Introduction to the OpenBSD operating system

I often see a lot of confusion with regard to OpenBSD, either assimilate as a Linux distribution or mixed up with FreeBSD.

Let’s be clear, OpenBSD is a stand alone operating system. It came as a fork of NetBSD in 1994, there isn’t much things in common between the two nowadays.

While OpenBSD and the other BSDs are independant projects, they share some very old roots in their core, and regularly see source code changes in one being imported to another, but this is really a very small amount of the daily code changes though.

Just like OSNews (more information about the OSNews Gemini capsule), this article is also available on Gemini.

How flip-flops are implemented in the Intel 8086 processor

A circuit called the flip-flop is a fundamental building block for sequential logic. A flip-flop can hold one bit of state, a “0” or a “1”, changing its value when the clock changes. Flip-flops are a key part of processors, with multiple roles. Several flip-flops can be combined to form a register, holding a value. Flip-flops are also used to build “state machines”, circuits that move from step to step in a controlled sequence. A flip-flops can also delay a signal, holding it from from one clock cycle to the next.

Intel introduced the groundbreaking 8086 microprocessor in 1978, starting the x86 architecture that is widely used today. In this blog post, I take a close look at the flip-flops in the 8086: what they do and how they are implemented. In particular, I will focus on the dynamic flip-flop, which holds its value using capacitance, much like DRAM. Many of these flip-flops use a somewhat unusual “enable” input, which allows the flip-flop to hold its value for multiple clock cycles.

More in-depth chip content. This type of content has been coming up a lot lately.

Windows Server 2012 and 2012 R2 reaching end of support

Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2 will end on October 10, 2023. After this date, these products will no longer receive security updates, non-security updates, bug fixes, technical support, or online technical content updates. If you cannot upgrade to the next version, you will need to use Extended Security Updates (ESUs) for up to three years. ESUs are available for free in Azure or need to be purchased for on-premises deployments.

Windows Server 2012 was the first release of Windows Server to entirely remove the Windows classic UI, if I recall correctly and my quick research today didn’t fail me. Meaning, if you want the latest version of Windows that still carries the classic user interface, you’re going to have to go all the way back to Windows Server 2008.

Apple blames iPhone 15 Pro overheating problems on third party developers

It seems the new iPhone 15 Pro is having overheating issues, and while I normally don’t really care and don’t mention this sort of nonsense, I found Apple’s response to the issue… Peculiar.

Furthermore, Apple tells 9to5Mac that recent updates to certain third-party apps are causing them to overload the system. The company says it’s working directly with those developers to fix the issues. According to Apple, some of the apps overloading the iPhone CPU and causing devices to overheat are Asphalt 9, Instagram, and Uber. Instagram issued a fix for the problem on September 27, Apple says.

Apple designs and builds the SoC, the thermal system, the outer casing, the operating system, the APIs, and is the gatekeeper for every application that runs on an iPhone – and yet the company still blames third party developers? How is it even possible that any of these applications can cause unexpected overheating in the first place, and how, if the App Store review process is put in place to protect users, did nobody at Apple catch this during the review process? If they can’t even detect and stop applications that can physically damage your iPhone, how on earth can anyone trust them to stop malware, spyware, and other crapware?

I can’t believe people still fall for this.

How to turn off Windows Copilot on Windows 11

Earlier this week, Microsoft started rolling out the Moment 4 update for Windows 11. The update also included Windows Copilot, a generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) that replaces Cortana and offers to perform certain tasks for the users.

However, if you are not interested in having additional bloatware on your system then there are ways to remove or disable Windows Copilot on Windows 11. The steps will depend on whether you have Windows 11 or Windows 11 Pro.

As far as I can tell, this only hides Copilot – it doesn’t actually remove it. If you want to actually remove Copilot, go here or here and follow the instructions.

The world’s oldest active Torrent turns 20 years old

Twenty years ago, a group of friends shot a Matrix fan film on a limited budget. Sharing their creation with the rest of the word initially appeared to be too expensive, but then they discovered a new technology called BitTorrent. Fast forward two decades and their “Fanimatrix” release is the oldest active torrent that’s still widely shared today.

That’s amazing. When reading the headline, I assumed it’d be some copyrighted blockbuster – not something the creators actually wanted to share via BitTorrent.

This week in KDE: time for the new features

Another week of KDE Plasma 6 big smashing and new features, and it’s a long list of good stuff. The biggest news this week:

The Overview and Desktop Grid effects have been merged together into one, with fluid and natural-feeling touchpad gestures to transition between all states. It’s really awesome work, and also fixed a ton of open bug reports!

There’s quite a few other things in here, such as indicators for when the camera is in use in the system tray, fixes for floating panels, improved systemd integration so killing processes when logging out should be less buggy, and a whole lot more.

DOJ finally posted that “embarrassing” court doc Google wanted to hide

So, what’s in the document that Google didn’t want to get out?

The document in question contains meeting notes that Google’s vice president for finance, Michael Roszak, “created for a course on communications,” Bloomberg reported. In his notes, Roszak wrote that Google’s search advertising “is one of the world’s greatest business models ever created” with economics that only certain “illicit businesses” selling “cigarettes or drugs” “could rival.”

[…]

Beyond likening Google’s search advertising business to illicit drug markets, Roszak’s notes also said that because users got hooked on Google’s search engine, Google was able to “mostly ignore the demand side” of “fundamental laws of economics” and “only focus on the supply side of advertisers, ad formats, and sales.” This was likely the bit that actually interested the DOJ.

“We could essentially tear the economics textbook in half,” Roszak’s notes said.

Juicy documents from an abusive monopolist are always a fun read.

Linux’s modprobe adds the ability to load a module from anywhere on the file-system

With today’s release of kmod 31, Linux’s modprobe utility for loading kernel modules can finally allow arbitrary paths to allow loading new kernel modules from anywhere on the file-system.

Surprisingly it took until 2023 for allowing Linux’s modprobe to accept loading kernel modules from any arbitrary path. Rather than just specifying the module name and then looking up the module within the running kernel’s modules directory, modprobe can now allow passing a path to the module. Relative paths are also supported when prefixed with “./” for the path to the desired module.

Finally.

I tested an HDMI adapter that demands your location, browsing data, photos, and spams you with ads

I recently got my hands on an ordinary-looking iPhone-to-HDMI adapter that mimics Apple’s branding and, when plugged in, runs a program that implores you to “Scan QR code for use.” That QR code takes you to an ad-riddled website that asks you to download an app that asks for your location data, access to your photos and videos, runs a bizarre web browser, installs tracking cookies, takes “sensor data,” and uses that data to target you with ads. The adapter’s app also kindly informed me that it’s sending all of my data to China.

Just imagine what kind of stuff is happening that isn’t perpetrated by crude idiots, but by competent state-sponsored actors. I don’t believe for a second that at least a number of products from Apple, Dell, HP, and so on, manufactured in Chinese state-owned factories, are not compromised. The temptation is too high, and even if, say, Apple found something inside one of their devices rolling off the factory line – what are they going to do? Publicly blame the Chinese government, whom they depend on for virtually all their manufacturing?

You may trust HP, but do you trust the entire chain of people and entities controlling their supply chain?

SunOS multi-thread architecture

We describe a model for multiple threads of control within a single UNIX process. The main goals are to provide extremely lightweight threads and to rationalize and extend the UNIX Application Programming Interface for a multi-threaded environment. The threads are intended to be sufficiently lightweight so that there can be thousands present and that synchronization and context switching can be accomplished rapidly without entering the kernel. These goals are achieved by providing lightweight user-level threads that are multiplexed on top of kernel-supported threads of control. This architecture allows the programmer to separate logical (program) concurrency from the required real concurrency, which is relatively costly, and to control both within a single programming model.

The introduction to a 1991 USENIX paper about SunOS’ multithread architecture. Just the kind of light reading material for an Autumn weekend.

Bing Chat responses infiltrated by ads pushing malware

In March, Microsoft began injecting ads into Bing Chat conversations to generate revenue from this new platform.

However, incorporating ads into Bing Chat has opened the door to threat actors, who increasingly take out search advertisements to distribute malware.

And in case you’re thinking, “whatever, I don’t use these online chatbots anyway”, just remember that all this stuff is now built right into Windows and Microsoft Office, so one wrong click and you’re right in the thick of it.

Excellent.

Apple held talks with Microsoft about acquiring Bing in 2020

But come 2020, a new round of talks opened between Apple and Microsoft. Bloomberg reports that Microsoft executives met with Apple’s Services VP Eddy Cue to “discuss the possibility of acquiring Bing.” These talks were reportedly “exploratory” and “never reached an advanced stage,” Bloomberg says.

The revenue generated from its deal with Google was a “key reason” Apple’s talks to acquire Bing never advanced beyond that stage. “The company also had concerns about Bing’s ability to compete with Google in quality and capabilities,” today’s report explains.

Apple Bing sounds like something from hell. Imagine being forced to use Bing on every Apple device you own. That has to be one of the circle of hell Dante decided to not tell us about.

Raspberry Pi 5 unveiled

Today, we’re delighted to announce the launch of Raspberry Pi 5, coming at the end of October. Priced at $60 for the 4GB variant, and $80 for its 8GB sibling (plus your local taxes), virtually every aspect of the platform has been upgraded, delivering a no-compromises user experience. Raspberry Pi 5 comes with new features, it’s over twice as fast as its predecessor, and it’s the first Raspberry Pi computer to feature silicon designed in‑house here in Cambridge, UK.

While I personally think there are more interesting alternatives to the Pi, there’s no doubt the Pi is the most compatible and most popular of these small board computers, and a big upgrade like this is definitely welcome – assuming they can actually stock these at fair prices at the end of October, when the fifth iteration of the Pi actually launches.

COSMIC gets new window-swapping mode, gesture support, and more

COSMIC, the Rust-based desktop environment System76, makers of Pop!_OS are working on, has seen another month of work, and it turns out that it’s already being used daily by the COSMIC team, which is always an important milestone. For instance, COSMIC continues its focus on keyboard users:

Pop!_OS and COSMIC DE are built to stay out of your way so you can focus on getting things done. With Auto-tiling, new windows arrange themselves automatically on your screen to reduce the hassle. It’s important, then, that rearranging tiled windows manually feels as seamless as possible. COSMIC’s new window-swapping mode helps facilitate this seamlessness with, as the name suggests, an easy way to swap windows with your keyboard.

They’re also added dynamic settings – meaning, changing a setting applies it right away, instead of having to hit apply – as well as gesture support for touchpads. Furthermore, settings for panels have been implemented, so you can arrange and change your panels to your heart’s content. Of course, there’s more, so be sure to read their monthly update.

OpenBSD PF versus FreeBSD PF

I encountered yet another discussion about OpenBSD PF versus FreeBSD PF. For those who are new to the discussion: OpenBSD developers created PF in 2001, and it rapidly improved to become the most approachable open source packet filter. FreeBSD ported PF over to its kernel in 2004, with occasional updates since. Today a whole bunch of folks who don’t program echo cultish wisdom that one or the other version of PF has fallen behind, not kept up on improvements, or otherwise betrayed their community. My subtler comments have been misinterpreted, so let’s try this.

These claims are garbage.

Contrary to what the peanut gallery of open source thinks, in general, the rule is that open source teams work together all the time, more often than not across project lines. Of course the OpenBSD developers are working together and sharing code when it comes to things like PF – they most likely share a lot of features and code, and while one of the two versions of PF might get a certain feature first, it will make its way to the other soon enough.

These are professionals – not forum posters.

Playing with Caml Light on DOS

Caml Light is implemented as a bytecode compiler which made it highly portable. It is possible to create executables using the CAMLC.EXE command, but please be aware that the resulting binaries are not standalone when using the default linking mode, and the runtime system (CAMLRUN.EXE) is required to run them.

The latest available release of Caml Light for DOS is version 0.7 released in 1995.

Here’s a fun project for the weekend.

ChromeOS 117 brings Material You to ChromeOS

Google is rolling out ChromeOS 117, and it’s a very big update for Chromebooks that adds Material You, as well as other usability enhancements.

A pretty big update to ChromeOS, and the Material You is definitely welcome – perhaps it fixes up some of the issues I had with ChromeOS when I reviewed it a few months ago. The quick settings panel has been completely redesigned, too, this update adds specific colour correction settings for people with certain eye conditions, and a whole lot more.

The update will roll out over the coming days.