Iron Chisels, Invisible iPods, Stick Castles

As I sit back, here on March 19th 2019, to review the past 13 years, I cannot help but feel slightly melancholic. I felt it was time to summarize the period in the tech industry between 2006 and 2019. Where did we leave off, where did we go, and where are we going to end up? Note: Yes, the Sunday Eve Column.

Apple Computer

In 2013 Apple launched a new feature in the iTunes Music Store. From that point onwards, one could buy groceries from the Music Store. The first available grocery product was the banana, but soon more products followed. In 2014, Apple got sued by a group of customers who complained their bananas weren’t yellow enough. A judge decided Apple had to pay $96.7 million to this group of customers, besides replacing all bananas under warranty.

On April 1st 2016, Apple celebrated its 40th anniversary by introducing an all-new iPod, the Ipod Invisible. The iPod Invisible cannot play music, cannot play videos, and cannot make use of the in 2013 introduced feature of buying groceries in the iTunes Music Store. Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs held the iPod Invisible up in his hand during a special press event (one of the 371 events that year), and said: “The iPod Invisible. 50 Cent has one in his latest video. Starting at just $699, available today.” Mac zealots went to the Apple Stores en masse to buy the new iPod Invisible, making it a huge success for Apple. Complaints soon emerged about battery life being too short, but to everyone’s surprise no one sued Apple this time.

And they also released some new computers and some new operating systems and such.

The Stallman Paradox

In 2010, Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation and writer of the GPL, created a major uproar in the industry by announcing he would no longer use computers. His reasoning was well understood by many of his followers: he refused to use computers because BIOS writers refused to release their BIOS code under the GPL. Some die-hard Free software zealots followed Stallman in resorting to use stone tablets and iron chisels.

No one knows who told Stallman that the code to stone and iron wasn’t GPL, but in 2012 Stallman is said to have talked to Mother Nature about opening up the code to rock and iron under the GPL. Mother Nature later in an interview said that she simply could not, even if she wanted to: “I may have written stone and iron, and I may own the source code to stone and iron, but I did not create i.e. concrete or all the iron alloys. I would have had to come to an agreement with all the writers of derivative works of stone and iron in order to license them under the GPL. This turned out to be impossible.” In any case, Stallman then took off to live in the Scottish Highlands, working on GPL-licensed clones of stone and iron. This turned out to be a greater problem than he anticipated, because he had no GPL tools to actually write on and with.

This is what philosophers now call “The Stallman Paradox”. Despite many attempts it has not yet been solved.


On 19th December 2006, the KDE team proudly announced they have reached their life-long goal of having each single pixel on a screen dedicated to a widget of one type or another. It took them years and years of heavy, hard, and though work. KDE achieved the stunning milestone by simply lowering the bar for widget placement. Usefulness? Unimportant. Looks? Who cares. Usability? Not in the dictionary. After two weeks of well-earned rest, the KDE team went to work again on the much-anticipated KDE 4. The main goal of KDE 4 is to remove all the widgets off of the screen again, and thus free some pixels for actual content. KDE’s Aaron Seigo (Siego… Seigo… Whatever) was quoted saying: “Well, you gotta do something to keep ‘m busy and off the streets.” KDE4 is slated for a 2020 release.

On a related note, Seigo also complained about the initial development of KDE 4’s volume applet. When he found out nobody videotaped the developer writing the code, he complained about how the development had happened ‘behind closed doors’.

On the other side of the river, the GNOME team did not just sit back and watch how KDE stole all the thunder. In their ever continuing mission of simplifying the computer’s user interface, the GNOME team finally took steps to improve upon the mount error dialog. They already removed any useful information from the dialog in the early 2.x days (as it confused the user too much), but in GNOME 2.24 in 2008 they replaced it entirely by a PC speaker beep (GNOME 2.24 and up will therefore not install on computers without PC speakers). GNOME 3, slated for release somewhere in 2020, will have the PC speaker beep replaced by a giant mallet falling from the sky on top of the user’s head. This is considered to be more HIG-friendly.


2012 was the most important year for Microsoft. Not only did Bill Gates disappear off of the face of the earth after being seen talking to Richard Stallman about stones and iron chisels, but Microsoft also released the 37th Technology Preview of its much anticipated Windows Vista operating system. This would turn out to be the last CTP before Vista went final, at the end of that year.

The launch of Vista was a marvelous success all throughout the world. The 45 versions one could buy literally flew off of the shelves in the first months after the release. As an attempt at self-mockery, free white-lined castles were given away to buyers, as a reminder of the ‘Your Potential, Our Passion‘ campaign. However, as with everything Microsoft does, this backfired on them. A group of users sued Microsoft because they expected the stick castles to really protect them from malware and viruses. The European Commission chimed in on this and forced Microsoft to sell versions of its Vista operating system without the stick castle.

In 2018, Microsoft announced the Xbox 6, the successor to the successful Xbos V. The Xbox 6 is rumoured to have 8 Rock III Sun SPARC processors, each with 128 cores, and 34 floating-point units per core. Gamers can expect the most realistic version of Project Gotham Racing to date. Related to this, Sony announced they will finally begin shipping the PS3 in 2021. The PS3 will run OpenSUSE Linux 10.1 Beta 567– which got released yesterday, again without any release notes.

OSNews in the news

In 2014, Thom Holwerda of OSNews finally admitted to having a huge anti-Apple bias in an interview with Dutch Apple podcast Kmac Radio. “Argh, I admit it alright. I burn iPods wearing nothing but black, I dance around in the woods at night smashing iLife ’14 DVDs, I burn down Apple stores everywhere in the world while watching ‘Your Potential, Our Passion’ commercials on my Origami 4 mini-PC. There, now you know.” In that same interview, Thom also admitted to having an obsession with posting Ubuntu news: “It helps me get to sleep at night. I cannot sleep without having posted about the latest fart from Shuttleworth.”

Eugenia Loli-Queru angered the Haiku community by writing an article about Haiku in 2019, stating: “Haiku is taking too long. The progress is way too slow and it will never reach maturity. People should use Vista or MacOS.” Haiku celebrated the release of Haiku R6 in 2018, and market research has shown that Haiku now has a market share of about 10%.

OSNews itself also reached new heights when in 2016 it sparked its official 10000th flamewar. History fails to tell us which story sparked the flamewar, but then again, this is ONews, so who really cares?

Various newsbits

  • In 2017, after 156 beta releases, Robert Szeleney finally released SkyOS. They dropped the ‘v5’ designation in 2005. Nobody reviewed it yet, because the buying process still hasn’t been automated yet– nobody has received a copy because everything is done by hand.
  • In 2013, on the LKML, Linus Torvalds advised everyone not to use the upcoming KDE4. According to him, the removal of all the widgets does not fit his philosophy. He advised people to use CDE instead.
  • Google did not release an operating system yet despite many, many rumours. It has become a ritual almost, every month a Google spokesperson denies the claims, but the month after new rumours pop up.

    That about sums it all up. It have been an interesting 13 years– I’m really looking forward to the next 13 years!

    –Thom Holwerda

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