Thom Holwerda Archive

Haiku’s Genio IDE introduces symbol outline feature

Genio, the Haiku OS integrated development environment (IDE), is receiving another exciting update in preparation for the upcoming summer release. The update focuses primarily on improving the Language Server Protocol (LSP) stack and introduces a cool new feature: Symbol Outline. Symbol Outline allows Genio to retrieve the list of symbols defined in a source file from the language server. This list can be sorted, nodes can be expanded or collapsed, and now a symbol can be renamed directly from there. Being part of the standard LSP specification, Symbol Outline should be supported by all language servers. The development team has tested it with clangd and OmniSharp. ↫ Andrea at Desktop on fire! Improvements to tools to develop truly native Haiku applications are exceptionally welcome, if only to prevent Haiku from becoming a worse way than Linux to run Qt applications.

Firefox nightly now available for Linux on ARM64

Linux distributions running on ARM have had to roll their own Firefox builds for the architecture since forever, and it seems that Mozilla has taken this to heart as the browser maker is now supplying binary ARM builds of Firefox. They come in either a tarball or a .deb package installable through Mozilla’s apt repository. Do note, though, that Mozilla does not give the same kinds of guarantees for the ARM build of Firefox as they do for the x86 builds. We want to be upfront about the current state of our ARM64 builds. Although we are confident in the quality of Firefox on this architecture, we are still incorporating comprehensive ARM64 testing into Firefox’s continuous integration and release pipeline. Our goal is to integrate ARM64 builds into Firefox’s extensive automated test suite, which will enable us to offer this architecture across the beta, release, and ESR channels. ↫ Gabriel Bustamante These new builds won’t mean much for the average ARM Linux user since distributions built Firefox for the architecture already anyway, but it does offer users a direct line to Firefox they didn’t have before.

Porting 8-bit Sonic 2 to the TI-84+ CE

It all started in fall of 2022, when I was watching This Does Not Compute’s video on the history of graphing calculator gaming. Around the 5 minute mark, he offhandedly mentions the kind of processors TI’s graphing calculator line uses. Most of them use the Z80, the 89 and 92 use the M68K, and the Nspire line uses an ARM-based processor. That really piqued my interest, since I already knew the processors that Sega’s retro game consoles used: The Z80 for the Master System, and the M68K for the Genesis. The calcs have a grayscale screen, but I wanted to know if anyone ever tried porting a Sonic game from the consoles to one of the calcs. ↫ grubbycoder Right off the bat, after settling on the most appropriate graphing calculator to try and port Sonic 2 to, namely the TI-84+ CE with a 48Mhz eZ80 processor (“basically a 24-bit Z80”), 256 KB of RAM and a 320×240 display, the porting process runs into some serious roadblocks before any code’s even been written. Unlike the Sega hardware Sonic 2 runs on, the TI-84+ CE has no graphics hardware, the clock speed is effectively crippled at 12-20Mhz, a file format with a size limit of 64KB per file. The rest of the story details the many difficulties that needed to be overcome, but in the end, the port is completed – and yes, you can now play Sonic 2 from the Master System on a TI graphing calculator.

Corporatism and fascism are two sides of the same coin

Apple has removed WhatsApp and Threads from its app store in China, following an order from the country’s internet watchdog which cited national security concerns. ↫ Juliana Liu at CNN Over the recent months, as Apple had to change some of its business practices to comply with the European Union’s new Digital Markets Act, a still-ongoing process, Apple fans, spearheaded by John Gruber, have pushed Apple to leave the European Union. They argue that the minor inconvenience of complying with some basic consumer and market protection laws is too great of a deeply unfair financial sacrifice, and that leaving the EU makes more sense. Gruber also goes to bat hard for poor Facebook, arguing that company should leave the EU, too, over the DMA demanding Facebook respects users’ privacy. Apple itself, too, has been harshly attacking the European Union aggressively in the media. So anyway, today, Apple did what it has been doing for a very long time: bending over backwards for the totalitarian, genocidal regime in China. China tells Apple to remove applications, Apple complies. Every other of the sixteen hundred times Apple has complied with this horrible regime’s demands, Gruber always argued that all poor Apple can do is comply with local Chinese laws and demands, as leaving China over principles and morals would benefit nobody. So, we’re left with the rather peculiar situation where the response to some relatively minor consumer and market protection regulations is one of deep hostility, both from Apple as well as its PR attack dogs, whereas the response to the demands from one of the most brutal, totalitarian, genocidal regimes in human history is one of “that’s life”. Such is the way of the Apple corporatist: a democratically drawn up and widely popular law enacted by an incredibly popular government that causes some mild inconvenience for Apple is vilified with populist and nationalist anti-EU rhetoric, while the undemocratic, totalitarian decrees from a vicious genocidal dictator are met with effectively disinterested shrugs since those decrees don’t really inconvenience Apple. Corporatism and fascism are two sides of the same coin, from early 20th century Europe, through mid-20th century United States, to the megacorporations of today. Despite yet another decree from China that goes far further in nature than anything the DMA demands, we won’t be seeing any pushes from the Grubers of this world for Apple to leave China. We won’t be seeing copious amounts of malicious compliance from Apple. We won’t be treated to lengthy diatribes from Apple executives about how much they despise China and Chinese laws. All because China’s demands don’t harm Apple’s bottom line, but the DMA might. And for the corporatist, praying at the altar of money, the former is irrelevant, while the latter is sacrilege.

Microsoft shows banner in Settings app to push users from local accounts to Microsoft Accounts

In this week’s Windows 10 Build 19045.4353 announcement blog post, there was this little gem in the changelog. This update starts the rolls out of account-related notifications for Microsoft accounts in Settings > Home. A Microsoft account connects Windows to your Microsoft apps. The account also backs up all your data and helps you to manage your subscriptions. You can also add extra security steps to keep you from being locked out of your account. ↫ Windows Insider Program Team It’s worded a bit cryptically, but this means there will be banners in the Windows settings application pushing you to switch from using a local account to using an online Microsoft account. The latter aren’t exactly preferred by quite a few people – many of you belong to that group, I would presume – and Microsoft is doing whatever it can to get people to stop using local accounts. Luckily, this banner ad is easily removable – if you close it, it won’t come back, and you can disable it by going to Privacy > General and toggling “Show me suggested content in the Settings app”. For now, of course – knowing how Microsoft is treating Windows users these days, these nag-ups will surely increase in both frequency and persistence as time goes on. You’ve been warned.

Google is combining its Android and hardware teams – and it’s all about “AI”

AI is taking over at Google, and the company is changing in big ways to try to make it happen even faster. Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced substantial internal reorganizations on Thursday, including the creation of a new team called “Platforms and Devices” that will oversee all of Google’s Pixel products, all of Android, Chrome, ChromeOS, Photos, and more. The team will be run by Rick Osterloh, who was previously the SVP of devices and services, overseeing all of Google’s hardware efforts. Hiroshi Lockheimer, the longtime head of Android, Chrome, and ChromeOS, will be taking on other projects inside of Google and Alphabet. ↫ David Pierce at The Verge I don’t know what to make of this. More often than not, these kinds of reorganisations have little impact on us as mere users, but at the same time, the hype around “AI” has grown to such batshit insane proportions that this reorganisation will only lead to even more “AI” nonsense being crammed into every single Google product, whether they benefit from it or not. My nightmare scenario is Android becoming so infested with this stuff that the operating system is going to grow into Clippy in my pocket, suggesting and doing things I have zero interest in, taking control away from me as a user and handing it over to some nebulous set of algorithms optimised for some mythical smartphone user I don’t look like at all. Using technologies currently labelled as “AI” to make translations better, improve accessibility features, stabilise video recording, that sort of stuff – totally fine, and I’m pretty sure most of us have been using “AI” in that form for many, many years now. What these companies are trying to do now, though, is turn “AI” from a technology into a feature, and I’m just not interested in any of that. It’s just not trustworthy, reliable, or usable enough, and I have my doubts it’ll ever get there with the current technological threads we’re unraveling. I wish we had a third player in the smartphone market.

COSMIC continues march towards alpha release

COSMIC, System76’s Rust-based desktop that’s going to replace GNOME in Pop!_OS, is nearing its alpha release, and the Linux OEM has published another blog post detailing the latest progress it’s made. First and foremost, theming support has been further refined by adding support for theming GTK applications (both GTK3 and 4) and flatpak applications. If the user has enabled global themes, these themes will be applied automatically whenever selecting a theme to apply. Support for custom icon packs has also been added. COSMIC now also has an application store, much like GNOME Software and KDE’s Discover, which also takes care of updating installed applications. You can now also drag windows from anywhere inside the window by holding down the super key, which is both a nice addition in general as well as a usability feature. The Settings application has also seen work, and gets a new keyboard settings panel, as well as various other smaller additions. COSMIC also now implements on-screen display toasts for things like changing volume and brightness, and plugging in power. System76 isn’t the only one working on COSMIC – community members have implemented things like window snapping, touchpad gestures, thumbnail previews in the dock, and more. The community is also working on things like an emoi picker, and a fan control graphical user interface. There’s a lot more in the blog post, so be sure to give it a read. I’m genuinely excited for COSMIC to hit the shelves, because I’m dying to try it out.

Broadcom says “many” VMware perpetual licenses got support extensions

Broadcom CEO Hock Tan this week publicized some concessions aimed at helping customers and partners ease into VMware’s recent business model changes. Tan reiterated that the controversial changes, like the end of perpetual licensing, aren’t going away. But amid questioning from antitrust officials in the European Union (EU), Tan announced that the company has already given support extensions for some VMware perpetual license holders. ↫ Scharon Harding at Ars Technica I’m linking to the Ars Technica writeup here, because the original blog post from Broadcom’s CEO is effectively unreadable to me, as steeped in corpospeak as it is. The basic gist is that the storm of criticism that’s been hovering around Broadcom ever since the changes it announced to VMware’s licensing strategy isn’t going away, and even attracted the attention of the European Union. As such, Broadcom is giving existing perpetual VMware license holders some breathing room, but not much, and their plans will be executed as-is regardless. I doubt Broadcom and VMware are big and crucial enough for the full might of the EU to come down on them, so I don’t think we’ll see any sudden turnarounds like we did with Apple and Facebook, for instance, but at least some cracks are clearly starting to show. If the aforementioned storm keeps up, pressure from customers might actually force more concessions out of Broadcom.

Linus Torvalds really prefers tabs

Linus Torvalds really doesn’t like spaces – as in, tabs vs. spaces – and got a little annoyed that a commit removed a hidden tab because it “apparently showed breakage in some third-party kernel config parsing tool”. So, Torvalds decided to add some hidden tabs to trigger breakages like this, and is threatening to add more hidden tabs if necessary. It wasn’t clear what tool it was, but let’s make sure it gets fixed. Because if you can’t parse tabs as whitespace, you should not be parsing the kernel Kconfig files. In fact, let’s make such breakage more obvious than some esoteric ftrace record size option. If you can’t parse tabs, you can’t have page sizes. ↫ Linus Torvalds I’m not a programmer so I’m not going to wade into this debate – I have a personal Mastodon account to state it’s obviously tabs – but I did note that it seems like, at least in this commit message, Torvalds uses a double space after a period. Which is objectively the worst thing, right before Fahrenheit.

LXQt 2.0.0 released, completes move to Qt 6

LXQt, the lightweight Qt desktop environment, has released a major new version, which brings with it a whole slew of very important changes and upgrades, with two main focal point. First and foremost, the desktop environment is now using Qt 6 across the board, meaning the transition from Qt 5 to Qt 6 is now complete. To support themes and the LXQt File Dialog for Qt5-based apps you can install libqtxdg-3.12.0, lxqt-qtplugin-1.4.1, and libfm-qt-1.4.0 alongside the new Qt 6 variants for backwards compatibility. One exception here is QTerminal, whose Qt 6 port ran into some issues, so a separate Qt 6 release will come later. The second major upgrade that’s still in progress is support for Wayland. LXQt 2.0.0 brings Wayland support for PCManFM-Qt, LXQt Runner, and LXQt Desktop Notifications, and for LXQt 2.1.0 they plan to make everything else available under Wayland as well. This means that more popular desktop environment like Cinnamon and Xfce are starting to feel a little out of step when it comes to Wayland. One of the major user-facing new features is a new default menu for the panel which supports favourites, a new and improved search feature, and more.

Microsoft installs Copilot “AI” app on Windows Servers by accident, it claims

Do you administer Windows Server machines, and were you surprised to find a Windows Copilot application on your servers, that neither you nor your users installed? Well, it turns out that Microsoft installed this application alongside an update to the Edge browser – but the company claims this is in error, and the application will be removed in a future update. Updates to Edge browser version 123.0.2420.65, released on March 28, 2024 and later, might incorrectly install a new package (MSIX) called ‘Microsoft chat provider for Copilot in Windows’ on Windows devices. Resulting from this, the Microsoft Copilot app might appear in the Installed apps in Settings menu. It is important to note that the Microsoft chat provider for Copilot in Windows does not execute any code or process, and does not acquire, analyze, or transmit device or environment data in any capacity. ↫ Windows 11 known issues and notifications The company claims this was an enablement package to prepare some Windows devices for the arrival of Copilot, and that it was unintentionally installed on devices. While it doesn’t mean Copilot was actually installed on your PC or server, it’s still a chilling reminder of who really controls your PC or server.

Framework lays out plan to improve its firmware and software development cycle

Only two days ago we were talking about the software and firmware issues at Framework, and today the company’s CEO has announced they’re taking some pretty big steps to address these problems. When building products to last, it’s not enough to design the hardware to be repairable, upgradeable, and customizable. The overall longevity of devices as complex as modern notebooks also depends on how long the software and firmware continues to be useful. That includes compatibility updates to support newer generations hardware modules, fixes for bugs or compatibility issues found by end users, and especially patches for security vulnerabilities. We recognize that we have fallen short of where we need to be on software updates, and we are making the needed investments to resolve this. We now have a dedicated team of engineers at our manufacturing partner and a set of internal stakeholders focused on ongoing software updates for all of our products, going back to our original Framework Laptop with 11th Gen Intel Core. In the past, we were reliant on ad-hoc availability of engineering time from our suppliers (basically borrowing staffing from whichever new product development we had ongoing). This was inconsistent and resulted in slow progress. With a dedicated team, there is no longer resource contention, and we are able deliver shorter turnaround times from discovering issues to resolving them. ↫ Nirav Patel They’ve also shared exactly how the development, testing, and release process new firmware releases will work, from identifying any issues to the final release to consumers, and they’re hiring new employees focused entirely on expediting this process. They also promise to support each device for as long as their upstream silicon vendors will, but they can’t give any guarantees on how long that will be since those upstream vendors aren’t sharing details like that. All in all, I think this is about as good a response as you can get from an OEM, but as they themselves note, they’ll have to show their customers these aren’t just mere words. Assuming it pans out the way Framework is promising here, I think it’s a fair and customer-friendly process.

A better, more compact UI for Firefox

Proton is Firefox’s new design, starting from Firefox 89. Photon is the old design of Firefox which was used until version 88. Proton’s overall feel is good, but there were a few things I didn’t like and wanted to improve.That’s why this project was born, and Lepton to denote light theme layer. Lepton’s photon styled is preserve Photon’s feeling while keep Original Lepton’s strengths. ↫ Firefox UI Fix GitHub page I do not like the current Firefox user interface, because even with the ‘compact’ layout re-enabled in about:config, I find it just too bulky and wasteful of my screen real estate. I’ve been using the above Firefox user interface mod for ages now, and I can’t imagine using Firefox without it. The GitHub pages and guides are a bit of a mess and difficult to follow due to the project consisting of several overlapping different styles, but I just use the script listed here, selecting the style “2” when running the script. It won’t be for everyone, but for me, it makes Firefox nice and compact, turning it into a mouse-first interface without trying to accommodate touch. This is also by far not the only project with this goal, so if you’re using something else – feel free to list them.

Ubuntu 24.04 supports easy installation of OpenZFS root file-system with encryption

So with Ubuntu 24.04 LTS is the ability to continue with a standard EXT4 file-system install, an encrypted file-system using LVM, or using OpenZFS with/without encryption. Ubuntu 24.04 LTS also has the ability to enjoy hardware-backed full-disk encryption with TPM as another new experimental option. Or, of course, the Ubuntu desktop installer continues supporting manual (custom) partitioning as well. ↫ Michael Larabel I just use whatever Btrfs setup Fedora automatically recommends when I let it take over a disk – file systems for desktops seems a bit like a solved problem to me personally – but I’m still curious what benefits, for instance, an OpenZFS setup could bring to a desktop user compared to Btrfs or a basic Ext4 setup. Why should a desktop user use OpenZFS?

They’re looting the internet

This is the state of the modern internet — ultra-profitable platforms outright abdicating any responsibility toward the customer, offering not a “service” or a “portal,” but cramming as many ways to interrupt the user and push them into doing things that make the company money. The greatest lie in tech is that Facebook and Instagram are for “catching up with your friends,” because that’s no longer what they do. These platforms are now pathways for the nebulous concept of “content discovery,” a barely-personalized entertainment network that occasionally drizzles people or things you choose to see on top of sponsored content and groups that a relational database has decided are “good for you.” ↫ Edward Zitron Corporate social media has gotten so bad, they’re basically unusable. The rare times I open Facebook to like a picture my mother posted or whatever, I’m just gobsmacked by how utterly unusable it has become. I’ve never used Instagram, but whenever I accidentally end up there, I have no idea how to navigate that place. YouTube is more ads than video if you don’t pay for Premium (which I do, because I use YouTube a lot so I get enough value out of it). Twitter is barely worth a mention – it’s no surprise that a social network bought and run by a nazi is now even fuller of nazis than it already was. It’s not just social networks, either. The web as a whole feels like it’s been looted and plundered, and turned into a flyover state strip mall. Browsing the web is, for me at least, virtually impossible without autoplay blockers, my Pi-Hole, Consent-O-Matic, and settings to permanently block requests for location and notification access. The rise of “AI” has only made everything even worse, especially now that the big, wealthy content networks that, yes, own all your favourite technology news websites are also looking into it. Luckily, there’s also a countermovement brewing. I’ve focused OSNews’ entire “social” strategy on Mastodon (and the various other ActivityPub tools), as it’s the only social medium that’s usable and enjoyable. With the nazis remaining on Twitter, and all the brands and influencers on Facebook (or Threads or whatever), everyone else interested in technology coalesced around the Fediverse, and it’s been a massive boon for a small website like OSNews trying to steer clear from all the SEO enshittification. There’s no spam, only relatively small, approachable brands, no influencers, no algorithms – just real, ordinary people, who also care about a usable, fair, and equitable web. I hope that OSNews can eventually be run without any ads at all, but that’s going to take a lot more consistent work from me to convince more and more people to support us through Patreon or Ko-Fi, or for companies to become sponsors. However, I am convinced it’s a better route to take than trying to chase the SEO dragon, because we all know where that leads to.

Reproducing the printer hack of Windows 95

During my daily web crawl I encountered a very interesting gif that I haven’t seen in a long time. It was a hack of an unspecified version of Windows 95, which showed how to bypass the login screen with the help of the menu and printing dialog. However, after a brief check, I found a fair amount of people stating that “just hitting the cancel” button would do the same. Sharp-eyed viewers would notice that it was the very first action taken in the picture. In order to find out if the hack is real at all, I decided to reproduce it and document it for the good of the internet. ↫ David Polakovic So this hack is actually a lot more involved than I thought it was going to be, and yet, it still feels utterly insane that operating systems were this easy to get into, passwords were this easy to decrypt, and security settings were this trivial to disable. Anyway, the gif is sort-of real, in that yes, you can ‘hack’ Windows 95’s login security through the printing and help subsystems. Things were different back then, man. I vaguely remember that my high school used to lock us out of the desktop, File Explorer, the Control Panel, and so on, making it impossible for us to access DOS or the games built into Windows 9x. I don’t remember the exact things we used to do, but most of us were aware and used several different methods of bypassing the school lockdowns just to mess around. We never did anything malicious – this is pre-internet, and we just wanted to play some Solitaire or Pinball – but anybody with malicious intent surely could’ve.

Google’s Generic Kernel Image now required on all Android form factors

New TVs that launch with Android TV 14 or later on Linux kernel 5.15 or higher will be required to meet Google’s Generic Kernel Image (GKI) requirements in order to pass certification! This means that GKI is now enforced on all major Android form factors with AArch64 chipsets: handhelds, watches, automotive, & televisions. ↫ Mishaal Rahman What this means is that all the major Android form factors will be running kernels that adhere to the GKI requirements, which means SoC and board support is not part of the core kernel, but instead achieved through loadable modules. This should, in theory, make it easier to provide long-term support.

Fedora intends to fully embrace “AI”, but doesn’t address sourcing or its environmental impact

All weekend, I’ve been mulling over a recent blog post by Fedora Project Leader Matthew Miller, which he wrote and published on behalf of the Fedora Council. Fedora (the KDE version) is my distribution of choice, I love using it, and I consider it the best distribution for desktop use, and not by a close margin either. As such, reading a blog post in which Fedora is announcing plans to make extensive use of “AI” was bound to make me a feel a little uneasy. Miller states – correctly – that the “AI” space as it stands right now is dominated so much by hyperbole and over-the-top nonsense that it’s hard to judge the various technologies underpinning “AI” on merit alone. He continues that he believes that stripped of all the hyperbole and techbro bullshit, there’s “something significant, powerful”, and he wants to make “Fedora Linux the best community platform for AI”. So, what exactly does that look like? In addition to the big showy LLM-based tools for chat and code generation, these advances have brought big jumps for more tailored tasks: for translation, file search, home automation, and especially for accessibility (already a key part of our strategy). For example, open source speech synthesis has long lagged behind proprietary options. Now, what we have in Fedora is not even close to the realism, nuance, and flexibility of AI-generated speech. ↫ Matthew Miller Some of these are things we can all agree are important and worthwhile, but lacking on the Linux desktop. If we can make use of technologies labelled as “AI” to improve, say, text-to-speech on Linux for those who require it for accessibility reasons, that’s universally a great thing. Translation, too, is, at its core, a form of accessibility, and if we can improve machine translations so that people who, for instance, don’t speak English gain more access to English content, or if we can make the vast libraries of knowledge locked into foreign languages accessible to more people, that’s all good news. However, Fedora aims to take its use of “AI” even further, and wants to start using it in the process of developing, making, and distributing Fedora. This is where more and more red flags are starting to pop up for me, because I don’t feel like the processes and tasks they want to inject “AI” into are the kinds of processes and tasks where you want humans taken out of the equation. We can use AI/ML as part of making the Fedora Linux OS. New tools could help with package automation and bug triage. They could note anomalies in test results and logs, maybe even help identify potential security issues. We can also create infrastructure-level features for our users. For example, package update descriptions aren’t usually very meaningful. We could automatically generate concise summaries of what’s new in each system update — not just for each package, but highlighting what’s important in the whole set, including upstream change information as well. ↫ Matthew Miller Even the tools built atop billions and billions of euros of investments by Microsoft, Google, OpenAI, Facebook, and similar juggernauts are not exactly good at what they’re supposed to do, and suck at even the most basic of tasks of providing answers to simple questions. They lie, they make stuff up, they bug out and produce nonsense, they’re racist, and so on. I don’t want any of that garbage near the process of making and updating the operating system I rely on every day. Miller laments how “AI” is currently a closed-source, black box affair, which obviously doesn’t align with Fedora’s values and goals. He doesn’t actually explain how Fedora’s use of “AI” is going to address this. They’re going to have to find ethical, open source models that are also of high quality, and that’s a lot easier said than done. Sourcing doesn’t even get a single mention in this blog post, even though I’m fairly sure that’s one of the two major issues many of us have with the current crop of “AI” tools. The blog post also completely neglects to mention the environmental cost of training these “AI” tools. It costs an insane amount of electricity to train these new tools, and with climate change ever accelerating and the destruction of our environment visible all around us, not mentioning this problem when you’re leading a project like Fedora seems disingenuous at best, and malicious at worst. While using “AI” to improve accessibility tools in Fedora and the wider Linux world is laudable, some of the other intended targets seem more worrisome, especially when you take into account that the blog post makes no mention of the two single biggest problems with “AI”: sourcing, and its environmental impact. If Fedora truly intends to fully embrace “AI”, it’s going to have to address these two problems first, because otherwise they’re just trying to latch onto the hype without really understanding the cost. And that’s not something I want to hear from the leaders of my Linux distribution.