OS News Archive

Visopsys 0.92 released

It’s been a while, but Visopsys has had a new release, 0.92, with all the details in the changelog. There is a longer-term project to bring the operating system into the modern era, with things like 64-bit support, UEFI booting, and so on. In the meantime, this maintenance release features stability and usability improvements, bug fixes, and multitasker portability changes designed to further unshackle it from the x86 processor architecture. Visopsys has been in development since 1997, and one of its unique features is a focus on a partitioning tool built atop Visopsys, Partition Logic, to make partitioning changes without booting into any other operating system.

86Box v4.0 released

This is the August 2023 update to 86Box, bringing many improvements, bugfixes (especially for non-Windows users) and some new hardware. Mouse and keyboard support has been completely reworked, and should perform much, much better on all platforms, while also fixing a slew of bugs. Support for the ATI Mach8/32 was added, which is a first for the world of emulation, and VDE networking has been implemented as well (but not on Windows yet).

Even more merch: new colours, new shirt, and new longsleeve

We’ve got new merch! The first round of merch turned out to be more popular than I thought, so it’s time to shake things up a bit and get some fresh new stuff in the official OSNews merch store. Before we start, if you want the limited edition quote T-shirt or quote mug, you have to be quick – I’ll be removing them from the store somewhere in the coming days, and they’ll never come back. This is your last chance to show the world how awesome Eugenia is. The first new product is by popular demand – a mug with just the OSNews logo, no quote. There’s really nothing to add here – it’s a mug, it holds liquid. Go nuts. Second, I’ve added a few new colour options to the basic logo T-shirt: night sky navy, revolution red, and white sand. They look pretty great. And I saved the best for last: a brand new T-shirt and sweatshirt, with the ASCII OSNews logo I use for our Gemini capsule. Of course, it comes in the only valid colour combination: phosphor green on black. The Gemini T-shirt goes for the same price as the other T-shirts – $29.99 – and is also made of the same organic cotton as the others. The longsleeve Gemini Sweatshirt goes for $39.99, to maintain that roughly $8 of every product sold that goes to OSNews, and is made from an 80/20 ringspun cotton/polyester blend. If I may say so myself – I think these two terminal shirts look stunning, and I’m quite proud of how they turned out. And thanks to everyone who has already bought merch since we launched the store – it means the world to me!

ELKS 0.7.0 released

ELKS is a project providing a Linux-like OS for systems based on the Intel IA16 architecture (16-bit processors: 8086, 8088, 80188, 80186, 80286, NEC V20, V30 and compatibles). Such systems are ancient computers (IBM-PC XT / AT and clones) as well as more recent SBCs, SoCs, and FPGAs. ELKS supports networking and installation to HDD using both MINIX and FAT file systems. Version 0.7.0 was recently released, and it includes support for several new systems, among which is the Book 8088, a recently released 8088 laptop from China that’s been making the rounds on YouTube. Of course, it also comes with a bunch of new commands and applications, like mail from MINIX, the visual file manager fm, and more, and the usual load of bug fixes.

Xcom: a cross-platform graphics user interface

Xcom is a crossplatform GUI system: a multi-windowed, multi-tasking environment. Xcom allows you to browse, copy, view and manage your files, start and stop programs, watch and listen basic media content and music. Unlike other windowing systems and protocols, it integrates the basic functionality as a monolithic, cohesive program. Xcom can run on top of various kernel, currently the DOS version is available publicly. Xcom is tiny in size, fast, doesn’t requires installation process. Xcom is hundreds of times faster and smaller than competitive systems – it requires only about 5 MBytes of disk space, and starts up within a few seconds. Xcom has a familiar appearance of classic operating system user interfaces. Xcom is a handy tool to keep it on your retro computer, it can work magnitudes faster than any other modern desktop environment, meanwhile the features are up-to date. Xcom has all the basic tools for browsing pictures, listening to music files, reading and writing text documents and drawing simple graphics. This is an interesting approach to developing a full… User interface? Operating environment? It currently is only available for DOS, but other systems should follow. It does have a few intrinsic limitations – since it’s entirely contained in one program, you can’t develop for this or create new applications, since it’s not a toolkit and doesn’t have a compiler or anything like that. It’s also not open source, and while that doesn’t mean it’s not good or not interesting, it does limit the interest this will gather in the wider community. Regardless, it looks great, and it’s clear a lot of work and love went into it.

Aero: a UNIX-like operating system in Rust

Speaking of operating systems written in Rust – a popular activity as of late – one of the SoC contributors to Redox is also writing their own operating system in rust, called Aero. Aero is a new modern, experimental, unix-like operating system written in Rust. Aero follows the monolithic kernel design and it is inspired by the Linux Kernel. Aero supports modern PC features such as Long Mode, 5-level paging, and SMP (multicore), to name a few. Open source, of course, licensed under the GPL, version 3.

Former Huawei executive claims that HarmonyOS for PC will release next year

In 2019, the US Department of Commerce put Huawei on an “Entity List”, which banned it from dealing with any US company. The move led Google to revoke Huawei’s Android license, among other repercussions. Then, Huawei developed its own OS, HarmonyOS, for phones, tablets. Wang Chenglu, former Huawei executive and now CEO of Shenzhen Kaihong Digital Industry Development, recently revealed on Weibo (Chinese social media) that HarmonyOS will be coming to PCs. When someone had asked if a PC version of Hongmeng will be released next year, Chenglu responded with a “Yes” to indicate that a HarmonyOS PC variant is planned for 2024. It is worth noting that HarmonyOS is called Hongmeng in China, and OpenHarmony for PC is available to some testers. HarmonyOS is an interesting beast in that it’s much more than just “a modified Android”, as its Wikipedia page details. Even if it never gains a foothold in the west, its potential in China is massive, and big enough to become a serious contender regardless of what we here in the west think of it. I love the gusto of bringing it to the PC, too, and aside from reservations I have about using an operating system developed by one of the many extensions of the Chinese government, I’m actually quite interested in using one of the HarmonyOS smartphones.

Multiplix: an operating system kernel for RISC-V and AArch64 SBCs

Multiplix is a small operating system serving as the foundation for some research projects in operating systems. It is currently designed as a monolithic kernel plus a special kernel monitor that runs at a higher privilege level. Multiplix is very much in-progress. The current status is that Multiplix can boot all cores, enable virtual memory and interrupts, supports multiple user-mode processes with a limited set of system calls, and has a simple Unix-like file system. Current work is focused on expanding the system call interface to support a shell and a basic user-mode environment. Two experimental operating systems on a single day – it must be OSNews Christmas.

OSNews launches Gemini capsule

Have you ever wanted a more lightweight version of OSNews? A version that loads more optimally inside a terminal? Well, I’ve got good news for you: OSNews is now available on Gemini: gemini://gemini.osnews.com. What is Gemini? This is how the project’s website describes it: Gemini is a new internet technology supporting an electronic library of interconnected text documents. That’s not a new idea, but it’s not old fashioned either. It’s timeless, and deserves tools which treat it as a first class concept, not a vestigial corner case. Gemini isn’t about innovation or disruption, it’s about providing some respite for those who feel the internet has been disrupted enough already. We’re not out to change the world or destroy other technologies. We are out to build a lightweight online space where documents are just documents, in the interests of every reader’s privacy, attention and bandwidth. Gemini is effectively a text-based alternative protocol to HTTP, reminiscent of protocols like Gopher. There’s some very basic markup available in the form of gemtext, but for all intents and purposes, when you load a Gemini capsule (the Gemini term for website), you’re effectively loading nothing more than plain a text file, which happens to also make Gemini capsules ideal for use in terminals. There are various ways to load Gemini capsules – from dedicated graphical clients for a wide variety of platforms, to very basic CLI-based clients. Personally, I use Buran on Android, Lagrange and Castor on Linux, GemiNaut on Windows, and Amfora in the CLI. There’s also various extensions for Firefox and Chrome if you want to load Gemini capsules right inside your regular browser. In addition, Gemini’s lightweight, simple nature also makes it a great candidate for alternative, classic, or basic operating systems. As far HTTP(S) links go, Gemini clients will generally offer to load these inside your default browser. Due to Gemini’s focus on simplicity, there’s a few workarounds the OSNews Gemini site had to implement to make it all work. First, you cannot have in-text links such as this – every link needs to be its own line. So, links inside stories are converted to numbered footnotes. Second, while gemtext supports quotes, they, too, can only be on one line. As such, we had to choose between turning multi-paragraph quotes into multiple separate gemtext quotes, or combine quotes into one gemtext quote. We opted for the latter, as it looked the best on most clients I’ve tried. Third, for simplicity’s sake, comments are not available on our Gemini site. Not only would it be hard (impossible?) to let you post comments inside Gemini, it would also be needlessly complex to create multiple scripts to convert comments posted on the regular site into gemtext. As such, every story on the Gemini site will contain an outgoing “Comments” link, pointing towards the normal site. Fourth, there’s no images. As for how this all works – I’m running the Agate Gemini server from home (meaning the server will be down a few times a week as I install updates on my workstation), and Julien Blanchard (julienxx) did the actually hard work by writing a Ruby script that takes our RSS feed and converts it into a drop-in gemtext page. I simply run this script periodically, and it dumps the gemtext page in Agate’s /content directory. I want to deeply thank Julien for writing this script and working out a few small bugs with me – I never could’ve done this myself, and probably would’ve had to resort to manually posting the items on Gemini myself. As for the why – well, why not? When I ran across Gemini, I instantly felt it was a great fit for OSNews, and would give you as readers a different, far more optimised way of accessing the site. While I doubt it will see tons of use, I’m sure there’s still a few of you out there who would be happy with this version of OSNews.

DeviceTree overlays on Zephyr RTOS: adding I2C or SPI

After 18 months developing with the Zephyr RTOS, I’m starting to become a strong proponent. In my opinion, one of the key advantages of the Zephyr RTOS is the hardware abstraction. It allows applications to be written for Zephyr that are platform independent and can be moved between different boards including different manufacturers of microcontrollers. In a world still suffering from chip shortages, it has been a breath of fresh air. Zephyr is a small real-time operating system (RTOS) designed for embedded microcontrollers such as the ARM Cortex-M series devices. As a project of the Linux Foundation, it shares many similarities with Linux, including DeviceTree and more recently, Pin Control. This is at the heart of how Zephyr gets its platform independence. It’s an article from January of 2023, but with how little we usually hear of these embedded platforms, I’ll take everything I can get.

$HOME, not so sweet $HOME

This post is a detailed discussion into user profiles, their directories, and how they are—to put it bluntly—in total disarray on Windows and Linux (I haven’t used a Mac in ages, but I assume the situation is very similar there, too). Applications treat the user profile as a dumping ground, and any user with a reasonably wide list of installed software will find their user profile very difficult to traverse after some time in use. There are platform conventions and attempts to standardise things on more open-source platforms, but a lot of developers resolutely refuse to change the behaviour of their software for a variety of reasons (some less valid than others). The first part is a deep dive into user profiles on Linux and Windows, and the conventions that have been established on these platforms over the years. The second section details how they are broken on each platform, and why they are broken. This happens to be one of my “pet peeves” as well. One the left, my home directory. On the right, my home directory but with all the garbage unhidden. This is bananas. First, it’s been my long-standing conviction that if you, as a developer, need to actively hide things from the user in this way, you’re doing it wrong and and you’re writing bad code. If you’re an operating system developer, don’t use hidden directories and files to hide stuff from the user – use clear directory names, encourage the use of human-readable file names and contents, and put them in places that make sense. Second, if you’re an application developer, follow the damn guidelines of the operating system you’re coding for. More often than not, these guidelines aren’t that hard to understand, they’re not onerous, and they’re certainly not going to be worse than whatever nonsense you yourself can come up with. Having a hidden .paradoxlauncher directory in my home directory displays just such an utter disrespect for me as a user, and tells me that you just don’t care, whether that’s you, the developer, personally, or whatever manager is instructing you to do the wrong thing. At the same time, aside from excessive symlinking, there’s really no solution to any of this. As users, we just have to deal with the results of incompetence and ridiculous crunch culture in software and game development.

You can now support OSNews through Liberapay

To round out our options for supporting OSNews, we’re introducing support for Liberapay, an open source alternative to Patreon. OSNews is all about promoting choice – in operating systems, in devices, in software – so giving readers the option of donating through an open source platform, located in the European Union, fits within our values. If you want to donate this way, you can go to our Liberapay page. Liberapay joins the other ways you can support OSNews: our Patreon, our Ko-Fi, and our official merch store.

GNU/Hurd strikes back

The GNU/Hurd is the Sagrada Família of the Software World: having started to develop in 1990, the GNU/Hurd has yet to reach version 1.0. The Linux kernel, on the other hand, began development in 1993 and was initially considered a “kludge” until the Hurd was completed. It is now matured and widely used. Like the Loch Ness Monster, many believe that GNU/Hurd is vaporware and does not exist. It does exist and continues to evolve, albeit at a slow pace. Just recently, the Debian GNU/Hurd 2023 has been released. You can use the GNU/Hurd right now. This article takes a look at what it’s like to use Debian GNU/Hurd in a virtual environment in the cloud, to sidestep the lack of driver support, and highlights some of the unique features of this platform.

IronOS: flexible soldering iron control firmware

Originally conceived as an alternative firmware for the TS100, this firmware has evolved into a complex soldering iron control firmware. The firmware implements all of the standard features of a ‘smart’ soldering iron, with lots of little extras and tweaks. I highly recommend reading the installation guide fully when installing on your iron. And after install just explore the settings menu. An alternative operating system for your soldering iron. Good times.

Introducing OSNews merch!

You can become a Patreon, make a one-time donation through Ko-Fi, and now, by popular demand, we have a third option to support OSNews: merch! We’ve just launched our new merch store, currently selling three items – two T-shirts and a coffee mug. First, we have a plain logo T-shirt. It’s a crew (round) neck T-shirt available in ‘Night Sky Navy’ or ‘Herb Green’, with our logo printed top-left on the chest. Second, we have the same logo T-shirt in the same two colours, but with an additional quote printed below it for those of you who really long for the olden days when Eugenia ran this place. This second shirt is a limited edition, and will eventually be replaced by a shirt with a different quote, so get it while supplies last. Both T-shirts are made of 100% organic cotton for that extra soft feel. Each shirt costs $29.99 and ships worldwide. Third, there’s a coffee mug with a logo and a quote for people who are kind of sick of my shit. It’s a mug. It holds coffee (or tea, or gasoline). It’s white. It sells for $19.99 and also ships worldwide. Since I want to be transparent about this – we’re working with a third party store from Richmond, Virginia, US, who produces the shirts and mugs, since we obviously can’t produce them ourselves. The pricing has been carefully set so that for each item sold, OSNews gets about $8. Do note that the items are made-to-order, so shipping takes a little longer than in-stock items from regular stores. I intend to add more items and maybe more colour options in the future (lighter colours are hard with our current logo), but we all have to start somewhere. As always, thanks for all your support – whether it be monetarily or just by being here. It means a lot.

Collapse OS gets a successor: Dusk OS

Collapse OS (which we talked about 4 years ago) has a successor. Dusk OS is a 32-bit Forth and big brother to Collapse OS. Its primary purpose is to be maximally useful during the first stage of civilizational collapse, that is, when we can’t produce modern computers anymore but that there’s still many modern computers still around.

Donate to OSNews through Patreon or Ko-Fi

Running OSNews.com is not exactly something that generates loads of income, yet it’s taking up a decent amount of time and energy that I have to find somewhere between my wife and kids, translation work, and the rest of my life. While OSNews will always remain free to access, it would mean the world to me if you could support my work financially. There’s two ways to do this. First, you can become a Patreon, which will grant you access to an advertisement-free version of the website, as well as some comment flair to show off your big spender lifestyle (silver flair, gold flair, or a custom flair for the big ballers among you). Patreons donate a small fee every month. Second, you can donate a one-time amount using Ko-Fi. Here, you are free to set whatever amount you want (starting at €5), but you won’t qualify for any of the extras you get by becoming a Patreon. However, anyone who’s crazy enough to make a large-enough donation will still get these extras, of course. Support is support, after all. Thank you! Also, if you wish to help out by donating and/or selling us hardware you really want me to devote time to here on OSNews, I can make that work too. For a few items I’m especially looking for, take a look at my personal website for more information.

lilos: a minimal async RTOS

This is a wee operating system written to support the async style of programming in Rust on microcontrollers. It fits in about 2 kiB of Flash and uses about 20 bytes of RAM (before your tasks are added). In that space, you get a full async runtime with multiple tasks, support for complex concurrency via join and select, and a lot of convenient but simple APIs. I understood some of those words.