Atlas: third party Windows ISO for gaming

Atlas is a Windows version designed for gamers. Atlas users can enjoy higher framerate, lowered input delay & latency. Great for people on a low-end system, or high-end gaming machine. I had no idea people still did this – create custom versions of Windows ISOs and try to pawn them off as something special. The legality of this is more than dubious, of course, and you can probably achieve the same results with some of the countless scripts that are out there that also remove services, telemetry and pointless applications.

The Windows Subsystem for Linux in the Microsoft Store is now generally available on Windows 10 and 11

Today the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) in the Microsoft Store is dropping its “Preview” label and becomes generally available with our latest release! We are also making the Store version of WSL the default for new users who run wsl --install and easily upgradeable by running wsl --update for existing users. Using the Store version of WSL allows you to get updates to WSL much faster compared to when it was a Windows component. In response to the WSL community’s requests, WSL in the Store will now also be available on Windows 10 in addition to Windows 11. So, Windows 10 users will also be able to enjoy all of the latest features for WSL including systemd and Linux GUI app support! I obviously have no hard data on this, but I feel like WSL is actually quite popular among developers, as it gives Windows users easy access to a very popular tool chain and development platform. I don’t know just how transferable knowledge and experience gained through WSL is to “real” Linux, but it seems close enough.

Improving Firefox on Windows stability with this one weird trick

The first computer I owned shipped with 128 KiB of RAM and to this day I’m still jarred by the idea that applications can run out of memory given that even 15-year-old machines often shipped with 4 GiB of memory. And yet it’s one of the most common causes of instability experienced by users and in the case of Firefox the biggest source of crashes on Windows. A detailed technical explanation of why Windows’s memory management – and only Windows’s – is causing so many crashes for Firefox, as well as a solution they found to address the problem.

Asahi Linux November 2022 progress report

Time for another overdue progress report! This month’s update is packed with new hardware support, new features, and fixes for longstanding pain points, as well as a new bleeding-edge kernel branch with long-awaited support for suspend and the display controller! Asahi Linux is the project bringing Linux to Apple’s M1 and M2 platform, and they continue to make great strides. I’m still skeptical about how wise it is to buy expensive hardware you have zero control over to run an operating system not explicitly endorsed, but y’all are smart enough to make those calls on your own.

DOS/4GW and Protected Mode

We’ll start our conversation by saying that DOS/4GW is a DOS extender. That means DOS/4GW is a program responsible for adding some useful stuff on top of the vanilla DOS kernel you have installed on your system. And look, I know this does not really answer anything yet, but we’ll get there. Let’s begin our journey trying to understand why DOS needs extending in the first place. I definitely remember seeing DOS/4GW a lot when playing MS-DOS games back in the ’90s, but I had entirely forgotten about it. This article is from 2021, and explains what it is, and why it was needed.

Investigating why Steam started picking a random font

Out of the blue my Steam started picking a random font I had in my user fonts dir: Virgil, the Excalidraw font. That triggered me all sorts of emotions, ranging from laugh to total incredulity. I initially thought the root cause was a random derping from Valve but the Internet seemed quiet about it, so the unreasonable idea that it might have been my fault surfaced. Who doesn’t love a good technology mystery story?

The HP-UX Porting and Archive Centre

The HP-UX Porting and Archive Centre was established in August 1992 in the Department of Computer Science at Liverpool University in the United Kingdom, but has been run by Liverpool-based Connect Internet Solutions Limited since 1995. Its primary aim is to make public domain, freeware and Open Source software more readily available to users of Hewlett-Packard UNIX systems. The archive began with an initial collection of 150 packages, all of which had been successfully compiled and tested locally by staff at the Liverpool centre before being installed and made available on the archive. The centre continues to act as a porting body as well as an archive site – all software held in the archive has been verified to run successfully on HP-UX PA-RISC (and now Itanium) systems. As of October 2012, the Centre held over 1,500 packages! For reasons that will become apparent somewhere in the coming weeks, I’ve been spending a lot of time exploring and using HP-UX, and the HP-UX Porting and Archive Centre is one of those things that the four enthusiasts running HP-UX might find useful. It’s a vast collection of open source and freeware software built for HP-UX, installable either manually or using a specific script to resolve dependencies. This is one heck of a labour of love, considering HP-UX’, shall we say, unpopular status. Sadly, the Archive has a major limitation, one that I ran into: since 2017, only the very latest version of HP-UX – 11.31, also known as 11i v3 – is supported, meaning packages for the version I’m running, 11.11 or 11i v1, have long ago been deleted. On top of that, since 2020, all PA-RISC packages are marked as deprecated, meaning they’re no longer updated and will, at some point, be deleted too, leaving only Itanium 2 packages up for download. Using HP-UX as an enthusiast is one hell of a challenge, I can tell you that.

Ads in Windows 11 might make sense to Microsoft, but it’s really bad for consumers

Earlier in the week, some Windows 11 Dev Channel users spotted Start menu ads/promos encouraging them to back up their data to OneDrive, sign up for a Microsoft account, and complete their profile. This obviously opened the door to lots of conversations over on social media platforms such as Twitter as well as the comments section on our own coverage as the majority of readers proceeded to bash Microsoft for pushing what they believe to be advertisements in their OS. To be fair, this backlash isn’t surprising. Microsoft has previously been caught red-handed testing advertisements for Microsoft Editor in the File Explorer. At that time, the company quickly removed them, claiming that they were not meant to be published externally. Even then, I expressed concern that while the banner ads were published accidentally this time, the real problem here is that Microsoft is definitely playing around with this idea and there’s no knowing when the tech giant decides that it’s the right time to green light this initiative for the public. It’s not going to matter. People who (think they) need Windows will keep using Windows, keep taking the user-hostile nonsense, because they don’t know any better. Windows users are a goldmine waiting to be split open and rushed, and Microsoft knows it.

“Project Volterra” review: Microsoft’s $600 Arm PC that almost doesn’t suck

It’s undeniably good for the Arm Windows app ecosystem to have a viable, decently specced PC that is usable as an everyday computer. The Dev Kit 2023 is priced to move, so there may be some developers who buy one just for the hell of it, which might have some positive trickle-down effects for the rest of the ecosystem. Because eventually, the Windows-on-Arm project will need to develop some tangible benefit for the people who choose to use it. What you’re getting with an Arm Windows device right now is essentially the worst of both x86 and Arm—compatibility problems without lower power use and heat to offset them and so-so performance to boot. Apple has cracked all three of these things; Windows and Qualcomm are struggling to do any of them. I’m just not entirely sure who Windows on ARM is supposed to be for. I want it to succeed – the more choice the better, and x86 needs an ass-kicking – but I don’t think the current crop of Windows on ARM devices are even remotely worth it. Either Qualcomm finally gets its act together and comes up with an SoC to rival Apple’s M series, or Microsoft takes matters into its own hands. Either way, they’re going to need to do something about the performance of x86 code on Windows on ARM.

In praise of Plan 9

Plan 9 is an operating system designed by Bell Labs. It’s the OS they wrote after Unix, with the benefit of hindsight. It is the most interesting operating system that you’ve never heard of, and, in my opinion, the best operating system design to date. Even if you haven’t heard of Plan 9, the designers of whatever OS you do use have heard of it, and have incorporated some of its ideas into your OS. Plan 9 is a research operating system, and exists to answer questions about ideas in OS design. As such, the Plan 9 experience is in essence an exploration of the interesting ideas it puts forth. Most of the ideas are small. Many of them found a foothold in the broader ecosystem — UTF-8, goroutines, /proc, containers, union filesystems, these all have their roots in Plan 9 — but many of its ideas, even the good ones, remain unexplored outside of Plan 9. As a consequence, Plan 9 exists at the center of a fervor of research achievements which forms a unique and profoundly interesting operating system. I’ve never used Plan 9, but whenever I read about I feel like it makes sense, like that’s how things are supposed to be. I’m sure its approaches present their own unique challenges, problems, and idiosyncrasies, but the idealised reality in articles like these make me want to jump in.

ZealOS: a modernised fork of TempleOS

The Zeal Operating System is a modernized, professional fork of the 64-bit Temple Operating System. Guiding principles of development include transparency, full user control, and adherence to public-domain/open-source implementations. ZealOS strives to be simple, documented, and require as little of a knowledge gap as possible. One person should be able to comprehend the entire system in at least a semi-detailed way within a few days of study. Simplify, don’t complicate; make accessible, don’t obfuscate. Yes, somebody picked up Terry Davis‘ baton and ran with it. This makes me happy – it seemed wrong for TempleOS to remain but an inanimate memorial.

The unusual bootstrap drivers inside the 8086 microprocessor chip

The 8086 microprocessor is one of the most important chips ever created; it started the x86 architecture that still dominates desktop and server computing today. I’ve been reverse-engineering its circuitry by studying its silicon die. One of the most unusual circuits I found is a “bootstrap driver”, a way to boost internal signals to improve performance. This circuit consists of just three NMOS transistors, amplifying an input signal to produce an output signal, but it doesn’t resemble typical NMOS logic circuits and puzzled me for a long time. Eventually, I stumbled across an explanation: the “bootstrap driver” uses the transistor’s capacitance to boost its voltage. It produces control pulses with higher current and higher voltage than otherwise possible, increasing performance. In this blog post, I’ll attempt to explain how the tricky bootstrap driver circuit works. I don’t fully understand all the details, but I do grasp the main point here. This is quite an ingenious design.

AMD EPYC Genoa gaps Intel Xeon in stunning fashion

The AMD EPYC 9004 series, codenamed “Genoa” is nothing short of a game-changer. We use that often in the industry, but this is not a 15-25% generational improvement. The new AMD EPYC Genoa changes the very foundation of what it means to be a server. This is a 50-60% (or more) per-socket improvement, meaning we get a 3:2 or 2:1 consolidation just from a generation ago. If you are coming from 3-5 year-old Xeon Scalable (1st and 2nd Gen) servers to EPYC, the consolidation potential is even more immense, more like 4:1. This new series is about much more than just additional cores or a few new features. AMD EPYC Genoa is a game-changer, and we are going to go in-depth as to why in this article. These are absolutely monster processors, and widen the already existing gap between AMD and Intel in the server space even more.

Windows 11 gets Task Manager search

We are bringing process filtering to Task Manager. This is the top feature request from our users to filter/search for processes. You can filter either using the binary name, PID or publisher name. The filter algorithm matches the context keyword with all possible matches and displays them on the current page. The filter is also applied as you switch between pages. You can also use the keyboard shortcut ALT + F to focus on the filter box. This is a helpful feature if you want to single out a process or a group of processes and want to take action or just monitor the performance of the filtered processes. I am baffled by how slowly new, actually useful features seem to be added to Windows these days. Weren’t all the changes in development and release cycles supposed to speed up the development of Windows? It feels like it’s a small trickle of minor features here and there, that then get massive press attention because… Well, at least something is happening. But nice, I guess. A feature present on virtually every other platform for decades.

Redditor discovers legendary 1956 computer in grandparents’ basement

On Monday, a German Redditor named c-wizz announced that they had found a very rare 66-year-old Librascope LGP-30 computer (and several 1970 DEC PDP-8/e computers) in their grandparents’ basement. The LGP-30, first released in 1956, is one of only 45 manufactured in Europe and may be best known as the computer used by “Mel” in a famous piece of hacker lore. This is the vintage computing version of finding a 33 Stradale in a shed in the Italian countryside.

Microsoft is showing ads in the Windows 11 sign-out menu

Microsoft is now promoting some of its products in the sign-out flyout menu that shows up when clicking the user icon in the Windows 11 start menu. This new Windows 11 “feature” was discovered by Windows enthusiast Albacore, who shared several screenshots of advertisement notifications in the Accounts flyout. The screenshots show that Microsoft promotes the OneDrive file hosting service and prods users to create or complete their Microsoft accounts. Apple and Microsoft are actively ruining their operating systems just to squeeze a few more lousy coin out of their trapped users. What dreadful places to work they must be, with bean counters looking over every programmer’s shoulder to find ever more places to stuff in ads.

The Motorola PowerStack

The PowerStack was one of the Motorola Computer Group’s entries into the personal computer (PC) market around the time the Microsoft Windows/Intel x86 juggernaut was stumbling with their mass market Windows 3.11 replacement. It’s a compact, modular, efficient platform featuring IBM/Motorola’s PowerPC CPUs as well as best-in-class contemporary interfaces like PCI and SCSI. A compute element could be stacked with other modular I/O and storage cases to expand its capabilities without having to rehome the computer in a larger chassis. I had never heard of this machine before, illustrating just how much random non-x86 machines were produced in the ’90s. This one definitely looks more out there than most, and most likely utterly impossible to find anywhere.