A Graphical OS for the Atari 8-bit

Atari 8-bit fans have long hankered after a GUI similar to GEOS on the Commodore 64. Diamond GOS went some way to addressing this deficiency, and since then there have been several creditable attempts at implementing a GUI OS on the A8. Now there’s another one in the pipeline: an as yet unnamed project which aims to bring a pre-emptive multi-tasking graphical operating system to the 8-bit Atari. This is a seriously impressive project with ambitious goals, and it looks great considering the hardware it’s running on.

ChromeOS Flex officially released

Today, we’re excited to announce that ChromeOS Flex, the cloud-first, easy-to-manage, and fast operating system for PCs and Macs, is now ready for your fleet. Just like too much sun, software bloat, clunky hardware, and security vulnerabilities can cause unwanted damage. Thankfully, ChromeOS Flex is just the sunscreen your legacy devices need. And thanks to everyone who has participated in our early access program, we’ve been able to significantly improve the product in many areas while continuously certifying devices to run ChromeOS Flex. ChromeOS Flex is effectively ChromeOS for everyone who doesn’t want to buy ChromeOS hardware, based on Google’s acquisition of CloudReady. There are various community projects that offer the same, but having an official offering from Google is great for organisations and companies.

CP/M’s licensing situation cleared up

CP/M has been in a sort of legal limbo for quite a while – the code was openly available, but not through a license, but a short paragraph in an email that contained an odd piece of phrasing that wasn’t entirely clear, and could easily be misunderstood as “you can only distribute any derivative works through this one specific website”. This has now been clarified by the rights holder – DRDOS, Inc. and Bryan Sparks, president of DRDOS… In an email. However, this time the wording is a lot more clear. “Let this paragraph represent a right to use, distribute, modify, enhance, and otherwise make available in a nonexclusive manner CP/M and its derivatives. This right comes from the company, DRDOS, Inc.’s purchase of Digital Research, the company and all assets, dating back to the mid-1990’s. DRDOS, Inc. and I, Bryan Sparks, President of DRDOS, Inc. as its representative, is the owner of CP/M and the successor in interest of Digital Research assets.” This still is far from ideal, since a real license, e.g. MIT or BSD or whatever, would be easier, but at least this clears the waters quite a bit.

Windows 3.1 flash edition

Recently, a friend of mine paid me a visit with a few of his ThinkPads. Over a course of a weekend, I’ve prepared a SPI flasher based on flashrom and a Raspberry Pi and flashed a few ThinkPads. Besides my rage that was mostly a result of badly written libreboot and coreboot docs (things are hard to find, a ton of the info is outdated, etc), I came up with an idea for corebooting my own X200. This is not going where you think it might be going.

Atari open-source Linux DRM graphics driver being worked on in 2022

In addition to the OpenChrome DRM/KMS driver hoping to be finally mainlined in 2022 for supporting aging VIA graphics hardware from the long-ago days of their x86 chipsets, separately there is a DRM/KMS kernel driver in the works for something even older… A Linux DRM graphics driver for the Atari Falcon from the early 90’s. Over the past two years a DRM driver has been in the works for the Atari graphics hardware with its built-in graphics chipset. This is not to be confused with the 2021-launched Atari VCS mini PC / game console, but the Atari Falcon personal computers out of the Atari Corporation from the early 90’s that featured Motorola 68000 series processors and a programmable video controller. It’s not yet in mainline, so it’ll be fun to see if Torvalds is up for including such an old and niche driver once it’s matured. I’ve always wanted an Atari Falcon, but they’re even more expensive than most other classic computers, so that’s most likely never going to happen.

Microsoft still plans to block Office macros by default after temporary rollback

Microsoft is still planning to block Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) macros by default in Office apps. The software giant rolled back planned changes last week, surprising IT admins who had been preparing for Microsoft to prevent Office users from easily enabling macros in Office files downloaded from the internet. The change, designed to improve security in Office, was supposed to go live in June before Microsoft suddenly reverted the block on June 30th. “Following user feedback, we have rolled back this change temporarily while we make some additional changes to enhance usability,” explains Kellie Eickmeyer, principal product manager at Microsoft, in a blog post update. “This is a temporary change, and we are fully committed to making the default change for all users.” It seems bonkers that in this day and age VBA macros are still a thing, but I guess the business world is quite dependent on them.

Report: Google wants to give its ad business a different postal address to please US regulators

The US Justice Department is gearing up for a possible antitrust lawsuit against Google’s ad business, and a new report from The Wall Street Journal outlines a “concession” Google is proposing in response to the investigation. Google might split up some of its ad business and move it to Google’s parent company, Alphabet. The meat of the WSJ report says: “As part of one offer, Google has proposed splitting parts of its business that auctions and places ads on websites and apps into a separate company under the Alphabet umbrella, some of the people said. That entity could potentially be valued at tens of billions of dollars, depending on what assets it contained.” If the DoJ takes them up on this offer, all hope for any serious antitrust action in the US is gone.

Europe faces Facebook blackout

Europeans risk seeing social media services Facebook and Instagram shut down this summer, as Ireland’s privacy regulator doubled down on its order to stop the firm’s data flows to the United States. The Irish Data Protection Commission on Thursday informed its counterparts in Europe that it will block Facebook-owner Meta from sending user data from Europe to the U.S. The Irish regulator’s draft decision cracks down on Meta’s last legal resort to transfer large chunks of data to the U.S., after years of fierce court battles between the U.S. tech giant and European privacy activists. Meta has repeatedly warned that such a decision would shutter many of its services in Europe, including Facebook and Instagram. Don’t threaten us with a good time, Zuck.

iPhone Lockdown Mode coming in iOS 16 to protect against targeted cyber attacks

Apple filed a lawsuit against ‘Pegasus’ spyware creator NSO Group last fall and announced it would be donating $10 million+ to organizations pursuing cyber-surveillance research and advocacy. Now taking the next step in combatting sophisticated spyware, Apple has announced a brand new “extreme” security feature called iPhone Lockdown Mode – coming to iPad and Mac as well – to help protect against targeted cyber attacks. Apple detailed the brand-new iPhone Lockdown Mode that will be available to test in updated iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and macOS Ventura betas, along with its $10 million+ grant for cybersecurity in a Newsroom post today. This seems like a really good and welcome feature, so good on Apple for working on it. That being said – I wonder if it will be available in China.

EU Parliament passes DMA, DSA to reign in big tech and force interoperability and openness

On Tuesday, Parliament held the final vote on the new Digital Services Act (DSA) and Digital Markets Act (DMA), following a deal reached between Parliament and Council on 23 April and 24 March respectively. The two bills aim to address the societal and economic effects of the tech industry by setting clear standards for how they operate and provide services in the EU, in line with the EU’s fundamental rights and values. The Digital Services Act was adopted with 539 votes in favour, 54 votes against and 30 abstentions. The Digital Markets Act – with 588 in favour, 11 votes against and 31 abstentions. The DSA and DMA will fundamentally change the way big technology companies operate, and as consumers we’ll enjoy the fruits of far less lock-in and more competition. Things like alternative application stores and sideloading on iOS, or interoperability between messaging services, are going to be amazing.

Mojo’s smart contact lenses begin in-eye testing

I’ve brought a tiny, chip-studded, display-enabled contact lens made up to my eye, but I never was actually able to wear it. But by the end of 2022, I might get a chance. Mojo Vision’s smart contact lenses, which have been in development for years, are finally being worn internally, starting with the company’s CEO Drew Perkins. Perkins, who I spoke to over Zoom, has only worn the lens for an hour at a time so far. He likens the first tests to a baby learning to walk: “We’ve now taken that first step. And it’s very exciting.” I already have my doubts tech companies will be able to convince people to wear AR glasses, so you can guess how much faith I have in people voluntarily wearing contact lenses.

Some Macs are getting fewer updates than they used to. Here’s why it’s a problem

When macOS Ventura was announced earlier this month, its system requirements were considerably stricter than those for macOS Monterey, which was released just eight months ago as of this writing. Ventura requires a Mac made in 2017 or later, dropping support for a wide range of Monterey-supported Mac models released between 2013 and 2016. This certainly seems more aggressive than new macOS releases from just a few years ago, where system requirements would tighten roughly every other year or so. But how bad is it, really? Is a Mac purchased in 2016 getting fewer updates than one bought in 2012 or 2008 or 1999? And if so, is there an explanation beyond Apple’s desire for more users to move to shiny new Apple Silicon Macs? Unlike in the Windows world (at least, up until Windows 11) and the Linux/BSD world, Macs are more like smartphones or tablets in that support for them is regularly cut off well before the point they could no longer run the latest version of macOS. This has both advantages and disadvantages we don’t need to regurgitate here, but it’ll be interesting to see if the Apple Silicon era will accelerate the culling of older Macs.

USB installer tool removes Windows 11’s Microsoft account requirements (and more)

An easy workaround for this requirement is the Rufus USB formatting tool, which can create USB install media for Windows and all kinds of other operating systems. Rufus has already offered some flags to remove Windows 11’s system requirement checks from the installer, removing the need for clunky Windows Registry edits and other workarounds. But the beta of version 3.19 will also remove the Microsoft account requirement for new installs, making it easy to set up a new Windows PC with a traditional local account. The hoops people jump through to be allowed to use a mediocre operating system when better alternatives are abundant.

What’s the deal with all those weird wrong-number texts?

Even thought it was clear this message was the lead-in to a swindle of some kind, I had to pause and admire the craft that went into its composition. Like everyone else, I get scam text come-ons pretty frequently, and they’re always poorly pitched and low-energy. In contrast, this text opened up a rich world, animated by detail and alive with mystery. I didn’t care about packages missing their intended destinations, or Bitcoin investing advice, or whatever scammers usually texted me about, but I was interested in Tony: How many charity galas did he go to, anyway? And why hadn’t he seen his/my unknown interlocutor in such a long time? Before I reported the number to WhatsApp, I took a screenshot of the message to better remember it. There’s something to be written about here, Mark texted. What is the deal with these texts? Why do they sound like that? Who is sending them? I rarely get spam messages, and I’ve never seen messages like these before. There is some real craft going on here, even if the goal is malicious. I have to admire the thought that goes into these.

Thanks to fans, the weirdest official Doom game is now playable on Windows

Doom RPG, id’s Doom game for pre-iPhone mobile phones, has been reverse engineerd and ported to Windows. Even id Software’s official “Year of Doom” museum at E3 2019 left this 2005 game unchronicled. That’s a shame, because it was a phenomenal example of id once again proving itself a master of technically impressive gaming on a power-limited platform. And platforms don’t get more limited on a power or compatibility basis than the pre-iPhone wave of candy bar handsets, which Doom RPG has been locked to since its original mid-’00s launch. You may think that “turn-based Doom” sounds weird, but Doom RPG stood out as a clever and fun series twist to the first-person shooter formula. Its abandonment to ancient phones changes today thanks to the reverse-engineering efforts of GEC.inc, a Costa Rica-based collective of at least three developers. On Wednesday, the group released a Windows port of the game based on their work on the original game’s BREW version (a Qualcomm-developed API meant for its wave of mobile phones from 2001 and beyond). Very few people even remember Doom RPG – and the various other games from id using the same engine – so it’s great more people get to play these games now. Excellent work.

OpenBSD has two new C compilers: chibicc and kefir

In my never ending quest to have oksh support every C compiler in existence, I have ported two more C compilers to OpenBSD. They are chibicc and kefir. As always, let’s review them and at the end I’ll have links to unofficial ports so that you can play around with these C compilers. As you all know, these things are a little over my head, but I know many OSNews readers are far more knowledgeable about and interested in these things than I am.

US communications regulator wants TikTok removed from app stores over spying concerns

A commissioner with the U.S. communications regulator is asking Apple and Google to consider banning TikTok from their app stores over data security concerns related to the Chinese-owned company. Brendan Carr, a commissioner with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), has written a letter to the CEOs of both companies, alerting them that the wildly popular video-sharing app does not comply with the requirements of their app store policies. I wonder just how big the outcry will be among TikTok users if they did this. TikTok is incredibly popular – far more so than people my age even realise – so it certainly wouldn’t go down unnoticed.

Nolan Bushnell on Atari, 50 years later

It’s been 50 years since Nolan Bushnell co-founded Atari, which brought video games to the mainstream. To celebrate, we asked Bushnell what he learned during the early years—and what we’ve lost sight of since then. I’m too young to have experienced Atari in its heyday, so I don’t have much to add here. I am, however, fascinated by Atari’s classic computers, like the 800 or the Falcon, and remember fawning over the Jaguar before growing up and realising what a terrible console and cheap marketing trick it really was. That being said, I still want a Jaguar.

Valve is doubling Steam Deck shipments

Valve is doubling the number of Steam Decks it ships to customers, the company announced Monday. “Production has picked up, and after today we’ll be shipping more than double the number of Steam Decks every week!” Valve said in a tweet from the official Steam Deck account. And in response to a question from my colleague Sean Hollister, Valve designer Lawrence Yang spelled out the change more clearly: “in previous weeks we were shipping x units / week to customers, starting this week we’ll be shipping 2x units / week.” Not only is the console with by far the largest game library a machine running a standard full Linux distribution, it’s also apparently doing really, really well.