Rumors, delays, and early testing suggest Intel’s Arc GPUs are on shaky ground

All of that makes Arc a lot more serious than Larrabee, Intel’s last effort to break into the dedicated graphics market. Larrabee was canceled late in its development because of delays and disappointing performance, and Arc GPUs are actual things that you can buy (if only in a limited way, for now). But the challenges of entering the GPU market haven’t changed since the late 2000s. Breaking into a mature market is difficult, and experience with integrated GPUs isn’t always applicable to dedicated GPUs with more complex hardware and their own pool of memory.

Regardless of the company’s plans for future architectures, Arc’s launch has been messy. And while the company is making some efforts to own those problems, a combination of performance issues, timing, and financial pressures could threaten Arc’s future.

There’s a lot of chatter that Intel might axe Arc completely, before it’s really truly out of the gate. I really hope those rumours are wrong or overblown, since the GPU market desperately needs a 3rd serious competitor. I hope Intel takes a breather, and allows the Arc team to be in it for the long haul, so that we as consumers can benefit from more choice in the near future.

Citing danger of “ink spills” Epson programs end of life for some printers

You have a perfectly healthy, functioning Epson inkjet printer in your home office. It’s served you well for years and you use it frequently. Then, one day, you go to print a document and realize that the printer isn’t working. A message on the display reads “a part inside your printer is at the end of its service life. Service is required.”

That’s funny, you think. You hadn’t noticed anything wrong with your printer before this message appeared. The device was working well and the quality of the printing was fine. If nothing was broken, why are you suddenly getting this message? More important: how do you get rid of it so that you can continue using your printer?

This should absolutely be criminal behaviour. If there was ever an industry that could do with a worldwide judicial probe and investigation, it’s the printer makers. They employ so many clearly scammy business practices, and get away with them too.

Hackable $20 modem combines LTE and Pi Zero W2 power

extrowerk tells us about a new hacker-friendly device – a $20 LTE modem stick with a quadcore CPU and WiFi, capable of running fully-featured Linux distributions. This discovery hinges on a mountain of work by a Chinese hacker [HandsomeYingYan], who’s figured out this stick runs Android, hacked its bootloader, tweaked a Linux kernel for it and created a Debian distribution for the stick – calling this the OpenStick project. [extrowerk]’s writeup translates the [HandsomeYingYan]’s tutorial for us and makes a few more useful notes. With this writeup in hand, we have unlocked a whole new SBC to use in our projects – at a surprisingly low price!

There’s so much computing power in cheap, disposable technology these days, and you can do fun things with it.

NetBSD 9.3 released

NetBSD 9.3 has made it into the wild.

Aside from many bug fixes, 9.3 includes backported improvements to suspend and resume support, various minor additions of new hardware to existing device drivers, compatibility with UDF file systems created on Windows 10, enhanced support for newer Intel Gigabit Ethernet chipsets, better support for new Intel and AMD Zen 3 chipsets, support for configuring connections to Wi-Fi networks using sysinst(8), support for wsfb-based X11 servers on the Commodore Amiga, and minor performance improvements for the Xen hypervisor.

A solid set of improvements for a point release.

The MGR Window System

MGR, sometimes said to be short for “ManaGeR”, sometimes short for “Munger”, is a simple network transparent window system. It was originally developed for the Sun 3 series of workstations by Stephen Uhler and colleagues beginning in 1984 while at Bellcore (later Telcordia, now part of Ericsson) and later enhanced by many others.

The window system ran on many different hardware platforms, at least these: Sun 3/xx workstations running SunOS, which was the the original development platform, Sun SPARCstations (SunOS and then ported by me to Solaris), Intel x86 based PCs (Coherent, Minix, FreeBSD or Linux), Atari ST (under MiNT), AT&T UnixPC (SysV) and the Macintosh.

I had never heard of MGR before, so this was a great read.

The women calling out Apple’s handling of misconduct claims

In interviews with 15 female Apple employees, both current and former, the Financial Times has found that Mohr’s frustrating experience with the People group has echoes across at least seven Apple departments spanning six US states.

The women shared allegations of Apple’s apathy in the face of misconduct claims. Eight of them say they were retaliated against, while seven found HR to be disappointing or counterproductive.

This story is based on those interviews and discussions with other employees, internal emails from Apple’s People team, four exit contracts written by lawyers for Apple, and anonymous employee reviews.

There’s some real blood-boiling stuff in here.

Emily says she felt that HR treated her like she was the problem. “I was told [the alleged rapist] went on a ‘career experience’ for six months, and they said: ‘maybe you’ll be better by the time he’s back?’”

Or this one, where a colleague undressed another colleague as she was sleeping, and snapped photos of her. Apple’s response?

“Although what he did was reprehensible as a person and potentially criminal, as an Apple employee he hasn’t violated any policy in the context of his Apple work,” HR wrote. “And because he hasn’t violated any policy we will not prevent him seeking employment opportunities that are aligned with his goals and interests.”

Apple seems like a fun work environment for women.

Here is how you can still open Internet Explorer in Windows 11 if you really, really want to

Internet Explorer was finally killed off for almost every consumer version of Windows on June 15, 2022. It’s death was even mourned celebrated with faux gravestones commemorating it as a “good tool to download other browsers”. However, it seems like Microsoft’s browser still lives on in the depths of its latest operating system.

Although Windows 11 does not officially come bundled with Internet Explorer, the ancient browser can still be launched on the OS.

This thing will never die. I will go to my grave when Windows 32 hits and it will still come with iexplore.exe because the online passport request form in some tiny municipality in Slovenia only works in IE.

The Microsoft team racing to catch bugs before they happen

As a rush of cybercriminals, state-backed hackers, and scammers continue to flood the zone with digital attacks and aggressive campaigns worldwide, it’s no surprise that the maker of the ubiquitous Windows operating system is focused on security defense. Microsoft’s Patch Tuesday update releases frequently contain fixes for critical vulnerabilities, including those that are actively being exploited by attackers out in the world.

The company already has the requisite groups to hunt for weaknesses in its code (the “red team”) and develop mitigations (the “blue team”). But recently, that format evolved again to promote more collaboration and interdisciplinary work in the hopes of catching even more mistakes and flaws before things start to spiral. Known as Microsoft Offensive Research & Security Engineering, or Morse, the department combines the red team, blue team, and so-called green team, which focuses on finding flaws or taking weaknesses the red team has found and fixing them more systemically through changes to how things are done within an organization.

Cheap jokes from the Windows XP era aside, I feel like there haven’t really been any massive security problems with Windows that we used to see in the XP days. Working for any of Microsoft’s security teams can’t be an easy job, and it’s always interesting to get an insight into how they operate.

Apple’s Virtualization framework is a great, free way to test new macOS betas

One of the coolest power-user Mac features of the Apple Silicon era is Apple’s Virtualization framework. Normally the purview of paid software like Parallels Desktop or VMWare Fusion, virtualization lets you run multiple operating systems on one Mac at the same time, which is useful for anyone who wants to run Linux on top of macOS, test an app they’re developing in different versions of macOS, or take a look at the latest macOS Ventura beta without risking their main install.

Apple’s documentation and sample projects provide everything you need to get a simple VM up and running with no additional software required. Still, some independent developers have built simple, free apps on top of the Virtualization framework that provides a GUI for customizing settings and juggling multiple guest OSes.

A very useful feature, especially for developers.

The story behind Google’s in-house desktop Linux

If you look around Google’s Mountain View, CA offices, you’ll see Windows machines, Chromebooks, Macs — and gLinux desktops. G what, you ask? Well, in addition to  relying on Linux for its servers, Google has its very own Linux desktop distribution.

You can’t get it — darn it! — but for more than a decade, Google has been baking and eating its own homemade Linux desktop distribution. The first version was Goobuntu.

It’s not news that Google has it’s own in-house desktop Linux distribution, but this article provides some interesting insights into some of its unique aspects. The latest versions now use a rolling release model based on Debian, with a custom automated package building and testing tool on top, developed by Google.

I’d love to see it in action and have it released to the public.

Linux 5.19 released

Linus Torvalds just released Linux 5.19 as stable for the newest version of the Linux kernel. He also mentioned this is the first time he released the new Linux kernel from an ARM64 laptop in the form of an Apple MacBook running an AArch64 Apple M2 SoC.

Linux 5.19 brings many new features from initial LoongArch CPU support to continued work on bringing-up AMD Zen 4 CPUs, AMD RDNA3 enablement continuing, more work on Intel DG2/Alchemist, Intel Idle driver support for Alder Lake, initial Raptor Lake P graphics support, Zstd compressed firmware, and some nice performance improvements.

In addition, Torvalds intends to call the next release Linux 6.0, because he’s “starting to worry about getting confused by big numbers again”.

AMD passes Intel in market cap

AMD surpassed rival Intel’s market cap on Friday.

AMD stock rose over 3% for the day, giving the chipmaker a market capitalization of $153 billion. Intel fell nearly 9%, a day after disastrous earnings that missed expectations for profit and showed declining revenue. Intel’s market cap was $148 billion at the end of trading on Friday.

The shift is mostly symbolic, but it signifies a much more competitive market for PC and server chips, where the two companies compete directly.

I don’t report on financials anymore (unless it’s something truly unique), but this one I wanted to highlight simply because it highlights just how well AMD is doing. Only a few short years ago, this would’ve been unimaginable. Meaningless, sure, but a sign of the times nonetheless.

Raspberry Pi Zero vs. MangoPi MQ Pro benchmarks

Putting the Raspberry Pi Zero against the MangoPi MQ Pro was something I’d wanted to do since seeing the MQ Pro’s announcement and specifications. It just seemed to make sense. On paper, they’re largely similar, with 1GHz single-core CPUs, and 512MB of RAM. A 1GB MQ Pro is also available and is what I’ll be using here so your mileage may vary slightly if you have the 512MB version.

So what happens when you pit these relatively similar single-board computers against each other?

That also ignores the price side of things. The Raspberry Pi Zero W retails for around £10GBP (keep an eye out on rpilocator if you’re currently in the market) in the UK through authorised retailers whereas the Mango Pi MQ Pro 1GB model tested here will run you around £23 if you manage to get one through the official store when they have stock (these prices both include GST/VAT at 20%). At £23 I still think it’s worth it to get your hands on a small RISC-V based board that offers twice as much, faster RAM and better performance in a lot of areas but if you’re purely interested in the price this may not appeal to you.

RISC-V is steadily progressing, and if a relatively low performance boards like this aren’t your thing, there’s more powerful boards incoming, such as Pine64’s Star64.

Ring, Google and the police: what to know about emergency requests for video footage

CNet decided to ask makers of home security cameras about their policies when it comes to dealing with requests from United States law enforcement:

Ring, the Amazon-owned video doorbell and home security company, came under renewed criticism from privacy activists this month after disclosing it gave video footage to police in more than 10 cases without users’ consent thus far in 2022 in what it described as “emergency situations.” That includes instances where the police didn’t have a warrant.

[…]

While Ring stands alone for its extensive history of police partnerships, it isn’t the only name I found with a carve-out clause for sharing user footage with police during emergencies. Google, which makes and sells smart home cameras and video doorbells under the Nest brand, makes as much clear in its terms of service.

Other manufacturers of home security cameras, such as Wyze and Arlo, only provide footage after a valid warrant, while devices that use Apple’s HomeKit Secure Video are end-to-end encrypted, so footage cannot be shared at all. In other words, if you live in the United States, it’s best to avoid Amazon’s and Google’s offerings – especially if you’re a member of a minority or are a woman seeking essential healthcare – and stick to Apple’s offerings instead.

Chrome use subject to restrictions in Dutch schools over data security concerns

The Dutch Ministry of Education has decided to impose some restrictions on the use of the Chrome OS and Chrome web browser until August 2023 over concerns about data privacy.

The officials worry that Google services collect student data and make it available to large advertising networks, who use it for purposes beyond helping education.

Since the national watchdog doesn’t know where or how the students’ personal data is stored and processed, there are concerns about violating European Union’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation).

It always irritates me to no end when people claim all the GDPR ever did was create cookie prompts (it didn’t – those prompts aren’t even GDPR compliant), when in fact, it’s been leading to things like this, where governments and advocacy groups now have the legal means to fight companies that violate the privacy rights of those of us in the EU. In this particular case, Google is being forced to change its privacy systems for the better.

It’s a sign of things to come now that the DMA has been fully passed.

Gmail’s new look is now rolling out to everyone

We’ve been tracking the progress of Google’s interface refresh for Gmail since February, and as promised, the company says it’s now becoming available for all Gmail users. The rework pulls Meet, Chat, and Spaces closer together as part of the overall experience and includes elements from Google’s Material Design 3.

It’s not stopping there and says that, later this year, we should see improvements to Gmail for tablet users, better emoji support, and more accessibility features, among other upgrades.

I don’t like the Gmail web experience at all, and the changes over the recent years have done little to change my mind. I’m old-fashioned and prefer proper email applications that are fast, native, and integrate with my wider computing environments.

Not so Common Desktop Environment (NsCDE) 2.2 released

NsCDE is a retro but powerful UNIX desktop environment which resembles CDE look (and partially feel) but with a more powerful and flexible framework beneath-the-surface, more suited for 21st century unix-like and Linux systems and user requirements than original CDE.

NsCDE can be considered as a heavyweight FVWM theme on steroids, but combined with a couple other free software components and custom FVWM applications and a lot of configuration, NsCDE can be considered a lightweight hybrid desktop environment.

It also contains themes for Qt, Gtk, and more, to ensure a consistent CDE look and feel. NsCDE 2.2 has just been released, and it contains a ton of improvements. This is such a cool and fascinating project.