The polygons of Another World

Another choice would be Eric Chahi’s 1991 critically acclaimed” title “Another World”, better known in North America as “Out Of This World” which also happens to be ubiquitous. I would argue it is in fact more interesting to study than DOOM because of its polygon based graphics which are suitable to wild optimizations. In some cases, clever tricks allowed Another World to run on hardware built up to five years prior to the game release. This series is a journey through the video-games hardware of the early 90s. From the Amiga 500, Atari ST, IBM PC, Super Nintendo, up to the Sega Genesis. For each machine, I attempted to discover how Another World was implemented. I found an environment made rich by its diversity where the now ubiquitous CPU/GPU did not exist yet. In the process, I discovered the untold stories of seemingly impossible problems heroically solved by lone programmers. In the best case I was able to get in touch with the original developer. In the worse cases, I found myself staring at disassembly. It was a fun trip. Here are my notes. The first article in this series deals with Another World in genera, while two follow-ups dive deep into the Amiga version and the Atari ST version. Another article about the DOS version will be published over the weekend.

EA bans players running Battlefield V on Linux

While more and more games support Linux natively, there’s a huge swath of games that now run on Linux thanks to Valve’s Proton, Wine, DXVK, and communities like Lutris that make installing Windows games on Linux a breeze. In fact, I’ve been playing League of Legends on Linux this way for months now. Still, there’s always this nagging feeling that Riot, League of Legends’ developer, might one day mess up its anticheat system and ban those of us playing League on Linux. I’ve read on the League of Linux subreddit that apparently, there’s people inside Riot using Linux and that they try to make sure this won’t happen, but that’s far from a guarantee. Turns out I’m right to be on my toes, since Electronic Arts seems to have issued a blanket ban on people playing Battlefield V on Linux using DXVK. Users are reporting that Battlefield V’s anticheat software reports they’ve been banned, and after contacting EA, they received the following message: Hello, Thank you for contacting us regarding the action that was taken on your account. The action pertains to the following violation: Promote, encourage or take part in any activity involving hacking, cracking, phishing, taking advantage of exploits or cheats and/or distribution of counterfeit software and/or virtual currency/items After thoroughly investigating your account and concern, we found that your account was actioned correctly and will not remove this sanction from your account. Thank you,EA Terms of Service This just goes to show that while gaming on Linux has become something I barely even think about – I stick to buying Linux-only games on Steam, and haven’t had any envy for a long time now – there’s real dangers associated with doing so.

Apple is bullying a security company with a dangerous DMCA lawsuit

iFixit details Apple’s copyright lawsuit against Corellium: Despite a lack of apparent interest in enforcing their copyright to iOS software, in this specific case Apple has decided to exert control over iOS. And they’ve crossed a red line by invoking the most notorious statute in the US copyright act, section 1201. This is the very law that made it illegal for farmers to work on their tractors and for you to fix your refrigerator. It’s the same law that we’ve been whacking away at for years, getting exemptions from the US Copyright Office for fixing, jailbreaking, and performing security research on everything from smartwatches to automobiles. Enter Apple with the latest terrible, awful, no-good application of 1201. Apple claims that in making virtual iPhones for security and development use, Corellium is engaged in “unlawful trafficking of a product used to circumvent security measures in violation of 17 U.S.C. § 1201.” In other words: Corellium sells a way to use iOS that works around the way Apple intended it to work. Apple knows that you can’t use Corellium’s software to create your own knock-off iPhone. But they can claim that Corellium’s software is illegal, and they might technically be right. That’s terrifying. I hope the lawsuit ends with a loss for Apple, but I wouldn’t bet on it,

RISC-V stumbling blocks

Recently, I’ve started to explore RISC-V. I experienced the journey as pretty refreshing, particularly because I’ve been working on x86 low-level software almost exclusively for about 10 years. In this post, I want to quickly go over some high-level stumbling blocks I noticed as I was starting out. I’m probably going to write about more technical differences in subsequent blog posts. While reading the rest of this post, please keep in mind: RISC-V is simple! If you managed to do any low-level coding on x86, you will find your way around RISC-V with little effort. It’s easy to forget how crazy some parts of x86 are. Just see my past posts. The more interest in RISC-V, the quicker we can expect a RISC-V laptop to run Linux on. I’m all for it.

Haiku’s Paladin C++ IDE gets an overhaul

Paladin, a C++ development IDE for Haiku, has been updated with several new features and bug fixes. Some of the new features: • Quick Find window (Alt+F) – find files in a project by name, or abbreviation (E.g. qfw gives you QuickFindWindow.cpp) • All the Samples from the online Haiku dev book are included as Template Projects • Running applications ‘as logged’ now gives a live Monitor Window showing the streamed contents of stderr and stdout, using a new and reliable posix CommandThread wrapper (a ‘Preview Feature’ that, if popular, may end up back in Haiku proper for others to use) • Automatic switching of Haiku libraries when you open the same project from 32bit and 64bit Haiku versions • Running a build now generates compile_commands.json as used by other software • All new backend functionality now using a TDD approach to improve quality and avoid regressions • User requested modifications are prioritised, with a delivery average of 2 weeks There’s an update video available so you can get a better feel of the new features, and you can download and install Paladin through HaikuDepot. The code’s available under the MIT license at GitHub.

Trinity Desktop Environment R14.0.7 released

The Trinity Desktop Environment (TDE) development team is pleased to announce the immediate availability of the new TDE R14.0.7 release. TDE is a complete software desktop environment designed for Unix-like operating systems, intended for computer users preferring a traditional desktop model, and is free/libre software. TDA is a fork of the last KDE 3.x release, and looks the part. If you’ re looking for a maintained KDE 3 desktop – Trinity’s your jam. This particular release is a maintenance release, so don’t expect massive changes.

The trials and tribulations of UI scaling on Linux

A little over a month ago I wrote about an issue I was having in Linux, where playing a video would cause processor usage to skyrocket, and hence, increase the heat output considerably, causing the fans in my laptop to spin up loudly. This behaviour was Linux-specific, as it didn’t happen when using the same laptop in Windows. I experienced the problem on KDE Neon and the latest KDE release and on Linux Mint running Cinnamon. After publication of the article, and at the suggestion of lakerssuperman2, I tried the latest release of Ubuntu running GNOME, but there, too, I experienced the problem. Many other readers were quite helpful in trying to get the problem fixed – or at least diagnosed – but I wasn’t getting anywhere. Until just-me pointed something out: I have the same laptop. I watch YouTube daily and don’t remember the fans ever kicking in for that. But I just noticed that you have the 4K screen (my model has the FHD screen – by choice) – so that might explain the difference. This turned out to be an interesting avenue of investigation. I had considered the resolution of my display as a possible culprit before, but disregarded it since I couldn’t imagine the difference between 1080p and 4K having any meaningful impact. After some fiddling with my settings, however, I concluded that while the resolution indeed was not the problem – something related to it was: user interface scaling. As soon as I turned off 200% scaling and set it to 100% – making the user interface near-unusably small in the process – the problem disappeared entirely. Finally, after years of fighting this problem, I seemed to have nailed the cause, with the help of the OSNews readership (thank you!). I couldn’t believe it looked like it was something as simple as UI scaling. Of course, running 4K at 100% scaling on a 13″ display is not exactly ideal, so I set to experiment with different combinations of resolutions and scaling factors to pinpoint if certain combinations were more or less problematic than others. Running a quick command to enable fractional scaling (gsettings set org.gnome.mutter experimental-features "") to give me access to 125%, 150%, and 175% scaling factors, I discovered that setting the factor to anything but 100% would cause the problem. I eventually settled on a decent middle ground of 2048×1152 at 100% scaling, with the UI fonts set to 11. Of course, this doesn’t make optimal use of a 4K display, but things look great and crisp, correctly sized, and completely usable. But most importantly, temperatures and processor usage is now effectively on par with Windows. This means that there is an issue somewhere with how scaling seems to be implemented in either, the Intel driver, the Mutter/Kwin window managers, or any combination thereof. Since both Mutter and Kwin seem to have the problem, my gut feeling is that there’s an issue somewhere in the Intel driver or in how the driver interacts with (as a side note, I tried running Ubuntu with Wayland and GNOME, but performance as a whole seemed problematic there). Ever since, I’ve been running Linux on my XPS 13 without any issues, the fans never even turn on, temperatures remain well within expected values, and I have no more issues playing videos. Thanks to you, OSNews readers, I’ve been able to solve – or at least, circumvent – an issue that has been frustrating me for a long, long time.

The ultimate Acorn Archimedes talk

This talk will cover everything about the Acorn Archimedes, a British computer first released in 1987 and (slightly) famous for being the genesis of the original ARM processor. The audience will get an appreciation for the Arc’s elegant design, the mid-1980s birth of RISC processors, and the humble origins of the now-omnipresent ARM architecture. The weather’s frightful, the fire’s delightful, there’s no place to go, so here’s an hour long technical talk about the Acorn Archimedes by Matt Evans.

The Multicians web site

The Multicians web site presents the story of the Multics operating system for people interested in the system’s history, especially Multicians. The site’s goals are to: • preserve the technical ideas and advances of Multics so others don’t need to reinvent them. • record the history of Multics, its builders, and its users before we all forget. • give credit where it’s due for important innovations. • remember some good times and good people. A great initiative, and a treasure trove of information about MULTICS, the mainfraime timesharing operating system that arguably influenced every single operating system we use today.

Android 11 may finally remove Android’s 4GB file size limit for video recordings

In 2019, smartphone brands have made huge jumps in camera quality, especially when it comes to zoom and low-light. On the other hand, video quality hasn’t been given the same amount of attention. That could change in 2020 with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865’s improved ISP. Yet, even as Android smartphones are shipping with larger internal storage capacities, have faster modems, and are now supporting 5G networks, an old limitation prevents most of these phones from saving video files that are larger than 4GB in size. However, that could change in Android 11, the next major version of Android that’s set to release in 2020. The reason the limit existed in the first place is far more interesting than its removal – it’s a classic case of “ should be enough for everyone” that’s now been annoying people who record a lot of video on Android for years.

OpenBSD system-call-origin verification

A new mechanism to help thwart return-oriented programming (ROP) and similar attacks has recently been added to the OpenBSD kernel. It will block system calls that are not made via the C library (libc) system-call wrappers. Instead of being able to string together some “gadgets” that make a system call directly, an attacker would need to be able to call the wrapper, which is normally at a randomized location. I understood some of these words.

Microsoft might separate shell experience from Windows CoreOS to deliver faster updates

Now, Walking Cat has uncovered a change in the latest Fast Ring build that indicates a shift in the way new features are delivered to the users. Microsoft recently published a new app on the Microsoft Store called the “Windows Feature Experience Pack”. The app looks like a dummy at the moment but it does coincide with a small change made to the About section of the Settings app. The About section now shows Windows Feature Experience Pack under Windows Specifications. The version number is entirely different from the OS Build number which currently is 19536.1000. According to Walking Cat, this indicates a shift in the way shell features are delivered to the users. It looks like Microsoft might deliver shell experiences separately in the future. This is one of the unicorns Microsoft seems to have been chasing for a very, very lone time. The ability to more easily update core parts of the operating system without interrupting users, and outside of large operating system updates, has been improving with every single major release – from XP to today – but Microsoft is still a long way off. In fairness to Microsoft, Apple is still tying things like Safari to operating system updates in both iOS and macOS, and Google is also slowly but surely untangling Android to bypass OEMs and carriers to deliver updates faster. This is an industry-wide trend.

The Cape Cod disaster

Here’s a motherboard Intel very quickly wanted to forget about. It’s the Intel CC820—or Cape Cod—desktop board, a product that was late to market (not unusual) and within a few months, the subject of a recall (quite unusual). As the CC820 designation suggests, the board was built on the ill-fated Intel 820 ‘Camino’ chipset. Fascinating story.

Sailfish OS 3.2.1 released

We’ve included many reliability improvements in Nuuksio especially targeting Email, Calendar synchronisation and VPN settings. In addition to reliability improvements, the Email app now has enhanced support for handling HTML formatted messages. Audio routing for Android apps has been improved on Android app support 8.1, fixing issues with applications such as WhatsApp calls and Youtube. The operating system now supports hardware MPEG2, VP9 and h.265/HEVC video decoding (the exact support depends on the device). The detailed release notes are also available.

Twelve million phones, one dataset, zero privacy

Every minute of every day, everywhere on the planet, dozens of companies — largely unregulated, little scrutinized — are logging the movements of tens of millions of people with mobile phones and storing the information in gigantic data files. The Times Privacy Project obtained one such file, by far the largest and most sensitive ever to be reviewed by journalists. It holds more than 50 billion location pings from the phones of more than 12 million Americans as they moved through several major cities, including Washington, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Each piece of information in this file represents the precise location of a single smartphone over a period of several months in 2016 and 2017. The data was provided to Times Opinion by sources who asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to share it and could face severe penalties for doing so. The sources of the information said they had grown alarmed about how it might be abused and urgently wanted to inform the public and lawmakers. We all know this is happening, yet there’s very little we can do about it – save for living far away in the woods, disconnected from everything. There’s cameras everywhere, anything with any sort of wireless connection – from smartphone to dumbphone – is tracked at the carrier level, and even our lightbulbs are ‘smart’ these days. Yet, despite knowing this is happening, it’s still eye-opening to see it in such detail as discovered by The New York Times.

Facebook creates its own Operating System from scratch

Linking to The Verge, because the original report is stuck behind a paywall: Facebook is developing its own operating system that could one day reduce the company’s reliance on Google’s Android, according to a new report by The Information. Development is currently being led by Mark Lucovsky, a Microsoft veteran who co-authored the Windows NT operating system. The report provides a limited amount of information about how the new operating system could be used, but it notes that both Facebook’s Oculus and Portal devices currently run on a modified version of Android. According to one of Facebook’s AR and VR heads, Ficus Kirkpatrick, “it’s possible” that Facebook’s future hardware won’t need to rely on Google’s software, which would reduce or remove entirely the control Google has over Facebook’s hardware. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope.

Amazon, Apple, Google, Zigbee Alliance and board members form working group to develop open standard for smart home devices

Amazon, Apple, Google, and the Zigbee Alliance today announced a new working group that plans to develop and promote the adoption of a new, royalty-free connectivity standard to increase compatibility among smart home products, with security as a fundamental design tenet. Zigbee Alliance board member companies such as IKEA, Legrand, NXP Semiconductors, Resideo, Samsung SmartThings, Schneider Electric, Signify (formerly Philips Lighting), Silicon Labs, Somfy, and Wulian are also onboard to join the working group and contribute to the project. This really was about damn time. I’d love to add more smart devices to our home, but the varying standards and questionable security has always made me think twice. A royalty-free, secure, and interoperable standard that everyone can use and adhere to sounds like music to my ears.

Undocumented Catalina file access change

It’s well known that if you drag a file from Finder and drop it into Terminal, the full path of the file will output in Terminal. The same behavior occurs with copy and paste too. This has always been a very convenient but innocuous operation… until macOS 10.15 Catalina. I’ve discovered that on Catalina, pasting a file from Finder not only outputs the file path in Terminal, it also invisibly and permanently grants Terminal access to the file, bypassing any macOS privacy protections! This is such a weird bug… Or feature?