Sculpt OS 20.08 released

The new version of Sculpt OS is based on the latest Genode release 20.08. In particular, it incorporates the redesigned GUI stack to the benefit of quicker boot times, improved interactive responsiveness, and better pixel output quality. It also removes the last traces of the noux runtime. Fortunately, these massive under-the-hood changes do not disrupt the user-visible surface of Sculpt. Most users will feel right at home.

It’s really time I set up a specific category for Genode-related items. It’s been appearing here on OSNews for years and years now.

ARM is now backing Panfrost Gallium3D as open-source Mali graphics driver

Most information presented during the annual X.Org Developers’ Conference doesn’t tend to be very surprising or ushering in breaking news, but during today’s XDC2020 it was subtly dropped that Arm Holdings appears to now be backing the open-source Panfrost Gallium3D driver.

Panfrost has been developed over the past several years as what began as a reverse-engineered effort by Alyssa Rosenzweig to support Arm Mali Bifrost and Midgard hardware. This driver had a slow start but Rosenzweig has been employed by Collabora for a while now and they’ve been making steady progress on supporting newer Mali hardware and advancing the supported OpenGL / GLES capabilities of the driver.

This is a major departure from previous policy for ARM, since the company always shied away from open source efforts around its Mali GPUs.

US will ban WeChat and TikTok downloads on Sunday

The Commerce Department plans to restrict access to TikTok and WeChat on Sunday as the Trump administration’s executive orders against the two apps are set to take effect.

The Department said Friday that as of Sunday, any moves to distribute or maintain WeChat or TikTok on an app store will be prohibited. Apple and Google didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

While users who have already downloaded the apps may be able to continue using the software, the restrictions mean updated versions of the apps cannot be downloaded.

This will hit American companies doing business in China hard, since virtually all consumer purchases there take place via WeChat.

Rust on Haiku: the case of the disappearing deceased threads

For a long time I have been maintaining the build of the Rust compiler and development tools on Haiku. For this purpose, I maintain a separate tree with the Rust source, with some patches and specific build instructions. My ultimate end goal is to have Rust build on Haiku from the original source, without any specific patches or workarounds. Instead we are in the situation where we cannot build rust on Haiku itself (instead we need to cross-compile it), and we need a customization to be able to run the Rust compiler (rustc) and package manager (cargo) on Haiku. This summer my goal would be to find out the underlying issue, and fix it so that the patch will no longer be necessary in the future. Let’s go!

There seems to be quite a bit of excitement around the Rust programming language, so it makes sense for Haiku to jump on the bandwagon as well.

Intel’s Tiger Lake 11th Gen Core i7-1185G7 review and deep dive: baskin’ for the exotic

The big notebook launch for Intel this year is Tiger Lake, its upcoming 10nm platform designed to pair a new graphics architecture with a nice high frequency for the performance that customers in this space require. Over the past few weeks, we’ve covered the microarchitecture as presented by Intel at its latest Intel Architecture Day 2020, as well as the formal launch of the new platform in early September. The missing piece of the puzzle was actually testing it, to see if it can match the very progressive platform currently offered by AMD’s Ryzen Mobile. Today is that review, with one of Intel’s reference design laptops.

AnandTech’s deep dive into Intel’s new platform, which is the first chip to use Intel’s much-improved graphics processor.

iOS 14, iPadOS 14 released

Apple has released iOS 14 and iPadOS 14, the newest operating system updates designed for the iPhone and iPad. As with all of Apple’s software updates, iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 can be downloaded for free. iOS 14 is available on the iPhone 6s and later, while iPadOS 14 is available on the iPad Air 2 and later.

The link contains all the information you’d ever want – including the most prominent new features. As always, Apple manages to release their latest operating system update for quite a few older devices as well – the iPhone 6s is 5 years old, so this adds another year to its useful life span for people who don’t always need, want, or can afford the latest and greatest.

IBM open sources its A2O POWER processor core through the OpenPOWER Foundation

The A2O core is an out-of-order, multi-threaded, 64-bit POWER ISA core that was developed as a processor for customization and embedded use in system-on-chip (SoC) devices. It’s most suitable for single thread performance optimization. A follow-up to its parent high-streaming throughput A2I predecessor, it maintains the same modular design approach and fabric structure. The Auxiliary Execution Unit (AXU) is tightly-coupled to the core, enabling many possibilities for special-purpose designs for new markets tackling the challenges of modern workloads.

Intel’s current troubles and the rise in popularity of alternatives is creating a very rare and ever so small opportunity for smaller ISAs to gain some traction. I’ll take what I can get in our current stratified technology market.

Red Hat has been working on new NVFS file system

Yet another new file-system being worked on for the Linux/open-source world is NVFS and has been spearheaded by a Red Hat engineer.

NVFS aims to be a speedy file-system for persistent memory like Intel Optane DCPMM. NVFS is geared for use on DAX-based (direct access) devices and maps the entire device into a linear address space that bypasses the Linux kernel’s block layer and buffer cache.

I understood some of those words.

“I have blood on my hands”: a whistleblower says Facebook ignored global political manipulation

Facebook ignored or was slow to act on evidence that fake accounts on its platform have been undermining elections and political affairs around the world, according to an explosive memo sent by a recently fired Facebook employee and obtained by BuzzFeed News.

The 6,600-word memo, written by former Facebook data scientist Sophie Zhang, is filled with concrete examples of heads of government and political parties in Azerbaijan and Honduras using fake accounts or misrepresenting themselves to sway public opinion. In countries including India, Ukraine, Spain, Brazil, Bolivia, and Ecuador, she found evidence of coordinated campaigns of varying sizes to boost or hinder political candidates or outcomes, though she did not always conclude who was behind them.

Facebook needs to be investigated, broken up, and its executives prosecuted. I don’t care who does it – the United States, the European Union – but it’s clear this company is one of the very worst excesses of the tech industry’s arrogance and dominance, and it needs to be held accountable.

Nvidia nears deal to buy chip designer Arm for more than $40 billion, sources say

Update: it’s official now – NVIDIA is buying ARM.

Original story:

Nvidia Corp is close to a deal to buy British chip designer Arm Holdings from SoftBank Group Corp for more than $40 billion in a deal which would create a giant in the chip industry, according to two people familiar with the matter.

A cash and stock deal for Arm could be announced as early as next week, the sources said.

That will create one hell of a giant chip company, but at the same time – what alternatives are there? ARM on its own probably won’t make it, SoftBank has no clue what to do with ARM, and any of the other major players – Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft – would be even worse, since they all have platforms to lock you into, and ARM would be a great asset in that struggle. At least NVIDIA just wants to sell as many chips to as many people as possible, and isn’t that interested in locking you into a platform.

That being said – who knows? Often, the downsides to deals like this don’t come out until years later. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Huawei’s Harmony OS is coming to smartphones, with code release promised for October 2021

Huawei has been in a tight spot in the past couple of years, and their situation keeps getting tighter. But the Chinese giant has no intention of going anywhere, at least not without putting up a good fight. Last year, at HDC 2019, Huawei had announced its own first-party operating system, Harmony OS, showing off an important piece of its vision for the future. Harmony OS was shown off first on the Honor Vision Smart TV, and Huawei remained committed to Android at the time for its smartphone needs. The company reiterated those plans again in December 2019. But recent developments have forced the company to rethink its strategy. At HDC 2020, Huawei has now announced that Harmony OS will come to smartphones after all, with an expected beta SDK by the end of 2020, and a phone release around October 2021.

We will probably not see much of this operating system here in the west, but I’m still intrigued. It’s entirely custom – not based on Linux – and they’ve been working on it for quite a while now. I have no interest in it from a general use perspective since I doubt it will be very useful here in the west, but am incredibly curious to see what they’re cooking up.

Researchers demonstrate in-chip water cooling

As desktop processors were first crossing the Gigahertz level, it seemed for a while that there was nowhere to go but up. But clock speed progress eventually ground to a halt, not because of anything to do with the speed itself but rather because of the power requirements and the heat all that power generated. Even with the now-common fans and massive heatsinks, along with some sporadic water cooling, heat remains a limiting factor that often throttles current processors.

Part of the problem with liquid cooling solutions is that they’re limited by having to get the heat out of the chip and into the water in the first place. That has led some researchers to consider running the liquid through the chip itself. Now, some researchers from Switzerland have designed the chip and cooling system as a single unit, with on-chip liquid channels placed next to the hottest parts of the chip. The results are an impressive boost in heat-limited performance.

This seems like a very logical next step for watercooling and processor cooling in general, but this is far from easy. This article highlights that we are getting closer, though.

Non-POSIX file systems

Operating systems and file systems have traditionally been developed hand in hand. They impose mutual constraints on each other. Today we have two major leaders in file system semantics: Windows and POSIX. They are very close to each other when compared to the full set of possibilities. Interesting things happened before POSIX monopolized file system semantics.

When you use a file system through a library instead of going through the operating system there are some extra possibilities. You are no longer required to obey the host operating system’s semantics for filenames. You get to decide if you use / or \ to separate directory components (or something else altogether). Maybe you don’t even use strings for filenames. The fs-fatfs library uses a list of strings, so it’s up to the caller to define a directory separator for themselves. While working on that library, I was driven to write down some ideas that I’ve previously run across and found inspirational.

A deep dive into file system hierarchies before the major platforms we used today – POSIX and Windows – became the two de-facto standards. Excellent article, and a joy to read.

Is anybody still using Windows 95 in 2020?

Before you click the link, please try and answer the question past the blurb.

I am still using it at work, but not at home since 2001 when I upgraded to Windows 2000 – then I upgraded to XP in 2002 and this was the last Windows version I ran at home. After that I upgraded to Linux/Unix and have not had any reason to look back.

So, this person is still using Windows 95 at work today. Before clicking through – can you guess what this person’s job is?

Android 11 released

Android 11 has arrived! The latest release is all about helping you get to what’s important on your phone with easier ways to help you manage your conversations, connected devices, privacy, and much more. In honor of the 11th version of Android, here are 11 new things that are coming in Android 11.

That’s the Google PR blurb, and here’s the conclusion from The Verge’s review of Android 11:

When (or, sadly, if) the update arrives on your Android phone, what you’ll find is that a few important things that used to get lost in the interface are now easier to find. You’ll also see that Android is still playing catch-up with iOS when it comes to privacy restrictions, but progress is nevertheless being made.

Mostly, though, you’ll get a very familiar interface that does very familiar things. That’s not a complaint, just a recognition that Android 11 is a mature OS, so year-over-year improvements tend to be in the “slow and steady” category.

Coming to a phone near you. At some point. Maybe. Who knows.

Arm announces Cortex-R82: first 64-bit realtime processor

Arm is known for its Cortex range of processors in mobile devices, however the mainstream Cortex-A series of CPUs which are used as the primary processing units of devices aren’t the only CPUs which the company offers. Alongside the microcontroller-grade Cortex-M CPU portfolio, Arm also offers the Cortex-R range of “real-time” processors which are used in high-performance real-time applications. The last time we talked about a Cortex-R product was the R8 release back in 2016. Back then, the company proposed the R8 to be extensively used in 5G connectivity solutions inside of modem subsystems.

Another large market for the R-series is storage solutions, with the Cortex-R processors being used in HDD and SSD controllers as the main processing elements.

Today, Arm is expanding its R-series portfolio by introducing the new Cortex-R82, representing the company’s first 64-bit Armv8-R architecture processor IP, meaning it’s the first 64-bit real-time processor from the company.

AnandTech and its usual deep dive into the intricacies of this new lineup from ARM. Obviously these kinds of chips are not something most people actively work with – we tend to merely use them, often even without realising it.

Online voting vendor Voatz urges Supreme Court to limit security research

The Supreme Court is considering whether to adopt a broad reading of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act that critics say could criminalize some types of independent security research and create legal uncertainty for many security researchers. Voatz, an online voting vendor whose software was used by West Virginia for overseas military voters in the 2018 election, argues that this wouldn’t be a problem.

“Necessary research and testing can be performed by authorized parties,” Voatz writes in an amicus brief to the Supreme Court. “Voatz’s own security experience provides a helpful illustration of the benefits of authorized security research, and also shows how unauthorized research and public dissemination of unvalidated or theoretical security vulnerabilities can actually cause harmful effects.”

As it happens, we covered a recent conflict between Voatz and an independent security researcher in last Thursday’s deep dive on online voting. And others involved in that altercation did not see it the way Voatz did.

This reminds me of TurboTax in the United States, who lobbies aggressively to keep filing taxes as difficult as possible as to protect its business.

The DayStar Genesis MP

When Apple announced that it was going to be licensing Mac OS to other PC makers, DayStar essentially bet its business on converting from being a manufacturer of high-end upgrades for Apple-built Macs to being a manufacturer of high-end Mac clones. DayStar’s clone was the Genesis MP, and the MP stood for multiprocessing. It was the very first Mac to combine the work of multiple processors toward a common goal.

The problem: Classic Mac OS wasn’t built for multiple processor cores. The operating system knew about its processor, and it used it, and that was it. But the engineers at DayStar had been working on something novel for its high-end audience.

There was such a wealth of innovation coming out of the clone program that Apple itself simply couldn’t do. As consumers, there’s lessons to be learned from the clone program – artificial limitations do not serve us. They only serve corporations.

PicoRio Linux RISC-V SBC is an open source alternative to the Raspberry Pi

Linux capable RISC-V boards do exist but cost several hundred dollars or more with the likes of HiFive Unleashed and PolarFire SoC Icicle development kit. If only there was a RISC-V board similar to the Raspberry Pi board and with a similar price point… The good news is that the RISC-V International Open Source (RIOS) Laboratory is collaborating with Imagination technologies to bring PicoRio RISC-V SBC to market at a price point similar to Raspberry Pi.

I’m 100% ready for fully top-to-bottom open source hardware, whether it’s Power9/Power10 at the high end, or RISV-V at the low end. ARM is a step backwards in this regard compared to x86, and while I doubt RISC-V or Power will magically displace either of those two, the surge in interest in ARM for more general purpose computing at least opens the door just a tiny little bit.

Inside the HP Nanoprocessor: a high-speed processor that can’t even add

The Nanoprocessor is a mostly-forgotten processor developed by Hewlett-Packard in 1974 as a microcontroller for their products. Strangely, this processor couldn’t even add or subtract, probably why it was called a nanoprocessor and not a microprocessor. Despite this limitation, the Nanoprocessor powered numerous Hewlett-Packard devices ranging from interface boards and voltmeters to spectrum analyzers and data capture terminals. The Nanoprocessor’s key feature was its low cost and high speed: Compared against the contemporary Motorola 6800, the Nanoprocessor cost $15 instead of $360 and was an order of magnitude faster for control tasks.

Recently, the six masks used to manufacture the Nanoprocessor were released by Larry Bower, the chip’s designer, revealing details about its design. The composite mask image below shows the internal circuitry of the integrated circuit. The blue layer shows the metal on top of the chip, while the green shows the silicon underneath. The black squares around the outside are the 40 pads for connection to the IC’s external pins. I used these masks to reverse-engineer the circuitry of the processor and understand its simple but clever RISC-like design.

This is a very detailed and in-depth article, so definitely not for the faint of heart. Definitely a little over my head, but I know for a fact there’s quite a few among you that love and understand this sort of stuff deeply.