In the News Archive

Broadcom says “many” VMware perpetual licenses got support extensions

Broadcom CEO Hock Tan this week publicized some concessions aimed at helping customers and partners ease into VMware’s recent business model changes. Tan reiterated that the controversial changes, like the end of perpetual licensing, aren’t going away. But amid questioning from antitrust officials in the European Union (EU), Tan announced that the company has already given support extensions for some VMware perpetual license holders. ↫ Scharon Harding at Ars Technica I’m linking to the Ars Technica writeup here, because the original blog post from Broadcom’s CEO is effectively unreadable to me, as steeped in corpospeak as it is. The basic gist is that the storm of criticism that’s been hovering around Broadcom ever since the changes it announced to VMware’s licensing strategy isn’t going away, and even attracted the attention of the European Union. As such, Broadcom is giving existing perpetual VMware license holders some breathing room, but not much, and their plans will be executed as-is regardless. I doubt Broadcom and VMware are big and crucial enough for the full might of the EU to come down on them, so I don’t think we’ll see any sudden turnarounds like we did with Apple and Facebook, for instance, but at least some cracks are clearly starting to show. If the aforementioned storm keeps up, pressure from customers might actually force more concessions out of Broadcom.

A better, more compact UI for Firefox

Proton is Firefox’s new design, starting from Firefox 89. Photon is the old design of Firefox which was used until version 88. Proton’s overall feel is good, but there were a few things I didn’t like and wanted to improve.That’s why this project was born, and Lepton to denote light theme layer. Lepton’s photon styled is preserve Photon’s feeling while keep Original Lepton’s strengths. ↫ Firefox UI Fix GitHub page I do not like the current Firefox user interface, because even with the ‘compact’ layout re-enabled in about:config, I find it just too bulky and wasteful of my screen real estate. I’ve been using the above Firefox user interface mod for ages now, and I can’t imagine using Firefox without it. The GitHub pages and guides are a bit of a mess and difficult to follow due to the project consisting of several overlapping different styles, but I just use the script listed here, selecting the style “2” when running the script. It won’t be for everyone, but for me, it makes Firefox nice and compact, turning it into a mouse-first interface without trying to accommodate touch. This is also by far not the only project with this goal, so if you’re using something else – feel free to list them.

DwarfFS: a read-only compression file system

DwarFS is a read-only file system with a focus on achieving very high compression ratios in particular for very redundant data. DwarFS also doesn’t compromise on speed and for my use cases I’ve found it to be on par with or perform better than SquashFS. For my primary use case, DwarFS compression is an order of magnitude better than SquashFS compression, it’s 6 times faster to build the file system, it’s typically faster to access files on DwarFS and it uses less CPU resources. ↫ DwarfFS GitHub page DwarfFS supports both Linux, macOS, and Windows, but macOS and Windows support is experimental at this point. It seems to have higher compression ratios at faster speeds than various alternatives, so if you have a use case for compression file systems – give DwarfFS a look.

How Stability AI’s founder tanked his billion-dollar startup

It was Stability’s armada of GPUs, the wildly powerful and equally expensive chips undergirding AI, that were so taxing the company’s finances. Hosted by AWS, they had long been one of Mostaque’s bragging points; he often touted them as one of the world’s 10 largest supercomputers. They were responsible for helping Stability’s researchers build and maintain one of the top AI image generators, as well as break important new ground on generative audio, video and 3D models. “Undeniably, Stability has continued to ship a lot of models,” said one former employee. “They may not have profited off of it, but the broader ecosystem benefitted in a huge, huge way.” But the costs associated with so much compute were now threatening to sink the company. According to an internal October financial forecast seen by Forbes, Stability was on track to spend $99 million on compute in 2023. It noted as well that Stability was “underpaying AWS bills for July (by $1M)” and “not planning to pay AWS at the end of October for August usage ($7M).” Then there were the September and October bills, plus $1 million owed to Google Cloud and $600,000 to GPU cloud data center CoreWeave. (Amazon, Google and CoreWeave declined to comment.) ↫ Kenrick Cai and Iain Martin As a Dutch person, I can smell a popping bubble from a mile away, even if tulipmania is most likely anti-Dutch British propaganda. In all seriousness, there’s definitely signs that the insane energy and compute costs of artificial image and video generation in particular are rising at such an insane pace it’s simply unsustainable for the popularity of these tools to just keep rising. Eventually someone’s going to have to pay, and I wonder just how much regular people are willing to pay for this kind of stuff.

Proxmox gives VMware ESXi users a place to go after Broadcom kills free version

One alternative to ESXi for home users and small organizations is Proxmox Virtual Environment, a Debian-based Linux operating system that provides broadly similar functionality and has the benefit of still being an actively developed product. To help jilted ESXi users, the Proxmox team has just added a new “integrated import wizard” to Proxmox that supports importing of ESXi VMs, easing the pain of migrating between platforms. ↫ Andrew Cunningham at Ars Technica It’s of course entirely unsurprising other projects and companies were going to try and capitalise on Broadcom’s horrible management of its acquisition of VMware.

Fuzzing Ladybird with tools from Google Project Zero

While Ladybird does an okay job with well-formed web content, I thought it would be useful to throw some security research tools at it and see what kind of issues it might reveal. So today we’ll be using “Domato”, a DOM fuzzer from Google Project Zero, to stress test Ladybird and fix some issues found along the way. The way this works is that Domato generates randomized web pages with lots of mostly-valid but strange HTML, CSS and JavaScript. I then load these pages into a debug build of Ladybird and observe what happens. ↫ Andreas Kling I have high hopes for Ladybird.

Image-scraping Midjourney bans rival “AI” firm for scraping images

On Wednesday, Midjourney banned all employees from image synthesis rival Stability AI from its service indefinitely after it detected “botnet-like” activity suspected to be a Stability employee attempting to scrape prompt and image pairs in bulk. Midjourney advocate Nick St. Pierre tweeted about the announcement, which came via Midjourney’s official Discord channel. ↫ Benj Edwards So “AI” companies are allowed to ingest whatever data they want, but as soon as someone ingests their data, it’s suddenly a problem? Seems like a sound business model.

Facing reality, whether it’s about Apple or the EU, is a core requirement for good management

Baldur Bjarnason has written an excellent piece to explain why, exactly, companies like Apple seem wholly incapable of working with the EU, instead of against it. He argues – quite effectively – that Apple, and US tech punditry in general, simply do not understand the EU, nor are they willing to spend even 10 minutes to understand it, which is really all you need. The core premise of the EU, its very primary function, is to enable and protect the single market. A great example of this is the ban on roaming charges – mobile phone carriers in EU are not allowed to charge extra for using mobile voice and data services in another EU country. From the EU’s perspective, taking action to prevent private parties from fragmenting and taking private control over the single market simultaneously grew the economy and increased consumer surplus. This is the operating theory behind much of the actions the EU takes regarding market regulation and product standardisation: a single market built on standards is more profitable for both businesses and consumers. ↫ Baldur Bjarnason And because Apple and its tech punditry refuse to try and understand the party they are dealing with, they get caught looking like childish idiots every time they open their mouths about it. Normally when the EU regulates a given sector, it does so with ample lead time and works with industry to make sure that they understand their obligations. Apple instead thought that the regulatory contact from the EU during the lead time to the DMA was an opportunity for it to lecture the EU on its right to exist. Then its executives made up some fiction in their own minds as to what the regulation meant, announced their changes, only to discover later that they were full of bullshit. This was entirely Apple’s own fault. For months, we’ve been hearing leaks about Apple’s talks with the EU about the Digital Market Act. Those talks were not negotiations even though Apple seems to have thought they were. Talks like those are to help companies implement incoming regulations, with some leeway for interpretation on the EU’s side to accommodate business interests. Remember what I wrote about electrical plugs? The EU is pro-business – often criticised for being essentially a pro-business entity – and not in favour of regulation for regulation’s sake. If Apple had faced reality and tried to understand the facts as they are, they would have used the talks to clarify all of these issues and more well in advance of the DMA taking effect. But they didn’t because they have caught the tech industry management disease of demanding that reality bend to their ideas and wishes. ↫ Baldur Bjarnason What a lot of people – both inside and outside the EU – do not grasp is that while we all know the EU has shortcomings and issues, in general, the EU is uncharacteristically (for a government agency) popular among EU citizens, no matter the country of origin. That’s because we, as EU citizens, and especially as EU citizens who do anything international, know just how ridiculously beneficial the EU has been for trade, business, the economy, travel, and so much more. Apple can keep acting like a whiny trust fund boy who thinks the world owes them everything, but they’ll have to deal with the consequences. Continued violation of the DMA can lead to fines of up to 10% of revenue. That’s 38 billion dollars. I secretly hope Apple keeps this childish behaviour up. It’s deeply entertaining.

European crash tester says carmakers must bring back physical controls

The European organisation for crash testing and car safety, Euro NCAP has announced that starting in 2026, cars will need physical controls in their interiors to gain the highest safety ratings. “The overuse of touchscreens is an industry-wide problem, with almost every vehicle-maker moving key controls onto central touchscreens, obliging drivers to take their eyes off the road and raising the risk of distraction crashes,” said Matthew Avery, Euro NCAP’s director of strategic development. “New Euro NCAP tests due in 2026 will encourage manufacturers to use separate, physical controls for basic functions in an intuitive manner, limiting eyes-off-road time and therefore promoting safer driving,” he said. ↫ Jonathan M. Gitlin at Ars Technica Excellent news, and it’s taken regulators and safety organisations way too long to long to adapt to the growing menace of touch screens in cars.

Rust for embedded systems: current state, challenges and open problems

Embedded software is used in safety-critical systems such as medical devices and autonomous vehicles, where software defects, including security vulnerabilities, have severe consequences. Most embedded codebases are developed in unsafe languages, specifically C/C++, and are riddled with memory safety vulnerabilities. To prevent such vulnerabilities, RUST, a performant memory-safe systems language, provides an optimal choice for developing embedded software. RUST interoperability enables developing RUST applications on top of existing C codebases. Despite this, even the most resourceful organizations continue to develop embedded software in C/C++. This paper performs the first systematic study to holistically understand the current state and challenges of using RUST for embedded systems. Our study is organized across three research questions. We collected a dataset of 2,836 RUST embedded software spanning various categories and 5 Static Application Security Testing ( SAST) tools. We performed a systematic analysis of our dataset and surveys with 225 developers to investigate our research questions. We found that existing RUST software support is inadequate, SAST tools cannot handle certain features of RUST embedded software, resulting in failures, and the prevalence of advanced types in existing RUST software makes it challenging to engineer interoperable code. In addition, we found various challenges faced by developers in using RUST for embedded systems development. ↫ Ayushi Sharma, Shashank Sharma, Santiago Torres-Arias, Aravind Machiry Some light reading.

Reddit sells training data to unnamed AI company ahead of IPO

On Friday, Bloomberg reported that Reddit has signed a contract allowing an unnamed AI company to train its models on the site’s content, according to people familiar with the matter. The move comes as the social media platform nears the introduction of its initial public offering (IPO), which could happen as soon as next month. Reddit initially revealed the deal, which is reported to be worth $60 million a year, earlier in 2024 to potential investors of an anticipated IPO, Bloomberg said. The Bloomberg source speculates that the contract could serve as a model for future agreements with other AI companies. ↫ Benj Edwards at Ars Technica Properly paying for the content you’re feeding into your “AI” model is a huge improvement over just taking it without users’ consent, but it does add yet another area of concern for users of all kinds of platforms. Whatever you write, create, or post might be fed into “AI” models without you ever realising it, and while the platform you use gets paid for that, you aren’t. In any event, OSNews is not selling your comments to an “AI” company, but with how old we are, there’s no doubt both your comments and our stories have already found their way into countless “AI” black holes.

Broadcom VMware ends free VMware vSphere Hypervisor closing an era

Broadcom’s VMware division took a big step today, ending its free VMware vSphere Hypervisor. This is one of those announcements that we were expecting after we covered VMware End of Availability on Many VMware vSphere Editions and VMware Updates its EOA Plan Providing Guidance for Some Subscription Transition, but it is a big deal for many STH readers. It now sets VMware down the path of mainframes. ↫ Patrick Kennedy at ServeTheHome A massive blow for the homelab community.

VMware is killing off 56 products amid “tectonic” infrastructure shift

Broadcom’s brutal assault on VMware’s product suite continues, with the company’s new owner this week confirming that it is sunsetting a massive 56 VMware products and platforms – as investors said this week that they anticipated a “tectonic shift” in the infrastructure market as a result.  In a January 15 advisory VMware confirmed tersely that it was taking a sweeping range of products to “End of Availability” and that “these products are no longer available for purchase” – although most remain advertised enthusiastically, for now, on slick corporate website pages. ↫ Ed Targett The list of products is a thing to behold, for sure. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many enterprise products together in one list, and I once spent weeks scouring and dealing with HPE.

Chinese telecom giant Huawei pushes forward with ambitious plan to dethrone Android

Hundreds of technical experts from many of China’s biggest state-owned and private companies, including the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), China Telecom, Meituan, and Baidu, all gathered in Beijing last month. The purpose behind the meeting was for their staff to receive training so they could be certified as developers on Huawei’s Harmony Operation System (OS). While most observers were looking the other way, Huawei has been quietly building an independent Chinese operating system that isn’t subject to U.S. sanctions. In the four years after the telecom giant was banned from using Google apps, the Shenzhen-based company has been making significant strides toward achieving its long-term goal: To dethrone Android and make its HarmonyOS the default operating system in China. ↫ Nina Xiang for Forbes Asia HarmonyOS is poised to succeed in beating iOS and Android where others have failed, if only because the Chinese state is pushing homegrown solutions hard. It’s already hit 10% market share in China, closing in on iOS’ 17%, but still kilometres away from Android’s 72%. However, with both local governments and the government in Beijing enacting all kinds of laws and guidelines to force companies, institutions, and people to switch to homegrown solutions, it wouldn’t surprise me to see this market share climb fast. And that’s actually okay! Setting aside the fact the Chinese government is a genocidal totalitarian surveillance nightmare apparatus, I think it’s entirely understandable, reasonable, and a good investment to have homegrown technology solutions and platforms. I wish the European Union did something similar, but that ship has probably sailed after we let Microsoft gut whatever was left of Nokia after Apple was done with it.

Broadcom stops selling perpetual VMware licenses, subscription-only from now on

As part of our transition to subscription and a simplified portfolio, beginning today, we will no longer sell perpetual licenses. All offerings will continue to be available as subscriptions going forward. Additionally, we are ending the sale of Support and Subscription (SnS) renewals for perpetual offerings beginning today. ↫ Krish Prasad of VMware This sucks. Every few years, I would buy a cheap VMware license on eBay for like €10 or something, to keep my Windows virtual machine going for the incredibly rare cases where I need one for my job because some popular CAT tools are Windows-only. I really do not wish to buy a subscription for that. I guess it’s time to transition to VirtualBox.

“If buying isn’t owning, piracy isn’t stealing”

But it’s worse than that. When a tech company designs a device for remote, irreversible, nonconsensual downgrades, they invite both external and internal parties to demand those downgrades. Like Pavel Chekov says, a phaser on the bridge in Act I is going to go off by Act III. Selling a product that can be remotely, irreversibly, nonconsensually downgraded inevitably results in the worst person at the product-planning meeting proposing to do so. The fact that there are no penalties for doing so makes it impossible for the better people in that meeting to win the ensuing argument, leading to the moral injury of seeing a product you care about reduced to a pile of shit. ↫ Cory Doctorow Another excellent banger of an article by Cory Doctorow. Even here on OSNews, I fully support anyone who uses an adblocker to remove any ads you might find on this website. Your computer, your rules. Sure, it’d be nice to get some income from the ads, and we do offer more direct and far better ways to support the website (Patreon, Ko-Fi, Liberapay, merch), but even if you choose to block every ad, and not send us a single cent in donations, that’s entirely within your rights. As someone who runs a website accessible to anyone, I consider your right to only see on your display what you want to see to be sacred. Just because you opened this website to read some tech news does not mean you also consent to seeing ads. We could probably make a lot more money by filling this site with SEO crap, boatloads of ads, countless newsletter prompts, and god knows what else – but not only would that be the death of OSNews, I would also just find it personally revolting. I regularly get emails from people interested in enshittifying OSNews, but I’ve never budged, and I hope I never have to thanks to those of you who choose to support us financially. Websites are the easiest to “downgrade”, ad Doctorow calls it, and we’ve all seen how the wider tech news landscape has been downgraded a lot over the years. I hope I can keep OSNews as it’s been since its launch way back in 1998.

Finally: proper attribution

You may have noticed that starting today, I’ve been adding a dedicated link to the main story in every post on OSNews. Our old-fashioned 2001 method of “biggest link is main story” simply doesn’t hold up today as proper attribution, so from here on out every post will have a link marked by ↫ crediting the name and/or publication of the main linked article (or multiple where it makes sense). I’ve been unhappy with our attribution for years, and finally got my act together and settled on this solution. While I’ve had, in total, maybe no more than 2-3 complaints about this since I started in 2006 – it’s taken too long, and I apologise for that. Credit and attribution matter. For the curious: ↫ is part of the arrows Unicode block as U+21AB, titled “Leftwards arrow with loop”. I settled on it because the path of the loop and the arrow evoked a feeling of being yoinked back somewhere else, and that’s what a link does. Sure, I could’ve opted for a chain link or whatever, but that’s boring.

The beauty of finished software

In a world where constant change is the norm, finished software provides a breath of fresh air. It’s a reminder that reliability, consistency, and user satisfaction can coexist in the realm of software development. So the next time you find yourself yearning for the latest update, remember that sometimes, the best software is the one that doesn’t change at all. While this is a nice sentiment, the reality is that software has become so complex, competition to cutthroat, and operating systems so changeful, that “finishing” software just doesn’t seem like a realistic and attainable goal anymore. The example used in the article, WordStar 4.0 for DOS, can only be “finished” because DOS doesn’t change anymore.

I’m totally blind. Artificial intelligence is helping me rediscover the world.

When I first heard about Be My AI—a new collaboration between Open AI and Be My Eyes, an app that connects sighted volunteers with blind people who need help via video call—I didn’t let myself get too excited. Be My AI promised to allow blind people to receive an A.I.–generated description of any photo we uploaded. This was a tantalizing prospect, but it wasn’t the first time a tech company had promised to revolutionize the way people with disabilities access visual content. Microsoft had already given us Seeing AI, which in a very rudimentary way provided a rough idea of what was going on in the images we shared, and which allowed us—again, in a fairly basic way—to interact with information contained in written texts. But the details were missing, and in most cases we could know only that there was a person in the picture and what they were doing, nothing more. Be My AI was different. Suddenly, I was in a world where nothing was off limits. By simply waving my cellphone, I could hear, with great detail, what my friends were wearing, read street signs and shop prices, analyze a room without having entered it, and indulge in detailed descriptions of the food—one of my great passions—that I was about to eat. I like to make fun of “AI” – those quotes are there for a reason – but that doesn’t mean it can’t be truly useful. This is a great example of this technology providing a tangible, real, and possibly life-altering benefit to someone with a disability, and that’s just amazing. My only gripe is that, as the author notes, the images have to be uploaded to the service in order to be analysed. Cynical as I tend to be, this was probably the intent of OpenAI’s executives. A ton of blind people and other people with vision issues will be uploading a lot of private data to be sucked up into the Open AI database, for further “AI” training. But that’s easy for me to say, and I think blind people and other people with vision issues will argue that’s a sacrifice they’re totally comfortable making, considering that they’re getting in return.

Meet Nightshade, the new tool allowing artists to ‘poison’ AI models with corrupted training data

But even without filing lawsuits, artists have a chance to fight back against AI using tech. MIT Technology Review got an exclusive look at a new open source tool still in development called Nightshade, which can be added by artists to their imagery before they upload it to the web, altering pixels in a way invisible to the human eye, but that “poisons” the art for any AI models seeking to train on it. Excellent. This is exactly the kind of clever thinking we need to stop major corporations from stealing everyone’s creative works for their own further gain. I hope we can develop these poisons further, to the point of making these “AI” tools entirely useless. Get permission, or get poisoned.