Thom Holwerda Archive

Windows 10 October 2020 Update is now available

Microsoft is releasing its Windows 10 October 2020 Update to over a billion users today. Much like last year, this second Windows 10 update of 2020 is more of a Service Pack than a major release. Microsoft has, however, made some interesting tweaks, including a refreshed Start menu, some Alt Tab changes, and the bundling of the new Chromium-powered Microsoft Edge. It’s a very minor release when it comes to user-facing features, and you really have to squint to even notice the new Start menu – it’s more of a colour change than an actually new design.

Google and Parallels now let enterprise users run Windows on Chromebooks

Back in June, Google announced that Windows apps are coming to Chrome OS through a third-party partnership — instead of an in-house solution. Parallels Desktop for Chromebook Enterprise is launching today to provide access to Windows apps that some businesses still need. This virtual machine sees a full version of Windows installed on your Chrome OS device that works offline. Google created a secure sandbox for Windows that can easily be wiped if needed. For now, it launches an entire virtual machine instance, desktop and all, but in the future, you’ll be able to launch specific applications without seeing the Windows desktop at all.

US accuses Google of illegally protecting monopoly

The Justice Department accused Google of illegally protecting its monopoly over search and search advertising in a lawsuit filed on Tuesday, the government’s most significant challenge to a tech company’s market power in a generation and one that could reshape the way consumers interact with the internet. In a much-anticipated complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia, the agency accused Google of locking up deals with giant partners like Apple and throttling competition through exclusive business contracts and agreements. While the case seems rushed for political reasons, it at least breathes some form of life into the United States’ dying antitrust laws when it comes to the major technology companies. It’s far too early to tell if anything serious will come of this, as the related court cases and legal maneuvering will take many, many years – and the upcoming US presidential elections could play a role, too. Google, for its part, beats the usual drum all anticompetitive companies accused of antitrust violations beat: we are the best, people choose to use us, there are enough alternatives, our deals are not illegal, others do it too, and so on. These are only the premeditated opening salvos to a very long war, and I’m sure we’ll have tons of fun covering this fight for years to come.

After outcry, Microsoft presses pause on unsolicited Windows 10 web app installs

On Saturday, I pointed out how Microsoft force-restarting Windows 10 computers to install unwanted web apps was the latest proof you don’t own your own Windows PC. Today, the company says it was at least partly a mistake — and will be pausing the “migration” that brought web apps to your Start Menu this way. Originally, Microsoft tells The Verge, the idea was that any website you pinned to the Start Menu would launch in Microsoft Edge. If your website of choice had a PWA web app version, the Edge browser could automatically launch that as well. But — in what Microsoft seems to be calling a bug, though we’re trying to get clarity as to which part was the bug — the change also made it look like existing web shortcuts to its own Microsoft Office products had installed a web app on your PC as well. Ah, the “it’s a bug” defense. Not very imaginative. This is the kind of nonsense you have to put up with when you choose to use a closed source operating system or device that you merely license or borrow, not own. The slippery slope people have been talking and warning about for decades when it comes to closed source software has made it so that not only do we seem to accept this behaviour, people even defend it. Windows as an operating system is in this weird place right now where its guts are, by all accounts, in very good shape, while the user interface is messy and Metro applications are a failure, leading to an often startling user experience that switches from old Win32-looking applications to modern flat applications every other application, and many settings are hidden in old Win32 dialogs instead of being available in fancy modern ones. On top of all that, Microsoft has added tremendous amounts of telemetry, ads, and even forced installation and reinstallation of applications through updates. They built up massive positive mindshare with Windows 7, lost some of it with Windows 8, and then regained some of it with Windows 10 – only to just lose it all over again with nonsense like this. At this point, I have no idea where Microsoft wants to take Windows. It feels like the pace of development is minimal from a user’s point of view, while at the same time still being somehow fast enough that things regularly break. Why would anyone willingly use a platform like this? What redeeming qualities does it have over the competition?

Apple’s CUPS repository has died a quiet death

The Common Unix Printing System (CUPS) is something all the GNU/Linux distributions use to manage printers. It’s been maintained by Apple since 2007. The Apple-lead CUPS development efforts appear to have completely died out after lead CUPS developer Michael Sweet left the company. CUPS isn’t dead, though, Sweet and others are still working on it in a fork maintained by the OpenPrinting organization. Usually, these stories end in tears, with a desperate plea for interested parties and potential contributors to join and save the project. Luckily, this is not one of those stories – the Common Unix Printing System is safe, thanks to the wonders of open source.

Chrome exempts Google sites from user site data settings

In Google Chrome’s “Cookies and site data” settings, accessible via the Preferences menu item or directly with chrome://settings/cookies in the address bar, you can enable the setting “Clear cookies and site data when you quit Chrome”. However, I’ve discovered that Chrome exempts Google’s own sites, such as Search and YouTube, from this setting. I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but this really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Technology companies are particularly adept at being hostile towards users, and Google is no exception.

OpenBSD 6.8 released

OpenBSD has marked its 25th birthday with a brand new release – OpenBSD 6.8. One of the major new features is support for 64bit PowerPC processors – POWER8 and POWER9 specifically, and the Raptor Computing Systems Talos II and Blackbird platforms in particular.

So you want to build an embedded Linux system?

This article is targeted at embedded engineers who are familiar with microcontrollers but not with microprocessors or Linux, so I wanted to put together something with a quick primer on why you’d want to run embedded Linux, a broad overview of what’s involved in designing around application processors, and then a dive into some specific parts you should check out — and others you should avoid — for entry-level embedded Linux systems. This is some seriously detailed writing, and an amazing starting point for people interested in developing for embedded Linux.

Revisiting Apple Copland (D7E1 build)

This is my second video about Apple’s Copland operating system, and I plan on doing more coverage on the other builds sometime in the future. Copland, despite being a hilarious failure, is an interesting system to mess around with for fun. This video covers D7E1 which is the earliest leaked build. A very detailed video about Copland, one of Apple’s many ill-fated attempts at modernising and/or replacing the ageing Mac OS back in the ’90s. The maker of the video is running Copland on real hardware, so no virtualisation shenanigans here.

What if we had local-first software?

An interesting thought exercise. What if the Internet had never become a giant vacuum for malevolent ad agencies and desktops hadn’t become stupidly over provisioned thin clients for web pages? Instead, what if the Internet was only used to facilitate data synchronization between endpoints? Could we get there from our current place? Let’s ask ourselves: “what if the Internet was offline first? And what if we had local-first software paving the way into an offline SaaS model?” Actually, the authors of this paper (“Local-First Software: You Own Your Data, in spite of the Cloud”) raise these exact same questions in their work, and it’ll be our matter at hand today. How would an offline-first Internet look like?

SDL2 upstreams OS/2 Support

If 2020 couldn’t get more peculiar, today the SDL2 project mainlined support for the OS/2 operating system. While OS/2 is no longer maintained by IBM and was never really a gaming platform for where SDL2 is most commonly used, this software library that serves as an abstraction layer for multimedia/gaming hardware components and software platforms has merged the OS/2 port. Neat.

Sailfish OS 3.4 released

The headline improvement in this new version of Sailfish OS is a big upgrade tot he browser engine. We’ve upgraded the browser engine to Gecko ESR52. This makes using the Sailfish OS browser already much more enjoyable! This isn’t the end of the story though, and is in fact just the first step of our plan to gradually upgrade the browser. As the browser is open source, some of you may have already noticed from the repositories that we are continuing to upgrade the engine for upcoming releases. Newer browser engine versions bring in thousands of bug fixes, improvements to the rendering and compatibility with various newer browser technologies. On top of that, this release brings experimental Rust support, the first steps towards 64bit ARM support – about time, I would say – and support for multiple users on a single device.

KDE Plasma 5.20 released

A big update for the venerable KDE desktop. Everyday utilities and tools, such as the Panels, Task Manager, Notifications and System Settings, have all been overhauled to make them more usable, efficient, and friendlier. Meanwhile, developers are hard at work adapting Plasma and all its bits and pieces to Wayland. Once done, Plasma will not only be readier for the future, but will also work better with touchscreens and multiple screens with different refresh rates and DPIs. Plasma will also offer better support for hardware-accelerated graphics, be more secure, and enjoy many more advantages. Although still work in progress, 5.20 already offers users many of the benefits of Plasma on Wayland. This is a substantial release that’s pretty much a must for every KDE user. I can’t wait until Wayland can truly be used as the default, and I feel that moment is actually quite, quite close now.

Petit FAT file system module

Petit FatFs is a sub-set of FatFs module for tiny 8-bit microcontrollers. It is written in compliance with ANSI C and completely separated from the disk I/O layer. It can be incorporated into the tiny microcontrollers with limited memory even if the RAM size is less than sector size. Also full featured FAT file system module is available here. Fascinating little project.

Linux 5.9 released

Linux 5.9 is out as the 2020 autumn kernel update. Linux 5.9 has a number of exciting improvements including initial support for upcoming Radeon RX 6000 “RDNA 2” graphics cards, initial Intel Rocket Lake graphics, NVMe zoned namespaces (ZNS) support, various storage improvements, IBM’s initial work on POWER10 CPU bring-up, the FSGSBASE instruction is now used, 32-bit x86 Clang build support, and more. It will make its way to your distribution eventually, to your separate kernel repository, or, for the brave ones, to your compile command.

Everything you need to know about Android’s Project Mainline

One of the biggest changes in Android in recent years that flew under the radar, relatively speaking against its importance, was the introduction of Project Mainline in Android 10. Google mandates the inclusion of specific Mainline modules across Android releases, with Android 11 coming in with a combined compulsory total of 25 Mainline modules. Here is an explanation on what Project Mainline is and what it aims to solve, alongside a list of all of Android’s Project Mainline modules. A great overview of this very important, relatively new part of Android.

Apple tells secure messaging app Telegram to take down protestor channels in Belarus

Apple is requesting that Telegram shut down three channels used in Belarus to expose the identities of individuals belonging to the Belarusian authoritarian regime that may be oppressing civilians. Apple’s concern is that revealing the identities of law enforcement individuals may give rise to further violence. Telegram, however, would prefer to keep the channels open, but the company said that it feels it has no choice in the matter. These channels are a tool for Belarus’ citizens protesting the recently rigged presidential election, but, with a centralized entity like Apple calling the shots on its own App Store, there’s little the protesters can do about it, explains Telegram CEO Pavel Durov. That’s what happens when you’re a company with zero morals and values, run by people with zero morals and values. We here in the west just accept that it’s entirely okay for corporations to value money over human lives and our core democratic ideals of freedom of liberty, because we’ve been brainwashed that it’s not just acceptable, but entirely desirable to sacrifice every shred of dignity at the altar of shareholder value. Putting money and shareholders above all else is not a a law of nature, it is not a universal constant – it is a choice. Unless we all shed centuries of indoctrination about the sacredness of shareholder value – from the Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie, the first shareholder-owned company and arguably the most valuable company in human history, and its institutional use of violence, exploitation, and slavery, all the way to Apple, the current most valuable company in the world, and its role in the Chinese surveillance state and thus the genocide taking place there – we will continue to sit idly by as our fellow men and women on the street in our neighbouring countries suffer and the world we live in gets destroyed.

Plasma Mobile update: September 2020

The Plasma Mobile team is happy to present the Plasma Mobile updates from the month of September. This month’s update includes various improvements and bugfixes in file dialogs, the virtual keyboard, lockscreen, various applications, and updates from KDE’s annual conference, Akademy. It sucks that it’s so difficult to test open source mobile operating systems like this. The ARM world is such a messy patch work of slightly incompatible hardware and closed and open bits and pieces, making it very hard to just install this on a phone you have lying around.

AMD Ryzen 5000 and Zen 3 on november 5th: +19% IPC, claims best gaming CPU

Dr. Lisa Su, the CEO of AMD, has today announced the company’s next generation mainstream Ryzen processor. The new family, known as the Ryzen 5000 series, includes four parts and supports up to sixteen cores. The key element of the new product is the core design, with AMD’s latest Zen 3 microarchitecture, promising a 19% raw increase in performance-per-clock, well above recent generational improvements. The new processors are socket-compatible with existing 500-series motherboards, and will be available at retail from November 5th. AMD is putting a clear marker in the sand, calling one of its halo products as ‘The World’s Best Gaming CPU’.  We have details. They just keep kicking Intel while they’re down. This is a massive leap forward without a nanometer change.