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Reviews

Ubuntu 15.10 Wily Werewolf review - Fast and spurious

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Reviews
Ubuntu

Distro time! After a quiet distro slayin' period here in Dedowood, we embark on the great hunt once more, and we pay an excessive amount of time to Ubuntu and its derivatives, starting with the original beast. If you've followed my reviews lately, you know that I found Trusty to be excellent, and Vivid was also rather cool.

Let's see what the latest in the series can do. Our test machine will be Lenovo G50, which comes with the modern obstacles of multi-boot, Windows 10, UEFI, Secure Boot, and other things that make Linux folks raise a skeptical brow. Let us.

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Huawei Watch review: the best Android Wear smartwatch

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Android
Reviews

The Huawei Watch is the best Android Wear smartwatch yet and one of the best cross-platform smartwatches. It easily passes as a traditional watch while providing access to information and notifications on your wrist.

It isn’t a standout “look at me” piece of technology, which is good if you’re more interested in function and classic design than showing off, and is comfortable to wear. The higher resolution sapphire screen is the best available at the moment and the battery lasted two days in my testing with the screen on all the time.

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The good, the bad and the Ubuntu 15.10

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Ubuntu

I had mixed feelings from my time with Ubuntu. On the one hand, the distribution feels fairly polished and the installer, applications and system tools all worked well. My desktop's hardware was properly detected and utilized and this release offers us updated versions of popular software. However, in a virtual machine, Ubuntu performed poorly and this surprised me since the previous release worked quite smoothly in a VirtualBox instance. Not only that, but this version of Ubuntu used quite a bit more memory than the last version did on the same test equipment.

What really stood out most about Ubuntu 15.10 though was this release felt virtually identical in every way to Ubuntu 15.04 and very similar to 14.10. One of the few changes I noticed was that this version of Ubuntu appears to no longer support both the Upstart and systemd init programs, as the previous version did. I see this as an unfortunate (though expected) change as Canonical moves to support just one init package. On the one hand, this lack of adjustments in 15.10 is good news for people who do not want to experience a lot of change. The development team appears to have been working almost exclusively over the past year to fix bugs and keep things working as they have been. This makes Ubuntu feel like a more stable platform.

On the other hand, having a platform that does not boast any new features makes me wonder if there is a point to pushing out a new release. The minor package updates presented probably could have been handled by a backports repository for Ubuntu 15.04. While projects like openSUSE and Fedora are experimenting with new system admin tools, file system snapshots, Wayland and boot environments, Ubuntu appears to be sitting idle. I know there are behind-the-scenes changes planned (such as Snappy packages, Mir and a new version of Unity), but those items keep getting pushed back. In short, I feel this release of Ubuntu was good, but it isn't bringing anything new to the table over the previous version.

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BackBox Takes Its Security Tools Seriously

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Linux
Reviews

You can use BackBox as your main Linux distro and do nothing more involved that run its security envelop to harden your immediate computing environment and surf the Web with anonymity.

You can use BackBox more productively to dig deep into your network to sniff out security risks and lock down your connectivity and data. BackBox's security tools are professional class.

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The OnePlus X is a low-cost Android phone in high-end disguise

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Android
Reviews

The OnePlus X is many things. It’s a 5-inch phone that feels like it should be $500, but costs only $249. It’s a device with the aesthetic quality you might expect from an established tech brand, but it’s made by a Chinese startup less than two years old. It’s also a shameless tribute to the design of older iPhones you can only buy with an invitation.

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HTC One A9 review: the Android iPhone

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Android
Reviews

At its promotional price of $399 In the United States, the HTC One A9 is an easy phone to recommend. Its refined aluminum design is much more lovable than Google’s plastic Nexus 5X, and the simple pleasure of using a phone is important when you’re considering a thing you’ll be spending most of your waking time with. But when the price jumps to $499 in a week’s time — as well as for all other regions across the world — the One A9’s value diminishes greatly. It then matches straight up against Google’s Nexus 6P, the best Android smartphone to date. The winner of that contest is always going to be Google’s handset, which also comes with the long-term assurance of receiving updates faster and for a longer time than any other device.

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Xfce Smooth: the smooth variations

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Reviews

Xfce Smooth is an interesting distribution. It shows you what you can do yourself using the [very] good distribution as a start and playing with themes, icon sets and fonts. You can change your system's look very much to your own taste.

The question is still whether you need to download a distribution that someone has already created for you, or start it yourself from scratch. The benefit of using of Xfce Smooth in this case is that it already has a lot of icon sets, fonts, themes to choose from. You do not need to search, download and install them. Just start playing with your selection!

In terms of performance, I had almost no issues with Xfce Smooth at all. It felt very snappy, fast, responsive and... really smooth! The only small issue was with the Keyring password request that appeared several times.

Would I use this distribution myself? Probably not. I am not a fancier of different fonts, icon and mouse pointer styles to play with them. I would rather stick to something more classic.

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Plasma 5 Powers KaOS Productivity

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Linux
Reviews

KaOS has a few known issues, but these mostly affect specific hardware configurations. For example, to use a GUID Partition Table, or GPT, on a BIOS system, make sure you set it up following a guide available on the KaOS website. The installer's partitioner can only handle GPT correctly for the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface.

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GhostBSD 10.1: Ghost in the machine

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BSD

I like the GhostBSD project and its goal. I think, in the past, there has generally not been enough work done to make FreeBSD a good operating system for desktop use. FreeBSD works well in the role of a server operating system, it's stable, fast and the project evolves in such a way that it is fairly easy to upgrade a FreeBSD system over time. However, FreeBSD (while it can be used as a desktop operating system) lacks many of the characteristics one might want on the desktop, such as a graphical installer, multimedia support, a graphical package manager and an attractive, pre-configured desktop environment. While these features can be added or enabled on FreeBSD, most users will want those tools to be in place and to just work right from the start.

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today's leftovers

  • Heptio Debuts Gimbal Kubernetes Load Balancer Project
    Kubernetes startup Heptio has added another project to its roster of open-source efforts that provide expanded capabilities for container orchestration users.
  • Heptio Launches Kubernetes Load Balancing Application
  • The Role of Site Reliability Engineering in Microservices
    You can always spot the hot jobs in technology: they’re the ones that didn’t exist 10 years ago. While Site Reliability Engineers (SREs) did definitely exist a decade ago, they were mostly inside Google and a handful of other Valley innovators. Today, however, the SRE role exists everywhere, from Uber to Goldman Sachs, everyone is now in the business of keeping their sites online and stable. While SREs are hotshots in the industry, their role in a microservices environment is not just a natural fit that goes hand-in-hand, like peanut butter and jelly. Instead, while SREs and microservices evolved in parallel inside the world’s software companies, the former actually makes life far more difficult for the latter.
  • Lying with statistics, distributions, and popularity contests on Cooking With Linux (without a net)
    It's Tuesday and that means it's time for Cooking With Linux (without a net), sponsored and supported by Linux Journal. Today, I'm courting controversy by discussing numbers, OS popularity, and how to pick the right Linux distribution if you want to be where are the beautiful people hang out. And yes, I'll do it all live, without a net, and with a high probability of falling flat on my face.
  • Voyage open sources its approach to autonomous vehicle safety
    In an effort to improve autonomous vehicle safety, Voyage is open sourcing its Open Autonomous Safety (OAS) library that contains the company’s internal safety procedures, materials, and test code that is intended to supplement the existing safety programs at autonomous vehicle startups. Voyage is the self-driving business from the educational organization Udacity.
  • Hitchhiker’s Guide to KubeCon Europe
    The cloud native community is gathering in Copenhagen next week for KubeCon + CloudNativeCon Europe! Here’s your guide to the talks and events you won’t want to miss. Meet the Red Hat and CoreOS team members all week long, May 1-4 at booth D-E01.
  • Event - "GNU Health Con 2018" (Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain)
    GNU Health is this year holding the III International GNU Health Conference, GNU Health Con 2018. This conference will gather the community of activists and developers who have been working on the project during the past 10 years.
  • ONNX: the Open Neural Network Exchange Format
    The good news is that the battleground is Free and Open. None of the big players are pushing closed-source solutions. Whether it is Keras and Tensorflow backed by Google, MXNet by Apache endorsed by Amazon, or Caffe2 or PyTorch supported by Facebook, all solutions are open-source software. Unfortunately, while these projects are open, they are not interoperable. Each framework constitutes a complete stack that until recently could not interface in any way with any other framework. A new industry-backed standard, the Open Neural Network Exchange format, could change that.
  • L.A. Lawmakers Looking To Take Legal Action Against Google For Not Solving Long-Running City Traffic Problems
    The city's government believes the traffic/mapping app has made Los Angeles' congestion worse. That the very body tasked with finding solutions to this omnipresent L.A. problem is looking to hold a private third party company responsible for its own shortcomings isn't surprising. If a third-party app can't create better traffic flow, what chance do city planners have? But beyond the buck-passing on congestion, the city may have a point about Waze making driving around Los Angeles a bit more hazardous. For several months, it's been noted that Waze has been sending drivers careening down the steepest grade in the city -- Baxter Street. Drivers seeking routes around Glendale Ave. traffic choke points have been routed to a street with a 32% grade, increasing the number of accidents located there and generally resulting in barely-controlled mayhem. When any sort of precipitation falls from the sky, the city goes insane. Drivers bypassing Glendale are now hurtling down a steep, water-covered hill, compounding the problem.
  • Even Microsoft's lost interest in Windows Phone: Skype and Yammer apps killed
    Microsoft’s given users of its collaboration apps on Windows Phone under a month’s warning of their demise. A support note from late last week advises that “Windows phone apps for Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams, and Yammer are retiring on May 20, 2018.” “Retiring” means all three will vanish from the Microsoft store on May 20, with differing results.
  • Should You Build Your Own DIY Security System?

"Native Linux apps in Chrome OS" and Kernel News From LWN

  • Native Linux apps in Chrome OS will have a slick, electric Material Design theme
    The Chrome OS developers have been working out the stylistic elements of what you’ll see once you open your first native Linux apps in Chrome OS, and they’ve opted for Adapta, a popular Material Design-inspired Gtk theme that can be used on many of your favorite GNU/Linux distributions. For those of you not keeping track, the Chrome OS developers have been busy baking native container functionality into Chrome OS that allows the user-friendly startup of regular Linux applications in containers-within-VMs. This project, codename “Crostini,” is the largest change to Chrome OS since Android apps were introduced. Containers allow for applications to run in their own dedicated environment in isolation of the host OS – like a virtual machine, except unlike a VM, it doesn’t virtualize the whole OS to make the application work, it just bundles up the application and necessary baggage into an executable package.
  • The rhashtable documentation I wanted to read
    The rhashtable data structure is a generic resizable hash-table implementation in the Linux kernel, which LWN first introduced as "relativistic hash tables" back in 2014. I thought at the time that it might be fun to make use of rhashtables, but didn't, until an opportunity arose through my work on the Lustre filesystem. Lustre is a cluster filesystem that is currently in drivers/staging while the code is revised to meet upstream requirements. One of those requirements is to avoid duplicating similar functionality where possible. As Lustre contains a resizable hash table, it really needs to be converted to use rhashtables instead — at last I have my opportunity. It didn't take me long to discover that the rhashtable implementation in Linux 4.15 is quite different from the one that originally landed in Linux 3.17, so the original LWN introduction is now barely relevant. I also quickly discovered that the in-kernel documentation was partially wrong, far from complete, and didn't provide any sort of "getting started" guide. Nevertheless I persisted and eventually developed a fairly complete understanding of the code, which seems worth sharing. This article gives an introduction to the use of the rhashtable interfaces without getting into too many internal implementation details. A followup will explain how rhashtables work internally and show how some of the mechanism details leak though the interfaces.
  • The second half of the 4.17 merge window
    By the time the 4.17 merge window was closed and 4.17-rc1 was released, 11,769 non-merge changesets had been pulled into the mainline repository. 4.17 thus looks to be a typically busy development cycle, with a merge window only slightly more busy than 4.16 had. Some 6,000 of those changes were pulled after last week's summary was written.

Software: LibreNMS, Pidgin, Wireshark and More

  • Featured Network Monitoring Tool for Linux
    LibreNMS is an open source, powerful and feature-rich auto-discovering PHP based network monitoring system which uses the SNMP protocol. It supports a broad range of operating systems including Linux, FreeBSD, as well as network devices including Cisco, Juniper, Brocade, Foundry, HP and many more.
  • Get started with Pidgin: An open source replacement for Skype
    Technology is at an interesting crossroads, where Linux rules the server landscape but Microsoft rules the enterprise desktop. Office 365, Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams, OneDrive, Outlook... the list goes on of Microsoft software and services that dominate the enterprise workspace. What if you could replace that proprietary software with free and open source applications and make them work with an Office 365 backend you have no choice but to use? Buckle up, because that is exactly what we are going to do with Pidgin, an open source replacement for Skype.
  • Wireshark, World’s Most Popular Network Protocol Analyzer, Gets Major Release
    Wireshark, world’s most popular open-source network protocol analyzer, has been updated to a new stable series, versioned 2.6, a major update that adds numerous new features and improvements, as well as support for new protocols. A lot of user interface improvements have been made since Wireshark 2.5, and Wireshark 2.6 appears to be the last release that will support the legacy GTK+ graphical user interface, as the development team announced it wouldn't be supported in the next major series, Wireshark 3.0. New features in Wireshark 2.6 include support for HTTP Request sequences, support for MaxMind DB files, Microsoft Network Monitor capture file support, as well as LoRaTap capture interface support. The IP map feature was removed, as well as support for the GeoIP and GeoLite Legacy databases.
  • A look at terminal emulators, part 2
    A comparison of the feature sets for a handful of terminal emulators was the subject of a recent article; here I follow that up by examining the performance of those terminals. This might seem like a lesser concern, but as it turns out, terminals exhibit surprisingly high latency for such fundamental programs. I also examine what is traditionally considered "speed" (but is really scroll bandwidth) and memory usage, with the understanding that the impact of memory use is less than it was when I looked at this a decade ago (in French).
  • Counting beans—and more—with Beancount
    It is normally the grumpy editor's job to look at accounting software; he does so with an eye toward getting the business off of the proprietary QuickBooks application and moving to something free. It may be that Beancount deserves a look of that nature before too long but, in the meantime, a slightly less grumpy editor has been messing with this text-based accounting tool for a variety of much smaller projects. It is an interesting system, with a lot of capabilities, but its reliance on hand-rolling for various pieces may scare some folks off.
  • Firefox release speed wins
    Sylvestre wrote about how we were able to ship new releases for Nightly, Beta, Release and ESR versions of Firefox for Desktop and Android in less than a day in response to the pwn2own contest. People commented on how much faster the Beta and Release releases were compared to the ESR release, so I wanted to dive into the releases on the different branches to understand if this really was the case, and if so, why? [..] We can see that Firefox 59 and 60.0b4 were significantly faster to run than ESR 52 was! What's behind this speedup?
  • LibreOffice 6.1 Alpha 1 Is Ready To Roll For Advancing The Open-Source Office
    LibreOffice 6.1 Alpha 1 was tagged overnight as the first development release towards this next updated open-source office suite release succeeding the big LibreOffice 6.0. LibreOffice 6.1.0 is set to be released by the middle of August and for that to happen the alpha release has now been hit followed by the beta release this time next month, and the release candidates to come through the month of July. The feature freeze and branching occurs at next month's beta stage while the hard code freeze is expected for the middle of July.

today's howtos