Thom Holwerda Archive

Satya Nadella tells a court that Bing is worse than Google – and Apple could fix it

The Verge has an excellent write-up of Satya Nadella’s day in court during the Google antitrust trial today. The power of defaults is one of the central questions of the entire US v. Google case and will continue to come up. (The witness after Nadella is former Neeva CEO Sridhar Ramaswamy, who has also said his search engine was crushed in part because overcoming Google’s default status was so difficult.) Nadella is in the rare position to have seen both sides — what it’s like to be the default and what it’s like to contend when you’re not — and argued resolutely that defaults are the only thing that truly matters. Google, on the other hand, says that building the best product is the only thing that truly matters and that Bing has never come close to doing that. Which side of that debate Judge Mehta agrees with may be the story of this entire trial. It’s an excellent and at times even funny read.

Exploiting the iPhone 4

One aspect of the jailbreak scene that always seemed like black magic to me, though, was the process of jailbreaking itself. The prospect is pretty remarkable: take any off-the-shelf iPhone, then enact obscene rituals and recite eldritch incantations until the shackles drop away. The OS will now allow you to run any code you point at it, irrespective of whether the code has gone through Apple’s blessed signing process, paving the way for industrious tweak developers like myself. A few weeks ago, I got a hankering to remove this shroud of mystery from jailbreaks by writing my own. One caveat: the really juicy work here has been done by my forebears. I’m particularly indebted to p0sixninja and axi0mx, who have graciously shared their knowledge via open source. The fact this isn’t a switch to flip in iOS somewhere is idiotic and will soon come to an end thanks to the EU, but at least it enticed some very creative and gifted souls to learn and experiment.

Chromebook Plus: more performance and AI capabilities

All Chromebook Plus laptops offer faster processors and double the memory and storage, giving you the power to get more done, easily. All Chromebook Plus laptops also come with a Full HD IPS display — which means you get a full 1080p HD experience when watching streaming content, and crisp, clear viewing for reading, creating content or editing photos and videos. Finally, there’s a 1080p+ webcam with temporal noise reduction for smoother, more lifelike video calls. So basically, because the Chromebook market is dominated by cheap crap, Google has had to create a new category of Chromebooks that are slightly less crap, so that buyers who don’t want crap but instead want slightly less crap can distinguish the slightly less crap from the crap so they end up buying the crap they want. Like gaming Chromebooks, I give this like two years before Google sees something shiny and this whole Chromebook Plus thing is dead and gone.

The absolute minimum every software developer must know about Unicode in 2023

A lot has changed in 20 years. In 2003, the main question was: what encoding is this? In 2023, it’s no longer a question: with a 98% probability, it’s UTF-8. Finally! We can stick our heads in the sand again! The question now becomes: how do we use UTF-8 correctly? Let’s see! Everything you ever wanted to know about how Unicode works, and what UTF-8 does. Plus some annoying website design tricks, for which In apologise, even if it’s obviously not our site we’re linking to.

Budgie 10.8.1 released

Budgie 10.8.1 is the first minor release in the 10.8 series of our Budgie Desktop environment. This release adds dark style preference support, squashes some bugs around our new StatusNotifierItem implementation, adds keyword support for search, and more! The Budgie Desktop renaissance continues.

The X220 ThinkPad is the best laptop in the world

The X220 ThinkPad is the greatest laptop ever made and you’re wrong if you think otherwise. No laptop hardware has since surpassed the nearly perfect build of the X220. New devices continue to get thinner and more fragile. Useful ports are constantly discarded for the sake of “design”. Functionality is no longer important to manufacturers. Repairability is purposefully removed to prevent users from truly “owing” their hardware. It’s a mess out there. But thank goodness I still have my older, second-hand X220. I don’t agree with the author, but he’s also not wrong. Luckily, things do seem to be improving somewhat, thanks to Framework being a decent success. Other OEMs are starting to make some noise about repairability, as are lawmakers around the world. We might be getting a new X220.

Publishing my first game using pico-8

I picked pico-8 as the engine simply because I know I work better with constraints and the limited size and capabilities of it would ensure I would not attempt perfection since I know I do not have the skills to reach it anyway. I have been a professional developer for 10+ years so code syntax is not my biggest issue, but knowing how to architect things, deal with the art and sound. By sticking within what pico-8 provides I thought I could achieve this, where I had previously failed with tools like Game Maker. Pico-8 really seems like a great first experience with game development.

Introduction to the OpenBSD operating system

I often see a lot of confusion with regard to OpenBSD, either assimilate as a Linux distribution or mixed up with FreeBSD. Let’s be clear, OpenBSD is a stand alone operating system. It came as a fork of NetBSD in 1994, there isn’t much things in common between the two nowadays. While OpenBSD and the other BSDs are independant projects, they share some very old roots in their core, and regularly see source code changes in one being imported to another, but this is really a very small amount of the daily code changes though. Just like OSNews (more information about the OSNews Gemini capsule), this article is also available on Gemini.

How flip-flops are implemented in the Intel 8086 processor

A circuit called the flip-flop is a fundamental building block for sequential logic. A flip-flop can hold one bit of state, a “0” or a “1”, changing its value when the clock changes. Flip-flops are a key part of processors, with multiple roles. Several flip-flops can be combined to form a register, holding a value. Flip-flops are also used to build “state machines”, circuits that move from step to step in a controlled sequence. A flip-flops can also delay a signal, holding it from from one clock cycle to the next. Intel introduced the groundbreaking 8086 microprocessor in 1978, starting the x86 architecture that is widely used today. In this blog post, I take a close look at the flip-flops in the 8086: what they do and how they are implemented. In particular, I will focus on the dynamic flip-flop, which holds its value using capacitance, much like DRAM. Many of these flip-flops use a somewhat unusual “enable” input, which allows the flip-flop to hold its value for multiple clock cycles. More in-depth chip content. This type of content has been coming up a lot lately.

Windows Server 2012 and 2012 R2 reaching end of support

Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2 will end on October 10, 2023. After this date, these products will no longer receive security updates, non-security updates, bug fixes, technical support, or online technical content updates. If you cannot upgrade to the next version, you will need to use Extended Security Updates (ESUs) for up to three years. ESUs are available for free in Azure or need to be purchased for on-premises deployments. Windows Server 2012 was the first release of Windows Server to entirely remove the Windows classic UI, if I recall correctly and my quick research today didn’t fail me. Meaning, if you want the latest version of Windows that still carries the classic user interface, you’re going to have to go all the way back to Windows Server 2008.

Apple blames iPhone 15 Pro overheating problems on third party developers

It seems the new iPhone 15 Pro is having overheating issues, and while I normally don’t really care and don’t mention this sort of nonsense, I found Apple’s response to the issue… Peculiar. Furthermore, Apple tells 9to5Mac that recent updates to certain third-party apps are causing them to overload the system. The company says it’s working directly with those developers to fix the issues. According to Apple, some of the apps overloading the iPhone CPU and causing devices to overheat are Asphalt 9, Instagram, and Uber. Instagram issued a fix for the problem on September 27, Apple says. Apple designs and builds the SoC, the thermal system, the outer casing, the operating system, the APIs, and is the gatekeeper for every application that runs on an iPhone – and yet the company still blames third party developers? How is it even possible that any of these applications can cause unexpected overheating in the first place, and how, if the App Store review process is put in place to protect users, did nobody at Apple catch this during the review process? If they can’t even detect and stop applications that can physically damage your iPhone, how on earth can anyone trust them to stop malware, spyware, and other crapware? I can’t believe people still fall for this.

How to turn off Windows Copilot on Windows 11

Earlier this week, Microsoft started rolling out the Moment 4 update for Windows 11. The update also included Windows Copilot, a generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) that replaces Cortana and offers to perform certain tasks for the users. However, if you are not interested in having additional bloatware on your system then there are ways to remove or disable Windows Copilot on Windows 11. The steps will depend on whether you have Windows 11 or Windows 11 Pro. As far as I can tell, this only hides Copilot – it doesn’t actually remove it. If you want to actually remove Copilot, go here or here and follow the instructions.

The world’s oldest active Torrent turns 20 years old

Twenty years ago, a group of friends shot a Matrix fan film on a limited budget. Sharing their creation with the rest of the word initially appeared to be too expensive, but then they discovered a new technology called BitTorrent. Fast forward two decades and their “Fanimatrix” release is the oldest active torrent that’s still widely shared today. That’s amazing. When reading the headline, I assumed it’d be some copyrighted blockbuster – not something the creators actually wanted to share via BitTorrent.

This week in KDE: time for the new features

Another week of KDE Plasma 6 big smashing and new features, and it’s a long list of good stuff. The biggest news this week: The Overview and Desktop Grid effects have been merged together into one, with fluid and natural-feeling touchpad gestures to transition between all states. It’s really awesome work, and also fixed a ton of open bug reports! There’s quite a few other things in here, such as indicators for when the camera is in use in the system tray, fixes for floating panels, improved systemd integration so killing processes when logging out should be less buggy, and a whole lot more.

DOJ finally posted that “embarrassing” court doc Google wanted to hide

So, what’s in the document that Google didn’t want to get out? The document in question contains meeting notes that Google’s vice president for finance, Michael Roszak, “created for a course on communications,” Bloomberg reported. In his notes, Roszak wrote that Google’s search advertising “is one of the world’s greatest business models ever created” with economics that only certain “illicit businesses” selling “cigarettes or drugs” “could rival.” Beyond likening Google’s search advertising business to illicit drug markets, Roszak’s notes also said that because users got hooked on Google’s search engine, Google was able to “mostly ignore the demand side” of “fundamental laws of economics” and “only focus on the supply side of advertisers, ad formats, and sales.” This was likely the bit that actually interested the DOJ. “We could essentially tear the economics textbook in half,” Roszak’s notes said. Juicy documents from an abusive monopolist are always a fun read.

Linux’s modprobe adds the ability to load a module from anywhere on the file-system

With today’s release of kmod 31, Linux’s modprobe utility for loading kernel modules can finally allow arbitrary paths to allow loading new kernel modules from anywhere on the file-system. Surprisingly it took until 2023 for allowing Linux’s modprobe to accept loading kernel modules from any arbitrary path. Rather than just specifying the module name and then looking up the module within the running kernel’s modules directory, modprobe can now allow passing a path to the module. Relative paths are also supported when prefixed with “./” for the path to the desired module. Finally.

I tested an HDMI adapter that demands your location, browsing data, photos, and spams you with ads

I recently got my hands on an ordinary-looking iPhone-to-HDMI adapter that mimics Apple’s branding and, when plugged in, runs a program that implores you to “Scan QR code for use.” That QR code takes you to an ad-riddled website that asks you to download an app that asks for your location data, access to your photos and videos, runs a bizarre web browser, installs tracking cookies, takes “sensor data,” and uses that data to target you with ads. The adapter’s app also kindly informed me that it’s sending all of my data to China. Just imagine what kind of stuff is happening that isn’t perpetrated by crude idiots, but by competent state-sponsored actors. I don’t believe for a second that at least a number of products from Apple, Dell, HP, and so on, manufactured in Chinese state-owned factories, are not compromised. The temptation is too high, and even if, say, Apple found something inside one of their devices rolling off the factory line – what are they going to do? Publicly blame the Chinese government, whom they depend on for virtually all their manufacturing? You may trust HP, but do you trust the entire chain of people and entities controlling their supply chain?

SunOS multi-thread architecture

We describe a model for multiple threads of control within a single UNIX process. The main goals are to provide extremely lightweight threads and to rationalize and extend the UNIX Application Programming Interface for a multi-threaded environment. The threads are intended to be sufficiently lightweight so that there can be thousands present and that synchronization and context switching can be accomplished rapidly without entering the kernel. These goals are achieved by providing lightweight user-level threads that are multiplexed on top of kernel-supported threads of control. This architecture allows the programmer to separate logical (program) concurrency from the required real concurrency, which is relatively costly, and to control both within a single programming model. The introduction to a 1991 USENIX paper about SunOS’ multithread architecture. Just the kind of light reading material for an Autumn weekend.

Bing Chat responses infiltrated by ads pushing malware

In March, Microsoft began injecting ads into Bing Chat conversations to generate revenue from this new platform. However, incorporating ads into Bing Chat has opened the door to threat actors, who increasingly take out search advertisements to distribute malware. And in case you’re thinking, “whatever, I don’t use these online chatbots anyway”, just remember that all this stuff is now built right into Windows and Microsoft Office, so one wrong click and you’re right in the thick of it. Excellent.