Thom Holwerda Archive

Cinnamon 6.2 released

Cinnamon, the popular GTK desktop environment developed by the Linux Mint project, pushed out Cinnamon 6.2 today, which will serve as the default desktop for Linux Mint 22. It’s a relatively minor release, but it does contain a major new feature which is actually quite welcome: a new GTK frontend for GNOME Online Accounts, part of the XApp project. This makes it possible to use the excellent GNOME Online Accounts framework, without having to resort to a GNOME application – and will come in very handy on other GTK desktops, too, like Xfce. The remainder of the changes consist of a slew of bugfixes, small new features, and nips and tucks here and there. Wayland support is still an in-progress effort for Cinnamon, so you’ll be stuck with X for now.

IceWM 3.6.0 released

Less than a month after 3.5.0, IceWM is already shipping version 3.6.0. Once again not a major, earth-shattering release, it does contain at least one really cool feature that I think it pretty nifty: if you double-click on a window border, it will maximise just that side of the window. Pretty neat. For the rest, it’s small changes and bug fixes for this venerable window manager.

Meta halts plans to train machine learning on Facebook, Instagram posts in EU

It seems that if you want to steer clear from having Facebook use your Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, etc. data for machine learning training, you might want to consider moving to the European Union. Meta has apparently paused plans to process mounds of user data to bring new AI experiences to Europe. The decision comes after data regulators rebuffed the tech giant’s claims that it had “legitimate interests” in processing European Union- and European Economic Area (EEA)-based Facebook and Instagram users’ data—including personal posts and pictures—to train future AI tools. ↫ Ashley Belanger These are just the opening salvos of the legal war that’s brewing here, so who knows how it’s going to turn out. For now, though, European Union Facebook users are safe from Facebook’s machine learning training.

Vinix now runs Solitaire

Way, way back in the cold and bleak days of 2021, I mentioned Vinix on OSNews, an operating system written in the V programming language. A few days ago, over on Mastodon, the official account for the V programming language sent out a screenshot showing Solitaite running on Vinix, showing off what the experimental operating system can do. The project doesn’t seem to really publish any changelogs or release notes, so it’s difficult to figure out what, exactly, is going on at the moment. The roadmap indicates they’ve already got a solid base going to work from, such as mlibc, bash, GCC/G++, X and an X window manager, and more – with things like Wayland, networking, and more on the roadmap.

Microsoft starts beating the Windows 11 PR drum in face of reluctant Windows 10 users

I have a feeling Microsoft is really starting to feel some pressure about its plans to abandon Windows 10 next year. Data shows that 70% of Windows users are still using Windows 10, and this percentage has proven to be remarkably resilient, making it very likely that hundreds of millions of Windows users will be out of regular, mainstream support and security patches next year. It seems Microsoft is, therefore, turning up the PR campaign, this time by publishing a blog post about myths and misconceptions about Windows 11. The kind of supposed myths and misconceptions Microsoft details are exactly the kind of stuff corporations with large deployments worry about at night. For instance, Microsoft repeatedly bangs the drum on application compatibility, stating that despite the change in number – 10 to 11 – Windows 11 is built on the same base as its predecessor, and as such, touts 99.7% application compatibility. Furthermore, Microsoft adds that if businesses to suffer from an incompatibility, they can use something call App Assure – which I will intentionally mispronounce until the day I die because I’m apparently a child – to fix any issues. Apparently, the visual changes to the user interface in Windows 11 are also a cause of concern for businesses, as Microsoft dedicated an entire entry to this, citing a study that the visual changes do not negatively impact productivity. The blog post then goes on to explain how the changes are actually really great and enhance productivity – you know, the usual PR speak. There’s more in the blog post, and I have a feeling we’ll be seeing more and more of this kind of PR offensive as the cut-off date for Windows 10 support nears. Windows 10 users will probably also see more and more Windows 11 ads when using their computers, too, urging them to upgrade even when they very well cannot because of missing TPMs or unsupported processors. I don’t think any of these things will work to bring that 70% number down much over the next 12 months, and that’s a big problem for Microsoft. I’m not going to make any predictions, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Microsoft will simply be forced by, well, reality to extend the official support for Windows 10 well beyond 2025. Especially with all the recent investigations into Microsoft’s shoddy internal security culture, there’s just no way they can cut 70% of their users off from security updates and patches.

StreamOS source code republished 15 years later

Way, way, way back in 2009, we reported on a small hobby operating system called StreamOS – version 0.21-RC1 had just been released that day. StreamOS was a 32-bit operating system written in Object Pascal using the Free Pascal Compiler, running on top of FreeDOS. It turns out that its creator, Oleksandr Natalenko (yes, the same person), recovered the old code, and republished it on Codeberg for posterity. It’s not a complete history, rather a couple of larger breadcrumbs stuck together with git. I didn’t do source code management much back in the days, and there are still some intermediate dev bits scattered across my backup drive that I cannot even date properly, but three branches I pushed (along with binaries, btw; feel free to fire up that qemu of yours and see how it crashes!) should contain major parts of what was done. ↫ Oleksandr Natalenko It may not carry the same import as Doom for the SNES, but it’s still great to see such continuity 15 years apart. I hope Natalenko manages to recover the remaining bits and bobs too, because you may never know – someone might be interested in picking up this 15 year old baton.

Doom for SNES full source code released by former Sculptured Software employees

The complete source code for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) version of Doom has been released on Although some of the code was partially released a few years ago, this is the first time the full source code has been made publicly available. ↫ Shaun James at GBAtemp The code was very close to being lost forever, down to a corrupted disk that had to be fixed. It’s crazy how much valuable, historically relevant code we’re just letting rot away for no reason.

A brief history of Mac enclaves and exclaves

Howard Oakley has written an interesting history of secure enclaves on the Mac, and when he touches upon “exclaves”, a new concept that doesn’t have a proper term yet, he mentions something interesting. While an enclave is a territory entirely surrounded by the territory of another state, an exclave is an isolated fragment of a state that exists separately from the main part of that state. Although exclave isn’t a term normally used in computing, macOS 14.4 introduced three kernel extensions concerned with exclaves. They seem to have appeared first in iOS 17, where they’re thought to code domains isolated from the kernel that protect key functions in macOS even when the kernel becomes compromised. This in turn suggests that Apple is in the process of refactoring the kernel into a central micro-kernel with protected exclaves. This has yet to be examined in Sequoia. ↫ Howard Oakley I’m not going to add too much here since I’m not well-versed enough in the world of macOS to add anything meaningful, but I do think it’s an interesting theory worth looking into by people who posses far more knowledge about this topic than I do.

Can you blow a PC speaker with a Linux kernel module?

Sometimes you come across a story that’s equally weird and delightful, and this is definitely one of them. Oleksandr Natalenko posted a link on Mastodon to a curious email sent to the Linux Kernel Mailing List, which apparently gets sent to the LKML every single year. The message is very straightforward. Is it possible to write a kernel module which, when loaded, will blow the PC speaker? ↫ R.F. Burns on the LKML Since this gets sent every year, it’s most likely some automated thing that’s more of a joke than a real request at this point. However, originally, there was a real historical reason behind the inquiry, as Schlemihl Schalmeier on Mastodon points out. They link to the original rationale behind the request, posted to the LKML after the request was first made, all the way back in 2007. At the time, the author was helping a small school system manage a number of Linux workstations, and the students there were abusing the sound cards on those workstations for shenanigans. They addressed this by only allowing users with root privileges access to the sound devices. However, kids are smart, and they started abusing the PC speaker instead, and even unloading the PC speaker kernel module didn’t help because the kids found ways to abuse the PC speaker outside of the operating system (the BIOS maybe? I have no idea). And so, the author notes, the school system wanted them to remove the PC speakers entirely, but this would be a very fiddly and time-consuming effort, since there were a lot of PCs, and of course, this would all have to be done on-site – unlike the earlier solutions which could all be done remotely. So, the idea was raised about seeing if there was a way to blow the PC speaker by loading a kernel module.  If so, a mass-deployment of a kernel module overnight would take care of the PC speaker problem once and for all. ↫ R.F. Burns on the LKML So, that’s the original story behind the request. It’s honestly kind of ingenious, and it made me wonder if the author got a useful reply on the LKML, and if such a kernel module was ever created. The original thread didn’t seem particularly conclusive to me, and the later yearly instances of the request don’t seem to yield much either. It seems unlikely to me this is possible at all. Regardless, this is a very weird bit of Linux kernel lore, and I’d love to know if there’s more going on. Various parts of the original rationale seem dubious to me, such as the handwavy thing about abusing the PC speaker outside of the operating system, and what does “abusing” the PC speaker even mean in the first place? As Natalenko notes, it seems there’s more to this story, and I’d love to find out what it is.

Apple set to be first big tech group to face charges under EU digital law

Brussels is set to charge Apple over allegedly stifling competition on its mobile app store, the first time EU regulators have used new digital rules to target a Big Tech group. The European Commission has determined that the iPhone maker is not complying with obligations to allow app developers to “steer” users to offers outside its App Store without imposing fees on them, according to three people with close knowledge of its investigation. ↫ Javier Espinoza and Michael Acton This was always going to happen for as long as Apple’s malicious compliance kept dragging on. The rules in the Digital Markets Act are quite clear and simple, and despite the kind of close cooperation with EU lawmakers no normal EU citizen is ever going to get, Apple has been breaking this law from day one without any intent to comply. European Union regulators have given Apple far, far more leeway and assistance than any regular citizen of small business would get, and that has to stop. The possible fines under the DMA are massive. If Apple is found guilty, they could be fined for up to 10% of its global revenue, or 20% for repeated violations. This is no laughing matters, and this is not one of those cases where a company like Apple could calculate fines as a mere cost of doing business – this would have a material impact on the company’s numbers, and shareholders are definitely not going to like it if Apple gets fined such percentages. As these are preliminary findings, Apple could still implement changes, but if past behaviour is any indication, any possibly changes will just be ever more malicious compliance.

Driving forward in Android drivers

Google’s own Project Zero security research effort, which often finds and publishes vulnerabilities in both other companies’ and its own products, set its sights on Android once more, this time focusing on third-party kernel drivers. Android’s open-source ecosystem has led to an incredible diversity of manufacturers and vendors developing software that runs on a broad variety of hardware. This hardware requires supporting drivers, meaning that many different codebases carry the potential to compromise a significant segment of Android phones. There are recent public examples of third-party drivers containing serious vulnerabilities that are exploited on Android. While there exists a well-established body of public (and In-the-Wild) security research on Android GPU drivers, other chipset components may not be as frequently audited so this research sought to explore those drivers in greater detail. ↫ Seth Jenkins They found a whole host of security issues in these third-party kernel drivers in phones both from Google itself as well as from other companies. An interesting point the authors make is that because it’s getting ever harder to find 0-days in core Android, people with nefarious intent are looking at other parts of an Android system now, and these kernel drivers are an inviting avenue for them. They seem to focus mostly on GPU drivers, for now, but it stands to reason they’ll be targeting other drivers, too. As usual with Android, the discovered exploits were often fixed, but the patches took way, way too long to find their way to end users due to the OEMs lagging behind when it comes to sending those patches to users. The authors propose wider adoption of Android APEX to make it easier to OEMs to deliver kernel patches to users faster. I always like the Project Zero studies and articles, because they really take no prisoners, and whether they’re investigating someone else like Microsoft or Apple, or their own company Google, they go in hard, do not surgarcoat their findings, and apply the same standards to everyone.

Microsoft delays Recall feature

After initially announcing it was going to change its Recall feature and then pulling the preview Windows release containing the feature, Microsoft has now given in almost entirely and is delaying Recall altogether. Instead of shipping it on every new Copilot+ PC, they’re going to release it as an optional feature for Windows Insiders. Today, we are communicating an additional update on the Recall (preview) feature for Copilot+ PCs. Recall will now shift from a preview experience broadly available for Copilot+ PCs on June 18, 2024, to a preview available first in the Windows Insider Program (WIP) in the coming weeks. Following receiving feedback on Recall from our Windows Insider Community, as we typically do, we plan to make Recall (preview) available for all Copilot+ PCs coming soon. ↫ Pavan Davuluri on the Windows blog It’s incredible just how much Microsoft has bungled the launch of this feature, as it’s now almost overshadowing everything else that comes with these new ARM laptops. They rushed to shove machine learning into a major feature, and didn’t stop to think about the consequences. Typical Silicon Valley behaviour.

Canonical and DeepComputing announce new RISC-V laptop shipping with Ubuntu

Speaking of PCs that don’t use x86 chips, Canonical and DeepComputing today announced a new RISC-V laptop running Ubuntu, available for pre-order in a few days. It’s the successor to the DC-ROMA, which shipped last year. Adding to a long list of firsts, the new DC-ROMA laptop II is the first to feature SpacemiT’s SoC K1 – with its 8-cores RISC-V CPU running at up to 2.0GHz with 16GB of memory. This significantly doubled its overall performance and energy efficiency over the previous generation’s 4-cores SoC running at 1.5GHz. Moreover, SpacemiT’s SoC K1 is also the world’s first SoC to support RISC-V high performance computing RVA 22 Profile RVV 1.0 with 256 bit width, and to have powerful AI capabilities with its customised matrix operation instruction based on IME Group design principle!  This second-generation DC-ROMA RISC-V laptop also features an all-metal casing making it more durable, as well as improving heat dissipation and more on its premium class look and feel compared to previous generation. ↫ Canonical’s blog The DC-ROMA II is clearly aimed at developers, as it has what is essentially a GeekPort on the side of the laptop, to aid in porting and debugging software. Aside from that and the RISC-V processor, it’s a rather mid-range kind of device, and no pricing has been published yet so I’m not sure if this is something I could afford for an OSNews review. Once the preorders go live in a few days, we’ll know more. If you’d like to see this RISC-V laptop make an appearance on OSNews, let me know, and I’ll see what I can do.

The Qualcomm Snapdragon X architecture deep dive: getting to know Oryon and Adreno X1

In the last 8 months Qualcomm has made a lot of interesting claims for their high-performance Windows-on-Arm SoC – many of which will be put to the test in the coming weeks. But beyond all the performance claims and bluster amidst what is shaping up to be a highly competitive environment for PC CPUs, there’s an even more fundamental question about the Snapdragon X that we’ve been dying to get to: how does it work? Ahead of next week’s launch, then, we’re finally getting the answer to that, as today Qualcomm is releasing their long-awaited architectural disclosure on the Snapdragon X SoC. This includes not only their new, custom Arm v8 “Oryon” CPU core, but also technical disclosures on their Adreno GPU, and the Hexagon NPU that backs their heavily-promoted AI capabilities. The company has made it clear in the past that the Snapdragon X is a serious, top-priority effort for the company – that they’re not just slapping together a Windows SoC from their existing IP blocks and calling it a day – so there’s a great deal of novel technology within the SoC. ↫ Ryan Smith at AnandTech I cannot wait until AnandTech can move beyond diving into information provided by Qualcomm, and can start doing their own incredibly in-depth benchmarks and research. Assuming the effort succeeds, the Snapdragon X line will most likely form the backbone of ARM PCs for years – if not decades – to come, meaning that when you and I go shopping for a new laptop, this chip will be the one heavily promoted by stores and outlets. How closely independent benchmarks line up with Qualcomm’s eight months of promises and cherry-picked benchmarks will also tell us a lot about how trustworthy the company will be about the performance of its chips going forward. In smartphones – where we mostly see Qualcomm today – performance simply doesn’t matter as much, but when you’re dealing with laptops, and in the future possibly even desktops, performance suddenly matters a lot more, and Qualcomm’s claims will be facing a level of scrutiny and detail I don’t think they’ve ever really had to deal with before. PC enthusiasts don’t mess around. If the Linux support turns out to be as solid as Qualcomm claims, and if the performance figures they’ve been putting out are verified by quality independent reviewers like the people at AnandTech, I honestly don’t think my next laptop will be using x86. I just hope weird companies like Chuwi will release a version of their MiniBook X with one a Qualcomm chip, because I’ll be damned if I go back to anything larger than 10″.

Exclusive: Mozilla reverses course, re-lists extensions it removed in Russia

Two days ago, I broke the news that Mozilla removed several Firefox extensions from the add-on store in Russia, after pressure from Russian censors. Mozilla provided me with an official statement, which seemed to highlight that the decision was not final, and it seems I was right – today, probably helped by the outcry our story caused, Mozilla has announced it’s reversing the decision. In a statement sent to me via email, an unnamed Mozilla spokesperson says: In alignment with our commitment to an open and accessible internet, Mozilla will reinstate previously restricted listings in Russia. Our initial decision to temporarily restrict these listings was made while we considered the regulatory environment in Russia and the potential risk to our community and staff. As outlined in our Manifesto, Mozilla’s core principles emphasise the importance of an internet that is a global public resource, open and accessible to all. Users should be free to customise and enhance their online experience through add-ons without undue restrictions. By reinstating these add-ons, we reaffirm our dedication to: – Openness: Promoting a free and open internet where users can shape their online experience.– Accessibility: Ensuring that the internet remains a public resource accessible to everyone, regardless of geographical location. We remain committed to supporting our users in Russia and worldwide and will continue to advocate for an open and accessible internet for all. ↫ Mozilla spokesperson via email I’m glad Mozilla reversed its decision, because giving in to a dictatorship never ends well – it starts with a few extensions today, but ends up with the kind of promotional tours for China that Tim Cook goes on regularly. Firefox is a browser that lives or dies by its community, and if that community is unhappy with the course of Mozilla or the decisions it makes, especially ones that touch on core values and human rights, it’s not going to end well for them. That being said, this does make me wonder what would’ve happened if the forum thread that started all this died in obscurity and never made its way to the media. Would Mozilla have made the same reversal?

Chrome OS switching to the Android Linux kernel and related Android subsystems

Surprisingly quietly, in the middle of Apple’s WWDC, Google’s ChromeOS team has made a rather massive announcement that seems to be staying a bit under the radar. Google is announcing today that it is replacing many of ChromeOS’ current relatively standard Linux-based subsystems with the comparable subsystems from Android. To continue rolling out new Google AI features to users at a faster and even larger scale, we’ll be embracing portions of the Android stack, like the Android Linux kernel and Android frameworks, as part of the foundation of ChromeOS. We already have a strong history of collaboration, with Android apps available on ChromeOS and the start of unifying our Bluetooth stacks as of ChromeOS 122. ↫ Prajakta Gudadhe and Alexander Kuscher on the Chromium blog The benefits to Google here are obvious: instead of developing and maintaining two variants of the Linux kernel and various related subsystems, they now only have to focus on one, saving money and time. It will also make it easier for both platforms to benefit from new features and bugfixes, which should benefit users of both platforms quite a bit. As mentioned in the snippet, the first major subsystem in ChromeOS to be replaced by its Android counterpart is Bluetooth. ChromeOS was using the BlueZ Bluetooth stack, the same one used by most (all?) Linux distributions today, which was initially developed by Qualcomm, but has now switched over to using Fluoride, the one from Android. According to Google, Fluoride has a number of benefits over BlueZ. It runs almost entirely in userspace, as opposed to BlueZ, where more than 50% of the code resides in the kernel. In addition, Fluoride is written in Rust, and Google claims it has a simpler architecture, making it easier to perform testing. Google also highlights that Fluoride has a far larger userbase – i.e., all Android users – which also presents a number of benefits. Google performed internal tests to measure the improvements as a result from switching ChromeOS from BlueZ to Fluoride, and the test results speak for themselves – pairing is faster, pairing fails less often, and reconnecting an already paired device fails less often. With Bluetooth being a rather problematic technology to use, any improvements to the user experience are welcome. At the end of Google’s detailed blog post about the switch to Fluoride, the company notes that it intends for the project as whole – which is called Project Floss – to be a standalone open source project, capable of running on any Linux distribution. ↫ Russ Lindsay, Abhishek Pandit-Subedi, Alain Michaud, and Loic Wei Yu Neng on the chromeOS dev website We aspire to position Project Floss as a standalone open source project that can reach beyond the walls of Google’s own operating system in a way where we can maximize the overall value and agility of the larger Bluetooth ecosystem. We also intend to support the Linux community as a whole with the goal that Floss can easily run on most Linux distributions. If Fluoride can indeed deliver tangible, measurable benefits in Bluetooth performance on Linux desktops, I have no doubt quite a few distributions will be more than willing to switch over. Bluetooth is used a lot, and if Fedora, Ubuntu, Arch, and so on, can improve the Bluetooth experience by switching over, I’m pretty sure they will, or at least consider doing so.

Arm, Qualcomm legal battle seen disrupting AI-powered PC wave

The new Windows on ARM Copilot+ PC thing, running on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X Elite and Pro chips, isn’t even out the door yet, and we’re already dealing with legal proceedings. But the main conversation among conference attendees was over how a contract dispute between Arm Holdings and Qualcomm, which work together to make the chips powering these new laptops, could abruptly halt the shipment of new PCs that industry leaders expect will make Microsoft and its partners billions of dollars. ↫ Max A. Cherney at Reuters The basic gist of the story is as follows. Qualcomm acquired a company named Nuvia, founded by former Apple processor engineers, in order to gain new technology to build its Snapdragon X Elite and Pro chips. Nuvia was planning on developing ARM chips for servers, but after the acquisition, Qualcomm changed their plans and repurposed their technology for use in laptops – the new X chips. ARM claims that Nuvia was only granted a license for server use, and not laptop use. Qualcomm, meanwhile, argued that it has a broad license to use ARM for pretty much anything, and as such, that any possible restrictions Nuvia had are irrelevant. While this all sounds like very rich corporations having a silly legal slapfight, it could have real consequences. If the legal case goes very, very wrong for Qualcomm, it could halt the sale of devices powered by the Snapdragon X chips well before they’re even shipping. I doubt it’ll get that far – it rarely does, and there’s some big names and big reputations at play here – but it does highlight the absurdity of how the ARM ecosystem works. Speaking of the ARM ecosystem, Qualcomm isn’t the only ARM chip makers dying to break into the PC market. Qualcomm currently has a weird exclusivity agreement with Microsoft where it’s the only ARM chip supplier for PCs, but that agreement is running out soon. Another player that’s ready to storm this market once that happens is MediaTek, who is also developing a chip geared towards Microsoft’s Copilot+ specifications, with a release target of 2025. Let’s hope MediaTek will be as forthcoming with Linux support as Qualcomm surprisingly has been, but I have my sincerest doubt.

Linus Torvalds: extensible scheduler “sched_ext” in Linux 6.11

The extensible scheduler “sched_ext” code has proven quite versatile for opening up better Linux gaming performance, more quickly prototyping new scheduler changes, Ubuntu/Canonical has been evaluating it for pursuing a more micro-kernel like design, and many other interesting approaches with it. Yet it’s remained out of tree but that is now changing with the upcoming Linux 6.11 cycle. Linus Torvalds as the benevolent dictator for life “BDFL” of the Linux kernel announced he intends to merge the sched_ext patches for Linux 6.11 even though there has been some objections by other kernel developers. Torvalds feels the sched_ext code is ready enough and provides real value to the mainline Linux kernel. It’s not worth dragging out sched_ext continuing to be out-of-tree. ↫ Michael Larabel at Phoronix I haven’t felt the need to mess around with the Linux scheduler in a long, long time – I have some vague memories of perhaps well over a decade ago where opting for a different scheduler could lead to better desktop-focused performance characteristics, but the details in my brain are so fuzzy that it may just be a fabricated or confabulated memory.

OpenBSD extreme privacy setup

This is an attempt to turn OpenBSD into a Whonix or Tails alternative, although if you really need that level of privacy, use a system from this list and not the present guide. It is easy to spot OpenBSD using network fingerprinting, this can not be defeated, you can not hide the fact you use OpenBSD to network operators. I did this guide as a challenge for fun, but I also know some users have a use for this level of privacy. ↫ Solène Rapenne Written by OpenBSD developer Solène Rapenne, so you’re probably not going to find a guide written by anyone more knowledgeable.