Links 16/7/2021: First ‘New VAX’ in 30 Years, LF Against Crypto

Posted in News Roundup at 3:01 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

  • GNU/Linux

    • Audiocasts/Shows

      • System76 Spotlight with Crystal Cooper

        In the previous System76 Spotlight, we interviewed Adam Balla (aka chzbacon), about his journey with Linux and becoming System76’s new Content Producer. Then, we put his content producing to the test, ensuring he could withstand the elements of a noisy factory. A slight drop in decibel detection later, he’s put together the second System76 Spotlight—this one for CNC Machinist Crystal Cooper!

      • Olive 0.2: Node Based Video Editing Is Bizarre

        I’ve been using the Olive video editor for quite a while and the new version while still being a very early work in progress does have some really awesome changes that I’ve wanted to talk about for quite a while, the main one being node based video editing.

      • Is The End Of Linux Near?

        Viewers have asked my opinion on whether Linux sucks or not, so I thought I would share my thoughts about Bryan Lunduke’s latest video in the “Linux Sucks” series.

    • Kernel Space

      • Core scheduling lands in 5.14

        The core scheduling feature has been under discussion for over three years. For those who need it, the wait is over at last; core scheduling was merged for the 5.14 kernel release. Now that this work has reached a (presumably) final form, a look at why this feature makes sense and how it works is warranted. Core scheduling is not for everybody, but it may prove to be quite useful for some user communities.

        Simultaneous multithreading (SMT, or “hyperthreading”) is a hardware feature that implements two or more threads of execution in a single processor, essentially causing one CPU to look like a set of “sibling” CPUs. When one sibling is executing, the other must wait. SMT is useful because CPUs often go idle while waiting for events — usually the arrival of data from memory. While one CPU waits, the other can be executing. SMT does not result in a performance gain for all workloads, but it is a significant improvement for most.

        SMT siblings share almost all of the hardware in the CPU, including the many caches that CPUs maintain. That opens up the possibility that one CPU could extract data from the other by watching for visible changes in the caches; the Spectre class of hardware vulnerabilities have made this problem far worse, and there is little to be done about it. About the only way to safely run processes that don’t trust each other (with current kernels) is to disable SMT entirely; that is a prospect that makes a lot of people, cloud-computing providers in particular, distinctly grumpy.

        While one might argue that cloud-computing providers are usually grumpy anyway, there is still value in anything that might improve their mood. One possibility would be a way to allow them to enable SMT on their systems without opening up the possibility that their customers may use it to attack each other; that could be done by ensuring that mutually distrusting processes do not run simultaneously in siblings of the same CPU core. Cloud customers often have numerous processes running; spamming Internet users at scale requires a lot of parallel activity, after all. If those processes can be segregated so that all siblings of any given core run processes from the same customer, we can be spared the gruesome prospect of one spammer stealing another’s target list — or somebody else’s private keys.

        Core scheduling can provide this segregation. In abstract terms, each process is assigned a “cookie” that identifies it in some way; one approach might be to give each user a unique cookie. The scheduler then enforces a regime where processes can share an SMT core only if they have the same cookie value — only if they trust each other, in other words.

      • The first half of the 5.14 merge window

        As of this writing, just under 5,000 non-merge changesets have been pulled into the mainline repository for the 5.14 development cycle. That is less than half of the patches that have been queued up in linux-next, so it is fair to say that this merge window is getting off to a bit of a slow start. Nonetheless, a fair number of significant changes have been merged.

      • Bye-bye bdflush()

        The addition of system calls to the Linux kernel is a routine affair; it happens during almost every merge window. The removal of system calls, instead, is much more uncommon. That appears likely to happen soon, though, as discussions proceed on the removal of bdflush(). Read on for a look at the purpose and history of this obscure system call and to learn whether you will miss it (you won’t).

        Linux, like most operating systems, buffers filesystem I/O through memory; a write() call results in a memory copy into the kernel’s page cache, but does not immediately result in a write to the underlying block storage device. This buffering is necessary for writes of anything other than complete blocks; it is also important for filesystem performance. Deferring block writes can allow operations to be coalesced, provide opportunities for better on-disk file layout, and enables the batching of operations.

        Buffered file data cannot be allowed to live in memory forever, though; eventually the system must arrange for it to be flushed back to disk. Even the 0.01 Linux release included a version of the sync() system call, which forces all cached filesystem data to be written out. While the kernel would flush some buffers when the buffer cache (which preceded the page cache and was a fixed-size array at that time) filled up, there was no provision for regularly ensuring that all buffers were pushed out to disk. That task was, if your editor’s memory serves, handled by a user-space process that would occasionally wake up and call sync().

        There are advantages to handling this task in the kernel, though; it has a much better idea of the state of both the buffer cache and the underlying devices. As a step in that direction, the bdflush() system call was added to the 0.99.14y release on February 2, 1994. (This was a different era of kernel development; the preceding 0.99.14x release came out seven hours earlier, and 0.99.14z came out nine hours later). That implementation was not particularly useful, though; all it did was return a “not implemented” error. An actual bdflush() implementation was not added until the 1.1.3 development kernel in April 1994.

      • Rust for Linux redux

        On July 4, the Rust for Linux project posted another version of its patch set adding support for the language to the kernel. It would seem that the project feels that it is ready to be considered for merging into the mainline. Perhaps a bigger question lingers, though: is the kernel development community ready for Rust? That part still seems to be up in the air.

        Round 2

        Miguel Ojeda, who has been hired to work on the project full-time, posted the patch set; in the cover letter, he listed a number of changes and updates since the RFC patch set was posted back in April. In particular, the allocations that would call panic!() when they failed have been replaced. A modified version of the alloc crate has been created for the kernel project, though the plan is for the changes to work their way into the upstream project so that the customized version can eventually be dropped. Incidentally, the patch adding the modified crate was apparently too large for the lore archive, though it does show up in the LWN archive.

        There is more progress on Rust abstractions for kernel facilities, including “red-black trees, reference-counted objects, file descriptor creation, tasks, files, io vectors…”, he said, as well as additions for driver support. Beyond that, the Rust driver for the Android Binder interprocess communication mechanism has more features and there is ongoing work on a driver for the hardware random-number generator available on some Raspberry Pi models.

      • Apple Magic Mouse To Support High Resolution Scrolling With Linux 5.15 – Phoronix

        For those that find themselves using an Apple Magic Mouse, the finger-sliding scrolling experience should be improved come Linux 5.15.

        Just days after the end of the Linux 5.14 merge window, another one of the early features queuing in the respective “-next” branches for Linux 5.15 is the Magic Mouse driver supporting high resolution scrolling.

        HID-next has merged high resolution scrolling into the “magicmouse” driver for supporting high resolution scrolling on the Apple Magic Mouse Gen1/Gen2 mice.

    • Benchmarks

      • Intel Core i7 1185G7 Linux Performance

        For nearly one year already we’ve been delivering many Intel Tiger Lake Linux benchmarks using the Core i7 1165G7 while for those curious about the i7-1185G7 that is becoming more common with newer notebooks, here are some benchmarks of the Core i7 1185G7 Tiger Lake against various other notebooks/processors on hand for comparison.

        The Core i7 1185G7 was tested within a Dell XPS 13 9310, the same model as the Core i7 1165G7 being benchmarked over the past year. The i7-1165G7 and i7-1185G7 are quite close to each other but with the higher-end model having a 4.8GHz maximum turbo frequency compared to 4.7GHz and a configurable TDP-up frequency of 3.0GHz over 2.8GHz. Both Tiger Lake processors are still four cores / eight threads. The i7-1185G7 also has a slight advantage on the Iris Xe Graphics with a maximum dynamic frequency of 1.35GHz rather than 1.30GHz. Aside from the performance specs, the i7-1185G7 does support a few other extra features like Trusted Execution Technology, SIPP, and Total Memory Encryption.

    • Applications

      • NewsFlash – follow your favorite blogs and news sites

        A news aggregator is software which collect news, weblog posts, and other information from the web so that they can be read in a single location for easy viewing. With the range of news sources available on the internet, news aggregators play a useful role in helping users to quickly locate breaking news.

        There are a number of different file formats which information publishers use. Popular formats are RSS and Atom. RSS is an acronym for Really Simple Syndication. It’s a defined standard based on XML with the specific purpose of delivering updates to web-based content. In other words, RSS is a Web content syndication format.

        For individuals that read lots of weblogs, a news aggregator makes keeping track of them effortless, and particularly useful if the weblogs are only updated occasionally. If you follow specific writers, publications and channels, an RSS reader app helps you see all new content that interests you in a central source.

        NewsFlash is a program designed to complement an already existing web-based RSS reader account.

      • Wireshark 3.4.7

        Wireshark is a network packet analyzer. A network packet analyzer will try to capture network packets and tries to display that packet data as detailed as possible. You could think of a network packet analyzer as a measuring device used to examine what’s going on inside a network cable, just like a voltmeter is used by an electrician to examine what’s going on inside an electric cable (but at a higher level, of course). In the past, such tools were either very expensive, proprietary, or both. However, with the advent of Wireshark, all that has changed. Wireshark is perhaps one of the best open source packet analyzers available today.

      • QOwnNotes 21.7.5

        QOwnNotes is a open source (GPL) plain-text file notepad with markdown support and todo list manager for GNU/Linux, Mac OS X and Windows, that (optionally) works together with the notes application of ownCloud (or Nextcloud). So you are able to write down your thoughts with QOwnNotes and edit or search for them later from your mobile device (like with CloudNotes) or the ownCloud web-service. The notes are stored as plain text files and you can sync them with your ownCloud sync client. Of course other software, like Dropbox, Syncthing, Seafile or BitTorrent Sync can be used too.

    • Instructionals/Technical

    • Games

      • Fancy a handheld Linux PC that runs Windows apps, sports a custom AMD Zen APU and a touch screen?

        Gaming house Steam has just revealed a rather intriguing portable PC.

        The “Steam Deck” boasts an AMD “accelerated processing unit” (APU) that incorporates four Zen cores that run at between 2.4GHz and 3.5GHz, plus an AMD RDNA 2 GPU and a substantial 16GB of RAM.

        An RJ45 Ethernet socket, single USB-C and USB-A connectors, DisplayPort, and HDMI sockets connect the machine to the wired world. WiFi and Bluetooth handle the wireless side of things.

        The seven-inch touch screen offers 1280x800px resolution at 400 nits brightness. The included battery can hold 40 watt-hours of energy.

      • Valve officially announces Steam Deck, its handheld gaming PC releasing this December

        The Nintendo Switch (OLED model) wasn’t the “Pro” upgrade many expected it to be with 4K support and new internals but before its announcement, other handhelds aimed to take the role of the “Switch Pro”. The AYA NEO and GPD Win 3 are among those devices shooting for that nickname since they are able to run recent AAA PC games on the go, given that they are handheld gaming PCs. Their efforts and popularity, although niche, enticed companies like Lenovo and Tencent to make similar concepts or patents; indicating that these indie companies might have more serious competition in the future.

        It seems like this will indeed be the case and these handheld gaming PC manufacturers will need to brace themselves as Valve is itself entering this market with a Valve-branded handheld gaming PC. This news was actually reported back in May and today we have the official confirmation. In a Steam post today, Valve revealed the Steam Deck, an AMD-based handheld gaming PC that is expected to begin shipping in December 2021 in select regions.

      • Valve Steam Deck is a handheld gaming PC that runs SteamOS

        Valve has announced its own handheld gaming console. The Steam Deck is a compact gaming PC running a custom version of SteamOS and can play all of your Steam games while also functioning as a computer.

      • Steam Deck & Linux: Valve Working With BattlEye & EAC To Get Support For Proton

        Valve has announced Steam Deck, a handheld console that will compete with the likes of Nintendo Switch OLED. The announcement came as a surprise today as we didn’t witness any leaks for the device before. The console starts at $399 for the base 64GB storage variant and goes to $649 for the model with maxed-out specs.

        And, no, the 64GB variant isn’t great as per 2021 standards, but what’s great is that the console is powered by Arch-based SteamOS 3.0 and KDE Plasma on top.

      • Steam Deck is an AMD-powered handheld PC from Valve that runs KDE on Arch Linux

        Valve has taken the wraps off a portable PC it has called Steam Deck, which is set to begin shipping in the US, Canada, EU, and UK in December.

        Ostensibly a handheld gaming device that is in the same realm as the Nintendo Switch, under the hood, the Steam Deck runs SteamOS 3.0, a new version based on Arch Linux, with KDE Plasma used for desktop mode.

        While Valve has said the Linux system will use its Proton compatibility layer to run games designed for Windows, the company said users are free to replace it.

        “Steam Deck is a PC, and players will be able to install whatever they like, including other OSes,” it said.

      • Valve Announces Handheld Linux Gaming with The Steam Deck Launching in 2021

        Valve just announced a new handheld gaming device running Linux, the Steam Deck. Since I know the first question you’ll have, yes it is running Arch (SteamOS 3.0), with KDE Plasma and a custom Steam interface. It ships in December and starts at $399.

    • Distributions

      • BSD

        • First new vax in …30 years? :-)

          some time ago I ended up in an architectural discussion (risc vs cisc etc…) and started to think about vax. Even though the vax is considered the “ultimate cisc” I wondered if its cleanliness and nice instruction set still could be implemented efficient enough. Well, the only way to know would be to try to implement it :-) I had an 15-year-old demo board with a small low-end FPGA (Xilinx XC3S400), so I just had to learn Verilog and try to implement something. And it just passed EVKAA.EXE:

        • First ‘new VAX’ in 30 years, 64-bit extensions proposed

          It’s nice to see people still putting work and effort into what is nearly a half-century old, and otherwise obsolete, instruction set.

      • SUSE/OpenSUSE

        • Oh SUSE Q2. Oh SUSE Q2. Pay IPO shares bread, it leaves you in the red, SUSE Q2

          Veteran Linux wrangler SUSE has swung into the red largely due to shares-based payments related to its lacklustre IPO in May.

          The business, sold by Micro Focus to private equity house EQT for $2.5bn in 2018, reported revenue of $133.2m for its Q2 ended 30 April [PDF], up a decent 17 per cent year-on-year.

          The double-digit rise, with trading “in line with expectations,” stands in contrast to SUSE’s flotation, which was set at €30 per share and struggled to make much ground during its first day of trading several months back.

          After an initial climb to the heady heights of over €35, the stock stood around the €33-€34 mark until the publication of these results, dropping – at the time of writing – to $31, with investors seemingly unimpressed.

      • IBM/Red Hat/Fedora

        • Hybrid work: 3 tips to improve virtual meetings | The Enterprisers Project

          Checking your watch for the sixth time in as many minutes, you notice that most attendees are muted, and many have turned off their cameras. As the minutes tick by and another colleague goes off on a long-winded tangent, nobody even tries to get the discussion back on track.

          The meeting finally meanders to an end, but no overview or follow-up strategy is offered. Fretting over that day’s looming deadlines, you click out of the virtual meeting room – and your calendar notifies you that your next meeting starts in five minutes. Here we go again.

          We feel your pain. These days many of us find ourselves sitting through meetings for hours at a time, unable to get more productive work done. Worse, too few of these meetings are worth the time they take.

        • Red Hat Extends Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8 As A Foundation For More Secure Computing With Second FIPS 140-2 Validation
        • Red Hat Bolsters Hybrid Cloud Automation with Latest Version of Red Hat Advanced Cluster Management for Kubernetes

          Red Hat, Inc., the world’s leading provider of open source solutions, today announced Red Hat Advanced Cluster Management for Kubernetes 2.3, the latest version of the company’s enterprise-grade Kubernetes management offering. Designed to provide greater flexibility for managing and scaling hybrid and multicloud environments in a unified and automated way, IT teams can now accelerate the management, security features and automation of their hybrid clouds with the integration of Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform and Red Hat Advanced Cluster Management for a more modern, hybrid cloud-ready environment.

        • How Quarkus helps developers in a cloud-native world – Episode 108

          In today’s podcast episode, we talk about Quarkus, a full-stack, Kubernetes-native Java framework that was created to help Java developers work in a more cloud-native world.

      • Debian Family

        • Tails 4.20: New gate assistant for monitored users

          The anonymizing operating system Tails was released in version 4.20. It now brings the major changes to the connection to the Tor network that were planned for Tails 4.19, but were then postponed.

          The Tails developers have introduced a wizard for setting up Tor connections. This is primarily intended to help those users whose Internet access is directly monitored, who are in heavily censored networks or who have poor network connections.

    • Devices/Embedded

    • Free, Libre, and Open Source Software

      • Web Browsers

        • Mozilla

          • Dear Mozilla, Please Remove This Annoying ‘Feature’ from Firefox

            Despite its receding user base, Mozilla Firefox has remained my primary browser. Mozilla has revamped Firefox in the last couple of years and have added several features to it specially focused on protecting user privacy. I respect that.

            However, there is one ‘feature’ that annoys the hell out of me. This so-called feature relates to the auto-update of Firefox in the background.

            Auto-upgrade immediately remind of Windows updates. I mean, Windows is infamous for the forced restarts and updates, right?

      • Productivity Software/LibreOffice/Calligra

        • LibreOffice 7.2 release candidate reveals effort to be Microsoft-compatible

          The Document Foundation has released LibreOffice 7.2 RC1, including a large number of fixes intended to improve import and export compatibility with Microsoft Office.

          Version 7.2 of LibreOffice, the most popular free and open-source productivity suite, is set for full release in mid-August. New versions appear roughly every six months: 7.0 arrived in August 2020, and 7.1 in February 2021.

          The list of what’s new is extensive, though most new features are small tweaks or bug fixes. One of the more notable is the ability to have multiple columns in text boxes in LibreOffice documents including Writer, Calc, and Impress – these being word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation graphics.

          Writer is already multi-column capable in the main page, but this is for text boxes that you can float anywhere, in the manner of a desktop publishing application. At the moment, this feature is hard to find – you need to select text box, find Text Attributes in the Text box and shape menu – and seems a little buggy (on one text box we could not get it to work), but this is only RC1.

      • Programming/Development

        • Python

          • Python attributes, __slots__, and API design [LWN.net]

            A discussion on the python-ideas mailing list touched on a number of interesting topics, from the problems with misspelled attribute names through the design of security-sensitive interfaces and to the use of the __slots__ attribute of objects. The latter may not be all that well-known (or well-documented), but could potentially fix the problem at hand, though not in a backward-compatible way. The conversation revolves around the ssl module in the standard library, which has been targeted for upgrades, more than once, over the years—with luck, the maintainers may find time for some upgrades relatively soon.

  • Leftovers

    • Former SPH staff allegedly claims that it is wrong to use the term ‘talent’ to describe ‘foreign talents’ who come to Singapore

      The message claimed that those who came into SPH through the India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) had no skills relating to the job and added: If they have zero work experience, then how can you label them as “talent”.

    • Hardware

      • Intel Is in Talks to Buy GlobalFoundries for About $30 Billion

        Intel Corp. is exploring a deal to buy GlobalFoundries Inc., according to people familiar with the matter, in a move that would turbocharge the semiconductor giant’s plans to make more chips for other tech companies and rate as its largest acquisition ever.

        A deal could value GlobalFoundries at around $30 billion, the people said. It isn’t guaranteed one will come together, and GlobalFoundries could proceed with a planned initial public offering. GlobalFoundries is owned by Mubadala Investment Co., an investment arm of the Abu Dhabi government, but based in the U.S.

        Any talks don’t appear to include GlobalFoundries executives, as a spokeswoman for the company said it isn’t in discussions with Intel.

      • Intel Reported To Be Looking At Acquiring GlobalFoundries – Phoronix

        The latest surprise news under Intel’s new leadership is that they are reported to be exploring a deal to acquire GlobalFoundries, the company ultimately formed when AMD decided in 2008 to spin off their semiconductor manufacturing business.

        According to a report this evening by the Wall Street Journal, Intel is in tentative talks to buy out GlobalFoundries for about $30 billion USD.

        The talks still appear to be early-stage and according to the WSJ might not include GlobalFoundries itself but rather a deal through one of its major stakeholders such as Mubadala Investment. The report notes that such an Intel + GloFo deal could still fall through.

    • Integrity/Availability

    • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

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