10.13.21

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

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

Guest post by Ryan, reprinted with permission from the original

GNOME Parental Control Software

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10.12.21

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

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

Guest post by Ryan, reprinted with permission from the original

KDE screenshot
By KDE, GPL.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In general, this is just Debian being Debian.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10.03.21

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

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

Guest post by Ryan, reprinted with permission from the original

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This made way for the Flatpak, which now started.

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

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

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

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

But that’s when it gets really strange.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

05.16.21

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

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

A day ago (Debian Developer from Japan):

Debian Developer from Japan on systemd

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

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

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

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

With that out of the way…

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

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

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

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

Speaking of noise…

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

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

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

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

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

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

It placed first. By a substantial margin.

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

It placed last.

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

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

Speaking of the GR…

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

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

Which leads me to…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speaking of costs…

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

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

And for what exactly?

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

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

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

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

05.08.21

Pro-Software Freedom Advocates and Free/Libre Software Supporters Face Barriers Due to Domination of Communication Channels (Beyond the Media)

Posted in Debian, Free/Libre Software, GNOME, GNU/Linux at 9:08 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Safety… for the monopolies and for those in power

Censorship censored
The thing about censorship is, it’s hard to see the censorship (because it’s censored)

Summary: A carefully-checked assessment of an overlooked aspect surrounding the 'cancel mob', which incites and brainwashes people based on lies; there’s an attempt to control channels of communication (e.g. Open and Free Technology Community and Freenode) and to generally suppress people who support the founder of GNU/Linux

As we’ve just noted, foes of Free software sponsor and thus control a lot of the mainstream/corporate/mass media, including so-called ‘tech’ media where people like Dr. Richard Stallman are proudly defamed.

In social control media giants (like Twitter and Facebook), there’s a similar problem. They get to occlude or omit certain messages or messengers. Some get banned. Some get shadowbanned or throttled. This can easily distort public perception.

This morning an associate sent us a pointer to this new video about Twitter, noting that “journalists [are] getting warped perspective via Twitter…”

All they see is the cancel mob and the slander. Facts aren’t checked and truth isn’t being rewarded; it’s about emotion and corporate agenda, where some of the voices are literally sponsored (or salaried) by monopolies.

“Facts aren’t checked and truth isn’t being rewarded; it’s about emotion and corporate agenda, where some of the voices are literally sponsored (or salaried) by monopolies.”But it goes even beyond the mainstream media and social control media. Someone recently told us about Open and Free Technology Community (OFTC) and even Freenode, which Techrights has used for many years. So does the GNU Project, the FSF and many others.

To the people named or mentioned in this article the identity of the source may be easy to guess. To the casual reader, however, it won’t be obvious and it probably does not matter, either. The concern here is that voices are being removed (or censored or ‘canceled’), so we might be led to think that the FSF and Richard Stallman (RMS) are very unpopular. It should be noted that, as per Richard Stallman’s Web site: “On May 10, RMS will give a remote talk for the University of Buckingham Free Speech Society, starting at 7pm UK time.” That’s 2 days from now. So cancel culture failed. “RMS” or “Richard Stallman” is still ‘a thing’. He still gives talks.

The censorship is 'safe space'This is why they keep attacking him and have planned to attack him again even more than a month after he returned to the FSF's Board. The GNOME Foundation has been doing this for well over a decade! It always fails, but they do some damage in the process…

“I’ve been targeted by some of these same people for years,” a source told us, “and am trying to sort it out with OFTC and Freenode right at this very moment…”

We recently became aware that people were being silenced. And because they’re being silenced it’s hard to know that the silencing has been happening. It’s like a ritual mob. The source said s/he “may be able to provide information that will help your effort [...] a few years ago I was targeted in much the same way Daniel Pocock was and it went on for years — to the point where both OFTC and Freenode networks’ staff got involved [...] an ancient story now, but, ties in to current…”

Long story short, there seems to be a cabal of people with mixed loyalty or a conflict of interest. This begets censorship.

“Long story short, there seems to be a cabal of people with mixed loyalty or a conflict of interest. This begets censorship.”Some of this censorship has since then been clarified, even undone. But that takes a lot of effort and work because some staff has a conflict of interest, albeit not all. Bans can be lifted “by talking to their staff,” we’re told. So there’s a quasi-’political’ element to it all. We were told of some names of the people involved and would rather not reproduce the names here (it would be counterproductive).

Our source said that “the issue here is both of these people are tied up with the weirdness around Debian/GNOME Foundation and are leaking into positions of control at Freenode, which is a central hub of activity for the open source community, and are using that access control to suppress pro-RMS campaigning, which leads me to believe there will be another wave after all the key players who jammed up their last effort are gone.”

We’ve long said there would be another wave. GNOME Foundation has done this for over a decade, so why stop now? “I believe if the tensions increase,” the source told us, “the bad actors leaking over from OFTC/GNOME/Debian will absolutely engaged in reputation management operations or access purging to that aim [...] the small fry fish from that camp are targeting signers of the pro-RMS letter but not to any real serious impact, the more dangerous influencers will go for the people exposing this or investigating this…”

It ought to be clarified upfront that we’re not accusing OFTC or Freenode as a whole. They’re collectives of different individuals with different agendas and beliefs. “Freenode is not a ‘coherent’ entity in that they will have widely variant responses to this situation depending on which staff member you get,” our source noted. “It’s the ones that are also in with OFTC staff counts that are going to be the problem. [...] It’s the ones that are staff at OFTC that are staff at Freenode that are the problem there” (they issue bans in parallel).

“It’s the issue that matters and the pattern that’s relevant; the names of pertinent actors matter a lot less.”“Debian crossover and GNOME Foundation crossover is in every instance I’ve seen be[ing] the common association of every actor involved [...] What I’m getting at here is that these all involve coordinated behaviours from people all associated with the same project [and] it consistently ties back to Debian and their sphere of influence which includes [name redacted], [name redacted], and some of the other Freenode staff — not all of them. Freenode’s official position will probably stay neutral while these bad actors run amok [and] most of this can be verified if you map these people on a board and look at their project associations.”

Perhaps at a later stage we’ll reproduce and publish more information. For the time being, however, names have been omitted. It’s the issue that matters and the pattern that’s relevant; the names of pertinent actors matter a lot less. We know the names and we keep detailed notes. No need to admonish or vilify anybody.

04.29.21

With Sponsors Like These…

Posted in Debian, Deception, Free/Libre Software at 4:05 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Earlier today:

DPL and Ford

Last month:

DPL anti-RMS

Earlier this month:

Post by Chris Lamb, former DPL and former boyfriend of Bully de Blanc

Many years ago:

Ford and Nazism

22 years ago:

Ford and death camps

Summary: Does the Ford front group think it can embellish its image by liaising with former Debian Project Leaders who play a role in the campaign to undermine the Free Software Foundation?

02.28.21

On Gangstalking and Victim-Blaming

Posted in Australia, Debian, Deception, Free/Libre Software, Google at 4:05 pm by Guest Editorial Team

Reprinted with permission from Daniel Pocock


I will destroy you, threat, Washington

IT is ironic that the first person to depart the Biden administration was sanctioned for threatening somebody else’s career.

This week Marko Rodriguez went public with news that rogue members of the Apache Software Foundation had decided to persecute him for his commentary on social issues. The board had voted to reclassify satire as a form of prose that “borders” on hate speech. Either it is hate speech or it isn’t. To suggest it “borders” on hate speech is a fudge. The sly comparison of these very different types of writing is simply a smear to hurt his career.

To put this in perspective, board members who disagreed with this defamation did not only vote against it but also choose to resign.

Around Valentine’s Day, Brittany Higgins, a former employee of Australia’s defense minister went public with news about being raped on the ministerial sofa. The questions this woman raises are extraordinary, for example, if the Minister for Defense, Linda Reynolds, cannot defend her own direct reports, how can we rely on her to defend our country?

Brittany Higgins, AustraliaHiggins chose not to name the accused publicly. It appears she wishes to focus attention on the culture and the cover-up. Two independent news organizations, True Crimes News Weekly and independent journalist Shane Olsen have identified a suspect. There is now a twitter hashtag too. A Youtube video shows the former Attorney General, George Brandis, praising Bruce Lehrmann and other former staff in the presence of high court justices.

George Brandis (former Attorney General): All of us know how important staff are to us. We spend so much time together, mostly away from home. We share so many experiences that they become like a second family.

As the man departed days after the incident in 2019, it appears that the Government have had plenty of time to remove his name from virtually all official web sites although there is no super-injunction (yet) to prevent discussion of his identity.

Against this backdrop, Google admitted two female researchers subject to high-profile sackings may have been doing legitimate research. Like Rodriguez and Higgins, both of Google’s female victims had been threatened to self-censor, they refused, they were shamed, they bravely chose to put their persecution in the public domain.

All these cases inevitably remind me of other cases, the growing body count in the free and open source software world.

Higgins’ decision to go public helps us all see how a cover-up was built from day one. Her boss, Linda Reynolds, had suggested that pursuing a criminal justice complaint would destroy Miss Higgins’ career. In effect, the victim was blackmailed to stay silent. This is the thread that draws all these cases of oppression together. In December 2018, two long standing volunteers in the free, open source software world, Dr Norbert Preining and I, revealed how we were subject to blackmail and coercion in our respective roles. In our cases, we both received the veiled threats in writing:

Knife at throat, Debian Account Managers, DAM, blackmail

We are sending this email privately, leaving its disclosure as your decision (although traces in public databases are unavoidable)

In other words, they are saying that if we call out the coercive nature of their communications, they will seek to destroy us.

When you receive a threat like this from somebody with a history of publicly shaming people on a hideous scale, it really feels like they are holding a knife to your throat.

Chilling.

In my case, the community of volunteers and donors had clearly elected me as the fellowship representative so this blackmail was an attack on all those who voted. It was my duty to inform people and call it out.

The crimes were very different but the message seems to be the same: the organization must be protected at any cost. When those in authority do something wrong, the victims have to stay silent, grin and bear it or some gang will impose a bigger pain on the victim.

More on the former Debian Project Leader (DPL), Chris Lamb, giving negative references for volunteers

One volunteer sent me the following comments about Chris Lamb. Many people receiving copies of defamation have showed it to the survivors:

Volunteer: But I am scared that Lamb actually also hosed an application for a company in NY, a job related to Debian. If that has happened, and I can reasonably document it, I would consider a defamation law suit

When the leader of any organization, whether it is Apache, Debian or Google, uses the authority of their position to push defamation, it is like using the height of a bridge to stand above a freeway and drop bricks onto the cars underneath. Lamb may not fear consequences for his actions, his father is a barrister, Robert Lamb, who appears well qualified to stifle any volunteers seeking redress.

02.25.21

GNU/Linux Reaffirms Its Status as the Universal and Inter-planetary Operating System

Posted in Debian, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux at 7:03 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Video download link

Summary: The operating system made for and by scientists (not business sharks and marketing cults) is winning the battle, and not only in this planet

ABOUT 15 MONTHS ago Bruce Perens talked frankly about systemd, noting that it would harm Debian’s status as the universal (as in universe, i.e. inter-planetary) operating system. By that point it had already been adopted for usage in space, as I note in the video above.

“It’s worth noting that Windows is used just about nowhere outside this planet, whereas GNU/Linux rapidly became the norm and it gradually replaces the proprietary operating system long used in space (no, not Windows).”Over the past week we’ve seen many press reports/coverage/links about Mars landings and space exploration. The “Linux” slant on the story can be found in a page that’s still updated with more articles in an ongoing/dynamic fashion. It’s worth noting that Windows is used just about nowhere outside this planet, whereas GNU/Linux rapidly became the norm and it gradually replaces the proprietary operating system long used in space (no, not Windows).

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