Your source for GNU/Linux news, reviews and HOWTO guides. And some K-pop news too.
- Firefox 71 Released With Built-In MP3 Decoding, 12 Security Fixes and Some BreakageIt's been a while since the patents on the long-outdated lossy-compressed MP3 audio file format expired. This means that free software projects based in countries where software patents is a thing can include the codec and the latest version of Firefox finally does. There's also a new re-designed about:config page where some of the configuration options who once made Firefox a great browser remain available.
- Systemd Opened Security Hole In Linux, VPNs Could Be CompromisedAttackers on the local network could discover that someone on the same network is using a VPN and they could, potentially, find out what sites are visited and even inject packets into a VPN users datastreams. This is all thanks to a change in systemd late 2018 which has now been adopted by all the major GNU/Linux distributions.
- Amazon Is Following Chinas Lead Towards a ARM Based Cloud FutureThe American Cloud provider Amazon AWS announced the availability of instances powered by a their second-generation in-house ARM processors Graviton2 this week. Their new 64-bit ARM chips are made on TSMC's 7nm process and they promise faster performance at lower latency. Instances with 1-64 vCPUs and up to 512 GB RAM will become available.
- Nvidia Could Be Changing Their Hostile Attitude Towards Free Software DriversNvidia-employed kernel developer John Hubbard is scheduled to hold a talk with the rather interesting title "Open Source, Linux Kernel, and NVIDIA" at Nvidia's "GPU Technology Conference" scheduled to be held March 23rd to 26th 2020. It's description mentions "contributions to Linux kernel" and "supporting Nouveau". This could signal a shift from outright hostility towards free software to something the Linux community could benefit from.
Quote of the week
"Yikes. That shows that code was inherently more buggy than I thought, as it was causing us to drop writes to pages we didn't own (but thought we did)."
Latest software reviews
- KaidanKaidan is a very simple and easy to use multi-platform XMPP/Jabber client. It supports text chat and file sharing with contacts who are also using a XMPP client. It does not support voice or video calls, just text. It's a nice choice if you need to talk to people who are using the XMPP protocol for some reason.
- Monster Girl IslandMonster Girl Island is a 3D adventure game with some adult-only elements set on a secret island filled with unusual female inhabitants. There's elves, androids and other non-humans on the island and more and more of them show up out of no-where as the games "story" proceeds. It is created by indie-developer Redamz who funds the game through Patreon. The game is only available for Windows. It runs fine under Wine using either Wine's built-in DX translation or the VXDK Vulkan translation layer. It has good graphics but there characters are shallow and not that interesting and the actual gameplay is far from exciting.
util-linux is one of the essential core packages in any GNU/Linux distribution. It is distributed by the Linux Kernel Organization and it contains a whole array of basic commands like
loginand a lot of other basic utility-related commands. It is written entirely in beautiful C.
- Mesa 19.3.0 Will Be Released Next WeekThe GNU/Linux graphics driver stack Mesa released two new versions Wednesday: 19.2.7 and 19.3.0-rc6. The former is a bug-fix release for the stable Mesa branch and the latter is likely the last release-candidate for Mesa 19.3.0 which is filled with goodies such as new Vulkan extensions, Valve's Radeon ACO shader compiler, the faster Intel Iris graphics stack for Intel GPUs and more.
- Purism Announces US-Manufactured Librem 5 Model For $1999 USDThe Librem 5 smartphone from San Fransisco based Purism is almost entirely powered by free and open source software - except for the modem which relies on binary blob firmware. It has therefore been highly praised and recommended by organizations such as the Free Software Foundation. That the hardware specifications are those of a 3 years old $100 smartphone while it's price-tag is $699 is apparently only a minor concern to those who get promotional models for free. Purism just announced that they will make a special US-made version of this phone available at a hefty price of just $1999.
- Linux Kernel Could Support Automatic Closing Of CD/DVD Drive Trays On Mount (Again)The Linux kernel would automatically close open CD/DVD drive trays on mount two decades ago. Updates to various kernel subsystems broke that functionality ages ago. This breakage was "fixed" by adding some ugly hacks to the
mountcommand and other user-space utilities from the
util-linuxpackage. Various kernel changes added over the last few years broke those hacks. The util-linux maintainer is flat out refusing to add more ugly hacks to fix it. Michal Suchanek from German Linux vendor SUSE has submitted a series of patches to the kernel mailing list which re-adds proper support to the Linux kernel - where it belongs - many times the last few years. It could finally get through to git master in time for Linux 5.5.
- Libxfce4ui 4.15.0 Is Released, Drops GTK2 SupportThe first version of the Xfce user interface library in the 4.15 series which will eventually become a stable 4.16-release late next year has 10 bug-fixes, a lot of translation updates for international users and build-requirement of GTK3 3.22. GTK2 support is, as expected, dropped as of this release.
- Memory Chips Will See "Strong Demand" (=Rising Prices) In 2020DDR4 RAM sticks are currently very affordable compared to the grossly overpriced state they were in for the entirety of 2018. RAM prices started going down at the start of 2019 and before dropping off a cliff in March. The price-slide continued from there making this a great time to pick up some DDR4 memory. Industry "experts" are predicting that the price-trend is about to change.
- Linux Kernel To Get CPU Idle Cooling SolutionCPUs and system on a chip devices heat up under load. That is a non-issue if you are cooling a desktop computer with liquid nitrogen but it is a problem in space-constrained scenarios. Daniel Lezcano from Linaro has submitted a rather interesting "cooling device" CPU governor to the Linux Kernel Mailing List. It's functionality is as simple as it is beautiful: It will inject CPU idle cycles until the temperature goes down when CPU temperature is above a set threshold.
- Steam's November Numbers Show Linux Gaming To Be StagnantThe number of Steam users playing on a PC running a GNU/Linux distribution remains less than one percent with a 0.02% decrease in November 2019. Ubuntu (18.04 0.17% + 19.10 0.06%), Arch (0.09%) and Manjaro Linux (0.09%) are the most popular distributions among Steam's GNU/Linux users.
- Virgil Griffith Arrested For Talking About The CryptoCurrency Etherium in North KoreaOne of the Etherium foundation members has been arrested in the United States after talking about the LGPL-licensed block-chain based distributed computing platform Etherium and it's crypto-currency ETH in North Korea.
- Wine 4.21 Is Released With DHCP HTTP Proxy Configuration50 bugs are fixed in the latest development release of the Wine compatibility layer for running Windows software on GNU/Linux machines. Several address memory leaks and general fixes. There's also application-specific fixes for Lego Digital Designer, LegoLand and Lego Island 2 - and fixes for Gothic 2, Everquest Classic, Nextiva and Crysis 1 for those who don't play Lego.
- Kernel 5.4.1 And 5.3.14 Are Released Making Linux Users With Intel iGPUs Finally Able To Use 5.3-Series KernelsThe Linux kernel's i915 module for Intel iGPUs has been a mess for quite some time. Reverting all the way back to kernel 5.0.21 has been one solution for low-powered Intel Goldmount "Apollo Lake" SoCs like the Pentium N4200. Kernel 5.3.14 has a patch, also included in kernel 5.4.0, which brings 5.3.x series kernels a step closer to being usable on Intel iGPUs. It makes 5.3.14 usable but 5.4 series kernels have other issues with Intel iGPUs. There's also some fixes for USB and all the Intel CPU-bug mitigations in both 5.4.1 and 5.3.14.
- Europe's Fresh Out Of IPv4 AddressesThe Regional Internet Registry for Europe, the Middle East and parts of Central Asia (RIPE) announced that they "ran out of IPv4 addresses" on Monday 25th, 2019.
- Kali Linux 2019.4 Is Released With Windows Undercover Mode And Xfce As The Default DesktopThe latest version of Offensive Security's Debian-based GNU/Linux distribution for penetration testing and other security-related tasks uses Xfce as the default desktop environment instead of Gnome. It's also got PowerShell available (not included) and a new "Kali Undercover" mode in the form of a shortcut which switches to a Windows-like Xfce theme and the well-known Windows 10 wallpaper.
- Wine 4.0.3 Released With 54 Bug-fixesWine Is Not an Emulator but it does let you run a lot of Windows software on GNU/Linux systems using native API calls. It's not always perfect. Version 4.0.3 fixes 54 bugs one could encounter when running Windows software. Most of the fixes are game or application specific. There's bug fixes for games like Fallout 4, King of Dragon Pass, Hardwood Solitaire and Warframe as well as desktop software like Quickbooks and Adobe InDesign.
- Linux Kernel v5.4 Is ReleasedThe latest kernel has a new kernel lockdown mode, a virtio file system, a new device mapper clone target and support for AMD Navi 12 and 14 GPUs as well as AMD Arcturus and Renoir APUs. There is also initial support for Intel Tiger Lake GPUs. Linux 5.4 finally adds support for the exFAT file system - released by Microsoft in 2006.
- Gnote 3.34.1 Is Released With Updated Documentation
- Bitcoin Core Wallet 0.19.0.1 Is Released With A New Default Address Format
- CoreCtrl 1.0.7 Is Now Available
- Mesa 19.2.6 And 19.3.0rc4 Are Available
- Serious Buffer Overflow Vulnerability In The Bitcoin Core Client Disclosed
- China Is Number 1 In Number Of SuperComputers And All The Top 10 Systems Run Linux
- Googles Stadia Gaming Service Is Launching Today
- Linux Kernel Disables Coffee Lakes HPET On The Grounds That It Is "Unreliable"
- Linux Distributions Running On Intel CPUs Are About To Get A Lot Slower
- Thunar 1.8.11 "Emergency" Release Available, Fixes Startup Crashes on FreeBSD, Fedora and Gentoo
Check out the news archive for more news.
Recent software reviews
- Doki Doki Literature ClubDoki Doki Literature Club is a visual novel self-described as "not suitable for children or those who are easily disturbed". It has cute characters with distinct personalities and a fun story with many interesting and unexpected plot twists. It is, like most visual novels, a "game" where you mostly click next to move forward in the story. The game itself is free (add-ons cost money).
- SpectralSpectral is a Matrix chatroom client for GNU/Linux systems written in Qt. It supports sharing images and other files in chat sessions, multiple chat-rooms and multiple servers. Major distributions do not have it in their repositories but it can be compiled. It's alright for what it is. Spectral's biggest draw-back is that it's a client for the federated Matrix chatroom system close to nobody's using. That's just not where it's at.
Redox is a BSD-licensed Unix-like operating system written mostly in Rush (and some assembly) with security and safety in mind. It uses it's own MINIX-inspired microkernel.
- Brave Web BrowserBrave is a Chromium-based free software web browser for GNU/Linux, Windows (32 and 64-bit) and Mac OS. There are also mobile versions for Android and iOS. It's performance is within margin of error of other Chromium-based browsers like Google's Chrome. Other aspects are also the same, it is essentially the Google's Chrome web browser with different branding and some additional features like web advertisement and tracker blocking, a built-in crypto currency wallet and a opt-in rewards system where users can get paid cryptocurrency for viewing advertisements that are built right into the browser. It's overall alright. Installation may be a bit tricky since no GNU/Linux distribution includes it in their repositories.
- Bmonbmon is a simple terminal program which allows you to watch graphs showing network traffic and other network information. It can also show a detailed view with all kinds of network statistics. It is light with few dependencies. It is a simple, handy and easy to use network monitoring tool.
iostat is, as the name implies, a command-line utility which displays input/output statistics for devices, partitions, RAID arrays and logical volumes.
- Sarsar is a small command-line utility for collecting, reporting and saving system information information. It is a generalized versatile tool for system activity reporting which can be used to monitor CPUs, memory, networking throughput and a whole lot of other incriminating information about a system. Knowing sar's basic options is useful if you need to investigate what is going on with a highly loaded production machine.
- AntiWordAntiWord is a outdated command-line utility for converting document files created by Microsoft Word to either Ascii or PostScript. It has not been updated since 2005. The word processor Microsoft Word has been updated many times since then and it's file format has been changed time and time again over the years.
- ParoleParole is a really simple video player made with the Xfce desktop environment in mind. Xfce is not required and it has few dependencies which makes it suitable for other light desktop environments like LxQt. It has a playlist which supports drag and drop from file managers and a simple toolbar at the bottom with play/pause buttons. It is fine for watching video files as long as their are in a very standardized format and error-free.
- Htophtop is a small useful ncurses-based cli system monitoring program which lists the systems processes. It has colors (unlike regular
top) and the ability to scroll both vertically and horizontally to see programs full comamnd lines.
htopcan sort processes by CPU, memory, user, priority and quite a few other metrics. There is also a tree view which groups processes by parent. It can re-nice and kill processes with the Fn keys.
htopcan be very useful simple monitoring of both servers and workstations.
- The secret battle of encryption algorithms - In this video from LibrePlanet 2019 Amanda Sopkin explains some cryptography basics and dilemmas.
- Overtaking Proprietary Software Without Writing Code - "a few rough insights on sharpening free software". This lecture was given by Olivier Cleynen at the CCC in December 2007. The points in it were very good and remain relevant more than a decade later.
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