Thom Holwerda Archive

Chimera Linux: a Linux distribution based on FreeBSD userland and LLVM

Chimera is a Linux distribution with the following goals: – Built entirely with LLVM– FreeBSD-based userland– Binary packaging and a well designed source build system– Bootstrappable– Portable This project is still very early in its development, but it’s an interesting premise. It’s developed by Daniel Kolesa, who also contributes a lot to Void Linux, most notably the excellent POWER/PowerPC port of that excellent distribution. Over on Twitter, Kolesa regularly posts updates on the status of Chimera, and even though some of the stuff definitely is above my pay grade, it’s quite interesting to follow along.

Introducing Android apps on Windows 11 to Windows Insiders

Today, we are announcing the first preview of our Android apps experience into the Windows Insider Program. We are proud to deliver this experience with our partners – Amazon and Intel – to Beta Channel users in the United States on eligible devices running Intel, AMD, and Qualcomm platforms. I have my sincerest doubts about the true usefulness of running Android applications on Windows. They’ll always feel alien and disconnected from the rest of the platform, although Windows being a graphical and behavioural interface mess already, it’s probably the platform where this makes more sense than on others. Also, the fact it makes use of the Amazon application store means you won’t get access to Google’s applications or a lot of Google Play-specific applications, so curb your expectations.

PlayStation 3 architecture: a practical analysis

In 2006, Sony unveiled the long-awaited ‘next generation’ video-game console, a shiny (albeit heavy) machine whose underlying hardware architecture continues the teachings of the Emotion Engine, that is, focus on vector processing to achieve power, even at the cost of complexity. Meanwhile, their new ‘super processor’, the Cell Broadband Engine, is conceived during a crisis of innovation and will have to keep up as trends for multimedia services evolve. This write-up takes a deep look at Sony, IBM, Toshiba and Nvidia’s joint project, along with its execution and effect on the industry. An extremely deep dive into the somewhat unusual architecture of the PlayStation 3. Not for the faint of heart, for sure.

IBM released AIX 7.3

In today’s era of hybrid cloud, there is an increased demand for flexible infrastructure, continuous availability, scalable and sustainable compute, enhanced security and data protection, and increased integration with open technologies. As businesses navigate these dynamic market conditions and IT infrastructure demands, they require an operating system they can rely on that can be optimized to adapt to these changing business needs. With the introduction of IBM AIX 7.3 Standard Edition, IBM addresses these needs while also continuing its tradition of providing new functions that can help dramatically improve system availability, scalability, performance, and flexibility while maintaining binary compatibility to ensure a quick and seamless transition to the new release. Combined with Power10, AIX 7.3 enables clients to modernize with a frictionless hybrid cloud experience to respond faster to business demands, protect data from core to cloud, and streamline insights and automation. AIX 7.3, coupled with IBM POWER8®, and later, technology-based systems, delivers a computing platform designed for hybrid cloud that is optimized, secure, and adapts to evolving business demands. This means AIX 7.3 has been released – well, sort of, since it won’t be actually available until 10 December.

Windows 11 shows Intel’s decade-old Pentium 4 CPU as supported

Surprisingly, it looks like Microsoft will not put an upgrade block on installations done on a device using Intel’s Pentium 4 661, which was released in 2006 and obviously doesn’t meet all Windows 11 requirements. As you can see in the above screenshot, Intel Pentium 4 661, which has only one core and 3.6Ghz of clock speed, is listed as a supported processor in the PC Health Check. That’s possibly because Microsoft forgot to update the strings needed to reflect “unsupported status” in the PC Health Check Tool for this particular Intel family. Disregarding artificial barriers, Windows will run on pretty much any x86 processor – and Windows 11 is no different. You really don’t actually want to, but it does form the base of a cottage community of people trying to get modern Windows releases to run on the oldest possible hardware, which is always a fun exercise.

Early progress made on porting Radeon Vulkan driver to Haiku

After successfully getting Mesa’s software-based Lavapipe Vulkan implementation building on Haiku last month along with related Mesa code for headless support, a developer independent of AMD has started work on porting the Mesa Radeon Vulkan driver “RADV” to Haiku. Haiku developer “X512” has been spending the past number of weeks so far trying to get the open-source Radeon Vulkan driver stack working on this BeOS-inspired platform. This would be the first major Vulkan driver working for Haiku though there is also interest in getting the open-source Intel Vulkan driver working there too. This is exciting work, but still early days.

Google Pixel 6 and 6 Pro have big screens, big ambitions, and small prices

After many leaks, official teases, and months of waiting, Google has finally given its latest Pixel phones a formal launch. The new Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro are the latest high-end phones from the company that hasn’t traditionally been able to make much of a dent in the high-end phone market. Both are available for preorder starting today, October 19th, and will begin shipping on October 28th. Google says all the major US carriers, plus retailers such as the Google Store, Best Buy, Amazon, Walmart, Costco, and others, will be selling the phones. There are a lot of things to cover with the new Pixels, but the most important place to start is this: $599 and $899. Those are the starting prices for the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, respectively. That pricing is aggressive compared to similar iPhones, Samsungs, or even OnePlus phones, especially when you consider that Google is providing 128GB of storage in both base models. (The 6 can be equipped with up to 256GB, the 6 Pro has options up to 512GB.) Ars Technica has more on the new Tensor SoC by Google that powers these new Pixels. I’d love to say more about these new Pixels, but Google refuses to actually sell them anywhere, so I’m not even sure Pixel phones even exist in the first place. I’m not into conspiracy theories, but until Google sells these things in more than like 3 countries, I’ll just keep calling them an elaborate hoax.

Apple’s new M1 Pro and M1 Max processors take its in-house Arm-based chips to new heights

For the M1 Pro, Apple promises 70 percent better CPU performance and twice the graphics performance compared to the M1. While the basic architecture is still the same on the M1 Pro, Apple is upping the hardware here in a big way, with a 10-core CPU that offers eight performance cores and two efficiency cores, along with a 16-core GPU with 2,048 execution units. The new chip also supports more RAM, with configuration options up to 32GB (although, like the M1, memory is still integrated directly into the chip itself, instead of user-upgradable) with 200GB/s memory bandwidth. In total, the M1 Pro has 33.7 billion transistors, roughly twice the number of transistors that the M1 has. But Apple isn’t stopping there: it also announced the even more powerful M1 Max, which has the same 10-core CPU configuration, with eight performance cores and two efficiency cores. But the M1 Max doubles the memory bandwidth (to 400GB/s), RAM (up to 64GB of memory) and GPU (with 32 cores, 4,096 execution units and four times the GPU performance of the original M1). The M1 Max features 57 billion transistors, making it the largest chip that Apple has made yet. The new chip also means that you can connect up to four external displays to a single device. These are absolutely bonkers chips for in a laptop, and Apple once again puts the entire industry on notice. There’s nothing Intel, AMD, or Qualcomm can offer that comes even close to these new M1 Pro and Max chips, and Apple even seems to have managed to get within spitting distance of a laptop RTX 3080. It’s hard to fathom just how impressive these are. The laptops they come in the new 14″ and 16″ MacBook Pro, with a new design that, for some reason, includes a notch even though there’s no FaceID. Apple is easily the best choice for most people when it comes to laptops now, since anything else will be just as expensive, but far, far less performant with far worse energy use.

Sculpt OS release 21.10

First and technically most exciting, the new version enables the use of hardware-accelerated graphics on Intel GPUs, paving the ground for graphics-intensive applications and games. The GPU support is based on the combination of the Mesa library stack with our custom GPU multiplexer as featured in Genode 21.08. Note that this fresh new feature should best be regarded as experimental and be used with caution. Second, our port of the Chromium-based Falkon web browser has become able to present media content like videos and sound. Look out for the browser in the tools menu of cproc’s depot. It is accompanied with a ready-to-use audio driver and a mixer component. In cases where audio output is not desired, the browser – or any other component that requests audio output – can be connected to a new component called black hole, which merely mimics an audio driver without any audible effect. That’s excellent progress for this fascinating operating system that’s been steadily improving for years now. And it’s not even everything that’s in this release – read the announcement for all the details.

Vienna museums open adult-only OnlyFans account to display nudes

More than a century after the artists of the Vienna Secession declared “to every age its art; to art its freedom”, the Austrian capital has found a new site for artistic expression free from censorship: the adults-only platform OnlyFans. Vienna’s tourism board has started an account on OnlyFans – the only social network that permits depictions of nudity – in protest against platforms’ ongoing censorship of its art museums and galleries. Censoring nude paintings from some of the greatest painters in human history is peak pearl-clutching.

Plasma 25th Anniversary Edition released

25 years ago today, Matthias Ettrich sent an email to the de.comp.os.linux.misc newsgroup explaining a project he was working on. The latest and direct result of that email (plus a quarter of a century of relentless experimentation, development and innovation) has just landed in KDE’s repositories. This time around, Plasma renews its looks and, not only do you get a new wallpaper, but also a gust of fresh air from an updated theme: Breeze – Blue Ocean. The new Breeze theme makes KDE apps and tools not only more attractive, but also easier to use both on the desktop and your phone and tablet. Of course, looks are not the only you can expect from Plasma 25AE: extra speed, increased reliability and new features have also found their way into the app launcher, the software manager, the Wayland implementation, and most other Plasma tools and utilities. Except for 1.0, I’ve used every release of KDE extensively, and its developers have every right to be damn proud of the amazing collection of frameworks and applications they’ve built. As with everything, KDE is not for everyone, but there’s no denying it’s a versatile, attractive, extensible, and fun to use environment.

Ubuntu 21.10 released

Ubuntu 21.10 brings a wide variety of improvements, most notably on the desktop side switching to GNOME Shell 40 and offering many improvements there including some theme refinements. There are also many underlying improvements to enjoy with Ubuntu 21.10, like what gets us excited about kernel and compiler upgrades along with other notable package version bumps. Adding Wayland support for NVIDIA drivers is a big improvement, as is the addition of PipeWire. There’s also a big regression in that Ubuntu has moved its Firefox package from deb to a Snap package, something I’d sure manually fix if I were an Ubuntu user.

OpenBSD 7.0 released

OpenBSD 7.0 has been released, and it seems a big focus for this release was improving ARM64 support, and adding support for RISC-V. There’s a long list or other improvements and fixes, too, of course. Downloads are where they always are.

How Microsoft reduced Windows 11 update size by 40%

Microsoft delivers the latest Windows security and user experiences updates monthly. Updates are modular meaning that, regardless of which update you currently have installed, you only need the most recent quality update to get your machine up to date. With the fast pace of Windows security and quality fixes, distributing this large amount of updated content takes up substantial bandwidth. Reducing this network transfer is critical for a great experience. Moreover, users on slower networks can struggle to keep their machines up to date with the latest security fixes if they cannot download the package. This is the kind of grunt work that doesn’t get flashy slides in a presentation or a mention in a commercial, but it’s awesome work nonetheless.

First Windows 11 patch tuesday makes Ryzen L3 cache latency worse, AMD puts out fix dates

Shortly after Windows 11 launch, AMD and Microsoft jointly discovered that Windows 11 is poorly optimized for AMD Ryzen processors, which see significantly increased L3 cache latency, and the UEFI-CPPC2 (preferred cores mechanism) rendered not working. In our own testing, a Ryzen 7 2700X “Pinnacle Ridge” processor, which typically posts an L3 cache latency of 10 ns, was tested to show a latency of 17 ns. This was made much worse with the October 12 “patch Tuesday” update, driving up the latency to 31.9 ns. That’s one hell of a regression. It seems fixes are incoming soon, though.

DragonFly 6.0.1 released

6.0.1 is tagged and available. The major reason for this update is an expired Let’s Encrypt certificate that would cause problems when downloading dpkg binaries. A list of 6.0.1 commits is available. Not a whole lot going on in this release, but still a major bug fix.

The 100 MHz 6502

The 6502 was the CPU in my first computer (an Apple II plus), as well as many other popular home computers of the late 1970s and 80s. It lived on well into the 1990s in game consoles and chess computers, mostly in its updated “65C02” CMOS version. Here’s a re-implementation of the 65C02 in an FPGA, in a pin-compatible format that lets you upgrade those old computers and games to 100 MHz clock rate! Interesting project.

Haiku monthly activity report for September

Another month has passed, so time for another monthly update from the Haiku team. This time around, we get two for the price of one. First, the regular monthly activity report, where we can read that work on the ARM64 and RISC-V ports continues, and while these ports are nowhere near complete, they serve an important function both in discovering bugs and issues, as well as in getting Haiku ready for future architecture transitions. Tracker also received thumbnail support, but this is disabled by default for now, and of course, there’s a lot of low-level work being done, too. The second update comes from waddlesplash, Haiku Inc.’s actual paid full-time developer. In his report, he details his work on fixing two Haiku bugs that caused frequent crashes in WebKit, as well as extensive work on the USB stack – more specifically, improving USB 3.0 support. On top of that, he also details a lot of his low-level work over the month of September.

The insane innovation of TI calculator hobbyists

In the mid-to-late 2000s, you either knew, or were, that kid in grade school. You know. The one who could put games on your graphing calculator. You may be surprised to learn that some of these people didn’t exist totally in a vacuum. There was in fact a thriving scene of hackers who had bent these calculators to their will, writing games, math software, and more generally hacking on the platform just for the sake of it. True to my interests, it’s all deeply embedded, pushing the limits of platforms that were obsolete when they were released. I’ll take you through some of the highlights of Texas Instruments calculator hacking done over the past two and a half decades, along with an explanation of why these projects are so technically impressive. A friend of mine and I at high school bought the data transfer cable for our graphing calculators so we could play multiplayer Bomberman on them in class. Good times.