases, and related matters, and loved ones and heirs will want access to those. At some point over the coming decades, there’s going to be a few high-profile cases in the media about something like this, and it’s going to spur lawmakers into drafting up legislation to make account and digital goods transfers to heirs and loved ones not a courtesy, but a requirement.

In the meantime, if you have a designated heir, like your children, a spouse, or whatever, make sure they can somehow gain access to your accounts and digital goods, by writing stuff down on paper and putting it somewhere safe or something similar. Again – you never know when you might… Expire.

Microsoft open-sources GW-BASIC

These sources, as clearly stated in the repo’s readme, are the 8088 assembly language sources from 10th Feb 1983, and are being open-sourced for historical reference and educational purposes. This means we will not be accepting PRs that modify the source in any way.

↫ Rich Turner

I’m loving all these open source releases from Microsoft, but honestly, I’d wish the pace was a little higher and we’d get to some more recent stuff. Open sourcing early versions of MS-DOS and related software is obviously great from a software preservation standpoint, but at this rate we’ll get to more influential pieces of software by the time the sun experiences its helium flash.

On a related note, about a month ago Microsoft released the source code to MS-DOS 4.00. Well, we’ve now also got access to the code for MS-DOS 4.01, a bugfix release that came out very quickly after 4.00.

Due to various bugs, DOS 4.00 was a relatively short-lived release, and it was replaced by DOS 4.01 just a couple of months later.

Howard M. Harte (hharte), who already fixed various flaws in the official source code release of MS-DOS 4.00, managed to figure out the differences between DOS 4.00 and 4.01 — we now have access to the improved version as well!

↫ Lothar Serra Mari

We’re getting a pretty complete picture of early MS-DOS source code.

iFixit ends its collaboration with Samsung

iFixit is ending its collaboration with Samsung, as iFixit claims the Korean giant is not actually interested in offering repair options at all.

As we tried to build this ecosystem we consistently faced obstacles that made us doubt Samsung’s commitment to making repair more accessible. We couldn’t get parts to local repair shops at prices and quantities that made business sense. The part prices were so costly that many consumers opted to replace their devices rather than repair them. And the design of Samsung’s Galaxy devices remained frustratingly glued together, forcing us to sell batteries and screens in pre-glued bundles that increased the cost.

↫ Scott Head

Honestly, this doesn’t surprise me. Unless right to repair legislation becomes more widespread and stricter, corporations will inevitably drag their feet in honouring any right to repair commitments and promises they make.

Writing a Unix clone in about a month

I needed a bit of a break from “real work” recently, so I started a new programming project that was low-stakes and purely recreational. On April 21st, I set out to see how much of a Unix-like operating system for x86_64 targets that I could put together in about a month. The result is Bunnix. Not including days I didn’t work on Bunnix for one reason or another, I spent 27 days on this project.

↫ Drew DeVault

Bunnix’ creator, Drew DeVault, has quite a bit of experience with writing operating systems, as they’re also the creator of Helios, an experimental microkernel operating system. Bunnix is remarkably capable for a 30-day project, and comes with support for both BIOS and UEFI boot, and it’ll boot on real hardware too. It doesn’t have USB support though, so if you’re going the real hardware route, you’ll need to take that into account for mouse and keyboard input.

Bunnix has a relatively solid set of drivers, taking the short development time into account: among other things, there’s PCI, AHCI block devices, serial ports, framebuffers, and ext4 support. The kernel supports a virtual filesystem, a /dev filled with block devices, a terminal emulator, and more. Bunnix is single-user for now, so it doesn’t enforce file permissions, but DeVault states it should be relatively easy to implement multiuser support.

A unique characteristic of Bunnix is that’s written mostly in Hare, complemented by some C. Hare is a relatively new programming language, which we touched on late last year when it was ported to OpenBSD. Implementing file systems proved to be one of the difficulties during development, partly due to Hare.

I also learned a lot about mixing source languages into a Hare project, since the kernel links together Hare, assembly, and C sources – it works remarkably well but there are some pain points I noticed, particularly with respect to building the ABI integration riggings. It’d be nice to automate conversion of C headers into Hare forward declaration modules. Some of this work already exists in hare-c, but has a ways to go. If I were to start again, I would probably be more careful in my design of the filesystem layer.

↫ Drew DeVault

DeVault’s post about Bunnix gives a lot more insight into the development of Bunnix, so I’d highly suggest to head on over to read more. Do note that DeVault considers Bunnix “done”, in the sense that the learning experience is over, and aside from a few random developments here and there, they won’t be doing any work on it anymore.

Bing went down, and lots of people discovered alternative search engines are whitelabel versions of Bing

It turns out way fewer people knew search engines like DuckDuckGo are just whitelabel versions of Microsoft Bing than I thought. Today, in most of Europe and Asia, search engines like DuckDuckGo, Ecosia, Qwant, other alternative search engines, ChatGPT internet search, and even Windows Copilot were all down. It turns out the culprit was Microsoft Bing; and when Microsoft Bing goes down, everyone who uses it goes down too.

Alternative search engines often try to be vague about their whitelabel status, or even outright hide it altogether. Bing is a popular search engine for whitelabeling, so when Bing goes down, almost the entire house of cards of alternative search engines comes tumbling down as well.

DuckDuckGo, for instance, places a lot of emphasis on using specialised search engines like TripAdvisor and direct sources like Sportradar or Wikipedia, as well as its own crawler and other indexes. However, as we saw today, as soon as Bing goes down, DuckDuckGo just stops working entirely. DDG happens to be my main search engine – a case of less shit than everyone else – so all throughout the day I was met with the error message “There was an error displaying the search results. Please try again.”

I don’t begrudge DDG or other search engines for repackaging Bing search results – building a truly new search engine and running it is incredibly hard, costly, and you’ll always be lagging behind – but I was surprised by how many people didn’t know just how common this practice really was. My Fediverse feeds were filled with people surprised to learn they’d been using Bing all along, just wrapped in a nicer user interface and with some additional features.

Building a Psion/EPOC32 emulator

In which I build WindEmu, an emulator for the Psion Series 5mx (a PDA from 1999 running EPOC – the OS that would become Symbian), over the course of just over a week, without access to the actual hardware. Yet another cursed project.

↫ Ash Wolf

I had never seen this before, even though it’s from 2019. You can load the emulator in your browser and use EPOC32 as if it’s running on the real thing, and I have to say it feel remarkably realistic for a project completed in a little over a week. Of course, it may have been tweaked and improved over the years since 2019, but I don’t know by how much. The last GitHub commit was five years ago, so it seems there really hasn’t been much public work done on it since.

An emulator like this is probably the closest most of us will get to the later devices from Psion, since as with all retrocomputing platforms, the number of working devices is rapidly dwindling, and prices for working examples on sites like eBay have gone through the roof.

Google pays $60 million to tell users to eat glue

Google’s new search feature, AI Overviews, seems to be going awry.

The tool, which gives AI-generated summaries of search results, appeared to instruct a user to put glue on pizza when they searched “cheese not sticking to pizza.”

↫ Jyoti Mann at Business Insider

Google’s “artificial intelligence” is literally just parroting a joke Reddit comment from 11 years ago by a person named fucksmith. Google is paying Reddit 60 million dollars for this privilege.

“AI” is going just great.

Cortile: auto-tiling manager that runs on top of your current window manager for X11

Linux auto tiling manager with hot corner support for Openbox, Fluxbox, IceWM, Xfwm, KWin, Marco, Muffin, Mutter and other EWMH compliant window managers using the X11 window system. Therefore, this project provides dynamic tiling for XFCE, LXDE, LXQt, KDE and GNOME (Mate, Deepin, Cinnamon, Budgie) based desktop environments.

Simply keep your current window manager and install cortile on top of it. Once enabled, the tiling manager will handle resizing and positioning of existing and new windows.

↫ Cortile GitHub page

I’ve always been mildly interested in trying out a proper tiling window manager – of which are millions – but installing and setting up an entirely new environment always felt a bit like overkill for something I’m just curious about instead of actually intending to use it permanently. This seems like a great solution to this issue.

Microsoft Recall takes constant screenshots of everything you do

About a month ago we talked about the rumours, but now the feature’s officially announced: Microsoft is going to keep track of everything you do on your Windows machine by taking a constant stream of screenshots, and then making said screenshots searchable by using things like text and image recognition. As you might expect, this is a privacy nightmare, and the details and fine print accompanying this new feature do not exactly instill confidence.

First, the feature is a lot dumber than you might expect, as it doesn’t perform any “content moderation”, as Microsoft calls it.

Note that Recall does not perform content moderation. It will not hide information such as passwords or financial account numbers. That data may be in snapshots that are stored on your device, especially when sites do not follow standard internet protocols like cloaking password entry.

↫ Privacy and control over your Recall experience

Well, Microsoft says Recall doesn’t do any content moderation, but that’s actually a flat-out lie. Recall will not show any content with DRM that happens to be on your screen, and private browsing sessions in Chromium-based browsers won’t be shown either. You can also exclude specific applications and websites – filtering websites, however, is only available in Edge. In other words, managing this privacy nightmare is entirely left up to the user… Except for DRM content, of course. The mouse must be pleased, after all.

It also seems Microsoft is enabling this feature by default for at least some business users, as machines managed with Microsoft Intune will have Recall enabled by default, and administrators will need to use Group Policy to disable it. There is no way in hell any company serious about data security will want Recall enabled, so I guess this can be added to the pile of headaches administrators already have to deal with.

My biggest worry is the usual slippery slope this feature represents. How long before governments will legally require a feature like this on all our computers? The more Microsoft and other companies brag about how easy and low-power stuff like this is, the more governments – already on the warpath when it comes to things like encrypted messaging – will want their hands on this.

This is such a bad idea.

Dell continues to base its ThinOS client operating system on FreeBSD

Several Dell products use ThinOS 9, such as the OptiPlex 3000 Thin Client, the OptiPlex All-In-One, and the Latitude series laptops, such as the Latitude 3440 and 5440. ThinOS is a ready-to-deploy solution that aims to improve virtual desktops while offering a secure platform for applications and services. It provides users with a seamless and integrated experience, whether remotely or from the office. It’s a software environment that optimizes virtual workspaces.

The latest version, ThinOS 9, is built on FreeBSD 12 with other 3rd-party open source components and is well-known for its robust security and stability. This aligns with the requirements of modern enterprises that demand high performance and protection in their computing solutions.

↫ Dell case study

While Dell and FreeBSD call this a ‘case study’ but while I see plenty of case, I see little study – it’s mostly just a load of marketing speak. That being said, there’s still interesting news in here about the future of ThinOS. The next release of ThinOS, version 10, will make the jump from FreeBSD 12 to the current FreeBSD 14 release, drastically improving hardware support in the process, while also bringing in the various other benefits of the latest FreeBSD release.

It will also improve ThinOS’ compatibility with Linux applications, a feature of FreeBSD, which is something Dell is keen to highlight. It should come as no surprise that ThinOS 10 will also improve its security features, probably also mostly coming along for the ride from FreeBSD 14.

Dell also mentions that it intends to continue using FreeBSD as the base for ThinOS, which could’ve easily gone differently as part of Dell’s acquisition of Wyze, where ThinOS originally comes from. This is good news for FreeBSD, but at the same time, when I look at thin clients on Dell’s website, ThinOS is just one of the options, and every photo shows the devices running Windows 10 IoT Enterprise LTSC 2021. I genuinely wonder what the spread is between buyers opting for ThinOS, Windows, and Linux.

Thin clients have always fascinated me, so perhaps I should go onto eBay, figure out which Dell thin clients are still supported by the latest ThinOS release, buy one, and set up a simple thin client environment in my home – using ThinOS, of course.

Microsoft adds Dev Drive block cloning to Windows

At the heart of developer productivity lies improving performance for developer workloads on Windows. Last year at Build, we announced Dev Drive a new storage volume tailor-made for developers and supercharged for performance and security. Since then, we have continued to invest further in Windows performance improvements for developer workloads.  

With the release of Windows 11 24H2, workflows will get even faster when developing on a Dev Drive. Windows copy engine now has Filesystem Block Cloning, resulting in nearly instantaneous copy actions and drastically improving performance, especially in developer scenarios that copy large files.

↫ Pavan Davuluri on the Windows blog

Sounds like a near and meaningful improvement.

How to make Google’s new “Web” search option the default in your browser

Last week, Google unveiled a new little feature in Google Search, called “Web”. Residing alongside the various other options like “All”, “Images”, “Video”, and so on, its goal is to effectively strip Google Search results from everything we generally don’t like, and just present a list of actual links to actual websites. It turns out it’s quite simple to set this as your default search “engine” in your browser, so somebody made a website to make that process a little easier.

On May 15th Google released a new “Web” filter that removes “AI Overview” and other clutter, leaving only traditional web results. Here is how you can set “Google Web” as your default search engine.


It’s important to note that this is not some separate search engine, and that no data is flowing any differently than when using regular Google. All this does is append the parameter UDM=14 to the URL, which loads the option “Web”.

noTunes: a macOS application to prevent iTunes or Apple Music from launching

noTunes is a macOS application that will prevent iTunes or Apple Music from launching.

Simply launch the noTunes app and iTunes/Music will no longer be able to launch. For example, when bluetooth headphones reconnect.

You can toggle the apps functionality via the menu bar icon with a simple left click.

↫ noTunes GitHub page

Apparently, this is such a common complaint that an application had to be made just to gain some semblance of control over what some people still refer to as “their” computer. For both macOS and Windows, there’s a giant industry – you can’t really call it a cottage industry anymore at this point – of tools, applications, and fixes just to deal with or avoid all the user-hostile, anti-choice garbage Apple and Microsoft shove into their respective operating systems.

As a Linux user – and recent OpenBSD convert – I find this absolutely wild. Following any Apple podcast, or reading any Windows website, makes it so clear just how many hoops these people have to jump through and how many weirdly-shaped holes they have to contort into just to be able to gain some vague semblance of ownership of their own hardware. I’m not judging – we all have areas in our lives where we do this, they just differ from person to person – but it’s still confronting to see it so clearly, all the time.