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Rogue Bots

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Aggregators in Tux Machines have been universally disabled (temporarily we hope) after a week or so of heavy load that took the site down (well, over capacity and hence not accessible). The culprit seems to be mostly -- although not exclusively -- a bunch of bots that hammer on the aggregators with spammy requests. It's sad that so many hours need to be spent just keeping script kiddies out of the site, resulting in fewer bits of output, slower pageloads (performance degradation), and restlessness (monitoring alerts all day long), not to mention crafting of rules that merely keep the site running. Running Tux Machines is not quite as peaceful and trivial/simple as it may seem from the outside. It's like a full-time job, or at least it feels like it, especially whenever the site gets flooded by rogue bots, necessitating special attention 24/7.

Recent Changes in Tux Machines

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TODAY we have taken a bit of a break. It's Sunday after all. But here is a bit of a site status update.

The site's design has evolved a bit and it hopefully makes navigation a little better. SPAM is still a problem, but we do our best to keep it out of the sight of visitors. It's the result of a permissive policy that lets everyone publish a story, blog post, etc.

In terms of server load, we are still coping most of the time, but sometimes there's a flood of SPAM/rogue traffic that renders the server virtually unreachable. We use some ad hoc filters for to address this nuisance, but if we are away, then the site can be paralysed for a long time. We still need to find better solutions to that.

Thanks in advance for any feedback you may have and thanks for reading Tux Machines.

It's Summer Again

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THE WEATHER has been getting more pleasant and the news too is pleasant these days. Software patents are in a state of perpetual demise, Microsoft is dealing with its large-scale demise (layoffs also), FOSS is being adopted by very large nations (Russia and China are among them), the UK has adopted OpenDocument Format as the standard, and our family benefits from government migrations to FOSS (Rianne and I work through a FOSS specialist).

While it may seem like the FOSS world is quiet (judging by the volume of news), the truth of the matter is that FOSS professionals are busy migrating many systems from proprietary to FOSS. These people are committed to the cause not just with words but also with actions.

Tux Machines, realising that games for GNU/Linux are now a dozen a week (not literally), lumps together gaming news. Android, being a Linux-based platform with huge worldwide impact, receives frequent mentions. If anyone wishes to suggest other editorial priorities, please share with us in the comments.

July's Record

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TODAY was the last day of the log rotation. The uncached requests to Apache (bypassing Varnish proxy) exceeded the record by a huge gap (around 20%) and nearly reached 300 megabytes.

It is reassuring and gratifying to know that our readers base is expanding each week and we welcome submissions (news, blogs, etc.), which can be automatically pushed to the front page by any subscriber.

June Traffic

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June traffic

TuxMachines Record Traffic

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FIVE days ago TuxMachines turned 10 years old. Rianne and I were on holiday in Scotland at the time, but were still able to keep the site up to date, owing to a Wi-Fi connection which we had to work exceptionally hard for (an open Wi-Fi connection is hard to find in the UK, especially one that enables anonymous use).

Running the site requires a lot of dedication because in order to stay up-to-the-minute TuxMachines requires non-ending research/survey of news. It's truly life-changing, potentially affecting the first hours of the morning and the little hours of the night. Sometimes it affects holidays and every couple of days I browse through news and post links in-between sets at the gym. Both Rianne and I are very dedicated to the site.

Since this site keeps growing in size and in traffic (the past week saw traffic climbing 20% above the previous record) it's all worthwhile at the end, and we have no intention of slowing down. What's more, seeing how Linux expands in use (and clout) around the world assures us that efforts to popularise GNU/Linux are succeeding.

Tux Machines is 10

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A lot has happened since Susan started the site and we are grateful for her legacy, which the Wayback Machine can show. In the coming years we will try to make more improvements in the way we pick news quickly and the way the news is presented or organised.

Wayback Machine

Tux Machines Turning 10 on June 10th

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'Free' Wi-Fi Usually Not Free Anymore

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Trafford Centre

SEVERAL days ago we visited Trafford Centre, which is a large shopping mall in Greater Manchester. The place is quite nice as it embodies very modern (yet classic) ornamental features, encompassing the best of outdoor and indoor decorations. It's all geared up towards consumerism, but there is also a nice cinema there. Now, here's the deal. Upon entering the mall one cannot help noticing that there is strong, universal Wi-Fi signal. Let's leave aside health implications. It's the same in other malls, such as the Arndale Centre near our house. It is also the same at airports, but if there is no payment needed for the Wi-Fi, then the user's identity is requested (if a payment is made, then the payment itself exposes the user's identity).

Trafford CentreFollowing basic principles and common sense, I gave some fake details so that I can use the 'free' Wi-Fi anonymously and log into Tux Machines (checking the latest), but I not help wondering, still. Given what we know about NSA- and GCHQ-centric plans for surveillance on in-flight Wi-Fi, what are the chances that users' identities are being requested not just for marketing purposes but also for surveillance? It is becoming very hard to access the Net anonymously now. The UK is cracking down on 'free' Wi-Fi, saying that it facilitates copyright infringement and our home hub, which is open for all to use (no password needed), keeps warning us that it is "not secure" (because it facilitates sharing). This is actively being discouraged if not forbidden. In all sorts of beverage-serving places (hot or cold, or alcoholic) and restaurants it is getting hard to gain anonymous Wi-FI access and the only way I've found (out of curiosity) to attain anonymous Wi-Fi use is First Class in high-speed British rail, provided one purchases the train ticket with cash. Similarly, it is getting harder to purchase groceries with cash here, at least without being penalised (not receiving a discount in exchange for identifying cards like Nectar). It sure seems like the very idea of anonymity here is becoming synonymous with crime. For experimental reasons I researched which shops in the UK still enable people to purchase a mobile phone anonymously. It's not easy, but it is still possible. Maybe it's no longer possible because I haven't surveyed the shops in almost 3 years.

We are entering a new unprecedented norm as those in power gradually phase in scary forms of governance in society, where the assumption is that anonymity deserves to be maligned and people should always identify themselves everywhere (also enable tracking of themselves by carrying a mobile phone) so as to avoid looking "suspicious". That's the mentality of mass surveillance that people have become accustomed to (and rather apathetic towards) in the UK.

It's stuff like this that made me exceptionally stubborn about deleting server logs in Tux Machines and not connecting to any third-party entity (e.g. with interactive social buttons, cookies), unlike most other GNU/Linux/FOSS sites.

Tux Machines Turns 10 in Exactly One Month

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A drunken penguin

THIS past week was not a bad week at all. There was lots to cover (without compromising focus and s/n ratio) and it was our biggest week ever (since we carried on from Susan) in terms of traffic, with as many visitors in 5.5 days as in the previous record for a week (7 days). Based on whois, the Creation Date of Tux Machines is 2004-06-10 05:40:40, so we are exactly a month away from an important anniversary.

We don't track visitors, we just look at the size of uncached traffic logs (no unique IPs, only one IP -- that of the Varnish server -- is shown for everyone) before they are deleted for good, which would be every 4-5 weeks (logrotate). Privacy preservation is a conscious decision for us.

Thanks to everyone for choosing us for news. We enjoy running the site and we hope you enjoy following it. Running the site requires a lot of dedication, including posting while out of the house (wirelessly) or staying up late at night to catch up with the latest headlines. Rianne sometimes stays awake until 3 AM because she wants to ensure readers are being informed.

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