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Interviews

Ubuntu in transition: what's in store for the popular Linux distro?

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Interviews
Ubuntu

We decided that Gnome Shell was the right toolkit for our users. We’ve used Unity 7 for six or seven years and all the core set of applications were built around the Gnome desktop, so going to Gnome made the most sense. The transition path between Unity 7 and Gnome on the desktop was hopefully going to be fairly straightforward, quite smooth and it’s turned out to be that way. So now we’ve got the latest Gnome desktop running on Ubuntu.

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Interview with FreeDOS Founder and Lead Dev Jim Hall

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Interviews

It’s been 23 years to the FreeDOS project. FreeDOS founder Jim Hall shares some interesting insight into this veteran open source project.
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Sustainable Open Source is About Evolution as a Group

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Interviews
OSS

The role of a CMO in a software company is fundamentally different from that in any other category. We have a really interesting role in marketing and technology, and it’s one of education and guidance. There used to be a place 20 years ago where, as a marketer, you would come up with a simple pithy message and buy a bunch of advertising and people would believe it.

That’s not true anymore. Now we have to position ourselves alongside the architectures and the thought leadership that our customers are interested in to prove our value.

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Apache OpenOffice: We're OK with not being super cool... PS: Watch out for that Mac bug

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Interviews
OOo

Apache OpenOffice 4.1.4 finally shipped on October 19, five months later than intended, but the software is still a bit buggy.

The resource-starved open-source project had been looking to release the update around Apache Con in mid-May, but missed the target, not altogether surprising given persistent concerns about a lack of community enthusiasm and resources for the productivity suite.

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Linux Kernel Developer: Laura Abbott

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Interviews

My full-time job is working as one of two maintainers for the Fedora kernels. This means I push out kernel releases and fix/shepherd bugs. Outside of that role, I maintain the Ion memory management framework and do occasional work on arm/arm64 and KSPP (kernel hardening).

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How Two Teenagers Created Zorin OS and Made it a Popular Linux Distribution

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Interviews

Two teenagers created a Linux distribution 8 years back. Today it has become a prominent name in the Linux world. Artyom Zorin tells the inside story of Zorin OS and its future goals.
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Linux Foundation Certified System Administrator and Engineer: Lars Kronfält

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Linux
Interviews

My first encounter with Linux was back in the late 1990s. I had an Amiga growing up, exchanging floppy disks to share things. Running services on Linux and connecting computers in a network made a deep impression. Realizing that it was free to use and community-driven got me even more interested. The openness and accessibility of information backed by great minds collaborating really had me hooked.

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Flexibility, Choice, and Open Source Drive Oracle's Cloud Focus

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Linux
Interviews
OSS

Developer ecosystems grow and thrive in a vibrant and supported community – something Oracle believes in, has invested in, and continues to invest in with projects including EE4J, OpenJDK, MySQL, GlassFish, Java, Linux, PHP, Apache, Eclipse, Berkeley DB, NetBeans, VirtualBox, and Xen. This required significant investment in resources for developing, testing, optimizing, and supporting these open source technologies. As a Platinum member of the Linux Foundation and a member since day one, Oracle participates in a number of other Linux Foundation projects, including the Open Container Initiative (OCI), Xen Project, Hyplerledger, Automotive Grade Linux, and the R Consortium.

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Linux Foundation Certified System Administrator: Gabriel Rojo Argote

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Linux
Interviews

I started to get interested while studying at the Instituto Tecnológico de León in Guanajuato México. One of my professors taught a subject called "Introduction to Computing" and began to talk about the variety of operating systems that existed in the market. The professor put a lot of emphasis on the Unix and GNU/Linux operating systems, talking about the versatility and robustness they had. This sparked my interest in knowing GNU/Linux and, because it was distributed in disks in some city magazines, it was easy for me to be able to acquire a distribution—an easy route to use the operating system and get to know different free applications. I got involved little by little in the management of the same GNU/Linux.

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Canonical on Path to IPO as Ubuntu Unity Linux Desktop Gets Ditched

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Ubuntu

In October 2010, Mark Shuttleworth, founder of the Ubuntu open-source operating system and CEO of Canonical, announced his grand plan to build a converged Linux desktop that would work on mobile devices, desktops and even TVs. He called the effort "Unity" and poured significant financial resources into it.

Seven years later, the Unity dream is dead.

On Oct. 19, Ubuntu 17.10 was released as the first Ubuntu Linux version since 2010 that didn't use Unity as the default Linux desktop. In a video interview with eWEEK, Shuttleworth details the rationale behind his decision to cancel Unity and why he has now put his company on the path toward an initial public offering (IPO).

Because Ubuntu has moved into the mainstream in a bunch of areas, including the cloud, he said some of the things his company had been doing were never going to be commercially sustainable.

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Also: Ubuntu 17.10 delivers new desktop and cloud enhancements

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Security: OpenSSL, IoT, and LWN Coverage of 'Intelpocalypse'

  • Another Face to Face: Email Changes and Crypto Policy
    The OpenSSL OMC met last month for a two-day face-to-face meeting in London, and like previous F2F meetings, most of the team was present and we addressed a great many issues. This blog posts talks about some of them, and most of the others will get their own blog posts, or notices, later. Red Hat graciously hosted us for the two days, and both Red Hat and Cryptsoft covered the costs of their employees who attended. One of the overall threads of the meeting was about increasing the transparency of the project. By default, everything should be done in public. We decided to try some major changes to email and such.
  • Some Basic Rules for Securing Your IoT Stuff

    Throughout 2016 and 2017, attacks from massive botnets made up entirely of hacked [sic] IoT devices had many experts warning of a dire outlook for Internet security. But the future of IoT doesn’t have to be so bleak. Here’s a primer on minimizing the chances that your IoT things become a security liability for you or for the Internet at large.

  • A look at the handling of Meltdown and Spectre
    The Meltdown/Spectre debacle has, deservedly, reached the mainstream press and, likely, most of the public that has even a remote interest in computers and security. It only took a day or so from the accelerated disclosure date of January 3—it was originally scheduled for January 9—before the bugs were making big headlines. But Spectre has been known for at least six months and Meltdown for nearly as long—at least to some in the industry. Others that were affected were completely blindsided by the announcements and have joined the scramble to mitigate these hardware bugs before they bite users. Whatever else can be said about Meltdown and Spectre, the handling (or, in truth, mishandling) of this whole incident has been a horrific failure. For those just tuning in, Meltdown and Spectre are two types of hardware bugs that affect most modern CPUs. They allow attackers to cause the CPU to do speculative execution of code, while timing memory accesses to deduce what has or has not been cached, to disclose the contents of memory. These disclosures can span various security boundaries such as between user space and the kernel or between guest operating systems running in virtual machines. For more information, see the LWN article on the flaws and the blog post by Raspberry Pi founder Eben Upton that well describes modern CPU architectures and speculative execution to explain why the Raspberry Pi is not affected.
  • Addressing Meltdown and Spectre in the kernel
    When the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities were disclosed on January 3, attention quickly turned to mitigations. There was already a clear defense against Meltdown in the form of kernel page-table isolation (KPTI), but the defenses against the two Spectre variants had not been developed in public and still do not exist in the mainline kernel. Initial versions of proposed defenses have now been disclosed. The resulting picture shows what has been done to fend off Spectre-based attacks in the near future, but the situation remains chaotic, to put it lightly. First, a couple of notes with regard to Meltdown. KPTI has been merged for the 4.15 release, followed by a steady trickle of fixes that is undoubtedly not yet finished. The X86_BUG_CPU_INSECURE processor bit is being renamed to X86_BUG_CPU_MELTDOWN now that the details are public; there will be bug flags for the other two variants added in the near future. 4.9.75 and 4.4.110 have been released with their own KPTI variants. The older kernels do not have mainline KPTI, though; instead, they have a backport of the older KAISER patches that more closely matches what distributors shipped. Those backports have not fully stabilized yet either. KPTI patches for ARM are circulating, but have not yet been merged.
  • Is it time for open processors?
    The disclosure of the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities has brought a new level of attention to the security bugs that can lurk at the hardware level. Massive amounts of work have gone into improving the (still poor) security of our software, but all of that is in vain if the hardware gives away the game. The CPUs that we run in our systems are highly proprietary and have been shown to contain unpleasant surprises (the Intel management engine, for example). It is thus natural to wonder whether it is time to make a move to open-source hardware, much like we have done with our software. Such a move may well be possible, and it would certainly offer some benefits, but it would be no panacea. Given the complexity of modern CPUs and the fierceness of the market in which they are sold, it might be surprising to think that they could be developed in an open manner. But there are serious initiatives working in this area; the idea of an open CPU design is not pure fantasy. A quick look around turns up several efforts; the following list is necessarily incomplete.
  • Notes from the Intelpocalypse
    Rumors of an undisclosed CPU security issue have been circulating since before LWN first covered the kernel page-table isolation patch set in November 2017. Now, finally, the information is out — and the problem is even worse than had been expected. Read on for a summary of these issues and what has to be done to respond to them in the kernel. All three disclosed vulnerabilities take advantage of the CPU's speculative execution mechanism. In a simple view, a CPU is a deterministic machine executing a set of instructions in sequence in a predictable manner. Real-world CPUs are more complex, and that complexity has opened the door to some unpleasant attacks. A CPU is typically working on the execution of multiple instructions at once, for performance reasons. Executing instructions in parallel allows the processor to keep more of its subunits busy at once, which speeds things up. But parallel execution is also driven by the slowness of access to main memory. A cache miss requiring a fetch from RAM can stall the execution of an instruction for hundreds of processor cycles, with a clear impact on performance. To minimize the amount of time it spends waiting for data, the CPU will, to the extent it can, execute instructions after the stalled one, essentially reordering the code in the program. That reordering is often invisible, but it occasionally leads to the sort of fun that caused Documentation/memory-barriers.txt to be written.

US Sanctions Against Chinese Android Phones, LWN Report on Eelo

  • A new bill would ban the US government from using Huawei and ZTE phones
    US lawmakers have long worried about the security risks posed the alleged ties between Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE and the country’s government. To that end, Texas Representative Mike Conaway introduced a bill last week called Defending U.S. Government Communications Act, which aims to ban US government agencies from using phones and equipment from the companies. Conaway’s bill would prohibit the US government from purchasing and using “telecommunications equipment and/or services,” from Huawei and ZTE. In a statement on his site, he says that technology coming from the country poses a threat to national security, and that use of this equipment “would be inviting Chinese surveillance into all aspects of our lives,” and cites US Intelligence and counterintelligence officials who say that Huawei has shared information with state leaders, and that the its business in the US is growing, representing a further security risk.
  • U.S. lawmakers urge AT&T to cut commercial ties with Huawei - sources
    U.S. lawmakers are urging AT&T Inc, the No. 2 wireless carrier, to cut commercial ties to Chinese phone maker Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and oppose plans by telecom operator China Mobile Ltd to enter the U.S. market because of national security concerns, two congressional aides said. The warning comes after the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump took a harder line on policies initiated by his predecessor Barack Obama on issues ranging from Beijing’s role in restraining North Korea to Chinese efforts to acquire U.S. strategic industries. Earlier this month, AT&T was forced to scrap a plan to offer its customers Huawei [HWT.UL] handsets after some members of Congress lobbied against the idea with federal regulators, sources told Reuters.
  • Eelo seeks to make a privacy-focused phone
    A focus on privacy is a key feature being touted by a number of different projects these days—from KDE to Tails to Nextcloud. One of the biggest privacy leaks for most people is their phone, so it is no surprise that there are projects looking to address that as well. A new entrant in that category is eelo, which is a non-profit project aimed at producing not only a phone, but also a suite of web services. All of that could potentially replace the Google or Apple mothership, which tend to collect as much personal data as possible.

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Mozilla: Resource Hogs, Privacy Month, Firefox Census, These Weeks in Firefox

  • Firefox Quantum Eats RAM Like Chrome
    For a long time, Mozilla’s Firefox has been my web browser of choice. I have always preferred it to using Google’s Chrome, because of its simplicity and reasonable system resource (especially RAM) usage. On many Linux distributions such as Ubuntu, Linux Mint and many others, Firefox even comes installed by default. Recently, Mozilla released a new, powerful and faster version of Firefox called Quantum. And according to the developers, it’s new with a “powerful engine that’s built for rapid-fire performance, better, faster page loading that uses less computer memory.”
  • Mozilla Communities Speaker Series #PrivacyMonth
    As a part of the Privacy Month initiative, Mozilla volunteers are hosting a couple of speaker series webinars on Privacy, Security and related topics. The webinars will see renowned speakers talking to us about their work around privacy, how to take control of your digital self, some privacy-security tips and much more.
  • “Ewoks or Porgs?” and Other Important Questions
    You ever go to a party where you decide to ask people REAL questions about themselves, rather than just boring chit chat? Us, too! That’s why we’ve included questions that really hone in on the important stuff in our 2nd Annual Firefox Census.
  • These Weeks in Firefox: Issue 30