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  1. The exFAT filesystem is coming to Linux—Paragon software’s not happy about it The proprietary filesystem vendor unleashed a '90s-level torrent of FUD yesterday. Enlarge / Proprietary filesystem vendor Paragon Software seems to feel threatened by the pending inclusion of a Microsoft-sanctioned exFAT in the Linux 5.7 kernel. MTV / Geffen / Paramount Pictures 23 with 21 posters participating, including story author When software and operating system giant Microsoft announced its support for inclusion of the exFAT filesystem directly into the Linux kernel back in August, it didn't get a ton of press coverage. But filesystem vendor Paragon Software clearly noticed this month's merge of the Microsoft-approved, largely Samsung-authored version of exFAT into the VFS for-next repository, which will in turn merge into Linux 5.7—and Paragon doesn't seem happy about it. Yesterday, Paragon issued a press release about European gateway-modem vendor Sagemcom adopting its version of exFAT into an upcoming series of Linux-based routers. Unfortunately, it chose to preface the announcement with a stream of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) that wouldn't have looked out of place on Steve Ballmer's letterhead in the 1990s. Breaking down the FUD Paragon described its arguments against open source software—which appeared directly in my inbox—as an "article (available for publication in any form) explaining why the open source model didn't work in 3 cases." All three of Paragon's offered cases were curious examples, at best. Case one: Android Let’s first look into some cases where filesystems similar to exFAT were supported in Unix derivatives and how that worked from an open source perspective. The most sound case is Android, which creates a native Linux ext4FS container to run apps from FAT formatted flash cards (3). This shows the inability (or unwillingness based on the realistic estimation of a needed effort) of software giant Google to make its own implementation of a much simpler FAT in the Android Kernel. The footnote leads the reader to a lengthy XDA-developers article that explains the long history of SD card filesystems in the Android operating system. An extremely brief summation: originally, Android used the largely compatible VFAT implementation of the Windows FAT32 filesystem. This caused several issues—including security problems due to a lack of multi-user security metadata. These problems led Google to replace VFAT with a largely Samsung-developed FUSE (Filesystem in Userspace) implementation of exFAT. This solved the security issues twice over—not only were ACLs now supported, the FUSE filesystem could even be mounted for individual users. Unfortunately, this led to performance issues—as convenient as FUSE might be, userspace filesystems don't perform as well as in-kernel filesystems. Still with us so far? Great. The final step in this particular story is Google replacing exFAT-FUSE with SDCardFS, another Samsung-developed project that—confusingly—isn't really a filesystem at all. Instead, it's an in-kernel wrapper that passes API calls to a lower-level filesystem. SDCardFS replaces FUSE, not the filesystem, and thereby allows emulated filesystems to run in kernel space. If you're wondering where proprietary software comes in to save the day, the answer is simple: it doesn't. This is a story of the largest smartphone operating system in the world consistently and successfully using open source software, improving performance and security along the way. What's not yet clear is whether Google specifically will use the new in-kernel exFAT landing in 5.7 in Android or will continue to use Samsung's SDCardFS filesystem wrapper. SDCardFS solved Android's auxiliary-storage performance problems, and it may provide additional security benefits that simply using an in-kernel exFAT would not. Case two: MacOS The other case is Mac OS—another Unix derivative that still does not have commercial support for NTFS-write mode—it only supports NTFS in a read-only mode. That appears strange given the existence of NTFS-3G for Linux. One can activate write support—but there’s no guarantee that NTFS volumes won’t be corrupted during write operations. There are several problems with using MacOS' iffy NTFS support as a case against open source software. The first is that NTFS support doesn't seem to be a real priority for Apple in the first place. MacOS Classic had no NTFS support at all. The NTFS support present after Mac OS X 10.3 "Panther" was, effectively, a freebie—it was already there in the FreeBSD-derived VFS (Virtual File System) and network stack. Another problem with this comparison is that NTFS is a full-featured, fully modern filesystem with no missing parts. By contrast, exFAT—the filesystem whose Linux kernel implementation Paragon is throwing FUD at—is an extremely bare-bones, lightweight filesystem designed for use in embedded devices. The final nail in this particular coffin is that the open source NTFS implementation used by MacOS isn't Microsoft-sanctioned. It's a clean-room reverse-engineered workaround of a proprietary filesystem. Worse, it's an implementation made at a time when Microsoft actively wanted to close the open source community out—and it's not even the modern version. As Paragon notes, NTFS-3G is the modern open source implementation of NTFS. NTFS-3G, which is dual-licensed proprietary/GPL, does not suffer from potential write-corruption issues—and it's available on MacOS, as well as on Linux. Mac users who don't need the highest performance can install a FUSE implementation of NTFS-3G for free using Homebrew, while those desiring native or near-native performance can purchase a lifetime license directly from Tuxera. Each $15 license includes perpetual free upgrades and installation on up to three personal computers. It's probably worth noting that Paragon—in addition to selling a proprietary implementation of exFAT—sells a proprietary implementation of NTFS for the Mac. Case three: SMB An additional example, away from filesystems, is an open source SMB protocol implementation. Mac OS, as well as the majority of printer manufacturers, do not rely on an open-source solution, as there are several commercial implementations of SMB as soon as a commercial level of support is required. It's unclear why Paragon believed this to be a good argument against open source implementations of a file system. SMB (Server Message Block) isn't a filesystem at all; it's a network communication protocol introduced with Microsoft Windows. It's certainly true that many proprietary implementations of SMB exist—including one in direct partnership with Microsoft, made by Paragon rival and NTFS-3G vendor Tuxera. But this is another very odd flex to try to make against open source filesystem implementations. Leaving aside the question of what SMB has to do with exFAT, we should note the extensive commercial use of Samba, the original gangster of open source SMB networking. In particular, Synology uses Samba for its NAS (Network Attached Storage) servers, as do Netgear and QNAP. Samba.org itself also lists high-profile commercial vendors including but not limited to American Megatrends, Hewlett-Packard, Veritas, and VMWare. Open source is here to stay We congratulate Paragon on closing their timely exFAT deal with Sagemcom. Although there's good reason to believe that the Samsung-derived and Microsoft-approved exFAT implementation in Linux 5.7 will be secure, stable, and highly performant, it's not here yet—and it isn't even in the next upcoming Linux kernel, 5.6, which we expect to hit general availability in late April or early May. In the meantime, a company with a business need to finalize design decisions—like Sagemcom—probably is making the right decision to use a proprietary exFAT implementation, with commercial support. The license costs are probably a small percentage of what the company stands to earn in gross router sales, and Paragon's implementation is a known value. However, we suspect the exFAT landscape will tilt significantly once Samsung's Microsoft-blessed version hits the mainstream Linux kernel. Hopefully, Paragon will evolve a more modern open source strategy now, while it still has time. Source: The exFAT filesystem is coming to Linux—Paragon software’s not happy about it (Ars Technica)
  2. Linux Mint wants to make it easier to transfer files between Linux computers that share the same network. To get a file from one PC to another PC at present users might reach for a USB stick; leverage a cloud sync service like Dropbox; or attempt Bluetooth file sending (which I swear never works for anyone). But sending files over the local network is (usually) a much faster way to fling files between machines — and it’s precisely this use case that Linux Mint’s new tool is built for. New Linux File Transfer App Linux Mint’s aspiring new app is called (for the moment) “Warpinator“. It’s basically a lot like the GTK file transfer app Teleport we highlighted last summer, just a bit more Mint-y and offering a touch more control. Mint says the app is directly inspired by the Giver app the distro used to ship with. With the same simple aims in mind, the new file sending tool lets users sharing files over the local network without any server or other configuration required. A simple, straight-forward UI guides users through the steps needed to transfer files wirelessly from PC to PC, without any third-party cloud intermediaries, obscure copy/paste codes, or other hurdles. A small bug focused set of features and settings are available in this Python-based app, including: Accept/deny file transfers Connect to multiple computers File transfer history Set device nickname Designate a receiving folder Specify a port Simple, concise, useful — does this sound like something you’ll use it? If so, check out the source code upon Github. The app is likely to come pre-installed in future releases of Linux Mint. Source
  3. We have covered so many music players that I have lost count. But the open-source community keeps getting blessed with more players and the least I can do is keep you informed of the latest cool ones. Today’s music player is an advanced open-source media player called Olivia. Olivia is a sophisticated powerful music player capable of playing both online and offline tracks. You can use it for streaming audio and YouTube content, listening to different radio stations, and organizing your media library. It features a simple, nicely compartmentalized UI that supports dynamic theme based on the album art. You can easily organize your music, create playlists, search for music online including YouTube whose results you can add to your library, listen to over 25,000 Internet radio stations, and download songs while streaming. Olivia has a mini player widget with customizable transparency settings and it plays only YouTube audio in order to save data. Features in Olivia Free and open-source with source code available on GitHub. Mini player widget with transparency settings. Supports streaming YouTube audio. Customizable with themes. Supports dynamic theme based on album art. Access over 25K Internet radio stations. Download songs while streaming. Intelligent music search suggestions. Listen to top music charts according to country ratings. Search YouTube and add results to your music library. Lyrics of playing songs and separate lyrics search. Powerful audio equalizers and audio filters. Support for MPRIS protocol. Countrywise music chart of the top 100 songs and album chart of the top 100 albums. There are several other features listed in the official pages for Olivia music player. If you want to know the others, you can also install and try it out yourself. The latest version is available on Snapcraft and you can rest assured that you’ll be running a stable version. $ sudo snap install olivia Download Olivia from Snapcraft If you have theme issues like big fonts and weird cursors then run the command in your terminal: QT_STYLE_OVERRIDE='gtk' olivia.olivia More features such as cloud synchronization with online accounts are expected to be available in Olivia anytime from now so let’s be patient with the developers. Source
  4. visualbuffs

    Best Linux OS for you?

    what linux os is your favorite!? or the OS you tried before and present!
  5. 2038 is for Linux what Y2K was for mainframe and PC computing in 2000, but the fixes are underway to make sure all goes well when that fatal time rolls around. On 03:14:08 Greenwich Mean Time (GMT, aka Coordinated Universal Time) January 19, 2038 (that's a Tuesday), the world ends. Well, not in the biblical Book of Revelations sense. But, what will happen is the value for time in 32-bit based Unix-based operating systems, like Linux and older versions of macOS, runs out of numbers and starts counting time with negative numbers. That's not good. We can expect 32-bit computers running these operating systems to have fits. Fortunately, Linux's developers already had a fix ready to go. The problem starts with how Unix tells time. Unix, and its relations -- Linux, macOS, and other POSIX-compatible operating systems -- date the beginning of time from the Epoch: 00:00:00 GMT on January 1, 1970. The Unix family measures time by the number of seconds since the Epoch. So far, so good. But, since Unix and family started out as 32-bit operating systems, time's value is kept as a single signed 32-bit integer number. Those are a lot of seconds, but just like the last century's Y2K bug, it's not enough. Linux developers have seen this coming for decades. So, Linux kernel developer Arnd Bergmann and others have been working on a repair. These corrections are now in the forthcoming Linux 5.6 kernel. Bergmann explained, "Linux-5.6, or my backport of the patches to 5.4, should be the first release that can serve as a base for a 32-bit system designed to run beyond year 2038." There are some caveats: All user space must be compiled with a 64-bit time_t, which will be supported in the coming musl-1.2 and glibc-2.32 releases, along with installed kernel headers from Linux-5.6 or higher. Applications that use the system call interfaces directly need to be ported to use the time64 syscalls added in Linux-5.1 in place of the existing system calls. Applications that use a private copy of kernel uapi header files or their contents may need to update to the Linux-5.6 version. A few remaining interfaces cannot be changed to pass a 64-bit time_t in a compatible way, so they must be configured to use CLOCK_MONOTONIC times. All Epoch problems present on 64-bit machines also apply to 32-bit machines. In particular this affects file systems with on-disk timestamps using signed 32-bit seconds: ext4 with ext3-style small inodes, ext2, xfs (to be fixed soon) and ufs. In short, there's a lot of clean-up work to be done even after the core problem has been fixed. MacOS has been moving away from 32-bit software for over a decade. But, tt was only in the late 2019 release of macOS Catalina, that Apple gave 32-bit apps the boot. Now, you may be wondering -- since we're all running 64-bit computers these days -- why is this even an issue. Well, it's like this. First, many embedded systems and Internet of Things (IoT) devices are still running 32-bit operating systems. Indeed, by 2038, there will probably still be new 32-bit devices arriving in the market. We also know, thanks to the Y2K bug popping up again in 2020, that systems you might assume will be dumped into landfills in 18-years will still be alive and well -- and badly misbehaving come the Epoch. But look at this way: After we fix this, we won't have to worry about 64-bit Linux running out of seconds until 15:30:08 GMT Sunday, December 4, 29,227,702,659. Personally, I'm not going to worry about that one. Source
  6. Dell’s 2019 XPS 13 DE: As close as we currently get to Linux-computing nirvana Dell is releasing the 2019 and 2020 editions of its Linux laptop just four months apart. First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all 5 images. Dell's XPS 13 Developer Edition, the company's flagship "just works" Ubuntu-based machine, was recently refreshed. These days Dell's XPS line is not the cheapest Linux option, nor is it the most configurable or user-upgradable. And if any of those factors are a big part of your criteria, this is likely not the laptop for you. On top of that, many Linux users still have a strong DIY streak and will turn up their noses at the XPS 13. After all, in a day and age when just about every laptop I test seems to run Linux fairly well right out of the box, do you need official support? If you know what you're doing and don't mind troubleshooting your own problems, the answer is probably not. Yet after spending a few weeks with the latest XPS 13 (the fourth refresh I've tested), it's hard to shake the feeling that this is the closest any company has come to Linux-computing nirvana. The XPS 13 Developer Edition makes an excellent choice for anyone who prefers Linux but wants hardware support from the manufacturer. All these years into its Linux odyssey, Dell continues to stand behind the operating system on these machines in a way that, in my experience, few other computer makers do. So if you want a computer that runs smoothly and for which you can pick up the phone and get help should you need it, the Dell XPS 13 remains one of the best options out there (maybe regardless of your OS preference). It doesn't hurt, either, that the Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition is also a great-looking, solidly built piece of hardware. If you dream of a Linux rig that "just works" and comes in a powerful, minimalist package that weighs a mere 2.7lbs, the XPS 13 Developer Edition fits the bill. But wait, which XPS 13 DE to get? In early 2020, the decision gets confusing as to which Dell XPS 13 to consider. To judge by the number of machines and models available, Dell's Project Sputnik—the company's long-running effort to bring Ubuntu-based hardware to the masses—has been an unqualified success. Not only are there more models and configurations than ever, Dell keeps churning out hardware updates, usually on pace with the Windows models. That's no small feat considering that this hardware has to undergo a completely different set of compatibility tests from the Windows machines. To be fair, some features have lagged behind in the Linux models; the fingerprint reader is a good example. The Windows version of the XPS 13 released in early 2019 features a fingerprint reader on the power button. The same feature has not been available in the Linux edition until now. While I was testing the late 2019 Developer Edition update, Dell announced another update. The new 2020 version (the 10th-gen XPS 13 Developer Edition for those of you keeping track), gets Ice Lake processors with Gen11 graphics and a new larger screen. This 2020 Developer Edition will also be available with up to 32GB of RAM, up from 16GB in the model I tested. Better late than never, support for the fingerprint reader is also coming. It won't be available at launch in mid-February, but Dell says that support will arrive soon after. As the company has in the past, Dell will continue to sell both the new and previous XPS 13 DE releases this year—this time the two devices just happen to go live four months apart (the 2019 in November; the 2020 this month). Laptop seekers need to know their model numbers: the late 2019 release I primarily tested is the 7390, and the coming 2020 version is the 9300 (yes, Dell told me the model numbers start over at 9300 in 2020—the same model number used in 2016). Luckily, I had a chance to play with the new 9300 hardware recently at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. (Linux fans will be happy to know: it had a prominent spot on the display, right next to the Windows version.) Even a small amount of in-person tinkering time allows me to make some notable comparisons with the 2019 model. Enlarge / Dell's 2020 CES lineup: two of the new XPS 13 laptops next to the new XPS 13 Developer Edition laptop (in black). Valentina Palladino What's new: 2019 version v. 2020 version The XPS 13 line has stuck with largely the same design since it launched. The bezel seems to always diminish by some nearly immeasurable amount, but otherwise the hardware has looked about the same for years now. The 2019 model is no exception to this trend. Side by, side it's impossible to tell apart from the 2018 model I own, save for one little detail: no more nose cam. As Ars noted last year when the Windows model was released, the webcam is no longer at the base of the screen staring straight up your nose. Instead the webcam is where it belongs, at the top of the screen. The iteration of the XPS 13 line I've been testing features Intel's Comet Lake 6-core i7-10710U processor. It's a marginal step up from the previous version, but in outside benchmarks I haven't really noticed a huge speed increase. What I have noticed is that this version runs consistently cooler than my 2018 version (both running Ubuntu 18.04). So what of those two extra cores? It may not sound like much, but if you push your processor (whether editing video, gaming, or compiling software), you're going to want six cores. I happened to be editing a video while reviewing this laptop, and, using Lightworks, what took 38 minutes to export on my 2018 XPS 13 took a mere 19 minutes on the Comet Lake chip. The model Dell sent for testing had the max 16GB of RAM and a 1TB solid state drive. As configured, the test machine would set you back $1,899.99. The lowest model, which has the 1080p display, an i5 chip, 128GB SSD, and only 8GB of RAM, can be had for $975. The build quality hasn't changed, and the XPS 13 remains a solidly built machine. The construction is excellent, and the underlying aluminum frame provides a stiffness that makes it feel solid even though it's so light. The finish holds up quite well, too. My 2018 model has bounced around in my bag, slid across many a table, and scraped over tile counters in the kitchen all without leaving many marks. I expect the same will be true of the latest model. Though I've been using one for years now, the XPS 13's InfinityEdge display still amazes me, too. No, it's not OLED, but it manages to pack a 13-inch screen into a body that otherwise looks and feels more like an 11-inch laptop. Dell has always sent me the version with the 4K IPS touch panel. You can get the XPS 13 with a 1920x1080 screen, and it will get better battery life (more on that in a minute), but I think the higher res display is worth the extra money. Previously there were quite a few pain points with HiDPI screens in Ubuntu, but that's largely a thing of the past. The grub menu and boot screens are still impossibly small, and every now and then there's an app that doesn't scale properly—Zoom, I'm looking at you here. But by and large, the combination of work done by the GNOME project, Ubuntu, and Dell has sorted out these issues. I do find the brightest setting to be overwhelming when working indoors (the XPS 13 maxes out at 472 nits brightness), though it does mitigate the glare somewhat if you're working outside. For me, I'd say this is a screen you want to keep indoors—it's very high gloss, and glare is an issue outside. I tend to keep the screen at 70-percent brightness, which helps with battery life and is still plenty bright. As for the 2020 version of the XPS 13 Developer Edition, again it features 10th-generation Intel Core 10nm mobile processors along with a new, larger display. That new screen is one of those "of course" changes. Once you see it, you'll wonder why it wasn't that way from the beginning. Gone is the Dell logo that used to grace the wider bottom bezel. Instead, you get more screen real estate with a new 16:10 aspect ratio (up from 16:9 on the 2019 and prior models). It's a small gain, but at this screen size, frankly, anything is welcome. For that alone, I would pick the 2020 model over the 2019 version (model 7390). But evidently the dimensions of the XPS 13 have been tweaked slightly as well. I couldn't tell much difference holding it, but the keyboard keys are noticeably bigger. They're also somewhat springier than previous versions (no, thankfully it's not the same as the 2-in-1 model the Internet loves to hate on). Performance upgrades I can't speak to the performance of the 2020 model since my hands-on time was limited, but the 2019 version's 6-core Comet Lake i7 chip brings some speed improvements over prior releases. Another bit of welcome news is the option to get 32GB of RAM, because really, can you ever have too much RAM? The other area of improvement is with battery life. Dell claims some crazy numbers for XPS battery life with these updates. The battery in the 1080p version of the XPS 13 purportedly lasts 18 hours. The 4K display must be a massive battery drain, because I did not get anywhere near that number in testing mine. Playing back a 1080p video full screen on the loop, the 2019 model managed just over nine hours. That's very good, especially for Linux, but it's nowhere near the claimed max life. There are plenty of things you can do to squeeze some more life out of the battery, though. Under my normal work load—terminal running tmux with vim, mpd, and mutt, a Web browser (qutebrowser), and Slack—with the screen at 70 percent and Bluetooth off, I managed several hours more. So long as this laptop was fully charged in the morning, I never worried about running the battery low over the course of a workday. That said, if you're compiling software, editing video, or otherwise pushing the CPU, your battery life will decline. In these use cases, it may be worth considering the 1080p model, though personally I'd rather carry a cord and have the 4K screen. Another change worth noting is support for Wi-Fi 6. Yes, Wi-Fi has version numbers now. What's being called Wi-Fi 6 is actually 802.11ax and is already shipping in many routers. Unfortunately I didn't have one to test with, but in testing I've done separately I've seen about 20-30 percent speed boosts over 802.11ac. If you have or plan to upgrade your router in the near future, either of the new models will see the benefit. First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all 9+ images. What's not new: Ubuntu 18.04 If you want official support for Ubuntu, you're always going to be looking at LTS releases. For the XPS 13s shipping now and in the near future, that means Ubuntu 18.04 will be the default operating system. While 18.04 is a solid release, recent updates (particularly 19.10, which arrived in October 2019) bring some huge performance improvements that would make these updated hardware profiles even better. I looked at Ubuntu 19.10 for Ars last year, and some of the highlights include a much snappier GNOME desktop, experimental support for ZFS, and more default applications shipped as self-contained Snap packages. Shortly after the 2020 XPS 13 is available, Ubuntu 20.04 will arrive as Canonical's next LTS release. Everything that made 19.10 such a welcome update will be in 20.04, so at least there is that to look forward to. And quite frankly, Dell's hardware upgrades to the XPS 13 might well pale next to the software upgrade that 20.04 will bring. If previous Ubuntu/Dell upgrade cycles are anything to go by, look for 20.04 to come to the XPS line in late summer of 2020. However... I am impatient. As I always do with new XPS machines, I attempted to bring my 2019 XPS 13 up to Ubuntu 19.10. Unfortunately, for the first time I can recall when upgrading an XPS 13, I failed. Or rather, I hit enough roadblocks that I gave up. Somehow in the move from 18.04 to 19.04, the drivers for the Wi-Fi card disappeared, and while the drivers for Ethernet showed up and claimed to work, I could never actually connect to download any updates. I could download the drivers to another machine, copied them over, and then installed them, but honestly, it shouldn't have been that hard. I'd have a hard time suggesting anyone else attempt doing that. Dell's selling point on the XPS 13 Developer Edition is that it "just works," and to achieve that Dell does not support anything other than Ubuntu 18.04 LTS at the moment. I would suggest that, if you want that simplicity and the company guarantee, users should stick with 18.04 until the official upgrades arrive. If you are prepared to resolve "just doesn't work" scenarios, then you could try making the jump to 19.10. But if you do, my suggestion would be to do a clean install rather than trying to upgrade through Ubuntu Software. I should note that I installed both Fedora 32 and Arch Linux without issue. And one thing I definitely think is worth pointing out is how trivially easy it is to re-install the original system thanks to Dell's recovery tools. The ability to recover so easily does make the XPS 13 a good system to experiment on, even if your experiments sometimes end in frustration. So, upgrade or wait for the 2020 model? At this point, I would wait the two or so weeks for the 2020 model to arrive. At the very least, whether or not you want the slightly larger screen and new keyboard, the 2019 model is likely to drop slightly in price when a new version hits the market. Unfortunately, the price of this model may not drop much given it's also pretty new and contains some notable upgrades. And if you have the extra cash, I'd suggest going for the new screen anyway. It doesn't sound like much, but it surprised me in day-to-day usage. If you're used to working on a 16:9 screen, it really does give you a noticeable bump in headroom. Whichever XPS 13 Developer Edition model you decide to get, ultimately you're going to have a lot more configuration options than you used to. Dell has been expanding its Ubuntu-based offerings with every release, and currently, the site offers no fewer than 18 different models and configurations for the XPS 13 Developer Edition. There's a lot more opportunity to customize and tailor the hardware to your needs than there used to be, and these two latest releases seem to address a lot of prior user demands. Source: Dell’s 2019 XPS 13 DE: As close as we currently get to Linux-computing nirvana (Ars Technica) (To view the article's image galleries, please visit the above link)
  7. Option to securely carry your user profile with you in next release The systemd-homed service, which enables portable home directories, has been merged into the code for systemd and will be included in the forthcoming 245 release. Systemd releases are typically every three to four months, and version 244 was finalised at the end of November 2019. The new merge includes over 21,000 additions to systemd. Once 245 is out, it will be up to individual Linux distributions to decide when to update it. Use of the new home directories service is optional. The purpose of the change is described here: Each directory it manages encapsulates both the data store and the user record of the user so that it comprehensively describes the user account, and is thus naturally portable between systems without any further, external metadata. Home directories in the new system support several storage mechanisms and may be located on a removeable drive. The user record is cryptographically signed so the user cannot modify it themselves without invalidating it. There is an option for encryption with fscrypt (applies encryption at the directory level), or mounting from a CIFS network share, or in a partition encrypted with LUKS2 (Linux Unified Key Setup). This last is the most secure approach. Systemd inventor Lennart Poettering described the new feature at the All Systems Go event in Berlin, September 2019, as reported here. Poettering said it would improve security as well as being more logical. "It solves a couple of problems we saw with traditional ways to manage home directories, in particular when it comes to encryption," he said in the release notes for version 245. One use case is where a user has a PC running Linux in both their home and office, and is able to carry their home directory with them on a portable storage device. The advent of cloud storage has made this less of a problem than would have been the case a few years back, and a common reaction to the new systemd approach is that the problems it fixes are not pressing and may be outweighed by potential incompatibilities. Source
  8. Linux Star Trek fans, rejoice: CBS All Access now works in your OS [Updated] There's probably a lot of overlap in the Star Trek↔Linux Venn diagram. Enlarge / No CBS All Access on Linux makes elderly Picard cry. Aurich Lawson / CBS / Getty Update, January 31: After this story went live earlier in the week, an Ars reader reached out to speculate that the problem was most likely due to enabling VMP (Verified Media Path) on CBSi's Widevine server. Verified Media Path, similarly to UEFI Secure Boot, makes certain that content will only be delivered to browsers with sanctioned, verifiable "authentic" framework; this is a configurable behavior, and by default, unverified platforms are allowed to receive licenses. This morning we asked CBSi executives to check with their engineers and see if this was the problem. While we never received a response, two hours later, CBS All Access was playing successfully on Google Chrome on multiple Linux distributions. (Firefox still crashes.) For now, we have verified that the fix—which, again, may or may not actually have involved VMP—covers all of CBS' content and not merely the first episode of Picard, which CBS released yesterday on YouTube for a limited time. If we hear official word from CBS regarding what happened behind the scenes, we'll update this post accordingly. The original story appears unchanged below. As of this month, the CBS All Access streaming-video platform—home of popular shows including The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and now Star Trek: Picard—stopped working on Linux PCs, regardless of the choice of browser. Ten years ago, this would have been just another day in the life of a Linux user, but it's a little surprising in 2020. We were originally tipped off to the issue by a few irate readers but quickly found it echoed in multiple threads on Reddit, Stack Exchange, and anywhere else you'd expect to find Linux users congregating. First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all 4 images. I'm both a Linux user and a CBS All Access subscriber myself, but I had been unaware of the problem since I do all my own watching on a Roku. Technically, the Roku is a Linux PC in its own right—but CBS has its own app in the Roku store, which works perfectly. Moving back to one of my own PCs, I was quickly able to confirm the issue: trailers autoplay properly, and even the ads work—but the actual content won't play on a Linux desktop PC on any browser including Google Chrome. Diving into the Chrome Web Console, we can see HTTP 400 (Bad Request) errors when the browser attempts to fetch a license from CBS' Widevine back end. First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all 3 images. Historically, some sites and services have deliberately blocked Linux User-Agent strings from accessing them, under the mistaken belief that doing so would reduce their support load when the service itself actually worked fine. This does not appear to be the case with the CBS All Access issue—changing User-Agent in either Chrome or Firefox doesn't have any effect on the string of errors when attempting to play content. Enlarge / CBSi uses Widevine—a fully cross-platform DRM protocol, created by Google. Somehow, it's broken anyway. Jim Salter The curious thing about these DRM errors is that Widevine—the DRM system CBS All Access is using—is a Google creation. It normally works perfectly well on just about any platform you can think of. Disney+, Netflix, Google Play Movies, and Hulu all use Widevine—and all of those work just fine in Google Chrome running under Linux. So we're a little puzzled about just what happened on CBS All Access' end to break things, even though the service does explicitly state that it doesn't support Linux. In further testing, we can confirm that CBS All Access does not work in Google Chrome on Android or Safari on iOS devices—although specific apps are available on both platforms, which do work. We also discovered that the service is broken under Microsoft's new Chromium-based version of Edge—which, it's worth noting, is likely to soon be the default browser for nearly every new Windows PC sold. In the meantime, Linux users do have one functional workaround—CBS All Access is available as an add-on subscription to Amazon Prime streaming video. So if you need All Access on your Linux PC, you can unsubscribe from your existing subscription, log in to Prime, and start a new subscription there—where the content will play back perfectly well, using Amazon's system instead of CBS Interactive's. First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all 2 images. Ars reached out to CBS Interactive for comment; an executive responded, but no answers were available at press time. Source: Linux Star Trek fans, rejoice: CBS All Access now works in your OS [Updated] (Ars Technica) (To view the article's image galleries, please visit the above link)
  9. Rocket League is dropping Mac, Linux because of crazy-low player counts [Updated] "0.3% of all active players" stat comes after vague explanation last week. Enlarge Epic Games For anyone who clings to Linux or MacOS as a preferred gaming platform, Epic Games and Psyonix offered a rare kind of bad news on Thursday. The companies confirmed that their mega-hit game Rocket League would no longer receive updates for either platform following a "final" patch for all non-Windows versions on PC coming in "early March." This "end-of-life" version of Rocket League on Linux and MacOS will still function in a wholly offline state, and affected players will be able to access whatever cosmetics and add-ons they'd previously earned through the game's economy system (but no more new ones). Additionally, those platforms will be able to use Steam Workshop content, but only if it's downloaded and applied to the game before the March patch goes live. Otherwise, if any function in the game connects even in the slightest to the Internet—from item shops to matchmaking to private matches to friends lists—it will stop working once the March patch goes live, and any future modes, maps, or other game-changing content won't come to their platforms, either. The announcement suggests that MacOS users buy a Windows OS license and run future online versions of Rocket League through Apple Boot Camp. It also suggests that Linux players should try Steam Proton or Wine to do the same thing. "These tools are not officially supported by Psyonix," the guide points out. Psyonix's announcement vaguely places the blame for this upcoming change on "adapting to use new technologies," which "has made it more difficult to support macOS and Linux (SteamOS)." Nothing else in the article clarifies what those technologies might be. Thus, the developers at Psyonix leave this decision wide open to speculation, particularly about whether the studio's May 2019 acquisition by Epic Games factors into the decision. At the time of that acquisition, in an attempt to abate fans' worries about Epic Games Store exclusivity, the companies announced that existing game owners "will still be able to play Rocket League on Steam with all of the content they've previously purchased." Today's news for MacOS and Linux owners includes a similar promise of "previously purchased" content working after the patch otherwise shuts down access to future online content. The Epic Games Store launcher and its mega-popular free-to-play game Fortnite have yet to receive a Linux port, but both executables come in a MacOS flavor. We're not sure if the same "new technologies" in question will ever affect Fortnite, which has been built in Unreal Engine 4, as opposed to RL's use of Unreal Engine 3. This news differs from the usual question of whether an in-development game will or will not work on non-Windows platforms. We can't think of many popular games that have worked on Linux and MacOS and then had that perk removed. That said, it's not hard to find developers who might defend dumping support for non-Windows platforms, whether because MacOS has waved goodbye to 32-bit support or because customer-support tickets for Linux players are allegedly quite disproportionate to the platform's sales. This news comes long after Valve's vocal efforts to create a Linux-only SteamOS slowed and while Google is reigniting the conversation by requiring Linux and Vulkan support for all its Stadia streaming titles. Update, January 27: In the days since this announcement, Psyonix has issued a more technical breakdown of the reason for this March 2020 change. Rocket League's update roadmap includes plans to jump from DirectX 9 to DirectX 11 and plans to update from a 32-bit executable to a 64-bit one. The DirectX jump seems to be the stickier point: To keep these versions functional, we would need to invest significant additional time and resources in a replacement rendering pipeline such as Metal on macOS or Vulkan/OpenGL4 on Linux. We'd also need to invest perpetual support to ensure new content and releases work as intended on those replacement pipelines. And that's when the team was frank with its non-Windows players: they only make up 0.3% of "active" players. "Given that, we cannot justify the additional and ongoing investment in developing native clients for those platforms, especially when viable workarounds exist like Bootcamp or Wine to keep those users playing." Psyonix didn't define what "active" meant, nor whether that percentage was for all Rocket League players (including consoles) or only its PC playerbase. This statement came as part of an official refund offer to affected Linux and MacOS players, so long as they follow a specific series of steps to request their money back. Source: Rocket League is dropping Mac, Linux because of crazy-low player counts [Updated] (Ars Technica)
  10. Scheduled for summer 2020 Zorin, which provides a Linux distro designed to look familiar for migrating Windows and Mac users, has announced a subscription-based management tool for Linux desktops. Six desktop layouts in Zorin include Windows, macOS, Touch, Ubuntu, and Gnome 3, though the full range is only available in the paid-for Ultimate edition (€39 + VAT). But the free Core edition is fully usable, includes the Windows-like desktop, and most of the software in Ultimate can be added manually. The main reason to purchase Ultimate is for installation support and to help finance the Ireland-based project. Zorin OS is based on Ubuntu and currently at version 15.1, released in mid-December 2019. There are several variants, including one using the lightweight Xfce desktop for best performance on older hardware. We took a look at version 15 in June last year. New stuff in 15.1 includes version 5.0 of the Linux kernel, the ability to use an Android phone as a remote for presentations, new desktop customisation options, and the inclusion of the Sans Forgetica font, which is deliberately hard to read on the grounds, it is claimed, that you remember things better if the brain puts in more effort. Sans Forgetica claims to be harder to read but easier to remember More significant is the announcement of Zorin Grid, set for release this summer. This is cloud-based management, initially for PCs running Zorin OS, with support for "more Linux-based operating systems" promised shortly after the initial launch. Zorin Grid will let you manage Linux PCs via a cloud dashboard Zorin Grid has several key functions: Install and remove applications Set, update and enforce security policies Monitor computer status Track software and hardware inventory Customise desktop settings Enrolment of a PC requires installing the client software and configuring it for an organisation. Zorin Grid lets you create groups and target configurations per group. You can already manage Linux PCs with systems such as Microsoft's System Center Configuration Manager, the open-source Rudder, or Canonical's Landscape. Zorin Grid could help the company compete in the education market, where Google Chrome OS devices are popular in part because of ease of management via Google's cloud-based system. Zorin users may welcome something tailored to the operating system, though, and with the right combination of capability and ease of use. Zorin Grid promises easier deployment in an organisation than disk imaging, which is the current suggestion for deploying to a large number of machines, as well as offering long-term management rather than just initial rollout. The firm's founder, Artyom Zorin, told The Register: "Zorin Grid is entirely built from scratch by us, so it isn't based on any other project. The client-side software for Zorin will be open source. However, the Zorin Grid server won't be open source initially, but releasing it under an open-source licence is tentatively on our roadmap." Peer through the Windows? Pricing is not yet announced, but will be per computer per month, with a reduction for schools and nonprofits. Canonical charges 1¢ per machine per hour for Landscape, which works out at around $4.50 per month. Zorin is hoping to take advantage of users or organisations moving away from Windows 7, thanks to its end of support this month. It is true that Zorin OS is superficially familiar, thanks to the Start-like Zorin menu and the Zorin Panel, including the Taskbar, which shows running applications. You can pin applications to the Taskbar ("Add to favourites") and launch them from there, just like Windows. This similarity does not make Zorin OS magically able to run Windows applications, though. Some will run thanks to the Wine compatibility layer, which is included by default. The Windows-like appearance is only intended to help users to get started. Zorin OS is an easy-to-use desktop Linux distribution that has the benefits of open-source software as well as the ability to run on older hardware. Presuming it works right, and the price is reasonable, Zorin Grid will make it easier for organisations to adopt. Source
  11. Some exciting news this week for Firefox users running on Wayland... Martin Stránský of Red Hat who is on the Fedora Firefox team and was involved in bringing up Wayland support on Firefox has worked on an interesting improvement for the browser. Martin this week posted a patch implementing FFmpeg-based VA-API video acceleration for Firefox on Wayland. In leveraging the recent Wayland DMA-BUF support within Firefox, it's finally possible with this patch to have Video Acceleration API (VA-API) GPU-accelerated video decoding within the browser when running natively on Wayland. The work-in-progress code for Firefox with VA-API acceleration on Wayland can be found via this Mozilla bug report. The focus is on Intel video acceleration with VA-API but ultimately should end up working ideally with other VA-API driver implementations too. Hopefully this work will see the light of day in upstream Firefox soon. Source
  12. Linux-Windows compatibility layer Wine 5.0 is now out, with over 7,000 updates. Wine, the software that Microsoft has partially credited with making Windows 10 Windows Subsystem for Linux possible, has been updated with over 7,400 changes. Wine is a compatibility layer, designed for Unix-like OSes, which enables Linux and macOS systems to run Windows applications. In the era of Windows XP and former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Microsoft used its anti-piracy Windows Genuine Advantage program to block updates to Wine users on Linux systems. Back then, Microsoft's top echelons refused to publicly recognize the existence of Wine, which meant its developers were even flattered by Microsoft's effort to block Windows and Office updates to Wine users because at least it showed Microsoft had acknowledged their presence. But in today's tech world of cloud computing, interoperable systems, and receding desktop sales, Microsoft has come out as a supporter of the techniques Wine developers used to make Windows software compatible with Linux machines. Microsoft last week filed an amicus curiae brief in support of Google's position against Oracle's claim that software application programming interfaces (APIs) can be copyrighted. Google's case in the US Supreme Court is scheduled for March. Microsoft held up Wine as an example of the importance of open APIs that a victory to Oracle could threaten, which in turn could prevent it in future from creating a feature like WSL – a layer in Windows that lets developers who use Linux command-line tools create applications in Azure. "In another example from the 1990s, an open-source developer created a program called Wine, which allowed developers to enable Windows applications to run on computers that used the Linux open-source system, without explicit authorization from Microsoft," wrote Microsoft. "To create Wine, the developer 'use[d] the same hierarchy of function names' of various Windows APIs. Years later, Microsoft created 'the inverse of Wine', reimplementing the structure of certain Linux APIs to create the Windows Subsystem for Linux, a program that allowed Linux programs to run on Windows. "The Windows-Linux experience shows that reuse of functional code is a two-way street that benefits both the original creator and the follow-on developer – and ultimately the consumer." The Wine 5.0 update takes advantage of this two-way street, introducing Portable Executable (PE) modules, which are built in the Windows binary PE file format that's used in executables and DLLs. According to Wine developers, now the "PE binaries are copied into the Wine prefix instead of the fake DLL files", making the prefix look "more like a real Windows installation, at the cost of some extra disk space." The new release also supports multiple displays and monitors, and there's Vulkan driver support up to version 1.1.126 for Android. Source
  13. The PinePhone starts shipping—a Linux-powered smartphone for $150 For now it's for developers only, and you'll need to flash your own OS. First image of article image gallery. Please visit the source link to see all 9+ images. Pine64 has announced that it is finally shipping the PinePhone, a smartphone that takes the rare step outside the Android/iOS duopoly and is designed to run mainline Linux distributions. The PinePhone starts shipping January 17 in the "Braveheart" developer edition. This initial "Braveheart" batch of devices is meant for "developer and early adopter" users, according to the Pine64 Store. The phone doesn't come with an end-user OS pre-installed and instead only comes with a factory test image that allows for easy verification that the hardware works. Users are expected to flash their own OS to the device. There are several available, from Ubuntu Touch to Sailfish OS, but they are all currently in an unfinished alpha state. Pine64 says that only enthusiasts with "extensive Linux experience" are the intended customers here—this isn't (yet?) a mainstream product. It's hard to mention PinePhone without mentioning that other Linux smartphone, the Purism Librem 5. They could both end up running the same software one day, but the two companies are taking totally different approaches to hardware. Purism has a hardline requirement for the hardware: it needs to be as open and freedom-focused as possible, which means the company couldn't use the typical supply chain that exists for Android phones. Purism has only a limited amount of open source-compatible vendors to choose from, and it uses M.2 socketed chips for the closed-source Wi-Fi/Bluetooth and Cell modem. The result is a device that is very thick (16mm), hot, and expensive, at $750. The PinePhone is less averse to binary blobs and is a lot closer to a normal smartphone. It's a more reasonable thickness (9mm) and a more reasonable price: $150. The PinePhone is powered by an Allwinner A64 SoC, which features four Cortex A53 CPUs at 1.2GHz, built on a pretty ancient 40nm process. This is the same chip the company uses on the PINE A64 single board computer, a Raspberry Pi competitor. The device has 2GB of RAM, a Mali-400 GPU, 16GB of storage, and a 2750mAh battery. The rear camera is 5MP, the front camera is 2MP, the display is a 1440×720 IPS LCD, and the battery is removable. There's a headphone jack, a USB-C port, and support for a MicroSD slot, which you can actually boot operating systems off of. The cellular modem is a large separate chip that is soldered onto the motherboard: a Quectel EG25-G. When the back of the phone is peeled off, the innards actually have some special components. Near the top right corner is a 2x3 grid of gold pogo pins that can provide power, I2C, and GPIO to an attached accessory. Pine64 says that a keyboard case attachment is planned for "sometime in 2020," and for now, the company is still working on the design. The company says it is "making a keyboard heavily inspired by Psion Series 5 keyboards from the 1990s. We hope to not only replicated [sic] the usability of the Psion Series 5 keyboard but also the tactile feel it is known for. " The Psion 5 was a clamshell PDA that ran the EPOC operating system (which was later renamed "Symbian OS") and was powered by 2 AA batteries. Smartphone keyboards from the Moto Droid era would use a single sheet of rubbery keys that squished down onto a contact, but the Psion 5 keyboard was different. The Psion 5 has a scaled-down version of a cheap desktop keyboard, with individual hard, plastic keys that each sat on top of a membrane switch. Also under the removable back is a set of six dip switches that act as privacy kill switches. Users can kill the Modem/GPS, Wi-Fi/Bluetooth, microphone, rear camera, and front camera. The last one, which isn't a privacy feature, is a switch for the headphone jack. The headphone jack switch toggles from the normal mode of operation to a UART (Universal asynchronous receiver-transmitter) port. With this wild-looking male-3.5mm-to-male-USB-A wire, you can get a serial connection out of the PinePhone and do some debugging. With the phone shipping, Pine64 isn't resting on its laurels. The company is also working on a "PineTab" Linux tablet with a detachable keyboard and a "PineTime" smart watch. Soon, you'll be able to run mainline Linux on everything, provided the software actually gets developed. Listing image by Pine64 Source: The PinePhone starts shipping—a Linux-powered smartphone for $150 (Ars Technica) (To view the article's 9+ image gallery, please visit the above link)
  14. The Pepperment team published sad news this week, reporting one of the distribution's lead developers, Mark Greaves, passed away earlier this month. "With a heavy heart I unfortunately have to inform you that Mark is no longer with us. Shane and I received word from one of Mark's sons that he passed away this morning after a 10 day hospital stay. Mark was among the best of us. His contributions to both Peppermint and to the desktop Linux world as a whole are incalculable and he will be sorely missed. There are many unanswered questions at the moment and I'll try to be diligent in relaying relevant information." Greaves will be missed - by his family, the Peppermint community, and the DistroWatch team who got to correspond with him. Source
  15. What Apps Do You Wish Linux Had, Or Can’t Find a Replacement For? If you could magically, instantly, create any sort of app for the Linux desktop right now, what would it be? This question has been tumbling around my brain all weekend thanks to some new (totally spammy) comments being left on an article of mine from 2013 — an article in which I decried the lack of “simple, purposeful” Linux desktop apps. Now, don’t misunderstand my intention in asking you what you’d create if you could. I am not saying Linux has an app gap. I am not implying that open-source suffers from any sort of major software malaise. Those of us who use Linux full time know that we’re not short of drop-in replacements for a broad range of well-known software types. GIMP is, for most of us, every bit as capable as Adobe Photoshop; Kdenlive, Blender and Lightworks all cater to different types of Linux-based video editors; and between Geary, Nylas N1, Evolution, Thunderbird, Sylpheed, K9, there’s barely any e-mail need left uncatered for. No, I’m asking more about tools that fill a specific need in a specific way. “App” apps if you will. What sort of app do you find yourself searching for only to come up empty? LINUX Y U NO MEME APP? There are apps on my phone I can’t wait to use on the desktop I used to really, really long for a desktop meme-maker. Why? App envy. I subscribe to many awesome sites, like Lifehacker, that spotlight awesome apps. I used to see really nifty meme generators that were Windows and Mac OS X only. I really wanted someone to create a simple GTK+ app that could let me hammer out impact bold witticisms over a well established meme template, and let me quickly upload my creations to sites like imgur, in-app. I’ve since outgrown that desire. A desktop meme maker would be overkill now that many competent online tools exist for the job. But I feel the point I was making still (somewhat) stands: there are apps that I love using on mobile platforms for which a decent, comparable alternative on the Linux desktop is (currently) missing. Hope for the future There’s reason to be hopeful. Though I’d wager that native app development for Ubuntu on Phones and Tablets is far scarcer than it should be, the lure of Convergence is poised to bring apps like Dekko, Music and Calendar to the Ubuntu desktop. One of my favorite Ubuntu Touch apps is Pockit, an offline-equipped Pocket reader, one I’d dearly love to see make the transition (Pocket offer a native desktop app for OS X). Snaps will also offer app makers a really clean, sane way to distribute software free of the usual packaging hurdles and distribution headaches. Back to the question, and over to you But back to the question: If you could make any sort of native app for your Linux desktop what would it be? Share your app ideas, inspirations, rants, wants, mockups, etc. in the comments section of source article and please do mention in the comments section below. To keep this a realistic discussion — app developers be lurking — let’s avoid the usual clamour for Adobe products and focus on more general themes, such as “a photo manager comparable to iPhoto”, “a native GTK+ Pocket app” , “an e-mail client that handles Exchange”, etc. Source
  16. Torvalds doesn't want to be hounded by Oracle's legal team for merging ZFS filesystem code into the Linux kernel. Linux kernel head Linus Torvalds has warned engineers against adding a module for the ZFS filesystem that was designed by Sun Microsystems – and now owned by Oracle – due to licensing issues. As reported by Phoronix, Torvalds has warned kernel developers against using ZFS on Linux, an implementation of OpenZFS, and refuses to merge any ZFS code until Oracle changes the open-source license it uses. ZFS has long been licensed under Sun's Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL) as opposed to the Linux kernel, which is licensed under GNU General Public License (GPL). Torvalds aired his opinion on the matter in response to a developer who argued that a recent kernel change "broke an important third-party module: ZFS". The Linux kernel creator says he refuses to merge the ZFS module into the kernel because he can't risk a lawsuit from "litigious" Oracle – which is still trying to sue Google for copyright violations over its use of Java APIs in Android – and Torvalds won't do so until Oracle founder Larry Ellison signs off on its use in the Linux kernel. "If somebody adds a kernel module like ZFS, they are on their own. I can't maintain it and I cannot be bound by other people's kernel changes," explained Torvalds. "And honestly, there is no way I can merge any of the ZFS efforts until I get an official letter from Oracle that is signed by their main legal counsel or preferably by Larry Ellison himself that says that yes, it's OK to do so and treat the end result as GPL'd," Torvalds continued. "Other people think it can be OK to merge ZFS code into the kernel and that the module interface makes it OK, and that's their decision. But considering Oracle's litigious nature, and the questions over licensing, there's no way I can feel safe in ever doing so." The licensing problem is explained on an FAQ from the developers of ZFS on Linux. "While both are free open-source licenses they are restrictive licenses. The combination of them causes problems because it prevents using pieces of code exclusively available under one license with pieces of code exclusively available under the other in the same binary," the ZFS developers write. "In the case of the kernel, this prevents us from distributing ZFS on Linux as part of the kernel binary. However, there is nothing in either license that prevents distributing it in the form of a binary module or in the form of source code." Torvalds addressed this issue too in his response and dismissed the idea of a proposed 'ZFS shim layer' to address problems combining two projects with different licenses, particularly due to Oracle's Java API copyright lawsuit. "And I'm not at all interested in some 'ZFS shim layer' thing either that some people seem to think would isolate the two projects. That adds no value to our side, and given Oracle's interface copyright suits (see Java), I don't think it's any real licensing win either," he explained. His final words on the matter: "Don't use ZFS. It's that simple. It was always more of a buzzword than anything else, I feel, and the licensing issues just make it a non-starter for me." Source
  17. In a few short days, millions of Windows 7 users will reach the end of the line. Or at least, the end of crucial security updates from Microsoft. While Redmond is pushing those users to upgrade to Windows 10, many in the Linux community are vying for attention by pitching their respective distribution (aka Linux desktop OS) as a superior alternative to Windows 10. One such example is KDE Plasma, a desktop I’ve praised in the past for its surprising leanness and wealth of customization options. The KDE Community has just launched #Switch2Plasma, a social campaign targeted equally at Windows 7 users and Linux advocates who want to help spread the word. Instead of migrating to Windows 10 and putting up with hours of updates, intrusions on your privacy and annoying ads built into your apps, install a Linux operating system with Plasma. In 30 minutes you will be up and running and you will have all the security and stability of a Linux system, with all the features and ease of use of Plasma. ~KDE Community, via YouTube For those unaware, KDE Plasma is one of several “Desktop environments” you can install on your Linux distribution of choice, giving your experience much more flexibility than what’s possible on Windows. Linux distributions like Kubuntu and Feren OS offer KDE Plasma pre-installed. Here’s some extended reading if you want to learn more: The focus of KDE’s #Switch2Plasma campaign centers around the following video, which highlights a small slice of the customization options by demonstrating a KDE Plasma desktop that resembles Windows 7 in look and feel: If you’re currently a Windows 7 user and are curious about what you’re seeing in the video, I recommend taking Kubuntu 19.10 for a test drive. If you don’t want to mess with downloads, installation, or anything technical, you can take it for a spin (along with many other Linux distributions) right inside your current desktop or mobile browser here. I made the switch from Windows to Linux in 2018, and have been consistently amazed at how easy it is to install and use as my daily driver. You’ll find a lot to appreciate, from the seamless, annoyance-free system updates to AAA gaming to familiar apps like Spotify, Discord, Blender, Slack, Steam and Telegram among thousands of others. Even Microsoft is beginning to develop native Linux versions of its Office products. For those Linux ricers who are curious how this Windows 7 theme came together, this is for you: Dominic Hayes, the creator of Feren OS, used the following freely available themes and elements to create the Windows 7-like desktop experience inside of KDE Plasma: Plasma Theme: Seven Black Window Decorations: Seven Black Application Style: gtk2 GTK Theme: Windows Se7en by Elbullazul Icons: Darkine Colours: Breeze Light Cursors: DMZ White Splash Screen: Feren OS Panel: 38 height Widgets: Default Apps Menu, I-O Task Manager, Stock System Tray, Feren Calendar or Event Calendar, Win7 Show Desktop If you want to get involved and help the KDE Community spread the word, here are two resources to check out: Plasma: A Safe Haven for Windows 7 Refugees KDE.news ⚓ T12444 Advertise Plasma to Windows 7 refugees Kde Source
  18. Systemd? It's the proper technical solution, says kernel maintainer The Linux kernel has around 27.8 million lines of code in its Git repository, up from 26.1 million a year ago, while systemd now has nearly 1.3 million lines of code, according to GitHub stats analysed by Michael Larabel at Phoronix. There were nearly 75,000 code commits to the kernel during 2019 which is actually slightly down on 2018 (80,000 commits), and the lowest number since 2013. The top contributors by email domain were Intel and Red Hat (Google's general gmail.com aside) and the top contributing individuals were Linus Torvalds, with 3.19 per cent of the commits, followed by David Miller (Red Hat) and Chris Wilson (Intel). There were 4,189 different contributors overall. Another point of interest is that systemd, a replacement for init that is the first process to run when Linux starts, is now approaching 1.3 million lines of code thanks to nearly 43,000 commits in 2019. Top contributor was not systemd founder Lennart Poettering (who was second), but Yu Watanabe with 26.94 per cent of the commits. Systemd is used by many of the most popular Linux distributions, but not all. It is evolving rapidly and there are now plans to extend it to manage home folders with a new systemd-homed daemon. Despite its wide adoption, systemd is controversial – with its large size and increasing scope among the contentious aspects. Kernel developer Greg Kroah-Hartman, who is also a major contributor to systemd, defended the approach when we broached the subject at an event late last year. "Everybody who has ever worked at that level in the operating system has agreed that systemd is the proper solution. It solves a problem that people have. Distros have adopted it because it solves a problem for them. If you don't want to use it, you don't have to use it. There's other init replacements out there. Android doesn't use it because they use other things," he said. Larabel has published statistics on coding activity for the Linux kernel here and for systemd here. Source
  19. Brief: Ubuntu Cinnamon is a new distribution that utilizes Linux Mint’s Cinnamon desktop environment on top of Ubuntu code base. It’s first stable release is based on Ubuntu 19.10 Eoan Ermine. Cinnamon is Linux Mint’s flagship desktop environment. Like MATE desktop, Cinnamon is also a product of dissatisfaction with GNOME 3. With the GNOME Classic like user interface and relatively lower hardware requirements, Cinnamon soon gathered a dedicated userbase. Like any other desktop environment out there, you can install Cinnamon on Ubuntu and other distributions. Installing multiple desktop environments (DE) is not a difficult task but it often leads to conflicts (with other DE’s elements) and may not always provide the best experience. This is why major Linux distributions separate spins/flavors with various popular desktop environments. Ubuntu also has various official flavors featuring KDE (Kubuntu), LXQt (Lubuntu), Xfce (Xubuntu), Budgie (Ubuntu Budgie) etc. Cinnamon was not in this list but Ubuntu Cinnamon Remix project is trying to change that. Ubuntu Cinnamon distribution Ubuntu Cinnamon Desktop Screenshot Ubuntu Cinnamon (website under construction) is a new Linux distribution that brings Cinnamon desktop to Ubuntu distribution. Joshua Peisach is the lead developer for the project and he is being helped by other volunteer contributors. The ex-developer of the now discontinued Ubuntu GNOME project and some members from Ubuntu team are also advising the team to help with the development. Ubuntu Cinnamon Remix Screeenshot 1 Do note that Ubuntu Cinnamon is not an official flavor of Ubuntu. They are trying to get the flavorship but I think that will take a few more releases. The first stable release of Ubuntu Cinnamon is based on Ubuntu 19.10 Eoan Ermine. It uses Calamares installer from Lubuntu and features Cinnamon desktop version 4.0.10. Naturally, it uses Nemo file manager and LightDM. It supports EFI and UEFI and only comes with 64-bit support. You’ll get your regular goodies like LibreOffice, Firefox and some GNOME software and games. You can of course install more applications as per your need. I downloaded it and tried it in a live session. Here’s what this distribution looks like: Download and install Ubuntu Cinnamon Do note that this is the first ever release of Ubuntu Cinnamon and the developers are not that experienced at this moment. If you don’t like troubleshooting, don’t use it on your main system. I expect this release to have a few bugs and issues which will be fixed eventually as more users test it out. You can download Ubuntu Cinnamon ISO from Sourceforge website: Here What next from here? Download Ubuntu Cinnamon Wallpaper HD Here As several readers asked for the default wallpaper of Ubuntu Cinnamon, I am adding it on the website here. You can download it from the link below and use it on your current desktop. The dev team has a few improvements planned for the 20.04 release. The changes are mostly on the cosmetics though. There will be new GRUB and Plymouth theme, layout application and welcome screen. Source
  20. Google is bringing a Tab Strip to Chrome for Windows and Linux If you have used the Microsoft Edge web browser, classic or new, you may have stumbled upon the browser's Tab Strip feature. Just click on the arrow icon on the tab bar to display thumbnail images of the sites and resources open in the browser. It appears that Google is attempting to bring a similar feature to the company's Chrome web browser. Already in Chrome OS, Google engineers are working on introducing Tab Strip functionality in the Chrome browser. The feature introduces an option in the Chrome browser to display a strip of tabs. While it is unclear yet how it would be activated by the user, it is likely that Google is adding an icon to the browser's tab bar to activate and deactivate the Tab Strip view in the browser. The following screenshot shows the Tab Strip in the Microsoft Edge web browser. The arrow icon next to the plus icon in the Tab Bar displays and hides the Tab Strip interface. When activated, it pushes the activate site down as it needs room to display the thumbnails. Edge users may use drag and drop to change the order of tabs or jump to any open site with a click on the tab. The video that is embedded below demonstrates how the Tab Strip looks like in Chrome OS. All tabs open in the web browser are displayed with thumbnails when users activate the Tab Strip functionality. Since thumbnails use a wider area than tabs, scrolling is available to go through the list of open sites and resources in the browser. It is furthermore possible to drag and drop tabs to reorder them just like it is the case in Chrome's Tab Bar (and any other browser's for that matter). The visualization may improve use on touch-enabled devices and help users locate tabs quicker. Google did not reveal when the new functionality will land in Chrome; it is likely that it will be introduced behind a flag that users need to enable to activate the functionality. Closing Words While I'd like to see options to scroll the tab bar in Chrome, as the browser still becomes unusable when too many tabs are opened, it is clear that the Tab Strip would offer users some resource as it supports scrolling. Chrome users who cannot identify tabs anymore could use it for navigational purposes. Source: Google is bringing a Tab Strip to Chrome for Windows and Linux (gHacks - Martin Brinkmann)
  21. The Debian Project has announced the availability of Debian 10.2. The announcement means that you can download new Debian 10 ISO images that include all the latest updates, this is good as clean installs will have fewer updates to install and the new ISOs can be installed on offline machines to ensure they have all the latest updates. In its announcement, the Debian Project said: The new update brings several new bug fixes for some popular packages including Flatpak, Emacs, GNOME Shell, LibreOffice, Python 2.7, systemd, uBlock, Thunderbird, PHP 7.3, the Linux kernel, Firefox, and Chromium. Unfortunately, older 32-bit ARM devices running the armel Debian port have lost the Firefox package as it is no longer supportable due to a NodeJS build dependency. If you already have Debian 10 installed, there is no need to throw away your old installation media or do a clean installation. In order to upgrade to Debian 10.2 just apply all of the available updates, if you regularly keep your system up to date anyway then you won’t have many more updates to install. Debian 10 was released earlier this year. With the mainline security support and the extended support, you can expect to receive updates for this version until 2024. Source: Debian 10.2 released with the latest bug fixes (via Neowin)
  22. Ignite 2019: Microsoft details its efforts to level the playing field against cyber attackers. Microsoft announced the brand change from Windows Defender to Microsoft Defender in March after giving security analysts the tools to inspect enterprise Mac computers for malware via the Microsoft Defender console. Rob Lefferts, corporate vice president for Microsoft's M365 Security, told ZDNet that Microsoft Defender for Linux systems will be available for customers in 2020. Application Guard is also coming to all Office 365 documents. Previously, this security feature was only available in Edge and allowed users to safely open a webpage in an isolated virtual machine to protect them from malware. Now, users who open Office 365 apps, like Word or Excel, will have the same protection. "It's coming in preview first, but when you get an untrusted document with potentially malicious macros via email, it will open in a container," he said. It means when an attacker attempts to download more code from the internet and then install malware on the machine, the machine is a VM, so the victim never actually installs the malware. The move should help protect against phishing and other attacks that attempt to trick users into exiting from Protected View, which prevents users from running macros by default. Lefferts will also discuss how Microsoft is protecting organizations from sophisticated malware attackers who are exploiting the 'information parity problem' – a highbrow term for how aspects of a network can influence its overall design. "Defenders have to know everything perfectly and attackers only need to know one thing kind of well. The point is, it's not a level playing field and it's getting worse," said Lefferts. Key to this ability is the Microsoft Security Intelligent Graph that Microsoft is selling to enterprise customers. But what exactly is the Microsoft Intelligent Security Graph? "It's built into Defender ATP, Office 365, and Azure. We have signals built into events, behaviors, and things as simple as a user logged on to a machine or as complicated as the behavior of the memory layout in Word on this device is different to what it normally looks like," explained Lefferts. "Essentially we have sensors across all the identities, endpoints, cloud apps, and infrastructure and they're sending all of this to a central place inside Microsoft's cloud." Microsoft doesn't mean physical sensors in the context of its Intelligent Security Graph but rather pieces of code sitting inside its various applications that feed into to the Intelligent Security Graph. The idea is to assist security teams to solve challenges differently to the way humans would do it. "Humans aren't great at huge numbers, but this is the place where machines can provide new insight." Microsoft's evidence that it is making a difference is that it has helped prevent 13.5 billion malicious emails so far in 2019, and Lefferts expects Microsoft to have blocked 14 billion by the end of the year. The company has highlighted its work in defending US and European political organizations against cyberattacks ahead of the 2020 US presidential mid-term elections. "Defending democracy is a big point for us because we're making sure we take all the capabilities we're building here and use it to help organizations and governments around the world," he said. "The goal is to help defenders cut through the noise and prioritize important work and be ready to help protect and respond, both smarter and faster using signals from Windows, Office, and Azure." The key tool Microsoft is introducing now is automated remediation for Office 365 customers that have Microsoft Threat Protection. "There's a kill chain that represents every step an attacker takes as they move through the organization. When you find that going on, you want to ensure that you clean up the whole thing," said Lefferts. For example, a hacker breaches a network through a phishing email, installs malware on the device, and then moves laterally to critical infrastructure, such as an email server or domain controller. The hacker can maintain a presence on the network for potentially years. "The whole point about automation is finding all the compromised accounts and resetting those passwords, finding all the users who got malicious emails and scrubbing them out of inboxes, and finding all the devices that were impacted and isolating them, quarantining them, and cleaning them." Lefferts was careful not to use the word artificial intelligence and stressed that Microsoft's technologies are aimed at "augmentation of people" in security teams or "exoskeletons" for people rather than robots. So how would it help enterprise organizations respond to the next NotPetya ransomware outbreak? NotPetya spread initially through a poisoned update from a Ukraine-based accounting software firm, crippling several global firms, including Maersk and Mondelez. "The first thing is that it happens faster than the vendors can respond, which is a huge issue. [Responders] really need the augmentation that we're talking about so that they can go faster. There are also so many opportunities for defenders to intermediate and break the kill chain and fix everything. And we want to make sure we can work across that kill chain." Microsoft will also roll out new features for customers using Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection, offering admins a better overview of targeted phishing attacks. The idea is to subvert typical strategies that attackers use to avoid detection, such as sending email from different IP addresses. "However they pick their targets, they're going to have a factory where they're going to build a campaign that they're going to direct at those targets. And they will keep iterating on all the pieces of that campaign to see what's most effective at getting past the defenders and how they best trick the user into clicking something," said Lefferts. "It shows up as an onslaught of email across multiple users within the organization – sometimes just a few, sometimes in the hundreds. What we give defenders is a view of what's happening. There's email coming from different IP addresses and different sender domains and it's got different components in it because they keep running different experiments. We put the whole picture together to show you the flow, how it evolved over time." Source
  23. Microsoft's Edge browser is officially coming to Linux soon Back in May at Microsoft's Build 2019 developer conference, the company teased that its new Chromium-based Edge browser might be coming to Linux. At the time, public testing of the new browser was in its infancy, so there were a lot of uncertainties. In fact, back then, we didn't even have a Beta channel, and there weren't any builds for macOS yet, or older versions of Windows. Microsoft has teased Edge coming to Linux a couple of times since then, and today, it's finally official. During its State of the Browser session at its Ignite 2019 conference in Orlando, the Redmond firm finally said that there's a version of Edge coming to Linux. As for the timeline, it's the most familiar for those that follow Microsoft: it's coming soon. The Edge team rarely provides actual details for when the browser will hit a major milestone, so it was a bit surprising that it actually announced a general availability date today. Edge Chromium will be available for Windows and macOS beginning on January 15. While it's possible that the Linux variant could be in the Canary and Dev channels by then, it won't be generally available, just like the ARM64 flavor for Windows 10. Source: Microsoft's Edge browser is officially coming to Linux soon (Neowin)
  24. In a discussion about Linux and programming, Linux's founder, Linus Torvalds talks about what he does today and his own doubts about his work. Linus Torvalds, Linux's creator, doesn't make speeches anymore. But, what he does do, and he did again at Open Source Summit Europe in Lyon France is have public conversations with his friend Dirk Hohndel, VMware's Chief Open Source Officer. In this keynote discussion, Torvalds revealed that he doesn't think he's a programmer anymore. So what does the person everyone thinks of as a programmer's programmer do instead? Torvalds explained: I don't know coding at all anymore. Most of the code I write is in my e-mails. So somebody sends me a patch ... I [reply with] pseudo code. I'm so used to editing patches now I sometimes edit patches and send out the patch without having ever tested it. I literally wrote it in the mail and say, 'I think this is how it should be done,' but this is what I do, I am not a programmer. So, Hohndel asked, "What is your job?" Torvalds replied, "I read and write a lot of email. My job really is, in the end, is to say 'no.' Somebody has to say 'no' to [this patch or that pull request]. And because developers know that if they do something that I'll say 'no' to, they do a better job of writing the code." Torvalds continued, "Sometimes the code changes are so obvious that no messages really required, but that is very very rare." To help your code pass muster with Torvalds it helps to ''explain why the code does something and why some change is needed because that in turn helps the managerial side of the equation, where if you can explain your code to me, I will trust the code." In short, these days Torvalds is a code manager and maintainer, not a developer. That's fine with him: "I see one of my primary goals to be very responsive when people send me patches. I want to be like, I say yes or no within a day or two. During a merge, the day or two may stretch into a week, but I want to be there all the time as a maintainer." That's what code maintainers should do. "I think that's one of the main things you want to do is to be responsive so that the people who are sending code, either as patches or as requests feel like their work is -- maybe not appreciated because sometimes it's not -- but at least they get feedback." This may not sound like much fun. Hohndel reminded him that, after all, Torvalds' early autobiography was entitled Just for Fun. True, while he's no longer getting his hands dirty with coding on PCs with 4MBs of RAM and simple libraries and tools, Torvalds is still having fun. Torvalds said, "In many respects, development has gotten much easier. … We have much better tools, and we have much better documentation, we have a lot more community where people feel that it's part of their jobs and that's the primary part of their job to help new people come in." Still, Torvalds admitted, "What is maybe slightly not fun is we have to have a lot of rules in place. It was much more freewheeling back in the days and there were more banter and you could try things. There is a lot of seriousness, but the reason I'm still doing it is, it's the right thing. So right, I may spend most of my time reading email, but part of the reason I do that is [otherwise] I'd be really bored." Torvalds also admitted that while he's pleased with what he's doing with Linux today, he, like so many of us, has had doubts about his ability. Even he has felt some imposter syndrome. True, with the exception of the desktop, Linux runs pretty much everything in the world now, but what makes Torvalds "happy about Git is not that its taken over the world. It's that we all have self doubt, right, we all think 'are we actually any good?' And one of the self doubts I had with Linux was, it was just a reimplementation of Unix, right? Can I give you something that isn't just a better version of something else and Git proved to me that I can. Having two projects that made a big splash means that I'm not a one-trick pony." Oh, I think we all knows he's more than that. Source
  25. Last week the laptop I use for macOS development said that there is an XCode update available. I tried to install it but it said that there is not enough free space available to run the installer. So I deleted a bunch of files and tried again. Still the same complaint. Then I deleted some unused VM images. Those would free a few dozen gigabytes, so it should make things work. I even emptied the trash can to make sure nothing lingered around. But even this did not help, I still got the same complaint. At this point it was time to get serious and launch the terminal. And, true enough, according to df the disk had only 8 gigabytes of free space even though I had just deleted over 40 gigabytes of files from it (using rm, not the GUI, so things really should have been gone). A lot of googling and poking later I discovered that all the deleted files had gone to "reserved space" on the file system. There was no way to access those files or delete them. According to documentation the operating system would delete those files "on demand as more space is needed". This was not very comforting because the system most definitely was not doing that and you'd think that Apple's own software would get this right. After a ton more googling I managed to find a chat buried somewhere deep in Reddit which listed the magical indentation that purges reserved space. It consisted of running tmutil from the command line and giving it a bunch of command line arguments that did not seem to make sense or have any correlation to the thing that I wanted to do. But it did work and eventually I got XCode updated. After my blood pressure dropped to healthier levels I got the strangest feeling of déjà vu. This felt exactly like using Linux in the early 2000s. Things break at random for reasons you can't understand and the only way to fix it is to find terminal commands from discussion forums, type them in and hope for the best. Then it hit me. This was not an isolated incidence. The parallels are everywhere. Observe: External monitors Linux 2000: plugging an external monitor will most likely not work. Fanboys are very vocal that this is the fault of monitor manufacturers for not providing modeline info. Apple 2019: plugging an external projector will most likely not work. Fanboys are very vocal that this is the fault of projector manufacturers for not ensuring that their HW works with every Apple model. Software installation Linux 2000: There is only One True Way of installing software: using distro packages. If you do anything else you are bad and you should feel bad. Apple 2019: There is only True Way of installing software: using the Apple store. If you do anything else you are bad and you should feel bad. Hardware compatibility Linux 2000: only a limited number of hardware works out of the box, even for popular devices like 3D graphics cards. Things either don't work at all, have reduced functionality, or kinda work but fail spuriously every now and then for no discernible reason. Apple 2019: only a limited number of hardware works out of the box, even for popular devices like Android phones. Things either don't work at all, have reduced functionality, or kinda work but fail spuriously every now and then for no discernible reason. Technical support Linux 2000: if your problem is not google-trivial, there's nothing you can do. Asking friends for assistance does not help, because they will just type your problem description into Google and read the first hit. Apple 2019: if your problem is not google-trivial, there's nothing you can do. Calling Apple's tech support line does not help, because they will just type your problem description into Google and read the first hit. Laptop features Linux 2000: it is very difficult to find a laptop with more than two USB ports. Apple 2019: it is very difficult to find a laptop with more than two USB ports. Advocate behaviour Linux 2000: fanboys will let you know in no uncertain terms that their system is the best and will take over all desktop computer usage. Said fanboys are condescending elitist computer nerds. Apple 2019: fanboys will let you know in no uncertain terms that their system is the best and will take over all desktop computer usage. Said fanboys are condescending elitist hipster latte web site designers. Source
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