01.18.22

Good News, Bad News (and Back to Normal)

Posted in Debian, GNU/Linux at 3:50 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Video download link | md5sum 948cc5f102085cd52f4d356b486c2586
Major Incident and Recovery
Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

Summary: When many services are reliant on the integrity of a single, very tiny MicroSD card you’re only moments away from 2 days of intensive labour (recovery, investigation, migration, and further coding); we’ve learned our lessons and took advantage of this incident to upgrade the operating system, double the storage space, even improve the code slightly (for compatibility with newer systems)

THE good news is that Gemini is expanding faster than we predicted earlier this month. Lupa is now just 11 capsules short of 2,000 and yesterday we received some E-mails asking about Gemini downtime (we also got some inquiries over IRC, which means the Gemini capsule really matters to people).

“These things are inherently fragile; telling people to reduce the number of write operations is almost unreasonable because what good is a system you cannot use (or program) as you wish?”So why was it down? The short story is, it was a hardware failure. Not the fault of GNU/Linux or anything like that (in fact, credit to GNU/Linux for letting us fetch another complete backup of the entire system despite the whole file system being in read-only mode). There was no panic, just frustration, and based on what we heard about MicroSD-based (for boot) systems such an error was inevitable and almost predictable. The latest backup (before the “emergency” one was initiated) had been marked only a few days old (contents at most a couple of days behind).

All the services are now back online, the operating system was replaced by Debian 11, and the machine has twice as much storage space as before, which ought to permit us to do things we didn’t even dare when space was tight. To reduce future downtime I also bought a spare disk (card actually) and will work on improving/reducing D-R time, as it’s likely that a similar incident will happen later this year or next year. These things are inherently fragile; telling people to reduce the number of write operations is almost unreasonable because what good is a system you cannot use (or program) as you wish?

“We’re hoping that tonight and tomorrow we can make up for the lost time…”Debian 11 is quite nice, but of course imperfect (perception is an impossibility). It’s the first time I use Debian 11 (my wife, my sister and myself all use Debian 10 on our laptops) and maybe I’ll get to write some positive things about it some time later this year (once I gain more experience/s with it).

We’re hoping that tonight and tomorrow we can make up for the lost time; I hardly slept yesterday (stayed awake for about 20 hours straight, then just 4 hours of sleep) and we have a bunch of things lined up that I never managed to publish as restoring services (like IPFS and Gemini) was more pressing a task, more urgent a need.

The hardest part (to me personally) was having to go to Town for replacement components, knowing that few shops still exist (even fewer because of the pandemic) and the bigger shops are full of unmasked people who don’t respect people’s perimeter (it’s not helping that our government likes to pretend COVID-19 is just some past event).

01.14.22

Scientific Excellence and the Debian Social Contract

Posted in Debian, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux at 9:53 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Video download link | md5sum 36cf190fdd0c12e45c5f7a57abbf9449
Corporate Politics in Debian
Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

Summary: The Debian Project turns 30 next year; in spite of it being so ubiquitous (most of the important distros of GNU/Linux are based on Debian) it is suffering growing pains and some of that boils down to corporate cash and toxic, deeply divisive politics

THE Debian Project, despite the widespread adoption of GNU/Linux globally, certainly isn’t going through easy times. The Debian Social Contract ought not be undermined by political hacks (pseudo-tolerance); it should prioritise science. Yesterday, for the second time in a row, Debian revealed that it had only recruited one Debian Developer per month. As I show in the video above, in past years and even some recent years they could recruit half a dozen or more per month. Last night Dr. Norbert Preining sadly announced that he would leave many Debian packages orphaned; those of us who use Debian know just how important those packages are (even KDE!) and finding a person to fill his shoes would be very difficult as he’s very experienced.

“Suppression of speech in the name of appeasing passive-aggressive bullies is always a bad strategy.”But his decision did not exactly shock me. Going a few years back, he said that his “demotion to Debian Maintainer is – as far as I read the consitution [3], the delegation of DAM [4], and the DAM Wiki page about their rights and powers [5], not legit since besides expulsion there is not procedure laid out for demotion, but I refrained from raising this for the sake of peace.”

They did the same thing to Daniel Pocock and then acted all shocked when he was upset, especially considering the fact that this was done as retribution for his FSFE ‘whistleblowing’ (telling Fellows, as their elected representative, that the FSFE wasn’t giving them their money’s worth). The attacks on Dr. Preining left him bruised as colleagues were choosing sides along superficial lines. People who didn’t (and still don’t) write any code were sucking the fun out of the project and sucking the life out of the community by dividing it along lines such as “pronouns”, not technical work. The video above goes through some of the events that interjected toxic politics into this technical project, causing scientists such as Preining to gradually lose interest, at least judging by the frequency of his posts in recent years.

Debian needs to regain stability, not by gagging people but by re-evaluating the way it treats dissent. Suppression of speech in the name of appeasing passive-aggressive bullies is always a bad strategy.

“I presume it is part of the sea change in the project that occurred with the TC takeover / intrigue which shoehorned 4th place choice, systemd, throughout the distro,” an associate of ours noted yesterday. “There have been many other scandals since then. There are two conflicting situations affecting all potential developers there and elsewhere. One is that volunteer project members want to focus on the code and not CoCs and other barriers to focusing on the code. The other is, as RMS points out, you can ignore the politics but the politics won’t ignore you. Those two facts cause problems where they collide.”

11.20.21

Tor Browser Launcher on Debian is Broken and SPLC Censorship Regime Hates Tor and FOSS, Boosts Bill Gates

Posted in Bill Gates, Debian, Deception, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux at 9:22 pm by Guest Editorial Team

Guest post by Ryan, reprinted with permission from the original

TThe Tor Browser Launcher is pretty neat.

It downloads the Tor Browser, verifies that it’s properly signed, so you don’t get a fake one planted on your computer, which is a possibility if you went to the wrong Web site or were the victim of a MITM attack, somehow, and then puts launchers and a settings application in your menus.

However, Debian’s package doesn’t work properly on my computer, and when I open it, an invisible window the size of the browser that can’t be closed except from the task manager, or pkill, opens up.

Well, that’s not helpful.

Fortunately, it’s available as a Flatpak too, and that works!

If all else failed, it’s downloadable from the Tor Project directly.

You can verify the bundle’s archive with the .asc key that they provide and then unpack it and then start it with ./start-tor-browser of course, but meh.

I’m lazy.

Moving right along… The Southern Poverty Law Center is probably why you can’t access the Tor Browser’s Web site.

They apparently advise libraries and schools to filter it out as “terrorist”, according to multiple sources I’ve spoken with.

God, these people….

Anyhow… If you already have the Tor Browser on your computer before you get on their WiFi, they can’t do much about that. And after you’re on, you can just use Tor…

Oddly, the library where I live lets Tor function normally even though their firewall blocks the site. I won’t tell here which library because I don’t want to give these jackbooted library thugs(?) any ideas about how to screw around with me if they’re not smart enough to do that already and happen to find this post in Google or something.

The Supreme Court ruled on the issue of Free Speech that you have to be allowed access to the Internet without the firewall in effect, _if you specifically ask for it_.

(Oddly, in Chicago, the city itself, the library doesn’t even block porn. If people are watching it and you complain, they will help you move to another computer, but they won’t stop that other person unless they start playing with themselves or something. Life in a big liberal city is just disgusting everywhere you go. Disgusting, expensive, cramped, polluted, riots breaking out unpredictably. Did I mention expensive? Glad I’m not there anymore.)

However, Tor Browser has another mode, which is intended mostly to deal with situations like the Great Firewall of China, which essentially makes it look like you’re connecting to a Web site in the Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services “cloud”. Obviously, that has privacy issues of its own, but it can’t easily be blocked without a lot of collateral damage.

So hey, there’s something positive that came out of centralizing the Web into the hands of a couple of monopolists? That being said, I’d be careful to use this to evade censorship at the library, but be on guard because your traffic is being tunneled through companies that have affiliations with the intelligence agencies in the United States.

One easy thing you can try if you run into censors and use Brave is to just load a Private Tab with Tor and see if it’s good enough.

If you don’t need a lot of privacy and just need to obfuscate what you’re doing, you can leave it at this and just use a normal browser.

And if none of this works, you can try NordVPN’s obfuscated VPN servers or their browser plug-in, which is basically a proxy that looks like HTTPS instead of a VPN.

So there’s things you can do to avoid government spying at the library and your school and break through even the most pernicious censorship regime, unless they want to do extreme damage to their WiFi network’s usability.

It’s ridiculous that network administrators at a library are stifling free speech based on the SPLC, but suddenly the SPLC’s “naughty software list” makes much more sense.

It turns out that this software gives you most of the tools to bypass authoritarian censors (including those at a public library who try block selected Wikipedia articles so that you can’t read them, on their Windows PC terminals, which tells you that nothing you connect to over HTTPS there is actually secure even if there is no malware other than Windows) such as themselves and read and view whatever you want, and talk to whoever you want, on the Web.

Ironically, they give these tools free advertising by drawing attention to them.

There’s some on there that I don’t even use, even though I knew about them, because they’re proprietary. I don’t think they even mentioned Tox clients though. Those are pretty good if you need anonymous messaging.

Politicians that want to ban your privacy, such as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, use Signal (proprietary), which is also on the list. I guess Borisinaro is a terrorist and needs to be moved to UltraMax immediately and fitted for a Hannibal Lecter mask. Tried and convicted by “The Southern Poverty Law Center said so.”.

Where does SPLC get their money, btw? There’s a lot of Hollywood Liberals and GAFAM money in there, but enough of it is in a web of slush funds that make it hard to figure out entirely.

They may well have started out with good intentions. I’m certainly not going to argue that fighting the actual Klan is bad (Because “I hate Illinois Nazis” as much as anyone.), but like most things liberal, they have to paint everything that’s not them as the Klan, including just normal every day decent folks who are trying to raise their kids with some morality and respect for others and for, well, what’s left of the law.

It is perhaps ironic that a lot of kids couldn’t use proprietary GAFAM software if they wanted to because it’s being blocked due to SPLC’s recommendations, and so Matrix is growing.

One told me one one chatroom that their school’s Great Firewall doesn’t know what all of the domains are on which you can use Matrix.

Oddly, Matrix has a lot of kids on it because the grown ups at the school blocked “Skype” and “Facebook” and that ought to be enough, right? It’s not like there is anything other than GAFAM.

An entire generation free of Monopolysoft?

No wonder Skype is dead.

The lying bastards at the SPLC also have to lie through their teeth and accuse platforms that are not GAFAM of being pedophile strongholds.

Just a few short years ago, Microsoft Bing was the preferred place for pedophiles to go.

In at least one case I recall reading about, the police in Texas arrested a man and asked where he got it all, and he said BING. It didn’t do anything at all to filter it. Bill Gates was on the plane with Epstein a lot, trying to buy himself a Nobel Prize. And there was Rick Allen Jones, a CP-hoarder that was literally arrested in the Gates Mansion.

Where’s the warning about Microsoft and Gates?

I don’t recall there ever being one, even though it was more than a little disturbing that the biggest platform for online child sexual abuse material was the default Windows search engine and the default Windows Web browser. For years. And the police did nothing.

It wouldn’t surprise me if the Gates Foundation is funding SPLC like they do to corrupt everything else.

Why else would they praise him as anything but some shyster who made good with a crap operating systems (like DOS, which was another incident, but mostly screwing Digital and IBM) called Windows NT which was actually, literally stolen from VMS (which Microsoft settled with Digital about, then betrayed shortly thereafter like they do anyone stupid enough to sign a business deal with them), while attacking his critics and lumping them all in with Alex Jones? It’s not even the first time.

Common Core is nothing more than an attack on public education by billionaires who should be in prison. One of the other promoters is Mark Zuckerberg.

Many, many parents are appalled at the dumbing down of their kids, and parents with a choice take their kids out of failing schools like the ones in Chicago which are a toxic hell stew of political correctness, gangs, drugs, guns, and fat cat public union bosses growing a big fat pension.

They demand school choice vouchers, which is the entire point, because then big business can just run those directly if you want your kids to have any hope at all.

A Chinese dissident who was hailed as a hero in Western media is now being given the silent treatment.

His mistake? Saying out loud that the US is starting to remind him of China (due to authoritarian wokeism), where if you say the wrong thing…..

Well, you don’t just get killed or disappeared….as such. Just professionally ruined.

Perhaps a better example is the concept of “dedma”, a word that Filipino people may be more familiar with, where society will “shun you” and ignore you if it becomes aware you have the wrong views.

Without going too far astray, the wrong opinions to have in America today read like something from bizarro world. If you just say criminals belong in prison and people should be entitled to keep what they earn and the government shouldn’t be throwing thousand dollar bills at people to keep the least productive the most reproductive and pretend it’s all okay for a couple more years until “Build Back Better” causes our country to collapse, and you’re in favor of the entire bill of rights, including the Second Amendment… That’s what happens to you.

They’ve gotten so good at disappearing us using GAFAM, disappearing people who are still in our right minds, that we have to stake out a new frontier and break our old habits and let companies like Facebook turn completely into an echo chamber full of crazy people with distorted thought patterns and advertising bullshit.

I’ve already started my divorce from GAFAM. I’m not replacing my Android phone when it fails, with another Android. I’ll be getting one that runs GNU/Linux.

I don’t care about “apps”. They’re dumb. They’re put there to control people and spy on them by companies who ruined the Web and yet still think its users have too much freedom.

Those companies, including Apple (which fundraises for SPLC), can pay off SPLC through slush funds and proxies to help their assault on your alternatives.

Did you know that there are 7 tracking libraries now in the text messaging app on a Samsung Galaxy phone. One of them even contacts Facebook. Even if you don’t use Facebook! That’s in addition to the Facebook stub apps and the Facebook system service whose only purpose is to wake up and tell Facebook which apps you’re signing into so their tracking libraries can associate them with you, even if “Facebook” isn’t on your phone.

Tracker Control neuters them and I pried out the stubs and disabled the “service”. But this has to be a stop gap solution.

The madness will not end until we shut them down and refuse to use their stinking products.

Oddly enough, Facebook was on SPLC’s list of platforms of concern, but I think it’s mostly to call for more censorship than there already is.

11.17.21

Debian Expulsion Lies and Blackmail

Posted in Debian, Deception at 6:02 pm by Guest Editorial Team

By Daniel Pocock

Rogue members of the Debian ecosystem continue to spread untrue statements about expulsions.

It is easy to prove these expulsions are not only untrue but also impossible.

Debian is not an organization. Debian is simply a trademark. The US trademark database shows the trademark is registered to another organization, Software in the Public Interest, Inc.

Most Debian Developers, myself included, have never been members of Software in the Public Interest, Inc.

If we are not members and if we can not join, we can’t be expelled.

Imagine making a movie and then removing the names of some people from the credits and putting other names in their place. Is that “expulsion”? Or is that simply stealing credit for somebody else’s work? Removing names from the list of Debian Developers is much like removing somebody’s name from the credits in a movie. It is wrong.

10.13.21

GNOME (and Debian) Infringe Human Rights by Shipping Parental Control Software (Internally Called “Malcontent”)

Posted in Debian, GNOME, GNU/Linux at 7:50 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Guest post by Ryan, reprinted with permission from the original

GNOME Parental Control Software

This isn’t easy to say, but it’s true, and I’ve been meaning to write about it for several days now.

In the 1990s, when the Internet at home was becoming more of a thing, Helicopter Parents began to fret that there was a growing “information superhighway” where their kids wouldn’t be “safe”.

In response to this, many corporations appeared on the scene such as Net Nanny and Cybersitter to claim that they would safeguard the PC for parents, so their children wouldn’t be able to access “inappropriate” content on the Web.

Unfortunately, for the stupid people who shelled out money for this crap, Windows 9x/Me had no security mechanisms whatsoever, and a child with even moderate levels of knowledge on how to reboot the machine into MS-DOS mode and run the system from there could disable it, reboot into Windows, do whatever they wanted, and then reboot back into DOS and configure it to turn back on to make their parents think that it was on the entire time. Windows was even worse then than it is now, because it didn’t even pretend at having access control lists, security labels, multiple user accounts (not real ones).

At its core, it was a fancy DOS shell that happened to implement some of the Windows NT APIs.

Most proprietary operating systems now have built-in “Parental Controls” (censorship software).

I couldn’t tell you how well they work, but it’s funny that Microsoft has one, since Bill Gates was palling around with one of the most prolific child rapists of the century, Jeff Epstein.

(As if one affiliation wasn’t bad enough, an engineer named Rick Allen Jones was arrested inside the Gates Mansion for possession of a child pornography trove. And it only barely made the news, and the courts quickly covered it up and the guy even had an illegal handgun, and somehow that went away, and he’s not on the sex offender list, and he’s living in Flagstaff, Arizona with his mother now.)

Even on a much better designed operating system than Windows, like GNU/Linux, one with real security features, one where security vulnerabilities are fewer and are legitimate mistakes in the code and not NSA backdoors like they are on Windows and the Mac, it’s impossible to “secure” or lockdown a computer when a person has physical access to it.

My guess is there will either be a misconfiguration somewhere or the child will just figure out a way to boot into Tails or something, and then there goes GNOME/FreeDesktop “Parental Controls”. (“Malcontent”)

In fact, putting this on the computer and then trying to remove the GNOME metapackage and Flatpak if you get rid of it is an insult on the part of Debian, which has already betrayed the ideals of Free Software by including Firefox, which now has a Surveillance Capitalism Keylogger malware component.

In the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, an international law which along with (if I recall correctly) the prohibition on cluster bombs and land mines, only the United States has refused to sign, “acknowledges that children have the right to express their opinions and to have those opinions heard and acted upon when appropriate, to be protected from abuse or exploitation, and to have their privacy protected. It requires that their lives not be subject to excessive interference.”.

So, what GNOME and Debian are doing flies in the face of this Treaty as well. I wonder how the GNOME project feels in pushing this software that takes away people’s voices.

Parents can be every bit as autocratic, corrupt, and evil as a rogue state. And just saying “I pay the bills around here!” doesn’t give them an excuse to commit endless offenses against human rights.

In fact, the Treaty has optional protocols that require signatories to crack down hard on child abuse and to take measures to stop child prostitution.

Since the United States refuses to ratify it on account of some right-wing Christian nutcases rambling on about how they won’t be able to have their children “homeskeweled”, it can’t sign those protocols either.

If we, as a society, want to protect children, it needs to be tough punishment for abusers and the enablers of abusers of children.

No more of this trip to namby pamby land that Epstein and Jones got because they were rich, or Bill came to the rescue to avoid personal embarrassment.

But, you see, this is sort of what courts do. It’s not what you did, it’s who you know, how much money you have to fight back with, can you afford a lawyer that’s buddies with the judge.

For the most part, when I was a child, I had a tough time. I was bullied in school. Right after I turned 9 years old, my parents had another child and turned their focus to him, then I started to do poorly in school due to organizational problems and mental illness (which is also the reason why Michael O’Hare had to leave Babylon 5 after the first season…when it hits, it can hit hard).

Then my parents drifted apart and my mother started cheating on my dad with a truck driver.

They had each other in divorce court slinging mud back and forth. Between her cheating and the weird religious cults my dad has been in over the years, and me bouncing back and forth between their houses where my dad would psychologically abuse me and blame me for my mother leaving him, and my mom’s second husband’s house where he’d come home drunk and beat me to within an inch of my life, I’d say it’s amazing I even went back and completed school and did anything.

Was I exposed to Web pornography when I was a minor?

Yeah, I mean, I was curious and we had the internet in the house. My dad didn’t even know we had the internet. I hid an entire web browser in the C:\Windows subfolder mess and made a hidden folder in there where I shoved anything I wanted to keep. I had “free” dial up ISPs where I figured out how to crash the toolbars and then later to decipher my login credentials and use them ad-free on the (Mandrake) Linux partition.

Dad caught me browsing the news or something (so could have been worse, I guess) and reamed me out for getting the Internet without his permission, and he wouldn’t believe me when I said it was a local telephone call and there wouldn’t be any bills coming.

I guess that’s the long way of saying I was above average intelligence. I’d say I still am. Not a genius, but above average. The average is going down, btw.

And I figured out how to thwart my parents, install GNU/Linux in the 90s on an HP Pavilion from Walmart, freeload off some dotcom ISPs, find anything I wanted to on the internet, and use “BitchX” for IRC, which while Mandrake was installing, I said, “BitchX? What the hell is BitchX?”.

If it was still around, maybe Mitchell Baker would rename it BossX. Who knows.

Your kids, if you have them and you are reading this, are probably a lot craftier than you give them credit for. Than society gives them credit for. If I’ve learned a few things in life, one of those is that you underestimate people at your own peril.

In Chicago, right after I moved here with my ex, I was mugged, and I had to go to Juvenile Court to testify against my attacker. While I was waiting, I was reading some Democrat tripe about how “children aren’t just small adults”, except by the time they’re teenagers, they sort of kind of are.

The gangs in Chicago think they’re fine to use as child soldiers as soon as you can shove a gun in their hand and tell them to steal someone’s cars and cell phones and wallets.

The whole reason they can convince teenagers to start a life of crime is, basically nothing happens once they get to court. And they learn that nothing happens, and then they keep offending for life.

In closing, if anyone from GNOME, Debian, or FreeDesktop happens to read this, “Parental Control” software isn’t the answer.

Free and Open Source Software should empower users, including children, who use it.

We shouldn’t aspire to confine, deny information and ideas to, and help oppress people like Microsoft and Apple do.

They say they want to go after child abusers, and I say it takes some to know some.

10.12.21

A Tale of Two KDE Distributions: Kubuntu 21.10 and Debian 11 GNU/Linux

Posted in Debian, GNU/Linux, KDE, Ubuntu at 8:25 pm by Guest Editorial Team

Guest post by Ryan, reprinted with permission from the original

KDE screenshot
By KDE, GPL.

I recently tried out Debian 11 with KDE on my Lenovo Yoga 900 ISK2 laptop.

This is my older system and I feel more comfortable playing around with it because it’s not being used that much. Regardless, it allows me to see where things are at in other distributions.

While Debian 11 is generally a fine GNOME desktop experience, it’s hardly an ideal one for KDE users with HiDPI displays, because the version that they put in is far too old for the KDE on Wayland session to work properly.

While the X11 session probably works fine on lower resolution screens and can remain serviceable for the foreseeable future, both sessions are a complete scaling mess no matter what you do on a HiDPI monitor.

So I grabbed a daily build of Kubuntu 21.10 (which is not yet released), and I think it’s shaping up to be a good release so far.

Some of that is later improvements to KDE, and the rest is just that Kubuntu’s setup program is more pleasant and even offers to install a “minimal” version of the desktop so that you can start out with some basic essential software and then add what you want later.

This, I think, will be more enticing to people with SSDs, or even more so to people who are trying to go into developer mode on a Chromebook to clobber Chrome OS, but need the OS and their files to fit comfortably on an eMMC drive.

One of the downsides of KDE is that it has some applications that almost nobody really uses (Konqueror, Akonadi, KMail…) and which are either badly maintained, use more resources than they’re worth, or just don’t work properly, but the Plasma desktop is generally a fine piece of software.

The minimal install provided by Kubuntu, giving the user a relatively clean slate, also gives them a chance to explore oft-overlooked native KDE software, like the Calligra Office suite.

LibreOffice is the default office program, and you basically need it if you plan to save any Microsoft files (eww), and has both GTK and Qt bindings, but those are essentially a mask it wears. And it can be a good mask, and it’s not a bad office program, but it’s still a very “cross platform” program, whereas KDE has an official office suite that’s quite good. If you don’t need to _save_ to Microsoft formats, it can, however, import them, and it’s quite pleasant to use.

In fact, according to top (although the KDE system monitor now seems to count disk cache as used memory now for some reason), only 637 MB of RAM (excluding the disk cache, which can be evicted if the system runs low) were in use on my laptop with an empty KDE desktop running aside from the terminal. This is easily several hundred MB less than GNOME.

So far, the only thing I had to do with the KDE Plasma Desktop on the Yoga 900 ISK2 was configure my touchpad the way I like it and then scale the display to 200%. It even took effect instantly in the Wayland session. Nice!

And when I shut the lid and reopened it, Kubuntu 21.10 even remembered that I had a touchpad.

(Did I mention that Debian’s KDE on X11 didn’t?)

One of the reasons I haven’t taken a serious look at KDE recently (despite being a huge fan of their 3.x series) is because their window manager has been a complete disaster on that laptop with different HiDPI scaling bugs and various levels of completeness.

Obviously, it has gotten much better recently, but Debian froze a version of it that just doesn’t work too well for the screen in that particular laptop.

Mine is a special case (and an evil laugh).

Other than the odd PC and some Macs, not many computers have these screens (and most people are better off spending their money on a better processor, more memory, nicer graphics, bigger SSD, or something important) and so it wasn’t a pressing development matter, obviously, outside of GNOME.

In general, this is just Debian being Debian.

In normal usage, for most people, Debian is going to hold up better than Ubuntu because the software in the Stable version of Debian, while older, is rigorously tested and with the goal of there being far fewer serious defects in the final product as a result.

I posted about using Flatpaks several times if you need a newer version of a particular program on Debian, but just want a stable OS core that isn’t moving around a lot, with the usual bug churn that goes along with that.

The most notable feature of Debian is probably that they are extremely conservative about official kernel versions (although you can certainly install a newer one through backports).

That is to say that the official Linux kernels tend to be drawn from the LTS branches where it will just get more and more reliable over its five years (ish) support lifecycle upstream, and if it runs your hardware okay, there’s really not a lot of reason to mess with it.

But the policy extends to just about everything on the system.

And in some cases, that’s a shame, because KDE’s latest stuff strikes me as overwhelmingly competent. It works, it works well, and it’s not bloatware. If there is one thing I absolutely hate, it’s software that uses more resources than it should for the job it’s doing.

I did run into a weird issue where booting Kubuntu 21.10 on this laptop caused the uEFI BIOS in my Lenovo ThinkBook 15 ITL Gen2 to say it was backing up the self-healing BIOS until I shut down and cold started the computer.

I have no idea how Ubuntu is building their kernels. Debian doesn’t do this.

If I was going to switch over to KDE on this, it would probably be on Debian 11, even though there have been improvements, just because it’s stable and the 1920×1080 display plays nicely with everything.

Nothing gets me hotter under the collar than software that doesn’t work, or is working one day and not the next, and now the problem is fixed, but there’s another problem. That’s what Fedora was like.

It’s worth repeating….. DO NOT buy a HiDPI display.

You will only live to regret it. They’re a power-hogging monstrosity that demands a lot of the GPU, and they’re not practical.

Leave them for Mac fanboys who are watching kiss anime at 240p on Safari.

I’m sad to say that I bought one because I liked how it looked in the store, and then I ended up getting snookered in and only able to run GNOME these last several years.

At this point, I know to ask for 1920×1080 displays. A nice one. But 1920×1080. No more, no less.

I definitely see why some underpowered ARM laptops in the $100 range are going with KDE.

It’s probably the only desktop environment that any sane person would use that still works on such a system. While GNOME is nowhere near as bad about leaking memory as it used to be, it’s still no spring chicken on old or cheap hardware, and KDE is fast and feature-packed.

KDE has had extreme ups and downs over the years, and if anything gives me a second thought at recommending it, it’s that.

In early 2008, I remember being excited that we were going to get KDE 4.0, and then I went to evaluate it and almost nothing worked right, for me anyway, until halfway into the KDE 4 development cycle, with version 4.5.

Kubuntu 8.04 LTS ended up releasing an unofficial patchjob of KDE 3.5.”12″ and saying that was the LTS, and if you wanted the KDE 4 packages, you were on your own. No LTS support at that point. The KDE project made some truly bizarre development choices and one of them was this thing called the “Phonon” API, which seemed great in theory.

They would no longer be beholden to some sound system that might get abandoned upstream like aRts did. Phonon is a smallish API, and programs can use it to play sound and perform other tasks, not caring what the actual media engine behind it all is.

The only problem is that the default gstreamer backend was so terrible (at the time, it works fine now) that I installed an unofficial VLC plug-in, so that everything that used Phonon would end up with VLC’s enormous codec library. But even forcing the user to think about things like this seems like a bother in this day and age.

I mean, I’m willing to entertain some post-setup dotting of the i’s, crossing of the t’s, but an OS needs to work.

And KDE went on for years feeling half-baked with a bug system that was, at times, an echo chamber.

Along the way, they adopted this crazy versioning system that split everything out into three groups (not counting Qt itself!) and I’ve never taken to that, and I’ll always call Lake Shore Drive in Chicago by THAT name regardless of what the Democratic Party decides it is.

All while GNOME 3 (now 4x) just incrementally got better.

The KDE 5.x series is finally something I could install and use on my own computer as a daily driver… except that it’s been so long now that muscle memory for GNOME is built-up, but I can figure out pretty much anything fairly quickly, and would be comfortable changing over on a fresh install if I decided to.

The importance of KDE, to me, is that it’s now one more option.

If GNOME does something that just flat out makes their software useless and terrible, in my opinion, or KDE just keeps getting better, I can easily switch to it.

That’s important. I doubt either will ever get proprietary software-bad, but still….choice is nice.

In Windows, there have been other shells besides “Exploder” (Explorer), but very few people ever installed them, and just muddled through trying to figure out where everything was every couple of years when Microsoft decided to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. Most of the projects that even tried to bring some (UI-level) sanity to Windows are now dead. Most were better-written than Microsoft’s, not that that’s much of a hill to climb, but most of the developers themselves probably gave up trying to make the best out of the situation and fled to GNU/Linux and just didn’t have anything left to develop and test on.

Remember how awful that Windows 8 thing was? Remember them giving you the start button back and then having it lead to that second desktop you were trying to ignore? That’s how GUI developers give you a proper middle finger.

That’s one in a particularly long line of cruel manipulations from Microsoft. I hear that now with Windows 11 you have to set your default browser in like 23 different places, and it’s still hardwired to ignore you and do whatever the hell Microsoft wants.

This is just not how you’d treat a friend, and it’s not the way Free Software treats its users.

10.03.21

GNOME Web 41 Flatpak Review and Bonus: You MUST Have a Web Browser in Debian! (Is This a Bug?)

Posted in Debian, GNOME, GNU/Linux at 5:08 am by Guest Editorial Team

Guest post by Ryan, reprinted with permission from the original

GNOME Web 41
GNOME Web 41 on Debian 11 GNU/Linux

Just several days ago, I gave a mostly favorable review of GNOME Web 3.38.2 as packaged by Debian 11 GNU/Linux.

While I think 3.38.2 was a good browser, I decided to move on and pull in the Flatpak version of GNOME Web 41.

“The YouTube Ad Block script mostly works. Sometimes you see a second or two of the ad, but it mostly gets rid of them, and they never interrupt a video.”Visually, the two versions are pretty similar, but there have been some improvements to stability, performance, minor UI tweaks, and a new AdGuard script that complements the built-in Webkit Content Blockers-based Ad Block feature.

When I got started, I made the mistake of pulling in the Flatpak without removing the DEB.

When you bring in the Flatpak of Firefox, it can be installed side-by-side with Firefox ESR from Debian, but GNOME Web does not get along well with its Debian package cousin, and the Debian version takes priority in the GNOME Shell overview.

So I ended up purging epiphany-browser and epiphany-browser-data with apt, and then deleting the local config and cache folders for “epiphany” under my Home folder (which are hidden behind the Ctrl+H hotkey to toggle invisible items).

This made way for the Flatpak, which now started.

The YouTube Ad Block script mostly works. Sometimes you see a second or two of the ad, but it mostly gets rid of them, and they never interrupt a video. Which is nice, because Google has gotten totally carried away to the point of making it unusable without this.

“Bill Gates was a liar when he swore up and down that IE was integrated deep, deep, into the guts of Windows 98, in court, under oath. So why can’t I remove Firefox ESR from Debian?”Performance of GNOME Web 41 has been improved, due to improvements in both the browser and in the newer version of WebkitGTK it brings in from the GNOME 41 platform Flatpak.

Today, I decided that I didn’t really need two Firefoxes, Firefoxen(?), whatever. 😉

So I went to apt-get purge the Firefox ESR from Debian to keep the Flatpak, only Debian told me that it would remove Firefox ESR and bring in Chromium. At first I thought something was broken, but then I found out that several of the metapackages require a Web browser, and they don’t recognize browsers from Flatpak, and when I decided I’d get clever and apt purge firefox-esr chromium … It told me it would get rid of a bunch of stuff, including the X11 server(!!!!) and bring in the DEB package for GNOME Web.

But that’s when it gets really strange.

I told it apt purge firefox-esr epiphany-browser chromium and now it wants to bring in Konqueror and half of KDE, including its Dolphin file manager.

So at this point, I became intrigued and told it apt purge firefox-esr epiphany-browser chromium konqueror, and it agreed to remove all browsers and not put a browser on the computer, if I would remove the X server, some fonts, all of LibreOffice, and the GNOME and desktop metapackages.

I think that this has to be some sort of a bug, because nothing should force you to have a Web browser, plus I still have Vivaldi installed, and alternatives recognizes that as one of the options for x-www-browser.

So I searched the problem, and a suggestion for how to hack around it came up suggesting to build an empty package that lies and says it’s a provider for “chromium” and dpkg -i it, and it would fool apt so that when you remove firefox-esr it doesn’t try to install anything.

I’m just not that sure Firefox ESR bothers me that much, but the idea that we “must” have a browser in a GNU/Linux OS is a bit nuts, isn’t it?

When I was 14, I set up Windows 98 and then used an unofficial script called Revenge of Mozilla, written by Bruce Jensen, and the Explorer shell from Windows 95 OSR 2.1 (FAT32 compatible), and it gave Windows 98 an enema and got it down to less than 100 MB.

It turned out that it ran pretty well after that, and that many patches no longer applied to you because you didn’t have the bloated and buggy code on your computer.

Bill Gates was a liar when he swore up and down that IE was integrated deep, deep, into the guts of Windows 98, in court, under oath. So why can’t I remove Firefox ESR from Debian?

Lastly, I finally got around to installing the email client, Geary, out of Flatpak. For privacy, I won’t post screenshots of that, but it’s pretty much as pictured on Flathub, except I use Adwaita Dark.

There’s no pesky guessing at how to set this thing up if you use GMail or Outlook Mail, which you can log into via OAuth through GNOME, in the Settings application.

In fact, this is VERY nice because I use two-factor authentication on all of my accounts and making app passwords is a hassle.

Technically, GNOME already has an email client called Evolution, and it has been around for a very long time (originally from Ximian, then Novell, and now “The Evolution Team”).

But Evolution is a big “Groupware” suite, and Geary is just an email client. If you’re like me and just need email, and want a fast and efficient workflow and a performant client, Geary fits the bill.

Microsoft’s Outlook Webmail occasionally gives GNOME Web an outdated version that’s a holdover for Internet Explorer 7 and earlier, and it looks like Hotmail.

It’s pretty gross. I asked Michael Catanzaro to look into using User Agent tricks to make it work, but we never found anything that reliably brought up the “modern” version that other browsers get.

It’s interesting, because Microsoft doesn’t do this to Safari.

They have done similar nasty things to Opera, back when it was really a company in Norway with a real browser. They had a very good rendering engine, better than anything else out there at the time, and Microsoft sabotaged MSN. So Opera released a Bork Edition of Opera, which translated Microsoft’s website into the language of the Swedish Chef.

Regardless, since Geary does what I need it to, and pairs well with GNOME Web, I won’t have to be using Microsoft’s nasty webmail interface. Even if you do get the “modern” one, it will take up a bunch of the screen with “Are you using an ad blocker? Click here to pay us and we’ll give you part of the screen back!”.

I really need to get everything over to one email service that Microsoft has nothing to do with. That won’t be easy. *sigh*

05.16.21

Combatting Revisionist History (Post From 2015, Years Before IBM Bought Red Hat and Increased Vendor Lock-in)

Posted in Debian, GNU/Linux, IBM, Red Hat at 5:01 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A day ago (Debian Developer from Japan):

Debian Developer from Japan on systemd

Keanu Approves/Disapproves IBM: They tell us they combat racism; But more people find out it's a PR stunt
Smokescreen that serves to distract from the very racist nature of IBM and its founder

Summary: Today we republish this forum post from more than 6 years ago; in light of what IBM did to CentOS and its vicious attack on the founder of the GNU/Linux operating system we must understand the systemd agenda, which the FSF can more openly speak about now that there are no financial strings

I‘m something of a historian, I can’t help but be troubled by the revisionist history I see unfolding in the aftermath of the recent controversy over systemd. So, from the “you are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts” department, as a kind of parting gift to this community, I’d like to do what I can to marshal what I perceive to be the pertinent facts into a single bucket.

Disclaimer: For the benefit of those who may stumble on this post without any knowledge of my feelings on the matter, it’s safe to call me the original systemd hater. In fact, it was my own headlong flight from systemd that originally led me to Debian in the first place. (And depending on your POV, that may constitute Yet Another Reason to hate systemd.) I make no claim nor pretense to "balance" or "fairness" regarding systemd any more than I would for, say, arsenic poisoning. My aim is to challenge and hopefully dispel certain memes that I see emerging from the systemd aftermath.

With that out of the way…

Systemd is not an init system
If someone characterizes systemd as an “init system,” you may safely assume that s/he is either utterly clueless or deliberately obfuscating the discussion. Calling systemd an init system is like calling an automobile a cup holder. Not even Lennart Poettering pretends that systemd is anything but the “Core OS” (sic).

What systemd is is an effort to re-create large portions of existing userspace (including login, job scheduling, and networking, just to name a few) inside a single process traditionally reserved for the sole purpose of starting *nix userspace. (Just in case it isn’t clear, there is a huge difference between starting userspace (init) and being userspace (systemd).)

At the end of the day, how one perceives this re-creation of existing userspace strongly influences one’s reaction to systemd. There are plenty of perfectly legitimate reasons to be troubled by this re-invention of the wheel; they range from the philosophical and aesthetic, to the technical and mechanical, even the purely political and brutally practical.

And that’s part of the problem when folks start to “debate” systemd. Very few folks have the chops to think about, much less talk about all of these areas simultaneously. As a result, the discussion becomes fractured and disjointed, in what is literally the textbook definition of bikeshedding. Suddenly, a talking head who’s never written a line of code in his/her life offers up an authoritative-sounding-but-utterly-bogus opinion on systemd’s maintainability. Add in the fact that folks on both sides (including Poettering himself) act as if name-calling is a perfectly good substitute for empirical evidence, and the “debate” becomes indistinguishable from white noise.

Speaking of noise…

There was never a systemd debate
Debian came late to the systemd party. Systemd has been controversial since its inception in 2010. During the intervening four years, people have fled and even forked distros over systemd. By the time Debian’s GR rolled around, anyone and everyone who was going to have a strong opinion about systemd already had it. Nobody was going to change their minds, thus there was no true “debate.”

We humans love to imagine that we are rational creatures, driven by logic and reason, capable of making reasoned, optimal decisions. Which is great except what we really are is short-sighted, pig-headed, and stupid. Psychology has a boatload of experiments that demonstrate that once you get to the choose-up-sides stage, then argument becomes dramatically less effective. (Google “confirmation bias” and “backfire effect” to learn more.)

The GR was not a mandate for systemd
I have no idea where systemd fanbois get the idea that a victory lap is appropriate.

The results of the GR vote were diluted and obfuscated by two non-resolution outcomes. Of the three technologically-relevant resolutions to the GR, one was unequivocally pro-systemd, the other two were contra-systemd, differing primarily in phrasing (essentially the difference between “must not” and “should not”).

(Aside: I confess to being a “must not” guy at heart, but I grudgingly admit that those who suggest that an absolute prohibition might prove unnecessarily inflexible or self-limiting might have a valid point. Maybe. But I don’t have to like doing it.)

But here’s the thing, and there is just no getting around it. Once you eliminate the ass-covering "no GR required" amendment, “systemd is a bad idea, the only real question is how bad” didn’t place third.

It placed first. By a substantial margin.

Conversely, “systemd is a good idea” didn’t place first.

It placed last.

If this surprises you, even a little, then by all means, go look it up. And for the love of whatever you hold Sacred, refrain from uttering a single word of GR-related drivel until you do.

(Edit: My exhortation above to refrain from drivel absent sufficient research was predictably futile. So, for the benefit of those who are unable or unwilling to do the math themselves, a pre-digested version of the analysis can be found here: viewtopic.php?f=20&t=120652&p=576562#p576502)

Speaking of the GR…

The GR was too necessary
As noted above, the only reason “systemd is a bad idea” wasn’t the outcome of the GR vote is because of the “political cover” amendment that allowed “This conversation is superfluous” to pretend to be the correct answer (which it absolutely isn’t).

In a dichotomous, up-or-down, yes-or-no vote (aka Option1 -vs- Option3), the Debian dev community is split 60/40 (or 40/60, depending on one’s POV) on the issue of systemd. When a large plurality of your engineering team tells you that you’re doing something fundamentally wrong, dismissing their concerns with “we don’t need no steenkin’ conversation” bespeaks a complacency bordering on negligence, all the moreso when when your actions have very, very large consequences. (Google “Challenger disaster” for more information.)

Which leads me to…

Debian isn’t other distros
Every time I see someone spout some variation of the bandwagon fallacy, or refer to Arch as a “major” distro, I have an urge to do harm.

News flash: There is exactly one Debian, and nothing–nothing–compares to it.

NASA doesn’t run Arch. Amazon and Google don’t rely on Mageia.

In terms of sheer impact on both the larger LinuxSphere and the global economy, there are exactly two “major” distros: Debian and RedHat. (SUSE is a very distant third, and everything else is just noise.)

A change in Debian affects mission-critical and life-critical software across the globe, touches literally tens of thousands of organizations, and ripples through a hundred derivatives and spinoffs.

So no, it doesn’t matter, not even a little, whether your desktop machine boots a few seconds faster or “seems to work ok” under systemd. The cost of downtime on a hobbyist machine is all-but-unmeasurable, whereas the cost of downtime on a scientific supercomputer is somewhere between large and catastrophic.

Speaking of costs…

Change costs, and big change costs big
There’s a reason why sysadmins in large organizations are routinely among systemd’s biggest detractors.

Downtime is expensive in terms of both time and money. So is re-training. So is rewriting gigabytes of artificially-obsoleted documentation. Add them all up, factor in the associated opportunity costs, multiply by a planet’s worth of installs, and before you know it, the cost to the global economy associated with systemd deployment reaches into the billions (or thousands of millions, if you prefer) of dollars/euros.

And for what exactly?

Even if systemd were a demonstrably superior technology (which it isn’t), adequately spec’ed (which it isn’t) elegantly designed (which it isn’t), well-coded (which it isn’t), properly documented (which it isn’t),or developed by a responsive and responsible community with a history of delivering robust and reliable software (*cough*pulseaudio*cough*), systemd would still be at best problematic, for one simple reason: it’s insanely expensive to implement, particularly given the fact that it doesn’t solve any actual problem.

Insofar as I’m aware, no one has ever articulated a value proposition for systemd that addresses its implementation costs, or comes remotely close to calculating a payback period. More to the point, no one has successfully articulated any value proposition for systemd that goes beyond “it’s better” or “it’s more modern.”

Global warming, antibiotic resistant bacteria, oilspills, and nuclear accidents are all “modern,” but that doesn’t make them good. And “better” is a meaningless term until and unless one specifies a metric or quantitative criteria that can be used to measure “better” in a systematic and reliable way. Otherwise, “new and improved!” is just marketing hype.

At the end of the day, the crux of the systemd question comes down to a matter of how much Unix one wants in one’s Linux. Casual users and hobbyists probably won’t care. Professionals will care deeply and passionately.

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