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01.01.20

Great Example of Openwashing: Latitude Learning (to Fake Its ‘Openness’)

Posted in Deception, Free/Libre Software at 11:54 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Weekly openwashing report

Summary: Faking of “openness” in the LMS space; the case study [pun intended] of Latitude Learning

Latitude Learning deserves a lesson [pun intended] on the cost of faking “openness”. It has become a major epidemic — if not a scam/ploy — that the Linux Foundation profits handsomely from. Our reader Marcia did a top class [pun intended] job getting Latitude Learning to actually admit they had been faking it for a decade while getting away with it. We’ll hand it over to her as she can explain it clearly, based on deep understanding of these matters (I myself installed and configured Moodle several times before; I even wrote detailed documentation, but no idea about Latitude).


In 2007, Latitude announced Open Source [PDF]:

“In 2017, I evaluated and worked as PM on a LMS migration gig — moving from Moodle and Totara to another solution.”In 2010, Latitude announced their Open Source LMS — and an award in late 2010. To quote: “Latitude Learning, provider of the industry leading open-source learning management system (LMS) LatitudeLearning.com and the Chrysler Group, one of the world’s leading automotive companies, today announced they are bronze award winners for Best Use of Web 2.0 Tools for Learning from Brandon Hall Research. The award was presented at Brandon Hall’s DevLearn | 10 conference…”

In 2011, Latitude announced “platform” — a “[b]uilt on an open-source platform” (see bottom part about the company, “About Latitude Learning”).

To quote with further context: “Built on an open-source platform, the LatitudeLearning.com LMS provides the opportunity for training companies to open a world of new opportunities. Please go to www.latitudelearning.com for additional information.

“Granted, that the current statements of platform, may be valid, the question remains, how much has Latitude taken from our community without giving back?”In 2017, I evaluated and worked as PM on a LMS migration gig — moving from Moodle and Totara to another solution. Evaluation of proprietary and non-proprietary options (over a dozen) was performed. Wanted to stay non-proprietary — however, Latitude not only failed in being open source as they claimed but also requested to dump a directory dump every night on a FTP and couldn’t understand my security/privacy concerns regarding such a lack of “integration” on their part- – claiming other customers had no problem with it.

At that point, we referred to the sales staff as “latitude with attitude”.

My problem with their earlier claims of open source, is that I confirmed they were not, were never and as a person who made a living doing Moodle migrations/upgrades and implementations, I actually felt the community was “robbed”. Robbed of potential clients, robbed of community growth, robbed of any possible gigs. By the false representation of being open source, we were, as a community robbed and just compensation should be sought.

That’s just my honest opinion.

Granted, that the current statements of platform, may be valid, the question remains, how much has Latitude taken from our community without giving back?

[2010 Press Release]

2013: regarding cloud platform.

“However, there was a curious option for LMS Branch that offered a copy of the source code. Of course, at cost.”Sure. Open Source on cloud doesn’t require distribution, But Latitude announced in 2007 — far before the platform/cloud exemption was even realised.

“Historically, LMS has really only been available to Fortune 500 and Global 1,000 companies due to the high cost of implementation,” explains Jeff Walter, CEO, Latitude Learning. Latitude Learning offers a flexible and configurable LMS and an open-source LMS for professional training companies, OEMs and franchisers. “Over the last 5 years cloud-based LMS have emerged. These cloud-based systems have allowed the cost of LMS entry to drop dramatically, giving moderate and small sized companies the ability to take advantage of these systems…”

2017: Images below help in confirming that Latitude is NOT Open Source… However, there was a curious option for LMS Branch that offered a copy of the source code. Of course, at cost.

[Here we go with evidence]

Latitude Learning inquiry
Bigger/full image

Latitude Learning response
Bigger/full image

Latitude Learning question

Latitude Learning

Latitude Learning not open
Bigger/full image

All I want is a fair playing ground without these companies fashionably claiming to be Open Source — robbing our community is many ways.

As we have seen with VMware, the SFC has no teeth. In fact, the lawyer for VMware apparently laughed at SFC’s “friendly” request to cease and desist to which the VMware attorney said to the effect: what are you going to do about it — according to Karen Sandler ScALE 15x Law track happy hour in 2016 Pasadena, CA.

“Needless to say, we did not select Latitude for many reasons. The Open Source misrepresentation was definitely one.”As a “potential victim” here of the misrepresentation, I could go after Latitude. However, I don’t have a team of legal reps I can pay to go to court.

Had I realised this misrepresentation prior to the cloud offering, I would have had more ground to stand on.

Needless to say, we did not select Latitude for many reasons. The Open Source misrepresentation was definitely one.

Celebration of Censorship and Self-Censorship in Linux

Posted in Debian, GNU/Linux, Kernel at 10:59 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Big mother (or Big Brother) is watching… everything you say

Truth is toxic? No!! Toxic!!

Summary: We’re back to the same old conundrum: what is more toxic? Oppressive censorship (of truth)? Or the expression of ‘unwanted’ speech?

LWN has just (about 2 hours ago) removed the paywall from this article entitled “A year-end wrap-up from LWN”. I couldn’t help but notice this rather disturbing paragraph from the editor himself (Jonathan Corbet). About the Linux Foundation‘s code of conduct (CoC) it says this: “Did somebody try to test out the kernel’s code-of-conduct as predicted? As of November 30, there had been no code-of-conduct events in the last three months, and only minor events before. That prediction, happily, has not worked out. Thus far, it seems that the code of conduct may actually have succeeded in making the kernel community a nicer place without the need for any serious enforcement efforts.”

Putting aside the recent ban of a “MAGA” hat-wearing person (banned from Kubecon), let’s examine closely what the above actually means. We’re supposed to count the CoC as an achievement not because it’s actually being used but because people are afraid of it — they’re afraid to speak out. Those are the classic hallmarks of authoritarian regimes. Hardly an accomplishment!

An anonymous Debian community site wrote this yesterday (it’s already in our Daily Links by the way). We’ll reproduce a portion below again, for those who aren’t keeping abreast of Daily Links:

Over the past twelve months, concerned developers have spoken out publicly about blackmail in Debian. It has been referred to as analogous to Thought Reform, the brainwashing programs of the totalitarian Chinese communist state and many former eastern European communist dictatorships.

The regime operating this program are the Debian Account Managers, comprising Enrico Zini, Joerg Jaspert and Jonathan Wiltshire.

Using the public complaints about the process, let’s break it down into easy steps. Like Zini, Jaspert and Wiltshire did at Christmas 2018, you could make this into a holiday project and start your own regime during a long weekend.

Begin with the conclusion

Normally, an expulsion or imprisonment comes at the end of an inquiry or investigation. In a blackmail program, the process is reversed.

In Debian’s case, this involves removing somebody from the Debian keyring. This is something that is relatively easy for Zini, Joerg and Wiltshire to do using their position in the project.

Add something menacing

For some developers, simply removing them from the keyring can cause immediate problems with their employment as they can no longer upload packages to Debian if they are not included in the Debian keyring. Without saying any more, Zini, Joerg and Jaspert now have the victim’s full attention.

This is about Debian, where there seems to be a(n anti) “free speech” cabal that gags people for questionable reasons; it’s to do with Google money, politics and social justice causes. In the case of the Linux Foundation it’s somewhat worse because the speech policing is done by people who do not use Linux. Sure, they run “Linux Foundation” and “Linux dot com” and so on. But they don’t even use GNU/Linux; they don’t understand the users and the community, only corporate agenda (of corporate sponsors). So they’re in effect like a Ford CEO who drives a Japanese car around, insisting even in public that it is superior. They tell us free speech is dangerous and are adamant — even eager — to suppress any views that don’t suit their career goals. This is a recipe for total chaos; we already saw what that did to the FSF. Watch closely the LWN comment (on the above article) which says: “Recently I received issue 35 of the FSF Bulletin. (Not yet available at https://www.fsf.org/bulletin .) My copy has already been recycled but it struck me Stallman wasn’t mentioned even once. Surreal.”

If FSF did this consciously, what does that say about today’s FSF? As we said months ago, several times in fact, there cannot be software freedom without freedom of speech; those two principles are closely intertwined. It has been reported and proven that the FSF even censors its mailing lists (e.g. messages in support of Stallman!).

Modest Proposal: Re-add Richard Stallman as Ordinary Board Member of the Free Software Foundation (FSF)

Posted in FSF at 8:59 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Free Software Foundation board one month after 3 people left

Free Software Foundation board one month later

Summary: Most reasonable way for the FSF to restore confidence among longterm members? Probably taking practical steps to show respect for the FSF’s founder, addressing if not tackling a perceptual GNU discord

BAD technology is creeping in and spreading wide. What defines “bad”? Well, that depends. But many would objectively agree that technology that makes people unhappy or oppresses people (for some so-called ‘master’) is a bad thing. Proprietary software generally makes these things miles worse because there’s usually no way to confront the malice or reduce the level of subjugation.

“The way I see it, the FSF needs Stallman more than he needs the FSF, albeit as chief of the GNU project it would be ideal for both to rejoin, coming together again as one.”Richard Stallman is apparently recognising that Free software alone is insufficient and growing threats (or problems) exist. Hours ago he alluded to the whole Clown Computing thing in an E-mail to me. The mail itself is mostly private, but it seems evident that Stallman has been keeping up with the constantly-evolving nature of threats. In last year’s public talk he also brought these up on occasions.

The way I see it, the FSF needs Stallman more than he needs the FSF, albeit as chief of the GNU project it would be ideal for both to rejoin, coming together again as one. That might also help appease and reduce supposed ‘confusion’ among his vocal critics at GNU (the same group that keeps issuing public letters/petitions). Mr. Kuhn, who had authored a Stallman-hostile press release, left the Board, so causes for friction may have since there been (self?) removed.

The Man Who Sold the (Linux) World

Posted in GNU/Linux, Kernel, Microsoft at 8:19 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Hint: this man doesn’t even use Linux!

What is it, what is it? ... and then... Linux was outsourced to Microsoft Corp.

Summary: Shadows and ghosts from 2016 (when Microsoft already knew it would buy GitHub) and the Linux Foundation did photos such as these after Microsoft had paid it to (nowadays virtually everything at the Foundation is being outsourced to GitHub/Microsoft)

Whose Opinion Really Matters to The FSF? The Board’s, The Sponsors’, or The Members’?

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FSF at 1:18 pm by Guest Editorial Team

By Ted MacReilly

Does media matter?
Do members matter? Does the billionaires-owned media decide whether to ‘cancel’ the founder of the FSF?

Summary: “Prove that you care about the Mission of the FSF — And DEFEND SOFTWARE FREEDOM.”

It’s a new decade for the Free Software Foundation, whether you find it off to a hopeful start or not. And just like in The Office, this decade the FSF has two co-managing, sort-of presidents. Well, whatever.

The two surest signs that members don’t matter to the FSF are the failed fundraiser, and the fact that Stallman isn’t in office. Why say this outrageous thing? Because it’s technically true, of course.

Theoretically, members matter a lot. And in practice, members may have influence sometimes. But you can probably tell when they do. When you fork over money to support the FSF, you don’t get any voting privileges with that membership. Maybe you shouldn’t, either — if anybody can just buy their own importance, what’s to stop everybody at Microsoft, or IBM from becoming members and… sorry, we’re getting ahead of things here.

“When you fork over money to support the FSF, you don’t get any voting privileges with that membership.”Whether you’re a corporation buying your way in, or a single person fooling yourself into thinking your opinion automatically matters (it does, but to whom?) isn’t the proof in the results?

Most members do not want Stallman gone, and enough people are unhappy enough now that Stallman has stepped down that the FSF has lost what I figure amounts to tens of thousands of dollars. That’s a pretty big screwup and the good news is, that it’s a screwup the FSF can fix — if members really matter.

Again, maybe it’s better that members can’t vote. The Open Source Initiative, an organization that used to at least feign to care about freedom or openness (or whatever it is they promote) made a change years ago where they decided to be more member-oriented. In my opinion, they’ve only gotten more cloyingly corporate and less “open”/Apple-y/developery since they allowed sponsors to take over more of their operation — Molly de Blanc even works there, and I can’t really tell the difference between GNOME and Microsoft anymore.

When did all these things become the same company anyway? When your operating system is controlled by GitHub+Microsoft+OIN+Red Hat+IBM, Debian+Mollamby+GNOME+OSI, Apple and SUSE+SAP, maybe it really is unfair to call it “GNU+Linux” anymore. Out of recognition, we should at least call it “GNU+Linux+Bloodthirsty monopolistic corporations.”

“…maybe it really is unfair to call it “GNU+Linux” anymore.”The point is, if you want to know who had a GREAT 2019, it’s IBM and Microsoft. They had the biggest coups in the entire history of their partnership. Not only have they taken over Free software, but the government is paying them extra! To quote the Halloween documents, it’s nothing but “Blue Sky” from now on.

If you’re a supporter of Free software though, it really sucks to be you. And of course we want the FSF to do something about it, but we know that all you’ve said over the past 5 to 10 years hasn’t really changed anything the FSF does day-to-day or year-to-year. We are powerless, and being told the FSF fights for our freedom.

I have worked tirelessly to try to figure out what we can do about this. There’s always the way things work on paper, and how they work in press releases, but you know programmers and techies, they want to know how things Really work. If the Halloween documents (some of which are hosted on gnu.org) are factual, then Microsoft has spent decades reverse-engineering organizations like the FSF to try to figure out how to exploit them. It figured out how to exploit the GPL, forcing them to create a patched version (GPL3.)

“If the Halloween documents (some of which are hosted on gnu.org) are factual, then Microsoft has spent decades reverse-engineering organizations like the FSF to try to figure out how to exploit them. It figured out how to exploit the GPL, forcing them to create a patched version (GPL3.)”If we want to compete with the corporations exploiting and trying to take over the FSF, we may have to reverse engineer the organisational processes as well.

(Or at least find accurate, easy-to-understand documentation… haha, gotcha.)

It’s a common assumption to assume the president has more power than they really do. We can logically assume Stallman had some, or there would be no advantage to ousting him in the first place. Now the FSF has a sort of chimera-like leadership, between a Suit who wants “unity” (find a historical example of “unity” that didn’t favor a faction closer to the leadership, they’re quite rare — Sullivan’s “unity” likely just means a shift in authority and the rest of his messaging isn’t anything to be hopeful about) and a Stallman-like hippie who nonetheless is so steeped in corporate culture that it can take veritable ages to guide him back to the land of the living.

Rhetorically, and historically, the FSF is against the worst parts of all this — that’s why we like them! If you look past rhetoric towards results however, the FSF continues to cede to corporate power. What about Puri.sm? When I think of what future the FSF might have, I think RYF is a very good idea; it’s something we need. I think the track record for RYF is good. But is Puri.sm a scam or not? Is IBM taking over the GNU system or not? Is the mailing list being censored or not?

“Too many signs of corruption remain present, as the FSF tries to double-down on old messaging against a backdrop of unconvincing sincerity and a conspicuously missing single-person-presidency.”Who do you think these guys answer to — you? They may reply, but if your questions aren’t really answered then they must know they don’t owe you anything — not even the truth in some instances, and they certainly don’t answer to you. Is this how the FSF fights for your freedom?

Too many signs of corruption remain present, as the FSF tries to double-down on old messaging against a backdrop of unconvincing sincerity and a conspicuously missing single-person-presidency.

If members had a say at all, they MIGHT manage to fix this!

SO WHO HAS THE REAL SAY here?

In the near future, we might find out that the failed fundraiser gets their attention and forces the FSF to care not just in a “we care, really!” sort of way, but in a “we have to do something different to get our numbers back up” kind of way.

Or they might just fall back on their very large, anonymous nest egg which they received before all this horror and atrocity started last year.

Or they might decide “screw associate members, let’s just do more for our corporate sponsors.”

I’m told that finance-wise, members (rather than sponsors) make up the largest part of the pie. But is that still true with this failed annual fundraiser?

“I’m told that finance-wise, members (rather than sponsors) make up the largest part of the pie. But is that still true with this failed annual fundraiser?”I admit to not caring about the numbers, at least not compared to the actions, achievements and goals of the FSF. I care about software freedom, I care about a degree of autonomy from monopolies without which software freedom is largely hypothetical — I care about the FSF fighting for us. The numbers could be sky-high, but if our freedom is suffering and nothing is being done about it, the budget is irrelevant to me.

I realise I’m wandering around a bit, but we’ve ruled out significant power by the president (as he’s not in office) and we’ve ruled out significant power by the members (whose only real “vote” is to abstain from funding. And that was never very relevant before this year.)

Minus the president, minus the members, what’s left is:

  • Corporate sponsors
  • The board
  • Corporate moles

I threw that last one in just to be thorough. We (as Free software advocates) have sympathisers in monopolistic corporations. They may likewise have corporate/monopoly sympathisers in our organisations, they certainly did not long ago.

We know the board has most of the voting power, by charter and by process of elimination.

We know the corporate sponsors have de facto power, as 2019 was like Year-Round-Christmas for monopolies who wanted to take software that’s free for everyone and make it “more free for some than others.” You can almost hear the cynical echo of Ballmer’s “Developers! Developers! Developers!” in the distance.

“You can almost hear the cynical echo of Ballmer’s “Developers! Developers! Developers!” in the distance.”We can’t get anything from the corporate sponsors, the president doesn’t really exist (not in any reasonable or worthwhile capacity) and any moles are certainly useless to our cause, so who does that leave?

The board, the board, and the board.

The board is the only real official power of the FSF.

Now, what does that tell us?

“…we know that in practice the board listens more to corporate sponsors than to us.”One, that if we want to bolster the FSF’s defenses into a force that can actually fight for us in this new decade, that we have to get to know (as well as convince) the board members to help.

Two, that if we fail, we know that in practice the board listens more to corporate sponsors than to us.

Three, that we can determine all of this by simply WATCHING THE RESULTS.

The campaigns team tells us what they want us to think.

The results tell us what we actually know!

It’s a brand new year, where we can find out if the board will ever listen to peons like us.

“…Stallman matters to your bottom line.”Reinstate Stallman, cowards! Or watch your “stock” continue to plummet. We know we don’t matter to you — our de facto importance comes down to numbers and talking sense to people who are obviously listening to corporations, all day long. But Stallman matters to your bottom line.

As to what should matter more than votes, is the Mission of the FSF. But missions are always open to interpretations. Corporations like to reshape those interpretations (both in the minds of the board and the minds of the public) and it’s common for organizations like the FSF to stray from their mission and cling more to messaging and “awareness” campaigns as they get older.

For the FSF to hold to their mission means that someone has to put them on it again. Now go back and read it again — who do you think is going to get the FSF to return to their mission in earnest? Certainly not the corporate sponsors, are you kidding?

“It’s already too corporate, you’ll destroy it if you go that direction.”Hold them to it! Or, you can just keep throwing your money towards the bidding of their bigger sponsors. That’s a very Bill and Melinda thing to do, but the failed fundraiser shows that there’s more to the world than Bill and Melinda, eh?

I hope they’ve got your attention now, FSF Board. Now, don’t talk — prove that you heard them. Prove that you care about the Mission of the FSF — And DEFEND SOFTWARE FREEDOM. It’s about more than just fundraisers and worn-out rhetorical crap like “unity”, isn’t it?

Forget about the FSF for a minute — what are you going to actually DO for software freedom, this decade? Now, what is the FSF going to do to help? If it’s going to make the FSF yet more corporate, that really won’t help at all. It’s already too corporate, you’ll destroy it if you go that direction. Some think you’ve already started — does that even matter?

Licence: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0 Or Later)

Links 1/1/2020: PineBook Benchmarks, Bison 3.5 and Septor 2020

Posted in News Roundup at 12:13 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

  • GNU/Linux

    • Desktop/Laptop

      • 5 New Year’s Resolutions for Fans of Linux

        A new year, a new decade, and a new chance to break old habits by trying new distros things.

        Yes, we’re talking New Year’s resolutions — but with a FOSS flavoured twist!

        It’s common at the start of the year to set yourself a couple of goals you can try and achieve throughout the year.

        We’re talking achievable things that will make an appreciable difference to your life.

        But forgot about losing a bit of weight, spending less money on take-out coffee, or arranging to see the in-laws more because I want to know what your Linux new year resolutions are!

        Perhaps you plan on running apt update less often? Are you minded to explore KDE, Xfce, or i3? Might you want to assemble the courage to attempt your own Arch Linux install?!

        Let me know — but on the off chance you don’t yet have any Linux related resolutions in mind, read on for five tip top suggestions from me!

    • Audiocasts/Shows

      • 2019 Tech Recap and 2020 Upcoming Changes

        Let’s do the recap and Upcoming changes as fast as possible! I’m pumped about what is happening right now so here it is…

      • mintCast 325 – Ring My Bell

        First up, in our Wanderings, Leo bakes a camera Pi, Tony Watts gets steamed, Joe gets an unexpected upgrade, Tony Hughes installed Lineage on a new old phone, Moss has an Xapp mishap, and Oliver treats his ears.

        Then, in our news, Linux Mint 19.3 is here, Vivaldi champions Linux, DXVK forges ahead, and more.

        In security, we talk Chrome flaws and the risks of Ring.

    • Kernel Space

    • Benchmarks

      • PineBook Benchmarks For The ARM Linux Laptop Starting At $99 USD

        For those interested in benchmarks of the $99+ PineBook ARM Linux laptop, more results continue to be uploaded on OpenBenchmarking.org.

        The PineBook as a refresher is a 11.6″ or 14″ laptop with quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB eMMC, 802.11n WiFi + Bluetooth 4.0, USB 2.0 ports, microSD, a full-size keyboard, and a basic 10000mAH battery. For the price of the assembled laptop at just $99 USD isn’t bad at all especially with reportedly nice build quality.

    • Instructionals/Technical

    • Desktop Environments/WMs

      • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

        • Some Of The Features That Could Come To KDE In 2020

          KDE developer Nate Graham who is well known for his weekly development summaries in the KDE space has shared his opinions on the desktop’s features he expects to see materialize this year as well as some of the less likely bits.

          Nate Graham expects KDE this year to better handle FUSE mounts for accessing remote locations in non-KDE applications, better privilege escalation handling within KIO and Dolphin, improved Samba share discovery within Dolphin, and auto-rotation for tablets/convertibles and other devices with display rotation sensors.

      • GNOME Desktop/GTK

        • Joaquim Rocha: Wrapping Up 2019

          About GNOME/community work. It’s difficult to find the time and energy to do anything tech-related outside of work, so I cannot realistically think I will be an active contributor in my spare time.
          Still, I keep my eye and interest in the GNOME and flatpak communities. Last year (2018) I “flatpaked” two old games (noiz2sa and rRootage) and added them to Flathub, and now I am in the process of getting Robocode into flathub (more on that soon).

    • Distributions

      • New Releases

        • Septor 2020

          Septor Linux is a operating system that provides users with a perfect computing environment for surfing the Internet anonymously. Septor providing users with a stable and reliable distribution that is based on Debian GNU/Linux and works on a wide range of computers. Distribution featuring a customised KDE Plasma desktop.

          Tor Browser, OnionShare (an anonymous file sharing utility) and Ricochet (an instant messaging client developed by the Invisible.im group). Thunderbird, HexChat and QuiteRSS are all pre-configured to connect to the Internet via the Tor network. The distribution can be used in “live” mode or it can be installed to hard disk via the standard Debian installer.

          Core desktop and applications
          Linux Kernel 5.3
          Plasma 5.14.5
          KDE Applications 18.08.0
          Tor Browser 9.0.2, based on Firefox 68.3 ESR

          Other applications
          Internet: Thunderbird, HexChat, Ricochet IM, QuiteRSS, OnionShare
          Software Management: Synaptic, GDebi
          Utilities: Gufw, Konsole, Ark, Sweeper, Bootiso, ISO Image Writer, Kcalc, KGpg, Kleopatra, MAT, KWallet, VeraCrypt, Cup-backup
          Office: LibreOffice, Kontact, КOrganizer, Okular, Kwrite, Kate
          Graphics / Multimedia: GIMP, Gwenview. VLC, K3b, Guvcview

      • Debian Family

        • Debian blackmail and Thought Reform Quickstart

          Over the past twelve months, concerned developers have spoken out publicly about blackmail in Debian. It has been referred to as analogous to Thought Reform, the brainwashing programs of the totalitarian Chinese communist state and many former eastern European communist dictatorships.

          The regime operating this program are the Debian Account Managers, comprising Enrico Zini, Joerg Jaspert and Jonathan Wiltshire.

          Using the public complaints about the process, let’s break it down into easy steps. Like Zini, Jaspert and Wiltshire did at Christmas 2018, you could make this into a holiday project and start your own regime during a long weekend.

          Begin with the conclusion

          Normally, an expulsion or imprisonment comes at the end of an inquiry or investigation. In a blackmail program, the process is reversed.

          In Debian’s case, this involves removing somebody from the Debian keyring. This is something that is relatively easy for Zini, Joerg and Wiltshire to do using their position in the project.

          Add something menacing

          For some developers, simply removing them from the keyring can cause immediate problems with their employment as they can no longer upload packages to Debian if they are not included in the Debian keyring. Without saying any more, Zini, Joerg and Jaspert now have the victim’s full attention.

        • Utkarsh Gupta: Debian Activities for December 2019

          Here’s my (third) monthly update about the activities I’ve done in Debian this December.

          Debian LTS

          This was my third month as a Debian LTS paid contributor.

    • Devices/Embedded

    • Free, Libre, and Open Source Software

      • FSF

        • GNU Projects

          • Bison 3.5 released [stable]
            We are very happy to announce the release of Bison 3.5, the best release 
            ever of Bison!  Better than 3.4, although it was a big improvement over 3.3, 
            which was huge upgrade compared to 3.2, itself way ahead Bison 3.1.  Ethic 
            demands that we don't mention 3.0.  Rumor has it that Bison 3.5 is not as 
            good as 3.6 will be though... 
            Paul Eggert revised the use of integral types in both the generator and the 
            generated parsers.  As a consequence small parsers have a smaller footprint, 
            and very large automata are now possible with the default back-end (yacc.c). 
            If you are interested in smaller parsers, also have a look at api.token.raw. 
            Adrian Vogelsgesang contributed lookahead correction for C++. 
            The purpose of string literals has been clarified.  Indeed, they are used 
            for two different purposes: freeing from having to implement the keyword 
            matching in the scanner, and improving error messages.  Most of the time 
            both can be achieved at the same time, but on occasions, it does not work so 
            well.  We promote their use for error messages.  We still support the former 
            case (at least for historical skeletons), but it is not a recommended 
            practice.  The documentation now warns against this use.  A new warning, 
            -Wdangling-alias, should help users who want to enforce the use of aliases 
            only for error messages. 
            An experimental back-end for the D programming language was added thanks to 
            Oliver Mangold and H. S. Teoh.  It is looking for active support from the D 
            community. 
            
            Happy parsing! 
            
            ================================================================== 
            Bison is a general-purpose parser generator that converts an annotated 
            context-free grammar into a deterministic LR or generalized LR (GLR) parser 
            employing LALR(1) parser tables.  Bison can also generate IELR(1) or 
            canonical LR(1) parser tables.  Once you are proficient with Bison, you can 
            use it to develop a wide range of language parsers, from those used in 
            simple desk calculators to complex programming languages. 
            Bison is upward compatible with Yacc: all properly-written Yacc grammars 
            work with Bison with no change.  Anyone familiar with Yacc should be able to 
            use Bison with little trouble.  You need to be fluent in C, C++ or Java 
            programming in order to use Bison. 
            Here is the GNU Bison home page: 
            
            https://gnu.org/software/bison/
            
            
          • Glibc Sees End Of Year Improvements For GNU Hurd With The Microkernel Entering Its 30th Year

            There hasn’t been a new GNU Hurd release since the microkernel’s 0.9 release back in 2016, but at least other areas of the stack continue inching further. Glibc as an important piece to the GNU toolchain saw some improvements for Hurd during December.

            Some of the latest Hurd-specific work to Glibc includes refactoring of the signal code, global signal disposition, support for sending file descriptors over Unix sockets, getrandom() / getentropy() improvements, and supporting more functions. Among the functions added for Hurd coverage are getcontext / makecontext / setcontext / swapcontext. These are based on the similar Linux functions but adapted for usage with Hurd.

      • Programming/Development

        • I’m not feeling the async pressure

          Async is all the rage. Async Python, async Rust, go, node, .NET, pick your favorite ecosystem and it will have some async going. How good this async business works depends quite a lot on the ecosystem and the runtime of the language but overall it has some nice benefits. It makes one thing really simple: to await an operation that can take some time to finish. It makes it so simple, that it creates innumerable new ways to blow ones foot off. The one that I want to discuss is the one where you don’t realize you’re blowing your foot off until the system starts overloading and that’s the topic of back pressure management. A related term in protocol design is flow control.

          What’s Back Pressure

          There are many explanations for back pressure and a great one is Backpressure explained — the resisted flow of data through software which I recommend reading. So instead of going into detail about what back pressure is I just want to give a very short definition and explanation for it: back pressure is resistance that opposes the flow of data through a system. Back pressure sounds quite negative — who does not imagine a bathtub overflowing due to a clogged pipe — but it’s here to safe your day.

          The setup we’re dealing with here is more or less the same in all cases: we have a system composed of different components into a pipeline and that pipeline has to accept a certain number of incoming messages.

          You could imagine this like you would model luggage delivery at airports. Luggage arrives, gets sorted, loaded into the aircraft and finally unloaded. At any point an individual piece of luggage is thrown together with other luggage into containers for transportation. When a container is full it will need to be picked up. When no containers are left that’s a natural example of back pressure. Now the person that would want to throw luggage into a container can’t because there is no container. A decision has to be made now. One option is to wait: that’s often referred to as queueing or buffering. The other option is to throw away some luggage until a container arrives — this is called dropping. That sounds bad, but we will get into why this is sometimes important later. However there is another thing that plays into here. Imagine the person tasked with putting luggage into a container does not receive a container for an extended period of time (say a week). Eventually if they did not end up throwing luggage away now they will have an awful lot of luggage standing around. Eventually the amount of luggage they will have to sort through will be so enormous that they run out of physical space to store the luggage. At that point they are better off telling the airport not to accept any more incoming luggage until their container issue is resolved. This is commonly referred to as flow control and a crucial aspect of networking.

          All these processing pipelines are normally scaled for a certain amount of messages (or in this case luggage) per time period. If the number exceeds this — or worst of all — if the pipeline stalls terrible things can happen. An example of this in the real world was the London Heathrow Terminal 5 opening where 42,000 bags failed to be routed correctly over 10 days because the IT infrastructure did not work correctly. They had to cancel more than 500 flights and for a while airlines chose to only permit carry-on only.

  • Leftovers

    • Science

      • Happy 50th Birthday To All You Epoch Birthers

        Good morning everyone, and what a lovely start to the new year it is, because it’s your birthday! Happy birthday, it’s your 50th! What’s that you say, you aren’t 50 today? (Looks…) That’s what all these internet databases say, because you’ve spent the last decade or so putting 1970-01-01 as your birth date into every online form that doesn’t really need to know it!

        It’s been a staple for a subset of our community for years, to put the UNIX epoch, January 1st 1970, into web forms as a birth date. There are even rumours that some sites now won’t accept that date as a birthday, such is the volume of false entries they have with that date. It’s worth taking a minute though to consider UNIX time, some of its history and how its storage has changed over the years.

    • Integrity/Availability

      • Proprietary

        • Security

          • Chrome extension caught stealing crypto-wallet private keys

            On the extension’s official website, 32-bit and 64-bit installers were also made available to users.

            Scans with VirusTotal, a website that aggregates the virus scanning engines of several antivirus software makers, show both files as clean.

            However, numerous comments posted on the wallet’s Telegram channel suggest the desktop apps might contain similarly malicious code, if not worse.

          • Security updates for Wednesday

            Security updates have been issued by Debian (igraph, jhead, libgcrypt20, otrs2, and waitress) and Mageia (clamaw, exiv2, filezilla, hunspell, libidn2, pdfresurrect, roundcubemail, and xpdf).

    • Censorship/Free Speech

      • Take care Patently-O Commenters — Lawsuits are in the Air.

        Three commenters to John Welch’s TTABlog were recently sued for defamation after criticising an attorney (Lee Thomason) who lost a case before the TTAB. Prof. Eugene Volokh has written more about the new lawsuit on his blog Volokh Conspiracy. I know both John and Lee (who recently retired as a clinical professor at OSU) which makes this a bit more interesting and unfortunate.

        [...]

        The new defamation lawsuit filed in Federal Court in Kentucky accused Dreitler, Reidl, and deWolf of “volitional contacts with readers in Kentucky of the defamatory comments.” Prof. Volokh, whose expertise is defamation (inter alia), reviewed the filing and suggests that the claim will not stand, but promises an attempt to keep readers updated.

    • Monopolies

      • Patents

        • Software Patents

          • How Many Patents Issued in 2019? [Ed: The Office lowered patent quality again (by granting loads of illegal patents such as abstract ones, using ridiculous loopholes)]

            New Record – 354,507 Utility Patents issued by the USPTO in 2019. The decade (2010s) also outstripped any other decade by leaps and bounds.

          • USPTO Makes Ex Parte Linden An Informative PTAB Decision [Ed: Software patents booster Michael Borella (no, he's no coder) on the Office cherry-picking PTAB cases so as to continue granting illegal, fake, bogus, laughable patents]

            Over five and a half years on from the Supreme Court’s Alice vs. CLS Bank ruling, patentees, patent professionals, judges, and USPTO personnel are still wrestling with what it means for an invention to be eligible for patenting. This is especially true for software-related innovations. Despite the software-driven digital economy accounting for approximately 7% of the U.S. gross domestic product, software inventions can have a rough path to allowance and are likely to have their eligibility challenged post-issuance. The disconnect between software being one of the main sources of innovation in the last decade and its least-favored-nation status in patent law is largely due to Alice and its progeny.

            In Alice, the Court set forth a two-part test to determine whether claims are directed to patent-eligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101. One must first decide whether the claim at hand involves a judicially-excluded law of nature, a natural phenomenon, or an abstract idea. If so, then one must further decide whether any element or combination of elements in the claim is sufficient to ensure that the claim amounts to significantly more than the judicial exclusion. But elements or combinations of elements that are well-understood, routine, and conventional will not lift the claim over the § 101 hurdle. While this inquiry is generally carried out as a matter of law, factual issues can come into play when determining whether something is well-understood, routine, and conventional.

            [...]

            During prosecution, the Examiner rejected claim 11 and claims depending therefrom under § 101 as being directed to patent-ineligible subject matter. Particularly, the Examiner viewed claim 11 as “using the predicted character probabilities (mathematical formula) to decode a transcription of the input audio into words or text data.” The Examiner found that this was “similar to the court case Gottschalk v. Benson because the predicted character probabilities (mathematical formula or relationship) is used to convert or transcribe audio data into text data (words).” Thus, the Examiner concluded that the claim was directed to an invention falling into the mathematical concepts category.

            The Examiner also characterized the claim as merely “normalizing the input audio data (manipulating data),” and “generating spectrogram frames based on each audio file (generating information sets based on prior information sets),” “using a mathematical formula to convert audio data into text data (Decoding).” The Examiner asserted that this implied that the claim was also abstract under the “certain methods of organizing human activity” and “mental process” categories because a “human can listen to an audio file and transcribe the audio data into text data which can all be done mentally.”

            Moreover, the Examiner found that the claim also fails under the second step of Alice. To that point, the Examiner wrote that the claimed invention “[d]oes not amount to significantly more since it is just decoding a transcription using a mathematical formula or relationship.”

            [...]

            This case is of note because it is one of the first in which the PTAB has confirmed that a machine learning invention can be non-abstract. While the USPTO’s example 39 has suggested that one can claim a machine learning procedure without reciting any of the underlying mathematics, a mental process, or a method of organizing human activity, this decision affirms that is the case. The PTAB also seemed persuaded, based on statements made in the specification, that the claimed invention entails an improvement over previous techniques used to address the problem domain.

            Of course, a district court or the Federal Circuit might agree or disagree. But, at the very least, the reasoning herein provides a roadmap for claim drafting and prosecution that may situate an invention to pass § 101 muster in the USPTO.

Not a Joke: Linux Foundation Web Site Rejects Linux Browsers, Favours Proprietary Software and Spying

Posted in GNU/Linux, Kernel at 11:20 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

From bad to worse, but I guess it’s expected. When your staff doesn't even use Linux why would they test changes to the site from GNU/Linux machines? I cannot close the popup below and therefore cannot navigate anywhere. Imagine Apple’s Web site rejecting Mac users.

Linux, GNU, Don't you say that word

Summary: We’ve meanwhile noticed that Linuxfoundation.org — the official Web site of the Linux Foundation — added more spying and the site had become inaccessible to actual GNU/Linux browsers; bordering the insane or the totally absurd…

The Face of Linux.com

Posted in GNU/Linux at 10:59 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Two days ago: Very Fine Advocacy From the Sole Person Whom the Linux Foundation Left in Charge of Linux.com After Firing All Staff That Actually Used GNU/Linux

Yesterday: Like Zemlin, Like Linux.com

Joined Apple
Joined Jim Zemlin of the Linux Foundation, giving the finger to Linux

Summary: People who want to explore GNU/Linux and go to a site called Linux.com (with something called the “Linux Foundation” as its steward) can say, “even Linux.com rejects Linux!” (and promotes things that aren’t compatible with Linux)

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