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

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 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 because it’s effectively unmaintainable, there’s really no other way to go.

If you really want to continue – perhaps you should channel the energy spent on writing angry online comments towards contributing to However, with even the most knowledgeable and capable developers no longer wanting to have anything to do with, 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.

Super tiny Windows 11 OS gets a big update: Tiny11 2311 shrinks 20% and allows cumulative updates

NTDEV, the developer behind Tiny11, has released a new update for its miniature Windows 11 operating system, called Tiny11 2311, that adds Microsoft’s latest feature update, 23H2, into the OS and introduces a plethora of bug fixes addressing issues in the outgoing version of Tiny11. On top of this, the new update also shrinks Tiny11’s install size by a whopping 20%, making Tiny11’s renowned footprint even smaller.

There is absolutely no need for Windows 11 to be as big and invasive as it is, and it feels like such a shame and missed opportunity to burden an otherwise good and capable operating system with such cruft and useless junk.

How Apple’s developers reflashed Mac ROMs in the ’90s

After I wrote about the possibility of programmable Mac ROM SIMMs in Quadras a couple of months ago, I suspected that there had been a way for developers at Apple in the 68k Mac era to reflash the ROM in their Macs during development, just like BIOS updates on PCs. The reason I believed this is because the ROM SIMM socket in the Quadras brought out pins for 12V (VPP) and write enable (/WE). I had verified that the write enable pin was going into the memory controller chip in several Mac models, so I was pretty confident that in-system programming was possible.

As luck would have it, multiple people pointed out to me that an Apple internal utility used for ROM flashing had been uploaded to the Macintosh Garden. It was recovered from a prototype PowerBook 520 purchased in 2020. Of course, I had to download this utility and figure out how it works.

I honestly cannot believe it’s taken this long for such a tool to become available one way or the other. Classic Macs are incredibly popular in the retro community, and being able to reflash the ROMs like this is incredibly useful. It took some work and disassembly, but Doug Brown got it working.

Debian’s MIPS64EL CPU port is at risk due to declining hardware access

Debian’s MIPS64EL that is a 64-bit little endian port using the N64 ABI is at risk due to declining access for building the Debian 64-bit MIPS packages. MIPS64EL is now being treated as an “out of sync” architecture due to lacking sufficient build daemon resources for timely building new packages and if the situation doesn’t improve, it may not be suitable as a release architecture for Debian 13 “Trixie”.

Not all architectures last forever, and as time goes on, more and more of these once promising architectures will simply no longer be part of the modern Linux world. It makes sense – but it’s still sad.

China’s new(ish) SW26010-Pro supercomputer at SC23

Sunway’s new supercomputer therefore feels like a system designed with the goal of landing high on some TOP500 lists. For that purpose, it’s perfect, providing a lot of throughput without wasting money on pesky things like cache, out-of-order execution, and high bandwidth memory. But from the perspective of solving a nation’s problems, I feel like Sunway is chasing a metric. A nation doing well in advanced technology might have a lot of supercomputer throughput, but more supercomputer throughput doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll solve technological problems faster.

A detailed look at China’s new supercomputer. The conclusion quoted above is very well supported by the data and research concerning this new supercomputer, and the article is a great read.

Microsoft brings ChatGPT AI to Windows 11’s command line

Windows Terminal is getting an optional feature – ChatGPT-powered “AI chat” on Windows 11. ChatGPT integration is now available in Terminal (Canary), a new development channel to test experimental features ahead of a wider rollout. With ChatGPT AI Chat in Terminal, you can use AI to generate commands, explain errors, and get recommendations.

Microsoft wants Terminal to use the natural language AI to explain commands, such as “DISM”, or errors you might get when running commands. Similarly, it can suggest actions, like an alternate command when the original one doesn’t work.

When Microsoft said it wants to shove “AI” into every aspect of Windows, they weren’t kidding.

Here is a “simple” method to uninstall Edge in Windows 10 and 11

Earlier this month, Microsoft released new preview updates with changes to make its operating systems compliant with European Union regulations. Those changes include the ability to uninstall Edge, decouple the OS from Bing, turn on third-party news feeds in Widgets, and more. Sadly, only EU citizens can enjoy those changes without messing with their PCs’ software intestines. Other people must tweak Windows Registry to spoof their location, which can lead to unnecessary complications.

Luckily, there is a much simpler method that does not require editing the registry or faking your location. As it turned out (via Deskmodder), Windows manages new region policies using a JSON file inside the system32 folder. Modifying that file allows force-enabling specific features in unsupported regions.

What follows is a 19 step process involving taking ownership of protected system files, dowloading additional tools, editing the registry, a few reboots, and more. A very simple process.

So anyway if you want to remove Firefox from Fedora or Ubuntu or whatever, just run sudo dnf remove firefox or sudo apt remove firefox respectively, because as we all know, Linux is very hard to use and just not ready for desktop use. Good for servers, though.

The tech world is a clown show.

What has changed in CPU cores in M3 chips?

If you read the initial reviews of Apple’s new M3-based Macs, you’d be forgiven for thinking little had changed in their CPU cores, apart from a rejigging of numbers and an increase in the maximum frequency of their P cores. As my MacBook Pro 16-inch M3 Pro arrived three days early, this article presents a tentative first look at what has changed in their CPU cores, and from that, how you might choose the right chip for your next Apple silicon Mac. Like Apple, I’m going to make comparison between M1 and M3 chips, as in most respects discussed here, M2 CPU cores didn’t change as much from those in the M1, and I’ve had and tested four different M1 models.

As the introduction suggests, there’s more here than many seem to think.

Building up networks of zones on Tribblix

With OpenSolaris and derivatives such as illumos, we gained the ability to build a whole IT infrastructure in a single box, using virtualized networking (crossbow) to build the underlying network and then attaching virtualized systems (zones) atop virtualized storage (zfs).

Some of this was present in Solaris 10, but it didn’t have crossbow so the networking piece was a bit tricky (although I did manage to get surprisingly far by abusing the loopback interface).

In Tribblix, I’ve long had the notion of a router or proxy zone, which acts as a bridge between the outside world and a local virtual subnet. For the next release I’ve been expanding that into something much more flexible and capable.

I’m continuously impressed by the work Peter Tribble is putting into Tribblix. Maintaining a distribution of something like OpenSolaris is hard enough as it is, but to then also add various unique functions and capabilities, while also maintaining support for SPARC, is just amazing.

Zork for the PDP-11/RT-11 recreated

We talked about Zork yesterday, and how the code for interpreters for the game was found and published on Github. Today we have a blog post detailing how to actually use one of these interpreters, the one for the PDP-11.

Ok so what or where to do this?! First you need SIMH or any other good PDP-11 emulator, a copy of RT-11, and of course the source to the interpreter oddly enough named PDP11.ZIP. Just keep in mind that this is NOT a pk-zip file, it’s a text file. It’s Macro-11 assembler source.

And it goes on from there. This is using an emulator, but if you’re lucky enough to have a real PDP-11 you can probably get all of this running, too.