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25 Years Later: Interview with Linus Torvalds

2 weeks ago

Linux Journal's very first issue featured an interview between LJ's first Publisher, Robert Young (who went on to co-found Red Hat among other things), and Linus Torvalds (author of the Linux kernel). After 25 years, we thought it'd be interesting to get the two of them together again.

Google Won't Allow DRM in an Open-Source Project, Collabora Announces the SPURV Project, WPS Office for Linux Version 11 Released, PyCharm 2019.1.1 Now Available, and KDE Plasma 5.15.4 Brings Many Bug Fixes and Improvements

2 weeks ago

News briefs for April 4, 2019.

Google won't allow DRM in an open-source project. Samuel Maddock is building a browser called Metastream, an "Electron-based (Chromium derived), MIT-licensed browser hosted on GitHub. Its main feature is the ability to playback videos on the web, synchronized with other peers. Each client runs its own instance of the Metastream browser and transmits playback information to keep them in sync—no audio or video content is sent." He sent a request to Google for a license to implement Widevine in his browser, and received this reply, "I'm sorry but we're not supporting an open source solution like this", four months later. See also "After years of insisting that DRM in HTML wouldn't block open source implementations, Google says it won't support open source implementations" by Cory Doctorow for more on the story.

Collabora recently announced a new project called SPURV, which allows you to "run Android applications in the same graphical environment as regular Wayland Linux applications with full 3D acceleration." The announcement also notes that "For current non-Android systems, this work enables a path forward to running Android applications in the same graphical environment as traditional non-Android applications are run." Full build instructions are available on GitLab.

WPS Office for Linux version 11 (2019) was released recently. Linux Uprising reports that the new version of the office suite includes "support for high resolution screens, skin support, and interface updates." See the WPS Community site to download the Linux version.

PyCharm 2019.1.1 is now available. From the announcement: "PyCharm is the first JetBrains IDE to ship with the new JDK 11. This brings us improved performance and better rendering for our Jupyter Notebooks. Unfortunately, it also means that we ran into a couple of teething issues with the new JDK."

KDE Plasma 5.15.4 was released this week with more than three dozen bug fixes and improvements. According to Softpedia News, highlights of this release include "improvements to the Flatpak and Fwupd (firmware update) backends in the Plasma Discover package manager, better support for the latest Nvidia graphics drivers in the KWin window and composite manager, along with proper support for restoring the current desktop from session." See also the release announcement at KDE.org for more information and links to live images and downloads.

News Google open source drm Collabora Android Wayland WPS Office PyCharm KDE Plasma
Jill Franklin

Open Source Is Winning, and Now It's Time for People to Win Too

2 weeks ago
by Reuven M. Lerner

Teaching kids about open source? Don't forget to teach them ethics as well.

Back when I started college, in the fall of 1988, I was introduced to a text editor called Emacs. Actually, it wasn't just called Emacs; it was called "GNU Emacs". The "GNU" part, I soon learned, referred to something called "free software", which was about far more than the fact that it was free of charge. The GNU folks talked about software with extreme intensity, as if the fate of the entire world rested on the success of their software replacing its commercial competition.

Those of us who used such programs, either from GNU or from other, similarly freely licensed software, knew that we were using high-quality code. But to our colleagues at school and work, we were a bit weird, trusting our work to software that wasn't backed by a large, commercial company. (I still remember, as a college intern at HP, telling the others in my group that I had compiled, installed and started to use a new shell known as "bash", which was better than the "k shell" we all were using. Their response was somewhere between bemusement and horror.)

As time went on, I started to use a growing number of programs that fit into this "free software" definition—Linux, Perl and Python were the stars, but plenty of others existed, from Emacs (which I use to this day), sendmail (pretty much the only SMTP server at the time), DNS libraries and the like. In 1998, Tim O'Reilly decided that although the "free software" cause was good, it needed better coordination and marketing. Thus, the term "open source" was popularized, stressing the practical benefits over the philosophical and societal ones.

I was already consulting at the time, regularly fighting an uphill battle with clients—small startups and large multinationals alike—telling them that yes, I trusted code that didn't cost money, could be modified by anyone and was developed by volunteers.

But marketing, believe it or not, really does work. And the term "open source" did a great job of opening many people's minds. Slowly but surely, things started to change: IBM announced that it would invest huge amounts of money in Linux and open-source software. Apache, which had started life as an httpd server, became a foundation that sponsored a growing array of open-source projects. Netscape tumbled as quickly as it had grown, releasing its Mozilla browser as open-source software (and with its own foundation) before going bust. Red Hat proved that you could have a successful open-source company based on selling high-quality services and support. And these are just the most prominent names.

With every announcement, the resistance to using open source in commercial companies dropped bit more. As companies realized that others were depending on open source, they agreed to use it too.

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Reuven M. Lerner