Category Archives: podcast

Operating system trials for March 2024

I have a vague idea: try a bunch of operating systems I’ve not tried before or recently. I have a spare System76 PC and a Raspberry Pi 4 and I have a few hours every Monday to try and play with them.

System76 Thelio

See this thread on Mastodon and suggest something for me.

Not on Mastodon? You can email me too.

So far people have suggested:

  • Haiku
  • FreeBSD
  • TempleOS
  • RiscOS
  • OS/2
  • And many more.

Trying Haiku

I tried to get Haiku to work. It didn’t. I filed a bug to see if I can get help getting that working.

I’m going to try again next Monday.

Thoughts on Apple Vision Pro

Just had a demo of Apple Vision Pro at my local Apple store. Here are my thoughts.

Pre-demo experience

Apple Vision Pro. Image copyright Apple.

The pre-demo experience is very good. You make an appointment online, you show up late to the Apple store because the subway system in the Boston-area is always broken, and they check you in. Once you’re checked in, another Apple employee leads you to a desk where you sit down (big fan of being able to sit down at the Apple Store) and they ask you a series of questions, including if you wear glasses. You’re then asked if you have an iPhone with Face ID so you can measure your face. (I just got an iPhone 14 finally after my beloved iPhone SE 2020 finally started to get very slow, especially when taking photos.) which then presents you with another QR code that the Apple Store associate scans and then another person brings out a Vision Pro headset from the back that is already sized to my head. I was also asked if I’d used other VR/AR stuff.

You’re then shown a few of the controls, including the digital crown which has made the leap over from the Apple watch, and another dial to adjust the headstrap. You’re also told to pick up the device in a particular way, which feels a bit like the Antennagate (“you’re holding it wrong!”) fiasco.

Oh and there’s a battery pack that feels about the size of an old iPod.


Once the thing is firmly on your head, you start calibrating it… you look at a circle and then tap your fingers together. My hands were resting in my lap for the most part, and that felt pretty natural. You continue calibrating by looking at various circles in a larger circle and tapping your fingers. Much like how you would calibrate a touch screen with a stylus back in the day.

Calibration complete, you’re led into a specific set of experiences…

The experiences

I’m sure everyone gets the same set of things here, so this part isn’t very interesting.

  • You open the Photos app, you look at a library and tap it, then some photos in a sequence… one is a shot of a woman with a lot of vibrant red in it, another is a panoramic view of some water, another is a 3D photo of a group of kids outside and finally a 3D video of a birthday cake celebration.
  • You open Safari, to practice scrolling in a webpage. I accidentally brought up the on-screen keyboard. This is kinda cool, you can type like its right in front of you or you can look at keys and tap your fingers.
  • You open the Apple TV app, you watch a trailer for Super Mario Bros. You have a discussion about how Chris Pratt isn’t really doing much voice acting and how Charlie Day is basically just doing his normal voice.

And then the fire alarm went off.

Not part of the demo

The fire alarm went off in the mall. We weren’t told to evacuate the store but there was a loud alarm going on and flashing lights. I was told I could just look around the device by myself for a bit. Immediately I hopped into settings and looked around in there. I opened Safari, I read the Wikipedia page about web browsers, I looked around the other apps on the device (10 in total installed, it said). I moved windows around, resized things… it’s all quite intuitive. Nothing terribly exciting really… the OS feels very much like iPadOS, which it basically is. At some point I was told that almost any iPad app would work on the device. I guess “almost” because some app developers have taken it upon themselves to restrict their apps to real iPads only and not this new system.

Fire alarm still going on, I joked with the Apple Store staff how the fire alarm simulation part of the demo felt the most real so far.

Fire alarm over

After a few minutes, the fire alarm stopped and my demo continued. I got to see some of the more immersive parts of the system… the background was changed to a landscape view and I couldn’t see anything in the store, but when I looked at the Apple store associate I could see them — first almost like a ghost, and then later closer to watching someone on a webcam.

Next I watched some more immersive videos including one where Apple really pulled out the best stuff… swimming with sharks, hanging out with some rhinos, climbing rocks, flying a plane, etc… all the stuff people don’t typically do, but looks cool on a device like this.

And that was about it… I wasn’t pressured into buying anything, I was given a QR code to scan which had all my measurements inside it and I was asked how I felt about the experience.

Overall, it was a nice tech demo. Videos felt low-resolution compared to everything else. In a few years time this could be a pretty fun experience, when it’s both better, lighter and much cheaper.

Taking off the device it took a second for my eyes to adjust, and then leaving the store I got tricked into trying a sample of hand lotion which immediately lead into an upsell about signing up for two years of hand lotion, which I politely declined.

Wither Android TV

This weekend I saw something truly ridiculous. An Android TV device running the latest version of Android TV apparently (it had an update a few weeks ago to 8.0) that completely refused to play YouTube videos.

The device, Xiaomi Mibox, I picked up a couple of years ago and never used was gifted to a friend of mine and used somewhat regularly over the last 10 or so months. I don’t know the problem but I suspect the device doesn’t support the format (possibly DRM?) Google is putting on the advertising on YouTube videos but whatever the issue it seems ludicrous that a Google operating system won’t play videos from a Google service. It doesn’t even give an error message, it just spins and spins and spins.

Digging through the apps installed to see if a recent YouTube app update had broken things, we saw that Android TV ships with a print spooler. No idea why a set top box for a TV would need one but it reaffirmed my frustration with Android as an operating system. If Android were just a series of packages for a traditional GNU/Linux system the print spooler would be easily removed when building for a television set top box but instead we have a fragmented mess where devices frequently ship violating the GPL, or with outdated drivers or a lack of updates from whoever might update things. It is free software often in name only with a kludge of binary drivers and proprietary components jammed into a device to get it working.

Contrasting this to the other popular proprietary operating system for such devices: iOS or tvOS or whatever nonsense branding is being currently applied and it’s clear that Apple’s approach works well for the half dozen or so devices they produce but probably would fail just as spectacularly if they tried to run it on the thousands of doodads that run some flavor of Android in 2018.

In the end, we unplugged it and plugged in an old $20 Roku device and with a fresh pair of batteries in the remote and a quick software update worked just fine and played YouTube videos the way they were meant to be played: that is to say, at all.

I wonder what this might look like with a standard computer running a desktop OS and some kind of decent remote control solution. Maybe such a thing exists, but I’ve not heard of it. doesn’t support my browser, and here’s why…

You probably don’t remember a web browser called Mosaic. It looked something like this:

This browser identifies itself as NSCA_Mosaic

Mosaic was one of the first graphical browsers for a non-Unix environment. The original browser, WorldWideWeb later renamed Nexus, and the ViolaWWW browsers were already around, but didn’t run on Windows and Mac OS.

Back in 1994, Jim Clark and Mark Andreessen started Mosaic Communications Corporation, hired many of the developers of Mosaic, and later that year released Mosaic Netscape 0.9, before renaming their company to Netscape Communications Corporation and their product to Netscape.

You may remember Netscape, it looked something like this:

Codename for Netscape: Mozilla, which stuck and has been in user agent strings ever since.

Eventually, Microsoft caught onto the web, released Internet Explorer 1.0 for Windows, which looked a bit like this:

Also identifies as Mozilla, but isn’t

There was a thing called the browser wars, which split the web into two chunks: web pages designed for Internet Explorer and those that weren’t. The ones which weren’t often kinda worked in IE anyway, but the ones designed just for IE didn’t work at all well in Netscape and other browsers.

This seemed bad at the time, especially because Microsoft didn’t make a browser for anything but Windows (and later the Mac) and because Internet Explorer was proprietary, the web felt kinda weird for people using free software operating systems.

So Netscape released the source code to their browser as free software. A new project was born: Mozilla.

Mozilla went through a long period of development, but with regular releases. I ran “Mozilla” (officially Mozilla Suite and later SeaMonkey) from mid-2000 right through until Firefox 1.0 came out in 2004.

The great thing about Firefox was that finally, we had a free software browser and it also happened to be one of the best browsers out there. People celebrated by donating money to the newly formed Mozilla Foundation to put a two page ad in the New York Times:

On a recent trip to San Francisco I got to see some of these names on the sign outside the Mozilla offices. I even spotted a few people I know.

For a few years, things were pretty great. And then in 2006, a whole bunch of stuff happened which basically came down to Mozilla and Debian arguing over a trademark, and Debian rebranding the browser and email client as Iceweasel and Icedove respectively.

Which is why Medium doesn’t support my browser.

Medium hearkens back to the “good old days” of the web, when you have to have the right browser installed to view a website.

My browser identifies as:

Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; rv:35.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/35.0 Iceweasel/35.0

Yep. It identifies AS Firefox as well as Iceweasel.

And this is what I see if I use the User Agent Switcher to claim to be Mozilla Firefox™ (akaMozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; rv:35.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/35.0)

Yes you do. I just wrote my entire post in it, and I have to say, your editing interface is pretty nice. Now just stop using 1990s-techniques to figure out if I have the right browser or not and just show me the page I requested without trying to second guess me.