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3 Months From Home

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TM setup portrait


TUX MACHINES has been run from one single place over the past 3 months because of the COVID-19-induced lock-downs. We no longer travel far from home (it's impractical)... and we both work from home anyway.

The prolonged shut-down of businesses (they only reopened a fortnight ago) resulted in lack of access to some digital necessities, but that almost always meant more free time to rethink and reassess the workflow and the workspace with existing hardware (reshuffling what we already have, both new and old).

Last month I showed how the screens on my desk were split to handle multi-tasking. Last week I shuffled to portrait mode (as shown above). Rianne too uses 2 or 3 screens, but her setup is somewhat simpler. We basically both use a combination of RSS readers. I mostly use QuiteRSS and she uses Thunderbird and QuiteRSS in conjunction (best of both worlds). We're still hoping that an intern based in Africa will start participating soon. The pandemic has made access to the Internet a lot harder for him. He wants to cover programming and Web-related topics for us.

Message From the Editors

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Roy and Rianne

Summary: We're still running the site 24/7 every day/week of the year; we're managing to cope with slower news cycles

WE RECENTLY passed the sixteenth anniversary of this site, which is peaking in terms of traffic (record levels and all-time highs for several consecutive weeks). This weekend is very, very slow for news. Very.

We're typically managing to cope with the decline of journalism by digging deeper, finding lesser known sites such as blogs. We're hoping to reach the twentieth anniversary of the site. That's 2024.

Star Trek Thanksgiving: Did I tell you the joke about the flightless bird? Oh, don't get started, Worf... turned out it was a machine

For those who don't follow over RSS feeds (default and recommended as there are no middlemen; access is direct) there are also Twitter (proprietary) and the following accounts in Free software-based networks. Diaspora:

Diaspora logo

Mastodon:

Mastodon logo

Pleroma (Fediverse like Mastodon):

Pleroma logo

Thanks for choosing Tux Machines for news.

Sweet Sixteen

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Exuberant dog

TUX MACHINES is turning 16 today. Yes, 16. Not many sites last this long.

The interesting thing is, this past week we had an all-time traffic record and the same is true for the week prior. So for two weeks in a row, despite relatively slow news, we broke a record.

We aren't celebrating the birthday this year (we're still restricted in what can be done here, due to the virus), but maybe next year we'll do something and even share some photos.

Peaking Again

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Summary: In terms of number of daily nodes, we're at the pinnacle still (despite slow news at times of lock-downs)

Tux Machines is turning 16 exactly one month from now. We've decided to plot activity over time, as measured by number of posts/nodes. It's not the most important measure (e.g. original articles), but it's something that's not too hard to plot.

Attached to this post is tux-posts.txt, which can be converted into tux-numbers.txt as follows:

sed 's/[\t ][\t ]*/ /g' < tux-posts.txt | cut -d' ' -f3,5 >tux-numbers.txt

We can then plot it:

gnuplot -p -e 'plot "./tux-numbers.txt" with linespoints linetype 1 pointtype 2 linecolor 10'

And voila!

Plot tuxmachines posts

In a month from now we might buy a cake.

Running Tux Machines

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Roy's deskop

Roy's deskop and laptop

Roy's deskop and laptop with text

Running Tux Machines with my wife (the lead editor, I mostly sweep up and cluster related stories) is a hobby but it feels like a full-time job, a 24/7 job that involves picking and sorting news as quickly as possible, almost non-stop around the clock. My own workflow -- not speaking about Rianne's -- can be shown in this annotated photo, which I took a couple of hours ago. Readers might find it interesting, knowing roughly how the site is run from my side (not Rianne's). The office is at home of course, as we're both remote workers in the area of computing. We're like sysadmins for a living and maintaining Tux Machines helps keep us abreast of the latest technologies.

Turning 16 This Summer

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No crisis for the "tuxmachiners"

tuxmachines at whois

AS keen observers may be aware, bearing in mind last year's anniversary party (when such parties were still permitted), we're soon turning 16. There won't be a party or anything; not even online (it's pointless).

This past year has been our strongest and for whatever reason since the pandemic began (epidemic escalated and declared "pandemic"), then soon thereafter lock-downs were enforced, we saw another uptick in traffic. We don't spy on visitors, but we merely observe the size of Apache logs, which are then wiped for privacy reasons.

When Rianne and I took over the site in 2013 it had already flourished, thanks to the love of care of Susan. We continue curating the news, clustering together related reports. The list of blogs we syndicate continues to grow because the mainstream media perishes, leaving a vacuum for people who are eager to find timely information, such as distro reviews and howtos.

If you run a GNU/Linux-oriented blog in the English language that we do not link to (most likely because we're not aware of its existence), let us know in the comments, in IRC, or other contact means. We soon turn 16 and we're quite confident that we'll make it to 20 as well. At the moment, as of this month, we also do server upgrades and we hope to add SSL soon. We've already moved one of this site's databases to a separate container in Alpine Linux. We make improvements while maintaining the site's spirit and long tradition.

Stay home. Save lives.

100,000 Tweets

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@tuxmachines in Twitter
The @tuxmachines account in Twitter as of this morning

We have been on Twitter for nearly a decade. It's proprietary and centralised, but some of our audience comes from there. In the start of March we'll have posted our 100,000th tweet in Twitter. A milestone? Maybe for Twitter. We try to focus on our presence in Free/libre networks, such as Mastodon, Pleroma and Diaspora. We joined Pleroma a year ago and have more followers there than we have in Twitter. Spring is fast approaching, which means we soon turn 16.

The End of Tux Machines' Strongest Year

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Tux Machines 2020

TODAY is the last day of the last month of this year if not decade. We're pleased to close this year with record traffic levels. In 2019 we increased our coverage of programming-centric matters, especially when the underlying frameworks/languages were Free/libre software.

Earlier this year we also celebrated our 15th anniversary. There are three of us working behind the scenes to make the site up to date and keep it up (online). We're all passionate users of GNU/Linux who want to spread the word and encourage more people to use the platform.

In 2019 not only did we see record traffic levels; we also saw an unprecedented level of success for GNU/Linux in the adoption sense. Rianne is responsible for "Android leftovers" and remember that each Android device has Linux (or "Tux") in it. Google explored alternatives, but we haven't heard of these for months. It's nowadays very difficult to run a company or start a company without Linux -- no matter if in the server or device space. Let's hope Tux Machines will be around -- and online -- for many years to come. Happy new year.

Moving Into 'Christmas Mode'

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Slow news day

Summary: Fewer news items in days to come and potentially some planned downtime as well

AS ONE can expect, we won't be able to find much news over the next few days, and perhaps be 'low volume' for as long as a week or more to come (a problem to news addicts or neophiles). We'll try to also upgrade/migrate the site if all goes according to plan. In that case, there might be limited downtime (scheduled, altogether expected, no need to panic).

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it.

Keep the Bees Going

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Bee

MANCHESTER is known as the city of "working bees" because of the work ethics or its hard-working people. Working bees are the symbol of Manchester, where my wife and I are based and spend each day -- morning, afternoon, evening and sometimes night -- posting updates here in Tux Machines.

The end of the year is fast approaching. Literally 22 days left, i.e. 3 weeks and a day. We wish to thank those who tipped up yesterday to keep us going. We accept donations through PayPal and we're grateful for any contribution readers can make, even if as meager as a cup of coffee's worth. It gives my wife and I motivation to continue and circulate updates as soon as we find them. Thank you! Smile

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Moving (parts of) the Cling REPL in Clang

Motivation
===

Over the last decade we have developed an interactive, interpretative 
C++ (aka REPL) as part of the high-energy physics (HEP) data analysis 
project -- ROOT [1-2]. We invested a significant  effort to replace the 
CINT C++ interpreter with a newly implemented REPL based on llvm -- 
cling [3]. The cling infrastructure is a core component of the data 
analysis framework of ROOT and runs in production for approximately 5 
years.

Cling is also  a standalone tool, which has a growing community outside 
of our field. Cling’s user community includes users in finance, biology 
and in a few companies with proprietary software. For example, there is 
a xeus-cling jupyter kernel [4]. One of the major challenges we face to 
foster that community is  our cling-related patches in llvm and clang 
forks. The benefits of using the LLVM community standards for code 
reviews, release cycles and integration has been mentioned a number of 
times by our "external" users.

Last year we were awarded an NSF grant to improve cling's sustainability 
and make it a standalone tool. We thank the LLVM Foundation Board for 
supporting us with a non-binding letter of collaboration which was 
essential for getting this grant.


Background
===

Cling is a C++ interpreter built on top of clang and llvm. In a 
nutshell, it uses clang's incremental compilation facilities to process 
code chunk-by-chunk by assuming an ever-growing translation unit [5]. 
Then code is lowered into llvm IR and run by the llvm jit. Cling has 
implemented some language "extensions" such as execution statements on 
the global scope and error recovery. Cling is in the core of HEP -- it 
is heavily used during data analysis of exabytes of particle physics 
data coming from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and other particle 
physics experiments.


Plans
===

The project foresees three main directions -- move parts of cling 
upstream along with the clang and llvm features that enable them; extend 
and generalize the language interoperability layer around cling; and 
extend and generalize the OpenCL/CUDA support in cling. We are at the 
early stages of the project and this email intends to be an RFC for the 
first part -- upstreaming parts of cling. Please do share your thoughts 
on the rest, too.


Moving Parts of Cling Upstream
---

Over the years we have slowly moved some patches upstream. However we 
still have around 100 patches in the clang fork. Most of them are in the 
context of extending the incremental compilation support for clang. The 
incremental compilation poses some challenges in the clang 
infrastructure. For example, we need to tune CodeGen to work with 
multiple llvm::Module instances, and finalize per each 
end-of-translation unit (we have multiple of them). Other changes 
include small adjustments in the FileManager's caching mechanism, and 
bug fixes in the SourceManager (code which can be reached mostly from 
within our setup). One conclusion we can draw from our research is that 
the clang infrastructure fits amazingly well to something which was not 
its main use case. The grand total of our diffs against clang-9 is: `62 
files changed, 1294 insertions(+), 231 deletions(-)`. Cling is currently 
being upgraded from llvm-5 to llvm-9.

A major weakness of cling's infrastructure is that it does not work with 
the clang Action infrastructure due to the lack of an 
IncrementalAction.  A possible way forward would be to implement a 
clang::IncrementalAction as a starting point. This way we should be able 
to reduce the amount of setup necessary to use the incremental 
infrastructure in clang. However, this will be a bit of a testing 
challenge -- cling lives downstream and some of the new code may be 
impossible to pick straight away and use. Building a mainline example 
tool such as clang-repl which gives us a way to test that incremental 
case or repurpose the already existing clang-interpreter may  be able to 
address the issue. The major risk of the task is avoiding code in the 
clang mainline which is untested by its HEP production environment.
There are several other types of patches to the ROOT fork of Clang, 
including ones  in the context of performance,towards  C++ modules 
support (D41416), and storage (does not have a patch yet but has an open 
projects entry and somebody working on it). These patches can be 
considered in parallel independently on the rest.

Extend and Generalize the Language Interoperability Layer Around Cling
---

HEP has extensive experience with on-demand python interoperability 
using cppyy[6], which is built around the type information provided by 
cling. Unlike tools with custom parsers such as swig and sip and tools 
built on top of C-APIs such as boost.python and pybind11, cling can 
provide information about memory management patterns (eg refcounting) 
and instantiate templates on the fly.We feel that functionality may not 
be of general interest to the llvm community but we will prepare another 
RFC and send it here later on to gather feedback.


Extend and Generalize the OpenCL/CUDA Support in Cling
---

Cling can incrementally compile CUDA code [7-8] allowing easier set up 
and enabling some interesting use cases. There are a number of planned 
improvements including talking to HIP [9] and SYCL to support more 
hardware architectures.



The primary focus of our work is to upstreaming functionality required 
to build an incremental compiler and rework cling build against vanilla 
clang and llvm. The last two points are to give the scope of the work 
which we will be doing the next 2-3 years. We will send here RFCs for 
both of them to trigger technical discussion if there is interest in 
pursuing this direction.


Collaboration
===

Open source development nowadays relies on reviewers. LLVM is no 
different and we will probably disturb a good number of people in the 
community ;)We would like to invite anybody interested in joining our 
incremental C++ activities to our open every second week calls. 
Announcements will be done via google group: compiler-research-announce 
(https://groups.google.com/g/compiler-research-announce).



Many thanks!


David & Vassil

Read more Also: Cling C++ Interpreter Looking To Upstream More Code Into LLVM

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