Framework’s Software and Firmware Have Been a Mess

Framework, the company known for designing and selling upgradeable, modular laptops, has struggled with providing up-to-date software for its products. Ars Technica’s Andrew Cunningham spoke with CEO Nirav Patel to discuss how the company is working on fixing these issues. Longtime Slashdot reader snikulin shares the report: Driver bundles remain un-updated for years after their initial release. BIOS updates go through long and confusing beta processes, keeping users from getting feature improvements, bug fixes, and security updates. In its community support forums, Framework employees, including founder and CEO Nirav Patel, have acknowledged these issues and promised fixes but have remained inconsistent and vague about actual timelines. […] Patel says Framework has taken steps to improve the update problem, but he admits that the team’s initial approach — supporting existing laptops while also trying to spin up firmware for upcoming launches — wasn’t working. “We started 12th-gen [Intel Framework Laptop] development, basically the 12th-gen team was also handling looking back at 11th-gen [Intel Framework Laptop] to do firmware updates there,” Patel told Ars. “And it became clear, especially as we continued to add on more platforms, that just wasn’t a sustainable path to proceed on.”

Part of the issue is that Framework relies on external companies to put together firmware updates. Some components are provided by Intel, AMD, and other chip companies to all PC companies that use their chips. Others are provided by Insyde, which writes UEFI firmware for Framework and others. And some are handled by Compal, the contract manufacturer that actually produces Framework’s systems and has also designed and sold systems for most of the big-name PC companies. As far back as August 2023, Patel has written that the plan is to work with Compal and Insyde to hire dedicated staff to provide better firmware support for Framework laptops. However, the benefits of this arrangement have been slow to reach users. “[Compal] started recruiting on their side towards the end of last year,” Patel told Ars. “And now, just at the beginning of this year, we’ve been able to get that whole team into place and start onboarding them. And especially after Lunar New Year, which is in early February, that team is now up and running at full speed.” The goal, Patel says, is to continuously cycle through all of Framework’s actively supported laptops, updating each of them one at a time before looping back around and starting the process over again. Functionality-breaking problems and security fixes will take precedence, while additional features and user requests will be lower-priority. … snikulin adds: “As a recent Framework 13/AMD owner, I can confirm that it does not sleep properly on a default Windows 11 install. When I close the lid in the evening, the battery is dead the next morning. It’s interesting to hear from Linus Sebastian (LTT) on the topic because he is a stakeholder in Framework.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

VMS Software Prunes OpenVMS Hobbyist Program

Liam Proven reports via The Register: Bad news for those who want to play with OpenVMS in non-production use. Older versions are disappearing, and the terms are getting much more restrictive. The corporation behind the continued development of OpenVMS, VMS Software, Inc. — or VSI to its friends, if it has any left after this — has announced the latest Updates to the Community Program. The news does not look good: you can’t get the Alpha and Itanium versions any more, only a limited x86-64 edition.

OpenVMS is one of the granddaddies of big serious OSes. A direct descendant of the OSes that inspired DOS, CP/M, OS/2, and Windows, as well as the native OS of the hardware on which Unix first went 32-bit, VMS has been around for nearly half a century. For decades, its various owners have offered various flavors of “hobbyist program” under which you could get licenses to install and run it for free, as long as it wasn’t in production use. Since Compaq acquired DEC, then HP acquired Compaq, its prospects looked checkered. HP officially killed it off in 2013, then in 2014 granted it a reprieve and sold it off instead. New owner VSI ported it to x86-64, releasing that new version 9.2 in 2022. Around this time last year, we covered VSI adding AMD support and opening a hobbyist program of its own. It seems from the latest announcement that it has been disappointed by the reception: “Despite our initial aspirations for robust community engagement, the reality has fallen short of our expectations. The level of participation in activities such as contributing open source software, creating wiki articles, and providing assistance on forums has not matched the scale of the program. As a result, we find ourselves at a crossroads, compelled to reassess and recalibrate our approach.”

Although HPE stopped offering hobbyist licenses for the original VAX versions of OpenVMS in 2020, VSI continued to maintain OpenVMS 8 (in other words, the Alpha and Itanium editions) while it worked on version 9 for x86-64. VSI even offered a Student Edition, which included a freeware Alpha emulator and a copy of OpenVMS 8.4 to run inside it. Those licenses run out in 2025, and they won’t be renewed. If you have vintage DEC Alpha or HP Integrity boxes with Itanic chips, you won’t be able to get a legal licensed copy of OpenVMS for them, or renew the license of any existing installations — unless you pay, of course. There will still be a Community license edition, but from now on it’s x86-64 only. Although OpenVMS 9 mainly targets hypervisors anyway, it does support bare-metal operations on a single model of HPE server, the ProLiant DL380 Gen10. If you have one of them to play with — well, tough. Now Community users only get a VM image, supplied as a VMWare .vmdk file. It contains a ready-to-go “OpenVMS system disk with OpenVMS, compilers and development tools installed.” Its license runs for a year, after which you will get a fresh copy. This means you won’t be able to configure your own system and keep it alive — you’ll have to recreate it, from scratch, annually. The only alternative for those with older systems is to apply to be an OpenVMS Ambassador.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

The Latest iPadOS 16 Beta Brings Stage Manager To Older iPad Pro Models

Apple is bringing Stage Manager, a new multitasking system exclusive to iPads with the M1 chip, to a number of older devices. Engadget reports: Probably the biggest change Apple announced with iPadOS 16 earlier this year is Stage Manager, a totally new multitasking system that adds overlapping, resizable windows to the iPad. That feature also works on an external display, the first time that iPads could do anything besides mirror their screen on a monitor. Unfortunately, the feature was limited to iPads with the M1 chip — that includes the 11- and 12.9-inch iPad Pro released in May of 2021 as well as the M1-powered iPad Air which Apple released earlier this year. All other older iPads were left out.

That changes with the latest iPadOS 16 developer beta, which was just released. Now, Apple is making Stage Manager work with a number of older devices: it’ll work on the 11-inch iPad Pro (first generation and later) and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro (third generation and later). Specifically, it’ll be available on the 2018 and 2020 models that use the A12X and A12Z chips rather than just the M1. However, there is one notable missing feature for the older iPad Pro models — Stage Manager will only work on the iPad’s build-in display. You won’t be able to extend your display to an external monitor. Apple also says that developer beta 5 of iPadOS 16. is removing external display support for Stage Manager on M1 iPads, something that has been present since the first iPadOS 16 beta was released a few months ago. It’ll be re-introduced in a software update coming later this year.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Linux 6.0 Arrives With Performance Improvements and More Rust Coming

Linux creator Linus Torvalds has announced the first release candidate for the Linux kernel version 6.0, but he says the major number change doesn’t signify anything especially different about this release. ZDNet: While there is nothing fundamentally different about this release compared with 5.19, Torvalds noted that there were over 13,500 non-merge commits and over 800 merged commits, meaning “6.0 looks to be another fairly sizable release.” According to Torvalds, most of the updates are improvements to the GPU, networking and sound. Torvalds stuck to his word after releasing Linux kernel 5.19 last month, when he flagged he would likely call the next release 6.0 because he’s “starting to worry about getting confused by big numbers again.”

On Sunday’s release of Linux 6.0 release candidate version 1 (rc-1), he explained his reasoning behind choosing a new major version number and its purpose for developers. Again, it’s about avoiding confusion rather than signaling that the release has major new features. His threshold for changing the lead version number was .20 because it is difficult to remember incremental version numbers beyond that. “Despite the major number change, there’s nothing fundamentally different about this release – I’ve long eschewed the notion that major numbers are meaningful, and the only reason for a ‘hierarchical; numbering system is to make the numbers easier to remember and distinguish,” said Torvalds. Torvalds lamented some Rust-enabling code didn’t make it into the release. The Register adds: “I actually was hoping that we’d get some of the first rust infrastructure, and the multi-gen LRU VM, but neither of them happened this time around,” he mused, before observing “There’s always more releases. This is one of those releases where you should not look at the diffstat too closely, because more than half of it is yet another AMD GPU register dump,” he added, noting that Intel’s Gaudi2 Ai processors are also likely to produce plenty of similar kernel additions. “The CPU people also show up in the JSON files that describe the perf events, but they look absolutely tiny compared to the ‘asic_reg’ auto-generated GPU and AI hardware definitions,” he added.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

NetBSD 9.3: A 2022 OS That Can Run On Late-1980s Hardware

Version 9.3 of NetBSD is here, able to run on very low-end systems and with that authentic early-1990s experience. The Register reports: Version 9.3 comes some 15 months after NetBSD 9.2 and boasts new and updated drivers, improved hardware support, including for some recent AMD and Intel processors, and better handling of suspend and resume. The next sentence in the release announcement, though, might give some readers pause: “Support for wsfb-based X11 servers on the Commodore Amiga.” This is your clue that we are in a rather different territory from run-of-the-mill PC operating systems here. A notable improvement in NetBSD 9.3 is being able to run a graphical desktop on an Amiga. This is a 2022 operating system that can run on late-1980s hardware, and there are not many of those around.

NetBSD supports eight “tier I” architectures: 32-bit and 64-bit x86 and Arm, plus MIPS, PowerPC, Sun UltraSPARC, and the Xen hypervisor. Alongside those, there are no less than 49 “tier II” supported architectures, which are not as complete and not everything works — although almost all of them are on version 9.3 except for the version for original Acorn computers with 32-bit Arm CPUs, which is still only on NetBSD 8.1. There’s also a “tier III” for ports which are on “life support” so there may be a risk Archimedes support could drop to that. This is an OS that can run on 680×0 hardware, DEC VAX minicomputers and workstations, and Sun 2, 3, and 32-bit SPARC boxes. In other words, it reaches back as far as some 1970s hardware. Let this govern your expectations. For instance, in VirtualBox, if you tell it you want to create a NetBSD guest, it disables SMP support.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Older iPads May Soon Be Able To Run Linux

Older iPads with the Apple A7- and A8-based chips may soon be able to run Linux. “Developer Konrad Dybcio and a Linux enthusiast going by “quaack723″ have collaborated to get Linux kernel version 5.18 booting on an old iPad Air 2, a major feat for a device that was designed to never run any operating system other than Apple’s,” reports Ars Technica. From the report: The project appears to use an Alpine Linux-based distribution called “postmarketOS,” a relatively small but actively developed distribution made primarily for Android devices. Dybcio used a “checkm8” hashtag in his initial tweet about the project, strongly implying that they used the “Checkm8” bootrom exploit published back in 2019 to access the hardware. For now, the developers only have Linux running on some older iPad hardware using A7 and A8-based chips — this includes the iPad Air, iPad Air 2, and a few generations of iPad mini. But subsequent tweets imply that it will be possible to get Linux up and running on any device with an A7 or A8 in it, including the iPhone 5S and the original HomePod.

Development work on this latest Linux-on-iDevices effort is still in its early days. The photos that the developers shared both show a basic boot process that fails because it can’t mount a filesystem, and Dybcio notes that basic things like USB and Bluetooth support aren’t working. Getting networking, audio, and graphics acceleration all working properly will also be a tall order. But being able to boot Linux at all could draw the attention of other developers who want to help the project.

Compared to modern hardware with an Apple M1 chip, A7 and A8-powered devices wouldn’t be great as general-purpose Linux machines. While impressive at the time, their CPUs and GPUs are considerably slower than modern Apple devices, and they all shipped with either 1GB or 2GB of RAM. But their performance still stacks up well next to the slow processors in devices like the Raspberry Pi 4, and most (though not all) A7 and A8 hardware has stopped getting new iOS and iPadOS updates from Apple at this point; Linux support could give some of these devices a second life as retro game consoles, simple home servers, or other things that low-power Arm hardware is good for. Further reading: Linux For M1 Macs? First Alpha Release Announced for Asahi Linux

Read more of this story at Slashdot.