New OS For Commodore 64 Adds Modern Features

The Commodore 64 was a revolutionary computer for its day and age. After four decades, though, it gets harder and harder to use these computers for anything more than educational or hobby electronics projects. [Gregory Nacu] is fiercly determined to challenge this idea, though, and has gone to great extremes to make this hardware still relevant in the modern age by writing a completely new operating system for the Commodore machines.

Known as C64OS, it squeezes everything it can out of the 8 bit processor and 64 kB of memory. The new OS includes switchable desktop workspaces, a windowing system, draggable icons, a Mac-style menu bar at the top, and drop-down menus for the icons (known as aliases in the demonstrations). The filesystem is largely revamped as well and enables a more modern directory system to be used. There are still some limitations like a screen resolution of 320×200 pixels and a fixed color palette which only allows for a handful of colors, but this OS might give Windows 3.1 a run for its money.

The project is still being actively developed but it has come a long way into a fairly usable state. It can be run on original hardware as well as long as you have a method of getting the image to the antique machine somehow. If not, the OS can likely run on any number of C64 emulators we’ve featured in the past.

Thanks to [Stephen] for the tip!

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Quick Hack: The Phone To Stream Deck Conversion

What do you do with those old Android or iPhone phones and tablets? You have plenty of options, but it is pretty easy to build your own stream deck with a little off-the-shelf software. What’s a stream deck, you ask? The name comes from its use as a controller for a live-streaming setup, but essentially, it’s an LCD touchscreen that can trigger things on your computer.

The software I’m using, Deckboard, is a server for Windows or Linux and, of course, an Android app. The app is free with some limitations, but for under $4 you can buy the full version. However, even the free version is pretty capable. You can use an Android phone or tablet and you can connect to the PC with a USB cable or WiFi. I’ve found that even with WiFi, it is handy to keep the phone charged, so realistically you are going to have a cable, but it doesn’t necessarily have to connect to the host computer.

Linux Setup

Setup is very easy. The biggest hurdle is you might need to set up your firewall to allow the server to listen on port 8500 with TCP.  There are a few small issues when installing with Linux that you might want to watch out for.  There are 32-bit and 64-bit versions in deb, tar.gz, and appimage format. There’s also a snap. The problem with the snap is it is sandboxed, so without effort you can’t easily launch programs, which is kinda the entire point. I finally removed it and installed the deb file which was fine.

There were still two other wrinkles. First, while Deckboard offers a way to launch programs, it must be a program from a list it reads from your system. That would be acceptable, but the list wasn’t complete. I never did figure out why some things show up on the list and others don’t. For example, GIMP which shows up on my application menu was absent. Yet other things that were fairly obscure did show up.

I thought this might be a dealbreaker until I found that Deckboard has a well-developed plugin system and one of those plugins lets you run an arbitrary command line. I guess it is a little less convenient, but it is much more flexible since you can launch any program you want and provide options to it as well.

The only other complaint I had is that when you run the program, it shows its configuration interface and puts itself in the system tray. That’s great the first time you run it, but on system startup, it would be nice to just have it quietly start. If there’s an option for that I haven’t found it. I’ll tell you how I solved that later, but, for now, just live with it.

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Windows 98 For Spaceships? Not Quite!

One of the news items that generated the most chatter among Hackaday editors this week was that ESA’s Mars Express mission is receiving a software update. And they’re updating the operating system to…Windows 98.

Microsoft’s late-90s consumer desktop operating system wouldn’t have been the first to come to mind as appropriate for a spacecraft, but ESA were quick to remind us that it was the development toolchain, not the craft itself, that depended upon it. It’s still quite a surprise to find Windows 98 being dusted off for such an unexpected purpose, and it’s led us to consider those now-almost-forgotten operating systems once more, and to question where else it might still be found. Continue reading “Windows 98 For Spaceships? Not Quite!”

Where Do You Want To Go Today? Perhaps To A Linux With A Familiar Interface?

Sometimes we cover works of extreme technological merit here at Hackaday, other times we cover interesting projects that while they might not lie at the bleeding edge are interesting enough that they deserve a wider audience. Sometimes though, we bring you something in this field simply because it amuses us and we think it will you too. Such is the case with [Bryan Lunduke]’s look at making a Linux desktop look like Windows 95. And lest you think that it might be yet another skin to make Windows users transition to Linux a bit easier, the aim and result is to make it look exactly like Microsoft’s mid-90s desktop.

Underneath it all is the relatively familiar xUbuntu distribution, with a deliciously troll-worthy project called Chicago95 atop it. This takes some existing Windows 95 theme and icon projects, and adds GTK themes, an MS-DOS shell theme, the ability to install those cheesy ’90s Plus! themes, and a Microsoft Office 95 theme for LibreOffice. It really does deliver an experience very close to the Redmond original.

So, what’s the point here in 2022? In the first instance it’s an excellent opportunity to troll open-source enthusiast friends with a crusty laptop seemingly running ’95 and showing YouTube videos on Netscape Navigator 3. But beyond the jokes there is a serious use for it. There may be many criticisms that can be leveled at Windows 95, but it’s safe to say that its GUI was a significant success whose echoes can be found in many desktops here in 2022. There are a huge number of people in the world who are completely at home in a Windows 95 environment who might struggle with a Linux desktop, and this gives them a way to be immediately productive.  Would you give your grandmother a Linux box with this desktop?

Linux Fu: The Ultimate Dual Boot Laptop?

I must confess, that I try not to run Windows any more than absolutely necessary. But for many reasons, it is occasionally necessary. In particular, I have had several laptops that are finicky with Linux. I still usually dual boot them, but I often leave Windows on them for one reason or another. I recently bought a new Dell Inspiron and the process of dual booting it turned out to be unusually effective but did bring up a few challenges.

If you ever wanted a proper dual-booting laptop, you’ll be interested in how this setup works. Sure, you can always repartition the drive, but the laptop has a relatively small drive and is set up very specifically to work with the BIOS diagnostics and recovery so it is always a pain to redo the drive without upsetting the factory tools.

Since the laptop came with a 512 GB NVMe drive, I wanted to upgrade the drive anyway. So one option would have been to put a bigger drive in and then go the normal route. That was actually my intention, but I wound up going a different way.

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Hackaday Links: November 21, 2021

As the most spendiest time of the year rapidly approaches, it’s good to know that your hard-earned money doesn’t have to go towards gifts that are probably still sitting in the dank holds of container ships sitting at anchor off the coast of California. At least not if you shop the Tindie Cyber Sale that started yesterday and goes through December 5. There’s a lot of cool stuff on sale, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find something; to sweeten the deal, Jasmine tells us that there will be extra deals going live on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But wait, there’s more — follow Tindie on Twitter for bonus discount codes.

Blue is the old black, which was the new blue? At least when it comes to “Screens of Death” it is, since Microsoft announced the Windows 11 BSOD will revert back from its recent black makeover to the more familiar blue theme. You’ll have to scroll down a bit, perhaps three-quarters of the way through the list of changes. Again, the change seems completely cosmetic and minor, but we’d still love to know what kind of research went into making a decision like this.

From the “One Man’s Trash” department, we have a request for help from reader Mike Drew who picked up a bunch — like, a thousand — old tablet computers. They originally ran Windows but they can run Linux Mint just fine, and while they lack batteries and the back cover, they’re otherwise complete and in usable condition, at least judging by the pictures he shared. These were destined for the landfill, but Mike is willing to send batches of 10 — no single units, please — to anyone who can cover the cost of packaging and shipping. Mike says he’ll be wiping the tablets and installing Mint, and will throw in a couple of battery cables and a simple instruction sheet to get you started. If you’re interested, Mike can be reached at michael.l.drew@gmail.com. Domestic shipping only, please. Here’s hoping you can help a fellow hacker reclaim a room in his house.

Answering the important questions: it turns out that Thanos couldn’t have snapped half of the universe out of existence after all. That conclusion comes from a scientific paper, appearing in the Journal of the Royal Society. While not setting out to answer if a nigh-invulnerable, giant purple supervillain could snap his fingers, it’s pretty intuitive that wearing any kind of gloves, let alone a jewel-encrusted metal gauntlet, makes it hard to snap one’s fingers. But the mechanics of snapping is actually pretty cool, and has implications beyond biomechanics. According to the paper, snapping is actually an example of latch-mediated spring actuation, with examples throughout the plant and animal kingdoms, including the vicious “one-inch punch” of the tiny mantis shrimp. It turns out that a properly executed human finger snap is pretty darn snappy — it takes about seven milliseconds to complete, compared to 150 milliseconds for an eye blink.

And finally, it seems like someone over at Id Software is a bit confused. The story began when a metal guitarist named Dustin Mitchell stumbled across the term “doomscroll” and decided that it would make a great name for a progressive thrash metal band. After diligently filing a trademark application with the US Patent and Trademark Office, he got an email from an attorney for Id saying they were going to challenge the trademark, apparently because they feel like it will cause confusion with their flagship DOOM franchise. It’s hard to see how anyone who lived through the doomscrolling years of 2020 and 2021 is going to be confused by a thrash metal band and a 30-year-old video game, but we suppose that’s not the point when you’re an attorney. Trademark trolls gonna troll, after all.

Linux On The Windows 11 Desktop

A month ago Microsoft officially released Windows 11. One of its features is the ability to run Linux GUI applications side by side as peers to normal Windows desktop apps. [Jim Salter] of Ars Technica took a closer look and declared it works as advertised.

This is an evolution of the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), which has existed for a few years but only in command-line form. Linux being Linux, it was certainly possible to put visuals onscreen, but doing so required jumping through some hoops and dealing with limitations. Now “WSLg” gives a smoother and more accessible experience.

While tremendously valuable for those who need it, WSLg is admittedly a niche feature. The circumstances will be different for different needs. Around these parts, one example is letting us work with pieces of proprietary Windows software (such as low level hardware drivers or hardware-specific dev tools) while still retaining Linux tools for the rest of our workflow.

It’s also interesting to take a peek behind the scenes for an instructive look at bridging two operating systems. A Microsoft blog post describes the general architecture, where we were happy to see open-source work leveraged. And by basing this work on Wayland, it is more forward-looking than working with just X11.

The bad news is that WSLg is limited to Windows 11, at least for now. WSL users on Windows 10 will have to continue jumping through hoops (We described one method using X11.) And opening this door unfortunately also opened the door to security issues, so there’s still work ahead for WSL.