Showing posts from July, 2019


We haven't covered BSD a great deal in this blog even though I personally run NetBSD on three systems myself (two of which are in regular service), mostly because my system and I suspect the majority of the OpenPOWER install base is on Linux. However, FreeBSD 11.3 is now officially released and has fairly good support for 32-bit and 64-bit PowerPC on Power Mac hardware, so it's worth pointing out that 12.0 (and 13.0) has also been tested on the Blackbird and thus should also work on the Talos II. However, on the PowerPC wiki page -CURRENT is recommended for Blackbird, 12.0 is mandatory for OpenPOWER (thus 11.x won't work and presumably won't ever work), and X11 is currently listed "on Power8/Power9 [as] still a work in progress." Nevertheless, POWER8 systems also work, hardware support is improving and the OS offers another big-endian option for people preferring to run their systems that way, so hopefully Justin or Mark who are more versed in the FreeBSD world than I am have some comments about how well it works for others to explore.

Firefox 68 on POWER

Firefox 68 is out. I haven't had a chance to exhaustively test it on my ppc64le Talos II due to business trips and some family obligations, but on cursory testing the browser seems to function normally. Unfortunately our last minute latest workaround for (what is now clearly) a compiler bug in bug 1512162 did not make release, so you'll need to add it if you build from source; without it, some optimization levels may crash or behave adversely. We have not yet narrowed down the issue in gcc and on my last check clang still can't build the browser fully. Fortunately the fix did land on the new Extended Support Release 68, so individuals who prefer the ESR should be able to build as-is from there, and the fix also does not appear to be necessary on big-endian. Thanks to Dan Horák's usual quick work, the patch is also in the standard Fedora packages. The configurations I'm using are unchanged from Firefox 67.

DIAF, Amazon Music (and DRM)

It used to be that Amazon Music was a decent choice for playing the music you purchased. Not only did the AutoRip feature mean you had an automatic digital copy of participating CDs you purchased, playable from any web browser (I used TenFourFox for this purpose up until recently), but you still had the physical disc and discs you bought before got automatically added to your AutoRip library if Amazon got rights to do so. It was cool to watch my music library just fill in over the years from past purchases and still have the original CD if I needed it.

Well, turns out I'll need those CDs after all, because guess what Amazon Music does now?

"Amazon Music Unlimited" my pasty sculpted white butt. The message is almost intentionally misleading. What I've "disabled" in my browser is the Google Widevine EME component, because it doesn't exist for ppc64le, and while Amazon's community staff are as useless as ever that "deficiency" appears to be the real reason it won't work. Amazon, in fact, is claiming Linux on any platform isn't supported for the browser version or the dedicated client at all.

I wasn't going to take no for an answer. I used uBlock Origin to remove as many of the elements as I could. I couldn't get the blurring away easily but I was able to get into my old albums library and try to play something. It looked like it was starting, but no music issued forth. In the Browser console was this damning message:

No, you lying sack of filth. I didn't pref anything off. I didn't do anything. You did.

How did this work before? Amazon Music would say it required Flash, but it actually didn't (TenFourFox hasn't supported NPAPI plugins for years). The music files were just MP3. You could stream them or download them, and while some of the tracks were watermarked, I considered that a reasonable tradeoff for the convenience. Now it won't even let you in to download them.

I'm no Stallmanite. I could live with a compromise where music I don't own requires some sort of DRM, because I'll just preview it (at least for as long as they'll still allow it, which currently they still seem to), and I'll buy it if I want it. The problem is that Amazon has now effectively defined everything I've ever bought from them (and I have, in fact, bought a few tracks that I don't have a disc for) as "music I don't own." You can't even download them again despite Amazon's instructions because the browser client doesn't let you get there, even if you block the restraining elements. I'm not going to stop buying CDs from Amazon if they have a decent price, but I won't consider AutoRip as part of the value calculation anymore, and I certainly won't buy any form of digital music from them until this changes.

If there's going to be choices in computing, then this kind of crap has to stop. DRM isn't compatible with open source by definition. Worse, locking down a service that previously didn't enforce DRM is not only a still greater sin, but it's even potentially actionable. When DRM like Widevine is the only choice for playing content, then that means the only computers that can are the ones they control, and I wouldn't run some potentially untrustworthy blob on my Talos II anyway even if a ppc64le version were one day offered. Amazon Music can die in a fire.