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With the latest Kubuntu 15.10 (Wily)

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I love the KDE desktop—I really do. However… here are some grumbles.

Happy Easter and Remarkable Spring

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Happy Easter

Happy New Year From Roy and Rianne

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Xmas tree

2014 was a great year for Tux Machines. The site moved to a new server with much higher capacity and better caching, Rianne and I moved to a better house, and we finally set up a tree the way we wanted to. Financial contributions from readers were enough to subsidise a laptop for Rianne and she now happily submits a lot of links from there.

In 2015 we expect to improve both volume and quality of links. We are going to think of ways to improve the Web site and we openly welcome suggestions from readers. The goal is to make the site more informative more efficiently. We wish to help readers steer away from cruft and gossip and instead identify news of importance, without repetition unless new information and details arise.

Vacation Photos

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Tux and Rianne

Last week we did not post as much news as usual because we went to the south of England with Roy's sister. We did take some photos.

Fireworks! And Tux Machines Works.

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November effigies

Fireworks continue to appear all over the place, even a day after Guy Fawkes Night. Yesterday the city was full of smoke (as though it is under heavy fog all around), but that is just an annually-recurring tradition. It's very bad for the environment, but hey, lots of people enjoy it.

Over 400 Guy Fawkes tried to destroy the House of Lords, just as some gang or a person has been trying now for nearly two months to keep Tux Machines offline. Thankfully, however, the attacks are not succeeding anymore because we have refined our defenses and the offending zombie PCs are being banned left and right (all day long). Surely the plot has been foiled. All we need now is effigies.

Tux Claus

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Tux Claus

Summer is finally over, but summertime or the climate hasn't officially changed yet. I wonder if I can still do something out of the ordinary, but the weather is disrupting my planned activities outside. Sometimes there is sunlight, but the next minute the dark clouds covers the beautiful sky and it makes the day dull and cold.

Two days ago my husband and I went to stroll inside the mall and ended up buying some personal stuff in a store. While I was in a queue to pay my husband was in a hurry to add this tiny bit of stuff which I didn't recognise at first. I thought of ignoring and not buying that tiny little thing. Then my husband said "look what I found" and then I asked what is it -- it's tux! Tux Claus. Soon I saw a tiny penguin dressed in Santa clothes; the design was simple ,but it was artistically made. I know it is still early, but we're both excited to add Tux under our Christmas tree and be merry.

Life Goes On

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Manchester

TUX MACHINES HAS BEEN under attack for nearly two weeks now. We need not really comment on our technical means of defence and how we mostly overcome these attacks (we are not giving too many clues to the attackers, who are mostly deflected with blacklists and redirects for the time being), but for the most part the Web site continues to run and to serve visitors. That's what is important. We work hard to keep posting the latest news and not let distraction, aggravation or sabotage get in the way. It is hard to imagine who would want to attack a site like this. This site is not even political or controversial.

In more general news, Manchester has had a nice and warm September. It continues into October (so far). Today we started seeing some hybrid (partly electric) double-decker buses and today we also found out that the health club we always go to has been voted best in the north west and third-best in the UK for the second year in a row. We still post some news whilst out of the house (if a wireless connection becomes available) and this morning the weather was so fine that we managed to play some badminton outdoors.

Life goes on and no level of attacks on the site is going to stop it. There are many ways to combat DDOS attacks, so they are merely a nuisance. The attackers should know that they are only wasting their time; there are much better things to do in life. Those commandeering Microsoft Windows botnets would be better off targeting the KKK or something, not a GNU and Linux news site.

Logo Concepts

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More below...

Secret Back Doors in Android

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I am everything but a Google basher and I spent a lot of my life descending deep into research of Google foes, Google smear campaigns, lawsuits by proxy, and antitrust actions by proxy. I also advocate Android, but in recent years I have been increasingly concerned about the direction it is taking. I wish to share my latest concern. It relates to what the media characterises as "anti-theft" but is actually a facility to kill phones in a protest or convert them into hostile listening devices. Technology impacts human rights and those who control technology can be tempted to control humans.

Google habitually updates my tablet. It is a Nexus 7 tablet which Google invites itself to update remotely (shame on me for not installing Replicant, but this device does not support it yet). It is not a 3G tablet and it does not have two operation systems (unlike mobile phones) or even a carrier tracking its location all the time. It's a purely Android device with no network tying. It is network-agnostic. I only bought it because in order to replace my PDA (for over a decade) I wanted a device that is not a tracking device. Phones were out of the question.

Networks don't track the tablet. Google, however, is always out there, fully able to identify the connected user (latched onto a Gmail address because of Play), modifying the software without even the user's consent (the user is sometimes prompted to boot, without being able to opt out of the core update itself).

The update in itself is not a problem. What's problematic is its effect.

Following the latest Google update (which I was given no option to reject) I noticed that Google had added a remote kill switch as an opition. It was enabed by default. "Allow remote lock and erase" is what Google calls it and it is essentially working like a back door. Google and its partners in government are gaining a lot of power not over a smartphone but over a tablet.

The significance of this is that not only phones should be assumed to be remotely accessible for modification, including for example additional back doors. What's more, some devices that were sold without this functionality silently have it added. According to the corporate press, the FBI remotely turns Android devices into listening devices and it is getting simpler to see how.

NSA and PRISM destroy our computing. We definitely need to demand Free software, but we should go further by asking for audits, rejecting user-hostile 'features' like DRM, 'secure' boot, and kill switches. I gradually lose any remaining trust that I had in Google and even Free software such as Android.

Manchester and Computing

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Manchester's role in the history of computing is not widely recognised. I spent several years working in Manchester Computing and I studied where the first programmable computer was built (by Kilburn, whom the building was later named after). One of my colleagues at Manchester Computing (MCC) was the person who was first to build and distribute a GNU/Linux distribution (combining both GNU and Linux) and yesterday I met and spoke to one of the earlier PC distributors from across the road (supplier for Manchester Computing). Right here at the centre of Manchester a lot of the early milestones of computing took place (Turing also), but Manchester became better known for the splitting of atoms, the football teams, famous bands like Oasis, and the industrial revolution. A few days ago Rianne and I visited the local museum which demonstrates the industrial revolution (photo above from this album); what we really need here, however, are more museums documenting Manchester's role in modern computing. This city deserves more credit.

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More in Tux Machines

Linux on Servers

  • Kontena Launches Container Platform, Banks Seed Funding
    Startup Kontena has launched a container and microservices platform that, it claims, is designed to be developer friendly, easy to install and able to run at any scale -- attributes that, Kontena says, differentiate it from the current crop of container platforms. The Menlo Park, Calif.-based company, founded in March 2015, has also raised $2 million seed funding from Helsinki-based Lifeline Ventures. It also has a clever name: Say it out loud -- cute, huh? According to the team at Kontena Inc. , the startup's container and microservices platform requires zero maintenance, is designed for automatic updates, and runs on any infrastructure, including on-premises, cloud and hybrid. Combined, those attributes make it an easy-to-use alternative to platforms such as Docker, Kubernetes, Heroku and Mesosphere, the company says.
  • Stabilizing the world of hot and fast containers
    Containers are moving targets in multiple ways. With multiple tools, frameworks, implementations, and use cases to accomplish any task, it can be a fast-moving chaotic container world, which is a natural consequence of being young and popular. The good news is that all of this creative incubation is hugely productive, and because it's all open source everyone gets to share the benefits of all of this fabulous creativity. The bad news is that it's a giant energized cat herd. How do we know what direction to take? Must we plan for the work we do today to be obsolete in a few months? And, what about portability? I'd like to provide a few insights into the future of containers, and the direction we can expect the state of the art technology to take.
  • How DIGIT Created High Availability on the Public Cloud to Keep Its Games Running
    Emmanuel & Ross: HA is achievable on the public cloud. In our case, we couple redundancy across Availability Zone (AZ) with monitoring and autonomous systems to ensure our games can keep running. Using only one AZ will not ensure HA, as that entire zone could fail for a short time. Each of our applications runs in multiple containers at the same time. They're are all being monitored to handle current load. When one container is down, another takes its place. The same applies for all parts of our infrastructure. All services are autoscaling and behind a service discovery system. On top of this, nodes in our cluster are deployed across multiple AZs, each of which being an isolated network with its own NAT gateway. This way we can survive a whole zone going down.
  • Citrix Gives Away Netscaler Containers for Free
    Netscaler CPX Express, a developer version of the CPX container, is available for free downloading, the company announced yesterday at LinuxCon North America in Toronto. There’s even a catchy URL for it: microloadbalancer.com
  • LinuxCon: How Facebook Monitors Hundreds of Thousands of Servers with Netconsole
    The original kernel documentation for the feature explains that the netconsole module logs kernel printk messages over UDP, allowing debugging of problems where disk logging fails and serial consoles are impractical. Many organizations will choose to use syslog as a way to track potential server errors, but Owens said kernel bugs can crash a machine, so it doesn't help nearly as much as netconsole. He added that Facebook had a system in the past for monitoring that used syslog-ng, but it was less than 60 percent reliable. In contrast, Owens stated netconsole is highly scalable and can handle enormous log volume with greater than 99.99 percent reliability. "Netconsole is fanatically easy to deploy," Owens said. "Configuration is independent of the hardware and by definition you already have a network."

Android 7.0 Nougat

  • Android 7.0 Nougat review—Do more on your gigantic smartphone
    After a lengthy Developer Preview program starting in March, the final version of Android 7.0 (codenamed "Nougat") is finally launching today. The OS update will slowly begin to rollout to devices over the next few weeks. This year, Google is adding even more form factors to the world's most popular operating system. After tackling watches, phones, tablets, TVs, and cars, Nougat brings platform improvements aimed at virtual reality headsets and—with some help from Chrome OS—also targets laptops and desktops.
  • Google Android 7.0 Nougat Review – Surprisingly Uninspiring
    Since the past couple of years, Android updates have hit a concrete wall. Feature additions have gotten pretty mundane while focus on under the hood changes have become key for Google. Obviously, that’s a good thing, for some folks out there, but it’s a approach that doesn’t stand the test of time really very well. Users get frustrated after seeing the same thing over and over again. Same is absolutely true when you compare Android 7.0 Nougat directly with its predecessor, Android 6.0 Marshmallow.
  • Android 7.0 Nougat review: longer battery life and faster operation
    Android 7.0 Nougat is the new version of Google’s mobile operating system, used by billions of devices around the world. It features longer battery life, improved multitasking and smarter notifications in a slimmed down and refined Android experience – following on the work done in last year’s version 6 Marshmallow It is faster, more polished and a subtly-better experience all-round. Apps install more quickly, the OS can be smaller in size and updates to Android can be installed on the fly, without having to wait for 10 minutes while it reboots, if you have a new device. The new Vulcan API graphics system is also baked in for better gaming performance and Nougat will support Google’s Daydream virtual reality system, eventually. Nougat is not, however, a major visual overhaul of Android. Those that have used Marshmallow on any of Google’s Nexus smartphones or devices with little in the way of modification to Android, such as the OnePlus 3, will instantly recognise it.
  • The Best New Features In Android 7 Nougat
    The OS formerly known as Android N is officially out today for a range of Nexus phones. Now dubbed “Android Nougat”, the new mobile operating system ushers in some noteworthy improvements and new productivity tools which we’ve outlined below. But first, here are the Nexus models that are currently supported by the update:
  • Android 7.0 Nougat: a more powerful OS, made for you
  • Android 7.0 Nougat reviews: Should you upgrade your device?

Leftovers: OSS and Sharing

  • Hazelcast Releases Version 3.7
    Hazelcast, a provider of an open source in-memory data grid, has announced the general availability of Hazelcast 3.7. According to the company, the latest release is 30% faster than previous versions and is the first fully modularized version of Hazelcast. Each client/language and plugin is now available as a module – speeding up the development process for open source contributors, with new features and bug fixes released as modules alongside Hazelcast 3.7. Hazelcast continues to expand its footprint beyond its traditional “Java heartland,” the company says. The Hazelcast open source community has created clients for programming environments including Java, Scala, .Net/C#, C++, Python, Node.js, and Clojure. Java and Scala can be used for both clients and embedded members.
  • Hazelcast releases 3.7: cloud-enabled, 30% faster and the first fully modularized in-memory data grid
  • How to measure your community's health
    How do you measure the health of your community, identify problems, and track progress towards your goals? What should you be measuring? Last month we discussed vanity metrics, those metrics that might sound impressive on the surface, but ultimately give you little insight or guidance to improve the health and well-being of your community. This naturally begs the question: What should you be measuring? And as I mentioned last month, the obvious but annoying answer: It depends. The first and foremost dependency relates to the nature of your community and where you and your members want it to go.
  • First ever FSFE Summit celebrates free software successes
    Free software community members and luminaries will meet up at the BCC in Berlin, from September 2-4 2016, at the first ever Free Software Foundation Europe Summit.
  • Walmart, Comcast Hasten Innovation, Improve Agility With OpenStack
    As new technologies like applications and programming languages are introduced, it's important for companies to remain flexible and fast enough to adapt, which is why Walmart and Comcast have embraced OpenStack. By adopting OpenStack solution OneOps, Walmart doesn't have to spend unnecessary time writing code or automating new processes in order to keep up with new technologies, Andrew Mitry, OpenStack Lead at Walmart, explained today at OpenStack East 2016. Walmart already uses more than 3,000 applications and services and has more than 170,000 cores in more than 30 regions, with more than 60 Open Source products that are deployed more than 40,000 times each month. With OneOps, Walmart can automate low-level processes like load balance and firewalls using OneOps, which Mitry said frees up time and resources to manage more intricate processes that require manual oversight.
  • MySQL daddy Widenius: Open-source religion won't feed MariaDB
    MySQL daddy Monty Widenius has dismissed claims the MariaDB fork is veering away from open source. Rather, the chief technology officer of MariaDB corporation called his firm’s embrace of a commercial licence for part of MariaDB "critical" to delivering new revenue and for the continued development of open-source software. Widenius told The Register in an interview that he believes criticism of MariaDB’s commercial licence for its new database proxy sever, MaxScale 2.0, is motivated by a "religious" belief in free and open source software. Not that Widenius is against the belief per se, he told The Register, it’s just: "Religion doesn't put meat on the table."
  • Percona Celebrates 10 Years of Leading the Open Source Database Revolution
  • Nexenta To Showcase Innovative Open Source-Driven Software-Defined Storage (OpenSDS) And All-Flash Solutions At VMworld 2016
  • Nexenta to Showcase Innovative Open Source-Driven Software-Defined Storage (OpenSDS) and All-Flash Solutions at VMworld 2016
  • Nexenta Brings Open Source-Driven Software-Defined Storage Focus to Dell's EMEA Be Future Ready '16 City Tour
  • Be Bold, Be Curious, and Be Open, Advise Outreachy Participants
    In Tuesday afternoon’s “Kernel Internship Report and Outreachy Panel” session at LinuxCon North America, interns and mentors involved with the Outreachy program spoke enthusiastically of their experiences with the program. The panel was moderated by Karen M. Sandler, Executive Director of the Software Freedom Conservancy, and organizer of Outreachy. Sandler provided an overview of the Outreachy program, which offers a paid three-month internship for women and other underrepresented groups to work on a free and open source software project. Helen M Koike Fornazier, a former Outreachy intern and now a Software Engineer at Collabora, described her Linux kernel project involving video4linux, with Laurent Pinchart as her mentor. She wrote a driver, which simulates some media hardware using the Media API.
  • SNI support added to libtls, httpd in -current
    Joel Sing (jsing@) has added server-side Server Name Indication (SNI) support to libtls and, based on that, to httpd.
  • Koko Open Source Readies Their Summer Soap Box Derby Heroes [Ed: only remotely related]
    Koko Open Source, the education branch of Open Source Gallery, has been holding their Soap Box Summer Workshop and Derby since 2008. And although the kids may be neck and neck as they swoop down the street during the race on August 27, the educational experience plays a major role in this race to the finish line.
  • Digital Asset Holdings to open up DAML for developers
    Digital Asset Holdings, the blockchain start-up commanded by Blythe Masters, has announced that it will be open-sourcing its DAML modelling language. DAML, which Digital Asset describes as a “smart-contact-like” system for financial applications and supporting tools, is hailed by the company as a solution to the current market of modelling languages being unsuitable for regulated financial applications. “Many that are exploring the use of smart contracts — legal agreements written as executable code to automate the processing of rights and obligations on a distributed ledger — are discovering the deficiencies with available smart contract languages,” the firm writes in a statement.

FOSS in Government

  • Uganda eager to tap into open source
    Uganda's Ministry of ICT recently developed a FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) policy to regulate the deployment of open source software and use of open standards to accelerate innovation and develop local content. At the 7th African Conference on Free and Open Source Software (FOSS), organised in conjunction with Uganda's National Information Technology Authority (NITA-U) to encourage industry partnerships and uptake of OSS in East Africa, open software was recognised for its contribution to innovation. Frank Tumwebaze, Minister of ICT and National Guidance in Uganda, said, "Free and open software services will help my ministry to innovate better because it forms the platform (for) many of the innovative ideas. Free and open source software in Uganda is certainly something we have been talking about and I am sure we will do so even more in the next few days. Some of the things Uganda has put in place to harness the benefit from free and open source software include a Software Strategy and Policy in accordance with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development's (UNCTAD) Trade, Services and Development expert meeting's determination that free and open source software is an inseparable component of the global technology ecosystem."
  • Ireland's govt IT: Recession and job cuts forced us to adapt
    Ireland was hit hard by the global financial crunch of 2007 and 2008. It was the first of the EU member states to slip into recession immediately following the bursting of the economic bubble. As the economy contracted, banks faced default and government debt increased, with Ireland eventually taking an €67.5bn loan from the European Commission, European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Falling tax income and the need to bail out banks saw the Irish government spending in other areas of public life. The government had introduced the Public Sector Recruitment Embargo in 2009, which stopped hiring of all civil servants across government and cut pay and pensions – in return for a promise of no compulsory redundancies.
  • Oh! The Horror! Ireland Stays Enslaved To MS
    For 15 years or so, I was in those same financial straits in schools where I taught and GNU/Linux and FLOSS (Free/Libre Open Source Software) was the obvious solution. Obviously, one is better off to have IT for all rather than paying monopolistic prices for IT for a few. In schools, that meant extending the life of IT, elimination of malware and re-re-reboots, freedom from paper, freight for paper, storage for paper, … For governments freedom from lock-in to M$ and “friends” saved huge sums which could have been better spent on hardware or employees. Sigh.