Open Source

Vim Beats Emacs in 'Linux Journal' Reader Survey ( 48

The newly-relaunched Linux Journal is conducting its annual "Reader's Choice Awards," and this month announced the winners for Best Text Editor, Best Laptop, and Best Domain Registrar. Vim was chosen as the best editor by 35% of respondents, handily beating GNU Emacs (19%) Sublime Text (10%) and Atom (8%). Readers' Choice winner Vim is an extremely powerful editor with a user interface based on Bill Joy's 40-plus-year-old vi, but with many improved-upon features including extensive customization with key mappings and plugins. Linux Journal reader David Harrison points out another great thing about Vim "is that it's basically everywhere. It's available on every major platform."
For best laptop their readers picked Lenovo (32%), followed by Dell (25%) and System76 (11%). The ThinkPad began life at IBM, but in 2005, it was purchased by Lenovo along with the rest of IBM's PC business. Lenovo evolved the line, and today the company is well known as a geek favorite. Lenovo's ThinkPads are quiet, fast and arguably have one of the best keyboards (fighting words!). Linux Journal readers say Lenovo's Linux support is excellent, leaving many to ponder why the company doesn't ship laptops with Linux installed.
In February readers also voted on the best web browser, choosing Firefox (57%) over Chrome (17%) and Chromium (7%). And they also voted on the best Linux distribution, ultimately selecting Debian (33%), open SUSE (12%), and Fedora (11%).

Linus Torvalds Slams CTS Labs Over AMD Vulnerability Report ( 115

Earlier this week, CTS Labs, a Tel Aviv-based cybersecurity startup claimed it has discovered critical security flaws in AMD chips that could allow attackers to access sensitive data from highly guarded processors across millions of devices. Linus Torvalds, Linux's creator doesn't buy it. ZDNet reports: Torvalds, in a Google+ discussion, wrote: "When was the last time you saw a security advisory that was basically 'if you replace the BIOS or the CPU microcode with an evil version, you might have a security problem?' Yeah." Or, as a commenter put it on the same thread, "I just found a flaw in all of the hardware space. No device is secure: if you have physical access to a device, you can just pick it up and walk away. Am I a security expert yet?" CTS Labs claimed in an interview they gave AMD less than a day because they didn't think AMD could fix the problem for "many, many months, or even a year" anyway. Why would they possibly do this? For Torvalds: "It looks more like stock manipulation than a security advisory to me."

These are real bugs though. Dan Guido, CEO of Trail of Bits, a security company with a proven track-record, tweeted: "Regardless of the hype around the release, the bugs are real, accurately described in their technical report (which is not public afaik), and their exploit code works." But, Guido also admitted, "Yes, all the flaws require admin [privileges] but all are flaws, not expected functionality." It's that last part that ticks Torvalds off. The Linux creator agrees these are bugs, but all the hype annoys the heck out of him. Are there bugs? Yes. Do they matter in the real world? No. They require a system administrator to be almost criminally negligent to work. To Torvalds, inflammatory security reports are annoying distractions from getting real work done.


GNOME 3.28 'Chongqing' Linux Is Here ( 131

BrianFagioli writes: GNOME 3.28 is the latest version of GNOME 3, and is the result of 6 months' hard work by the GNOME community. It contains several major new features, as well as many smaller improvements and bug fixes. In total, the release incorporates 24105 changes, made by approximately 778 contributors.

The Project explains, "GNOME 3.28 comes with more beautiful things! First, and most significantly, GNOME's default interface font (called Cantarell) has undergone a significant update. Character forms and spacing have been evolved, so that text is more readable and attractive. Several new weights have also been added -- light and extra bold -- which are being used to produce interfaces that are both modern and beautiful. Other beautiful things include GNOME's collection of background wallpapers, which has been updated to include a lovely set of photographs, and the selection of profile pictures, which has been completely updated with attractive new images to pick from."

Unfortunately, you can't just click on a button and upgrade to GNOME 3.28 today. Actually, for the most part, you will need to wait for it to become available for your operating system. Sadly, this can take a while. Fedora users, for instance, will have to wait for a major OS upgrade for it to become available.


Ubuntu Linux 18.04 'Bionic Beaver' Beta 1 Now Available For Download ( 101

From a report: This week, Ubuntu Linux 18.04 'Bionic Beaver' Beta 1 became available for download. Ubuntu 18.04 is significant, as it will be an LTS (Long Term Support) version. As was the case when Unity was the primary DE, GNOME is not available in this beta stage. Instead, there are other flavors from which to choose, such as Kubuntu with KDE Plasma and Xubuntu, which uses Xfce.

"Pre-releases of the Bionic Beaver are not encouraged for anyone needing a stable system or anyone who is not comfortable running into occasional, even frequent breakage. They are, however, recommended for Ubuntu flavor developers and those who want to help in testing, reporting, and fixing bugs as we work towards getting this release ready. Beta 1 includes some software updates that are ready for broader testing. However, it is quite an early set of images, so you should expect some bugs," says Dustin Krysak, Ubuntu Budgie team member.

Open Source

Linux Developer McHardy Drops GPLv2 'Shake Down' Case ( 53

Former Linux developer Patrick McHardy dropped his Gnu General Public License version 2 (GPLv2) violation case against Geniatech in a German court this week. ZDNet explains why some consider this a big "win": People who find violations typically turn to organizations such as the Free Software Foundation, Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC), and the Software Freedom Law Center to approach violators. These organizations then try to convince violating companies to mend their ways and honor their GPLv2 legal requirements. Only as a last resort do they take companies to court to force them into compliance with the GPLv2. Patrick McHardy, however, after talking with SFC, dropped out from this diplomatic approach and has gone on his own way. Specifically, McHardy has been accused of seeking his own financial gain by approaching numerous companies in German courts. Geniatech claimed McHardy has sued companies for Linux GPLv2 violations in over 38 cases. In one, he'd requested a contractual penalty of €1.8 million. The company also claimed McHardy had already received over €2 million from his actions...

In July 2016, the Netfilter developers suspended him from the core team. They received numerous allegations that he had been shaking down companies. McHardy refused to discuss these issues with them, and he refused to sign off on the Principles of Community-Oriented GPL Enforcement. In October 2017, Greg Kroah-Hartman, Linux kernel maintainer for the stable branch, summed up the Linux kernel developers' position. Kroah-Hartman wrote: "McHardy has sought to enforce his copyright claims in secret and for large sums of money by threatening or engaging in litigation...."

Had McHardy continued on his way, companies would have been more reluctant to use Linux code in their products for fear that a single, unprincipled developer could sue them and demand payment for his copyrighted contributions... McHardy now has to bear all legal costs for both sides of the case. In other words, when McHardy was faced with serious and costly opposition for the first time, he waved a white flag rather than face near certain defeat in the courts.


Debian 9.4 Released ( 78

An anonymous reader quotes The Debian project is pleased to announce the fourth update of its stable distribution Debian 9 (codename "stretch"). This point release mainly adds corrections for security issues, along with a few adjustments for serious problems... Please note that the point release does not constitute a new version of Debian 9 but only updates some of the packages included. There is no need to throw away old "stretch" media. After installation, packages can be upgraded to the current versions using an up-to-date Debian mirror.
Phoronix adds that Debian 9.4 "has a new upstream Linux kernel release, various dependency fixes for some packages, an infinite loop fix in Glade, several CVE security fixes, a larger stack size for NTP, a new upstream release of their NVIDIA proprietary driver package, Python 3 dependency fixes, and other security fixes."

Ask Slashdot: Should We Worry Microsoft Will 'Embrace, Extend, and Extinguish' Linux? ( 431

BrianFagioli writes: While there is no proof that anything nefarious is afoot, it does feel like maybe the Windows-maker is hijacking the Linux movement a bit by serving distros in its store. I hope there is no "embrace, extend, and extinguish" shenanigans going on.

Just yesterday, we reported that Kali Linux was in the Microsoft Store for Windows 10. That was big news, but it was not particularly significant in the grand scheme, as Kali is not very well known. Today, there is some undeniably huge news -- Debian is joining SUSE, Ubuntu, and Kali in the Microsoft Store. Should the Linux community be worried?

My concern lately is that Microsoft could eventually try to make the concept of running a Linux distro natively a thing of the past. Whether or not that is the company's intention is unknown. The Windows maker gives no reason to suspect evil plans, other than past negative comments about Linux and open source. For instance, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer once called Linux "cancer" -- seriously.


Chrome 65 Arrives With Material Design Extensions Page, New Developer Features ( 34

An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: Google today launched Chrome 65 for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android. Additions in this release include Material Design changes and new developer features. You can update to the latest version now using the browser's built-in silent updater or download it directly from Chrome 65 comes with a few visual changes. The most obvious is related to Google's Material Design mantra. The extensions page has been completely revamped to follow it. Next up, Chrome 65 replaces the Email Page Location link in Chrome for Mac's File menu with a Share submenu. As you might expect, Mac users can use this submenu to share the URL of a current tab via installed macOS Share Extensions. Speaking of Macs, Chrome 65 is also the last release for OS X 10.9 users. Chrome 66 will require OS X 10.10 or later. Moving on to developer features, Chrome 65 includes the CSS Paint API, which allows developers to programmatically generate an image, and the Server Timing API, which allows web servers to provide performance timing information via HTTP headers.

Chrome On Windows Ditches Microsoft's Compiler, Now Uses Clang ( 94

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Google's Chrome browser is now built using the Clang compiler on Windows. Previously built using the Microsoft C++ compiler, Google is now using the same compiler for Windows, macOS, Linux, and Android, and the switch makes Chrome arguably the first major software project to use Clang on Windows. Chrome on macOS and Linux has long been built using the Clang compiler and the LLVM toolchain. The open-source compiler is the compiler of choice on macOS, making it the natural option there, and it's also a first-class choice for Linux; though the venerable GCC is still the primary compiler choice on Linux, by using Clang instead, Google ensured that it has only one set of compiler quirks and oddities to work with rather than two. But Chrome on Windows has instead used Microsoft's Visual C++ compiler. The Visual C++ compiler is the best-supported, most widely used compiler on Windows and, critically, is the compiler with the best support for Windows' wide range of debugging and diagnostic tools. The Visual Studio debugger is widely loved by the C++ community, and other tools, such as the WinDbg debugger (often used for analyzing crash dumps), are core parts of the Windows developer experience.

Chrome OS Could Be Getting Containers for Running Linux VMs ( 57

Chromebook users may soon have a simpler way to run their favorite Linux distribution and applications on Google's Chrome OS hardware. From a report: As spotted by Chrome Unboxed, there's a newly merged commit in Chromium Gerrit describing a "new device policy to allow Linux VMs on Chrome OS." A related entry suggests support could come with Chrome OS version 66, which is due out in stable release around April 24, meaning Google might announce it at its annual IO developer conference, which starts on May 8. Developers can already use a tool called Crouton to install and run Linux on Chrome OS, but there is a security trade-off because Chrome OS needs to be switched to developer mode to use it. There's also a Crouton extension called Xiwi to enable using an OS in a browser window on Chrome OS. However, it too requires developer mode to be enabled. A recent commit suggests Chrome developers are working on a project called Crostini that may solve the developer mode problem by allowing Linux VMs to run inside a container.

Botched npm Update Crashes Linux Systems, Forces Users to Reinstall ( 256

Catalin Cimpanu, reporting for BleepingComputer: A bug in npm (Node Package Manager), the most widely used JavaScript package manager, will change ownership of crucial Linux system folders, such as /etc, /usr, /boot. Changing ownership of these files either crashes the system, various local apps, or prevents the system from booting, according to reports from users who installed npm v5.7.0. -- the buggy npm update. Users who installed this update -- mostly developers and software engineers -- will likely have to reinstall their system from scratch or restore from a previous system image.

Enthusiasts have Turned the Nintendo Switch into a Functional Linux Tablet ( 96

An anonymous reader shares a report: A couple of weeks ago, the fail0verflow hacking collective showed a still image on Twitter of a Nintendo Switch booting Linux. They're one of a small handful of hacker teams who are teasing exploits of the Nvidia Tegra hardware inside the Switch. But now fail0verflow has video of a full-on Linux distro running on the hacked Switch, complete with touchscreen support, a fully operational web browser, and even a GPU-powered demo application. On Twitter, fail0verflow claims the bug they're exploiting to sidestep the Switch's security can't be patched on currently released hardware, and doesn't require a modchip. But as for now there aren't any details on how to do this yourself at home.

Ask Slashdot: Could Linux Ever Become Fully Compatible With Windows and Mac Software? 359

dryriver writes: Linux has been around for a long time now. A lot of work has gone into it; it has evolved nicely and it dominates in the server space. Computer literate people with some tech skills also like to use it as their desktop OS. It's free and open source. It's not vendor-locked, full of crapware or tied to any walled garden. It's fast and efficient. But most "everyday computer users" or "casual computer buyers" still feel they have to choose either a Windows PC or an Apple device as the platform they will do their computing on. This binary choice exists largely because of very specific commercial list of programs and games available for these OSs that is not available for Linux.

Here is the question: Could Linux ever be made to become fully compatible with all Windows and Mac software? What I mean is a Linux distro that lets you successfully install/run/play just about anything significant that says "for Windows 10" or "for OSX" under Linux, without any sort of configuring or crazy emulation orgies being needed? Macs and PCs run on the exact same Intel/AMD/Nvidia hardware as Linux. Same mobos, same CPUs and GPUs, same RAM and storage devices. Could Linux ever be made to behave sufficiently like those two OSs so that a computer buyer could "go Linux" without any negative consequences like not being able to run essential Windows/Mac software at all? Or is Linux being able to behave like Windows and OSX simply not technically doable because Windows and OSX are just too damn complex to mimic successfully?

Ubuntu Wants To Collect Data About Your System -- Starting With 18.04 LTS ( 207

In an announcement on Ubuntu mailing list, Will Cooke, on behalf of the Ubuntu Desktop team, announced Canonical's plans to collect some data related to the users' system configuration and the packages installed on their machines. From a report: Before you read anything further, it's important to note that users will have the option to opt-out of this data collection. The company plans to add a checkbox to the installer, which would be checked by default. The option could be like: "Send diagnostics information to help improve Ubuntu." As per your convenience, you can opt-out during the installation. An option to do the same will also be made available in the Privacy panel of GNOME Settings. With this data collection, the team wishes to improve the daily experiences of the Ubuntu users. It's worth noting that the collected data will be sent over encrypted connections and no IP addresses will be tracked. To be precise, the collected data will include: flavour and version of Ubuntu, network connectivity or not, CPU family, RAM, disk(s) size, screen(s) resolution, GPU vendor and model, OEM manufacturer, location (based on the location selection made during install), no IP information, time taken for Installation, auto-login enabled or not, disk layout selected, third party software selected or not, download updates during install or not, livePatch enabled or not.

Best Linux Distribution ( 215

Linux Journal: We started things off with Best Linux Distribution, and nearly 10,000 readers voted. The winner was Debian, with many commenting "As for servers, Debian is still the best" or similar. One to watch that is rising in the polls is Manjaro (7 percent), which is independently based on the Arch Linux. Manjaro is a favorite for Linux newcomers and is known for its user-friendliness and accessibility. And, now for the top three LJ winners: Debian (33 percent), openSUSE (12 percent), and Fedora (11 percent).

The Most Popular Linux Desktop Programs ( 228

The most recent Linux Questions poll results are in. Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, writing for ZDNet: LinuxQuestions, one of the largest internet Linux groups with 550,000 members, has just posted the results from its latest survey of desktop Linux users. In the always hotly-contested Linux desktop environment survey, the winner was the KDE Plasma Desktop. It was followed by the popular lightweight Xfce, Cinnamon, and GNOME. If you want to buy a computer with pre-installed Linux, the Linux Questions crew's favorite vendor by far was System76. Numerous other computer companies offer Linux on their PCs. These include both big names like Dell and dedicated small Linux shops such as ZaReason, Penguin Computing, and Emperor Linux. Many first choices weren't too surprising. For example, Linux users have long stayed loyal to the Firefox web browser, and they're still big fans. Firefox beat out Google Chrome by a five-to-one margin. And, as always, the VLC media player is far more popular than any other Linux media player. For email clients, Mozilla Thunderbird remains on top. That's a bit surprising given how Thunderbird's development has been stuck in neutral for some time now. When it comes to text editors, I was pleased to see vim -- my personal favorite -- win out over its perpetual rival, Emacs. In fact, nano and Kate both came ahead of Emacs.

'Razer Doesn't Care About Linux' ( 377

An anonymous reader shares a blog post: Razer is a vendor that makes high-end gaming hardware, including laptops, keyboards and mice. I opened a ticket with Razor a few days ago asking them if they wanted to support the LVFS project by uploading firmware and sharing the firmware update protocol used. I offered to upstream any example code they could share under a free license, or to write the code from scratch given enough specifications to do so. This is something I've done for other vendors, and doesn't take long as most vendor firmware updaters all do the same kind of thing; there are only so many ways to send a few kb of data to USB devices. The fwupd project provides high-level code for accessing USB devices, so yet-another-update-protocol is no big deal. I explained all about the LVFS, and the benefits it provided to a userbase that is normally happy to vote using their wallet to get hardware that's supported on the OS of their choice. I just received this note on the ticket, which was escalated appropriately: "I have discussed your offer with the dedicated team and we are thankful for your enthusiasm and for your good idea. I am afraid I have also to let you know that at this moment in time our support for software is only focused on Windows and Mac." The post, written by Richard -- who has long been a maintainer of GNOME Software, PackageKit, GNOME Packagekit, points out that Razer executive Min-Liang Tan last year invited Linux enthusiasts to suggest ideas to help the company make the best notebook that supports Linux.

Hackers Manage To Run Linux On a Nintendo Switch ( 119

Romain Dillet reports via TechCrunch: Hacker group fail0verflow shared a photo of a Nintendo Switch running Debian, a distribution of Linux. The group claims that Nintendo can't fix the vulnerability with future firmware patches. According to fail0verflow, there's a flaw in the boot ROM in Nvidia's Tegra X1 system-on-a-chip. When your console starts, it reads and executes a piece of code stored in a read-only memory (hence the name ROM). This code contains instructions about the booting process. It means that the boot ROM is stored on the chip when Nvidia manufactures it and it can't be altered in any way after that. Even if Nintendo issues a software update, this software update won't affect the boot ROM. And as the console loads the boot ROM immediately after pressing the power button, there's no way to bypass it. The only way to fix it would be to manufacture new Nvidia Tegra X1 chips. So it's possible that Nintendo asks Nvidia to fix the issue so that new consoles don't have this vulnerability.

Ubuntu 18.04 LTS Could Come with Snap Apps Preinstalled ( 139

Ubuntu 18.04 LTS 'Bionic Beaver' could ship with Snap apps installed by default. From a report: A proposal from Ubuntu developer Steve Langasek suggests that Snapcraft now stand as a 'first-class' alternative to traditional packages, making them ripe for inclusion. "As more software becomes available as snaps, we want to take advantage of this body of packages as part of the default Ubuntu experience," he writes. As part of his proposal -- which is just a suggestion for the moment, so don't get excited/angry -- Langasek wants to iron out policy and rules around seeded snap app. This is to ensure they are updated and maintained accordingly, inline with Ubuntu practice. While Snaps by default would be something of a first for the regular version Ubuntu, it wouldn't be a first in general. That honour goes to Ubuntu MATE 17.10, the first distro to ship with a preinstalled Snap app.

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