Linux Journal

The Latest Version of the Nest Simulator Now Available in Fedora, Cloudflare's DNS Services Comes to Android, Ceph Now Has Its Own Open-Source Foundation, Valve Making a VR Headset and Sparky Linux 4.9 Released

3 months ago

News briefs for November 12, 2018.

The Fedora team announces that the latest version of the Nest simulator is now available in Fedora as part of the NeuroFedora initiative. Nest allows computational neuroscientists to "make large scale computer models of the brain that are needed to investigate among other things, how the brain processes information". Nest provides an easy to use Python interface and it can be run on both laptops and supercomputing clusters.

Cloudflare's DNS service comes to Android and iOS. According to The Verge, "The mobile app uses features like VPN support to push your mobile traffic towards the DNS servers and improve speeds. It will also prevent your carrier from tracking your browsing history and potentially selling it. Cloudflare is promising not to track users or sell ads, and the company has retained KPMG to perform an annual audit and publish a public report." You can download it for Android here.

The Ceph storage project receives a dedicated open-source foundation, hosted by The Linux Foundation. TechCrunch quotes Sage Weil, Ceph's co-creator, project leader, and chief architect at Red Hat for Ceph: "Today's launch of the Ceph Foundation is a testament to the strength of a diverse open source community coming together to address the explosive growth in data storage and services."

Valve appears to be making its own VR headset. GamingOnLinux reports that a leaked imgur album shows several photos of the new hardware with a Valve logo. Valve also is apparently working on new Half-Life title for VR.

Sparky Linux 4.9 has been released, which celebrates 100 years of Poland's independence. Sparky 4.9 offers the LXDE desktop environment and minimal images of MinimalGUI (Openbox) and MinimalCLI (text mode), so you can "install the base system with a desktop of your choice with a minimal set of applications, via the Sparky Advanced Installer". In addition to added packages and updates, this new version has the code name "100", commemorating the 100 anniversary of Poland's independence, and it provides information about Polish history and also includes new Poland nature wallpapers.

News Fedora Science DNS Android Cloudflare Ceph The Linux Foundation Valve VR gaming Sparky Linux Distributions
Jill Franklin

Weekend Reading: Python

3 months 1 week 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.

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Carlie Fairchild

System76 to Donate Portion of Profit from Laptop Sale to Open-Source Projects, 16 New Companies Join the GPL Commitment, NVIDIA 415.3 Beta for Linux Released, Samsung Announces Linux on DeX with Ubuntu and Kdenlive 18.08.3 Is Out

3 months 1 week ago

News briefs for November 9, 2018.

System76 announces it will donate a portion of its profits from laptop sales to open-source projects until January 3, 2019. Projects include KiCad, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Free Software Foundation (FSF) and the Open Source Hardware Association (OSHWA). In addition, System76 is holding a laptop sale—you can save $30–$100 on a laptop or $160–$370 with upgraded components.

Red Hat announces that 16 additional companies have joined GPL Commitment. The new companies are Adobe, Alibaba, Amadeus, Ant Financial, Atlassian, Atos, AT&T, Bandwidth, Etsy, GitHub, Hitachi, NVIDIA, Oath, Renesas, Tencent and Twitter. Red Hat writes that these companies "are strengthening long-standing community norms of fairness, pragmatism, and predictability in open source license compliance".

NVIDIA 415.3 yesterday released its first beta release for Linux in the 415 release stream. According to Phoronix, highlights include NVIDIA installer improvments, NVIDIA settings improvements, as well as various Vulkan, OpenGL and X.Org server bug fixes. Download the NVIDIA 415.13 Linux driver from here.

Samsung announces Linux on DeX with Ubuntu: "Linux on DeX empowers developers to build apps within a Linux development environment by connecting their Galaxy device to a larger screen for a PC-like experience." The Linux on DeX app is available as a private beta; interested developers can sign up here.

Kdenlive 18.08.3 is out. This release mainly updates the build script and has some compilation fixes, but has more major breakthroughs on the Windows side. A bug-squash day is being organized for early December. You can download it from here.

News System76 Laptops open source Red Hat GPL NVIDIA Samsung Kdenlive
Jill Franklin

Removing Duplicate PATH Entries

3 months 1 week ago
by Mitch Frazier

The goal here is to remove duplicate entries from the PATH variable. But before I begin, let's be clear: there's no compelling reason to to do this. The shell will, in essence, ignore duplicates PATH entries; only the first occurrence of any one path is important. Two motivations drive this exercise. The first is to look at an awk one-liner that initially doesn't really appear to do much at all. The second is to feed the needs of those who are annoyed by such things as having duplicate PATH entries.

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Mitch Frazier

PostgreSQL Updates to Address Security Issue, openSUSE Announces New Legal Review System, Gumstix Launches Board Builder Service, Creative Commons on the EU "Link Tax" and Unreal Engine 4.21 Released

3 months 1 week ago

News briefs for November 8, 2018.

PostgreSQL 11.1 was released today. In addition, updates are available for all supported versions, including 10.6, 9.6.11, 9.5.15, 9.4.20 and 9.3.25. The updates address a security issue as well as several bugfixes, so update as soon as possible.

openSUSE announces a new legal review system called Cavil, "designed to help Linux/GNU distributions with the legal review process of licenses". The new project is "collectively beneficial not only for the openSUSE Project, but distributions and projects that want to use it".

Gumstix has added a free new service called Board Builder to its Geppetto Design-to-Order (D2O) custom-board design service. According to LinuxGizmos, Board Builder makes "the drag-and-drop Geppetto interface even easier to use, enabling customization of ports, layout and other features. With Board Builder, you can select items from a checklist, including computer-on-modules, memory, network, sensors, audio, USB, and other features. You can then select a custom size, and you're presented with 2D and 3D views of board diagrams that you can further manipulate." Visit the Board Builder page for more information.

Creative Commons urges the EU Parliament and Council to delete Article 11 that would "require news aggregators that wish to index or incorporate links and snippets of journalistic content to first get a license or pay a fee to the publisher for their use online". According to Creative Commons, the link tax "would undermine the intention of authors who wish to share without additional strings attached, such as creators who want to share works under open licenses. This could be especially harmful to Creative Commons licensors if it means that remuneration must be granted notwithstanding the terms of the CC license."

Unreal Engine 4.21 released yesterday. Unreal Engine's goal is the "relentless pursuit of greater efficiency, performance, and stability for every project on any platform". New features include the "Niagara effects toolset is now even more powerful and easier to use"; "you can build multiplayer experiences on a scale not previously possible using now production-ready Replication Graph functionality"; an up to "60% speed increase when cooking content"; "usability improvements to the Animation system, Blueprint Visual Scripting, Sequencer, and more."

News PostgreSQL openSUSE licensing SBCs Gumstix creative commons EU Unreal Engine gaming
Jill Franklin

An Immodest Proposal for the Music Industry

3 months 1 week ago
by Doc Searls

How music listeners can fill the industry's "value gap".

From the 1940s to the 1960s, countless millions of people would put a dime in a jukebox to have a single piece of music played for them, one time. If they wanted to hear it again, or to play another song, they'd put in another dime.

In today's music business, companies such as Spotify, Apple and Pandora pay fractions of a penny to stream songs to listeners. While this is a big business that continues to become bigger, it fails to cover what the music industry calls a "value gap".

They have an idea for filling that gap. So do I. The difference is that mine can make them more money, with a strong hint from the old jukebox business.

For background, let's start with this graph from the IFPI's Global Music Report 2018:

Figure 1. Global Music Report 2018

You can see why IFPI no longer gives its full name: International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. That phonographic stuff is what they now call "physical". And you see where that's going (or mostly gone). You also can see that what once threatened the industry—"digital"—now accounts for most of its rebound (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Global Recorded Music Revenues by Segment (2016)

The graphic shown in Figure 2 is also a call-out from the first. Beside it is this text: "Before seeing a return to growth in 2015, the global recording industry lost nearly 40% in revenues from 1999 to 2014."

Later, the report says:

However, significant challenges need to be overcome if the industry is going to move to sustainable growth. The whole music sector has united in its effort to fix the fundamental flaw in today's music market, known as the "value gap", where fair revenues are not being returned to those who are creating and investing in music.

They want to solve this by lobbying: "The value gap is now the industry's single highest legislative priority as it seeks to create a level playing field for the digital market and secure the future of the industry." This has worked before. Revenues from streaming and performance rights owe a lot to royalty and copyright rates and regulations guided by the industry. (In the early 2000s, I covered this like a rug in Linux Journal. See here.)

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Doc Searls

Episode 6: Conferences and Community

3 months 1 week ago
Your browser does not support the audio element. Reality2.0 - Episode 6: Conferences and Community

Katherine Druckman talks to Doc Searls about Freenode Live, conferences, and the Linux community.

Links mentioned:

freenode #live 2018 - Kyle Rankin - The death and resurrection of Linux Journal

freenode #live 2018 - Doc Searls and Simon Phipps - In Conversation 

Time for Net Giants to Pay Fairly for the Open Source on Which They Depend by Glyn Moody

Doc Searls

Radxa Launching the Rock Pi SBC, Collaborating with Google Cloud IoT Core, Parasoft's New Initiative to Support Open-Source Projects, New Foundation Formed for GraphQL and Keeper Security Announces BreachWatch Dark Web Monitoring Product

3 months 1 week ago

News briefs for November 7, 2018.

Radxa is launching a Raspberry Pi clone called the Rock Pi that runs Linux or Android on a hexa-core Rockchip RK3399 SoC. LinuxGizmos writes that the Rock Pi will closely match the RPi 3 layout and "may be the most affordable RK3399 based SBC yet, starting at $39 with 1GB RAM"., the open-source update manager for IoT, announces its collaboration with Google Cloud IoT Core "to create a reference integration enabling rapid detection and updates of issues in IoT devices". Thomas Ryd, CEO of, the company behind the project says, "Almost daily news stories circulate about bricked devices due to poor home-built update tools. We are inspired to address this common problem with an open-source project." The collaboration has "resulted in a tutorial and reference integration to easily detect issues with Cloud IoT Core and the ability to correct those issues via updates to IoT devices with Mender. Users of Cloud IoT Core now have a secure and robust way to keep their Linux devices securely updated." See the Google blog post for more details.

Parasoft announces a new initiative to support open-source projects and communities. The company plans to offer free access to its tool suite "enabling developers to leverage test automation software, deep code analysis, and security capabilities for their open-source projects". To be eligible, developers must "prove they are an active contributor and vital to an open-source project that is recognized within the global open-source community. The free user licenses will be valid for one year." Send email to for more information.

The Linux Foundation is forming a new foundation to support the open-source GraphQL specification. eWeek reports that "the move to create a new vendor-neutral independent foundation under the Linux Foundation will help further advance the development of GraphQL". The GraphQL started out as an internal project at Facebook for its newsfeed API and was open-sourced in 2015. Currently, the specification is used "beyond Facebook by web properties including GitHub, Shopify, Twitter and Airbnb, among others".

Keeper Security announces its new BreachWatch dark web monitoring product. BreachWatch searches the dark web for user accounts from compromised websites and notifies users when it finds their account information, alerting them to update their credentials. BreachWatch is available for iOS, Android and Linux. See the press release for more information.

News SBCs Raspberry Pi open source IOT Google Cloud Parasoft Linux Foundation GraphQL Security
Jill Franklin

Virtualizing the Clock

3 months 1 week ago
by Zack Brown

Dmitry Safonov wanted to implement a namespace for time information. The twisted and bizarre thing about virtual machines is that they get more virtual all the time. There's always some new element of the host system that can be given its own namespace and enter the realm of the virtual machine. But as that process rolls forward, virtual systems have to share aspects of themselves with other virtual systems and the host system itself—for example, the date and time.

Dmitry's idea is that users should be able to set the day and time on their virtual systems, without worrying about other systems being given the same day and time. This is actually useful, beyond the desire to live in the past or future. Being able to set the time in a container is apparently one of the crucial elements of being able to migrate containers from one physical host to another, as Dmitry pointed out in his post.

As he put it:

The kernel provides access to several clocks: CLOCK_REALTIME, CLOCK_MONOTONIC, CLOCK_BOOTTIME. Last two clocks are monotonous, but the start points for them are not defined and are different for each running system. When a container is migrated from one node to another, all clocks have to be restored into consistent states; in other words, they have to continue running from the same points where they have been dumped.

Dmitry's patch wasn't feature-complete. There were various questions still to consider. For example, how should a virtual machine interpret the time changing on the host hardware? Should the virtual time change by the same offset? Or continue unchanged? Should file creation and modification times reflect the virtual machine's time or the host machine's time?

Eric W. Biederman supported this project overall and liked the code in the patch, but he did feel that the patch could do more. He thought it was a little too lightweight. He wanted users to be able to set up new time namespaces at the drop of a hat, so they could test things like leap seconds before they actually occurred and see how their own projects' code worked under those various conditions.

To do that, he felt there should be a whole "struct timekeeper" data structure for each namespace. Then pointers to those structures could be passed around, and the times of virtual machines would be just as manipulable and useful as times on the host system.

In terms of timestamps for filesystems, however, Eric felt that it might be best to limit the feature set a little bit. If users could create files with timestamps in the past, it could introduce some nasty security problems. He felt it would be sufficient simply to "do what distributed filesystems do when dealing with hosts with different clocks".

The two went back and forth on the technical implementation details. At one point, Eric remarked, in defense of his preference:

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Zack Brown

VMware Acquires Heptio, Mining Bitcoin Requires More Energy Than Mining Gold, Fedora Turns 15, Microsoft's New Linux Distros and ReactOS 0.4.10 Released

3 months 1 week ago

News briefs for November 6, 2018.

VMware has acquired Heptio, which was founded by Joe Beda and Craig McLuckie, two of the creators of Kubernetes. TechCrunch reports that the terms of the deal aren't being disclosed and that "this is a signal of the big bet that VMware is taking on Kubernetes, and the belief that it will become an increasing cornerstone in how enterprises run their businesses." The post also notes that this acquisition is "also another endorsement of the ongoing rise of open source and its role in cloud architectures".

The energy needed to mine one dollar's worth of bitcoin is reported to be more than double the energy required to mine the same amount of gold, copper or platinum. The Guardian reports on recent research from the Oak Ridge Institute in Cincinnati, Ohio, that "one dollar's worth of bitcoin takes about 17 megajoules of energy to mine...compared with four, five and seven megajoules for copper, gold and platinum".

Happy 15th birthday to Fedora! Fifteen years ago today, November 6, 2003, Fedora Core 1 was released. See Fedora Magazine's post for a look back at the Fedora Project's beginnings.

Microsoft announced the availability of two new Linux distros for Windows Subsystem for Linux, which will coincide with the Windows 10 1809 release. ZDNet reports that the Debian-based Linux distribution WLinux is available from the Microsoft Store for $9.99 currently (normally it's $19.99). Also, OpenSUSE 15 and SLES 15 are now available from the Microsoft Store as well.

ReactOS 0.4.10 was released today. The main new feature is "ReactOS' ability to now boot from a BTRFS formatted drive". See the official ChangeLog for more details.

News VMware Heptio Kubernetes Containers Bitcoin cryptomining Fedora Microsoft ReactOS
Jill Franklin

Game Review: Lamplight City

3 months 1 week ago
by Patrick Whelan

A well lit look into Grundislav Games' latest release.

The universe of Lamplight City is rich, complex and oddly familiar. The game draws on that ever-popular theme of a steampunk alternative universe, adding dashes of Victorian squalor and just a pinch of 1950's detective tropes. Is it just a mishmash of clichés then? Yes, but it all works well together to form a likable and somewhat unique universe—like a cheesy movie, you can't help but fall in love with Lamplight City.

Figure 1. The Lamplight City Universe

Figure 2. Some Protesters

In Lamplight City, you play Miles Fordham, a disgraced detective turned PI following the death of his partner in Act I at the hands of a mysterious killer. Miles is accompanied by the ghostly voice of his partner Bill as a sort of schizophrenic inner monologue. It's creepy, and it's a perfect example of taking a classic trope and turning it into one of the game's biggest strengths. Bill's monologues add witty flavour to the dry protagonist and a way to explain details and scenarios to the player.

Figure 3. Miles Fordham's Schizophrenic Dialogue

Lamplight City features multiple cases that are all tied together with an overarching story. More impressively though is the overarching story's effect on the individual cases. In my play-through, mistakes I made in one case affected another and effectively led to another case becoming unsolvable. This is a system I instinctively hated. It seemed unjustly punitive to punish players for simply exploring dialogue options. Over time, however, as the music and art slowly enveloped me into a universe I truly enjoyed exploring and experiencing, I began to see how subtleties are at the center of this universe. What at first is dismissed as unimportant or underwhelming later appears as a subtle smack in the face, with that familiar feeling of "Oh, I knew I shouldn't have done that!"

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Patrick Whelan

Kernel 4.20-rc1 Is Out, KDE Connect Android App 1.10 Released, Linux Mint 19.1 Coming Soon, Microsoft Ported ProcDump to Linux and Neptune Version 5.6 Now Available

3 months 1 week ago

News briefs for November 5, 2018.

Linux kernel 4.20-rc1 is out. Linus writes, "This was a fairly big merge window, but it didn't break any records, just solid. And things look pretty regular, with about 70% of the patch is driver updates (gpu drivers are looming large as usual, but there's changes all over). The rest is arch updates (x86, arm64, arm, powerpc and the new C-SKY architecture), header files, networking, core mm and kernel, and tooling." See the LKML post for more information.

The KDE Connect Android app version 1.10 was released yesterday. Main changes include "mouse input now works with the same speed independent from the phones pixel density"; "the media controller now allows stopping playback"; the "run command supports triggering commands using kdeconnect:// URLs" and more. There are several desktop improvements as well, and the Linux Mobile App has also gained many new features.

The Linux Mint blog recently posted its upcoming release schedule. They are working on getting Linux Mint 19.1 out in time for Christmas, "with all three editions released at the same time and the upgrade paths open before the holiday season". In addition, Linux Mint is now on Patreon. See the post for all the changes and improvements in the works.

Microsoft ported the ProcDump applications to Linux and is planning to port ProcMon to Linux as well. According to ZDNet, "these ports are part of the company's larger plan to make the Sysinternals package available for Linux users in the coming future".

Neptune version 5.6 was released yesterday. This update of the desktop distro based fully on Debian 9.0 ("Stretch") provides kernel 4.18.6 with improved drivers and bugfixes. Other updates include systemd to version 239, KDE Applications to version 18.08.2, Network-Manager updated to 1.14, Plasma desktop has been updated to 5.12.7 and much more. See the full changelog here.

News kernel KDE Android Mobile Linux Mint Microsoft Neptune Distributions Desktop
Jill Franklin

Time for Net Giants to Pay Fairly for the Open Source on Which They Depend

3 months 1 week ago
by Glyn Moody

Net giants depend on open source: so where's the gratitude?

Licensing lies at the heart of open source. Arguably, free software began with the publication of the GNU GPL in 1989. And since then, open-source projects are defined as such by virtue of the licenses they adopt and whether the latter meet the Open Source Definition. The continuing importance of licensing is shown by the periodic flame wars that erupt in this area. Recently, there have been two such flarings of strong feelings, both of which raise important issues.

First, we had the incident with Lerna, "a tool for managing JavaScript projects with multiple packages". It came about as a result of the way the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been separating families and holding children in cage-like cells. The Lerna core team was appalled by this behavior and wished to do something concrete in response. As a result, it added an extra clause to the MIT license, which forbade a list of companies, including Microsoft, Palantir, Amazon, Motorola and Dell, from being permitted to use the code:

For the companies that are known supporters of ICE: Lerna will no longer be licensed as MIT for you. You will receive no licensing rights and any use of Lerna will be considered theft. You will not be able to pay for a license, the only way that it is going to change is by you publicly tearing up your contracts with ICE.

Many sympathized with the feelings about the actions of the ICE and the intent of the license change. However, many also pointed out that such a move went against the core principles of both free software and open source. Freedom 0 of the Free Software Definition is "The freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose." Similarly, the Open Source Definition requires "No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups" and "No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor". The situation is clear cut, and it didn't take long for the Lerna team to realize their error, and they soon reverted the change:

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Glyn Moody

Weekend Reading: FOSS Projects

3 months 2 weeks ago
by Carlie Fairchild

FOSS Project Spotlights provide an opportunity for free and open-source project team members to show Linux Journal readers what makes their project compelling. Join us this weekend as we explore some of the latest FOSS projects in the works.


FOSS Project Spotlight: Nitrux, a Linux Distribution with a Focus on AppImages and Atomic Upgrades

by Nitrux Latinoamericana S.C.

Nitrux is a Linux distribution with a focus on portable, application formats like AppImages. Nitrux uses KDE Plasma 5 and KDE Applications, and it also uses our in-house software suite Nomad Desktop.


FOSS Project Spotlight: Tutanota, the First Encrypted Email Service with an App on F-Droid

by Matthias Pfau

Seven years ago, Tutanota was being built, an encrypted email service with a strong focus on security, privacy and open source. Long before the Snowden revelations, the Tutanota team felt there was a need for easy-to-use encryption that would allow everyone to communicate online without being snooped upon.


FOSS Project Spotlight: LinuxBoot

by David Hendricks

Linux as firmware.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. That may sound cliché, but it's still as true for the firmware that boots your operating system as it was in 2001 when Linux Journal first published Eric Biederman's "About LinuxBIOS". LinuxBoot is the latest incarnation of an idea that has persisted for around two decades now: use Linux as your bootstrap.


FOSS Project Spotlight: CloudMapper, an AWS Visualization Tool

by Scott Piper

Duo Security has released CloudMapper, an open-source tool for visualizing Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud environments.

When working with AWS, it's common to have a number of separate accounts run by different teams for different projects. Gaining an understanding of how those accounts are configured is best accomplished by visually displaying the resources of the account and how these resources can communicate. This complements a traditional asset inventory.


FOSS Project Spotlight: Ravada

by Francesc Guasch

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Carlie Fairchild

Creative Commons Working with Flickr, OSI Announces $200,000 Donation from Handshake, Intel's OTC Adopts Contributor Covenant, Artifact Digital Card Game Coming Soon to Linux and Facebook Open-Sources Suite of Kernel Components and Tools

3 months 2 weeks ago

News briefs for November 2, 2018.

Creative Commons is working with Flickr and SmugMug, Flickr's parent company, to protect the Commons following Flickr's recent announcement that it will be limiting free accounts to 1,000 images. Ryan Merkley, Creative Commons CEO, writes, "We want to ensure that when users share their works that they are available online in perpetuity and that they have a great experience." But he also admits that "the business models that have powered the web for so long are fundamentally broken. Storage and bandwidth for hundreds of millions (if not billions) of photos is very expensive. We've all benefited from Flickr's services for so long, and I'm hopeful we will find a way forward together."

The Open Source Initiative announces a $200,000 donation from Handshake, "the largest single donation in organizational history". Patrick Masson, the OSI's general manager, says "Handshake's funding will allow us to extend the reach and impact of our Working Groups and Incubator Projects, many which were established to confront the growing efforts to manipulate open source through 'fauxpen source software' and 'open-washing'."

Intel's Open-Source Technology Center (OTC) has adopted the Contributor Covenant for all of its open-source projects. Phoronix reports that it chose the Contributor Covenant because "it's well written and represented, provides a clear expression of expectations, and represents open-source best practices." You can read the Contributor Covenant here.

Valve's digital card game Artifact is scheduled to be released November 28th with Linux support. According to Gaming on Linux, the new game will also have a built-in tournament feature. See the official Artifact site for more details.

Facebook recently announced it's open-sourcing a new suite of Linux kernel components and related tools "that address critical fleet management issues. These include resource control, resource utilization, workload isolation, load balancing, measuring, monitoring, and much more". According to the Facebook blog post, "the kernel components and tools included in this release can be adapted to solve a virtually limitless number of production problems."

News creative commons Handshake OSI Intel gaming Valve Facebook open source
Jill Franklin

The Asus Eee: How Close Did the World Come to a Linux Desktop?

3 months 2 weeks ago
by Jeff Siegel

It was white, not much bigger than my hands held side by side, weighed about as much as a bottle of wine, and it came in a shiny, faux-leather case. It was the $199 Asus Eee 901, and I couldn't believe that a computer could be that powerful, that light and that much fun.

This is the story of the brief, shining history of the Asus Eee, the first netbook—a small, cheap and mostly well-made laptop that dominated the computer industry for two or three years about a decade go. It's not so much that the Eee was ahead of its time, which wasn't that difficult in an industry then dominated by pricey and bulky laptops that didn't always have a hard drive and by desktop design hadn't evolved much past the first IBM 8086 box.

Rather, the Eee was ahead of everyone's time. It ran a Linux operating system with a tabbed interface and splashy icons, and the hardware included wireless, Bluetooth, a webcam and an SSD hard drive—all in a machine that weighed just 2.5 pounds. In this, it teased many of the concepts that tech writer Mark Wilson says we take for granted in today's cloud, smartphone and Chromebook universe.

The Eee was so impressive that even Microsoft, whose death grip on the PC world seemed as if it would never end, took notice. As everyone from Dell to HP to Samsung to Toshiba to Sony to Acer to one-offs and "never-weres" raced netbooks into production, Microsoft offered manufacturers a version of Windows XP (and later a truncated Windows 7) to cram onto the machines. Because we can't have the masses running a Linux OS, can we?

"The Eee gave regular people something they couldn't have before", says Dan Ackerman, a longtime section editor at CNET who wrote some of the website's original Eee and netbook reviews. "Laptops had always been ridiculously expensive. The Eee wasn't, and it gave regular people a chance to buy a laptop that was smaller and more portable and that they could be productive with. I always gave Asus credit—they understood the role of form and function."

Netbook History

The computer world never had really seen anything like the first Eee, which didn't even have a name when it was launched in 2007 (although it later would be called both the 701 and the 4G). In fact, say those who reviewed the 701, it wasn't so much a product but a proof of concept—that Asus could make something that small and that cheap that worked.

There had been small laptops before, of course, like the Intel Classmate PC and the OLPC X0-1, each part of the One Laptop per Child project. But those were specialized machines designed to bring computing and the internet to students throughout the world, and not necessarily consumer products.

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Jeff Siegel

Why Your Server Monitoring (Still) Sucks

3 months 2 weeks ago
by Mike Julian

Five observations about why your your server monitoring still stinks by a monitoring specialist-turned-consultant.

Early in my career, I was responsible for managing a large fleet of printers across a large campus. We're talking several hundred networked printers. It often required a 10- or 15-minute walk to get to some of those printers physically, and many were used only sporadically. I didn't always know what was happening until I arrived, so it was anyone's guess as to the problem. Simple paper jam? Driver issue? Printer currently on fire? I found out only after the long walk. Making this even more frustrating for everyone was that, thanks to the infrequent use of some of them, a printer with a problem might go unnoticed for weeks, making itself known only when someone tried to print with it.

Finally, it occurred to me: wouldn't it be nice if I knew about the problem and the cause before someone called me? I found my first monitoring tool that day, and I was absolutely hooked.

Since then, I've helped numerous people overhaul their monitoring systems. In doing so, I noticed the same challenges repeat themselves regularly. If you're responsible for managing the systems at your organization, read on; I have much advice to dispense.

So, without further ado, here are my top five reasons why your monitoring is crap and what you can do about it.

1. You're Using Antiquated Tools

By far, the most common reason for monitoring being screwed up is a reliance on antiquated tools. You know that's your issue when you spend too much time working around the warts of your monitoring tools or when you've got a bunch of custom code to get around some major missing functionality. But the bottom line is that you spend more time trying to fix the almost-working tools than just getting on with your job.

The problem with using antiquated tools and methodologies is that you're just making it harder for yourself. I suppose it's certainly possible to dig a hole with a rusty spoon, but wouldn't you prefer to use a shovel?

Great tools are invisible. They make you more effective, and the job is easier to accomplish. When you have great tools, you don't even notice them.

Maybe you don't describe your monitoring tools as "easy to use" or "invisible". The words you might opt to use would make my editor break out a red pen.

This checklist can help you determine if you're screwing yourself.

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Mike Julian

System76 Announces American-Made Desktop PC with Open-Source Parts

3 months 2 weeks ago
by Bryan Lunduke

Early in 2017—nearly two years ago—System76 invited me, and a handful of others, out to its Denver headquarters for a sneak peek at something new they'd been working on.

We were ushered into a windowless, underground meeting room. Our phones and cameras confiscated. Seriously. Every word of that is true. We were sworn to total and complete secrecy. Assumedly under penalty of extreme death...though that part was, technically, never stated.

Once the head honcho of System76, Carl Richell, was satisfied that the room was secure and free from bugs, the presentation began.

System76 told us the company was building its own desktop computers. Ones that it designed themselves. From-scratch cases. With wood. And inlaid metal. What's more, these designs would be open. All built right there in Denver, Colorado.

We were intrigued.

Then they showed them to us, and we darn near lost our minds. They were gorgeous. We all wanted them.

But they were not ready yet. This was early on in the design and engineering, and they were looking for feedback—to make sure System76 was on the right track.

They were.

Flash-forward to today (November 1, 2018), and these Linux-powered, made in America desktop machines are finally being unveiled to the world as the Thelio line (which they've been teasing for several weeks with a series of sci-fi themed stories).

The Thelio comes in three sizes:

  • Thelio (aka "small") — max 32GB RAM, 24TB storage.
  • Thelio Major (aka "medium") — max 128GB RAM, 46TB storage.
  • Thelio Massive (aka "large") — max 768GB RAM, 86TB storage.

All three sport the same basic look: part black metal, part wood (with either maple or walnut options) with rounded side edges. The cases open with a single slide up of the outer housing, with easy swapping of components. Lots of nice little touches, like a spot for in-case storage of screws that can be used in securing drives.

In an awesomely nerdy touch, the rear exhaust grill shows the alignment of planets in the solar UNIX Epoch time. Also known as January 1, 1970. A Thursday.

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Bryan Lunduke

The Monitoring Issue

3 months 2 weeks ago
by Bryan Lunduke

In 1935, Austrian physicist, Erwin Schrödinger, still flying high after his Nobel Prize win from two years earlier, created a simple thought experiment.

It ran something like this:

If you have a file server, you cannot know if that server is up or down...until you check on it. Thus, until you use it, a file server is—in a sense—both up and down. At the same time.

This little brain teaser became known as Schrödinger's File Server, and it's regarded as the first known critical research on the intersection of Systems Administration and Quantum Superposition. (Though, why Erwin chose, specifically, to use a "file server" as an example remains a bit of a mystery—as the experiment works equally well with any type of server. It's like, we get it, Erwin. You have a nice NAS. Get over it.)


Okay, perhaps it didn't go exactly like that. But I'm confident it would know...had good old Erwin had a nice Network Attached Storage server instead of a cat.

Regardless, the lessons from that experiment certainly hold true for servers. If you haven't checked on your server recently, how can you be truly sure it's running properly? Heck, it might not even be running at all!

Monitoring a server—to be notified when problems occur or, even better, when problems look like they are about to occur—seems, at first blush, to be a simple task. Write a script to ping a server, then email me when the ping times out. Run that script every few minutes and, shazam, we've got a server monitoring solution! Easy-peasy, time for lunch!

Whoah, there! Not so fast!

That server monitoring solution right there? It stinks. It's fragile. It gives you very little information (other than the results of a ping). Even for administering your own home server, that's barely enough information and monitoring to keep things running smoothly.

Even if you have a more robust solution in place, odds are there are significant shortcomings and problems with it. Luckily, Linux Journal has your back—this issue is chock full of advice, tips and tricks for how to keep your servers effectively monitored.

You know, so you're not just guessing of the cat is still alive in there.

Mike Julian (author of O'Reilly's Practical Monitoring) goes into detail on a bunch of the ways your monitoring solution needs serious work in his adorably titled "Why Your Server Monitoring (Still) Sucks" article.

We continue "telling it like it is" with Corey Quinn's treatise on Amazon's CloudWatch, "CloudWatch Is of the Devil, but I Must Use It". Seriously, Corey, tell us how you really feel.

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Bryan Lunduke