KDE Plasma 6 released

KDE Plasma 6 has been released – and this is an important release with two massive low-level stack upgrades.

With Plasma 6, our technology stack has undergone two major upgrades: a transition to the latest version of our application framework, Qt, and a migration to the modern Linux graphics platform, Wayland. We have done our best to ensure that these changes are as smooth and unnoticeable to the users as possible, so when you install this update, you will see the same familiar desktop environment that you know and love. But these under-the-hood upgrades benefit Plasma’s security, efficiency, and performance, and improve support for modern hardware. Thus Plasma delivers an overall more reliable user experience, while paving the way for many more improvements in the future.

Aside from this, there’s so much in this release it’s hard to know where to begin. My favourite is the overhaul of KDE’s default Breeze theme, which now uses far, far fewer frames, meaning there’s fewer borders-on-borders. Spacing has also been made more consistent within Breeze. Both of these efforts make KDE applications and UI elements look a bit less cluttered and busy, which, while easily missed if you don’t look for it, certainly cleans things up nicely.

Another important improvements is the addition of support for HDR displays and colour management.

Plasma on Wayland now has partial support for High Dynamic Range (HDR). On supported monitors and software, this will provide you with richer and deeper colors for your games, videos, and visual creations.

Set an ICC profile for each screen individually and Plasma will adjust the colors accordingly. Applications are still limited to the sRGB color space, but we are working on increasing the number of supported color spaces soon.

To improve Plasma’s accessibility, we added support for color blindness correction filters. This helps with protanopia, deuteranopia or tritanopia.

Of course, this release is accompanied by updates to a large number of KDE applications, and several default settings in KDE have been changed as well to better suit what most users would expect. Plasma Search has been overhauled as well, making it faster and less resource-intensive, and giving users the ability to better control how search results are displayed.

There’s a lot more here, so be sure to dive into the release announcement, KDE Plasma 6 will find its way to your distribution or operating system of choice over the coming weeks and months.

New Wear OS devices run two operating systems

Wear OS smartwatches have a dual-chipset architecture inclusive of a powerful application processor (AP) and ultra low-power co-processor microcontroller unit (MCU). The architecture has a powerful AP capable of handling complex operations en-masse, and is seamlessly coupled with a low power MCU.

The Wear OS hybrid interface enables intelligent switching between the MCU or the AP, allowing the AP to be suspended when not needed to preserve battery life. It helps, for instance, achieve more power-efficient experiences, like sensor data processing on the MCU while the AP is asleep. At the same time, the hybrid interface provides a seamless transition between these states, keeping a rich and premium user experience without jarring transitions between power modes.

↫ Kseniia Shumelchyk on the Android Developers Blog

The new OnePlus Watch 2 is the first to use this new architecture, and the most interesting part is that it runs not one, but two operating systems: Wear OS, which is Android, running on the “AP”, and a smaller RTOS that runs on the “MCU”. In the case of the OnePlus Watch 2, the “AP” is a Snapdragon W5, while the “MCU” is a BES 2700, an ultra low power microcontroller.

I can’t seem to find any information on this “RTOS”, but I’d really love to know what it’s based on.

Tumblr and WordPress owner is striking deals with OpenAI and Midjourney for training data, says report

Speaking of collecting data, here’s another major content player signing a deal to sell your content to “AI” companies.

The owner of Tumblr and WordPress.com is in talks with AI companies Midjourney and OpenAI to provide training data scraped from users’ posts, a report from 404 Media alleges. The report, based on an anonymous source inside the company, says that deals between Automattic and the two AI companies are “imminent.” It follows nebulous rumors that have spread on Tumblr over the past week, suggesting a deal with Midjourney could provide a new revenue stream for the site.

↫ Adi Robertson at The Verge

We use WordPress for OSNews, but it seems this only applies to content hosted at WordPress.com, not on WordPress installations hosted elsewhere. If you host a site at WordPress.com, you might want to go to your admin panel and opting-out of this nonsense real fast.

Meta will start collecting “anonymized” data about Quest headset usage

Meta will soon begin “collecting anonymized data” from users of its Quest headsets, a move that could see the company aggregating information about hand, body, and eye tracking; camera information; “information about your physical environment”; and information about “the virtual reality events you attend.”

In an email sent to Quest users Monday, Meta notes that it currently collects “the data required for your Meta Quest to work properly.” Starting with the next software update, though, the company will begin collecting and aggregating “anonymized data about… device usage” from Quest users. That anonymized data will be used “for things like building better experiences and improving Meta Quest products for everyone,” the company writes.

↫ Kyle Orland at Ars Technica

Is it just me, or is the idea of Facebook collecting this type of data in particular just exceptionally creepy? I mean, browsing history or whatever is one thing – already bad enough – but hand, body, and eye movements, and camera information? Of course, this was the only expected course for Quest owners, but now that the time is here, it still feels just as creepy as when we first imagined it when Facebook bought Oculus.

Microsoft wants to update your Windows 11 PC without forcing you to reboot

If there’s one thing Windows users hate about Windows, it’s Windows updates interrupting your workflow or gaming session with a popup asking you to restart your PC finish installing the latest security update. It happens at least once a month, because that’s how often Microsoft rolls out security updates to Windows PCs.

This may soon be a thing of the past, as the company is now testing an update method called “hot patching” for Windows 11 PCs. Hot patching is already in use on some Windows Server editions, as well as Xbox, and now it appears the company is preparing to bring it to devices running Windows 11.

↫ Zac Bowden at Windows Central

A welcome, good improvement every Windows user is going to benefit from. This is the kind of improvements Microsoft should really be focusing on, instead of adding more ads or useless “AI” features.

A history of the tty

It’s one of those anachronisms that is deeply embedded in modern technology. From cloud operator servers to embedded controllers in appliances, there must be uncountable devices that think they are connected to a TTY.

I will omit the many interesting details of the Linux terminal infrastructure here, as it could easily fill its own article. But most Linux users are at least peripherally aware that the kernel tends to identify both serial devices and terminals as TTYs, assigning them filesystem names in the form of /dev/tty*. Probably a lot of those people remember that this stands for teletype or perhaps teletypewriter, although in practice the term teleprinter is more common.

↫ J. B. Crawford

I remember first using Linux in like 2000 or 2001, and running into the abbreviation tty, and not having a single clue what that meant since I came from a DOS and Windows background. Over time I gained a lot more understanding of the structure of modern UNIX-like systems, but it’s still great to read such a detailed history of the concept.

Windows-as-a-nuisance: How I clean up a “clean install” of Windows 11 and Edge

I frequently write about Windows, Edge, and other Microsoft-adjacent technologies as part of my day job, and I sign into my daily-use PCs with a Microsoft account, so my usage patterns may be atypical for many Ars Technica readers. But for anyone who uses Windows, Edge, or both, I thought it might be useful to detail what I’m doing to clean up a clean install of Windows, minimizing (if not totally eliminating) the number of annoying notifications, Microsoft services, and unasked-for apps that we have to deal with.

↫ Andrew Cunningham at Ars Technica

Five pages of nonsense you have to go through to make Windows 11 somewhat less of a trashfire. I can’t believe we’ve reached a point where this is normal and accepted, and often even defended by Windows users, here on OSNews as well. I know “just install Linux” generally isn’t a helpful comment, but at what point is installing Linux the path of least resistance compared to whatever the hell this is? Especially now that most work is done online in the browser anyway?

The Plop boot managers

I wrote different boot managers. Three boot managers are available as download. The Plop Boot Manager 5, PlopKexec and the new boot manager PBM6. The new boot manager is under development.

↫ Elmar Hanlhofer

I had never heard of the three Plop boot managers, written by Elmar Hanlhofer, but they seem like quite the capable tools. First, Plop Boot Manager 5 is the most complete version, but it’s also quite outdated by now, with its last release stemming from 2013. That being said, it’s incredibly feature-packed, but since it lacks UEFI support, its use case seems more focused on legacy systems. PBM6, meanwhile, is the modern version with UEFI support, but it’s not complete and is under development, with regular releases. Finally, PlopKexec is exactly what the name implies – a boot manager that uses the Linux kernel.

I’ve never encountered these before, but they seem quite interesting, and if it wasn’t for how much I do not like messing with bootloaders, I’d love to give these a go. Have any of you ever used it?

IBM begins work on Power11 enablement for upcoming Linux 6.9

The first “Power11” patches were queued today into the PowerPC’s “next” Git branch ahead of the upcoming Linux 6.9 kernel cycle.

The first of many IBM Power11 processor/platform enablement patches are beginning to flow out for the Linux kernel for enabling the next-generation Power processors. This shouldn’t be too surprising given that a few months ago IBM began posting “PowerPC Future” patches for the GCC compiler with speculating at the time it was for Power11 just as IBM previously called their “future” CPU target in GCC for Power10 prior to those processors officially debuting.

↫ Michael Larabel

I really hope IBM learned from the POWER10 fiasco and will make sure POWER11 is properly and fully open again, because POWER9’s openness made it unique among the other options out there. Without it, there’s really no reason for an enthusiast community to developer around POWER11 as it did around POWER9, and that would be a shame. Again.

Intel will make chips for Microsoft

US chip company Intel will make high-end semiconductors for Microsoft, the companies announced, as it seeks to compete with TSMC and Samsung to supply the next generation of silicon used in artificial intelligence for customers around the world.

Chief executive Pat Gelsinger said at a company event on Wednesday that Intel is set to “rebuild Western manufacturing at scale,” buoyed by geopolitical concerns in Washington about the need to bring leading-edge manufacturing back to the US.

↫ Michael Acton

Having our entire advanced chip industry built atop one Dutch company and one company on an island China would love to invade is not exactly the recipe for a stable supply chain. I think it’s a great idea to build capacity in the US and Europe, and if Intel’s the one to do it – with lavish government funding, I might add – then so be it. We’d all love for it to be more diverse than that, but the sad reality is that building advanced chip factories is really hard and really expensive, and very few companies have both the knowledge and money to do so.

“Why can’t I trigger a manual blue screen crash by injecting the magic key sequence?”

A customer was developing an automated test that required the system to suffer a blue screen crash. They configured their test systems to crash when the ScrollLock key is pressed twice while holding the Ctrl key, and they wrote a simple program that ran as administrator and injected the appropriate keystrokes. But no crash occurred. What did they do wrong?

↫ Raymond Chen

Does anyone here not love a Raymond Chen mystery?

Android prepares to only support Seamless Updates, but Samsung could still avoid it

Android introduced support for Seamless Updates quite a long time ago at this point and, while it’s seen adoption from most, Samsung stubbornly refuses to move its devices to the A/B system. Android is now moving towards a future where A/B Seamless Updates are the only supported update mechanism, but that may not be enough to stop Samsung.

↫ Ben Schoon at 9To5Google

The fact Samsung hasn’t embraced Seamless Updates yet is utterly baffling. It’s better in every single way, and there’s little to no downsides one can think of. I hope this little nudge gets them to finally get their act together.

The SunOS JDK builder

This is the (work in progress) SunOS jdk builder.

The aim is to attempt to download, patch, and build any relevant jdk tag, and do so for SPARC and x86, and for illumos and Solaris 11.4. It has currently been spot-tested on current illumos/x86 (specifically Tribblix m32).

It is dependent on the jdk-sunos-patches repository, which holds all the patches for each tag.

↫ Peter Tribble

Built by Peter Tribble, the same person behind Tribblix, and he’s published a blog post with more details about this project. I’ve definitely been seeing an uptick recently in interest in Solaris, which is great to see. It’s gotten me interested in installing Tribblix on my dual-Xeon workstation to see just how much I’ve been missing since last using Solaris like 15-20 years ago.

The surprising truth about pixels and accessibility

Should web developers use pixels or ems/rems for accessible fonts?

It’s an emotionally-charged question because there are a lot of conflicting opinions out there, and it can be overwhelming. Maybe you’ve heard that rems are better for accessibility. Or maybe you’ve heard that the problem is fixed and pixels are fine?

The truth is, if you want to build the most-accessible product possible, you need to use both pixels and ems/rems. It’s not an either/or situation. There are circumstances where rems are more accessible, and other circumstances where pixels are more accessible.

↫ Joshua Comeau

The linked article isn’t just an explanation of why, but also a tutorial.

Reddit sells training data to unnamed AI company ahead of IPO

On Friday, Bloomberg reported that Reddit has signed a contract allowing an unnamed AI company to train its models on the site’s content, according to people familiar with the matter. The move comes as the social media platform nears the introduction of its initial public offering (IPO), which could happen as soon as next month.

Reddit initially revealed the deal, which is reported to be worth $60 million a year, earlier in 2024 to potential investors of an anticipated IPO, Bloomberg said. The Bloomberg source speculates that the contract could serve as a model for future agreements with other AI companies.

↫ Benj Edwards at Ars Technica

Properly paying for the content you’re feeding into your “AI” model is a huge improvement over just taking it without users’ consent, but it does add yet another area of concern for users of all kinds of platforms. Whatever you write, create, or post might be fed into “AI” models without you ever realising it, and while the platform you use gets paid for that, you aren’t.

In any event, OSNews is not selling your comments to an “AI” company, but with how old we are, there’s no doubt both your comments and our stories have already found their way into countless “AI” black holes.

GhostBSD 24.01.1 released

This new release is based on FreeBSD 14.0-STABLE. Update Station got a significant change to upgrade to a major FreeBSD version, allowing upgrading GhostBSD from 13.2-STABLE to 14.0-STABLE. Also, a major change to the installer is the user created is an admin, and the root user gets the same password as the admin. If the admin password is changed after the installation, the root password will not change.

↫ GhostBSD’s website

GhostBSD is a user-friendly, desktop-first ‘distribution’ of FreeBSD – a project which, in my humble view, should be part of the FreeBSD project-proper. With some old-time Linux feeling a sense of disenfranchisement towards Linux due to things like Wayland and systemd, FreeBSD could serve as an excellent alternative, and an official desktop-first ISO could play a role in that.

Of course, that’s not exactly core to FreeBSD’s mission, and they really shouldn’t be listening to idiots like me, but I think it’s an idea worth pondering.

Fully documented source code for Lander on the Acorn Archimedes

This site contains reconstructed source code for Lander, David Braben’s epic game for the Acorn Archimedes, with every single line documented and (for the most part) explained.

Lander was the very first game to be released for the ARM processor, and it is both a milestone and a masterpiece.

My hope is that this site will be useful for those who want to learn more about Lander and what makes it tick. It is provided on an educational and non-profit basis, with the aim of helping people appreciate the second classic game from this legend of 3D coding (the first classic being Elite, of course).

↫ Mark Moxon

An incredibly valuable resource.

Running GNU on DOS with DJGPP

I remember using DJGPP back in the 1990s before I had been exposed to Linux and feeling that it was a strange beast. Compared to the Microsoft C Compiler and Turbo C++, the tooling was bloated and alien to DOS, and the resulting binaries were huge. But DJGPP provided a complete development environment for free, which I got from a monthly magazine, and I could even look at its source code if I wished. You can’t imagine what a big deal that was at the time.

But even if I could look under the cover, I never did. I never really understood why was DJGPP so strange, slow, and huge, or why it even existed. Until now. As I’m in the mood of looking back, I’ve spent the last couple of months figuring out what the foundations of this software were and how it actually worked. Part of this research has resulted in the previous two posts on DOS memory management. And part of this research is this article. Let’s take a look!

↫ Julio Merino

Having access to tools such as this, including the source code, must’ve been a huge deal to a lot of people, even if ti was “strange, slow, and huge” as the author notes.

The First Developer Preview of Android 15 released

We’re releasing the first Developer Preview of Android 15 today so you, our developers, can collaborate with us to build a better Android.

Android 15 continues our work to build a platform that helps improve your productivity while giving you new capabilities to produce superior media experiences, minimize battery impact, maximize smooth app performance, and protect user privacy and security all on the most diverse lineup of devices out there.

↫ Dave Burke on the Android Developers Blog

This being the first Android 15 Developer Preview, the tentpole features it would contain are not here yet. We’re looking at a lot of under-the-hood features most users will never actively notice, but are still very welcome. The Privacy Sandbox has been updated, it adds Health Connect, a secure place to store health data, partial screen sharing, and a lot more.