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Your source for GNU/Linux news, reviews and HOWTO guides. And some K-pop news too.

Breaking News

  • China Is Number 1 In Number Of SuperComputers And All The Top 10 Systems Run Linux
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    Technology leader China has the worlds most supercomputers with a total of 228 systems on the Top 500 SuperComputer list as of November 18th, 2019. All of the 10 ten most powerful machines are running a Linux variant.
  • Googles Stadia Gaming Service Is Launching Today
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    Google's new Stadia gaming service will change everything gaming-wise. This is the nightmarish big-brother on steroids future of computer gaming and kids will absolutely love it, demand it and expect it's always ready-to-go resume-where-you-were features to be a standard part of the gaming experience. Parents beware, it is absolutely certain that your kids will want to sign up and use Google Stadia immediately or eventually. Explaining why they should not be using it could be problematic.
  • Linux Kernel Disables Coffee Lakes HPET On The Grounds That It Is "Unreliable"
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    Linus Torvalds has pulled a "fix" which disables the High Precision Event Timer on Intel Coffee Lake systems into the git mainline kernel on the grounds that it's "unreliable". You may want to use the nohpet kernel parameter on Coffee Lake and Ice Lake (same problem, not fixed) machines. Those platforms HPET's problems with keeping track of time in low-power states have cast light on some serious not-fixed problems with kernel's clocksource watchdog.
  • Linux Distributions Running On Intel CPUs Are About To Get A Lot Slower
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    GNU/Linux distributions have very quietly begun rolling out a microcode update for Intel CPUs which contain "Mitigations for Jump Conditional Code Erratum". Errata is a fancy way of saying defective due to a design flaw. Intel consumer CPUs from 6th generation Skylake up to the latest 10th generation "Come Lake" CPUs as well as Xeon CPUs released in that time-frame have a design flaw which can cause "unpredictable" behavior under certain conditions. The new microcode which works around this design flaw has a 2-20% performance penalty. This comes on top of new performance-hampering security-mitigations for other Intel CPU design flaws which were added to the stable kernel branches this week.

Quote of the week

"I can't help but point out that if we do this, then we're forcing everyone to pay a price in terms of runtime performance and codesize -- even if they're on a processor where this doesn't matter."

Jeff Law on the binutils mailing list addressing Intel proposals to make a performance-hampering firmware update which works around a design flaw in their CPUs look slightly less bad.

Latest software reviews

  • AntiWord
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    AntiWord 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.
  • Parole
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    Parole 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.
  • Htop
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    htop 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. htop can 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. htop can be very useful simple monitoring of both servers and workstations.

Hot News

  • Thunar 1.8.11 "Emergency" Release Available, Fixes Startup Crashes on FreeBSD, Fedora and Gentoo
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    Last weeks Thunar 1.8.10 release introduced a Pango version check which makes Thunar crash on startup if the machine is using an older version of the Pango library. This 1.8.11 "emergency release" addresses that particular issue.
  • Xfce Video Player Parole v1.0.5 Is Released
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    The latest version of the rather simple Xfce video player Parole has working volume hotkeys when watching a video fullscreen and fixed thumbnail cleaning and creation. There's also translation updates. It is still using the GStreamer framework for video playback.
  • Mesa 19.2.4 Emergency Release Available
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    If you or the distribution you are using upgraded your Mesa graphics library to version 19.2.3 then this emergency release is for you. It fixes a "critical" bug found in Mesa 19.2.3 which affects all the Mesa drivers. Mesa 19.2.2 does not have this problem so you only need to care if you upgraded during the last two weeks.
  • Two New Motherboards FSF Certificed As Freedom-Respecting: Talos II Mainboard and Talos II Lite
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    Free software enthusiasts may be frustrated with the enormous amount of proprietary non-free closed source software one is required to run in black boxes in order to use a free operating system with free software. The Free Software Foundation is making an effort to certify truly freedom-respecting hardware. They have now given the the PowerPC motherboards Talos II Mainboard and Talos II Lite from Raptor Computing Systems, LLC a "Respects Your Freedom" Certification.
  • Hospital Management System GNU Health Version 3.6 Is Released
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    GNU Health is a 11 year old free software Medical Record, Health Information and Hospital Management system. It can be deployed as a single instance for a local doctors office or a distributed instance for a network of hospitals in a country.
  • Disney+ Will Not Work On GNU/Linux Machines
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    In a blast from the past when video sites required Flash and DRM to function we're back to a situation where some streaming video services can not be used on GNU/Linux machines. There is a chromium plugin called "widevine" for Netflix. A Slackware developer who has had access to Disney+ during their pre-release testing period reports that the "widevine" plugin does not work with Disney+. You simply will not be able to view their ruined Star Wars story-line or their ripped off and barely-modified yet copyrighted forever characters like Mickey Mouse on a GNU/Linux machine.
  • SimpleMailQt V2.0.0-beta 1 Is Released With Asynchronous Support
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    The new version of this e-mail library for Qt developers supports asynchronous e-mail fetching. This is important because the SMTP e-mail standard requires clients to actually wait for replies and this could take time. Having a thread sit there waiting for a response while the application is frozen is no fun. The new version solves that and adds support for the SMTP RESET command as well.
  • KStars v3.3.7 Released With Integrated Astrometric Plate Solver
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    The latest version of the free planetarium program KStars adds a lot of new features for professional astronomers. A program called ASTAP, a free stacking and astrometric solver, has been integrated into KStars. There's also enhancements for using the PHD2 telescope autoguiding software.
  • Thunar 1.6.18 marks the end of Xfce 4.12
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    Xfce 4.12, released 28 February 2015, was replaced by the GTK+3-based 4.14 version earlier this year. A few newly released distributions like Debian Buster are still shipping 4.12. The majority have moved on to 4.14 and so have the developers who are already working on the 4.15 development-series which will be released as Xfce 4.16 in October/November 2020. Thunar 1.6.18 will be the last update to Thunar's 1.6.x branch for Xfce 4.12. This indicates that IT'S OVER for Xfce 4.12. There will be no more updates and those who resist upgrading will be left on their own.
  • It's Over, The Linux Journal is Gone
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    The LinuxJournal was around from 2004 until they were forced to close their doors for good back in August 2019. Their website was kept alive, without updates, and the very large archive of articles published on the web over the many years of it's existence remained available - until late Friday when it suddenly went dark. That's a sad end for the 25 year old publication which pioneered GNU/Linux reporting.
  • Thunar 1.8.10 Released With Plenty Of Bug-Fixes
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    The latest release of the default file manager for the Xfce desktop environment has a very long list of bug-fixes in a variety of areas. Some fix trivial visual errors and some fix crashes when doing something like a refresh on a open remote folder which has been deleted. There are no new ground-breaking features, this is a stable version maintenance release which tackles bugs.
  • Kernel 5.3.9 And Other Stable Series Linux Kernels Are Released With Important Realtek Wifi Vulnerability Fix
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    Wifi Chips from Taiwanese Realtek are found in near-zero consumer laptops and a lot of the dirt-cheapest routers and USB networking dongles. They use a Linux kernel driver called rtlwifi which, up to now, had a slight buffer overflow problem which could potentially be (ab)used to run arbitrary code on any Linux-based computer with realtek wireless networking enabled. No proof of concept or other exploits exist. You should probably upgrade your kernel if you are using a Realtek-based wifi device running a Linux kernel regardless.
  • Steams Hardware Survey for October Indicates Linux Gaming Growth Is Not Happening
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    The GNU/Linux marketshare among gamers using the Steam has flat-lined at 0.83% with a measly 0.03% growth in September and 0.00% growth in October 2019. Overall GNU/Linux gaming marketshare was likely down for the month as popular newly released games like Red Dead Redemption 2 are not available in the Steam store and they are also not available for GNU/Linux operating systems.
  • Microsoft Edge To Shake Up The Browser Competition On The GNU/Linux Desktop
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    Microsoft's announced that they gave up on their own web browser rendering engine a while ago. Future versions of their Edge browser will be based on Google's Chromium web browser and use it's "Blink" rendering engine. Chromium is multi-platform which makes it trivial to port browsers based on it to a variety of platforms. It appears that even Microsoft is able to do this. They have now confirmed that they will be releasing a GNU/Linux version of their upcoming Chromium-based Edge browser.

Older news:

Check out the news archive for more news.

Recent software reviews

  • Whiskermenu
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    Whiskermenu is an optional menu for the Xfce desktop environment. It can be added to panels as a button you can press to get a menu which is different and in some ways a bit more advanced than the regular Xfce menu. Some distributions like Manjaro Linux use Whiskermenu as the default menu in the Xfce variant.
  • Marble
    "Marble Virtual Globe", or just Marble, is a free geographical map and atlas program with some navigation features. It can show maps as a flat map or number of other view-modes like gnomonic. It has some navigational features which can be used for route planning. There is a offline mode but it's not useful. It is built on the KDE libraries but it does not require the KDE Plasma desktop environment. Marble is the only free software map program for GNU/Linux desktop machines which makes it the best free software map viewer available for that platform.
  • Redshift
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    Redshift is a color temperature adjusting tray application which gradually shifts the connected displays colors so there is less blue light depending on the time of day at the detected or configured location. It is similar to the dumb "blue light" filters which are built into monitors.
  • Thunar
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    Thunar is a powerful (but way inferior to KDE Dolphin) yet easy to use a file manager made with the Xfce desktop environment in mind. It supports drag and drop, three different main folder views (icons, compact list and detailed list), remote folder access (nfs, samba, ftp, cameras and more) using the gvfs back-end, plugins using a API and many are available (e.g. archive-plugin, media-tags-plugin, etc.) and user-defined context menu entries. It can be customized in many ways. Thunar works great for launching files in external programs and it's fine for moving and copying files around.
  • Ublock Origin
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    Ublock Origin is the by far best web garbage filter. It is available as a browser extension for Chrome/Chromium, Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox and Safari. It is almost essential to get a good browsing experience on the modern world wide web. It can be configured to use a variety of filters from diverse sources making it a great all in one filtering solution.
  • Dooble
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    Dooble is a free software web browser made using the Qt toolkit's webview module. It's github page describes it as "A colorful Web browser". Releases are made for Windows, MacOS and Debian. It can be compiled for other GNU/Linux variants beyond Debian as well as FreeBSD but ready-to-use releases are not made. Compiling and installing it on GNU/Linux systems beyond Debian is not that difficult if you are a wizard but it is not strait-forward if you are clueless. The Debian installation README is useful on such a GNU/Linux variant. Once installed it's a working browser.
  • PokerTH
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    PokerTH is for playing Texas-Hold'em Poker on internet server pokerTH.net and chatting. Heavily censored politically-correct user names. comes with some lame avatars. Neat high-score web-tables here (is the #1 guy a cheater or a bot?). Many bingo losers at the table. Folds even on big blind. highly customizable. with auto-fold and auto-call and hand calculator. mid october 2019, AUR managed to break the PokerTH package. It all went downhill from there…
  • Endless OS
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    Endless OS from Endless Computers is a GNU+Linux operating system loosely based on Debian with a tablet-like skin on top of a customized GNOME 3 desktop environment. It is designed to be very easy to use and people with little to no computer skills who are somewhat familiar with smartphones and tablets may feel right at home. It has automatic updates with no user interaction and license terms which are so bad they make the licenses of competing operating systems like Windows and MacOS sound free in comparison.
  • Tzclock
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    tzclock, short for "Timezone Clock", is a very nice-looking configurable analog clock program for GNU/Linux desktops. It is by default dull and uninteresting and it default face doesn't even have a second hand. Don't let that fool you, it is very configurable and it is easy to make it be a very nice analog clock.
  • Strawberry
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    Strawberry is a database-oriented music player made for enjoying large music collections. It supports all the common audio file formats. It has many more advanced features like metadata tag editing, album art and song lyric fetching, audio analyzer and equalizer and "scrobbler" support for a variety of services. Strawberry started as a fork of the long-dead Clementine player which was based on Qt4. Strawberry uses the more modern Qt5 framework for it's graphical interface. It is a decent player as of version 0.6.3.

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