top Plan 9 From Bell Labs Operating System Now Available Under GPLv2
I'll apologise in advance for rambling but I don't often get to talk about Plan 9 and it's nice to have the opportunity!
X11 itself as files would, I imagine, become a bit icky because it's a complicated protocol. But as I understand it, the Plan 9 windowing system was effectively exposed as files (i.e. the display server exported a filesystem interface to applications) and that did actually permit some pretty cool stuff...
Windows basically appeared as a set of files that let you draw to the surface within the window. The interface exposed to windowed apps by the windowing system could also be consumed by other instances of the windowing system, so that nesting instances of the windowing system into windows Just Works.
The fact that everything was in the filesystem meant that network FS shares could be used to e.g. to provide rootless graphical remoting of applications, etc - you just had to arrange for the right filesystem mounts to be available and the display would automagically work out.
Having said all that, obviously these days you'd also want to worry about direct hardware access to GPUs, etc, which I'm sure would make the whole enterprise rather more complicated! Maybe that would put paid to the idea of "everything is a file" being practical for display stuff, or maybe somebody cleverer than me could point out a better way of doing it!
Further tangent: Plan 9 made device files really behave like files, which meant you could remote device access trivially using remote filesystem mounts also. This doesn't work with Unix device files and it always seems a shame that various ad-hoc remoting protocols (USB over IP, Network Block Devices, etc) get used instead. But I suspect a similar argument to the GPU could easily apply - that it's either more efficient to have a specialist protocol or that some devices are just too complicated to meaningfully abstract like that. Who knows.
In some ways, I think I "miss" the olden days when if you'd got a Plan 9 system you probably could feel justified in believing you were in the future!
top Linus Torvalds Gives 'Thumbs Up' To Nvidia For Nouveau Contributions
I thought the Amber core was based on an older version of the ARM, in order to avoid IP problems. Not sure, though...
top Wayland 1.4 Released — Touch, Sub-Surface Protocol, Crop/Scale Support
There was a SPICE backend as well, which also sounded interesting but I don't know what the status of that was.
about a month and a half ago
top Dell Joins Steam Machine Initiative With Alienware System
My employer did buy a top-of-the-range Alienware desktop once because it was the fastest available machine for single threaded performance (at least, out of off-the-shelf options) due to its being factory overclocked. I imagine if we'd gone for a more boutique vendor we might have got faster but I suppose it was still good to have the support.
FWIW we weren't just playing games, we actually had long running single threaded simulations that we wanted to get out of the way as fast as possible! It's now my desktop PC after my previous one died - so that worked out OK in the end!
top Emacs Needs To Move To GitHub, Says ESR
I thought there was a fairly complex history here, since the current bzr was (I thought) bzr-ng originally, an alternative to some original Bazaar tool. And I thought that *that* came from GNU Arch, which (speaking loosely) I gathered wasn't well understood or enjoyable to use. I don't know how much of the current behaviour dates back that far, though, so there may not be too much in common now!
top The Quest To Build Xbox One and PS4 Emulators
The Retrode is a brilliant little gadget:
It's basically an old-school console cartridge -> USB adaptor. It also supports old Megadrive / SNES gamepads and doesn't require host software (which is actually rather neat - it'll appear as a USB mass storage device with a cartridge image on it, plus presenting the controllers as either gamepads or keyboards). With further adapters you can plug in Mastersystem, Gameboy and N64 carts (plus two N64 controllers).
It's just a really nice piece of work. I use it to rip my cartridges, just like I rip CDs, then put them into whatever emulator I like. Avoids the legally dubious websites, etc. I can imagine there might be grey areas in some emulation stuff still (e.g. some emulators need a BIOS image, which someone has to have dumped from the console) but that's only for certain consoles - and at least you don't have to go on dodgy websites to download the games you already own.
top Debian To Replace SysVinit, Switch To Systemd Or Upstart
I've heard tempting-sounding things about Debian kFreeBSD, actually - aside from anything else, BSD has a port of ZFS. So if you want something with a familiar userland (GNU utilies, Debian package management, loads of packages available) it does look quite appealing. I'm not sure how common it is to use ZFS under FreeBSD so far, though.
Also, there are Solaris distros out there, which is potentially another way to get the same effect. Nexenta started as one, though I remember them switching more to focus on server stuff since then...
top Why Apple Went 64-Bit With the iPhone 5s
I don't think I'm really adding much here but the discussion of the 8051's quirks struck a chord with me! The 8051 is a bit weird in place, although in fairness with a C compiler you can just mash on through that and not worry too much. If you actually have to look at the architecture, you can definitely see its age, though. But for 8-bit stuff, the AVR architecture (Atmel's microcontrollers) genuinely are relatively nice, despite being just an 8-bit CPU. They are RISC CPUs, so they actually have a fair number of registers and comparatively few weird quirks (that I could see).
The other big advantage in my particular line of experience is that as long as a CPU has lots of registers, gcc often supports it. Otherwise you end up having to use slightly less mainstream compilers - which is basically OK, they're still nice software. But they're not as comfortable to me as the standard GNU toolchain. Of course, I'm sure plenty of commercial embedded programmers aren't familiar with the GNU toolchain and so don't care about that.
top Intel Rejects Supporting Ubuntu's XMir
I can speculate a bit with things that sound plausible to me given my knowledge of the system - but I might still be a bit off target... Still, maybe it helps a little.
Mir and Wayland both expect their clients to just render into a buffer, which clients might do with direct rendering, in which case the graphics hardware isn't really hidden from the client anyhow. AFAIK it's pretty normal practice that there's effectively in-application code (in the form of libraries that are linked to) that understands how to talk directly to the specific hardware (I think this already happens under Xorg). The protocol you talk to Wayland (and Mir, AFAIK) isn't really an abstraction over the hardware, just a way of providing buffers to be rendered (which might, have just been filled by the hardware using direct rendering).
In this case Xorg is a client of Mir, so it's a provider of buffers which it must render. The X11 client application might use direct rendering to draw its window, anyhow. But the Xserver might also want to access hardware operations directly to accelerate something it's drawing (I suppose)... So the X server needs some hardware-specific DDX, since Mir alone doesn't provide a mechanism to do all the things it wants.
As for why the Intel driver then needs to be modified... I also understand that Mir has all graphics buffers be allocated by the graphics server (i.e. Mir) itself. Presumably Xorg would normally do this allocation (?) In which case, the Intel DDX would need modifying to do the right thing under Mir. The only other reason for modifying the DDX that springs to mind is that perhaps the responsibilities of a "Mir Client" divide between Xorg and *its* client, so this could be necessary to incorporate support for the "Mir protocol" properly. That's just hand-waving on my part, though...
Bonus feature - whilst trying to find out stuff, I found a scary diagram of the Linux graphics stack but my brain is not up to parsing it at this time of day:
top Intel Rejects Supporting Ubuntu's XMir
I'm honestly not super clear myself! But the DDX is, as I understand it, the in-Xorg portion of the graphics driver. So I guess it's not unreasonable that that component needs to know it's not got complete control of the hardware, as opposed to the Xorg-only case where it would have. Presumably it needs to proxy some operations through Mir (or Wayland, for XWayland) that it'd normally just set directly.
A *bit* like running X under X using Xnest or Xephyr, though I'd imagine it's less extreme than that (since those, I'd guess, have to issue X-level drawing commands to their host X server, whereas to get graphics under Wayland/Mir they'd just render to a memory buffer like any Wayland/Mir client).
All slightly speculative since I'm not familiar with the in-depth technical details!
top Official: Microsoft To Acquire Nokia Devices and Services Business
There used to be a village nearby (ish) to where I grew up, in which there were some peacocks that just roamed freely around the roads. If one of them felt like strolling in front of your car, you just had to put up with it. I remember seeing the peacock had gone to roost in the tree by the pub for the night, which at the time seemed a bit notable but - now you mention it - I didn't really know they could fly. I've never actually seen one take off before or since but apparently if they feel like it, they can get up there... Weird.
top Angry Customer Buys Promoted Tweets To Bash British Airways
Yes, I tend to agree - in fact, that's basically one of the first things I thought, on seeing this article. It's easy to imagine that relatively few incidents like this will be required for Twitter to change its T&Cs so that individual customers can't buy ads like this (assuming it doesn't technically violate them already). This guy might have had enough money to get one ad griping about them but he's not as valuable a customer as the large companies who'll buy many ads and have an interest in not being criticised.
top Clearing Up Wayland FUD, Misconceptions
xpra is nice, although it'd be even nice to see an existing window manager / compositor provide support for remoting windows using the xpra protocol - I'm not aware of a reason this couldn't work, since the xpra server just works by being a compositor anyhow... This would give me the ability to grab arbitrary windows from my desktop and display them on other machines, whilst having them run at full speed locally - that would be a big improvement on remote X11, for my uses.
Also, I'd like to see Wayland support the same. In some ways, although I'm not worried about remoting being available on Wayland, I do wish there was a central place for common Wayland remoting implementations to live. AFAIK that doesn't exactly exist at the moment, other than de-facto in their demo code - and given various desktops are going to be implementing their own compositors, I don't know that they'll inherit these implementations conveniently... Hopefully I'm just lacking reassuring information and it'll all be OK.
top No Porn From Public WiFi Hotspots In the UK Proposed
I don't really agree with that in modern day Europe. The media companies don't toe the government line more than you'd expect in any country with a free press. There are often concerns about the closeness of ties between politicians and media but I think that's pretty common in Western countries. Moreover, in the UK the government itself makes a big deal of how important our relationship with the US is. Besides that, I'd argue that you're underestimating the reach of both the Internet and US culture generally. The Internet makes it easy to get access to a wide range of news sources, at least for those who are motivated to do it.
Probably more importantly, I'd guess that easily half the popular TV and most of the movies in Europe (and probably much of the world) comes from the US - there's a lot of information about US culture, self-image, even simple turns of phrase that continuously percolates into everyone's minds from this alone. People continually get (arguably idealised, since this is Hollywood) images of what the US stands for, what it's like to be American, etc. In terms of the vast entertainment industry, I'd argue that Europeans are routinely shown the same image of the US that Americans themselves receive.
top Researcher Evan Booth: How To Weaponize Tax-Free Airport Goods
Although I can imagine certain items being banned or screened more careful, I'd suspect that the lobbying of airports / airlines will protect the duty free shops from significant changes. Similarly, I've always suspected that the restrictions on liquids would have been lifted quickly if they were a financial pain (rather than a financial benefit) to the airports / airlines / shops.
Just my opinion, though, it's not like there's (as far as I'm aware!) particularly good insight available into how and what the interested parties communicate.
top Researcher Evan Booth: How To Weaponize Tax-Free Airport Goods
This is one of the reasons airport security has bugged me so much - I've been inconvenienced over trivial things that don't really matter to security, whilst equivalent or greater threats just go unmentioned. I once had a cone spanner confiscated. That's a very small, thin spanner, suitable for adjusting bicycle bearings - and very little else - I'd lost it at the bottom of my bag and hadn't realised it was there (though I had flown the outbound leg successfully without security picking up on it!).
It was against the rules to let "tools" through the checkpoint - but couple of weeks later on a much larger, more significant flight, I was able to get a heavier spanner for free on the front of a biking magazine in the duty free area. Derp.
top Wrong Fuel Chokes Presidential Limo
Which makes sense because gasoline / petrol is more common than diesel. But as I understand it, diesel in a gasoline / petrol engine is less harmful than the reverse situation - so it's all a bit unfortunate!
top Cherry's New Keyboard Switches Emulate IBM Model M Feel
A couple of mentions of the Model F already but I think it's worth a dedicated post! My understanding is that the Model M (a keyboard before whose build quality, longevity and tactility modern keyboards quake in fear) originated as the cheaper, mass-market version of the older Model F keyboard. I have both a Model M and a Model F; I do find the key feel of the latter to be even nicer. It's also even louder and heavier - and I don't have one of the really big 122 key terminal variants.
The Model M does actually use a membrane (a bit like a modern keyboard) to detect key presses but it puts a spring and a hammer / foot on top. The Model F uses a hammer / foot but senses its movement using capacitative sensing. In principle it seems like there is even less to wear out using this mechanism - not that the Model M typically has lifetime issues! I've also heard that this potentially gives the keyboard n-key rollover, which the Model M cannot achieve. I suppose you might need a custom controller to actually get the benefit, though.
It's worth trying a Model F if you get the chance; the only trouble is that at least some of them had a horrible, heavy space bar - that can be fixed by a spring modification. The other problem is that the layouts are varying degrees of crazy, since it appears people still weren't really sure what keys should be on a keyboard (or where). Still, it's the only keyboard you can successfully use to intimidate Model M users, when you're telling them to get off your lawn.
top GNU Texinfo 5.0 Released
Unless things have changed, I think you can also ##program-name and get the TeXInfo page for it.
With file management, web browsing, KParts rendering PDFs, and the integrated man / TeXInfo viewers I practically never used to leave Konqueror.
top Flying a Cessna On Other Worlds: xkcd Gets Noticed By a Physics Professor
If your plane is on fire and not a plane anymore then you are having a bad problem. You will not fly on Venus today.