Fuchsia version 14 rolling out to Nest Hub Preview Program

According to Google’s official support page listing the current firmware versions of its speakers and smart displays, version 14.20230831.4.72 is now available to those enrolled in the Preview Program (which can be accessed via the Google Home app). These updates are often released in stages, meaning it may be a few weeks before your Nest Hub gets the latest build.

On the project’s website, Google offers a more in-depth look at what has changed in Fuchsia version 14 (as well as version 13, which the Nest Hubs skipped). Most of the changes will only be relevant to Fuchsia developers, but there are a handful of user-facing improvements.

Google is providing some very detailed release notes for each version of Fuchsia, which are quite interesting to peruse. The recent layoffs at Google hit the Fuchsia team hard, likely reducing its future prospects as Google’s unified consumer-facing operating system, but that clearly doesn’t mean it’s entirely dead in the water.

Windows-as-an-app is coming

Windows App, which is still in beta, will let you connect to Azure Virtual Desktop, Windows 365, Microsoft Dev Box, Remote Desktop Services, and remote PCs from, well, pretty much any computing device. Specifically, you can use it from Macs, iPhones, iPads, other Windows machines, and — pay attention! — web browsers.

That last part means you’ll be able to run Windows from Linux-powered PCs, Chromebooks, and Android phones and tablets.

So, if you’ve been stuck running Windows because your boss insists that you can’t get your job done from a Chromebook, Linux PC, or Mac, your day has come. You can still run the machine you want and use Windows for only those times you require Windows-specific software.

So remote desktop in a shinier package and some additional marketing.

Microsoft soliciting feedback about an “Windows Advanced Settings” panel

Currently, there are many settings/registry keys that developers desire to tweak that are either not accessible via the Windows Settings app and/or are difficult to discover throughout the OS. Users may have to resort to running scripts or manually changing registry keys to get their machine into their ideal state. Furthermore, there is not a single place for developers to discover and tweak new Windows features specific to developer workflows that are in development and provide feedback on them. This means that developers may not even be aware of features or settings that they can tweak to improve their workflows and optimize their productivity/machine performance. Finally, lots of developers have to search the web to find the best settings to tweak to optimize their machine for their specific use case — there isn’t a single place to find what settings are recommended by fellow developers.

Microsoft is soliciting feedback on a possible new settings panel that would centralise popular advanced settings in Windows that currently require registry hacks or are otherwise difficult to find. The company wants to know which features and settings are a good fit for such a panel, and what such a panel should look like.

This is an excellent idea, and something I’m sure many of the Windows users here would love to see.

Google researchers’ attack prompts ChatGPT to reveal its training data

A team of researchers primarily from Google’s DeepMind systematically convinced ChatGPT to reveal snippets of the data it was trained on using a new type of attack prompt which asked a production model of the chatbot to repeat specific words forever. 

Using this tactic, the researchers showed that there are large amounts of privately identifiable information (PII) in OpenAI’s large language models. They also showed that, on a public version of ChatGPT, the chatbot spit out large passages of text scraped verbatim from other places on the internet.

So not only are these things cases of mass copyright infringement, they also violate countless privacy laws.


My long quest to revive a ’90s Windows gaming cult classic

As 2023 draws to a close—and as we start to finalize our Game of the Year contenders—I really should be catching up on the embarrassingly long list of great recent releases that I haven’t put enough time into this year. Instead, over the last few days, I’ve found myself once again hooked on a simple, addictive, and utterly unique Japanese Windows freeware game from the late ’90s that, until recently, I thought I had lost forever.

Pendulumania is a cult classic in the truest sense of the word: Few people have heard of it, even in hardcore gaming circles, but those who have experienced it tend to have very fond memories of it. And while I shared those memories, it wasn’t until this week that I’ve been able to share my effusive praise for a game whose name and playable executable had eluded me for well over a decade.

What a great story.

First bits of a Haiku compatibility layer for NetBSD

Does anyone here remember Cosmoe? Cosmoe was an attempt to combine Haiku’s API with the Linux kernel and related tools, started in the early 2000s. The project eventually fizzled out, now only an obscure footnote for BeOS diehards such as myself. It seems, though, that the idea of combining the Haiku API with a mature UNIX-like operating system refuses to die, and a few days ago, on the NetBSD Users’s Discussion List, a developer by the name of Stephan picked up the baton.

Some years ago I already started to work on a compatibility layer for NetBSD and resumed working on it recently.


I think a compatibility layer would mostly consist of kernel components and a custom libroot.so. I have created a libroot that provides functionality missing in libc and it should behave like the original one. It makes use of libc and libpthread at the moment as well as syscalls of the kernel components. The source can be found on Github.

This is clearly an experimental project, but Stephan does note he has had success running the Haiku IPC test programs, so it’s definitely more than scribbles on a napkin. The attraction of this idea is clear, too – Haiku API, but on a stable kernel with vastly superior hardware and device support. I’m not entirely sure if it’s got life in it, but even if it doesn’t – it’s amazing work, and that in an of itself makes it a success.

Cinnamon 6.0 arrives with initial Wayland support

Cinnamon, the desktop environment mostly associated with Linux Mint, has released its sixth version.

It also adds support for AVIF images, a new option for notification screen selection, a new gesture for desktop zoom, a new menu details option, color picker support in the screenshot service, and an xdg-portal configuration file.

Various improvements are present as well to fix missing thumbnails for windows that are created while the Menu applet is open, enable window resizing in the Cinnamon Menu Editor, fix a bug causing the Menu applet to be partly behind the panel, fix the Power applet’s battery status, fix reloading of desklets after an update when multiple instances are running, and ensure the Settings window fits the toolbar when expanded.

Cinnamon 6.0’s biggest new feature is an experimental Wayland session, marking the first steps towards fully supporting Wayland in the near future.

How Huawei made a cutting-edge chip in China and surprised the US

This ambition to escape dependence on foreign technology rests on the shoulders of Huawei and SMIC. The successful launch of the Kirin 9000S injected new vigor into the semiconductor industry, with executives reporting that chip start-ups are seeing a surge in funding.

But Huawei’s long-term ambitions are not limited to the markets in China’s orbit. The original nickname for the Kirin 9000S—Charlotte—is a symbol of these hopes. It was named not for an individual, but for the city in North Carolina. Other mobile semiconductors in development are also named internally for US cities, insiders say.

Using American names, says one Huawei employee, reflects “our desire to one day reclaim our place in the global supply chain.”

It’s amazing how without any official support and using cobbled-together outdated lithography machines, Huawei and SMIC have managed to make a reasonably competitive smartphone SoC. As I keep saying – Chinese chip makers have the full financial might of the Chinese state behind them, and they’ll stop at nothing to reduce their dependence on ASML, TSMC, Intel, AMD, and so on.

And they’re making progress.

This month in Servo: better floats, :has(), color-mix(), and more!

Our nightly example browser, servoshell, is now easier to navigate, accepting URLs without http:// or https:// both in the location bar and on the command line, and should no longer lock up when run with --no-minibrowser. Local paths can also be given on the command line, and are still preferred when the path points to a file that exists.

Work is now underway to improve our embedding story and prepare Servo for integration with Tauri, starting with precompiled ANGLE for faster initial builds, better support for offscreen rendering, and support for multiple webviews. These changes haven’t landed yet, but once they do, apps will be able to open, move, resize, and interleave Servo with other widgets.

I’m curious what the future will bring to Servo. It seems under very active development, but it’s not part of any of the main browser projects. Let’s hope they can keep up the momentum so that it can grow into a viable alternative.

Because lord do we need one.

Evaluating M3 Pro CPU cores: general performance

Evaluating the performance of CPUs with identical cores is relatively straightforward, and they’re easy to compare using single- and multi-core benchmarks. When there are two different types of core, one designed primarily for energy efficiency (E), the other for maximum performance (P), traditional benchmarks can readily mislead. Multi-core results are dominated by the ratio of P to E cores, and variable frequency confounds further. In this series of articles, I set out to disentangle these when comparing core performance between Apple’s original M1 Pro and its third-generation M3 Pro chips.

This first article explains why and how I am investigating this, and shows overall results for performance and power use under a range of loads.

Articles like these will help you make an informed decision about whether or not your workloads can benefit from moving from an M1/M2 to an M3.

Windows NT: peeking into the cradle

Reading the story of how Windows NT came to be was entertaining, as it is a story of the system itself and the dynamics between Dave Cutler, the original designer and lead for NT, and the other people involved in the project. I was shy of being 10 years old when Windows NT launched and I didn’t comprehend what was going on in the operating systems world and why this release was such a big deal. Reading the book made me learn various new things about the development process, the role of Microsoft in that era, and allowed me to settle some questions I’ve had over the years.

This article is a mixture of a book review and a collection of thoughts and reflections that the book evoked. Let’s begin because we have a lot of ground to cover.

Dave Cutler’s impact on the word of computing really can’t be understated. I often wonder how he truly feels about what his and his team’s creation turned into today – does he like what Windows NT has become? Does he consider Windows 11 worthy of carrying on the torch of NT? As Cutler still works at Microsoft, we won’t get an answer any time soon, but I sure do hope he intends to write down his memoirs in a tell-all book about his life and career, because I’d be down for reading that.

Microsoft contributes Azure RTOS to open source

We’re pleased to share an important update regarding Azure RTOS – an embedded development suite with the ThreadX real-time operating system that has been deployed on more than 12 billion devices worldwide. Reinforcing our commitment to innovation and community collaboration, Azure RTOS will be transitioning to an open-source model under the stewardship of the Eclipse Foundation, a recognized leader in hosting open-source IoT projects.

With Eclipse Foundation as the new home, Azure RTOS becomes Eclipse ThreadX – a comprehensive embedded development suite including a small but powerful real-time operating system that provides reliable, ultra-fast performance for resource-constrained devices. It’s easy-to-use, market proven, and trusted by developers and manufacturers for over two decades. It also supports the most popular 32-bit microcontrollers and embedded development tools so teams can make the most of their existing skills.

The Eclipse’s Foundation announcement post has more details.

New Chinese Loongsoon chip matches Intel’s 14600K in IPC tests

Chinese chip designer Loongson has finally launched its loong teased “next-generation” 3A6000-series processors based on the LoongArch microarchitecture. IPC tests showed the 3A6000 matching Intel’s Raptor Lake i5-14600K in IPC (instructions per clock), with both chips clocked at 2.5GHz.

As well as the headlining x86 compatible processor came the announcement of numerous partner desktop, laptop, and all-in-one machines — plus a consumer-grade motherboard from Asus. It was also entertaining to see a recorded overclocking session, which took an LN2-cooled 3A6000 chip to the current maximum 3 GHz.

Many of us are being dismissive now, but give it a few more generations and Chinese PC users won’t be depending on Intel or AMD anymore – and that’s pretty impressive.

Analyzing the Monoprice Blackbird HDCP 2.2 to 1.4 down converter

I got my hands on a Monoprice Blackbird 4K Pro HDCP 2.2 to 1.4 Converter. According to the marketing copy it “is the definitive solution for playback of new 4K HDCP 2.2 encoded content on 4K displays with the old HDCP 1.4 standard.”

Stuffed after a delicious Thanksgiving meal, I decided to take it apart after the guests had left. It’s a simple single-function device, so I didn’t expect much, but maybe there’s some things to be learned?

Turns out there’s a lot to learn, and it’s also incredibly interesting. The note at the end about the legality of this device is also interesting.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux 10 to remove X.org

With this, we’ve decided to remove Xorg server and other X servers (except Xwayland) from RHEL 10 and the following releases. Xwayland should be able to handle most X11 clients that won’t immediately be ported to Wayland, and if needed, our customers will be able to stay on RHEL 9 for its full life cycle while resolving the specifics needed for transitioning to a Wayland ecosystem. It’s important to note that “Xorg Server” and “X11” are not synonymous, X11 is a protocol that will continue to be supported through Xwayland, while the Xorg Server is one of the implementations of the X11 protocol.

While we recognize the energy behind some distributions and Fedora spins moving towards a similar future, this decision is limited to RHEL 10—we recognize other Linux distributions have different needs and decision structures, and additionally we are not aware of plans for similar efforts in Fedora, nor are we involved in similar efforts besides sharing our knowledge.

A sensible move, now that X.org is no longer really maintained and considered legacy software by everyone who has the skillset and knowledge to actually maintain it in the first place. I know a number of people are very upset about the move to Wayland, but with nobody left willing to work on X.org because it’s effectively unmaintainable, there’s really no other way to go.

If you really want X.org to continue – perhaps you should channel the energy spent on writing angry online comments towards contributing to X.org. However, with even the most knowledgeable and capable X.org developers no longer wanting to have anything to do with X.org, you’re going to be in for a rough ride.

Migrating from VM to Hierarchical Jails in FreeBSD

FreeBSD has supported nesting of jails natively since version 8.0, which dates back to 2009. Looking at the jail(8) man page, there is an entire paragraph named Hierarchical Jails that explains the concept of jail hierarchy well. It’s one of the many gems of FreeBSD that, although not widely known or used, is, in my opinion, extremely useful.

BastilleBSD plays a central role in this article, and that’s a project I’ve been hearing a lot about recently. I feel like the various BSDs are currently hitting a stride, and there seems to be a lot of movement from Linux to BSD at the moment.

This company just put the air in Apple’s MacBook Air

Frore Systems is a startup with $116 million in funding, and I’ve shown you its first product before: the AirJet Mini is a piezoelectric cooling chip that weighs just nine grams and is thinner than two US quarters stacked together. Each nominally consumes one watt and can remove 4.25 additional watts of heat. Here’s the question: what would happen if Frore used those AirJets to cool a laptop that normally doesn’t have a fan at all?

What the company discovered — and I saw firsthand — is that Apple’s M2 chip can run faster, for longer, with Frore’s tech on board. Without it, a 15-inch M2 MacBook Air was like a runner that can’t sprint indefinitely without running out of breath. But with three AirJet Minis, the same laptop got a permanent second wind.

Frore’s AirJet coolers have been featured on YouTube channels like LTT as well, and there’s no doubt in my mind these will be the future of laptop cooling, especially in the thinner segment of the laptop market. At least in thin laptops, AirJets are better in virtually every way than fans, and provide far superior cooling compared to fanless designs without adding bulk or noise. The only thing that sucks as an enthusiast is that you can’t really modify an existing laptop yourself.

Either this company gets gobbled up by an OEM, or their products will make their way in almost every thin laptop.

Google Play keeps banning the same web browser due to vague DMCA notices

App developer Elias Saba has had some bad luck with Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedowns. His Android TV app Downloader, which combines a web browser with a file manager, was suspended by Google Play in May after several Israeli TV companies complained that the app could be used to load a pirate website.

Google reversed that suspension after three weeks. But Downloader has been suspended by Google Play again, and this time the reason is even harder to understand. Based on a vague DMCA notice, it appears that Downloader was suspended simply because it can load the Warner Bros. website.

Application stores are basically random number generators. The worst possible applications, from non-functional garbage to ad-ridden gambling games designed to prey on children, make up the bulk of what’s on offer, but functional, useful applications spiral into Kafkaesque bureaucratic dark holes. Being a mobile developer in 2023 is a nightmare.

Building a NetBSD ramdisk kernel

When I used OpenBSD, I was a big fan of bsd.rd: a kernel that includes a root file system with an installer and a few tools. When I invariably did something bad to my root file system, I could use that to repair things. bsd.rd is also helpful for OS updates. And there is only a single file involved.

On NetBSD however, there is usually no netbsd.rd kernel installed, or even available by default. The facility is there, it’s just not standard. To be fair, there are a number of architectures that use kernels with a ramdisk for installation.

Recently, I have been toying with NetBSD on an Orange Pi 5. This is a 64-bit ARM board, using the evbarm-aarch64 architecture. I am booting from an SD card (details in a followup post) but once booted, the kernel does not see the card any more, only the NVMe SSD. So my thoughts went back to bsd.rd and I decided that I want one!

Such a kernel seems like a very useful tool to have, so if you’re running NetBSD – this guide will help you add it to your toolbox.