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Five-bay, open source NAS features RK3399, UPS, and 2.5GbE

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The Helios64’s RK3399 SoC features 2x 1.8GHz Cortex-A72 cores, 4x 1.4GHz Cortex-A53 cores, and a Mali-T860 GPU. Kobol suggests that the Helios64 will once again be an open source project. It made no mention of OS support, but the Helios4 runs Debian and Armbian 5.91 based on Debian 10 Buster.

The 120 x 120mm Nano-ITX SBC is a bit larger than the 100 x 100mm Helios4. The board ships with 4GB LPDDR4, 16GB eMMC 5.1, and a microSD slot. The SBC supplies 5x SATA III interfaces, one of which can be assigned to an SSD via an M.2 slot. It’s unclear if that slot can alternatively be used for wireless or other PCIe/USB peripherals.

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Open Hardware and Software

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  • Polos GD32V Alef is a Tiny RISC-V MCU Board Selling for $3

    We first found out about GigaDevice GD32V 32-bit RISC-V MCU last summer, as an update/alternative to the earlier STM32 compatible GD32 Arm Cortex-M3 microcontroller from the company...

  • Did I close the garage door? (2)

    In the first article of this short series, I explained the reason for wanting to know whether my garage door was open. I also described in detail how to set up an ESP32 to detect the door state (open/closed), and how to send it to a simple back end. In this post, I will tell you how the back end is set up.

  • 10 open source software alternatives for the new year

    Open source isn't just for techies. On your desktop (regardless of your operating system), on your phone, and in your business, open source software can help you become better organized, more productive, more secure, and healthier. Best of all, you don't need to worry about the shackles of proprietary licenses.

    Throughout 2019,'s team of Correspondents and community of writers have highlighted top-notch open source alternatives to proprietary software. Take a quick look at the best 10 of those articles.

    In Intro to Corteza, an open source alternative to Salesforce, Dennis Arh introduces us to Corteza, a powerful and flexible customer relationship management (CRM) system. Dennis outlines what Corteza has to offer, then walks us through how to install and configure the system. While Corteza might not pack all the features of the bigger closed source CRM systems, it's more than enough for the majority of users. Correspondent Chris Hermansen whips up an overview of a half-dozen instant messaging apps for mobile devices in Choosing an open messenger client: Alternatives to WhatsApp. While each of the six apps has its strengths, Chris recommends Signal for "its open-by-design approach, its serious and ongoing privacy and security stance, and having a Signal app on our GNOME (and Windows) desktops."

OSS Leftovers

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  • Open source predictions for 2020
  • A year-end wrap-up from LWN

    The 50th anniversary of Unix happened just as predicted; your editor is looking like a true visionary so far. That prediction also suggested that we might see "interesting work in alternative operating-system models" this year. Whether the development of systems like Fuchsia or seL4 qualifies is a matter of perspective. One could also observe, as Toke Høiland-Jørgensen recently did, that "the Linux kernel continues its march towards becoming a BPF runtime-powered microkernel" and conclude that the most viable alternative to the Unix model is developing right under our noses.

    The prediction that there would be more hardware vulnerabilities was no less obvious back in January. Holes like MDS, SWAPGS, and TSX async abort duly put in an appearance. It seems unlikely that we are done at this point. A minor consolation might be found in the fact that, by most accounts, communications between the kernel community and hardware vendors regarding these vulnerabilities have improved as predicted.

    Did kernel development become more formalized, as we thought might happen in January? Certainly there have been discussions around workflow issues and Change IDs that would point in that direction, as does the increased emphasis on automated testing. One might argue that the kernel community grows up far too slowly, but things do change over time. The suggestion that projects would continue to transition away from the patches-over-email model ties into this as well; even the kernel community is talking about it, though any such change still seems distant at the end of 2019.

    Issues with the supportability of BPF APIs did arise as predicted, but the statement that "more kernel APIs will be created for BPF programs rather than exported as traditional system calls" has not been fully borne out. That doesn't mean that we aren't seeing interesting APIs being created for BPF; for example, it may soon be possible to write TCP congestion-control algorithms as BPF programs.

    Did somebody try to test out the kernel's code-of-conduct as predicted? As of November 30, there had been no code-of-conduct events in the last three months, and only minor events before. That prediction, happily, has not worked out. Thus far, it seems that the code of conduct may actually have succeeded in making the kernel community a nicer place without the need for any serious enforcement efforts.

  • CNBC documentary about Open Source
  • [OSI] Happy New Year!
  • Researchers Create Open-source EEG Tool That Has Insights on Opioids and Sleep

    Researchers at the University of Tennessee (UT) have developed a free open-source computer program that can be used to create visual and quantitative representations of brain electrical activity in laboratory animals in hopes of developing countermeasures for opioid use disorder.

    The program is described in a paper published in JoVE. Lead author Christopher O’Brien is a UT graduate who manages the research laboratory of Helen Baghdoyan and Ralph Lydic, both co-authors on the paper and professors in UT’s Department of Psychology and the Graduate School of Medicine’s Department of Anesthesiology.

  • RISC-V Lagarto is First Open Source Chip Developed in Spain

    The Barcelona Supercomputing Center has coordinated the manufacture of the first open source chip developed in Spain. Built with TSMC’s 65-nanometer transistors, their RISC-V based Lagarto chip a key step in the center’s strategy to become a benchmark in the open source hardware technologies’ field developed in Europe.

    Lagarto is an important step in the search of the BSC, led by the center’s director, Mateo Valero, to develop European computing technology. This project is based on the premise that the instruction set of the future processors must be open source to ensure transparency and minimize dependence. ISAs constitute the basic set of machine language instructions that a processor can understand and execute and is, therefore, the meeting point between software and hardware. The fact that they are open is intended to circumvent the possibility of chips incorporating backdoors or instructions that may be detrimental to the security or privacy of users.

BaldPhone is an Open-Source Launcher for Elderly People

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You can download the app from GitHub and F-Droid. For those wondering why the app is not available to download on the Google Play Store, the developer says that it used to be present on Google Play but it had to be removed due to the recent permission requirements that would lead to split APKs.

It is worth mentioning that you can download the app for free and it doesn’t have ads.

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How to get started with open source in 2020

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When launched in 2010, Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst said the site "is one of the ways in which Red Hat gives something back to the open source community." And that community has always included the growing number of people who are new to open source.

In 2019, we published many articles about the open source way of thinking, choosing hardware, the contribution process, and other topics geared toward newbies. If you're new to open source, this list of's top 10 articles from 2019 about getting started with open source should put you on the right path.

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Openwashing: SalesAgility, Nvidia, Datasets and IBM

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  • Scottish tech firm SalesAgility aims to be 'Scottish success story'

    DALE Murray joined SalesAgility, a tech firm specialising in open source Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, in 2011 as an unpaid intern. He took over as CEO in 2017 and has expanded the firm’s flagship product, SuiteCRM, as well as its international presence.


    I AM the second CEO. I took over from the original founder in 2017. I have a passion for open source software and helping businesses. The original CEO thought he could make a difference and improve CRM software.

    When I started there were only four of us so it was a real startup feel. Ten years later the aim remains the same – to transform the CRM market.

    I started as an unpaid intern. I did a software engineering degree. I initially ran a sports club. I wanted to grow my career and I didn’t have being a CEO in my sights but I wanted to work in consultancy which led me to gain experience in a short space of time. We haven’t received any funding and the growth is all self-made.

  • Nvidia debuts Drive AGX Orin and open-sources autonomous car AI models

    Today marked the kickoff of Nvidia’s GPU Technology Conference in Suzhou, China, where CEO Jensen Huang debuted a host of products and services during his keynote address. In addition to Drive AGX Orin, the latest version of the Santa Clara-based company’s software-defined solution for self-driving vehicles and robots, Nvidia announced the open-sourcing of a suite of AI models for autonomous decision-making and visual perception. Even more, it revealed a hardware collaboration with Didi Chuxing, one of the world’s largest transportation technology companies with over 550 million users and tens of millions of drivers.

  • 10 Datasets Open-Sourced By Tech Giants In 2019
  • Going forward, partners like IBM will 'keep the lights on': IBM India General Manager

    With the advent of Redhat and Open source and adopting new technologies around platform based applications would help the responses to the market improve significantly, he said. 

  • IBM Bet Everything on an Acquisition in 2019. Now It Needs to Grow Again.

    For IBM, 2019 was the year Big Blue doubled-down on the cloud.

    In July, the enterprise technology giant completed its $34 billion acquisition of Red Hat, the dominant provider of open-source operating system software and support. The deal is a bet that IBM (ticker: IBM) can sell more of its own software and services to Red Hat’s customers—and that IBM customers are the perfect target to become Red Hat customers.

    The Red Hat deal is just one in a decadeslong series of IBM moves to keep up with shifting technology trends. Keep in mind that IBM over the years built and later unloaded large businesses in desktop computers, laptops, printers, microprocessors, chip manufacturing, and typewriters. (Didn’t you once own an IBM Selectric?) The latest move will help IBM stay relevant in a world in which cloud-based services have come to dominate the information technology landscape.

OSS: Blockchains, Microsoft's Defeat and IBM/Fedora

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  • EY Open-Sources Tech It Says Slashes Cost of Private Ethereum Transactions

    In the updated code, EY said it's made additions that allow private transactions at scale by batching up to 20 ZKP transfers in one transaction – a factor it says "significantly" reduces costs. One 20-batch transaction would cost around $0.05, according to the announcement.

    ZPKs enable the sharing of information proofs between parties without revealing the information itself and, thus, removing the need for trust. The latest additions to EY's ZPK tech include batching tools and an enhancement that cuts the size of on-chain Merkle trees – a data structure fundamental to blockchains.

    A key factor of the advance, EY said, is that lowering the costs of transactions in this way makes the public ethereum blockchain more competitive with private blockchain networks.

  • 10 top distributed apps (dApps) for blockchain

    Because smart contracts, or self-executing business automation software, can interact with dApps, they're able to remove administrative overhead, making them one of most attractive features associated with blockchain. While blockchain acts as an immutable electronic ledger, confirming that transactions have taken place, smart contracts execute pre-determined conditions; think about a smart contract as a computer executing on "if/then," or conditional, programming.

    “DApps interact with smart contracts that are on the blockchain. So dApps support the user interface into the back-end smart contract that writes data to the blockchain,” said Avivah Litan, a vice president of research at Gartner.

    DApps run the gamut, from digital asset exchanges like LBank to online gambling like PokerKing and games like Cryptokitties. (LBank holds the equivalent of more than $1.4 billion in cryptocurrency.)

  • Sorry Steve, Open Source beat you

    CNBC Explores released a 14-minute documentary this month called "The Rise Of Open-Source Software" that open-source software "has essentially taken over the world".

    It points out that companies in every industry, from Walmart to Exxon Mobile to Verizon, have open-sourced their projects. Even Microsoft, whose former CEO, the shy and retiring Steve Ballmer (pictured) called open source "a cancer" has completely changed its point of view and is now seen as a leader in the space.

    In 2016 the US government even promised to open-source at least 20 percent of all its new custom-developed code."

  • 5 open source innovation predictions for the 2020s

    The concepts of containers and microservices were merely concepts before 2010, Ferris said. Then Docker launched in 2013, planting the early seeds of the container industry.

    At the same time, microservices — and the technologies to make them possible — were borne in open source through the Netflix OSS project.

    Docker went on to become one of the most influential technologies of the 2010s, giving rise to a myriad of new open source projects, including Kubernetes, which launched in 2015.

    Today, he noted, Kubernetes is the largest open source project on the planet. Companies are using the platform to transform monolithic application architectures, embracing containerized microservices that are supported by service mesh capabilities of projects such as Istio.

    "In the next decade, we anticipate that open source projects such as Istio, Kubernetes and OKD will focus on making containers and microservices smaller and faster to serve the needs of cloud-native development and to reduce the container's attack surface," Ferris said.

  • Fedora Update Weeks 46—52

    It’s been another little while since the last update. Mostly, this has been because the home Internet has been down for a while, so I’ve not been doing much Fedora stuff the last month. Prior to that little break though, updates were relatively steady.

    As a followup to the last update, I’ve now removed automated Suggests when they do not exist in Fedora yet from R packages that I do not own. This is a continuation of the work mentioned in the last update where I removed Suggests from my own packages.

    In any case, it looks like this will be the last update of the year. Over the last year, I’ve made ~1000 commits, created 133 new packages, and issued 1944 updates. This is about 4% of all Fedora updates over the past year.

Signal: A Secure, Open Source Messaging App

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Signal is an open source application with a keen focus on privacy. It is recommended by privacy advocates like Edward Snowden.

It may not have as many features as Telegram or WhatsApp – but if you want to enhance your privacy while having a conversation, this is a solid open-source solution.

You can install it on your smartphone (iOS/Android) and it is also available for Linux, Windows, and macOS.

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Jussi Pakkanen: How about not stabbing ourselves in the leg with a rusty fork?

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Corporations are funny things. Many things no reasonable person would do on their own are done every day in thousands of business conglomerates around the world. With pride even. Let us consider as an arbitrary example a corporation where every day is started by employees stabbing themselves in the leg with a rusty fork. This is (I hope) not actually done for real, but there could be a company out there where this is the daily routine.

If you think that such a thing could possibly never happen, congratulations on having never worked in a big corporation. Stick with that if you can!

When faced with this kind of pointless and harmful routine, one might suggest not doing it any more or replacing it with some other, more useful procedure. This does not succeed, of course, but that is not the point. The reasons you get back are the interesting thing, because they will tell you what kind of manager and coworkers you are dealing with. Here are some possible options, can you think of more?

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OSS and Openwashing

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  • CNBC Reports Open Source Software Has Essentially 'Taken Over the World' [Ed: CNBC speaks to too many Microsoft people and omits the fact GitHub is proprietary software with racist censorship and surveillance; but then again, corporate media should be expected to do revisionism for someone's gain.
    Free software is everywhere, but most of us still have no software freedom because of paradigm changes like DRM, so-called openwashing ('Open Source') and 'clown computing'.]

    CNBC Explores released a 14-minute documentary this month called "The Rise Of Open-Source Software." It's already racked up 558,802 views on YouTube, arguing that open-source software "has essentially taken over the world. Companies in every industry, from Walmart to Exxon Mobile to Verizon, have open-sourced their projects. Microsoft has completely changed its point of view, and is now seen as a leader in the space. And in 2016 the U.S. government even promised to open-source at least 20% of all its new custom-developed code."

    The documentary does mention the 1990s, when Microsoft "even went so far as to call Open Source 'Unamerican' and bad for intellectual property rights." But two and a half minutes in, they also tell the famous story of that 1970s printer jam at MIT which led to the purchase of a proprietary printer that inspired Richard Stallman to quit his job to develop the GNU operating system and spearhead the free software movement. And at three and a half minutes in, they also describe how Linus Torvalds "unceremoniously released" Linux in 1991, and report that "By the turn of the century, NASA, Dell, and IBM were all using it." And at 4:18, they mention "other open source projects" gaining popularity, including MySQL, Perl, and Apache.


    Here's a list (in order of appearance) of the people interviewed:
    Nat Friedman, CEO of GitHub
    Devon Zuegel, Open-Source Product Manager, GitHub
    Chris Wright, CTO of Red Hat
    Jim Zemlin, Executive Director of the Linux Foundation
    Feross Aboukhadijeh, Open-Source Maintainer
    Chen Goldberg, Google's Director of Engineering

  • New Alliance to Bring Order to Smart Homes [Ed: "Alliance" of surveillance with openwashing]
  • The Ecosystem is Moving

    In his presentation, Marlinspike basically states that federated systems have the issue of being frozen in time while centralized systems are flexible and easy to change.

    As an example, Marlinspike names HTTP/1.1, which was released in 1999 and on which we are stuck on ever since. While it is true, that a huge part of the internet is currently running on HTTP 1.0 and 1.1, one has to consider that its successor HTTP/2.0 was only released in 2015. 4 / 5 years are not a long time to update the entirety of the internet, especially if you consider the fact that the big browser vendors announced to only make their browsers work with HTTP/2.0 sites when they are TLS encrypted.

    Marlinspike then goes on listing 4 expectations that advocates of federated systems have, namely privacy, censorship resistance, availability and control. This is pretty accurate and matches my personal expectations pretty well. He then argues, that Signal as a centralized application can fulfill those expectations as well, if not better than a decentralized system.

  • Linux Application Summit 2019 – retrospective

    I wanted to pen something before the year is gone about the recent Linux Application Summit 2019. This is the 3rd iteration of the conference and each iteration has moved the needle forward.

    The thing that excites me going forward is what we can do when we work together between our various free and open source communities. LAS represents forming a partnership and building a new community around applications. By itself the ‘desktop’ doesn’t mean much to the larger open source ecosystems not because it isn’t important because the frenetic pace of open source community expansion have moved so fast that these communities do not have organizational history of foundational technologies that our communities have built over the years that they use every day and maintain.

    To educate them would be too large of a task instead we need to capitalize on the hunger for technology, toolchains, and experience that build and possess. We can do that by presenting ourselves as the apps community which presents no prejudice to the outside community. We own apps, because we own the mindshare through maturity, experience, and communities that spring around it.

    From here, we can start representing apps not just through the main Linux App Summit, but through other venues. Create the Apps tracks at FOSDEM, Linux Foundation events, Plumbers etc.

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