Thom Holwerda Archive

Enlightenment 0.25 desktop environment released

Enlightenment 0.25 is here more than one and a half years after Enlightenment 0.24 to introduce a flat look to match the new flat theme, new gesture recognition bindings for touchpads, fingerprint support in desklock via the libFprint library and a new tool to configure fingerprints, a new binding action that lets users switch profiles, as well as palette editor and selector tool to help you set up custom colors. There are a lot more changes in here, and I’m actually interested in trying it out – it seems more grown-up and less over the top than it has in the past, and I’m curious to see what else has improved over the years.

Intel apologizes over its statement on forced labor in Xinjiang

Intel apologized on Thursday after a letter in which the chip maker said it would avoid products and labor from Xinjiang set off an outcry on Chinese social media, making it the latest American company caught between the world’s two largest economies. The chip maker apologized to its Chinese customers, partners and the public in a Chinese-language statement on Weibo, the popular social media site. The company said that the letter, which had been sent to suppliers, was an effort at expressing its compliance with United States sanctions against Xinjiang, rather than a political stance. Intel following in the footsteps of major US companies supporting genocide – Ford, IBM, Apple, and countless others.

Running your own email is increasingly an artisanal choice, not a practical one

To be clear, you absolutely can still run your own email infrastructure, getting email delivered to you, filtering incoming spam, sending email (with DMARC signatures and other modern email practices), providing IMAP access, and even run your own webmail setup. You can even do this with all open source software. But the email environment you get this way is increasingly what I called an artisanal one. It’s cute, decent enough, and hand-crafted, but it doesn’t measure up in usability, features, and performance to the email infrastructure that is run by big providers. Your IMAP access might be as good as theirs, but things like your webmail, your spam filtering, and almost certainly your general security will not be as good as they have. In short, if you run your own email infrastructure, it will not be up to the general quality you could get from outsourcing to big providers (they can’t really be called specialists). And you cannot fix this by trying harder, nor with the magical right choice of open source software, nor with the magical right choice of commercial software. Entirely “on premise” email is now an inferior thing for almost everyone. I’ve always wanted to try and run my own email server, but I’d never run my main email address myself, since my income and interactions with the government depend on it. Still, it’d be a fun side project.

Untangling the rat’s nest of USB-C standards and cables

The evolution to USB-C connectors just after the release of the USB 3.1 standard promised simplicity. Instead of host device Type-A and peripheral Type-B, Mini-B, Micro-B, and others, a single connector works for both ends of a connection and carries both power and data. Power can flow either way with the same cable: a computer charging a battery or phone; a battery charging a computer. It’s also reversible across its long axis, so it’s impossible to insert it in the wrong orientation. USB-C was supposed to be the last cable you would ever need. It hasn’t worked out that way. Better names for standards, mandatory logos on cables. That’s all we needed from the USB-IF. This has been bungled so hard they couldn’t have messed it up more if they tried.

The Dreamcast legacy

The Dreamcast is a bit of an odd beast. Coming on the heels of the unpopular Sega Saturn, the Dreamcast was meant to be a simple console built with off-the-shelf parts. The PlayStation 2 was already tough competition, and ultimately the Dreamcast fell out of the public eye as the Nintendo 64 was released with incredible fanfare. In some sense, it’s a footnote in console history. But despite not achieving the success that Sega hoped for, the Dreamcast has formed a small cult following, because as we know, nothing builds a cult-like following like an untimely demise. Since its release, it has gained a reputation for being ahead of its time. It was the first console to include a modem for network play and an easy storage solution for transferring game data between consoles via the VMUs that docked in the controllers. It had innovative and classic games such as Crazy Taxi, Jet Set Radio, Phantasy Star Online, and Shenmue. Microsoft even released a version of Windows CE with DirectX allowing developers to port PC games to the console quickly. We see our fair share of console hacks here on Hackaday, but what is the ultimate legacy of the Dreamcast? How did it come to be? What happened to it, and why did so much of Sega’s hopes ride on it? I missed out on the Dreamcast, but I’ve always been deeply fascinated by it, and on many an occasion I’ve come close to pulling the trigger on eBay. What always holds me back is the knowledge that most likely I’ll buy it, mess around with it for a few days, and then rarely look at it again. To any Dreamcast owners among our readership – would any of you say the Dreamcast and its most prominent titles are still worth it in 2021?

80% of Steam’s top 100 games now work on Linux

Proton has made enormous strides toward game compatibility through advances in related technologies like DXVK, which enable DirectX 9, 10, and 11 games to run through the Vulkan API. In fact, the project is so far along that Amazon has thrown its hat in the ring, working toward streaming Proton enabled games through Luna. The progress of this effort is updated all the time on ProtonDB, and today they crossed a major milestone as user reports on the site reveal that 80% of the top 100 games on Steam now run on Linux, and by extension, Steam Deck. I have long stopped even checking ProtonDB to see if the games I’m interested in run well on Linux – I just assume that the games I’m into belong to the 80%, with the remaining 20% being the massive garbage pile that are abandoned indie games, anime nonsense, and porn that have infested Steam over the years. Proton, and all the work Wine, Valve, and open source developers have poured into it, is arguably one of the biggest contributions to desktop Linux in a long, long time, and with the Steam Deck on the horizon, it’s only going to get even better from here.

ReactOS 0.4.14 released

The ReactOS Team is pleased to announce the release of version 0.4.14. As with every other release, we’re regularly noting improvements and updates to keep you in touch with what is being done in ReactOS. In this release, improvements range from FreeLoader fixes, Shell features, kernel fixes, NetKVM VirtIO bringup, further work on the Xbox port and support for NEC PC-9800. A steady stream of improvements, and there’s more already implemented in the nightly builds that’s not in this release.

Xlibe: an Xlib/X11 compatibility layer for Haiku

An Xlib compatibility layer implemented on top of the Haiku API, in order to run X11 applications on Haiku without an X server. Xlib‘s API is relatively low-level, but it is just high-level enough that it can be emulated on top of a higher-level API like Haiku’s. At present, it provides “most” commonly-used Xlib APIs, but many of them are stubbed or incomplete implementations. (GTK, with some hacks, can compile, link, and open a window before it runs in to missing functionality.) This is crazy person work by Haiku developer waddlesplash. He also posted continuously updated progress thread on the Haiku website, which provides a lot more detail about the process, the current state, and possible future plans.

Player builds complete 8-bit processor in Minecraft

Everybody knows how big of a sandbox Minecraft is, but this is taking it to the next level: somebody has built a complete 8-bit RISC processor in Minecraft, capable of running custom software: Sammyuri has reportedly spent seven months constructing an enormous–and enormously complicated–computer processor that exists virtually within the Minecraft engine. Although another Minecraft mod allows players to run the Mario 64 engine within Minecraft, sammyuri’s creation, called the Chungus 2, exists on an entirely different scale. The Chungus 2, which is short for Computation Humongous Unconventional Number and Graphics Unit 2, may be the single largest and most complex processor built in Minecraft as of writing. He even wrote an assembler so you can program it yourself.

Isn’t she just misunderstood? The Casio Loopy!

The Casio Loopy is a 32-bit machine with a SuperH CPU, released in 1995. This family of CPUs is probably more famous for its use by Sega, but the SH7201 used in the Loopy appears to be still in production by Renesas. I’m not sure how much the SH7201 has changed over that time; it seems to be an SH-1 system, as opposed to the SH-2 used in the 32X and Saturn, and the SH-4 used in the Dreamcast. The Loopy is a treasure. If you’ve never heard of this thing before – you’re in for a treat.

Update for Windows 10 and 11 blocks default browser redirect, but there’s a workaround

You can no longer fully switch away from Edge in Windows 10 and 11. It seems that Microsoft has quietly backported the block, introduced a month ago in a Dev build of Windows 11, on tools like EdgeDeflector and browsers from being the true default browser in Windows 10, with the change being implemented in Windows 11 too. Starting from KB5008212, which was installed on all supported versions of Windows 10 yesterday with Patch Tuesday, it is no longer possible to select EdgeDeflector as the default MICROSOFT-EDGE protocol. They spent engineering resources on this.

Windows Terminal will become the default command line experience in Windows 11 soon

An additional change that Microsoft is planning is that it is switching the default terminal app in Windows 11 to Windows Terminal. This modification will be rolled out in 2022 via the Windows Insider Program first before being made available generally. Microsoft hasn’t defined a firm timeline as of yet, but it’s clear that we can expect this to happen sometime next year. That would mean the end of the regular cmd.exe, which is currently the default command line in Windows. Of course, the new Windows Terminal application includes cmd.exe as an option as well, so it’s obviously not like it’s going away.

A deep dive into an NSO zero-click iMessage exploit: remote code execution

Google’s Project Zero describes a (now fixed) zero-click exploit in iMessage, and, well, it’s kind of insane. JBIG2 doesn’t have scripting capabilities, but when combined with a vulnerability, it does have the ability to emulate circuits of arbitrary logic gates operating on arbitrary memory. So why not just use that to build your own computer architecture and script that!? That’s exactly what this exploit does. Using over 70,000 segment commands defining logical bit operations, they define a small computer architecture with features such as registers and a full 64-bit adder and comparator which they use to search memory and perform arithmetic operations. It’s not as fast as Javascript, but it’s fundamentally computationally equivalent. Mother of god.

Dell’s Luna laptop concept is all about repairability

Repairability of electronics is a hot topic when hardware gets discussed, and Dell produced a concept laptop to explore the idea of a highly repairable Dell laptop. On Tuesday, Dell announced a new design concept for a laptop that’s long lived, easy to take apart and fix, and takes a smaller toll on the climate. It’s a collection of ideas that could go a long way toward making the tech giant’s products more sustainable — depending on whether, and how, Dell decides to implement them. Called “Concept Luna,” the proof-of-concept laptop dreamed up by Dell’s design team has a number of unusual features that are intended to make repair and maintenance easy. No screwdrivers or glue solvents are needed to pry loose a broken keyboard or peel off a cracked screen; both components simply pop free after a pair of keystones holding them in place are removed. The entire system contains far fewer screws than a typical Dell laptop, reducing the time needed to replace components. And you’ll never have to worry about replacing a broken fan, because there isn’t one: a shrunken-down motherboard placed in the top cover allows the laptop to passively cool itself. As good as this sounds, there is a red flag. Dell told The Verge that Concept Luna’s board “doesn’t have any more soldered on or integrated components than a typical laptop we sell today”. That’s right. Dreams of user replaceable RAM, CPU, and storage are probably going to remain dreams, and consumers are going to be stuck with however the machine was provisioned at build time. Like concept cars, this probably isn’t going to go into production, but the ideas could find their way into future products.

When HDMI 2.1 isn’t HDMI 2.1

If you’ve followed the display, graphics card or games console market at all recently you will surely have heard about HDMI 2.1. It’s the new connection interface standard widely being adopted on new graphics cards, displays, games consoles and other devices; allowing support for improved bandwidths, resolutions, refresh rates and features. It’s one of the hot topics at the moment when it comes to buying a new device, and promoted heavily by manufacturers, often as one of the leading items in their spec. In this article we want to look at what the “HDMI 2.1” term really means, and address a worrying early sign in the market of things to come. We’ve delved in to what is required for this certification and what that means to you as a consumer if you ever want to buy something labelled with HDMI 2.1. Don’t make any assumptions about what that will give you, sadly it doesn’t seem to be nearly as simple as that. Oh good. More weird cable and port specifications to worry about.

Gaming on Wayland

A considerable amount of people assume Wayland isn’t particularly suitable for gaming, usually because you can’t turn off the compositor. This post will challenge that assumption and see how the current state of gaming on Wayland is, with a focus on KWin, KDEs compositor. A very in-depth look at how Wayland works for gaming – from input lag to rendering – compared to X, including latency benchmarks.

Dude this should NOT be in a Dell Switch… Or HPE Supercomputer

Today we are going to share the result of a bit of investigation that started a few months ago on STH. The short version, it appears as though the Dell EMC S5200-ON series switches, the company’s high-end 25GbE-200GbE switches, have license/ royalty stickers that have a different company name on them than they should have. Instead of saying “American Megatrends”, they instead said “American Megatrands”. To give some perspective, this looks strange because it would be like buying a Dell notebook and getting a “Macrosoft Wandows” license sticker on it. Through a fairly rough October, we validated that indeed these stickers are in the wild. Ultimately, after we brought their existence to American Megatrends (AMI) and Dell’s attention (HPE did not care enough to investigate), we now have an artifact that says that American Megatrends is honoring the license stickers and will not pursue legal action against Dell’s customers or those using them. This may seem like something insignificant and innocuous, but supply chain security is a big, big deal, and the fact these clearly misspelled license/royalty stickers made their way from printing down to the end-user of not just corporate hardware but supercomputers for the US military is… Concerning, to say the least. It shows that tampering with hardware anywhere between production of the individual chips and components down to delivery by the delivery person might be a lot easier to do than we think.

“Open source” is not broken

I read this article (“Open Source” is Broken by Xe) written in the aftermath of the unfortunate log4j2 fiasco. The author discusses a pertinent problem that has plagued the FOSS (Free and Open Source) world ever since large for-profit corporations started their widespread consumption of FOSS, ever since countless “unicorns” raised infinite amounts of funding on valuations built pretty much entirely on FOSS, ever since FOSS got co-opted into corporatisation and capitalisation. And yet, countless maintainers of critical and widely used FOSS struggle to make a living. Whose fault is this? I do not believe that this is FOSS’ fault as a conceptual framework or a system. If FOSS was broken, the internet as we know it today wouldn’t exist; the countless marvels of technology that we take for granted and techno-economies that thrive on them wouldn’t exist; millions of software developers (like me) who learnt to write code with FOSS and learnt to make a living with that knowledge wouldn’t exist. How is it that FOSS, a beautiful system that has uplifted and empowered massive swathes of human beings across the globe irrespective of their borders, race, creed, and economic backgrounds, is “broken”? To imply that FOSS is broken because it is abused by a certain category of users, is a form of victim blaming. Reading the various hot takes regarding the log4j2 problems has been an exercise in frustration. The fact that the maintainers of this small but important piece of software barely received any donations or other forms of financial support, despite their software being extensively used by some of the largest corporations in the world is not a fault of open source – it’s the fault of garbage corporations only taking, but rarely giving. The issue here is not open source – it’s unchecked capitalism. That being said, these maintainers, and other people who contribute to open source projects, know full well it’s most likely not going to make them rich, or even allow them to recoup any investments made. That’s the nature of open source, and it seems like the technology world has become so infested with venture capitalists that even the mere idea of someone working on something not for the money, but for other reasons seems entirely alien to a lot of people, meaning open source must, therefore, be broken. Money corrupts anything it touches. I’m insanely grateful for the almost endless number of people contributing to open source projects not because they expect to become rich, but because they enjoy doing it, to show off their skill, for the community of people they love interacting with, for the recognition it sometimes brings, or for the mere secret knowledge that their small project nobody’s ever heard of is a crucial cog in the massive machinery that keeps the technology world spinning. Open source isn’t broken. It’s working exactly as intended, and it’s by far the most powerful force in the technology world, and it will outlive any of the corporations so many people bend over backwards to please today.

How to boot a PDP-11

So you want to play Adventure, but don’t know how to turn on the PDP-11? These instructions are for booting our dual rack machine from its RL01 drives, although booting the single cabinet machine from the RK05 is very similar. Detailed instructions for booting a PDP-11, including lots and lots of photos.

European Commission to release its own software as open source

Today, the Commission has adopted new rules on Open Source Software that will enable its software solutions to be publicly accessible whenever there are potential benefits for citizens, companies or other public services. The recent Commission study on the impact of Open Source Software and Hardware on technological independence, competitiveness and innovation in the EU economy showed that investment in open source leads on average to four times higher returns. The Commission services will be able to publish the software source code they own in much shorter time and with less paperwork. Good. A small step, sure, but my hope remains that eventually, we come to realise that for our own safety and security, all code must be open source, no matter if it’s from Apple, Microsoft, or anyone else. We can’t continue down our current path where some of the most crucial, elemental parts of our society rely entirely on closed code of which we have no idea what it is – or isn’t – doing.