Cumulus Networks Partners with Lenovo, Unvanquished Game Announces First Alpha in Almost Three Years, KDE Frameworks 5.53.0 Released, Git v2.20.0 Is Now Available and Major Milestone WordPress Update

News briefs for December 10, 2018.

Cumulus Networks is partnering with Lenovo to deliver open data-center networking switches. According to the press release, through this partnership, "Lenovo will offer ThinkSystem RackSwitch models with support for Cumulus Linux. Lenovo customers can now use Cumulus' popular network operating system (OS), Cumulus Linux, and Cumulus' operational management tool, NetQ, while taking advantage of unprecedented third-party options including network automation and monitoring to drive greater operational efficiency."

Developers of the open-source game Unvanquished announce a new alpha release, Unvanquished Alpha 51 today, marking their first release in almost three years. According to Phoronix, the beta should drop soon as well. See the game's website for details.

KDE yesterday announced the release of KDE Frameworks 5.53.0. KDE Frameworks is made up of 70 add-on libraries to Qt, and this release is part of a series of planned monthly releases. See the announcement for the list of what's new in this version.

The latest feature release of Git, v2.20.0, is now available. According to the release announcement this version is composed of "962 non-merge commits since v2.19.0 (this is by far the largest release in v2.x.x series), contributed by 83 people, 26 of which are new faces". You can get the tarballs here.

WordPress recently announced a new major milestone update, WordPress 5.0, which is code-named "Bebo" in honor of Cuban jazz musician Bebo Valdés. The biggest user-facing change is the new Project Gutenberg editor, "the primary interface to how WordPress site administrators create content and define how it is displayed". See the WordPress blog for more information on the new block-based editor.

How Can We Bring FOSS to the Virtual World?

Liam Broza

Is there room for FOSS in the AI, VR, AR, MR, ML and XR revolutions—or vice versa?

Will the free and open-source revolution end when our most personal computing happens inside the walled gardens of proprietary AI VR, AR, MR, ML and XR companies? I ask, because that's the plan.

I could see that plan when I met the Magic Leap One at IIW in October (only a few days ago as I write this). The ML1 (my abbreviation) gave me an MR (mixed reality) experience when I wore all of this:

  • Lightwear (a headset).
  • Control (a handset).
  • Lightpack (electronics in a smooth disc about the size of a saucer).

So far, all Magic Leap offers is a Creator Edition. That was the one I met. Its price is $2,295, revealed only at the end of a registration gauntlet that requires name, email address, birth date and agreement with two click-wrap contracts totaling more than 7,000 words apiece. Here's what the page with the price says you get:

Magic Leap One Creator Edition is a lightweight, wearable computer that seamlessly blends the digital and physical worlds, allowing digital content to coexist with real world objects and the people around you. It sees what you see and uses its understanding of surroundings and context to create unbelievably believable experiences.

Also recommended on the same page are a shoulder strap ($30), a USB (or USB-like) dongle ($60) and a "fit kit" ($40), bringing the full price to $2,425.

Buying all this is the cost of entry for chefs working in the kitchen, serving apps and experiences to customers paying to play inside Magic Leap's walled garden: a market Magic Leaps hopes will be massive, given an investment sum that now totals close to $2 billion.

The experience it created for me, thanks to the work of one early developer, was with a school of digital fish swimming virtually in my physical world. Think of a hologram without a screen. I could walk through them, reach out and make them scatter, and otherwise interact with them. It was a nice demo, but far from anything I might crave.

But I wondered, given Magic Leap's secretive and far-advanced tech, if it could eventually make me crave things. I ask because immersive doesn't cover what this tech does. A better adjective might be invasive.

Feral Interactive Bringing DiRT 4 to Linux in 2019, Chrome 71 Blocks Ads on Abusive Sites, New Linux Malware Families Discovered, The Linux Foundation Launches the Automated Compliance Tooling Project, and GNU Guix and GuixSD 0.16.0 Released

News briefs for December 7, 2018.

Feral Interactive announced this morning that DiRT 4 is coming to Linux and macOS in 2019. The all-terrain motorsport game was originally developed by Codemaster and boasts a fleet of more than 50 rally cars, buggies, trucks and crosskarts. And, for the first time in the history of the franchise, players can create their own rally routes. You can view the trailer here.

Newly released Chrome 71 "now blocks ads on 'abusive' sites that consistently trick users with fake system warnings, non-functional 'close' buttons and other bogus content that steers you to ads and landing pages. The sites themselves won't lose access the moment Google marks them abusive, but they'll have 30 days to clean up their acts." According to Engadget, Chrome 71 has other additional safeguards, and it's available now for Linux, Mac and Windows. It'll be rolling out to Android and iOS users in the coming weeks.

Cyber-security company ESET has discovered 21 "new" Linux malware families, and all of them "operate in the same manner, as trojanized versions of the OpenSSH client". ZDNet reports that "They are developed as second-stage tools to be deployed in more complex 'botnet' schemes. Attackers would compromise a Linux system, usually a server, and then replace the legitimate OpenSSH installation with one of the trojanized versions. ESET said that '18 out of the 21 families featured a credential-stealing feature, making it possible to steal passwords and/or keys' and '17 out of the 21 families featured a backdoor mode, allowing the attacker a stealthy and persistent way to connect back to the compromised machine.'"

The Linux Foundation has launched the Automated Compliance Tooling (ACT) project in order to help companies comply with open-source licensing requirements. Kate Stewart, Senior Director of Strategic Programs at The Linux Foundation, says, "There are numerous open source compliance tooling projects but the majority are unfunded and have limited scope to build out robust usability or advanced features. We have also heard from many organizations that the tools that do exist do not meet their current needs. Forming a neutral body under The Linux Foundation to work on these issues will allow us to increase funding and support for the compliance tooling development community."

GNU Guix and GuixSD 0.16.0 were released yesterday. This release represents 4,515 commits by 95 people over five months, and it's hopefully the last release before version 1.0. See the release announcement for more details and download links.

Reinventing Software Development and Availability with Open Source: an Interview with One of Microsoft Azure’s Lead Architects

Microsoft was founded in 1975—that's 43 years ago and a ton of history. Up until the last decade, the company led a campaign against the Open Source and Free Software movements, and although it may have slowed the opposition, it did not bring it to an end. In fact, it emboldened its supporters to push the open-source agenda even harder. Fast-forward to the present, and open-source technologies run nearly everything—mobile devices, cloud services, televisions and more.

It wasn't until Satya Nadella took the helm (2014) that the large ship was steered around. Almost overnight, Microsoft embraced everything Linux and open source. It eventually joined The Linux Foundation and, more recently, the Open Initiative Network. At first, it seemed too good to be true, but here we are, a few years after these events, and Microsoft continues to support the Open Source community and adopt many of its philosophies. But why?

I wanted to find out and ended up reaching out to Microsoft. John Gossman, a lead architect working on Azure, spent a bit of time with me to share both his thoughts and experiences as they relate to open source.

Petros Koutoupis: Can you tell our readers a bit about yourself?

John Gossman: I'm a long-time developer with 30 years of industry experience. I have been with Microsoft for 18 of those years. At Microsoft, I have had the opportunity to touch a little bit of everything—from Windows to other graphical applications, and more recently, that is, for the last 6 years, I have worked on Azure. My primary focus is on developer experience. I know this area very well and much of it comes from the Open Source world. I spend a lot of time looking at Linux workloads while also working very closely with Linux vendors. More recently (at least two years now), I stepped into a very interesting role as a member on the board of The Linux Foundation.

PK: Microsoft hasn't always had the best of relationships with anything open-source software (OSS)-related&mddash;that is, until Satya Nadella stepped to his current role as CEO. Why the change? Why has Microsoft changed its position?

JG: I have spent a lot of time thinking about this very question. Now, I cannot speak for the entire company, but I believe it all goes back to the fact that Microsoft was and still is a company focused on software developers. Remember, when Microsoft first started, it built and sold a BASIC interpreter. Later on, the company delivered Visual Studio and many more products. The core mission in the Microsoft culture always has been to enable software developers.

For a while, Windows and Office overshadowed the developer frameworks, losing touch with those core developers, but with the introduction of Azure, the focus has since been reverted back to software developers, and those same developers love open source.

Google, Facebook and Uber Join the OpenChain Project, ownCloud’s 2nd-Gen End-to-End Encryption for ownCloud Enterprise Now Available, Tuxedo Computers Announces Infinity Book Pro 13 Coming Soon, Five openSUSE Tumbleweed Snapshots and PHP 7.3 Released

News briefs for December 6, 2018.

Facebook, Google and Uber have joined the OpenChain Project as platinum members. OpenChain is hosted by The Linux Foundation and is the "only standard for open source compliance in the supply chain". It also "provides a specification as well as overarching processes, policies and training that companies need to be successful". See the press release for more details and links to further reading.

ownCloud today announces the the second generation of End-To-End Encryption (E2EE) for ownCloud Enterprise. The new plugin "enables encryption and decryption by generating a 'key pair' including a private key and public key, which takes place directly with the sender and recipient in the web browser. The new Version also provides the option of using hardware keys on which a private key is stored and never leaves the token, such as smart cards or USB tokens."

Tuxedo Computers announces that its new Infinity Pro 13 is coming soon. The machine is small and light: 1.3 kg with a 13.3" display. It also sports a new CPU and USB type C charging capability. Other specs include Intel UHD 620 graphic, standard 2.5" HDD or SDD, up to 32GB DDR4, and an illuminated and lasered keyboard with Tux Super key. In addition, you can remove the bottom of the case, so all components are easy to maintain, clean or replace.

openSUSE's rolling release Tumbleweed had five snapshots this week, and it's preparing for an update to the KDE Plasma 5.14.4 packages in upcoming snapshots. Package updates include kernel 4.19.5, GNOME's Flickr app, VirtualBox 5.2.22, an update to Firefox 63.0.3 and more.

PHP 7.3 was released today. According to Phoronix, this release marks the first big update in a year to the programming language. In addition, "PHP 7.3 introduces the Foreign Function Interface (FFI) to access functions/variables/structures from C within PHP, a platform independent function for accessing the system's network interface information, an is_countable() function was added, WebP is now supported within the GD image create from string, updated SQLite integration, and a range of other improvements." See the official release documentation here.

On Linus’ Return to Kernel Development

On October 23, 2018, Linus Torvalds came out of his self-imposed isolation, pulling a lot of patches from the git trees of various developers. It was his first appearance on the Linux Kernel Mailing List since September 16, 2018, when he announced he would take a break from kernel development to address his sometimes harsh behavior toward developers. On the 23rd, he announced his return, which I cover here after summarizing some of his pull activities.

For most of his pulls, he just replied with an email that said, "pulled". But in one of them, he noticed that Ingo Molnar had some issues with his email, in particular that Ingo's mail client used the iso-8859-1 character set instead of the more usual UTF-8. Linus said, "using iso-8859-1 instead of utf-8 in this day and age is just all kinds of odd. It looks like it was all fine, but if Mutt has an option to just send as utf-8, I encourage everybody to just use that and try to just have utf-8 everywhere. We've had too many silly issues when people mix locales etc and some point in the chain gets it wrong."

On the 24th, Linus continued pulling from developer trees. One of these was a batch of networking updates from David Miller, and it included contributions from a lot of different people. Linus noticed that the Kconfig rules were running into unmet dependency warnings because the code expected to run on the Qualcomm architecture, which Linus didn't use. He suggested it was a simple matter of updating the dependency list in the code. He also asked why the developers didn't notice that problem when testing their patches. Kalle Valo explained, "Mostly bad timing due to my vacation. I did do allmodconfig build but not sure why I missed the warning, also the kbuild bot didn't report anything. Jeff did report it last week, but I was on vacation at the time and just came back yesterday and didn't have time to react to it yet."

That seemed fine to Linus, who said he'd pull the fix when it became available. He remarked, "I just don't want my tree to have warnings that I see, and that may hide new warnings coming in when I do my next pull request."

On the 25th, Linus continued pulling from developer trees. In one instance, the issue of minimal tool versions came up. Linus prefers to support as many regular users as possible, which means supporting tool versions from the Linux distributions.

In response to a hard-to-read patch, Andi Kleen suggested changing the minimum supported binutils version from 2.20 to 2.21, which would support some useful assembler opcodes that would make the patch easier to review. Andy Lutomirski, another of the patch reviewers, said this would be fine. And Linus said:

UK Parliament Releases Facebook Document on the Handling of User Data, Australia Set to Give Law Enforcement Power to Access Encrypted Messages, Microsoft Open-Sourced Windows UI/UX Frameworks, Iridium Browser New Release and CrossOver 18.1 Now Available

News briefs for December 5, 2018.

The UK Parliament released a 250-page previously sealed Facebook document that reveals how the company handled crucial decisions regarding user data. The Verge reports that "In emails released as part of the cache, Facebook executives are shown dealing with other major tech companies on 'whitelisting' for its platform" and that according to British lawmaker Damian Collins "the agreements allowed the companies access to user data after new restrictions were put in place to end most companies' access. Companies offered access included Netflix and Airbnb, according to the emails." You can see the 250-page document here.

Australia plans to give law enforcement and intelligence agencies the ability to access encrypted messages on platforms like WhatsApp, putting public safety concerns ahead of personal privacy. Bloomberg reports that "Amid protests from companies such as Facebook Inc. and Google, the government and main opposition struck a deal on Tuesday that should see the legislation passed by parliament this week. Under the proposed powers, technology companies could be forced to help decrypt communications on popular messaging apps, or even build new functionality to help police access data."

Microsoft yesterday open-sourced Windows Forms, the WinUI (Windows UI Library) and WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation). According to Phoronix, the full source code is available on GitHub and the UI/UX frameworks are now open source under the MIT license. For more information, see this Windows blog post.

Iridium Browser recently released build 2018.11.71 for Debian-based systems. The new version is based on Chromium 71.0.3578.30, and it's available for Fedora and openSUSE as well. Iridium Browser is "Iridium Browser is based on the Chromium code base. All modifications enhance the privacy of the user and make sure that the latest and best secure technologies are used. Automatic transmission of partial queries, keywords and metrics to central services is prevented and only occurs with the approval of the user. In addition, all our builds are reproducible and modifications are auditable, setting the project ahead of other secure browser providers." You can download it from here.

CodeWeavers announced the release of CrossOver 18.1 yesterday for both Linux and macOS. According to the announcement, "CrossOver 18.1 restores controller support for Steam on both macOS and Linux. macOS customers with active support entitlements will be upgraded to CrossOver 18.1 the next time they launch CrossOver. Linux users can download the latest version from here.

Best Linux Marketing Campaigns

I have long held the opinion that one of the biggest problems holding back Linux-based systems from dominating (market-share-wise) in the desktop computing space...is marketing. Our lack of attention-grabbing, hearts-and-minds-winning marketing is, in my oh-so-humble opinion, one of the most glaring weaknesses of the Free and Open Source Software world.

But, in a way, me saying that really isn't fair.

The reality is that we have had some truly fantastic marketing campaigns through the years. A few even managed to break outside of our own Linux-loving community. Let's take a stroll through a few of my favorites.

From my vantage point, the best marketing has come from two places: IBM (which is purchasing Red Hat) and SUSE. Let's do this chronologically.

IBM's "Peace. Love. Linux."

Back in 2001, IBM made a major investment in Linux. To promote that investment, obviously, an ad campaign must be launched! Something iconic! Something catchy! Something...potentially illegal!

Boy, did they nail it.

"Peace. Love. Linux." Represented by simple symbols: peace sign, a heart and a penguin, all in little circles next to each other. It was visually pleasing, and it promoted happiness (or, at least, peace and love). Brilliant!

IBM then paid to have more than 300 of these images spray-painted across sidewalks all over San Francisco. The paint was supposed to be biodegradable and wash away quickly. Unfortunately, that didn't happen—many of the stencils still were there months later.

And, according to the mayor, "Some were etched into the concrete, so, in those cases, they will never be removed."

The response from the city was...just as you'd expect.

After months of discussion, the City of San Francisco fined Big Blue $100,000, plus any additional cleanup costs, plus legal fees.

On the flip-side, the stories around it made for a heck of a lot of advertising!

IBM's "The Kid"

Remember the Linux Super Bowl ad from IBM? The one with the little boy sitting in a room of pure white light?

"He's learning. Absorbing. Getting smarter every day."

When that hit in 2004, it was like, whoa. Linux has made it. IBM made a Super Bowl ad about it!

"Does he have a name? His name...is Linux."

That campaign included Penny Marshall and Muhammad Ali. That's right. Laverne from Laverne & Shirley has endorsed Linux in a Super Bowl ad. Let that sink in for a moment.

Epic Games Launching New Game Store, Microsoft Building a Chromium Browser, CentOS Releases CentOS Linux 7 (1810) on the x86_64 Architecture, Creative Commons Announces Changes to Certificate Program and New Version of the Commercial Zentyal Server

News briefs for December 4, 2018.

Epic Games today officially announced its own game store alternative to Steam. According to Phoronix, the Epic Games Store will be limited to Microsoft and macOS initially, but will be supporting Android and "other open platforms" throughout 2019.

Microsoft is building its own Chromium browser to replace Edge on Windows 10. The Verge reports that "Microsoft will announce its plans for a Chromium browser as soon as this week, in an effort to improve web compatibility for Windows." The Verge article also notes that "There were signs Microsoft was about to adopt Chromium onto Windows, as the company's engineers have been working with Google to support a version of Chrome on an ARM-powered Windows operating system."

CentOS announces the release of CentOS Linux 7 (1810) on the x86_64 architecture. The release announcement recommends that "every user apply all updates, including the content released today, on your existing CentOS Linux 7 machine by just running 'yum update'." See the release notes for more details.

Creative Commons announces changes to its CC Certificate program. CC is updating pricing, creating a scholarship program, building a CC Certificate Facilitator Training program, and is working to engage a more global, diverse community. To register for courses, go here.

Zentyal announces a major new version of the Commercial Zentyal Server Edition, Zentyal Server 6.0: "This new commercial version of Zentyal Server aims at offering an easy-to-use Linux alternative to Windows Server. It comes with native Microsoft Active Directory interoperability, together with all the network services required in corporate environments." The new version is based on Ubuntu Server 18.04.1 LTS, and release highlights include network authentication service, virtualization manager, user authentication in HTTP Proxy and more. To request a free 45-day trial, go here.

Removing Duplicate PATH Entries, Part II: the Rise of Perl

bash

 

With apologies to Arnold and the Terminator franchise for the title, let's look one more time at removing duplicates from the PATH variable. This take on doing it was prompted by a comment from a reader named Shaun on the previous post that asked "if you're willing to use a non-bash solution (AWK) to solve the problem, why not use Perl?" Shaun was kind enough to provide a Perl version of the code, which was good, since I'd have been hard-pressed to come up with one. It's a short piece of code, shorter than the AWK version, so it seemed like it ought to be fairly easy to pick it apart. In the end, I'm not sure I'd call it easy, but it was interesting, and I thought other non-Perl programmers might find it interesting too.

NVIDIA Open-Sourcing PhysX, miniNodes Launching a Raspberry Pi 3 CoM Carrier Board, Linux Mint 19.1 Beta Now Available, Linux Kernel 4.20-rc5 Released and New F-Bomb Fixing Patch for Kernel

News briefs for December 3, 2018.

NVIDIA is open-sourcing its PhysX physics simulation engine. According to Phoronix, NVIDIA says ""We're doing this because physics simulation—long key to immersive games and entertainment—turns out to be more important than we ever thought. Physics simulation dovetails with AI, robotics and computer vision, self-driving vehicles, and high-performance computing." See also the NVIDIA blog for more details.

miniNodes is launching a new Raspberry Pi 3 CoM carrier board that will allow developers to create mini ARM clusters. ZDNet reports that the board has slots for five RPi 3s in order to "bring extreme edge compute capacity' to cramped spaces, industrial IoT applications, and remote villages". It also can be used " on the desktop for learning about compute clustering, Docker Swarm, Kubernetes, or development using Python, Arm, and Linux". The carrier board is available now for pre-order for $259 from miniNodes.

Linux Mint 19.1 beta is now available. This version features a new desktop layout and many other improvements. You can download it from here. Note that this is a beta version for testing and shouldn't be considered stable. (Source: OMG! Ubuntu!.)

Linux kernel 4.20-rc5 is out. Linus wrote "So it all looks a bit odd, although none of it is hugely _alarming_. One of the reasons the arch side is a bit bigger than usual at this stage is that we got the STIPB performance regression sorted out, for example." In addition, he addressed the timing of the final 4.20 release: "So my current suggestion is that we plan on a Christmas release, everybody gets their pull requests for the next merge window done *before* the holidays, and then we see what happens. I think we all want to have a calm holiday season without either the stress of a merge window _or_ the stress of prepping for one." (See the LKML for the full message.)

ZDNet reports that Jarkko Sakkinen, a kernel contributor from Intel, "has released a set of patches that conceal some of the f-bombs that Linux kernel developers have added to kernel code comments over the years." The patch set "addresses 15 components where 'fuck' or 'fucking' appeared in code comments, which have now been swapped out for a 'hugload of hugs'."

Open Science Means Open Source–Or, at Least, It Should

Why open source was actually invented in 1665.

When did open source begin? In February 1998, when the term was coined by Christine Peterson? Or in 1989, when Richard Stallman drew up the "subroutinized" GNU GPL? Or perhaps a little earlier, in 1985, when he created the GNU Emacs license? How about on March 6, 1665? On that day, the following paragraph appeared:

Whereas there is nothing more necessary for promoting the improvement of Philosophical Matters, than the communicating to such, as apply their Studies and Endeavours that way, such things as are discovered or put in practise by others; it is therefore thought fit to employ the Press, as the most proper way to gratifie those, whose engagement in such Studies, and delight in the advancement of Learning and profitable Discoveries, doth entitle them to the knowledge of what this Kingdom, or other parts of the World, do, from time to time, afford, as well of the progress of the Studies, Labours, and attempts of the Curious and learned in things of this kind, as of their compleat Discoveries and performances: To the end, that such Productions being clearly and truly communicated, desires after solid and usefull knowledge may be further entertained, ingenious Endeavours and Undertakings cherished, and those, addicted to and conversant in such matters, may be invited and encouraged to search, try, and find out new things, impart their knowledge to one another, and contribute what they can to the Grand design of improving Natural knowledge, and perfecting all Philosophical Arts, and Sciences.

Those words are to be found in the very first issue of the Royal Society's Philosophical Transactions, the oldest scientific journal in continuous publication in the world, which published key results by Newton and others. Just as important is the fact that it established key principles of science that we take for granted today, including the routine public sharing of techniques and results so that others can build on them—open source, in other words.

Given that science pretty much invented what we now call the open-source approach, it's rather ironic that the scientific community is currently re-discovering openness, in what is known as open science. The movement is being driven by a growing awareness that the passage from traditional, analog scientific methods, to ones permeated by digital technology, is no minor evolution. Instead, it brings fundamental changes to how science can—and should—be conducted.

Linux Laptop Buyer’s Guide

Linux Laptop Buyer's Guide

We've tested the most promising laptops pre-installed with Linux, and featured reviews of them in our 2018 Linux Laptop Buyer's Guide. Download your copy now to read what you need to know when shopping for your next Linux laptop. 

In this special issue we review the:

  • Chromebook  
  • Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition
  • Librem 13v2 
  • System76 Oryx 

We hope you enjoy!

PDF Download Link: https://www.linuxjournal.com/2018-buyers-guide

KDE and Necuno Solutions Partner on the Open-Source Necuno Mobile, Fedora 27 Reaches End of Life, Artifact for Linux Now Available, Linux Goes to Mars and BlackArch Linux New Release

News briefs for November 30, 2018.

KDE and Necuno Solutions are partnering to offer Plasma Mobile on the Necuno Mobile, which is a device Necuno describes as "a truly open source hardware platform". From the KDE blog post: "With a focus on openness, security and privacy, the Necuno Mobile is built around an ARM Cortex-A9 NXP i.MX6 Quad and a Vivante GPU. According to Necuno, none of the closed firmware has access to the memory."

Fedora 27 has officially reached End of Life status, and its repositories will no longer receive security or bugfix updates. If you are still running Fedora 27, you should update now to Fedora 28 or 29.

The Artifact card game from Valve has officially been released for Linux. GamingOnLinux reports that this "exciting and addictive card game" is the "first Valve game to arrive with Linux support at release".

The CubeSat satellites that confirmed the successful landing of the Mars Insight lander on Mars earlier this week contained Gumxtix's Linux-driven Overo IronStorm-Y module and Caspa VL camera. According to Linux Gizmos, "the Mars Cube One (MarCO) satellites are the first CubeSats to have traveled beyond low Earth orbit. They also likely represent the farthest distance a Linux computer has traveled into space."

BlackArch Linux, the Penetration Testing Distribution, has just released new ISOs and OVA images. This release adds more than 150 new tools, includes a new version of installer and kernel 4.19.4. See the BlackArch Linux blog for the complete ChangeLog and download links.

The High-Performance Computing Issue

December cover

Since the dawn of computing, hardware engineers have had one goal that's stood out above all the rest: speed.

Sure, computers have many other important qualities (size, power consumption, price and so on), but nothing captures our attention like the never-ending quest for faster hardware (and software to power it). Faster drives. Faster RAM. Faster processors. Speed, speed and more speed. [Insert manly grunting sounds here.]

What's the first thing that happens when a new CPU is released? Benchmarks to compare it against the last batch of processors.

What happens when a graphics card is unveiled? Reviewers quickly load up whatever the most graphically demanding video game is and see just how it stacks up to the competition in frame-rate and resolution. Power and speed captures the attention of everyone from software engineers to gamers alike.

Nowhere is this never-ending quest for speed more apparent than in the high-performance computing (HPC) space. Built to handle some of the most computationally demanding work ever conceived by man, these supercomputers are growing faster by the day—and Linux is right there, powering just about all of them.

In this issue of Linux Journal, we take a stroll through the history of supercomputers, from its beginnings (long before Linux was a gleam in Linus Torvalds' eye...heck, long before Linus Torvalds was gleam in his parents' eyes) all the way to the present day where Linux absolutely dominates the Supercomputer and HPC world.

Then we take a deep dive into one of the most critical components of computing (affecting both desktop and supercomputers alike): storage.

Petros Koutoupis, Senior Platform Architect on IBM's Cloud Object Storage, creator of RapidDisk (Linux kernel modules for RAM drives and caching) and LJ Editor at Large, gives an overview of the history of computer storage leading up to the current, ultra-fast SSD and NVMe drives.

Once you're up to speed (see what I did there?) on NVMe storage, Petros then gives a detailed—step-by-step—walk-through of how to best utilize NVMe drives with Linux, including how to set up your system to have remote access to NVMe resources over a network, which is just plain cool.

Taking a break from talking about the fastest computers the Universe has ever known, let's turn our attention to a task that almost every single one of us tackles at least occasionally.

Photography.

Professional photographer Carlos Echenique provides an answer to the age-old question: is it possible for a professional photographer to use a FOSS-based workflow? (Spoiler: the answer is yes.)

Auto-Download Linux Journal Each Month

There's an old saying, "anything worth doing, is worth automating"—or something like that. Downloading and reading Linux Journal always has been worth doing, and now you can automate it with our new autolj script, which you can get here.

Follow these few simple steps, and you can be downloading the PDF (or the .epub or the .mobi file) with the greatest of ease each month:

1) First download the script and save it somewhere; ~/bin is a good choice. You can name it whatever you like; it doesn't need to be called autolj.sh.

2) Open a terminal/shell and execute the following commands:


$ chmod +x ~/bin/autolj.sh
$ ~/bin/autolj.sh --init
Enter the email and zip/postal code associated
with your Linux Journal subscription
EMail: you@example.com    # Enter your email address
Zip  : 88888              # Enter your zip/postal code
Creating initial config file.
Change your preferences in '/home/YOU/.config/autolj.cfg'.
Sample crontab configuration is in '/home/YOU/.config/autolj.crontab'.

If you want to run the script from cron automatically each month, you can do this:


$ cp /home/YOU/.config/autolj.crontab mycrontab
$ crontab -l >>mycrontab
$ crontab 

When you first run the script, use the --init command-line option to initialize the configuration file for the script. It will prompt for the email and zip/postal code associated with your Linux Journal subscription.

It saves that information in a file named ~/.config/autolj.cfg (if you saved the script with a different name, the base name of the config file will match the name that you saved the script under).

You can edit the configuration file with any text editor that you have on hand, or you can rerun the script with the --init option to re-create the config file (any existing changes that you've made will be lost).

The config file is a bash script that is sourced by the autolj script, so maintain valid bash syntax in the file. The config file contains a few other options that you may also want to change (the default value for each is shown):

Ubuntu Touch OTA-6 Call for Testing, openSUSE T-Shirt and Poster Design Contest, RISC-V Foundation Joins The Linux Foundation, Location Tracking in Android Violates GDPR and FSF Announces 18 GNU Releases

News briefs for November 29, 2018.

UBports announces a call for testing for Ubuntu Touch OTA-6. They are asking the community for feedback and have prepared a GitHub project for OTA-6 quality assurance. See the UBports blog for more info on how you can help with the testing and also to see what's new in the OTA-6 release, which is scheduled for December 7th.

openSUSE is having a t-shirt and poster design contest for the openSUSE Conference 2019, which is being held in Nuremberg, Germany. The contest begins December 1, 2018, and the deadline for entry is January 15, 2019.

The RISC-V Foundation, a non-profit that works to encourage adoption of the RISC-V architecture for chip design, has joined the Linux Foundation to help RISC-V grow its open-source ecosystem. FossBytes reports that to start, the two foundations are "aiming at preparing helpful guides to help Linux and Zephyr users get started with RISC-V. The initial guides are expected to be unveiled at the RISC-V Summit in Santa Clara on Dec. 3."

Seven European consumer organizations have filed a complaint that Google location tracking in Android "lacks a valid legal basis in the European Union". According to The Register, "At the heart of the complaint is that the user control of location tracking falls far short of what's required by the union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)—the consent controls are both deceptive and ineffective."

The Free Software Foundation announces 18 GNU releases for the month (as of November 27th). Subscribe to the GNU mailing list for new GNU release announcements, and download GNU software from the GNU mirrors.

Linux and Supercomputers

As we sit here, in the year Two Thousand and Eighteen (better known as "the future, where the robots live"), our beloved Linux is the undisputed king of supercomputing. Of the top 500 supercomputers in the world, approximately zero of them don't run Linux (give or take...zero).

The most complicated, powerful computers in the world—performing the most intense processing tasks ever devised by man—all rely on Linux. This is an amazing feat for the little Free Software Kernel That Could, and one heck of a great bragging point for Linux enthusiasts and developers across the globe.

But it wasn't always this way.

In fact, Linux wasn't even a blip on the supercomputing radar until the late 1990s. And, it took another decade for Linux to gain the dominant position in the fabled "Top 500" list of most powerful computers on the planet.

A Long, Strange Road

To understand how we got to this mind-blowingly amazing place in computing history, we need to go back to the beginning of "big, powerful computers"—or at least, much closer to it: the early 1950s.

Tony Bennett and Perry Como ruled the airwaves, The Day The Earth Stood Still was in theaters, I Love Lucy made its television debut, and holy moly, does that feel like a long time ago.

In this time, which we've established was a long, long time ago, a gentleman named Seymour Cray—whom I assume commuted to work on his penny-farthing and rather enjoyed a rousing game of hoop and stick—designed a machine for the Armed Forces Security Agency, which, only a few years before (in 1949), was created to handle cryptographic and electronic intelligence activities for the United States military. This new agency needed a more powerful machine, and Cray was just the man (hoop and stick or not) to build it.

Figure 1. Seymour Cray, Father of the Supercomputer (from http://www.startribune.com/minnesota-history-seymour-cray-s-mind-worked-at-super-computer-speed/289683511

This resulted in a machine known as the Atlas II.

Weighing a svelte 19 tons, the Atlas II was a groundbreaking powerhouse—one of the first computers to use Random Access Memory (aka "RAM") in the form of 36 Williams Tubes (Cathode Ray Tubes, like the ones in old CRT TVs and monitors, capable of storing 1024 bits of data each).