Links 20/8/2019: KMyMoney 5.0.6, Kdenlive 19.08

Posted in News Roundup at 11:04 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

  • GNU/Linux

    • Desktop

      • System76 announce their own graphical Firmware Manager

        System76, the company known for their Linux hardware and the Pop!_OS Linux distribution recently announced their new Firmware Manager.

        Supporting their own Pop!_OS as well as other Debian-based distributions like Ubuntu, their firmware tooling is aimed at easing the update process for users. Developed due to a “lack of options for graphical frontends to firmware management services”, since previous tools for LVFS (Linux Vendor Firmware Service) relied on GNOME Software or KDE Discover “which is not viable for Linux distributions which have their own application centers, or frontends to package managers”.

        They’ve created a GTK application for other distributions to use, as well as widget library with it integrated into GNOME Settings. They do say that the core of the framework is “toolkit-agnostic”, enabling frontends to be written in any toolkit. System76 said their new Firmware Manager project supports updating from both LVFS and system76-firmware, along with being compatible with Wayland.

      • System76 Unveils Graphical Firmware Updater for All Debian-Based Linux Distros

        American computer manufacturer System76 announced a new, cross-platform graphical utility that promises to make checking and updating your computer’s firmware a lot more easier.

        The Firmware Manager project is System76′s latest toy for the company’s in-house built, Ubuntu-based Pop!_OS Linux distribution, but also compatible with any Debian-based GNU/Linux distro out there. Backed by the fwupd and system76-firmware CLI tools, the Firmware Manager utility will integrate into the GNOME Settings panel for easier firmware updating.

        “One of the issues we faced with firmware management on Linux was the lack of options for graphical frontends to firmware management services like fwupd and system76-firmware,” said System76.

      • System76 Still Aiming To Be The Apple Of The Linux Space With Software & Hardware

        System76 continues doing much more work on software these days as well as expanding their own hardware manufacturing capabilities. This is much more than they did a decade or even several years ago when they were just selling PCs/laptops pre-loaded with Ubuntu. As summed up by System76 founder and CEO, Carl Richell, their end game is much more Apple-esque.

        Following their announcement on Saturday of their new System76 Firmware Manager project, Carl tweeted, “This work continues our transition from a hardware company shipping a distro to a hardware company providing an integrated, holistic hardware and OS product. Still a lot of work ahead of us but manufacturing, open firmware, and Pop!_OS are pulling together.”

      • Google brings Linux app support to some older Chromebooks (including Chromebook Pixel 2015)

        Chrome OS started out as a browser-based operating system that could run web apps only. Eventually Google added support for Android apps, and then for Linux apps, making Chromebooks more useful as general-purpose laptops.

        But while most new Chromebooks feature out-of-the-box support for Android and Linux apps, many older models do not… and it looked like they never would.

        It turns out that may not be true after all: 9to5Google reports that Google seems to be testing an update that would bring Linux app support to the 2015 Chromebook Pixel, along with a number of other models released that year.

      • 2015 Pixel and eight other Chromebooks land Linux apps

        At the center of “kernelnext” is the iconic Pixel Chromebook 2015. Although nearing its end of life, Google’s second iteration Chromebook is still a powerful device with a timeless design. It is fitting that users of the $1000+ Pixel should get a little bit of love from developers and the addition of Linux apps should be a reason to rejoice. A recent report from Kyle Bradshaw reveals that some users are starting to see the “kernelnext” update on their devices which has allowed them to enable the experimental flag that activates Crostini.

      • Your Older Chromebook, Chromebox, Or Chromebase Will Run Linux Soon

        The ability to use Linux on a Chromebook is going to be the norm from this year forward but now at least eight much older devices are gaining that capability too. Code changes associated with the change were first spotted under the ‘KernelNext’ project codename earlier this year. But that change is now rolling out to no fewer than eight devices.

        Among Chrome OS gadgets receiving the update are three Chromebox PCs, one Chromebase all-in-one, and four Chromebooks. The first and likely biggest of those updates is already shipping now for Google’s Pixel Chromebook. Acer’s C670 Chromebook 11 and Chromebook 15 — codenamed Paine and Yuna — as well as Dell’s Chromebook 13 7310 and Toshiba’s Chromebook 2 — codenamed Lulu and Gandof will see the update soon too.

        For alternative Chrome OS hardware, Acer’s Chromebox CXI2, the ASUS Chromebox CN62, and the Lenovo ThinkCentre Chromebox — Rikku, Guadu, and Tidus — are included in the list. Finally, Acer’s Chromebase 24 — codenamed Buddy — rounds out the list.

    • Server

      • Replicating Particle Collisions at CERN with Kubeflow

        This is where Kubeflow comes in. They started by training their 3DGAN on an on-prem OpenStack cluster with 4 GPUs. To verify that they were not introducing overhead by using Kubeflow, they ran training first with native containers, then on Kubernetes, and finally on Kubeflow using the MPI operator. They then moved to an Exoscale cluster with 32 GPUs and ran the same experiments, recording only negligible performance overhead. This was enough to convince them that they had discovered a flexible, versatile means of deploying their models to a wide variety of physical environments.

        Beyond the portability that they gained from Kubeflow, they were especially pleased with how straightforward it was to run their code. As part of the infrastructure team, Ricardo plugged Sofia’s existing Docker image into Kubeflow’s MPI operator. Ricardo gave Sofia all the credit for building a scalable model, whereas Sofia credited Ricardo for scaling her team’s model. Thanks to components like the MPI operator, Sofia’s team can focus on building better models and Ricardo can empower other physicists to scale their own models.

      • Issue #2019.08.19 – Kubeflow at CERN

        Replicating Particle Collisions at CERN with Kubeflow – this post is interesting for a number of reasons. First, it shows how Kubeflow delivers on the promise of portability and why that matters to CERN. Second, it reiterates that using Kubeflow adds negligible performance overhead as compared to other methods for training. Finally, the post shows another example of how images and deep learning can replace more computationally expensive methods for modelling real-word behaviour. This is the future, today.

      • IBM

        • A POWER’ful Announcement Is Expected Tomorrow Changing The Open-Source Landscape

          For those interested in IBM’s POWER architecture and/or open-source hardware prospects, an industry-shaking announcement is expected to happen Tuesday morning.

          Taking place Tuesday and Wednesday in sunny San Diego is the OpenPOWER Summit focused on the open-source POWER ecosystem. There will be keynotes tomorrow from IBM, Microsemi, Raptor Computing Systems, and the OpenPOWER Foundation. Beyond the usual fluff and what not at most industry events / keynotes, there is going to be a very exciting announcement made tomorrow morning in kicking off this event.

        • PHP version 7.2.22RC1 and 7.3.9RC1

          Release Candidate versions are available in testing repository for Fedora and Enterprise Linux (RHEL / CentOS) to allow more people to test them. They are available as Software Collections, for a parallel installation, perfect solution for such tests (for x86_64 only), and also as base packages.

          RPM of PHP version 7.3.9RC1 are available as SCL in remi-test repository and as base packages in the remi-test repository for Fedora 30 or remi-php73-test repository for Fedora 28-29 and Enterprise Linux.

          RPM of PHP version 7.2.22RC1 are available as SCL in remi-test repository and as base packages in the remi-test repository for Fedora 28-29 or remi-php72-test repository for Enterprise Linux.

        • Self-Serviced, End-to-End Encryption for Kubernetes Applications, Part 2: a Practical Example

          In part one of this series, we saw three approaches to fully automate the provisioning of certificates and create end-to-end encryption. Based on feedback from the community suggesting the post was a bit too theoretical and not immediately actionable, this article will illustrate a practical example. You can see a recording of the demo here.

        • The Tiger that interned at Red Hat

          From the start, Tiger just had the right idea about looking for a college. Instead of reading US World News’ rankings, basing his decisions on sports teams, or even aiming for the Ivy Leagues, Tiger set out to make his college search a data driven effort. He asked himself, first, where he wanted to work. For him, that was an almost typical answer for an aspiring young technology student: Google, Facebook, Red Hat and other big name tech firms.


          Tiger’s real name is Passawit Kaovilai, and he’s now entering his third year at NC State. He said that many people in his native Thailand have nicknames, and that his translates well into any language, and is understood immediately. He was also born in the year of the tiger, so the name is a natural fit.

          Here at Red Hat, Tiger has taken on the duties of a technical marketing intern. That means he’s been diving into Red Hat OpenShift 4 to help create documentation and learning tools for users in the field. That also means contributing to open source projects, and getting his handle out there on GitHub, however modestly.

    • Audiocasts/Shows

    • Kernel Space

      • Intel Icelake Thunderbolt Support Still Being Squared Away For Linux – Hopefully For 5.4

        Intel Icelake laptops will soon be hitting store shelves and a vast majority of the Linux support has been squared away for many months. Unfortunately one bit still not mainlined is the Thunderbolt support.

        Back in July we wrote about the Icelake Thunderbolt support still not merged yet while Icelake’s Gen11 graphics and other new processor features have all been squared away for several kernel releases in ensuring good launch-day support. With Icelake, the Thunderbolt functionality has moved onto the SoC itself (sans the Thunderbolt power delivery) and that’s taken additional time for getting the Linux kernel support in order.

      • Graphics Stack

        • Mesa 19.2′s Feature Freeze / Release Candidate Process Beginning Tomorrow

          Mesa 19.2 was supposed to be branched marking its feature freeze two weeks ago on 6 August along with the issuing of the first release candidate. That milestone has yet to be crossed but should happen tomorrow.

          Mesa 19.2 development dragged on for the extra two weeks to allow some extra features to land. Those extra features were metrics/counters support for Intel Iris Gallium3D, CCS_E modifier support, and slice/sub-slice hashing optimizations for Intel — a big performance win. Now that those blockers have landed, the release process is expected to get underway on Tuesday.

        • Display Stream Compression (DSC) for AMD Navi
          This patchset enables Display Stream Compression (DSC) on DP 
          connectors on Navi ASICs, both SST and DSC.
          8k60 and 4k144 support requires ODM combine, an AMD internal
          feature that may be a bit buggy right now.
          Patches 1 through 5 enable DSC for SST. Most of the work was
          already done in the Navi promotion patches; this just hooks
          it up to the atomic interface. The first two reverts are of temporary
          changes to block off DSC. The third is of a commit that was
          accidentally promoted twice. The fourth and last revert fixes a 
          potential issue with ODM combine.
          Patches 6 and 7 are fixes for bugs that would be exposed by 
          MST DSC. One fix is with the MST code and the other in the DSC code.
          Patches 8, 9, and 10 are small DRM changes required for DSC MST:
          FEC, a new bit in the standard; some export definitions; and
          a previously uninitialized variable.
          Patches 11 through 14 are the DSC MST policy itself. This includes
          the code for detecting and validating DSC capabilities, enabling
          DSC over a link, computing the fair DSC configurations for
          multiple DSC displays, and adding to atomic state crtcs that might 
          need reprogramming due to DSC.
        • AMD Posts Navi Display Stream Compression Support For Linux

          One of the kernel-side features not yet in place for AMD’s newest Navi graphics processors on Linux has been Display Stream Compression support but that is being squared away with a new patch series.

          Fourteen patches posted today adding more than six hundred lines of code to the AMDGPU Linux kernel driver enable Display Stream Compression support for DisplayPort connectors on Navi GPUs. VESA’s Display Stream Compression is for low-latency lossless compression performance for power-savings and higher resolution/refresh-rates based on bandwidth and enabling the likes of DisplayPort Multi-Stream Transport (MST) technology.

    • Benchmarks

      • POWER9 & ARM Performance Against Intel Xeon Cascadelake + AMD EPYC Rome

        For those wondering how ARM and IBM POWER hardware stack up against AMD’s new EPYC “Rome” processors and that of Intel’s existing Xeon “Cascade Lake” processors, here is a round of tests from the POWER9 Talos II, Ampere eMAG, and Cavium ThunderX in looking at the cross-architecture Linux CPU performance currently in the server space.

        Our AMD EPYC Rome benchmarks this month have been focused on the performance compared to earlier AMD EPYC and Intel Xeon processors, but given the broader architecture support on Linux and there also being significant interest in the likes of IBM POWER / OpenPOWER thanks to more open-source designs when paired with motherboards from Raptor Computing Systems, here are some initial numbers for ARM and POWER9 performance against the new x86_64 server CPUs.

    • Applications

      • Pause Music When Locking The Screen And Resume On Unlock For Spotify, Rhythmbox, Others

        When you lock your computer screen (without suspending the system), most desktop audio players continue playback in the background, sometimes not emitting any sound ¹. Due to this you may unintentionally skip parts of podcasts or songs in a playlist, etc.

        Enter pause-on-lock, a Bash script that pauses your music player when you lock the screen and resumes playback once the screen is unlocked.

        pause-on-lock works on Unity, GNOME, Cinnamon and MATE desktop environments, and by default it supports Spotify and Rhythmbox. With the help of playerctl (a command line controller for controlling media players that support the MPRIS D-Bus interface), this script can extend its supported music players to many others, including Audacious, VLC, Cmus, and others.

      • Easy Way to Screen Mirroring Android on Ubuntu!

        Screen Mirroring is one of the features found on smartphones, one of which is on Android. This feature serves to display the smartphone to a computer. This is very useful for example when used for demo applications that you make, or maybe for other things related to smartphones.

        In Ubuntu, we can do screen mirroring with applications available on Android, for example is AirDroid which can be used for screen mirroring through a browser. But I feel less optimal when using this instant method.

        Because there is a lag between activity on the smartphone and on the monitor screen on the computer, and the results are less than optimal. What might be the cause because it is opened through a browser and uses wi-fi? (Personal question).

        I am looking for another application for screen mirroring on Ubuntu, and one of the very good applications is Scrcpy. This application can be used for screen mirroring without a root device.

      • OBS Studio 24.0 Will Let You Pause While Recording, Other New Options

        For those using OBS Studio for cross-platform live-streaming and screen recording needs, OBS Studio 24.0 is on the way but out first is their release candidate to vet the new features coming into this big update.

      • Storage

    • Instructionals/Technical

    • Games

      • Don’t Starve Together has a big free update adding in boats and a strange island

        Klei Entertainment have given the gift of new features to their co-op survival game Don’t Starve Together, with the Turn of Tides update now available.

        Taking a little inspiration from the Shipwrecked DLC available for the single-player version Don’t Starve, this new free update enables you to build a boat to carry you and other survivors across the sea. Turn of Tides is the first part of a larger update chain they’re calling Return of Them, so I’m excited to see what else is going to come to DST.

      • Cthulhu Saves the World has an unofficial Linux port available

        In response to an announcement to a sequel to Cthulhu Saves the World, Ethan Lee AKA flibitijibibo has made a unofficial port for the original and a few other previously Windows-only games. As a quick reminder FNA is a reimplementation of the proprietary XNA API created by Micrsosoft and quite a few games were made with that technology. We’ve gotten several ports thanks to FNA over the years though Ethan himself has mostly moved on to other projects like working on FAudio and Steam Play.

      • EVERSPACE 2 announced, with more of a focus on exploration and it will release for Linux

        EVERSPACE is probably one of my absolute favourite space shooters from the last few years, so I’m extremely excited to see EVERSPACE 2 be announced and confirmed for Linux.

        For the Linux confirmation, I reached out on Twitter where the developer replied with “#Linux support scheduled for full release in 2021!”.

      • Google reveal more games with the latest Stadia Connect, including Cyberpunk 2077

        Today, Google went back to YouTube to show off an impressive list of games coming to their Stadia game streaming service, which we already know is powered by Debian Linux and Vulkan.

        As a reminder, Google said not to see Stadia as if it was the “Netflix of games”, as it’s clearly not. Stadia Base requires you to buy all your games as normal, with Stadia Pro ($9.99 monthly) giving you a trickle of free games to access on top of 4K and surround sound support.

      • The situation with Blood: Fresh Supply getting a Linux version is looking a little unclear

        Blood: Fresh Supply is the revamp of the classic 90′s first-person shooter Blood, released by Nightdive Studios in May this year.

        In the most recent update on Steam, the team mentioned “For future issues, we will have to recommend contacting Atari about them.”. Their wording is interesting, which seems to indicate that Nightdive will not be making any further additions to Blood: Fresh Supply. Presumably then, this would mean the Linux version they previously confirmed back in May will not be happening either.

      • Spacebase Startopia is the next title from Realmforge and Kalypso Media, coming to Linux

        Set Phasers to fun sci-fi fans, as Realmforge (Dungeons 3) and Kalypso Media just announced Spacebase Startopia and it’s confirmed to be supporting Linux.

        From the press release sent over by Kalypso Media, they confirmed it’s “an all-new take on the 2001 cult classic” Startopia from Mucky Foot Productions.

      • wsPublish, an open source Steam Workshop Interop Library released

        How about a little open source news to get your Monday flowing? Game porter Ethan Lee recently announced the release of wsPublish, an open source Steam Workshop Interop Library with a little history.

      • Incredibly stylish twin-stick shooter Devader is launching next month

        With some really wild enemy designs and action that just don’t stop, Devader is a damn fun game and it’s releasing officially next month.

      • Planetary Annihilation: TITANS still seeing updates, Mesa issues on Linux being looked into

        Celebrating one year since Planetary Annihilation Inc took over development of Planetary Annihilation: TITANS from Uber Entertainment, the team have given an update.

        The post goes over what they’ve been able to achieve and it is quite impressive. Before Planetary Annihilation Inc appeared, it did seem like the game was left on life support so they’ve given it a big boost. A fair amount of Planetary Annihilation: TITANS was getting old, so their first point of action was to upgrade the underlying tech to be more modern. Along with that they also upgraded the AI, put a fair amount of effort into their servers to improve performance, gave it more multi-threading and so on.

      • Based on the classic FPS Warsow, the new Warfork is now live in Early Access

        Fast-paced arena shooter Warsow has been forked, updated under the name of Warfork and it’s now in Early Access on Steam.

        If you’re curious why they forked it and put it on Steam, according to the team behind Warfork the owner of Warsow is apparently opposed to a Steam release (see the additional notes below on that). Not just that, but until recently Warsow saw very little in the way of updates and seemed a bit dead overall. In addition, the developers of Warfork are planning lots of work to make Warfork more easily adjusted with mods.

      • Open-world vehicle-based survival game Project 5: Sightseer has been officially released

        Set on a huge procedurally generated world, Project 5: Sightseer from the developer of Windward is a sandbox open-world survival game where you pilot various vehicles.

        Instead of running around as person like in other survival sims, Project 5: Sightseer is more about technology. Starting you off in a rather crap land vehicle, you eventually build up an outpost and research much better transportation including those that enable you to fly vast distances easily.

      • GOG are celebrating their Community Wishlist feature with a big sale

        The DRM-free store GOG are currently doing a bit of patting themselves on the back with a sale celebrating their Community Wishlist feature.

        Allowing gamers to suggest, discuss and vote on games they want to see come to GOG it’s a pretty fun feature for a curated store to have. GOG say they have completed “over 2 million wishes” and they have “no plans on slowing down” with it. They of course can’t fulfil every wish, but it’s a good way for them to see what classics people want revived.

    • Desktop Environments/WMs

      • Four more years! Four more years! Svelte Linux desktop Xfce gets first big update since 2015

        In contrast to the frenetic pace of updates now typical in the software industry, the team behind Xfce, a lightweight desktop for Linux, have released version 4.14 nearly four-and-a-half years since the last stable release, 4.12.

        Xfce aims to be fast, consume minimal resources and embody the UNIX philosophy of modularity. Its features include a window manager, a desktop manager, a file manager and an application finder.

      • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

        • Kdenlive 19.08 released

          After a well deserved summer break, the Kdenlive community is happy to announce the first major release after the code refactoring. This version comes with a big amount of fixes and nifty new features which will lay the groundwork for the 3 point editing system planned for this cycle. The Project Bin received improvements to the icon view mode and new features were added like the ability to seek while hovering over clips with the mouse cursor and now it is possible to add a whole folder hierarchy. On the usability front the a menu option was added to reset the Kdenlive config file and now you can search for effects from all tabs instead of only the selected tab. Head to our download page for AppImage and Windows packages.

        • Interview with Chayse Goodall

          Hi, my name is Chayse Goodall. I am 14 years old. I just draw for fun!


          I normally draw the sketch first in a dark red color. Then I draw the plain body in a light green. I sketch the clothes, hair, and accessories on in a neon color.

          I just use the pen for coloring and shading.

        • KMyMoney 5.0.6 released

          The KMyMoney development team today announces the immediate availability of version 5.0.6 of its open source Personal Finance Manager.

          Another maintenance release is ready: KMyMoney 5.0.6 comes with some important bugfixes. As usual, problems have been reported by our users and the development team fixed some of them in the meantime. The result of this effort is the brand new KMyMoney 5.0.6 release.

          Despite even more testing we understand that some bugs may have slipped past our best efforts. If you find one of them, please forgive us, and be sure to report it, either to the mailing list or on bugs.kde.org.

        • Kontact and Google Integration Issues

          Lately there were some issues with the Google integration in Kontact which caused that it is no longer possible to add new Google Calendar or Gmail account in Kontact because the log in process will fail. This is due to an oversight on our side which lead to Google blocking Kontact as it did not comply with Google’s policies. We are working on resolving the situation, but it will take a little bit.

          Existing users should not be affected by this – if you already had Google Calendar or Gmail set up in Kontact, the sync should continue to work. It is only new accounts that cannot be created.

          In case of Gmail the problem can mostly be worked around when setting up the IMAP account in KMail by selecting PLAIN authentication1 method in the Advanced tab and using your email and password. You may need to enable Less Secure Applications in your Google account settings in order to be able to log in with regular email address and password.

    • Distributions

      • Changing the Chair of the openSUSE Board [Ed: Reposted in OpenSUSE's site now]

        Gerald has been a regular source of advice & support during my tenure as Chairperson. In particular, I will always remember my first visit to FOSDEM as openSUSE Chair.
        Turning up more smartly dressed than usual, I was surprised to find Gerald, a senior Director at SUSE, diving in to help at the incredibly busy openSUSE booth, and doing so dressed in quite possibly the oldest and most well-loved openSUSE T-shirt I’ve ever seen.
        When booth visitors came with questions about SUSE-specific stuff, I think he took some glee in being able to point them in my direction while teasingly saying “Richard is the corporate guy here, I’m just representing the community..”

        Knowing full well he will continue being so community minded, while finally giving me the opportunity to tease him in return, it is with a similar glee I now hand over the reigns to Gerald.

        As much as I’m going to miss things about being chairperson of this awesome community, I’m confident and excited to see how openSUSE evolves from here.

      • A new chair for the openSUSE board

        Richard Brown has announced that he is stepping down as the chair of the openSUSE board.

      • Screenshots/Screencasts

        • 10 Linux distros: From different to dangerous

          One of the great benefits of Linux is the ability to roll your own. Throughout the years, individuals, organizations, and even nation states have done just that. In this gallery, we’re going to showcase some of those distros. Be careful, though. You may not want to load these, or if you do, put them in isolated VMs. We’re not kidding when we say they could be dangerous.

        • Endeavour OS 2019.08.17 Run Through

          In this video, we are looking at Endeavour OS 2019.08.17.

      • Fedora Family

        • Approved: Fedora 31 To Drop i686 Everything/Modular Repositories

          The month-old proposal for the upcoming Fedora 31 Linux distribution release to stop with their i686 repositories for Everything and Modules was voted on today by the Fedora Engineering and Steering Committee.

          The FESCo group gave their formal approval today for permitting these i686 repositories to be removed beginning with Fedora 31. This also goes in-step with Fedora 31 having already decided to stop with their i686 kernel builds.

        • Living my best 4 days: Flock to Fedora 2019

          Months of waiting came to an end and finally, it was time to meet people with whom I have been working for the last 4 months, being on the other side of the screen. Things seemed different when our last Wednesday conference call ended with “Meet you soon” instead of a “Good Day”. The excitement of attending Flock to Fedora, was not only because the virtual interaction is turning to the real meeting but also, it was my first ever International trip. With approaching the 6th of August, the fear of travelling solo was getting on the peak, and at one moment I started questioning if all the trouble I underwent during last month was even worth it. But the time I met Shraddha(another intern working on the same project)at Bangalore airport, we happened to click so much at our first conversation that it was certain that at least my journey will not be me, and my headphones all the time.

          Since I reached Budapest a day before when everyone arrived, I got a handful of time discovering places, getting to know their culture and try on things we never tried before. The excitement of being at such a beautiful place did not make me realise that I was sleep-deprived, I had a jet lag of 4 hours and I was hungry. I spent the entire day roaming the streets, enjoying a breath of fresh air and exploring the city and ways of commute as well.

          Next day we shifted to the hotel that was booked for us and where the conference will be held. The ambience of the whole place was really nice and we met other fellow attendees at the conference.

        • rpminspect Presentation at Flock 2019

          Flock in Budapest was a great event. There were a lot of talks I wanted to attend, but could not make it to all of them. I did give one talk on my project called rpminspect.

          rpminspect is a project I started as a replacement for an internal Red Hat tool. I am working on integrating it in to the build workflow for Fedora but also allow package maintainers to use it locally as a build linter of sorts. Here is a link to the presentation I gave. I think there is video, but I am not sure where those are.

        • rpminspect-0.3 released

          Released rpminspect-0.3 today with bugs reported and fixed during Flock Budapest 2019.

        • Kevin Fenzi: Flock 2019

          Flock time is upon is! This time in lovely Budapest. As always when flock is in europe, it’s a long flight for me, but otherwise travel was uneventfull: Drive 2 hours to PDX, then PDX to AMS, then a short layover for coffee and stoupwaffles and then AMS to BUD, and finally a taxi ride to the hotel.

          The hotel is quite lovely. It’s right next to the danube river and has a nice view. The AC is working nicely too (it’s quite hot outside here right now). After getting into the hotel yesterday and a quick dinner at a very nice place down the road, I managed to sleep for 10+ hours.

      • Debian Family

        • KNOPPIX Live GNU/Linux System Is Now Based on Debian GNU/Linux 10 “Buster”

          A new release of the KNOPPIX Live GNU/Linux system has been released and it’s based on the latest Debian GNU/Linux 10 “Buster” operating system series and the Linux 5.2 kernel.

          KNOPPIX 8.6 is now available based on the software repositories of the recently released Debian GNU/Linux 10 “Buster” operating system series, but also packing some elements from the Debian Uunstable (Sid) repos. It’s powered by the latest Linux 5.2 kernel series and X.Org Server 7.7 display server to support newer graphics cards and computer hardware.

        • Tails 4.0 Anonymous Linux OS Enters Beta Based on Debian GNU/Linux 10 “Buster”

          Tails 4.0 recently entered beta testing and it’s the first release to be based on the just released Debian GNU/Linux 10 “Buster” operating system series, which means that all the pre-installed packages have been updated to newer versions to support the latest hardware components, especially recent Nvidia and ATI/AMD graphics cards, as well as Mac computers.

          Tails 4.0 also promises support for Thunderbolt 3 devices, which is now integrated into the latest GNOME 3 desktop environment, with which the upcoming major Tails release will ship by default. Users who own a Thunderbolt device are urged to test the implementation by navigating to Choose Devices > Thunderbolt from the GNOME Settings utility.

        • Knoppix 8.6 first wide public release to abandon systemd

          Version 8.6 of the popular Debian-derived Linux distribution Knoppix was released on Sunday, rebasing the distribution on Debian 10 (Buster)—released on July 9—with select packages from Debian’s testing and unstable branches to enable support for newer graphics hardware. Knoppix is among the first Linux distributions that can be run live from a DVD, and continues to enjoy a great deal of popularity among Linux enthusiasts.

          Knoppix 8.6 is notable for being the first publicly-released version of the distribution to abandon systemd, an init system built by Red Hat’s Lennart Poettering intended to replace sysvinit. While adoption of systemd was the subject of considerable controversy and criticism, it is the mainstream default, used by Knoppix’s upstream Debian, as well as other Debian forks such as Ubuntu and Mint; RHEL, CentOS, and Fedora; openSUSE and SLES, as well as Mageia, and by default in Arch.

          Complaints about systemd primarily focus on feature creep, as the project does not conform to the “do one thing and do it well” philosophy of Unix systems in general. Other aspects, such as its use of binary logs (as opposed to human-readable, text logs) have likewise drawn criticism.

          The first version of Knoppix to remove systemd is 8.5; though this version was distributed exclusively with copies of Linux Magazine Germany earlier this year, it was not made generally available for download. Knoppix creator Klaus Knopper wrote briefly about the decision to remove systemd in that edition (translated from German, links added for context):

      • Canonical/Ubuntu Family

        • Latest KDE Security Vulnerabilities Are Patched in Ubuntu and Debian, Update Now

          couple of weeks ago, the KDE community fixed a security vulnerability discovered by Dominik Penner in the KConfig component, the configuration settings framework of the KDE Plasma desktop environment, which could allow an attacker to execute malicious code through a specially crafted .desktop file included in an archive that was opened in the file manager.

          “Dominik Penner discovered that KConfig supported a feature to define shell command execution in .desktop files. If a user is provided with a malformed .desktop file (e.g. if it’s embedded into a downloaded archive and it gets opened in a file browser) arbitrary commands could get executed. This update removes this feature,” reads the Debian security advisory.

        • Ubuntu MATE 18.04.3 LTS Released for GPD Pocket, Ubuntu MATE 19.04 for GPD WIN 2

          Released earlier this month, Ubuntu MATE 18.04.3 LTS is the third instalment in the long-term supported Ubuntu MATE 18.04 LTS (Bionic Beaver) operating system series, shipping with updated kernel and graphics stacks from the more recent Ubuntu MATE 19.04 (Disco Dingo) operating system, including Linux 5.0.

          While until now users were able to download Ubuntu MATE 18.04.3 LTS for 64-bit and 32-bit computers, starting today the operating system is also available to download for SOFTWIN’s GPD Pocket and GPD Pocket 2 gaming computers, as well as for the Topjoy Falcon mini laptop.

        • Design and Web team summary – 16 August 2019

          This iteration was the Web & design team’s first iteration of the second half of our roadmap cycle, after returning from the mid-cycle roadmap sprint in Toronto 2 weeks ago.

          Priorities have moved around a bit since before the cycle, and we made a good start on the new priorities for the next 3 months.

        • Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter Issue 592

          Welcome to the Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter, Issue 592 for the week of August 11 – 17, 2019. The full version of this issue is available here.

    • Devices/Embedded

    • Free, Libre, and Open Source Software

      • Web Browsers

        • Mozilla

          • WebAssembly for speed and code reuse

            Imagine translating a non-web application, written in a high-level language, into a binary module ready for the web. This translation could be done without any change whatsoever to the non-web application’s source code. A browser can download the newly translated module efficiently and execute the module in the sandbox. The executing web module can interact seamlessly with other web technologies—with JavaScript (JS) in particular. Welcome to WebAssembly.

            As befits a language with assembly in the name, WebAssembly is low-level. But this low-level character encourages optimization: the just-in-time (JIT) compiler of the browser’s virtual machine can translate portable WebAssembly code into fast, platform-specific machine code. A WebAssembly module thereby becomes an executable suited for compute-bound tasks such as number crunching.

            Which high-level languages compile into WebAssembly? The list is growing, but the original candidates were C, C++, and Rust. Let’s call these three the systems languages, as they are meant for systems programming and high-performance applications programming. The systems languages share two features that suit them for compilation into WebAssembly. The next section gets into the details, which sets up full code examples (in C and TypeScript) together with samples from WebAssembly’s own text format language.

          • Mozilla GFX: moz://gfx newsletter #47

            Hi there! Time for another mozilla graphics newsletter. In the comments section of the previous newsletter, Michael asked about the relation between WebRender and WebGL, I’ll try give a short answer here.

            Both WebRender and WebGL need access to the GPU to do their work. At the moment both of them use the OpenGL API, either directly or through ANGLE which emulates OpenGL on top of D3D11. They, however, each work with their own OpenGL context. Frames produced with WebGL are sent to WebRender as texture handles. WebRender, at the API level, has a single entry point for images, video frames, canvases, in short for every grid of pixels in some flavor of RGB format, be them CPU-side buffers or already in GPU memory as is normally the case for WebGL. In order to share textures between separate OpenGL contexts we rely on platform-specific APIs such as EGLImage and DXGI.

            Beyond that there isn’t any fancy interaction between WebGL and WebRender. The latter sees the former as a image producer just like 2D canvases, video decoders and plain static images.

      • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

        • Qt Visual Studio Tools 2.4 RC Released

          The Visual Studio Project System is widely used as the build system of choice for C++ projects in VS. Under the hood, MSBuild provides the project file format and build framework. The Qt VS Tools make use of the extensibility of MSBuild to provide design-time and build-time integration of Qt in VS projects — toward the end of the post we have a closer look at how that integration works and what changed in the new release.

          Up to this point, the Qt VS Tools extension managed its own project settings in an isolated manner. This approach prevented the integration of Qt in Visual Studio to fully benefit from the features of VS projects and MSBuild. Significantly, it was not possible to have Qt settings vary according to the build configuration (e.g. having a different list of selected Qt modules for different configurations), including Qt itself: only one version/build of Qt could be selected and would apply to all configurations, a significant drawback in the case of multi-platform projects.

          Another important limitation that users of the Qt VS Tools have reported is the lack of support for importing Qt-related settings from shared property sheet files. This feature allows settings in VS projects to be shared within a team or organization, thus providing a single source for that information. Up to now, this was not possible to do with settings managed by the Qt VS Tools.

      • BSD

        • NetBSD Sees Its First Wayland Application Running

          Wayland support is inching ahead on NetBSD for this secure, modern next-generation successor to running an X.Org Server.

          NetBSD has seen a lot of interesting developments this year on the desktop front from DRM graphics driver improvements to better Wine support and now the first Wayland bits are proving successful on this BSD operating system.

      • Programming/Development

        • The Easiest Data Cleaning Method using Python & Pandas

          In this post we are going to learn how to do simplify our data preprocessing work using the Python package Pyjanitor.

        • Weekly Python Exercise A3 (beginner objects) is open

          If you’ve been programming in Python for any length of time, then you’ve undoubtedly heard that “everything is an object.”

          But what does that mean? And who cares? And what effect does that have on you as a developer — or on Python, as a language?

          Indeed, how can (and should) you take advantage of Python’s object-oriented facilities to make your code more readable, maintainable, standard, and (dare I say it) Pythonic?

        • Get started with Eclipse Che 7 and Quarkus: An overview

          In this short video tutorial, hosted by Doug Tidwell, we’ll take a look at the new Eclipse Che 7 interface along with Quarkus, the revolutionary new technology that can make Java applications very small and very fast.

          In the course of this demo, we’ll show how to set up a running workspace and run a simple app. To get started, we’ll also be using Minikube version 1.2.0 and Helm version 2.14.1, both of which you’ll need to have installed. For Che 7, we’re using the chectl tool; note that we’re using the July 30 build of chectl version 0.0.2. Finally, we assume you have wget installed as part of your operating system.

        • CMake: the Case when the Project’s Quality is Unforgivable

          CMake is a cross-platform system for automating project builds. This system is much older than the PVS-Studio static code analyzer, but no one has tried to apply the analyzer on its code and review the errors. As it turned out, there are a lot of them. The CMake audience is huge. New projects start on it and old ones are ported. I shudder to think of how many developers could have had any given error.

        • Technical vision for Qt for Python

          Exposing a huge framework such as Qt to another language is not an easy task and this was the main reason for the slow porting from the old PySide version in Qt 4 to Qt 5.
          Many developers hours were spent in adapting to new Qt 5 APIs, and more importantly, the binding generator tool such that everything can be handled properly.

          Now with Qt 6 things will be different, because the development of Qt for Python is progressing side-by-side to the C++ and QML stories in Qt 6. Hopefully, there will be a lot fewer surprises this time around. In fact, this effect can be seen with current 5.x releases, PySide2 is available almost at the same time as the Qt release, having in some cases a few days delays.

          Since the official release in Qt 5.12.0, the downloads of Qt for Python has been increasing day-by-day, which translates on the community adopting and enjoying the project.

        • Qt 6 Will Bring Improvements To The Toolkit’s Python Support

          Adding to the interesting objectives for Qt 6 are further enhancements to “Qt for Python” for enhancing the programming language’s support for this tool-kit.

          It was just last year with Qt 5.11 that PySide2 became official as Qt for Python to provide proper bindings for Python to the Qt tool-kit. With Qt for Python continuing to see increased adoption, more improvements to Qt for Python are planned.

        • The Document Foundation/LibreOffice Community Member Monday: Sanjog Sigdel

          I’m currently a Graduate Student pursuing my MTech. in IT degree here in Kathmandu University, Dhulikhel, Nepal. Besides that, I am also a part-time instructor in a private college near the University: NIST College Banepa.

          I love knowing how new technologies work and also love exploring new places. Unitil now I have traveled almost 30 districts of Nepal via trekking, project monitoring and tours. I’ve been using Linux-based operating systems (mainly Ubuntu) since 2012. And I am also a FOSS activist/volunteer. I teach my students to use open source software and most of them are using Linux, LibreOffice, and Python programming in the Nano text editor :-)

        • Debugging Python Applications with the PDB Module

          In this tutorial, we are going to learn how to use Python’s PDB module for debugging Python applications. Debugging refers to the process of removing software and hardware errors from a software application. PDB stands for “Python Debugger”, and is a built-in interactive source code debugger with a wide range of features, like pausing a program, viewing variable values at specific instances, changing those values, etc.

          In this article, we will be covering the most commonly used functionalities of the PDB module.

        • Mike Driscoll: PyDev of the Week: Paul Ganssle

          This week we welcome Paul Ganssle (@pganssle) as our PyDev of the Week. Paul is the maintainer of the dateutil package and also a maintainer of the setuptools project. You can catch up with Paul on his website or check out some of his talks. Let’s take a few moments to get to know Paul better!

        • Image Process Plugin 1.2.0 for Pelican Released

          Image Process is a plugin for Pelican, a static site generator written in Python.

          Image Process let you automate the processing of images based on their class attribute. Use this plugin to minimize the overall page weight and to save you a trip to Gimp or Photoshop each time you include an image in your post.

          Image Process is used by this blog’s theme to resize the source images so they are the correct size for thumbnails on the main index page and the larger size they are displayed at on top of the articles.

        • Top 7 Compelling Reasons to Hire Ukrainian Developers

          Many people consider offshore development. They seek quality for a lower cost and look where to hire developers. Customers search online, read reviews, or ask for referrals to find the software development team that best fits their goals. Ukraine has become one of the top locations where customers across Europe, Asia, and North America go for developers to build their products from scratch.

        • How to Find and Hire a Python/Django Development Company

          Even though there are about 22 million developers in the world (according to a Nexten.io study), good Python/Django developers aren’t easy to find and can be quite expensive. But there are many job marketplaces for software development companies and individual Python developers. Where you can find profiles of software development companies and their projects, reviews and ratings from current and former clients.

        • The Titler Revamp: QML Producer in the making

          At the beginning of this month, I started testing out the new producer as I had a good, rough structure for the producer code, and was only facing a few minor problems. Initially, I was unclear about how exactly the producer is going to be used by the titler so I took a small step back and spent some time figuring out how kdenlivetitle worked, which is the producer in use.

          Initially, I faced integration problems (which are the ones you’d normally expect) when I tried to make use of the QmlRenderer library for rendering and loading QML templates – and most of them were resolved by a simple refactoring of the QmlRenderer library source code. To give an example, the producer traditionally stores the QML template in global variables which is taken as a character pointer argument (which is, again, traditional C) The QmlRenderer lib takes a QUrl as its parameters for loading the Qml file, so to solve this problem all I had to do was to overload the loadQml() method with one which could accommodate the producer’s needs – which worked perfectly fine. As a consequence, I also had to compartmentalise (further) the rendering process so now we have 3 methods which go sequentially when we want to render something using the library ( initialiseRenderParams( ) -> prepareRenderer( ) -> renderQml( ) )


          The problem was resolved (thank you JB) finally and it was not due to OpenGL but it was simply because I hadn’t created an QApplication for the producer (which is necessary for qt producers). The whole month’s been a steep curve, definitely not easy, but, I enjoyed it!

          Right now, I have a producer which is, now, almost complete and with a little more tweaking, will be put to use, hopefully. I’m still facing a few minor issues which I hope to resolve soon and get a working producer. Once we get that, I can start work on the Kdenlive side. Let’s hope for the best!

        • How to Make a Discord Bot in Python

          In a world where video games are so important to so many people, communication and community around games are vital. Discord offers both of those and more in one well-designed package. In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to make a Discord bot in Python so that you can make the most of this fantastic platform.

        • Security, UX, and Sustainability For The Python Package Index

          PyPI is a core component of the Python ecosystem that most developer’s have interacted with as either a producer or a consumer. But have you ever thought deeply about how it is implemented, who designs those interactions, and how it is secured? In this episode Nicole Harris and William Woodruff discuss their recent work to add new security capabilities and improve the overall accessibility and user experience. It is a worthwhile exercise to consider how much effort goes into making sure that we don’t have to think much about this piece of infrastructure that we all rely on.

        • Moving Conda Environments

          Conda is known as a package manager for Python and R packages produced by Anaconda, Inc. and conda-forge, the open-source community for conda Python packages. In addition to managing packages, Conda is also an environment manager. If you’re new to Python, environments create an isolated environment to manage dependencies in a project. Because the Python ecosystem of packages is both wide and deep, part of Conda’s job is to install packages that don’t conflict with each other.

          Once you have your project environment set up and your code written and tested, you may want to move it to another machine. For example, you would want to move a web application to server with a public address or copy a set of tools you frequently use to a USB drive. You might want to take a snapshot of your project environment as a backup.

        • Moving Code with Refactoring in Wing Pro

          In this issue of Wing Tips we explain how to quickly move functions, methods, classes, and other symbols around in Python code, using Wing Pro’s Move Symbol refactoring operation.

          This operation takes care of updating all the points of reference for the symbol that is being moved. For example, if a function is moved from one module to another then Wing will update all the points of call for that function to import the module it has been moved into and invoke the function from there.

  • Leftovers

    • Security (Confidentiality/Integrity/Availability)

      • Security updates for Monday

        Security updates have been issued by CentOS (kernel and openssl), Debian (ffmpeg, golang-1.11, imagemagick, kde4libs, openldap, and python3.4), Fedora (gradle, hostapd, kdelibs3, and mgetty), Gentoo (adobe-flash, hostapd, mariadb, patch, thunderbird, and vlc), Mageia (elfutils, mariadb, mythtv, postgresql, and redis), openSUSE (chromium, kernel, LibreOffice, and zypper, libzypp and libsolv), Oracle (ghostscript), Red Hat (rh-php71-php), SUSE (bzip2, evince, firefox, glib2, glibc, java-1_8_0-openjdk, polkit, postgresql10, python3, and squid), and Ubuntu (firefox).

      • IPFire 2.23 – Core Update 135 is ready for testing

        after a little break with many things to fight, we are back with a brand new Core Update which is packed with various bug fixes and cleanup of a lot of code.

      • Wladimir Palant: Kaspersky in the Middle – what could possibly go wrong?

        Roughly a decade ago I read an article that asked antivirus vendors to stop intercepting encrypted HTTPS connections, this practice actively hurting security and privacy. As you can certainly imagine, antivirus vendors agreed with the sensible argument and today no reasonable antivirus product would even consider intercepting HTTPS traffic. Just kidding… Of course they kept going, and so two years ago a study was published detailing the security issues introduced by interception of HTTPS connections. Google and Mozilla once again urged antivirus vendors to stop. Surely this time it worked?

        Of course not. So when I decided to look into Kaspersky Internet Security in December last year, I found it breaking up HTTPS connections so that it would get between the server and your browser in order to “protect” you. Expecting some deeply technical details about HTTPS protocol misimplementations now? Don’t worry, I don’t know enough myself to inspect Kaspersky software on this level. The vulnerabilities I found were far more mundane.

      • KNOB attack: Is my Bluetooth device insecure?

        A recent attack against Bluetooth, called KNOB, has been making waves last week. In essence, it allows an attacker to downgrade the security of a Bluetooth so much that it’s possible for the attacker to break the encryption key and spy on all the traffic. The attack is so devastating that some have described it as the “stop using bluetooth” flaw.

        This is my attempt at answering my own lingering questions about “can I still use Bluetooth now?” Disclaimer: I’m not an expert in Bluetooth at all, and just base this analysis on my own (limited) knowledge of the protocol, and some articles (including the paper) I read on the topic.

      • Dear sysadmins: Patch Webmin now – zero-day exploit emerges for potential hijack hole in server control panel

        The bug appears to have been revealed on Saturday, August 10, by Özkan Mustafa Akkuş at DEF CON and to have been made available as an exploit in a module for the Metasploit framework. The Webmin maintainers didn’t hear about it until Saturday, August 17, when they noticed people discussing the issue on Twitter and Reddit. The CVE was created Thursday, August 15.

        Webmin has about 215,000 installations, according to a Shodan search (account required), and about 13,000 instances of the particularly vulnerable version 1.890.


        According to Cooper, the malicious code was introduced into Webmin and Usermin through the project’s build infrastructure. “We’re still investigating how and when, but the exploitable code has never existed in our GitHub repositories, so we’ve rebuilt from git source on new infrastructure,” he said.

        In an email to The Register, Cooper said the malicious code – which appeared in the Sourceforge repo but not the GitHub repo – was introduced to Webmin on local package build infrastructure before it reached Sourceforge.

      • Backdoor found in Webmin, a popular web-based utility for managing Unix servers [Ed: No, it is not a backdoor and it's not there by design]
    • Defence/Aggression

      • On Gun Violence, ‘We Need the Federal Government to Take Bold Steps’ – CounterSpin interview with Ernest Coverson on guns & human rights

        When Walmart responded to the early August mass murder by a white supremacist by announcing they’d stopped selling certain video games, and the National Rifle Association responded to that and a subsequent mass shooting by likening those seeking gun regulations to mass murderers, as likewise seeking to “take away our God-given rights”—well, it’s a hard thing to measure, but you almost felt you could hear vast numbers of Americans saying, “You have got to be kidding.”

        Public conversation seems to have advanced to the point where it’s understood that the reason the United States has so many incidents of gun violence is because the United States has so many guns. The crisis is neither natural nor necessary, and not so much a matter of a lack of public appetite for regulation, as of a political system in which that public interest does not translate into policy or law. If the US gun nightmare is the result of choices, work like that of our next guest is aimed at helping us make the choices to escape it. Ernest Coverson is End Gun Violence campaign manager at Amnesty International USA. He joins us now by phone. Welcome to CounterSpin, Ernest Coverson

    • Environment

      • Intelligence Thieves: How Toxic Pollutants Are Robbing Communities of Color

        Environmental racism has been well documented for decades — beginning with the work of sociologist Robert Bullard in Houston in the 1970s to a recent study in March on pollution burdens.

        But as Washington writes in her new book A Terrible Thing to Waste: Environmental Racism and the Assault on the American Mind, the fallout from environmental toxicity isn’t just physical. Lead, arsenic, mercury, PCBs, phthalates, DDT and even some pathogens can all rob people of their mental acuity and lower their intelligence, disrupting their livelihoods and thwarting their potential.

        Washington, a former research fellow in medical ethics at Harvard Medical School and senior research scholar at the National Center for Bioethics at Tuskegee University, is also the author of Infectious Madness and Medical Apartheid, which won a National Book Critics Circle Award.

        We spoke to Washington about why the dangers to mental capacity from environmental pollution are so often overlooked, why communities of color bear the brunt and what can be done about it.

      • Unique climate change has no natural cause

        European and US scientists have cleared up a point that has been nagging away at climate science for decades: not only is the planet warming faster than at any time in the last 2,000 years, but this unique climate change really does have neither a historic precedent nor a natural cause.

        Other historic changes – the so-called Medieval Warm Period and then the “Little Ice Age” that marked the 17th to the 19th centuries – were not global. The only period in which the world’s climate has changed, everywhere and at the same time, is right now.

        And other shifts in the past, marked by advancing Alpine glaciers and sustained droughts in Africa, could be pinned down to a flurry of violent volcanic activity.

      • Energy

        • Documents Show Koch Network’s ‘Structure of Social Change’ in Action

          Back in 1996, the president of the Charles Koch Foundation laid out a blueprint for the Koch network’s goals of social transformation — a three-tiered integrated strategy to roll back government regulations, promote free market principles, and, in doing so, to protect the industries that turned the Koch brothers into billionaires.

          More than three decades later, that blueprint is still being followed in a broad-scale effort to serve the Kochs’ free-market libertarian ideology, to prop up the oil and gas industries that pad their fortunes, and to forestall any political action on climate change that they believe would threaten their bottom line.

        • Did North Dakota Regulators Hide an Oil and Gas Industry Spill Larger Than Exxon Valdez?

          In July 2015 workers at the Garden Creek I Gas Processing Plant, in Watford City, North Dakota, noticed a leak in a pipeline and reported a spill to the North Dakota Department of Health that remains officially listed as 10 gallons, the size of two bottled water delivery jugs.

          But a whistle-blower has revealed to DeSmog the incident is actually on par with the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, which released roughly 11 million gallons of thick crude.

    • Finance

      • Does International Travel Cause Economic Growth? Evidence from China’s Deregulation on Foreigners’ Traveling

        International travel is a key channel of international knowledge diffusion and has been hypothesized to shape large cross-country differences in productivity and income. However, causal evidence, especially evidence from developing countries, supporting this hypothesis remains scarce. This paper exploits a novel natural experiment, China’s Opening-to-Foreigner-County (OFC) policy, to examine the effect of deregulating foreigners’ traveling restrictions on regional economic outcomes. Using a difference-in-differences strategy, we find that deregulating foreigners’ traveling restrictions leads to a 7.9% additional increase of per capita industrial output for the OFCs in 1985-1991. The positive effects are larger in counties with more foreign equipment and greater industrial human capital. Additionally, the OFCs record more patent applications. The OFC policy’s effect were not triggered by export and FDI entry. We highlight the role of person-based international knowledge diffusion in the economic catch-up of technology recipient countries.

    • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

      • Electoral Commission Obstructionism on Indyref2 is Just a Foretaste

        The Electoral Commission has sought to apply the handbrake to the gathering momentum for a new Independence referendum, by a submission to the Scottish Parliament which is a model of bureaucratic obstructionism. This is simply a foretaste of the attitude of the “neutral” and “independent” organs of the United Kingdom state, such as the BBC and Electoral Commission, in the coming struggle for Independence, in which the British state will be using all possible levers to defend its own existence.

        It should not be forgotten that it is the Electoral Commission which insists that the postal ballots be mixed with the ordinary ballots before counting, so there can be no record of any discrepancy between the postal ballot result and ordinary ballots. If the ordinary ballot was 60% yes and 40% no, but the postal ballot was 90% no and 10% yes, this information is deliberately and systematically destroyed by the counting method insisted on by the Electoral Commission. I have for years been attempting to get a coherent official justification for this deliberate destruction of obviously vital information in guarding against fraud, and have never received one. So I openly proclaim I do not start here from a position of trust in the Electoral Commission.

        The Guardian is reporting triumphantly that the Electoral Commission’s submission to the Scottish Parliament on the legislation for Indyref2 throws a 2020 date into doubt and requires at least a nine month lead period for the referendum. This is (for once) a broadly accurate report from the Guardian.

      • Twitter And Facebook Removing Chinese Disinfo Campaigns Shows That, Contrary To Popular Opinion, They Do Moderate Against Disinfo

        Leaving aside the ridiculous and ignorant suggestions from some that no internet platforms should moderate anything, many, many people seem to believe (incorrectly) that the various internet companies refuse to moderate anything because it goes against their bottom lines. We’ve heard this from a number of politicians — especially among those seeking to change Section 230, arguing (again, incorrectly) that because of Section 230 there’s somehow no incentive to moderate content on their platforms.

        This is wrong on multiple levels. There is tremendous business, political, moral, and social pressure to moderate content on these platforms. When they get it wrong, they get criticized. They can lose users. And (importantly) they can lose advertisers, partners, customers and investors. There is demand for “healthy” platforms, and it’s Section 230 that allows them to experiment and moderate accordingly. That’s why it’s notable to me that both Twitter and Facebook announced the removal of what appears to be a coordinated attempt to abuse both platforms to push disinformation against protesters in Hong Kong.

    • Censorship/Free Speech

      • Latest ‘Google Whistleblower’ To Prove Anti-Conservative Bias Doesn’t Prove Anything And Appears To Be Bigoted Conspiracy Theorist

        So, we had just pointed out that the “fired ex-Googler whistleblower” whom everyone was pointing to last week as “proof” of “anti-conservative bias” at Google, didn’t look so good when you got to see the details (which included statements that certainly read to be pretty supportive of white nationalists, rather than support for, say, the free market and lower taxes). You’d think that peddlers continuing to push this theory with the next person would take more time in the vetting process. But… of course, if it’s Project Veritas we’re talking about, it appears the only vetting they like to do is “can we spin this the way we want so that idiot suckers will buy it?” And that’s what’s happened.


        One of the leaked documents also isn’t new and is completely misrepresented. Project Veritas had already posted it back in June and totally misrepresented it then. They claim it shows “election interference” regarding Ireland’s election in which abortion rights were up for referendum. Project Veritas — because they have to misrepresent basically everything — claimed it proved that YouTube was trying to influence the election by suppressing searches on phrases like “abortion is murdering.” What they leave out in all the hype and bluster, is that the document also contains many, many phrases on the other side of the debate, including “repeal the 8th,” “pro choice,” “woman’s right to choose” and more. In other words, the document is not YouTube putting its finger on the scales, but, just as the company explained at the time, an attempt to have the top results on YouTube be focused on more authoritative neutral content providers, rather than those pushing one side or the other. That’s… kinda reasonable? And also the very thing that “conservatives” keep demanding of the company — to be “neutral.”

        Indeed, so much of these documents seem to be evidence of Google trying to figure out how to deal with liars, trolls, and propagandists peddling nonsense. And PV turns that into “proof” of anti-conservative bias. Sorry, dudes. Unless you’re admitting that “conservative” only means liars, trolls and propagandists peddling nonsense…

        Amusingly, among the documents, which were released the very same day a laughably bad complaint was filed against YouTube for discriminating against LGBTQ+ folks, was a document about how YouTube was trying to improve its machine learning algorithms to better handle such content.

      • Beto O’Rourke Joins The Silly Parade Of Confused Politicians Looking To Destroy Section 230

        Earlier this year it was revealed that Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke was a member of the Cult of the Dead Cow when he was a kid. To lots of folks in the tech world, this was a big deal. cDc was the original “hacking group.” And while it doesn’t sound like o’Rourke actually did that much hacking while in cDc, at the very least, it suggested that he was tech savvy and might actually understand the internet. Apparently not. On Friday, Beto revealed his plan to deal with gun violence — and apparently, that plan is to take away Section 230 protections from large internet companies.


        Finally, any non-government person can certainly express their opinion that platforms shouldn’t host sites like 8chan or Stormfront, but both of those host mostly 1st Amendment protected content, and thus a Presidential campaign really should not be saying that, because as President you literally cannot have a policy that silences 1st Amendment protected speech. That’s how the 1st Amendment works.

        And, arguably, it’s not that difficult to trace a pretty direct lineage from Cult of the Dead Cow to 8chan — and, if anyone, Beto should know that.

        “Require large social media platforms to create systems designed to remove hateful activities on their sites.” Are there any “large” social media platforms that don’t already ban hateful activities in their terms and have systems designed to remove that content? The answer is no. This is a pointless, meaningless policy demanding something that’s already been done.

      • NC Appeals Court Withdraws Its Horrendous, Free Speech-Damaging Opinion On Retaliatory Arrests

        Late last week, the North Carolina State Court of Appeals released an astounding decision. Ignoring a number of precedential rulings finding otherwise, the court decided it was okay for state law enforcement officers to engage in retaliatory arrests, so long as they could find something to charge a citizen with.

        In this case, a car carrying a passenger who flipped the bird to a trooper engaged in a traffic stop was pulled over for… um… “disturbing the peace.” Apparently, all hell was on the verge of breaking loose due to the enthusiastic bird-flipping in the direction of the officer. By the time the stop was over, the passenger was arrested for obstructing an officer. This was because the passenger refused to ID himself, which isn’t actually a crime in North Carolina.

        The court looked at this retaliatory traffic stop and eventual arrest and said, yeah, I guess it’s “reasonable” to assume a drive-by birding is a criminal act in the making, even if the supposed initiating factor (the finger) was protected expression.

        The dissenting opinion was the only reasonable thing about the decision. It pointed out one person’s obscene gesture was highly unlikely to result in disturbed peace and that the traffic stop was nothing more than a fishing expedition to find something to charge the bird-flipping passenger with.

    • Privacy/Surveillance

      • As The NSA Declares Phone Record Program Dead, Trump Administration Asks For A Permanent Reauthorization

        The NSA decided to abandon its phone data collection earlier this year, stating that it was having all sorts of technical issues collecting only the stuff it was asking for. In the good old days prior to the enactment of the USA Freedom Act, the NSA simply asked for everything. “Reasonable articulable suspicion” now guides the record collection — something that appears to be too tricky for the NSA to wrap its collective collection powers around.

        It’s not all the NSA’s fault. The telcos now hold the records and only hand over what’s asked for when the NSA approaches them. Easier said than done, apparently, as over-collection continues and the NSA seems unable to prevent collecting records it’s not actually trying to correct.

        But it’s also the NSA’s fault because it’s had plenty of time to get used to the new rules and develop better practices/software to sort through collected data. Of course, the NSA has also hinted the program is of limited usefulness and has seemed willing to give it up for years now, especially if the token sacrifice saves other, far more intrusive programs from the Congressional chopping block.

        Is it really shut down, though? That’s been a tough question to answer. The NSA did recommend the program be shut down and claims it’s just gathering dust at the moment, but there’s been nothing definitive delivered to its oversight. Until now. Charlie Savage reports for the New York Times that there’s finally official confirmation of the program’s (possibly temporary) demise. Exiting Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats’ unclassified letter makes it clear the NSA has shut down the program indefinitely.

      • EFF Calls on California to End Vendor-Driven ALPR Training

        A single surveillance vendor has garnered a monopoly on training law enforcement in California on the use of automated license plate readers (ALPRs)—a mass surveillance technology used to track the movements of drivers. After examining the course materials, EFF is now calling on the state body that oversees police standards to revoke the training certification.

        In a letter to the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) sent today, EFF raises a variety of concerns related to factual accuracy of its ALPR training on legal matters. Additionally, we are concerned about the apparent conflict of interest and threat to civil liberties that occurs when a sales-driven company also provides instruction on “best practices” to police.

        ALPRs are camera systems that capture license plates and character-recognition software to document the travel patterns of vehicles. The cameras are often attached to fixed locations, such as streetlights and overpasses, and to police cars, which collect data while patrolling neighborhoods. This data is uploaded to a central database that investigators can use to analyze a driver’s travel patterns, identify visitors to particular destinations, predict individuals’ locations, and track targeted vehicles in real-time. ALPR is a mass surveillance technology in the sense that the systems collect information on every driver—regardless of whether the vehicles have a nexus to a criminal investigation.

    • Civil Rights/Policing

      • Protest Song Of The Week: ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ by Jimi Hendrix

        It was fifty years ago that Jimi Hendrix performed the United States national anthem during a Monday morning for tens of thousands of people at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair.

        Hendrix was the last act to take the stage. He had top-billing and was supposed to take the stage Sunday evening. Technical and weather delays led to the only morning performance he ever did for an audience. By the time he was introduced, many of the attendees had left to return home.

        The national anthem was part of a medley of songs. In the set, Hendrix smoothly segues into the “Star Spangled Banner” after completing “Voodoo Child (Slight Return).” As his guitar distorts and wails the last notes, he launches into “Purple Haze.”

        In fact, Hendrix performed the U.S. national anthem before, but his rendition had never achieved such a glorious sonic impact.

        As journalist Barnard Collier recalled for PBS’ “Woodstock” documentary, “Into my head stabbed this sound. It sounded exactly like rockets, missiles, and bombs bursting in air. I’d never heard anything like that in my life.”

    • Monopolies

      • Canada Announces Reforms to Reduce Prices on Patented Drugs

        The Canadian government has announced amendments to its regulations concerning patented drugs that it says will make medicines more affordable. According to Health Canada, these changes will save Canadians $13.2 billion (US $9.97 billion) over the next decade.

        Under the Patent Act, enacted in Canada in 1987, the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board (PMPRB) can take action against patent holders who charge what the board determines to be an excessive price. Factors that PMPRB takes into consideration include the price for which a drug is sold, the prices of other drugs in the same class are sold, the price charged in other countries, and changes in the consumer price index (CPI).

        Drugs are assessed for their therapeutic benefit relative to existing products, and depending on the outcome of that assessment, are given a ceiling price based on the median price of the same drug in United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and Sweden. The ceiling price can then grow in keeping with the CPI.

      • Patents and Software Patents

        • Lawyers say Federal Circuit’s USPTO request may affect trials

          The Federal Circuit has asked USPTO director Andrei Iancu to explain what deference should be afforded to a panel that determines whether patent disputes are precedential – a move which, lawyers say, could affect future disputes

          Lawyers say the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit’s request for the USPTO director to explain what deference should be afforded to an office panel could affect how future trials are interpreted…

        • After Filing Statutory Disclaimer, Constitution Bars Court from Finding Claims Invalid

          Sanofi-Aventis U.S. LLC v. Fresenius Kabi USA, LLC, CV147869MASLHG, 2018 WL 9364037 (D.N.J. Apr. 25, 2018). The remaining claims that had been rejected by the PTAB were revived by the Federal Circuit in a Feb 2019 decision — ordering the PTAB to consider allowing amendments to the claims. Sanofi Mature IP v. Mylan Laboratories Ltd., 757 Fed. Appx. 988 (Fed. Cir. 2019)(unpublished).

          On appeal, the Federal Circuit has vacated this decision — holding that “disclaimer of the disclaimed claims mooted any controversy.” Rather, once the claims were disclaimed the invalidity relief became “both speculative and immaterial to its possible future defenses, and Defendants thus failed to demonstrate an Article III case or controversy.”

          Fresenius pointed to the fact that Sanofi is now in the process of amending its claims before the PTAB — and could potentially recaputure some aspect of those claims. In addition, Fresenius argued that the decision could provide the company with issue preclusion armor in the future. On appeal, the Federal Circuit found these potential harms too speculative and insufficient to be considered.

          The decision here is somewhat surprising to me because we’re talking about a Constitutional question. Would the constitution allow a judgment on these claims — especially taking into account the ongoing litigation, the potential for recapture, and the notion that a patent covers a single invention (even if re-stated in number of claims). The Federal Circuit did not cite the Supreme Court’s recent, Already, LLC v. Nike, Inc., 568 U.S. 85 (2013). In that case, Nike sued Already for trademark infringement (Air Force 1) and Already counterclaimed that the mark was invalid. Prior to judgment, Nike dismissed its side of the lawsuit and also issued a broadly worded “covenant not to sue” Already.

        • The Vaccine Race in the 21st Century

          In a world in which infectious diseases are spreading increasingly faster, the development of new human vaccines remains a priority in biopharmaceutical innovation. Legal scholars have addressed different aspects of vaccine regulation and administration, but less attention has been paid to the role of laws governing innovation during the stages of research and development (R&D) of vaccines.

          This Article explores the race to develop new vaccines from its beginnings through the early 21st century, with a particular focus on the progressively pervasive role of intellectual property in governing vaccine innovation. It describes the insufficiencies of current innovation regimes in promoting socially desirable levels of vaccine R&D, particularly in the case of emerging pathogens, a phenomenon that is at odds with public health needs.

          Moreover, the Article identifies transactional inefficiencies affecting the licensure of vaccine technology. In order to address this problem, the Article argues for adoption of a technology-specific solution, and proposes a narrowly construed “take-and-pay” regime based on liability rules, enabling access to vaccine technology by follow-on innovators.

        • Apple challenges RED over RAW patent legitimacy
      • Trademarks

        • Double Standards: An Empirical Study of Patent and Trademark Discipline

          Our legal system is built on the foundation that lawyers have a number of coexisting and sometimes conflicting duties — to their clients, to others who might be affected by their practice, and to the effective and equitable administration of justice. While most lawyers fulfill these duties ethically, invariably some fail to live up to these expectations. For this reason, all states have created disciplinary authorities to regulate and sanction lawyer misconduct. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) is one of the few agencies to have developed its own disciplinary system for policing the conduct of trademark attorneys and patent practitioners, owing to the critical role that these professionals play in the provision of intellectual property rights.

          With fraudulent and suspicious activity before the USPTO on the rise, the question arises of how the USPTO is leveraging its disciplinary authority to ensure that it continues to fulfill its mission. It is this question that this Article begins to answer, filling a critical gap in the scholarly literature and providing a blueprint for how to conduct such research for other disciplinary authorities in the future. Through innovative empirical methods marshalling data over 16 years from disciplinary authorities throughout the country, this Article shows that the USPTO is not only failing to discipline bad actors with regularity, but also not focusing its attention on the types of misconduct that threaten to undercut the provision of intellectual property rights that are in the public interest. It then provides a series of recommendations so that the USPTO can align its disciplinary work in accordance with its vital regulatory role.

      • Copyrights

        • A Cycle of Renewal, Broken: How Big Tech and Big Media Abuse Copyright Law to Slay Competition

          In 1950, a television salesman named Robert Tarlton put together a consortium of TV merchants in the town of Lansford, Pennsylvania to erect an antenna tall enough to pull down signals from Philadelphia, about 90 miles to the southeast. The antenna connected to a web of cables that the consortium strung up and down the streets of Lansford, bringing big-city TV to their customers — and making TV ownership for Lansfordites far more attractive. Though hobbyists had been jury-rigging their own “community antenna television” networks since 1948, no one had ever tried to go into business with such an operation. The first commercial cable TV company was born.

          The rise of cable over the following years kicked off decades of political controversy over whether the cable operators should be allowed to stay in business, seeing as they were retransmitting broadcast signals without payment or permission and collecting money for the service. Broadcasters took a dim view of people using their signals without permission, which is a little rich, given that the broadcasting industry itself owed its existence to the ability to play sound recordings over the air without permission or payment.

          The FCC brokered a series of compromises in the years that followed, coming up with complex rules governing which signals a cable operator could retransmit, which ones they must retransmit, and how much all this would cost. The end result was a second way to get TV, one that made peace with—and grew alongside—broadcasters, eventually coming to dominate how we get cable TV in our homes.

          By 1976, cable and broadcasters joined forces to fight a new technology: home video recorders, starting with Sony’s Betamax recorders. In the eyes of the cable operators, broadcasters, and movie studios, these were as illegitimate as the playing of records over the air had been, or as retransmitting those broadcasts over cable had been. Lawsuits over the VCR continued for the next eight years. In 1984, the Supreme Court finally weighed in, legalizing the VCR, and finding that new technologies were not illegal under copyright law if they were “capable of substantial noninfringing uses.”

        • Moviepass Changed User Passwords So They Couldn’t Use The Flopping Service

          Originally, the Moviepass business model seemed like a semi-sensible idea, though we were quick to wonder if it would ever actually make a profit. Under the model, users paid $30 (eventually $10) a month in exchange for unlimited movie tickets at participating theaters, provided they signed up for a full year of service. There were of course caveats: you could only buy a ticket per day, and could only buy one ticket per movie. It also prohibited users from viewing 3D, IMAX, or XD films. Still, the proposal was widely heralded by some as a savior for the traditional, brick and mortar, sticky floor movie industry.

          While it looked like the effort was going well, that appears to have been a ruse. A four month investigation by Business Insider (warning possible paywall) is well worth a read, documenting how the effort was bleeding money due to many of the issues Mike asked questions about back in 2012. The outfit went to great lengths to mislead investors that the effort was going well when it was really losing millions of dollars after blowing a fortune on trying to build technology that could easily and quickly geo-match users with theaters in their neighborhoods.

          A 2017 price drop to $10 per month resulted in all kinds of breezy press coverage, but all but ensured the project would never make money

Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: Free Software in Education

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FSF at 9:31 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A publication from the Free Media Alliance


  • Part 1: Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: Introduction
  • Part 2: Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: Free as in Speech
  • You are here ☞ Part 3: Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: Free Software in Education
  • Part 4: Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: Narcissism in The Community
  • Part 5: Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: The Simplest Ways that AI will Change Computing
  • Part 6: Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: There is More Than One Iceberg Ahead
  • Part 7: Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: Distro-libre and feature-schema
  • Part 8: Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: A Free (as in Freedom) Library, and Federation of Advocates

A school bus

Summary: “If everyone learns to code, then everyone gains some understanding of how to code in other languages.”

In the decade that the FSF was founded, computer education was not yet based on applications. By the 1990s, education was moving towards application training, which meant two things: computer training became a lot more superficial, and it better served the market for proprietary software.

Computers are multi-purpose machines, and applications focus on specific tasks. This means that if your education shifts from teaching about computing to training to use applications, you also move from teaching something multi-purpose to teaching something application-specific.

This is fine of course, if all you intend to do with the computer is use those specific applications.

“Computers are multi-purpose machines, and applications focus on specific tasks. This means that if your education shifts from teaching about computing to training to use applications, you also move from teaching something multi-purpose to teaching something application-specific.”This point should bother every Free software advocate. We are trying to give people control of their multi-purpose machines back, and they aren’t even taught what they can do with that control.

The essence of computing is not applications, but code. Although it is reasonable to assume that most people will not become skilled application developers, the fundamental understanding of computing is still missing for anyone that hasn’t learned how to code.

Coding in one language to some degree teaches much of what someone would have to learn to code in other languages. When Silicon Valley initiates their teach-everyone-to-code schemes, they are gambling with the compromise that was made to education in the 1990s.

If everyone learns to code, then everyone gains some understanding of how to code in other languages. To a small degree, they get back a part of their understanding of what power they really have.

“If everyone learns to code, then everyone gains some understanding of how to code in other languages.”Nonetheless, education is still focused on teaching a lot of proprietary software. If Free software advocates make it a goal, there is no reason we can’t create “Free software coding schools” (they will be cheaper if they’re virtual. Consider something less like DeVry and more like Khan Academy, for starters) and stand up to the non-free-laden schooling that teaches people to compromise their freedom long before they’re halfway through university.

We have such classes online — we don’t have our own schools, and one should be built. If someone can build PeerTube, we can make Free Software Academy and send all of our friends there.

Silicon Valley is doing this, and we should be doing this for Free software.

If we do not reach at least high-school-level students with an education in Free software, then we have squandered an opportunity to teach about freedom at an optimal stage.

If the idea is to reach people as early as possible, then a practical language that is easy-to-learn as possible should be considered.

A single implementation is probably not the answer. It’s a nice goal, but if we had a team of 20 people to work on such a thing we could split them up into 3 or 4 teams to come up with 3 or 4 different solutions.

“If the idea is to reach people as early as possible, then a practical language that is easy-to-learn as possible should be considered.”Then we could go to each member and ask them which solution they thought was best, and second-best (this means they must vote on at least one solution that is not their own) and ask them to explain their choices. Perhaps the team could then work on the top two choices.

It would be ideal for developers to try teaming up with educators (or vice versa) to develop teaching environments that are closer to what educators really need. This is a great opportunity for volunteers. Teaching this sort of computing to educators would also be a great idea.

Of course the FSF isn’t likely to do this. It only has so much money and so many volunteers, and it is not making good use of its volunteers– if the FSF were making good use of its volunteers, it could do this. Instead the volunteers are focused on promoting the organisation and its message, much more than they are invited to help develop solutions.

The FSF should be training people to become coders, or trying to encourage people to create an organisation for that purpose and then supporting that organisation (with money or at least advice and promotion) but they are not. What the FSF cannot do, someone else ought to. Of course this chapter would not be here if we were not inviting all Free software advocates to help with this.

“But along with Free software, Free Culture, Free Hardware and OER (or better yet, “LER” for “Libre Educational Resources”) society and Free software alike would benefit deeply from an organisation dedicated to Free software (coding) and free culture in education.”This is a specific area where additional Free software organisations would be useful — whether the unincorporated, no-dues no-budget volunteer-only sort, or the more traditional 501c-type organisations (or both.)

But along with Free software, Free Culture, Free Hardware and OER (or better yet, “LER” for “Libre Educational Resources”) society and Free software alike would benefit deeply from an organisation dedicated to Free software (coding) and free culture in education.

Lightweight applications for education are also recommended, because even if your school has plenty of money, countless others don’t. As long as we are creating our own software, we should be standing against Wirth’s law.
Simple languages aimed at teaching these basics:

1. Variables	 2. Input	 3. Output
4. Basic math	 5. Loops	 6. Conditionals	7. Functions

can make it easier to learn the fundamentals of coding and help transition those interested to more complex languages. Earlier languages can be more forgiving of syntax errors if there are fewer places to get the syntax wrong. Simplifying some of the interfaces needed to build distros and applications would also help immensely.

Licence: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 (Public Domain)

Links 19/8/2019: Another Linux 5.3 RC, OpenSUSE’s Richard Brown Steps Down, Slackware Creates Patreon Page, Qt 6 Initiated

Posted in News Roundup at 4:58 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

  • GNU/Linux

    • An introduction to bpftrace for Linux

      Bpftrace is a new open source tracer for Linux for analyzing production performance problems and troubleshooting software. Its users and contributors include Netflix, Facebook, Red Hat, Shopify, and others, and it was created by Alastair Robertson, a talented UK-based developer who has won various coding competitions.

      Linux already has many performance tools, but they are often counter-based and have limited visibility. For example, iostat(1) or a monitoring agent may tell you your average disk latency, but not the distribution of this latency. Distributions can reveal multiple modes or outliers, either of which may be the real cause of your performance problems. Bpftrace is suited for this kind of analysis: decomposing metrics into distributions or per-event logs and creating new metrics for visibility into blind spots.

    • Desktop

      • System76 Launches A Graphical Firmware Manager Compatible With LVFS, All Ubuntu And Debian Distros

        It’s a logical approach, and as someone focused on usability and elegantly onboarding all new Linux users, I think a graphical interface for updating firmware just makes sense.

        In order to benefit the larger Linux ecosystem, System76 has designed the Firmware Manager to be tookit-agnostic, although any frontend interaction will require Rust. The company also notes that its GTK widget can be implemented into any Ubuntu and Debian-based distributions not using GNOME. Critically, it supports both LVFS updates via fwupd as well as system76-firmware. It’s also Wayland-compatible.

        You can view the full project notes and source code here.

        On a related note, if you’re interested in why System76 uses its own firmware update service, I covered that earlier this year when the Asus “Shadowhammer” malware attack was making the rounds. Here’s the relevant excerpt, detailing the decidedly Blockchain-inspired approach.

    • Server

      • IBM

        • Oracle Linux 7.7 released, here are the new features

          This week, the world of Linux witnessed several new releases, one of which is the latest Oracle Linux 7.7 that comes with new features, significant changes, and bug-fixes.

          If you’re unfamiliar with Oracle Linux, let FOSSLinux do the honors of introducing it. This operating system has been made by Oracle itself and is aimed at enterprise workloads. It becomes evident after getting to know that it is based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Also, it is perfect for Oracle developers as Oracle experts have done most of the work on this operating system.


          In terms of the Red Hat Compatible Kernel, users will be able to see new features involving the kernel itself, storage, networking, and file systems.

          With the new NetworkManager, VLANs can be defined directly on bridge ports, and VLAN filtering can be configured in bridge interfaces. Not to mention that users can now use the GUI for configuring policy routing rules.

          Oracle Linux 7.7 offers increased security as it updates a couple of packages, including shadow-utils, scap-security-guide, and NSS (short for Network Security Services). Plus, it is now possible to scan UBI containers and packages against all profiles within the SCAP Security Guide.

        • What salary can a sysadmin expect to earn?

          The path to reliable salary data sometimes is sometimes paved with frustration. That’s because the honest answer to a reasonable question—what should I be paid for this job?—is usually: “It depends.”

          Location, experience, skill set, industry, and other factors all impact someone’s actual compensation. For example, there’s rarely a single, agreed-upon salary for a particular job title or role.

          All of the above applies to system administrators. It’s a common, long-established IT job that spans many industries, company sizes, and other variables. While sysadmins may share some common fundamentals, it’s certainly not a one-size-fits-all position, and it’s all the truer as some sysadmin roles evolve to take on cloud, DevOps, and other responsibilities.

          What salary can you expect to earn as a sysadmin? Yeah, it depends. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t get a clear picture of what sysadmin compensation looks like, including specific numbers. This is information worth having handy if you’re a sysadmin on the job market or seeking a promotion.

          Let’s start with some good news from a compensation standpoint. Sysadmins—like other IT pros these days—are in demand.

          “In today’s business environment, companies are innovating and moving faster than ever before, and they need systems that can keep up with the pace of their projects and communications, as well as help everything run smoothly,” says Robert Sutton, district president for the recruiting firm Robert Half Technology. “That’s why systems administrators are among the IT professionals who can expect to see a growing salary over the next year or so.”

        • Run Mixed IT Efficiently, The Adient – SUSE Way.

          When you have multiple distributions, such as Red Hat and SUSE, you can reduce administration complexity and save administration time and resources with a common management tool. Adient had applications running on both SUSE Linux Enterprise Server and Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Adient deployed SUSE Manager to manage their Mixed IT environment involving both distributions.

        • Package Management Domain Model

          When I wrote this model, we were trying to unify a few different sorts of packages. Coming from SpaceWalk, part of the team was used to wokring on RPMS with the RPM Database for storage, and Yum as the mechanism for fetching them. The other part of the team was coming from the JBoss side, working with JAR, WAR, EAR and associated files, and the Ivy or Maven building and fetching the files.

          We were working within the context of the Red Hat Network (as it was then called) for delivering content to subscribers. Thus, we had the concept of Errata, Channels, and Entitlements which are somewhat different from what other organizations call these things, but the concepts should be general enough to cover a range of systems.

          There are many gaps in this diagram. It does not discuss the building of packages, nor the relationship between source and binary packages. It also does not provide a way to distinguish between the package storage system and the package fetch mechanism.

          But the bones are solid. I’ve used this diagram for a few years, and it is useful.

    • Kernel Space

      • Linux 5.3-rc5
        Another week, another -rc.
        It's been calm, and nothing here stands out, except perhaps some of
        the VM noise where we un-reverted some changes wrt node-local vs
        hugepage allocations.
        The rest is the usual driver fixes (usb, sound, nvme, habanalabs,
        rdma..) some arch updates (arm64 and x86) along with some filesystem
        fixes (afs and btrfs).
        But all of it is really quite small.
      • Linux 5.3-rc5 Released Following A Calm Week
      • Graphics Stack

        • Intel Tries Again To Auto Enable GuC/HuC Functionality For Their Linux Graphics Driver

          Intel previously tried auto-enabling GuC and HuC functionality within their Linux kernel graphics driver but ended up reverting the support since the driver didn’t gracefully handle the scenarios of missing/corrupt firmware files. The driver should now be more robust in such situations so they will try again for turning on the automatic behavior, possibly for the upcoming Linux 5.4 cycle.

          Intel GuC and HuC have been around since Skylake and used for graphics workload scheduling, some power management bits, and for select media capabilities. For newer hardware is also being used as part of HEVC/H.265 handling.

        • Cool, but obscure X11 tools

          A small collection of tools for the X Window System. For cool terminal tools, see Kristof Kovacs’ Cool, but obscure Unix tools. All applications have been tested on FreeBSD but should run on other Unix-like operating systems as well. This page is still work in progress …

    • Benchmarks

      • AMD Ryzen 5 3600X Linux Performance

        Now that the new AMD Ryzen 3000 series are running great with the latest Linux distributions following prominent motherboard vendors issuing BIOS updates that correct the “RdRand” issue, we’re moving on with looking at the performance of the rest of the Ryzen 3000 series line-up while having freshly re-tested the processors under Ubuntu 19.04. Up for exploration today is the AMD Ryzen 5 3600X, the six-core / 12-thread processor retailing for about $250 USD.

        The AMD Ryzen 5 3600X has 6-cores / 12-threads while having a 3.8GHz base frequency and 4.4GHz maximum boost frequency. This CPU has a 95 Watt TDP, 32MB L3 cache, and other features in line with the rest of the Zen 2 family. AMD bundles the Ryzen 5 3600X retail CPU with their Wraith Spire cooler.

    • Applications

      • Top 10 Best Open Source Speech Recognition Tools for Linux

        Speech is a popular and smart method in modern time to make interaction with electronic devices. As we know, there are many open source speech recognition tools available on different platforms. From the beginning of this technology, it has been improved simultaneously in understanding the human voice. This is the reason; it has now engaged a lot of professionals than before. The technical advancement is strong enough to make it more clear to the common people.

      • Linux Candy: WallGen – image generator tool

        Who loves eye candy? Don’t be shy — you can raise both hands!!

        Linux Candy is a new series of articles covering interesting eye candy software. We’re only going to feature open-source software in this series.

        I’m not going to harp on about the tired proverb “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. But there’s a certain element of truth here. If you spend all day coding neural networks, mastering a new programming language, sit in meetings feeling bored witless, you’ll need some relief at the end of the day. And what better way by making your desktop environment a bit more memorable.

        Let’s start our candy adventure with WallGen. It’s a small command-line utility that generates HQ poly wallpapers with only a few text arguments for inputs. Depending on these arguments, you can create shape-based patterns, randomly filled surfaces, and even image-based patterns.

      • Proprietary

        • U.S. Customs System Back Online … After Massive Failure

          It appears the entire computer system for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection has failed.

        • Arkansas School Safety Efforts Aided by Mobile App [iophk: fraud, waste, abuse]

          Geofencing is the use of GPS or radio-frequency identification technology to create a virtual geographic boundary, enabling software to trigger a response when a mobile device enters or leaves a particular area or, in the case of the Rave Panic Button app, to pinpoint a caller’s exact location through a virtual map of the campus.

          “When there is an incident on campus and (the authorized user) activates one of the five panic buttons,” French said, “it immediately sends a text, email, and an in-app notification providing situational awareness to all the other staff members on campus. It then provides a direct dial into the 911 dispatch center.”

        • Skype Snap Gets First Update in 6 Months, Plus a New Icon

          The popular VoIP sat unloved, with no stable updates, for six whole months.

          Fast forward a few weeks from calling them out and I’m pleased to report that whatever blockage was lodged in the build machine pipe-work has been well and truly flushed out.

          Not only is the Skype Snap app once again up to date on the Snapcraft store — hurrah! — but some freshly prepared ‘insider’ builds are available for the more adventurous to play with — double hurrah!

    • Instructionals/Technical

    • Games

      • Warfork Letting Warsow Live On Under Steam

        Going back a decade one of the interesting open-source FPS games of its time was Warsow. Development on Warsow has seemingly been tremulous over the past few years (edit: though the core developer has recently released a new beta) for this Qfusion (Quake 2 code base) engine powered game that started in 2005, but now there is Warfork as a fork of Warsow that is being developed and also available via Steam.

        Hitting Steam this past week was the release of Warfork for Windows, macOS, and Linux. The game is free to play and with it going up on Steam will hopefully attract new gamers to this shooter title who may not be otherwise following the open-source scene.

    • Desktop Environments/WMs

      • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

        • KDE Usability & Productivity Initiative Coming To An End

          The KDE Usability and Productivity Initiative to solve various problems in the KDE software stack to make it easier to use to more individuals and to do so more efficient will be coming to an end. But other KDE goals are being envisioned and the usability and productivity elements will continue to be worked on outside of this initiative.

          KDE developer Nate Graham who has been writing the weekly blog posts summarizing the KDE improvements on a weekly basis noted that this formal KDE initiative/goal is coming to an end. At next month’s KDE Akademy conference they’ll be working on new goals/visions for the project though Nate does continue to providing weekly summaries of the KDE highlights.

        • KDE Frameworks 5.61, Applications 19.08 in FreeBSD

          Recent releases were KDE Frameworks 5.61 and KDE Applications 19.08. These have both landed in the official FreeBSD ports tree, after Tobias did most of the work and I pushed the big red button.

          Your FreeBSD machine will need to be following current ports – not the quarterly release branches, since we don’t backport to those.

          All the modern bits have arrived, maintaining the KDE-FreeBSD team’s commitment to up-to-date software for the FreeBSD desktop. The one thing we’re currently lagging on is Qt 5.13. There’s a FreeBSD problem report tracking that update.

        • KDE sprints in summer heat

          It was great to see many new faces at the Plasma sprint. Most of these new contributors were working on the Plasma and KDE Apps Ui and Ux and we definitely need some new blood in these areas. KDE’s Visual Design Group, the VDG, thinned out over the last two years because some leading figures left. But now seeing new talented and motivated people joining as designers and Ux experts I am optimistic that there will be a revival of the golden time of the VDG that brought us Breeze and Plasma 5.

          In regards to technical topics there is always a wide field of different challenges and technologies to combine at a Plasma sprint. From my side I wanted to discuss current topics in KWin but of course not everyone at the sprint is directly working on KWin and some topics require deeper technical knowledge about it. Still there were some fruitful discussions, of course in particular with David, who was the second KWin core contributor present besides me.

          As a direct product of the sprint my work on dma-buf support in KWin and KWayland can be counted. I started work on that at the sprint mostly because it was a feature requested already for quite a long time by Plasma Mobile developers who need it on some of their devices to get them to work. But this should in general improve in our Wayland session the performance and energy consumption on many devices. Like always such larger features need time so I was not able to finish them at the sprint. But last week I landed them.

    • Distributions

      • Richard Brown: Changing of the Guard

        After six years on the openSUSE Board and five as its Chairperson, I have decided to step down as Chair of the openSUSE Board effective today, August 19.

        This has been a very difficult decision for me to make, with reasons that are diverse, interlinked, and personal. Some of the key factors that led me to make this step include the time required to do the job properly, and the length of time I’ve served. Five years is more than twice as long as any of my predecessors. The time required to do the role properly has increased and I now find it impossible to balance the demands of the role with the requirements of my primary role as a developer in SUSE, and with what I wish to achieve outside of work and community. As difficult as it is to step back from something I’ve enjoyed doing for so long, I am looking forward to achieving a better balance between work, community, and life in general.

        Serving as member and chair of the openSUSE Board has been an absolute pleasure and highly rewarding. Meeting and communicating with members of the project as well as championing the cause of openSUSE has been a joyous part of my life that I know I will miss going forward.

        openSUSE won’t get rid of me entirely. While I do intend to step back from any governance topics, I will still be working at SUSE in the Future Technology Team. Following SUSE’s Open Source policy, we do a lot in openSUSE. I am especially looking forward to being able to focus on Kubic & MicroOS much more than I have been lately.

        As I’m sure it’s likely to be a question, I wish to make it crystal clear that my decision has nothing to do with the Board’s ongoing efforts to form an independent openSUSE Foundation.

        The Board’s decision to form a Foundation had my complete backing as Chairperson, and will continue to have as a regular openSUSE contributor. I have absolute confidence in the openSUSE Board; Indeed, I don’t think I would be able to make this decision at this time if I wasn’t certain that I was leaving openSUSE in good hands.

        On that note, SUSE has appointed Gerald Pfeifer as my replacement as Chair. Gerald is SUSE’s EMEA-based CTO, with a long history as a Tumbleweed user, an active openSUSE Member, and upstream contributor/maintainer in projects like GCC and Wine.

      • Reviews

        • Manjaro 18.0.4 Illyria Xfce review – Nice but somewhat crude

          Overall, Manjaro 18.0.4 Illyria Xfce is a decent distro. It has lots of good and unique points. Network, media and phone support is good. You get a colorful repertoire of high-quality programs, the performance and battery life are excellent, and the desktop is fairly pretty. The system was also quite robust and stable.

          But then, there were issues – including inconsistent behavior compared to the Plasma crop. The installation can be a bit friendlier (as Plasma one does). The package management remains the Achilles’ Heel of this distro. Having too many frontends is confusing, and none of them do a great job. The messages on dependencies, the need for AUR (if you want fancy stuff), and such all create unnecessary confusing. There were also tons of visual papercuts, and I struggled getting things in order. All in all, Manjaro is getting better all the time, but it is still too geeky for the common person, as it breaks the fourth wall of nerdiness too often. 7/10, and I hope it can sort itself out and continue to deliver the unique, fun stuff that gets sidelined by the rough edges.

        • Review: AcademiX GNU/Linux 2.2

          What sets AcademiX apart from other distributions is the EDU software manager. This package manager provides curated lists of educational software, which are grouped by subject and by age range. This package manager makes finding educational software really easy. There is software for astronomy, biology, geography, foreign languages, and many other subjects. While there are gaps in the availability of applications covering various subjects, that is a gap in the broader open source application ecosystem, not something specific to AcademiX. While some of the rough edges I noted with the installation process and the desktop customization make me a hesitant to recommend AcademiX to new Linux users, Educational Technology professionals should perhaps try out AcademiX just to use the EDU package manager to explore various open source applications.

          While installing and updating software was easy and basically the same experience as any other modern, Debian-based distribution, the fact that some of the packages come from servers in Romania means that some package downloads can be much slower than downloading from the world-wide network of Debian mirrors. For individual packages and small collections of packages this is not too noticeable, but it is still an issue. The frustrating part is the fact that the speeds are not consistent. Sometimes I was downloading at only 40kbps, but other times it was much faster. I experienced the same issue when trying to download the ISO. One download took about 20 minutes for the 1.7GB image but some other attempts took 4 hours.

          Final thoughts

          AcademiX GNU/Linux is an interesting distribution, but it has some rough edges that need to be cleaned up. Honestly, I really, really wanted to like this distribution (good distributions aimed at the educational market are always needed), but found it to be merely okay. AcademiX has a lot of potential, but it is just not there yet. DebianEdu/Skolelinux is far more polished while serving almost the exact same niche. However, if the AcademiX team cleans up some of the issues I noted above, especially the installer issues, I think future versions of AcademiX might turn out to be worthwhile. The EDU software installer is well organized and aids in discovering educational software, so that is one solid advantage AcademiX offers, but overall the distribution needs more work and polish before I could move it from “this distribution is okay” to “you should give this distribution a try”.

      • Slackware Family

        • Slackware, the Longest Active Linux Distro, Finally Has a Patreon Page

          “Slackware is the longest active Linux distribution project, founded in 1993,” writes TheBAFH (Slashdot reader #68,624).

          “Today there are many Linux distributions available, but I’ve remained dedicated to this project as I believe it still holds an important place in the Linux ecosystem,” writes Patrick J. Volkerding on a new Patreon page. He adds that Slackware’s users “know that Slackware can be trusted not to constantly change the way things work, so that your investment in learning Slackware lasts longer than it would with a system that’s a moving target… Your support is greatly appreciated, and will make it possible for me to continue to maintain this project.”

      • Fedora Family

        • Ben Williams: F30-20190818 updated isos released.

          The Fedora Respins SIG is pleased to announce the latest release of Updated F30-20190816 Live ISOs, carrying the 5.2.8-200 kernel.

          This set of updated isos will save considerable amounts of updates after install. ((for new installs.)(New installs of Workstation have 1.2GB of updates)).

          A huge thank you goes out to irc nicks dowdle, satellite,Southern-Gentlem for testing these iso.

        • Flock to Fedora 2019 Conference report

          Last week I attended “Flock to Fedora” conference in Budapest, Hungary. It was a Fedora contributors conference where I met some developers, project leaders, GSoC interns. Below is a brief report of my attendance.

      • Debian Family

        • Knoppix 8.6 out now based on Debian 10.0 Buster

          Knoppix is a live bootable CD, DVD or USB flash drive system that can be used from CD, DVD, or USB flash drive. The OS is built on Debian, and its name comes from its creator, Klaus Knopper.

          With a solid foundation in Debian 10 Buster, the new Knoppix 8.6 is here with a variety of improvements and new features. Before getting to know more about this update, it is essential to introduce Knoppix to the people finding it somewhat alien.

        • My Free Software Activities in July 2019

          Welcome to gambaru.de. Here is my monthly report that covers what I have been doing for Debian. If you’re interested in Java, Games and LTS topics, this might be interesting for you.

      • Canonical/Ubuntu Family

        • See Ubuntu Desktop Running on a Samsung Galaxy S10

          I might have written about its availability a few times, but until today I had never actually seen Ubuntu 16.04 LTS running on a Samsung smartphone.

          Don’t panic, you haven’t missed any major announcements and Samsung hasn’t started to sell phones with Ubuntu pre-loaded. I’m instead referring to the “Linux on DeX” development experience.

          DeX is nifty bit of software tech that lets (select) Samsung devices running Android drive a more traditional “desktop” experience when connected to an external monitor, keyboard and mouse.

          “Turn your Galaxy devices into a PC-like experience with a single cable,” Samsung say.

          Additionally, ‘Linux on DeX’ is an Android app that’s only available as part of DeX. It lets users download and run a full desktop Linux experience using container technology on any supported Samsung Galaxy smartphone or tablet.

    • Devices/Embedded

    • Free, Libre, and Open Source Software

      • Tilda: A Great Dropdown Terminal

        If you need a full sized, full featured persistent terminal that appears and hides at a single keystroke, Tilda is your friend. Like most Free Software, it has too little documentation, and some conflicting documentation out on the web. That’s OK, with this document make Tilda do a heck of a lot of what it was designed to do. This document didn’t cover multiple Tilda instance or transparency, but I’m sure both will be easy for you to achieve with a little web search and experimentation.

      • I’m going to work full time on free software

        A lot has changed since then. For one thing, I’ve learned the importance of free software in contrast to the “open source” I spoke of at the time. And, as I predicted, my eventual path toward achieving this goal was something I couldn’t imagine at the time.

      • Productivity Software/LibreOffice/Calligra

        • LibreOffice 6.3: 10 days of stats

          On August 8, The Document Foundation announced the release of LibreOffice 6.3 with new features, performance boosts and compatibility improvements. A big thanks to our volunteer community and certified developers for making this release happen!

      • Programming/Development

        • Dev branch moving towards Qt 6

          As you know, Qt 5.14 will be branched pretty soon. After that I would expect that most new development work would start to be aimed towards Qt 6. As it looks right now, 5.15 will be a smaller release where we polish what we have in 5.14, and prepare some things for Qt 6.

          To reflect that and help us all understand that the development focus is now towards Qt 6, I would like to propose that dev becomes the Qt 6 branch after we branched away 5.14 (and we merge wip/qt6 back into dev). We can then either create a 5.15 branch at the same time, or slightly later, once 5.14 has stabilised a bit more (e.g. after the beta or RC).

        • Qt’s Development Branch To Begin Forming Qt 6

          Following the feature freeze and code branching for Qt 5.14, the Qt “Dev” branch will likely be shifting immediately to Qt 6 development. A Qt 5.15 release is still expected to happen before Qt 6.0, but that 5.15 milestone will likely just be a polished release derived from Qt 5.14.

          Lars Knoll laid out the proposal this week to use their development branch for working on Qt 6 immediately following the Qt 5.14 branching. Qt 5.15 will likely be based on the Qt 5.14 branch directly with it expected to be a smaller release just polishing things up and fixing bugs to close out new Qt 5 releases.

        • CloudBees and Google Bring Cloud-Native CI/CD to Anthos Customers

          CloudBees is the custodian of Jenkins, the most popular CI/CD tool. While maintaining the open source project, CloudBees has also made a commercial version of Jenkins available to enterprises. The company offers professional services, training and support to deploy and integrate Jenkins with existing DevOps tools.

          CloudBees Jenkins X Distribution targets Kubernetes for cloud-native CI/CD. It provides a stable, predictable release for teams building microservices and Kubernetes-based applications.

          The combination of Jenkins and Jenkins X covers the entire spectrum of automated software delivery for both traditional, VM-based environments and modern orchestration platforms such as Kubernetes.

          Since the announcement at Cloud Next conference, Google has been moving fast in enhancing its hybrid and multi-cloud platform based on Anthos. The expanded partnership with CloudBees makes it easy for enterprise customers to build and deploy contemporary workloads on Anthos.

          Google and CloudBees have been working together on interesting initiatives. Both of them are the co-founders of Continuous Delivery Foundation (CDF) launched by Linux Foundation. A dedicated CI/CD foundation from Linux Foundation underscores the growing importance of agile software delivery.

        • Getting Around The Limits Of Memory To Accelerate Applications

          Forget in-memory computing for the moment because it requires a complete re-architecting of applications and most of the time the underlying hardware, too. What we really want is something more like in-memory storage – something that can be done immediately and provide performance benefits now.

          This is what Formulus Black is doing with its Forsa in-memory storage, which is often mistakenly called in-memory computing. But that is not really what it is. Sort of.

        • Python Sweetness: Mitogen v0.2.8 released

          Mitogen for Ansible v0.2.8 has been released. This version (finally) supports Ansible 2.8, comes with a supercharged replacement fetch module, and includes roughly 85% of what is needed to implemement fully asynchronous connect.

          As usual a huge slew of fixes are included. This is a bumper release, running to over 20k lines of diff. Get it while it’s hot, and as always, bug reports are welcome!

  • Leftovers

    • Science

      • Why stowaway creatures on the Moon confound international space law

        The mishap does raise many questions about the protocols surrounding how space-bound payloads are approved. Technically, international guidelines on interplanetary contamination don’t prohibit sending biological matter and organisms to the lunar surface, since most living creatures can’t survive there. But no governing body had a say in the tardigrade matter at all. The tardigrades were added to the lander by a US nonprofit called the Arch Mission Foundation, whose goal is to create a digital and biological “backup of planet Earth” out in space. The team had approval to add a digital library on the lander, but they didn’t inform Israel or the United States about the added water bears.

    • Health/Nutrition

      • No Mercy: After The Hospital Closes, How Do People Get Emergency Care?

        Nationwide, more than 100 rural hospitals have closed since 2010, and in each instance a community struggles to survive in its own way. In Fort Scott, home to 7,800, the loss of its 132-year-old hospital opened by nuns in the 19th century has wrought profound social, emotional and medical consequences. Kaiser Health News and NPR are following Fort Scott for a year to explore deeper national questions about whether small communities need a traditional hospital at all. If not, what would take its place?

    • Security (Confidentiality/Integrity/Availability)

      • ECB server hacked – Data disclosure of the European Central Bank – Bank hacks from Mexico to Bangladesh

        The Europeans probably do not even know about „what is going on“ and according to ex finance minister of Greece – finance ministers do not have a lot to say in the ECB – the IMF has – there are no recordings of the meetings of „The Eurogroup“ – so transparency over decision making processes is rather bad.

        After all just like the (more or less ideal) „big brother“ the FED it is not under direct democratic influence – does what it wants – every word the FED CEO says is analyzed and influences financial market decisions.

        „One of the sites of the European Central Bank (ECB) has been hacked. The attackers gained access to sensitive users ‚ information, however, the internal system of the Bank has not been compromised.

      • Specification vulnerability in devices that speak Bluetooth is addressed

        The discovery of a flaw in Bluetooth specification that could enable an attack to spy on your information made news this week; the attacker could be able to weaken the encryption of Bluetooth devices and snoop on communications or send falsified ones to take over a device, said The Verge.

      • FrOSCon 2019 – openSUSE booth & AppArmor Crash Course

        Last weekend, I was at FrOSCon – a great Open Source conference in Sankt Augustin, Germany. We (Sarah, Marcel and I) ran the openSUSE booth, answered lots of questions about openSUSE and gave the visitors some goodies – serious and funny (hi OBS team!) stickers, openSUSE hats, backpacks and magazines featuring openSUSE Leap. We also had a big plush geeko, but instead of doing a boring raffle, we played openSUSE Jeopardy where the candidates had to ask the right questions about Linux and openSUSE for the answers I provided.

      • Open Source Security Podcast: Episode 157 – Backdoors and snake oil in our cryptography

        Josh and Kurt talk about snakeoil cryptography at Black Hat and the new backdoored cryptography fight. Both of these problems will be with us for a very long time. These are fights worth fighting because it’s the right thing to do.

      • Screwed Drivers – Signed, Sealed, Delivered

        Our analysis found that the problem of insecure drivers is widespread, affecting more than 40 drivers from at least 20 different vendors – including every major BIOS vendor, as well as hardware vendors like ASUS, Toshiba, NVIDIA, and Huawei. However, the widespread nature of these vulnerabilities highlights a more fundamental issue – all the vulnerable drivers we discovered have been certified by Microsoft. Since the presence of a vulnerable driver on a device can provide a user (or attacker) with improperly elevated privileges, we have engaged Microsoft to support solutions to better protect against this class of vulnerabilities, such as blacklisting known bad drivers.

      • Most states still aren’t set to audit paper ballots in 2020

        Despite some progress on voting security since 2016, most states in the US aren’t set to require an audit of paper ballots in the November 2020 election, according to a new report out this week from the Brennan Center for Justice.

        The report notes that experts and government officials have spent years recommending states adopt verifiable paper ballots for elections, but a handful still use electronic methods potentially vulnerable to cyberattacks. In 2016, 14 states used paperless machines, although the number today is 11, and the report estimates that no more than eight will use them in the 2020 election.

    • Defence/Aggression

      • Stacey Dooley investigates: ‘After my third husband died, they strapped a suicide bomb to me’

        Held with many other girls in one of Boko Haram’s camps, Falmata, now 20, says they all helped each other survive their ordeal. The militants ordered her to marry, forcing her into a total of three consecutive marriages as each of her husbands died while fighting with the group. “After this happens to you about three times, they will strap a suicide bomb to you and send you off for jihad,” she says. After her third husband had been killed, Falmata and some other girls were fixed with explosives and sent on a suicide mission.

    • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Environment

      • Climate change is a remorseless threat to the world’s coasts

        As Mr Aboutaleb makes clear, the rising threat is a result of climate change. Few places are as vulnerable as the Netherlands, 27% of which is below sea level. But many other places also face substantial risk, and almost all of them are far less able to waterproof themselves than the Dutch. It is not just a matter of being able to afford the hardware (the Netherlands has 40,000km of dykes, levees and seawalls, plus innumerable sluices and barriers less mighty than the Maeslant). It is also a matter of social software: a culture of water governance developed over centuries of defending against the waves. The rest of the world cannot afford the centuries it took the Dutch to build that up.

      • Iceland honours passing of first glacier lost to global warming

        It is also labelled “415 ppm CO2″, referring to the record level of carbon dioxide measured in the atmosphere last May.

        The plaque is “the first monument to a glacier lost to climate change anywhere in the world”, Cymene Howe, associate professor of anthropology at Rice University, said in July.

      • “Kochland” Examines the Koch Brothers’ Early, Crucial Role in Climate-Change Denial

        “Kochland” is important, Davies said, because it makes it clear that “you’d have a carbon tax, or something better, today, if not for the Kochs. They stopped anything from happening back when there was still time.” The book also documents how, in 2010, the company’s lobbyists spent gobs of cash and swarmed Congress as part of a multi-pronged effort to kill the first, and so far the last, serious effort to place a price on carbon pollution—the proposed “cap and trade” bill. Magnifying the Kochs’ power was their network of allied donors, anonymously funded shell groups, think tanks, academic centers, and nonprofit advocacy groups, which Koch insiders referred to as their “echo chamber.” Leonard also reports that the centrist think tank Third Way quietly worked with the Kochs to push back against efforts to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, which could have affected their business importing oil from Canada. Frequently, and by design, the Koch brothers’ involvement was all but invisible.

      • A new biography reveals the Koch brothers’ very early role in creating organized climate denial

        Where these two forces collide, the results are bizarre: the application of the Kochs’ long-term thinking to heading off any kind of long-term planning by states.

        Nowhere is this more manifest than in the Kochs’ overt and covert campaign against climate science, whose rationalist, empirical conclusion is that urgent, coordinated, non-market action is a hard requirement to avert a catastrophe that could result in the extinction of the human species (which would also result in significant falls in the Kochs’ fortunes). There is no rational version of long-range thinking that says that climate denial will produce a good outcome; the majority of climate denial is centered around the kind of short-termism that Koch deplores, where the returns to capital over a couple quarters are more important than the long-term ruination of firms, enterprises (and civilizations).

      • First-ever mandatory water cutbacks will kick in next year along the Colorado River

        Arizona will see a cut of 192,000 acre-feet in water deliveries next year, or 6.9% of its total allotment of 2.8 million acre-feet. Nevada’s share will be reduced by 8,000 acre-feet, while Mexico’s will take 41,000 acre-feet less. That water will remain in Lake Mead, and will only be recovered once the reservoir rises above an elevation of 1,100 feet.

      • German Unions Are Waking up to the Climate Disaster

        The call to stop the production of coal and cars often sounds like a threat to jobs. But German trade unions have realized that the green transition needs to happen — and they’re fighting to make sure it’s bosses, not workers, who pay for climate justice.

      • 9 ways to reduce plastic in your school

        My recently released book, Plastic Game Changer, tackles the strategic steps needed to radically reduce plastic waste in organisations of any size; shares how to benchmark current plastic usage so you can measure success; and features insights and best practce from five inspirational real-world Plastic Game Changers. One of these is the brilliant Damer’s First School in Dorset, whose pupils and teachers have taken amazing action over recent years to reduce their plastic footprint and have been recognised by politicians, the media and even Prince Charles for their fantastic work.

        To start making a difference to plastic pollution as soon as possible, here are NINE practical steps reduce plastic in your school…

      • Directive on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment has entered into force

        Directive (EU) 2019/904 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 June 2019 on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment has entered into force on 2nd of July 2019.

      • Energy

        • A secret hydropower deal with Brazil causes a political crisis in Paraguay

          Under the current agreement, which was signed in 1973, each country has the right to half of the roughly 100m MWh produced each year by the dam. Paraguay, a country of 7m people with little industry, only uses about a quarter of its share, which fulfils 90% of its electricity needs. It sells the rest to Brazil, which depends on the dam for 15% of its power. But Paraguay is only paid for the cost of producing the power (including debt repayments on the construction), not the market price of electricity. According to the calculations of Miguel Carter, a political scientist at DEMOS, a think tank, had Brazil been made to pay market rates, between 1985 and 2018 it would have paid $75.4bn more, or roughly twice Paraguay’s current annual GDP.

      • Wildlife/Nature

        • Marium, The Dugong That Charmed Thailand, Dies After Ingesting Plastic

          But it seems 8-month-old Marium fell victim to another modern-day phenomenon: the growing presence of plastic in the water. An autopsy performed Saturday found numerous tiny plastic pieces in her intestines, according to Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.

        • Is the Evening Sky Doomed?

          But in recent years, with populations swelling and demands for lighting increasing, the global amount of artificial light at night has been growing by at least 2 percent per year. At this rate the amount of light pollution originating from Earth-based sources alone will double in less than 50 years.

      • Overpopulation

    • Finance

      • Chris Johns: UK facing a future as a failed state after Brexit

        Hard Brexit on October 31st won’t be the end, merely the start of an even more chaotic phase.


        Currencies are perhaps the most unforecastable of financial markets. Things like interest rates and growth differentials sometimes work, statistically, as good predictors but as often do not. Over the very long term there is often a link between exchange rates and the relative “strength” of an economy. Germany had a strong deutschemark for decades, roughly corresponding to its well-managed, robust economy. Sterling tended to fall for decades right up until the United Kingdom joined the European Economic Community, a drop that coincided with the long-term relative decline of the British economy. The words sterling and crisis were often seen to be a natural pair.

        Currencies often elicit irrationality from politicians. Readers of a certain vintage will remember how our own economic establishment fought so bitterly against devaluation in the early 1990s, something that was both inevitable and desirable. To regard the exchange rate as a symbol of national virility is to miss the point: it is a marker, over time, of how much economic potency you have. The exchange rate tells you how much viagra, of the economic kind, you need.

        Some days Donald Trump seems to understand this when he welcomes a stronger dollar. But he suddenly flips when he berates the Federal Reserve for supposedly creating a too strong dollar via higher interest rates. He can discern the benefits of a weaker dollar but doesn’t like what that might say about the US economy.

      • Don’t buy things you see on tv

        You are not as much of a chump as the giant corporations and the big advertising agencies think you are, at least according to my old pal Gnash.

    • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

      • FCO Speeds Up Planning to Move UK Embassy to Jerusalem

        Following US National Security Adviser John Bolton’s talks with Boris Johnson and his ministers in London last week, FCO officials have been asked to speed up contingency planning for the UK to move its Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, with an eye to an “early announcement” post Brexit.

        The UK is currently bound by an EU common foreign policy position not to follow the United States in moving its Embassy to Jerusalem. As things stand, that prohibition will fall on 1 November. FCO officials had previously been asked to produce a contingency plan, but this involved the construction of a £14 million new Embassy and a four year timescale. They have now been asked to go back and look at a quick fix involving moving the Ambassador and immediate staff to Jerusalem and renaming the Consulate already there as the Embassy. This could be speedily announced, and then implemented in about a year.

        Johnson heads the most radically pro-Israel cabinet in UK history and the symbolic gesture of rejection of Palestinian rights is naturally appealing to his major ministers Patel, Javid and Raab. They also see three other political benefits. Firstly, they anticipate that Labour opposition to the move can be used to yet again raise accusations of “anti-semitism” against Jeremy Corbyn. Secondly, it provides good “red meat” to Brexiteer support in marking a clear and, they believe, popular break from EU foreign policy, at no economic cost. Thirdly, it seals the special link between the Trump and Johnson administrations and sets the UK apart from other NATO allies.

      • How the Hong Kong Protestors’ Tactical Brilliance Backed Beijing into a Corner [iophk: dangerously centralized via centralized services]

        Nonetheless, under the conditions in which they find themselves, leaderless organization appears to be the only viable approach. In addition to preventing over-reliance on key individuals by utilizing technology, the protesters do not rely on any single communications platform. When Telegram suffered a denial of service attack originating from Mainland China or when the mobile networks were overloaded, protesters turned to Airdrop to send messages over Bluetooth. They are even using Tinder and Pokemon Go to mobilize protesters.

      • Hong Kong Protests Stay Peaceful After a Week of Unrest

        Most of the protest events on Saturday were peaceful, and reflected the breadth and variety of the movement. The wave of demonstrations began more than two months ago to oppose a now-suspended bill that would allow extraditions to mainland China. But the movement has broadened to include other demands, including universal suffrage and an investigation of the police.

      • Protests In Hong Kong Continue, Remain Peaceful Throughout The Weekend [iophk: yet the PRC narrative of violence is being spread elsewhere]

        This weekend marked the 11th in a row for the demonstrations. Pouring rain did not deter the protests, which caused roads to shut down and traffic to reroute as the park and streets flooded with people. Organizers estimated that 1.7 million people came out on Sunday. Hong Kong police estimated that 128,000 protesters attended the demonstration in Victoria Park.

        The demonstrations began in June, initially in response to a controversial bill that would have allowed for extraditions from Hong Kong to mainland China. The measure sparked a backlash among protesters who saw the bill as a violation of the “one country, two systems” agreement that was formed in 1997 when Hong Kong was returned to China from the British.

        The bill has since been suspended indefinitely, but not yet killed completely. Demonstrators continue to demand that the bill be permanently withdrawn. But their demands have also grown to include calls for the direct election of the city’s leaders, seats on the Hong Kong legislature and an investigation into police conduct during the demonstrations.

      • The Quiet Death of the “White Bernie Bro” Attack

        The media used to say Bernie Sanders’s coalition was too white and male. Not that that’s so obviously not true, they should admit why they really hate Bernie — his class politics.

      • Yes, the situation in Hong Kong is critical, but despair would be mindless self-indulgence

        The Communist Party is giving every indication that it really does not want a solution to the unrest but a crushing defeat of the democracy movement.

      • The West’s Guiding Light Has Dimmed

        And now, Donald Trump’s presence in the White House hasmade everything even worse. It is unclear if this president, who so admires Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, his autocratic counterparts from China and Russia, is an adherent of this normative project, whether he actually values democracy, the rule of law and human rights. He has undermined NATO, the West’s hard-power organization, and now, there is no leading power that will intervene decisively in support of Western values.

      • Why Hong Kong is protesting: Their five demands listed

        Over the past few months, the demonstrations have evolved from millions marching through the streets, to groups of protesters in hard hats storming government headquarters and shutting down the city’s international airport for two days. While the majority of protesters have been peaceful, frustration is building on all sides.

        Protesters are now demanding greater democracy and an inquiry into alleged police brutality during past demonstrations. Hong Kong’s billionaires are calling for order. And as unrest intensifies, Beijing’s tone is becoming increasingly heated.

    • Privacy/Surveillance

      • We’re closing down our comment section

        After much discussion here and with people at other news organizations, we’ve decided to focus on other avenues of communication. Next week, we are relaunching the Science News website without a comment section. Instead, you’ll be able to reach us through feedback@sciencenews.org with your questions and comments. We encourage you to join the conversation with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Reddit. And we still welcome good old physical letters.

      • N.Y.P.D. Detectives Gave a Boy, 12, a Soda. He Landed in a DNA Database.

        The city’s DNA database has grown by nearly 29 percent over the last two years, and now has 82,473 genetic profiles, becoming a potentially potent tool for law enforcement but one that operates with little if any oversight.

        The New York Police Department has taken DNA samples from people convicted of crimes, as well as from people who are only arrested or sometimes simply questioned. The practice has exposed the Police Department to scrutiny over how the genetic material is collected and whether privacy rights are being violated, civil liberties lawyers said.

      • Has ACCC let Facebook and Google off the hook?

        Australia’s consumer watchdog, the ACCC, has finally released its long-awaited final report on the market power of Facebook and Google. Long on rhetoric (all 623 pages of it) and short on recommendations, it’s unlikely to dent the massive market power of these search and social media behemoths. Kim Wingerei reports.

      • Siri, Privacy, and Trust

        Until the opt-in process is crystal clear, Apple should delete all existing recordings and confirm that it is no longer saving them. I don’t even know where to start with the fact that until this story broke, they were keeping copies with identifying information for six months. This defies everyone’s expectations of privacy for a voice assistant.

    • Freedom of Information/Freedom of the Press

      • At least 2 journalists detained amid tensions in Jammu and Kashmir

        The Committee to Protect Journalists today called on the Indian government to immediately stop its harassment of journalists in Jammu and Kashmir and to allow them to work freely. Authorities have detained at least two journalists in the past week amid tensions and the communications blackout in the region.

    • Civil Rights/Policing

      • Iran Releases Four Women Arrested For Trying To Watch Men’s Soccer

        Authorities in Tehran have released four Iranian women from a detention center after they were arrested for allegedly dressing as men to circumvent a ban against women attending soccer matches in the Islamic republic, a Human Rights Watch researcher (HRW) says.

      • US mother ruled too Western by Saudi court will appeal

        Bethany, a 32-year-old student and yoga teacher, moved to Saudi Arabia to teach at a university in 2011. She recently divorced her Saudi husband, and sought custody of their four-year-old daughter. But in July, the court concluded that she would not be a good parent.

        “The mother is new to Islam, is a foreigner in this country, and continues to definitively embrace the customs and traditions of her upbringing. We must avoid exposing (Zaina) to these customs and traditions, especially at this early age,” wrote Judge Abdul-Ellah ibn Mohammed al-Tuwaijri last month, in his ruling denying Vierra custody of her daughter.

      • “Black Site: The CIA in the Post 9/11 World” [Ed: CIA writes books about CIA torture to better control the narrative]

        Our guest is Philip Mudd, former deputy director of the CIA Counterterrorist Center, who tells us about his new book, “Black Site.” It depicts one of the most controversial and unsettling initiatives in American history — i.e., the post-9/11 counterterrorism effort created and led by the CIA. Just after September 11, 2001, as we learn, the CIA evolved into a war-fighting intelligence service, constructing what was known internally as “the Program” — a web of top-secret detention facilities intended to help prevent future attacks on American soil and worldwide. As was noted of this book by Kirkus Reviews: “[This is] an insider’s view of life inside the CIA following 9/11, when all the old protocols were off. In theory, the CIA is above politics. In fact, writes Mudd…the agency takes its cues from presidential directives, to say nothing of sometimes-veiled remarks by senior administration officials. After 9/11, agency leaders held that it was George W. Bush’s ‘presidential guidance [that was] one of the pillars that later led them down the path to the Program.’ The Program in question was a sweeping set of reforms that provided mandates for capturing suspected al-Qaida members and other terrorists and extracting information from them in various unpleasant ways — so unpleasant that, given American sensitivities, the work was often done in ‘black sites’ in other countries and sometimes farmed out to intelligence agents working for other governments….”

      • My Letter to Newspapers

        When my protests are not ignored I’ve received grotesque answers.
        For example, an “independent investigator” of the legal department, wiped out all my complaints and evidence saying they were “on a micro-tactical level”, therefore they don’t have to be taken into consideration.
        The other answers received are those of Intel’s works council (a mandatory institution in German companies) who are legally obliged to answer me. But they decided to deny any evidence, bending over backwards to justify the unjustifiable. They have denied any mobbing, but have refused to explain on what their denial is based.

        Unfortunately, in Germany there is no anti-mobbing legislation. I should have taken legal action for every single fact. What is realistically (economically) impossible.

        After a year and a half of continuous fake allegations, in a face-to-face meeting, I was accused again of not having done my job. These accusations never come in a team or a project meeting. It is hard to state in front of anyone that a job hasn’t been done when is evident to anyone that the job is delivered and works without any issue. So they keep it for face-to-face meeting. I experienced this as a regular mobbing procedure of Intel Corporation.

        From my manager came increasingly ridiculous accusations, until I lose my nerves, I told my manager that it was obviously a provocation meeting. I got nervous, I raised my voice, I banged my hand on the table. My boss, according to the story he gave the court, was afraid of my reaction. He actually giggled because he had managed to make me lose patience.
        Together with other fanciful details, invented from the ground up by Intel, like that I had pointed to my cell phone and the computer suggesting that I had recorded the discussion.

    • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

      • Wireless Carrier Throttling of Online Video Is Pervasive: Study

        U.S. wireless carriers have long said they may slow video traffic on their networks to avoid congestion and bottlenecks. But new research shows the throttling happens pretty much everywhere all the time.

        Researchers from Northeastern University and University of Massachusetts Amherst conducted more than 650,000 tests in the U.S. and found that from early 2018 to early 2019, AT&T Inc. throttled Netflix Inc. 70% of the time and Google’s YouTube service 74% of the time. But AT&T didn’t slow down Amazon.com Inc.’s Prime Video at all.

    • Monopolies

      • Patents and Software Patents

        • MyMail, Ltd. v. ooVoo, LLC (Fed. Cir. 2019)

          MyMail is the holder of U.S. Patent Nos. 8,275,863 and 9,021,070, both directed to “methods of modifying toolbars that are displayed on Internet-connected devices such as personal computers.” MyMail initially asserted these patents against ooVoo and IAC Search & Media, Inc. in the Eastern District of Texas. After the Supreme Court’s decision in TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC came down, the parties agreed to shift venues to the Northern District of California. Judge Lucy Koh was assigned to this case.


          Accordingly, the Federal Circuit remanded the case back to the District Court so that the claim construction dispute and its impact on the § 101 ruling can be reviewed.

          Writing in dissent, Judge Lourie (who has been no friend of software patents over the years) opined that “the claims at issue are clearly abstract, regardless of claim construction.” Relying on Electric Power Group, LLC v. Alstom S.A. — which essentially held that “the analysis, transmission, and display of information are, in themselves, abstract ideas” — Judge Lourie would have found the MyMail claims similarly abstract.


          Whether MyMail’s claims are innovative is another story. Maybe they will ultimately fail under § 101 (or § 102 or § 103 for that matter). Nonetheless, the Federal Circuit has correctly determined that invalidating patents on grounds of subject matter requires a clear understanding of the nature of that subject matter.

        • Patent case: Rogers Germany GmbH vs KCC Corp., EPO

          Proceedings for the preservation of evidence and the subsequent infringement proceedings are two separate proceedings and only the latter is relevant for starting an intervention in opposition proceedings according to Art. 105 EPC.

      • Trademarks

        • When a tiger loses its teeth: applying the step-by-step approach on a word mark and a mark containing a device representation thereof

          The Adjudicator dismissed the opposition on both grounds.

          Much of the decision focused on the application of the step-by-step approach in assessing the similarities between the marks. In Singapore, the applicable test for assessing whether there is a likelihood of confusion between two marks is the step-by-step approach.

          Under the step-by-step approach, the following elements should be determined sequentially:

          (a) Whether the compared marks are similar (by comparing the visual, aural and conceptual similarities between the marks);
          (b) Whether the compared goods are similar; and
          (c) If steps (a) and (b) are fulfilled, whether there exists a likelihood of confusion on the part of the relevant public.

          Under stages (a) and (b), the assessment is made mark-for-mark, without consideration of any external factors, such as consumer perception of the marks and the trade channels used to market the goods. External factors are only to be considered at stage (c).

      • Copyrights

        • Anti-Piracy Efforts Are Unlikely to Beat Sci-Hub

          Elsevier and other academic publishers see ‘pirate’ site Sci-Hub as a major threat to their billion-dollar industries. Many researchers, however, can’t function properly without the notorious site. Since anti-piracy efforts are unlikely to beat the site, perhaps it’s time for the publishers to draw a lesson from Sci-Hub instead?

        • Apple is suing a virtualisation software company

          If you don’t know, Corellium’s business involves creating digital versions of software in the browser for outsiders to tinker with, without burning their way through actual hardware. A security researcher could, for example, request a simulated iPhone running iOS, and then hunt for bugs. If one is found, they could then load up previous versions of the operating system to give them an idea of how long the vulnerability has been open for.

        • Apple Files Lawsuit Against Virtualization Company Corellium for Illegally Replicating iOS and Apple Apps

          Apple today filed a lawsuit against Corellium, a mobile device virtualization company that supports iOS. Corellium describes itself as the “first and only platform” that offers iOS, Android, and Linux virtualization on ARM.

          In the lawsuit, filed today in the Southern District of Florida, Apple accuses Corellium of copyright infringement for illegally replicating the operating system and applications that run on the iPhone and the iPad.

Speaking Truth to Monopolies (or How to Write Guest Posts in Techrights)

Posted in Site News at 4:16 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“The jaws of power are always open to devour, and her arm is always stretched out, if possible, to destroy the freedom of thinking, speaking, and writing.”

John Adams

Summary: We need to have more articles tackling the passage of all power — especially when it comes to software — to few large monopolies that disregard human rights or actively participate in their abolishment in the digital realm

I HAVE spent much of my adult life writing about (and against) software monopolies. I had done that before this site even existed. Seeing that the reach of Techrights is growing and more people get involved in various capacity levels, we openly — and freely — welcome more articles from more people.

“We’re at the point now where both Free software and GNU/Linux are in a peculiar and precarious position.”The topics we cover aren’t hard to see; we do not, for example, publish HowTos; instead we just link to many. We ‘specialise’ in tackling attacks on Software Freedom, be these attacks technical or legal (e.g. acquisition or patents). We’re at the point now where both Free software and GNU/Linux are in a peculiar and precarious position. Their “livery” — so to speak — is being swapped by companies like Microsoft. It’s an attack on the very identity of one’s idealogical opposition. It’s designed to confuse, to obfuscate, to disorientate. We need to fight back as narratives are being distorted, not only in the media but mostly in the media. The demise of several big publishers contributes to this.

We invite readers to contribute posts. We’re very liberal when it comes to format and substance. Articles can be sent to bytesmedia@bytesmedia.co.uk which our core people read on a daily basis.

There’s a good chance Techrights will have posted its 26,000th post before the site turns 13 (middle of November), i.e. average at over 2,000 posts per year. We’re becoming more productive this year because more people have become involved.

Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: Free as in Speech

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FSF at 1:23 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A publication from the Free Media Alliance


  • Part 1: Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: Introduction
  • You are here ☞ Part 2: Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: Free as in Speech
  • Part 3: Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: Free Software in Education
  • Part 4: Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: Narcissism in The Community
  • Part 5: Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: The Simplest Ways that AI will Change Computing
  • Part 6: Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: There is More Than One Iceberg Ahead
  • Part 7: Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: Distro-libre and feature-schema
  • Part 8: Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: A Free (as in Freedom) Library, and Federation of Advocates

Freedom of speech

Summary: “While a new breed of so-called anarchists campaign against expression that even the state allows, people are also foolishly overplaying the relevance of the state to free speech issues — as if it’s not a freedom issue when a project is increasingly thought-policed, because the thought-policing isn’t on a state level.”

The FSF used to say “Free as in Speech”, and now you hear a lot of “Free as in Freedom”. This is subjective, and perhaps they say plenty of both. But “Free as in Speech” made more sense in the earlier days of Free software.

Free speech isn’t just the basis for Free software, it’s the basis for all expression technical, political, philosophical and artistic. So many people are bent on creating new exceptions to free speech and free expression, and this is already bleeding into censorship of art and even code repositories. The threat to Free software is real, but the people who want such a threat of course do not think it is a problem.

“Free speech isn’t just the basis for Free software, it’s the basis for all expression technical, political, philosophical and artistic.”While a new breed of so-called anarchists campaign against expression that even the state allows, people are also foolishly overplaying the relevance of the state to free speech issues — as if it’s not a freedom issue when a project is increasingly thought-policed, because the thought-policing isn’t on a state level. This is pedantic and misguided for so many reasons.

First of all, it is technically true in some ways — that’s where the ignorance starts. From a purely technical point of view, the Constitution protects against laws that abridge the freedom of speech. That’s all.
So the First Amendment has very little relevance, technically speaking, if someone comes into your house and insults you, and you tell them to get out. You don’t really have to explain this to people every time this conversation comes up, but it’s understandable why people do that. It’s because they don’t care about the issue enough to be honest.

“It’s a deeply condescending, stupidly narrow definition of free speech to limit it exclusively to “whatever the state does not infringe is (sufficiently) free.””When people talk about free speech outside of this narrow but primarily correct definition, they are talking about the absence of censorship. This is not a usage that comes out of ignorance or lack of education, as the minimalists and pedants imply. Rather the Constitution protects natural rights from laws, liberty is a natural right, and free speech is a subset of liberty. (Free software in turn, is a subset of free speech.)

You can certainly look at this in various other ways, but to constantly insult and negate what people are saying based on ignoring the validity of this perspective, merely insults the intelligence of everyone you bother about it. It’s a deeply condescending, stupidly narrow definition of free speech to limit it exclusively to “whatever the state does not infringe is (sufficiently) free.”

That sort of pedantry only demands that we throw away the words “free speech” as being as limited as they insist it is, and focus exclusively on matters of “censorship.” This is pointless, when Wikipedia begins its article on “Freedom of Speech” with the words:

Freedom of speech is a principle that supports the freedom of an
individual or a community to articulate their opinions and ideas
without fear of retaliation, censorship, or sanction.

Far be it to suggest that quoting one line of a Wikipedia article proves anything at all, but can anyone honestly insist that it’s ridiculous to treat free speech as the opposite of censorship? Or is it the pedants who are being deeply dishonest? Either way this goes, what good are they?

“The (more honest) truth is that free speech is a more complex and nuanced issue than Randall Munroe has painted it in the most ignorant XKCD ever shared online.”If the FSF lent more credence to the relationship between modern copyright and censorship, and the relationship they themselves established between Free software and free speech, they wouldn’t likely be looking for exceptions like whether we should be able to freely adapt “works of opinion” or whether you should be able to make unlimited paper copies of a manual under an allegedly free licence.

Alas, the FSF has painted too many exceptions to free speech (or for you pedantic idiots — the lack of censorship) and is likely already having key figures (including Stallman and Torvalds) stifled over those exceptions. This is self-defeating, but it also harms other movements that promote works that are “Free as in Speech.”

“You are free to lie, until the fraud does enough harm to the freedom of others, but when you twist reality to limit a quest for freedom you make an enemy of yourself.”The (more honest) truth is that free speech is a more complex and nuanced issue than Randall Munroe has painted it in the most ignorant XKCD ever shared online.

There are people who want to add to the censorship in the world, they are successful in actively doing so, and they are eager to get away with it using flimsy justifications and dishonesty. You are free to lie, until the fraud does enough harm to the freedom of others, but when you twist reality to limit a quest for freedom you make an enemy of yourself. At that point you are no better than a politician, and you have earned the disdain reserved for the worst among them.

In the past, the FSF has found it necessary (and rightfully so) to turn to philosophy while Open Source relies on sophistry. These days, when you argue against censorship you find the Internet is overrun with sophists and trolls and armchair authoritarians. If that truly represents what Free software has become in this century, then you can keep it.

But that is not how Free software began, what made it viable, nor what it needs to be in order to fight against censorship.

There is no Free software, without free speech. And if that’s not true, then Free software ought to be dropped as a movement, and replaced with free culture, which is a superset of Free software and still a subset of free speech.

Natural right begets Liberty,
        Liberty begets free speech, 
                Free speech begets free culture and Free software, 
                        Free culture (by definition, if not common
                        practice) includes Free software.

Free software advocates ought to be able to understand this. If they cannot, it is one more area where the Free software movement has failed and become sterile.

Of course even if Free software were dropped for free culture, the specific areas where free culture pertains to software would be no less important. All that would really change is the sacrifice of greater idiocy for greater honesty.

“On matters related to Free software directly, the FSF deserves its recognition as the authoritative voice of the Free software movement.”As it happens, free culture (broadly speaking) cannot seem to wrap itself around the importance of using Free software, either. So both movements are hampered without the other. And too few can appreciate this, or bother to promote it — both movements cost themselves key allies and success in the process.

If they were really at odds, like Free software and Open Source, such alliance would be a false compromise. Since they are ultimately working for the same freedom, Free software and free culture should acknowledge their similarities and help each other. But neither side wants to admit the truth about their existence and philosophical heritage.

Just as Open Source does not want to admit that it co-opted Free software (even when OSI co-founder Bruce Perens said they had when OSI was no more than a year or two old) Free software does not acknowledge the importance of a broader copyright reform movement, when Free software was only necessary due to regressive expansion of copyright itself.

Free software is far more honest than Open Source, but on this matter it too rewrites history to make itself out to be (a little) more authoritative and central regarding a subject than it is in reality — that of copyright reform.

The FSF has — and should have — no monopoly on copyright reform. Its lack of willingness to find its true context in matters of liberty leads it to overplay its hand regarding non-software matters (“Why this license?”) and to misrepresent arguments about copyright reform in other areas. It should not be allowed to perpetuate such dishonesty, even if dishonesty is rarer indeed for the FSF than most organisations.

“With no culture of free speech, there will be no protection against laws that limit it either.”Either the FSF is a secular non-profit with a mission to promote what it says, subject to the same scrutiny as all other institutions — or it is a cult with a leader and devotees that cannot err. Sadly, on matters of broader liberty barely outside of software, it behaves less like a secular institution and more like a cult. Some of its largest competitors are cults as well, but they are cults to corporation and control, rather than to Software Freedom.

On matters related to Free software directly, the FSF deserves its recognition as the authoritative voice of the Free software movement. For purposes of (among others) the unfettered and scientific expression of ideas, we will challenge their authority — but not deny or negate it as Open Source has unjustly done for decades at a time.

As for the Code of Conduct, it is a Trojan horse that in practice lets corporations limit Free software along lines that the government will not. It is a shot in the foot, and all for a false promise. “Love thy neighbour” it was once said, is the whole of the law. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you should remain free to speak against your neighbour as long as you speak the truth.

With no culture of free speech, there will be no protection against laws that limit it either. For a government claimed to be of the people, for the people, by the people — it is delusional to assume or rely on the government to protect and preserve anything that people are not willing to stand for themselves.

“Freedom 0 is the freedom to use the software for any purpose, but what we are inching towards is a future where software repos will be divided along political lines.”You cannot reduce “free speech” to the Constitution, without dooming it to lose further ground to censorship. The FSF may continue their mission, though their followers, bylaws and customs are increasingly eroding the Free Software Foundation’s foundation.

The tools Free software produces to liberate the user, are promoted and run primarily by people dedicated to using them to control speech, not make it more free. Freedom 0 is the freedom to use the software for any purpose, but what we are inching towards is a future where software repos will be divided along political lines. The recently-adopted GNU Kind guidelines include a welcome glimpse of Free software’s past, when words like this rang true:

The GNU Project encourages contributions from anyone who
wishes to advance the development of the GNU system,
regardless of gender, race, ethnic group, physical appearance,
religion, cultural background, and any other demographic
characteristics, as well as personal political views.

Those words do not reflect the politics of Free software today, nor do they reflect the reality of the culture of the Free Software Foundation. It is an ideal we should strive for, to have diversity of contributors as well as diversity of opinion, but just try having your own political views.

Free software should be looking for more ways to enable free speech. At the moment, all communication platforms related to the Free software movement are focused on controlling it, which is endemic to the so-called Fediverse.

Licence: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 (Public Domain)

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