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OSS Leftovers

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  • Can Open Source Improve Japan’s New Blockchain-based Voting System?

    Besides Switzerland and the USA, Japan is now the most recent implementer of Blockchain in its voting system. Let’s take a look at the news in brief and also the current challenges in the model. Can Open Source help in tackling them?


    Complete details of the initiative (translated) are available on the Tsukuba city page.

    Though integrating Blockchain with the “My Number” system makes the voting process easier, there really are some notable setbacks, one of which is described in the video that needs to be dealt with in order to improve this voting system.

  • IRC's 30th Birthday; Mozilla Working on New JavaScript APIs for VR; Arch Linux Answering Questions on Reddit; Microsoft Splits Its Visual Studio Team Services; and Hortonworks, IBM and Red Hat Announce the Open Hybrid Architecture Initiative

    Mozilla yesterday announced it is beginning a new phase of work on JavaScript APIs "that will help everyone create and share virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) projects on the open web". Mozilla's new WebXR Device API has two goals: 1) "To support a wider variety of user inputs, such as voice and gestures, giving users options for navigating and interacting in virtual spaces"; and 2) "To establish a technical foundation for development of AR experiences, letting creators integrate real-world media with contextual overlays that elevate the experience." For more information, see the Immersive Web Community Group.

  • Converting a WebGL application to WebVR

    A couple months ago I ported the Pathfinder demo app to WebVR. It was an interesting experience, and I feel like I learned a bunch of things about porting WebGL applications to WebVR that would be generally useful to folks, especially folks coming to WebVR from non-web programming backgrounds.

    Pathfinder is a GPU-based font rasterizer in Rust, and it comes with a demo app that runs the Rust code on the server side but does all the GPU work in WebGL in a TypeScript website.

    We had a 3D demo showing a representation of the Mozilla Monument as a way to demo text rasterization in 3D. What I was hoping to do was to convert this to a WebVR application that would let you view the monument by moving your head instead of using arrow keys.

  • Combining the Benefits of Commercial & Open Analytics [Ed: "Commercial & Open" is misleading because Free/Open Source software is used a lot commercially. Some just attempt to spread the line/lie that only proprietary is suitable commercially.]
  • More Details On The AMD GCN Back-End For GCC That's Expected To Merge For GCC 9

    Last week I reported on Code Sourcery / Mentor Graphics posting their new AMD GCN port to the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC). This GPU back-end for the widely-used GCC compiler is hoped for merging ahead of the GCC 9 stable release expected in early 2019. At this past weekend's GNU Tools Cauldron 2018 conference was a briefing by Mentor Graphics on undertaking funded by AMD.

  • Book review: The Economics of Open Access – on the Future of Academic Publishing

    Two decades ago, the world of academic publishing was taken by a storm called ‘open access’. The movement of ‘open access’ advocates for making published content available to the public for free. No fees and no (or little) right-based restrictions to limit access (apparently, the wisdom that authors need financial incentives to create does not apply to scholars who write for pleasure or reputation alone). The aim of open access is [was] to democratize access to knowledge. In ‘The Economics Open Access’, Thomas Eger and Marc Scheufen investigate whether ‘open access’ strategies have delivered on their promises.

    Combined with the rise of the Internet and digital technologies, open access strategies should have made the dissemination of knowledge (via academic publications) cheaper than ever. Instead, we find libraries facing higher subscription fees which forces them to cut back on their catalogue listing and monograph in-take…so what went wrong?

    The book offers an economic empirical analysis the impact of ‘open access’ has had on the academic publishing market world-wide. The analysis is based on two different sets of data: an ‘objective’ data set capturing the state of the academic publishing markets (i.e. growth in publication numbers, publishers, levels of open-access practices etc.), and a ‘subjective’ data set which documents scholars’ views on open access policies and how they engage with them in practice. This second set of data, based on over 10,000 responses from 25 different countries, is undoubtedly the most novel and original contribution of the book to the debate.

  • Europe's New 'Plan S' For Open Access: Daft Name, Great News

    Keeping copyright in the hands of authors is crucial: too often, academics have been cajoled or bullied into handing over copyright for their articles to publishers, thus losing the ability to determine who can read them, and under what conditions. Similarly, the CC-BY license would allow commercial use by anyone -- many publishers try to release so-called open access articles under restrictive licenses like CC-BY-NC, which stop other publishers from distributing them.

    Embargo periods are routinely used by publishers to delay the appearance of open access versions of articles; under Plan S, that would no longer be allowed. Finally, the new initiative discourages the use of "hybrid" journals that have often enabled publishers to "double dip". That is, they charge researchers who want to release their work as open access, but also require libraries to take out full-price subscriptions for journals that include these freely-available articles.

    Suber has a number of (relatively minor) criticisms of Plan S, which are well-worth reading. All-in-all, though, this is a major breakthrough for open access in Europe, and thus the world. Once "admirably strong" open access mandates like Plan S have been established in one region, others tend to follow in due course. Let's just hope they choose better names.

  • Open Jam, the open source game jam, returns for 2018

    Team Scripta is back with the second annual Open Jam, a game jam that promotes open source games and game creation tools.

  • AsioHeaders 1.12.1-1

    A first update to the AsioHeaders package arrived on CRAN today. Asio provides a cross-platform C++ library for network and low-level I/O programming. It is also included in Boost – but requires linking when used as part of Boost. This standalone version of Asio is a header-only C++ library which can be used without linking (just like our BH package with parts of Boost).

More in Tux Machines

Qt/KDE: Qt for Python, Inkscape Dark Theme on KDE Plasma, Atelier at Maker Faire and QtCon 2018!

  • Python and Qt: 3,000 hours of developer insight
    With Qt for Python released, it’s time to look at the powerful capabilities of these two technologies. This article details one solopreneur’s experiences. [...] The big problem with Electron is performance. In particular, the startup time was too high for a file manager: On an admittedly old machine from 2010, simply launching Electron took five seconds. I admit that my personal distaste for JavaScript also made it easier to discount Electron. Before I go off on a rant, let me give you just one detail that I find symptomatic: Do you know how JavaScript sorts numbers? Alphabetically. ’nuff said. After considering a few technologies, I settled on Qt. It’s cross-platform, has great performance and supports custom styles. What’s more, you can use it from Python. This makes at least me orders of magnitude more productive than the default C++.
  • Inkscape Dark Theme on KDE Plasma
    On KDE Plasma, it's very easy to setup Inkscape Dark Theme. To do so, go to System Settings > Application Style > GNOME/GTK+ Style > under GTK+ Style: switch all themes to Dark ones and give check mark to Prefer Dark Theme > Apply. Now your Inkscape should turned into dark mode. To revert back, just revert the theme selections. This trick works on Kubuntu or any other GNU/Linux system as long as it uses Plasma as its desktop environment.
  • Atelier at Maker Faire and QtCon 2018!
    On the weekend of November 3 and 4, it happened on Rio de Janeiro the first Maker Faire of Latin America. And I was able to do a talk about Atelier and the current status of our project. The event hold more than 1.500 people on the first day, that saw a lot of talks and the exposition of makers of all over the country that came to Rio to participate in this edition of the Maker Faire.

Security: Updates, Systematic Evaluation of Transient Execution Attacks and Defenses, New IoT Security Regulations and GPU Side-Channel Attacks

  • Security updates for Thursday
  • A Systematic Evaluation of Transient Execution Attacks and Defenses

    [...] we present a sound and extensible systematization of transient execution attacks. Our systematization uncovers 7 (new) transient execution attacks that have been overlooked and not been investigated so far. This includes 2 new Meltdown variants: Meltdown-PK on Intel, and Meltdown-BR on Intel and AMD. It also includes 5 new Spectre mistraining strategies. We evaluate all 7 attacks in proof-of-concept implementations on 3 major processor vendors (Intel, AMD, ARM). Our systematization does not only yield a complete picture of the attack surface, but also allows a systematic evaluation of defenses. Through this systematic evaluation, we discover that we can still mount transient execution attacks that are supposed to be mitigated by rolled out patches.

  • New IoT Security Regulations
    Due to ever-evolving technological advances, manufacturers are connecting consumer goods­ -- from toys to light bulbs to major appliances­ -- to the Internet at breakneck speeds. This is the Internet of Things, and it's a security nightmare. The Internet of Things fuses products with communications technology to make daily life more effortless. Think Amazon's Alexa, which not only answers questions and plays music but allows you to control your home's lights and thermostat. Or the current generation of implanted pacemakers, which can both receive commands and send information to doctors over the Internet. But like nearly all innovation, there are risks involved. And for products born out of the Internet of Things, this means the risk of having personal information stolen or devices being overtaken and controlled remotely. For devices that affect the world in a direct physical manner -- ­cars, pacemakers, thermostats­ -- the risks include loss of life and property.
  • University Researchers Publish Paper On GPU Side-Channel Attacks
    University researchers out of University of California Riverside have published a paper this week detailing vulnerabilities in current GPU architectures making them vulnerable to side-channel attacks akin to Spectre and Meltdown. With their focus on NVIDIA GPUs, UCLA Riverside researchers demonstrated attacks both for graphics and compute by exploiting the GPU's performance counters. Demonstrated attacks included a browser-based attack, extracting passwords / keystroke logging, and even the possibility of exposing a CUDA neural network algorithm.

VirtualBox 6.0 Beta 2

  • Announcement: VirtualBox 6.0 Beta 2 released
    Please do NOT use this VirtualBox Beta release on production machines! A VirtualBox Beta release should be considered a bleeding-edge release meant for early evaluation and testing purposes. You can download the binaries here: Please do NOT open bug reports at our public bugtracker but use our VirtualBox Beta Feedback forum at to report any problems with the Beta. Please concentrate on reporting regressions since VirtualBox 5.2! Version 6.0 will be a new major release. Please see the forum at for an incomplete list of changes. Thanks for your help! Michael
  • VirtualBox 6.0 Beta 2 Adds File Manager For Host/Guest File Copies, OS/2 Shared Folder
    Last month Oracle rolled out the public beta of VirtualBox 6.0 though didn't include many user-facing changes. They have now rolled out a second beta that does add in a few more features. VirtualBox 6.0 Beta 2 was released today and to its user-interface is a new file manager that allows the user to control the guest file-system with copying file objects between the host and guest. Also improved with VirtualBox 6.0 Beta 2 is better shared folder auto-mounting with the VBox Guest Additions. This beta even brings initial shared folder support to the guest additions for OS/2.

Thunderbird version 60.3.1 now Available, Includes Fixes for Cookie Removal and Encoding Issues

Thunderbird happens to be one of the most famous Email client. It is free and an open source one which was developed by the Mozilla Foundation back in 2003, fifteen years ago. From a very basic interface, it has come a long way to be what it is today in 2018. With these updates, a recent one into the 60.x series from the 52.x series was a significant one. While the 60.x (60.3.0) update started rolling out, Mozilla was keen to push out 60.3.1. This new version of Thunderbird had a few bugs and kinks here and there which needed to be addressed which Mozilla did, most of them at least. Read more