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Twins for Meng Meng and Jiao Qing

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Meng Meng

About 8 months ago we had the chance to meet Meng Meng (above) and Jiao Qing, the female and male pandas on loan to Berlin Zoo in Germany. I took lots of photos with them and we stayed in their Pagoda sanctuary a little longer. Seeing them eating, napping and wandering inside their secured place brings joy to my heart. I don't really like seeing animals in the zoo, but if this is the only way to keep and protect them from any harm or from becoming extinct, then so be it. Today, in the news (video) the two adorable pandas became parents as they were having twins; this is good news and I'm so happy for them both. To Meng Meng and Jiao Qing (and also to Berlin Zoo), congratulations!

Slack: It Used to Be a GNU/Linux Distro, Now It's Surveillance Capitalism

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I like "Freedo" (a symbol for freedom) better

Freedo

THE meaning of words can change over time, along with connotations that accompany these words. A little cat, for example, we can no longer call "pussy" and the word "gay" rarely means happy (colloquially). What about "Slack"?

Once upon a time I knew Slack as a solid, freedom-respecting distribution (GNU/Linux distro), whereas nowadays it is something to be stubbornly avoided as it threatens my freedom. It's technically spyware. It is a threat to everybody's freedom because of the network effect. When we use it we participate in a viral campaign of unwanted societal dependency. We help it spread exponentially. Like disease amongst anti-vaxxers. Richard Stallman had spoken about it in the context of Skype long before Microsoft entered the fray/picture. That's just common sense. The requirement of opening a Slack account to interact with other people is like the equivalent of an employer demanding the applicant has a Facebook account (despite all that is known about Facebook's incredible abuses). It can harm our neighbours, colleagues, family and friends as much as it harms ourselves.

As a little bit of background/context/polite remarks on this, I had been writing about Slack (the spyware, not the distro) for several years -- years before the prospects of actually using it. I never ever used it, but I know about it technically, from various angles (not just the shallow, user-centric end). Slack is proprietary at the front end and the back end. Only Slack employees know for sure what it does (and may do in the foreseeable future, as per secret roadmaps). They cannot speak out about it, for fear of retribution (so they're inherently gagged by fear over mortgage etc. or self-restraint that defies logic/ethics). Stallman has long warned about the morality of such circumstances and the ideology they breed. It was recently discovered that Facebook had targeted its critics (a huge number of them), subjecting them to Stasi-like treatment not for any government but for a private corporation, namely Facebook. It had been 'hunting' people using dubious and shallow justifications/pretexts. Nobody has yet been held accountable. Negative press has been the only cost/toll, so they got away with it with barely even a slap on the wrist. Others may imitate them, seeing that there are no fines, no arrests, no sanctions.

A colleague told me several months ago that someone at our company wanted to experiment with Slack; there was no final decision about it, so I assumed it was like our RT/OTRS 'dance' (choice of ticketing system half a decade ago). Sometimes we explore FOSS options/alternatives, which is a good thing! He sent me an invite, but he wasn't assertive about me joining as it was still an experimental thing (as I understood it back then, based on what I was told; I'll come to that in a moment). I thought we would, if it got adopted, still have options (duality). One colleague (at least) wasn't even sent an invite, so I took that as a sign of the adoption's semi-hearted nature (at the time). My colleagues never mentioned it since, except one person (who apparently liked Slack). Another colleague wondered why nobody had told her about it; as if she was left out, but she's happily using Kopete on KDE, so on she went with Jabber.

I've long been writing about Slack, maybe about 15 years (even when the name referred to a Live GNU/Linux distro, well before the name got 'hijacked'; it's Debian-based, it still has regular releases a few months apart, not the same as Slackware despite the names' similarity; BoycottNovell made a Slack-based distro called SUEME Linux 12 years ago); Tux Machines publishes announcements of Slack releases several times a year, but it's always about the distro. It's a European distro with pedigree; but I digress..

Nowadays "Slack" means something different; in a technical context, people no longer recognise it as the distro's name; Slack is now the darling of corporate media; myself and others could never quite explain why (we were rather baffled as it did not seem particularly innovative and we thus attributed most/all the press coverage to good marketing/PR); the name collision also raised legal questions because Slack is a well-known distro and the name is strictly used in the domain of software; it has been used for decades. Now the distro's development team needs to explain to people what came first and how this confusion came about.

OK, so now Slack is enjoying a valuation at $billions (as per very recent news headlines), with IPO rumours floated as well (making it easier to buy/subvert). Slack is relatively new a player/contender; it goes about 3-4 years back (in the mainstream), around the time we were in Alton Towers. I still remember that based on other events. Privacy activists had been warning about it and recently I kept seeing (also publicly writing about) more red flags. Slack, the company, is getting more invasive over time. It's like Facebook. Facebook for business. LinkedIn got picked by Microsoft, along with all that data (NSA PRISM comes to mind). Personal messages, passwords, social graphs, employment records and so on. Even location (picked every 60 seconds or so from one's phone through the 'app'). Same for Skype, which Microsoft added to PRISM just months after buying it (Microsoft was first in PRISM, based on Snowden's leaks -- it was one among the first stories to come out/emanate). Far less opinionated people than myself have blasted Slack for a variety of reasons. Some tweets of mine about it go ~3 years back (warning for 'opinionatedness'... I don't mince words much).

I still remember having to install Skype on an old phone for one company meeting. Back then the mere installation (for one hour, then deleted) meant sending Microsoft entire address books, entire call history and more. This phone of my wife is 7+ years old, so that's a lot of data, going a long way back. That's their business model. I'm usually apprehensive because some of my sources, e.g. for exclusive articles in Techrights (I published my 25,000th article last week in Techrights!), are named in files on my system. I'm no Free software 'purist' per se (I use proprietary drivers sometimes), but "Slack would be the surveillance capitalism competitor to Jabber," to quote something I read yesterday. They digest information, including corporate communications. There's a certain risk associated with this, including competitive risk. As a Free software-based company I think it's important to demonstrate that every piece of proprietary framework can be swapped with FOSS. There are quite a few Slack equivalents that are FOSS; a colleague told me that another colleague had brought some of these up. We might examine these soon, maybe test and adopt these. Time will tell. Maybe I'll write about some of these.

I am also reading about bridges between protocols that enable access to Slack, but yesterday when researching it I found that Slack is gradually burning these bridges/gateways. Not entirely surprising, as once they get to a certain point/market share they up/boost the lockin. Naturally. More so if they have obligations to shareholders. Twitter did this last August, shutting out all third-party apps/APIs for the first time ever (in the company's entire existence). Many of us were devastated because we had built interaction tools, custom-made around these APIs). So, basically, whatever a centralised platform gets adopted, we can always lose control as they can change everything they want at any time. Even, at worst, some company can just buy them for the data; they can start charging a lot, they can shut down, change ToS etc.

The bottom line is, Slack ought to be avoided. It's worse than proprietary because it's all centralised, even the data. There's no concept such as "private" or "privacy". These are only illusions.

Unixstickers

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Unixstickers

Awesome products, will definitely get another bunch of some more stickers soon Smile

GitHub as the Latest Example of Microsoft Entryism in Free/Libre Software

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"This is in effect the very same trick they did/pulled with Novell and SUSE (where Nat Friedman came from after his Microsoft internship) about a decade ago."

Postman

THE recent GitHub takeover, which has not formally been approved just yet (although there are no foreseen barriers to it), is definitely bad news; it is a lot of things to Microsoft however. It is good news only to Microsoft and GitHub shareholders, who basically sold out many developers without rewarding/compensating them for this unwanted (to them) takeover.

There are many aspects to it: First of all, it helps paint Microsoft as "open source" and it helps Microsoft gain leverage over developers, e.g. their choice process of framework/s and licence/s (Microsoft still dislikes copyleft); by leverage over platform they can suggest Azure, for example, or create bindings to it; they gain leverage over projects tied to governments, including some of our clients at work; Microsoft can vainly tell them, i.e. the governments and their developers: "look, you want FOSS? We're FOSS" (so they effectively become their own competitor!). In fact, there's so much more and I could easily name a couple dozen examples, but I know people pursue/need concision here. For an analogy, in politics this concept or strategy is known as "entrism" or "entryism".

Microsoft also uses patents to blackmail FOSS; there's that element too, albeit many people conveniently choose to forget it. Microsoft is sending patents to patent trolls, then offers "Azure IP Advantage". This is in effect the very same trick they did/pulled with Novell and SUSE (where Nat Friedman came from after his Microsoft internship) about a decade ago.

There are many other angles to it, including programming languages, frameworks (e.g. proprietary IDEs like MSVS), code editors and not just bindings to Microsoft as a host and API provider. People, especially developers of software, generally know how E.E.E. works; the basic precondition/premise is that you gain controls/leverage over that which threatens you (Nokia: Elop, Novell: Mono and lots more examples). So that's kind of a way of getting inside, gradually forming a partnership and then shutting down or sidelining whatever threatens you. Like Xamarin did to RoboVM, in effect killing it under Friedman's leadership. Friedman is going to be the chief of GitHub.

Microsoft can direct the opposition's decisions and its fate. Sadly, they already do this inside the Linux Foundation, where Microsoft staff already has chairs in the Board.

From what I can gather, developers ditching GitHub is becoming a fairy common thing this month. I already see the 1) active 2) large 3) non-Windows ones leaving, but it can take time; some told me they still rely on open bug reports and other 'vendor lockin'; that needs some work before they can migrate; the real alternative is self-hosted git.

"Sadly, they already do this inside the Linux Foundation, where Microsoft staff already has chairs in the Board."

In Memoriam: Robin "Roblimo" Miller, a Videographer and Free Software Champion

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Videographer Robin Roblimo Miller

Robin "Roblimo" Miller was a clever, friendly, and very amicable individual who everyone I know has plenty of positive things to say about. I had the pleasure of speaking to him for several hours about anything from personal life and professional views. Miller was a very knowledgeable person whose trade as a journalist and video producer I often envied. I have seen him facing his critics in his capacity as a journalist over a decade ago when he arranged a debate about OOXML (on live radio). Miller, to me, will always be remembered as a strong-minded and investigative journalist who "did the right thing" as the cliché goes, irrespective of financial gain -- something which can sometimes be detrimental to one's longterm health. Miller sacrificed many of his later years to a cause worth fighting for. This is what we ought to remember him for. Miller was - and always will be - a FOSS hero.

May everything you fought for be fulfilled, Mr. Miller. I already miss you.

Orangutans are some of the most solitary animals critically endangered as human consumption grows; Ban Palm oil Industry.

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Orangutan

Orangutans are some of the most solitary animals critically endangered as human consumption grows.

Orangutans are currently only found in the rainforest of Borneo and Sumatra where both species are endangered. The orangutans' habitat has decreased and is rapidly being devastated by loggers, palm oil plantations, gold miners, and unnatural forest fires.

Watching videos of orangutans over hundreds of times is nerve-wracking, seeing them in distress and in great trauma as babies watch their mothers hacked and killed by poachers. They are using their machete which is so inhumane, as many of these infants die without the help of their mother and some other infants are sold as pets, ending in the hands of their 'owner', maltreated and malnourished, making their situation even worse. This happened because of the humongous demand and consumption of humans. Guilt is creeping on me; while enjoying my food and applying all the cosmetics for vanity it is like slaughtering an innocent and beautiful primate slowly and accurately. I wasn't thinking at all; I'm closely blinded of my needs, having never bothered to think that somewhere out there someone is tormented. I can't let this happen any longer. I must act and make a stand and be the voice of orangutans. I'm calling for everyone to ban and stop buying palm oil products. We must stop deforestation and the palm oil industry, strongly and swiftly before orangutans and all other animals sail into extinction.

Beijing Zoo is No Place for Pandas

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Pandas in Beijing Zoo
Photo credit: Nick Hopkins

I am a Panda lover. I work as a support engineer in an I.T company here in the United Kingdom. Most of my spare time is spent watching different Panda videos -- both old and new videos. Basically, it is my therapy; a 'stress release' for me. I find them to be adorable and precious creatures. As a matter of fact, I would like to volunteer to come to Sichuan. I want to experience and feel what it's like to be a Panda keeper, to be able to interact with them for real. The Panda is China's National Treasure, so it's a shame to watch the Panda videos from Beijing zoo, as the place is disgusting and not ideal for Pandas to live in (and for sure for all the rest of the animals who unfortunately got stuck in this prison cell).

The place looks like a ghost town. Lifeless and languished. Knowing that Pandas wear a thick fur on their body, can you imagine what it feels for them in 30C or 35C (summer temperature)? What it probably feels like all the time? Come on, if you really care, you must do something now, otherwise these Pandas will die. Please bring them back to their sanctuary where they really belong.

Winner: Triathlon in The Spa At The Midland

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The Spa At The Midland - Rianne SchestowitzI never thought I could win in a challenge of 3 events.

I guess age is not an excuse for giving up... more so in physical fitness; as the saying goes, health is wealth.... consequently, I'll keep doing my routine and even yoga. It is extremely relaxing!

Motivation, hard work, discipline. By-product is triumph... Smile

GNOME Release Party Manchester

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GNOME Release Party Manchester

Summary: Today's party celebrating the release of GNOME 3.22

RIANNE AND I both attended today's GNOME release party in Manchester. It was a good opportunity to meet some geeky people, including a few from Codethink, which organised this event.

With the latest Kubuntu 15.10 (Wily)

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

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More in Tux Machines

Configuring Automatic Login and Lock Screen on Ubuntu 19.10

Whether it’s Linux or Windows, Ubuntu, or Fedora, I am not an ‘automatic’ type of guy. That is to say, and I don’t want my login automated, nor do I want my updates automatically installed. This preference directly results from over thirty years in Information Technology, prudence, habit, and experience. Plus, it’s just plain smart security sense. However, I further realize that as Linux users get younger and younger, I am increasingly in the minority in this sense. While I strongly disagree with automatic logins and updates, I can understand the desire for it. So, with that understanding, let’s go about the business of instituting automated logins in Ubuntu. We will also take the time to address the Ubuntu Lock Screen setting. Configuring automatic Ubuntu software updates is much more in-depth. We will discuss this in a separate dedicated article at a later date. Read more

Programming: Python, LLVM and Erlang

  • Sending Emails in Python — Tutorial with Code Examples

    What do you need to send an email with Python? Some basic programming and web knowledge along with the elementary Python skills. I assume you’ve already had a web app built with this language and now you need to extend its functionality with notifications or other emails sending. [...] Sending multiple emails to different recipients and making them personal is the special thing about emails in Python. To add several more recipients, you can just type their addresses in separated by a comma, add Cc and Bcc. But if you work with a bulk email sending, Python will save you with loops. One of the options is to create a database in a CSV format (we assume it is saved to the same folder as your Python script). We often see our names in transactional or even promotional examples. Here is how we can make it with Python.

  • Binning Data with Pandas qcut and cut

    When dealing with continuous numeric data, it is often helpful to bin the data into multiple buckets for further analysis. There are several different terms for binning including bucketing, discrete binning, discretization or quantization. Pandas supports these approaches using the cut and qcut functions. This article will briefly describe why you may want to bin your data and how to use the pandas functions to convert continuous data to a set of discrete buckets. Like many pandas functions, cut and qcut may seem simple but there is a lot of capability packed into those functions. Even for more experience users, I think you will learn a couple of tricks that will be useful for your own analysis. [...] The concept of breaking continuous values into discrete bins is relatively straightforward to understand and is a useful concept in real world analysis. Fortunately, pandas provides the cut and qcut functions to make this as simple or complex as you need it to be. I hope this article proves useful in understanding these pandas functions. Please feel free to comment below if you have any questions.

  • Analysing music habits with Spotify API and Python

    I’m using Spotify since 2013 as the main source of music, and back at that time the app automatically created a playlist for songs that I liked from artists’ radios. By innertion I’m still using the playlist to save songs that I like. As the playlist became a bit big and a bit old (6 years, huh), I’ve decided to try to analyze it.

  • Python IDEs and Code Editors

    A code editor is a tool that is used to write and edit code. They are usually lightweight and can be great for learning. However, once your program gets larger, you need to test and debug your code, that's where IDEs come in. An IDE (Integrated Development Environment) understand your code much better than a text editor. It usually provides features such as build automation, code linting, testing and debugging. This can significantly speed up your work. The downside is that IDEs can be complicated to use.

  • Announcing Anaconda Distribution 2019.10

    As there were some significant changes in the previous Anaconda Distribution 2019.07 installers, this release focuses on polishing up rough edges in that release and bringing all the packages up to date with the latest available in repo.anaconda.com. This means many key packages are updated including Numpy, Scipy, Scikit-Learn, Matplotlib, Pandas, Jupyter Notebook, and many more. As many of the package updates have addressed Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVEs), it is important to update to the latest. Another key change since the last release is that Apple released macOS version 10.15 – Catalina. Unfortunately, this was a breaking release for previous versions of Anaconda that used the pkg installer. The Anaconda Distribution 2019.10 installers address the issues and should install without trouble on macOS Catalina. If you would rather repair your current Anaconda installation, please check out this blog post for tips.

  • Apple's Numbers and the All-in-One CSV export

    The hierarchical form requires a number of generator functions for Sheet-from-CSV, Table-from-CSV, and Row-from-CSV. Each of these works with a single underlying iterator over the source file and a fairly complex hand-off of state. If we only use the sheet iterator, the tables and rows are skipped. If we use the table within a sheet, the first table name comes from the header that started a sheet; the table names come from distinct headers until the sheet name changes. The table-within-sheet iteration is very tricky. The first table is a simple yield of information gathered by the sheet iterator. Any subsequent tables, however, may be based one one of two conditions: either no rows have been consumed, in which case the table iterator consumes (and ignores) rows; or, all the rows of the table have been consumed and the current row is another "sheet: table" header.

  • Formatting NFL data for doing data science with Python

    No matter what medium of content you consume these days (podcasts, articles, tweets, etc.), you'll probably come across some reference to data. Whether it's to back up a talking point or put a meta-view on how data is everywhere, data and its analysis are in high demand. As a programmer, I've found data science to be more comparable to wizardry than an exact science. I've coveted the ability to get ahold of raw data and glean something useful and concrete from it. What a useful talent!

  • Sony Pushes More AMD Jaguar Optimizations To Upstream LLVM 10 Compiler

    Sony engineers working on the PlayStation compiler toolchain continue upstreaming various improvements to the LLVM source tree for helping the AMD APUs powering their latest game console. Several times now we've pointed out Sony engineers contributing AMD "btver2" improvements to upstream LLVM with the company using LLVM/Clang as their default code compiler and the PlayStation 4 relying on a Jaguar APU.

  • [llvm-dev] GitHub Migration Schedule and Plans
    Hi,
    
    We're less than 2 weeks away from the developer meeting, so I wanted to
    give an update on the GitHub migration and what's (hopefully) going to
    happen during the developer meeting.
    
    Everyone who has added their information to the github-usernames.txt
    file in SVN before today should have received an invite to become a collaborator
    on the llvm-project repository.  If you did not receive an invite and think
    you should have, please contact me off-list.  I will continue to monitor the
    file for new updates and periodically send out new batches of invites.
    
    There is still some ongoing work to get the buildbots ready and the mailing lists
    ready, but we are optimistic that the work will be done in time.
    
    The team at GitHub has finished implementing the "Require Linear History"
    branch protection that we requested.  The feature is in beta and currently
    enabled in the llvm-project repository.  This means that we will have the
    option to commit directly via git, in addition to using the git-llvm script.
    A patch that updates git-llvm to push to git instead of svn can be found here:
    https://reviews.llvm.org/D67772.  You should be able to test it out on your
    own fork of the llvm-project repository.
    
    The current plan is to begin the final migration steps on the evening (PDT)
    of October 21.  Here is what will happen:
    
    1. Make SVN read-only.
    2. Turn-off the SVN->git update process.
    3. Commit the new git-llvm script directly to github.
    4. Grant all contributors write access to the repository.
    5. Email lists announcing that the migration is complete.
    
    Once the migration is complete, if you run into any issues, please file
    a bug, and mark it as a blocker for the github metabug PR39393.
    
    If you have any questions or think I am missing something, please
    let me know.
    
    Thanks,
    Tom
    
    
  • LLVM Plans To Switch From Its SVN To Git Workflow Next Week

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  • Excellent Free Books to Learn Erlang

    Erlang is a general-purpose, concurrent, declarative, functional programming language and runtime environment developed by Ericsson, a Swedish multinational provider of communications technology and services. Erlang is dynamically typed and has a pattern matching syntax. The language solves difficult problems inherent in parallel, concurrent environments. It uses sets of parallel supervised processes, not a single sequential process as found in most programming languages. Erlang was created in 1986 at the Ellemtel Telecommunication Systems Laboratories for telecommunication systems. The objective was to build a simple and efficient programming language resilient large-scale concurrent industrial applications. Besides telecommunication systems and applications and other large industrial real-time systems, Erlang is particularly suitable for servers for internet applications, e-commerce, and networked database applications. The versatility of the language is, in part, due to its extensive collection of libraries.

today's howtos

Kubernetes at SUSE and Red Hat

  • Eirinix: Writing Extensions for Eirini

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  • Building an open ML platform with Red Hat OpenShift and Open Data Hub Project

    Unaddressed, these challenges impact the speed, efficiency and productivity of the highly valuable data science teams. This leads to frustration, lack of job satisfaction and ultimately the promise of AI/ML to the business is not redeemed. IT departments are being challenged to address the above. IT has to deliver a cloud-like experience to data scientists. That means a platform that offers freedom of choice, is easy to access, is fast and agile, scales on-demand and is resilient. The use of open source technologies will prevent lockin, and maintain long term strategic leverage over cost. In many ways, a similar dynamic has played out in the world of application development in the past few years that has led to microservices, the hybrid cloud and automation and agile processes. And IT has addressed this with containers, kubernetes and open hybrid cloud. So how does IT address this challenge in the world of AI – by learning from their own experiences in the world of application development and applying to the world of AI/ML. IT addresses the challenge by building an AI platform that is container based, that helps build AI/ML services with agile process that accelerates innovation and is built with the hybrid cloud in mind.

  • Launching OpenShift/Kubernetes Support for Solarflare Cloud Onload

    This is a guest post co-written by Solarflare, a Xilinx company. Miklos Reiter is Software Development Manager at Solarflare and leads the development of Solarflare’s Cloud Onload Operator. Zvonko Kaiser is Team Lead at Red Hat and leads the development of the Node Feature Discovery operator.