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11.02.19

Links 2/11/2019: MidnightBSD 1.2, Python 3.5.9

Posted in News Roundup at 8:17 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

  • GNU/Linux

    • Desktop

      • Dell’s Latest XPS 13 Ubuntu Laptop Is Now Available in 18 New Configurations

        Announced back in August 2019, as part of Dell’s new consumer PC portfolio, the 9th generation Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition laptop (model 7390) is powered by the Ubuntu 18.04 LTS (Bionic Beaver) operating system and Intel’s latest 10th generation “Comet Lake” Intel Core processors.

        Now, Dell is offering the 9th generation Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition laptop in up to 18 new configurations, 16 of which are available both online and offline. The other two configurations are available only offline featuring 1TB and 2TB solid stated drives respectively.

      • Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition Ubuntu laptop now available in more configurations

        When Dell launched its latest XPS 13 Developer Edition laptop with Ubuntu Linux and an Intel Comet Lake processor a few months ago, the laptop was only available with an Intel Core i5-10210U quad-core processor.

        Now the company has expanded the configuration options, which means you can pick up a version of this thin and light laptop with up to an Intel Core i7-10710U processor featuring 6 CPU cores, 12 threads, and 12MB of cache.

        In fact, Dell’s Barton George says there are now a total of 18 configuration options available, although only 16 of those are available for customers who order online from Dell.com.

      • XPS 13 developer edition portfolio up 8X in the States, 6 core and more!

        At the beginning of last month, we announced the roll out of the first configurations of Dell’s latest XPS 13 developer edition.

        Today, in honor of Halloween, we are excited to announce that we are increasing the number of configuations in the developer edition portfolio by a factor of eight. In total, we now offer 18 different configurations of the 9th generation developer edition, 16 of which are available both online and offline.

        If you venture offline you also get two bonus systmes to choose from, one featuring a 1TB SSD and one that boasts an even beefier 2TB solid stated drive. These offline offerings can be ordered via phone or chat.

      • Lenovo Laptop Love..Not!

        The story below is my journey in getting Linux installed on a laptop that was given to me, hope you enjoy..

        I was recently given a new Lenovo laptop with Windows 10 on it and at the moment it is the only computer I own. I have tried everything I know (which I know is limited) and looked up all kinds of information on the internet and I cannot get it to boot from anything other than the internal hard drive it has and/or install Linux on it.

        I would like to state for the record that having been a Linux user for many years and trying and using many different versions of Linux that the Windows 10 I am stuck at that moment using is a serious pain in the behind. It is slow and using the internet reminds me the the dial-up days in that I get choppy performance and frozen browser pages all the time. If Windows 10 is supposed to be an upgrade or update from the previous version of Windows..LOL! Yeah right.

        The laptop is a new Lenovo Idea Pad S340-15IWL, Model Name-81N8 with 4G of RAM, a 926gig SSD and a Intel Core i3-8145U 2.30GHz chip running an x64 version of Windows 10. Not the greatest specs but then not the worst either. It could have more RAM and a faster processor but a huge Hard Drive.

        For the heck of it I decided I would try to install Linux on a 128G USB 3.0 jump-drive I happen to own. I downloaded Linux Mint 19.2 on the laptop and I installed a free program called rufus to attempt to install the Linux Mint .iso on to the jump-drive so as to be able to then boot from the jump-drive but I got an error saying that some windows program was using the .iso and cannot be written to the jump-drive. Now if I try it I get an ‘ISO image extraction failure’ error. Like I said it I did it just to see if I could, and I can’t.

    • Server

      • IBM

        • For Emirates NBD, the path to open banking leadership starts in the cloud

          For banks that want to be leaders in digital banking by offering products and services that are available anywhere at any time, consider following these three tenets: Think like a digital business; reimagine operations; and transition to the cloud. That’s what Emirates NBD, a leading banking group in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has done. The bank put technology first, making a AED1 billion commitment to transform its operations, products, and services to become a digital bank with open banking capabilities. At the core is a distributed cloud platform that uses technology similar to that of cloud-native companies.

          Emirates NBD has its sights on being a global digital leader that delivers first-to-market banking innovations. To get there, it has embarked on a digital transformation journey that centers on enhancing the capabilities of its end-to-end technology platforms including IT architecture, infrastructure, security, and data. Key to the bank’s strategy was creating a technology environment that allowed for growth while still meeting the required standards of security and resiliency.

        • Red Hat Process Automation Supports Applied AI Approach For Predictive Decision Modeling

          The latest release of Red Hat Process Automation is available now. For the initiated, Red Hat Process Automation is a set of products for automating business decisions and processes by enabling closer collaboration between IT and business teams. With the latest release, Red Hat Process Automation now supports an applied AI approach to automated decisioning. This enables users to incorporate predictive analytics into their decision management applications to create intelligent, automated systems that help them better interpret and respond to changing market dynamics.

    • Audiocasts/Shows

      • 2019-11-01 | Linux Headlines

        Firefox is phasing out traditional sideloaded apps, but it’s not as reported. Almost all of LibreOffice’s UI is ported to GTK, Google wants to help WordPress admins, and Python goes annual.

      • It’s All About IOPS | TechSNAP 415

        We share our simple approach to disk benchmarking and explain why you should always test your pain points.

        Plus the basics of solid state disks and how to evaluate which model is right for you.

      • Bad Voltage 2×59: Inciteful

        Stuart Langridge, Jono Bacon, and Jeremy Garcia present Bad Voltage, in which Jono and Jeremy are coming to you direct from the Open Source Summit in France, the word for “full of incitement” is not “inciteful”, Stuart, and:

        [00:01:55] Facebook News and what it should include and what not: what responsibility, if any, does Facebook’s newly-proposed News tab have to choose the journalistic contributions that go into it?
        [00:25:05] Using “AI” in job interviews and whether this is a good idea
        [00:33:30] Disney seem to be stopping good older films from going into cinemas

    • Kernel Space

      • Graphics Stack

        • vkBasalt CAS Vulkan Layer Adds FXAA Support

          The open-source vkBasalt project is the independent effort implementing AMD Radeon Image Sharpening / Contrast Adaptive Sharpening technique as a Vulkan post-processing layer that can be used regardless of the (Vulkan-powered) game. With vkBasalt 0.1 also now comes the ability to apply FXAA.

          Fast Approximate Anti-Aliasing (FXAA) is the latest feature of vkBasalt besides the contrast adaptive sharpening. However, for the v0.1 release, CAS and FXAA cannot both be enabled at the same time. It’s on the project TODO list for being able to enable both FXAA and CAS in a future release. Like the existing CAS support, the anti-aliasing technique can be used for any Vulkan game thanks to this being implemented as a post-processing layer for this graphics API.

        • mm: Proactive compaction
          For some applications we need to allocate almost all memory as
          hugepages. However, on a running system, higher order allocations can
          fail if the memory is fragmented. Linux kernel currently does on-demand
          compaction as we request more hugepages but this style of compaction
          incurs very high latency. Experiments with one-time full memory
          compaction (followed by hugepage allocations) shows that kernel is able
          to restore a highly fragmented memory state to a fairly compacted memory
          state within <1 sec for a 32G system. Such data suggests that a more
          proactive compaction can help us allocate a large fraction of memory as
          hugepages keeping allocation latencies low.
          
          For a more proactive compaction, the approach taken here is to define
          per page-node tunable called ‘hpage_compaction_effort’ which dictates
          bounds for external fragmentation for HPAGE_PMD_ORDER pages which
          kcompactd should try to maintain.
          
          The tunable is exposed through sysfs:
            /sys/kernel/mm/compaction/node-n/hpage_compaction_effort
          
          The value of this tunable is used to determine low and high thresholds
          for external fragmentation wrt HPAGE_PMD_ORDER order.
          
          Note that previous version of this patch [1] was found to introduce too
          many tunables (per-order, extfrag_{low, high}) but this one reduces them
          to just (per-node, hpage_compaction_effort). Also, the new tunable is an
          opaque value instead of asking for specific bounds of “external
          fragmentation” which would have been difficult to estimate. The internal
          interpretation of this opaque value allows for future fine-tuning.
          
          Currently, we use a simple translation from this tunable to [low, high]
          extfrag thresholds (low=100-hpage_compaction_effort, high=low+10%). To
          periodically check per-node extfrag status, we reuse per-node kcompactd
          threads which are woken up every few milliseconds to check the same. If
          any zone on its corresponding node has extfrag above the high threshold
          for the HPAGE_PMD_ORDER order, the thread starts compaction in
          background till all zones are below the low extfrag level for this
          order. By default. By default, the tunable is set to 0 (=> low=100%,
          high=100%).
          
          This patch is largely based on ideas from Michal Hocko posted here:
          
          https://lore.kernel.org/linux-mm/20161230131412.GI13301@dhcp22.suse.cz/
          
          * Performance data
          
          System: x64_64, 32G RAM, 12-cores.
          
          I made a small driver that allocates as many hugepages as possible and
          measures allocation latency:
          
          The driver first tries to allocate hugepage using GFP_TRANSHUGE_LIGHT
          and if that fails, tries to allocate with `GFP_TRANSHUGE |
          __GFP_RETRY_MAYFAIL`. The drives stops when both methods fail for a
          hugepage allocation.
          
          Before starting the driver, the system was fragmented from a userspace
          program that allocates all memory and then for each 2M aligned section,
          frees 3/4 of base pages using munmap. The workload is mainly anonymous
          userspace pages which are easy to move around. I intentionally avoided
          unmovable pages in this test to see how much latency we incur just by
          hitting the slow path for most allocations.
          
        • NVIDIA Engineer Continues Working On Proactive Memory Compaction For Linux

          NVIDIA’s Nitin Gupta continues working on proactive compaction for the Linux kernel’s memory management code.

          This proactive compaction is designed to avoid the high latency introduced right now when the Linux kernel does on-demand compaction when an application needs a lot of hugepages. With this proactive compaction, a large number of hugepages can be requested while avoiding high latencies.

        • Intel Submits Last Bits For Linux 5.5 DRM Driver – Includes More TGL/Gen12, Discrete Bit

          Intel’s open-source crew has submitted the last of their feature updates to their “i915″ Direct Rendering Manager graphics driver for staging in DRM-Next ahead of the upcoming Linux 5.5 kernel cycle.

          In the previous weeks they’ve been bringing up a lot of their Tiger Lake / Gen12 graphics code as the dominating theme for the Linux 5.5 kernel. There has also been Jasper Lake support, Xe multi-GPU prepping, and their other routine code clean-ups and driver improvements. Out this morning is the last of their feature work targeting Linux 5.5.

        • AMD Navi 22 and Navi 23 Show Up In Linux Driver

          References to Navi 22 and Navi 23 silicon have been spotted inside a Linux driver by a 3DCenter forum veteran known as Berniyh (you can find them here and here). Could these be the high-end Navi parts Lisa Su was referring to in August?

          Nvidia has been sitting peacefully alone in the premium graphics card market. Although AMD has already launched its Navi-based graphics cards (AMD Radeon RX 5700 and 5700 XT) the chipmaker still doesn’t have an answer for Nvidia’s high-end offerings, such as the GeForce RTX 2080 Super or RTX 2080 Ti. Berniyh’s discovery doesn’t mean big Navi is landing tomorrow, but it is coming.

    • Applications

      • Two New Tools that Tame the Treachery of Files

        Parsing is hard, even when a file format is well specified. But when the specification is ambiguous, it leads to unintended and strange parser and interpreter behaviors that make file formats susceptible to security vulnerabilities. What if we could automatically generate a “safe” subset of any file format, along with an associated, verified parser? That’s our collective goal in Dr. Sergey Bratus’s DARPA SafeDocs program.

        But wait—why is parsing hard in the first place? Design decisions like embedded scripting languages, complex context-sensitive grammars, and object models that allow arbitrary dependencies between objects may have looked like good ways to enrich a format, but they increase the attack surface of a parser, leading to forgotten or bypassed security checks, denial of service, privacy leakage, information hiding, and even hidden malicious payloads.

        Two examples of this problem are polyglots and schizophrenic files. Polyglots are files that can be validly interpreted as two different formats. Have you ever read a PDF file and then been astonished to discover that it is also a valid ZIP file? Or edited an HTML file only to discover that it is also a Ruby script? Congratulations, you discovered a polyglot. This is not to be confused with schizophrenic files: That’s when two parsers interpret the same file in different ways, e.g., your PDF displays different content depending on whether you opened it in Adobe Acrobat or Foxit Reader, or your HTML page renders differently between Chrome and Internet Explorer.

      • MuseScore 3.3 Released with Complete Palettes Redesign

        MuseScore, free music composition and notation software, released version 3.3 a day ago with new feature, many improvements and bug-fixes.

      • Proprietary

        • Why pay for Grammarly when you’re the one doing the work?

          Grammarly is a grammar and language analysis and correction service. It’s essentially providing those red and green squiggly lines that highlight your writing-mistakes in your favorite text editor. However, it’s offered as a software-as-a-service (SaaS) that can somehow afford non-stop ad-campaigns all over the web.

          This particular SaaS puts a premium price sticker on its service and then have you do manual labor for them to boot! I’ll start by taking a jab at how Grammarly has designed its product to prey on your insecurities. I’ll then move on to discuss its high asking-price considering how much value you’re providing it besides the dollar amount you’re asked to pay.

    • Instructionals/Technical

    • Wine or Emulation

      • Wine Announcement
        The Wine development release 4.19 is now available.
        
        What's new in this release (see below for details):
          - A number of additional VBScript features.
          - More stateblock support in WineD3D.
          - Some fixes for ARM64 support.
          - Various bug fixes.
        
        The source is available from the following locations:
        
        https://dl.winehq.org/wine/source/4.x/wine-4.19.tar.xz
        
        
        http://mirrors.ibiblio.org/wine/source/4.x/wine-4.19.tar.xz
        
        Binary packages for various distributions will be available from:
        
        https://www.winehq.org/download
        
        You will find documentation on https://www.winehq.org/documentation
        
        You can also get the current source directly from the git
        repository. Check https://www.winehq.org/git for details.
        
        Wine is available thanks to the work of many people. See the file
        AUTHORS in the distribution for the complete list.
        
      • Our Wine release day puns are always in pour taste so none today for Wine 4.19

        Wine, the glorious bit of software that enables people to use Windows applications and various Windows-only games on Linux has another new bottle opened up.

      • Wine 4.19 Implements More VBScript Functionality, ARM64 Support Fixes

        Wine 4.19 implements various VBScript features for those still relying upon such scripts. Wine 4.19 also implements greater state block support within the WineD3D code, has a number of ARM64 (64-bit ARM) support fixes, and around 41 known bug fixes. The other bug fixes for the past two weeks range from Notepad .Net issues to Jack Keane 2 to TeamViewer to fixes for other popular games and applications.

    • Games

      • Dark surrealistic and atmospheric adventure game Mosaic launches for Linux in December

        Krillbite Studio (Among The Sleep) announced today that their next game, the dark surrealistic and atmospheric adventure Mosaic will land on Linux in December.

        Just one of the exciting looking games listed in the previous 2019 Linux release roundup posted here on GamingOnLinux before. It wasn’t entirely clear back then when it would come to Linux, now it is.

        Today it has released first for iOS, tvOS and MacOS through Apple Arcade but they’ve already confirmed the normal PC release isn’t far behind. Speaking on Twitter, they said very clearly that “It will launch on Windows, Mac and Linux December 5 and consoles a little later.”.

      • Retro inspired extreme sports unicycling game Street Uni X is now in itch First Access

        Inspired by the classic sports games in the PS1 and PS2 era, Street Uni X mixes things up and puts you on a unicycle.

        Sound familiar at all? Covered here on GamingOnLinux back in July, sadly their Kickstarter campaign didn’t really pull much attention from gamers and the wider press so it went largely ignored. After that, it fell through the cracks here too. As it turns out the developer, daffodil, continued development and put it up properly on itch.io under their First Access program (itch’s form of Early Access).

      • Valve’s Steam Survey Numbers For October Just Point To More Inaccuracies

        With the start of a new month we are always eager to see what Valve reports via their “Steam Survey” for Linux usage (among other stats) for the month prior. The October 2019 numbers are now published but they don’t indicate any Linux change in marketshare but with some odd indications.

        The Linux numbers for October 2019 as of this evening are shown as 0.83% with a +0.03% increase over September. An increase is nice, but those Linux numbers are the same as what was said for September and the +0.03% compared to August.

      • Subcube is a puzzler about building cuboids that will push your mind

        Released last month with same-day support for Linux, Subcube from Dizzy Mind Games is a puzzler that requires you to build cuboids and it’s pretty clever with the design. Note: Key provided to our Steam Curator.

        Simplicity is what they’re going for here, however, that causes the illusion of it being a simple game. It really isn’t. Prepare for brain workout. Much like how Tetris requires you to slot shapes into place, Subcube has the same basic idea. However, you’re in a 3D space and you need to roll objects around to make them connect and fit. Starting off simple, it doesn’t take long to make you sweat.

      • Face a dying realm of the gods in the 4x strategy Fantastic Creatures out November 14

        Developer Blue Callisto announced today that their fascinating 4x strategy game, Fantastic Creatures, is releasing with Linux support on November 14.

        Taking inspiration from Chinese mythology, Fantastic Creatures takes place in Tian, a higher plane of existence where you take control of either a Dragon, Turtle, Tiger or Fenghuang each with different affinities and bonuses to find out what’s causing this ancient land to die.

      • Colour smashing rotating Match 3 puzzle game 3×64 is out now

        Lightning Soft just released 3×64, a casual Match 3 puzzle game that has you chasing the high score in short sessions.

      • Tower Defense? How about Trap Defense with the newly released Rats, Bats, and Bones

        Rats, Bats, and Bones from Mark Begenisich looks like a great retro-styled strategy game, one that takes the gameplay idea of Tower Defense and replaces it with Traps.

        Certainly not a new idea, Dungeon Warfare released back in 2015 also does something quite similar but the gameplay style between them is entirely different. Rats, Bats, and Bones really does look great giving you tons options to deal with the undead. Check out the trailer below:

    • Desktop Environments/WMs

      • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

        • Consistency Update

          It’s been a month since Consistency was announced as an official goal for KDE at Akademy. During this time, we have focused on setting up all the tools needed to support the goal and tracking already active consistency tasks. Here’s an update on what we have done so far and the main tasks we’re working on.

        • KaOS Linux Gets October Release with KDE Plasma 5.17 Desktop, Linux Kernel 5.3

          KaOS 2019.10 is a maintenance release that brings numerous updates and all the latest security patches for those who want to install this Linux-based operating system. However, the biggest changes are under the hood, as KaOS 2019.10 comes with an upgraded toolchain that contains the latest GCC (GNU Compiler Collection) 9.2.0 and Glibc (GNU C Library) 2.30. Also, it’s the first release to ship without any Python 2.x packages.

          “Quite a few big changes for this release, probably the biggest news for this release is for the first time the default install is python2 free,” reads the release notes. “Python2 will be depreciated by the end of this year, so it is time to get this distribution ready for this change. The repositories still contain python2 packages, but those are in the process of being phased out too.”

        • Plasma Mobile: weekly update: part 5

          The Plasma Mobile team is happy to present the fifth weekly blogpost. This week’s update features various application polishing, better integration with GTK/GNOME applications and various fixes.

        • Trip to Akademy 2019: First Impressions

          Akademy is the annual world summit of KDE. This year I did GSoC at KDE and hence, got the chance to attend to Akademy, 2019 in Milan, Italy \o/

          This was my first trip to Europe and I was super excited about it!

        • Looking for Qt Champions 2019!

          Who do you think should be a Qt Champion? Nominate the champions you know right now!

          It is that time of year again as we are in November and therefore time to look back at 2019 and think about who helped you out most during the past year.

          In case you have forgotten, Qt Champions are the people in the community who go above and beyond the normal activity in the community, and contribute in some form every time. They are the stars that make you feel at home.

          It’s time to nominate the Qt Champions for 2019. Please take a minute to think and fill in the name and reasons you think this person is a Qt Champion.

        • Join the KDE Frameworks 6 Sprint!

          As mentioned previously we have been looking at organizing a sprint to define the goals for KDE Frameworks 6. We now have a date and time for this: November 22-24, at the MBition office in Berlin!

        • KDE Frameworks 6 Ideas To Be Floated At A Developer Sprint This Month

          With Qt 6.0 planned for release in late 2020, KDE developers are thinking about the eventual KDE Frameworks 6.0 for when they plan to transition to the evolutionary Qt 6 tool-kit. The first of likely several developer sprints around KDE Frameworks 6 will be happening already in late November.

          Last month was the first KF6 talk by KDE’s Volker Krause over his initial ideas for KDE Frameworks 6 with that release likely being a year after Qt 6.0 (thus a 2021 introduction). KDE Frameworks 6.0 will likely finish out the transition of KDE software from KTHML, eliminating of deprecated functions, and more.

      • GNOME Desktop/GTK

        • Survey: making Getting Things GNOME sustainable as a productivity app for public good

          Let’s be clear: I’m not doing this for myself (just grabbing a proprietary app package is much easier and would let me move on to MUCH more lucrative opportunities), I would be doing this for the greater public good, because it breaks my heart to think that GTG would die when it’s such a great piece of software.

          There is no sane FLOSS native desktop alternative for Linux users, and open-source software should be worth more money than proprietary software, not less: you are getting better value out of it, with an implicit guarantee that the software respects your rights and privacy, and that it will remain available forever as long as there is someone on the planet willing to maintain it.

          On the other hand, spending time creating software costs money; the alternative is not caring and pursuing a lucrative career, so the software remains unmaintained and everybody loses. So I need to know that nursing GTG back to health would be worth the effort, that the application would be used by many (not just a handful) of people around the world. I seek “meaningful” work.

          Help me determine if this is worth my (or anyone’s) time by filling the survey today, and please share it with those around you, and elsewhere on the interwebs. Thanks!

        • Debarshi Ray: Toolbox — A fall 2019 update

          Fedora 31 ships with cgroups v2 by default. The major blocker for cgroups v2 adoption so far was the lack of support in the various container and virtualization tools, including the Podman stack. Since Toolbox containers are just OCI containers managed with Podman, we saw some action too.

          After updating the host operating system to Fedora 31, Toolbox will try to migrate your existing containers to work with cgroups v2. Sadly, this is a somewhat complicated move, and in theory it’s possible that the migration might break some containers depending on how they were configured. So far, as per our testing, it seems that containers created by Toolbox do get smoothly migrated, so hopefully you won’t notice.

          However, if things go wrong, barring a delicate surgery on the container requiring some pretty arcane knowledge, your only option might be to do a factory reset of your local Podman installation. As factory resets go, you will lose all your existing OCI containers and images on your local system. This is a sad outcome for those unfortunate enough to encounter it. However, if you do find yourself in this quagmire then take a look at the toolbox reset command.

          Note that you need to have podman-1.6.2 and toolbox-0.0.16 for the above to work.

        • GNOME’s Mutter Adds XWayland Full-Screen Games Workaround

          Thanks to Red Hat’s Hans de Goede there is another optimization to GNOME’s Mutter around XWayland full-screen gaming.

          The work by the prolific Red Hat desktop developer is for X11 games that rely upon XRandR to change the resolution while also using the NET_WM_STATE_FULLSCREEN window manager hint when going into full-screen mode.

          [...]

          The Mutter change can be found here while the xorg-server/XWayland side change was merged in October and will be present in whenever the next X.Org Server release finally materializes.

    • Distributions

      • Reviews

        • Latest ExTix: Lots of Flexibility and a Few Flaws

          ExTix Linux is an unusual distro. One of its most compelling attractions is also one of its unusual design traits. It is a fully functional Linux platform that runs in a live session state.

          ExTix has much flexibility to offer, but it takes some setup and tinkering to get it working to full potential.

      • SUSE/OpenSUSE

        • openSUSE Tumbleweed – Review of the week 2019/44

          While some folks are enjoying/celebrating Halloween, Tumbleweed stayed away from being scary. Even though there have been 5 snapshots (1024, 1025, 1027, 1028 & 1030) released this week, nothing there should scare you – at all: simply upgrade to the latest snapshot, as you always do.

      • Fedora Family

        • Fedora 31 officially released, here is what’s new

          The Fedora Project announced today the official release of the newest version of their long-awaited Fedora 31 Linux distro. Following six-months of development along with a week-long delay due to Installer and DNF bugs, the Red Hat-backed distribution is now available for download on getfedora.org.

        • Fedora Design Suite 31 available

          As announced on Fedora Magazine, Design Suite 31 is now available for users like graphic artists and photographers among them.
          Notable update is the availability of Blender 2.80 featuring a revamped user interface. Other applications are mostly improved stability.

          Users with touch screen devices will notice an improved performance from the Fedora Workstation from which Design Suite is based. Due to a bug related to desktop environment (Gnome Shell running on Wayland), using a stylus can cause applications to crash so the workaround is to run on Gnome on Xorg until the fix lands on a future update.

        • Fedora 30 : GIMP 2.10.14 with flatpak.

          Flatpak is a software utility for software deployment and package management for Linux. It is advertised as offering a sandbox environment in which users can run application software in isolation from the rest of the system. see Wikipedia .
          Flatpak builds available in i386, x86-64, ARM and AArch64.

        • FPgM report: 2019-44

          Here’s your report of what has happened in Fedora Program Management this week. Fedora 31 was released on Tuesday. Fedora 29 will reach end of life on 26 November.

          I have weekly office hours in #fedora-meeting-1. Drop by if you have any questions or comments about the schedule, Changes, elections, or anything else.

      • Debian Family

        • Halloween Update for FreeCAD & Debian Science Work

          In August, a major milestone towards unified, mainline mechanical assembly functionality in FreeCAD was reached.

          One of the core challenges in implementing assembly functionality is the problem of topological naming. In a CAD model there are topological entities, such as solids, faces, edges, and vertices. We must choose some algorithm to name them so that you can refer to relationships to make an assembly. A simple example would be two cubes, connected by touching faces. If a parameter in your model changes, and after recalculation, your “Face_N” is on the wrong side of the cube, your assembly may break, or not be what you are expecting. Without a good approach to topological naming, parametric FreeCAD models won’t be robust to changes and recalculations, which defeats the purpose of parametric modeling.

          Because this is such a difficult problem, progress has been slow. However, recently a relatively new FreeCAD developer, ‘realthunder’, put significant work towards this problem, with a solution finally on the horizon. Because it required major changes to FreeCAD’s internals, the review and testing period was and continues to be lengthy.

        • Mike Gabriel: My Work on Debian LTS/ELTS (October 2019)

          In October 2019, I have worked on the Debian LTS project for 11.75 hours (of 11.75 hours planned) and on the Debian ELTS project for 0 hours (of 5 hours planned) as a paid contributor. I have given back those 5 ELTS hours to the pool.

      • Canonical/Ubuntu Family

        • Linux Mint “Tricia” release date nears and other updates

          Linux Mint dropped the October 2019 issue of their monthly newsletter today, and, as usual, it was chockful of tidbits sure to tantalize Linux Mint users eagerly awaiting news of their newest release, Linux Mint 19.3.

          The newsletter featured “quick-hits” concerning features and changes coming to the Linux Mint distro 19.3 release.

        • Ubuntu: The State of Robotics – October 2019

          October came, and October went. Happy November everybody. This month, since last month was quite Ubuntu robotics heavy, the focus is more on you. For you. Community news. But before we get to that, there are several updates from October to cover just in case you missed them. First, this month Canonical, the company that publishes Ubuntu, announced the Ubuntu 19.10 release (a fact I would be remiss not to mention even here) and all its new features. Go ahead and read about it, maybe give it a download once you’re done. We also got a new cover image (isn’t it nice <3), and we received our first community contribution for the series — a very exciting month.

          Of course, what we want is for this to grow and become a highlight reel of all sorts of robotics projects. So, if you are working on (or know of) something that you think would be interesting to our audience, let us know. Send a summary of the work to robotics.community@canonical.com, and it might just feature in next month’s blog. Now, let’s talk October.

        • Design and Web team summary – 25 October 2019

          Web is the squad that develop and maintain most of the brochure websites across the Canonical. This was a very busy two weeks for the Web squad, especially with the exciting Ubuntu 19.10 release updates to be done.

    • Devices/Embedded

    • Free, Libre, and Open Source Software

      • 6 remarkable features of the new United Nations open source initiative

        Three months, ago the United Nations asked me to join a new advisory board to help them develop their open source strategy and policy. I’m honored to have the opportunity to work together with a group of established experts in open source licensing and policy areas.

        The United Nations wants to make technology, software, and intellectual property available to everyone, including developing countries. Open source and free software are great tools to achieve this goal since open source is all about empowering people and global collaboration while protecting the personal data and privacy of users. So, the United Nations and the open source community share the same values.

      • Why encrypted email service ProtonMail is open-sourcing its mobile apps

        At a time when public trust in “big tech” is at an all-time low over countless data breaches and privacy scandals, even companies that specialize in online security are having to go the whole nine yards to convince people that they’re serious about privacy.

        Encrypted email service ProtonMail this week announced that its iPhone app is now open source, with anyone able to peruse the code on GitHub. Why? Well, thousands of eyes are better than dozens of eyes in terms of spotting flaws in the source code. Moreover, full transparency fosters a higher degree of trust where trust is paramount.

      • Web Browsers

        • Chromium

          • Chrome OS 80 planned for Debian 10 Buster Linux support

            Back in July when Debian Linux was officially updated from version 9, called Stretch, to Buster, version 10, I noted that Chromebooks weren’t ready for this upgrade in their Crostini container. Sure you can manually update the Linux distro on your Chromebook, but you run the risk of certain Chrome OS-specific integrations breaking.

            Since then, the Chromium team has made great progress in preparing Chrome OS for an upgrade to Buster. And the current plan is to support that upgrade in Chrome OS 80, currently scheduled for release in February.

        • Mozilla

          • evaluating bazel for building firefox, part 2

            In our last post, we highlighted some of the advantages that Bazel would bring. The remote execution and caching benefits Bazel bring look really attractive, but it’s difficult to tell exactly how much they would benefit Firefox. I looked for projects that had switched to Bazel, and a brief summary of each project’s experience is written below.

            The Bazel rules for nodejs highlight Dataform’s switch to Bazel, which took about 2 months. Their build involves some combination of “NPM packages, Webpack builds, Node services, and Java pipelines”. Switching plus enabling remote caching reduced the average time for a build in CI from 30 minutes to 5 minutes; incremental builds for local development have been “reduced to seconds from minutes”. It’s not clear whether the local development experience is also hooked up to the caching infrastructure as well.

          • Validating Delegated Credentials for TLS in Firefox

            At Mozilla we are well aware of how fragile the Web Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) can be. From fraudulent Certification Authorities (CAs) to implementation errors that leak private keys, users, often unknowingly, are put in a position where their ability to establish trust on the Web is compromised. Therefore, in keeping with our mission to create a Web where individuals are empowered, independent and safe, we welcome ideas that are aimed at making the Web PKI more robust. With initiatives like our Common CA Database (CCADB), CRLite prototyping, and our involvement in the CA/Browser Forum, we’re committed to this objective, and this is why we embraced the opportunity to partner with Cloudflare to test Delegated Credentials for TLS in Firefox, which is currently undergoing standardization at the IETF.

            As CAs are responsible for the creation of digital certificates, they dictate the lifetime of an issued certificate, as well as its usage parameters. Traditionally, end-entity certificates are long-lived, exhibiting lifetimes of more than one year. For server operators making use of Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) such as Cloudflare, this can be problematic because of the potential trust placed in CDNs regarding sensitive private key material. Of course, Cloudflare has architectural solutions for such key material but these add unwanted latency to connections and present with operational difficulties. To limit exposure, a short-lived certificate would be preferable for this setting. However, constant communication with an external CA to obtain short-lived certificates could result in poor performance or even worse, lack of access to a service entirely.

            The Delegated Credentials mechanism decentralizes the problem by allowing a TLS server to issue short-lived authentication credentials (with a validity period of no longer than 7 days) that are cryptographically bound to a CA-issued certificate. These short-lived credentials then serve as the authentication keys in a regular TLS 1.3 connection between a Firefox client and a CDN edge server situated in a low-trust zone (where the risk of compromise might be higher than usual and perhaps go undetected). This way, performance isn’t hindered and the compromise window is limited. For further technical details see this excellent blog post by Cloudflare on the subject.

          • Tantek Çelik: #Redecentralize 2019 Session: Decentralized Identity & Rethinking Reputation

            On Friday 2019-10-25 I participated in Redecentralize Conference 2019, a one-day unconference in London, England on the topics of decentralisation, privacy, autonomy, and digital infrastructure.

            I gave a 3 minute lightning talk, helped run an IndieWeb standards & methods session in the first open slot of the day, and participated in two more sessions. The second open session had no Etherpad notes, so this post is from my one week ago memory recall.

            [...]

            We did not get into any deep discussions of any specific decentralized identity systems, and that was perhaps ok. Mostly there discussion about the downsides of centrally controlled identity, and how each of us wanted more control over various aspects of our online identities.

            For anyone who asked, I posited that a good way to start with decentralized identity was to buy and use a personal domain name for your primary online presence, setting it up to sign-into sites, and build a reputation using that. Since you can pick the domain name, you can pick whatever facet(s) of your identity you wish to represent. It may not be perfectly distributed, however it does work today, and is a good way to explore a lot of the questions and challenges of decentralized identity.

      • Linux Foundation

        • Linux to use IOTA tech to launch the data-sharing project Alvarium – IOTA News

          The Linux Foundation will be using tech from the IOTA Foundation to launch the data-sharing project dubbed as Alvarium. According to the IOTA blog, Alvarium represents a milestone for open source development on distributed technologies, digital trust, data privacy, and confidence in data.

          IOTA claims that Alvarium is about creating intrinsic trust across exceedingly diverse systems. The project aims to bring together systems from across the industry to build a common platform that would enable trust from the point of data generation.

      • SaaS/Back End/Databases

        • OpenStack Foundation Hands COA Cert Off to Mirantis

          With the world moving to the cloud, expertise in the premier open source software environment known as OpenStack is gaining momentum and importance. To that end, the Certified OpenStack Administrator (COA) credential is key.

          Just recently the OpenStack Foundation (custodian of the OpenStack standards and its development and documentation) announced it was handing off responsibility for the COA certification exam to Mirantis. That said, it will retain control and oversight over the COA certification itself.

      • Productivity Software/LibreOffice/Calligra

        • LibreOffice 6.4 Will Ship With Native GTK Dialogs on Linux

          For the past few years developers working on the open source productivity suite have been busy porting LibreOffice’s many (many) dialogs from VCL (a cross platform UI toolkit) to GTK.

          That work has come along nicely, with recent versions of LibreOffice for Linux sporting a mix of VCL message dialogs (with GTK theming applied where possible) and native GTK dialogs.

          But the GTK dialog effort just hit a major milestone.

          In an update posted on his blog, LibreOffice developer Caolán McNamara explains that: “over the last few major releases the GTK version of LibreOffice has increasingly had true GTK dialogs and less VCL dialogs and in master.”

          And, he adds that as of this week:“there are now no direct uses of the VCL dialog APIs”.

        • Starting today: The Month of LibreOffice, November 2019 – get cool swag!

          Thanks to our worldwide community of developers and supporters, every release of LibreOffice includes new features, bugfixes, compatibility boosts, translations, and other improvements. This month, we want to say a big thanks to everyone who helps out – and encourage more people to join our friendly community as well!

      • CMS

        • The Month in WordPress: October 2019

          On October 14, WordPress 5.2.4 was released as a security release fixing 6 security issues. The fixes were backported to earlier versions of WordPress as well, so they’re available for sites not yet upgraded to 5.2.

          This kind of release is only possible because people report security issues responsibly so that the Core team can address them. You can find out more specific information about the fixes on the release documentation page.

          Want to get involved in building WordPress Core? Follow the Core team blog, and join the #core channel in the Making WordPress Slack group.

      • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

      • BSD

        • MidnightBSD 1.2

          I’m happy to announce the availability of MidnightBSD 1.2 for amd64 and i386. This release focused on updating base system libraries and security. A significant effort has been put into updating various mports.

          Portsnap is now included in the base system. You can use it to fetch mports. As this is a relatively new feature, please report any issues.

        • MidnightBSD 1.2 Brings Package Updates, Security/Bug Fixes

          MidnightBSD is one of the easy-to-use, desktop-focused BSDs that makes it easy to run GNOME and other desktops like Lumina atop its FreeBSD base. MidnightBSD 1.2 was released on Halloween as an update providing updates to its base system and various fixes.

          MidnightBSD 1.2 brings updates to its base system like now shipping the newest Bzip2 and OpenSSH. There are also a number of security and bug fixes ranging from possible buffer overflows in their Telnet client to fixing some USB issues. MidnightBSD’s Mport package manager has also seen some corrections.

        • U2F support in OpenSSH HEAD

          There’s some more detail on the new key format and other technical aspects of the feature in the PROTOCOL.u2f file in the OpenSSH source distribution.

          We chose to add U2F devices to the SSH protocol as keys rather than as another more web-like authentication methods because SSH users are familiar with keys and there are many tools that support them. It was not possible to enable U2F keys using the existing SSH ECDSA key format because, despite U2F devices using ECDSA for signatures, the signature format differs from the plain signatures used in SSH by including some additional fields.

          I’m pretty excited about this feature so please give it a try and let me know your feedback. I’m happy to answer any questions you might have.

      • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

        • Open Hardware/Modding

          • 9 Excellent Free Books to Learn about Arduino
          • Retro computing with FPGAs and MiSTer

            Another weekend rolls around, and I can spend some time working on my passion projects, including working with single-board computers, playing with emulators, and general tinkering with a soldering iron. Earlier this year, I wrote about resurrecting the Commodore Amiga on the Raspberry Pi. A colleague referred to our shared obsession with old technology as a “passion for preserving our digital culture.”

            In my travels in the world of “digital archeology,” I heard about a new way to emulate old systems by using field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs). I was intrigued by the concept, so I dedicated a weekend to learn more. Specifically, I wanted to know if I could use an FPGA to emulate a Commodore Amiga.

      • Programming/Development

        • EuroPython 2020: Venue and location selected

          We will now start work on the contracts and get the organization going, so that we can all enjoy another edition of EuroPython next year.

        • PyCharm 2019.2.4
        • Python adopts a 12-month release cycle

          The long discussion on changing the Python project’s release cadence has come to a conclusion: the project will now be releasing new versions on an annual basis. See PEP 602 for the details on how it is expected to work.

        • The Rust Programming Language Blog: Completing the transition to the new borrow checker

          For most of 2018, we’ve been issuing warnings about various bugs in the borrow checker that we plan to fix — about two months ago, in the current Rust nightly, those warnings became hard errors. In about two weeks, when the nightly branches to become beta, those hard errors will be in the beta build, and they will eventually hit stable on December 19th, as part of Rust 1.40.0. If you’re testing with Nightly, you should be all set — but otherwise, you may want to go and check to make sure your code still builds. If not, we have advice for fixing common problems below.

        • Python creator Guido van Rossum quits Dropbox, triggering his retirement

          PYTHON WRANGLER Guido van Rossum has announced his retirement. The news is the final curtain on the career of the man behind the world’s most popular programming language.

          Van Rossum is leaving Dropbox, where he has spent the last six years as their Python Charmer in residence, a natural fit for a platform built, in no small part, in Python – the language he created and declared himself ‘Benevolent Dictator for Life’ (BDFL).

          Last year, he stepped down from his role in managing Python itself, handing over responsibilities to a Python Council, meaning he’s free and clear of responsibilities. Nice work if you don’t need it.

          One of van Rossum’s main challenges at Dropbox was teaching staff who had written ‘cowboy code’ that was impossible for future developers to decipher, to write sustainably.

          Python first landed 29 years ago and one of its main aims was to make code readable using whitespace, and through clear, logical lines of code.

        • Awk one-liners and scripts to help you sort text files

          Awk is the ubiquitous Unix command for scanning and processing text containing predictable patterns. However, because it features functions, it’s also justifiably called a programming language.

          Confusingly, there is more than one awk. (Or, if you believe there can be only one, then there are several clones.) There’s awk, the original program written by Aho, Weinberger, and Kernighan, and then there’s nawk, mawk, and the GNU version, gawk. The GNU version of awk is a highly portable, free software version of the utility with several unique features, so this article is about GNU awk.

          While its official name is gawk, on GNU+Linux systems it’s aliased to awk and serves as the default version of that command. On other systems that don’t ship with GNU awk, you must install it and refer to it as gawk, rather than awk. This article uses the terms awk and gawk interchangeably.

        • g_get_os_info() and GLib 2.63.1

          GLib 2.63.1 has been released. The final new API to mention in this mini-series of blog posts about what’s in 2.63.1 is g_get_os_info().

          g_get_os_info() is a way to get identifying information about the OS. On Linux, this is gathered from /etc/os-release. On other OSs, it’s gathered using platform-specific APIs (on other Unixes, this means falling back to uname()).

        • How I learned python/django

          I have learnt it through youtube videos and reading and practising the code .I am a complete believer of self learning without any intervention of outside support/classes/college. I have taken help of experts on StackOverflow and quora sometimes.

          [...]

          I am developing an Inventory and logistics Management software where all the pieces from Python html Javascript, PostgreSQL will be connected . Keep Learning Keep smiling

        • Understanding Boxplots

          The image above is a boxplot. A boxplot is a standardized way of displaying the distribution of data based on a five number summary (“minimum”, first quartile (Q1), median, third quartile (Q3), and “maximum”). It can tell you about your outliers and what their values are. It can also tell you if your data is symmetrical, how tightly your data is grouped, and if and how your data is skewed.

        • Why you should use `python -m pip`

          Let’s say I have two versions of Python installed, like Python 3.7 and 3.8 (and this is very common for people thanks to Python coming installed on macOS and Linux, let alone you may have installed Python 3.8 to play with it while having previously installed Python 3.7). Now, if you were to type pip in your terminal, which Python interpreter would it install for?

          Without more details the answer is you don’t know. First you would have to know what my PATH is set to, e.g. is /usr/bin before or after /usr/local/bin (which are common locations for Python to be installed into, and typically /usr/local/ comes first). OK, so as long as you remember where you installed Python 3.7 and 3.8 and that it was different directories you will know which version of pip comes first on PATH. But let’s say you installed both manually; maybe your OS came with Python 3.7.3 and you installed Python 3.7.5. In that case both versions of Python are installed in /usr/local/bin. Can you now tell me what interpreter pip is tied to?

          The answer is you still don’t know. Unless you know when you installed each version and thus what the last copy of pip was written to /usr/local/bin/pip you don’t know what interpreter pip will be using for the pip command. Now you may be saying, “I always install the latest versions, so that would mean Python 3.8.0 was installed last since it’s newer than 3.7.5″. OK, but what happens when Python 3.7.6 comes out? Your pip command would have gone from using Python 3.8 to Python 3.7.

          But when you use python -m pip with python being the specific interpreter you want to use, all of the above ambiguity is gone. If I say python3.8 -m pip then I know pip will be using and installing for my Python 3.8 interpreter (same goes for if I had said python3.7).

        • Python 3.5.9 is released

          There were no new changes in version 3.5.9; 3.5.9 was released only because of a CDN caching problem, which resulted in some users downloading a prerelease version of the 3.5.8 .xz source tarball. Apart from the version number, 3.5.9 is identical to the proper 3.5.8 release.

        • Python 3.5.9

          Python 3.5.9 was released on November 1st, 2019.

          There were no new changes in version 3.5.9; 3.5.9 was released only because of a CDN caching problem, which resulted in some users downloading a prerelease version of the 3.5.8 .xz source tarball. Apart from the version number, 3.5.9 is identical to the proper 3.5.8 release.

          Python 3.5 has now entered “security fixes only” mode, and as such the only changes since Python 3.5.4 are security fixes. Also, Python 3.5.9 has only been released in source code form; no more official binary installers will be produced.

        • Nick Fitzgerald: Always Bump Downwards

          When writing a bump allocator, always bump downwards. That is, allocate from high addresses, down towards lower addresses by decrementing the bump pointer. Although it is perhaps less natural to think about, it is more efficient than incrementing the bump pointer and allocating from lower addresses up to higher ones.

        • This Week in Glean: November 1, 2019

          This week in Glean, we bring you a detective story from the Mozilla telemetry beat. It’s a story about how fixing things can often break things in unexpected ways. It’s about how things that may work perfectly in the lab, suddenly fail in the wild at scale. And it’s about how our team used all of the data sources at our disposal to solve a problem.

          Glean is a new effort at Mozilla to collect telemetry based on lessons from our past experiences that can be used across a number of our products and better support our lean data practices. It is currently being used to collect telemetry from Firefox Preview for Android, but will be rolling out to more Mozilla products in the coming months.

          When using Firefox Preview, the browser makes measurements (or telemetry) about its usage and how it’s performing. Users can choose to disable telemetry if they prefer, however the data from the rest provides us with key insights that allow us to build stable and performant products that meet the needs of our users. This telemetry is periodically sent to Mozilla in bundles called “pings”, all of which is orchestrated on Firefox’s behalf by the Glean SDK.

          The Glean SDK sends a few different kinds of pings, but the two that are relevant to our story are the metrics ping and baseline ping. The metrics ping is sent once a day at 04:00 local time, if the user used the application in the last 24 hours. The baseline ping contains minimal data, but is sent more often: every time the application “goes to background”. This happens when the user switches to another application or the device goes to sleep. Given how people normally use their smartphones, the browser “goes to background” a few times a day, so one would expect to see baseline pings occuring more often than metrics pings.

  • Leftovers

    • On “Going Low”

      I’m teaching critical reasoning this term. It’s one of my favorite classes because it’s so important. Few things are as empowering as being able to reason well. And yet this skill is also a source of enormous frustration in that it is so rare it’s also rarely appreciated. That is, it takes someone who is good at analyzing arguments to be able to recognize when someone else has actually legitimately won an argument rather than simply pummeled his opponent with a hodgepodge of informal fallacies and non-argumentative rhetoric.

    • There Will be Flames: the Hunchback of Notre Dame at Cornell

      Movie music is motion: Jimmy Stewart behind the big white steering wheel of his Desoto as he tails Kim Novak through San Francisco to Bernhard Hermann’s worried ostinatos; Max Steiner’s woodwinds inexorably ascending with King Kong up the Empire State Building; the surging surf of the salty Kerr-Lancaster kiss in From Here To Eternity to the palpitating strings of George Duning’s score.

    • Review: William Feaver’s “The Lives of Lucian Freud, the Restless Years 1922-1968”

      At the conclusion of William Feaver’s exhaustive (and exhausting) biography of the first forty-six years of Lucian Freud’s life, in 1968, the British painter is pretty much on the skids. Always a slow painter and therefore producing fewer works than many of his peers, he had finally reached the stage where an occasional work sold for £1000, which, again, was less than what some of his friends earned for their paintings, produced more quickly. He was addicted to gambling (both casinos and horse racing) and owed many people from whom he had borrowed money. He had lived mostly in a series of condemned buildings, where he had had his studios. He’d been married twice, but both of those marriages ended in divorce. His portion of the royalties from his grandfather, Sigmund Freud’s works, he had assigned to the two children of his first marriage. Money was always a problem, so often he spent extended periods of time living with wealthy patrons. In short, Freud fit the stereotype of the otherworldly artist devoted to his craft but detached from the real world, especially in regard to money.

    • Amsterdam refuses mosque’s request for loudspeaker call to prayer

      In a 21st-century answer to a proposal with its roots in the seventh century, Amsterdam has rejected a plan by a prominent mosque to become the first in the city to broadcast its call to prayer over loudspeakers – on the grounds that it’s unnecessary in a world of mobile apps.

    • Science

      • Goliath: Matt Stoller’s book describe the rise of the tech giants

        Like the rest of the Clinton administration, the DOJ Antitrust Division in the 1990s talked populist, but governed with a deference to monopoly. Clinton’s first appointment to run the division was a Washington lawyer named Anne Bingaman. Antitrust was not particularly important to the administration, and it seemed to some that Bingaman got the job as a political favor to her husband, New Mexico senator Jeff Bingaman. “Hmph,” Attorney General Janet Reno said to The Wall Street Journal, “there’s the White House trying to push a Senator’s wife on me.”

        Nevertheless, when she took office, Bingaman was ready to entirely remake the dormant division. She “fired up” the staff, and opened up new investigations. “Anne Bingaman has a blunt message for corporate America: The antitrust cops are back on the beat,” said the Journal. One of Bingaman’s first goals was to open up the most important new area of the economy, the one where Reagan had allowed nascent robber barons to not only seize power over industry but over the future of technology. She would take on the big bad monopolist of the computer industry, Microsoft, which was frightening Silicon Valley, and increasingly, much of corporate America.

        In the 1960s, Silicon Valley was a middle-class area populated by farmers and engineers. Up until the early 1980s, the personal computing industry was largely a world of hobbyists, composed of tinkerers who played with what most businessmen thought were toys. Hobbyist culture was pervasive and utopianist, a combination of both the San Francisco counterculture scene and the Cold War–era New Deal high-tech can-do spirit. One of the early forums for the personal computer, for instance, the Homebrew Computer Club, inspired the design of the Apple I. Tinkerers passed around software to each other for free, updating and improving it collectively.

    • Education

      • ‘It’s A Definitive Shift’: Chicago Teachers Union Strike A Major Victory For Public Education

        After eleven days on strike, more than 30,000 teachers and support staff in Chicago returned to school after reaching a tentative agreement with Chicago Public Schools and Mayor Lori Lightfoot on October 30. They also agreed to make up five of the school days missed during the strike.

        “It’s a definitive shift in the entire landscape, not just in Chicago, but throughout the U.S., away from privatization, school closures, charter schools, and the kind of Koch Brother-funding of private schools instead of public schools, a threat we’ve been fending off for the last 30 years,” said Jackson Potter, a high school teacher and union bargaining member in Chicago.

    • Health/Nutrition

    • Security (Confidentiality/Integrity/Availabilitiy)

      • Security updates for Friday

        Security updates have been issued by CentOS (firefox, sudo, and thunderbird), Debian (libarchive and qtbase-opensource-src), Oracle (php), Red Hat (php, rh-php71-php, and rh-php72-php), Scientific Linux (firefox and php), and SUSE (kernel and samba).

      • Researchers Find SMS Monitoring Malware in Linux Telecom Servers [Ed: If “[i]t’s unclear how long the malware was operating before it was found,” then this possibly and even likely has nothing to do with “Linux”; like blaming “Windows” for Photoshop flaws.]

        A state-sponsored tool most likely used by Chinese advanced persistent threat group APT41 was discovered inside the Linux servers of an undisclosed telecom company, surveilling incoming and outgoing SMS messages.

        [...]

        The researchers said the tool deployed by APT41 supported Chinese espionage efforts, but the group has financial motives as well. It’s unclear how long the malware was operating before it was found, but a 2019 investigation revealed it in a cluster of Linux servers.

      • Researchers Find SMS Monitoring Malware in Linux Telecom Servers
      • An Illinois Superhero You’ve Never Heard Of

        There’s a superhero among us here in Illinois. His name is Michael Gillespie. He’s 27 years old. He and his wife have eight cats and he keeps framed photos of them on his desk in the back of Nerds on Call, the computer repair store where he works in Normal. But that’s not the superhero part.

        Gillespie has become “one of the world’s leading conquerors of an especially common and virulent cybercrime: ransomware,” wrote my ProPublica colleague Renee Dudley in a fascinating article published this week. Dudley profiles Gillespie — who has gotten little public praise, compensation or reward for his off-hours work — as part of her ongoing series about ransomware, a crime in which an individual or group hacks into a computer system, paralyzes it and demands ransom in return for enabling victims to retrieve their files. Millions of ransomware attacks occur each year, Dudley reports, and the FBI and local law enforcement have made little progress curbing them.

    • Defence/Aggression

    • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

      • Julian Assange’s Life Is at Risk, Says United Nations Expert, Condemning Detention After Exposing War Crimes

        “He continues to be detained under oppressive conditions of isolation and surveillance, not justified by his detention status,” special rapporteur Nils Melzer said of Assange.

      • UN expert on torture sounds alarm again that Julian Assange’s life may be at risk

        The UN Special Rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, has expressed alarm at the continued deterioration of Julian Assange’s health since his arrest and detention earlier this year, saying his life was now at risk.

        Mr. Assange was sent to a UK high-security prison on 11 April 2019 where he continues to be held in connection with a US extradition request on espionage charges for having exposed evidence for US war crimes and other misconduct in Iraq and Afghanistan. “While the US Government prosecutes Mr. Assange for publishing information about serious human rights violations, including torture and murder, the officials responsible for these crimes continue to enjoy impunity,” said Melzer.

      • Journalists must pay attention to Julian Assange

        The UK media has long adopted a cynical attitude towards Julian Assange, but recent footage of the Wikileaks publisher’s recent court appearance is prompting many to have second thoughts.

        In the latest clip to find its way on to the internet we see Assange squinting, sealed within the tiny compartment of a Serco prison van leaving Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 21 October, trying to adjust to the bright lights shone directly into his eyes at close range. Several hours earlier, a large and loud crowd of supporters had intercepted another Serco van, but all the chanting, cheering and solidarity was in vain – Assange’s transport was delayed several hours until almost everyone had left.

        Assange looked despondent. His lawyers had requested a routine postponement of his main extradition hearing, which was refused, apparently after the prosecution took instructions from US representatives during a 10 minute recess. His lawyers also requested the magistrate schedule time for arguments about the political nature of the charges against Assange, given that the UK-US Extradition Treaty stipulates that if the offence is political, extradition must not proceed.

        The fact that for several years Assange’s meetings with lawyers were filmed and streamed live to the CIA was also raised as a critical issue. But to no avail. The magistrate provided a little more time for pre-trial presentation of evidence, but warned that the main hearing would take place as scheduled, in February 2020, and at London’s Belmarsh Prison.

        [...]

        Assange broke bail conditions in order to seek asylum from the scenario he now faces: life in prison for publishing. Ecuador granted that asylum because the US obviously intended to prosecute Assange for publishing. This was confirmed shortly after his expulsion from their London embassy, a moment for which the US was poised and ready.

        Assange also received asylum because he was ‘without the support of the country of which he is a citizen’ – Australia. While a cross party ‘Bring Julian Assange Home Parliamentary Group’ has recently been established in Australia, for the time being his own government remains mute.

        The indictments for which Assange is now imprisoned have nothing to do with Sweden, Russia, Trump or his cat. They are a straightforward attempt to prosecute a publisher for committing acts of journalism: specifically the releases of 2010-11 on Guantanamo Bay, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and Cablegate. These are the most significant series of public-interest disclosures of our times.

    • Environment

    • Finance

    • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

      • Looming Impeachment Puts Trump in Company of Corrupt Mideast Leaders

        If we think about mass politics in the Middle East during the past 8 years as anti-corruption drives, it is easier to see the ways in which Trump resembles a typical Middle Eastern dictator. Americans are prosecuting him in the House of Representatives rather than in the streets, but then the House represents the American masses.

      • NY Times At It Again: Has To Run Massive Correction For All The Errors In Aaron Sorkin’s Facts Optional Rant About Why Facebook Should Fact Check

        The NY Times’ Opinion Section continues its run of truly awful decisions lately. As we learned during the Bret Stephens “bedbug” fiasco, the NY Times deliberately chooses not to fact check its opinion and op-ed writers, allegedly based on some weird belief that since these are opinions, they don’t need any fact checking (or, alternatively, that some sort of fact checking might stifle the creative voices the NYT Opinion pages thinks are worth publishing).

      • First Lose All the Moderates

        Is there anyone in the Trump Party, formerly known as the GOP, who is not worthy of contempt?

      • The Real Divide

        Unless Democrats stand squarely on the side of democracy against oligarchy, the risk on election day is that too many Americans will either stand with Trump or stay home.

      • The Contradictory Ms. Warren

        Framing the Democratic Party’s presidential contest are two popular candidates, Bernie Sanders on the progressive-left and Joe Biden on the center-right. In between sit candidates who seek support from both left and right, attempting to successfully bridge the current divide. One of these straddlers – Elizabeth Warren — is rising fast and now appears to be emerging as the candidate to beat for the nomination.

      • Mark Zuckerberg Is a Rich Jerk

        Last week, New York Times columnist Timothy Egan had a piece headlined “Why Doesn’t Mark Zuckerberg Get It?” The piece then goes on to document how Facebook has become a medium for spreading lies and nonsense all over the world, that many ill-informed users have come to believe.

      • Twitter bans all political ads because they can ‘influence votes’

        Twitter currently only allows certified campaigns and organisations to run political ads for candidates and issues. The latter tend to advocate on broader issues such as climate change, abortion rights and immigration.

        The company said it will make some exceptions, such as allowing ads that encourage voter turnout. It will describe those in a detailed policy it plans to release on November 15. Twitter’s policy will start on November 22.

      • Twitter Just Banned Political Ads. Hold Your Applause.

        While Facebook deserves all the scorn heaped on it, Twitter’s policy only creates a new set of problems. Despite their different paths, the two social media giants are both setting themselves up as the police of political discourse.

      • Blizzard’s corporate president publicly apologizes for bungling players’ Hong Kong protests, never mentions Hong Kong

        Today marked the opening of Blizzcon, the company’s annual show/expo, and the Anaheim convention center was picketed by players who are furious with Blizzard’s capitulation to Beijing.

        When J Allen Brack took the stage at the opening ceremonies, he led with a very precisely worded apology for the company’s conduct, saying, “We moved too quickly in our decision-making and then to make matters worse, we were too slow to talk to all of you…We didn’t live up to the higher standards we set for ourselves. Second, we failed in our purpose. For that, I am sorry, and I accept accountability.” He finished by promising that the company “will do better going forward.. with [actions that] matter more than any of these words.”

        Brack did not mention China or Hong Kong.

      • Beto O’Rourke Announces He’s Dropping 2020 Presidential Bid

        eto O’Rourke, the former Texas congressman, announced Friday that he was ending his Democratic presidential campaign, which failed to recapture the enthusiasm, interest and fundraising prowess of his 2018 Senate race.

      • Thank you.

        Though it is difficult to accept, it is clear to me now that this campaign does not have the means to move forward successfully. My service to the country will not be as a candidate or as the nominee. Acknowledging this now is in the best interests of those in the campaign; it is in the best interests of this party as we seek to unify around a nominee; and it is in the best interests of the country.

      • O’Rourke ends presidential bid

        O’Rourke said in a post on the website Medium that it had become clear he did not have the means to keep his campaign afloat, an acknowledgement of the financial struggles the former Texas congressman has faced in recent months.

      • Why Beto O’Rourke’s Campaign Failed

        Beto O’Rourke has played games with the media before, but he got a last laugh of sorts — at least a wistful chuckle — by dropping out of the presidential race on Friday afternoon, sending political writers into a tizzy right before the weekend. And although his candidacy once had great promise, O’Rourke’s exit from the race came down to his weak poll numbers and reduced fundraising numbers, as well as the fact that he may never have had the base of support he needed to truly compete for the Democratic nomination.

      • Russia’s Supreme Court liquidates major human rights organization led by Lev Ponomarev

        Russia’s Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a Justice Ministry lawsuit demanding the dissolution of Lev Ponomarev’s “For Human Rights” movement, MBK Media reported.

    • Censorship/Free Speech

      • The Arrest of Max Blumenthal

        This past weekend, with the arrest of Max Blumenthal, we were reminded again that leftist activism and independent media in the United States are under increasing siege.

      • Man Sues Twitter For $1 Billion Claiming His Account’s Suspension Violated His Right To Worship President Trump As A Demigod

        Several stupid lawsuits have been brought against social media companies. Some feature actual lawyers (but mostly from the same law firms) helping clients throw money away on allegations that Twitter and Facebook are at least indirectly responsible for terrorist attacks.

      • Turkey’s Erdogan sues French magazine over ‘eradicator’ cover

        Recep Tayyip Erdogan has launched legal proceedings against a French magazine which branded Turkey’s president “The Eradicator” after he sent troops into Syria to push back Kurdish forces, media reported Friday.

        The complaint was filed against Le Point director Etienne Gernelle and the head of the magazine’s international service Romain Gubert, the official Anadolu news agency reported.

      • Professors, Beware. A ‘Student Information Officer’ Might Be Watching.

        In a throwback to the Mao Zedong era, Chinese universities are deploying students as watchdogs against their teachers, part of a sweeping campaign by Mr. Xi to eliminate dissent and turn universities into party strongholds.

        The use of student informers has surged under Mr. Xi, China’s most powerful leader in decades, with hundreds of universities now employing the practice, according to interviews with more than two dozen professors and students, as well as a review of public records.

        “Everyone feels they are in danger,” said You Shengdong, a longtime economics professor at Xiamen University in eastern China who was fired last year after students reported him for criticizing one of Mr. Xi’s favorite propaganda slogans.

    • Privacy/Surveillance

      • Border Agents Can Now Get Classified Intelligence Information. Experts Call That Dangerous.

        Pushing further toward its goal of “extreme vetting,” the Trump administration is creating a new center in suburban Virginia that will allow immigration agents to access, for the first time, the sprawling array of information scooped up by America’s intelligence agencies, from phone calls intercepted by the National Security Agency to material gathered by the CIA’s spies overseas to tips from informants in Central America.

        This classified, potentially derogatory, information will eventually be used to screen everyone seeking to enter the United States, including foreign vacationers seeking travel visas, people applying for permanent residency or immigrants requesting asylum at the Mexican border.

      • Why Adding Client-Side Scanning Breaks End-To-End Encryption

        Recent attacks on encryption have diverged. On the one hand, we’ve seen Attorney General William Barr call for “lawful access” to encrypted communications, using arguments that have barely changed since the 1990’s. But we’ve also seen suggestions from a different set of actors for more purportedly “reasonable” interventions, particularly the use of client-side scanning to stop the transmission of contraband files, most often child exploitation imagery (CEI).

        Sometimes called “endpoint filtering” or “local processing,” this privacy-invasive proposal works like this: every time you send a message, software that comes with your messaging app first checks it against a database of “hashes,” or unique digital fingerprints, usually of images or videos. If it finds a match, it may refuse to send your message, notify the recipient, or even forward it to a third party, possibly without your knowledge.

      • Beyond Aadhaar: India wants to create a giant centralized facial recognition database

        Two years ago, Privacy News Online wrote about Aadhaar, India’s billion-person biometric database, used to check identity, and its potential to become the world’s biggest privacy disaster. Barely six months after that post, it emerged that access to the Aadhaar database could be bought very cheaply, as reported here by the Indian newspaper The Tribune…

      • ACLU sues to find out status of facial recognition mass surveillance in America

        The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed suit against the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Department of Justice (DoJ), and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). The case was filed in a Massachusetts federal court on Tuesday, October 29th. The filing asks for details about how the government currently uses and audits the use of facial recognition software. More specifically, the ACLU is seeking to force the government to reveal specifics about its partnerships with the facial recognition companies that it works with. Read the ACLU’s filed Face Recognition Surveillance Complaint on their site.

      • Google’s Fitbit Acquisition Gets Instant Antitrust Scrutiny

        Google’s $2.1 billion acquisition of Fitbit Inc. means two of the largest technology companies now dominate the U.S. market for fitness tracking devices and data, and the purchase is already coming under fire from U.S. lawmakers.

        Google and Fitbit expect the deal to face protracted regulatory review in light of the current political focus on competition and privacy issues in the tech industry, a person familiar with the transaction said.

      • Google Buys Fitbit for $2.1 Billion, Vows to Protect Health Data

        Google is buying Fitbit for about $2.1 billion, enabling the internet company to step back into the hotly contested market for smartwatches and health trackers.

      • Google is buying Fitbit: now what?

        But integrating Fitbit is going to be much more complicated than integrating HTC. Fitbit offers services to customers, and those services will have to be maintained throughout the process. Fitbit also has several overlapping software platforms and a wide array of different products to support. It has a huge user base and new watches it literally just released, which customers will expect to be able to keep using for years to come.

      • Emerging Technology and Privacy: What You Need to Know

        New technologies are capable of tracking and recording your every movement, revealing detailed information about your lifestyle and personal choices that you make. For example, your mobile phone registers its location with cell towers every few minutes whenever it is turned on. Mobile carriers collect this data on their customers, and government officials can easily obtain detailed information about you by accessing your location. The federal government invokes powerful surveillance authorities to collect sensitive data including location, contact lists, call records and contents of text messages and calls.

    • Freedom of Information / Freedom of the Press

      • The case evidence in the investigation into the police who arrested ‘Meduza’ correspondent Ivan Golunov has been classified

        Case evidence in the criminal inquiry into the drugs allegedly planted on Meduza investigative journalist Ivan Golunov has been classified, a state investigator revealed in court on November 1, in response to a complaint filed by Golunov’s attorney, Sergey Badamshin, against delays in the investigation. The state investigator could not say how much longer the inquiry will continue, and he asked the court to postpone the hearing, so he can clarify this information. The judge granted his request, and the hearing will resume on November 11.

    • Civil Rights/Policing

      • A Russian official tried to bring back entrepreneurs who left the country to avoid prosecution. Here’s what he had to say when one of them got a prison sentence anyway.
      • Turkmenistan: Gay Man Missing After Coming Out Online

        A man is feared missing in Turkmenistan after he made his sexual orientation public, Human Rights Watch said today. 

      • Russia’s Crackdown on Human Rights Defenders Escalates

        Russia’s Supreme Court granted the Justice Ministry’s demand to shut down one of the most prominent rights groups in the country. The ruling delivers another severe blow to Russian human rights defenders.

      • France: Highlight China’s Rights Crisis

        French President Emmanuel Macron should keep his pledges to press for key human rights improvements during his upcoming visit to China, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to the president. Macron will visit China from November 4 to 6, 2019.

      • Nazi-Normalizing Barf Journalism: A Brief History

        In the beginning was the profile of the Nazi next door, an inexplicable decision by the New York Times (11/25/17) to profile a right-wing extremist in the most sympathetic light possible. It was the most outrageous example of an outrageous genre of MSM—and particularly NYT—reporting: the never-ending effort to profile, study, explain, excuse and rationalize Trump voters. Without, of course, referring to them as racists. White men are always news that’s fit to print.

      • Johanna Bozuwa on Public Utilities, Jake Johnston on Haiti

        This week on CounterSpin: People are using words like “unlivable” to describe parts of California, where wildfires and power outages are driving new kinds of crisis and exacerbating existing ones. At the heart of it: climate disruption, of course, but also a private utility system that isn’t now and never has been incentivized to address it. As we record, young Californians are sitting in at Nancy Pelosi’s office, saying business as usual is over. Media should be looking forward, too, but will they? We’ll talk about the drive for a publicly owned, community-controlled energy system with Johanna Bozuwa, co-manager of the Climate & Energy Program at the Democracy Collaborative.

      • Immigrants’ Rights are at Stake in Local Colorado Elections
      • GitHub defends its contract with ICE in leaked employee memo

        An open letter from employees called for the ICE contract to be ditched claiming it would make the company complicit in human rights abuse, but after a scheduled Town Hall Q&A with employees was cancelled on October 11th, resentment has grown, and an APB memo sent to all staff and obtained by the LA Times, attempted to quell the uprising. It didn’t work.

      • Iranian police arrest more women for the ‘crime’ of dancing

        Iranian officials detained three young female dancers who had thousands of followers on Instagram. According to our Observers in Iran, this is part of a wider crackdown– in the past year, Iranian authorities have prosecuted many other dancers, but because they were lesser-known, their stories didn’t reach the media.

      • Police Owe Nothing To Man Whose Home They Blew Up, Appeals Court Says

        A federal appeals court in Denver ruled this week that the homeowner, who had no connection to the suspect, isn’t entitled to be compensated, because the police were acting to preserve the safety of the public.

        “Under no circumstances in this country should the government be able to blow up your house and render a family homeless,” Leo Lech, the house’s owner, told NPR. “This family was thrown out into the street without any recourse.”

        Lawyers for Lech argued that the police’s destruction of his home was a violation of the Constitution’s Takings Clause, which says private property cannot be taken for public use without “just compensation.” But the problem with that argument, the appeals court ruled, is that courts have long held that police cannot be on the hook for property damage caused in the process of trying to make an arrest.

      • Kamlesh Tiwari murder: UP Police says case solved, remarks on Prophet Muhammad behind killing

        UP DGP confirmed the murder of the Hindu leader Kamlesh Tiwari to be a radical killing and held the Hindu Samaj Party leader’s objectionable 2015 comments on Prophet Muhammad as the reason behind the killing.

      • Ribat: The Truth Behind “Muslim Enclaves”

        Although these enclaves are unique to the modern era, they have precedents in history and even a nomenclature within the Islamic consciousness.

      • Iran Suspends ‘Aryan’ Style Marriage Ceremonies, Calling It ‘Un-Islamic’

        The official institutions and bureaus that register marriage contracts based on ancient Aryan ceremonies and rites have been suspended, and sealed-off in Iran, the head of the Islamic Republic’s Union of Marriage and Divorce registration bureaus announced on Wednesday.

        The suspended bureaus amount to 34, and mainly located in the provinces of Tehran and Alborz, the state-run Young Journalists Club (YJC) cited marriage registration official Ali Mozaffari, as saying.

    • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

      • AT&T Loses Another 1.36 Million Pay TV Subscribers Thanks To Relentless Price Hikes

        This wasn’t how it was supposed to go for AT&T. In AT&T executives heads, the 2015, $67 billion acquisition of DirecTV and the 2018 $86 billion acquisition of Time Warner were supposed to be the cornerstones of the company’s efforts to dominate video and online video advertising. Instead, the megadeals made AT&T possibly one of the most heavily indebted companies in the world. To recoup that debt, AT&T has increased its efforts to nickel-and-dime users at every opportunity, recently imposing the second rate hike in just a year on its streaming TV subscribers.

      • Russia is struggling to implement the nationwide DPI system it needs for ‘Internet isolation’

        Russia is reportedly experiencing a delay in the installation of its new nationwide DPI (deep packet inspection) system, because of a dispute between the Kremlin and the federal government’s cabinet, two sources familiar with the situation told the website The Bell. 

      • The Russian government has even more control of the [Internet] now

        A law known as the “sovereign [Internet]” bill came into force on Friday, tightening state control over the global network, which free speech activists say will strengthen government oversight of the country’s cyberspace. It was first proposed in parliament in February.

        The legislation aims to route Russian web traffic and data through points controlled by state authorities and to build a national Domain Name System to allow the [Internet] to continue working even if Russia is cut off from foreign infrastructure.

    • Digital Restrictions (DRM)

      • Totally In-Touch NH Lawmaker Blocks Device Repair Bill, Tells Constituents To Just Buy New $1k Phones

        For years we’ve discussed the need for better and stronger “right to repair” laws in the United States. Were one to look for a pure example of legislative capture by corporate interests, it’s hard to think of a better example than the way hardware makers of various stripes have managed to lock their own hardware behind various flavors of DRM and/or warranty restrictions to make it illegal for a person to get the thing they bought repaired. Arguing that such repairs fall within the scope of anti-circumvention laws, these hardware makers, including those of smartphones like Apple, have attempted to construct a world in which people don’t just own what they bought, but are rather forced to continue to buy things they don’t own when the hardware is damaged or fails them.

    • Monopolies

      • Copyrights

        • AI enters the legal landscape

          Research in the field of law comes naturally as a tool for law reform. There has also been a rise in the already existing vertical of law with new sectors emerging like IPR [sic] law, Cybersecurity law, etc. India is actively moving towards the concept of law firms over singular legal practitioners for seeking legal services which are more technologically advanced. So the future of the legal profession is technology and Artificial Intelligence.

        • Twitter Copyright Notices Have Doubled in Half a Year

          As part of its bi-annual Transparency Report, Twitter reveals that the number of takedown notices it receives has doubled in six months. However, more than half of all copyright notices don’t result in any content being removed from the platform, as they are either incomplete, fraudulent, or not actionable.

        • TuneIn Radio Infringed Sony & Warner’s Copyrights, High Court Rules
        • 9th Circuit Revives Ridiculous ‘Shake It Off’ Copyright Lawsuit, Because The 9th Circuit Loves To Mess Up Copyright Law

          Why is the 9th Circuit so horrendously bad at copyright law? This question comes up way too often. Last year we wrote about a very good and (and at the time, we thought) very easy and obvious district court dismissal of a lawsuit against Taylor Swift. The issue was Taylor Swift’s hit song “Shake It Off” which includes in the lyrics the lines “playas gonna play” and “haters gonna hate.” She was sued by Sean Hall who had a song call “Playas Gon’ Play” that has the lyrics “Playas, they gonna play / And haters, they gonna hate.” The district court not only dismissed the case as ridiculous, but the judge threatened Section 11 sanctions on Hall’s lawyers for bringing such a ridiculous case as it was beyond obvious that such short snippets (used slightly differently) weren’t nearly enough to get a copyright alone — and since that’s the only similarity, the case got tossed.

Neo-liberalism in Action: Microsoft Outsourcing the Work to Temporary Staff Without Any Rights or Leverage by Dissent

Posted in Finance, Microsoft at 1:09 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Reprinted with permission from Mitchel Lewis

Microsoft ICE

Summary: Got to pay the bills, got to obey orders — that’s the kind of motto Microsoft wants all employees to adopt (leaving morality at the door); that’s akin to neo-liberalism, which is defined as a modified form of liberalism tending to favour free-market capitalism (deregulation)

Roughly half of the labor force of most major technology companies consist of contingent staff; vendors, temps, contractors, etc. Despite the asterisk next to my name and an orange badge instead of a blue badge, it was still a highlight of my engineering career when I became a vendor at Microsoft. But the celebrations came to a crashing halt after being reminded by a full-time employee (FTE) that I was not paid to think, only to do as I was told as a vendor. Although I didn’t know much about management at the time, I knew that no acceptable realm of management advised the demoralization of ambitious new hires and this sort of reception perplexed me.

If this was truly the case, then Microsoft could have easily replaced my efforts with unthinking algorithms and saved the $70/hour that they were paying my vendor company for my time; not that I saw all of that. They could have hired any geek off the street to do as they’re told instead of an expert in their field that I was. Whether he liked me or not, I was hired because I knew significantly more about Exchange, 3rd party messaging technologies, and the Microsoft stack than the boomer trying to belittle me, so this sort of treatment just didn’t add up as far as I was concerned.

To be fair, my initial experience could have easily been a simple case of a bully with low self-esteem trying to elevate themselves by making others feel inferior. But vendors compare notes and this experience was consistent with many contingent staff throughout Microsoft and other tech giants. This treatment seemed to be the status quo. Whether or not it was the case and even after becoming an FTE myself, this dynamic still compelled me to question the true role of vendors throughout tech for years to come.

Initially and like many others, I viewed my role at the company as a vendor functioning simply as a cost-effective trial run and a foot in the door as many temp jobs are. As far as I was aware, this was typical of temporary staffing and little else. As such, I interpreted this sort of treatment as a challenge to see how I handled adversity and opted to showcase my worthwhile letting my actions necessitate a full-time offer; a trial by fire if you will. So I worked like a velocidonkey with a blue badge for a carrot dangled in front of me in an effort to change my employment status.

Although this treatment didn’t demoralize or demotivate me in the slightest, countless others took this second-class treatment to heart. While I didn’t have much to lose and could take more risks, plenty of others had more riding on their paychecks such as their families or other dependencies. So they opted to endure the abuse, do as they were told, and maintained a low profile so as to avoid confrontations with FTEs that could end their career there in an instant; almost as if they were indentured servants or slaves.

This caste system of sorts had a crippling effect on their performance in turn. It’s difficult to be at your best when you’re perpetually worried about losing your job with few protections or recourse if you are terminated and this is especially true in a grind house of an industry like big tech. Less stress equates to more output. Because of this, I couldn’t view such a reception as a futile attempt at reverse psychology or a managerial tactic meant to identify the best candidates out of their labor force.

Given how consistent this experience was with other vendors inside and outside of my org, I eventually concluded that they not only needed vendors to think to do their job, especially since they expected our work to be of the same caliber of any FTE, but that they needed vendors to think less of themselves than that of a full-time employee as well. It became obvious that demoralizing and oppressing half of their labor force into a techno-caste while distributing them throughout countless salary sucking vendor companies served an actual purpose.

Since most of the actions of giant firms such as Microsoft are intentioned and calculated, why they did this and what purpose this dynamic served were the real questions on the top of my mind. Obviously, it was done in the pursuit of profit, but how exactly this dynamic translated into profit was still a mystery to me. One thing was for certain, it wasn’t done in the name of empowerment.

While many would like to think that their dependence on vendors was an administrative cost-savings measure as I did at first, vendors aren’t short-term staffing solutions there. Many vendors have worked in the same permatemp capacity for years. Because of this, Microsoft didn’t seem to achieve much in the realm of cost-savings from this dynamic because they paid a perpetual premium for our services designed to be short-term. Forcing vendors to take a 6 month break after an 18-month contract didn’t exactly increase cost-savings either and plenty of vendors received exemptions from this mandate.

Sure, their reliance on contingent staff limited the administrative overhead necessary to facilitate benefits for everyone and saved them from having to provide elaborate offices for us as they did for many FTEs. They didn’t have to worry about severance, unemployment insurance, FMLA, or even the health of their vendors either. But they also didn’t have to pay their full-time employees overtime like they often do with their contingent staff and the cost disparity between a vendor and an FTE was minimal and there were countless examples of vendors netting more than their FTE peers after the middlemen got their cut which ranged between 30–50%.

Vendor or FTE, there was a slow ramp-up process that could take months for them to get up to speed while losing competent vendors inflicted as much or more operational pain as losing FTEs. As such, the operational losses from turnover and attrition were mostly a wash like the supposed administrative savings. Ironically, when I eventually left my vendor role for a full-time offer, I was still retained on a part-time basis for months afterward in order to support and handoff the project that I was leaving behind.

Maintaining relationships and contracts with 100+ vendor companies wasn’t burden-free from an administrative perspective either. It may have solved one problem but it created another. As is the case with most aspects of life, increasing the middlemen in your bottom line seldom results in cost reductions. Even the most inept engineer at Microsoft can confirm that complexity inflates overhead costs. So direct cost-savings from such tedious efforts was a very hard sell in my opinion.

With all of these idiosyncrasies canceling out the stereotypical benefits associated with contingent staffing, I was still left wondering how Microsoft could benefit from distributing half of its labor force through 100+ vendor companies. After becoming an FTE, I was still left to question why they needed so many vendors, vendor companies, and this second class treatment instead of hiring them outright or at least treating them as equals. It goes without saying, but we as FTEs weren’t told to oppress and demoralize vendors or treat them as second class citizens, we just weren’t told not to nor were we disciplined if we had; at least not at my pay grade. But it still wasn’t made apparent why we maintained such an obvious caste system or relied on so many contingent staffing companies in the first place.

As one gains shares in a company though, how they evaluate public companies changes and some of the lesser understood advantages to their vendor dynamic became more apparent as time went on. One distinct advantage of this vendor dynamic could be found when looking at how publicly traded companies are evaluated by analysts. Key performance indicators (KPIs) of how efficient a company is can be found in their revenue per employee or turnover metrics among others which vendors are excluded from entirely. In doing this, they render the company much more efficient and viable in the eyes of analysts by effectively hiding half of their labor force.

Although many tech companies have a near 1:1 ratio between their employees and vendors, Google, Facebook, Amazon, and IBM included, they essentially double their efficiency on paper by burying the payroll of their vendors within various operational costs instead of reporting it like they do with their FTEs. At the time at Microsoft, it was the difference between showcasing $800,000/employee and $400,000/employee which is significant. While this may seem minuscule to the untrained eye, this is huge for analysts.

But when added to the other traditional justifications of contingent staffing, such an approach didn’t justify working with so many different firms that didn’t specialize in anything besides putting asses in seats, let alone the caste system and unnecessary complexity that this dynamic seemed to foster. They could have easily accomplished this with a handful of vendor firms, but clearly needed more for some reason, hence why they had more. Jumping through all of these hoops and scraping the barrel so hard for such small ends still didn’t make complete sense.

As one might do when considering abuse and pay disparity though, I eventually began to wonder why vendors wouldn’t unionize in the face of such treatment. In turn, this line of inquiry inadvertently led me to another lesser-known but no less distinct advantage to this sort of labor distribution. When huge corporations are faced with unionization or the labor strikes that come with them, it becomes a simple matter of divide and conquer and this approach could serve as a preemptive strike against them. Corporations tend to despise the mere notion of unionization and this approach severely limited the ability of their entire labor force to bargain collectively, let alone go on strike, by driving wedges between them.

Just as you aren’t supposed to put all your eggs in one basket, they didn’t retain their workforce through a single company. While unionizing one company is incredibly difficult, unionizing 100+ companies borders on the impossible; especially in unison. With such a dynamic at play, Microsoft’s labor force perpetually scabbed itself over and had little to no ability to function as one. Even if an entire vendor company unionized and went on strike, Microsoft’s ability to maintain productivity remained intact, albeit degraded. In turn, this degraded the ability of vendors to bargain collectively and mitigated their leverage should they go on strike.

If one vendor company unionized, it’s of little consequence to Microsoft because the vendor company had to eat the added costs associated with unionization. Without specialty and while simply putting asses in seats, these vendor companies could easily be replaced by another non-union shop. And when it eventually became time for a would-be union vendor company to renegotiate their contract with Microsoft, they could simply pull that contract and award it to another non-union vendor company that could offer the same services for less. Unionization was effectively a death sentence from the perspective of a contingent staffing firm, not to mention a guarantee that you would probably not get hired into a full-time position for aspiring vendors.

Conversely and if their FTEs unionized and went on strike, Microsoft could depend on their vendors to function as scabs and work as a skeleton crew to maintain some semblance of productivity. It wouldn’t have been perfect, but vendors do the lion’s share of the labor at Microsoft which enabled them to maintain productivity and minimize the impact of a would-be FTE strike just the same. Seemingly, the vendor dynamic that these companies tend to create seemed to function as a shelter from unions and strikes more so than simple payroll or administrative cost-savings.

After all, labor strikes are harmless if their collective absence doesn’t hinder productivity severely and these practices effectively hardened Microsoft against productivity loss resulting from potential strikes. Similar to dodging taxes through various shell companies, it seemed as if Microsoft and the rest of these major tech firms were protecting themselves from unionization and potential strikes by treating vendor companies as organized labor shelters. Despite the obvious ethical misgivings, where many see anything from myopic ignorance and complexity to a bureaucratic nightmare, I finally saw genius in these tactics.

With this in mind, the caste system of contingent staff made much more sense as well. It wasn’t about cost-savings so much as it was about division, oppression, and dominance. From sugar cane and banana farmers to software engineers, the same rules seem to apply to us all.

Even their fervency for H-1B hires made much more sense from this vantage point as these types of had significantly more to lose than a normal vendor while diversifying their labor force even further and commanding a fraction of the salary of FTEs. While FTEs and vendors stood to lose their job, H-1B workers might lose their ability to live in this country if they acted out of line. So many opted to keep a low profile like a vendor.

Even their penchant for hiring white male right-wingers throughout their full-time ranks made much more sense; especially management. Such demographics tend to vehemently oppose unionization while also being much more tolerant of nationalist causes. In turn, this naturally renders their FTEs less likely to dissent and question authority, let alone consider unionization or a strike as a whole. This appeared to be why so many FTEs blindly tow the company line while taking no exception to their cooperation with the likes of ICE, CBP, and the DOD.

In summary and although technology companies are beginning to receive flack for union-busting when employees begin to make a stand, large corporations seldom get the credit that they deserve for the efforts made to prevent such stands from being made. Although this is not the intended purpose of contingent staffing, in excess it can function as an organized labor shelter. The second-class treatment and oppression merely reinforce this dynamic while the administrative cost-savings filched from these practices and how they look to investment analysts are merely the gravy on top.

Disempowered, divided, and demoralized labor forces are far less likely to realize their true worth, let alone unite, stick their necks out, and demand fair treatment regardless of their employment status. FTEs are on the losing end of this dynamic just the same. If major tech companies have to bust unions the good ol’ fashion way, then they’ve failed. Instead, they seem to strategically organize themselves in a manner that enables them to mitigate the discussion of unions from ever happening in the first place.

Meme: EPO Tyranny Irrespective of One’s Name/Brand

Posted in Europe, Patents at 12:34 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

No matter who’s in charge, the policies are the same

Oh, Dexter; It's António Campinos, not Dexter

Summary: EPO President António Campinos is no better than Dexter or whatever other President the Council puts in charge; there’s total lack of accountability being exploited

IRC Proceedings: Friday, November 01, 2019

Posted in IRC Logs at 12:20 am by Needs Sunlight

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