Thom Holwerda Archive

Undocumented Catalina file access change

It’s well known that if you drag a file from Finder and drop it into Terminal, the full path of the file will output in Terminal. The same behavior occurs with copy and paste too. This has always been a very convenient but innocuous operation… until macOS 10.15 Catalina. I’ve discovered that on Catalina, pasting a file from Finder not only outputs the file path in Terminal, it also invisibly and permanently grants Terminal access to the file, bypassing any macOS privacy protections! This is such a weird bug… Or feature?

The internet’s name regulator says it’s ‘uncomfortable’ with the .org deal

Remember when the organization in charge of .org domain names traditionally used by non-profits decided to sell itself to a for-profit company? It surprised everyone because up to that point, there was little indication that the Internet Society (ISOC) was shopping the Public Interest Registry (PIR) for sale. Among those surprised, it appears, was ICANN, the organization that oversees the internet’s top-level domains, which now says it is “uncomfortable” with the lack of transparency around the deal and wants ISOC to pump the brakes. “ICANN’s role is to ensure that the .org top-level domain remains secure, reliable, and stable under the proposed acquisition of Public Interest Registry (PIR) by Ethos Capital,” Göran Marby, ICANN President and CEO, said in a statement to The Verge. “We also urge transparency, which is why we sent the 9 December correspondence to PIR and the Internet Society (ISOC).” This whole saga is a stark reminder that the internet and world wide web are mostly under corporate control, in a thick and complicated web of government agencies and private interests.

CP/NC: control program for Amstrad NC100 notepad computers

CP/NC is a CP/M-compatible operating system for the Amstrad NC100 Notepad Computer. It is based on Russell Marks’ ZCN operating system, but focuses more on CP/M compatibility and makes the computer “feel” more like an old-fashioned CP/M box. While ZCN is a rather playful system that adopts lots of features and external programs from DOS and Unix, CP/NC goes back to the roots: you will find a rather minimal CCP and the usual external commands, such as DUMP, PIP, STAT, and SYSGEN. CP/NC also changes the layout of the LCD console from 120×10 characters to a more readable 80×8. Here is a summary of what CP/NC is and is not as well as a list of differences between CP/NC and ZCN. This is such an oddly specific operating system.

Catalina 10.15.2 has changed Gatekeeper’s dialogs to confuse notarization status

If you’ve updated to macOS Catalina 10.15.2 and installed any notarized apps since, you might have noticed that something has gone missing. Do you remember that dialog shown by Gatekeeper when you first open a notarized app, telling you that “Apple checked it for malicious software and none was detected”? Well, that sentence has now vanished. Instead, that dialog now looks very similar to the pre-Catalina dialog for non-notarized apps. I had to read this post twice to fully comprehend what was going on, but once you get it – and most of you will get it without multiple reads because you’re not stupid like me – it’s an interesting look at how seemingly subtle changes in security dialogs – especially undocumented changes – can actually have very serious consequences if you take them at face-value.

Wireless networking in DOS

My need was seemingly simple: I set up an old ThinkPad 760XL (166 MHz Pentium MMX) running DOS for my son to play 1990s games on, especially but not exclusively Sierra and LucasArts adventures; for that purpose, the laptop is quite suitable, it has a decent ESS sound chip and a CD-ROM. Moving data to the laptop on a CF card with a PCMCIA adapter is not difficult, but it gets old; it would be really handy to have the laptop on the network, accessing the home NAS via either SMB or NFS. The laptop is of course old enough that it has no built-in Ethernet or WiFi, although it has two PCMCIA/CardBus (at least I believe they’re also functional as CardBus) slots. But the laptop is portable, and it’s in a corner of the house where there’s no Ethernet socket nearby. So WiFi would be really great. But is it even possible to get a DOS laptop on a WiFi network in 2019? The short answer is “yes, but”. The long answer follows. That link points to part 1 – part 2 has also been published. Setting up modern wireless networking on older devices or operating systems can be a major stumbling block – there’s not only hardware and its support to consider, but also things like encryption and support for modern wireless security standards. Many of the devices in my Palm OS and PocketPC collection, for instance, have wireless support, but will often lack support for WPA2. Often, the only viable solution is to create a pretty much open guest network, which is not something I’m a big fan of. I’m glad I’m not into MS-DOS like the author is, because I certainly wouldn’t want to tussle with this problem.

Teams is now available on Linux as Microsoft’s first Office Linux app

Starting today, Microsoft Teams is available for Linux users in public preview, enabling high quality collaboration experiences for the open source community at work and in educational institutions. Users can download the native Linux packages in .deb and .rpm formats here. We are constantly improving based on community feedback, so please download and submit feedback based on your experience. The Microsoft Teams client is the first Microsoft 365 app that is coming to Linux desktops, and will support all of Teams’ core capabilities. Teams is the hub for teamwork that brings together chat, video meetings, calling, and collaboration on Office 365 documents and business processes within a single, integrated experience. I genuinely hope this is the harbinger of the rest of Microsoft Office also finding its way to Linux natively. LibreOffice is workable in a pinch, but for proper compatibility nothing beats the real Office (sadly). I wouldn’t be surprised if Microsoft has long had Linux versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and so on, much like how Mac OS X has been running on Intel all along before Apple made the switch.

Google warns Turkish partners over new Android phones amid dispute

Google has told its Turkish business partners it will not be able to work with them on new Android phones to be released in Turkey, after the Turkish competition board ruled that changes Google made to its contracts were not acceptable. Totalitarian governments are increasingly using their subjects’ smartphones as tools for exerting their totalitarian control. Don’t be surprised if the Turkish government will soon mandate Turkish-made software on smartphones sold in the country, just like Russia mandated not too long ago.

Centaur unveils its new server-class x86 core

It has been a while since we last heard from Centaur Technology. The company’s last major technology introduction was a decade ago with the Isaiah microarchitecture and the CN core when the company introduced the Via Nano. Since then, the small Austin team refocused its efforts and has been diligently working on its next project – a high-performance data center and edge x86 chip with powerful integrated AI acceleration. Today, Centaur is opening up on its latest core. The consumer market is a thing of the past for Via, and the new focus is the datacenter space.

The Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 showdown: AMD’s Ryzen Picasso vs. Intel’s Ice Lake

AnandTech benchmarks the two nearly identical Surface Laptop 3s from Microsoft – one with AMD’s latest mobile processor and GPU, and the other one with Intel’s. They conclude: There aren’t too many ways to sugar coat the results of this showdown though. AMD’s Picasso platform, featuring its Zen+ cores and coupled with a Vega iGPU, has been a tremendous improvement for AMD. But Intel’s Ice Lake platform runs circles around it. Sunny Cove cores coupled with the larger Gen 11 graphics have proven to be too much to handle. That being said, much like the first desktop Ryzen processors being a huge leap forward for AMD without closing the gap with Intel at the time, the Picasso platform seems to repeat the feat in laptops. It was fantastic to see AMD get a design win in a premium laptop this year, and the Surface Laptop 3 is going to turn a lot of heads over the next year. AMD has long needed a top-tier partner to really help its mobile efforts shine, and they now have that strong partner in Microsoft, with the two of them in a great place to make things even better for future designs. Overall AMD has made tremendous gains in their laptop chips with the Ryzen launch, but the company has been focusing more on the desktop and server space, especially with the Zen 2 launch earlier this year. For AMD, the move to Zen 2 in the laptop space can’t come soon enough, and will hopefully bring much closer power parity to Intel’s offerings as well. I can’t wait to see what AMD can offer consumers in the laptop space over the coming years. If it’s going to be a repeat of the desktop space, we’re going to be in for some seriously good times.

Why NUKEMAP isn’t on Google Maps anymore

When I created the NUKEMAP in 2012, the Google Maps API was amazing.1 It was the best thing in town for creating Javascript mapping mash-ups, cost literally nothing, had an active developer community that added new features on a regular basis, and actually seemed like it was interested in people using their product to develop cool, useful tools. Today, pretty much all of that is now untrue. The API codebase has stagnated in terms of actually useful features being added (many neat features have been removed or quietly deprecated; the new features being added are generally incremental and lame), which is really quite remarkable given that the Google Maps stand-alone website (the one you visit when you go to Google Maps to look up a map or location) has had a lot of neat features added to it (like its 3-D mode) that have not been ported to the API code (which is why NUKEMAP3D is effectively dead — Google deprecated the Google Earth Plugin and has never replaced it, and no other code base has filled the gap). Stories like this often confuse me. Google’s behaviour seems designed specifically to harm the people most enthusiastic and knowledgeable about their products, pushing them away to use competitors’ products or other alternatives. While that won’t harm Google’s bottom line in the short term – and, in fact, might even improve it – in the long term, it strengthens alternatives and teaches people to untangle themselves from Google’s web of products. What’s in it for Google here? Is this just clueless bean counters lead by bottom line-obsessed executives? Or is there some grander plan behind pushing people away?

Getting drivers for old hardware is harder than ever

You’ve never lived until you’ve had to download a driver from an archived forum post on the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. You have no idea if it’s going to work, but it’s your only option. So you bite the bullet. I recently did this with a PCI-based SATA card I was attempting to flash to support a PowerPC-based Mac, and while it was a bit of a leap of faith, it actually ended up working. Score one for chance. But this, increasingly, feels like it may be a way of life for people trying to keep old hardware alive—despite the fact that all the drivers generally have to do is simply sit on the internet, available when they’re necessary. This problem is only going to get worse as time progresses. We’ll have to hope random people on the internet are kind enough to upload any drivers they’ve collected and held on to over the years, so users of classic hardware can keep them running.

The Mac “Pro”

Yesterday saw the release of the new Mac Pro, finally replacing the trash can and moving back to a tower-based design. It has had a somewhat mixed response, with many people taking issue with the high prices, ranging from $6000 to over $52000. There have been those seeking to defend the prices and write off the complaints, but I don’t believe these arguments take into account the larger picture. All in all, the Mac Pro is a powerful machine. For certain workflows it is even worth the cost. But the problem is that Apple has priced out a huge swathe of the professional market by making its lower end Mac Pros prohibitively expensive for what is frankly underwhelming hardware. The base model Mac Pro is, indeed, a terrible purchase, and some of the upgrade options are downright laughable – to get anything even remotely resembling a decent GPU, you’re asked to spend $2400, which is insane. Anybody who isn’t spending their boss’ money shouldn’t buy this machine. That being said – the interior design and layout of the new Mac Pro is beautiful. I can’t believe that we’re still dealing with kilometers of fiddly cabling and ugly, gamery ATX motherboards that have become ever more cumbersome to deal with, while Apple can design and build such a neat, clean, and tidy system.

The ZedRipper

Meet the ZedRipper – a 16-core, 83 MHz Z80 powerhouse as portable as it is impractical. If this introductory sentence doesn’t grab your attention because you’re dead inside, maybe this will: In the course of my historical computing hobbies, I stumbled upon something that I thought was very fascinating – relatively early in its history, CP/M supported a ‘networked’ version called CP/NET. The idea behind it was was one that will still feel pretty familiar to most people – that an office might have one or two ‘real’ machines with large disk drives and printers that it shared with ‘thin-client’ style machines that we’re basically just terminals with CPUs and RAM attached. Each user could basically act as if they had their own private CP/M machine with access to large disks and printers. This should give you enough hints as to where the creator and developer took this project. Amazing work.

A walk through the Magit interface

This article demonstrates some of Magit’s most essential features in order to give you an impression of how the interface works. It also hints at some of the design principals behind that interface. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. Magit is a complete interface to Git, which does not limit itself to the “most essential features everyone needs”. I hope that this article succeeds in demonstrating how Magit’s focus on work-flows allows its users to become more effective Git users. Here we concentrate on some essential work-flows, but note that more advanced features and work-flows have been optimized with the same attention to detail. If you would rather concentrate on the big picture, then read the article Magit the magical Git interface instead (or afterwards). As a non-developer, I have no idea if this is a useful tool, but I do like the idea of it.

Junk or treasure: AnandTech tests Amazon’s cheapest Black Friday desktop PC

Some Black Friday deals are wild. A store might offer only a couple of units of a particular TV, discounted by 66%. There might be a few pieces of a flagship smartphone at your local electronics store at half price. These are designed to entice customers through the door, and if you’re brave enough, ensure the cold for up to 12 hours to get that bargain of the year. But one of the key observations about looking at Amazon’s Computing and Components section every Black Friday, particularly this year, is that most of the discounts are for complete trash. After the headline external storage discounts, it’s just page after page of USB cables and smartphone holders. But one thing did catch my eye: an entire PC, for only £57/$61! How can an entire x86 desktop PC be sold for so little? We did the only thing worth doing: we purchased it. The listing on Amazon is for a refurbished Dell Optiplex 780 – an office form factor machine that is very typical of one you might see in an office that hasn’t been updated yet (this is probably where this unit came from). The listing for the machine promises a few things: a CPU at 2.6 GHz, 4 GB of DDR3, a 160 GB HDD, and 802.11abg Wi-Fi, as well as Windows 10. What we received was a 2.93 GHz processor (woohoo!), 2×2 GB of DDR3, a 250 Gb HDD (woohoo!), no Wi-Fi (boo), and a full copy of Windows 10. The fact that this comes will a full blown copy of Windows 10 Pro, which even at its cheapest is around $20, astounds me. Even if the whole unit is a refurb, that’s the one part that is most likely new: and given that the value of the contents are around $30, that only leaves $10 for the actual hardware. Better these old office refurbs get sold on Amazon than dumped on a landfill or torn apart by children inhaling toxic fumes in India. These kinds of machines are great for alternative operating systems like Haiku, too.

The Nintendo Switch Switch

Yesterday I had the idea that it would be cool if I turned a Nintendo Switch (will be referred to as NX to avoid confusion as NX is the code name for the Nintendo Switch) console into an actual network switch. I thought about it a bit and realized that it would be doable in hardware at least, since the NX docking station has USB-A ports. Dubious usefulness, indisputable awesomeness.

How I switched to Plan 9

Seriously, what do you do with your computer? Over time 9front sanded off its rough edges. I can do just about everything I need to do from a bare metal install. Today, we even have vmx(1) for hosting OpenBSD or Linux virtual machines (just in case you need to interface with the U.S. government via the now-required modern web browser). A previous release of the 9front DASH1 manual was created entirely on a ThinkPad running 9front (and Gimp running inside OpenBSD running inside vmx(1)). 9front now even ships with a primitive Microsoft Paint clone, several native Sega and Nintendo emulators, and a full port of DOOM. I never would have dreamed anything like this was possible back in 2009. As time goes by, there is less and less reason to boot anything else. For what I do, I’m perfectly happy with it. Clearly not the most typical user, but that doesn’t make their experiences any less interesting.

Haiku almost-monthly activity report: October and November 2019

Another month two months have passed, so time for another monthly Haiku update. The biggest improvement this time around: PulkoMandy revisited once again the intel_extreme driver to identify the remaining regressions introduced when adding sandy Bridge support. We believe all problems have been identified and solved, so, if you have an intel graphics card, please test a recent nightly and report on what happens. There’s also a ton of non-x86 commits this time around.

General Magic’s Magic Cap mobile platform

Next in our series of “people who left Apple and founded a revolutionary company that was ahead of its time and created amazing products but ultimately failed,” let’s check out General Magic and their operating system called Magic Cap. The article contains a guide on how to set up a Magic Cap emulator inside a Mac OS 7.5.3 emulator. Some assembly definitely required.

Doug’s Demo Sequel: 1969

Not long after Doug Engelbart’s ground-breaking Mother of All Demos in December 1968, he and his team demonstrated their research at another conference in San Francisco – the 32nd Annual Meeting of the American Society for Information Science (ASIS), in October 1969. This live demo presentation, titled “Augmentation Systems and Information Science,” showcased the novel work coming out of Doug’s Augmented Human Intellect Research Center (AHIRC) at Stanford Research Institute (SRI), now SRI International. Lucky for us, they filmed their 90-minute dress rehearsal in front a live audience. This footage is now available online, along with recently unearthed details and memorabilia. An important piece of history, saved.