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Obits

Bassel (Safadi) Khartabil Remembered

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Bassel Khartabil, In Memoriam

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  • Report: Syrian-Palestinian Open Internet Advocate Bassel Khartabil Has Been Executed

    Bassel Khartabil, a Syrian-Palestinian open-source developer credited with helping to bring a free internet to Syria, was confirmed dead today by Creative Commons, the open internet non-profit Khartabil volunteered with. He was 36.

  • Bassel Khartabil, In Memoriam

    Bassel Khartabil, the Syrian open source developer, blogger, entrepreneur, hackerspace founder, and free culture advocate, has been executed by the Syrian authorities. Noura Ghazi Safadi, his wife, received confirmation of her husband's death by the Assad-led Syrian government yesterday. The execution took place in secret in November 2015. It has taken the Syrian government nearly two years to officially communicate that fact to his friends and family.

    Bassel had been imprisoned by the Syrian authorities since his abduction from the streets of Damascus on March 15, 2012. He was originally taken, interrogated and tortured in secret in a facility controlled by the country's General Intelligence Directorate. After a worldwide campaign by international human rights groups, together with Bassel's many colleagues in the open Internet and free culture communities, he was moved to Adra's civilian prison, from where he was able to communicate with his family and friends.

Statement on the death of CC friend and colleague Bassel Khartabil

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We are deeply saddened and completely outraged to learn today that our friend and colleague Bassel Khartabil has been executed by the Syrian regime.

Bassel was Creative Commons’ Syrian project lead, an open source software programmer, teacher, Wikipedia contributor, and free culture advocate. He was also a devoted son and husband, and a great friend to many people in the open knowledge community around the world. The projects and communities he helped to build live on across the globe, and will remain a tribute to his leadership.

In March of 2012, Bassel was taken from the street in Damascus amid a wave of military arrests. He was jailed for several years, during which time he was allowed to infrequently communicate with family members. Then, in October 2015, he was abruptly transferred to an undisclosed location. At that time, all communications between Bassel and the outside world ceased. The Creative Commons board publicly called for Bassel’s immediate release, and the MIT Media Lab offered Bassel a research position in its Center for Civic Media. His family and friends prayed for his safe return, and are heartbroken today to learn the awful and terrifying news of his execution.

Over the past several years, a variety of human rights groups called for Bassel’s release. Amnesty International launched a campaign through its Urgent Action network that encouraged the public to write letters to Syrian authorities and urge them to grant Bassel access to his family, a lawyer, and medical attention. The US State Department singled him out on International Human Rights Day in 2015 as a “prisoner of conscience.”

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Goodbye To Bob Chassell

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It's fortunately more common now in Free Software communities today to properly value contributions from non-developers. Historically, though, contributions from developers were often overvalued and contributions from others grossly undervalued. One person trailblazed as (likely) the earliest non-developer contributor to software freedom. His name was Robert J. Chassell — called Bob by his friends and colleagues. Over the weekend, our community lost Bob after a long battle with a degenerative illness.

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[The founder of Linux Malta] Ramon Casha, chairman of the humanist association, passes away

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Linux
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Tributes are flowing in this evening for Ramon Casha, chairman of the Malta Humanist Society, civil rights campaigner and a frequent commenter on Times of Malta, who has passed away.

Michael Briguglio, former chairman of Alternattiva wrote in a Facebook post: Rest in peace Ramon Casha: honest, free-thinking and non-partisan civil society campaigner within Malta Humanist Association and so many causes.

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Remembering a friend: Matthew Williams

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One of the things about working in open source software communities is that you are always moving forward. It’s hard not to get a sense of momentum and progress when it seems you are constantly striving to improve and build on the work you and others have done before.

But sometimes you have to pause to reflect, because sometimes there is loss.

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Farewell to Rob Collins

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We would like to share with you the sad news, that Rob Collins has passed away earlier this month, on November 2nd, after a short but intense illness.

Many of you may know Rob from the sponsored massage sessions he regularly ran at EuroPython in recent years and which he continued to develop, taking them from a single man setup (single threaded process) to a group of people setup by giving workshops (multiprocessing) and later on by passing on his skills to more leaders (removing the GIL) to spread wellness and kindness throughout our conference series.

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Pieter Alexander Hintjens: 3 December 1962 – 4 October 2016

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After a long and painful illness, a battle with cancer over the last six years, my brother has died in Brussels, aged only 53.

My love for him has always been the adoring, muted kind that looked up to the light he shone, that basked in his enthusiasm and tried, and failed, to keep up with the thousand-and-one ideas he gave voice and form to. Many of his passions were beyond my comprehension but very real, nevertheless. As a computer programmer, writer of internet protocols and founder of on-line communities, his interests went way over my head. As an author, latterly, we connected and I was able to collaborate with him on one of his books – The Psychopath Code – an involvement for which I am profoundly grateful: Not only has this particular book helped me to navigate a few tricky moments in my own life, but the understanding we shared was like coming home.

I can’t begin to do justice to my brother’s legacy as a professional innovator, thinker, and networker. Pieter was one of these rare people totally unafraid to take chances, to think not just outside the box but into the next universe. How he maintained his enthusiasm and energy, where his inspiration came from, I shall not know in this lifetime.

His death last Tuesday has opened up a hole in my life, a tear in the fabric of my normal. Poignantly – and painfully – it is only as his legacy becomes clearer that I notice the loss of his quiet, determined contribution in my life. Always, in the background, he encouraged me, supporting my modest hopes for an ordinary life: my ambitions to study, to write, to marry and have a child. In all these attempts he was unwaveringly supportive, while seeking so little from me in return. Of course, elder brothers are looked up to, and often expected to take the lead. But lately, in these last few years, while he faced pain and uncertainty – about which he has written so candidly on his blog – while he battled fear and the shadows of disappointment with his trademark wry humour, he faced these challenges fearlessly and with a fiery determination that is frankly awe-inspiring.

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ZeroMQ founder Pieter Hintjens dies

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Pieter Hintjens, Belgian software developer and past president of the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII), gave much of his time and effort to the open-source community.

He did so even up until the day he planned for his own death, which was today.

Hintjens, who chose euthanasia today after dealing with terminal cancer, was a writer and a programmer who spent much of his life building large software systems and online communities, which he described as “Living Systems.”

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Debian Project mourns the loss of Kristoffer H. Rose

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Kristoffer was a Debian contributor from the very early days of the project, and the upstream author of several packages that are still in the Debian archive nowadays, such as the LaTeX package Xy-pic and FlexML. On his return to the project after several years' absence, many of us had the pleasure of meeting Kristoffer during DebConf15 in Heidelberg.

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More in Tux Machines

Red Hat and Fedora Leftovers

Devices: Beelink S1 Mini PC, Aaeon’s SBC, Kobo and LEDE

  • Beelink S1 Mini PC and Linux – Comedy Gold
    The Beelink S1 is a small, silent mini PC released in August 2017 retailing for around 300 dollars (250 euros). It’s produced by Shenzhen AZW Technology Co Ltd, a Chinese company that focuses on Android smart TV boxes, Intel mini PCs, and home cloud TV boxes. The S1 ships with an activated copy of Windows 10. But what makes this mini PC interesting? For starters, it purports to run Ubuntu. Combined with a quad core Celeron CPU, dual monitor support (HDMI and VGA), 4K video, expansion options, together with a raft of other features, the machine looks a mouthwatering prospect compared to many other mini PCs.
  • Kaby Lake Pico-ITX SBC features dual M.2 slots
    Aaeon’s “PICO-KBU1” SBC is built on Intel 7th Gen U-series CPUs with up to 16GB DDR4, dual GbE ports, and M.2 B-key and E-Key expansion. The PICO-KBU1 SBC is equipped with Intel’s dual-core, 15W TDP 7th Gen U-series CPUs from the latest Kaby Lake generation. Other 100 x 72mm Pico-ITX boards that run Kaby Lake U-Series processors include Axiomtek’s PICO512. As usual with Aaeon, no OS support is listed.
  • Kobo firmware 4.6.9995 mega update (KSM, nickel patch, ssh, fonts)
    It has been ages that I haven’t updated the MegaUpdate package for Kobo. Now that a new and seemingly rather bug-free and quick firmware release (4.6.9995) has been released, I finally took the time to update the whole package to the latest releases of all the included items. The update includes all my favorite patches and features: Kobo Start Menu, koreader, coolreader, pbchess, ssh access, custom dictionaries, and some side-loaded fonts.
  • LEDE v17.01.4 service release
    Version 17.01.4 of the LEDE router distribution is available with a number of important fixes. "While this release includes fixes for the bugs in the WPA Protocol disclosed earlier this week, these fixes do not fix the problem on the client-side. You still need to update all your client devices. As some client devices might never receive an update, an optional AP-side workaround was introduced in hostapd to complicate these attacks, slowing them down."

Samsung Leftovers

OSS Leftovers

  • FOSDEM 2018 Real-Time Communications Call for Participation
  • Top Bank, Legal and Software Industry Executives to Keynote at the Open Source Strategy Forum
  • Copyleft is Dead. Long live Copyleft!
    As you may have noticed, we recently re-licensed mgmt from the AGPL (Affero General Public License) to the regular GPL. This is a post explaining the decision and which hopefully includes some insights at the intersection of technology and legal issues.
  • Crowdsourcing the way to a more flexible strategic plan
    Trust the community. Opening a feedback platform to anyone on campus seems risky, but in hindsight I'd do it again in a heartbeat. The responses we received were very constructive; in fact, I rarely received negative and unproductive remarks. When people learned about our honest efforts at improving the community, they responded with kindness and support. By giving the community a voice—by really democratizing the effort—we achieved a surprising amount of campus-wide buy-in in a short period of time. Transparency is best. By keeping as many of our efforts as public as possible, we demonstrated that we were truly listening to our customers and understanding the effects of the outdated technology policies and decisions that were keeping them from doing their best work. I've always been a proponent of the idea that everyone is an agent of innovation; we just needed a tool that allowed everyone to make suggestions. Iterate, iterate, iterate. Crowdsourcing our first-year IT initiatives helped us create the most flexible and customer-centric plan we possibly could. The pressure to move quickly and lay down a comprehensive strategic plan is very real; however, by delaying that work and focusing on the evolving set of data flowing from our community, we were actually able to better demonstrate our commitment to our customers. That helped us build critical reputational capital, which paid off when we did eventually present a long-term strategic plan—because people already knew we could achieve results. It also helped us recruit strong allies and learn who we could trust to advance more complicated initiatives.
  • Reform is a DIY, modular, portable computer (work in progress)
    Want a fully functional laptop that works out of the box? There are plenty to choose from. Want a model that you can upgrade? That’s a bit tougher to find: some modern laptops don’t even let you replace the RAM. Then there’s the Reform. It’s a new DIY, modular laptop that’s designed to be easy to upgrade and modify. The CAD designs will even be available if you want to 3D print your own parts rather than buying a kit. You can’t buy a Reform computer yet. But developer Lukas Hartmann and designer Ana Dantes have developed a prototype and are soliciting feedback on the concept.
  • New neural network teaches itself Go, spanks the pros
    While artificial intelligence software has made huge strides recently, in many cases, it has only been automating things that humans already do well. If you want an AI to identify the Higgs boson in a spray of particles, for example, you have to train it on collisions that humans have already identified as containing a Higgs. If you want it to identify pictures of cats, you have to train it on a database of photos in which the cats have already been identified.