It’s time to let go, Apache Software Foundation

Projects become unmaintained every day. This is a fact of life, and is not the issue I am taking with The Apache Software Foundation. It is the way the foundation, and its contributors, do not disclose information relating to the lack of substantial updates or changes for nearly a decade, and seems to intentionally mask the lack of development.

I sometimes forget Open Office still exists. I have no idea why The Apache Software Foundation would regularly intentionally delete a few whitespaces to make it seem as if Open Office is still actively being developed.

Communicatios on St. Helena Island

I’ve always been fascinated by remote island communities, and few places are more remote and more island than St. Helena. They have a wonderful page about communications to, on, and from the island, and it’s delightful.

However you connect, the Internet on St Helena is slow and expensive! For technical details and pricing information please contact Sure.

Assuming you are a visitor you are best to access the Internet via your mobile (cell) Device. Otherwise you will not have a telephone account so will need to use one of the few Internet Kiosks, mostly in Jamestown, which are very expensive.

If you are staying longer you can sign up for an Internet access package, billed on your telephone account (this should be available even if you are renting accommodation but check with your landlord). Broadband Internet was introduced in 2007, but be aware that data transfer speeds on St Helena are considerably slower than in most other countries and monthly data transfer limits are very low.

None of the above will be surprising. There’s tons of information and history on this page, and it’s definitely worth a read.

Intel’s Ponte Vecchio: chiplets gone crazy

Intel is a newcomer to the world of discrete graphics cards, and the company’s Xe architecture is driving its effort to establish itself alongside AMD and Nvidia. We’ve seen Xe variants serve in integrated GPUs and midrange discrete cards, but Intel’s not stopping there. Their GPU ambitions extend to the datacenter and supercomputing markets. That’s where Ponte Vecchio (PVC) comes in.

Like other compute-oriented GPUs, PVC goes wide and slow. High memory bandwidth and FP64 throughput differentiate it from client architectures, which emphasize FP32 throughput and use caching to reduce memory bandwidth demands. Compared to Nvidia’s H100 and AMD’s MI210, PVC stands out because it lacks fixed function graphics hardware. H100 and MI210 still have some form of texture units, but PVC doesn’t have any at all. Combine that with its lack of display outputs, and calling PVC a GPU is pretty funny. It’s really a giant, parallel processor that happens to be programmed in the same way you’d program a GPU for compute.

Another great feature from Chips and Cheese. Speaking of Intel – the company also unveiled that Meteor Lake CPUs are coming to the desktop in 2024.

OpenBSD: viable ROP-free roadmap for i386/armv8/riscv64/alpha/sparc64

Years later, Todd Mortimer and I developed RETGUARD. At the start of that initiative he proposed we protect all functions, to try to guard all the RET instructions, and therefore achieve a state we call “ROP-free”. I felt this was impossible, but after a couple hurdles the RETGUARD performance was vastly better than the stack protector and we were able to protect all functions and get to ROP-free (on fixed-sized instruction architecures). Performance was acceptable to trade against improved security.


RETGUARD provides up to 4096 cookies per DSO, per-function, but limited to avoid excessive bloat. It is difficult to do on architectures with very few registers. Code was only written for clang, there is no gcc codebase doing it. clang code for some architectures was never written (riscv64).

I hope that sets the stage for what is coming next.

We were able to enable RETGUARD on all functions because it was fast.

Look, I have no clue what any of this means. None at all. However, I do somewhat grasp this is a big deal… I just need OSNews readers to explain in layman’s terms why, exactly.

No more stale bots!

On github, there has been an increasing trend of using “Staleness detector bots” that will auto-close issues that have had no activity for X amount of time.

In concept, this may sound fine, but the effects this has, and how it poisons the core principles of Open Source, have been damaging and eroding projects for a long time, often unknowingly.

I’m not a developer and even I can instantly see such bots would create countless problems. I had no idea such bots were being used.

Microsoft experiments with Windows driver development in Rust

Microsoft has opened a GitHub repository for a set of tools to create Windows drivers in Rust.

This repo is a collection of Rust crates that enable developers to develop Windows Drivers in Rust. It is the intention to support both WDM and WDF driver development models.


Note: This project is still in early stages of development and is not yet recommended for commercial use. We encourage community experimentation, suggestions and discussions!

So both Linux and Windows are now experimenting with using Rust to write drivers.

EU fines Intel $400 million for blocking AMD’s market access through payments to PC makers

The European Commission has fined Intel $400 million (€376 million) for hindering competitors’ access to the market through naked restrictions between 2002 and 2007. The fine comes after a long-running antitrust court battle dating back to 2009 when the Commission initially fined Intel a record $1.13 billion for abuse of dominance.

While some of Intel’s actions, like hidden rebates, were dropped on appeal due to lack of evidence of harm, the Commission upheld that Intel paid PC manufacturers to delay or limit products using AMD processors.

Specifically, the Commission cited examples where Intel paid HP not to sell AMD-powered business PCs to small and medium businesses through direct channels from 2002-2005. It also paid Acer to delay the launch of an AMD-based notebook from late 2003 to early 2004. Intel also paid Lenovo to push back the launch of AMD notebooks by six months.

While it’s great that fines are being levied for these crimes, the problem is that the damage is already done and a fine won’t actually undo said damage. Of course, there’s no way to know exactly what the industry would’ve looked like had Intel not committed these crimes, but I feel like quite often these fines are more seen as a cost of doing business than as an actual detrimental punishment. It reminds me a lot of speeding tickets – they can be devastating to somebody of lower means, but to the upper classes they’re just the cost of driving a car and barely even register.

I’d be much more in favour for not just fining companies that violate antitrust, but also going after the people within those companies that enabled and advocated for such behaviour through massive personal fines and jail time. None of the people involved will feel even the slightest bit of sting from their actions, and will do it all over again next time they get the chance.

Making a micro Linux distro

In this article, we’ll talk about building up a tiny (micro) Linux “distribution” from scratch. This distribution really won’t do much, but it will be built from scratch.

We will build the Linux kernel on our own, and write some software to package our micro-distro.

Lastly, we are doing this example on the RISC-V architecture, specifically QEMU’s riscv64 virt machine. There’s very little in this article that is specific to this architecture, so you might as well do an almost identical exercise for other architectures like x86. We recently went through the RISC-V boot process with SBI and bare metal programming for RISC-V, so this is just a continuation up the software stack.

This is great content, and a very fun exercise for an Autumn weekend.

Cairo 1.18 released

Cairo 1.18 was released today as the first major stable release to this 2D graphics library in five years. This vector-based graphics library is widely-used for a variety of purposes from GNOME’s GTK toolkit to other apps making use of Cairo for targeting different back-ends from PDFs to OpenGL contexts. Mozilla Firefox, WebKit, Mono, and many other open-source projects are notable users of Cairo.

Cairo is something most end users don’t really have to think about or worry too much about, but it’s a crucial part of the open source operating system world. The most interesting change in 1.18 is that it drops support for a variety of old back-ends, most notably Qt 4, BeOS, and OS/2.

Wayland color management protocol posted For Weston

The Wayland Color Management protocol has been years in the making and is needed for a client to specify the color space and HDR metadata of a surface. This color management protocol is ultimately needed for getting high dynamic range (HDR) support working out well within Wayland environments. This week an initial merge request was opened for implementing the draft color management protocol with the Weston reference compositor.

This is an important part of getting HDR working properly on Wayland, and thus making sure the Linux desktop gets full, proper HDR suport. On a related note, the Wayland Wine driver has also seen some progress, adding basic window management capabilities.

The invisible problem: text editing on Android and iOS sucks

Android and iOS share a common problem: they copied desktop text editing conventions, but without a menu bar or mouse. This forced them to overload the tap gesture with a wide range of actions: placing the cursor, moving it, selecting text, and invoking a pop-up menu. This results in an overly complicated and ambiguous mess-o-taps, leading to a variety of user errors.

It’s less of a problem if you only do short bursts of text in social media or messaging apps. But doing anything more complicated like an email gets tedious. However, in my user study on text editing, I was surprised to find that everyone had significant problems and rather severe workaround for editing text.

With the extremely talented Olivier Bau, together we created a prototype called Eloquent, which offers a much simpler solution. We presented this work at UIST 2021.

This is now one of my favourite articles I’ve ever read. I despise text input and text editing on mobile devices, whether they be Android or iOS. I hate it with the passion of a thousand burning suns, but it seems like nobody else cares. Luckily, the author of this article, Scott Jenson, a man with an impressive career doing UI work at Apple, Google, and others, agrees with me, and together with his colleagues, during his time at Google, he came up with an entirely different, touch-first way of editing text.

The end result – be sure to watch the video to see it in action – immediately clicks for me. I want this. Now. This would be a massive usability improvement, and the fact it isn’t in Android yet, despite being developed at Google, is further evidence Google has no clue how to make good ideas float to the top. Jenson explains why Eloquent, as they called their new input/editing system, won’t ship with Android, while he expresses a bit more optimism Apple might be more open to rethinking mobile text editing:

Unfortunately, shipping something like Eloquent would be challenging. First, as too many people mistakenly see text editing as “done”, there is little appetite to fix it. Second, users have been trained to cope with this error-prone approach for well over a decade. Asking people to change at this point would be hard.

But most importantly, fixing text editing isn’t seen as important enough in the war between Android and iOS. It’s not the flashy feature that shifts your Net Promoter Scores. What I find ironic is that a fundamental change, like fixing text editing, could make people feel much more at ease using their phones and could be an enormous reason to switch. But it would be a slow burn and take years of steady effort. Android just can’t think this way. Apple just might.

Android needs this.

Nearly 500 brands exited smartphone market during 2017-2023

At its peak in 2017, the global smartphone market saw more than 700 brands fiercely competing. Fast forward to 2023 and the number of active brands (that have recorded sell-through volumes) is down by two-thirds to almost 250, according to Counterpoint’s Global Handset Model Sales Tracker, which has been tracking sales of these brands across more than 70 key countries.

So many good brands and good ideas kicked to the curb by the stranglehold Apple and Google have on the market. While many of these brands were mere OEMs, it also includes companies making their own platforms.

Java 21: The Nice, The Meh, and the… Momentous

Every six months, there is a new Java release. Ever so often (currently, every two years), Oracle labels a release as “long term support”, and Java users wonder whether they should upgrade. In theory, other JDK distributors could offer “long term support” for other releases, but it seems everyone is following Oracle’s lead.

Should you upgrade?

Here are the major features of Java 21. I omit preview and incubator features (which you are surely not going to use in production), JVM internals, highly specialized features such as this one, and deprecations.

The answer is yes – you should definitely upgrade.

GNOME 44.5 released

GNOME 45 may have just been released, but that doesn’t mean GNOME 44 will be buried right away. GNOME 44.5 has just been released, packed with bugfixes and small tweaks – nothing groundbreaking. Reading through the changelog, it’s a long list of squashed bugs, so it should be an uneventful upgrade for most GNOME users who aren’t upgrading to 45 quite yet.

iOS 17 review: StandBy for more features

iOS 17 and iPadOS 17 offer several welcome improvements, tweaks, and new features. They also continue two trends that have dominated recent updates for both platforms: the expansion of widgets giving modular access to functions from a variety of apps, and on-device intelligence that improves search, recommendations, and more.

This year’s update pushes both platforms forward just a bit—but not enough that too many people will notice. A more complete feature set will roll out over time, though, so by the end of the cycle, we’ll have seen a nice range of additions.

Honestly, with how mature iOS (and Android, for that matter) have become, I don’t think it’s a bad thing that we’re seeing more iterative releases bringing polish and nips and tucks instead of massive feature overhauls and additions nobody is asking for.

Visopsys 0.92 released

It’s been a while, but Visopsys has had a new release, 0.92, with all the details in the changelog. There is a longer-term project to bring the operating system into the modern era, with things like 64-bit support, UEFI booting, and so on. In the meantime, this maintenance release features stability and usability improvements, bug fixes, and multitasker portability changes designed to further unshackle it from the x86 processor architecture.

Visopsys has been in development since 1997, and one of its unique features is a focus on a partitioning tool built atop Visopsys, Partition Logic, to make partitioning changes without booting into any other operating system.

GoSub browser: gateway to optimized searching and unlimited browsing

This repository is part of the GoSub browser project. Currently there is only a single component/repository (this one), but the idea will be that there are many other components that as a whole make up a full-fledged browser. Each of the components can probably function as something standalone (ie: html5 parser, css parser, etc).

In the future, this component (html5 parser) will receive through an API a stream of bytes and will output a stream of events. The events will be consumed by the next component and so on, until we can display something in a window/user agent. This could very well be a text-mode browser, but the idea is to have a graphical browser.

Any new browser project has a certain “madman” quality to it, and I’m sure GoSub is no different.

Install Windows the Arch Linux way

Installing Windows strictly through the Command Line is an important tool to have. If Windows changes the installer or out of box experience, you can bypass any changes with this guide!

I had no idea this was possible. I knew you could open up cmd.exe during installation and do certain things there, but I didn’t know you could perform the entire Windows installation this way. I’m not entirely sure what the use cases are, but it’s definitely a neat trick.

Raspberry Pi RP2040 becomes Palm OS PDA

The Raspberry Pi is known for its versatility and ability to run different operating systems but it seems that the $4 Raspberry Pi Pico can also run an OS. This impressive foray into the world of Palm PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) emulation on our favorite microcontroller comes from Dmitry Grinberg. They have shared an early demo of his platform known as rePalm in which he manages to run PalmOS on a Raspberry Pi Pico.

We mentioned Grinberg’s work before – this person is a Palm OS wizard, and the progress he’s making will prove invaluable once the remaining stock of Palm OS devices – half of which is in my office – starts breaking down.