Thom Holwerda Archive

Microsoft confirms Windows 10X is coming to laptops amid big jump in Windows usage

Microsoft is confirming today that it’s planning to refocus Windows 10X on single-screen devices. “The world is a very different place than it was last October when we shared our vision for a new category of dual-screen Windows devices,” explains Panos Panay, Microsoft’s Windows and devices chief. “With Windows 10X, we designed for flexibility, and that flexibility has enabled us to pivot our focus toward single-screen Windows 10X devices that leverage the power of the cloud to help our customers work, learn and play in new ways.” Microsoft isn’t saying exactly when single-screen devices like laptops will support Windows 10X, nor when dual-screen devices will launch with the OS. However, Windows 10X will launch on single-screen devices first. “We will continue to look for the right moment, in conjunction with our OEM partners, to bring dual-screen devices to market,” says Panay. If there’s one person that can pull off moving Windows forward, it’s Panay. I feel like this move points towards Windows 10X becoming the default version of Windows people will get when they buy a new PC – a Windows 11, if you will. It will have a new UI, and run Win32 applications inside containers. I’m interested to see if they can finally pull it off.

ICANN votes down controversial .org sale proposal

Adi Robertson at The Verge: The organization that oversees internet domain names has rejected a proposal to transfer management of the .org top-level domain from a nonprofit to a private equity group. ICANN said it wouldn’t approve the sale of .org operator Public Interest Registry because it would create “unacceptable uncertainty” for the domain, citing concerns about debt and the intentions of the for-profit firm Ethos Capital. Good news.

Inkscape 1.0 released

Inkscape 1.0 has been released. A major milestone was achieved in enabling Inkscape to use a more recent version of the software used to build the editor’s user interface (namely GTK+3). Users with HiDPI (high resolution) screens can thank teamwork that took place during the 2018 Boston Hackfest for setting the updated-GTK wheels in motion. This is just the tip of the iceberg of this massive release.

Ubuntu 20.04 LTS’ snap obsession has snapped me off of it

We’ve already talked about snaps on Ubuntu, but it turns out it’s actually way worse than I initially thought. On the latest Ubuntu, if you try to download the .deb version of Chromium using either the Software Store or command line, it acts as an alias to installing the snap version! Essentially, Chromium snap is shoved down your throat even if you explicitly asked for the .deb version. This is not cool Ubuntu – just because Chromium may be easier to maintain as a snap app doesn’t justify this forced behavior. Snap applications auto-update and that’s fine if Ubuntu wants to keep systems secure. But it can’t even be turned off manually. Auto-updating of snaps can only be deferred at best, until at some point, like Windows, it auto-updates anyway. Even on metered connections, snaps auto-update anyway after some time. I only use Ubuntu on my laptop right now – my workstation and main PC run my distribution of choice, Linux Mint with Cinnamon – because the latest version of Ubuntu supports it better than the current Linux Mint release does. As soon as the next version of Mint is out, which will be based on the current Ubuntu version, I’m ditching Ubuntu right away. I don’t like snaps, FlatPaks, AppImage, or any of that other nonsense that do nothing but make a clean .deb/APT-based system more complicated than it needs to be. Debian’s package management system is incredibly robust and easy to fix in the unlikely event something does go wrong, so I simply do not have a need for additional application installation methods that I can’t control through APT. Ubuntu only barely just recovered from the Unity debacle, only for the project to now go down yet another route nobody is asking for.

ReactOS Build Environment 2.2 released

The ReactOS Build Environment (RosBE), our curated set of compilers and build tools, has just received a major upgrade. After more than 7 years of using the same and now ancient GCC 4.7.2, ReactOS is finally going to be built with the help of a modern compiler (GCC 8.4.0). Among other things, the new version better detects programming mistakes like improperly sized buffers, and comes with improved error messages to pinpoint such mistakes to the corresponding position in code. It also adds support for the latest C and C++ standards, marking a first step towards the introduction of modern C++ concepts into ReactOS. That is one hell of an upgrade, and a much-needed one by the looks of it.

Enlightenment 0.24 alpha released

Enlightenment 0.24 Alpha 1 is shipping with an improved screenshot module, support for external monitor backlight/brightness controls, an improved restart experience, a smoother start-up thanks to using an I/O pre-fetch thread, switching over to BlueZ 5 for Bluetooth, and various other changes. Enlightenment was never a massively popular piece of software, but it seems that it has really fallen by the wayside recently. I vividly remember how 15-20 years ago, Enlightement was what you loaded up if you wanted to show off what desktop Linux could do

Valve drops macOS support for SteamVR

Valve has announced it’s ending support for macOS for SteamVR. SteamVR has ended OSX support so our team can focus on Windows and Linux. We recommend that OSX users continue to opt into the SteamVR branches for access to legacy builds. Users can opt into a branch by right-clicking on SteamVR in Steam, and selecting Properties… -> Betas. Apple announced SteamVR coming to the Mac at WWDC in 2017, so support from Valve lasted for a mere three years. This shouldn’t come as a surprise though, since the macOS ecosystem simply isn’t geared towards gaming and VR in any way, shape, or form. Most Mac users have to settle for Intel integrated graphics, and even the Mac users with a dedicated video card have to settle for subpar and overpriced AMD cards, since Apple refuses to support NVIDIA. On top of that, Apple has deprecated OpenGL and wants developers to use their proprietary Metal API instead. In a world where most game developers use DirectX or OpenGL/Vulkan, that just doesn’t make a lot of sense. And let’s not forget that the writing is on the wall for macOS as a general purpose operating system anyway, since Apple will most likely use the move to ARM processors in Macs to further lock down macOS, making it more like iOS. While macOS might be more popular than Linux in absolute numbers, the cold and harsh truth is that the Linux userbase simply has a far larger group of skilled developers, programmers, and tinkerers willing to put the effort into making non-native games work on Linux and to improve support for things like VR devices. These are exactly the kind of people Apple seems to have a deep-rooted disdain for. Expect more of these kinds of announcements over the coming years, as game companies (and other developers) have to decide whether or not to support an isolated and locked down platform like macOS on ARM – a platform without first-party OpenGL or Vulkan support, with a steward actively pushing you to use a proprietary API that you can’t use anywhere else.

GhostBSD 20.04 released

I am happy to announce the availability of GhostBSD 20.04, but first thanks to all people that gave feedback and reported issues. We fixed a couple of problems that were found in 20.03. This release comes with kernel and OS updates and numerous software applications updates and many improvements like replacing gnome-mount and hald with FreeBSD devd and Vermaden automount which make auto mounting and unmounting of external device way more stable and supports more filesystems. GhostBSD is a desktop-oriented BSD based on FreBSD, running the MATE or Xfce desktop. Linux desktops really take up all the spotlights when it comes to UNIX-like operating systems for average users, and I feel like some honest competition would be a good thing. More focus on desktop-oriented BSD distributions can help.

Trinity Desktop Environment R14.0.8 released

The Trinity Desktop Environment, a fork of the KDE 3.x series, celebrates its tenth anniversary with a new maintenance release. R14.0.8 is the eighth maintenance release of the R14.0 series, and is built on and improves the previous R14.0.7 version.. Maintenance releases are intended to promptly bring bug fixes to users, while preserving overall stability through the avoidance of both major new features and major codebase re-factoring. Packages are available for Debian and Ubuntu.

Qemu 5.0.0 released

Qemu 5.0.0 has been released, with a massive laundry list of changes, fixes, and improvements for a lot of Qemu’s emulated platforms. The new version will make it your operating system’s repositories soon enough if you use Linux, but if you use a platform where you have to muddle along with and juggle your applications and updates manually like a peasant, like Windows or macOS, you’ll have to wait until someone packages it for you so you can update your binary manually. Of course, you can always build it yourself, too.

Sailfish OS 3.3.0 released

There are a lot of things that are not visible for a casual Sailfish OS user. This 3.3.0 release contains a vast number of updates for the lower level of the stack. We’ve included for example the updated toolchain, a new version of Python and many updates to core libraries such as glib2. In this blog I will go through a few of the changes and what they mean in practice for users, developers and Sailfish OS in general. You can also read the more detailed release notes. It’s nice to see my original Jolla Phone – released in late 2013 – is still supported, as is the ill-fated Jolla Tablet from late 2015. I’m probably one of the few people in the world who actually got a Jolla Tablet, delivered straight from Hong Kong in a non-descript brown packaging, but I never seriously used it.

My NixOS desktop flow

When the parts were almost in, I had decided to really start digging into NixOS. Friends on IRC and Discord had been trying to get me to use it for years, and I was really impressed with a simple setup that I had in a virtual machine. So I decided to jump head-first down that rabbit hole, and I’m honestly really glad I did. NixOS is built on a more functional approach to package management called Nix. Parts of the configuration can be easily broken off into modules that can be reused across machines in a deployment. If Ansible or other tools like it let you customize an existing Linux distribution to meet your needs, NixOS allows you to craft your own Linux distribution around your needs. Unfortunately, the Nix and NixOS documentation is a bit more dense than most other Linux programs/distributions are, and it’s a bit easy to get lost in it. I’m going to attempt to explain a lot of the guiding principles behind Nix and NixOS and how they fit into how I use NixOS on my desktop. I’m hearing more and more people talk about NixOS lately, and I’ve been wondering why. This article is an excellent overview into this unusual Linux distribution.

LXQt 0.15 released

Friday marked the release of LXQt 0.15, the first big update to this lightweight Qt5-based desktop environment since January 2019. There comes a fair number of improvements with this desktop that was born out of the LXDE and Razor-qt initiatives. I feel like LXQt is to KDE as MATE/Cinnamon/XFCE are to GNOME 3. It’s good to have options.

Microsoft Word now flags double spaces as errors, ending the great space debate

Microsoft has settled the great space debate, and sided with everyone who believes one space after a period is correct, not two. The software giant has started to update Microsoft Word to highlight two spaces after a period (a full stop for you Brits) as an error, and to offer a correction to one space. Microsoft recently started testing this change with the desktop version of Word, offering suggestions through the Editor capabilities of the app. There’s normal spacing, and everything else. I’m glad Microsoft is normal.

Disabling snaps in Ubuntu 20.04

By default, Ubuntu ships with a bunch of snap packages. If, like me, you don’t like snap and Flatpak infecting your clean deb/apt-based system, here’s how to remove them. Now this all sounds great, and it is in some ways (especially for app developers), but it comes at a cost: and that is generally performance and annoyances with application theming, access to user folders, and the like. I personally find that if I want to run a sandboxed application I lean more toward Flatpak as it is more performant and seems a bit more mature than Canonical’s snap system. In any event, I usually disable snaps entirely on a fresh install of Ubuntu, and I’ll show you how to do that in the new Ubuntu 20.04 release.

Ubuntu 20.04 LTS released

Ubuntu 20.04 LTS on the desktop is shipping with GNOME 3.36 and its plethora of improvements, improved OpenZFS support as an experimental option, the Linux 5.4 LTS kernel and the many improvements the new kernel brings, WireGuard VPN support, and a wealth of other package updates. I’ve been running it on my laptop since the beta, upgraded from 19.10, and it’s been smooth sailing.

Apple aims to sell Macs with its own chips starting in 2021

The Cupertino, California-based technology giant is working on three of its own Mac processors, known as systems-on-a-chip, based on the A14 processor in the next iPhone. The first of these will be much faster than the processors in the iPhone and iPad, the people said. Apple is preparing to release at least one Mac with its own chip next year, according to the people. But the initiative to develop multiple chips, codenamed Kalamata, suggests the company will transition more of its Mac lineup away from current supplier Intel Corp. I wonder just how locked-down these ARM Macs will be. Will it be App Store-only? Can you change default applications on ARM macOS? Can you install a browser engine other than WebKit? Do you have access to the file system? Will it ship with a terminal? I’m not so sure macOS users should be excited about ARM Macs.

ARM development for the office: unboxing an Ampere eMag workstation

One of the key elements I’ve always found frustrating with basic software development is that it can often be quite difficult to actually get the hardware in hand you want to optimize for, and get a physical interaction that isn’t delayed by networking or logging in or anything else. Having a development platform on the desk guarantees that direct access, and for the non-x86 vendors, I’ve been asking for these for some time. Thankfully we’re now starting to see some appear, and Avantek, one of the Arm server retailers, have built an Ampere eMag workstation out of a server board, with some interesting trickery to get it to fit. They sent us one to have a look at. This is only the unboxing and short first impressions, but I am unreasonably excited about what are effectively bog-standard PCs, but with an ARM processor. I can’t wait for these machines to come down in price, because this is the first time in a long, long time that we’ve seen what could become a serious challenge to x86 in its traditional space: desktops and laptops. Once AnandTech publishes its actual review, I’ll be on top of that, too.