FreeDOS’s Linux roots

Jim Hall, creator and developer of FreeDOS, on the eve of the project’s 25th birthday In 1994, I read articles in technology magazines saying that Microsoft planned to do away with MS-DOS soon. The next version of Windows would not use DOS. MS-DOS was on the way out. I’d already tried Windows 3, and I wasn’t impressed. Windows was not great. And, running Windows would mean replacing the DOS applications that I used every day. I wanted to keep using DOS. I decided that the only way to keep DOS was to write my own. On June 29, 1994, I announced my plans on the Usenet discussion group comp.os.msdos.apps, and things took off from there. FreeDOS – alongside DOSBox – are staples of the DOS community, and it’s great to have them available as free software.

How to live entirely in a terminal

But you know, if I’m being honest, the experience was not entirely unpleasant. Sure, I missed certain niceties from the graphical side of things, but there were some distinct benefits to living in a shell. My computers, even the low-powered ones, felt faster (command-line software tends to be a whole lot lighter and leaner than those with a graphical user interface). Plus, I was able to focus and get more work done without all the distractions of a graphical desktop, which wasn’t bad. What follows are the applications I found myself relying upon the most during those fateful ten days, separated into categories. In some cases, these are applications I currently use over (or in addition to) their graphical equivalents. Obviously, among OSNews readers, the terminal is a prized tool many rely on – but I wonder how many of you truly live entirely within the terminal, never touching the comforts of a graphical user interface.

Trump officials weigh encryption crackdown

Senior Trump administration officials met on Wednesday to discuss whether to seek legislation prohibiting tech companies from using forms of encryption that law enforcement can’t break — a provocative step that would reopen a long-running feud between federal authorities and Silicon Valley. The encryption challenge, which the government calls “going dark,” was the focus of a National Security Council meeting Wednesday morning that included the No. 2 officials from several key agencies, according to three people familiar with the matter. On a related note, just today head of the American regime, Donald Trump, joked about murdering journalists with the head of the Russian regime, Vladimir Putin. Gosh tootin’ darnit, I wonder what profession relies on encryption.

Gmail’s API lockdown will kill some third-party app access, starting July 15

Google is locking down API access to Gmail data (and later, Drive data) soon, and some of your favorite third-party apps might find themselves locked out of your Google account data. The new API policy was announced back in October, but this week Google started emailing individual users of these apps, telling them the apps will no longer work starting July 15. The new policy closes off OAuth access to Gmail data, and while we by no means have a comprehensive list of what isn’t affected yet, so far we’ve seen users of Microsoft’s SwiftKey and the open source app SMS Backup+ receive notification emails. On the one hand, it’s good that Google is trying to make account access by third parties as secure as possible. On the other hand, it highlights just how dependent many of us are on data stored in the bellies of larger technology giants – and as consumers, we have little to no recourse in case one of our favourite applications gets cut off like this.

Jony Ive leaves Apple

News bomb from Apple PR: Apple today announced that Sir Jony Ive, Apple’s chief design officer, will depart the company as an employee later this year to form an independent design company which will count Apple among its primary clients. While he pursues personal projects, Ive in his new company will continue to work closely and on a range of projects with Apple. There’s a lot to dig into here, but for once, I fully agree with John Gruber’s take. First: Wow. There’ve been rumors for years that Ive had one foot out the door, that his last real interest at Apple was designing Apple Park, not Apple products. But it’s something else to see it. This angle that he’s still going to work with Apple as an independent design firm seems like pure spin. You’re either at Apple or you’re not. Ive is out. It makes me queasy to see that Apple’s chief designers are now reporting to operations. This makes no more sense to me than having them report to the LLVM compiler team in the Xcode group. Again, nothing against Jeff Williams, nothing against the LLVM team, but someone needs to be in charge of design for Apple to be Apple and I can’t see how that comes from operations. I don’t think that “chief design officer” should have been a one-off title created just for Jony Ive. Not just for Apple, but especially at Apple, it should be a permanent C-level title. I don’t think Ive ever should have been put in control of software design, but at least he is a designer. I don’t worry that Apple is in trouble because Jony Ive is leaving; I worry that Apple is in trouble because he’s not being replaced. Nothing to add.

Reinventing Firefox for Android: a preview

At Firefox, we’re passionate about providing solutions for people who care about safety, privacy and independence. For several months, we’ve been working on a new strategy for our Android products to serve you even better. Today we’re very happy to announce a pilot of our new browser for Android devices that is available to early adopters for testing as of now. We’ll have a feature-rich, polished version of this flagship application available for this fall. This version does not yet support extensions, making it a bit useless for me at this stage. I hope they address that soon.

The hard way to recover the IBM 5100 non-executable ROS

The few times I’ve had the lid off of my 5100 have all been anxious moments, as I have no idea where I’d find replacements for any of the ICs or SLT modules inside the machine. I resolved early on that my recovery of the 5100’s non-executable ROS – the ROS that contains the programming for the 5100’s BASIC and APL interpreters – would be as minimally-invasive as possible. In accomplishing this recovery I may have used more compute than all the IBM 5100s ever built have carried out over the past 44 years.

VESA publishes DisplayPort 2.0 video standard

The Video Electronics Standards Association today announced that it has released version 2.0 of the DisplayPort audio/video standard. DP 2.0 is the first major update to the DisplayPort standard since March 2016, and provides up to a 3X increase in data bandwidth performance compared to the previous version of DisplayPort (DP 1.4a), as well as new capabilities to address the future performance requirements of traditional displays. These include beyond 8K resolutions, higher refresh rates and high dynamic range (HDR) support at higher resolutions, improved support for multiple display configurations, as well as improved user experience with augmented/virtual reality (AR/VR) displays, including support for 4K-and-beyond VR resolutions. The fact that standards like HDMI and DisplayPort have version numbers all with the same kind of plug always bothered me. It’s not always clear exactly which standards devices support, which can lead to some unfortunate surprises. I wish there was an easier way to figure this sort of stuff out.

Raspberry Pi 4 on sale now from $35

We have a surprise for you today: Raspberry Pi 4 is now on sale, starting at $35. This is a comprehensive upgrade, touching almost every element of the platform. For the first time we provide a PC-like level of performance for most users, while retaining the interfacing capabilities and hackability of the classic Raspberry Pi line. The specification bump is quite something, and the pricing is as good as it’s always been. This is a no-brainer buy for me.

Apple releasing the first iOS 13 and macOS Catalina public betas today

Announced three weeks ago at WWDC, developer betas for iOS 13 and macOS 10.15 Catalina have been available ever since. Today though, the general public can finally begin testing them out, as they’re available through Apple’s public beta program. People who have been using the developer betas warn against installing the public betas for now, since they are quite unstable and buggy this time around.

Statement on 32-bit i386 packages for Ubuntu 19.10 and 20.04 LTS

Thanks to the huge amount of feedback this weekend from gamers, Ubuntu Studio, and the WINE community, we will change our plan and build selected 32-bit i386 packages for Ubuntu 19.10 and 20.04 LTS. We will put in place a community process to determine which 32-bit packages are needed to support legacy software, and can add to that list post-release if we miss something that is needed. Good move.

Steam to drop Ubuntu support, will focus on another distribution

The second major casualty of Ubuntu’s announced removalof 32 bit compatibility from 19.10 and up? It’s Valve’s Steam, as announced by Valve’s Pierre-Loup Griffais‏: Ubuntu 19.10 and future releases will not be officially supported by Steam or recommended to our users. We will evaluate ways to minimize breakage for existing users, but will also switch our focus to a different distribution, currently TBD. That’s a pretty serious blow to Ubuntu – and derivatives – users.

Bill Gates on making “one of the greatest mistakes of all time”

Bill Gates, in an interview for some venture capital firm’s event: You know, in the software world, in particular for platforms, these are winner-take-all markets. So, you know, the greatest mistake ever is the whatever mismanagement I engaged in that caused Microsoft not to be what Android is, Android is the standard non-Apple phone form platform. That was a natural thing for Microsoft to win. It really is winner take all. If you’re there with half as many apps or 90% as many apps, you’re on your way to complete doom. There’s room for exactly one non-Apple operating system, and what’s that worth? $400 billion that would be transferred from company G to company M . It really sucks that consumer technology platforms always seem to settle on only two platforms, with everything else relegated to the sidelines. Windows Phone, Sailfish, webOS, and others all had great ideas that just don’t get a fair chance in the market, and from both a consumer’s and an enthusiast’s perspective, that is such a shame.

Microsoft’s new browser is just like Chrome, so why switch from Chrome?

The new Edge is pretty much Chrome with an Edge skin. It does all the fancy Chrome syncing, it integrates with your browser extensions and it works with websites as well as Chrome does. Now, here’s where it gets dicey on the appeal. See, let’s say you have two products. Product A which you’ve used for a long time and like, and Product B, which is new. Product B is the same as Product A, this is good for Product B, but now you have no incentive to change. If Microsoft Edge is now Google Chrome, then Chrome users have no reason to switch to Edge. It’s a bit worse if Product B is a rebranded version of a Product C which you tried and now actively dislike. Edge is Pepsi, and Chrome is Coke except Edge also used to taste like dollar store cola before so you’re not really sure you’d want to risk it again. I have the Edge preview installed, but I have to agree with the linked article – I really see no reason to use Chrome with an Edge skin. I used to use the original Edge because not only was it quite fast on Windows, it also integrated well with Windows both behaviourally and visually. The new Edge looks like Chrome, and just stands out like an eyesore. I doubt the new Edge will achieve much higher user figures than the original Edge, making me wonder if it’s even worth the effort.

Hackers, farmers, and doctors unite! Support for Right to Repair laws slowly grows

Slowly but surely, though, consumers and third parties outside of vendor-sanctioned circles have been pushing to change this through so-called “right to repair” laws. These pieces of proposed legislation take different forms—19 states introduced some form of right to repair legislation in 2018, up from 12 in 2017—but generally they attempt to require companies, whether they are in the tech sector or not, to make their service manuals, diagnostic tools, and parts available to consumers and repair shops—not just select suppliers. It’s difficult to imagine a more convincing case for the notion that politics make strange bedfellows. Farmers, doctors, hospital administrators, hackers, and cellphone and tablet repair shops are aligned on one side of the right to repair argument, and opposite them are the biggest names in consumer technology, ag equipment and medical equipment. And given its prominence in the consumer technology repair space, iFixit.com has found itself at the forefront of the modern right to repair movement. All repair information for mobile devices, computers, etc. ought to be publicly available and free for everyone to use, no exceptions. The behaviour of companies like Apple is deeply amoral, unethical, anti-consumer, and just generally scummy.

Windows Terminal preview released on Microsoft Store

The Windows Terminal is the new, powerful, open source terminal application that was announced at Build 2019. Its main features include multiple tabs, Unicode and UTF-8 character support, a GPU accelerated text rendering engine, and custom themes, styles, and configurations. It’s now available in the Microsoft Store, and while I’m not a huge command line user in Windows, it does feel like a night and day upgrade from cmd.exe. By default, it supports both cmd and PowerShell.

Wine developers concerned with Ubuntu dropping 32-bit support with Ubuntu 19.10

The news that Ubuntu will drop support for the 32-bit x86 architecture was discussed recently by the Wine developers, on the Wine-devel mailing list. The Wine developers are concerned with this news because many 64-bit Windows applications still use a 32-bit installer, or some 32-bit components. That’s an interesting side-effect of going 64 bit-only that I hadn’t even considered. This can be a serious blow to Ubuntu users who use Wine, but I do wonder just how popular Wine really is.

Digging into the new features in OpenZFS post-Linux migration

ZFS on Linux 0.8 (ZoL) brought tons of new features and performance improvements when it was released on May 23. They came after Delphix announced that it was migrating its own product to Linux back in March 2018. We’ll go over some of the most exciting May features (like ZFS native encryption) here today. For the full list—including both new features and performance improvements not covered here—you can visit the ZoL 0.8.0 release on Github. (Note that ZoL 0.8.1 was released last week, but since ZFS on Linux follows semantic versioning, it’s a bugfix release only.)