Thom Holwerda Archive

Developer successfully virtualizes ARM Windows on Apple Silicon

A developer has successfully been able to virtualize the ARM version of Windows on Apple Silicon using the QEMU virtualizer. Apple’s M1 MacBooks have proved their worth when it comes to performance and battery efficiency. But, since these run on a custom ARM chip, it’s not yet possible to install, dual boot, or emulate Windows; which is in popular demand. Developer Alexander Graf, however, took to Twitter today to share his achievement: successfully being able to virtualize ARM Windows on Apple Silicon. Nothing too surprising, of course, but the real barrier to Windows on ARM running on M1-equipped Macs is not running Windows on M1 Macs, but Microsoft actually making the ARM version of Windows available for this very purpose.

v7/x86: the last true UNIX, ported to x86

V7/x86 is a port of the Seventh Edition of the UNIX operating system to the x86 (i386) based PC. UNIX V7 was the last general distribution (around 1979) to come from the Research group at Bell Labs, the original home of UNIX. The port was done mostly around 1999 when “Ancient UNIX” source code licenses first became available, and was revised for release, with some enhancements, during 2006-7. The distribution includes the full UNIX Version 7 operating system, with source code, pre-built binaries, man pages, and original Version 7 documentation. Also included are a custom UNIX-style x86 assembler, an ACK-based C compiler, and several key early UCB software components such as the C shell, the editors ex and vi, and the pager more. I’m inclined to try and run this virtually, to see just how bastardised and messy UNIX has become in our current UNIX derivatives.

The FreeBSD desktop series

The FreeBSD Desktop series are about creating efficient desktop environment on the FreeBSD system. Why such series? Because telling someone who wants FreeBSD desktop to buy Mac instead is like telling someone who wants Linux desktop to buy Windows because it has WSL (Windows Subsystem for Linux) inside. This is one hell of a detailed and long series of articles – 21 of them. I’m not very well-versed in the world of BSD, and this series is making me want to give the world thing a go – just to learn and expand my horizons.

European Parliament votes for right to repair

In a landmark move, the European Parliament voted today to support consumers’ Right to Repair. The resolution was adopted with 395 in favour and just 94 against, with 207 abstentions. The vote calls for the EU Commission to “develop and introduce mandatory labelling, to provide clear, immediately visible and easy-to-understand information to consumers on the estimated lifetime and reparability of a product at the time of purchase.” Good.

Before the BSD kernel starts

In this article, I will walk through the early kernel initialization process, defining the meaning of this term. System initialization is a broad topic that ranges from the platform’s hardware design all the way up to typical functions of an operating system such as handling I/O operations. It is not possible to cover the entire topic adequately within the scope of an article. In this first part I will describe the well-known AMD64: 64-bit platform. I am going to highlight a very interesting part of the initialization process the early initialization of the kernel. Later, I will compare it with ARM64. In both cases I will discuss the topic in the context of NetBSD, the operating system known for its portability. Some light reading.

Booting from a vinyl record

Most PCs tend to boot from a primary media storage, be it a hard disk drive, or a solid-state drive, perhaps from a network, or – if all else fails – the USB stick or the boot DVD comes to the rescue… Fun, eh? Boring! Why don’t we try to boot from a record player for a change? I hope he’s using gold-plated triple-insulated Monster cables with diamond tips and uranium signal repeaters, because otherwise the superior quality of the vinyl will get lost. Would be a shame.

Review: System76’s Bonobo WS

Earlier this year, we reviewed System76’s Lemur Pro, a laptop designed for portability and long battery life. This time around, we’re going entirely the opposite direction with the System76 Bonobo WS – a mobile workstation that looks like a laptop (if you squint), but packs some of the fastest desktop-grade hardware available on the market. Specifications System76 sent us the latest version of the Bonobo WS, with some truly bonkers specifications for what is, technically, a laptop (sort of), at a total price of $4315.22. This mobile workstation comes with an Intel Core i9-10900K, which has 10 cores and 20 threads and runs at 5.3 Ghz – and this is not a constrained mobile chip, but the full desktop processor. It’s paired with an 8GB RTX 2080 Super graphics card – which, again, is the desktop part, not the mobile version. It has 32 GB of RAM configured in dual-channel at 3200 Mhz. To top it off, I configured it with a 250 GB NVMe drive for the operating system, and an additional 1 TB NVME drive for storage and other stuff. Both of these drives have a theoretical sequential read and write speeds of 3500 MB/s and 2300 MB/s respectively. The Bonobo WS comes with a 17.3″ display, and I opted for the 1080p 144Hz version, since the 4K option was not yet available at the time of setting up the review unit. The 4K option, which I would normally recommend on a display of this size, might not make a lot of sense here since most people interested in a niche mobile workstation like this will most likely be using external displays anyway, making the splurge for the 4K option a bit moot, especially since it’s a mere 60 Hz panel. There’s a few other specifications we need to mention – specifically the weight and battery life of a massive computer like this one. The base weight is roughly 3.8 kg, and its dimensions are 43.43 × 399.03 × 319.02 mm (height × width × depth). While this machine can technically be classified as a laptop, the mobile workstation moniker is a far more apt description. This is not a machine for carrying from classroom to classroom – this is a machine that most users will use in just two, possible three places, and don’t move very often. Another reason for that is battery life. A machine with this much power requires a lot of juice, and the 97 Wh battery isn’t going to give you a lot of unplugged time to work. You’ll spend all of your time plugged into not one, but two power sockets, as this machine requires two huge power bricks. It even comes with an adorable rubber thing that ties the two power bricks together in a way that maintains some space between them for cooling and safety purposes. So not only do you have to lug around the massive machine itself, but also the two giant power bricks. As this is a mobile workstation, the ports situation is excellent. It has a USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 (ugh)/Thunderbolt 3 port (type C), 3 USB 3.2 Gen 2 (type A) ports, and a MicroSD card slot. For your external display needs, we’ve got a full-size HDMI port, 2 mini DisplayPorts (1.4) and a DisplayPort (1.4) over USB type C. Furthermore, there’s an Ethernet port, the usual audio jacks (microphone and headphones, and one also has an optical connection), and the obligatory Kensington lock. Of course, there’s wireless networking support through an Intel dual-band WiFi 6 chip, as well as Bluetooth support. Hardware The hardware of this machine is entirely dictated by its internals, since cramming this much desktop power in a computer that weighs less than 4 kg doesn’t leave you with much room to mess around. The entire design is dictated by the required cooling, and there are vents all over the place. This is not a pretty or attractive machine – but it doesn’t need to be. People who need this much mobile power to lug around don’t care about what it looks like, how thin it is, or how aluminium the aluminium is – they need this power to be properly cooled, and if that means more thickness or more vents, then please don’t skimp. If you care about form over function – which is an entirely legitimate criterion, by the way, and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise – there are other devices to choose from. While the laptop does have some RGB flourishes here and there, they’re not overly present or distracting, and the ability to switch between several colours for the keyboard lighting is very nice to have, since I find the generic white light most laptops use to not always be ideal. You can cycle through the various lighting options with a key combination. The keyboard has a little bit more key travel than I’m used to from most laptops, probably owed to its chunky size leaving more room for the keys to travel. The keys have a bit of wobble, but not enough to cause me to miss keystrokes. I am not a fan of the font used on the keyboard, but that’s a mere matter of taste. The trackpad is decent, feels fine enough, and works great with Linux (obviously). In what I first thought was a blast from the past, the laptop has physical buttons for right and left click underneath the trackpad. However, after a little bit of use, I realised just how nice it was to have actual, physical buttons, and not a diving board or – god forbid – a trackpad that only supports tapping. Of course, it’s not nearly as good as Apple’s force touch trackpad that simulates an eerily realistic click wherever you press, but it does the job just fine. That being said, though, much like with the display, I doubt many people who need a machine like this will really care. They’ll most likely not only have

Sega VR revived: emulating an unreleased Genesis/Mega Drive accessory

Until now, most of what we know about Sega VR comes from trade show appearances, marketing materials, patent documents, and firsthand accounts. This has meant that many of unit’s the technical details have remained speculative or completely unknown. When looking back and studying hardware that pushed so many of the technical boundaries of its time, however, those details are important! Whether Sega VR achieved its many ambitious goals or not, it remains a fascinating and notable entry in VR history. In order to study hardware of this nature, if you don’t have access to the hardware or its implementation details, access to the software is often the next best thing. The software will tell you exactly what it expects of the hardware, and given those expectations, you might find that you have enough information to emulate the hardware. At the very least, you’ll have enough information to emulate a version of the hardware that conforms to the software’s expectations, and that’s exactly where we’re headed! Rebuilding the announced, but never shipped Sega VR from the early ’90s. What an effort.

Windows Subsystem for Linux: the lost potential

If you have followed Windows 10 at all during the last few years, you know that the Windows Subsystem for Linux, or WSL for short, is the hot topic among developers. You can finally run your Linux tooling on Windows as a first class citizen, which means you no longer have to learn PowerShell or, god forbid, suffer through the ancient CMD.EXE console. Unfortunately, not everything is as rosy as it sounds. I now have to do development on Windows for Windows as part of my new role within Azure… and the fact that WSL continues to be separate from the native Windows environment shows. Even though I was quite hopeful, I cannot use WSL as my daily driver because I need to interact with “native” Windows tooling. I believe things needn’t be this way, but with the recent push for WSL 2, I think that the potential of an alternate world is now gone. But what do I mean with this? For that, we must first understand the differences between WSL 1 and WSL 2 and how the push for WSL 2 may shut some interesting paths. I was only vaguely aware of the fact WSL 2 switched to using a virtual machine instead of being an NT subsystem as WSL 1 was. There’s arguments to be made for and against either approach, but the NT subsystem approach just feels nice, more holistic to me – even if it is way more work to keep it in step with Linux.

Developing Wayland color management and HDR

Wayland (the protocol and architecture) is still lacking proper consideration for color management. Wayland also lacks support for high dynamic range (HDR) imagery which has been around in movie and broadcasting industry for a while now (e.g. Netflix HDR UI). While there are well established tools and workflows for how to do color management on X11, even X11 has not gained support for HDR. There were plans for it (Alex Goins, DeepColor Visuals), but as far as I know nothing really materialized from them. Right now, the only way to watch HDR content on a HDR monitor in Linux is to use the DRM KMS API directly, in other words, not use any window system, which means not using any desktop environment. Kodi is one of the very few applications that can do this at all. This is a story about starting the efforts to fix the situation on Wayland. This is a great article to read – and an important topic, too. Colour management and HDR should be a core aspect of Wayland, and these people are making it happen.

Microsoft unveils Pluton security processor

Today, Microsoft alongside our biggest silicon partners are announcing a new vision for Windows security to help ensure our customers are protected today and in the future. In collaboration with leading silicon partners AMD, Intel, and Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., we are announcing the Microsoft Pluton security processor. This chip-to-cloud security technology, pioneered in Xbox and Azure Sphere, will bring even more security advancements to future Windows PCs and signals the beginning of a journey with ecosystem and OEM partners. Pluton immediately rings a ton of alarm bells, since initiatives like this tend to not be a good thing for alternative platforms. There’s good news, though, too – Pluton will take care of firmware updates for your motherboard, which I welcome with open arms, since the current state of firmware updates where you have to use garbage OEM applications is dreadful.

WinUI 3 Preview 3 is out with ARM64 support

Today, Microsoft is releasing the third preview of WinUI 3, and among the new features is native support for ARM64 PCs. If you’re not familiar with WinUI, you might remember it from Microsoft’s Build conference this year when the company announced Project Reunion. This is part of the firm’s plan to bring Win32 and UWP together, and do so without requiring a feature update to Windows 10. WinUI is the most important building block for an upcoming update to Windows 10 where things like Explorer and other Win32 applications will get a ‘modern’ makeover.

Servo project has a new home

The Servo Project is excited to announce that it has found a new home with the Linux Foundation. Servo was incubated inside Mozilla, and served as the proof that important web components such as CSS and rendering could be implemented in Rust, with all its safety, concurrency and speed. Now it’s time for Servo to leave the nest! Code for this independent web engine is out on Github.

Apple halves its App Store fee for the smaller companies

Apple, facing growing antitrust scrutiny over what it charges other companies for access to its App Store, said on Wednesday that it would cut in half the fee it took from the smallest app developers. Developers that brought in $1 million or less from their apps in the previous year will pay a 15 percent commission on those app sales starting next year, down from 30 percent, the company said. Good news, but it raises a whole bunch of questions – for instance, are developers going to remove their application from the store as they approach the 1 million dollar mark, since otherwise they’d have to make 1.25 million dollar the next year as to not lose out? Apple developer Twitter is confused as all heck about this. Then there’s this: The change will affect roughly 98 percent of the companies that pay Apple a commission, according to estimates from Sensor Tower, an app analytics firm. But those developers accounted for less than 5 percent of App Store revenues last year, Sensor Tower said. Apple said the new rate would affect the “vast majority” of its developers, but declined to offer specific numbers. In other words, this is a minor change for Apple, and will most likely do little to stave off antitrust concerns.

Apple M1 benchmarks roll in

AnandTech, after benchmarking the M1 in the new Mac Mini: The M1 undisputedly outperforms the core performance of everything Intel has to offer, and battles it with AMD’s new Zen3, winning some, losing some. And in the mobile space in particular, there doesn’t seem to be an equivalent in either ST or MT performance – at least within the same power budgets. Ars Technica on the M1 in the new Mac Mini: Despite the inherent limitations of trying to benchmark a brand-new architecture on a minority-share platform, it’s obvious that the M1 SoC is exactly what Apple told us it would be—a world-leading design that marries high performance to high efficiency. When its power consumption and thermal profiles are effectively unlimited as in the Mac mini tested here—or, presumably, the actively cooled 13-inch MacBook Pro—the M1 puts the smack down on very high-performance mobile CPUs, and in many workloads, even very high-performance desktop CPUs. Apple wasn’t lying. Every review and benchmark is clear: this is insanely good hardware. The M1 is bonkers. And obviously, I was so wrong I don’t even know where to start.

Pine64, KDE launch PinePhone with KDE Plasma Mobile

The PinePhone – KDE Community edition includes most of the essential features a smartphone user would expect and its functionalities increase day by day. You can follow the progress of the development of apps and features in the Plasma Mobile blog. Plasma Mobile is a direct descendant from KDE’s successful Plasma desktop. The same underlying technologies drive both environments and apps like KDE Connect that lets you connect phones and desktops, the Okular document reader, the VVave music player, and others, are available on both desktop and mobile. Thanks to projects like Kirigami and Maui, developers can write apps that, not only run in multiple environments but that also gracefully adapt by growing into landscape format when displayed on workstation screen and shrinking to portrait mode on phones. Developers are rapidly populating Plasma Mobile with essential programs, such as web browsers, clocks, calendars, weather apps and games, all of which are being deployed on all platforms, regardless of the layout. This seems like a really interesting combination, and I really want to see if I can get my hands on a review unit.

[Updated with response from Apple] Macs are a privacy nightmare

Update: Overnight, Apple PR sent out an e-mail about this issue to multiple websites and blogs, including me, for some reason. The company has updated its knowledge base article about “safely opening apps” on the Mac with new information, including a number of promises to fix this issue in the near future: Original story: Almost nine years ago, I wrote an article titled “Richard Stallman was right all along“, still one of the most popular, if not the most popular, articles ever posted on OSNews. That’s the very core of the Free Software Foundation’s and Stallman’s beliefs: that proprietary software takes control away from the user, which can lead to disastrous consequences, especially now that we rely on computers for virtually everything we do. The fact that Stallman foresaw this almost three decades ago is remarkable, and vindicates his activism. It justifies 30 years of Free Software Foundation. And, in 2012, we’re probably going to need Free and open source software more than ever before. At the Chaos Computer Congress in Berlin late last year, Cory Doctorow held a presentation titled “The Coming War on General Purpose Computation“. In it, Doctorow warns that the general purpose computer, and more specifically, user control over general purpose computers, is perceived as a threat to the establishment. The copyright wars? Nothing but a prelude to the real war. Yesterday, every Mac user got a taste of what happens when you don’t actually own the computers you pay a lot of money for. Because Apple wants to control everything you do with the computer you rent from them, and because Apple wants to know everything you do while using the computer you rent from them, a random server somewhere going down meant Mac users couldn’t open their applications anymore. Why? Because applications on macOS will only open if Apple allows them to be opened, and that means macOS phones home every time you do anything on Apple’s Mac that you rented. This has some serious privacy implications, as Jeffrey Paul notes: This means that Apple knows when you’re at home. When you’re at work. What apps you open there, and how often. They know when you open Premiere over at a friend’s house on their Wi-Fi, and they know when you open Tor Browser in a hotel on a trip to another city. It gets worse. The data that’s being sent as part of this phone home procedure is sent unencrypted, passes through third parties like Akamai, and since Apple is part of the US intelligence program PRISM, the US government has unfettered access to without the need for warrants. I’ve been warning about the consequences of handing over control of our software and computers to corporations and governments for well over a decade now here on OSNews, and every year, we seem to slide a little farther down the slippery slope, and every time, people wave it away. Yet yesterday, Mac users all over the world were confronted with the reality of being an Apple user today. Macs are not yours. They are controlled, owned, and operated by Apple, and are an absolute privacy and security nightmare. Exactly as the Free and open source software movement has been warning about for 40 years now.

macOS 11.0 Big Sur: The Ars Technica review

And, as is tradition, a new macOS release means a new Ars Technica macOS review. The one to read, as it is with every release, and as it will be forever. So say we all. In a lot of ways, Big Sur is the kind of incrementalist macOS update that we’ve come to expect in the last few years. It’s a collection of tweaks and minor feature upgrades and under-the-hood enhancements that bumps the platform forward but doesn’t radically change it. It simply builds on the foundation laid by the last few releases of the operating system, something I talked about last year. Big Sur makes the Mac look and sound a lot different than it did before! But it’s still close enough to what you’re used to that you’ll use it for a few weeks or months and then it will just be what macOS looks like. I’m obviously much more interested in Big Sur on the new ARM Macs, but for that, we’ll have to wait until next week.

macOS Big Sur launch appears to cause temporary slowdown in even non-Big Sur Macs

Mac users today began experiencing unexpected issues that included apps taking minutes to launch, stuttering and non-responsiveness throughout macOS, and other problems. The issues seemed to begin close to the time when Apple began rolling out the new version of macOS, Big Sur—but it affected users of other versions of macOS, like Catalina and Mojave. Other Apple services faced slowdowns, outages, and odd behavior, too, including Apple Pay, Messages, and even Apple TV devices. It didn’t take long for some Mac users to note that trustd—a macOS process responsible for checking with Apple’s servers to confirm that an app is notarized—was attempting to contact a host named oscp.apple.com but failing repeatedly. This resulted in systemwide slowdowns as apps attempted to launch, among other things. What a brave new world – some server goes down, and you can’t use your applications anymore.

macOS Big Sur released

macOS Big Sur, the latest version of the world’s most advanced desktop operating system, is now available to Mac users as a free software update. Big Sur introduces a beautiful redesign and is packed with new enhancements for key apps including Safari, Messages, and Maps, as well as new privacy features. And Big Sur has been engineered, down to its core, to take full advantage of all the power of the M1 chip to make the macOS experience even better for the new 13-inch MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and Mac mini. The combination of Big Sur and M1 truly takes the Mac to a whole new level with incredible capabilities, efficiency, and more apps than ever before, while maintaining everything users love about macOS. I’m not entirely sure if I like the new interface with all the big UI elements and excessive whitespace, but other than that, this seems like a solid release. You know where to get it.