Posts tagged Linux

Google funds security-focussed Linux kernel developers

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Fontaine’s schoolchildren now on Linux

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The French town of Fontaine (Isère) has recently converted 200 school computers from Windows to the elementary OS Linux distribution, Joinup reports.

Nicolas Vivant, the CIO of Fontaine, has been part of the transition to open source that the local public sector has implemented over the past 10 years. The local authority opted for open source due to openness and transparency, as well as value for money.

Elementary OS desktop

Default elementary OS| desktop

The switch to open source started in the town hall with a change from proprietary browsers and email clients to Mozilla’s Firefox and Thunderbird. The schools’ switch to elementary OS represents stage 2.

Some of the software used by teachers presented some problems according to Vivant, as it was only designed to run on Windows, so the wine emulator had to be used to get it working.

However, Vivant remarked in an online event that for most users the switch to a Linux system has provided a better overall experience.

In addition to installing Linux on school machines, the schools are also running their infrastructure Debian servers.

According to Joinup, one of the benefits of using open source is that children’s privacy is better protected due to leaving a smaller digital footprint online, an important consideration when every third internet user in the EU is estimated to be a child.

KDE Plasma 5.21 preview

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Ever since I first starting using Linux seriously 16 years ago, KDE has always been my preferred desktop environment.

I’ve dabbled with GNOME and other desktops, but always come back to KDE for usability, customisability and good looks.

Now known as Plasma, the KDE desktop will soon be reaching the release of its 5.21 version.

Below is a sneak preview of what can be expected when the new version is released, together with a tribute at the end to Gustavo Carneiro. a KDE developer who unfortunately passed away from Covid-19 in January and whose work concentrated on KDE’s Konsole terminal emulator.

This 5.21 release of Plasma is dedicated to Gustavo’s memory.

TDF is 9 years old

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TDF logoToday The Document Foundation (TDF), the organisation behind the free and open source LibreOffice productivity suite, celebrates its 9th birthday.

On 17th February 2012 The Document Foundation was registered in Berlin as a German charitable foundation (Stiftung).

TDF had been created by members of the OpenOffice.org community to manage and develop LibreOffice, partially out of fears that Oracle Corporation would cease development of OpenOffice.org after its takeover of Sun Microsystems, the custodians of the OpenOffice.org project. The original OpenOffice.org project is now curated by the Apache Software Foundation.

The TDF’s goal is to produce a vendor-independent office suite with ODF support in a development environment free from control by an individual company.

This goal has been achieved too. LibreOffice is now on release version 7.1, is included as the standard office suite in many GNU/Linux distributions and been downloaded millions of times.

Many happy returns, TDF!

How to make a speech bubble in GIMP

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GIMP, also known as the GNU Image Manipulation Program, is a great free and open source graphics creation and editing suite suite, which comes as part of the standard software installation package for many GNU/Linux distributions, although it is also available for other operating systems.

My main use for GIMP is for dealing with graphics containing text in files submitted for translation, as well as tweaking digital photographs.

Nevertheless, every now and again the urge strikes me to learn a bit more to make the most of the software installed on my systems.

If, like me, you have ever wondered how to add a speech bubble to an image using GIMP, help is at hand in the form of the handy video tutorial below.

Now you too know how to put words into other people’s mouths . 😀

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