Links 27/8/2019: Glimpse, D9VK 0.20, GNU Spotlight

Posted in News Roundup at 12:08 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish



  • 4 best Microsoft Windows alternative operating systems

    Windows is not a secure or private operating system. This is partly because Windows is the most popular desktop operating system in the world, and so it has been the major target for hackers and malware peddlers. Also lets’s not forget that Microsoft was also the first company (by some margin) to cooperate with the NSA’s PRISM mass surveillance program.

    In this guide we list the 4 best alternatives to Windows operating system and further detail the privacy concerns around Windows OS.

  • Desktop

    • You Can Buy the $199 Pinebook Pro Linux Laptop Right Now

      Members of the Pine64 messaging board have been able to buy the 13-inch notebook over the course of the past few weeks. But, as of August 25, the company is widening allocation to “public” pre-orders too.

      No special “coupons” or membership criteria are required; anyone with $199 (plus whatever shipping costs apply) can buy a Pinebook Pro.

      Orders made in the current window are expected to be fulfilled in mid-October. But Pine64 say to not panic if you miss out on the first batch as a second pre-order window will be available in mid-September.

      (Unlike traditional devices which are manufactured and then sold, Pinebook’s are — seemingly — sold and then manufactured in batches).

      Uniquely, the Pinebook Pro is also not sold with a massive markup attached. Pine64 say they sell this device, like its $99 predecessor, virtually at cost.

    • Google touts managed Linux, gets cosy with Dell in Chromebook Enterprise push

      Google has rolled out its “first Chromebook Enterprise devices,” these being a couple of Dell Latitude laptops launched at the VMWorld shindig currently under way in San Francisco.

      The Dell Latitude 5400 and Latitude 5300 2-in-1 will now come loaded with an enterprise version of Chrome OS – though note that Chrome Enterprise is not new, and what Google is referring to is that Dell is packaging Chrome OS with the Enterprise Upgrade so it is available out of the box.

      In the release Google also emphasised the ability to enable “managed Linux environments” on Chromebooks, primarily with development in mind. The latest Android Studio is supported on Chrome OS, via the ability to run Linux, even though Linux on Chrome OS is still in beta.

  • Kernel Space

    • KernelShark Has More Plans For Improving This GUI Around Linux’s Ftrace

      KernelShark lead developer Steven Rostedt of VMware shared some plans for KernelShark 2.0 at last week’s Open-Source Summit in San Diego. For KernelShark 2.0 the plan is to support flame graph visualizations, tracing virtual machines with hosts, recording improvements, spinning off some functionality into a library (libkshark), and also supporting plug-ins that could further customize the tracing views.

    • Linux 5.2.10

      I’m announcing the release of the 5.2.10 kernel.

      All users of the 5.2 kernel series must upgrade.

      The updated 5.2.y git tree can be found at:
      git://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/stable/linux-stable.git linux-5.2.y
      and can be browsed at the normal kernel.org git web browser:


    • Linux 4.19.68
    • Linux 4.14.140
    • Linux 4.9.190
    • Linux 4.4.190
    • Linux 5.3 Moves Ahead With No Longer Advertising RdRand On Older AMD CPUs/APUs

      Just prior to yesterday’s Linux 5.3-rc6 kernel release, a change was pulled into the code-base that disables the advertising of RdRand support on older AMD CPUs/APUs.

      The change pulled into the current Linux 5.3 tree (as opposed to being delayed until Linux 5.4) is over hiding RdRand support on AMD Bulldozer and Jaguar era processors. RdRand is the instruction for returning random numbers from the CPU for what began as an Intel extension. The RdRand instruction will continue to function on affected AMD processors if encountered but the CPU ID bit is being cleared so that it won’t be advertised for software checking for the presence of this bit. This is being done since those pre-Zen AMD CPUs tend to have issues with their RdRand instruction support following suspend/resume cycles for many motherboards.

    • Linux Kernel Clearing Up Intel CPU Names With Proliferation Of Different Cores

      Stemming from recent discussions over Intel’s Linux enablement for Intel’s Lightning Mountain SoC that characterized it as a “AIRMONT_NP” for a “network processor” even though it’s not limited to networking use-cases, and with Intel’s proliferation of different CPU cores in general, the Linux kernel is seeing some cleaning up of their different Intel CPU names.

      Within macro definitions and the like, the Intel CPU/core names are being cleaned up to better follow their naming convention of INTEL followed by the family, micro-architecture, and possible differentiations based on market segments.

    • Graphics Stack

      • VKMS Getting PRIME Import Support For Helping To Test Linux’s PRIME Functionality

        The VKMS virtual kernel mode-setting driver is seeing support for PRIME import added to it so this software solution can be used for helping to test multi-GPU PRIME configurations on Linux even without the hardware attached.

      • AMD Renoir Graphics Power Management Gets Wired Up

        While AMD’s next-gen Renoir APUs are Vega-based and not Navi, beyond the initial Linux driver enablement seen over the past few weeks coming out a few days ago were a set of patches just getting the power management in order.

        The graphics power management support for Renoir is where we’re seeing a larger deviation in the driver code than the rest of the driver enablement that mostly pegs it as a Vega/GFX9 Raven Ridge refresh past Picasso. The power features for Renoir has come in at 37 patches amounting to around one thousand lines of new code, more than would be necessary for just a Raven Ridge / Picasso facsimile.

    • Benchmarks

      • 20-Way Linux Graphics Card Comparison For Total War: Three Kingdoms

        Total War: Three Kingdoms is the newest Linux game port from Feral Interactive and saw a same-day release back in May. While back then it was said there weren’t benchmarking capabilities for this game, there now is a test profile. For those wondering how Three Kingdoms performs on Linux, here is a twenty way graphics card comparison using the newest AMD Radeon and NVIDIA drivers.

        Total War: Three Kingdoms is rendered on Linux using Vulkan and for the minimum GPU requirements for this game is a Radeon R9 285 or GeForce GTX 680. Feral recommends though a Radeon RX 480 / GeForce GTX 970 or better for the best gaming experience. On Windows meanwhile the recommended cards are a GeForce GTX 970 or Radeon R9 Fury X.

  • Applications

    • Tuhi – an application to support Wacom SmartPad devices

      Sounds like déjà vu? Right, I posted a post with an almost identical title 18 months ago or so. This is about Tuhi 0.2, new and remodeled and completely different to that. Sort-of.

      Tuhi is an application that supports the Wacom SmartPad devices – Bamboo Spark, Bamboo Slate, Bamboo Folio and Intuos Pro. The Bamboo range are digital notepads. They come with a real pen, you draw normally on the pad and use Bluetooth LE and Wacom’s Inkspace application later to sync the files to disk. The Intuos Pro is the same but it’s designed as a “normal” tablet with the paper mode available as well.

      18 months ago, Benjamin Tissoires and I wrote Tuhi as a DBus session daemon. Tuhi would download the drawings from the file and make them available as JSON files over DBus to be converted to SVG or some other format by … “clients”. We wrote a simple commandline tool to debug Tuhi but no GUI, largely in the hope that maybe someone would be interested in doing that. Fast forward to now and that hasn’t happened but I had some spare cycles over the last weeks so I present to you: Tuhi 0.2, now with a GTK GUI…

    • Webmin: A web-based Linux management tool

      You’re probably thinking, “Oh great, another tool to learn,” but Webmin is different. It’s a web-based Linux management tool that streamlines your Linux management tasks to a few clicks, dropdowns, and prompted fill-in-the-blank fields, which untangles the web of complexity associated with common applications such as Apache, Perl, and Sendmail. Webmin enables you to manage your Linux system’s hardware and software, native and third-party applications, Webmin itself, and even log in with a web-based text terminal for those command-line purists.

    • Bookworm is a new ebook reader for Linux – Goodereader

      Calibre was originally developed to convert ebooks from one format to another and assist in delivering ebooks to your e-reader. The company has introduced more features, such being able to read ebooks right in the app. They not only have a program for Windows and MAC, but also Linux. There have been few alternatives to Calibre on Linux, one of them is a new program called Bookworm.

      Bookworm was developed for Elementary OS, but also available for other Linux distributions such as Ubuntu or OpenSUSE. Options to install from source or flatpack are provided as well. It reads many popular ebook formats such as EPUB, PDF, MOBI, FB2, CBR and CBZ.

    • Glimpse is the G-Rated GIMP Fork We All, Er, Apparently Need…

      Enter the Glimpse Image Editor, a fledgling fork of The GIMP (herein referred to simply as ‘GIMP’) whose name is certifiable G (or U or L or whatever is “suitable for everyone”).

      Is the world really crying out for a fork of GIMP?

      There have been a few usability “projects” built on, for, and around GIMP in the years that I’ve been covered open source and Linux (10 years next month, fact fans).

      The best known “effort” of these is the (surprisingly still active) GIMP Shop.

    • Ghostwriter is an open source markdown editor with a polished interface

      Ghostwriter is a distraction-free open source markdown editor that is available for Linux and Windows.

      Windows users can install the Ghostwriter program on their device or use a portable version instead that does not need to be installed. Ghostwriter is based on Qt5.

      We reviewed similar applications in the past. You can check out Zim, an open source wiki-like text editor, the distraction-free Linux app FocusWriter, the Atom text editor for Linux, or Text Editor Pro for Windows.

    • Someone Forked GIMP into Glimpse Because Gimp is an Offensive Word

      In the world of open source applications, forking is common when members of the community want to take an application in a different direction than the rest. The latest newsworthy fork is named Glimpse and is intended to fix certain issues that users have with the GNU Image Manipulation Program, commonly known as GIMP.

      When you visit the homepage of the Glimpse app, it says that the goal of the project is to “experiment with other design directions and fix longstanding bugs.” That doesn’t sound too much out of the ordinary. However, if you start reading the project’s blog posts, a different image appears.

      According to the project’s first blog post, they created this fork because they did not like the GIMP name. According to the post, “A number of us disagree that the name of the software is suitable for all users, and after 13 years of the project refusing to budge on this have decided to fork!”

    • Instructionals/Technical

    • Games

      • Sorry Linux Gamers, The ‘Halo: The Master Chief Collection’ Situation Isn’t Looking Good

        “Halo MCC uses EasyAntiCheat,” writes redditor WhitestBunny. “Just wanted to let you guys know, as I got an Insider key. Incredibly disappointing. At least the menu screen runs great.”

        A report on ProtonDB (possibly from the same user) categorizes the game as “Borked.”

        Though it’s a widely accepted tool to prevent hacking and cheating, Easy Anti-Cheat (EAC) has been the bane of Linux gamers. It’s what consistently stops an otherwise playable Windows game dead in its tracks when running through Wine or Steam Proton. There are dozens of developers and at least 100+ games that implement EAC, including Fortnite and The Division 2.

        There may be a bright side to all this, though. Eventually. With Valve’s continuing efforts to get more games running under Proton (a compatibility layer that lets gamers install and play Windows games inside the Steam for Linux client), it’s also working on a solution for this very problem.

      • Valve’s New Version Of Steam Proton For Linux Gives Game Controllers What They Deserve

        The other notable addition is D9VK (currently on version 0.20), which translates DirectX 9 to Vulkan. The Vulkan graphics API is Linux-friendly, and the foundation of Proton is being able to “interpret” Windows-exclusive graphics API DirectX to Vulkan. Something it’s getting increasingly good at! This is exactly how we can now play so many titles through Steam Play on Linux, such as Shadow of the Tomb Raider, No Man’s Sky, Monster Hunter World and literally thousands more Windows-exclusive games.

        This is hugely important since many popular games on Windows use DirectX 9, which potentially opens the door to an even larger library playable via Steam Proton as D9VK matures.

      • Steam Play Proton 4.11-3 is out, big changes for gamepads and new D9VK

        Valve and CodeWeavers continue pushing Linux gaming along with another release of Proton for Steam Play with 4.11-3.

        The biggest change here seems to be for gamepads. Proton will no longer emulate them all as if they were Xbox controllers, instead games will access them directly. So DualShock 4 (PS4) gamepads, fighting pads and more should behave more like they do on Windows.

        fsync (the experimental replacement for esync) also saw some improvements to hangs and crashes, as well as gaining configurable spin count. This new config ability they say might help performance but it’s disabled by default.

      • BuyDRM Releases The KeyOS MultiKey Server For Linux With Multi-DRM Support
      • Techland update Dying Light again with a new enemy and new dockets to come

        Dying Light, easily the best Zombie game I’ve ever played continues getting better years after release with Techland pushing out a new update for their 2015 hit.

        A new type of infected has been spotted, a “Silver Hazmat” Zombie which is the more deadly variation of the normal Gas Tank Zombie. Damn, those are annoying enough when I accidentally hit the tank as it explodes and then they all come running.

      • Co-op submarine sim Barotrauma makes hosting games easier plus a Karma and Traitor system added

        Co-op submarine survival sim Barotrauma has a big update out, hopefully making it easier to host games and dealing with nuisance players with some griefing moderation tools. Note: You can see some initial thoughts we had on it here.

        You should no longer have to fudge around with opening ports, as the in-game hosting option now actually uses Steam Networking. Not only does it make hosting easier, it also now allows you to join people from your Steam friends list.

      • Conquest Mode for the single-player FPS Ravenfield is finally going to make an appearance

        Ravenfield, the fun single-player FPS from SteelRaven7 is finally going to get the Conquest game mode and it sounds like it could be quite interesting.

        In the Conquest Mode, your main objective is to capture the enemy HQ tile. To do so, you need to work your way through different nodes on a big map. Each of these nodes will result in a first-person battle and once you capture a node it can give you resources like money for equipment, research points and production for your troops.

      • Freakout: Calamity TV Show, an intense top-down shooter that’s like a modern Smash TV

        Freakout: Calamity TV Show is one we missed here at GamingOnLinux, an intense top-down shooter that takes a big inspiration from the classic Smash TV.

        They don’t name Smash TV as a reference but it’s pretty clear, they do say it was inspired by “old school arcade games and more recent Die & Retry shooters”. The idea of Freakout: Calamity TV Show is that you’re in a world filled with mutants and killing machines, forced to star and fight for your life in a brutal reality to show.

      • Eliza from Zachtronics is a Visual Novel that’s worth your time

        Eliza, not the usual type of game Zachtronics are known for but their puzzle games are always great so with the recent release of their Visual Novel game Eliza I was pretty curious about it.

      • The emulation and media player front-end RetroArch just had a huge new release

        Today is a big day for the emulation scene, as RetroArch have officially announced a big new release. While it’s used for other things, RetroArch is most noted for making emulation a bit easier.

        Something big that finally made it in is support for real CD-ROM functionality. They say it’s far from finished and is very much drive and OS-dependent, with Linux currently being more “fleshed out of the two platforms so far”. This feature currently supports these cores: Genesis Plus GX, Mednafen/Beetle PSX, Mednafen/Beetle Saturn, Mednafen/Beetle PCE/Fast and 4DO.

      • Invisigun Reloaded, a revamp of Invisigun Heroes where everyone is invisible

        After launching back in 2017, Invisigun Heroes had a great idea and some really fun gameplay with invisible characters but there just wasn’t enough to give it a healthy online player-base. Enter Invisigun Reloaded with a revamped single-player campaign.

      • D9VK 0.20 ‘Frog Cookie’ is out further advancing this great D3D9 to Vulkan layer

        Developer Joshua Ashton has just today released another build of D9VK code-named ‘Frog Cookie’, further polishing this D3D9 to Vulkan layer that was forked from DXVK.

        Included in this release are multiple performance improvements, new fixed function support, multiple new D3D9 features added in and supported including one needed for Undertale, along with little something for Unreal Engine 3 titles so hopefully they should work better. Plenty of bugs were eaten up for this release too—something about Frogs?

      • D9VK 0.20 Offers Performance Improvements, New Features For Direct3D 9 Over Vulkan

        Joshua Ashton has released D9VK 0.20 “Frog Cookie” as the newest version of this project mapping Direct3D 9 over Vulkan to help improve the Windows gaming on Linux experience.

        As is commonly the case for these different Direct3D over Vulkan translation layers, D9VK 0.20 brings more performance improvements. There are various optimizations, no longer using device local memory for shader constant buffers, and other performance improvements.

      • Strength Of The SWORD ULTIMATE no longer coming to Linux after the successful Kickstarter

        After a successful Kickstarter that planned Linux support and now being released on Steam, the developer of Strength Of The SWORD ULTIMATE has issued a post about platforms no longer happening.

        I spoke to the developer personally after a comment was posted on their Kickstarter a few days ago, noting that they were unsure if the Linux and Mac versions were going to happen. Since this was buried in a comment on a Kickstarter post, I wanted to find out what was going on. The developer explained the situation, so I advised them to be open and honest and make a proper announcement on it.

      • OpenRA has a huge new testing release out with savegame support

        OpenRA, the open source game engine for classic RTS games like Command & Conquer, Red Alert and Dune 2000 has a brand new big testing release available.

        This includes a bunch of features previously teased and it’s quite an exciting one!

      • The creative action-platformer DASH where you make levels has a new lower price

        After multiple updates and not too many sales, the developer of DASH: Danger Action Speed Heroes has decided to make the game a bit cheaper in the hopes of attracting more players.

        Originally priced $17.99 when it entered Early Access in July, they’ve slashed it down without any discounts to $14.99. Not a huge difference but with competition so vast with other games doing things in a very similar way (like Million to One Hero), perhaps this will help.

      • Resolutiion, a very stylish fast-paced action-adventure made with Godot now has a teaser trailer

        Resolutiion, developed with the FOSS game engine Godot Engine is a very promising and stylish fast-paced action-adventure coming to Linux.

        If you missed it, one of the team behind Resolutiion actually wrote an article for us about developing on Linux. That was way back in February last year and progress has continue on since then.

      • Hexa Trains, an economic sim based on planets made from hexagons to release in October

        Developed by Game Studio Abraham Stolk who previously made The Little Crane That Could, Hexa Trains is an economic sim that looks rather interesting with planets full of hexagons.

        The developer actually tried to gather funding on Kickstarter, which sadly failed to be successful but they’ve managed to continue developing it towards a release. Someone else I find interesting, is that they do Linux first with the game ported to Windows using their own SDL2 and OpenGL game engine.

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • Xfce 4.16 Gets Underway, Plans New Release Next Year

      And there’s some good news: it will arrive much sooner than you, I, or any other fan of this minimally-minded desktop environment could’ve imagined.

      “We want to certainly stick closer to our release model (which prescribes a 6-month release cycle) this time and go for roughly a year to get to our next stable release,” says Xfce release manager Simon Steinbeiss.

      The development of Xfce 4.14 roughly 4 years from planning to release — hey, it had a lot of Gtk3 porting to do — so word of a shorter timeframe for the 4.16 cycle is very welcome indeed.

    • Xfce 4.16 Desktop Environment Expected in Early 2020 with Minor Improvements

      More than four years in the works, the Xfce 4.14 desktop environment hit the streets two weeks ago, on August 12th, 2019, bringing lots of new features and improvements, such as HiDPI, VSync, and XInput2 support for the window manager, and better compatibility with Nvidia proprietary graphics drivers.

      It also features support for RandR’s primary monitor functionality, hybrid sleep support in the session manager, window grouping in the tasklist plugin, a brand-new settings dialog for managing color profiles, as well as support for saving and restoring entire multi-display configurations.

    • The Enlightenment Desktop Scores Its First Major Release in 2 Years

      A brand new version of Enlightenment is now available to download.

      Enlightenment 0.23 (which is also referred to simple as E23) is the first update to this desktop shell-come-composited X11 window manager-come-Wayland compositor for almost two years.

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • The Many Features and Improvements of the KDE Plasma 5.17 Desktop Environment

        Long-time KDE developer Nate Graham shares in his latest blog posts (here and here) some of the new features and improvements coming to the KDE Plasma 5.17 desktop environment, starting with the ability for GTK3 apps with CSD (Client-side decorations) and headerbars to respect the active KDE color scheme when using the Breeze GTK theme.

        Also new in KDE Plasma 5.17 is support for the zwp_linux_dmabuf_v1 interface on Wayland in the KWin window manager, which should offer better performance and lower memory usage, the ability to set a maximum volume that is lower than 100 percent, along with audio feedback support for the volume slider when you finished dragging it.

      • Plasma desktop with global menu, app title and panel buttons

        Several weeks ago, I wrote my article slash guide on how to style the Plasma desktop to appear somewhat like a Mac. It wasn’t a perfect one-to-one transformation, but it was sufficiently pretty and elegant. Then I got me thinking. How far can I take this experiment? How about full Unity?

        Again, this ain’t a new topic, and I have already made the Plasma instance on my Asus Vivobook, which used to run Trusty and have since been upgraded to Bionic, look somewhat like the Unity desktop – in addition to the actual Unity desktop, that is. Not a complete change, though. And that’s my next objective. However, this is a rather lengthy and non-trivial topic, so I’ll start with something simpler. Let’s first see how you can have integrated buttons for maximized windows and application titles in the top panel in Plasma.

      • Day 92 – The last day

        After the second coding period, I was in the begin of the backend development. I’ll list and explain what was made in this period. After GSoC, I’ll still work on Khipu to move it out from Beta soon, then, I’ll fix the bugs and try to implement the things that are missing and new features.

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • Millan Castro Vilariño: GSoC: Final report

        Google Summer of Code 2019 has come to an end. This post is part of my final submission. It summarizes my contribution to Pitivi, providing links to my work.

        My proposal consisted on a interval time system with different applications for Pitivi video editor. Originally, one of the applications would be to be able to set up markers at selected positions in the timeline, to store user metada.

        After the first discussions it was clear that the core of the whole problem would be to implement the markers abstraction in GES (GStreamer Editing Services). They could store the information about position and duration needed. This was the base of my work.

      • Final Report for Google SoC’19

        The ultimate goal of my project was to redesign and redevelop the GTK’s official website https://gtk.org by providing it a design that follows current trends and content updation that really matters to the users and developers by using modern static site generators. This website uses Gitlab CI for deployment purposes. The project is a major milestone belonging to the release of GTK 4.0.

  • Distributions

    • Fedora

    • Debian Family

      • Neptune 6.0 Linux Distro Released, It’s Based on Debian GNU/Linux 10 “Buster”

        Dubbed “Spike,” the Neptune 6.0 release is based on the Debian GNU/Linux 10 “Buster” operating system and powered by the Linux 4.19.37 kernel, which is patched with all the necessary hardware support for latest devices. It also ships with the KDE Plasma 5.14.5 desktop environment, which brings various improvements and new features over previous releases.

        “Plasma Discover is able to upgrade hardware firmware now and features a more modern and polished look and feel,” said the devs in the release announcement. “New improved desktop effects and handling of compositing in the window manager KWin result in a better more fluid user experience. The lockscreen is now invoked when changing users.”

      • man-db 2.8.7

        I’ve released man-db 2.8.7 (announcement, NEWS), and uploaded it to Debian unstable.

        There are a few things of note that I wanted to talk about here. Firstly, I made some further improvements to the seccomp sandbox originally introduced in 2.8.0. I do still think it’s correct to try to confine subprocesses this way as a defence against malicious documents, but it’s also been a pretty rough ride for some users, especially those who use various kinds of VPNs or antivirus programs that install themselves using /etc/ld.so.preload and cause other programs to perform additional system calls. As well as a few specific tweaks, a recent discussion on LWN reminded me that it would be better to make seccomp return EPERM rather than raising SIGSYS, since that’s easier to handle gracefully: in particular, it fixes an odd corner case related to glibc’s nscd handling.

      • The status of WebKitGTK in Debian

        Like all other major browser engines, WebKit is a project that evolves very fast with releases every few weeks containing new features and security fixes.

        WebKitGTK is available in Debian under the webkit2gtk name, and we are doing our best to provide the most up-to-date packages for as many users as possible.

        I would like to give a quick summary of the status of WebKitGTK in Debian: what you can expect and where you can find the packages.

      • Jonathan Dowland: Debian hiatus

        Back In July I decided to take a (minimum) six months hiatus from involvement in the Debian project. This is for a number of reasons, but I completely forgot to write about it publically. So here we are.

      • Derivatives

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • Ubuntu and ZFS on Linux [and how to get it right]

            In some ways, ZFS on Linux still falls short from the ZFS on Solaris. It is fully ingrained in the Solaris ecosystem, from the boot environment all the way to the graphical user experience. You could even manage your snapshots and more from GNOME. Adding root support for ZFS is a wonderful next step for the Ubuntu distribution. However, I am more intrigued to see what comes next in the integration of ZFS from within the Ubuntu operating environment.

          • Ubuntu & Debian Moving Along With Plans For Removing Python 2 Packages

            With Debian 10 “Buster” out the door and Python 2 hitting end-of-life at the end of the year, Debian is working on their process of removing Python 2 packages that don’t get ported to Python 3 and Ubuntu is working on similar action for their Python 2 packages not found in upstream Debian.

            Debian 10 will continue offering Python 2 support but looking ahead to Debian 11 “Bullseye” and Ubuntu 20.04 LTS is where each distribution is looking to respectively do away with their older support and just focus on Python 3. With just a little more than five months to go until Python 2 will officially be retired, they are working on transitioning capable packages over to using Python 3 where able and for unmaintained code comes down to removing them when there are no reverse dependencies.

          • Ubuntu 18.04.3 LTS Makes It Easier to Patch the Linux Kernel without Rebooting

            Powered by the Linux 5.0 kernel series from Ubuntu 19.04 (Disco Dingo), Ubuntu 18.04.3 LTS is the third maintenance updates to the long-term supported Ubuntu 18.04 LTS operating system series, which is supported by Canonical with security and software updates for at least five years, until 2023.

            Apart from the updated kernel and graphics stacks, the Ubuntu 18.04.3 LTS release also introduces enhanced Livepatch desktop integration to make it easier for users of the GNOME desktop environment to patch the Linux kernel without rebooting their systems.

          • RaspEX Project Brings Ubuntu 19.10 “Eoan Ermine” with LXDE to the Raspberry Pi 4

            While Ubuntu 19.10 “Eoan Ermine” is not out yet, RaspEX Build 190807 is here based on it and designed to run on the latest Raspberry Pi 4 single-board computer, which comes with impressive hardware, including a Quad-Core 1.5GHz 64-bit ARM Cortex-A72 CPU, up to 4GB RAM, as well as on-board dual-band 802.11 b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0 (BLE).

            Apart from being based on the upcoming Ubuntu 19.10 “Eoan Ermine” operating system, due for release on October 17th, the new RaspEX release also includes packages from the recently released Debian GNU/Linux 10 “Buster” operating system series and the open-source Linaro software for ARM SoCs, and it’s powered by the Linux 4.19.63 kernel.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Open Source is more than licenses

    A few weeks ago I was honored to deliver the keynote of the Open Source Awards in Edinburgh. I decided to talk about a subject that I wanted to talk about for quite some time but never found the right opportunity for. There is no video recording of my talk but several people asked me for a summary. So I decided to use some spare time in a plane to summarize it in a blog post.

    I started to use computers and write software in the early 80s when I was 10 years old. This was also the time when Richard Stallman wrote the 4 freedoms, started the GNU project, founded the FSF and created the GPL. His idea was that users and developers should be in control of the computer they own which requires Free Software. At the time the computing experience was only the personal computer in front of you and the hopefully Free and Open Source software running on it.

    The equation was (Personal Hardware) + (Free Software) = (Digital Freedom)

  • How to crack Open Source?

    Open Source has become a big thing, now everyone heard the term, and know about it (in their own way). It became so popular, that Indian college students now want to crack it like any other entrance examination (to MBA or M.Tech course).

    While discussing the topic with Saptak, he gave some excellent tips on how to crack it. Do these with your own risk though, we can not guarantee the success or outcome.

  • DeepMind details OpenSpiel, a collection of AI training tools for video games

    Reinforcement learning, the AI training technique that’s brought to fruition systems capable of defeating world poker champions and guiding self-driving cars, isn’t the simplest thing in the world to wrangle. That’s particularly true in the gaming domain, where cutting-edge approaches sometimes require bespoke tools that aren’t publicly available.

    Fortunately, that’s changing. In a paper recently published on the preprint server Arxiv.org, researchers at Alphabet’s DeepMind describe a game-oriented reinforcement learning framework dubbed OpenSpiel. At its core, it’s a collection of environments and algorithms for research in general reinforcement learning and search and planning in games, with tools to analyze learning dynamics and other common evaluation metrics.

    “The purpose of OpenSpiel is to promote general multiagent reinforcement learning across many different game types, in a similar way as general game-playing but with a heavy emphasis on learning and not in competition form,” wrote the researchers. “We hope that OpenSpiel could have a similar effect on general [reinforcement learning] in games as the Atari Learning Environment has had on single-agent [reinforcement learning].”

  • FFmpeg Lands OpenCL-Powered Video Stabilization Filter

    FFmpeg has landed a “deshake” OpenCL filter to its code-base to serve for video stabilization support.

    The newest OpenCL-using component to FFmpeg is this video stabilization filter to try to remove the shakiness from any video recordings.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • BSD

    • NetBSD Made Progress Thanks To GSoC In Its March Towards Steam Support

      Ultimately the goal is to get Valve’s Steam client running on NetBSD using their Linux compatibility layer while the focus the past few months with Google Summer of Code 2019 were supporting the necessary DRM ioctls for allowing Linux software running on NetBSD to be able to tap accelerated graphics support.

      Student developer Surya P spent the summer working on compat_netbsd32 DRM interfaces to allow Direct Rendering Manager using applications running under their Linux compatibility layer.


    • GNU Spotlight with Mike Gerwitz: 15 new GNU releases in August!

      15 new GNU releases in the last month (as of August 26, 2019):


  • Programming/Development

    • Why Spinnaker matters to CI/CD

      It takes many tools to deliver an artifact into production. Tools for building and testing, tools for creating a deployable artifact like a container image, tools for authentication and authorization, tools for maintaining infrastructure, and more. Seamlessly integrating these tools into a workflow can be transformative for an engineering culture, but doing it yourself can be a tall order.

      As organizations mature, both the number of tools and the number of people managing them tend to grow, often leading to confusing complexity and fragmentation. A bespoke continuous delivery (CD) process may work at a smaller scale, but it becomes increasingly challenging to maintain and understand. It can take a long time for new engineers to discover and sort through all the tools needed to deploy even the simplest of changes.

    • A dozen ways to learn Python

      Python is one of the most popular programming languages on the planet. It’s embraced by developers and makers everywhere. Most Linux and MacOS computers come with a version of Python pre-installed, and now even a few Windows computer vendors are installing Python too.

      Maybe you’re late to the party, and you want to learn but don’t know where to turn. These 12 resources will get you started and well on your way to proficiency with Python.

    • Excellent Free Books to Learn Pascal

      Pascal is an imperative and procedural programming language designed in the late 1960s by Niklaus Wirth to teach structured programming using subprograms called procedures and functions. The language is a direct descendant from ALGOL 60, and takes programming components from ALGOL 68 and ALGOL-W. Pascal was named in honour after the French mathematician, physicist, and philosopher Blaise Pascal who helped to pioneer computer development.

      Pascal is a popular teaching language to introduce structured programming techniques to students. There are many benefits from this type of programming such as code reusability, partitioning code into readable modules and procedures, and help programmers work together on code simultaneously. The language also lends itself to teaching with its easy syntax. Pascal is a strongly typed language, procedural, case insensitive, with extensive error checking. It has built in data types such as arrays, records, files and sets. There are also user defined data types. Pascal supports object oriented programming.

    • Beware the developer with time on his hands and dreams of Disney

      Reader “Ivor” was working for an up and coming US trucking company that was so up and coming that it had realised it needed 24-hour programming support to keep things ticking over.

      Ivor explained, “A team was assembled to cover the second shift and a lone programmer volunteered to provide support for the midnight to eight AM shift.”

      He continued: “As with most support teams, sometimes things work the way they are supposed to and you sit around twiddling your thumbs.”

      Regular readers will be nodding their heads sagely at this point, suspecting what that solitary programmer got up to.

      “After reading all the available tech manuals, the third shift person took an interest in developing character-based graphics for the terminals on our IBM mid-range servers,” said Ivor, “he realized that you could move the images across the screen by rewriting the screen multiple times.”

      Animation on the terminals! Neat!

      Being a loyal employee, the programmer came up with an animation showing an image of a delivery truck with the company’s initials on it. The truck would rumble from one side of the screen to another.


  • 6 crucial tips for leading a cross-functional team

    Executive sponsors who care will make your work feel like you’re not swimming against the tide. Ideally, you’ll want a sponsor who understands your project’s importance to the organization—someone who can regularly motivate the team by demonstrating how this project delivers on the organization’s goals, and who will, in the process, celebrate and promote the successful work the team achieves.

    If your executive sponsor doesn’t look like this, then your first responsibility as a leader is to guide them to clarity. Using the open organization value of inclusivity, give your sponsor clear feedback that will help them identify the project’s priority. For you to be successful, your executive sponsor needs to clearly understand why they’re sponsoring this project and be willing to support it all the way to its completion. That means being prepared to commit some time after the project kick-off to receive updates, remind the team about why this project is important, and to celebrate success. Your duty is to help them understand this.

    Having this conversation with your executive sponsor might seem confrontational, but you’re actually stepping up to your role as leader by caring about the success of the project and all the people who will be involved. On a few projects in which I was involved, this step helped the executive sponsor see that they didn’t really need this project. Think of all the resources saved because the executive sponsor made that decision earlier rather than later.

  • Security

    • Security updates for Monday

      Security updates have been issued by Arch Linux (firefox, libreoffice-still, nginx, nginx-mainline, and subversion), Debian (commons-beanutils, h2o, libapache2-mod-auth-openidc, libmspack, qemu, squid, and tiff), Fedora (kubernetes, libmodbus, nfdump, and nodejs), openSUSE (dkgpg, libTMCG, go1.12, neovim, python, qbittorrent, schismtracker, teeworlds, thunderbird, and zstd), and SUSE (go1.11, go1.12, python-SQLAlchemy, and python-Twisted).

    • #OSSummit: Linux Continues to Pay the Price for CPU Hardware Vulnerabilities – Infosecurity Magazine

      More than a year and a half ago, the world first learned of the Spectre and Meltdown attacks impacting Intel and other CPU vendors. The flood of somewhat related CPU hardware issues has continued since then as operating systems developers, including Linux kernel developers, have raced to keep pace with patching.

      In a keynote at the Open Source Summit in San Diego, California on August 22, Greg Kroah-Hartman, who maintains the stable Linux kernel, outlined the many new CPU hardware security challenges that Linux developers have faced in the past year, that extend far beyond just the original Spectre and Meltdown issues.

      Back in May 2019, researchers disclosed the MDS set of vulnerabilities impacting Intel and other CPU vendors. The MDS vulnerabilities include multiple specific issues carrying names such as RIDL, Fallout and Zombieload. Kroah-Hartman explained that the MDS issues are yet another class of Spectre and Meltdown related vulnerability found in CPUs.

Technology is Political

Posted in FUD at 3:55 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Free as in speech

Voting boxSummary: Why excluding politics from discussions about technology boils down to a set of lies, whose net effect is oppressive

THE longstanding denial that politics may belong in technology is the fault of people intolerant of opposing views. The risk of having to defend one’s views or the heartache associated with a — gasp! — open debate is what deters political discussions in technical contexts. However:

  • Digital surveillance is political. It’s enabled by political parties.
  • Back doors are political. Spies and militaries demand these and when things go awry politicians never hold them accountable.
  • Censorship in platforms is political. Technology companies block particular people and organisations (sometimes whole countries) based on politicians’ ‘taste’.
  • Embargoes and bans on ‘export’ of particular software is political. Foreign policies, not technical considerations, are responsible for it.
  • Political figures enter technology companies and organisations like the Linux Foundation. They use these to advance their political goals
  • There are more examples along similar lines, but the above might suffice towards making a point. Wikipedia (which is also political) defines politics as “a set of activities associated with the governance of a country or an area. It involves making decisions that apply to members of a group.” It’s a management thing. So to say “politics” is almost like management. “No politics” means “no talk about the management” (or governance).

The bottom line is, when people herald that some mailing list or forum should be a politics-free zone they basically seek to muzzle people whom they potentially don’t agree with. They don’t want to be in a position to confront issues that are potentially, inherently even, political in nature. It limits the breadth of expression or speech, for instance pointing out one’s conflicts of interest.

“Software is political. Hardware is increasingly political too (there are built-in restrictions and sometimes back doors). Technical stuff as a whole is very political.”Techrights never shied away from politics; our daily links are full of it, our IRC channels don’t restrict that (this is abundant, but we get along at the end). We realise this may mean that we can alienate some readers. Earlier this month we wrote about people who mistake links for endorsements.

This is loosely related to what we wrote two days ago about diversity politics; they’re often likely to be leveraged by those in positions of power to silence those who are not.

Software is political. Hardware is increasingly political too (there are built-in restrictions and sometimes back doors). Technical stuff as a whole is very political. Be very suspicious of projects or groups that ban rather than transcend politics. We’re not talking about death threats; those aren't politics and hardly protected speech either (there are clear laws against these).

Image credit: Angelus, CC BY-SA 3.0

Computers Becoming Disposable

Posted in GNU/Linux, Google, Hardware, Microsoft, Windows at 1:03 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

ZimmerSummary: People’s control over their own computers is being taken away; the model of rental better describes many of today’s purchases

IT HAS long been the case that computers are sold with an operating system rather than tested for a variety of them and handed over for the user to install one (of the user’s choosing). The bundling of operation systems has been an enabler of Microsoft’s monopoly, which pursued tying Windows to hardware and called everything else “naked PC” or “piracy”.

But there may be an even bigger problem, exacerbated in part by so-called ‘smart’phones, tablets and things such as Chromebooks. There seems to be no obligtation whatsoever to keep them updated for more than a few years; after that the users are left unable to upgrade the operating system and installing something else is technically difficult. There’s the expectation that this hardware will then be treated as ‘obsolete’ or “End of Life”, only for a new machine to be purchased to replace perfectly fine hardware. Of course the more technical people might choose to install GNU/Linux or otherwise deal with a critically vulnerable and out-of-date operating system that was never designed for security anyway.

“…there may be an even bigger problem, exacerbated in part by so-called ‘smart’phones, tablets and things such as Chromebooks.”What is Chrome OS anyway? Built on top of GNU/Linux or based on Gentoo, Chrome OS is designed to (mostly) spy on users and when it speaks of “Linux” it’s mostly just reinventing the wheel, allowing users to get back what they’d otherwise get on a platform such as Gentoo, including free updates, upgrades, maybe rolling releases.

Chromebooks were traditionally used to exchange the data invasion for subsidies that made these laptops somewhat cheaper, but at the higher end this is not the case. Announced yesterday, for instance, was this grossly overpriced product:

Google today announced a slew of Chrome Enterprise updates, including a faster Google Admin console and managed Linux environments. The company also unveiled the first Chromebook Enterprise laptops: Dell’s Latitude 5300 for $819 and Latitude 5400 for $699.

In August 2017, Google launched Chrome Enterprise for $50 per managed Chromebook per year. The subscription gives Chromebooks enterprise features like advanced security protections and fleet management. Today’s updates are Google’s latest push to bring Chrome OS to more businesses.

How long before the users are alerted that these are no longer supported and another expensive machine must be purchased to comply with business regulations?

“My laptop’s age is 10 and modern distributions can easily be installed on it without having to tinker with bootloaders, BIOS and such.”This is sadly becoming somewhat of a ‘norm’ — a normalcy wherein machines become ‘disposable’ even when they’re very expensive (almost a thousand bucks). There’s an envionmental impact.

My laptop’s age is 10 and modern distributions can easily be installed on it without having to tinker with bootloaders, BIOS and such.

The idea that Chrome OS can break Microsoft or end a Windows monopoly is a convenient one. But what are we striving to replace Windows with if not something that’s based on Linux but offers no freedom (libre)?

As somebody put it in a comment yesterday:

The battle is won, but the war is lost…

Everything runs on OSS these days, but the Libre part of it is missing more than ever. The biggest issue I see is the issue of “ownership”.
Physical ownership: I own my phone, my car, my house.
Virtual ownership: I own my data.

Streaming services are a case in point. You rent everything for $xx a month. If an actor becomes a persona non grata, and data with them is scrubbed (Think the Kevin Spacey situation, and, per events in march 2019, maybe upcoming with Michael Jackson), you don’t have access to it anymore.
Another case in point is Amazon’s removal of purchased e-books of 1984 from Kindle devices (in 2009, if memory serves).
You can’t (easily) rewrite a book purchased in paper form. You can rewrite an ebook.

The formula (Personal Hardware) + (Free Software) = (Digital Freedom) is more important than ever, but we do need to focus more on the Personal hardware part, and I agree it is part of a greater issue…

Control over one’s own hardware (that one pays for) is being diminished over time and with it the expectation of ownership as opposed to rent. We’re becoming mere tenants of what we’re paying a full price for.

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