08.08.20

[Meme] Microsoft in 2020: Liaising With Criminals to Make Crime the New Normal

Posted in Microsoft at 8:23 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Related: Microsoft Caught Committing Yet More Bribery Crimes, But Nobody Gets Arrested

Cops dialogue/Fence: Work around the law; Just break it

Trump Microsoft

TikTok cartoon
Source/reuse of cartoon

Summary: As the TikTok situation serves to show, Microsoft is little but a criminal cult that relies on other criminals to do Microsoft's biddings

The Computer Anybody Can Edit

Posted in FSF, GNU/Linux at 7:34 am by Guest Editorial Team

2020 figosdev

Index

Sound board
Chapter 10: The Computer Anybody Can Edit

Summary: “Without rebuilding and recompiling all of the packages on a large distribution, it is possible to “remaster” an ISO and get a different system — even before you install it.”

The goal of Free Software is for all software to be Free as in Freedom — for you to be free to Use, Study, Change and Share the software.

Editing Wikipedia is as simple as clicking Edit and changing the text.

“Without rebuilding and recompiling all of the packages on a large distribution, it is possible to “remaster” an ISO and get a different system — even before you install it.”Installing a different operating system is sometimes as simple as downloading a file, writing it to a CD, DVD or USB, booting the computer with that and then using it to write the same to the computer itself.

Ideally, changing that download would be as easy to edit as Wikipedia.

Some will argue that it already is that easy, but that isn’t entirely true. While I don’t believe that you (or by extension, anybody else) are obligated to work with other people on a project, ideally we would facilitate both working on projects as groups or as individuals, at their option.

Besides, just because what I’m talking about is partially implemented, doesn’t mean you can just download Debian for example, click “Edit” and have a new bootable ISO.

“You wouldn’t want to remaster and install an ISO just to add leafpad to your system, of course.”The ISO is not the only way to install GNU/Linux, but it is the way to get it onto a CD or DVD that you can use to do installation. Without rebuilding and recompiling all of the packages on a large distribution, it is possible to “remaster” an ISO and get a different system — even before you install it.

“To edit Wikipedia, not only do you have to get past a lot of politics to create edits, you need to learn the code — the wiki syntax in particular.”Distros conventionally arrange software into “packages” — a package is a group of files, and installing software in a modular way typically pulls in a handful of support packages which are needed to make the software work. For example, to install Leafpad in Debian you would just say:

    sudo apt-get install leafpad

Why are there three commands instead of one? Let’s look at the way this works:

“sudo” – this lets you run things that need root/administrator privileges from a user-level prompt. Typically it will ask for a root password when you run it.

“apt-get” – this is the actual package manager command. It tells the computer what you want to install.

“install” – this is a superfluous “parameter” or option for the apt-get command. If there were a command called apt-get-install (or just “install”) then you wouldn’t need this; the only reason you need it is because that’s how the apt-get authors designed it.

There are good arguments to be made for not calling a command something as generic as “install”, but it would be ideal if the command were apt-install or aptinstall rather than apt-get install. Obviously, this is a quibble. But apt-get install is the most common usage of apt that most people know.

“leafpad” – while this is the name of the program you wanted, specifically it is the name of the package you want to download and install to the operating system.

You wouldn’t want to remaster and install an ISO just to add leafpad to your system, of course. You want the option of installing new programs to an already-installed OS. But you you don’t just want the freedom to use, study, change and share individual programs. Ideally, you would be able to do the same thing with distros. Technically this is possible, but what it isn’t is easy.

“If you don’t like a change it makes, you can just remove those lines. Editing an operating system is like editing a wiki!”To edit Wikipedia, not only do you have to get past a lot of politics to create edits, you need to learn the code — the wiki syntax in particular. Wiki syntax was originally created to make it easier to edit the HTML code in Web pages.

Instead of 4 angle brackets, quotes and repeating the name of the closing tag with a /, you can just say [[article name]] to create a link to another page for example. For a single link these are small savings, but for editing an encyclopedia the difference in convenience and readability is substantial.

It would be cool if you could simply open a file, change a few things you wanted to be different in your GNU/Linux distro, and run a command to create a different ISO. Existing remastering tools tend to fall into two categories: serious developer tools that can do nearly anything, and toy remastering utilities that give you a taste of real power, but make it tedious (and manual) to do lots of work.

Distro-libre was my own effort to make toys that can do anything. I started by creating a toy programming language, with fewer than 100 commands. While this language is very simple, it translates automatically to Python code that you can run on almost any GNU/Linux system.

The language can also run shell code, so I had it call code to open an ISO, decompress the filesystem, make changes and zip it back up. Syslinux has a tool called isohybrid that turns your bootable ISO into one you can write to a USB with a single command: dd if=name-of-iso of=/dev/sdx, where sdx is the device you are writing to. Lots of distros offer hybrid ISOs that can be written to USB, but distro-libre runs isohybrid for you.

The goal here was to make the ISO itself optional. An ISO is a large file — sometimes more than 1 GB (that’s a lot for an amateur to host — Devuan for example, doesn’t even archive its older versions). With distro-libre, instead of making a few changes to an ISO and then uploading and hosting a gigabyte or half of one for people to download, you can simply download a text file written in a wiki-like programming language and run THAT instead.

What this accomplishes is that if you are remastering say, Debian 9 — it can download the Debian 9 ISO, automatically open / decompress / change / compress / write the ISO / hybridise it and spit it out into a new ISO, all automatically.

It is automatic, though you are in complete control of it — because it is a single file that has one or a few lines for every single change.

“After creating my own ISO based more exclusively on Refracta, I set out to remaster more distros, and used Distro-libre to remove systemd from both Trisquel 8 and Debian 9 — to show it could be done by an automatic remastering tool.”If you don’t like a change it makes, you can just remove those lines. Editing an operating system is like editing a wiki!

There are a few things to note about this system — one is that I never wanted the job of remastering distros. I was hoping Debian would always be true enough to itself and to free software to take care of that for us. I only started remastering after Debian and Devuan failed to be projects I could rely on, and I never thought Debian would become unreliable or corrupt as a project.

I didn’t even set out to remaster distros, I was writing a toy/demo program (it’s the truth) to analyse the contents of ISO files. Eventually I realised how close it was to a remastering program and I added the features needed to make it one.

My first distro was created with my own programming language — one of the drawbacks of most (not all) remastering programs is they are specific to the distro family they are created for. Instead of a family-specific remaster tool, I wanted something that could (in theory, and hopefully in practice) remaster any distro. I adapted it to remaster Puppy, Refracta, Debian, Trisquel, Void, Tiny Core and others.

Once I was able to remaster, I set out to mix two distributions into a single ISO — Puppy Linux and Refracta. I still didn’t plan on more than experimenting with mixing ISOs together.

After creating my own ISO based more exclusively on Refracta, I set out to remaster more distros, and used Distro-libre to remove systemd from both Trisquel 8 and Debian 9 — to show it could be done by an automatic remastering tool.

Although I wasn’t sure of this at first, I didn’t create the first automatic remaster tool for the purpose of making a new distro from an existing one — OLPC has created a similar tool to make an OLPC software platform from Ubuntu

To give you an idea of how this works in practice, an author can take some code that is designed to add or remove Leafpad to an existing iso, and put some code around it like this:

    function add_leafpad

    CODE GOES HERE

    next

The “function” and “next” commands mark the start and end of the section of code that install leafpad. So you can have one or several lines of code there, then you can have another section of code (say at the bottom) which says things like:

    now add_leafpad
    now remove_systemd
    now add_sysvinit
    now delete_icons # saves space!
    now remove_langsupport
    now add_en_gb

The “now” command isn’t a command, it is actually a variable name. If you prefer, you could just use a single letter, like p:

    p add_leafpad
    p remove_systemd
    p add_sysvinit
    p delete_icons # saves space!
    p remove_langsupport
    p add_en_gb

Fig (the language this is written in) is a simple, educational general-purpose language. Suppose you don’t want distro-libre to be a bunch of functions, you would rather turn fig into a language designed specifically for writing remastering scripts. I support this! Fig is language implemented in Python (it also works in PyPy) and it translates fig code to Python. Adding functions is easier than most language (I’ve modified far more complicated ones)

I started calling the collection of remaster routines in my remaster script “distro-libre” because I thought it would be ideal if we used it to make fully-free versions of EVERY DISTRO.

Since there are only hundreds, and many are ones that people don’t care about at all, and making one work with distro-libre (it usually took a day or two, maybe a few days to work distro-libre into something that could remaster a new type of distro) gives you access to several others in the same family-

I figured instead of working so hard to make a few “fully free” distros we could just do as many as people cared about. The one thing they would lack is a libre kernel, and if people cared enough to remove the non-free software from every distro, we could probably get enough people interested in replacing the kernel as well.

So what happened? A few things. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t find enough people interested in making this happen. One of the Devuan maintainers actually attacked me for my idea of automated remaster scripts, and it’s very difficult to get any sort of idea going within the Devuan project, their wagons are just as circled as Debian’s are.

I do think Denis Roio, the leader of Devuan (as well as Dyne.org) is a good guy, I even considered him as someone who could take over for rms someday. But the project itself has a number of problems that I doubt they will ever fix. Dyne is probably still the sort of organisation I would be willing to give money to, but Dyne:bolic (which Roio created) was a better project than Devuan in many ways.

Finding a community interested in distro-libre isn’t really even the biggest problem though. The biggest problem is the direction GNU/Linux itself is headed in, and that’s just one more reason why Hyperbola is setting such a great example for all other free software distros.

This chapter will stop here, though I want to mention that there are two things these chapters are not designed to do, which you would be well justified in suspecting anyway.

“…Hyperbola happens to be the only one taking several threats seriously that I consider relevant to the demise of Free software.”The purpose of this book, I promise — is NOT to promote HyperbolaBSD. It may do so, because out of hundreds of distros (and a dozen “fully free” ones) Hyperbola happens to be the only one taking several threats seriously that I consider relevant to the demise of Free software. I have some criticisms for Hyperbola as well (nothing is perfect — I don’t even use Hyperbola, though I would be very interested in trying it).

The reason I keep “plugging” Hyperbola and saying nice things about it is very simply credit-where-credit is due. I’ve never even used their distro — I downloaded it and had a look at how it is put together, before they switched to BSD I think. I AM interested in libre versions of BSD, for reasons this book will hopefully explain at the right time…

The other thing this book is not deliberately doing, is teasing you about other chapters that I haven’t even (as of this writing) written yet. In other words, I’m not going that to try to create suspense or interest. If it achieves that effect, great! But its honestly not intentional. Rather, I can only introduce so many things at the same time, and I’m trying to lay a foundation as much as possible.
After writing the first 9 chapters of this book, I went through nearly 100 freely-licensed articles I’ve written to decide which topic was best to cover next.

This particular chapter is inspired by part 7 of the book this is intended to bring up to date-

Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: Distro-libre and feature-schema

That book (along with another book I wrote, in better detail) predicted the ousting of rms from the FSF, and was written based on the idea that we could save the FSF from itself — like a fleet of lifeboats running alongside the Titanic, which didn’t bother including a sufficient number of them.

Since that was written, I no longer think the FSF can be saved — but I do think Free Software is still important. Many of the problems ahead are what to do about the Linux kernel and Microsoft GitHub. I still think distro-libre is a good idea, but sadly there are problems now that are so foundational that remixing all distros into fully free ones brings up some related issues that have to be addressed.

Licence: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 (public domain)

Former Microsoft Employee on So-called ‘Journalists’ Being Blackmailed by Microsoft

Posted in Bill Gates, Deception, Microsoft at 2:45 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Some tweets on Mary Jo Foley

Summary: Mitchel Lewis, a former Microsoft employee, remarks on Mary Jo Foley being ‘punished’ by Microsoft for not mindlessly publishing Microsoft propaganda (we remarked on this before as she had spoken to me about this over a decade ago)

“Isn’t it funny how RMS gets ousted for his comments, yet [Bill] Gates who met with Epstein countless times and was surrounded by Epstein cohorts gets a pass? Then COVID came around and he tried to play himself off as Captain Planet, probably [it] was a desperate attempt to distract from the Epstein thing.” –Mitchel Lewis

IRC Proceedings: Friday, August 07, 2020

Posted in IRC Logs at 2:16 am by Needs Sunlight

GNOME Gedit

GNOME Gedit

#techrights log

#boycottnovell log

GNOME Gedit

GNOME Gedit

#boycottnovell-social log

#techbytes log

Enter the IRC channels now

For the Want of a Pixel

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FSF, GNU/Linux at 12:18 am by Guest Editorial Team

2020 figosdev

Index

Pixel screenshot
Chapter 9: For the Want of a Pixel

Summary: “It is still possible to win, but the FSF has practically left the field.”

Fundamentally, putting graphics on the screen is like anything else — numeric data is moved to a location where it changes the output of the video device. Whether the device is in text mode or a graphics mode, you either decide to send character data or data on individual dots. Doing this efficiently involves more complex code.

The projects most relevant to this chapter are desktop environments or DEs, window managers or WMs and toolkits or libraries. The choices we make there decide what kind of crappy developer politics we end up saddled with.

“The choices we make there decide what kind of crappy developer politics we end up saddled with.”But to start with, we need a graphical environment to work in. Our choices for the most part are SVGAlib, directfb, Weston/Wayland and X.Org. SVGAlib is ancient, directfb is in a sort of limbo, Wayland is the new corporate love-interest and X.Org is what I’m using now — sometimes you get both X.Org and Wayland, but the former is still common and has been a de facto standard for ages.

X.Org does not draw or manage windows — the programs that decorate and move or resize the windows are called window managers. X just displays the rectangles and the contents of each window.

Suites that incorporate relevant utilities (often including a window manager) are called desktop environments. This may or may not seem complicated, but really they stack up like this:

4. Other graphical programs (applications)
3. Window manager OR Desktop environment + Window manager
2. X.Org
1. Operating system

One thing to note is that you can swap out options at each of these layers. You can have these things on a different OS, with a different graphical environment, running a different WM with various different applications.

Right now, I’m typing this with the following:

4. My own Python/Tkinter editor (running with PyPy)
3. dwm
2. X.Org
1. Tiny Core GNU/Linux (CorePlus)

Usually someone makes these choices and puts these things together for you — but you can still change the defaults. CorePlus comes with X.Org, but I installed PyPy (instead of CPython) and told it to replace the regular choice of WM with dwm.

“My editor is only 200 lines of code, and I wrote only some of them — this 200 line count is misleading anyway.”Python is a programming language, PyPy is a 3rd-party Free software version of Python, dwm and X.Org supply and manage the graphical environment, and PyPy uses the Tkinter library to tell dwm and X.Org what to do with graphical controls and windows.

My editor is only 200 lines of code, and I wrote only some of them — this 200 line count is misleading anyway.

Each line of code in turn calls many lines of the Tkinter library which I have never even looked at. With PyPy, you might use one or two lines to tell Tkinter to create a window of a particular size — then a couple more lines to add a text box. Tkinter is a well-established Free software library, it is even used to implement Python’s standard editor, IDLE.

There are many graphical toolkits that Python or PyPy can make use of: including Qt, Tk, Gtk2, Gtk3, wx and Motif. Tkinter is the standard Python library for dealing with the Tk graphical toolkit.

“Gtk is a victim of all kind of corporate political crap I want no part of.”On the practical side of things, I do not relish writing code for Gtk or Qt. Qt is a very nice toolkit, you get a very nice “product” out of it, but it isn’t something I personally want to code with if I don’t have to — or pull in as a requirement. Gtk is a victim of all kind of corporate political crap I want no part of.

In fact my favourite editor (the one I hope to replace with my own, and haven’t opened in days) is Leafpad. I like its simplicity, I love that you can redirect text to it without saving or opening a file first, I used to have many Leafpad windows open. But my own editor will also run shell code.

Leafpad is written in Gtk and is a hostage of Microsoft GitHub. As I encourage people to boycott GitHub as much as possible (this is no easy task, and deserves its own chapter) I try to find alternatives to GitHub-based projects as well.

“…Microsoft is working hard to gain influence over the standard CPython, the Python Foundation itself, and CPython (like Leafpad) is hosted on Microsoft GitHub.”Incredibly, every graphical toolkit I know of (including Tk, sadly) depends on GitHub directly or indirectly, due to using either Zlib1g (a library related to PNG compression) or libffi, or both.

I have two reasons to switch to PyPy over the standard Python offering. One is that Microsoft is working hard to gain influence over the standard CPython, the Python Foundation itself, and CPython (like Leafpad) is hosted on Microsoft GitHub.

I didn’t spend several years migrating away from Windows just to have all my computing controlled by Microsoft again, and their purchase of GitHub falls perfectly in line with their plans outlined in the Halloween documents. Leafpad is (was) one of the programs I used the most on my computer — the fact that I could find a replacement is a bit of a triumph, though the struggle is ongoing.

To compare the various choices in this example:

Leafpad:
* Gtk (GNOME) – GNOME is absolutely toxic to Free software
* Hosted on Microsoft GitHub – Microsoft is absolutely toxic
* Needs libffi and/or Zlib1g (GitHub)

Python (standard CPython):
* Hosted on Microsoft GitHub
* Needs libffi and/or Zlib1g (GitHub)

Tkinter:
* Tk is not hosted on GitHub (minor win)
* Sadly needs libffi and/or Zlib1g (GitHub) as do all the graphical toolkits I know

PyPy:
* Not hosted on GitHub (huge win)
* Sadly needs libffi and/or Zlib1g (GitHub) as does virtually every friendly scripting language I know — but even if it didn’t, I would still be using it with Tkinter which does

So there are a few lessons here:

1. Importantly, it is often possible (and in my opinion, desirable) to move from projects based on GitHub to projects based elsewhere. It is better, as much as reasonably possible — to be less GitHub/Microsoft encumbered than more. I have no interest in supporting an organisation dedicated to destroying Free software or exploiting users.

2. Even if you move your programming language and toolkit away from GitHub, you’re still probably going to need libffi and/or Zlib1g (every program/language/toolkit that supports PNG graphics does).

3. It really sucks that Microsoft has libffi (I think some alternatives may exist, but they are rarely used in mainstream projects) and Zlib1g (no known alternatives for PNG support) in their clutches.

4. We have many “choices” but so many lead to GitHub that “no matter what you choose, you always get Microsoft” — this is a clear violation of antitrust law, but antitrust law is obviously a unicorn anyway.

GNOME was debatably part of several coups against the Free software world over the years, most recently in taking a fall on behalf of software patents — which constitute a serious (but heavily mitigated) threat to software freedom. I have little more desire to support GNOME or any of its ilk than I do to support Microsoft itself.

Technically speaking, you are free to make your own choices, as it were. But also technically speaking, they aren’t really choices then.

“I didn’t spend several years migrating away from Windows just to have all my computing controlled by Microsoft again, and their purchase of GitHub falls perfectly in line with their plans outlined in the Halloween documents.”I know this paints a bleak picture, and I know that some people understand these problems — a lot of money is poured into being dismissive of exactly this sort of thing. Microsoft Loves Linux, don’t you know — but they are referring to GNU.

“Linux” is what you call GNU if you prefer corporate hegemony to freedom. You can call it whatever you like, but if someone really loves you, they probably won’t call you a different name (where that name is used to mislead and exploit the user).

Love is real, I believe — but Microsoft is not. O.J loves Nicole, Oscar loves Reeva, Microsoft loves Linux; if you believe it. What is even funnier than the idea that Microsoft “loves” something it spent more than a decade trying to kill is the narcissistic idea that we are obligated to love it back.

“What is even funnier than the idea that Microsoft “loves” something it spent more than a decade trying to kill is the narcissistic idea that we are obligated to love it back.”At most, we are obligated to be fair, not that Microsoft has. Myself, I think if someone treats you the way that Microsoft has treated competition and customer alike for the entirety of its existence, you owe it to yourself to try to get away from them.

Now that we largely have, Microsoft has purchased a single house that at least thousands of us have stupidly decided to all live in, and decided that we should love them — under their rules.

But all is fair in love and corporate takeover, I guess?

“Myself, I think if someone treats you the way that Microsoft has treated competition and customer alike for the entirety of its existence, you owe it to yourself to try to get away from them.”Free software cannot be free and also controlled top-down by corporations. Where the FSF has screwed up fundamentally is in focusing too much on the (admittedly vital) license issues, and ignoring various other ways that monopolies can exert influence and ultimately control over the work we rely on.

It is still possible to win, but the FSF has practically left the field. Sadly, most of these projects are not fighting for us either.

“It is still possible to win, but the FSF has practically left the field.”Without a viable movement, nothing will push or really so much as nudge the makers of these tools to care about the user — or their freedom. Freedom requires eternal vigilance, and the vigilant have become either silent, or purged.

Licence: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 (public domain)

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