What should we know about APFS special files?

We may have been using APFS for nearly seven years, but some of its features remain thoroughly opaque. On Christmas Day, I posed the puzzle of 60 TB of snapshots being removed from a 2 TB disk. While we all accept that may be “technically correct”, for ordinary users it makes no sense. Suggestions that they should be “educated” miss the point that the Finder has to be accessible to all users, whether or not they have a degree in Computer Science. If my eleven year-old granddaughter can’t make sense of it, then the Finder is a failure. Today I turn to another thorny issue raised by the ingenuity of APFS: the size of its special file types, sparse and ‘clone’ files. As usual, I start with a practical demonstration. ↫ Howard Oakley I feel like I should ring a little bell while posting a link to this article.

Installing FreeBSD 14.0 on a USB drive

Having re-discovered my love for FreeBSD on the desktop for the past month or so, I embarked in yet another adventure with it: creating a portable installation of it a USB drive so I could carry it with me on the go. This would be a great addition to my everyday carry, and would also again put the OS in test against many situations I have not had faced yet with it. ↫ Klaus Zimmermann Always a useful tool to have.

Microsoft and Windows OEMs to put dedicated “AI” Copilot key on keyboards

The introduction of the Copilot key marks the first significant change to the Windows PC keyboard in nearly three decades. We believe it will empower people to participate in the AI transformation more easily. The Copilot key joins the Windows key as a core part of the PC keyboard and when pressed, the new key will invoke the Copilot in Windows experience to make it seamless to engage Copilot in your day to day*. Nearly 30 years ago, we introduced the Windows key to the PC keyboard that enabled people all over the world to interact with Windows. We see this as another transformative moment in our journey with Windows where Copilot will be the entry point into the world of AI on the PC. ↫ Yusuf Mehdi on the official Windows blog Your next laptop will come with an “AI” key next to the spacebar. Yes, Microsoft and Windows OEMs are really going to be doing this. Your laptop will come with a dedicated copyright infringement key that will produce utter nonsense and misinformation at the push of a key. This is pure and utter insanity.

Win32Emu/DIY WOW: run RISC Win32 binaries on x86 Windows

When the AXP64 build tools for Windows 2000 were discovered back in May 2023, there was a crucial problem. Not only was it difficult to test the compiled applications since you needed an exotic and rare DEC Alpha machine running a leaked version of Windows, it was also difficult to even compile the programs, since you needed the same DEC Alpha machine to run the compiler; there was no cross-compiler. As a result, I began writing a program conceptually similar to WOW64 on Itanium (or WX86, or FX-32), only in reverse, to allow RISC Win32 programs to run on x86. ↫ CaptainWillStarblazer People with this much skill just exist.

Maestro: UNIX-like kernel and operating system written in Rust, compatible-ish with Linux

Maestro is a lightweight Unix-like kernel written in Rust. The goal is to provide a lightweight operating system able to use the safety features of the Rust language to be reliable. ↫ Maestro’s GitHub page The state of this project is actually kind of amazing – roughly 31% of Linux systemcalls are more or less already implemented, and it also comes with a daemon manager, a package manager, and can already run musl, bash, various core GNU utilities, and so on. It has kernel modules, a VGA text mode terminal, virtual memory, and a lot more.

OpenBSD workstation hardening

I wanted to share a list of hardening you can do on your OpenBSD workstation, and explaining the threat model of each change. Feel free to pick any tweak you find useful for your use-case, many are certainly overkill for most people, but depending on the context, these changes could make sense for others. ↫ Solène Rapenne Writte by OpenBSD developer Solène Rapenne.

Meet ‘Link History,’ Facebook’s new way to track the websites you visit

Facebook recently rolled out a new “Link History” setting that creates a special repository of all the links you click on in the Facebook mobile app. You can opt out if you’re proactive, but the company is pushing Link History on users, and the data is used for targeted ads. As lawmakers introduce tech regulations and Apple and Google beef up privacy restrictions, Meta is doubling down and searching for new ways to preserve its data harvesting empire. The company pitches Link History as a useful tool for consumers “with your browsing activity saved in one place,” rather than another way to keep tabs on your behavior. With the new setting you’ll “never lose a link again,” Facebook says in a pop-up encouraging users to consent to the new tracking method. The company goes on to mention that “When you allow link history, we may use your information to improve your ads across Meta technologies.” The app keeps the toggle switched on in the pop-up, steering users towards accepting Link History unless they take the time to look carefully. ↫ Thomas Germain at Gizmodo As more and more people in the technology press who used to be against Facebook have changed their tune since the launch of Facebook’s Threads – the tech press needs eyeballs in one place for ad revenue, and with Twitter effectively dead, Threads is its replacement – it’s easy to forget just what a sleazy, slimy, and disgusting company Facebook really is.

Wayland enjoyed many successes in 2023

The Wayland ecosystem had a phenomenal year from much better NVIDIA proprietary driver support, Firefox ending out the year shipping with Wayland support enabled by default, KDE Plasma 6.0 will default to Wayland following many improvements on the KDE side, the Wine Wayland driver upstreamed in its initial form, XWayland continuing to be enhanced, and a lot of other software from desktop environments to apps continuing to embrace Wayland. ↫ Michael Larabel at Phoronix This train ain’t stopping. Dare I say 2024 will be the year of Wayland on the desktop?

Windows 11 is relaxing Microsoft account auto-sign in apps, but only in Europe

Windows is changing the way apps can access your Microsoft account. Currently, when you sign in to Windows 11 or 10 with your Microsoft account, most apps automatically use that Microsoft account for in-app sign-in. The tech giant plans to change this behaviour by allowing you to decline access to Microsoft accounts in installed apps. ↫ Mayank Parmar at Windows Latest This change, like so many others that are making Windows ever so slightly less of a trashfire, is EU-only.

A brief retrospective on SPARC register windows

As I work on moss and research modern processor design patterns and techniques, I am also looking for patterns and techniques from the past that, for one reason or another, have not persisted into our modern machines. While on a run this week, I was listening to an old Oxide and Friends episode where Bryan, Adam, and crew were reminiscing on the SPARC instruction set architecture (ISA). SPARC is a reduced instruction set computer (RISC) architecture originally developed by Sun Microsystems, with the first machine, the SPARCstation1 (a.k.a. Sun 4/60, a.k.a Campus), being delivered in 1987. It was heavily influenced by the early RISC designs from David Patterson and team at Berkeley in the 1970s and 1980s, which is the same lineage from which RISC-V has evolved. Given the decision to base moss on the RISC-V RV64I ISA, I was interested to learn more about the history and finer details of SPARC. ↫ Daniel Mangum The sad thing is that SPARC is pretty close to dead at this point, with the two major players in the high-end – Oracle and Fujitsu – throwing in the towel half a decade ago. There’s some lower-end work, such as the LEON chips, but those efforts, too, seem to be going nowhere at the moment. Definitely sad, since I’ve always been oddly obsessed with the architecture, and hope to still somehow get my hands on the last UltraSPARC workstation ever built (the Sun Ultra 45, which is, sadly, incredibly expensive on the used market). There’s also a whole boatload of servers on the used market with fancier, newer SPARC processors, but as far as I know, none of those support any form of even barely usable graphics, making them useless for weird people like me who want to run a desktop on them.

How I forked SteamOS for my living room PC

SteamOS 3 (“Holo”) is the Arch-based Linux distribution built for the Steam Deck, Valve Software’s portable PC gaming device. It’s a very interesting Linux distribution even when you only focus on how it updates itself: updates are performed atomically by downloading a new read-only root filesystem to an inactive partition, then rebooting into that partition. But consumers can also run steamos-devmode to unlock the root filesystem, put the pacman database in working order, and give them a working Linux distro with a normal package manager. This A/B atomic updates system is pretty standard for OSes these days, but there’s a lot going on in SteamOS that makes them work even with heavy customization by the end-user. I wanted to explore that while still being able to make changes to the root filesystem images. steamos-devmode is the easy way out; I wanted to make a proper fork. Here’s how I did it. ↫ iliana etaoin This article has sparked my interest to build a living room PC for Steam gaming for my wife and I, so we can play couch coop Steam games on an actual couch instead of behind our PC desk. Very detailed and in-depth, this article also teaches a lot about how SteamOS works under the hood.

NetSurf 3.11 released

NetSurf, the small and efficient browser for RISC OS, Haiku, AmigaOS 4, and obscure platforms you’ve probably never heard of like “Linux” and “macOS” has seen a new release – version 3.11. NetSurf is written in C and has its own browser engine – it’s not based on Google’s browser engines, Chromium and Firefox’ Gecko/Quantum. NetSurf 3.11 features improved page layout with CSS flex support. It also features many other optimisations and enhancements. ↫ NetSurf’s official website It’s an obvious upgrade for everyone who uses NetSurf, since if you’re using NetSurf, odds are the platform you’re using it on doesn’t really offer many alternatives.

The IDEs we had 30 years ago… And we lost

I grew up learning to program in the late 1980s / early 1990s. Back then, I did not fully comprehend what I was doing and why the tools I used were impressive given the constraints of the hardware we had. Having gained more knowledge throughout the years, it is now really fun to pick up DOSBox to re-experience those programs and compare them with our current state of affairs. This time around, I want to look at the pure text-based IDEs that we had in that era before Windows eclipsed the PC industry. I want to do this because those IDEs had little to envy from the IDEs of today—yet it feels as if we went through a dark era where we lost most of those features for years and they are only resurfacing now. If anything, stay for a nostalgic ride back in time and a little rant on “bloat”. But, more importantly, read on to gain perspective on what existed before so that you can evaluate future feature launches more critically. ↫ Julio Merino Fast forward to today, and the most popular text editor among programmers is a website running in Chrome in a window. No wonder most popular applications are Electron trashfires now. Times sure have changed.

Why are Apple silicon VMs so different?

Running macOS virtual machines (VMs) on Apple silicon Macs may not seem popular, but it has long been one of Apple’s important goals. Yet, if you do use a virtualiser on an M-series Mac, you’ll know how different it is from those that virtualise macOS and other operating systems on Intel Macs. This article explains why virtualisation is so important, and how it has become so different. ↫ Howard Oakley Excellent read, as always from Howard Oakley.

Rust9x update: Rust 1.76.0-beta

20 months since the initial release, Rust9x is back, whether you like it or not! I’ve spent the last couple of days migrating the changes from Rust 1.61-beta to Rust 1.76-beta, and filling some of the holes in API support on the way. ↫ Dennis Duda Yes, this is Rust ported to Windows 9x, and this new releases comes with a lot of the benefits in 1.76, but also adds backtrace support, thread parking support, and initial work on adding 64bit support for 64bit Windows XP and newer.

Good old SUSE: KDE3 on today’s openSUSE

Until some time, SUSE shipped with a default desktop environment called KDE3, and even today, openSUSE is the only distribution, for which KDE3 packages are still available. In contrast to the fork TDE (Trinity Desktop Environment), these are the original KDE3 packages, which have also been used in earlier versions of SUSE Linux, and they were merely adapted to run under modern Linux systems. In the following tutorial, you are going to learn how to set up a current openSUSE system, with the look and feel of the original SUSE versions. ↫ Lioh Möller at SpaceFun An absolutely great idea, as it makes it much easier to see what the main desktop environments were like many moons ago. I hope similar tutorials spring up for GNOME and other desktop environments.

In 2024, please switch to Firefox

This December, if there’s one tech New Year’s resolution I’d encourage you to have, it’s switching to the only remaining ethical web browser, Firefox. According to recent posts on social media, Firefox’s market share is slipping. We should not let that happen. ↫ Roy Tanck I mean, yes, obviously, but how depressing is it that the only choice we have is between a browser made by Google, and a browser kept afloat by Google money? Where’s the real sustainable alternative?

Gentoo goes binary

You probably all know Gentoo Linux as your favourite source-based distribution. Did you know that our package manager, Portage, already for years also has support for binary packages, and that source- and binary-based package installations can be freely mixed? To speed up working with slow hardware and for overall convenience, we’re now also offering binary packages for download and direct installation! For most architectures, this is limited to the core system and weekly updates – not so for amd64 and arm64 however. There we’ve got a stunning >20 GByte of packages on our mirrors, from LibreOffice to KDE Plasma and from Gnome to Docker. Gentoo stable, updated daily. Enjoy! ↫ Gentoo’s official news This is not as big of a deal as I feel like it should be. Gentoo is special, unique, and exists outside of the usual realm of distribution competition. Gentoo offering a binary method of installation makes perfect sense, I doubt anyone will complain, and nothing much will change. Yet, it feels like it should be a bigger deal?

AI-created “virtual influencers” are stealing business from humans

Pink-haired Aitana Lopez is followed by more than 200,000 people on social media. She posts selfies from concerts and her bedroom, while tagging brands such as hair care line Olaplex and lingerie giant Victoria’s Secret. Brands have paid about $1,000 a post for her to promote their products on social media—despite the fact that she is entirely fictional. Aitana is a “virtual influencer” created using artificial intelligence tools, one of the hundreds of digital avatars that have broken into the growing $21 billion content creator economy. ↫ Christina Criddle for Ars Technica While there’s a ton of questions to be asked about where, exactly, this could lead, and what “AI” will mean for especially women having their likeness recreated as “AI” avatars for people to sleaze over, or worse, the concept of having “AI” influencers doing fairly mundane and harmless things like promote a brand or show some fake photos of their apartments seems fairly benign and even interesting and beneficial to me. Of course, I say this with all the caveats that this is incredibly early days, we have no idea if there are any shady businesses behind these new “AI” influencers, and so on, and so forth. We’ve all seen what technology such as this can be used for, and it ain’t pretty.