Linux Journal

Tetrate Launched, Google Chrome 73 Released, Godot 3.1 Is Now Available, Enroll to Try Android Q Beta, and Pi Day Live Stream Event and Contest

1 month ago

News briefs for March 14, 2019.

Tetrate, a new enterprise-grade service mesh from the creators of gRPC and Istio, launched yesterday. Varun Talwar, CEO of Tetrate and formerly co-creator of Istio at Google, says "Tetrate's mission is to create a secure and flexible application networking layer to help enterprises transition from their decades-old rigid networking stack. Our tools and technologies will help customers with availability and manageability of their applications as they undergo this transformation." In addition, "Tetrate is launching with $12.5 million in funding from Dell Technologies Capital, as well as from participating investors 8VC, Intel Capital, Rain Capital, and Samsung NEXT." It also plans to use the funding to "extend its open-source leadership and further contribute to the open-source community". See this ITOps Times article for more information.

Google Chrome 73 was released this week for Linux, Mac and Windows. Chrome 73.0.3683.75 includes 60 security fixes and many other improvements. You can see the full list of changes in the log.

Godot 3.1 was released yesterday. This new version of the open-source game engine includes the OpenGL ES 2.0 renderer, optional typing in GDScript, a revamped inspector, revamped 2D editor and much more. You can download it from here and view the release trailer here.

Android Q Beta was released yesterday. From the Android Developers Blog: "Building on top of efforts like Google Play Protect and runtime permissions, Android Q brings a number of additional privacy and security features for users, as well as enhancements for foldables, new APIs for connectivity, new media codecs and camera capabilities, NNAPI extensions, Vulkan 1.1 support, faster app startup, and more." Enroll here to get Android Q Beta updates over the air on any Pixel device.

In honor of Pi Day, the folks at RaspberryPi.org are holding a Raspberry Pi 3B+ live stream event on YouTube featuring "hours upon hours of our favourite Pi in all its glorious wonderment". And there's more: at some point today, they’re "going to add a unique hashtag to this live stream, and anyone who uses said hashtag on Instagram and/or Twitter* before midnight tonight (GMT) will be entered into a draw to win a Raspberry Pi Model 3B+ and an official case signed by Eben Upton himself."

News Tetrate Networking Chrome Godot Android Mobile Raspberry Pi
Jill Franklin

Antennas in Linux

1 month ago
by Joey Bernard

For this article, I want to introduce a piece of software I've actually used recently in my own work. My new day job involves studying the ionosphere using an instrument called an ionosonde. This device is basically a giant radio transmitter that bounces radio waves off the ionosphere to see its structure and composition. Obviously, an important part of this is knowing the radiation pattern of the various transmitters and receivers.

Several methods exist for modeling the electromagnetic fields around conductors, but here I'm covering one called NEC2 (Numerical Electromagnetics Code). It originally was developed in FORTRAN at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the 1970s. Since then, it's been re-implemented several times in various languages. Specifically, let's look at xnec2c. This package implements NEC2 in C, and it also provides a GTK front end for interacting with the core engine.

xnec2c should be available in most Linux distributions. In Debian-based distributions, you can install it with the command:

sudo apt-get install xnec2c

Once it's installed, you can start it with xnec2c. The default display doesn't show anything until you actually start using it.

Figure 1. Launching xnec2c gives you a pretty boring starting point.

xnec2c's history still affects how it behaves to the present day. This is most clear when you look at the input file's format. The basic structure is based on the idea of a punch card, where each "command" to xnec2c is given by a command card—a definite holdover from its FORTRAN roots. Luckily, the GTK front end to xnec2c provides a reasonably functional way of building up these input files.

Several example files should be available with your installation of xnec2c. In my Ubuntu distribution, they're located in /usr/share/doc/xnec2c/examples. These input files have a filename ending of ".nec". Select one as a starting off point to play with xnec2c, and then go ahead and make the required alterations necessary for your own project.

Figure 2. Loading an input file, you begin with a geometric view of the relevant antenna wires, other conductors and any ground planes.

The central window pane provides a geometric view of the actual antenna structure in three dimensions. You can click and drag the diagram to rotate the view and see it from all angles. There are two larger buttons at the top of the window, named Currents and Charges. Selecting them alternately will show either the distribution of currents or the distribution of charges caused by the driving current.

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Joey Bernard

Streamlio Launches Streamlio Cloud, Firefox Announces Firefox Send, GraphQL Foundation Collaborating with the Joint Development Foundation, the Fedora Project Is Sponsoring Libravatar and the Linux Foundation Announces Community Bridge

1 month ago

News briefs for March 13, 2019.

Streamlio announces Streamlio Cloud, "its new cloud-native service for fast data". Streamlio Cloud is powered by Apache Pulsar and runs within Amazon Web Services. The press release quotes Streamlio Co-Founder Karthik Ramasamy: "Streamlio's new service makes the unique cloud-native architecture, performance, and flexibility of Apache Pulsar accessible to any organization in just a few clicks and without operational burdens, helping organizations move away from the plodding batch-oriented world to the world of data-driven applications that operate at the speed of data." See the Streamlio Cloud page for more information.

Firefox yesterday announced its new Firefox Send feature. According to the Mozilla Blog post, "Send is a free encrypted file transfer service that allows users to safely and simply share files from any browser. Additionally, Send will also be available as an Android app in beta later this week." You also can decide when the link expires, select the number of downloads and optionally add a password for more security.

The GraphQL Foundation announces collaboration with the Joint Development Foundation (which recently joined the Linux Foundation) to drive open source and open standards. From the press release: "GraphQL Foundation encourages contributions, stewardship, and a shared investment from a broad group in vendor-neutral events, documentation, tools, and support for the data query language. The following companies Apollo, AWS, Butterfly Network, Dgraph Labs, Facebook, Gatsby, GraphZen, Hasura, IBM, Intuit, Neo4j, Novvum, PayPal, Pipefy, Salsify, Solo.io and Thicit are joining as members to advance GraphQL as an industry specification for designing more effective APIs....GraphQL is the first Linux Foundation project to benefit from the JDF and Linux Foundation collaboration, which provides open source projects with a swift path to standardization for open specifications. Developers will have an open GraphQL specification and open source software implementations available for designing conformant APIs."

The Fedora Project is now sponsoring Libravatar, the "free and open source service that anyone can use to host and share an avatar (profile picture) to other websites". The Libravatar blog describes the project as "part of a movement working to give control back to people, away from centralized services and the organizations running them. It addresses a simple problem: putting a face on an email address." The Libravatar project had announced it was shutting down about a year ago, but the Fedora Project worked with the community to keep it alive.

The Linux Foundation yesterday announced CommunityBridge, "a new platform created to empower open source developers—and the individuals and organizations who support them—to advance sustainability, security, and diversity in open source technology". The initial launch is offering CommunityBridge Funding ("enabling developers to transparently raise and spend funding"), CommunityBridge Security ("providing transparency into potential vulnerabilities and fixes") and CommunityBridge People ("enabling easy connections of mentors and prospective mentees interested in getting involved in projects and advancing diversity"). Project maintainers and core developers can apply at communitybridge.org.

News Streamlio Cloud Firefox Security The Linux Foundation GraphQL Fedora Libravatar CommunityBridge
Jill Franklin

FOSS Project Spotlight: Daylight Linux Version 3

1 month ago
by Hamdy Abou El Anein

Daylight Linux is the only official distribution for the Raspberry Pi to work with the Fluxbox interface. With Fluxbox, Daylight Linux is one of the lightest and fastest distributions for all Raspberry Pi models.

Many programs, games and system tools were developed during a long year of work in Python 3 to create version 3.

Figure 1. The System at Boot

The system works with autologin, but you also can use these login/passwords: "root"/"toor" and "Daylight"/"toor".

Figure 2. The Daylight Linux Menu

Figure 3. The Daylight Linux Desktop with System Information

Figure 4. The Daylight Linux File Manager

A live version also is available for computers. This version aims to provide Debian-based Linux with the lightness of Daylight Linux.

Daylight Linux version 3 runs on all Raspberry Pi models, and it's based on Debian Buster. Visit the official website for more information and to download.

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Hamdy Abou El Anein

The Linux Foundation Announces the CHIPS Alliance, Raspberry Pi-Driven Dream Machine, Purism's Librem 5 Phone to Have Lockdown Mode, Avidemux 2.7.2 Now Available and sway 1.0 Released

1 month ago

News briefs for March 12, 2019.

The Linux Foundation yesterday announced it is forming the CHIPS Alliance project to "host and curate high-quality open source code relevant to the design of silicon devices. CHIPS Alliance will foster a collaborative environment that will enable accelerated creation and deployment of more efficient and flexible chip designs for use in mobile, computing, consumer electronics, and Internet of Things (IoT) applications." According to the press release, Esperanto Technologies, Google, SiFive and Western Digital, are all early backers of the CHIPS Alliance, and all are "committed to both open source hardware and continued momentum behind the free and open RISC-V architecture."

The Dream Machine is a Raspberry Pi-driven vending machine recently launched by FOODBEAST and Nissin. RaspberryPi.org reports that the Dream Machine "retrofit vending machine" is part of a digital viral marketing campaign", and it "dispenses ramen noodles, video games, and swag in exchange for the use of an Instagram hashtag". So far, the Dream Machines have appeared in Torrance, California, and Las Vegas, Nevada.

Purism announces that along with three kill switches, Librem 5 smartphone also will have a new feature called "Lockdown Mode". As far as the kill switches, one is for cameras and microphone, one for WiFi and Bluetooth, and one for cellular baseband. Lockdown Mode goes further and "extends our normal kill switches to provide even more security and privacy". Purism's Chief Security Officer Kyle Rankin writes, "When in Lockdown Mode, in addition to powering off the cameras, microphone, WiFi, Bluetooth and cellular baseband we also cut power to GNSS, IMU, and ambient light and proximity sensors. Lockdown Mode leaves you with a perfectly usable portable computer, just with all tracking sensors and other hardware disabled. If you switch any of the hardware kill switches back on, the hardware that corresponds to that switch powers on along with GNSS, IMU, and ambient light and proximity sensors."

Avidemux 2.7.2 was released yesterday. This version of the video editor includes new demuxers and encoders, as well as the usual bugfixes. See also the UbuntuHandbook post for links to downloads and more install information.

sway 1.0 was released yesterday. This marks the first stable release of sway, and "represents a consistent, flexible, and powerful desktop environment for Linux and FreeBSD". Creator Drew DeVault writes, "Sway 1.0 adds a huge variety of features which were sorely missed on 0.x, improves performance in every respect, offers a more faithful implementation of Wayland, and exists as a positive political force in the Wayland ecosystem pushing for standardization and cooperation among Wayland projects." The GitHub page for sway 1.0 is here.

News The Linux Foundation CHIPS Alliance open hardware IOT Raspberry Pi Purism Librem 5 Phone Security Avidemux multimedia sway desktop environments
Jill Franklin

Considering Fresh C Extensions

1 month ago
by Zack Brown

Matthew Wilcox recently realized there might be a value in depending on C extensions provided by the Plan 9 variant of the C programming language. All it would require is using the -fplan9-extensions command-line argument when compiling the kernel. As Matthew pointed out, Plan 9 extensions have been supported in GCC as of version 4.6, which is the minimum version supported by the kernel. So theoretically, there would be no conflict.

Nick Desaulniers felt that any addition of -f compiler flags to any project always would need careful consideration. Depending on what the extensions are needed for, they could be either helpful or downright dangerous.

In the current case, Matthew wanted to use the Plan 9 extensions to shave precious bytes off of a cyclic memory allocation that needed to store a reference to the "next" value. Using the extensions, Matthew said, he could embed the "next" value without breaking various existing function calls.

Nick also suggested making any such extension dependencies optional, so that other compilers would continue to be able to compile the kernel.

It looked as though there would be some back and forth on the right way to proceed, but Linus Torvalds immediately jumped in to veto the entire concept, saying:

Please don't.

The subset of the plan9 extensions that are called just "ms" extensions is fine. That's a reasonable thing, and is a very natural expansion of the unnamed structures we already have—namely being able to pre-declare that unnamed structure/union.

But the full plan9 extensions are nasty, and makes it much too easy to write "convenient" code that is really hard to read as an outsider because of how the types are silently converted.

And I think what you want is explicitly that silent conversion.

So no. Don't do it. Use a macro or an inline function that makes the conversion explicit so that it's shown when grepping.

The "one extra argument" is not a strong argument for something that simply isn't that common. The upsides of a nonstandard feature like that needs to be pretty compelling.

We've used various gcc extensions since day #1 ("inline" being perhaps the biggest one that took _forever_ to become standard C), but these things need to have very strong arguments.

"One extra argument" that could be hidden by a macro or a helper inline is simply not a strong argument.

Nick was sympathetic to this point, and said:

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Zack Brown

Audacity's New Version 2.3.1 Restores Linux Support, NVIDIA Is Acquiring Mellanox, Flickr Announces All CC-Licensed Images Will Be Protected, ExTiX 19.3 Released and Two Fedora Test Days

1 month 1 week ago

News briefs for March 11, 2019.

Audacity recently released version 2.3.1. This new version restores Linux support, which was missing in the previous version, and also fixes more than 20 bugs and improves Audacity for macOS. For details on all the new features, go here, and see also the release notes.

NVIDIA is acquiring Mellanox. Phoronix reports that NVIDIA confirmed this morning that the company "will be acquiring Mellanox for $6.9 billion USD" by the end of 2019. Also from the Phoronix post: "Acquiring Mellanox is a high performance computing (HPC) play and now gives NVIDIA more exposure in this space outside of GPU/compute with Mellanox's interconnect products widely being used among high-end servers for Ethernet and other network technologies. NVIDIA and Mellanox hardware is already used in both the much talked about Sierra and Summit super-computers."

Flickr has announced that all CC-licensed images will be protected. According to the Creative Commons article, "all CC-licensed and public domain images on the platform will be protected and exempted from upload limits. This includes images uploaded in the past, as well as those yet to be shared. In effect, this means that CC-licensed images and public domain works will always be free on Flickr for any users to upload and share."

ExTiX 19.3, Build 190307, was released last week. This version is based on the upcoming Ubuntu 19.04 Disco Dingo, uses the Xfce Desktop 4.13 and the 5.0.0-exton kernel. The developer notes that "The best thing with ExTiX 19.3 is that while running the system live (from DVD/USB) or from hard drive you can use Refracta Snapshot (pre-installed) to create your own live installable Ubuntu system. So easy that a ten year child can do it! As an alternative to Xfce4 you can run Kodi 18.2 Leia." You can download ExTiX 19.3 from SourceForge.

Two Fedora Test Days are scheduled for this week. The first one is tomorrow, March 12, for testing kernel 5.0, and the second is Wednesday, March 13, for testing Fedora's IoT Edition. See the Kernel Test Day Wiki and the IoT Test Day Wiki for more information on how to participate.

News Audacity NVIDIA creative commons Flickr ExTiX Linux Fedora
Jill Franklin

Become Queen Bee for a Day Using Python's Built-in Data Types

1 month 1 week ago
by Reuven M. Lerner

Cheaters never win, but at least they can use Python.

Like many other nerds, I love word puzzles. I'm not always great at them, and I don't always have time to do them, but when I do, I really enjoy them.

I recently discovered a new daily puzzle, known as "spelling bee", that the New York Times offers online. The idea is simple. There are seven different letters, one in the center of a circle and six around it. Your job is to make as many different words as you can from those seven letters. Each word must be at least four letters long, and each word also must contain the center letter. You can use each letter as many times as you want.

So if the letters are "eoncylt", with a center letter of "y", some of the words you could create might be "cyclone", "eyelet" and "nylon".

The online game gives you a score based on how many words you've made from the potential pool. If you get them all, you're awarded "queen bee" status.

I do pretty well at this puzzle, but I've never managed to find all of the hidden words. Nevertheless, I have become queen bee on a few occasions. How? The answer is simple. I cheated. How? Using Python, of course.

Now, cheating at games isn't necessarily the first order of business when it comes to programming. And cheating at word games in which you're competing against yourself is probably a sign of unhealthy competition. But, doing so also provides a great way to review some of the ways you can use Python's built-in data types and the ease with which you can process words and text.

So in this article, I explore a number of ways you can cheat—and yes, become the queen bee, if only for a day.

Trying All Combinations

To start, you simply might try to form all of the possible combinations you can with the letters you're given. As you might remember from high-school math class, there's a difference between "permutations" and "combinations". When you generate "permutations", the order is important, but when you generate "combinations", the order is not important.

You easily can see this using Python's itertools module, a part of the standard library that has functions named permutations and combinations. Each takes both an iterable data structure and the number of items you want in each resulting list. For example:

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Reuven M. Lerner

Weekend Reading: Science

1 month 1 week ago
by Carlie Fairchild

Mathematics and science tools often depend on cluster and high performance computing, both undeniably Linux strengths. Couple that with the maturity of the science tools available for Linux and you get a lot of computational bang for your buck. Join us this weekend as we review physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, and other science programs for Linux.

Open Science Means Open Source--Or, at Least, It Should

Why open source was actually invented in 1665.

Getting Started with Scilab

Introducing one of the larger scientific lab packages for Linux.

A Look at KDE's KAlgebra

This article looks at one of the programs specifically available in the KDE desktop environment, KAlgebra.

Atomic Modeling with GAMGI

General Atomistic Modelling Graphic Interface, or GAMGI, provides a very complete set of tools that allows you to design and visualize fairly complex molecules.

Drawing Feynman Diagrams for Fun and Profit with JaxoDraw

In physics, there's a powerful technique for visualizing particle interactions at the quantum level. This technique uses something called Feynman diagrams, invented by physicist Richard Feynman. These diagrams help visualize what happens when one or more particles have some kind of interaction.

Visualizing Molecules with EasyChem

Introducing EasyChem, a program that generates publication-quality images of molecular structures.

Astronomy Software by Any Other Name

Similar to other larger astronomy programs, you can use SkyChart from the desktop to the observatory.

Modeling the Entire Universe

For this article, I want to look at the largest thing possible, the whole universe. At least, that's the claim made by Celestia, the software package I'm introducing here. 

A Good Front End for R

R is the de facto statistical package in the Open Source world. It's also quickly becoming the default data-analysis tool in many scientific disciplines.

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Carlie Fairchild

Microsoft Released the Code for Windows Calculator, Skype for Web Has Launched but It Won't Work on Linux, Google Debuts Google Coral, Wrath: Aeon of Ruin Coming to Linux and Fedora 30 Wallpapers

1 month 1 week ago

News briefs for March 8, 2019.

Microsoft has published the code for Windows Calculator and released it on GitHub under the permissive MIT license. Ars Technica reports that "The repository shows Calculator's surprisingly long history. Although it is in some regards one of the most modern Windows applications—it's an early adopter of Fluent Design and has been used to showcase a number of design elements—core parts of the codebase date all the way back to 1995."

In other Microsoft news, the company's Skype team just launched Skype for Web, so you can skype from a browser instead of needing to install the app. According to ZDNet, "Skype for Web requires Windows and MacOS 10.12 or higher and the latest versions of Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge. That means Skype for Web won't work on a Chromebook or on an Ubuntu or any other Linux machine, and nor will it work in the Firefox browser."

Google this week debuted Google Coral, a dev board and USB accelerator. Hackster.io reports that both of these products "were built around Google's Edge TPU, their purpose-built ASIC designed to run machine learning inference at the edge." So this means that "with the ability to run these trained networks 'at the edge' nearer the data", developers are able "to put the smarts on the smart device, rather than in the cloud. Allowing them to build smart devices that uses machine learning without a network connection at all."

Wrath: Aeon of Ruin is coming to Linux. GamingOnLinux notes that "While Steam only lists Windows system requirements, if you hop on over to the official site there's a Linux "tux" icon to show it will support Linux and the press release sent out by 1C Entertainment has also confirmed this." You can view the trailer here.

Fedora 30 is scheduled to be released July 30, 2019, but you can see the Fedora 30 wallpapers now. 56 wallpapers were submitted, and 16 were chosen by community vote. See the gallery here.

News Microsoft skype Google gaming Fedora
Jill Franklin

Astronomy Software by Any Other Name

1 month 1 week ago
by Joey Bernard

In this article, I introduce another option available for the astronomers out there—specifically, Cartes du Ciel, also known as SkyChart. Similar to other larger astronomy programs, you can use SkyChart from the desktop to the observatory.

SkyChart probably won't be available in your distribution's package management system, so you'll need to go to the main website to download it. DEB, RPM and TAR files are available, so you should be able to use it for just about any distribution. Downloads also are available for other operating systems and for other hardware. You even can download a version to run on a Raspberry Pi.

When you first start Cartes du Ciel, you'll be asked where on the globe your observatory is located.

Figure 1. The first step is to set the location where you'll be making observations.

A number of locations already are listed in the database. If your location isn't there, you can enter the latitude and longitude. Once you are done, clicking the OK button pops up a new window with the sky at the current time and location.

Figure 2. The initial display is the sky over your location at the current time.

Unlike many other astronomy programs, time does not progress automatically. The design is more along the lines of being able to generate viewing charts for observation. Buttons in the toolbar at the top allow you to update the time easily.

The default view is to look at the sky at due south. You can change this view by clicking and dragging the star field. If you want to center it on a cardinal direction, there are buttons along the bottom right-hand side of the screen for that task. Just above these cardinal direction buttons, field of view (FOV) buttons set the amount of the sky that is visible.

Along the left-hand side of the main window are several buttons for turning various coordinate systems and markers on and off. Along the top, several toolbars allow you to select which elements of the sky are visible within the sky chart that you are generating. All of these options also are available as menu items. Clicking the Chart menu item provides a list where you can change parameters, such as the field of view, the viewing direction or the coordinate system to use.

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Joey Bernard

New Security Patch for Ubuntu 18.10, man-pages-5.00 Released, Be Sure to Update Google Chrome, Qt Creator 4.9 Beta2 Now Available and KDevelop Bugfix Is Out

1 month 1 week ago

News briefs for March 7, 2019.

Canonical has released a Linux kernel security patch for Ubuntu 18.10 on the heels of yesterday's patch for Ubuntu 18.04 LTS. According to Softpedia News, this patch addresses two of the same vulnerabilities as yesterday's patch: CVE-2019-6133 and CVE-2018-18397. It also addresses CVE-2019-16880, which is an out of bounds write vulnerability discovered by Jason Wang. Update now if you haven't already.

man-pages-5.00 was released yesterday. Michael Kerrisk, the man page maintainer, writes: "This release resulted from patches, bug reports, reviews, and comments from around 130 contributors. The release is rather larger than average, since it has been nearly a year since the last release. The release includes more than 600 commits that changed nearly 400 pages. In addition, 3 new manual pages were added." The release tarball is available from kernel.org, the browsable pages are at man7.org, and the Git repo is available from kernel.org.

Be sure you're running the latest version of Google Chrome: 72.0.3626.121. Google fixed a zero-day exploit last week, but only yesterday "publicized that CVE-2019-5786 was 'High' severity and a zero-day. Source: 9to5Google.

Qt Creator 4.9 Beta2 was released today. You can read about the changes here, and download the open-source version from here.

KDevelop 5.3.2 was released today. This is a stabilization and bugfix release. You can find the installers, AppImage and source code archives here.

News Canonical Security Ubuntu man pages Google Chrome Qt Creator KDevelop
Jill Franklin

Spy Games: the NSA and GCHQ Offer Their Software to the Open Source Community

1 month 1 week ago
by David Habusha

Spies worth their salt are generally expected to be good at keeping secrets. With dead drops, encryption, cyanide pills and the like, openly sharing useful information isn’t supposed to be a part of the job description.

So it caught more than a few of us off guard when a couple years ago, some of the top spy agencies began contributing code to GitHub, making it available to the masses by open-sourcing some of their software.

The National Security Agency, the American signals intelligence organization that is tasked with the majority of the cyber-snooping, has released two separate pages on GitHub. The first is the NSA's primary account on GitHub that has 17 listed repos, followed up by its more substantive “NSA Cybersecurity” page with its 31 repositories.

Even though the NSA appears to have been posting some of its software as open source since 2017, presumably a result in part of the effort from the US government to make more of the code produced by the USG available to the public, the agency made news in early January when it announced plans to release a new product to the Open Source community.

The software is called GHIDRA, and it has been described as a tool for reverse-engineering malware. According to reports, GHIDRA has been referenced in the past during the Vault7 document leaks and is available for use across all the major operating systems. Those who are curious for more information on this tool and how to use it can catch a glimpse at a demonstration that the NSA has committed to putting on at this year’s RSA conference.

However, with perhaps less fanfare, it would seem as though it was the Brits who first made the move to take some of their code open source. The British SigInt agency GCHQ released its first piece of open-source tooling with the Gaffer graph database back in 2015, beating the Americans by two years. At the time of writing, the good folks at Her Majesty’s cyber-snooping agency have 39 repositories on offer for all to try out, including one called the CyberChef, which is billed as the “Cyber Swiss Army Knife—a web app for encryption, encoding, compression, and data analysis”.

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David Habusha

Purism Announces PureOS Is Now Convergent, LibreOffice 6.2.1 Now Available, Security Patch for Ubuntu 18.0.4 LTS, Bugfix Update for Plasma 5 and KaOS 2019.02 Recently Released

1 month 1 week ago

News briefs for March 6, 2019.

Purism announces that PureOS is now convergent, which means "being able to make the same application code execute, and operate, both on mobile phones and laptops—adapting the applications to screen size and input devices". With PureOS, Purism "has laid the foundation for all future applications to run on both the Librem 5 phone and Librem laptops, from the same PureOS release".

The Document Foundation announces LibreOffice 6.2.1, the first minor release of the 6.2 version. You can download it from here. Note that this release "represents the bleeding edge in term of features for open source office suites, and as such is not optimized for enterprise class deployments, where features are less important than robustness. Users wanting a more mature version can download LibreOffice 6.1.5, which includes some months of back-ported fixes."

Canonical released a Linux kernel security patch for Ubuntu 18.0.4 LTS (Bionic Beaver). Softpedia News reports that this update addresses three vulnerabilities: "a race condition (CVE-2019-6133) in Linux kernel's fork() system call, which could allow a local attacker to gain access to services were authorizations are cached, and a flaw (CVE-2018-18397) in the userfaultd implementation, which could allow a local attacker to modify files. Both issues were discovered by Jann Horn. Furthermore, the kernel security patch addresses a vulnerability (CVE-2018-19854) in Linux kernel's crypto subsystem, which leads to leaked uninitialized memory to user space under certain situations. This would allow a local attacker to expose sensitive information (kernel memory)." Update now if you haven't already.

KDE yesterday released a bugfix update to KDE Plasma 5, version 5.12.8. The announcement notes that "Plasma 5.12 was released in February 2018 with many feature refinements and new modules to complete the desktop experience. This release adds six months' worth of new translations and fixes from KDE's contributors. The bugfixes are typically small but important." See the Changelog for all the details.

KaOS recently released the first ISO snapshot of the year, KaOS 2019.02. According to the announcement, "Major updates included a move to Python 3.7 (3.7.2), Readline 8.0.0, Glib2 2.58.3, Qt 5.12.1, PHP 7.2 besides the usual full Frameworks, Plasma & KDE Applications replacements, so most systems will see 70-80% of their install replaced by new packages so a new ISO is more than due."

News Purism PureOS LibreOffice Canonical Ubuntu Security Mobile KDE Plasma KaOS
Jill Franklin

The Digital Unconformity

1 month 1 week ago
by Doc Searls

Will our digital lives leave a fossil record? Or any record at all?

In the library of Earth's history, there are missing books. All were written in rock that is now gone. The greatest example of "gone" rock first was observed by John Wesley Powell in 1869, on his expedition by boat through the Grand Canyon. Floating down the Colorado river, he saw the canyon's mile-thick layers of reddish sedimentary rock resting on a basement of gray non-sedimentary rock, and he correctly assumed that the upper layers did not continue from the bottom one. He knew time had passed between the basement rock and the floors of rock above it, but he didn't know how much. The answer turned out to be more than a billion years. The walls of the Grand Canyon say nothing about what happened during that time. Geology calls that nothing an unconformity.

In fact, Powell's unconformity prevails worldwide. The name for this worldwide missing rock is the Great Unconformity. Because of that unconformity, geology knows comparatively little about what happened in the world through stretches of time ranging regionally up to 1.6 billion years. All of those stretches end abruptly with the Cambrian Explosion, which began about 541 million years ago. Many theories attempt to explain what erased all that geological history, but the prevailing paradigm is perhaps best expressed in "Neoproterozoic glacial origin of the Great Unconformity", published on the last day of 2018 by nine geologists writing for the National Academy of Sciences.

Put simply, they blame snow. Lots of it—enough to turn the planet into one giant snowball, already informally called Snowball Earth. A more accurate name for this time would be Glacierball Earth, because glaciers, all formed from snow, apparently covered most or all of Earth's land during the Great Unconformity—and most or all of the seas as well.

The relevant fact about glaciers is that they don't sit still. They spread and slide sideways, pressing and pushing immensities of accumulated ice down on landscapes that they pulverize and scrape against adjacent landscapes, abrading their way through mountains and across hills and plains like a trowel spreading wet cement. Thus, it seems glaciers scraped a vastness of geological history off the Earth's surface and let plate tectonics hide the rest of the evidence. As a result, the stories of Earth's missing history are told only by younger rock that remembers only that a layer of moving ice had erased pretty much everything other than a signature on its work.

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Doc Searls

LibreSignage Looking for Beta Testers, OpenNebula v. 5.8 "Edge" Now Available, New SPOILER Attack Affecting Intel CPUs Discovered, Bug Found in Android TV OS and GNU Linux-libre 5.0-gnu Released

1 month 1 week ago

News briefs for March 5, 2019.

LibreSignage, "a FOSS digital signage solution for managing a network of digital signage clients...anything from small advertisement displays to larger commercial billboards", is looking for beta testers for LibreSignage v1.0.0: "If you'd like to try out the latest and greatest of LibreSignage development, you can pull the LibreSignage Docker image by pulling libresignage:v1.0.0-beta-1 from Docker Hub. The readme in the GIT repository contains further instructions on setting up and starting a container. Alternatively you can pull the v1.0.0-beta-1 tag from the GIT repository at https://github.com/eerotal/LibreSignage and build LibreSignage yourself."

OpenNebula recently released version 5.8 "Edge". This version is the fifth major release of the open-source cloud management software. New major features include support for LXD, automatic NIC selection, distributed data centers and scalability improvements. See the release notes for more information, and go here to download.

New "SPOILER" attack discovered affecting Intel's CPUs. Phoronix reports that researchers from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and University of Lubeck discovered the speculative attack and that "Intel was notified of this issue a few months ago but no software/hardware fix appears ready yet, while the researchers claim there might not be an effective software solution available at least anytime soon—and any mitigation would likely come at a performance cost, as we've seen with Spectre and Meltdown over the past year. AMD and ARM CPUs aren't believed to be impacted by SPOILER." See also "SPOILER: Speculative Load Hazards Boost Rowhammer and Cache Attacks".

A bug in the Android TV OS has been found that could expose personal photos to others who own the same Android TV. According to Appuals, when Twitter user @wothadei "tried to access his Vu Android TV through the Google Home app, he could see the linked accounts of several other individuals who owned the same television. Unfortunately, however, this is not the only bug that he has discovered. The Twitter user found that he could view personal photos linked to the accounts of other owners of the Android TV device on Google Photos through the Ambient Mode screensaver settings."

GNU Linux-libre 5.0-gnu was released yesterday. Sources and tarballs are here.

News LibreSignage OpenNebula Cloud SPOILER Intel Security Android GNU Linux-libre
Jill Franklin

Programming Text Windows with ncurses

1 month 1 week ago
by Jim Hall

How to use ncurses to manipulate your terminal screen.

In my article series about programming for the text console using the ncurses library, I showed you how to draw text on the screen and use basic text attributes. My examples of Sierpinski's Triangle (see "Getting Started with ncurses") and a simple Quest adventure game (see "Creating an Adventure Game in the Terminal with ncurses") used the entire screen at once.

But what if it makes more sense to divide the screen into portions? For example, the adventure game might divide the screen to use part of it for the game map and another portion of the screen for the player's status. Many programs organize the screen into multiple parts—for instance, the Emacs editor uses an editing pane, a status bar and a command bar. You might need to divide your program's display areas similarly. There's an easy way to do that, and that's with the windows functions in ncurses. This is a standard part of any curses-compatible library.

Simple Senet

You may associate "windows" with a graphical environment, but that is not the case here. In ncurses, "windows" are a means to divide the screen into logical areas. Once you define a window, you don't need to track its location on the screen; you just draw to your window using a set of ncurses functions.

To demonstrate, let me define a game board in an unexpected way. The ancient Egyptian game Senet uses a board of 30 squares arranged in three rows and ten columns. Two players move their pieces around the board in a backward "S" formation, so that the board looks like this:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12 11 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Without the windows functions, you'd have to keep track of the row and column for each piece and draw them separately. Since the board is arranged in a backward "S" pattern, you'll always need to do weird math to position the row and column correctly every time you update each square on the board. But with the windows functions, ncurses lets you define the squares once, including their position, and later refer to those windows by a logical identifier.

The ncurses function newwin() lets you define a text window of certain dimensions at a specific location on the screen:

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Jim Hall

Linux Kernel 5.0 Is Officially Out, ReactOS 0.4.11 Released, Python 2.7.16 Now Available, Some Linux Mint Updates and Rancher Labs Launches K3s

1 month 2 weeks ago

News briefs for March 4, 2019.

Linux kernel 5.0 is out. Linus writes, "We have more than a handful of real fixes in the last week, but not enough to make me go "Hmm, things are really unstable". In fact, at least two thirds of the patches are marked as being fixes for previous releases, so it's not like 5.0 itself looks bad." The merge window for 5.1 is now open.

ReactOS 0.4.11 was released today. This version includes substantial improvements to the kernel, storage, application start/stop, networking and more. See the official ChangeLog for all the details, and go here to download.

Python 2.7.16 was released yesterday. This is a bug-fix release, and you can get it here.

Linux Mint is getting a new website design and logo. The Linux Mint Blog describes the changes and gives a preview of what the team is working on. In addition, Cinnamon has received some performance improvements, and there also are improvements to the Mint Tools, such as automated removal of old kernels, inhibition of system shutdown/reboot during automated tasks, persistent rotated logs and more.

Rancher Labs has launched k3s, "a lightweight version of Kubernetes that weighs-in at only 40MB". According to Christine Hall's ITPro Today post, "The folks at Rancher are betting that K3s's smaller footprint will be valuable both for edge-based servers and even more constrained connected devices, i.e. anything from assembly line robots to smartphones to connected automobiles." For more information, and to download k3s, go here.

News kernel ReactOS python Linux Mint Distributions Kubernetes k3s
Jill Franklin