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July 2018

In Open Hardware, “Free as in Beer” Matters

Filed under
Hardware
OSS

Richard M. Stallman, the founder of the Free Software Foundation, is famously fond of distinguishing between “free as in freedom” and “free as in beer.” Free software, he is pointing out, is a matter of philosophy and politics, not price, and the implication is that “free as in freedom” is by far the superior of the two. Yet as open hardware spreads, reduced costs — if not always no cost — is starting to seem just as important as licensing, both for manufacturers and for handling situations that normal business is unable to handle.

To some degree, the same is true in software. Admittedly, though, it is less true than it used to be, because, in the last decade, online services such as Google Docs have diminished the attractiveness of gratis free software. For users who little about free licenses and often care less, proprietary services can seem just as convenient as local hardware or free services, all the more so because they carry a well-known brand name. However, cost remains a major factor in business, where freely available source code can reduce development costs and bring products more quickly to market.

With open hardware, the business advantage sometimes remains. For instance, much of the development of autonomous cars is open source, a fact that is not widely advertised. More often, though, the situation is different from that of free software. Hardware has costs like manufacturing, shipping, and storage that software does not — at least, not to the same extent. In fact, for years, these costs were a major obstacle to the development of open hardware and seemed impossible to overcome. While a hobbyist can contribute to software development for the price of a computer and an Internet connection, the cost of contributing to hardware used to be beyond most people’s — and many small business’ — ability to pay.

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Mozilla: Screenshots, WeTransfer Extension for Firefox, and WebRender

Filed under
Moz/FF
  • New Features in Screenshots

    As part of our Screenshots release on July 26, 2018, we thought we’d update you on a few new features that we think you’ll find especially useful.

    We shipped a simple image editor a few months ago to enable users to annotate and crop their shots. Now we are expanding the editor with three more features: undo, redo, and text.

  • Free your mind and move your biggest files with the WeTransfer extension for Firefox

    When you’re in the zone, be it creative or analytical, anything you can do to stay there is an asset. It’s part of why we build and design Firefox to be powerful, efficient and easy to use. It’s also why extensions can be a magic powerup for keeping you in flow online. They help you get more done in the browser, saving your brain from taxing context switching.

  • Mozilla GFX: WebRender newsletter #21

    Hi there, WebRender’s newsletter is here, delayed again by some vacation time sprinkled with a fair amount of the traditional “I’m busy” excuse. It’s been a while so there is a lot below (without counting the items I probably missed in the overwhelming amount of stuff that went into WebRender and Gecko since the last newsletter.

    One of the highlights this time is something I have been focusing on for a while, building on the async scene building infrastructure to move blob image rasterization off of the render backend thread. Instead of lazily rasterizing blob images in the critical path we now eager rasterize a subset of the blobs asynchronously during scene building. This makes sure expensive blob rasterization never prevent us from producing 60 frames per second during scrolling.
    The other highlight is that we started gathering telemetry numbers on the nightly population that opted into WebRender, and these numbers are very positive, even in areas that we haven’t spent any time optimizing yet.

OS Turf Wars

Filed under
GNU
Linux
Google
Microsoft
  • Build your own Chrome/Linux operating system with Chromium OS and Crostini

    Google is slowly starting to add support for running Linux applications on Chromebooks. But as I discovered when I tested Linux apps on the Acer Chromebook Tab 10 recently, it’s still a work in progress. The feature also isn’t available for all Chrome OS computers yet.

    That could change in the not-too-distant future. Right now you need to be running Chrome OS in the developer channel in order to enable Linux app support. There are signs that Linux app support could hit the Chrome OS beta channel this week, and it could graduate to the stable channel by the time Chrome OS 69 is released later this year.

  • Germans swing another putsch against Linux [Ed: This isn't a technical decision. It cannot be technical. I reckon some politicians/suits had too many dinners with Microsoft and maybe bribes too (like the Munich saga)]

    As initially reported by Heise, the state's tax authority has 13,000 workstations running OpenSuse -- which it adopted in 2006 in a well-received migration from Solaris -- that it now wants to migrate to a "current version" of Windows, presumably Windows 10.

  • With DaaS Windows coming, say goodbye to your PC as you know it

    Now Microsoft, which helped lead that revolution, is trying to return us to that old, centralized control model.

    Forget that noise. If Microsoft continues on this course, soon your only real choices if you really want a “desktop” operating system will be Linux and macOS. Oh, you’ll still have “Windows.” But Windows as your “personal” desktop? It will be history.

Hardware: Mercury Security, Rock960, RISC-V

Filed under
Hardware
  • Mercury’s Linux Intelligent Controller Line

    Building upon the success of its open architecture series controllers, Mercury Security, a leader in OEM access control hardware and part of HID Global, launched its next-generation LP intelligent controller platform built on the Linux operating system. The controllers offer advanced security and performance, plus extensive support for third-party applications and integrations—delivered on an identical form factor that enables seamless upgrades for existing Mercury based deployments.

  • Rock960 Review: An Affordable Six-Core ARM Board That Runs Linux And Android

    The single-board computer space, spearheaded by Raspberry Pi products, is pretty vast and polluted by a number of low-end offerings. But every now and then, there’s something that really catches your eye and makes you wonder just how much can be crammed onto a credit card sized board and still manage to be affordable. The Rock960 does just that.

    Most readers will know of the Raspberry Pi family of products, but for those that are more familiar, you’ll be painfully aware of the woeful limitations of these budget-minded devices. The big one typically being USB 3, but some would like to see better networking throughput, as well.

  • Linux Boots On “Shakti” — India’s First Ever RISC-V Based Silicon Processor

    RISC-V Workshop in Chennai, India, hosted by The Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras), achieved a significant milestone by booting Linux on its first ever RISC-V based silicon chip processor named Shakti (Project Page). The team, which is sponsored by the Western Digital, aims to create a critical mass of CPU architects in India, according to the project lead (Via: Hacker News, Twitter). Open-Source, patent-free domestic CPU production is well on the cards, according to experts.

Red Hat: Microservices, Container Runtime, "Red Hat Outlook Disappoints", Fedora News

Filed under
Red Hat

Running GNU/Linux on Laptops

Filed under
GNU
Linux
  • Ditching Windows: Here's How Ubuntu Updates Your PC And Why It's Better
  • GPD Pocket 2 Crowdfunding Campaign Goes Live

    Nevertheless, a passionate Linux community has built up around the original GPD Pocket (which now works much better with Linux distros like Ubuntu thanks to improved hardware support in the latest Linux kernel) — and that community support will no doubt ensure the new model is kitted out with a capable community-based Linux distro too.

  • Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition Now Ships With Ubuntu 18.04 LTS

    The sales figures for laptops would have you believe there's only really two operating systems available: laptops running Windows 10 and Apple's MacBook range running macOS. But there's a third option in the form of Linux, and one of the most well-known computer companies ships a premium laptop running a version of it.

    That company is Dell, and the XPS 13 Developer Edition laptop just got updated and certified to ship with the latest (extended support and stability) version of Ubuntu. Before now, the XPS 13 Developer Edition shipped with Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, but Dell worked with Canonical to certify Ubuntu 18.04 LTS (Bionic Beaver) on the XPS 13, meaning there will be no driver problems from first boot, it will just work, which is great news for anyone using this laptop as an excuse to try

  • The Dell XPS 13 9370 now available with Ubuntu Linux 18.04 onboard

    The Intel Core i7-8550U-powered Dell XPS 13 9370 ultrabook is now available with Ubuntu Linux 18.04 onboard. The first XPS 13 Developer Edition arrived more than five years ago and back then it had Ubuntu 12.04 installed. The new XPS 13 Developer Edition is only available in the US for now, but Europe and Canada will follow soon.

  • Dell's XPS 13 Developer Edition with Ubuntu 18.04 Preinstalled Now Available, GCC Conversion to Git Update, Lubuntu Shifts Focus, OpenMW Team Releases Version 0.44.0 and Serverless Inc Announces New Framework and Gateway

    Dell's XPS 13 Developer Edition laptop with Ubuntu 18.04 LTS preinstalled is now available. According to Canonical's blog post, this launch marks the "the first availability of Ubuntu's latest LTS on a major OEM's hardware since its release in April. Canonical and Dell have worked together to certify Ubuntu 18.04 LTS on the XPS 13 to ensure a seamless experience from first use." You can purchase one in the US via Dell.com, and they will be available in Europe in early August.

Debian: Gnocchi 4.3.0, Reproducible Builds, DebConf 18 Report

Filed under
Debian
  • Gnocchi 4.3.0 released

    This new release minor release of Gnocchi has been a bit longer than usual, but here it is!

  • Reproducible Builds: Weekly report #170
  • DebConf 18 – Day 1

    This year’s DebConf happens to be the first in Asia, in Hsinchu, Taiwan. And also for me the first DebConf I ever participated. I arrived on Saturday night from Japan, and will try to report a bit about what is going on here.

    [...]

    After the coffee break I attended the Debian Science and Debian R BoF, where Andreas Tille reported about packaging activities in these areas. As a regular R user I brought up the same topic about middle-ware in the R session, because I often suffered from unpacked/outdated packages. Andreas presented his packaging scripts that allows creating/updating packages in the blink of an eye. Here of course thanks goes to large part to the CRAN, where there are extremely strict regulations what can be uploaded, which reflects easy packaging. CTAN (the TeX archive) unfortunately historically does not have such a strict set of rules, which makes packaging much more painful.

Ubuntu 18.04 -- MATE and Budgie editions

Filed under
Reviews
Ubuntu

The Budgie desktop, at least in Ubuntu, is a curious thing. On one hand it appears to cater to relative novices to Linux with all the emphasis on install help in the beginning. On the other, there's quite a reliance on keyboard shortcuts. Despite MATE upping its game with the various layout options in tweak tool, Budgie appears more modern, stylish and has kept the focus on on-line integration of the GNOME Shell. With the Raven side-panel on the right it reminds me of early mock-ups of GNOME 3 which featured a side panel with notifications, a calendar and all sorts of options.

The Budgie edition appeared more solid for everyday use. I did not experience the crashes or weird behaviour of panel applets that had plagued the MATE desktop, probably induced by frequent layout changes. The Budgie edition also did not throw as many unexpected error messages at me and hibernate worked.

Budgie also suffered from the delayed shutdown of systemd jobs but not as frequently as the MATE edition. It has been suggested this is due to the operating system not being able to find swap or a missing swap partition. I cannot confirm this. I completed both installations the same way as a custom setup and while the hibernate option was available in Budgie it was not in the installed MATE edition. Hibernate and resume from swap worked in Budgie but still stop job delays occurred here as well. This was mostly the case after running for longer periods of time under heavy load and when the laptop had been running hot, through multimedia use or with browser tabs like Google Drive or Google Docs open which alone topped 225MB use of RAM. Power and CPU usage were about equal for given tasks, but Budgie consumed far more memory from the start.

As to the choice of desktop, you will know your preferences. Budgie seems more integrated and, with that, more stable at the moment and overall this edition made a better impression. It also presents a lot of options under the hood of which I could only scratch the surface for this review. I for my part am not going to keep any release of Bionic Beaver around for long although I like both desktops. It is just too buggy and running too hot to be used as a long-term stable operating system.

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Also: National Cyber Security Centre publish Ubuntu 18.04 LTS Security Guide

7 Python libraries for more maintainable code

Filed under
Development

It's easy to let readability and coding standards fall by the wayside when a software project moves into "maintenance mode." (It's also easy to never establish those standards in the first place.) But maintaining consistent style and testing standards across a codebase is an important part of decreasing the maintenance burden, ensuring that future developers are able to quickly grok what's happening in a new-to-them project and safeguarding the health of the app over time.

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More in Tux Machines

today's leftovers

  • Warfork Letting Warsow Live On Under Steam

    Going back a decade one of the interesting open-source FPS games of its time was Warsow. Development on Warsow has seemingly been tremulous over the past few years (edit: though the core developer has recently released a new beta) for this Qfusion (Quake 2 code base) engine powered game that started in 2005, but now there is Warfork as a fork of Warsow that is being developed and also available via Steam.  Hitting Steam this past week was the release of Warfork for Windows, macOS, and Linux. The game is free to play and with it going up on Steam will hopefully attract new gamers to this shooter title who may not be otherwise following the open-source scene. 

  • KDE sprints in summer heat

    It was great to see many new faces at the Plasma sprint. Most of these new contributors were working on the Plasma and KDE Apps Ui and Ux and we definitely need some new blood in these areas. KDE's Visual Design Group, the VDG, thinned out over the last two years because some leading figures left. But now seeing new talented and motivated people joining as designers and Ux experts I am optimistic that there will be a revival of the golden time of the VDG that brought us Breeze and Plasma 5. In regards to technical topics there is always a wide field of different challenges and technologies to combine at a Plasma sprint. From my side I wanted to discuss current topics in KWin but of course not everyone at the sprint is directly working on KWin and some topics require deeper technical knowledge about it. Still there were some fruitful discussions, of course in particular with David, who was the second KWin core contributor present besides me. As a direct product of the sprint my work on dma-buf support in KWin and KWayland can be counted. I started work on that at the sprint mostly because it was a feature requested already for quite a long time by Plasma Mobile developers who need it on some of their devices to get them to work. But this should in general improve in our Wayland session the performance and energy consumption on many devices. Like always such larger features need time so I was not able to finish them at the sprint. But last week I landed them.

  • My Free Software Activities in July 2019

    Welcome to gambaru.de. Here is my monthly report that covers what I have been doing for Debian. If you’re interested in Java, Games and LTS topics, this might be interesting for you.

Proprietary Traps and Failures

  • U.S. Customs System Back Online ... After Massive Failure
                       
                         

    It appears the entire computer system for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection has failed.  

  •                  
  • Arkansas School Safety Efforts Aided by Mobile App [iophk: fraud, waste, abuse]
                       
                         

    Geofencing is the use of GPS or radio-frequency identification technology to create a virtual geographic boundary, enabling software to trigger a response when a mobile device enters or leaves a particular area or, in the case of the Rave Panic Button app, to pinpoint a caller's exact location through a virtual map of the campus.  

                         

    "When there is an incident on campus and (the authorized user) activates one of the five panic buttons," French said, "it immediately sends a text, email, and an in-app notification providing situational awareness to all the other staff members on campus. It then provides a direct dial into the 911 dispatch center."

  • Skype Snap Gets First Update in 6 Months, Plus a New Icon

    The popular VoIP sat unloved, with no stable updates, for six whole months. Fast forward a few weeks from calling them out and I’m pleased to report that whatever blockage was lodged in the build machine pipe-work has been well and truly flushed out. Not only is the Skype Snap app once again up to date on the Snapcraft store — hurrah! — but some freshly prepared ‘insider’ builds are available for the more adventurous to play with — double hurrah!

today's howtos and programming bits

Security: Open Source Security Podcast, Screwed Drivers, and Voting Machines

  • Open Source Security Podcast: Episode 157 - Backdoors and snake oil in our cryptography

    Josh and Kurt talk about snakeoil cryptography at Black Hat and the new backdoored cryptography fight. Both of these problems will be with us for a very long time. These are fights worth fighting because it's the right thing to do.

  • Screwed Drivers – Signed, Sealed, Delivered

    Our analysis found that the problem of insecure drivers is widespread, affecting more than 40 drivers from at least 20 different vendors – including every major BIOS vendor, as well as hardware vendors like ASUS, Toshiba, NVIDIA, and Huawei. However, the widespread nature of these vulnerabilities highlights a more fundamental issue – all the vulnerable drivers we discovered have been certified by Microsoft. Since the presence of a vulnerable driver on a device can provide a user (or attacker) with improperly elevated privileges, we have engaged Microsoft to support solutions to better protect against this class of vulnerabilities, such as blacklisting known bad drivers.

  • Most states still aren’t set to audit paper ballots in 2020

    Despite some progress on voting security since 2016, most states in the US aren’t set to require an audit of paper ballots in the November 2020 election, according to a new report out this week from the Brennan Center for Justice.

    The report notes that experts and government officials have spent years recommending states adopt verifiable paper ballots for elections, but a handful still use electronic methods potentially vulnerable to cyberattacks. In 2016, 14 states used paperless machines, although the number today is 11, and the report estimates that no more than eight will use them in the 2020 election.