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Links 24/1/2016: Linux 4.5 RC1, Debian 8.3 Released

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Free Software/Open Source

  • Nginx Plus R8 Improves HTTP2, Adds OAuth2
    Nginx Inc is out this week with a new release of its flagship product platform, Nginx Plus R8. Among the highlights of the new web server platform are improved HTTP2 capabilities, OAuth authentication and HTML5 video caching features.

  • Events

    • POSSCON Cancelled Until 2017
      POSSCON has been cancelled. The surprise announcement was made Thursday by way of an email from IT-oLogy, the nonprofit organization which hosts the event. The conference, which focuses on the enterprise and is targeted at IT professionals who develop or use open source software, was scheduled to be held in Columbia, S.C. on April 12-13.

    • SCALE 14X Saturday in Pictures

      Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls — that covers most of you: From a press standpoint, to say that SCALE 14X was busy would be a clear understatement. While the event has pretty much ratcheted itself up to the next level, staying atop the show in my capacity as the publicity chair is somewhat daunting.

      So rather than tell you what happened today, I’m just going to show you. You’ll thank me for it later, trust me.

    • SCALE 14X Gets Rolling for the Weekend
      One of the fears — one of the many in having an established conference at a brand spanking new venue — is this: Suppose they gave an outstanding Friday keynote, and nobody came? All those sleepless nights worrying about it were essentially for naught, since Cory Doctorow’s keynote at SCALE 14X Friday was a standing room only success.

  • Web Browsers

    • Brave Browser Promises to Defend Users' Privacy

    • Chrome

    • Mozilla

      • The final act for Mozilla's Persona
        Mozilla has announced that it will close down its identity service in November 2016. The browser maker stopped developing the Persona software in 2014, citing low adoption, but has maintained as a public service. With the announcement that the service will be discontinued, the question arose as to whether or not the software could survive as an independent, community-driven project. Questions also arose as to why Persona failed to take off, and whether Mozilla should have managed the project differently.

  • SaaS/Big Data

  • Databases

  • Oracle/Java/LibreOffice

    • Why I love hacking at LibreOffice
      The LibreOffice codebase is, to be frank, messy. This isn't a criticism of previous developers - it's still an amazing product and an amazing feat of programming given the number of platforms it runs on. The StarView guys, and later development team, did a great job. For instance, I was reading up on the font mapping code and I often saw Herbert Duerr's name, and I've got nothing but respect for the work that he did and his dedication to the project.

    • Way Down In The Libreoffice Menus
      With the release of LibreOffice 4.4 last year, we began making incremental updates to the main menus, with the major overhaul happening in the upcoming 5.1 release. The work is guided by LibreOffice’s new Human Interface Guideline (HIG), which has given us the core framework, however some questions have arisen challenging the reasoning of our work. So this post is a summary of what we changed, primarily focused on why we’ve done it – and a little outlook of what is planned for the future.

    • Update on Libreoffice and GNOME integration
      It’s been a long time I have talked about the project that I started with GSoC 2015 some time back. We reached at pretty much exciting results by the end of the summer where we could see the integration working pretty well with LibreOffice. We finished and merged all the major work on the Libreoffice side alongwith just-made-it-work integration with gnome-documents. Things were still in the development stage for gnome-documents, and we needed good amount of effort to get it merged upstream.

  • Pseudo-/Semi-Open Source (Openwashing)

    • EMC, Pivotal Launch New Program For Open-Source Development
      With an eye on the changing IT landscape, EMC and Pivotal launched a new program in Cambridge, Mass., focused on the development of open-source software and applications for the cloud.

      In Japanese, “dojo” means “the place of the way,” and EMC and Pivotal have named the center the Cloud Foundry dojo. Cloud Foundry is a Platform-as-a-Service offering centered around cloud-native application development.

    • Facebook open-sources Transform, a tool that cuts 360-degree video file size by 25%
      At its Video @Scale conference at company headquarters today, Facebook is announcing that it’s open-sourcing Transform, a piece of software it uses to stream users’ 360-degree videos in an efficient way.

  • BSD

    • Basis Of The Lumina Desktop Environment by Ken Moore
      The Lumina Desktop Environment is a new, BSD-licensed, graphical system environment which is designed primarily for BSD and UNIX-based operating systems. This focus on BSD systems results in a number of distinct differences in from the current collection of Linux-focused desktop environments, only one of which is independence from all the Linux-based system management frameworks.

    • Skylake x86 Target Finally Added To LLVM
      For whatever reason it didn't come for many months until after Skylake CPUs shipped, but LLVM Git/SVN now has Skylake and its features added to the x86 target list.

      Elena Demikhovsky of Intel landed this weekend the Skylake x86 target in LLVM that exposes all of the various CPU instruction set extensions supported by these latest-generation processors. There is also the Skylake server processor class for those with AVX-512 support.

    • DragonFlyBSD Intel Graphics Driver Caught Up To Linux 4.1
      The DragonFlyBSD Intel DRM graphics driver sure is getting close to catching up against the upstream Intel Linux graphics driver with the mainline kernel.

    • The Imaginary Linux Interview from Hell Part 1 [Ed: garbled mess]


  • Public Services/Government

    • Denmark evaluates eHealth solutions
      Denmark’s Digital Welfare Strategy 2013 - 2020 is managed by the Danish government, Local Government Denmark (LGDK) and Danish Regions. The aim is to increase the uptake of eHealth solutions, and increase the use of technology to improve welfare.

    • Spain expands its electronic Judicial network

    • Latvia’s authorities meet open technologists
      The smart city activities of Riga and the intelligent transport systems devised by Latvia’s state road department are two of the many topics in next week’s “Open Technologies and Smart Solutions” conference. The meeting on 28 January is organised by Latvia’s Open Technology Association (LATA).

  • Openness/Sharing

    • Open Space Agency Releases First Set of Files for the Open Source, 3D Printed Ultrascope Explorer Plus
      If there’s one field you wouldn’t expect to utilize crowdsourcing, it would be space exploration. However, that’s pretty much what the Open Space Agency (OSA) does. Founded by entrepreneur James Parr, OSA has created a network of amateur citizen scientists to supplement the work of the professional space agencies – or even create their own space programs – right from their backyards. At the heart of the collective is the Ultrascope, a robotic telescope, or automated robotic observatory, controlled by a smartphone.

    • Open Access/Content

      • Open source textbooks should be the future
        Like many businesses, there are economies of scale in publishing. A book that only sells 1000 copies a year will necessarily be expensive. But how many people are going to take a class in introductory calculus this year? What about psychology or health? They have to number in the tens of thousands, if not higher. There are also some fields where knowledge or convention changes so rapidly that books must be constantly updated. But the state of the art in introductory calculus hasn’t changed a whole lot since Isaac Newton. There’s no defensible reason that most books, especially ones for introductory classes, should be so expensive. It seems to me, that purchasing textbooks is a classic principal-agent problem. Professors select their classes’ book and students are essentially obliged to purchase them. Value for money is usually not a central concern, and this lets publishers set essentially whatever prices they so desire.

  • Programming

    • An open letter to GitHub, the new Brave browser, and more news
      Many developers working on open source projects choose to put their code on GitHub. By doing so, they use—and depend on—many of this platform's features, including support. According to The Register, more than 1,100 developers recently sent an open letter to GitHub about the lack of support. In response, GitLab, another code repository unrelated to GitHub, wrote a letter to developers about how they strive to help large and small open source projects use GitLab.


  • More Indians Died Taking Selfies Than Anywhere Else In The World
    Until now, at least, 27 “selfie-related” deaths have been reported around the world last year, out of which around half of the deaths occurred in India.

  • Science

    • History of Computer: From First Generation Of Computer To Third Generation
      Story of the history of computer from a mechanical device to smartphones in modern days computing — how the history of computer saw the replacement of different mechanical parts with electrical ones and then eventually with electronic ICs and Microprocessors — everything in detail.

    • New prime number discovery breaks record at 22 million digits
      Prime numbers, which can only be divisible by themselves, are presumably infinite. However, the higher you count, the fewer and farther between prime numbers are.

      The previous highest known prime number held the record for nearly three years. On January 25, 2013, 2 to the power of 57,885,161 minus 1, a figure 17,425,170 digits long, was announced by Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search.

  • Hardware

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Flint hospital reports finding Legionnaires' bacteria in water
      A hospital in Flint, Michigan, reported Friday that low levels of Legionnaires' disease bacteria were discovered in its water system.

      The discovery came after the city switched its water supply and the medical staff noticed an increase in people coming in for treatment who were diagnosed with Legionnaires,' McLaren Hospital said.

      Legionnaires' disease is a respiratory bacterial infection usually spread through mist that comes from a water source.

    • Michigan's top environmental officer has pledged to work with the US Environmental Protection Agency to ensure the safety of Flint's drinking water, but is challenging the legality and scope of some federal demands

    • Anger in Michigan Over Appointing Emergency Managers
      In the spring of 2013, Detroit was groaning under the weight of its troubles. It had accumulated billions in debt, was riddled with crime and had seen much of its affluent tax base disappear. A former mayor, Kwame M. Kilpatrick, was convicted of racketeering and fraud.

      Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, swept in with a rescue plan: the appointment of an emergency manager, Kevyn D. Orr, who was charged with saving a city in fiscal despair. Many Detroiters were furious that Mr. Orr, then a high-profile bankruptcy lawyer from Chevy Chase, Md., had been given a role with extraordinary power, usurping control from local elected officials.

      That anger has been revived in Michigan this week. Public outrage over the tainted water in Flint and the decrepit schools in Detroit has led many people to question whether the state has overreached in imposing too many emergency managers in largely black jurisdictions.

    • The Contempt That Poisoned Flint’s Water
      Even before the drinking water in Flint, Michigan, was found to be tainted with lead—before water from some areas tested at more than twice the level considered to be toxic waste, and public-health officials said that every last child in the city should be treated as if the child had been poisoned—the governor’s office knew that the water was discolored, tasted bad, smelled strange, and was rife with “organic matter.” They knew, as one memo sent to Governor Rick Snyder in February, 2015, noted, that “residents have attended meetings with jugs of brownish water.” Officials figured that a reason it looked that way was the presence of rust. And they thought that was just fine. They wished, in fact, that the residents would realize how good they had it, when it came to the water’s substance, and stop complaining about its style. Various safe-water laws, the February memo said, “ensure that water is safe to drink. The act does not regulate aesthetic values of water.” The “aesthetics” (the word comes up several times in e-mails about Flint, which the governor released Tuesday night under pressure) were bad because “it’s the Flint River”; “the system is old”; “Flint is old”—the water, in a word, fit their picture of the city, in which about forty per cent of its hundred thousand people lived below the poverty line (and more than half are black). Until April, 2014, Flint had been part of Detroit’s water system, which had Lake Huron as its source. It was scheduled to be connected to a new pipeline in 2016 or 2017, which would save money; Flint is in such desperate financial straits that it was under the oversight of an Emergency Manager. When that manager felt he couldn’t negotiate a low enough price for Detroit water in the interim, the city was left with the option of drinking from the river that ran by it, and past its active and derelict factories, and had been last regularly used decades before. The city would treat the water itself. All the city had to do was pass a few tests; as long as it did, it didn’t matter if the residents were, in effect, drinking dirt. But then, almost immediately, the water began to fail the tests. In August, 2014, and again that September, the water was found to have unacceptably high levels of fecal coliform bacteria, and specifically E. coli. Certain neighborhoods were instructed to boil their water, while the city added chlorine to the supply to disinfect it. It took a lot of chlorine—and that may be where Flint’s troubles really began. (NBC has a timeline of the crisis.) The city’s water managers, unaccountably, seem not to have added any anti-corrosion agents to the water. Nor did they check for corrosion issues in a way they ought to have for a city Flint’s size. (In a remarkable memo a year later, Brad Wurfel, the spokesman of the state’s Department of Environmental Quality, said that the staff had “made a mistake,” and followed the wrong protocol.) By October, 2014, General Motors had announced that it would no longer use the water, because it was corroding its equipment. It was also—and this should have been entirely predictable—eating into the lead pipes that delivered the water to people’s homes, causing them to crumble into the water. Flint is old, and its water system took decades to build. It took only months of cheap, corrosive water to mangle and perhaps permanently destroy it.

    • GCHQ-developed Phone Security Contains Backdoor

    • How can Indonesia extinguish its forest fires for good?

      In recent months, Indonesia has again come under the international spotlight for a problem that has dogged the country for more than two decades - haze resulting from uncontrolled and sometimes uncontrollable land fires.

      The last two major El Niño seasons - in 1997 and 2015 - elevated haze into a regional issue. Politicians struggled to find a balance between soothing domestic outrage and risking foreign relations fallout with Indonesia.

  • Security

  • Defence/Police/Secrecy/Aggression

    • Canada shootings: Four killed in Saskatchewan
      Four people have been killed and several injured in shootings in the western Canadian province of Saskatchewan, police say.

    • If you’re so tough, “go fight ISIS”: Bill Maher blasts Bundy siege’s “wackadoodle militiamen”
      The armed right-wing extremists who’ve taken over a federal building at a wildlife refuge in Oregon just keep digging themselves into an even deeper hole with their past unlawful indiscretions coming home to roost. It seems the government’s idea to wait them out has turned them into an even bigger joke than they already are. So, of course, Bill Maher took them to task on Friday’s “Real Time: New Rules.”

      “They keep on promising to ‘occupy that building until… well, we’re not really sure,'” Maher mocked the disorganized cult of stupidity. “And they’re not sure, something about ‘redneck lives matter.'”

  • Finance

    • Hillary Clinton Laughs When Asked if She Will Release Transcripts of Her Goldman Sachs Speeches
      After Hillary Clinton spoke at a town hall in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Friday, I asked her if she would release the transcripts of her paid speeches to Goldman Sachs. She laughed and turned away.

      Clinton has recently been on the defensive about the speaking fees she and her husband have collected. Those fees total over $125 million since 2001.

      Her rival Democratic presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, has raised concerns in particular over the $675,000 she made from Goldman Sachs, an investment bank that has regularly used its influence with government officials to win favorable policies.

    • How bitcoin tech could spark a revolution in government services
      The bitcoin digital currency is underpinned by a distributed ledger based on block chain technology: in this case the distributed bitcoin ledger ensures that the bitcoins are authentic. But the basic block chain approach can also be modified to incorporate rules, smart contracts, and digital signatures, which could make it a handy tool for government services.

    • Here is how TTIP threatens small businesses in the UK
      As an entrepreneur, I know how difficult it can be to set up and run a successful business. To do this against a backdrop of the biggest companies in the world having an unfair advantage is a sure-fire way to threaten our vibrant business sector.

      This is just one of the many reasons why the EU-US trade deal TTIP is a major threat to small and medium-sized business in the UK and Europe. And that's why I've joined with other British business owners to launch the initiative, Business Against TTIP.

  • Censorship

    • The art of self-censorship
      There is a passage in Milan Kundera’s novel, The Joke, in which a young man sends a card to his girlfriend, and adds a funny comment about the communist regime of Czechoslovakia. The authorities intercept the letter, search for the sender and put him behind the bar. The author uses this fictitious incident to denote how the state with its all seriousness cannot take a joke.

  • Privacy

    • New tools for teaching and learning Email Self-Defense
      For starters, we've added a page to help you teach your friends and community what you've learned. We've also made a number of improvements in the guide itself, including clarifying many technical points and updating it to reflect changes in the software. We've expanded the troubleshooting sections by adding links to external resources, so that you can get alternative explanations of the steps, if you find that helpful. There are also new, advanced sections so that skilled users, as well as beginners, can learn something new.

    • What is Privacy?
      Privacy is a basic human emotion like love, aspiration, empathy, and understanding. It’s what we feel when we lock the restroom door, it’s what we feel when we lay back on the couch with a good book, it’s what we feel when we close our eyes on the warm beach and just have a little moment completely to ourselves.

    • Should Intelligence Whistleblowers Be Protected?
      Employees seeking to report wrongdoing are safeguarded across all federal agencies—but the process for doing so in the classified intelligence community can be dangerous.

    • John McAfee: “Obama Administration Doesn’t Know The Meaning Of Privacy”
      The maker of McAfee antivirus and privacy advocate John McAfee is again in the headlines. In his latest op-ed, he stresses upon the need of encryption, calling it a necessity. Bashing the governments who demand restrictions on encryption measures, he says that Obama administration lacks the real understanding of privacy.

    • The NSA Can Spy On You With Or Without Encryption
      The leaders controlling the US surveillance apparatus can’t agree on encryption. FBI Director Comey has hysterically characterised it as a safe haven for evil-doers. A high-ranking Department of Justice official insisted that encryption could cause a child to die. Meanwhile, the National Security Agency’s leaders are extremely chill about encryption — which is terrifying.

      “Encryption is foundational to the future,” NSA Director Adm. Mike Rogers said in a speech today. “So spending time arguing about ‘hey, encryption is bad and we ought to do away with it’ … that’s a waste of time to me,” he continued.

      That sounds nice and reasonable, right? Rogers isn’t going on a rogue stand for privacy, though. He’s maintaining a status quo. NSA Directors haven’t really given a shit about encryption for a while. And while it’s less annoying than Comey’s fear-mongering, the NSA’s relaxed attitude is worth treating with suspicion.
    • No, NSA Has Not Changed Stance on Encryption
      If you tuned into a talk by Michael Rogers, director of the National Security Agency, at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C., this week, you might think the NSA had begun to change its tune about encryption—the technology favored by Apple and its Silicon Valley brethren to scramble users’ data and communications (much to criminal investigators’ chagrin), making them unintelligible to spies and hackers alike.

    • Interactive Advertising Bureau Bars Adblock Plus From Conference, When It Should Be Listening To Them
      Ad blocking and the software that powers it seems to be in the news lately, and for all the wrong reasons. Recently, several prominent sites have attacked ad blockers in several different ways, ranging from lawsuits on the extreme end down to simply withholding content. These attempts are all misguided in the same way, however, in that they attack the software that readers find useful rather than attacking the core problem that makes users turn to ad blockers in the first place: incredibly crappy and occasionally downright dangerous advertising inventory.

      One would think that websites and online advertisers would have much to learn from the providers of ad blockers. It seems there is little appetite for education amongst them, however, as we've recently learned that the Interactive Advertising Bureau has flat out barred Adblock Plus from its annual conference.
    • NSA Takes Pro-Encryption Stance: Can It Spy On Your Encrypted Data?
      The National Security Agency (NSA) is easing its stance on encrypted data. The agency's director Mike Rogers shared his thoughts on the ongoing debate surrounding encryption and revealed that the NSA is now in favor of encrypted data.

    • GCHQ to stage a cyber careers event for women in Birmingham [Ed: GCHQ femmewashing]

  • Civil Rights

    • Senate Intelligence Committee Members Ask White House For Official Apology From CIA For Hacking Senate Computers
      The White House and CIA have yet to comment on the letter and there's nothing in the history of the incident that suggests either will move forward on this. Obama's on short time and the CIA already cleared itself of all wrongdoing with an in-house "investigation" and further showed its disdain for independent oversight by throwing its Inspector General and his report on the spying efforts under the bus.

      Jason Leopold and Vice obtained hundreds of documents through FOIA requests that appeared to show the opposite of what the CIA's internal investigation claimed. But it was the CIA that had the last word, proclaiming itself innocent and simultaneously accusing Senate staffers of improperly accessing restricted documents.

      But the most damning document -- at least in the context of a demand for an official apology from the CIA -- was the apology the agency unofficially disavowed when it cleared itself of hacking allegations.

  • Internet/Net Neutrality

    • TRAI Open House on Net Neutrality
      By some miracle, I was in Delhi, and was able to attend the open house. The telcos made a huge pitch for differential pricing at the TRAI Open House on Net Neutrality, but civil society and the Save The Internet coalition and others argued that the Internet cannot be regulated like telecom networks because users on the Internet are both content creators and consumers.

    • The FCC Should Ensure Digital Rights for Prisoners and Their Families
      But from the perspective of inmates and their friends and family, these new technologies often do not result in stronger lines of communication at all. Some prison officials use the technology to justify restricting in-person visitation or traditional mail. Many communications services are offered under unfair terms and with artificially inflated fees that are only possible because the services operate monopolies at each prison or jail. In addition, users of these systems face potential privacy violations, as illustrated by the recent Securus data breach of more than 70-million prisoner phone calls.

    • Facebook and India: Introducing a digital caste system
      All societies share rich commons, the cultural and material resources shared by all, and owned equally by either everyone or no one. The air we can freely breathe, the sun that shines on us all. We once shared land too, but the development of small landholding enclosures created private property.

      Now there’s a looming enclosure of the digital commons, with Facebook threatening to capture the future of India's internet. Its 'Free Basics' service threatens to limit free access to the digital sphere.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Trademarks

      • The Academy Bullied CNN Into Including Trademark Icon For 'Oscars' On Its Crawl For Some Reason
        Usually when we talk about the Oscars behaving badly about intellectual property, it has to do with either its combat against film piracy or its rather stunning tradition of facilitating it. What's clear in most of those stories, though, is that when the Motion Picture Academy decides to sink its collective teeth into something, it is bulldog-ish in its unwillingness to let it go. It seems that this is the case on matters of trademark, as well. Unimaginably petty trademark matters.

    • Copyrights

      • Creative Kids Turn MIT Website Into a ‘Piracy’ Haven

        In recent weeks the music industry has started to target the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) website over tens of thousands of copyright infringements. The deviant behavior doesn't come from typical pirates though, but from children using the Scratch project to share 'their' creative expressions.
      • Fair Use Economics: How Fair Use Makes Innovation Possible and Profitable
        Just over 30 years ago, the Supreme Court issued its landmark ruling in Sony v. Universal City Studios (usually referred to as the Sony/Betamax case), clearing the way for a technology company to sells its products (Betamaxes, and by extension, VCRs) even though they could potentially be used for infringing purposes. After all, the court reasoned, customers also deployed their VCRs to engage in non-infringing fair uses, such as recording soap operas to watch after work. If a product was capable of “substantial noninfringing uses,” the fact that it could also be used for unlawful purposes shouldn’t be enough to force it off the market (and/or require its maker to pay millions in damages).

      • “Notice-and-Stay-Down” Is Really “Filter-Everything”
        There’s a debate happening right now over copyright bots, programs that social media websites use to scan users’ uploads for potential copyright infringement. A few powerful lobbyists want copyright law to require platforms that host third-party content to employ copyright bots, and require them to be stricter about what they take down. Big content companies call this nebulous proposal “notice-and-stay-down,” but it would really keep all users down, not just alleged infringers. In the process, it could give major content platforms like YouTube and Facebook an unfair advantage over competitors and startups (as if they needed any more advantages). “Notice-and-stay-down” is really “filter-everything.”

      • Digital Freedom Depends on the Right to Tinker

        One of the most crucial issues in the fight for digital freedom is the question of who will control the hardware that you have in your home, in your pocket, or in your own body.

        Have you ever been frustrated when a beloved feature was taken away in an update? Or felt helpless to prevent the apps on your phone from oversharing your personal data with advertisers? Or had to pay through the nose for proprietary cartridges of ink or 3D printing material? Or found that your independent repair shop wasn’t allowed to fix your car or appliance? If so, then you've experienced a small—but accumulating—frustration of losing of control over your stuff.

      • We'll Probably Never Free Mickey, But That's Beside the Point
        Mickey Mouse is synonymous with copyright term extension, and with good reason. Every time the first Mickey cartoons creep towards the public domain, Disney's powerful lobbyists spring into action, lobbying Congress for a retrospective term-extension on copyright, which means that works that have already been created are awarded longer copyright terms. In the USA, copyright law is supposed to serve an incentive to make new works, and there's no sensible way that getting a longer copyright on something you've already made can provide an incentive to do anything except lobby for more copyright, and sue people who want to make something new out of your creation.

      • Singer Sues Google For Not Asking Her Permission To Use A Licensed Song In Its Cell Phone Commercial
        Darlene Love, the voice on the Phil Spector-produced hit "He's A Rebel," is suing Google and its ad producer, 72 & Sunny, for violating her publicity rights by using a song she recorded in one of its ads without her permission.

        The lawsuit seems to revolve around California's much-maligned "right of publicity" law, which allows plaintiffs to sue entities for using pretty much anything about them, rather than just for bog standard copyright infringement.

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