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08.20.19

Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: There is More Than One Iceberg Ahead

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FSF, GNU/Linux, GPL, IBM, Microsoft, Red Hat at 10:49 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A publication from the Free Media Alliance

Overview

Iceberg

Summary: “This strategy is not far from when Microsoft talked about “de-commoditizing protocols” in the late 90s, as part of their plans to control, dominate, and end Open Source and Free software.”

THE Free Software Foundation knows that a licence can have vulnerabilities, just like computer code. Tivo found such a vulnerability in GPL2, created an exploit, and the FSF patched it in GPLv3.

If a licence can have vulnerabilities, then any argument that relies on “it’s Free software, so…” is an oversimplification. Software is free because it gives you the four freedoms in the Free Software Definition, the definition is implemented via the GPL and similar licences, and a vulnerability works around (despite) that implementation. It may even work around the definition itself.

“Tivo found such a vulnerability in GPL2, created an exploit, and the FSF patched it in GPLv3.”The most tiring hubris from the FSF is that Free software is by nature, immune to the sort of attacks that Microsoft outlined years ago in the Halloween Documents. It is not immune, it is resistant. The Four Freedoms create substantial resistance to lock-in, bloat, bad security, and monopoly.

It shouldn’t take half a decade to explain to the FSF why a great strategy for reducing Software Freedom is to take a bunch of projects that are well-designed, stable, reliable and vital to Free software — glue them together into a single project from a single maintainer, and then make it more work to separate them again.

“It shouldn’t take half a decade to explain to the FSF why a great strategy for reducing Software Freedom is to take a bunch of projects that are well-designed, stable, reliable and vital to Free software — glue them together into a single project from a single maintainer, and then make it more work to separate them again.”This strategy is not far from when Microsoft talked about “de-commoditizing protocols” in the late 90s, as part of their plans to control, dominate, and end Open Source and Free software. When faced with this prospect and threat, the FSF and its fans tend to compartmentalise. To oversimplify, at great risk of a straw man:

Things are good or they’re bad,

Free software is good,

So everything under a Free software licence is good.

Of course the FSF knows better than that, they aren’t stupid. But when presented with arguments why systemd (as the primary example) are designed to reduce freedom and have reduced freedom, the FSF falls back on defensive apathy and indifference:

Using indifference towards a better viewpoint is a normal and common example of this. It can be caused by someone having used multiple compartment ideals and having been uncomfortable with modifying them, at risk of being found incorrect. This often causes double-standards, and bias.

Although it is not the inspiration for the title, given that the overarching metaphor chosen is the Titanic, it is hard not to compare the indifference and denial towards this threat to the insistence that the Titanic did not need lifeboats.

“Choice and freedom are certainly not the same thing — freedom is broader than choice, and while freedom seems to imply choice exists, choice can exist (as it does in most any proprietary software) without something that even resembles freedom.”Do we need to preserve choice for Free software? The FSF has always suggested otherwise, even if this seems (and ought to seem) very backwards from a perspective of freedom.

Choice and freedom are certainly not the same thing — freedom is broader than choice, and while freedom seems to imply choice exists, choice can exist (as it does in most any proprietary software) without something that even resembles freedom. Preserving choice — the modularity that made UNIX so easy to rebuild with Free software — is not and never was a priority for the FSF.

Trying to find a quote about Stallman saying that other desktops are fine, but not needed because the FSF already has GNOME, may turn this old quote instead:

Since we already have GTK support, there’s no reason we could not have equivalent Qt support, if it someone wants to maintain it.

However, GNOME is the main GNU desktop, and GNU packages are supposed to support each other. It would not be right for Emacs to have more support for KDE than for GNOME.

Giving priority to a GNU project makes plenty of sense for GNU, but this is just one more quote that suggests that the FSF has never considered choice to be important. This comes up again in a conversation with Alexandre Oliva of FSF-LA, who goes so far as to imply that preserving choice might go beyond the FSF’s mission and that perhaps another organisation could tackle something like that.

Is that really what it would take? Granted, that’s very nearly the premise of this writing — but can the FSF really not do anything in this regard? It seems bizarre, but either way we will attempt to help people understand why choice is vital to Software Freedom.

“Without the preservation of choice, both GNU and the FSF itself have a single point of failure.”We live in a society where monopolies are considered “too big to fail,” and the Titanic was also considered too big to fail — we also communicate with a global network, the concept of which was presented to then-monopoly AT&T as an alternative to their vulnerable, overly top-down system with a single point of failure.

Without the preservation of choice, both GNU and the FSF itself have a single point of failure. “Choice” does not mean, just to state the obvious, that “all combinations of anything are possible.” It means that freedom has redundancy (and better caters to diversity), and that things must fail multiple times on several levels before the failure is catastrophic.

Although the “lifeboats” metaphor is primarily intended to refer to a safe escape if the Free Software Foundation itself fails, (the global chapters do not really operate in practice like redundant or autonomous nodes, they are more like foreign bases of operation coordinated by a primary node and will likely fail if the main office does) if a large project like GNOME is no longer suitable, additional desktop environments (preferably smaller ones that are simpler and less likely to fail) could also act as lifeboats.

If this concept is too foreign (it shouldn’t be) for the FSF to acknowledge the obvious importance of, they can certainly recognise that users strongly feel a need to have alternatives for just this reason. The denial and rhetoric from Free software supporters (with some very notable exceptions) on this matter is pathological, but relentless.

The FSF has made its decision on the matter, and the 5 years of development time stolen, along with the power consolidation of too many projects by a single commercial monopoly — which was recently purchased by an even larger commercial monopoly — and is hosted on servers owned and controlled by their largest sworn enemy (of freedom itself) you might really ask yourself what the hell they’re thinking. We have an answer: they’re not, denial is something different.

So the FSF doesn’t need lifeboats, yadda yadda yadda. We’ve heard that one before. Even if the FSF doesn’t need them, We as “passengers” on this thing do, so we will provide them if we want to stay afloat. And as long as we are engineering safety where the FSF courts disaster for their mission, we might as well try to provide their safety along with our own. They may ignore our warnings, but we still care deeply about what they’re doing.

“The FSF has made its decision on the matter, and the 5 years of development time stolen, along with the power consolidation of too many projects by a single commercial monopoly — which was recently purchased by an even larger commercial monopoly — and is hosted on servers owned and controlled by their largest sworn enemy (of freedom itself) you might really ask yourself what the hell they’re thinking.”Lifeboats for us then, and lifeboats for them. And like the resistance of a licence to a monopoly dedicated to Free software’s destruction, this metaphor can only go so far, so to construct “lifeboats” it is really necessary to talk about what will “sink” without them — namely the threats and possible disasters that Free software may encounter or have already encountered, now, recently, and in the near future.

If we understand and don’t deny the threats, it should (with luck) help us work on ways to address them. With a visit to the Librethreat database.

We find a “malware-threat-like database of threats to libre software”. The first threat is “Tivoisation” and the field “Also recognised by FSF:” is filled out with “Yes“. The summary is: “GPL2 not strong enough to prevent DRM/TPM from allowing device owners to change operating system in devices” and the mitigation is: “Migrate to GPL3.”

Interestingly enough, that migration to GPL3 was supposed to include the Linux kernel. What went wrong there was a multipronged attack to a singleprong (licence-based) solution. The GPL3 is a good licence — in many ways it is a clear upgrade. But the attack was followed up by lobbying from the Association for Competitive Technology (covered in a story by Infoworld in 2007) which according to Techrights in 2019,
worked to get Linus Torvalds against it and prevent its adoption for Linux development.

GPL2: [ fail ]

GPL3: [ ok ]

ACT Lobbying: [ fail ] WARNING: This will cause Linux to remain GPL2

Both licences and organisations can fail to protect Free software from interference from monopolies like Microsoft. Just implying that Free software is immune to their tactics “because it’s Free software” is a falsehood and a way of pooh-poohing a threat.

“Regarding some of the things they have spent the past 5 years or more in denial about, systemd is the largest example.”Historically, the FSF has a very good track record (indeed, the best record) of recognising these threats and responding to them. The point is simply that they too can fail — the FSF is fallible, human, imperfect. Regarding some of the things they have spent the past 5 years or more in denial about, systemd is the largest example.

Security researchers, professional bloggers and journalists, higher-ups from other Free software organisations such as Dyne.org and users and administrators have all spoken out against systemd, and the FSF has done nothing to help them or give them a real voice. If the FSF has any members paying for the privilege of being ignored and dismissed with the rest of us, we don’t know much about them.

The FSF fails as a megaphone for Free software advocates, it does not always listen very well to advocates, but perhaps it should do more of that. As to what response its critics should have made, perhaps a formal petition to the FSF should have started to get them to drop their support of the systemd takeover, similar to the petitions the FSF made regarding DRM and UEFI.

“The FSF fails as a megaphone for Free software advocates, it does not always listen very well to advocates, but perhaps it should do more of that.”One of the undeniable failures of those against systemd is that no such petition was ever presented to the FSF — instead, our actions always fell short of one. (If you think it’s not too late, let us know or perhaps go ahead and start one.) In the future we would recommend formal petitions to make the FSF take threats like this more seriously. It’s one thing to say “we can’t do anything.” Saying there is nothing that needs to be done is probably false, and there’s no excuse.

We maintain that systemd could be a weapon against Software Freedom. We can’t say that on the Debian mailing-list, but we know that one or more companies remain out to do harm to Free software, we know their tactics have never changed with their marketing rhetoric, we know that systemd does things that are strikingly similar to the tactics outlined in corporate documents designed to wage war against Free software. So why wouldn’t it be a weapon against software freedom? It looks like, walks, and quacks like a duck. How is it actually different? Oh, the licence?

Even when the same people who talked about the problems systemd would cause, look back on 5 years of cleanup that could have really been better spent improving software rather than salvaging it from wreckage, the FSF remains silent. If it only hurt the FSF then perhaps we could let them live with it, but what about the rest of us? The FSF ignores and denies the problem, ignores what we say, and ignores the damage done to all of us. Thankfully, some of us have worked on alternatives. Unfortunately, there is a threat (or category of threat) similar to systemd that is even bigger:

Redix

Threat type: Broad category

Affects: Free software development, stability and reliability, autonomy, organisational structure

Summary: Disruption of POSIX, EEE of Free software projects, Infiltration of organisations that offer Free software

Recognised by: Free Media Alliance, some critics of Systemd

Also recognised by FSF: No

Mitigation: Avoid / fork / replace / document examples of Redix in software, use Systemd-free distros, assist Hyperbola developers

Examples: Pycon, Systemd

The FSF does not talk much about infiltration of FLOSS organisations by employees of monopolies like Microsoft, even when such monopolies and related lobbing organisations did so much to thwart GPL3, which patched critical vulnerabilities in their primary defensive weapon (the GPL.) Neglecting threats of this nature continues to weaken the FSF’s defenses in the 21st century, and the evidence is everywhere. Monopoly forces continue to move farther and farther into our territory. Why is the FSF so quiet?

“Neglecting threats of this nature continues to weaken the FSF’s defenses in the 21st century, and the evidence is everywhere.”Again, we recommend petitions. They may not be enough, but they are a good place to start. They can even be informal, provided that they are well-documented enough (we don’t need to use change.org, for example.) The point is fighting to be heard, something that shouldn’t be necessary but clearly is. (We have fought hard for a year, other organisations have fought for years longer, to no avail.)

If the FSF is not a megaphone for its members, we continue to build one that you can use for the purpose. We should build a network of megaphones, so that when Free software is headed for yet another iceberg, the FSF cannot dismiss the noise so easily.

But the larger threat is to POSIX itself. Stallman coined the term, and we insist it is the glue that holds Free software together. Perhaps you can destroy POSIX altogether, and systemd along with zircon (the kernel of Google’s Fuchsia operating system) are two projects that may aim to do just that. Microsoft themselves said decades ago:

Systematically attacking UNIX in general helps attack Linux in particular.

In modern terms, there is not a better description of “UNIX in general” than POSIX. At this point, it is far more relevant than UNIX.

Once again, if we move past systemd and look at the threats to POSIX, we do not come up wanting. We can show that POSIX itself is in the crosshairs, we can give this strategy a name: “Redix.” We can show that systemd is the Redix flagship, but someday it could be retired, and replaced with a new flagship. We would rather point out the trend, the strategy, than just a single example or implementation.

If the FSF has any contingencies against this, they are silent and are certainly fooling us. Do you have reasons to ignore this threat as well?

“In modern terms, there is not a better description of “UNIX in general” than POSIX. At this point, it is far more relevant than UNIX.”Is there something we left out? The Free Media Alliance talks about more details related to this all the time; you can ignore one example, how about five? Ten? How many examples would it take to make this credible in your opinion? As long as Free software is threatened, it the job of those who care to do something, to at least admit the threat exists. Why wouldn’t we?

Unfortunately, systemd proponents have spent the past 5 years beating us down and shutting us up. Even as new organisations form, the struggle to be taken seriously continues. The FSF went through that for many years (arguably they still do) and there’s no reason we won’t have to do the same. But it’s a terrible shame, when the same rhetorical tactics used to fight Free software itself, are used by Free software advocates to silence those sounding the alarm.

We recommend the Librethreat database as a primary radar for new threats to Free software, and no one can make you take each threat equally seriously (we don’t. Some of it is pure speculation.) It includes threats that even the FSF recognises, but why stop there? The FSF has proven itself unable to respond fully to Tivoisation. GPL3 was an effective licence measure against it, we can’t fault that. Only the sale to Torvalds failed, due to lobbyists that may claim to “♥ Linux.”

“Are we ready to acknowledge the severity of these threats yet, or will it take another 5 years?”Companies who wish to “Tivoise” can simply get the same GPL2 kernel as before, Tivoise it all they wish, and then — they can’t use newer GPL3 applications, can they? No, like Apple they will simply dump those and use non-GPL applications. Perhaps there are threats bigger than Tivoisation out there. And if there weren’t, perhaps the FSF’s plan to patch Free software against it would have worked.

Are we ready to acknowledge the severity of these threats yet, or will it take another 5 years?

Let us know.

Licence: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 (Public Domain)

EPO Cannot Handle Patent Justice With a Backlog of About 10,000 Cases at the Boards of Appeal

Posted in Site News at 12:50 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Recent: Index: G 2/19 (Enlarged Board of Appeal, EPO)

EPO toons

Summary: The EPO’s long war on judges and on the law has proven to be costly; it’s difficult to pretend that the EPO functions like a first-world legal framework

ABOUT one year ago the European Patent Office (EPO) had about 9,000 impending cases after Battistelli had attacked and understaffed the appeal boards for a number of years. António Campinos obviously did nothing to tackle this issue. Some of these cases, including an imminent one regarding computer simulation, concern software patents in Europe. Several months ago a blogger from Kluwer Patent Blog took note of that staggering number. The EPO management’s attack on its judges has resulted in an unbelievable backlog in the ‘justice’ faculties/departments. What good is justice that can take like a decade to arrive? It may be irrelevant by the time it’s ‘reached’. Similar issues exist at ILO-AT.

“What good is justice that can take like a decade to arrive? It may be irrelevant by the time it’s ‘reached’.”Just promoted via Lexology was last week’s article from a law firm, revealing that ‘acceleration’ is possible in particular cases (like PPH or PACE). To quote:

Appeal proceedings at the European Patent Office (EPO) typically last in excess of three years, but can last significantly longer (according to the 2017 Annual Report of the Boards of Appeal, technical appeal proceedings lasted 38 months on average, but some cases had been pending for eight years). With this long duration of proceedings, it is no surprise that there is a substantial backlog of pending cases (over 9,000 at the end of 2018, according to the 2018 Annual Report of the Boards of Appeal).

[...]

Requests for accelerated processing of an appeal should be filed with the competent Board of Appeal, and may be filed at the beginning of or during appeal proceedings. Such requests should specify the reasons for urgency, and be submitted with documents that support this reasoning. There is no official form for requesting accelerated processing of an appeal.

Preparing for such a request takes time and money. Given what we saw in the past (EPO leaks), this may discriminate based on size, connections, and money.

“Thankfully, the UPC is failing.”This is the kind of thing Germany’s FCC must look into; justice in today’s EPO is mostly an illusion. It’s infeasible. It used to more or less work, the Office used to more or less function. But now? Total chaos. Does one want to extend this system to courts all across Europe?

Thankfully, the UPC is failing. SUEPO linked to an article to that effect earlier today. People in the comments in that article (composed by Team UPC) mostly focus on Techrights, still upset because of our opposition to software patents (we assume these comments come from one single patent attorney).

“Ironically in some sense, the person who pushed the hardest for the UPC is also the person who doomed it. Battistelli’s attacks on the judges aren’t forgotten and aren’t forgiven. Brexit isn’t even the prime barrier; the extreme lack of justice at the EPO is.”In summer of 2019 the famous complaint against the UPC turns two. Each year that passes is another nail on the UPC’s coffin. Almost exactly a year ago this site called Down to Earth boiled down to misinformation, slanting everything in favour of the litigation ‘industry’ (as if it’s the sole thing that matters). The writer ended up putting a copyright sign/symbol as the head image in the article about patents, showing that these people have no clue what they’re writing about (or intentionally lying). They referred to patents as “IP” (not Invalid Patent but something meaningless and misleading).

Ironically in some sense, the person who pushed the hardest for the UPC is also the person who doomed it. Battistelli’s attacks on the judges aren’t forgotten and aren’t forgiven. Brexit isn’t even the prime barrier; the extreme lack of justice at the EPO is.

The European Patent Office Increases Surveillance: Can’t Get Food Without Being Spied on

Posted in Europe, Patents at 12:21 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

War on Cash

Summary: The infamous “War on Cash” has been ‘won’ at Europe’s second-largest institution, where people’s diet can now be monitored and indefinitely retained on the system

THE European Patent Office (EPO) turns to more surveillance. For those who have never thought about it, the war on cash is actually a war on anonymity/privacy. It’s a bit of a side effect, but the net effect is the same. There are many other issues which are well documented, e.g. as per this list: Privacy, Savings, Human Rights, and Cybersecurity. It harms vulnerable people and makes more vulnerable everybody else.

“For those who have never thought about it, the war on cash is actually a war on anonymity/privacy. It’s a bit of a side effect, but the net effect is the same.”Welcome to the ‘modern’ EPO; Employees cannot even buy food anonymously anymore. Want some drink? Give us your name. Even for mineral water. “During the month of August, all EPO canteens and cafeterias are turning into cashless premises,” the EPO wrote (warning: epo.org link). It’s bragging about it. It didn’t say this in internal portals but in the public-facing site (we assume for visitors of the EPO). “This means that payment will only be possible at the checkout using a bank or credit card (Visa, MasterCard, Maestro, VPay),” they added. “This change is already in place in the EPO offices in The Hague, Berlin and Vienna. It will come into effect in in Munich at the end of August.”

Read “cashless” like “paperless voting” i.e. election’s voting systems with no paper trail to audit. It’s ripe for mischief, i.e. abuse (vote-stealing or vote-flipping); it’s similar except cashless means auditing of everything, i.e. a privacy violation where none is needed/justified. “Cashless payment at EPO canteens and cafeterias” says the title; Cashless means spied on. It means one has to divulge one’s identity for every item of food. They keep track of everything. Will they sell this data too? They can. We covered countless privacy abuses at the EPO (in past years and even earlier this year).

To GNU/Linux, the Operating System, GAFAM (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft) is Not the Threat. Microsoft is.

Posted in Deception, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft at 11:37 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Julian Assange, weeks before he was isolated from the Web and from visitors:

Summary: Don’t let Microsoft get away with its bogus narration; GNU/Linux is primarily under attack from Microsoft, whereas Software Freedom in general is under attack from many directions

There’s a common and perhaps deliberate misconception. We’re supposed to think that GNU/Linux is under attack from many large companies, but in reality there’s one single company standing to gain the most from a destruction (or hijack) of Linux. That company isn’t SCO but the company that subsidises SCO’s lawsuits against Linux. It’s also the only company that’s blackmailing, using patents, ChromeOS (GNU/Linux) and Android (Linux) OEMs, even in 2019. Those who don’t understand that are either indoctrinated or dishonest. Google isn’t the company that assaults Linux in court. Apple isn’t the company that started the “Get the Facts” FUD campaign. Amazon’s AWS is predominantly GNU/Linux and has nothing to gain from Windows. As for Facebook? It’s deeply connected to Microsoft. It’s problematic for a lot of reasons. Apache's Jim Jagielski used Facebook's abuses as a pretext for excusing Microsoft's.

“Amazon’s AWS is predominantly GNU/Linux and has nothing to gain from Windows.”Bill Gates-funded* sites such as The Guardian and BBC would typically deflect. Some have shamelessly removed Microsoft from GAFAM as if Microsoft is suddenly some ‘startup’ or a benevolent company. Days ago they focused on Google. The new villain? To privacy maybe, not to Linux.

One must watch out for such spin, which I highlighted to Assange a year ago (he shared my views on this). Microsoft’s attacks on GNU/Linux are becoming more sophisticated; they’re being ‘dressed up’ as love. One trashy site of IDG has just published (about an hour ago) “Get started with Linux containers in Docker on WSL2″ (composed by a longtime Microsoft propagandist, Simon Bisson).

“GAFAM isn’t the threat to GNU/Linux; Microsoft is. One has to be specific and distinguish; those companies aren’t one single entity; there are inherent differences and a collective treatment (bundling/aggregation) is the sort of narrative that helps Microsoft excuse itself when it does, for example, bribe officials to dump GNU/Linux.”So this afternoon people search for GNU/Linux news and instead they get Vista 10 promotion. They want Linux, but they get Windows instead.

This kind of googlebombing would have us believe that Microsoft loves Open Source, Open Source loves Microsoft (says the Linux Foundation‘s chief, so it must be true!), Microsoft loves Linux, and Linux is just Microsoft Windows (or Azure). GAFAM isn’t the threat to GNU/Linux; Microsoft is. One has to be specific and distinguish; those companies aren’t one single entity; there are inherent differences and a collective treatment (bundling/aggregation) is the sort of narrative that helps Microsoft excuse itself when it does, for example, bribe officials to dump GNU/Linux. Remember Munich? Microsoft is working hard to make GNU/Linux ‘extinct’ and even difficult to boot on a new PC. Hardware is being made less compatible with it.
____
* Euphemism for “bribed”; they’re being routinely bribed through a scam ‘charity’ designed to whitewash a criminal like Jeffrey Epstein.

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) Has the Full Support of Techrights

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FSF at 9:30 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Our support for the FSF is strong enough that we want to occasionally suggest improvements; there are growing frictions designed to isolate the FSF and cause self-restraint/censorship

A publication from the Free Media Alliance, “Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic,” is being published here this week (with support and encouragement from its author). The thoughts expressed therein and the analysis offered in that series isn’t Techrights‘ although parts of these concerns are shared. For instance, we’ve long argued that the FSF is failing to keep up with growing, deepening and emergent threats. On many of these issues the FSF — and RMS personally — has been entirely silent. It means that the stance on those issues is a mystery, subjected only to guesswork and speculations.

“…we’ve long argued that the FSF is failing to keep up with growing, deepening and emergent threats.”A little over a decade ago, just before Peter Brown left the FSF (this video of his was possibly his last) I contacted him regarding an opening in the campaigns ‘department’. He said that the job was available only to people who were US/Boston-based. I had no intentions of leaving England. But the point is, my support for the FSF goes a long way back. I’ve long supported the FSF and I can say that RMS trusts me (we’ve met several times over the years and we exchange thoughts over E-mail). We agree on a lot of things and I cannot recall us ever feuding (in person or online).

The Free Media Alliance’s publication will be complete by week’s end. It’s important to emphasise that the views expressed there are its own (and the author’s). To me, with rare exceptions, the FSF is the same organisation that I supported a decade ago when Brown made this video. I want the organisation to succeed and thus any criticism is hopefully constructive rather than degrading. Contrariwise, the Linux Foundation seems to be actively hostile towards Software Freedom, as this recent video of Jim Zemlin shows. The FSF won’t even touch that subject.

Why We Support Phoronix (Whereas Some Others Do Not)

Posted in Boycott Novell, Kernel at 8:58 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Michael LarabelProbably the most important one-man operation other than Jonathan Corbet’s LWN (which is assisted by other writers of Eklektix, Inc.)

Image credit: Intel

Summary: Some people try to characterise Michael Larabel as the ‘bad boy’ of Linux even though Michael is probably the hardest working Linux journalist out there

THE SITE Techrights is almost 13 now. Tux Machines is the same age as Phoronix (about 15 years) and not many GNU/Linux sites have lasted that long. Don’t take them for granted. Much like in the early days of our site (the Boycott Novell days*), demonisation is abundant and prevalent (incitement against or slandering of the messenger/s). We know who’s behind it as sometimes it becomes very visible.

In recent months we responded to so-called ‘journalists’ (of corporate media) who constantly paint Linus Torvalds as a rude ‘bad boy’, a naughty uncontrollable middle-aged man who needs to be tamed if not removed. Techrights too has suffered such treatment over the years. We wrote about the types who do this kind of thing as recently as earlier today. They only seek to destroy things and squash voices. They want to take away voices of people whom they don’t agree with. They don’t want to actually argue, logically; they just pursue muzzling of the other side.

“Phoronix is a good site. Google News started syndicating some months ago.”Michael Larabel is almost being ‘mobbed’ by some news sites. Reddit editors dubbed it “blogspam” and for a long period of time — possibly years — blacklisted the whole domain (banning links to it; I was shocked when I first found that out!). LXer won’t link to it since an old accusation of “sexism” (some post urging people — mostly male — to subscribe, however tactless it may have been at the time).

In our view, treating a site like Phoronix (or a person like Michael) as a ‘nuisance’ is offensive to the very notion of supporting GNU/Linux and journalism around that domain. Some people want that site mentally or technically blacklisted. And for what? It’s ridiculous! That site does good, technical journalism in this day and age when it’s becoming so rare. Pundits and marketing dunces shower us with shallow if not ridiculous articles about “cloud”, “DevOps”, “smart” things and so on. That’s not journalism. These people are laughing stocks to a technical audience. They rarely know what they’re talking about; they mostly repeat mindless buzzwords which they heard other pundits ‘name-drop’ (possibly composed by PR departments of large companies and passed off as ‘prepared’ articles to obedient media).

“Hard-working, around-the-clock writers, coders and profilers (benchmarking) are very rare and if we lost Phoronix it would be a colossal problem not only for Linux.”Phoronix is, in my experience, usually quite credible. I’ve followed the site closely since its beginning and I’ve linked to Phoronix sites perhaps 20,000+ times. I spoke to Michael, who at times gave useful pointers to us (news of interest to us).

Phoronix is a good site. Google News started syndicating it some months ago. If people don’t appreciate it enough, then this one too we might lose. It would be tragic as almost nobody else covers graphics and kernel news at the same level of depth (except perhaps LWN and sometimes — until recently — Linux Journal).

I’ve had some complaints about the occasional sensationalism that gets exploited by truly hostile press (hostile towards Linux) to attack GNU/Linux, as happened earlier this month (half a dozen articles used Phoronix to then attack GNU/Linux as a whole, using shallow headlines and no understanding of the intricacies).

“Support the sites that still support GNU/Linux. Do not take anything for granted.”Hard-working, around-the-clock writers, coders and profilers (benchmarking) are very rare and if we lost Phoronix it would be a colossal problem not only for Linux.

Seeing that they added malicious surveillance to all their pages (Michael told me it’s the publisher’s idea or “came from above”, the “boss”), and bearing in mind they rely on subscriptions — like Liam Dawe relies on funding through Patreon to run Gaming on Linux — it’s almost forgivable and tolerable. It’s still avoidable if one disables JavaScript — truly a plague on today's bloated Web where ‘surveillance capitalism’ emerged as the prime business model.

We still can’t believe we’ve lost some of the most important GNU/Linux sites this year, leaving a news vacuum that’s difficult to fill. Let’s make sure there aren’t more high-profile casualties on the way. Support the sites that still support GNU/Linux. Do not take anything for granted.
_____
* Only hours ago SUSE was promoting Microsoft, a day after the head of OpenSUSE had stepped down and weeks after the CEO of SUSE was replaced by a proprietary software hack from SAP.

Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: The Simplest Ways that AI will Change Computing

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FSF at 7:33 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A publication from the Free Media Alliance

Overview

Unhappy feet

Summary: “AI is already used to help kill people. We should be cautious, and know that the best rules we come up with (like no doing magic outside the school grounds) won’t be followed all the time.”

ARTIFICIAL Intelligence (AI) enhances automation; one way to think of AI is “A lot more computing — both good and bad.” For art? Great. For surveillance? Sometimes bad. Apply it to everything — people will. And it will be a great multiplier of things; of all computing tasks, more or less.

Not all at once. And this is not to hype it, but to describe the effect it will have — as a multiplier:

Another way to think of AI is “enhanced computing.” Because in many ways, it is fundamentally “just computer processing.” Anything a computer does is “just computing.” But with AI, this becomes something more; the scope of what can be touched with computing becomes richer — for good and for bad.

Computing is very flexible, by design. We can actually say something about AI while being this vague — it is essentially like computer processing, except that it can do a little more, it can do more with more modest requirements — it may take a while — but with home computing equipment you can suddenly do things that you would expect of companies like Pixar.

Certainly not at the resolution for a (feature-length) film like Pixar makes. They will still use large computing farms to get the job done in a reasonable amount of time, at least for now.

AI can possibly seem to violate Moore’s law, but it won’t violate the laws of physics. If we are doing 1/3 of what our CPUs can do, then AI will make it so we can do the other 2/3 as well. And we can be really amazed at the results.

“Because in many ways, it is fundamentally “just computer processing.” Anything a computer does is “just computing.” But with AI, this becomes something more; the scope of what can be touched with computing becomes richer — for good and for bad.”Also with “enhanced computing”, things that once seemed incredibly difficult to program are now at least possible. Not necessarily “easy,” but what once would take a team of 25-50 people (at least) can now be done sometimes with a team of 3. That’s not a general rule, just that some things that once took many people can now be done with few, and faster than when it took more people.

Wizard-like stuff that once took a team can now be done by individuals. So the term “enhanced computing” is both telling and probably accurate.

If you want, you can say that what computers could do already 10, 20 years ago is almost like magic. We know better, but it still feels a little bit like magic.

If you think of Harry Potter — Ollivander said of Harry’s nemesis: “He too did great things. Terrible, yes — but great.” It wasn’t a compliment, it was an accurate measure. Of course for a young boy who just learned he was a wizard, it’s creepy enough.

AI will do great things. Some of them will be terrible — but great. And hopefully more of them will be Harry-like than Voldemort-like.

But really, it will be both. AI is already used to help kill people. We should be cautious, and know that the best rules we come up with (like no doing magic outside the school grounds) won’t be followed all the time.

No “Ministry of Artificial Intelligence” is going to be free of corruption or poor decisions — nor would it be enough to stop all bad things that are done with or without approval. Either way, AI is here.

Perhaps the biggest difference between AI and human thought is the superficiality and bias. Humans have that sometimes, in very stupid ways, but we are more flexible. AI can magnify our stupidity — think of the old adage about “knowing just enough to be dangerous.” That’s AI, and its potential to try to make computers do what we think we want — and getting far worse versions on average.

That’s going to be very common; even humans have done this now and again throughout history. AI will lead us to a greater capacity for such mistakes. Just as AI can solve things that would take 100 people to solve, it can make mistakes that would take 1000 people to create.

“Wizard-like stuff that once took a team can now be done by individuals.”At least with laws, there’s a judge and jury as long as it’s not artificial. We are certainly building corporations that have more power than a judge and jury do. But AI could do that too.

Politically, AI lends itself to many things, but may lend itself best (or at least most easily) to fascism. Or that could be post hoc — it’s corporations and governments that are the most interested in it, so this could be describing what it lends itself to most easily by extrapolating it from the product of governments and corporations working on it. Still — what we are developing now is like that.

People are trying to think of whether AI will be more good or more bad, and this is no argument for a neutral stance. If you look at all that computers have done both for our lives, and also to our lives, computing that is suddenly enhanced in ways that at least seem to go beyond the reach of Moore’s law is exciting, but also justifiably scary.

What AI does is pattern recognition, and it can also impose patterns. This is said broadly because that’s the broadness of the application — you can find patterns similar to the way a person would, you can impose patterns similar to the way an artist would. Computers can do that without AI, but not at the same level as a person.

Today, we are designing software that can do those things faster and more tirelessly than people — with similar (or sometimes superior) skill. Manipulating video, audio, tactile environments — targeting, surveillance — these are being expanded and developed all the time, not just in the future. AI may have future applications in sabotaging Free software.

Strips is a framework for creating project plans with AI. If given the outline of a project and a desired outcome, AI can be used to drive the project towards success.

“If you look at all that computers have done both for our lives, and also to our lives, computing that is suddenly enhanced in ways that at least seem to go beyond the reach of Moore’s law is exciting, but also justifiably scary.”If given the “desired” outcome of making a project untenable or fail, plans could be created (with or without Strips, it is just an example of a real AI planning framework and may have no direct relevance to this argument) to undermine or disrupt the viability of a business, organisation or Free software effort.

Computers have already been used for years to simulate and project outcomes of real-life processes — the FSF has never done this, but it shouldn’t surprise us if software monopolies do run such simulated campaigns.

There is an opportunity to do more testing of whether certain plans will help or hinder future efforts, with the very big warning that the previously mentioned examples of bias are still likely relevant, and engineering circular arguments that reinforce or negate the merits of a plan of action is not only possible, but could be difficult to avoid.

“Computing has always had good points and bad points — it is very arguably not neutral, but it is nuanced.”A positive of AI and AI-based planning could be to streamline and automate the creation of GNU/Linux distributions. This is about how the distro is put together, and may prove more relevant to building distros than say, package management.

The more that is done to reduce the work of building a distro, the more freedom the user will ultimately have. None of this is intended to paint AI as solely a threat, or solely a benefit. Computing has always had good points and bad points — it is very arguably not neutral, but it is nuanced. The future is interesting, and not everything is hype.

Licence: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 (Public Domain)

Links 20/8/2019: DragonFlyBSD Developing DSynth

Posted in News Roundup at 7:24 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

  • GNU/Linux

    • Desktop

      • Buy a Linux laptop: Star Labs laptops review

        Fortunately, after the increased use of Linux in the technical environment, some companies have begun to design and manufacture special computers that are compatible with the Linux system.

        [...]

        In summary, the Star Labs laptops can handle most tasks that you require as a Linux user, and is a highly rated Linux laptop. Fast, efficent and easy to set up, with some cons that can be ignored, but they should devotes some attention to its in the future versions as it gives us more choices “freedom” as Linux users.

      • Installing five flavours of Linux on my new laptop: One month on, here’s what I’ve learned

        It’s been a month since I wrote about getting a new HP Pavilion 14 laptop and loading Linux on it. My experience with it so far has been extremely good – it has done exactly what I wanted, I haven’t had any trouble with it, I have used it, traveled with it, updated all of the various Linux distributions I loaded on it, and even added another distribution to it.

        First, I broke one of my own basic rules – never travel with only a new and untested laptop. I left for a three-week-plus vacation in the US the day after my previous posting. I used the laptop pretty much every day during the trip. and never had a problem of any kind. It was fast and reliable, suspend/resume on closing/opening the lid worked perfectly. Battery life is extremely good – I’ve never actually managed to run the batteries completely out, but I can certainly say that they are good for 6-8 hours depending on your use.

    • Server

      • IBM

        • HPC workloads in containers: Comparison of container run-times

          Recently, I worked on an interesting project to evaluate different container run-times for high-performance computing (HPC) clusters. HPC clusters are what we once knew as supercomputers. Today, instead of giant mainframes, they are hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of massively parallel systems. Since performance is critical, virtualization with tools like virtual machines or Docker containers was not realistic. The overhead was too much compared to bare metal.

        • A project manager’s guide to Ansible

          For project managers, it’s important to know that deploying Ansible will improve the effectiveness of a company’s IT. Employees will spend less time trying to troubleshoot their own configuration, deployment, and provisioning. Ansible is designed to be a straightforward, reliable way to automate a network’s IT tasks.

          Further, development teams can use the Ansible Tower to track applications from development to production. Ansible Tower includes everything from role-based access to graphical inventory management and enables teams to remain on the same page even with complex tasks.

          Ansible has a number of fantastic use cases and provides substantial productivity gains for both internal teams and the IT infrastructure as a whole. It’s free, easy to use, and robust. By automating IT with Ansible, project managers will find that their teams can work more effectively without the burden of having to manage their own IT—and that IT works more smoothly overall.

        • DevNation Live: Plumbing Kubernetes builds | Deploy with Tekton

          DevNation Live tech talks are hosted by the Red Hat technologists who create our products. These sessions include real solutions and code and sample projects to help you get started. In this talk, you’ll learn about Tekton, a Kubernetes-native way of defining and running CI/CD, from Kamesh Sampath, Principal Software Engineer at Red Hat.

          The session explores the characteristics of Tekton, which is cloud-native, decoupled, and declarative. This demo-filled session will show how to combine various building blocks of Tekton to build and deploy (Tasks and Pipelines) a Kubernetes application.

    • Audiocasts/Shows

      • Test and Code: 84: CircuitPython – Scott Shawcroft

        The combination of Python’s ease of use and Adafruit’s super cool hardware and a focus on a successful beginner experience makes learning to write code that controls hardware super fun.

        In this episode, Scott Shawcroft, the project lead, talks about the past, present, and future of CircuitPython, and discusses the focus on the beginner.

        We also discuss contributing to the project, testing CircuitPython, and many of the cool projects and hardware boards that can use CircuitPython, and Blinka, a library to allow you to use “CircuitPython APIs for non-CircuitPython versions of Python such as CPython on Linux and MicroPython,” including Raspberry Pi.

      • GNU World Order 13×34
      • Absurd Abstractions | Coder Radio 371

        It’s a Coder Radio special all about abstraction. What it is, why we need it, and what to do when it leaks.

        Plus your feedback, Mike’s next language challenge, and a functional ruby pick.

      • KDE Apps 19.08, KNOPPIX, System76, Slackware, Huawei, EndeavourOS, Dreamcast | This Week in Linux 79

        On this episode of This Week in Linux, KDE announced their latest big release of their Application Suite with dozens of new app updates. We got some Distro news to talk about with KNOPPIX, Slackware, EndeavourOS and Neptune Linux. System76 announced some really cool news with their new Graphical Firmware Manager tool.

    • Kernel Space

      • Chromebooks Switching Over To The BFQ I/O Scheduler

        On Chromebooks when moving to the latest Chrome OS that switches over to a Linux 4.19 based kernel, BFQ has become the default I/O scheduler.

        BFQ has been maturing nicely and as of late there’s been an uptick in interest around this I/O scheduler with some also calling for it to be used by default in distributions. Google has decided BFQ is attractive enough to enable by default for Chromebooks to provide better responsiveness.

      • Graphics Stack

        • RADV Vulkan Driver Lands Renoir APU Support In Time For Mesa 19.2

          Just hours ahead of the Mesa 19.2 feature freeze and days after the RadeonSI OpenGL driver added Renoir support, the RADV Vulkan driver has picked up support for this next-gen Zen 2 + Vega APU.

          The support comes down to just eight lines of new code for this new APU rumored to be launching in 2020. While it was hoped that this would be the first APU built on the Zen 2 CPU microarchitecture and with Navi graphics, the open-source Linux driver code drops have all pointed it to be more of a Raven/Vega refresh on the graphics side.

    • Applications

    • Instructionals/Technical

    • Games

      • Underworld Ascendant’s Linux port has now been released

        Get ready to dungeon crawl! After many delays, the sequel to the classic Ultima Underworld games has finally seen a Linux release.

      • Event Horizon (Tower of Time) show off the first gameplay from their next RPG Dark Envoy

        Ah Gamescom has arrived, which means tons of games will be shown off over the next week. Event Horizon (Tower of Time dev) are getting in on the action, to show off footage from their brand new RPG called Dark Envoy.

        For those who missed the previous article, it is already confirmed to be coming to Linux. To save you a click, when asked they said “We spent a considerable effort to make Tower of Time run well on Linux – so now, being more experienced with it, we also plan to release on Linux at the same time as PC launch.”.

      • Going where no Steam Play has gone before with Elite Dangerous

        What’s the one game keeping you a dual booter? Maybe it’s PUBG, or Rainbow Six: Siege? Maybe it used to be Overwatch? For me, that game was Elite Dangerous, and one year on from Proton’s release, I have a story to tell.

        There’s a certain “je ne sais quoi” about Elite Dangerous that I’ve never been able to put my finger on. It’s a game set in a scientifically modelled, full-scale replica of the whole Milky Way galaxy, and as with that setting, the game is truly vast, remarkably cold, and frequently incomprehensible. Yet, when playing Elite, I get the same feeling as when looking up at the stars on a dark and moonless night — my hungry soul is fed. Or it could just be space madness. Regardless, it’s a feeling that I like to dip into every once in a while, immerse myself in, and try not to drown.

    • Desktop Environments/WMs

      • GNOME Desktop/GTK

        • GNOME 3.34 Works Out Refined XWayland Support For X11 Apps Run Under Sudo

          GNOME 3.34 continues to look like an incredibly great release in the performance department as well as for Wayland users.

          Earlier this summer, support was added to GNOME’s Mutter to generate an Xauth file and passing it to XWayland when starting. The focus of that Red Hat contribution was for allowing X.Org/X11 applications to be run under XWayland as sudo. Up to this point when using sudo with an X11 app on Wayland, it hasn’t worked out but this addition for GNOME 3.34 corrects that behavior.

    • Distributions

      • Screenshots/Screencasts

      • Fedora Family

        • Flock to Fedora ’19

          I had a wonderful opportunity to go to Fedora’s annual contributor summit, Flock to Fedora in Budapest, Hungary. This is me penning down my takeaway from a week full of learning!

          [...]

          Apart from the talks, the conference outshone when it came to meeting mind-blowing developers. I got to know the most about Fedora and Red Hat through those interactions and it was a really pleasant experience. It was also super amazing to finally meet all the people I had been interacting with over the course of the internship in real life.

          My advice for any future Flock attendee would be to always make time to talk to people at Flock. Even I have a hard time interacting but the people are extremely nice and you get to learn a lot through those small interactions and end up making friends for a life time.

          Definitely taking back a tonne of memories, loads of pictures, and plethora of learning from this one week of experience.

        • Paul W. Frields: Flock 2019 in Budapest, Hungary.

          Last week I attended the Flock 2019 conference in Budapest, like many Fedora community members. There was a good mix of paid and volunteer community members at the event. That was nice to see, because I often worry about the overall aging of the community.

          Many people I know in Fedora have been with the project a long time. Over time, people’s lives change. Their jobs, family, or other circumstances move them in different directions. Sometimes this means they have less time for volunteer work, and they might not be active in a community like Fedora. So being able to refresh my view of who’s around and interested in an event like Flock was helpful.

          Also, at last year’s Flock in Dresden, after the first night of the conference, something I ate got the better of me — or I might have picked up a norovirus. I was out of commission for most of the remaining time, confined to my room to ride out whatever was ailing my gut. (It wasn’t pretty.) So I was glad this year also to be perfectly well, and able to attend the whole event. That was despite trying this terrible, terrible libation called ArchieMite, provided by my buddy Dennis Gilmore…

          [...]

          I also attended several sessions on Modularity. One of them was Merlin Mathesius’ presentation on tools for building modules. Merlin is on my team at Red Hat and I happened to know he hadn’t done a lot of public speaking. But you wouldn’t have guessed from his talk! It was well organized and logically presented. He gave a nice overview of how maintainers can use the available tools to build modules for community use.

          The Modularity group also held a discussion to hear about friction points with modularity. Much of the feedback lined up well with other inputs the group has received. We could solve some with better documentation and awareness. In some cases the tools could benefit from ease of use enhancements. In others, people were unaware of the difficult design decisions or choices that had to be made to produce a workable system. Fortunately there are some fixes on the way for tooling like the replacement for the so-called “Ursa Major” in Fedora. It allows normal packages to build against capabilities provided by modules.

      • Debian Family

        • salsa.debian.org: Postmortem of failed Docker registry move

          The Salsa admin team provides the following report about the failed migration of the Docker container registry. The Docker container registry stores Docker images, which are for example used in the Salsa CI toolset. This migration would have moved all data off to Google Cloud Storage (GCS) and would have lowered the used file system space on Debian systems significantly.

          [...]

          On 2019-08-06 the migration process was started. The migration itself went fine, although it took a bit longer than anticipated. However, as not all parts of the migration had been properly tested, a test of the garbage collection triggered a bug in the software.

          On 2019-08-10 the Salsa admins started to see problems with garbage collection. The job running it timed out after one hour. Within this timeframe it not even managed to collect information about all used layers to see what it can cleanup. A source code analysis showed that this design flaw can’t be fixed.

          On 2019-08-13 the change was rolled back to storing data on the file system.

        • Raphaël Hertzog: Promoting Debian LTS with stickers, flyers and a video

          With the agreement of the Debian LTS contributors funded by Freexian, earlier this year I decided to spend some Freexian money on marketing: we sponsored DebConf 19 as a bronze sponsor and we prepared some stickers and flyers to give out during the event.

          The stickers only promote the Debian LTS project with the semi-official logo we have been using and a link to the wiki page. You can see them on the back of a laptop in the picture below.

        • Raphaël Hertzog: Freexian’s report about Debian Long Term Support, July 2019

          Like each month, here comes a report about the work of paid contributors to Debian LTS.

        • Jaskaran Singh: GSoC Final Report

          The Debian Patch Porting System aims to systematize and partially automate the security patch porting process.

          In this Google Summer of Code (2019), I wrote a webcrawler to extract security patches for a given security vulnerability identifier. This webcrawler or patch-finder serves as the first step of the Debian Patch Porting System.

          The Patch-finder should recognize numerous vulnerability identifiers. These identifiers can be security advisories (DSA, GLSA, RHSA), vulnerability identifiers (OVAL, CVE), etc. So far, it can identify CVE, DSA (Debian Security Advisory), GLSA (Gentoo Linux Security Advisory) and RHSA (Red Hat Security Advisory).

          Each vulnerability identifier has a list of entrypoint URLs associated with it. These URLs are used to initiate the patch finding.

      • Canonical/Ubuntu Family

        • Linux Mint 19.2 Cinnamon Released. Here’s What’s New

          Linux Mint releases latest version 19.2 with Cinnamon flavor.

          The popular Linux Mint project announced release of 19.2 version with Cinnamon, XFCE and MATE desktop environment flavors. Based on Ubuntu 18.04 LTS package base, Linux Mint is supported 2023 with security updates. This makes it ideal for new users who are migrating to Linux from Windows for the first time along with experienced users.

          Linux Mint 19.2 “Tina” Cinnamon edition features Cinnamon 4.2 version with Linux Kernel 4.15. This release brings new features, improvements as well as overall system experience for the general users. Here’s what’s new in Linux Mint Cinnamon edition.

          [...]

          The System reports utility is overhauled with a new look. A new page was added to show the system information and make it easy for users to copy it into the forums or upload it to a pastebin website.

    • Devices/Embedded

    • Free, Libre, and Open Source Software

      • The cloud isn’t killing open source software

        The most common reason given for software vendors making these changes is “foul play” by cloud vendors. The argument is that cloud vendors unfairly offer open source software “as a service,” capturing large portions of the revenue, while the original software vendor continues to carry most of the development costs. Market rumors claim Amazon Web Services (AWS) makes more revenue from MySQL than Oracle, which owns the product.

        So, who is claiming foul play is destroying the open source ecosystem? Typically, the loudest voices are venture-funded open source software companies. These companies require a very high growth rate to justify their hefty valuation, so it makes sense that they would prefer not to worry about additional competition.

      • Funding

      • Programming/Development

        • Excellent Free Books to Learn Groovy

          Apache Groovy is a powerful, optionally typed and dynamic language, with static-typing and static compilation capabilities, for the Java platform aimed at improving developer productivity thanks to a concise, familiar and easy to learn syntax.

          It integrates seamlessly with any Java program, and immediately delivers to your application powerful features, including scripting capabilities, Domain-Specific Language authoring, runtime and compile-time meta-programming and functional programming.

          It’s both a static and dynamic language with features similar to those of Python, Ruby, Perl, and Smalltalk. It can be used as both a programming language and a scripting language for the Java Platform.

        • Top 9 Django Concepts – Part 2 : 5 Mins

          I will be covering 3 Django concepts, for those who had missed the first part of the 3 part series, you can head down to the Top 9 Django Concepts – Part 1

          The first concept is essential Django commands that you will be using when developing in Django.

          The second is the concept of using either a front-end like Vue, React or Angular web framework or using Django existing template system to build UI.

        • Get Current Date & Time in Python

          In this article, you will learn the datetime module supplies classes for manipulating dates and times in both simple and complex ways.

        • RcppQuantuccia 0.0.3

          RcppQuantuccia brings the Quantuccia header-only subset / variant of QuantLib to R. At the current stage, it mostly offers date and calendaring functions.

          This release was triggered by some work CRAN is doing on updating C++ standards for code in the repository. Notably, under C++11 some constructs such ptr_fun, bind1st, bind2nd, … are now deprecated, and CRAN prefers the code base to not issue such warnings (as e.g. now seen under clang++-9). So we updated the corresponding code in a good dozen or so places to the (more current and compliant) code from QuantLib itself.

        • The infrastructure is code: A story of COBOL and Go

          But what about today? With the decline of mainframes and the rise of newer and more innovative languages designed for the web and cloud, where does COBOL sit?

          As last week’s episode of Command Line Heroes mentioned, in the late 1990s, Perl (as well as JavaScript and C++) was outpacing COBOL. And, as Perl’s creator, Larry Wall stated then: “COBOL is no big deal these days since demand for COBOL seems to be trailing off, for some strange reason.”

      • Standards/Consortia

        • Marek’s Take: Why open source communities are critical to operators

          Open source locks down standards in code and makes sure it is interoperable, Rice said. “That’s why it’s symbiotic. Standards are options but they come together because they are built on one another.”

          And, similar to standards bodies, where delegates work side-by-side with competitors to develop global specifications, the same occurs in open source groups.

  • Leftovers

    • QAnon is the conspiracy theory that won’t die: Here’s what they believe, and why they’re wrong

      If you follow the squeaks and squawks of far-right conspiracy theorists, you have almost certainly encountered QAnon believers — individuals who follow the oft-debunked predictions of an anonymous man who calls himself “Q” and claims to know the sinister truth about how the world works.

    • A brief introduction to learning agility

      While “learning agility” is not a new term, it’s one that organizations clearly still need help taking into account. Even in open organizations, we tend to overlook this element by focusing too rigidly on a candidate’s degree history or current role when we should be taking a more holistic view of the individual.

      One crucial element of adaptability is learning agility. It is the capacity for adapting to situations and applying knowledge from prior experience—even when you don’t know what to do. In short, it’s a willingness to learn from all your experiences and then apply that knowledge to tackle new challenges in new situations.

      Every experience we encounter in life can teach us something if we pay attention to it. All of these experiences are educational and useful in organizational life. In fact, as Colin Willis notes in his recent article on informal learning, 70%‒80% of all job-related knowledge isn’t learned in formal training programs. And yet we’re conditioned to think that only what you were paid to do in a formal role or the degree you once earned speaks solely to your potential value or fit for a particular role.

    • Science

      • Politics tops science under Trump

        When the news is bad, punish the messenger, as in today’s United States it’s increasingly the case that politics tops science.

        This, according to a top scientist formerly working at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), is what’s happening to government employees involved in climate change research under the administration of President Trump.

        Lewis Ziska, a plant physiologist who has worked for more than 20 years at USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), recently resigned his post, saying department officials had not only questioned the results of a peer-reviewed research paper he was involved in on the adverse impact of climate change – they had also attempted to minimise its coverage in the media.

        “You get the sense that things have changed, that this (the ARS) is not a place for you to be exploring things that don’t agree with someone’s political views”, Ziska tells the Politico website.

    • Security (Confidentiality/Integrity/Availability)

      • Hacker Summer Camp 2019: CTFs for Fun & Profit

        Okay, I’m back from Summer Camp and have caught up (slightly) on life. I had the privilege of giving a talk at BSidesLV entitled “CTFs for Fun and Profit: Playing Games to Build Your Skills.” I wanted to post a quick link to my slides and talk about the IoT CTF I had the chance to play.

        I played in the IoT Village CTF at DEF CON, which was interesting because it uses real-world devices with real-world vulnerabilities instead of the typical made-up challenges in a CTF. On the other hand, I’m a little disappointed that it seems pretty similar (maybe even the same) year-to-year, not providing much variety or new learning experiences if you’ve played before.

      • Nexus Repository Now Supports APT

        Beginning with version 3.17, Nexus Repository Manager supports APT (Advanced Package Tool) repositories. APT is a set of tools used to search, install, and manage packages on Debian, Ubuntu, and similar Linux distributions. With this new release, you can now host your own local APT repos. Developers benefit from no longer having to rely on connecting externally to a public repository every time an often-used package is needed.

        In the case of Debian-based Docker containers, the ability to locally cache Debian packages from public repositories can save copious amounts of time when rebuilding your containers. This can do wonders especially for containers built frequently in a CI pipeline and for the more traditional use-case of provisioning virtual machines.

      • Ransomware attack has hit 20 government agencies in Texas [iophk: Windows TCO]

        This week the state of Texas has joined the list of targets. According to Texas’s Department of Information Resources (DIR), more than 20 local government entities have been impacted by a ‘coordinated ransomware attack.’ DIR states that “the Texas Military Department, and the Texas A&M University System’s Cyberresponse and Security Operations Center teams are deploying resources to the most critically impacted jurisdictions.”

        No disclosure has beeen made regarding how much of a payment is being requested, though given recent attacks on other states the amount is likely to be eye-watering. Also absent is any information on which ‘local government entities’ have been affected.

      • Web server security – Part 8: Basic log file analysis

        Tools like lnav (“The Log File Navigator”) allow quicker analysis of log files. Instead of manually searching for attack-like behavior, you can use SQL queries, load and combine multiple files at once, and switch between different views.

        However, keep in mind that not only tools but also underlying processes and organization are important. You must know where log files are stored, how they are created and how long information is available. This requires a basic security concept. Understand the structure of your log files, and use customization of logging rules if available.

    • Defence/Aggression

      • US tests medium-range cruise missile in the wake of INF treaty exit

        The Pentagon said on Monday that it had tested a conventionally configured ground-launched cruise missile with a range of more than 500 km (310 miles), the first such test since the US pulled out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).

      • Violence in Afghanistan last year was worse than in Syria

        Facing less pressure from NATO, the Taliban are overwhelming the Afghan army, spreading to cities such as Kunduz from their stronghold in the south. A majority of Afghans now live in areas controlled or contested by the Taliban, according to the Long War Journal, a website that tracks the conflict. Gallup, which has polled Afghans since 2008, finds that record numbers fear for their liberty and safety.

    • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

      • Memo to mainstream journalists: Can the phony outrage; Bernie is right about bias

        It happens because of groupthink. It happens because top editors and producers know — without being told — which issues and sources are off limits. No orders need be given, for example, for rank-and-file journalists to understand that the business of the corporate boss or top advertisers is off-limits, short of criminal indictments.

        No memo is needed to achieve the narrowness of perspective — selecting all the usual experts from all the usual think tanks to say all the usual things. Think Tom Friedman. Or Barry McCaffrey. Or Neera Tanden. Or any of the elite club members who’ve been proven to be absurdly wrong time and again about national or global affairs.

      • Climate misinformation may be thriving on YouTube, a social scientist warns

        While Facebook and Twitter get the lion’s share of attention when it comes to concerns about fake news, Joachim Allgaier of RWTH Aachen University in Germany says YouTube is equally, if not more insidious, given its huge popularity. Allgaier, who focuses on how science is communicated online, initially researched science-themed music videos on the site. He found several on Darwin’s theory of evolution, one song about the periodic table by the band They Might Be Giants and a parody by an Alzheimer’s research team contorting the lyrics to Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” to sing about being “caught in a bad project.”

    • Environment

      • Italy’s fishermen battle the scourge of plastic in the Mediterranean

        Italy’s fishermen often catch as much plastic as fish in their nets. Until recently it was illegal for them to bring the plastic to shore. But a recent change in law means it can now be brought back to port to be recycled.

      • This country gave all its rivers their own legal rights

        But even among the countries that have embraced the rights of nature, Bangladesh now stands out as having done something unprecedented. “What’s unique about Bangladesh is that they declared all rivers to have this status,” said Ben Price, the national director for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), a nonprofit public interest law firm that helps people facing threats to their local environment. By contrast, other countries have granted rights only to individual bodies of water.

      • A Fungus Could Wipe Out the Banana Forever

        On August 8 the Colombian Agricultural Institute announced that it had confirmed that the fungus—a strain of Fusarium oxysporum called Tropical Race 4 (TR4)—had been found in plantations in the north of the country. The country declared a national state of emergency, destroying crops and quarantining plantations in an attempt to avert the spread of the fungus.

        But Latin America has been in this situation before. Until the 1950s, the most commonly exported banana variety was the Gros Michel, which was almost totally wiped out by a different strain of the Fusarium fungus. The modern export banana—the Cavendish—took Gros Michel’s place because it was resistant to that early Fusarium strain. Now 99 percent of all exported bananas are Cavendish—with almost all of them grown in Latin America.

    • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

      • Why Is Joe Rogan So Popular?

        The Joe Rogan Experience has been the No. 2 most-downloaded podcast on iTunes for two years running. Rogan’s second Netflix comedy special, Strange Times, dropped last year. His interview last fall with Elon Musk has been viewed more than 24 million times on YouTube, and his YouTube channel, PowerfulJRE, has 6 million subscribers. An indifferently received episode will tend to get somewhere around 1 million views. So many people in the content business right now are trying, and failing, to get the attention of these men, and yet somehow Joe Rogan has managed to recruit a following the size of Florida.

      • I’m Still Sorry I Listened To Susan Sarandon During The 2016 Election

        There aren’t any matters that are currently more pressing than grappling with the fact that I listened to what actress Susan Sarandon had to say during the 2016 presidential election and did not vote for Hillary Clinton.

        You may see a presidential administration that is going above and beyond to criminalize immigration. There are more migrants in camps or detention centers than ever before, but when I see the crying faces of children without their parents, I don’t think of Donald Trump. All I can think of is Louise and how she and Thelma drove their car off a cliff and that cliff was Donald Trump.

        Just as Janet Weiss was seduced by the allure of the sex god, Rocky Horror, Sarandon was entranced by the political revolution promised by Bernie Sanders. Under the spell of the Berns, she became convinced that Clinton was dangerous and would start a war if elected. She also suggested that Trump’s election would lead to an explosive revolt, but that did not happen because Robert Mueller would never have approved and we needed his approval to have Mueller Time.

        Sarandon was an obnoxious Bernie Bro. Her influence on the American population may not have been enough to convince Democratic voters to nominate Sanders over Clinton. However, when she trashed Clinton, that is when America finally came through for the star with Bette Davis eyes.

      • The malware election: Returning to paper ballots only way to prevent [cracking]

        That did not prevent them from completely dominating the machines. They accessed USB, compact flash and ethernet ports that were glaringly unprotected, and then proceeded to play video games and run pink cat graphics across the screens of ballot-marking devices and voter registration database systems.

        This may seem like fun and games, but the ability to access the core controls of these voting machines illustrates that malware could easily be planted on them. That malware can change vote totals, or prevent thousands of people from voting. In one system we timed, it took exactly five seconds to connect the voting machine to a device that could inject malware through a port that was easy to access and only a few inches from where voters scan their ballots.

        Once malware is on a voting machine, it can travel from that voting machine, to a central tabulating system, and then back out to all the other voting machines in a jurisdiction during the course of normal election procedures. Thus, a five second exploit, by one lone voter, in one precinct can infect and change the results in an entire county. Because of the way the Electoral College works, changing the results of a few counties in a few states could change the outcome of a presidential election.

      • Twitter ran paid ads from China’s state news media criticizing the Hong Kong protests

        The sponsored posts described the protests as violent and destructive and portrayed Hong Kong citizens as in favor of ending them.

        People in Hong Kong have been protesting the Chinese government for 11 weeks. Organizers say as many as 1.7 million people joined a peaceful rally on Sunday.

      • China Attacks Hong Kong Protesters With Fake Social Posts

        Twitter announced Monday it had removed over 900 accounts it believes were established by the Chinese government, which were “deliberately and specifically” attempting to sow political discord and undermine “the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement on the ground.” The accounts were part of a much larger network of around 200,000 accounts Twitter took down before they were “substantially active” on the service.

      • Orderly marchers increase the pressure on Hong Kong’s government

        The organisers were the loose association of pro-democracy parties and NGOs responsible for bringing about enormous rallies in June and July. They had applied to lead participants along a two-and-a-half mile stretch of downtown Hong Kong, past the government offices. Police objected in advance, approving only a static assembly at Victoria Park. In the end a march proceeded anyway. It could hardly have done otherwise: rivers of people were flowing into the park and out of it. The organisers claimed that 1.7m people attended at least some portion of the protest. Police said the crowd present inside the park numbered 128,000 at its peak.

      • Influence Operations Kill Chain

        Influence operations are elusive to define. The Rand Corp.’s definition is as good as any: “the collection of tactical information about an adversary as well as the dissemination of propaganda in pursuit of a competitive advantage over an opponent.” Basically, we know it when we see it, from bots controlled by the Russian Internet Research Agency to Saudi attempts to plant fake stories and manipulate political debate. These operations have been run by Iran against the United States, Russia against Ukraine, China against Taiwan, and probably lots more besides.

      • Saudis Paid $90 Million to Sudan’s Ex-Leader, Officer Says in al-Bashir Trial

        A senior police officer testified that Mr. al-Bashir, who was ousted in April after months of street protests, had admitted to receiving part of the money from envoys sent by the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

      • Twitter promotes Chinese-made ads against Hong Kong protesters: Report

        The social media giant has not commented on the matter, but other platforms such as social bookmarking site Pinboard have officially accused Twitter of supporting China. Pinboard stated on its official @Pinboard Twitter account that Twitter is “taking money from Chinese propaganda outfits and running promoted ads against top Hong Kong protest hashtags.”

        Twitter is now faced with a dilemma and it might need to take a political position – it will either keep running these ads in favor of China, or lose the sliver of a reputation it has as a free platform. It will be ironic if it continues to promote these ads since the social media platform is actually banned in China and has been replaced by the state-run Sina Weibo.

      • Uganda, Zambia Deny Huawei Helped Spy on Political Opponents

        In Uganda, WSJ reported that Huawei technicians helped Ugandan authorities use spyware to monitor pop star turned opposition icon Bobi Wine.

        Wine, whose real name is Robert Kyagulanyi, became a lawmaker in 2017 and is preparing to challenge President Yoweri Museveni in Uganda’s 2021 presidential election.

        According to The Wall Street Journal, Huawei’s assistance enabled Ugandan authorities to disrupt Wine’s plans for concerts they feared would turn into political rallies.

    • Privacy/Surveillance

      • Former Siri chief is leaving Apple to join Microsoft’s AI division

        Stasior’s departure seems less an indictment of the current state of Siri and more a reflection of the reality of AI at Apple. Last year, the iPhone maker poached John Giannandrea from Google, where he was a former head of search and AI. That’s reshaped the way Apple works on AI.

      • Trump administration calls for permanent restoration of bulk phone communications surveillance

        In a declassified letter to Congressional leaders, the outgoing Director of National Intelligence Daniel R. Coats called for the “permanent reauthorization of the provisions of the USA Freedom Act of 2015 that are currently set to expire in December.” The top Trump administration intelligence official wrote that among these provisions are the National Security Agency’s (NSA) officially suspended bulk collection of “telephone records from US telecommunications providers.”

      • I Shared My Phone Number. I Learned I Shouldn’t Have.

        In fact, your phone number may have now become an even stronger identifier than your full name. I recently found this out firsthand when I asked Fyde, a mobile security firm in Palo Alto, Calif., to use my digits to demonstrate the potential risks of sharing a phone number.

        Emre Tezisci, a security researcher at Fyde with a background in telecommunications, took on the task with gusto. He and I had never met or talked. He quickly plugged my cellphone number into a public records directory. Soon, he had a full dossier on me — including my name and birth date, my address, the property taxes I pay and the names of members of my family.

    • Civil Rights/Policing

      • Local parliament torched amid protests in Indonesia’s Papua

        An insurgency has simmered in Papua since the early 1960s, when Indonesia annexed the region, a former Dutch colony. In recent years, some Papua students, including some who study in other provinces, have become vocal in calling for self-determination for the province.

        Residents of West Papua are ethnically similar to those in Papua.

      • You have a better chance of achieving “the American dream” in Canada than in America

        Raj Chetty, called “the most influential economist alive,” and Ezra Klein discuss the state of social mobility in the United States today.

      • Jay-Z Isn’t a Sellout, He’s a Capitalist

        The truth is actually much more banal. None of this is about social justice. It’s not about, as Shawn Carter put it, “helping millions and millions of people.” This partnership is happening because Shawn Carter is a billionaire who wants to be an NFL owner, and erasing Colin Kaepernick is the price of admission. Now Shawn Carter gets to multiply his fortune, and the NFL believes they will no longer be branded as racist, or have to schedule skim-milk Super Bowl halftime shows headlined by Maroon 5.

        Jay-Z is a boss. Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid are workers. It is the interest of workers in the NFL to unite and say that blackballing people for their political beliefs is never going to be OK. It is in the interest of workers to stand up for their colleague. It is in Shawn Carter’s interest to stand up for himself. It’s not “millions and millions” who are going to be helped. It’s one person. It’s Jay-Z’s ultimate hustle—a hustle he told us, over 20 years ago, we were never to knock.

      • [Old] The Darkest Town In America

        She works full time for the cause these days, giving lectures, lobbying policymakers and meeting with people like me. “Creatures, great and small, are negatively affected,” she told me, citing reading she had done about the issue. “Humans are dramatically affected by night lighting.” Ever vigilant, she has a blue-light-blocking screen on her cellphone. Going dark is also more fiscally responsible, she said — excess lighting wastes billions of dollars worth of energy each year. And the mystical element motivates her advocacy too. “The emotional, spiritual connection with the universe,” Harder said. “If it’s gone, what else do we have? We just have our Earth-borne environment. I think it also could cut off our feeling of curiosity. It’s hard to measure these things, but psychically, I think they’re quite dramatic.”

      • The Trump Admin Just Took A Huge Leap Forward In Defunding Planned Parenthood

        The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) set a deadline for August 19th for program grantees to submit a written plan for complying with the new rule, the first step in implementation. Many providers have chosen to instead withdraw from the program rather than comply with the rule.

    • Monopolies

      • How to delete your Uber Eats account on a phone or computer

        The tricky thing about deleting your Uber Eats account is that you have to delete your primary Uber account as well. You can restore the account within 30 days and not lose your past credits and ride history, but after this 30-day deactivation period, the account is deleted permanently.

      • Patents and Software Patents

        • New Hampshire court to patent troll: it’s not libel when someone calls you a “patent troll”

          New Hampshire’s Supreme Court has ruled that calling someone a “patent troll” is not defamatory because “patent troll” is a statement of opinion and can neither be factually proved nor disproved.

          The case was brought by Automated Transactions Limited, who claims a broad patent on machines that dispense cash (ATL founder David Barcelou invented some unsuccessful gaming machines in the 1990s and received several patents they say cover the normal operations of ATMs and other common machines). ATL has made millions demanding patent license fees.

      • Trademarks

        • THE Ohio State University Applies For THE Stupidest Trademark In THE World

          We’ve talked ongoing about how ridiculous and aggressive many universities are becoming on trademark matters. Now colleges and universities do many, many annoying things, but their tendency towards trademark bullying certainly ranks up there near the top of the list. Not as high, of course, as Ohio State’s neverending insistence that everyone call it “THE Ohio State University.” The school likes to point out that the “the” (sigh) is actually part of the school’s legal name, when the reality is that the school is simply being haughty and pedantic.

          Well, now these two worlds are colliding in what might just be the dumbest trademark application I’ve ever seen. You’ll never guess what single word OSU wants to trademark.

      • Copyrights

        • YouTube sues alleged copyright troll over extortion of multiple YouTubers

          YouTube is going after an alleged copyright troll using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s (DMCA) provisions, alleging that Christopher Brady used false copyright strikes to extort YouTube creators, harming the company in the process. Now, YouTube is suing Brady, using the DMCA’s provisions against fraudulent takedown claims, seeking compensatory damages and an injunction against future fraudulent claims.

        • Court Denies Default Judgment Against ‘Cheating’ Fortnite Kid, In Spite of Mom’s ‘Defense’

          Two years ago, Epic Games decided to take several Fortnite cheaters to court, accusing them of copyright infringement.

          Several of these lawsuits have been settled but there is one that proved to be somewhat of a challenge.

          One of the alleged cheaters turned out to be a minor who’s also accused of demonstrating, advertising and distributing the cheat via his YouTube channel. The game publisher wasn’t aware of this when it filed the lawsuit, but the kid’s mother let the company know in clear terms.

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