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Roy Schestowitz's blog

Why Tux Machines Occasionally Adds Editorial Comments

Filed under
Just talk

Editorials

Summary: Editorial remarks (or Editor's comments, "Ed" for short) play a role in highlighting potential inaccuracies -- and manipulations of the mind -- when those aren't so shallow and aren't abundantly obvious

Recently, and as lately as a few hours ago, Richard Stallman exchanged some messages and we might meet again in a few months (he is traveling to the UK). Stallman and I share a concern about neglect of truth and history; for instance, many GNU programs are nowadays dubbed "LINUX COMMANDS" (I saw one example of that just 2 hours ago) and people sometimes lose sight of the important goals, focusing on brands instead of philosophy, political aspects and so on.

"Sometimes we link to something which isn't entirely accurate or can be misleading."

I would like to take this moment, on the last day of this year, to explain where we stand on issues pertaining to software freedom. A few times in the past one reader bemoaned my editorial comments (marked "Ed"), which typically bemoan something about the cited article/s. Sometimes we link to something which isn't entirely accurate or can be misleading. One example of that is openwashing. Another rather common and increasingly ubiquitous example concerns Microsoft "loving" Linux (it actually loves Windows).

We live in a world with Public Relations and marketing agencies. They exist to mislead; they shape perceptions -- that's their business model! To blindly link to just anything online without commentary or curation would likely lead us astray. Truth does matter. Facts need to be checked. This is what Tux Machines strives to achieve; throwing the word "LINUX" into something like Google News would expose one to loads of cruft, irrelevant stuff, plagiarism, pure spam and sometimes intentional lies. With no human operator or editor just about anything can be dunked into search results, owing to SEO manipulation and mishandling of indexes. I've seen that for well over a decade. Automation just doesn't work; someone who understands the problem domain needs to assess things for quality and accuracy.

"To be fair, comments are open, so readers can respond."

My adult life (since age 18 or so when I became a GNU/Linux user) involved very hard work and lifelong activism for software freedom. Not everyone agrees with me and if sometimes I may say something readers disagree with (e.g. in editorial comments), then it's likely because I try to be realistic, not jingoistic. Moreover, no two individuals will agree on everything 100% of the time. That's inevitable. So some readers might dislike these editorial comments. To be fair, comments are open, so readers can respond.

At the moment, the way I personally see it, Free software is under a number of attacks. There are different types of attacks. I think Free software will endure regardless. On a more positive note, Free software is nowadays used everywhere, it's just not being called that ("Open Source" is the term corporate media prefers) and it has been leveraged as a low-cost 'cushion' for DRM, surveillance, militarism etc. Think of companies like Facebook and Netflix (GNU and Linux at their back ends). Is this what we strive for? Closed systems that are merely built upon Freedom-respecting stacks?

"At the moment, the way I personally see it, Free software is under a number of attacks."

Software freedom is a huge objective in a world where almost everything becomes digital (only more so over time). I think it's up to us to somehow guide the world's software towards ethical uses, without necessarily imposing how it's used, and that is perhaps a future challenge for the Free Software Movement. It's a monumental challenge because politics can be a massive terrain to navigate. Over at Techrights I mostly focus on issues such as patents (laws), with emphasis on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the European Patent Office (EPO) granting software patents in Europe and so on. Patents on algorithms are one kind of barrier (among many) impeding Free software adoption.

The End of Tux Machines' Strongest Year

Filed under
Site News

Tux Machines 2020

TODAY is the last day of the last month of this year if not decade. We're pleased to close this year with record traffic levels. In 2019 we increased our coverage of programming-centric matters, especially when the underlying frameworks/languages were Free/libre software.

Earlier this year we also celebrated our 15th anniversary. There are three of us working behind the scenes to make the site up to date and keep it up (online). We're all passionate users of GNU/Linux who want to spread the word and encourage more people to use the platform.

In 2019 not only did we see record traffic levels; we also saw an unprecedented level of success for GNU/Linux in the adoption sense. Rianne is responsible for "Android leftovers" and remember that each Android device has Linux (or "Tux") in it. Google explored alternatives, but we haven't heard of these for months. It's nowadays very difficult to run a company or start a company without Linux -- no matter if in the server or device space. Let's hope Tux Machines will be around -- and online -- for many years to come. Happy new year.

Moving Into 'Christmas Mode'

Filed under
Site News

Slow news day

Summary: Fewer news items in days to come and potentially some planned downtime as well

AS ONE can expect, we won't be able to find much news over the next few days, and perhaps be 'low volume' for as long as a week or more to come (a problem to news addicts or neophiles). We'll try to also upgrade/migrate the site if all goes according to plan. In that case, there might be limited downtime (scheduled, altogether expected, no need to panic).

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it.

Keep the Bees Going

Filed under
Site News

Bee

MANCHESTER is known as the city of "working bees" because of the work ethics or its hard-working people. Working bees are the symbol of Manchester, where my wife and I are based and spend each day -- morning, afternoon, evening and sometimes night -- posting updates here in Tux Machines.

The end of the year is fast approaching. Literally 22 days left, i.e. 3 weeks and a day. We wish to thank those who tipped up yesterday to keep us going. We accept donations through PayPal and we're grateful for any contribution readers can make, even if as meager as a cup of coffee's worth. It gives my wife and I motivation to continue and circulate updates as soon as we find them. Thank you! Smile

Using Menus For Command Line Programs and Scripts

Filed under
Howtos

THE holidays are coming (Christmas approaching), so I've taken advantage of some spare time to menu-ise commands that I use frequently. Those commands aren't the mere opening of an application and they often require dealing with input and output (in the command line). So I've created menu.sh and used dialog to craft the following menu, e.g. for operations associated with Techrights. I invoke this menu with the click of one button (of the mouse).

Rianne has a similar menu for commands she often runs (which are long and would otherwise need pasting or typing in length). Her menu looks something like this:

Rianne's menu

Here's the code (bash file) that renders the menu above (it's really that simple!):


#!/bin/bash

HEIGHT=15
WIDTH=40
CHOICE_HEIGHT=4
BACKTITLE="Aloha, Rianne"
TITLE="Rianne @ Ted"
MENU="Choose one of the following options:"

OPTIONS=(1 "Start VPN"
         2 "REDACTED"
         3 "REDACTED"
	4 "REDACTED"
	5 "REDACTED"
	6 "REDACTED"
	7 "REDACTED"
)

CHOICE=$(dialog --clear \
                --backtitle "$BACKTITLE" \
                --title "$TITLE" \
                --menu "$MENU" \
                $HEIGHT $WIDTH $CHOICE_HEIGHT \
                "${OPTIONS[@]}" \
                2>&1 >/dev/tty)

clear
case $CHOICE in
        1)
            echo "You chose Option 1"
sh ~/vpn.sh ;;

        2)
            echo "You chose Option 2"
REDACTED COMMAND ;;
        3)
            echo "You chose Option 3"
REDACTED COMMAND ;;
        4)
            echo "You chose Option 4"
REDACTED COMMAND ;;
        5)
            echo "You chose Option 5"
REDACTED COMMAND ;;
        6)
            echo "You chose Option 6"
REDACTED COMMAND ;;
        7)
            echo "You chose Option 7"
REDACTED COMMAND ;;

esac

Hopefully this inspires other people out there to do the same. It takes a while to set up, but it's a big time saver over the long run.

Tux Machines Entering a Third Decade Soon

Filed under
Site News

Put your tuxedo on

Tux Machines 2020
Getting better over time?

SUSAN created this site a very long time ago, more than a decade and a half in the past. Susan did a spectacular job. With regular news updates she managed to grow the site in terms of pages, screenshots, reviews, readers, and contributors. We are eternally thankful to her.

Rianne and I have run the site since 2013. 2020 is around the corner (just over 3 weeks left!) and that makes another new decade. In terms of site traffic we continue to grow. Other than Rianne and I posting news updates 'around the clock' there's already a systems administrator who volunteered to help keep the site chugging along. We are very thankful to him. He prefers to remain unnamed. So Tux Machines is basically not a one-person operation. It is basically a team of three people now (in addition to various people who add posts/links). Rianne (based in the UK) usually takes the lead with breaking stories, I tend to post summaries or clusters of related links and system integrity/uptime is assured from Scandinavia. The hypervisor is physically in the United States. We're a sort of international team with no income source (other than our jobs).

If you enjoy the site and find it handy, maybe you wish to drop us a tip for Christmas as a token of gratitude. Anything helps, even a cup of coffee's worth. Coffee helps keep us awake to post more links. Wink

Keeping a Web Site Safe and Available With or Without a CDN

Filed under
Site News

PostgreSQL

THE site Tux Machines is and has been online for over 15 years. It has not suffered security-related incidents. The same is true for Techrights, which soon turns 13. Tux Machines uses Gallery and Drupal, whereas Techrights uses MediaWiki, WordPress and Drupal. WordPress is its most important component as it contains over 26,000 posts. Tux Machines has about 130,000 nodes in Drupal. We don't use a CDN as we have a reasonably powerful server that can cope with the load on its own. For security we use best practices and keep critical issues plugged. I was recently asked for advice on these matters and explained things as follows.

There are mainly two types of attacks (maybe three if one includes social engineering, e.g. tricking a citizen journalist/blogger/administrator into a trap):

1) capacity-based, e.g. DDOS attack

2) exploiting vulnerabilities to degrade/compromise site's quality of service (similar to (1) above but not the same), access site data (confidential), spy on people (writers/staff/visitors) without them being aware.

WordPress runs lots of stuff and powers a lot of the Web, maybe 20% (or more) of today's Web sites. It's regularly checked for security issues and bugs are regularly fixed. Updates can be set to automatic, which means they happen in the background without user intervention. I check the site for updates several times per day, e.g. this one from yesterday.

I've used WordPress for 15 years as an early adopter and developer.

What's known as the "core" of WordPress is generally secure if kept up to date, manually or automatically (for large sites it might make sense to apply patches manually to reduce risk of unnoticed incidents and enable quality control, patch assessment etc). It's also important to keep the underlying operating system and pertinent packages like PHP (programming language), mysql/psql (WordPress and Drupal typically use MariaDB or MySQL as the database, but PostgreSQL should be possible too) and Apache (there are simpler alternatives e.g. NGINX for Web server) up to date.

If we get to keep everything up to date, and moreover we don't install WordPress extensions that cannot be trusted or are no longer maintained (or scarcely maintained), we should be OK. The social engineering part involves stuff such as phishing, e.g. someone sending out an E-mail in an attempt to obtain passwords of privileged users.

If you use a CDN for content distribution, e.g. CloudFlare, then availability will be mostly down to the CDN company. WordPress generates pages on the fly (dynamic), but it has caching mechanisms that can be further improved with extensions. The CDN likely obviates the need for those. So, if the site is receiving 'too many' requests, the CDN can probably scale to deal with that (maybe a more expensive protection plan).

I peronsally would never use CloudFlare (for a lot of reasons), but to many people it's the only CDN that 'counts' or exists. Brand recognition perhaps.

Daylight Linux Version 4

Filed under
Linux

Daylight Linux (Web site) version 4 has just been released.

The Linux kernel is now upgraded to the 5.3 version for the AMD64 live version and Kernel 4.19.68 for the Raspberry Pi version.

All packages are upgraded to the Debian 10 version or to the cutting-edge version (experimental) for all current software packages.

Added compatibility for the Raspberry Pi 4.

By Hamdy Abou El Anein
Founder / Linux system engineer

Daylight Linux V4

Daylight Linux V4

Daylight Linux V4

Daylight Linux V4

Daylight Linux V4

Contact Private Internet Access (PIA) Managers to Help Save Linux Journal From Shutdown

Filed under
Site News

Private Internet Access

TUX MACHINES turned 15 almost exactly two months ago. The site has operational costs, as one can expect, mostly the hardware and bandwidth. We've thankfully had these resources very kindly donated to us last year, basically saving us the massive burden of bills somewhere around $10,000. Running a site with a lot of traffic isn't cheap and it isn't getting cheaper, either. As an overhead or addition to server maintenance (uptime requires habitual work on repairing databases, managing backups, patching of software and agonising system upgrades once in a few years) it takes a lot of time to compose new material and moderate to keep spam out.

A lot of the mainstream media is bashing Linux Journal right now. It makes it seem like its demise is a problem with GNU/Linux itself. These are villainous lies from self-serving foes of Linux, sometimes people who are aligned with Microsoft or salaried by Microsoft (we don't want to link to their provocative clickbait). But anyway, the bottom line is that keeping Linux Journal online may be costly and people should prepare for the possibility of Linux Journal becoming unavailable (offline) some time soon. I try very hard to prevent this (today and yesterday). "There is a real (and ever-growing) danger that a massive trove of GNU/Linux and Free software history will vanish unless urgent action is taken right now," I said. There are ways to avoid this (writers of that site need to unite in a union-like sense). I also secure my own sites from such a fate, having reached almost 13 years in Techrights. This week the site is experiencing all-time traffic records.

I've decided to contact Rick Falkvinge (Dick Greger Augustsson), founder of the Swedish Pirate Party and head of privacy at Private Internet Access, which owns Linux Journal. Bear in mind he used to work for Microsoft. We're still friendly online (we've exchanged some messages over the years) and he probably has sufficient clout at Private Internet Access to sway their decisions. In case they plan to shut down the site, we must act fast. Please contact him; as per his Web site, his E-mail address is x1bpsas66na001@sneakemail.com and any message he receives he can relay to other high-level people at the company. I don't personally know anyone else at that company, so that's the only contact I'm able to provide.

Microsoft loves Microsoft Linux

Filed under
Humor

Microsoft loves Microsoft

Summary: A very old cartoon/column (half a century old) rewritten to explain where Microsoft stands when it comes to "loving" Linux

Tux Machines Over the Past 15 Years

Filed under
Site News

2005

Tux Machines site in 2005

2010

Tux Machines site in 2010

2012

Tux Machines site in 2012

2013

Tux Machines site in 2013

Late 2013

Tux Machines site in late 2013

2014

Tux Machines site in 2014

2015

Tux Machines site in 2015

2019

Tux Machines site in 2019

Coming Shortly: 15-Year Anniversary

Cake on the way...

Tell Us About Your (or Others') GNU/Linux Blogs

Filed under
Site News

THE MEDIA online is dying. It's no secret. Not all sorts of media are dying but traditional media struggles to survive. Causes for these have been explained for years if not more than a decade. This won't be the subject of this post.

Tux Machines does not produce a lot of original material. Susan used to publish GNU/Linux reviews (with galleries of screenshots), but other than that we mostly cluster and syndicate news. This has been the case for nearly 15 years (our anniversary is next month).

Each year it feels like mainstream media produces a lot less stories (not just about GNU/Linux but about anything, in general terms). So we're 'mining' more and more RSS feeds, typically of blogs. Do you have a GNU/Linux blog or know one/s you wish to recommend? Let us know in the IRC channel because we always hunt for more news sources, no matter if they're 'mainstream' or not as long as they're credible, reliable, and on topic.

The Microsoft Commandments

Filed under
Humor

Microsoft B0rg

  1. Thou shalt not host a FOSS project outside GitHub (otherwise it won’t ‘count’)
  2. Thou shalt not edit code without Visual Studio (which now has an “open” — albeit spying and malicious — component for openwashing purposes)
  3. Thou shalt not code without .NET (or Mono)
  4. Thou shalt not use a voting machine without Windows (we have just announced some openwashing component to make up for the NSA back doors that compromise elections worldwide)
  5. Thou shalt not boot GNU/Linux as a standalone operating system (UEFI might not permit this anyway, unless we sign for approval)
  6. Thou shalt not get get a GNU/Linux distribution outside our Store
  7. Thou shalt not buy a computer without Windows preinstalled; those are “naked PCs” and everyone who buys such PCs is a “pirate”
  8. Thou shalt not disparage or even publicly criticise our staff (that would be in violation of GitHub rules, a Code of Conduct, T&C and so on)
  9. Thou shalt not report back doors in our software or leak NSA tools that take advantage of these (there’s a prison sentence for doing so)
  10. Thou shalt not write in mass media things that refute our narrative (proving that we are chronic liars); we would bribe the publication using advertising money and have you sacked
  11. Thou shalt not use open formats such as OpenDocument except inside Microsoft Office, which is incompatible with all other software (by design)
  12. Thou shalt not distribute Linux without paying Microsoft for patents; we’re still suing companies (in 2019) for having the audacity to do so
  13. Thou shalt not host a site or a service outside Azure; we'd sic patent trolls at you
  14. Thou shalt not oppose Microsoft’s lock-in and proprietary software shims inside Linux; we’d send our media partners (Condé Nast) to oust you, at least for a month if not permanently
  15. Thou shalt not report our crimes to the authorities; doing so would make you a “toxic”, “intolerant” person
  16. Thou shalt not use the GPL unless all other options have been exhausted
  17. Thou shalt not adopt a Web browser other than MSIE or our rebranded Chrome, also known as Edge; we’d occasionally tinker with your computer’s settings to remind you to quit using other browsers or refuse the download of such “malware”

Fifteenth Anniversary of Tux Machines Coming Soon

Filed under
Site News

NOT many Internet enterprises or even protocols outlast the Web. IRC is under attack, E-mail is being hijacked by large corporations (the business model of spying), and copyright monopolies compel ISPs to disconnect from USENET. Even without the Web there's a similar problem; not many sites last a decade; some last a few years until interest is lost or life-changing events cause stagnation and ultimately shutdown (it's not cheap to keep a domain registered and it can be technically difficult to keep a host going). Some sites or blogs remain active only for days, weeks, months. Not many sites have lasted 2 decades. Some become dormant and shelved. Some suffer the "Google Plus effect" (host decides it's not viable to carry on hosting, mostly for selfish "business reasons").

Tux Machines domainTux Machines remains very active. Every day, almost every hour. Even when we're on holiday (or abroad) we still log in and post the more crucial news. We never wink or lose a heartbeat. Dedication like this becomes almost addictive.

In less than a couple of months the site will turn 15. We're planning to celebrate locally somehow (a little party), knowing that it's a rare event and seeing how the Web becomes just "apps" and "social media" it's hard to guarantee we'll reach 20 (we sure hope so). Over the years we've considered modernising the site (CMS overhaul), but such novelty may entail bloat, speed losses, 'UX' erosion, and a lack of 'traditional' feel, maybe even issues associated with navigation, user familiarity, backward compatibility of URLs (we still use node numbers!) and so on.

Slack: It Used to Be a GNU/Linux Distro, Now It's Surveillance Capitalism

Filed under
Just talk

I like "Freedo" (a symbol for freedom) better

Freedo

THE meaning of words can change over time, along with connotations that accompany these words. A little cat, for example, we can no longer call "pussy" and the word "gay" rarely means happy (colloquially). What about "Slack"?

Once upon a time I knew Slack as a solid, freedom-respecting distribution (GNU/Linux distro), whereas nowadays it is something to be stubbornly avoided as it threatens my freedom. It's technically spyware. It is a threat to everybody's freedom because of the network effect. When we use it we participate in a viral campaign of unwanted societal dependency. We help it spread exponentially. Like disease amongst anti-vaxxers. Richard Stallman had spoken about it in the context of Skype long before Microsoft entered the fray/picture. That's just common sense. The requirement of opening a Slack account to interact with other people is like the equivalent of an employer demanding the applicant has a Facebook account (despite all that is known about Facebook's incredible abuses). It can harm our neighbours, colleagues, family and friends as much as it harms ourselves.

As a little bit of background/context/polite remarks on this, I had been writing about Slack (the spyware, not the distro) for several years -- years before the prospects of actually using it. I never ever used it, but I know about it technically, from various angles (not just the shallow, user-centric end). Slack is proprietary at the front end and the back end. Only Slack employees know for sure what it does (and may do in the foreseeable future, as per secret roadmaps). They cannot speak out about it, for fear of retribution (so they're inherently gagged by fear over mortgage etc. or self-restraint that defies logic/ethics). Stallman has long warned about the morality of such circumstances and the ideology they breed. It was recently discovered that Facebook had targeted its critics (a huge number of them), subjecting them to Stasi-like treatment not for any government but for a private corporation, namely Facebook. It had been 'hunting' people using dubious and shallow justifications/pretexts. Nobody has yet been held accountable. Negative press has been the only cost/toll, so they got away with it with barely even a slap on the wrist. Others may imitate them, seeing that there are no fines, no arrests, no sanctions.

A colleague told me several months ago that someone at our company wanted to experiment with Slack; there was no final decision about it, so I assumed it was like our RT/OTRS 'dance' (choice of ticketing system half a decade ago). Sometimes we explore FOSS options/alternatives, which is a good thing! He sent me an invite, but he wasn't assertive about me joining as it was still an experimental thing (as I understood it back then, based on what I was told; I'll come to that in a moment). I thought we would, if it got adopted, still have options (duality). One colleague (at least) wasn't even sent an invite, so I took that as a sign of the adoption's semi-hearted nature (at the time). My colleagues never mentioned it since, except one person (who apparently liked Slack). Another colleague wondered why nobody had told her about it; as if she was left out, but she's happily using Kopete on KDE, so on she went with Jabber.

I've long been writing about Slack, maybe about 15 years (even when the name referred to a Live GNU/Linux distro, well before the name got 'hijacked'; it's Debian-based, it still has regular releases a few months apart, not the same as Slackware despite the names' similarity; BoycottNovell made a Slack-based distro called SUEME Linux 12 years ago); Tux Machines publishes announcements of Slack releases several times a year, but it's always about the distro. It's a European distro with pedigree; but I digress..

Nowadays "Slack" means something different; in a technical context, people no longer recognise it as the distro's name; Slack is now the darling of corporate media; myself and others could never quite explain why (we were rather baffled as it did not seem particularly innovative and we thus attributed most/all the press coverage to good marketing/PR); the name collision also raised legal questions because Slack is a well-known distro and the name is strictly used in the domain of software; it has been used for decades. Now the distro's development team needs to explain to people what came first and how this confusion came about.

OK, so now Slack is enjoying a valuation at $billions (as per very recent news headlines), with IPO rumours floated as well (making it easier to buy/subvert). Slack is relatively new a player/contender; it goes about 3-4 years back (in the mainstream), around the time we were in Alton Towers. I still remember that based on other events. Privacy activists had been warning about it and recently I kept seeing (also publicly writing about) more red flags. Slack, the company, is getting more invasive over time. It's like Facebook. Facebook for business. LinkedIn got picked by Microsoft, along with all that data (NSA PRISM comes to mind). Personal messages, passwords, social graphs, employment records and so on. Even location (picked every 60 seconds or so from one's phone through the 'app'). Same for Skype, which Microsoft added to PRISM just months after buying it (Microsoft was first in PRISM, based on Snowden's leaks -- it was one among the first stories to come out/emanate). Far less opinionated people than myself have blasted Slack for a variety of reasons. Some tweets of mine about it go ~3 years back (warning for 'opinionatedness'... I don't mince words much).

I still remember having to install Skype on an old phone for one company meeting. Back then the mere installation (for one hour, then deleted) meant sending Microsoft entire address books, entire call history and more. This phone of my wife is 7+ years old, so that's a lot of data, going a long way back. That's their business model. I'm usually apprehensive because some of my sources, e.g. for exclusive articles in Techrights (I published my 25,000th article last week in Techrights!), are named in files on my system. I'm no Free software 'purist' per se (I use proprietary drivers sometimes), but "Slack would be the surveillance capitalism competitor to Jabber," to quote something I read yesterday. They digest information, including corporate communications. There's a certain risk associated with this, including competitive risk. As a Free software-based company I think it's important to demonstrate that every piece of proprietary framework can be swapped with FOSS. There are quite a few Slack equivalents that are FOSS; a colleague told me that another colleague had brought some of these up. We might examine these soon, maybe test and adopt these. Time will tell. Maybe I'll write about some of these.

I am also reading about bridges between protocols that enable access to Slack, but yesterday when researching it I found that Slack is gradually burning these bridges/gateways. Not entirely surprising, as once they get to a certain point/market share they up/boost the lockin. Naturally. More so if they have obligations to shareholders. Twitter did this last August, shutting out all third-party apps/APIs for the first time ever (in the company's entire existence). Many of us were devastated because we had built interaction tools, custom-made around these APIs). So, basically, whatever a centralised platform gets adopted, we can always lose control as they can change everything they want at any time. Even, at worst, some company can just buy them for the data; they can start charging a lot, they can shut down, change ToS etc.

The bottom line is, Slack ought to be avoided. It's worse than proprietary because it's all centralised, even the data. There's no concept such as "private" or "privacy". These are only illusions.

Real-time Tux Machines Chat Over IRC (Internet Relay Chat)

Filed under
Site News

The first IRC server
"The first IRC server, tolsun.oulu.fi, a Sun-3 server on display near the University of Oulu computer centre." Credit/licence: CC BY 2.5, Urpo Lankinen

TUX MACHINES reached all-time record traffic in the past couple of weeks. This (raw) traffic now stands at about 4 million hits/week, with 3,970,777 hits in the past 6 days and 4,289,540 hits last week (predating these 6 days). It's just a shame that interaction with readers became hard; the forums had a severe spam issue, as did comments and submissions (by new registrants, always, more so at a later stage) -- to the point where it became impractical to allow any new registrations (except adding people manually upon request). The open/incognito registrants would overrun the site within minutes (we tried several times over the years and saw the effect immediately).

So we've decided to try IRC and have added "IRC" to the menu at the top with an applet (JavaScript) to make life easier for those who aren't familiar with IRC clients.

Here's how to join us. This is still experimental. Real-time updates with posts (as they are posted) will in due course be shown in the channel and we can all casually chat in real-time, too. We are also still working on our Android app these days.

Testers Wanted: Android App for Tux Machines Site

Filed under
Site News

APK icon

Diaspora logo Mastodon logo Pleroma logo

Tux Machines is turning 15 this summer and as we noted over the weekend, many people now access the site using mobile devices, for which the site provides a subpar experience due to legacy. RSS feeds are therefore recommended. There's our RSS feed for news, RSS feed for Tux Machines Blogs and another for Techrights, where I write my original articles.

Most readers, however, do not use RSS feeds. Consider the 700 followers of our Twitter account, the 2,365 followers of our Diaspora account, 1,080 followers of our Mastodon account, and 63 followers of our Pleroma account (so about 4,000 in total). Those are dependent on third parties (we do not self-host these platforms). Even if "apps" are used for access to these social media platforms/sites, the links would lead to Tux Machines Web pages, which don't render particularly well on small screens (phones). So we've made this simple "app" for the site, but we're still testing it. If anyone out there can try it on an Android device and report back to us, we'll appreciate it greatly and use the feedback to improve it.

Screenshot Tux Machines app

Mobile Interfaces, Internet, Devices and UX

Filed under
Site News

A mobile phone

Summary: Visitors who use mobile phones get a subpar experience, but that's an issue that boils down to preservation versus novelty

TUX MACHINES is turning 15 later this year. Longtime readers may very well know that the appearance or the layout of this site barely changed over the years. The key components have been in place since the very start. We still use node IDs as URLs (not ideal, but that works), mobile devices are barely supported (they were barely used on the Net at the time the site started), and due to SPAM we can no longer allow new user registrations (they overwhelm the site with a flood of SPAM submissions, i.e. noise such as pornographic comments, abusive blog posts etc.) within hours. We know because we tried opening up these registrations several times in the past. Any loosening of these restriction means a complete and utter mess.

"Mobile users who struggle with the site contact me routinely and my best suggestion for them is an RSS reader (many exist for mobile devices), which overcomes these issues and bypasses all the 'cruft'."

So-called 'UX' (buzzword for user interfaces/experience) in Tux Machines is far from ideal, especially for those who use a phone. We are aware of it, but the overhaul required to change that would be truly massive because of the number of pages, images, and the underlying framework, which was heavily modified and tailored for the existing user experience. I spent a lot of time making things work as they do. Susan had also invested a great deal of effort.

Mobile users who struggle with the site contact me routinely and my best suggestion for them is an RSS reader (many exist for mobile devices), which overcomes these issues and bypasses all the 'cruft'. Taking all the implications into account (endless work associated with a change), we don't plan a site redesign/overhaul. Maybe in the distant future, but not any time soon. The RSS feed is already used by a lot of people, even desktop/laptop users. We have no ads and no surveillance in this site, so RSS feeds don't impact some "business model" or whatever. In fact, it helps lower the strain on the server.

Come and Join Tux Machines in Pleroma, Part of the Fediverse

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Summary: Tux Machines is on Pleroma.site, a lesser-known part of the Fediverse

Tux Machines has been on the Fediverse for quite some time (our Mastodon account), but months ago we also joined Pleroma, which is an exciting new alternative written in Elixir.

Just a few weeks ago somebody published this "Guide for GPlus [Google Plus] refugees to choose a new social network in the Fediverse" because "G+ will close on April 2nd. So to help people that haven’t decided yet where to go in the Fediverse I made some pointers. I divided this guide in a number of sections. Each section describes a certain use of social networks and which networks are most suitable for this specific use. Combine this with your preferred use of a social network and you should be able make a decision."

Pleroma too is part of the Fediverse and Pleroma.site, one large instance of Pleroma, recently completed hardware upgrades. GNU/Linux aficionados can follow us there.

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