Thom Holwerda Archive

A developer says Reddit could charge him $20 million a year to keep his app working

Apollo, the popular Reddit app for iOS, could face millions of dollars in fees as a result of Reddit’s new paid API model. According to an update posted by developer Christian Selig, Reddit could charge Apollo roughly $20 million per year if it continues operating at its current scale. Reddit announced changes to its API policy in April, which allows the platform to put limits on the number of API requests made by a third-party client like Apollo. But now, we have more details on what exactly this means: Selig says Reddit plans on charging about $12,000 per 50 million requests. Reddit looked at Twitter and thought now that’s how you run a business.

The solid legal theory behind Nintendo’s new emulator takedown effort

Ars Technica: This weekend saw an exception to that rule, though, as Nintendo’s lawyers formally asked Valve to cut off the planned Steam release of Wii and Gamecube emulator Dolphin. In a letter addressed to the Valve Legal Department (a copy of which was provided to Ars by the Dolphin Team), an attorney representing Nintendo of America requests that Valve take down Dolphin’s “coming soon” Steam store page (which originally went up in March) and “ensure the emulator does not release on the Steam store moving forward.” The letter exerts the company’s “rights under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)’s Anti-Circumvention and Anti-Trafficking provisions,” even though it doesn’t take the form of a formal DMCA takedown request. In fighting a decision like this, an emulator maker would usually be able to point to some robust legal precedents that protect emulation software as a general concept. But legal experts that spoke to Ars said that Nintendo’s argument here might actually get around those precedents and present some legitimate legal problems for the Dolphin Team. This silly cat and mouse game between Nintendo and emulators is childish. The only people getting rich off this are lawyers.

All-Snap Ubuntu Desktop coming next year

According to Canonical’s Oliver Grawert, the next long-term support release of Ubuntu will be available to download in 2 versions: a classic, deb-based version (default) and, for the first time, an immutable, snap-based build. This makes sense, and was inevitable. I wonder how long they’re going to keep the .deb-based version around; I doubt they’d pull it any time soon. Still, competition is good, and it’s been clear for a while now that immutability is the next big thing in the desktop Linux world.

Molly White tracks crypto scams. It’s going just great

As cryptocurrencies rise and fall, there’s one number that just keeps going up. Whenever somebody loses money to a crypto scam or hack, the Grift Counter on Molly White’s blog, Web3 Is Going Just Great, spins higher and higher. Recently it ticked over $12 billion. White started the blog in December 2021 out of frustration with the mainstream coverage of crypto, which she says paid too much attention to rags-to-riches tales and not enough to its dark underbelly. Her goal was to paint a fuller picture, to chronicle the thefts and failures, debunk the marketing spiel, and underline the risks in the process. A software engineer by trade, White coded Web3 Is Going Just Great over the span of a few weeks. It was only a side project, designed to “entertain me and me alone,” says White; she never imagined it would gain any traction. But within a few months, the blog had become a viral hit, earning White a reputation as an authoritative crypto pundit. Cryptocurrencies, NFTs, and all the related bullshit are nothing but pyramid schemes – MLMs for tech bros. I’m glad most of us and the wider world has finally come to the same conclusion.

US federal judge makes history in holding that border searches of cell phones require a warrant

With United States v. Smith (S.D.N.Y. May 11, 2023), a district court judge in New York made history by being the first court to rule that a warrant is required for a cell phone search at the border, “absent exigent circumstances” (although other district courts have wanted to do so). EFF is thrilled about this decision, given that we have been advocating for a warrant for border searches of electronic devices in the courts and Congress for nearly a decade. If the case is appealed to the Second Circuit, we urge the appellate court to affirm this landmark decision. Of course, a decision like this can go through quite a few more courts, but it’s a good precedent.

MINIX is dead

Way back in 2006, to celebrate the introdiction of MINIX 3, Andy Tanenbaum, the operating system’s legendary creator, published an introduction article to the new version here on OSNews. I’ve followed along with development ever since, with the last item we ever posted dating from 2015. Over the weekend, a link to the MINIX 3 git repository made the rounds, noting that the last change is dated 14 November, 2018. It seems like MINIX 3 has pretty much stalled, and digging through the Google Groups group isn’t of much help either. There’s certainly interest in the platform, but even the people frequenting the list state while MINIX 3 isn’t dead, because open source projects technically rarely die, it is in a “coma”, in a post from 2021. There’s been various proposals for improvements or new directions – notably this very detailed one – but nothing has come of them. It probably does not help that MINIX’s creator and steward, Andy Tanenbaum, retired in 2014 from VU University, my alma mater, where he and a team of doctoral students worked on MINIX 3 for a long time. Without its main creator, who is now 79 years old, and without the funding and manpower from the university, it makes sense MINIX’ development petered out in the years after 2014. But did it? As many of you already know, MINIX’ development isn’t actually dead at all – one of the biggest technology companies adopted the platform, and MINIX currently runs on every processor that company sold since roughly 2015. Yes, every decently modern Intel processor runs MINIX on its Intel Management Engine, including things like a networking stack, storage drivers, and more. This was first discovered in 2017, but Intel has kept the source code to its version of MINIX entirely closed, so this fact is not of much use to anyone interested in revitalising the platform. The fact of the matter is that MINIX 3’s development has halted, and this effectively means that MINIX is, for all intents and purposes, dead. With the last commit being almost five years old, even simply picking up where development left off would be a big undertaking, and would require some seriously bright minds and dedication. I’d love for it to happen, but I have my doubts.

IRIX community proposes to reverse-engineer the last 32 bit IRIX kernel

The IRIX Network, the primary community for SGI and IRIX enthousiasts, has announced a fundraising effort to reverse-engineer the last 32 bit version of the IRIX kernel. IRIX-32, so named for its basis on kernel and APIs of the last 32-bit compatible IRIX (5.3) is a proposed reverse engineering project to be conducted by a team of developers in the US and the EU. Purpose: We will reverse engineer the version 5.3 kernel with future goal of producing a fully open source reference implementation. This is the first major step and the delivery will be documentation and reference material to enable effective emulation and driver development for IRIX. This is huge. If they can do this, they will save the operating system from an inevitable demise. I’m of course 100% behind this, and the total costs of 8500 dollars – 6500 from the fundraiser, 1000 as a donation from the IRIX Network itself, and 1000 from a few companies still using IRIX – is definitely realistic in the sense that they should be able to meet their goal. It’s not a lot of money, and it’s not meant as fair compensation for the work delivered – the teams of developers involved know this and aren’t asking for such either. The thread so far is a great read. They haven’t selected a fundraising platform yet, but I am definitely throwing money their way once they do.

HP has found an exciting new way to DRM your printer

The Verge: First introduced in 2020 at the height of the pandemic, HP Plus was built around FOMO right from the start. You get just seven days to claim your free ink, starting the moment you plug a new printer into the wall. Act now, and it’ll also extend your warranty a full year, give you an “Advanced HP Smart app,” and plant trees on your behalf. Because why wouldn’t you want to save the forest? Here’s one reason, as detailed in a new complaint by the International Imaging Technology Council (IITC) that might turn into a false advertising fight: HP Plus comes with a firmware update that utterly removes your printer’s ability to accept third-party ink. You have to buy “genuine” HP ink as long as you use the printer. I mean, complaining about printer makers is basically like shooting fish in a barrel, but somehow they always manage to find rockier bottom.

Windows 11 to get more archive format support

There’s more coming to Windows 11 at some point during this year, and three of them are of particular interest to the type of people who read OSNews. First, Windows is finally getting support for more archive file formats. Microsoft has finally added native support for more archive formats, allowing you to open tar, 7-zip, rar, gz, and other files. In addition, Windows 11 users will benefit from improved compression performance when zipping files. You’ll soon also be able to force quit applications straight from the taskbar, instead of having to open Task Manager, and as we noted not too long ago, ungrouped taskbar buttons are also making a comeback – among other things.

Built-in ChatGPT-driven Copilot comes to Windows 11 starting in June

Ars Technica: A couple of months ago, Microsoft added generative AI features to Windows 11 in the form of a taskbar-mounted version of the Bing chatbot. Starting this summer, the company will be going even further, adding a new ChatGPT-driven Copilot feature that can be used alongside your other Windows apps. The company announced the change at its Build developer conference alongside another new batch of Windows 11 updates due later this year. Windows Copilot will be available to Windows Insiders starting in June. Like the Microsoft 365 Copilot, Windows Copilot is a separate window that opens up along the right side of your screen and assists with various tasks based on what you ask it to do. A Microsoft demo video shows Copilot changing Windows settings, rearranging windows with Snap Layouts, summarizing and rewriting documents that were dragged into it, and opening apps like Spotify, Adobe Express, and Teams. Copilot is launched with a dedicated button on the taskbar. Windows is getting an upgraded Clippy, one that shares its name with the biggest copyright infringement and open source license violation in history. In fact, some of the Windows Copilot features are built atop the Github Copilot, such as the new “AI” features coming to Windows Terminal. Now you can get other people’s code straight into your terminal, without their permission, and without respecting their licenses. Neat!

Microsoft announces Windows 11 “Moment 3” update

The time has arrived for Windows 11 users to prepare to download the latest feature drop for the operating system. After months of testing in the Windows Insider program, Windows 11 “Moment 3” update is ready for its public release on May 24, 2023. The latest feature update for Windows 11 has no official name (so much for hating silly names, such as “Fall Creators Update“), so enthusiasts call it “Moment 3,” according to the leaked story about Microsoft changing its approach to servicing its operating system. The release is not the biggest one we have seen, but it still packs a few excellent changes and new features. There’s not a whole lot going on with this update, but it’s out now, and you can get it from Windows Update. It’s optional for now, so it won’t be pushed automatically.

Social media can be a ‘profound risk’ to youth, surgeon general warns

The United States surgeon general, Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, issued a public advisory on Tuesday warning of the risks of social media use to young people. In a 19-page report, Dr. Murthy noted that although the effects of social media on adolescent mental health were not fully understood, and that social media can be beneficial to some users, “there are ample indicators that social media can also have a profound risk of harm to the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents.” The surgeon general called on policymakers, tech companies, researchers and parents to “urgently take action” to safeguard against the potential risks. I don’t think anyone sane really needs to be convinced of the dangers of poorly-run and terribly moderated social media like Twitter and Facebook, but I do wonder why the supposed dangers stop at the age of 18? If we look at the past 10-15 years, it seems like to me the people who most easily fall prey to misinformation and targeted troll campaigns on social media are people of older generations, who then proceeded to to incredible damage to our societies in voting booths – something that can still get a lot worse in the coming years. I have no idea how to fix any of this – social media will always exist, and so will its dark side – but we better start thinking of something, fast, because I’m afraid the damage to our society we’ve seen so far from gullible idiots falling for obvious nonsense on social media is only going to get worse from here on out.

Windows XP activation: game over

It’s finally over. In a post last year on the Windows XP subreddit (Windows XP web activation is finally dead…), retroreviewyt shared xp_activate32.exe4, which calculates the Installation ID then generates and optionally applies the corresponding Confirmation ID to activate Windows XP, all offline. Wiping the system and reinstalling Windows XP results in the same Installation ID being assigned by Windows (assuming no change in hardware or product key), thus the same Confirmation ID obtains even in msoobe’s standard telephone activation window. Long considered out of reach, this development bodes well for salvaging old systems even after Microsoft has shut down the activation servers. Incredible team effort spanning several decades. That being said, it’s quite sad that we do not live in a world where Microsoft just releases a simple tool to allow anyone to install XP anywhere without the need for activation.

axle OS: an open source x86_64 OS

axle OS is a hobby microkernel and userspace. I started the project in early 2016, and have had stints of working on it heavily since then. axle OS’s first incarnation was a multitasking monolithic kernel, with little support for IPC, user-mode or process loading. The current incarnation is a microkernel built around variable-length IPC messaging. All applications, including the desktop environment and device drivers, are ELF executables running in userspace. We reported on axle OS for the first time well over six years ago, in 2017. A lot has changed since then, including the addition of a desktop environment, a Game Boy emulator, and a lot more.

Envisioning a simplified Intel x86 architecture

This whitepaper details the architectural enhancements and modifications that Intel is currently investigating for a 64-bit mode-only architecture referred to as x86S (for simplification). Intel is publishing this paper to solicit feedback from the ecosystem while exploring the benefits of extending the ISA transition to a 64-bit mode-only solution. This seems like a very good idea – and it does seem like the time is ripe to remove some of the unused cruft from x86. Intel is proposing removing removing the 16 bit and 32 bit modes, and instead start in 64 bit mode right away. The company’s proposal does retain the ability to run 32 bit code on a 64 bit operating system, though. As a sidenote, the introduction to this proposal is hilarious: Since its introduction over 20 years ago, the Intel® 64 architecture became the dominant operating mode. As an example of this evolution, Microsoft stopped shipping the 32-bit version of their Windows 11 operating system. Intel firmware no longer supports non UEFI64 operating systems natively. 64-bit operating systems are the de facto standard today. They retain the ability to run 32-bit applications but have stopped supporting 16-bit applications natively. It’s 2023, and Intel is still not, in any way, capable of acknowledging AMD for coming up with AMD64. Sad.

Apple introduces new accessibility features

Apple today previewed software features for cognitive, vision, hearing, and mobility accessibility, along with innovative tools for individuals who are nonspeaking or at risk of losing their ability to speak. These updates draw on advances in hardware and software, include on-device machine learning to ensure user privacy, and expand on Apple’s long-standing commitment to making products for everyone. These are all good, truly helpful features. Apple’s long been the choice for people with disabilities, and their lead in this field is something others should follow.

Windows 2000 64-bit for Alpha AXP

Recently, hinted by people on Discord, Neozeed found a Win64 compiler for AXP64 / ALPHA64, that came in as part of Platform SDK from 1999. This was to let Windows developers test compile their programs to make sure they are “64bit ready”, before the hardware was even available. However, as this was a cross-compiler from IA32 to IA64 and AXP32 to AXP64, there was no actual way of running any of the binaries. Until Itanium finally came out, after long delays. Sadly, 64-bit Alpha AXP Windows was never released outside of Redmond. And that would be the end of the story… if not for one reader, who contacted Neozeed after his previous post, and shared a disk image… containing a 64bit version of Windows 2000 for Alpha AXP! The reader got it from a lot of random lot of hard disks bought from an e-waste, years ago, and completely forgot about it until they saw the blog post! And you bet they got it up and running. This find is extraordinary.

KDE Plasma 6: “better defaults”

The KDE project just finished up its 2023 developer sprint, and with Plasma 6 development being in full swing – which encompasses moving to Qt 6 – there’s some major announcements here. As a result, we advanced a number of topics that had been stuck for a while. A major area of my focus in this respect became “Better default settings”. The 5 -> 6 transition is the perfect time to make significant changes to the default settings in a way that improve the UX out of the box. The two biggest changes to KDE’s default settings will be moving from single-click to open a file, to double-clicking. Single-clicking to open has been a KDE staple for a long time, but it’s the exact opposite of literally every other major environment, so it makes sense to align this basic interaction with people’s expectations. Of course, this is KDE, so it’ll be a toggle in the same way it is now. The second major change is Wayland by default. While will, of course, still work and be available to distributions and users, Wayland will be KDE’s official recommendation from here on out. With development having pretty much halted completely, and quite a few major distributions now defaulting to Wayland, this is the right move to make. For all the Wayland haters – feel free to donate your time and expertise to development, because no one else is. There’s a few other cool changes coming up, such as the floating panel by default, the accent colour being used in the top parts of windows, and more.

Microsoft wants Firefox to ditch Google, switch to Bing

The rumour, by way of The Information, claims senior Microsoft execs hope to seal a deal with Mozilla to make Bing the default search engine as soon as this year, as the browser’s existing big-bucks deal with Google is coming up for renewal. Now, Firefox making a search engine switch isn’t new. Mozilla tested Microsoft’s Bing as Firefox’s default search engine back back in 2021; and those with longer memories may just remember a time when Yahoo! was the default search engine in select countries. It’s a tough pill to swallow: Firefox, effectively the only serious browser not controlled by Google or Apple, exists by the grace of Google. Google pays Mozilla for being the default search engine in Firefox, and said deal makes up about 85% of Mozilla’s revenue. Replacing Google with Microsoft int his equation seems like a lateral move, at best.