Linux

Muse Group acquires Audacity

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Audacity is a great free and open source audio editor, which is available for all major computing platforms – Linux, Mac and Windows. It’s one of the free and open source software packages I recommend in my list of free and open source software.

Audacity running on Linux, audio track and MIDI track playing

Audacity running on Linux, audio track and MIDI track playing

Today The Register reports that Audacity has been purchased by Muse Group, which has promised to keep the platform free and open source.

The deal was announced on 30th April by Martin Keary, who is Head Of Design at MuseScore, an open-source notation software package also owned by Muse Group, and who will now “manage Audacity in partnership with its open-source community”. The financial details of the deal have not been disclosed.

Audacity received a major update to version 3.0 in March, some 20 years since its first version 1.0 was released. Among the new release’s features were a new file format, analyser and a multitude of bug fixes.

In addition Keary announced that the project was seeking to recruit “a few key positions for senior developers or designers who have experience in audio or music tech.”

A video was also released to coincide with the announcement.

Mozilla grants Pyodide project its independence

image of Python logoMozilla, the organisation behind the free and open source Firefox web browser and Thunderbird email client, has just released the Pyodide project from its organisation and it will henceforth be managed independently by the community, French IT news site Le Monde Informatique reports. Formed within Mozilla in 2018 as an experimental project to create in full Python stack for data science, the tool is compiled to WebAssembly and can be used to leverage Python in a web browser and give the language full access to web-based APIs. Via WebAssembly, Pyodide thus brings the Python 3.8 runtime to the browser, with its scientific stack including NumPy, Pandas, Matplotlib, SciPy and scikit-learn. Almost 75 packages are currently offered, with the tool providing transparent object conversion between JavaScript and Python.

The project currently has a separate GitHub organisation and documentation site. It will be maintained by volunteers. A governance document and roadmap have been published to set out Pyodide’s targets, including better Python code performance, reducing the size of downloads and simplifying package uploads. The roadmap introduction states:

This document lists general directions that core developers are interested to see developed in Pyodide. The fact that an item is listed here is in no way a promise that it will happen, as resources are limited. Rather, it is an indication that help is welcomed on this topic.

Pyodide can install any Python package in wheel format from the PyPi repository. It also includes an interface which exposes Python packages Python to JavaScript and exposes the browser interface (including the DOM) to Python. Developers can test Pyodide in an REPL environment.

Version 0.17.0 with API revision

Mozilla has at the same time announced the release of Pyodide version 0.17.0 with major maintenance improvements, a revision of the central APIs and the squashing of bugs and memory leaks. Since its creation the project has given rise to plenty of interest and is used in several projects outside Mozilla.

Open source flies on Red Planet

Today NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter became the first craft to be flown remotely on another planet. The Ingenuity team at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California confirmed the flight succeeded after receiving data from the helicopter via NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover at 6:46 a.m. EDT (3:46 a.m. PDT).

Ingenuity’s mission was essentially a technology demonstration to test the first powered flight on Mars. The helicopter rode to Mars attached to the belly of the Perseverance rover.

The solar-powered helicopter first became airborne at 3:34 a.m. EDT (12:34 a.m. PDT) – 12:33 Local Mean Solar Time (Mars time) – a time the Ingenuity team determined would have optimal energy and flight conditions. Altimeter data indicate Ingenuity climbed to its prescribed maximum altitude of 3 metres, with Ingenuity maintaining a stable hover for 30 seconds.

Mars has a significantly lower gravity – only one-third that of Earth’s – and an extremely thin atmosphere with only 1% the pressure at the surface compared to our planet. This means there are relatively few molecules with which Ingenuity’s two 1.2 metre wide rotor blades can interact to achieve flight. The helicopter contains unique components, as well as off-the-shelf-commercial parts – many from the smartphone industry – that were tested in deep space for the first time with this mission.

Both Perseverance and Ingenuity feature free and open source software (posts passim) extensively.

SUSE IPO this summer

SUSE logoSUSE was the first Linux distribution I actually used as a day-to-day working system over 15 years ago. It was the distribution on which I learnt about Linux, so it has a special place in my affections.

The impetus to install it came from a friend who bought a set of 5 installation CDs off eBay for me as a present.

Later on, I treated myself to SUSE Linux Professional 9.3 for some £50. It came as a box set of 2 DVDs and 5 CDs, along with a doorstep-sized manual.

SUSE is a good, solid distribution and excellent for business use with its SUSE Enterprise Linux server and desktop offerings and paid-for support.

SUSE also sponsors the community-supported openSUSE project, which develops the openSUSE Linux distribution, which is available in both rolling release (Tumbleweed) and regular release (Leap) versions.

Founded in Germany 1992, SUSE was the first company to market Linux to business. Over the years its ownership has changed many times. In 2004 it was acquired by Novell. Novell and with it SUSE were then purchased by Attachmate (with financial assistance from Microsoft) in 2010. In 2014 Microfocus acquired Attachmate and SUSE was spun off as a separate division under the name SUSE Software Solutions Germany GmbH. Finally, EQT purchased SUSE from Micro Focus for $2.5 billion in March 2019.

News has now emerged that SUSE is being prepared for stock flotation in Europe in via an IPO in the next few months (May is mentioned as the earliest date) with Bank of America and Morgan Stanley executing the IPO with the aid of Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, and Jefferies.

According to Le Monde Informatique, SUSE is likely to have a market valuation of €7-8 bn. for the IPO.

LibreOffice 7.1.1 released

Towards the end of last week The Document Foundation (TDF) announced the release of LibreOffice 7.1.1, the first point release of LibreOffice 7.1, which is available for immediate download.

This release over contains 90 bug fixes and improvements to document compatibility.

LibreOffice 7.1 banner

As usual, TDF suggests that this release is aimed at technology enthusiasts and power users, rather than more conservative business users for whom an older release is recommended.

This latest release is available for all major desktop operating systems (Linux, MacOS and Windows), mobile platforms (Android and iOS) and the cloud. Instead of downloading via the link above, Linux users might like to wait until the update is provided directly via the repositories of their individual distributions, whilst those for mobile devices can be obtained via the app stores for their respective operating systems.

TDF’s wiki charts the changes and improvements in the latest release via the changes made in the two release candidates: RC1 and RC2.

LibreOffice users are invited to join the community so they can both get and provide individual support. Those willing to contribute their time and professional skills to the project can visit the dedicated What Can I Do For LibreOffice website.

Finally, LibreOffice users, free software advocates and community members can give financial assistance to The Document Foundation with a donation via PayPal, credit card or other means.

LibreOffice 7.0 beginner’s guide launched

Cover of LibreOffice 7.0 Getting Started GuideThe Document Foundation’s blog announced last week that the LibreOffice Documentation Team had released its LibreOffice 7.0 Getting Started Guide. The Guide, which was previously issued for LibreOffice version 6.4, has been updated to include all the new and improved features of LibreOffice 7.0, the latest version of LibreOffice, the free and open source alternative to proprietary office suites.

The guide has been drafted especially for those wanting to get up to speed quickly with LibreOffice, whether they are new users of office productivity software or already have some familiarity with other office suites, such as Microsoft’s ubiquitous and expensive offering.

The guide provides an introduction the LibreOffice’s 6 major components, i.e.:

  • Writer (word processing)
  • Calc (spreadsheets)
  • Impress (presentations)
  • Draw (vector graphics)
  • Base (database)
  • Math (equation editor)

Furthermore, it also covers some of the features common to all those components – set-up and customisation, styles and templates, macro recording, digital signing and printing.

The guide can be downloaded (PDF format) from LibreOffice’s English Documentation site., which also includes links to documentation in other languages, as well as user guides for earlier LibreOffice releases.

Google funds security-focussed Linux kernel developers

Tux - the Linux kernel mascotOn Wednesday the Linux Foundation and Google announced that Google would be funding two full-time maintainers for Linux kernel security development, Gustavo Silva and Nathan Chancellor.

Silva and Chancellor’s will focus on maintaining and improving kernel security, as well as associated initiatives to ensure the continuing viability of the world’s most pervasive open source software project.

The Linux Foundation’s Open Source Security Foundation (OpenSSF) and Harvard University’s Laboratory for Innovation Science (LISH) recently published an open source contributor survey report that identified a need for additional work on security in open source software, including the Linux operating system. Linux has more than 20,000 contributors. While there are thousands of Linux kernel developers, all of whom take security into consideration in their work, this contribution from Google to underwrite two full-time Linux security maintainers signals the importance of security for the future of open source software.

“At Google, security is always top of mind and we understand the critical role it plays to the sustainability of open source software,” said Dan Lorenc, Staff Software Engineer for Google. “We’re honored to support the efforts of both Gustavo Silva and Nathan Chancellor as they work to enhance the security of the Linux kernel.”

Chancellor’s work will be focused on triaging and fixing all bugs found with Clang/LLVM compilers while working on establishing continuous integration systems to support this work. Once those aims are well-established, he plans to begin adding features to the kernel using these compiler technologies. Chancellor has been a kernel developer for over 4 years.

Gustavo Silva’s full-time Linux security work is currently dedicated to eliminating several classes of buffer overflows. In addition, he is actively focusing on fixing bugs before they hit the mainline and has been contributing to kernel development since 2010.

Funding Linux kernel security and development is a collaborative effort, supported by the world’s largest companies that depend on the Linux operating system. To support work like this, discussions are taking place in the Securing Critical Projects Working Group inside the OpenSSF.

Firefox 86.0 released

Firefox logoEarlier this week, version 86.0 of the Firefox web browser was released.

I have a great affection for Firefox, as I started using it in the early 2000s before version 1.0 was released when the browser market was dominated by Microsoft’s unloved but ubiquitous Internet Explorer.

Firefox is also bundled as the standard web browser in many Linux distributions including my long-term preferred distro, Debian.

According to the release notes, there have been several privacy improvements and other enhancements in the latest version.

As regards privacy, Firefox 86.0 has now introduces Total Cookie Protection to Strict Mode. In Total Cookie Protection, every website gets its own “cookie jar,” preventing cookies from being used to track users from site to site.

For those able to concentrate on several things at once, Firefox now supports simultaneously watching multiple videos in Picture-in-Picture.

Print functionality has also been improved, with a cleaner design and better integration with your computer’s printer settings.

There have also been several bug fixes.

Get the latest Firefox.

Collabora working on Wayland driver for Wine

Following on from an initial proposal by Collabora for a Wayland driver for the Wine emulator (which enables Windows applications to be run on Linux. Ed.), the company’s developers have now posted a Request for Comment (RFC) on the upstream mailing list, Germany’s Linux Magazin reports.

The goal of this driver is to allow Windows applications to run directly on Wayland compositors, eventually removing the need for XWayland for many uses.

The goal of this driver is to allow Windows applications to run directly on Wayland compositors, eventually removing the need for XWayland for many use cases. Consequently, it should not be assumed that XWayland will get support for modern features. In a post on Collabora’s blog, chief developer Alexandros Frantzis mentions HDR imaging as such a function. Furthermore, as an additional layer, XWayland represents an unnecessary complication and possible breeding ground for inefficiency.

This RFC contains additional details of how the Wayland driver should work with Wine. Copy/paste, Drag-and-drop and changing the display mode are mentioned. Copy/paste support is already working well in both directions, according to Frantzis, i.e. both from native Wayland applications to Wine applications and vice versa. Drag-and-drop works from a native Wayland application to a Wine application in many established formats. Progress on these aspect of the driver can be seen in the video below released by Collabora.

Open source on Mars

As per the title of the old Hawkwind song, Uncle Sam’s on Mars. Again.

On 18th February NASA’s Perseverance Rover touched down in Mars’ Jezero Crater.

Perseverance rover

Perseverance rover

However, what is less well known is the role played by Linux and open source software in the Perseverance mission to the Red Planet, particularly as regards its hitch-hiking companion – the Ingenuity helicopter.

This has been revealed by Steven J. Vaughan-Nicholas in a piece for ZDNet.

Anatomy of the Ingeuity Mars helicopter

The Ingenuity Mars helicopter. Click on the image for the full-sized version.

Ingenuity weighs 1.8 kg and is attached to the belly of the 1,025 kg Perseverance rover. If its mission is successful, Ingenuity will be the first man-made vehicle ever to fly on another planet. It will fly itself using a combination of Linux and a NASA-built program based on the Jet Propulsion Laboratory‘s (JPL) open-source (F prime) framework.

This will not be easy. Mars’ atmosphere is so thin, its density is one per cent that of the Earth’s whilst its gravity is one-third that of Sol III. Ingenuity is expected to make one or more flights within 30 days as a technology demonstration, according to NASA.

Timothy Canham, a JPL Embedded Flight Software Engineer, stated the following in an interview with IEEE Spectrum:

This the first time we’ll be flying Linux on Mars. We’re actually running on a Linux operating system. The software framework that we’re using is one that we developed at JPL for CubeSats and instruments, and we open-sourced it a few years ago. So, you can get the software framework that’s flying on the Mars helicopter, and use it on your own project. It’s kind of an open-source victory because we’re flying an open-source operating system and an open-source flight software framework and flying commercial parts that you can buy off the shelf if you wanted to do this yourself someday.

NASA has long had an involvement with Linux and open source. Linux has been used on the International Space Station (ISS) since 2013 (posts passim), whilst the agency has over 500 Open Source 3.0 software projects, whilst its Goddard Space Flight Center built the first Beowulf supercomputer, likewise using off-the-shelf components.

It still remains to be seen whether Perseverance succeeds in its mission to find traces on ancient life on Mars and if Ingenuity’s flight(s) will be successful, but yesterday Ingenuity ‘phoned home’ from the Red Planet.

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