Linux Journal

Cooking with Linux (without a Net): Remote Linux System Administration Using Webmin and Virtualmin

2 months 1 week ago

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It's time for the "Cooking with Linux (without a Net)" show where I do cool Linux and open-source stuff, live, on camera, and without the benefit of post video editing, therefore providing a high probability of falling flat on my face. On today's show, we cover remote Linux system administration using Webmin, a web-based, do-it-all admin tool. As a bonus, we explore Virtualmin, a Webmin extension that can turn you into an ISP by making it easy to manage accounts, multiple users, domains, permissions and everything else you need. It's a completely free alternative to pricey products like cPanel. Finally, I take a shot at yet another never-before-tried Linux distribution: Trinity PCLinuxOS. Also, in case you don't already know, this is a prerecorded show of a live YouTube broadcast.

Show links:

Cooking with Linux SysAdmin video
Marcel Gagné

Xen Hypervisor 4.11 Released, New Browsh Text-Based Browser, Finney Cryptocurrency Phone, GNOME Hiring and More

2 months 1 week ago

News briefs for July 11, 2018.

The Xen Hypervisor 4.11 was released yesterday. In this release "PVH Dom0 support is now available as experimental feature and support for running unmodified PV guests in a PVH Container has been added. In addition, significant chunks of the ARM port have been rewritten." Xen 4.11 also contains mitigations for Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities. For detailed download and build instructions, go here.

There's a new text-based browser called Browsh, Phoronix reports. Browsh can render anything a modern browser can, and you can use it from a terminal or within a normal browser to reduce bandwidth and increase browser speed. For more info and to download, see the Browsh project website.

Facebook to be fined the maximum (500k euros), and the UK's privacy watchdog, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), has published a report called "Democracy Disrupted? Personal information and political influence" that outlines policy recommendations for how personal information is used in connection with political campaigns. According to the TechCrunch article, the report "calls directly for an 'ethical pause' around the use of microtargeting ad tools for political campaigning" and specifically "flags a number of specific concerns attached to Facebook's platform and its impact upon people's rights and democratic processes..."

Sirin Labs to launch the $1,000 Finney cryptocurrency smartphone this fall, Engadget reports. The Finney (named after Bitcoin pioneer Hal Finney) is a "state of the art mobile device for the blockchain era" and runs on a forked version of Android. It has a slider on the back where "you'll find a secondary display, called the Safe Screen, that's only used for crypto transactions....The slider also activates the cold storage wallet that is designed to hold a significant number of different cryptocurrencies."

The GNOME Foundation is hiring. After receiving a generous grant in May of this year, The Foundation is recruiting for four posts: Development Coordinator, Program Coordinator, Devops/Sysadmin and GTK+ Core Developer. See the Positions available page for information on how to apply.

News xen Hypervisor Browsers smartphones Cryptocurrency Android Blockchain GNOME Privacy Facebook
Jill Franklin

Minimum GCC Version Likely to Jump from 3.2 to 4.8

2 months 1 week ago
by Zack Brown

The question of the earliest GCC compiler version to support for building the Linux kernel comes up periodically. The ideal would be for Linux to compile under all GCC versions, because you never know what kind of system someone is running. Maybe their company's security team has to approve all software upgrades for their highly sensitive devices, and GCC is low on that list. Maybe they need to save as much space as possible, and recent versions of GCC are too big. There are all sorts of reasons why someone might be stuck with old software. But, they may need the latest Linux kernel because it's the foundation of their entire product, so they're stuck trying to compile it with an old compiler.

However, Linux can't really support every single GCC version. Sometimes the GCC people and the kernel people have disagreed on the manner in which GCC should produce code. Sometimes this means that the kernel really doesn't compile well on a particular version of GCC. So, there are the occasional project wars emerging from those conflicts. The GCC people will say the compiler is doing the best thing possible, and the kernel people will say the compiler is messing up their code. Sometimes the GCC people change the behavior in a later release, but that still leaves a particular GCC version that makes bad Linux code.

So, the kernel people will decide programmatically to exclude a particular version of GCC from being used to compile the kernel. Any attempt to use that compiler on kernel code will produce an error.

But, sometimes the GCC people will add a new language feature that is so useful, the kernel will people decide to rely heavily on it in their source code. In that case, there may be a period of time where the kernel people maintain one branch of code for the newer, better compiler, and a separate, less-fast or more-complex branch of code for the older, worse compiler. In that case, the kernel people—or really Linus Torvalds—eventually may decide to stop supporting compilers older than a certain version, so they can rip out all those less-fast and more-complex branches of code.

For similar reasons, it's also just an easier maintenance task for the kernel folks to drop support for older compilers; so this is something they would always prefer to do, if possible.

But, it's a big decision, typically weighed against the estimated number of users that are unable to upgrade their compilers. Linus really does not want even one regular (that is, non-kernel-developer) user to be unable to build Linux because of this sort of decision. He's willing to let the kernel carry a lot of fairly dead and/or hard-to-maintain code in order to keep that from happening.

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Zack Brown

Canonical Releases Minimal Ubuntu, Mozilla Launches Two Mobile Test Pilot Experiments, Google Announces Jib for Java Developers, New Ubuntu Bug Discovered and Wine 3.12 Now Available

2 months 1 week ago

News briefs for July 10, 2018.

Canonical released its new Minimal Ubuntu yesterday. According to the Ubuntu blog, Minimal Ubuntu is "optimized for automated use at scale, with a tiny package set and minimal security cross-section. Speed, performance and stability are primary concerns for cloud developers and ops." The images are 50% smaller than the standard Ubuntu server images and they boot up to 40% faster. Minimal Ubuntu also is fully compatible with standard Ubuntu operations. You can download it here.

Mozilla launches two new Mobile Test Pilot Experiments: Firefox Lockbox for iOS and Notes by Firefox for Android. Firefox Lockbox allows iOS users to access Firefox-saved passwords saved in the browser to log in to any online account or app. With Notes by Firefox, users can "sync notes from any Firefox browser on any Android smartphone or tablet", and the notes are end-to-end encrypted as well. These projects are experimental, and Mozilla welcomes feedback here.

An Ubuntu bug that allows anyone with physical access to the computer to bypass the lockscreen by removing the hard drive has just been made public. According to the Neowin post, the bug was tested on Ubuntu 16.04.4, and it's not certain whether it affects other Ubuntu versions or distributions.

Google announced the release of Jib yesterday, an open-source Java tool that allows developers to build containers. Jib is "a fast and simple container image builder that handles all the steps of packaging your application into a container image", and you don't need to write a Dockerfile or have docker installed to use it.

Wine 3.12 is now available. This release contains many bug fixes, and other new features include Unicode data upgraded to Unicode 11.0.0, proxy configuration dialog in internet control panel, more glyphs in the Wingdings font and more.

News Canonical Ubuntu Cloud Containers Mozilla Firefox Mobile Android Security Google Java Docker Wine
Jill Franklin

DIY RV Offsite Backup and Media Server

2 months 1 week ago
by Kyle Rankin

What better way to add a geeky touch to #vanlife than with a Linux server in your RV?

One easily could make the strong argument that an RV is the ultimate DIY project playground. It combines all of the DIY projects you could perform on a vehicle with the DIY projects for a home. Add to that the fact that you may spend days living in a small house on wheels navigating highways, forests and deserts, and you have a whole other class of DIY projects to make the most of that smaller space. RVs also offer a whole suite of power options from 12V deep cycle batteries to 110V shore power to generators and alternators to solar power, so there's a whole class of electrical DIY projects related to making the most of your changing power options.

And if you're a geek, having an RV introduces a whole other level of DIY possibilities. First, there are all of the electronics projects to manage switching between power sources, tracking energy consumption and keeping those batteries charged. Then there's an entire category of projects related to internet access while away from home that involve everything from mobile WiFi hotspots to cellular-boosting networks to roving satellite internet (and if you're clever, a smart router that routes you to the best and cheapest available option). Finally, there are several project possibilities related to the computer systems in the RV, including local switches and routers, personal computers that turn the RV into a mobile office, and media centers so you can watch TV and movies from the road.

It just so happens that I recently got an RV—a 1996 Roadtrek 170 to be exact. Although this purchase has spawned a huge list of DIY projects, my very first Linux-based project focuses on the media center. At home, my media center is a Raspberry Pi running OSMC, and it works great for accessing my ripped DVDs and CDs from my NAS and playing them on my living-room TV. When I got the RV, I realized that one of the first things we'd want is a way to access all of that media from the road, even if we were in the middle of the woods.

In this article, I describe all the steps I took to build a media server just for the RV that maintains an up-to-date copy of my media and even syncs up automatically when it's parked in my driveway. It turns out that in the process of building a media server, I ended up with a pretty great off-site backup solution as well. Even if you don't own an RV, you could adapt these steps to add your own semi-offsite backup to your car.

Figure 1. Introducing "Van Winkle" (Photo Credit: Joy Rankin)

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Kyle Rankin

Oasis Labs to Create Blockchain-Based Privacy-First Cloud Computing Platform, Elisa Music Player Version 0.2 Released, Unitary Fund Awarding Grants to Projects Developing Open-Source Quantum Software and More

2 months 1 week ago

News briefs for July 9, 2018.

Oasis Labs raises $45 million to create a privacy-first blockchain cloud computing platform. According to the Venture Beat post, the Oasis Labs' goal for the platform is to "overcome the performance, security, and privacy limitations that have hampered blockchain adoption to date. The aim is to make blockchain, a distributed secure ledger that powers cryptocurrencies such as Ethereum, more useful to a broader set of companies."

Firefox 61.0.1, the first minor maintenance update for Firefox 61, has been released, Softpedia News reports. The update includes performance improvements and bug fixes, and you can download it from here.

The Elisa music player team recently announced the release of version 0.2. This update brings new music browsing views as well as an improved interface and performance improvements. The team notes their goal is "creating a reliable product that is a joy to use and respects our users privacy. As such, we will prefer to support online services where users are in control of their data." See the Change Log for all the details.

The Rust programming language team has issued a security advisory for its rustdoc plugins. Here's the rundown: "The problem was in rustdoc's obscure plugin functionality, consisting of its loading plugins from a path that is globally writable on most platforms, /tmp/rustdoc/plugins. This feature permitted a malicious actor to write a dynamic library into this path and have another user execute that code. The security issue only happens if you're actively using the feature, and so this behavior will be removed from rustdoc in the near future, with patches landing for each channel over the next week."

The Unitary Fund, which was created with "personal donations from founder of security firm Lookout, John Hering, and developer of quantum integrated circuits Rigetti Computing product manager Nima Alidoust", recently launched. The fund is offering $2000 grants to projects developing open-source quantum software. According to ComputerWorld, "Any project that 'will benefit humanity that leverages near-term quantum computing' qualifies to apply for the fund.

News Blockchain Privacy Rust Programming Security Quantum Computing Firefox
Jill Franklin

UserLAnd, a Turnkey Linux in Your Pocket

2 months 2 weeks ago
by Petros Koutoupis

There comes a time when having a full-fledged Linux distribution within reach is necessary or just plain useful. And, what could be more within reach than having that same distribution on a computing device most people have with them at all times? Yes, I'm talking about a smartphone—specifically, an Android-powered smartphone. Enter UserLAnd.

UserLAnd offers a quick and easy way to run an entire Linux distribution, or even just a Linux application or game, from your pocket. It installs as an Android app and is available for download from the Android Google Play Store. The best part is that because it operates from a typical chroot environment, you don't need to root your device.

I was fortunate enough to have a chance to spin up one of the early beta builds of UserLAnd. This beta build was limited only to SSH and VNC local connections from my Android mobile device, but it was more than enough to establish a sound sense of how things are and where things will progress.

To handle the SSH connection, UserLAnd leverages ConnectBot while using bVNC for anything graphical. The beta build I used supported only TWM. Future updates will add additional window managers and a desktop environment. Both ConnectBot and bVNC are installed when you create and launch your session (see below).

Immediately after installation and upon launching the application, you are greeted with a clean environment—that is, no root filesystems and no sessions defined.

Figure 1. A Fresh and Clean Installation of UserLAnd

There isn't much to do here until you create a base root filesystem to use in one or more connected sessions. Now, because this was a beta build, my option was limited to Debian.

Figure 2. Creating a Root Filesystem

Once the root filesystem is created, you can create your session, which includes connection type and user name. For connection types, in my case, the drop-down menu listed ConnectBot for the command-line interface and bVNC for a graphical environment. Future releases will add more options.

Figure 3. Creating Your Connection Sessions

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Petros Koutoupis

Weekend Reading: Python

2 months 2 weeks ago
by Carlie Fairchild

Python is easy to use, powerful, versatile and a Linux Journal reader favorite. We've round up some of the most popular recent Python-related articles for your weekend reading.

  • Introducing PyInstaller by Reuven M. Lerner: Want to distribute Python programs to your Python-less clients? PyInstaller is the answer.

  • Examining Data Using Pandas by Reuven M. Lerner: You don't need to be a data scientist to use Pandas for some basic analysis.

  • Multiprocessing in Python by Reuven M. Lerner: Python's "multiprocessing" module feels like threads, but actually launches processes.

  • Launching External Processes in Python by Reuven M. Lerner: Think it's complex to connect your Python program to the UNIX shell? Think again!

  • Thinking Concurrently: How Modern Network Applications Handle Multiple Connections by Reuven M. Lerner: exploring different types of multiprocessing and looks at the advantages and disadvantages of each.

  • Threading in Python by Reuven M. Lerner: threads can provide concurrency, even if they're not truly parallel.

  • Using Python for Science by Joey Bernard: introducing Anaconda, a Python distribution for scientific research.

  • Visualizing Molecules with Python by Joey Bernard: introducing PyMOL, a Python package for studying chemical structures.

  • Novelty and Outlier Detection by Reuven M. Lerner: we look at a number of ways you can try to identify outliers using the tools and libraries that Python provides for working with data: NumPy, Pandas and scikit-learn.

  • Learning Data Science by Reuven M. Lerner: I've written a lot about data science and machine learning. In case my enthusiasm wasn't obvious from my writing, let me say it plainly: it has been a long time since I last encountered a technology that was so poised to revolutionize the world in which we live.

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Carlie Fairchild

Dell Precision 7530 and 7730 Mobile Workstations with Ubuntu Preinstalled Now Available, Linux Ultimate Gamers Edition Launched Its 5.8 ISO, Feral's GameMode Coming Soon to Fedora, CentOS 6.10 Released, Security Upgrades for Ubuntu and More

2 months 2 weeks ago

News briefs for July 6, 2018.

The Dell Precision 7530 and 7730 Mobile Workstation Developer Editions are now available via Dell's online store with Ubuntu Linux preinstalled, Softpedia News reports. The Mobile Workstations are powered by the latest Intel Core or Xeon processors, and "feature blazing-fast RAM, professional AMD or Nvidia graphics cards, and are certified for the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.5 operating system". Prices for the "world's most powerful 15" and 17" laptops with Ubuntu pre-installed" begin at $1,091.14 for the 7530 and $1,371.37 for the 7730.

Linux Ultimate Gamers Edition launched its 5.8 ISO, which you can download from SourceForge or Softpedia. Ultimate Gamers is based on Debian and Ubuntu, with the MATE desktop environment. According to the Appuals post, "it comes with out-of-the-box support for nearly any kind of multimedia file that a gamer would ever want to play....It also comes with dozens of applications gamers and A/V fans will need. Most importantly, it comes with Wine pre-loaded, which is extremely important for those who want to run popular online games."

Feral Interactive's GameMode is coming soon to Fedora Linux, Phoronix reports. GameMode is "a new open-source project that provides a Linux system tuning daemon for optimizing the system's configuration for gaming when firing up Linux games while reverting to stock behavior when outside of supported games". Phoronix notes that it has been working its way into various Linux distros' package management systems, and that as of today it "has been submitted as the newest package for Fedora Rawhide as the development version ultimately leading to Fedora 29."

CentOS announced the availability of CentOS Linux 6.10. In this release GCC now supports retpolines for Spectre variant 2 mitigation. See the release notes for all the changes.

Canonical has released new kernel security updates for Ubuntu 18.04 LTS (Bionic Beaver), Ubuntu 17.10 (Artful Aardvark), Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (Xenial Xerus), as well as Ubuntu 14.04 LTS (Trusty Tahr). According to Softpedia, the updates fix 22 security vulnerabilities, and users are urged to update their installations as soon as possible. See the Ubuntu wiki's Upgrades page for instructions.

The Linux Foundation recently announced new blockchain training options. Blockchain: Understanding Its Uses and Implications is a free edX course beginning on August 1, 2018, and there's also an option for a professional certificate for $99. According to the post on, the new program provides "a way to learn about the impact of blockchain technologies and a means to demonstrate that knowledge. Certification, in particular, can make a difference for anyone looking to work in the blockchain arena".

News Hardware Laptops Dell Ubuntu Canonical gaming The Linux Foundation Blockchain Security Spectre
Jill Franklin

FOSS Project Spotlight: ONLYOFFICE, an Online Office Suite

2 months 2 weeks ago
by Tatiana Kochedykova

ONLYOFFICE is a free and open-source office suite that provides an alternative for three major MS Office apps—Word, Excel and PowerPoint—working online.

ONLYOFFICE's main features include:

  • Text, spreadsheet and presentation online viewers and editors.
  • Support for all popular file formats: DOC, DOCX, ODT, RTF, TXT, PDF, HTML, EPUB, XPS, DjVu, XLS, XLSX, ODS, CSV, PPT, PPTX and ODP.
  • A set of formatting and styling tools common for desktop office apps.
  • A set of collaboration tools: two co-editing modes (fast and strict), commenting and built-in chat, tracking changes and version history.
  • Ready-to-use plugins: Translator, YouTube, OCR, Photo Editor and more.
  • Macros to standardize work with documents.
  • Support for hieroglyphs.

Figure 1. ONLYOFFICE Formatting and Styling Tools

Ways to use ONLYOFFICE:

  • Integrated with a collaboration platform: for teams, ONLYOFFICE can be installed together with a set of productivity tools designed by ONLYOFFICE that includes CRM, projects, document management system, mail, calendar, blogs, forums and chat.
  • Integrated with popular web services: for users of popular services like Nextcloud, ownCloud, Alfresco, Confluence or SharePoint, ONLYOFFICE offers official connectors to integrate online editors and edit documents within them. Some web services, like the eXo Platform, provide users with their own connectors or offer instructions like Seafile for integration with ONLYOFFICE.
  • Integrated with your own web apps: for developers who are building their own productivity app, no matter what kind of application they provide to users or which language they use to write it, ONLYOFFICE offers an API to help them integrate online editors with their apps.

Figure 2. Co-Editing with ONLYOFFICE

To use this online office suite, you need to have the ONLYOFFICE Document Server installed, and you can choose from multiple installation options: compile the source code available on GitHub, use .deb or .rpm packages or the Docker image.

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Tatiana Kochedykova

EU Rejects Copyright Directive, Four openSUSE Tumbleweed Snapshots Released, DoublePulsar Modified to Work on Windows IoT Systems, Kdenlive Wants Your Feedback and GIMP 2.10.4 Now Available

2 months 2 weeks ago

News briefs for July 5, 2018.

The EU has rejected the controversial "Copyright Directive" legislation. Mozilla's head of EU public policy stated "The European Parliament has today heard the voice of European citizens and voted against proposals that would have dealt a hammer blow to the open internet in Europe. The future of an open internet and creativity in Europe depends on it." Those in favor of the Directive said "rejecting it further entrenches the power of large US tech companies, while hurting individual artists and creators." The legislation now returns to the drawing board and will be sent in for another vote in September. See The Verge for details on the provisions and hopes for an "open debate".

Four openSUSE Tumbleweed snapshots were released this week and are "trending stable" with major version packages. The packages updated include FFmpeg, KDE Plasma, GNOME Builder, Krita and a kernel update.

An infosec researcher who goes by Capt. Meelo has modified the NSA hacking tool called DoublePulsar (which was stolen last year and leaked online by a group called the Shadow Brokers) to work on the Windows IoT operating system. This could affect systems like IoT devices, point-of-sale kiosks and ATMS. BleepingComputer reports that "the only way to protect against having these devices corraled into a botnet via DoublePulsar is to apply the security updates included in MS17-010, the security bulletin that contains patches against the hacking tools and exploits leaked online by The Shadow Brokers last year, including DoublePulsar."

Kdenlive needs your feedback. You can help by downloading the Appimage and trying it on your computer: "just download the file, make it executable through your file manager and run it". New features include clips with both video and audio are now separated automatically when dropped in the timeline, you can now easily enable/disable all clip types in the timeline, slow motion should work reliably and much more. You can leave comments and feedback on this beta version on this post.

GIMP 2.10.4 was released yesterday. This new update includes bugfixes, simple horizon straightening, asynchronous fonts loading, fonts tagging, dashboard updates and more. News EU Copyright openSUSE Security NSA IOT Windows Kdenlive GIMP multimedia
Jill Franklin

Removing Support for Dead Hardware

2 months 2 weeks ago
by Zack Brown

Arnd Bergmann submitted a patch to remove the Linux ports for a variety of architectures, including blackfin, cris, frv, m32r, metag, mn10300, score and tile. To do this, he worked directly with the former maintainers of each port to make sure the code removal was done right and didn't break anything in the mainline kernel or anywhere else.

The bottom line was that no one used those architectures anymore. He offered his analysis of why this had happened, saying:

It seems that while the eight architectures are extremely different, they all suffered the same fate: There was one company in charge of an SoC line, a CPU microarchitecture and a software ecosystem, which was more costly than licensing newer off-the-shelf CPU cores from a third party (typically ARM, MIPS, or RISC-V). It seems that all the SoC product lines are still around, but have not used the custom CPU architectures for several years at this point. In contrast, CPU instruction sets that remain popular and have actively maintained kernel ports tend to all be used across multiple licensees.

Linus Torvalds had no objection to ripping those architectures out of the kernel, but he did say, "I'd like to see that each architecture removal is independent of the others, so that if somebody wants to resurrect any particular architecture, he/she can do so with a revert."

Linus pulled the patch into the main kernel tree and noted with glee that it took a half-million lines of code out of the kernel.

Linus was not the only one who wanted to ensure the possibility of easily resurrecting those architectures. Geert Uytterhoeven wanted to know exactly what would be required, since he had an interest in the formerly removed and later resurrected arch/h8300 architecture, currently still in the kernel and going strong. And he pointed out, "In reality, a resurrection may not be implemented as a pure revert, but as the addition of a new architecture, implemented using modern features."

To which Pavel Machek complained, "By insisting on new features instead of pure revert + incremental updates, you pretty much make sure resurrection will not be possible."

But Arnd pointed out, "now that the other architectures are gone, a lot of changes can be done more easily that will be incompatible with a pure revert, so the more time passes, the harder it will get to do that."

And he added, "Some of the architectures (e.g. tile or cris) have been kept up to date, but others had already bitrotted to the point where they were unlikely to work on any real hardware for many releases, but a revert could still be used as a starting point in theory."

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Zack Brown

Advertising 3.0

2 months 2 weeks ago
by Doc Searls

First came branding through sponsorship. Then came eyeball-chasing through adtech. Now comes sponsorship again, this time supporting a mission as big as Linux.

This editorial is my first and only sales pitch. It's for brands to sponsor Linux Journal.

I'm also not just speaking as a magazine editor. I've studied advertising from inside and out for longer than most people have been alive.

During my inside years, I was a founder and creative director of one of Silicon Valley's top advertising agencies, with my name emblazoned on a building in Palo Alto.

In my outside years, I've been one of the biggest opponents of adtech: tracking-based advertising. And I've been just as big a proponent of advertising that builds and maintains brands while sponsoring the best journalism.

What we bring to the table are the smartest and most savvy tech readers in the world, plus a mission for advertising itself: to turn away from eyeball-chasing and back to what builds brands and sells products—but in ways that aren't bullshit. Tall order, but it can be done.

Our readers can help with that, because they have the world's best bullshit filters—and the world's best appreciation of what's real and works. They are also influential without being what marketers call "influencers". In fact, I'm sure most of them would hate being called "influencers," because they know "influencer marketing" actually means "using experts as tools".

Advertising that isn't bullshit starts with sponsorship. That means you advertise in a magazine because it's valuable to the world, has readers that are the same, and you know it will help those readers and the world know about the goods you bring to the market's table.

The biggest reason our readers are valuable is that the whole tech world runs on Linux now. They had something to do with that, and so did we.

Another fact: sponsors made Linux Journal a success no less than our writers and other employees did.

Now is also the right time for brands to walk away from the disaster that tracking-based advertising, aka adtech, has become. The General Data Protection Regulation, aka GDPR, is just one sign of it. Another is that a $trillion or more has been spent on tracking-based ads, and not one brand known to the world has been made by it. Many have been harmed.

We may be small as magazines go, but our ambitions are not. We wish to be nothing less than the best technology magazine on Planet Earth. If you sponsor us, you're on for that ride too.

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Doc Searls

Gmail Developers Read Your Email, Bodhi Linux Media Is a New Distro for Artists, Mozilla's July Featured Extensions and More

2 months 2 weeks ago

News briefs for July 3, 2018.

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Gmail allows data companies and developers to see users' email and private details, and read entire messages. According to a related story on The Verge, while some email apps "do need to receive user consent, the consent form isn't exactly clear that it would allow humans—and not just computers—to read your emails." In addition, Google told The Verge that it gives data only to "vetted third-party developers and with users' explicit consent" and also that Google employees may read your email, but only in "very specific cases where you ask us to and give consent, or where we need to for security purposes, such as investigating a bug or abuse".

There's a new distro called Bodhi Linux Media, derived from Bodhi Linux, "a lightweight, Ubuntu-based distro that includes only a browser, a terminal emulator, and a few other system tools". For Bodhi Linux Media, creator Giuseppe Torre customized the desktop interface, "capitalizing on the fact that the operating system is fast and lean (with no random stuff running in the background)" and curated the software specifically for artists in many different digital art fields. The software includes Adobe alternatives (GIMP, Inkscape, Natron, Scribus and Synfig Studio), Ardour, Arduino IDE, Atom, Audacity, Blender, Firefox, Krita, LibreOffice, MuseScore, Open Broadcaster, Processing, Pure Data, SuperCollider and VLC. See Giuseppe's article on for more details.

Mozilla has announced its Featured Extensions for July. This month's extensions include Midnight Lizard, which lets you "customize readability of the web in granular detail", and Black Menu for Google, which provides "easy access to Google services like Search, Translate, Google+, and more without leaving the webpage you're on". The other extensions are Authenticator for two-step verification security; Turbo Download Manager with multi-threading support; and IP Address and Domain Information, which shares "detailed information about every IP address, domain, and provider you encounter in the digital wild".

In other Mozilla news, Mozilla yesterday endorsed the Brazilian Data Protection Bill (PLC 53/2018). In summary, "The lack of a comprehensive data protection law exposes Brazilian citizens to risks of misuse of their personal data by both government and private services. This is a timely and historic moment where Brazil has the opportunity to finally pass a baseline data protection law that will safeguard the rights of Brazilians for generations to come."

The Association for Computing Machinery's US Technology Policy Committee (USACM) yesterday made "detailed recommendations to Congress for protecting personal privacy in the wake of the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica controversy". View the USACM statement to learn about its nine goals for personal privacy protection legislation. The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) is "the world's largest and longest -established association of computing professionals representing approximately 50,000 individuals in the United States and 100,000 worldwide".

News multimedia Gmail Google Privacy Bodhi Mozilla Firefox
Jill Franklin

DIY: Build a Custom Minimal Linux Distribution from Source

2 months 2 weeks ago
by Petros Koutoupis

Follow along with this step-by-step guide to build your own distribution from source and learn how it installs, loads and runs.

When working with Linux, you easily can download any of the most common distributions to install and configure—be it Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, OpenSUSE or something entirely different. And although you should give several distributions a spin, building your own custom, minimal Linux distribution is also a beneficial and wonderful learning exercise.

When I say "build a custom and minimal Linux distribution", I mean from source packages—that is, start with a cross-compiling toolchain and then build a target image to install on a physical or virtual hard disk drive (HDD).

So, when I think of the ultimate Do-It-Yourself (DIY) guide related to Linux, it's got to be exactly this: building a Linux distribution from source. The entire process will take at least a couple hours on a decently powered host machine.

If you follow along with this exercise, you'll learn what it takes to build a custom distribution, and you'll also learn how that distribution installs, loads and runs. You can run this exercise on either a physical or virtual machine.

I'd be lying if I said that this process wasn't partly inspired by the wonderful Linux From Scratch (LSF) project. The LSF project proved to be an essential tool in my understanding of how a standard Linux operating system is built and functions. Using a similar philosophy, I hope to instill some of the same wisdom to you, the reader, if you'd like to follow along.

  • Host: the host signifies the very machine on which you'll be doing the vast majority of the work, including cross compilation and installation of the target image.
  • Target: the target is the final cross-compiled operating system that you'll be building from source packages. It'll be built using the cross compiler on the host machine.
  • Cross compiler: you'll be building and using a cross compiler to create the target image on the host machine. A cross compiler is built to run on a host machine, but it's used to compile for a target architecture or microprocessor that isn't compatible with the host machine.
Prerequisites and Tools

To continue with this tutorial, you'll need to have GCC, make, ncurses, Perl and grub tools (specifically grub-install) installed on the host machine.

In order to build anything, you'll also need to download and build all the packages for the cross compiler and the target image. I'm using the following open-source packages and versions for this tutorial:

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Petros Koutoupis

Git Your July 2018 Issue of Linux Journal: Now Available

2 months 2 weeks ago
by Carlie Fairchild

Along with Microsoft buying Github recently, we received hundreds of questions and comments about all things git. How does one install and run GitLab themselves? Should they? What's the difference between GitHub and GitLab? How can one migrate repositories from GitHub and host on their own Linux server? So with this July issue of Linux Journal, we take a Deep Dive in to... git. Enjoy!

Feature articles include:

A Git Origin Story by Zack Brown

A look at the Linux kernel developers' various revision control solutions through the years, Linus Torvalds' decision to use BitKeeper and the controversy that followed, and how Git came to be created.

Git Quick Start Guide by Patrick Whelan

Ditch USBs and start using real version control, and if you follow this guide, you can start using git in 30 minutes!

Building a Bare-Bones Git Environment by Andy Carlson

How to migrate repositories from GitHub, configure the software and get started with hosting Git repositories on your own Linux server.

Take Your Git In-House by John S. Tonello

If you're wary of the Microsoft takeover of GitHub, or if you've been looking for a way to ween yourself off free public repositories, or if you want to ramp up your DevOps efforts, now's a good time to look at installing and running GitLab yourself. It's not as difficult as you might think, and the free, open-source GitLab CE version provides a lot of flexibility to start from scratch, migrate or graduate to more full-fledged versions.

Terrible Ideas in Git by Corey Quinn

This article was derived from a talk that GitHub Universe faithfully rejects every year. I can't understand why....

Opinion: GitHub vs GitLab by Matt Lee

Free software deserves free tools, not Microsoft-owned GitHub.

Other articles in this issue:

Encrypting NFSv4 with Stunnel TLS by Charles Fisher

NFS clients and servers push file traffic over clear-text connections in the default configuration, which is incompatible with sensitive data. TLS can wrap this traffic, finally bringing protocol security. Before you use your cloud provider's NFS tools, review all of your NFS usage and secure it where necessary.

Advertising 3.0 by Doc Searls

Road to RHCA—Preparation Meets Opportunity by Taz Brown

FOSS Project Spotlight: ONLYOFFICE, an Online Office Suite by Tatiana Kochedykova

At Rest Encryption by Kyle Rankin

Progress with Your Image by Kyle Rankin

FOSS Project Spotlight: Pydio Cells, an Enterprise-Focused File-Sharing Solution by Italo Vignoli

Atomic Modeling with GAMGI by Joey Bernard

News Briefs by Jill Franklin

Kyle Rankin's Hack and /: What Really IRCs Me: Slack

Reuven M. Lerner's At the Forge: Introducing Python 3.7's Dataclasses

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Carlie Fairchild

Terrible Ideas in Git

2 months 2 weeks ago
by Corey Quinn

This article was derived from a talk that GitHub Universe faithfully rejects every year. I can't understand why....

For better or worse, git has become one of the Open Source community's more ubiquitous tools. It lets you manage code effectively. It helps engineers who are far apart collaborate with each other. At its heart, it's very simple, which is why the diagram in so many blog posts inevitably looks something like the one shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Git Model (Source:

The unfortunate truth that's rarely discussed in detail is that git has a dark side: it makes us feel dumb. I don't care who you are—we all hit a point wherein we shrug, give up and go scrambling for Stack Overflow (motto: "This thread has been closed as Off Topic") to figure out how best to get out of the terrible situations we've caused for ourselves. The only question is how far down the rabbit hole you can get before the madness overtakes you, and you begin raising goats for a living instead.

At its core, all git does is track changes to files and folders. git commit effectively takes a snapshot of the filesystem (as represented by the items added to the staging area) at a given point in time:

cquinn@1d732dc08938 ~/demo1 % git init Initialized empty Git repository in /home/cquinn/demo1/.git/ cquinn@1d732dc08938(master|...) ~/demo1 % git add ubuntu.iso cquinn@1d732dc08938(master|·1) ~/demo1 % git commit ↪-m "Initial commit" [master (root-commit) b0d3bfb] Initial commit 1 file changed, 0 insertions(+), 0 deletions(-) create mode 100644 ubuntu.iso cquinn@1d732dc08938(master|✓) ~/demo1 % git rm --cached ↪ubuntu.iso rm 'ubuntu.iso' cquinn@1d732dc08938(master|·1✓) ~/demo1 % git ↪commit -m "There I fixed it" [master 2d86934] There I fixed it 1 file changed, 0 insertions(+), 0 deletions(-) delete mode 100644 ubuntu.iso cquinn@1d732dc08938(master|...) ~/demo1 % du -hs .git 174M .git

So if you do something foolish, such as committing large binaries, you can't just revert the commit—it's still going to live in your git repository. If you've pushed that thing elsewhere, you get to rewrite history forcibly, either with git-filter-branch or the bfg. Either way, it's extra work that's unpleasant to others who share your repository.

Fundamentally, all that git does is create a .git folder in the top level of the repository. This subdirectory contains files and folders that change over time. Wait, isn't there a tool for that?

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Corey Quinn

SUSE Acquired by EQT, Google Becomes Newest Platinum Member of The Linux Foundation, MintBox Mini 2 Launches and More

2 months 2 weeks ago

News briefs for July 2, 2018.

SUSE is being acquired by EQT. notes that with this partnership "SUSE expects to be equipped to further exploit the excellent market opportunity both in the Linux operating system area as well as in emerging product groups in the open source space." SUSE CEO Nils Brauckmann will continue to lead SUSE, and "the SUSE business expects staffing, customer relationships, partnerships, product and service offering, commitment to open source leadership and support for the key open source communities to remain unchanged."

The Linux Foundation recently announced that Google has become a Platinum Member of the foundation. From the press release: "'Google is one of the biggest contributors to and supporters of open source in the world, and we are thrilled that they have decided to increase their involvement in The Linux Foundation,' said Jim Zemlin, executive director, The Linux Foundation. "We are honored that Sarah Novotny, one of the leading figures in the open source community, will join our board—she will be a tremendous asset.'"

MintBox Mini 2 launched yesterday. The MintBox Mini 2 is the 4th generation of the miniature, ready-to-use, fanless mini PCs from Compulab and Linux Mint. The MBM2 is based on the quad-core Intel Celeron J3455 and ships with the latest Linux Mint 19 "Tara" Cinnamon pre-installed. Compulab provides a 5-year warranty on MBM2 and donates 5% to Linux Mint for each MBM2 sold. See the press release for specs and more details.

The OpenShot Video Editor has released version 2.4.2, which features "new effects, tons of bug fixes, and more stability and performance enhancements!" New improvements include seven new effects (crop, hue, color shift, pixelate, bars, wave and shift), auto audio mixing, auto rotate, improved audio playback, improved stability and more.

BusyBox version 1.29.0 has just been released. According to post on the Appuals site, "This new release might end up seeing more serious use as part of boxed network routing solutions. For instance, companies that manufacture a Linux-based router that doesn't have a proper GNU userspace could include BusyBox with it and therefore provide a useful coding environment."

News SUSE The Linux Foundation Google Linux Mint Hardware multimedia Audio/Video BusyBox Embedded
Jill Franklin

Weekend Reading: Multimedia

2 months 3 weeks ago
by Carlie Fairchild

Put the fun back in computing. With this weekend's reading, we encourage you to build yourself an internet radio station, create your own Audible or even live-stream your pets on YouTube. Sky's the limit with Linux. Enjoy!


Building Your Own Audible

by Shawn Powers

I have audiobooks from a variety of sources, which I've purchased in a variety of ways. I have some graphic audio books in MP3 format, a bunch of Audible books in their DRM'd format and ripped CDs varying from m4b (Apple format for books) to MP3 and even some OGG. That diversity makes choosing a listening platform difficult. Here I take a quick look at some options for streaming audio books.


Linux Gets Loud

by Joshua Curry

Linux is ready for prime time when it comes to music production. New offerings from Linux audio developers are pushing creative and technical boundaries. And, with the maturity of the Linux desktop and growth of standards-based hardware setups, making music with Linux has never been easier.


Using gphoto2 to Automate Taking Pictures

by Shawn Powers

With my obsession—er, I mean hobby—regarding BirdCam, I've explored a great number of camera options. Whether that means trying to get Raspberry Pi cameras to focus for a macro shot of a feeder or adjusting depth of field to blur out the neighbor's shed, I've fiddled with just about every webcam setting there is. Unfortunately, when it comes to lens options, nothing beats a DSLR for quality. Thankfully, there's an app for that.


Creating an Internet Radio Station with Icecast and Liquidsoap

by Bill Dengler

Ever wanted to stream prerecorded music or a live event, such as a lecture or concert for an internet audience? With Icecast and Liquidsoap, you can set up a full-featured, flexible internet radio station using free software and open standards.


Live Stream Your Pets with Linux and YouTube!

by Shawn Powers

Anyone who reads Linux Journal knows about my fascination with birdwatching. I've created my own weatherproof video cameras with a Raspberry Pi. I've posted instructions on how to create your own automatically updating camera image page with JavaScript. Heck, I even learned CSS so I could make a mobile-friendly version of BirdCam that filled the screen in landscape mode.


Nativ Vita

by James Gray

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Carlie Fairchild

Gentoo's GitHub Account Hacked, New Raspbian Release, Kubernetes 1.11 Now Available, Databricks Partners with RStudio and More

2 months 3 weeks ago

News briefs for June 29, 2018.

Gentoo's GitHub account has been hacked and is temporarily locked down by GitHub support. The Gentoo team has identified the ingress point, and the repositories with malicious commits have been reset. According to Gentoo, "This does NOT affect any code hosted on the Gentoo infrastructure. Since the master Gentoo ebuild repository is hosted on our own infrastructure and since Github is only a mirror for it, you are fine as long as you are using rsync or webrsync from"

Raspbian 2018-06-27 has been released. This new version includes a setup wizard, a new PDF viewer, updated Chromium browser to version 65 and more. See Simon Long's release announcement for more details, download links and a video run-through on how to update an existing image.

Kubernetes 1.11 was released this week, marking the second release of the year. Key new features include IPVS-based in-cluster service load balancing is now stable; Core DNS is now available as a cluster DNS add-on option; Kubelet configuration is now in beta; and more. The Kubernetes team notes that "the features in this release make it increasingly possible to plug any infrastructure, cloud or on-premise, into the Kubernetes system." You can download it from GitHub.

Eighteen Chromebooks from Acer, Asus, Lenovo and Dell—all based on Intel Apollo Lake—to receive Linux app support. According to xda Developers, "as the change has only just landed, Canary and Developer channels will see this first in the coming days and weeks. Stable or Beta channel users will have to wait until Chrome OS version 69."

Databricks, founded by the creators of Apache Spark, announced this week its partnership with RStudios, the providers of a free and open-source integrated development environment for R, "to increase the productivity of data science teams". According to the announcement, "RStudio provides the most popular way for data science teams to analyze data with R through open source and enterprise ready tools for the R computing environment. By integrating both solutions, data scientists can easily use RStudio from within a Databricks implementation."

News Gentoo GitHub Raspbian Raspberry Pi Kubernetes Chromebooks R Big Data
Jill Franklin