Linux Journal June Issue: Do-It-Yourself

Do-It-Yourself issue

As tech editor Kyle Ranklin so aptly put it, June’s Do-It-Yourself issue is “like an extra-geeky episode of Cribs featuring single-board computers”.

In this issue:

  • Make Your Own RV Offsite Backup and Media Server
  • Create a Custom Minimal Linux Distribution from Source
  • Build a Voice-Controlled Front End for IoT Devices
  • Introducing PyInstaller
  • Shell Scripting a Password Generating Tool
  • OpenStreetMap Should Be a Priority to the Open Source Community
  • The Current State of Linux and Music
  • Open Hardware and IoT
  • A Programmer’s Look at Jakarta EE
  • JaxoDraw for Physics
  • FOSS Project Spotlights: Codelobster and WallPaperDownloader

Subscribers, you can download your June issue now.

Not a subscriber? It’s not too late. Subscribe today and receive instant access to this and ALL back issues since 1994!

Want to buy a single issue? Buy the June magazine or other single back issues in the LJ store.

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Atari VCS, the Linux-Powered Games Console, is Available to Preorder

ATARI LINUX CONSOLERetro gaming fans can now ‘preorder’ the Atari VCS on crowdfunding site IndieGoGo. The Atari VCS is a Linux-powered games console featuring a case design inspired by the original Atari 2600. A slate of models are available to ‘preorder’ from today, including a base black edition priced at a not-so-terrible $199. The device even comes pre-loaded […]

This post, Atari VCS, the Linux-Powered Games Console, is Available to Preorder, was written by Joey Sneddon and first appeared on OMG! Ubuntu!.

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Gradient meshes and hatching to be removed from SVG 2.0

Life doesn’t go easy on the SVG file format. While development of this W3C standard continues, some features are to be axed from SVG 2.0. They remain in the nascent SVG 2.1 specification, but there is no guarantee work will continue on SVG 2.1 after SVG 2.0 is finished.

This article was triggered by a new post from Tavmjong Bah, Inkscape developer and participant in the SVG Working group. We talked to Tavmjong a little more about that, and here is our recap of the situation.

Why features get removed from SVG 2.0

First of all, this isn’t exactly news. Removing features such as gradient meshes from SVG 2.0 was discussed back in 2016, when we published an interview with Tavmjong.

To reiterate, the standardization process requires two implementations of a feature for it to be considered bullet-proof. But some new features such as gradient meshes and hatches are only available in Inkscape. All other stakeholders play it safely:

  • Browsers stick to whatever is used in already available content on the Web.
  • Even more, Mozilla and Google stopped contributing to the spec and barely patch their respective renderers for new features support.
  • However, they didn’t stop making decisions about which features go in the spec and which won’t make it.
  • Adobe is interested in new features, but they want at least one browser supporting those.

So what we have here is a classic vicious circle: no content without new SVG features in authoring software, no browser support without content, no new SVG features in the spec and in the authoring software without browser support.

It gets even weirder than that, if you summarize the situation like this:

Essentially, we have arrived to the point where development of a major vector graphics file format for the Web is shaped by inactivity of Mozilla and Google, while Microsoft and W3C do the real work, a developer of one design tool contributes a lot, but has no say in what goes into the standard, and a vendor of another design tool is taking a wait-and-see stance.

Who could’ve predicted it’d come to this?

Why else features don’t make it to specifications

Some features, however, just need more time to be completed, such as much anticipated user-defined stroke positioning. Tavmjong Bah explained (and illustrated) the complexity of implementing this feature in a blog post from 2015. The respective Strokes section of the CSS Fill and Stroke Module Level 3 spec currently lists 35 unresolved issues.

Note that over the last several years, there have been multiple cases of SVG features being moved from SVG over to CSS.

What’s next

The working group hasn’t yet decided how far they go in removing features from SVG 2.0. What is known is that hatches and gradient meshes will definitely be removed and then re-inserted to the v2.1 draft “as-is”, without guarantee of keeping them for the final v2.1 spec.

We talked to Igor Novikov of sK1 project, if he would be interested in adding support for SVG 2.x features to UniConvertor and the editor itself. Here is what he replied:

Our project currently focuses on SVG 1.1, but eventually will support SVG 2.x features, as I do see demand for them coming from our user base.

Before you get excited, there are three things to consider here.

  1. New major update of sK1 is at its final development stage, no new big stuff will be added.
  2. Once the final release is out, Igor has a long list of feature requests to choose from. And that’s on top of a lot of bugfixing that’s only to be expected.
  3. While technically this will count as the second implementation (whenever that happens) and demonstrate to the working group that these features are important, it still won’t secure the fate of features that are to be axed from SVG 2.0.

In the aforementioned interview from 2016, Tavmjong states:

Now with just a handful of renderers in browsers it becomes harder to find two implementations, and even if there are two, it does not guarantee something staying in the spec. If one browser comes out adamantly against something, then it gets removed (e.g. SVG fonts, etc.).

We can talk all we like about gut feelings, the balance of power, and suchlike. But the truth is that no one really knows how things are going to play out for SVG in the future. So far it looks like the progress will be glacial. At any rate, the current working group is scheduled to be disbanded again end of June.

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RHSA-2018:1779-1: Important: xmlrpc3 security update

Red Hat Enterprise Linux: An update for xmlrpc3 is now available for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.

Red Hat Product Security has rated this update as having a security impact of
Important. A Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) base score, which gives
a detailed severity rating, is available for each vulnerability from the CVE
link(s) in the References section.
CVE-2016-5003

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RHSA-2018:1777-1: Important: procps security update

Red Hat Enterprise Linux: An update for procps is now available for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.

Red Hat Product Security has rated this update as having a security impact of
Important. A Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) base score, which gives
a detailed severity rating, is available for each vulnerability from the CVE
link(s) in the References section.
CVE-2018-1124, CVE-2018-1126

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A Brand Advertising Restoration Project

The GDPR is breaking advertising apart. 

Never mind the specifics of the regulation. Just look at the effects. Among those, two are obvious and everywhere: 1) opt-back-in emails and 2) “consent walls” in front of websites. Both of those misdirect attention away from how an entire branch of advertising ignored a simple moral principle that has long applied in the offline world: tracking people without their knowledge, approval or a court order is just flat-out wrong.

That branch of advertising is adtech. As I put it here a year ago: 

Let’s be clear about all the differences between adtech and real advertising. It’s adtech that spies on people and violates their privacy. It’s adtech that’s full of fraud and a vector for malware. It’s adtech that incentivizes publications to prioritize “content generation” over journalism. It’s adtech that gives fake news a business model, because fake news is easier to produce than the real kind, and adtech will pay anybody a bounty for hauling in eyeballs.

Real advertising doesn’t do any of those things, because it’s not personal. It is aimed at populations selected by the media they choose to watch, listen to or read. To reach those people with real ads, you buy space or time on those media. You sponsor those media because those media also have brand value.

The GDPR won’t make adtech go away, but it will separate the advertising wheat from the adtech chaff.

The question then is whether advertisers and publishers can recover their lost taste for wheat. Lots of brands still like to advertise on the broadcast and print media that operate in the physical world. In fact, advertising there is still how most brands are made and sustained. In the online world, however, advertisers’ appetite for data far outweighs their interest in branding there—with the exception of podcasting. Advertising on podcasts is growing rapidly. While there is data to be gained there, the main reason brands advertise on podcasts are old-fashioned sponsorship ones: brands supporting brands. 

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Atari VCS Finally on Indiegogo, Free Software Directory Meet-up Tomorrow, Minifree Libreboot X200 Tablet Has Been FSF-Certified and More

News briefs for May 31, 2018.

The Atari VCS finally appeared on Indiegogo
this week and already has $2,083,244 USD at the time of this writing (the
goal was $100,000). The user interface is proprietary, but it’s “built on an
open source Linux OS so you can add your own software and apps to customize
your own platform”. The Indiegogo page also mentions that
“a planned line of Atari VCS peripherals and accessories will let you build
your own Game and Entertainment-Powered ‘Connected Home’ experience.” It will
include classic arcade games as well as modern titles and is expected to
begin shipping in July 2019.

Join the Friday
Free Software Directory IRC meet-up
tomorrow, June 1, 12pm EDT to 3pm EDT.
This week’s theme is health software, and the meeting is on IRC in the #fsf channel on irc.freenode.org.

There’s a new open-source framework for government projects: the Louisville Metro Government recently made its traffic data
infrastructure available in the cloud and open-sourced the code, allowing
other cities to build upon it, Route
50 reports
. Louisville had won an Amazon Web Services
grant last year to “merge its traffic data with Waze’s and then run
predictive analytics in the cloud to better time traffic signals to manage
flow.” More than 80 local, state and federal governments are now part of the
Waze
Connected Citizens Program
, and the network is expanding to other
open-source projects and is called the Open Government Coalition.

Redis 5.0 RC1 is out for
testing this week, Phoronix
reports
. The biggest new feature is the Streams data type implementation,
but 5.0 also offers new APIs, better memory reporting and more. See the Redis
5.0 RC1 announcement
for all the details.

The Minifree
Libreboot X200 tablet has been FSF-certified
, which means
“the product meets the FSF’s standards in regard to users’
freedom, control over the product, and privacy”. The X200 tablet is a “fully
free laptop/tablet hybrid that comes with Trisquel and Libreboot
pre-installed. The device is similar to the previously certified Libreboot
X200 laptop, but with a built-in tablet that enables users to draw, sign
documents, or make handwritten notes.”

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Why You Should Do It Yourself

Bring back the DIY movement and start with your own Linux servers.

It wasn’t very long ago that we lived in a society where it was a given
that average people would do things themselves. There was a built-in
assumption that you would perform basic repairs on household items, do general
maintenance and repairs on your car, mow your lawn, cook your food and
patch your clothes. The items around you reflected this assumption with
visible and easy-to-access screws, spare buttons sewn on the bottom of
shirts and user-replaceable parts.

Through the years though, culture has changed toward one more focused on
convenience. The microeconomic idea of “opportunity cost” (an idea that
you can assign value to each course of action and weigh it against
alternative actions you didn’t take) has resulted in many people who
earn a reasonable wage concluding that they should do almost nothing
themselves.

The typical thinking goes like this: if my hourly wage is
higher than the hourly cost of a landscaping service, even though that
landscaping service costs me money, it’s still cheaper than if I
mowed my own lawn, because I could somehow be earning my hourly wage
doing something else. This same calculation ends up justifying oil-change and landscaping services, microwave TV dinners and replacing
items when they break instead of repairing them yourself. The result
has been a switch to a service-oriented economy, with the advent of cheaper,
more disposable items that hide their screws and vehicles that are all
but hermetically sealed under the hood.

This same convenience culture has found its way into technology, with
entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley wracking their brains to think of
some new service they could invent to do some new task for you. Linux
and the Open Source movement overall is one of the few places where you
can still find this do-it-yourself ethos in place.

When referring to
proprietary software, Linux users used to say “You wouldn’t buy a car with
the hood welded shut!” With Linux, you can poke under the hood and see
exactly how the system is running. The metaphorical screws are exposed,
and you can take the software apart and repair it yourself if you are so
inclined. Yet to be honest, so many people these days would buy a car
with the hood welded shut. They also are fine with buying computers and
software that are metaphorically welded shut all justified by convenience
and opportunity cost.

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