David Adams Archive

Federal Trade Commission wins antitrust case against Qualcomm

One of the key points of this case is that “In numerous cases Qualcomm threatened with a disruption of chipset supplies unless OEMs accepted its patent licensing terms, and there were various agreements under which OEMs paid a higher patent royalty when using third-party modem chips than Qualcomm’s products.” The judge found that “Qualcomm’s licensing practices have strangled competition in the CDMA and premium LTE modem chip markets for years, and harmed rivals, OEMs, and end consumers in the process.” As a remedy, Qualcomm is ordered to take several steps which will reduce the amount of power it holds over its customers and will need to renegotiate new license terms without the threats that had accompanied previous negotiations.

Haiku switches system allocator to rpmalloc

As of hrev53136, we’ve finally replaced the aging hoard2 with a shiny new mmap-based allocator – mjansson’s rpmalloc. Thanks to @pulkomandy and @mmlr for helping out with that work! The main benefit here will be on 64-bit Haiku, as applications will now (finally) be able to use more than 1.5GB of RAM each, a limitation of the old allocator. But there are some pretty nice (10-15%) performance benefits over the old allocator, too. More of the technical details can be found in the commit message 5, but essentially the only thing to be concerned about is if things start suddenly crashing more often. It’s already known to exacerbate a few pre-existing WebKit crashes (mostly around Google Maps or the like, which were already so unstable as to be unusable anyway).

Why Linux on Desktop ‘Failed’: A discussion with Mark Shuttleworth

In an interesting video interview, Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth shares his thoughts on desktop Linux. Some of his most prominent statements include: “I think the bigger challenge has been that we haven’t invented anything in the Linux that was like deeply, powerfully ahead of its time” and, “if in the free software community we only allow ourselves to talk about things that look like something that already exists, then we’re sort of defining ourselves as a series of forks and fragmentations.”

An alternative to garbage collection

An IEEE Spectrum article outlines some interesting new OS-related research. Martin Maas, a University of California, Berkeley, PhD student who is now at Google, designed “a new type of device that relieves the CPU from its garbage collection duties.” Maas notes that CPUs, which have traditionally been assigned garbage collection, were never specifically designed for the task. “CPUs are built to be flexible and run a wide range of applications. As a result, they are relatively large and can take up a significant amount of power,” he explains.Instead, Maas and his colleagues created a compact accelerator unit that requires a small amount of chip area and power. It can be added to the CPU, similar to how many modern processor chips are integrated into graphics processing units.“While the software application is running on the CPU, this unit sits on the side and performs garbage collection for the application,” says Maas. “In principle, this means that you could build a system where the software does not have to worry about garbage collection at all and just keeps using the available memory.”

All Chromebooks will also be Linux laptops going forward

At Google I/O, Google quietly announced that “all devices launched this year will be Linux-ready right out of the box.” A ZDNet article has more details. Earlier, you could run Debian, Ubuntu and Kali Linux on Chrome OS using the open-source Crouton program in a chroot container. Or, you could run Gallium OS, a third-party, Xubuntu Chromebook-specific Linux variant. But it wasn’t easy. Now? It’s as simple as simple can be. Just open the Chrome OS app switcher by pressing the Search/Launcher key and then type “Terminal”. This launches the Termina VM, which will start running a Debian 9.0 Stretch Linux container.

Comparing 21 sub-$1 microcontrollers

In 2017, we saw several new MCUs hit the market, as well as general trends continuing in the industry: the migration to open-source, cross-platform development environments and toolchains; new code-generator tools that integrate seamlessly (or not so seamlessly…) into IDEs; and, most notably, the continued invasion of ARM Cortex-M0+ parts into the 8-bit space. I wanted to take a quick pulse of the industry to see where everything is — and what I’ve been missing while backed into my corner of DigiKey’s web site. It’s time for a good ol’ microcontroller shoot-out.

GrapheneOS: an Android-based, security-hardened, open source OS

There’s a new(ish) smartphone operating system aimed at folks who want to be able to run Android apps, but want additional security and privacy features. It’s called GrapheneOS, and it comes from Daniel Micay, the former lead developer of another security-based Android fork called CopperheadOS. After the founders of Copperhead had a falling out last year, Micay turned his attention to the Android Hardening Project, which he recently renamed GrapheneOS to better reflect what the project has become. Official images are currently available for Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 3, but source code is available if you’re interested in installing it on another device with an unlocked bootloader.

Remembering Heartbleed

Colm MacCárthaigh, who was Principal Engineer for Amazon Web Services Elastic Load Balancer five years ago, posted an interesting recollection of his experience the day the Heartbleed bug went public. OpenSSL was in use widely across AWS, and the team there basically dropped everything to hot patch millions of deployments, then over the next hours and days took many other steps to mitigate the damage. It’s a fascinating story if you’re familiar with information security, or even just minimally familiar with the infrastructure that keeps the internet going.

Hammerhead: an operating system for bikes

The idea that a bicycle might need an OS might seem silly, but 30 years ago may gearheads wouldn’t have anticipated that cars would become rolling supercomputers. Hammerhead crowdfunded its first product, the H1, and subsequently built Karoo, a “cycling computer” that supports navigation and training. But Morgan told me his ambitions are bigger than that.After all, he sees a future where electric bikes need smart range projections, where bike-share fleets need to be managed, where social training programs like Strava can pull data from the bike itself and where any bicycle should come with theft and crash alerts. Calling it an OS is probably a stretch. It seems to be an Android OS with cycling-specific constellation of apps, originally designed specifically for their own hardware but eventually intended to be licensed to other vendors.

The Best Operating Systems for Anonymity

David Balaban says, “There are plenty of operating systems aimed at achieving online anonymity. But how many of them are really good?” He highlights five candidates: Tails OS, Whonix, Kodachi, Qubes, and Subgraph. He concludes that Kodachi is the best OS to preserve anonymity. Have any OSNews readers evaluated any of these OSes? Do you agree with his conclusion?

Purism’s PureOS is convergent

PureOS has laid the foundation for future applications to run on both the Librem 5 phone and Librem laptops, from the same PureOS release, in contrast, they say, to Google and Apple’s ecosystems which still have separate OSes for mobile and desktop. Now, Google and Apple seem to be intent on converging their mobile and desktop platforms, leading to fear and consternation from desktop OS power users, who assume that the move will dumb down desktop OSes. While this technical aspects of the PureOS team’s accomplishment are interesting and laudable, I’d suspect that the bigger challenge for any mainstream platform will actually be a user experience challenge, especially bridging familiar UI elements between mobile and desktop user environments.

Thunderbolt enables severe security threats

Security researchers at the Network and Distributed Systems Security Symposium in San Diego are announcing the results of some fascinating research they’ve been working on. They “built a fake network card that is capable of interacting with the operating system in the same way as a real one” and discovered that Such ports offer very privileged, low-level, direct memory access (DMA), which gives peripherals much more privilege than regular USB devices. If no defences are used on the host, an attacker has unrestricted memory access, and can completely take control of a target computer: they can steal passwords, banking logins, encryption keys, browser sessions and private files, and they can also inject malicious software that can run anywhere in the system. Vendors have been gradually improving firmware and taking other steps to mitigate these vulnerabilities, but the same features that make Thunderbolt so useful also make them a much more serious attack vector than USB ever was. You may want to consider ways to disable your Thunderbolt drivers unless you can be sure that you can prevent physical access to your machine.

OPS: This week’s sponsor

We’re very grateful to this week’s (and our inaugural) sponsor: OPS is a new free open source tool that allows anyone including non-developers to run existing Linux applications as unikernels. Long  predicted to be the next generation of cloud infrastructure, unikernels have remained inaccessible to developers because of their low level nature. OPS fixes that. Please visit their website to learn more: https://ops.city

Linus on why x86 won for servers

Responding to a forum post on upcoming ARM server offerings, Linus Torvalds makes a compelling case for why Linux and x86 completely overwhelmed commercial Unix and RISC: Guys, do you really not understand why x86 took over the server market? It wasn’t just all price. It was literally this “develop at home” issue. Thousands of small companies ended up having random small internal workloads where it was easy to just get a random whitebox PC and run some silly small thing on it yourself. Then as the workload expanded, it became a “real server”. And then once that thing expanded, suddenly it made a whole lot of sense to let somebody else manage the hardware and hosting, and the cloud took over.

Announcing a new site sponsorship program

When we re-launched the site at the beginning of the year, I mentioned that I’d considered shuttering OSNews as a response to needing such a major overhaul, since conventional advertising was no longer sufficient for covering expenses. A few weeks ago, I decided to experiment with offering a sponsorship, wherein a patron pays a fee to be the exclusive sponsor of the site for a week. It was all just a pipe dream until someone agreed last week to be our first sponsor. So we’re cautiously optimistic that this may be a viable way to keep the site running and maybe even expand. It won’t work, though, unless we can fill our pipeline with sponsors. I doubt we’ll be able to do that just by putting up a shingle and hoping people contact us. So I wanted to reach out to you, beloved readers, to see if you could help. If you know someone, maybe your employer, who offers a product or service that might be interesting to OSNews readers, see if they’ll be willing to sponsor the site. We’re open to ideas on how to structure the sponsorship program. If you were to sponsor the site, what would you want to get in exchange for your money? We’d love feedback on the terms of the sponsorship. Do you know of any ways that we might be able to publicize the availability of sponsorships? Would you be interested in acting as a salesperson and reaching out to firms to solicit sponsorships? Let me know. And finally, sponsorships will be desirable if OSNews itself is popular and vibrant. You can do your part by reading the site, commenting, submitting news, and contacting us if you’re interested in writing a feature.

K2: an operating system for energy-efficient, mobile system-on-chip

K2 is an academic project OS developed out of the Rice University Efficient Computing Group. Its stated purpose is: “Modern mobile System-on-chip(SoC) often embraces heterogeneous cores that are hosted in separate coherence domains, i.e. no hardware coherence among them. This architecture promises high energy efficiency, however complicates software development, thus preventing the energy efficiency from being harvested by software.” Learn more here.

EmuTOS: a Free operating system for Atari computers

EmuTOS is designed to run on traditional Atari hardware (ST, TT, Falcon, based on Motorola 68000  or ColdFire microprocessors) and their emulators. It features functionality similar to TOS, which powered the Atari ST and its successors between 1985 and 1994. EmuTOS can run on real hardware, either as ROM replacement or from floppy, or on any Atari emulator such as ARAnyM, Hatari, or Steem SSE. EmuTOS is Free Software, and can run legacy third-party software on emulators without requiring copyrighted Atari ROMs, thereby avoiding legal issues.

Windows 10 marketshare finally surpassing Windows 7

Windows 7, released in July of 2009, was a gigantic leap forward in the evolution of the desktop OS. Good enough, it turns out, that a huge number of people and organizations are still using it, despite it being nearly ten years since its release. Back in February, Statscounter proclaimed that according to its analytics, Windows 10 had finally overtaken 7 in marketshare. But these kinds of measurements are never exact. They’re based on counting users that connect to various constellations of sites and services, so there’s going to be some variation depending on who’s counting.