Posts tagged tech

Ubuntu 21.10 released

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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

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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.

Reasons to be fearful

As your ‘umble scribe writes this post, part-time alleged prime minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is now on day two of an extensive reshuffle of government ministers.

His first cabinet was chosen more for loyalty to Brexit than for talent and included some who had done a complete 180-degree turn on their pre-referendum stance in order to climb the greasy pole of political ambition.

The latter include the singularly untalented Liz Truss (whose biggest achievement as Trade Secretary was copying and pasting new copies of pre-existing EU trade agreements with third countries so they could continue in effect in a post-Brexit context. Ed.), who can now carry on filling in the ministerial My First Foreign Secretary’s Colouring Atlas where Dominic Raab left off, following the latter’s demotion to Justice Secretary.

The singularly unattractive Priti Patel remains as Home Secretary. The less said about that the better.

However, given the shallowness of the Tory talent pool, the most surprising appointment of the first day of Johnson’s rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic was his appointment of Nadine Dorries as Secretary of State for Digital, Cultural, Media and Sport. Nadine was put on Earth to demonstrate that potatoes are more intelligent beings than the Rt. Hon. Member for Mid Bedfordshire.

Part of the fragrant Nadine’s brief includes all things digital, including the minor matter of IT security. To gain an insight into the new Secretary of State’s attitude to this subject, I refer readers to 2 Dorries tweets from 2017.

Tweets read 1. My staff log onto my computer on my desk with my login everyday. Including interns on exchange programmes. For the officer on @BBCNews just now to claim that the computer on Greens [sic] desk was accessed and therefore it was Green is utterly preposterous  You need a pass to get that and 2 Everyone who has my login has a security pass

Cavalier doesn’t quite describe such an attitude to basic security and privacy.

Then there’s the whole question of gravitas – a necessary pre-requisite for public office, not that you’d know it with Bozo the Clown’s appointments.

A quick glance across the English Channel and North Sea to 2 European counterparts reveals some startling contrasts. Besides being French Culture Minister, present incumbent Roselyne Bachelot is an opera fan who has written a well-regarded work on Verdi. Monika Grütters, Germany’s Culture Minister was a university lecturer before entering politics and is still an honorary professor at Berlin’s Free University. On the other hand, Dorries’ biggest claim to fame (after her fiddling expenses) is eating ostrich anus on a so-called reality television show.

LibreOffice 2021 Conference details announced

Italo Vignoli has posted details of the 2021 LibreOffice Conference (which will take place online. Ed.) on the Document Foundation’s blog.

LibreOffice Conference 2021 logoThis year’s LibreOffice Conference will open at noon CEST on 23rd September and will conclude at 5:30p.m. CEST on 25th September.

The conference schedule has been finalised and is now available. Of course, there may last minute changes until 12th September when the schedule will be frozen. Sometime after that date the schedule will also be available on Android mobiles

People attending the LibreOffice Conference via Jitsi are asked to register by filling in this form. Registration will enable the conference organisers to manage conference sessions in the best way and provide a better experience than in 2020 (when a couple of unwelcome “guests” tried to spoil the event). LibreOffice advocates and conference attendees can support the event by purchasing LibreOffice Conference merchandise from Freewear.

In addition to the Document Foundation blog, conference announcements will be posted on two Telegram groups – LibreOffice Virtual Conference Announcements (https://t.me/LibOcon) and LibreOffice Virtual Conference (https://t.me/liboconvirtual), as well as the dedicated LibreOffice Conference website.

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.

Celtic languages prove popular on Duolingo

The pandemic and associated lockdowns have been good for online learning in general and for the online learning two Celtic languages in particular.

Yesterday Welsh news site Nation Cymru reported that Welsh is one on the most popular languages on the Duolingo language learning platform. Duolingo logo

Duolingo company boss Luis von Ahn remarked that Welsh was still the company’s fastest growing language in the UK on the learning app – which has over 40 million worldwide users.

According to the 2020 Duolingo Language Report, the app’s new Welsh learners increased by 44 per cent – outstripping those learning French, Hindi, Japanese and Turkish.

Interviewed by the BBC’s Today programme, von Ahn stated that 1.62 million people are using the app to learn Welsh – with 474,000 active learners.

On St David’s Day earlier this year, Duolingo announced it would align its course content and share knowledge with the National Centre for Learning Welsh to help the Welsh Government reach its target of one million speakers by 2050.

Furthermore, Scots Gaelic has also received a boost from Duolingo and these unusual times. There are currently some 400,000 people learning Scots Gaelic on the app – that’s 10 times the number of Scots Gaelic speakers.

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.

Happy 20th birthday, FSFE!

FSFE logoWay back in 2001, the prescient souls who established the Free Software Foundation Europe foresaw that people should be in control of technology and not vice versa.

Twenty years down the road the FSFE is concentrating its daily work on three main pillars to help software freedom thrive in Europe: public awareness, policy advocacy, and legal support.

FSFE 20th anniversary graphic

The FSFE has had some major campaign successes over its 2 decades.

For instance there was the campaign to promote free software PDF readers, which encouraged over 2,000 European public sector organisations to remove links for Adobe’s proprietary Acrobat reader from their websites.

A major current FSFE campaign is Public Money, Public Code, an initiative to ensure that publicly financed software developed for the public sector be made publicly available under a Free and Open Source Software licence. If it is public money, it should be public code as well. Code paid by the people should be available to the people!

Finally here’s FSFE President Matthias Kirschner speaking to the openSUSE Virtual Conference 2021 about two decades of the FSFE.

https://fsfe.org/news/2021/news-20210721-01.en.html

Many happy returns, FSFE. Keep up the good work for the good of all.

Press gets it wrong – again

If there’s one characteristic of the English Empire’s free and fearless press and the news media in general that’s immediately apparent to anyone with more than one brain cell, it’s their usually remote relationship with the truth.

In the last week or so a new word has emerged – pingdemic – in relation to the coronavirus pandemic to describe the large volume of self-isolation warnings issued by the Covid track and trace app (aka pings (pl.), as derived from the computer networking utility of the same name. Ed.).

Thus the terms ping and pingdemic have become part of normal newspaper and news media vocabulary, as shown in this typical example from yesterday’s London Evening Standard.

Headline reads Ping threat to our food, tube and bins

Whoever wrote the headline Ping threat to our food, tube and bins has clearly not thought the matter through.

It’s not the pings that are the threat but the viral plague which is giving rise to rocketing Covid, aided and abetted by an apology for a government that has removed restrictions far too soon and relinquished – in exemplary Pontius Pilate mode – all responsibility for safeguarding people’s health in the rush to let all their rich mates resume making Loadsamoney again.

All news is to a certain extent manipulated, but if those that right it cannot even get the basic details correct in a headline, is it any wonder that there is deep mistrust in the media?

Still, never mind with all this gloom and doom. Immediately adjacent is a prime example of look over there in the form of the current 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo.

The staff of the Standard clearly seem to have adopted the comment by Juvenal, the 2nd century Roman poet famous that the common people are only interested in bread and circuses (Latin: panem et circensis. Ed.) as editorial policy

Tor Browser squashes user tracking bug

The Tor Project has updated its browser after the discovery of a bug with more than dangerous repercussions for user privacy. URLs based on onion services version 2 should migrate to version 3 before September 2021.

A recent update of the Tor Browser to version 10.0.18 has enabled several bugs to be corrected, including a rather serious vulnerability for users, French IT news site Le Monde Informatique reports. As a matter of fact, this bug, which is based on version 2 of its onion services, enabled some sites to track users from the applications installed on their devices.

Tor Browser running on Ubuntu Linux

Tor Browser running on Ubuntu Linux. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The vulnerability tracked users via their browsers, enabling any website or government to discover a user’s actual IP address, which is contrary to the basic principle of the Tor project. URLs actually benefit from a security gain with version 3 of onion services. This is due to the fact that they use “cleaner” code with stronger cryptography which is proving to be less susceptible to brute force attacks due to its complexity.

URLs under onion services V2 no longer supported from 15 July

The project also announced it would start to deprecate URLs under onion services version 2 by initially advising the operators and clients that access them. With effect from 15 July, Tor will no longer support V2 URLs V2 and support for them will be removed from the browser codebase.

So as to ensure that each user and website administrator is well aware of this change, a message will be displayed “when visiting sites which are still using V2 URLs advising they will shortly be deprecated and the site will be inaccessible unless it is updated to version 3 of onion services“.

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