Multi-threading and globals on Pumpkin OS

The developer of Pumpkin OS (which we talked about before), a port of the Palm OS to x86-64, has written a very interesting post about dealing with multi-threading. Pumpkin OS is multi-threaded from the start, but several parts of the operating system rely on old parts of Palm OS that were never meant to be multi-threaded – such as the M68K emulator used to run Palm OS applications written for that architecture. The solution I came up with uses something called thread local storage. Each thread has access to a private memory region that the main thread can setup in advance. When a deeply nested function needs to access global state, instead of using a global variable, it gets a pointer to its local storage. Each emulated M68K thread writes to its own M68K state, not interfering with another thread. And no function prototype needs to change. The first step was to identify all global variables used by the M68K emulator, which were surprisingly few. I’m so excited about this project.

Adobe to acquire Figma in a deal worth $20 billion

Adobe has announced that it’s acquiring Figma, a popular design platform, for around $20 billion in cash and stock. After rumors surfaced early on Thursday about a potential acquisition, Adobe made it official in a press release shortly afterward. It’s big news in the design and development world, particularly as Figma has been competing heavily with Adobe’s XD products in recent years. I had never heard of Figma before, but it seems it’s actually quite popular – for example, Microsoft uses it to design Office and Windows. This seems like a big catch for Adobe, but a competitor less, too, and that’s not exactly great for the market.

EU upholds Google’s 4.1B euro fine for bundling search with Android

Google has lost its latest battle with European Union regulators. This morning, the EU General Court upheld Google’s record fine for bundling Google Search and Chrome with Android. The initial ruling was reached in July 2018 with a 4.34 billion euro fine attached, and while that number has been knocked down to 4.125 billion euro ($4.13 billion), it’s still the EU’s biggest fine ever. The EU takes issue with the way Google licenses Android and associated Google apps like the Play Store to manufacturers. The Play Store and Google Play Services are needed to build a competitive smartphone, but getting them from Google requires signing a number of contracts that the EU says stifles competition. Google breakin’ rocks in the hot sun.

Apple plans to sell ads in new spots in the App Store by year-end

Apple plans to release new ad “placements” as soon as the holiday season, according to a message sent to developers on Tuesday inviting them to an online session to encourage them to buy ads. The new spots represent a significant expansion in Apple’s advertising inventory, which is focused on its App Store. In recent years, Apple’s advertising inventory has been limited to one unit in the Search tab on the App Store and one on the search results page. Let the milking commence.

Ladybird: a new cross-platform browser project

Since starting the SerenityOS project in 2018, my goal has been “to build a complete desktop operating system to eventually use as my daily driver”. What started as a little therapy project for myself has blossomed into a huge OSS community with hundreds of people working on it all over the world. We’ve gone from nothing to a capable system with its own browser stack in the last 4 years. Throughout this incredible expansion, my own goals have remained the same. Today I’m updating them a little bit: in addition to building a new OS for myself, I’m also going to build a cross-platform web browser. If there is one person who can pull off making a web browser and turning it into a successful-enough open source application, it’s Andreas Kling. His work on SerenityOS is simply stunning and inspirational, attracting hundreds of people to work on a ’90s-inspired alternative desktop operating system. If he can organise the same amount of enthusiasm for Ladybird, it has a real shot at becoming a successful, but niche, browser. For now, it’s very early days, and Kling is open and honest about how much work is still left to do. Since all the code is new – this isn’t a fork or Blink, WebKit, or Gecko – you can imagine this isn’t exactly going to be an easy ride. It’s currently running on Linux, Windows through WSL, macOS, and Android, and Kling states the Linux version if the best tested one. I’m definitely excited for this one.

We spoke with the last person standing in the floppy disk business

Tom Persky is the self-proclaimed “last man standing in the floppy disk business.” He is the time-honored founder of floppydisk.com, a US-based company dedicated to the selling and recycling of floppy disks. Other services include disk transfers, a recycling program, and selling used and/or broken floppy disks to artists around the world. All of this makes floppydisk.com a key player in the small yet profitable contemporary floppy scene. While putting together the manuscript for our new book, Floppy Disk Fever: The Curious Afterlives of a Flexible Medium, we met with Tom to discuss the current state of the floppy disk industry and the perks and challenges of running a business like his in the 2020s. What has changed in this era, and what remains the same? With the amount of legacy systems still running all over the world, there’s probably decent longevity in this business still.

Slovenian OS/2 Warp 4

Slovenia being a tiny country with a population of just 2 million, IBM OS/2 Warp 4 was one of the few non-Microsoft operating systems to be localized to Slovenian in the mid-90s and a big deal for the local IT community back then. But nearly 3 decades later, when OS/2 disappeared from the last ATMs in the country, the even rarer Slovenian version was as good as completely gone. Or was it? This is an amazing example of digital archeology, and I hope the other rare OS/2 translations are found as well. It’s difficult for small – but stunningly beautiful! – countries to maintain their digital independence, and properly localised software plays a huge role in that.

iOS 16 released

iOS 16 brings the biggest update ever to the Lock Screen, the ability to edit and collaborate in Messages, new tools in Mail, and more ways to interact with photos and video with Live Text and Visual Look Up. iOS 16 is available today as a free software update. Unlike in the Android world, every iOS user here on OSNews will most likely be able to install this latest update right away. I’m especially enamoured by the notifications popping in from the bottom instead of the top – this makes a lot more sense, and I hope Android picks it up as well.

Transcending POSIX: the end of an era?

In this article, we provide a holistic view of the Portable Operating System Interface (POSIX) abstractions by a systematic review of their historical evolution. We discuss some of the key factors that drove the evolution and identify the pitfalls that make them infeasible when building modern applications. Some light reading to start the week.

Digital museum of plugs and sockets

A website containing a vast, vast collection of domestic electrical plugs and sockets from all over the world, including more information and details about them than you knew existed. I’ve been stuck here for hours. Be wary of going in – you’re never coming back out. But you’ll be happier for it, since there’s enough information here to last a lifetime. One of my favourites is this one from Sweden – I was baffled by these at first when emigrating to Sweden a few years ago, but now I appreciate their genius and safety compared to just tying down live wires for ceiling lamps like we do in The Netherlands. Another fun and weird one is the Perilex plug, which is incredibly satisfying to plug into its corresponding socket (I used to work at a hardware store that sold a huge variety of plugs and sockets). I could go on for hours!

The death of the PCIe expansion card

With the AM5 platform from AMD on the horizon, five major motherboard manufacturers have annonced their flagship motherboards with the X670E chipset. Some of them are having fun with this generation’s multi-faceted step into “five”: AM5, PCIe Gen 5.0, DDR5, 5nm process, boost clocks over 5GHz, you catch the drift. But do you know what every single announced motherboard has fewer than five of? PCI Express (PCIe) slots. Other than a GPU and the occasional WiFi card, I haven’t really had any need for my expansion slots in a long time. I just don’t know of anything useful. I doubt they’ll actually go away any time soon though.

Userspace FUSE for macOS

FUSE-T is a kext-less implementation of FUSE for macOS that uses NFS v4 local server instead of a kernel extension. The main motivation for this project is to replace macfuse that implements its own kext to make fuse work. With each version of macOS it’s getting harder and harder to load kernel extensions. Apple strongly discourages it and, for this reason, software distributions that include macfuse are very difficult to install. With Apple locking down macOS more and more, developers have to resort to ingenious solutions to maintain the same level of functionality as before. This is an example of that.

Apple II Desktop updated

Disassembly and enhancements for Apple II DeskTop (a.k.a. Mouse Desk), a “Finder”-like GUI application for 8-bit Apples and clones with 128k of memory, utilizing double hi-res monochrome graphics (560×192), an optional mouse, and the ProDOS 8 operating system. There’s a new version with tons of improvements.

USB4 v2 will support speeds up to 80 Gbps

The next generation of USB devices might support data transfer speeds as high as 80 Gbps, which would be twice as fast as current-gen Thunderbolt 4 products. The USB Promotor Group says it plans to publish the new USB4 version 2.0 specification ahead of this year’s USB Developer Days events scheduled for November, but it could take a few years before new cables, hubs, PCs, and mobile devices featuring the new technology are available for purchase. USB4 version 2.0. That’s the name they went with.

Genode OS Framework release 22.08

The overarching theme of Genode 22.08 is the emerging phone variant of Sculpt OS, touching topics as diverse as USB ECM, Mali-400 GPU, SD-card access, telephony, mobile-data connectivity, the Morph web browser, and a custom user interface. Among the further highlights are new tracing tools, improved network performance USB smart-card support, and VirtIO drivers for RISC-V. Genode never fails to impress.

EU regulators want 5 years of smartphone parts, much better batteries

The most notable proposed fix (listed in Annex II) is for phone makers and sellers to make “professional repairers” available for five years after the date a phone is removed from the market. Those repairers would have access to parts including the battery, display, cameras, charging ports, mechanical buttons, microphones, speakers, and hinge assemblies (including for folding phones and tablets). Phone companies also get a choice: either make replacement batteries and back-covers available to phone owners or design batteries that meet minimum standards. Those include still having 83 percent of its rated capacity after 500 full charging cycles, then 80 percent after 1,000 full charging cycles. Apple, for example, currently claims that its iPhones are designed to retain 80 percent capacity after 500 charge cycles. Good. I’ve been saying it for years: if the automotive industry can be legally obligated to provide spare parts, repair information, and more to third parties, so can the technology industry.

Android 13 review: plans for the future, but not much to offer today

The Android update treadmill continues with the release of Android 13. It’s one of the smallest Android releases in recent memory, with barely any user-facing features to point to. Keep in mind, though, that this update follows the monster Android 12 release from last year. This is also the second Android OS release this year, the previous one being the tablet-focused Android 12L update that was rushed out the door in March. We would have a bit more meat to work with if Android 12L was part of this release, but as it is, we’re left with a grab bag of features for Android 13. It includes many foundational features for Android tablets and smart displays, but there’s not much here for phones. Even so, there are things to discuss, so let’s dive in. Ars Technica’s usual deep dive into every new Android release, and despite Android 13 being a relatively minor release, there’s still more than enough to cover.

macOS now scans for malware whenever it gets a chance

In the last six months macOS malware protection has changed more than it did over the previous seven years. It has now gone fully pre-emptive, as active as many commercial anti-malware products, provided that your Mac is running Catalina or later. This article updates those I’ve previously written about Apple’s new tool in the war against malware, XProtect Remediator. Apple has been slowly building out its anti-malware and antivirus tools in macOS, and it has remained mostly quiet about it – understandable considering how bad tech press would have a field day with stories about Apple effectively turning macOS malware protection into a regular antivirus scanner.

The original “universal” port

We talk a lot about standards over this way, including what came before the standards were put into place and what came before that. Our last issue was about standards, even. But sometimes, de facto standards simply come into place, where a large number of people and organizations agree to do something a certain way, despite no formalized agreement or strategy. And one of the greatest examples of a de facto standard in computing history may be a controller port that remained in constant use on mainstream consoles and computers for two whole decades. I’m, of course, talking about the Atari joystick port, a port with a surprising amount of history behind it. My experience with this venerable port came through the MSX, which was weirdly popular in The Netherlands thanks to Phillips being a Dutch company. It wasn’t until much later that I realised it was in use all over the place.