Thom Holwerda Archive

iCloud and many other Apple services are down or experiencing issues

Apple is experiencing a widespread outage today, with a wide range of the company’s services and apps down or experiencing issues currently. Affected services and apps include the App Store, iCloud, Siri, iMessage, iTunes Store, Apple Maps, Apple Music, Apple Podcasts, Apple Arcade, Apple Fitness+, Apple TV+, Find My, FaceTime, Notes, Stocks, and many others, according to complaints across Twitter and other platforms. Apple’s developer website is also inaccessible due to server issues. Another great day to be a Linux user.

Overview: the Fuchsia Interface Definition Language

This document is a high level overview of the Fuchsia Interface Definition Language (FIDL), which is the language used to describe interprocess communication (IPC) protocols used by programs running on Fuchsia. This overview introduces the concepts behind FIDL — developers familiar with these concepts already can start writing code by following the tutorials, or dive deeper by reading the language or bindings references. Some light reading going into the weekend. Knowing how Fuchsia works might become quite important for developers over the coming years.

Haiku gets USB WiFi support

Haiku’s latest activity report is out, and right off the bat, there’s a big ticket item. That’s right, after many years of being requested, Haiku finally has support for USB WiFi devices! (Currently only Realtek controllers are supported, but Ralink and others should follow before too long; Realtek/“RTL” chips are generally the most common, however.). That’s great news. There’s way more in here than just this, of course, so head on over to find out more.

Google casually announces Steam for Chrome OS is coming in alpha for select Chromebooks

The long-awaited availability of Steam on Chromebooks was just more or less announced (in alpha) at the 2022 Google for Games Developer Summit. That said, Google is light on availability details for the moment. Google specifically said that the “Steam Alpha just launched, making this longtime PC game store available on select Chromebooks for users to try.” That said, no other details appear to be live this morning, but we did reveal the device list last month. I’m sure many Chromebooks are more than powerful enough to play a meaningful number of games.

Microsoft puts ads in Explorer, claims it was a test

Microsoft appears to be testing a new type of ad inside File Explorer on Windows 11. Microsoft MVP and Twitter user Florian Beaubois discovered an ad in the latest test build of Windows 11, prompting users to check out the Microsoft Editor. While the ads might have appeared for some Windows 11 users, Microsoft says it was a mistake. “This was an experimental banner that was not intended to be published externally and was turned off,” says Brandon LeBlanc, senior program manager for Windows, in a statement to The Verge. Almost every week there’s a news story about something plain dreadful happening to Windows users, and this is just the latest in a long string of ads Microsoft is plastering all over its operating system. I really don’t understand how users just accept this – they sit back, get bombarded with ads in their operating system, and just… Accept it. Baffling.

DirectStorage API now available on Windows

Starting today, Windows games can ship with DirectStorage. This public SDK release begins a new era of fast load times and detailed worlds in PC games by allowing developers to more fully utilize the speed of the latest storage devices. In September 2020, we announced DirectStorage would be coming to Windows, and after collecting feedback throughout our developer preview, we are making this API available to all of our partners to ship with their games. Check out the announcement blog for an in-depth exploration of the inspiration for DirectStorage and how it will benefit Windows games. This technology brings the fast storage features of the Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X/S to Windows gaming. I’m curious to see if this feature can make its way to Linux, but I wonder how e.g. games running through Proton would possibly make use of it.

Google forces YouTube Vanced to shut down ‘due to legal reasons’

The popular Vanced YouTube app is being discontinued, after a legal threat from Google. The creators of Vanced have revealed the project will be shut down in the coming days, with download links set to be removed. While the app will continue to work for anyone who currently has it installed on Android, without any future updates it’s likely to stop working at some point soon. The Vanced owners say they’ve had to discontinue the project “due to legal reasons.” Google sent the Vanced owners a cease and desist letter recently, which has forced the developers to stop distributing and developing the app. “We were asked to remove all references to ‘YouTube’, change the logo, and remove all links related to YouTube products,” says an admin from the Vanced team in a Discord message to The Verge. The most surprising thing for me is not that Google shut Vanced down, but that it took them this long. YouTube with ads is a terrible user experience, so I pay for YouTube Premium to get rid of them, but obviously, not everyone has the means to do so, be it financially or because of some inane Google restriction. Vanced offered a great alternative for these people. With Google trying ever harder to monetise the hell out of YouTube views, it was only a matter of time before it would go after Vanced. In the past few months, I noticed a considerable uptick in mentions of and references to the application, and Google probably noticed too.

ReactOS making progress on SMP/multi-core support

ReactOS as the open-source project striving for binary compatibility with Windows applications/drivers is still working away in 2022 on symmetric multi-processing (SMP) support. Proper SMP/multi-core support is obviously critical for today’s hardware or even anything in the past roughly two decades… It’s also been a pain point for ReactOS, but fortunately the situation is improving. We’re still looking at very early code that’s not even merged yet, but once it has – this would be a massive leap forward for the project.

A brief tour of the PDP-11

The history of computing could arguably be divided into three eras: that of mainframes, minicomputers, and microcomputers. Minicomputers provided an important bridge between the first mainframes and the ubiquitous micros of today. This is the story of the PDP-11, the most influential and successful minicomputer ever. A deep dive into the inner workings of the PDP-11, specifically on how to use the machine to do actual computing tasks. I lack the skills to do anything with a machine like this, but they look and feel so incredibly nice.

MorphOS 3.16 released

The MorphOS development team is proud to announce the immediate availability of MorphOS 3.16. This release includes numerous important performance, stability and security improvements. A new version of Wayfarer comes included with the OS and replaces the now obsolete Odyssey Web Browser. We’ve also included the Iris email client, Magic Beacon notifications system and a Command-Tab application switcher. The Synergy Client and Server applications are now compatible with the free Barrier alternative. OpenSSL3 is now available as a shared library. MorphOS is actually a remarkably good and capable operating system – held back by its reliance on outdated Apple PowerPC hardware. It’s got a a robust core, a good browser, a number of great applications, and you can configure and alter every nook and cranny of the operating system (assuming you can get through the thick molasses that is several decades of Amiga-isms that make no sense to anyone who hasn’t been part of the scene for about as long). It’s just sad it’s held back by outdated hardware that’s really becoming ever harder to keep running these days. There have been the occasional rumblings of a port to x86, but as far as I know, nothing has come of it yet. Meanwhile, my 17″ 1.25Ghz PowerBook G4 sees the occasional boot into MorphOS, and with this new release, I feel a few boots incoming.

elementary OS is imploding

The comments have pointed out that the person I was linking to is a transphobic bigot, and that deadnaming was taking place. I had no idea this was the case, and was entirely unaware of the situation. Still, that is not an excuse, and I should have done better due diligence to ensure this didn’t happen. Rest assured, there was no ill intent on my part whatsoever – just ignorance of the people involved. My sincerest apologies to everyone involved, and I will strive to do better. elementaryOS was never going to be long for this world. They go years without releases, new releases require fresh installations (often no upgrade path), the only way to install software out of the box is through their virtually empty application store (you need to manually enable things like apt repositories), and so on. A lot of people suggest elementaryOS as a distribution for beginners, but I never understood why – it will leave users locked into an operating system that barely has any applications, requires fresh installations, and requires a ton of manual fiddling and command line work to make more usable and capable. At that point, you might as well jump straight to Mint, pop!_OS, Fedora, or any of the other truly capable, user friendly, foolproof Linux distributions that don’t try to lock users out of all kinds of useful features and applications. It’s no surprise to me that the company behind elementaryOS has been unable to make any money. It always gave me major Lindows/Linspire vibes.

PipeWire: a year in review & a look ahead

The PipeWire project has made major strides over the past few years, bringing shiny new features, and paving the way for new possibilities in the Linux multimedia scene. With 2021 seeing significant progress made on all fronts, let’s take a moment to look back at what was accomplished, and what lies ahead for 2022. Just one of the many project that make Linux easier to use on the desktop.

Android 12L released

Android 12L, the big-screen updated version of Android 12, is now rolling out after months of testing, landing as part of today’s Feature Drop update for Pixels and coming soon to other tablets and foldables from companies like Samsung, Lenovo, and Microsoft. If you haven’t followed along with our Android 12L feature coverage, the very short version is that most of the changes were meant to address issues larger devices face when running Android. That includes UI tweaks covering a range from the notification shade to launcher grid sizing, plus some tweaks to multitasking, as well as a new taskbar that behaves a little more like Chrome OS — Google’s unifying its interfaces across compatible screen sizes. Most of the changes are, as said, for devices with larger screens, so most likely there isn’t much in here for people with regular phones.

Apple’s M1 Ultra tapes two M1 Max chips together

Apple is adding “one last chip” to the M1 processor family. The M1 Ultra is a new design that uses “UltraFusion” technology to strap two M1 Max chips together, resulting in a huge processor that offers 16 high-performance CPU cores, four efficiency cores, a 64-core integrated GPU, and support for up to 128GB of RAM. It looks like Apple is using a chiplet-based design for the M1 Ultra, just like AMD is doing for many of its Ryzen chips. A chiplet-based approach, as we’ve written, uses multiple silicon dies to make larger chips and can result in better yields since you don’t need to throw a whole monolithic 20-core chip out if a couple of cores have defects that keep them from working. This is a beast of a chip, and it fits in this neat little new Mac, called the Mac Studio. Apple also unveiled a new, more “affordable” monitor, but I’m not sure a monitor that maxes out at 60Hz in 2022 is worth €1779.

Ntfs2btrfs: convert NTFS to Btrfs

Ntfs2btrfs is a tool which does in-place conversion of Microsoft’s NTFS filesystem to the open-source filesystem Btrfs, much as btrfs-convert does for ext2. The original image is saved as a reflink copy at image/ntfs.img, and if you want to keep the conversion you can delete this to free up space. Neat tool, but probably with a rather limited application.

All desktop calculators are wrong, so I had to build my own

Writing this article wasn’t easy. At first glance, it’s all about a fairly unentertaining subject (building a calculator, the kind of exercise that every IT student tried at some point of its education), and to make the matter worse, it’s pedantically advertised. But in the end, I believe that this article really brings out valuable features, highlights enjoyable development stories, and offers an interesting experience, so bear with me! I built a desktop calculator called Chalk, which is free and supports macOS 10.9+. Because I had to make unconventional choices and introduce ideas that I never saw anywhere else before, my first task is to convince you that Chalk is more interesting than it looks. Alright, let’s see what the not-at-all critical and discerning OSNews readership thinks of this one.

Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Mozilla are working together to improve the web for developers

For the first time ever, all major browser vendors, and other stakeholders, have come together to solve the top browsers compatibility issues identified by web developers. Interop 2022 will improve the experience of developing for the web in 15 key areas. In this article, find out how we got here, what the project focuses on, how success will be measured, and how you can track progress. I’m all for working together in this industry, since working together usually means better experiences for consumers. Making browsers render websites more consistently is a great goal to strive towards, especially when it’s a joint effort.

Windows Defender is enough, if you harden it

This article is not intended to convince you to abandon your current antivirus solutions. In this post I would like to share my observations and ways to improve the effectiveness of Defender. But today, let’s focus on Defender for the home user. It does not have additional functions that are offered by other commercial solutions, but what it does is enough. However, it is worth enabling some additional functions that are not available from the graphical interface. Excellent article, and worth a read if you’re still using Windows.

Here’s the full Google Chrome browser running on Fuchsia

Google’s homegrown Fuchsia operating system has taken another step closer to being broadly usable by gaining the full Google Chrome browser experience. It’s been possible to access the web in a very limited way on Fuchsia for quite some time now via the operating system’s “Simple Browser” app – which was powered by the Chromium engine under the hood. While usable, this “browser” didn’t offer the usual necessities like an address bar or tabs. Mid last year, we reported that Google had begun efforts to bring the full Chrome browser experience to Fuchsia. As first spotted by oldschool-51 of Fuchsia’s Reddit community, these efforts have come to fruition in recent days, with Simple Browser being replaced in Fuchsia’s app list with “Chromium.” It’s steps like these that show that Google is serious about Fuchsia. For whatever that’s worth.