Thom Holwerda Archive

Google wants to see Rust code in the Linux kernel, contracts the main developer

Google wants to see Rust programming language support within the Linux kernel so much so that they have contracted the lead developer working on “Rust for Linux” as the work aims to get mainlined. Google is going public today with their formal support for Rust in the Linux kernel to enhance memory safety and that they have contracted developer Miguel Ojeda to further his work on Rust for the Linux kernel and related security efforts. This contract is going through at least the next year. Making any meaningful statements about programming languages is far above my pay grade, so I’ll leave this one to you people to discuss.

Airline and bank websites go down in another major internet failure

Airlines, banks, stock exchanges and trading platforms suffered brief website outages early Thursday after a key piece of internet infrastructure failed, sparking the second major interruption of the past 10 days. Virgin Australia said in a statement on Thursday that it had resolved an IT outage caused by a failure at Akamai Technologies, a global content delivery network. The second major internet outage in a few weeks. Not a good look.

Ohio Republicans close to imposing near-total ban on municipal broadband

Ohio’s Republican-controlled legislature is on the verge of imposing a state law to dramatically restrict the rights of cities and towns to build and operate municipal broadband networks. The Ohio Senate on June 9 approved a budget bill that contains an anti-municipal broadband amendment. It’s not a done deal yet, and advocates for public networks are urging the legislature to strip the amendment from the final budget. The budget bill is expected to be hammered out within the next two weeks. If passed, the proposed law could kill existing broadband services and prevent new ones from being deployed. There are reportedly 30 or more municipal broadband providers in Ohio that “would not be allowed to operate so long as there is a private-sector company operating in the area, as there are in most, if not all of the cities.” Broadband in the US is a complete and utter joke, and it seems Republicans are hell-bent on keeping it that way.

Windows 11 with new UX confirmed in a leak

Me, three weeks ago: Mark my words: this “next generation of Windows” is nothing but a few nips and tucks to the current, existing UI to make it slightly less of an inconsistent mess. Nothing more. Fast-forward to today, and we have a leaked build of this “next generation of Windows”, Windows 11, and much to my utter, devastating surprise, it turns out I was 100% right. Windows 11 is exactly what I said it would be: Windows 10, but with a few small nips and tucks (rounded corners, centered taskbar, tweaked Start menu), and that’s it. All the old Windows 95, XP, and 7-era stuff is still there, and since you can actually easily turn off a lot of the changes in Windows 11, there’s now a whole new layer of old design – Windows 10-era stuff. If this is the “next generation of Windows”, Microsoft is delusional.

Is Sony’s 140MB MiniDisc drive the next Betamax?

From the January 1996 issue of PC World: Sony has great hopes for its MiniDisc Data format as the next-generation mass storage media. And why not? On the surface, it has a lot going for it. A blank 2.5-inch magneto-optical MiniDisc offers 140MB of rewritable storage, and Sony promises the discs can be rewritten more than a million times with no loss of data integrity. MD Data was emblematic for the MiniDisc format as a whole. Great technology, but far too expensive for most people, and always outdone by emerging competing formats (CD-R, MP3 players). Still, I used MiniDisc all the way through high school and university, well into the smartphone era, and I will always consider it my favourite music format.

A few thoughts on Fuchsia security

I want to say a few words about my current adventure. I joined the Fuchsia project at its inception and worked on the daunting task of building and shipping a brand new open-source operating system. As my colleague Chris noted, pointing to this comparison of a device running a Linux-based OS vs Fuchsia, making Fuchsia invisible was not an easy feat. Of course, under the hood, a lot is different. We built a brand new message-passing kernel, new connectivity stacks, component model, file-systems, you name it. And yes, there are a few security things I’m excited about. Fuchsia is a much bigger deal than most people think. Make no mistake about it – this is the future of all of Google’s end-user facing operating systems, from Chrome OS, Android, all the way down to Wear OS and Google Home devices. The amazing thing is that with the way Fuchsia is built and designed, including its support for Android applications, most users will be none the wiser they’ve jumped from Linux to something new.

PsychDOS: a desktop environment plus extra software for DOS users

The PsychDOS desktop environment is an ANSI-like graphical interface for launching applications and having a few other features. I highly recommend looking at the SCREENSHOTS and DOCS sections, as well as taking a look at the QCKGUIDE.PDF (Page 3.5 Issue #01) file to get a better idea. I don’t care what anybody thinks – this is an awesome project, and an awesome idea. The readme contains a lot more detailed information about the project.

CuteFish is a new Linux desktop environment

CuteFishOS’s stated goal is to “make a better experience desktop OS”. To do that they’re building a new desktop environment (‘CuteFishDE’) using KDE Frameworks, Qt, and KDE Plasma 5. This desktop will sit at the heart of a new Linux distro called CuteFishOS. The desktop experience caters to “beginners”, rather than power users. As such, the devs have no (current) plans to add complex, edge-case, or convoluted settings and features. Like Ubuntu, the aim is to provide a basic set of sane defaults that “just work” for most users. There’s room for a polished, stripped-down Qt alternative to KDE, but I’m not sure if this one is going to be it.

Google ends its attack on the URL bar, resumes showing full address in Chrome

As Android Police reports: Google has tried multiple times for years to dumb down the internet by simplifying Chrome’s “scary” address bar. It first tried to erode the URL entirely by showing just search terms in the omnibox, but its impractical design forced Google to retire it. The developers recently tried to simplify the omibox again — this time hiding all parts of the web address except the domain name. While it received a fair amount of criticism from users, Google defended its decision to move forward, citing its intention to help people better identify malicious sites. But now it seems that Google has reconsidered things, as it recently decided to close the curtains on its experiment. Good. URLs present important information, and preventing or limiting access to it is simply dumb, and asking for trouble.

Public key cryptography: OpenSSH private keys

When you create standard RSA keys with ssh-keygen you end up with a private key in PEM format, and a public key in OpenSSH format. Both have been described in detail in my post Public key cryptography: RSA keys. In 2014, OpenSSH introduced a custom format for private keys that is apparently similar to PEM but is internally completely different. This format is used by default when you create ed25519 keys and it is expected to be the default format for all keys in the future, so it is worth having a look. An in-depth analysis of what’s inside the OpenSSH private key format and how it is different from the standard PEM format.

Android 12 Beta 2 released

Usually, when Google announces Android previews or betas, the company focuses on developer-oriented details like new APIs. But, as Android 12 Beta 2 rolls out today, Google is hyping up long-awaited user-facing changes, like the new Privacy Dashboard, the microphone and camera access indicators it’s been working on in various forms since 2019 (plus quick settings toggles for both), and a new “connectivity experience” that makes it easier to switch between data sources. It’s unusual for early Android betas to include so many end user features. I hope this means the development process is farther along than usual as well, so OEMs can get started on the update process sooner, too.

How Universal Control on macOS Monterey works

The best moment of this year’s WWDC keynote was a straightforward demo of a macOS feature, Universal Control. The idea is simple enough: it allows you to use the keyboard and trackpad on a Mac to directly control an iPad, and even makes it simple to drag and drop content between those devices. What made the demo so impressive is how easy and seamless it all seemed. In a classic Apple move, there was no setup required at all. The segment happened so fast that it even seemed (incorrectly, as it turns out) like the Mac was able to physically locate the iPad in space so it knew where to put the mouse pointer. I mean, none of this stuff is new or technologically impressive, but as usual, Apple manages to make it easy, intuitive, and look and feel good and nice. I’d love to have something as straightforward and integrated like this in Linux.

What is Lua RTOS?

Lua RTOS is a real-time operating system designed to run on embedded systems, with minimal requirements of FLASH and RAM memory. Currently Lua RTOS is available for ESP32, ESP8266 and PIC32MZ platforms, and can be easilly ported to other 32-bit platforms. Niche, for sure, but an operating system nonetheless.

KDE Plasma 5.22 released

Plasma 5.22 has become more pleasurable to use through improvements to the design and greater smoothness and consistency in transparencies, blurs, icons, and animations. Moving things to accessible locations, offering hints and visual cues, and creating new settings allows you to customize your work environment to make it fit perfectly to your needs. Following the true KDE spirit, the push for a more stable and attractive desktop does not mean you have to renounce control over how you want it to look or behave. Plasma 5.22, as always, packs all the flexibility and tools for customization you have come to expect and love, and some more to boot. Meanwhile, the push to move Plasma in its entirety to Wayland (the display protocol of the future) continues in full swing. So much so that popular distros are starting to ship Plasma with Wayland by default. By using Wayland behind the scenes, Plasma is able to include features and bug fixes not possible to implement on X11, offering you a better experience and more stability. This is a massive release, and I can’t wait for this to trickle down to Manjaro over the coming week. I use Wayland, so I’ve been excited for this release since the beginning.

Apple will not roll out new privacy features in China and several other countries

Yesterday, during the Apple event, the company, as always, kept talking about they value privacy, and how privacy is a “fundamental human right”. A noble statement, of course, but it seems Apple does not consider people from China, Belarus, Colombia, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkmenistan, Uganda and the Philippines to be “humans”, because fundamental, tent pole privacy features announced yesterday will not be available to the humans living in those countries. Apple on Monday said a new “private relay” feature designed to obscure a user’s web browsing behavior from internet service providers and advertisers will not be available in China for regulatory reasons. The feature was one of a number of privacy protections Apple announced at its annual software developer conference on Monday, the latest in a years-long effort by the company to cut down on the tracking of its users by advertisers and other third parties. Privacy is a “fundamental human right”, but apparently not as fundamental as Apple’s right to make even more money.

Apple unveils macOS 12, iOS 15, iPadOS 15

Apple previewed macOS 12, iIOS 15 and iPadOS 15 yesterday. From MacRumors, one of the few remaining truly good Apple news websites: Apple today announced macOS 12, which it’s calling macOS Monterey. The new version of macOS is gaining features like Universal Control, AirPlay to Mac, and Shortcuts for Mac. Apple said that ‌macOS Monterey‌’s updates will help users get more done and work more fluidly across Apple devices. And iOS 15: Apple today previewed iOS 15, the company’s next major update for the iPhone, featuring new video calling capabilities, improvements to Messages, user statuses, a smart notification summary, and more. and iPadOS 15: Apple today unveiled iPadOS 15, its next-generation operating system for iPad that introduces a slew of new features like widgets on the Home Screen, an iPhone-style App Library, new multi-tasking features, and more. Here’s a rundown of what to expect. There’s no major tent pole features or drastic overhauls – instead, there’s a lot of smaller features and new additions that really do add up to what seem like three pretty major operating system releases. There should be something for everybody in here, but I do wonder which maniac approved the new tab bar design in Safari, because that behaviour should be a crime against humanity.

FreeBSD from a NetBSD user’s perspective

I’ve been a NetBSD developer for three years and it’s been my primary operating system for a long time too – on everything: routers, laptops, Raspberry Pis, PowerPC mac minis, Vortex86 embedded boards, and servers. I’ve recently been using FreeBSD a lot at work. We have a lot of servers and embedded boards running it, and I was given the option of installing anything I wanted on my workstation. I chose FreeBSD to maintain a separation of BSDs between my work and home life 😉 I thought I’d write a little bit about some differences that stand out to me. Since everyone that knows me well knows that typical use cases like web hosting aren’t really my jam, and I’m more of an embedded, audio, and graphics person, maybe I can offer a more uncommon perspective. It’s always nice to read perspectives like this.

Progress on the OpenPOWER SpiderMonkey JIT

This may not look like much, but it demonstrates that the current version of the OpenPOWER JavaScript JIT for Firefox can emit machine language instructions correctly (mostly — still more codegen bugs to shake out), handles the instruction cache correctly, handles ABI-compliant calls into the SpiderMonkey VM correctly (the IonMonkey JIT is not ABI-compliant except at those edges), and enters and exits routines without making a mess of the stack. Much of the code originates from TenFourFox’s “IonPower” 32-bit PowerPC JIT, though obviously greatly expanded, and there is still ongoing work to make sure it is properly 64-bit aware and takes advantage of instructions available in later versions of the Power ISA. (No more spills to the stack to convert floating point, for example. Yay for VSX!) Good progress being made on porting Firefox’ JIT to POWER. I’m forced to use Chromium for now, which is unpleasant.

Apple’s tightly controlled App Store is teeming with scams

Of the highest 1,000 grossing apps on the App Store, nearly two percent are scams, according to an analysis by The Washington Post. And those apps have bilked consumers out of an estimated $48 million during the time they’ve been on the App Store, according to market research firm Appfigures. The scale of the problem has never before been reported. What’s more, Apple profits from these apps because it takes a cut of up to a 30 percent of all revenue generated through the App Store. Even more common, according to The Post’s analysis, are “fleeceware” apps that use inauthentic customer reviews to move up in the App Store rankings and give apps a sense of legitimacy to convince customers to pay higher prices for a service usually offered elsewhere with higher legitimate customer reviews. Apple likes to claim the App Store is needed to keep people safe, but that simply is a flat-out lie. The App Store is filled to the brim not only with obvious scams, but also a whole boatload of gambling applications designed specifically to trick children into spending money. In fact, these “games” make up a huge proportion of the App Store’s revenue. Apple earns top dollar from every scam or disturbing gambling app on the App Store, so there’s a huge conflict of interest here that in and of itself should be enough reason to take control over iOS away from Apple. iOS users should have the freedom to install and use an application store that does not prey on their children and promotes scams.