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The problems with Apple aren't just outages, they are injustices

Filed under
GNU
Mac

This November, both everyday users and privacy advocates found new reasons to be concerned about Apple. After an update to the latest version of their operating system, users found that they were unable to launch applications that were not written by Apple itself. This problem was caused by an Apple server outage. But why did the unavailabilty of a remote server prevent a user from launching a program on their own computer?

It turns out that each time a program is opened on macOS, it phones home via the Online Certificate Status Protocol (OCSP) to see if that application is "okay" to launch: it asks the corporation permission each time a new application is encountered, sending potentially identifying information along with that request. While this function only made news because of the recent server outage caused by the release of the newest version of macOS, Big Sur, research indicates that the report-back has existed in the operating system since September 2018, with the release of macOS Mojave. This is a classic case of proprietary software serving as an instrument of unjust power.

Although Apple does not directly receive the name of the application, but rather information on who developed it, most developers have only a very limited number of apps on the App Store, making it easy for Apple to infer. More disturbing yet is the other identifying information that is sent along with the request, which includes the user's approximate location and the current date and time.

Because macOS is so restricted, it leaves everyone, including free software developers, powerless to help users prevent their application use from being reported back to Apple. Due to the way the system is engineered, free software firewalls like LuLu are unable to block the information from being sent to Apple domains. Furthermore, the information is sent unencrypted over the network, potentially allowing a snoop to see which applications a user was trying to launch on their own computer. The request also bypasses any VPN, letting Apple know their approximate location even if the user has taken steps to stay anonymous.

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macOS to FreeBSD migration a.k.a why I left macOS

Filed under
Mac
BSD

I think the title tells a lot about the story I’m going to tell you.

This is not a technical documentation for how I migrated from macOS to FreeBSD. This is a high-level for why I migrated from macOS to FreeBSD.

Not so long ago, I was using macOS as my daily driver. The main reason why I got a macbook was the underlying BSD Unix and the nice graphics it provides. Also, I have an iPhone. But they were also the same reasons for why I left macOS.

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Also: Fiddling with OpenBSD ports

macOS to FreeBSD migration a.k.a why I left macOS

Filed under
Mac
BSD

This is not a technical documentation for how I migrated from macOS to FreeBSD. This is a high-level for why I migrated from macOS to FreeBSD.

Not so long ago, I was using macOS as my daily driver. The main reason why I got a macbook was the underlying BSD Unix and the nice graphics it provides. Also, I have an iPhone. But they were also the same reasons for why I left macOS.

I did not want to write this post right after the migration, I wanted to take my time, use FreeBSD daily, see if I will ever miss macOS.

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Jussi Pakkanen: How Apple might completely take over end users' computers

Filed under
Mac

Many people are concerned about Apple's ongoing attempts to take more and more control of end user machines from their users. Some go so far as to say that Apple won't be happy until they have absolute and total control over all programs running on end user devices, presumably so that they can enforce their 30% tax on every piece of software. Whether this is true or not we don't really know.

What we can do instead is a thought experiment. If that was their end goal, how would they achieve it? What steps would they take to obtain this absolute control? Let's speculate.

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User-hostile Hardware

Filed under
Hardware
Microsoft
Mac
  • Linus Torvalds wants Apple’s new M1-powered Macs to run Linux

    Earlier this month, Apple revealed its own ARM-based M1 processor, along with new MacBooks and a desktop Mac Mini powered by this chip. Reviewers across the globe have been praising Apple‘s first attempt, giving it high marks for performance and battery life.

    All this positive coverage has tempted many to take the plunge and buy one of the new machines — even if some apps are not running natively at the moment. Even Linus Torvalds, the principal developer of the Linux kernel, wants one.

    [...]

    Linux support on MacBooks would’ve made it a more attractive bet for programmers. However, I don’t think any engineers at the Cupertino campus plan to make that happen anytime soon. Sorry, Linus.

  • New Microsoft chip will come with added costs, says ex-NSA hacker

    Microsoft's new security chip, announced last week, will have an impact on hardware-only attacks, an American security professional says, adding that it could also assist in firmware security, but would result in added costs.

Proprietary Software and Security Issues

Filed under
Microsoft
Mac
Security

Linux vs. macOS: 15 Key Differences You Need to Know

Filed under
GNU
Linux
Mac

The tug of war between Linux and macOS continues to go through the test of time. The internet meme world concludes their major differences in the usual humorous manner. In their opinion, macOS is for the rich, and Linux is for the skilled. If we add the Windows operating system to this debate, then patience as an attribute would also be a highlight of discussion. However, no operating system is perfect, but there is a perfect being for each operating system.

The individual superiority in both Linux and macOS comes at a cost. This article is here to shed some light on the matter and, at the same time, remove the skeletons hiding in the two OS’s closets.

Linux vs. macOS

Since we are here to neither shame Linux nor macOS, we will look at the preference each operating system brings to the table when comparatively analyzed. However, the preferences might favor one operating system over the other. The final verdict will be in regards to performance flexibility and stability. It’s time to roll the dice on the first comparative topic.

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Security and Proprietary Software Leftovers

Filed under
Microsoft
Mac
Security

  • Security updates for Wednesday

    Security updates have been issued by Arch Linux (chromium, firefox, gdm, linux-hardened, matrix-synapse, salt, sddm, and wordpress), Debian (firefox-esr, libmaxminddb, and moin), Fedora (cifs-utils, firefox, galera, java-latest-openjdk, mariadb, mariadb-connector-c, and wordpress), Gentoo (blueman, chromium, firefox, mariadb, qemu, salt, tmux, and wireshark), openSUSE (sddm), Oracle (kernel), Red Hat (kernel-alt, microcode_ctl, and rh-nodejs12-nodejs), SUSE (kernel, microcode_ctl, openldap2, python-waitress, spice-vdagent, u-boot, and ucode-intel), and Ubuntu (firefox, intel-microcode, linux, linux-aws, linux-azure, linux-gcp, linux-kvm, linux-oracle, linux-raspi, linux, linux-gcp, linux-gcp-4.15, linux-gcp-5.4, linux-gke-4.15, linux-gke-5.3, linux-hwe, linux-hwe-5.4, linux-oem, linux-oem-osp1, linux-oracle, linux-oracle-5.4, and moin).

  • Less than 6 months to 16.04 ESM: 6 things to prepare | Ubuntu

    Ubuntu 16.04 LTS Xenial Xerus will enter the extended security maintenance (ESM) period in April 2021. This article explains the ESM period and provides a guide for six key considerations when planning a migration path from Ubuntu 16.04 LTS.

    [...]

    2) Consider the full stack. The OS is a heart of the system, and an OS migration is a significant change that touches multiple aspects of your configuration, from the Linux kernel up to your applications. Remember to evaluate how the migration will impact your existing workloads and APIs as your current configuration might depend on specific versions of the applications and libraries that shipped with Ubuntu 16.04 LTS. You will likely find newer versions of applications and libraries if you choose a more recent version of Ubuntu (you can find a few examples below). Those versions might not be fully compatible with your overall configuration anymore after the migration.

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  • Waves of attacks on US hospitals show a change in tactics for cybercriminals [iophk: Windows TCO]

                     

                       

    United States hospitals were targeted by two major cybersecurity attacks this fall: the first taking down Universal Health Services, a chain of hundreds of hospitals, and the second by a group called UNC1878 threatening hundreds of individual health care facilities all around the country. Targeting health care institutions directly marks a new approach for cybercriminals.

  •                

  • Ransomware Hits Dozens of Hospitals in an Unprecedented Wave [iophk: Windows TCO]

                     

                       

    On Wednesday evening, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Department of Health and Human Services warned that there is a "an increased and imminent cybercrime threat to US hospitals and health care providers," above and beyond the wave of attacks that have already occurred. The alert points to the notorious Trickbot trojan and Ryuk ransomware as the primary hacking tools involved in the attacks. Security analysts at private companies say that the activity is tied to the Russian criminal gang sometimes called UNC 1878 or Wizard Spider.

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  • Ransomware Group Turns to Facebook Ads

                     

                       

    It’s not clear whether this was an isolated incident, or whether the fraudsters also ran ads using other [cracked] Facebook accounts. A spokesperson for Facebook said the company is still investigating the incident. A request for comment sent via email to Campari’s media relations team was returned as undeliverable.

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  • On Apple's Piss-Poor Documentation

                     

                       

    However, as users rightly demand more complicated and fancy apps, the APIs often need to get more fancy and complicated as well. Suddenly you look up and, instead of only using screwdrivers and hammers, you’re using power tools and complicated saws, and everything is much more fiddly than it once was.

                       

    With real tools, you’d expect to receive an owner’s manual, which explains how to use the tool you’ve just purchased. A rough analogy exists for APIs, insofar as most platform vendors will provide documentation. This is basically the "owner’s manual" for that API.

                       

    Apple’s documentation has, for years, been pretty bad. Over the last couple years, it has gone from bad → awful → despicable → embarrassing. All too often, I go to research how to do something new, and use an API I’m not familiar with, only to be stymied by those three dreaded words:

    No overview available.

Apple backtracks on App Store removal threat for Unix shell iOS apps

Filed under
Mac

Developers of Linux and Unix shells have received warnings from Apple that their iOS apps violate App Store Review Guidelines, with the threat of termination from the App Store said to be reversed in at least one instance.

A shell is a tool that enables users to perform command-line operations on a device, which usually doesn't offer that sort of functionality, such as the lack of a terminal in iOS. These terminal emulator apps like a-Shell and iSH enable the use of many Unix commands in iOS, which can be useful for developers and power users.

However, according to a series of tweets on Sunday, it seems that the two apps have come under fire from Apple's App Store team for seemingly violating the App Store Review Guidelines. The iSH Twitter account advised it was informed by Apple it would be removing the app from the App Store on Monday.

Read more

Proprietary Software and DRM/Monopoly

Filed under
Microsoft
Mac

  • FOSS Patents: Fortnite users continue to make in-app purchases on iOS that bypass Apple's payment system: court filing says "Epic is stealing money from Apple"

    In yesterday's filing, Apple says it has the right to sue Epic not only for breach of contract but also for tort, given that Epic would face tort liability "if [t]c had never executed the contracts with Apple and had instead found another way to smuggle Fortnite and its 'hotfix' payment mechanism into the App Store." Apple argues that a company protecting itself against such behavior through contracts must not be in a weaker legal position than one that doesn't. What Apple does clarify is that it won't seek "multiplicative recovery" if the same conduct on Epic's part constituted both a breach of an agreement and fraud. In other words, Apple would then content itself with only the greater of the two alternative amounts.

    It appears that the "hotfix" was just a simple data point on Epic's servers--not program code, but merely a trigger. When the iOS version of Fortnite checked on that data point, it offered an alternative payment mechanism to end users in circumvention of Apple's in-app payment rules.

    After the "hotfix" that Apple says became Epic's hot mess, Fortnite was removed from the App Store. That means it cannot be downloaded to iOS devices right now, and Epic has already failed twice (with a motion for a temporary restraining order as well as a motion for a preliminary injunction) to get a court to force Apple to tolerate an iOS version of Fortnite that bypasses Apple's in-app payment system.

  • Why Apple’s App Store Is Under Siege

    Fueling the fire was a report issued last week by House Democrats summing up an antitrust probe into four Big Tech companies — Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google — and urging Congress to enact new laws to curb the companies’ power. The 449-page report called on Congress to enact new laws to curb the companies’ power, including prohibiting companies like Apple from operating “adjacent lines of business” (in other words, preventing it from offering its own apps in the App Store that compete with those from third parties).

    “Apple’s monopoly power over app distribution on iPhones permits the App Store to generate supra-normal profits,” the House Judiciary Committee report said.

  • Microsoft Says Long-Time Deals Executive Brown Leaving Company

    Microsoft Corp. said mergers and acquisitions chief Marc Brown is leaving the company after a more than two-decade stint working on deals ranging from LinkedIn to Nokia Oyj’s handset unit.

    Brown, vice president of corporate development, reported to Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood. Microsoft spokesman Frank Shaw on Friday confirmed Brown’s departure and declined to comment on a replacement. The company is still conducting a search for a senior business development executive to replace Peggy Johnson, who left in July to become chief executive officer at Magic Leap Inc.

  • Your brand new Oculus Quest 2 can’t play Oculus Go games, John Carmack confirms [Ed: Digital Restrictions (DRM) in action]

    If you bought a new Oculus Quest 2 with the hopes of experiencing games from the now-discontinued Oculus Go, I have bad news: the company has decided not to include support for Go titles on the Quest 2, Oculus’ consulting CTO John Carmack confirms on Twitter.

    When the Oculus Quest 2 launched three days ago, some people noticed there was no feature on the UI that allowed users to access Go apps and games, something the original Quest headset featured. Carmack did not go into much detail on why support was not added other than “[he] totally lost the internal debate over backwards compatibility.”

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  • Three npm packages found opening shells on Linux, Windows systems [Ed: The writers at ZDNet are apt at blaming “LINUX” for security threats that have nothing to do with Linux. Now that Microsoft is serving malware ZDNet… blames “NPM” (ssshhhhh… don’t mention Microsoft)]
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More in Tux Machines

today's leftovers

  • Parler Tricks: Making Software Disappear

    Much has been written and broadcast about the recent actions from Google and Apple to remove the Parler app from their app stores. Apps get removed from these app stores all the time, but more than almost any past move by these companies, this one has brought the power Big Tech companies wield over everyone’s lives to the minds of every day people. Journalists have done a good job overall in presenting the challenges and concerns with this move, as well as addressing the censorship and anti-trust issues at play. If you want a good summary of the issues, I found Cory Doctorow’s post on the subject a great primer. [...] This is part of the article where Android users feel smug. After all, while much more of their data gets captured and sold than on iOS, in exchange they still (sometimes) have the option of rooting their phones and (sometimes) “sideloading” applications (installing applications outside of Google’s App Store). If Google bans an app, all a user has to do is follow a list of complicated (and often sketchy) procedures, sometimes involving disabling protections or installing sketchy software on another computer, and they can wrench back a bit of control over their phones. Of course in doing so they are disabling security features that are the foundation for the rest of Android security, at which point many Android security experts will throw up their hands and say “you’re on your own.” [...] The Librem 5 phone runs the same PureOS operating system as Librem laptops, and it features the PureOS Store which provides a curated list of applications known to work well on the phone’s screen. Even so, you can use the search function to find the full list of all available software in PureOS. After all, you might want that software to be available when you dock your Librem 5 to a larger screen. We aim to provide software in the PureOS store that respects people’s freedom, security, and privacy and will audit software that’s included in the store with that in mind. That way people have a convenient way to discover software that not only works well on the phone but also respects them. Yet you are still free to install any third-party software outside of the PureOS Store that works on the phone, even if it’s proprietary software we don’t approve of.

  • Apple Mulls Podcast Subscription Push Amid Spotify's Land Grab

    The talks, first reported by The Information, have been ongoing since at least last fall, sources tell to The Hollywood Reporter, and ultimately could end up taking several different forms. Regardless, it’s clear that Tim Cook-led Apple — after spending the last two years watching rival-in-music-streaming Spotify invest hundreds of millions of dollars to align itself with some of the most prolific producers and most popular personalities in podcasting — is no longer content sitting on the sideline. “There’s a huge opportunity sitting under their nose with 1.4 million iOS devices globally,” says Wedbush Securities analyst Daniel Ives, “and they don’t want to lose out.” Apple declined to comment about its podcasting plans.

    Much of the growth of the podcasting industry over the last decade can be traced back to Apple and its former CEO Steve Jobs, who in 2005 declared that he was “bringing podcasting mainstream” by adding support for the medium to iTunes. A few years later, the company introduced a separate Podcasts app that quickly became the leading distribution platform for the medium. But Apple, which netted $275 billion in sales in fiscal 2020, has refrained from turning podcasting — still a relatively small industry that the Interactive Advertising Bureau estimated would bring in nearly $1 billion in U.S. advertising revenue last year — into a moneymaking venture.

  • Blacks In Technology and The Linux Foundation Partner to Offer up to $100,000 in Training & Certification to Deserving Individuals [Ed: Linux Foundation exploits blacks for PR, even though it does just about nothing for blacks [1, 2]]

    The Linux Foundation, the nonprofit organization enabling mass innovation through open source, and The Blacks In Technology Foundation, the largest community of Black technologists globally, today announced the launch of a new scholarship program to help more Black individuals get started with an IT career. Blacks in Technology will award 50 scholarships per quarter to promising individuals. The Linux Foundation will provide each of these recipients with a voucher to register for any Linux Foundation administered certification exam at no charge, such as the Linux Foundation Certified IT Associate, Certified Kubernetes Administrator, Linux Foundation Certified System Administrator and more. Associated online training courses will also be provided at no cost when available for the exam selected. Each recipient will additionally receive one-on-one coaching with a Blacks In Technology mentor each month to help them stay on track in preparing for their exam.

  • the tragedy of gemini

    While everything I have seen served via Gemini is friendly and sociable, the technical barriers of what-is-a-command-line and how-do-I-use-one are a fence put up that keep out the riffraff. Certainly, you can walk around the corner and go through the gate, but ultimately the geminiverse is lovely because it is underpopulated, slower-paced, and literate. It is difficult enough to access that those who can use it can be welcoming without worrying its smallness will be compromised.

    The tragedy is that I don’t think many of its denizens would claim that they only want to hear from technical, educated people, but in order to use a small [Internet], an August [Internet], they have let the fence keep out anyone else.

Devices: GigaIPC, Raspberry Pi, and Arduino Projects

  • Rugged systems provide IP67 waterproofing

    GigaIPC unveiled two compact, IP67-protected “QBix-WP” computers with Linux support and rugged M12 ports for 2x LAN, 3x COM, GPIO, and 9-36V input: one with 8th Gen Whiskey Lake and the other with Apollo Lake. Taiwan-based GigaIPC has announced a “QBiX-WP Series” of rugged embedded systems with IP67 protections: an 8th Gen Whiskey Lake based QBiX-WP-WHLA8265H-A1 and an Apollo Lake powered QBiX-WP-APLA3940H-A1. IP67 provides level 6 “dust-tight” protection against dust ingression and level 7 waterproofing against liquid ingress including immersion at up to 1 meter for 30 minutes.

  • Deter burglars with a Raspberry Pi chatbot
  • Arduino Blog » 3D-printed mobile robot platform based on the Arduino Due

    Although an Arduino can be a great way to provide computing power for a mobile robot platform, you’ll need a variety of other electronics and mechanical components to get it going. In his write-up, computer science student Niels Post outlines how he constructed a robot that travels via two stepper motors, along with casters to keep it upright. The round chassis is 3D-printed and runs on three rechargeable 18650 batteries.

  • Arduino Blog » Making your own Segway, the Arduino way

    After obtaining motors from a broken wheelchair, this father-son duo went to work turning them into a new “Segway.” The device is controlled by an Arduino Uno, along with a pair of motor drivers implemented handle the device’s high current needs. An MPU-6050 allows it to react as the rider leans forward and backwards, moving with the help of a PID loop. Steering is accomplished via a potentiometer, linked to a bent-pipe control stick using a bottle cap and glue.

Programming: PureScript, C++, Lua, and Raku

  • Excellent Free Tutorials to Learn PureScript - LinuxLinks

    PureScript is a small strongly, statically typed programming language with expressive types, written in and inspired by Haskell, and compiling to Javascript. It can be used to develop web applications, server side apps, and also desktop applications with use of Electron.

  • C++ Operator Overloading – Linux Hint

    This article provides a guide to operator overloading in C++. Operator overloading is a useful and powerful feature of the C++ programming language. C++ allows overloading of most built-in operators. In this tutorial, we will use several examples to demonstrate the operator overloading mechanism. [...] The C++ language allows programmers to give special meanings to operators. This means that you can redefine the operator for user-defined data types in C++. For example, “+” is used to add built-in data types, such as int, float, etc. To add two types of user-defined data, it is necessary to overload the “+” operator.

  • Lua, a misunderstood language

    Lua is one of my favourite programming languages. I’ve used it to build a CMS for my old educational website, for creating cool IoT hardware projects, for building little games, and experimenting with network decentralisation. Still, I don’t consider myself an expert on it at all, I am at most a somewhat competent user. This is to say that I have had exposure to it in various contexts and through many years but I am not deep into its implementation or ecosystem. Because of that, it kinda pains me when I read blog posts and articles about Lua that appear to completely miss the objective and context of the language. Usually these posts read like a rant or a list of demands. Most recently, I saw a post about Lua’s Lack of Batteries on LWN and a discussion about that post on Hacker News that made me want to write back. In this post I’ll address some of the comments I’ve seen on that original article and on Hacker News.

  • A Complete Course of the Raku programming language

    This course covers all the main aspects of the language that you need to use in your daily practice. The course consists of five parts that explain the theory and offer many practical assignments. It is assumed that you try solving the tasks yourself before looking to the solution.

    If you’re only starting to learn Raku, you are advised to go through all the parts in the order they are listed in the table of contents. If you have some practice and you want to have some specific training, you are welcome to start with the desired section.

Software: Trakt Scrobbler, GIMP, and More

  • Sync mpv, VLC, Plex And MPC-BE/MPC-HC With Trakt.tv Using Trakt Scrobbler

    Trakt Scrobbler is a Trakt.tv scrobbler for Linux, macOS and Windows, which supports VLC, MPV, MPC-BE/MPC-HC and Plex (doesn't require a Plex Pass). The tool is controlled from the command line. After the initial setup, Trakt Scrobbler runs in the background, monitoring what's playing (movies / TV show episodes) in the media players you configure, and sending this information to Trakt.tv. It also displays optional desktop notifications when scrobbling begins and ends

  • [PPA Update] GIMP 2.10.22 with Python Script Support in Ubuntu 18.04

    For Ubuntu 18.04 users sticking to the PPA build of GIMP image editor 2.10.22, now the Python Script support is back. Since old GTK2 and Python 2 libraries being removed from Ubuntu universe repositories, the Python script support was excluded due to lack of dependencies when I was uploading the GIMP packages into PPA. Ubuntu 18.04 was neglected, though. It meets all the dependencies to build the requested feature. So I added it back. Hope it’s not too late for you :). And the package was totally built via the rules from otto-kesselgulasch’s PPA.

  • Linux Release Roundup: Kdenlive 20.12.1, BleachBit 4.2.0 & LibreOffice 7.1 RC - OMG! Ubuntu!

    I’m keen to get back into the habit of posting Linux release roundups. The last one I wrote was way back in 2019 — so it’s been a while! [...] Well, open source and Linux-focused development never stops. App, tool, kernel, driver, distro, and framework updates pop out each and every week. Not all of these updates are what you’d call ‘substantial’ or ‘must-read’ news. Point releases, for instance, are difficult to “pad out” into a full length article (much less sound like one you’d want to read about). I’m loathe to start firing out 8 short posts a day on thin topics. It clogs up your feed reader and pushes genuinely interesting content off the main page. Hence the roundups. I get the satisfaction of being able to cover the “lite” news items I normally skip (and mention distro releases I might not normally be able to), and you get the satisfaction of knowing you’re missing out on even less stuff. Keen to see what meaty chunks are threaded on this week’s skewer? Read on…