Posts tagged Linux

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.

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.

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 7.0 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.

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