Linux

Ubuntu 21.10 released

Two days ago, Canonical announced the release of Ubuntu Linux 21.10, codenamed Impish Indri.

Ubuntu 21.10 wallpaper

Canonical’s CEO Mark Shuttleworth said of the release:

As open source becomes the new default, we aim to bring Ubuntu to all the corners of the enterprise and all the places developers want to innovate. From the biggest public clouds to the tiniest devices, from DGX servers to Windows WSL workstations, open source is the springboard for new ideas and Ubuntu makes that springboard safe, secure and consistent.

This latest Ubuntu release is a short-term one with nine months of support that precedes the next long-term support (LTS) version, Ubuntu 22.04.

The new release’s default desktop interface is GNOME 40, whilst there have also been some updates to the distribution’s default desktop programs, which now include the LibreOffice 7.2 office productivity suite, the Thunderbird 91 e-mail client, and the Firefox 92 web browser.

Ubuntu 21.10 is available for immediate download for 64-bit systems (32-bit support ceased some time ago. Ed.)

Introducing Ubuntu Frame

Earlier this month, Canonical, the company behind the popular Ubuntu Linux distribution, announced the release of Ubuntu Frame

With Ubuntu Frame, developers no longer need to integrate and maintain partial solutions such as DRM, KMS, input protocols or security policies to power and secure their displays. This means less code to manage, fewer opportunities for bugs and vulnerabilities in untried code and more time for developing the display’s content.

Ubuntu Frame screenshot

Ubuntu Frame screenshot

When developing Ubuntu Frame, the goal was to minimise the development and deployment time for building graphic solutions for edge devices by leveraging existing applications and hardening security techniques. Ubuntu Frame is therefore compatible with toolkits such as Flutter, Qt, GTK, Electron and SDL2. Furthermore, it also has a solution for applications based on HTML5 and Java, inter alia. It is also worth mentioning that Ubuntu Frame’s users benefit from easy configuration and deployment options thanks to snaps, which is being heralded asthe next-generation package format for Linux.

Ubuntu Frame provides developers with all they need to deploy fully interactive applications: it comes with all the interfaces applications need to communicate securely with the host machine without developers needing to deal with the specific hardware. It also automatically enables all the functionality that end-users expect while interacting with digital displays, such as input from touchscreens, keyboard and mouse. Developers also don’t need to worry about window behaviours and dynamics since they are all configured.

Commenting on the launch, Michał Sawicz, Smart Displays Engineering Manager at Canonical said the following:

Ubuntu Frame’s reliability has been widely tested in the field. Its technology has been in development for over 7 years and in production for 5 years, using state-of-the-art techniques, and deployed in production to Linux desktop and mobile users. As such, Ubuntu Frame is one of the most mature graphical servers available today for embedded devices.

Debian 11 bullseye released

Debian logoYour ‘umble scribe has been using Debian GNU/Linux for the best part of 15 years now.

Besides being a distribution in its own right, Debian is also used as the basis for many other Linux distros, such as the Ubuntu family and derivatives, as well as specialised distros like the security- and privacy-conscious Tails.

Furthermore, Debian stable version releases don't occur very often, only every 2-3 years (unlike the Ubuntu family, which is on a rigid twice-yearly release cycle. Ed.).

Consequently, a Debian stable version release is a major event and the latest release occurred on Friday, as announced in an email to the Debian Developer Announce mailing list

The start of the email reads as follows:

Hi,
On 14th August 2021 we released Debian 11 “bullseye”.
There are too many people who should be thanked for their work on getting us to this point to list them all individually, and we would be sure to miss some. Nevertheless, we would like to particularly thank the installer team, the buildd and ftp teams, the CD team, the publicity team, the webmasters, the Release Notes editors, porters and all the bug squashers, NMUers, package maintainers and translators who have contributed to making bullseye a great release of which we should all be proud.

The email goes on the state that first point release for bullseye will take place about one month after the initial release.

Testing will soon start for the next Debian stable release – Debian 12, codenamed bookworm.

Finally, it’s worth noting that bullseye comes with 5 years’ support and an additional 10,000 software packages, as noted by ZDNet.

Debian 11 ‘bullseye’ due for release on 14th August

Debian logoVersion 11 of Debian GNU/Linux, codenamed ‘bullseye‘, is due for release on 14th August The Register reports.

A new Debian release is an important event in the world of Linux and free and open source software as it doesn’t happen all that frequently, the last version release being over 2 years ago.

Not only is Debian an important distribution in its own right, but is also influential since it froms the basis for many others including the various flavours of Ubuntu (e.g. Kubuntu, Xubuntu, etc. Ed.), Mint, Devuan, Knoppix, Tails, Raspbian, Pop!_OS and SteamOS, to name but a few.

A post to Debian’s developer announcements list stated: “We plan to release on 2021-08-14”.

It’s a little over 2 years since the last stable Debian version, Debian 10 or ‘buster‘, was made available for download.

Improved security in GRUB 2.06 bootloader

The newest version – 2.06 – of the GRUB bootloader used by most Linux distributions contains two new features, German IT news site heise reports. The software now supports boot partitions encrypted with LUKS2 and the update also contains several bug fixes and security improvements. This is the first new version of GRUB in nearly 2 years. It was originally to have been released in summer 2020, but developers were thwarted by a nasty security hole.

Attackers could gain access to the boot process and execute malicious code via a vulnerability named BootHole. To begin with Linux distributors patched their own GRUB packages. Unfortunately, BootHole patches for Red Hat, CentOS, Debian and Ubuntu blocked GRUB2. GRUB has now officially patched BootHole with the new version

GRUB developers have taken over the additional patches used in the meantime by Red Hat, Debian and a few other distributors to secure their own GRUB packages. The distributors had tried to bridge the gap in the lone release times between GRUB versions. In addition, several errors have been eliminated and GRUB’s code tidied up. GRUB can now be compiled with the GCC 10 and Clang 10 C compilers.

GRUB bootloader menu on Ubuntu Linux machine

GRUB bootloader menu on Ubuntu Linux machine

New security module

As a new feature, GRUB 2.06 supports the Xen hypervisor’s XSM/FLASK security module and Secure Boot Advanced Targeting (SBAT). The developers of the Shim bootloader came up with the latter technology to further complicate attacks on the boot process. In simple terms, the procedure automatically considers outdated versions of a program involved in the boot process to be unsafe. In addition to this, GRUB 2.06 offers a lockdown mechanism that is similar to the equivalent of the Linux kernel of the same name.

Printed manuals available for LibreOffice 7

The Document Foundation (TDF) blog reports today that users of the TDF’s free and open source LibreOffice suite can now acquire hard copies of guides to the various modules in version 7.* of the suite (Writer, Calc, Impress, Math and Base) as well as a general Getting Started Guide.

These new guides are full of tips, tricks and tutorials to help users get the best out of the whole office suite.

Cover image of LibreOffice Getting Started Guide

The guides are already available for download in both PDF and ODT versions.

There will nevertheless always be people who appreciate hard copies of manuals, so the LibreOffice Documentation community has joined forces with online bookshop Lulu (which was started by Red Hat co-founder Bob Young) made these available guides. The guides will be printed on demand in various locations and be shipped to anywhere in the world.

Pricing for the UK is shown as £10 per guide. Lulu also provide guides for earlier versions of LibreOffice.

SUSE S.A. successfully launched on Frankfurt stock exchange

SUSE logo

SUSE was the first Linux distribution I ever got working successfully on one of my machines. Therefore, I still keep an eye on developments within the company.

Today German IT news site heise reports that SUSE S.A. has now launched on the stock market. Shares in the Nuremberg-based software supplier are being traded in Frankfurt. The company had previously set the final offer price at €30 Euro, at the lower end of the originally planned €29-34 price range. At 9:15 the opening price after the IPO auction, the initial opening share price was €29.50.

By launching on the stock market, the Linux developer originally wanted to raise up to €1.1 bn. The share price declined slightly after the start of trading, which is not uncommon after an IPO, and the shares are currently trading at over €30.

The traditional ringing of a bell was replaced by a virtual version with SUSE CEO Melissa Di Donato ringing a 3D-animated virtual bell in front of a video wall.

SUSE has been marketing open source software since 1992, particularly its SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) Linux distribution, together with several infrastructure products for commercial use. It has been based in Nuremberg since 2011 and Melissa Di Donato, who previously worked for SAP, has been the company’s CEO since 2019. Ms Di Donato remarked that the stock market flotation was a new chapter for SUSE. In 2019 SUSE was acquired from Micro Focus by global investment company EQT, since when SUSE has undergone considerable year-on-year growth both in terms of its income and customer base, particularly as regards long-term commercial contracts.

SUSE recently stated that its takeover of Rancher Labs – completed in December 2019 – has proved to be particularly promising. Following this move, SUSE is now offering Rancher’s popular management platform for Kubernetes clusters in addition to its SLES software products.

Muse Group acquires Audacity

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.

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