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Linux Journal ASCII Art Contest

Linux Journal - Mon, 05/13/2019 - 15:34
by Bryan Lunduke

Do you have l33t ASCII/ANSI art skillz? Your work could grace the cover of Linux Journal!

That's right—your ASCII art on the cover of the longest-running Linux publication on the planet.

What the artwork is depicting is, really, up to you. But, since this is Linux Journal, here are a few good ideas:

  • Something involving Tux the Penguin.
  • Something involving Linux in general.
  • Something involving terminals or computers in general.
  • Something else entirely, so long as it makes us think, "Gee, Linux is awesome."

How to submit your entry:

  1. Make sure your ASCII or ANSI artwork is saved as an image file (jpg or png) that is roughly 1600 x 1600 (give or take—larger is fine as well).
  2. Email that image, along with how you want your name to appear, to
  3. Make sure it's postmarked (yeah, I know, that's not really a thing with email, but I felt like using that word today) by July 1, 2019.


  • Q: Should my ASCII/ANSI art use colors?
  • A: Up to you!
  • Q: Should I also include the raw text version of the ASCII art when I submit it?
  • A: Sure! That'd be groovy!
  • Q: How awesome will I feel when I see my ASCII art on the cover of Linux Journal?
  • A: Very.
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Categories: Linux News

Kernel 5.1.1 Is Out, a Raspberry Pi Captured a Photo of a Soyuz in Space, It Might Be the Year of the Desktop, Nanonote 1.2.0 Released and OpenMandriva Lx 4.0 RC Is Now Available

Linux Journal - Mon, 05/13/2019 - 08:40

News briefs for May 13, 2019.

Greg Kroah-Hartman announced the release of the 5.1.1 kernel, saying "All users of the 5.1 kernel series must upgrade".

A Raspberry Pi captured a photo of a Soyuz in space. See the Raspberry Pi Blog for details on how a Raspberry Pi 1 B+ and a Rasperry Pi camera module captured the photo a Soyuz vehicle on its way to the International Space Station, as part of the European Space Agency (ESA) and Raspberry Pi's Astro Pi Challenge.

Windows and Chrome are making 2019 the "year of the desktop". PCWorld writes, "After years of endless jokes, 2019 is truly, finally shaping up to be the year of Linux on the desktop. Laptops, too! But most people won't know it. That's because the bones of the open-source operating system kernel will soon be baked into Windows 10 and Chrome OS, as Microsoft and Google revealed at their respective developer conferences this week."

Nanonote 1.2.0 has been released. With this new version, you now can use Ctrl + the mouse wheel to make text bigger or smaller, links are no longer hard-coded to be blue and instead use the theme color, and it now speaks German. You can read the full changelog and get deb and rpm packages here.

OpenMandriva Lx 4.0 RC was released. From the announcement: "We are almost there. Last step before the long awaited OpenMandriva Lx 4.0 is Release Candidate that we are happy to release today. This milestone got another turn of bug fixing, fine-tuning, and several updates including Plasma5 desktop, KDE Frameworks and KDE Applications, LLVM/clang, Java." See the Release notes for more information and download links.

News kernel Raspberry Pi Desktop OpenMandriva
Categories: Linux News

Introducing Mypy, an Experimental Optional Static Type Checker for Python

Linux Journal - Mon, 05/13/2019 - 06:30
by Reuven M. Lerner

Tighten up your code and identify errors before they occur with mypy.

I've been using dynamic languages—Perl, Ruby and Python—for many years. I love the flexibility and expressiveness that such languages provide. For example, I can define a function that sums numbers:

def mysum(numbers): total = 0 for one_number in numbers: total += one_number return total

The above function will work on any iterable that returns numbers. So I can run the above on a list, tuple or set of numbers. I can even run it on a dictionary whose keys are all numbers. Pretty great, right?

Yes, but for my students who are used to static, compiled languages, this is a very hard thing to get used to. After all, how can you make sure that no one passes you a string, or a number of strings? What if you get a list in which some, but not all, of the elements are numeric?

For a number of years, I used to dismiss such worries. After all, dynamic languages have been around for a long time, and they have done a good job. And really, if people are having these sorts of type mismatch errors, then maybe they should be paying closer attention. Plus, if you have enough testing, you'll probably be fine.

But as Python (and other dynamic languages) have been making inroads into large companies, I've become increasingly convinced that there's something to be said for type checking. In particular, the fact that many newcomers to Python are working on large projects, in which many parts need to interoperate, has made it clear to me that some sort of type checking can be useful.

How can you balance these needs? That is, how can you enjoy Python as a dynamically typed language, while simultaneously getting some added sense of static-typing stability?

One of the most popular answers is a system known as mypy, which takes advantage of Python 3's type annotations for its own purposes. Using mypy means that you can write and run Python in the normal way, gradually adding static type checking over time and checking it outside your program's execution.

In this article, I start exploring mypy and how you can use it to check for problems in your programs. I've been impressed by mypy, and I believe you're likely to see it deployed in a growing number of places, in no small part because it's optional, and thus allows developers to use it to whatever degree they deem necessary, tightening things up over time, as well.

Dynamic and Strong Typing

In Python, users enjoy not only dynamic typing, but also strong typing. "Dynamic" means that variables don't have types, but that values do. So you can say:

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Categories: Linux News

Alpine Linux Docker Images Shipped with Unlock Root Accounts, Mozilla Offering a Research Grant to Embed Tor into Firefox, Plasma 5.16 to Get a Rewritten Notification System, Unity 2019.2 Beta Released and Emirates NBD Wins Red Hat's 2019 Innovation Award

Linux Journal - Fri, 05/10/2019 - 09:13

News briefs for May 10, 2019.

Alpine Linux Docker images available on Docker Hub shipped for three years with unlocked root accounts. Threatpost reports that "For three years, some Alpine Linux Docker images have shipped with a root account and no password, opening the door for attackers to easily access vulnerable servers and workstations provisioned for the images. Affected versions of Alpine Linux Docker distros include 3.3, 3.4, 3.5, 3.6, 3.7, 3.8 and 3.9 Alpine Docker Edge, according to Cisco Talos researchers who discovered the bug, tested each version and released their findings on Wednesday. Vulnerable images of Alpine Linux Dockers were available via the official Docker Hub portal since late 2015."

Mozilla has offered a research grant to find a way to embed Tor into Firefox to create a Super Private Browser mode. According to ZDNet, although Tor does work with Firefox, the integration slows it down, so "a better Tor integration is one of the key points that Mozilla is willing to fund via its Research Grants 2019H1 program that the organization announced last month." The article quotes Mozilla, "'Enabling a large number of additional users to make use of the Tor network requires solving for inefficiencies currently present in Tor so as to make the protocol optimal to deploy at scale.'"

Plasma 5.16 will have a completely rewritten notification system. Notifications will have a new look and feel, a do not disturb mode, revamped progress reporting and more. See Plasma developer Kai Uwe's blog for more information. The 5.16 release is expected sometime in June.

Unity 2019.2 beta is now available. From the announcement: "In this beta, we've included the popular Polybrush tool as a package, added the Unity Distribution Portal to get your games and apps to new global audiences, improved and expanded the toolsets for mobile, lighting, 2D, XR, and more." See the release notes for all the details, and get the beta from here.

Emirates NBD wins Red Hat's 2019 Red Hat Innovation Award. From the press release: "Emirates NBD, a leading banking group in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has built a distributed private cloud platform with Red Hat's hybrid cloud and application programming interface (API) technologies as part of its digital transformation strategy. Its platform provides a common foundation and access to cloud-native services for internal teams, improving integration, collaboration and speed of development. The Red Hat-based cloud helps enable Emirates NBD to better keep pace with its competition, to make banking more available, and to more dynamically offer modern, personalized services to customers."

News Alpine Linux Docker Security Mozilla Firefox Tor Plasma unity Red Hat
Categories: Linux News

What The @#$%&! (Heck) is this #! (Hash-Bang) Thingy In My Bash Script

Linux Journal - Fri, 05/10/2019 - 06:30
by Mitch Frazier


You've seen it a million times—the hash-bang (#!) line at the top of a script—whether it be Bash, Python, Perl or some other scripting language. And, I'm sure you know what its purpose is: it specifies the script interpreter that's used to execute the script. But, do you know how it actually works? Your initial thought might be that your shell (bash) reads that line and then executes the specified interpreter, but that's not at all how it works. How it actually works is the main focus of this post, but I also want to introduce how you can create your own version of "hash-bang" if you're so inclined.

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Categories: Linux News

IBM's Red Hat Deal, NuoDB Operator Now Has Red Hat OpenShift Operator Certification, Krita 4.2.0 Alpha Released, Elive 3.0 Update, UBports Announces Ubuntu Touch OTA-9 and Fedora Kernel 5.1 Test Week Starts Monday

Linux Journal - Thu, 05/09/2019 - 08:17

News briefs for May 9, 2019.

The Department of Justice recently concluded its review of IBM's Red Hat acquisition, which is still on track for later this year. ZDNet reports that Red Hat released the results of an IDC study at Red Hat Summit, "which concluded software and applications running on Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) are expected to contribute to more than $10 trillion worth of global business revenues in 2019. That's about 5% of the worldwide economy for those of you following at home." ZDNet notes that "IBM's $34 billion acquisition of Red Hat is looking better than ever."

Distributed SQL database vendor NuoDB yesterday announced that its NuoDB Operator now has Red Hat OpenShift Operator Certification and is available immediately on Red Hat OpenShift. From the press release: "The newly available NuoDB Operator easily configures and deploys the NuoDB Community Edition (CE), allowing users to build, run and manage a NuoDB database natively inside Red Hat OpenShift. Users also have the option to deploy the database with a sample SQL application that generates SQL activity on the database, allowing them to more quickly experience NuoDB in action. Users can then enable NuoDB Insights, a graphical dashboard that provides insight into the performance and overall health of the database, to learn how the sample database performed. Armed with this information, users can better understand, optimize and troubleshoot the database, making it easier to effectively evaluate NuoDB in Red Hat OpenShift."

Krita 4.2.0 alpha was released yesterday. Since Krita 4.1 was released last June, the team has fixed around 1500 bugs, and they've "implemented a host of new features, workflow improvements and little bits of spit and polish." New features include "much improved tablet support on all platforms, HDR painting on Windows, improved painting performance, improved color palette docker, animation API for scripting, gamut masks, improved artistic color selector, an improved start screen that can now show you the latest news about Krita, changes to the way flow and opacity work when painting". You can see the release notes here. The announcement says they are on track to release version 4.2 later this month.

Elive 3.0 has been updated, and this should be the last update before the 3.0 release. From Samuel F. Baggen's announcement: "in the last few months I have been deeply working on the next future versions of Elive, which will support things like Secure Boot and UEFI, with 64bit available builds and based in Debian Buster, all these things are simply...amazing! I hope to make the next beta versions publicly available soon with also including a working installer that will have extra features! I didn't wanted to publicly announce anything until now because I'm a meticulous perfectionist who wants to verify that most of the things are correctly working before giving any promise."

UBports yesterday announced the release of Ubuntu Touch OTA-9. OTA-9 will roll out to supported Ubuntu Touch devices over the next few days. This release is mostly a stability release, but it includes a refreshed look, Nexus 5 camera fixes and the QQC2 Suru Style. You can read the full changelog here.

Fedora is planning a kernel 5.1 test week next week, which will run 5/13/2019 through 5/18/19. If you want to help test, see the wiki page for instructions.

Categories: Linux News

Ubuntu Advantage for Infrastructure: an Interview with Canonical

Linux Journal - Thu, 05/09/2019 - 07:00
by Petros Koutoupis

On April 29, 2019, Canonical made headlines by officially announcing the availability of Ubuntu Advantage for Infrastructure If you are unfamiliar with Canonical and the work that they do:

Canonical is the publisher of Ubuntu, the OS for most public cloud workloads as well as the emerging categories of smart gateways, self-driving cars and advanced robots. Canonical provides enterprise security, support and services to commercial users of Ubuntu.

Ubuntu Advantage for Infrastructure changes the entire landscape of service offerings for open-source software. Instead of itemizing and charging for each and every component or add-on, Canonical promises its customers a per-node service package, regardless of the technologies running on it. I was able to sit down and chat with Stephan Fabel, who was generous enough to provide a bit more detail around this exciting announcement.

Petros Koutoupis: Tell us about yourself.

Stephan Fabel: My name is Stephan Fabel, and I am Director of Product over at Canonical. So, I am running a team as the Product Manager, and I am responsible for the portfolio of products that go out to our customers.

Petros: For our readers who are unfamiliar, what is Ubuntu Advantage?

Stephan: As you might know, Ubuntu always has been freely available as an open-source Linux distribution for everybody to consume. And, for those users who wish to enter that commercial relationship with Canonical, either because they are interested in our additional bit-streams that we offer like kernel patches, extended security maintenance, FIPS compliance crypto libraries, or because they would like to get support for each of those open infrastructure components that we are covering, Ubuntu Advantage is the program that they would subscribe to.

Petros: What makes this recent announcement of Ubuntu Advantage for Infrastructure so exciting?

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Categories: Linux News

OASIS Announces Open Projects, Endless OS Launches Endless Studios, Microsoft and Red Hat Announce the General Availability of Azure Red Hat OpenShift, Supermicro Collaborates with Red Hat, and All Chromebooks to Launch This Year Will Support Linux Apps

Linux Journal - Wed, 05/08/2019 - 08:12

News briefs for May 8, 2019.

OASIS this morning announced the launch of Open Projects. The press release describes Open Projects as "the first-of-its-kind program that creates a more transparent and collaborative future for open source and standards development. Open Projects gives communities the power to develop what they choose—APIs, code, specifications, reference implementations, guidelines—in one place, under open source licenses, with a path to recognition in global policy and procurement."

Endless, creators of Endless OS and a $79 Linux computer, have announced a new venture, which begins today: Endless Studios. Matt Dalio and the Endless Studios team have "created a series of games on Linux, Endless OS, and Hack that teach kids to code (without them knowing)." Go to the site to check out the games and play a demo. See also this video for a look at Endless Studios Games.

Microsoft and Red Hat yesterday announced the general availability of Azure Red Hat OpenShift. From the press release: "Azure Red Hat OpenShift provides a powerful on-ramp to hybrid cloud computing, enabling IT organizations to use Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform in their datacenters and more seamlessly extend these workloads to use the power and scale of Azure services. The availability of Azure Red Hat OpenShift marks the first jointly managed OpenShift offering in the public cloud."

Supermicro announces a collaboration with Red Hat "to develop powerful open private cloud solutions based on Supermicro's industry-leading SuperServer and SuperStorage systems as well as Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform. With fully integrated hardware, software and support packages, these new solutions built with enterprise Kubernetes provide the ability to deploy and manage containers in an on-premises, private and hybrid cloud environment." For more information on the Supermicro Solution for Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform, go here.

All Chromebooks that launch this year will support Linux apps. According to Android Police, "Google announced that all Chromebooks launched in 2019 will be Linux-ready right out of the box, which is great for developers, enthusiasts, and newbies alike. These announcements have been quick and brief, but at least this news is straight to the point, though every Chromebook I've tested recently had Linux support....Oh, and they mentioned that Android Studio is also a one-click install, too. That's neat."

News OASIS Open Projects open source Endless Studios gaming Education Microsoft Red Hat OpenShift Containers Azure Supermicro Cloud Servers Chromebooks
Categories: Linux News

We Need to Save What Made Linux and FOSS Possible

Linux Journal - Wed, 05/08/2019 - 08:11
by Doc Searls

If we take freedom and openness for granted, we'll lose both. That's already happening, and we need to fight back. The question is how.

I am haunted by this passage in a letter we got from reader Alan E. Davis (the full text is in our Letters section):

...the real reason for this letter comes from my realization—in seeking online help—that the Linux Documentation Project is dead, and that the project—now taken over by open printing, I think, is far from functioning well. Linux has been transformed into containers, and embedded systems. These and other such projects were the heart and soul of the Free Software movement, and I do not want for them to be gone!

This is the kind of thing Bradley Kuhn (of the Software Freedom Conservancy) lamented in his talk at last year. So did Kyle Rankin in his talk at the same event (video, slides and later, an LJ article). In an earlier conversation on the same stage (it was a helluva show), Simon Phipps (of the Open Source Initiative) and I had our own lamentations.

We all said it has become too easy to take Linux and FOSS for granted, and the risks of doing that were dire. Some specifics:

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Categories: Linux News

What is the worst Linux Distro?

Linux Journal - Tue, 05/07/2019 - 17:18

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Categories: Linux News

Red Hat Enterprise 8 Now Available, Microsoft Announces New Windows 10 Terminal App, Microsoft and Red Hat Announce an Open-Source Kubernetes Event-Driven Autoscaling Service, StackRox Partners with Red Hat, and Ubuntu 19.10 to Be Called Eoan Ermine

Linux Journal - Tue, 05/07/2019 - 08:56

News briefs for May 7, 2019.

Red Hat Enterprise 8 is now available. From the press release: "Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8 is the operating system redesigned for the hybrid cloud era and built to support the workloads and operations that stretch from enterprise datacenters to multiple public clouds. Red Hat understands that the operating system should do more than simply exist as part of a technology stack; it should be the catalyst for innovation. From Linux containers and hybrid cloud to DevOps and artificial intelligence (AI), Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8 is built to not just support enterprise IT in the hybrid cloud, but to help these new technology strategies thrive." There will be a press conference tomorrow, May 8, at 11am EDT. You can register here.

Microsoft yesterday announced a new Windows 10 Terminal app for command-line users. From Microsoft's blog post: "Windows Terminal [is] a new application for Windows command-line users [that] will offer a user interface with emoji-rich fonts and graphics-processing-unit-accelerated text rendering. It also will provide multiple tab support as well as theming and customization, allowing users to personalize their Terminal." Windows Terminal will be available for Windows 10 systems sometime in June.

In other Microsoft and Red Hat news (the Build 2019 developer conference and Red Hat Summit both are this week), the two companies announce an "open-source service for auto-scaling serverless containers on Kubernetes". ZDNet reports that "Microsoft and Red Hat have jointly developed an open-sourced Kubernetes event-driven autoscaling (KEDA) service. KEDA enables developers to deploy serverless containers on Kubernetes in any public or private cloud, as well as on-premises, Microsoft officials said."

StackRox announced this morning that the StackRox Kubernetes Security Platform is now available as a Red Hat certified container. From the press release: "As part of the Red Hat Container Certification, StackRox's award-winning capabilities, powered by its container-native and Kubernetes-native platform, will be available through the Red Hat Container Catalog. Enterprise customers who use the production-ready Kubernetes platform offered by Red Hat OpenShift to deliver shorter application development cycles and better-quality software now have easier access to enhanced security and compliance capabilities certified by Red Hat." You can read more about the StackRox and Red Hat partnership here.

Ubuntu 19.10 is going to be called the "Eoan Ermine" release. Phoronix reports that "An Ermine is a stoat, or a short-tailed weasel. Eoan, as a reminder, means 'relating to the dawn or the east.'... So Ubuntu 19.10 is the dawn of the short-tailed weasel and will be out in October." This release is expected to bring "Linux 5.3, GNOME 3.34, Mesa 19.2, potentially Python 3 as the only Python version in the main archive, the X.Org session to still be the default, a new desktop installer that offers tight integration with the ZFS file-system, and many other changes for what they hope to send through this cycle for vetting ahead of the Long Term Support cycle."

News Red Hat RHEL Cloud Containers DevOps Microsoft Kubernetes StackRox Ubuntu
Categories: Linux News

Rewriting printk()

Linux Journal - Tue, 05/07/2019 - 07:00
by Zack Brown

The printk() function is a subject of much ongoing consternation among kernel developers. Ostensibly, it's just an output routine for sending text to the console. But unlike a regular print routine, printk() has to be able to work even under extreme conditions, like when something horrible is going on and the system needs to utter a few last clues as it breathes its final breath.

It's a heroic function. And like most heroes, it has a lot of inner problems that need to be worked out over the course of many adventures. One of the entities sent down to battle those inner demons has been John Ogness, who posted a bunch of patches.

One of the problems with printk() is that it uses a global lock to protect its buffer. But this means any parts of the kernel that can't tolerate locks can't use printk(). Nonmasking interrupts and recursive contexts are two areas that have to defer printk() usage until execution context returns to normal space. If the kernel dies before that happens, it simply won't be able to say anything about what went wrong.

There were other problems—lots! Because of deferred execution, sometimes the buffer could grow really big and take a long time to empty out, making execution time hard to predict for any code that disliked uncertainty. Also, the timestamps could be wildly inaccurate for the same reason, making debugging efforts more annoying.

John wanted to address all this by re-implementing printk() to no longer require a lock. With analysis help from people like Peter Zijlstra, John had come up with an implementation that even could work deep in NMI context and anywhere else that couldn't tolerate waiting.

Additionally, instead of having timestamps arrive at the end of the process, John's code captured them at execution time, for a much more accurate debugging process.

His code also introduced a new idea—the possibility of an emergency situation, so that a given printk() invocation could bypass the entire buffer and write its message to the console immediately. Thus, hopefully, even the shortest of final breaths could be used to reveal the villain's identity.

Sergey Senozhatsky had an existential question: if the new printk() was going to be preemptible in order to tolerate execution in any context, then what would stop a crash from interrupting printk() in order to die?

John offered a technical explanation, which seemed to indicate that "panic() can write immediately to the guaranteed NMI-safe write_atomic console without having to first do anything with other CPUs (IPIs, NMIs, waiting, whatever) and without ignoring locks."

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Categories: Linux News

Linux Kernel 5.1 Is Out, Red Hat Announces Winners of the 2019 Women in Open Source Awards, GNU Linux-libre 5.1-gnu Is Now Available, Lockheed Martin Worked with Red Hat to Improve F022 Raptor Fighter Jets, and Firefox 66.0.4 Released

Linux Journal - Mon, 05/06/2019 - 09:21

News briefs for May 6, 2019.

Linux kernel 5.1 is out. Linus Torvalds writes, "The past week has been pretty calm, and the final patch from rc6 is not all that big. The shortlog is appended, but it's small changes all over. Networking, filesystem code, drivers, tooling, arch updates. Nothing particularly odd stands out. Of course, the shortlog below is just for that final calm week. On the whole, 5.1 looks very normal with just over 13k commits (plus another 1k+ if you count merges)." He also mentions the timing of the 5.2 merge window might be an issue for him: "I just happen to have the college graduation of my oldest happen right smack dab in the middle of the upcoming merge window, so I might be effectively offline for a few days there. If worst comes to worst, I'll extend it to make it all work, but I don't think it will be needed."

Red Hat announced the winners of the 2019 Women in Open Source Awards. The two winners are Limor Fried, founder and lead engineer at Adafruit Industries, and Saloni Garg, a student at LNM Institute of Information Technology pursing A bachelor's degree in computer science. From the announcement: "Their contributions are innovative examples of how open source is being used to make a difference in people's lives and is well positioned to inspire future generations."

The Free Software Foundation Latin America team announced the release of GNU Linux-libre 5.1-gnu. Phoronix reports that "With Linux 5.1 besides re-basing all their existing patches, there were a few more drivers that required adjustments. Alexandre Oliva mentioned in the release announcement, 'Besides the usual assortment of firmware name updates, new drivers for mt7603 and goya required disabling of blob requests, wilc1000 had some files renamed which required adjusting the deblobbing logic, and a driver that we used to deblob (lantiq xrx200 firmware loader) was removed, so its cleaning up code is now gone.'" You can download it from

Lockheed Martin worked with Red Hat to "modernize the application development process used to bring new capabilities to the U.S. Air Force's fleet of F-22 Raptor fighter jets". From Red Hat's press release: "Through an eight-week Red Hat Open Innovation Labs residency, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics replaced the waterfall development process it used for F-22 Raptor upgrades with an agile methodology and DevSecOps practices that are more adaptive to the needs of the U.S. Air Force. Together, Lockheed Martin and Red Hat created an open architecture based on Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform that has enabled the F-22 team to accelerate application development and delivery."

Firefox 66.0.4 was released yesterday. ZDNet reports that this release "fixes the issue with an expired signing certificate that disabled add-ons for the vast majority of its userbase". You can download Firefox here.

News kernel Red Hat FSF GNU Linux-libre Firefox
Categories: Linux News

Open Source--It's in the Genes

Linux Journal - Mon, 05/06/2019 - 09:06
by Glyn Moody

What happens when you release 500,000 human genomes as open source? This.

DNA is digital. The three billion chemical bases that make up the human genome encode data not in binary, but in a quaternary system, using four compounds—adenine, cytosine, guanine, thymine—to represent four genetic "digits": A, C, G and T. Although this came as something of a surprise in 1953, when Watson and Crick proposed an A–T and C–G pairing as a "copying mechanism for genetic material" in their famous double helix paper, it's hard to see how hereditary information could have been transmitted efficiently from generation to generation in any other way. As anyone who has made photocopies of photocopies is aware, analog systems are bad at loss-free transmission, unlike digital encodings. Evolution of progressively more complex structures over millions of years would have been much harder, perhaps impossible, had our genetic material been stored in a purely analog form.

Although the digital nature of DNA was known more than half a century ago, it was only after many years of further work that quaternary data could be extracted at scale. The Human Genome Project, where laboratories around the world pieced together the three billion bases found in a single human genome, was completed in 2003, after 13 years of work, for a cost of around $750 million. However, since then, the cost of sequencing genomes has fallen—in fact, it has plummeted even faster than Moore's Law for semiconductors. A complete human genome now can be sequenced for a few hundred dollars, with sub-$100 services expected soon.

As costs have fallen, new services have sprung up offering to sequence—at least partially—anyone's genome. Millions have sent samples of their saliva to companies like 23andMe in order to learn things about their "ancestry, health, wellness and more". It's exciting stuff, but there are big downsides to using these companies. You may be giving a company the right to use your DNA for other purposes. That is, you are losing control of the most personal code there is—the one that created you in the boot-up process we call gestation. Deleting sequenced DNA can be hard.

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Categories: Linux News

It's World Press Freedom Day, Tutanota Launches Secure Connect for Journalists and Whistleblowers, Private Internet Access Offers Discounts for Journalists, GCC 9.1 Released, Freespire 4.8 Now Available, and Toradex's New Torizon Embedded Linux Distro

Linux Journal - Fri, 05/03/2019 - 09:05

News briefs for May 3, 2019.

In honor of World Press Freedom Day, today Tutanota announces the launch of Secure Connect, "an open source encrypted contact form for news sites. Secure Connect can be easily added to any news site for free so that whistleblowers can get in touch with journalists securely." From the press release: "'To support the crucial work of journalists and whistleblowers, Tutanota's Secure Connect will be free for journalists to place on their websites', says Matthias Pfau, co-founder and developer of Tutanota. 'We believe in the Human Right to Privacy and Freedom of Speech—a secure and private form to communicate online is critical to achieve free speech. With Secure Connect we want to support journalists, activists and whistleblowers for the important work they are doing for all of us.'" Journalists can get Secure Connect for free by contacting and supplying a link to their website. The standard price for Secure Connect (for lawyers, financial institutions, etc.) is 24 euros per month.

Private Internet Access is celebrating World Press Day with a discount on yearly and biyearly plans for journalists. If you are a member of the press and you would like to trial PIA's apps, or you are reporting high-risk topics or from a high-risk area, please email

GCC 9.1 has been released. From the release announcement (posted on LWN): "GCC 9.1 is a major release containing substantial new functionality not available in GCC 9.x or previous GCC releases. In this release C++17 support is no longer marked experimental. The C++ front-end implements the full C++17 language (already previous GCC major version implemented that) and the C++ standard library support is almost complete. The C++ front-end and library also have numerous further C++2a draft features [1]. GCC has a new front-end for the D language. GCC 9.1 has newly partial OpenMP 5.0 support and almost complete OpenACC 2.5 support." Go here to see all the changes.

Freespire 4.8 was released yesterday. From the announcement: "It is our FOSS solution, with no binary-only drivers, multimedia codecs and strictly libre applications, nothing proprietary included. Freespire is released bi-annually and showcases the best of the FOSS and KDE communities." New features include KDE Plasma 5.12.7, KDE Frameworks 5.44.0, kernel 4.18.0-18, Chromium browser, Geary and much more. See the announcement for download links or to purchase install media.

A beta version of Toradex's Torizon embedded Linux distro is now available at the Toradex GitHub page. Toradex describes the open-source distro as "a new Linux-based software platform that simplifies the process of developing and maintaining embedded software. It allows you to configure the system for your use case quickly and easily, so you can focus on application development instead of Linux builds." See also this Linux Gizmos article for more information on the distro for embedded newbies that "features Visual Studio integration, security features, OTA updates, and an optional Docker runtime."

News Tutanota Secure Connect Security Privacy Freedom Private Internet Access GCC Freespire Embedded
Categories: Linux News

Password Manager Roundup

Linux Journal - Fri, 05/03/2019 - 06:00
by Shawn Powers

If you can remember all of your passwords, they're not good passwords.

I used to teach people how to create "good" passwords. Those passwords needed to be lengthy, hard to guess and easy to remember. There were lots of tricks to make your passwords better, and for years, that was enough.

That's not enough anymore.

It seems that another data breach happens almost daily, exposing sensitive information for millions of users, which means you need to have separate, secure passwords for each site and service you use. If you use the same password for any two sites, you're making yourself vulnerable if any single database gets compromised.

There's a much bigger conversation to be had regarding the best way to protect data. Is the "password" outdated? Should we have something better by now? Granted, there is two-factor authentication, which is a great way to help increase the security on accounts. But although passwords remain the main method for protecting accounts and data, there needs to be a better way to handle them—that's where password managers come into play.

The Best Password Manager

No, I'm not burying the lede by skipping all the reviews. As Doc Searls, Katherine Druckman and myself discussed in Episode 8 of the Linux Journal Podcast, the best password manager is the one you use. It may seem like a cheesy thing to say, but it's a powerful truth. If it's more complicated to use a password manager than it is to re-use the same set of passwords on multiple sites, many people will just choose the easy way.

Sure, some people are geeky enough to use a password manager at any cost. They understand the value of privacy, understand security, and they take their data very seriously. But for the vast majority of people, the path of least resistance is the way to go. Heck, I'm guilty of that myself in many cases. I have a Keurig coffee machine, not because the coffee is better, but because it's more convenient. If you've ever eaten a Hot Pocket instead of cooking a healthy meal, you can understand the mindset that causes people to make poor password choices. If the goal is having smart passwords, it needs to be easier to use smart passwords than to type "password123" everywhere.

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Categories: Linux News

Game Review: Guard Duty

Linux Journal - Thu, 05/02/2019 - 11:15
by Marcel Gagné

Guard Duty from Sick Chicken Studios launches today! You can get it from Steam for $9.99.

It's a thousand years ago in the kingdom of Wrinklewood and you are Tondbert, a dwarf/huma-halfling palace guard. After a night of heavy drinking, most of which you're happy not to remember, not only do you wake up to discover you may have been responsible for getting the princess kidnapped by an evil wizard, but also your clothes and armor are missing, and after you fall from the tower where your tiny bedroom sits, you get stung by a swarm of angry wasps, your face is all swelled up, and nobody can understand the mumbles coming out of your mouth, so you get no respect from anyone—not that you ever did.

Welcome to Guard Duty and oddly enough, that's not where the game starts—a thousand years ago, I mean. It actually starts out in our future, in 2074 to be precise, a mostly unremarkable day except for that whole part about the destruction of the Earth and all.

I've spent several hours now, enjoying the sometimes frustrating new game, Guard Duty, from Sick Chicken Studios. Did I say "frustrating"? Because I meant it, but in a good way. The Sick Chicken people have spent way too many hours watching Monty Python and reading Terry Pratchett novels, and it shows. They also have a thing for golden-age point-and-click games, classic 320x240 resolution pixel art, all combined with comedic and sometimes touching storytelling.

Figure 1. Castle Wrinklewood and the Surrounding Countryside

As I said at the beginning of this review, the story starts, strangely enough, in our future where a demonic monstrosity sets out to bring the end of the world and the destruction of our planet. Like our hero of ancient times, named Tondbert, there's another knight of sorts, embarked on a quest to save what is left of mankind before there's nothing more to save. You get to meet him later, I'm told, though I'm still trying to get my halfling's ghost to stop feeling sorry for himself.

Figure 2. The Future, Right before the World Ends

What makes this particularly interesting is that your actions (or Tondbert's actions) in the past, will have an effect on what happens in the future, when you finally get there. How the threads of centuries wind their way into hero number two's battle is something I have yet to discover, but I'm seriously looking forward to working with him—once I rescue the princess, that is.

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Categories: Linux News

GNU Guix 1.0.0 Released, Season of Docs Announces 50 Participating Open-Source Organizations, Docker Enterprise 3.0 Beta Now Available, Nvidia and Red Hat Join the Academy Software Foundation and Red Hat Announces New Version of Red Hat Process Automation

Linux Journal - Thu, 05/02/2019 - 08:56

News briefs for May 2, 2019.

GNU Guix 1.0.0 was released today. This big 1.0 release is the result of seven years of development and contributions by more than 260 people. If you're not familiar with GNU Guix, "GNU Guix is a transactional package manager and an advanced distribution of the GNU system that respects user freedom. Guix can be used on top of any system running the kernel Linux, or it can be used as a standalone operating system distribution for i686, x86_64, ARMv7, and AArch64 machines." This version brings many new features, including a new VM image, a new "first-class, uniform mechanism to configure keyboard layout" and more than 1,100 packages added. From the announcement: "The release comes with ISO-9660 installation images, a virtual machine image, and with tarballs to install the package manager on top of your GNU/Linux distro, either from source or from binaries. Guix users can update by running guix pull."

Season of Docs announces 50 participating open-source organizations. The full list is here. From the Google Open Source blog: "Season of Docs brings together technical writers and open source projects to foster collaboration and improve documentation in the open source space. You can find out more about the program on the introduction page of the website. During the program, technical writers spend a few months working closely with an open source community. They bring their technical writing expertise to the project's documentation and, at the same time, learn about the open source project and new technologies." Technical writer applications open May 29, 2019.

The beta version of Docker Enterprise 3.0 made its debut yesterday at DockerCon. ItPro Today reports that "Being a major point release, the software previewed today arrives with plenty of new features under the hood, such as integration with Docker Desktop, expanded Kubernetes capabilities, and a system for rolling multi-container applications into a single package deployable to any infrastructure." The article notes that "Most of the improvements made to this release of Docker Enterprise are aimed at streamlining the process of building and managing containers to make things easier for DevOps teams. In addition, the company is making it possible for developers with limited command line skills to take full advantage of the platform's capabilities with the integration of Docker Enterprise Desktop."

Nvidia and Red Hat have joined the Academy Software Foundation, "a consortium that aims to help Hollywood with the adoption and development of open source tools". Variety reports that the foundation also has accepted OpenEXR and OpenCue, two open-source projects. OpenEXR was developed by Industrial Light and Magic originally as a "high-dynamic range file format", first used in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and Men in Black II. OpenCue is an "open source render manager developed by Google Cloud in partnership with Sony Pictures Imageworks". The Linux Foundation and the Academy of Motion Arts and Sciences founded the Academy Software Foundation last summer.

Red Hat announced the latest release Red Hat Process Automation today at Red Hat Summit. This new release introduces "new capabilities designed to address functional and knowledge gaps between IT developers and business analysts, enabling them to apply domain-specific expertise to the development of applications that automate processes and decisions to more rapidly adapt to a changing business environment". In addition, it "introduces a collaborative environment where individuals can make changes to project assets independently and simultaneously. Using these shared workspaces can lead to a more efficient, iterative and agile development process." The latest updates are available for customers at the Red Hat customer portal.

News GNU Guix Google Season of Docs Docker NVIDIA Red Hat
Categories: Linux News

The Kernel Issue

Linux Journal - Wed, 05/01/2019 - 10:00
by Bryan Lunduke

How much do you know about your kernel? Like really know?

Considering how critically important the Linux kernel is to the world—and, perhaps just as important, to our own personal computers and gadgets—it's rather amazing how little most people actually know about it.

There might as well be magical hamsters in there, pushing 1s and 0s around with their enchanted hamster gloves of computing power. How do kernels (in a general sense) actually work, anyway? How does one sit down and debug a specific Linux kernel issue? How does a kernel allocate and work with the memory in your computer? Those are questions most of us never need to ask—because Linux works.

Me, personally? Never submitted a single patch to the kernel. Not one.

I mean, sure. I've looked at little snippets of Linux kernel source code—mostly out of idle curiosity or to investigate a topic for a story. And I've compiled the kernel plenty of times to get one hardware driver or feature working. But, even so, my knowledge of the inner-workings of the kernel is mostly limited to "Linux power user" level.

So, it's time for a little kernel boot camp in this issue of Linux Journal to get a bit more up to speed.

Let's start with the basics. What is a kernel, and how, exactly, does a person go about making a brand-new one? Like...from scratch.

Linux Journal Editor at Large Petros Koutoupis previously has walked us through building a complete Linux distribution (starting from the very basics—see Part I and Part II). Now he does the same thing, but this time for building a brand-new kernel.

What tools are needed? What code must be written? Petros provides a step-by-step rundown of kernel building. In the end, you'll have a fully functional kernel (well, functional enough to boot a computer, at any rate) that you can build on further. Plus, you'll have a better understanding of how kernels actually work, which is pretty darn cool.

Moving back to Linux land, Frank Edwards gives a rundown on how the kernel handles memory: how virtual memory works and is structured, how the kernel reports memory usage and information to userland applications and the like. If you've ever wondered how the memory in your system is structured and interacted with by the applications and the kernel, give that a read.

Now that you know the basics of how to build a kernel, and a primer on how memory is used, let's turn to something directly practical for Linux developers and pro users: debugging Linux kernel panics.

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Categories: Linux News

Creative Commons Search Is Now Out of Beta, Dell Announces Two New Budget-Friendly Mobile Workstations, NS1 Releases Flamethrower, Scalyr Launches PowerQueries and High-Severity Hole Discovered in Oracle WebLogic

Linux Journal - Wed, 05/01/2019 - 08:40

News briefs for May 1, 2019.

CC Search is now out of beta, with more than 300 million images, "a major redesign, and faster, more relevant search". The Creative Commons blog post notes that "CC Search searches images across 19 collections pulled from open APIs and the Common Crawl dataset, including cultural works from museums (the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Cleveland Museum of Art), graphic designs and art works (Behance, DeviantArt), photos from Flickr, and an initial set of CC0 3D designs from Thingiverse."

Dell yesterday announced two new mobile workstations, the Dell Precision 3540 and 3541. These new laptops "are budget-friendly machines with a smaller footprint and workstation-level performance". The 3540 is available now, with your choice of Ubuntu 18.04 or Windows 10, and it "comes with the essentials including the latest 4-core Intel Core 8th generation processors, up to 32GB of DDR4 memory, AMD Radeon Pro graphics with 2GB of dedicated memory, and 2TB of storage." The Precision 3541 will be available in late May and will "offer additional power, with 9th generation 8-core Intel Core and 6-core Intel Xeon processor options. It'll be available with next generation NVIDIA Quadro professional graphics with 4GB of dedicated memory. Boasting extreme battery life—quite possibly the longest battery life in its class—the system supports on-the-go productivity. As with the Precision 3540, the Precision 3541 comes with Thunderbolt 3 connectivity and optional features to enhance security such as fingerprint and smartcard readers, an IR camera and our first-ever camera shutter."

NS1 recently released Flamethrower, "a lightweight, configurable open source tool for functional testing, benchmarking, and stress testing DNS servers and networks." According to, "Flamethrower supports IPv4, IPv6, UDP, TCP, DNS over TLS, as well as experimental support for DNS over QUIC. It has a modular system for generating the queries used in the tests, allowing for rich and realistic test scenarios that can plug into automation pipelines. It simulates multiple concurrent clients and generates actionable metrics, including send and receive counts, timeouts, errors and data on minimum, maximum and average latency." You can get Flamethrower on GitHub.

Scalyr this week announced its first major GA product launch of the year: PowerQueries. From the announcement: "PowerQueries are a new set of data operations within Scalyr that give users the ability to transform and manipulate data on the fly. They let users seamlessly pivot from facet-based search to complex log search operations for complicated data sets, such as grouping, transformations, filtering and sorting, table lookups and joins, enabling them to create sophisticated data processing pipelines." See also Scalyr Founder Steve Newman's blog post for more information.

A "high-severity hole" in Oracle WebLogic was exploited for nine days before being discovered. Ars Technica reports that "Attackers have been actively exploiting a critical zero-day vulnerability in the widely used Oracle WebLogic server to install ransomware, with no clicking or other interaction necessary on the part of end users, researchers from Cisco Talos said on Tuesday." Oracle released an emergency patch. Patch now.

News creative commons Dell Laptops Flamethrower DNS Scalyr Security Oracle
Categories: Linux News
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