Category Archives: Linux Journal Blogs

Linux Journal Blogs

KDE Plasma 5.13 Now Available, OpenGear's New NetOps Automation Platform, New Zynthian Raspberry Pi Synthesizer and More

News briefs for June 12, 2018.

KDE released
Plasma 5.13.0 today. The team has “spent the last four months optimising
startup and minimising memory usage, yielding faster time-to-desktop, better
runtime performance and less memory consumption. Basic features like panel
popups were optimised to make sure they run smoothly even on the lowest-end
hardware. Our design teams have not rested either, producing beautiful new
integrated lock and login screen graphics.” New features in Plasma 5.13
include Plasma Browser Integration, redesigned system settings, new look for
lock and login screens, improved KWin graphics compositor and more.
See the release
announcement
for links to download pages for live images, distro packages
and source.

OpenGear announced its new NetOps Automation platform, which “provides a
solution for automation of NetOps workflows, enabling the management of the
network from a central location, and eliminating the need for human
intervention on the data center floor or at the edge of the network”. NetOps
is currently available as a beta product for select customers, and will be
generally available in Q4 2018.

There’s a new open-source Raspberry Pi synthesizer called Zynthian, which is
a “swiss army knife of synthesis, equipped with multiple engines, filters and
effects”, Geeky
Gadgets reports
. The synthesizer is completely hackable and “offers an
open platform for Sound Synthesis based on the awesome Raspberry Pi mini PC
and Linux”. See the main website for a
video demo and to order.

Wine development release 3.10 is now available. New features include
Swapchain support in direct 3D, updated Vulkan support, debugger support for
Wow64 processes and more. See the announcement for more details
and to download.

Devuan 2.0 ASCII has been released. Devuan is based on Debian Stretch, doesn’t use
systemd and it lets you choose between SysVinit and OpenRC init systems.
With this release, Devuan provides various desktop environments, including Xfce, KDE, MATE,
Cinnamon and LXQt. See the Devuan release
notes
and the It’s FOSS post
for more information on the distro.

Read More

New NOVA Filesystem

Andiry Xu (working with Lu Zhang,
Steven Swanson and others) posted
patches for a new filesystem called NOVA (NOn-Volatile
memory Accelerated).
Normal RAM chips are wiped every time you turn off your
computer. Non-volatile RAM retains its data across reboots. Their project
targeted byte-addressable non-volatile memory chips, such as
Intel‘s
3DXpoint DIMMs. Andiry said that the current incarnation of their code was
able to do a lot already, but they still had a big to-do list, and they
wanted feedback from the kernel people.

Theodore Y. Ts’o gave the patches a try, but he found that they wouldn’t even
compile without some fixes, which he posted in reply. Andiry said they’d
adapt those fixes into their patches.

The last time NOVA made an appearance on the kernel mailing list was August
2017, when Steven made a similar announcement. This time around, they
posted a lot more patches, including support for SysFS
controls, Kconfig
compilation options and a significant amount of documentation.

One of NOVA’s main claims to fame, aside from supporting non-volatile RAM,
is that it is a log-based filesystem. Other filesystems generally map out
their data structures on disk and update those structures in place. This
is good for saving seek-time on optical and magnetic disks. Log-based filesystems write everything sequentially, trailing old data behind them. The
old data then can be treated as a snapshot of earlier states of the filesystem, or it can be reclaimed when space gets tight.

Log-based filesystems are not necessarily preferred for optical and
magnetic drives, because sequential writes will tend to fragment data and
slow things down. Non-volatile RAM is based on different technology that
has faster seek-times, making a log-based approach a natural choice.

NOVA goes further than most log-based filesystems, which tend to have a
single log for the whole filesystem, and instead maintains a separate log
for each inode. Using the log data, NOVA can perform writes either in place
like traditional filesystems or as copy-on-write (COW) operations, which
keep the old version of a file until the new version has been written. This
has the benefit of being able to survive catastrophic events like sudden
power failures in the middle of doing a write, without corrupting the filesystem.

There were lots of responses to the patches from Andiry and the rest of his
team. Most were bug reports and criticism, but no controversy. Everyone
seemed to be interested in helping them get their code right so the patches
could get into the main tree quickly.

Note: if you’re mentioned above and want to post a response above the comment section, send a message with your response text to ljeditor@linuxjournal.com.

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The Lustre Filesystem Dropped from the Linux 4.18 Kernel

It’s now official: the latest RC1 pull request for the Linux 4.18 will not
host the nearly 15-year-old Lustre filesystem.

Greg Kroah-Hartman has been growing weary of the team developing its source
code not pushing cleaner and fixed code to the staging tree. The removal was
committed on June 5, 2018:
with the following notes:

The Lustre filesystem has been in the kernel tree for over 5 years now. While
it has been an endless source of enjoyment for new kernel developers learning
how to do basic coding style cleanups, as well as a semi-entertaining source
of bewilderment from the vfs developers any time they have looked into the
codebase to try to figure out how to port their latest api changes to this
filesystem, it has not really moved forward into the “this is in shape to get
out of staging” despite many half-completed attempts.

And getting code out of staging is the main goal of that portion of the
kernel tree. Code should not stagnate, and it feels like having this code in
staging is only causing the development cycle of the filesystem to take
longer than it should. There is a whole separate out-of-tree copy of this
codebase where the developers work on it, and then random changes are thrown
over the wall at staging at some later point in time. This dual-tree
development model has never worked, and the state of this codebase is proof
of that.

So, let’s just delete the whole mess. Now the lustre developers can go off
and work in their out-of-tree codebase and not have to worry about providing
valid changelog entries and breaking their patches up into logical pieces.
They can take the time they have spent doing those types of housekeeping
chores and get the codebase into a much better shape, and it can be submitted
for inclusion into the real part of the kernel tree when ready.

Honestly, I do not blame him. The staging tree is primarily intended for
unstable and less than mature code, which ideally should move to the mainline
within a short time of further development. It’s a temporary (that is,
staging) location. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the Lustre
filesystem. In fact, I once wrote about it for Linux Journal in the past.

For those who are less familiar with this filesystem: Lustre (or Linux
Cluster) is a distributed filesystem typically deployed in large-scale
cluster computing environments. Lustre is designed to be both performant and
to scale to tens of thousands of nodes and to petabytes of storage. And as
what may have just been alluded to already, a distributed filesystem allows
access to files from multiple hosts sharing a computer network.

Read More

Andrew Hutton of the OLS Needs Your Help, US Debuts World's Fastest Supercomputer, FCC's Repeal of Net Neutrality Goes into Effect Today and More

News briefs for June 11, 2018.

Andrew Hutton organized and ran the Linux Symposium for years (otherwise
known as OLS). He is one of the people who helped put Linux on the map
through his sheer determination, perseverance and enthusiasm for Linux.
Several months ago, Andrew suffered a heart attack and now needs our help.
Please remember, a donation of any amount helps tremendously.

Court orders Open Source Security, Inc, and Bradley Spengler to pay
$259,900.50 to Bruce Perens’ attorneys
. See Bruce
Perens’ blog post
for more details on the lawsuit against him, which
sought $3 million “because they
disagreed with my blog posts and Slashdot comments which expressed my
opinions that their policies regarding distribution of their Grsecurity
product could violate the GPL and lead to liability for breach of contract
and copyright infringement.”

The US now has the world’s fastest supercomputer, named Summit, reclaiming its
“speediest computer on earth” title from China and its Sunway TaihuLight
system, OMG
Ubuntu reports
. And of course, the Summit, which boasts 200 petaflops at
peak performance, runs Linux—RHEL to be exact. See the U.S.
Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s post
for more
details.

Jarek Duda, inventor of a new compression technique called asymmetric numeral
systems (ANS) a few years ago, which he dedicated to the public domain,
claims that Google is now seeking a patent that would give it broad rights
over the use of ANS for video compression, Ars
Technica
reports
. Google denies it’s attempting to patent Duda’s work,
but “Duda says he suggested the exact technique Google is trying to patent in
a 2014
email exchange
with Google engineers’—a view largely endorsed by a
preliminary
ruling
in February by European patent authorities.”

ownCloud recently announced
“the introduction of the Virtual File System within
the ownCloud Desktop Client”. This allows users to
synchronize with the end device only when needed, which will require
significantly less local storage space and improve ownCloud user experience.
You can download it here.

The FCC’s repeal of net neutrality officially goes into effect today. See the
New
York Times
story on how this could affect you, and see also
the
story on Wired
for more information on the fight.

Read More

OpenStreetMap Should Be a Priority for the Open Source Community

Why open source needs an open geographic dataset.

Open source has won. The fact that free software now dominates
practically every sector of computing (with the main exception of the
desktop) is proof of that. But there is something even more important
than the victory of open source itself, and that is the wider success of
the underlying approach it embodies. People often forget just how radical
the idea of open, collaborative development seemed when it appeared in
the 1990s. Although it is true that this philosophy was the norm in
the very earliest days of the field, that culture was soon forgotten
with the rapid rise of commercial computing, which swept everything
before it in the pursuit of handsome profits. There, a premium was
placed on maintaining trade secrets and of excluding competitors.
But the appearance of GNU and Linux, along with the other open software
projects that followed, provided repeated proof that the older approach
was better for reasons that are obvious upon reflection.

Open, collaborative development allows people to build on the work of
others, instead of wastefully re-inventing the wheel, and it enables the best
solutions to be chosen on technical, rather than commercial, grounds.
The ability to work on areas of personal interest, rather than on those
assigned by managers, encourages new talent to join projects in order
to pursue their passions, while the non-discriminatory global reach of
the open method means that the pool of contributors is much larger than
for conventional approaches. However, none of those advantages is tied
to software: they can be applied to many fields. And that is precisely
what has happened in the last two decades, with the ideas underlying
free software producing astonishing results elsewhere.

Read More

FOSS Project Spotlight: the Codelobster IDE–a Free PHP, HTML, CSS and JavaScript Editor

The Codelobster free web language editor has been available for quite some
time and has attracted many fans. It allows you to edit PHP, HTML, CSS and
JavaScript files, and it highlights the syntax and provides hints for tags,
functions and their parameters. This editor deals with files that contain
mixed content easily as well.

If you insert PHP code in your HTML template, the editor correctly
highlights both HTML tags and PHP functions. The same applies to CSS and
JavaScript code, which is contained in HTML files.
The program also includes an auto-completion function, which greatly speeds up
work for programmers and eliminates the possibility of errors.

The Codelobster IDE provides contextual help on all supported programming
languages, and it uses the most up-to-date documentation, downloading it
from official sites so you quickly can get a description of any HTML tag,
CSS attribute, PHP or JavaScript function by pressing the F1 key.

The built-in PHP debugger allows you to execute PHP scripts step by step,
sequentially moving through the lines of code. You can assign check points,
view the process of the work of loops and monitor the values of all
variables during the execution of a script.

You can view the HTML templates directly in the editor, highlight the
interesting elements on a page and explore the associated CSS styles. The
HTML and CSS inspector works by following the well known FireBug principle.

Other useful functions and features of the IDE include:

  • Pair-highlighting of parentheses and tags—you’ll never need to count
    parentheses or quotation marks; the editor takes care of it for you.
  • Highlighting of blocks, selection and collapsing of code snippets, bookmarks
    to facilitate navigation on edited files, recognition and building of the
    complete structure of PHP projects—all of these functions ensure easy
    work with projects of any scale.
  • Support for 17 user-interface languages, including English, German, Russian,
    Spanish, French and more.
  • The program works on the following operating systems: Windows 7, Windows 8,
    Windows 10, macOS, Linux, Ubuntu, Fedora and Debian.

The professional version of the Codelobster IDE provides programmers with
even more features.

For example, you can work with projects on a remote server with the use of
the built-in FTP client. You can edit the selected files, preview the
results and then synchronize the changes with the files on the hosting side.

In addition, the professional version includes an extensive set of plugins:

Read More

Our Immodest Ambitions

Some guidance along our road to greatness.

In a February 2018 post titled “Worth Saving”,
I said I’d like Linux Journal to be
for technology what The New Yorker is for New York and National
Geographic

is for geography. In saying this, I meant it should be two things: 1) a magazine readers
value enough not to throw away and 2) about much more than what the name
says, while staying true to the name as well.

The only push-back I got was from a guy whose comment called both those
model pubs “fanatically progressive liberal whatever” and said he hoped
we’re not “*planning* to emulate those tainted styles”. I told him we
weren’t.
And, in case that’s not clear, I’m saying it here again. (For what it’s
worth, I think The New Yorker has some of the best writing anywhere, and
I’ve hardly seen a National Geographic outside a doctor’s office in
decades.)

Another commenter asked, “Is there another publication that you’d offer up
as an example to emulate?” I replied, “Three come quickly to mind:
Scientific
American
, the late
Dr. Dobb’s
and Byte. Just think of all three
when they were at their best. I want Linux Journal to honor those and be
better as well.”

Scientific American is the only one of those three that’s still alive. Alas,
it’s not what it once was: the most authoritative yet popular science
magazine in the world—or at least, that’s how it looked when my parents gave
me a subscription when I was 12. Back then I wanted to read everything I
could about science—when I wasn’t beeping code to other ham radio
operators from my bedroom or otherwise avoiding homework assignments.

Today, Scientific American is probably as close as it can get to that legacy
ideal while surviving in the mainstream of magazine publishing—meaning
it persists in print and digital form while also maintaining a constant
stream of topical stories on its website.

That last thing is the main work of most magazines these days—or so it
seems. As a result, there isn’t much difference between Scientific
American
,
Smithsonian, Wired, Ars Technica and Inverse. To demonstrate what I mean,
here are stories from those five publications’ websites. See if you can
guess (without clicking on the links) where each one ran—and which one
is a fake headline:

Read More

Let's Solve the Deeper Problem That Makes Facebook's Bad Acting Possible

The New York Times reports that Facebook has “data sharing partnerships” with “at least sixty device makers”. That Facebook formed these partnerships in apparent violation of its own 2011 consent agreement with the FTC is also no surprise. 

The simple fact is that Facebook is in the personal data farming business. Finding a zillion ways to use personal data is a design feature of Facebook’s service infrastructure, and as unsurprising as finding out that there are a zillion ways to use wheat or corn.

This is why contractual limits on data use by Facebook and its partners won’t exclude countless other first, second and third-order uses—especially when the appetite for personal data is flat-out boundless in the direct marketing industry that advertising has become in our digital age.

The GDPR didn’t happen in a vacuum. Bad acting with personal data in the adtech business (the one that aims advertising with personal data) is the norm, not the exception. Promises by perpetrators of that business to respect personal privacy don’t just ring hollow. They scream absolute disrespect straight at your eyeballs every time they interrupt your “experience” (as the marketers like to call it) and require “consent” to being tracked by them and the posse of spies that are invited to invade and set up house your browser every time you visit.

This is why the real fight here is not just for privacy. It’s for human agency: the power to act with full effect in the world. The only way we get full agency is by operating as first parties at scale across all the entities we deal with online.

For that we need standard ways to signal what’s okay and what’s not okay, and to reach agreements on our terms, as first parties. It is as second parties that we click “accept” dozens of times every day, acquiring cookies with every one of those clicks, each recording certifications of acquiescence rather than of consent.

With full personal agency, the whole consent system goes the other way, at scale.

This is both long overdue and totally do-able, with work already started.

Read More

Google's Seven Principles for AI, Psychopathic AI, GitLab Ultimate and Gold Free for Education and Open Source and More

News briefs for June 8, 2018.

Google has announced
its seven principles
for AI development moving forward: “be socially
beneficial; avoid creating or reinforcing unfair bias; be built and tested
for safety; be accountable to people; incorporate privacy design principles;
uphold high standards of scientific excellence; and be made available for
uses that accord with these principles.”

In other AI news, Engadget
reports
that scientists have created a psychopathic AI called Norman using images from
Reddit. Scientists from MIT exposed Norman (named after the Psycho
movie character) “to a constant stream of violent and gruesome images from
the darkest corners of Reddit, and then presented it with Rorschach ink blot
tests. The results were downright chilling.”

Earlier this week, GitLab announced
its GitLab Ultimate and Gold are now free for education and open source.
Go here
for more info on how open-source projects can apply.

Fedora is asking users to help test Linux kernel 4.17 on its next Test
Day, which is Tuesday,
June 12. See the wiki
page
for more info if you’re interested in helping.

See Nico’s
Blog
for an update on KDE Connect on Plasma Mobile. He notes that there is
a suitable UI for Plasma Mobile in the git tree, which he was able to run on
Plasma Mobile. The post also notes that “With Plasma Mobile the KDE community
is envisioning a mobile experience that is giving you maximal freedom while
ensuring your privacy.” If you want to help, he has created a Meta-Task list for the project on Phabricator.

Finally, here’s a reminder that today is the last day to participate in
Phoronix’s 14th
Birthday Special
.

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Facebook Bug Sets 14 Million Users' Private Posts Public

For a period of four days in May, 14 million Facebook users had their default sharing setting for all new posts set to public, the company announced on Thursday. 

CNN reports affected users will “see a message from Facebook urging users to “Please Review Your Posts” and a link to a list of what they shared on Facebook while the bug was active.”

The error happened when Facebook was testing a new feature. Facebook officials have turned affected posts back to private. 

 

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