Monthly Archives: August 2021

It’s Time for Operating Systems to Rediscover Hardware

Source: Hacker News

Article note: Yes, but there are such a horrible set of incentives around that. Piles of little attached computers with lacking documentation, all trying to obscure their proprietary innards from their users to "protect the vendors' IP" and/or hide the absolute bullshit they shipped. Common hardware configurations (esp. all the asymmetric multiprocessing things) that don't even have good theoretical solutions, much less practical ones. Necessary drivers for basic things (eg. modern USB or TCP/IP) that are individually more complicated than a whole OS stack when most of the platform architectures we're running were conceived.
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Microsoft will support some, but not most, 7th-gen Intel Core CPUs in Windows 11

Source: Ars Technica

Article note: I for one am looking forward to seeing the refurb market for machines with perfectly adequate 6th and 7th generation Intel parts crater so I can buy cheap mid-range boxes to run Linux on. I've been putting off getting a new TV computer because even refurb prices are pretty high at the moment, but this should create a sharp drop as big corporate customers decide to upgrade to avoid "unsupported" configurations.
Microsoft will support some, but not most, 7th-gen Intel Core CPUs in Windows 11


If you were hoping for Microsoft to backtrack on Windows 11's stringent security-focused new system requirements, we have good news and bad news. The good news is that a small handful of 7th-generation Intel Core processors have been added to the support list, and systems that use those chips will officially support the final version of Windows 11 when it comes out in the fall. The bad news is that they are the only processors being added to the support list, and Microsoft "will maintain the minimum system requirements as originally set."

Intel's 7th-generation Core processors, codenamed Kaby Lake, were launched mostly in late 2016 and through 2017, though many computers that use them were available for purchase long after that. The specific 7th-generation processors that have been added to the compatibility list are:

  • X-series processors based on the Skylake-X and Kaby Lake architectures, like the Core i5-7640X and Core i7-7800X
  • W-series Xeon processors
  • The Core i7-7820HQ specifically, with the caveat that systems with this processor must be using DCH drivers

If the decision to support one specific 7th-generation Core i7 laptop processor strikes you as odd, you don't need to look far for an explanation—this just happens to be the CPU included in Microsoft's Surface Studio 2, which Microsoft still sells but has not updated in three years. That Microsoft was about to stop supporting a PC it is currently selling and for which it controls everything from the firmware to the drivers earned the company some well-deserved scorn from users and the press. Adding support for it is laudable, but it's also the bare minimum—Windows 11 will still leave behind Surface products as recent as 2017's 5th-generation Surface Pro and 1st-generation Surface Laptop and the cheapest configurations of 2017's Surface Book 2 (higher-end configurations used 8th-generation processors, but the cheapest models did not).

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The Semiconductor Heist of the Century – Arm China Has Gone Completely Rogue

Source: Hacker News

Article note: Oh. SoftBank got looted for IP by their 51% Chinese joint venture, who have gone rogue, as is the predictable MO of these Chinese joint ventures. The interesting question is how much we're going to see a bifurcation of the ARM ecosystem around where they realized and stopped letting new tech into China, the Chinese firm might "obtain" post-separation stuff and compete with main ARM. The low-end ARM market is already flooded with Chinese knockoffs (see Apex and Artery and whatnot STM32likes), it might be moving up-market.
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OnlyFans says never mind, it actually won’t ban porn on October 1st

Source: The Verge - All Posts

Article note: Huh. The "obvious suicide" didn't change, the banking industry's fear of the dangerous-but-ineffectual FOSTA/SESTA regulations is unlikely to have changed overnight, so what's the game here?
Image: Alex Castro / The Verge

In an abrupt tweet, video and image sharing site OnlyFans announced a reversal of the shocker announcement that it would ban sexually explicit content. According to the company, “We have secured assurances necessary to support our diverse creator community and have suspended the planned October 1 policy change. OnlyFans stands for inclusion and we will continue to provide a home for all creators.”

This comes just one day after its CEO said, in an interview with the Financial Times, that the reason for the ban was actually issues with its banking partners, not Mastercard as some had assumed.

Now OnlyFans creators, many of whom had already begun deleting content that violated the policy or started shifting their subscriber base to new...

Continue reading…

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A decade and a half of instability: The history of Google messaging apps

Source: Ars Technica

Article note: Geez. It's a good, exhaustive (and exhausting) article, that features a number of google messaging products I didn't even know existed. It's also a great demonstration of Google's now famous inability to maintain products because their institutional culture only rewards novelty.
Take the Google Messaging quiz! Can you name all the icons?

Enlarge / Take the Google Messaging quiz! Can you name all the icons? (credit: Ron Amadeo)

Google Talk, Google's first-ever instant messaging platform, launched on August 24, 2005. This company has been in the messaging business for 16 years, meaning Google has been making messaging clients for longer than some of its rivals have existed. But thanks to a decade and a half of nearly constant strategy changes, competing product launches, and internal sabotage, you can't say Google has a dominant or even stable instant messaging platform today.

Google's 16 years of messenger wheel-spinning has allowed products from more focused companies to pass it by. Embarrassingly, nearly all of these products are much younger than Google's messaging efforts. Consider competitors like WhatsApp (12 years old), Facebook Messenger (nine years old), iMessage (nine years old), and Slack (eight years old)—Google Talk even had video chat four years before Zoom was a thing.

Currently, you would probably rank Google's offerings behind every other big-tech competitor. A lack of any kind of top-down messaging leadership at Google has led to a decade and a half of messaging purgatory, with Google both unable to leave the space altogether and unable to commit to a single product. While companies like Facebook and Salesforce invest tens of billions of dollars into a lone messaging app, Google seems content only to spin up an innumerable number of under-funded, unstable side projects led by job-hopping project managers. There have been periods when Google briefly produced a good messaging solution, but the constant shutdowns, focus-shifting, and sabotage of established products have stopped Google from carrying much of these user bases—or user goodwill—forward into the present day.

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Hundreds of Fayette students are quarantined. How does the district handle COVID cases?

Source: -- Education

Article note: Oh look, FCPS is putting its teachers in the untenable position I'm worried about ending up in this semester. A good in person course design is _extremely different_ than a good online course, everything down to the pacing and material selections should be different. So even if you do twice as much work to design two courses for the in person and remote students, you can't keep them synchronized, and someone is getting screwed.

On Monday alone, Fayette County Public Schools reported 490 new student quarantines, 88 new student cases of COVID-19, 13 new staff cases and 1 new staff quarantine, according to the … Click to Continue »

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FDA approves Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, now called Comirnaty

Source: Ars Technica

Article note: Good! That's a dumb fuckin' name, even by drug name standards. ...and now we watch the people making bad-faith arguments against getting vaccinated move the goalposts again.
Empty Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine vials

Enlarge / Empty Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine vials (credit: AHMAD GHARABLI)

The Food and Drug Administration has granted full approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, which will now be marketed as Comirnaty (koe-mir’-na-tee), the agency announced Monday.

The vaccine's full approval—or Biologics License Application (BLA)—applies for use of a two-dose regimen, given three weeks apart, in people ages 16 years and older. It is the first BLA to be issued for a vaccine against COVID-19. The vaccine will still be available under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for adolescents ages 12 to 15 and for use as a third booster dose in certain people with compromised immune systems.

The name Comirnaty—already in use elsewhere, including Europe—is a mash-up of "COVID-19 immunity" and "mRNA" that is meant to evoke the word "community."

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Razer bug lets you become a Windows 10 admin by plugging in a mouse

Source: Hacker News

Article note: That is some 90s "hey look at this" shit.
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Machine learning’s crumbling foundations

Source: Hacker News

Article note: The next AI winter is _years_ late, this hype cycle is way past obvious absurdity. The problem with data quality and lack of domain knowledge trips up "Computers will solve all the things" frequently, but this latest pair of hype cycles around "Big Data" and "AI/Machine Learning" have really stumbled over it hard.
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Four new games land on… the Atari Lynx

Source: Engadget

Article note: Well that's neat. I poked around the Lynx catalog when I got my RG351p a few months ago, and didn't find it very compelling, but these look fun.

If you’re a retro gamer, it’s hard not to ignore the Atari Lynx. The first color hand-held it might have been, but its small library of games (under 100 official titles) and general mishandling by Atari itself earned it little more than a walk-on role in gaming history for most people. As such, the homebrew and indie scene for the Lynx is pretty thin compared to its contemporaries (the Game Boy and the Game Gear).

The system still has its fans, though, (me included) and a few dedicated folks still hold a candle for the chonky handheld, with new titles now more common than they were a decade ago. But the real rarity is the full, physical release. Here are four new games you can play on original hardware, complete with cartridge and box, just as nature intended.

For Lynx diehards, there’s one destination to gather: AtariAge. And user Fadest (real name, Frédéric Descharmes) is one of the long-standing members of the handheld’s forum there. He’s perhaps best known for his Yastuna series of puzzle games. His two new releases keep the puzzle trend, but with a shoot-em-up/adventure twist.

Descharmes began programming for the Lynx as a way to channel his enthusiasm for retro gaming while he soothed his son to sleep late at night. He came to the Lynx specifically for its technological limitations (although it was advanced for its time). “I like the NES and Game Boy, and even code for them, but in my beginner situation, the Lynx was probably the best choice when I started in 2004,” he told Engadget.

Raid on TriCity - Second Wave

Raid on Tri City - Second Wave for the Atari Lynx

Raid on TriCity takes the classic Tetris format and introduces a shoot-em-up component. As the blocks fall, you can’t move them or rotate them, but you can shoot them away brick by brick. You score, as normal, by completing lines (and not by shooting), and some of the Tetrominoes contain power-ups or enemies/ways to die.

Descharmes already released a pay-what-you-want ROM-only version of Raid on TriCity. “Second Wave” is essentially the same game as a physical release with some new in-game perks. The two most important ones would be the addition of an EEPROM for storing progress/high scores (no retail Lynx games ever had batteries or memory like some Game Boy titles did) and a new story mode which injects some life into an otherwise pick-up-and play time killer.

As simple as the game may sound, the hybrid dynamic picks the best elements of both genres and blends them to great effect. As you see blocks falling you have to make a quick decision about whether you want to go for a complete line, or whether a power-up might be more appealing or perhaps you have to sacrifice one to get rid of a baddie behind it. Sometimes this can be a bit of a gamble if a power-up you want has blocks above it that might bring you closer to the upper threshold and thus the end of the game.

Likewise, as lines complete and bring any power-ups above it one row down, a helpful bomb can become a death sentence (bombs trigger when a line is completed taking anything one square around it along with it — including your spaceship if you’re not careful).

The story mode isn’t exactly its own adventure, more it serves as a way to break up the game play with some narrative interludes and an element of interactivity in choosing your “path” through a network of levels. The levels themselves are really just more of the same shoot-a-block business, but it makes it feel more like making progress, and thus a game with an end to reach (rather than a high score to beat).

Asteroid Chasers

Asteroid Chasers for the Atari Lynx

Fadest’s second new title is another puzzler, but this time it’s more about strategy and fortune. I say fortune, but it’s usually mis-fortune to be fair. The game looks like it’s going to be a retro space shooter at first glance, but is more akin to a card game. Each turn you’ll be presented with an item/card and can only place it one square away in any direction from your last move. But each item/card will either be a scoring opportunity or a penalty of some kind.

This simple premise is deceptively addictive. There are four main “cards” to place: A probe, an asteroid (two types!) a mine or a pirate ship. Your job is to surround the asteroids with four probes to earn points (hence the game’s name). However, the pirates have other ideas and will disable any probes adjacent to them. This not only robs you of points, but can also be fatal: mines are diffused by surrounding them with probes, and you can only have three “live” ones on the map at any time. This means an ill-placed pirate, or just a string of bad luck with many mine cards can end your mission in a snap.

The goal is simple, reach the end of the “deck” while scoring as many points as you can along the way. At first, the game feels frustrating, as if you are merely at the whim of whatever cards are in the pile. And while this is true, you soon learn some strategies to increase your chances of getting to the end and racking up some points to boot.

For me, the fun of the game is built right into that frustrating nature. Many times I was killed early on, which only stoked my desire to beat the game and make it to the end. Once you do, you find yourself wanting to then beat your own high score. As with Raid on TriCity, Asteroid Chasers can remember your high scores giving the game longer term appeal. There are also many achievements to unlock (fortunately, also remembered) which will reward you with different music and other goodies giving this relatively simple game a lot more longevity than it first suggests.

Songbird Productions

If you’ve paid any attention to Atari’s handheld or the Jaguar indie scene in the last 20 years, you’ll be familiar with Songbird Productions. Not only is it a popular retailer of rare and homebrew games, its founder, Carl Forhan, is responsible for a number of Lynx titles being saved from obscurity by finding unfinished IP and seeing them through to completion, along with some original titles of his own.

One such title is CyberVirus, a first person space shooter. “In CyberVirus, I had to redo all the missions, redo the health and powerup system, and add new features to the game which were not in the original prototype.” Forhan told Engadget. I also enjoy the purity of these older, smaller machines where you have to fight for RAM and CPU cycles to do everything. It's a fun challenge for my brain, I suppose.”

Cyber Virus - Lost Missions

Cyber Virus - The Lost Missions, new Atari Lynx game.
James Trew / Engadget

This new title, as the name suggests, is a follow-up to the original CyberVirus. The first version was released almost 20 years ago and is one of the “unfinished” games that Songbird rescued. It’s also a rare first-person/3D shooter on the Lynx. Lost Missions is a collection of levels that were also in the original, developed initially by Beyond Games, and presented to Atari as a demo back in 1993.

The nine new missions see you take on a familiar cast of robotic foes as you seek to achieve your objective. This could be as simple as destroying some communication towers, but the number of enemies soon ramps up making each mission exponentially harder. You have a selection of weapons at your disposal and a semi-open 3D world to explore, not bad for a console released in 1989.

CV-TLM will appeal to fans of early first person shooters like Doom, but instead of a complex map you must navigate open terrain. Thank’s to the game’s origins, the graphics and gameplay are much nearer to those found in official releases (given that this nearly was one) compared to even some of the more ambitious homebrew titles that have emerged since the Lynx’s commercial demise.

The result is a fun, frantic shooter that deserved to make it onto shelves back in the '90s. Forhan’s given the game the next best thing in this release which comes with a slick, glossy box and a physical cartridge that’s indistinguishable from the originals (many homebrew releases, including the above are 3D printed).


The catalog of official releases for the Lynx tends to skew toward arcade titles, puzzlers and racing games. There’s a little bit of everything for sure, but adventure games and RPGs are generally lacking. Unnamed is a welcome salve, then, for fans of either of those genres. While the game is published by Songbird, it’s the work of Marcin Siwek who’s other Lynx title — Unseen — was a dark, choose your own adventure style game. Siwek’s second title is much more immersive with your onscreen character free to move around, find items and solve puzzles.

You awaken in a strange place with no memory of how you got there. Your task is to figure out why and how they find themselves in this strange world. Along your journey you find new rooms to explore and items to help you along the way. It’s a classic recipe, but one that lends itself particularly well to the handheld format.

Unnamed is refreshing, not just for its playstyle, but as a true indie game (rather than a rescued abandoned title) it has a surprising amount of depth and atmosphere. Within moments of playing, I knew that this is a game that I would truly want to “get into” and complete. As with Descharmes‘ titles, Unnamed features an EEPROM for saving progress meaning you can pick it up without having to start from scratch every time.

The graphics are a good blend of cute and sinister and the music strikes the perfect balance of ambiance without being a distraction. The challenges and puzzles to be solved are pitched just at the right level and there’s a genuine sense of wondering if you might have missed something — which might sound annoying, but I think is the hallmark of a good RPG.

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