Open Source

Vim Beats Emacs in 'Linux Journal' Reader Survey ( 192

The newly-relaunched Linux Journal is conducting its annual "Reader's Choice Awards," and this month announced the winners for Best Text Editor, Best Laptop, and Best Domain Registrar. Vim was chosen as the best editor by 35% of respondents, handily beating GNU Emacs (19%) Sublime Text (10%) and Atom (8%). Readers' Choice winner Vim is an extremely powerful editor with a user interface based on Bill Joy's 40-plus-year-old vi, but with many improved-upon features including extensive customization with key mappings and plugins. Linux Journal reader David Harrison points out another great thing about Vim "is that it's basically everywhere. It's available on every major platform."
For best laptop their readers picked Lenovo (32%), followed by Dell (25%) and System76 (11%). The ThinkPad began life at IBM, but in 2005, it was purchased by Lenovo along with the rest of IBM's PC business. Lenovo evolved the line, and today the company is well known as a geek favorite. Lenovo's ThinkPads are quiet, fast and arguably have one of the best keyboards (fighting words!). Linux Journal readers say Lenovo's Linux support is excellent, leaving many to ponder why the company doesn't ship laptops with Linux installed.
In February readers also voted on the best web browser, choosing Firefox (57%) over Chrome (17%) and Chromium (7%). And they also voted on the best Linux distribution, ultimately selecting Debian (33%), open SUSE (12%), and Fedora (11%).
Open Source

Linux Developer McHardy Drops GPLv2 'Shake Down' Case ( 53

Former Linux developer Patrick McHardy dropped his Gnu General Public License version 2 (GPLv2) violation case against Geniatech in a German court this week. ZDNet explains why some consider this a big "win": People who find violations typically turn to organizations such as the Free Software Foundation, Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC), and the Software Freedom Law Center to approach violators. These organizations then try to convince violating companies to mend their ways and honor their GPLv2 legal requirements. Only as a last resort do they take companies to court to force them into compliance with the GPLv2. Patrick McHardy, however, after talking with SFC, dropped out from this diplomatic approach and has gone on his own way. Specifically, McHardy has been accused of seeking his own financial gain by approaching numerous companies in German courts. Geniatech claimed McHardy has sued companies for Linux GPLv2 violations in over 38 cases. In one, he'd requested a contractual penalty of €1.8 million. The company also claimed McHardy had already received over €2 million from his actions...

In July 2016, the Netfilter developers suspended him from the core team. They received numerous allegations that he had been shaking down companies. McHardy refused to discuss these issues with them, and he refused to sign off on the Principles of Community-Oriented GPL Enforcement. In October 2017, Greg Kroah-Hartman, Linux kernel maintainer for the stable branch, summed up the Linux kernel developers' position. Kroah-Hartman wrote: "McHardy has sought to enforce his copyright claims in secret and for large sums of money by threatening or engaging in litigation...."

Had McHardy continued on his way, companies would have been more reluctant to use Linux code in their products for fear that a single, unprincipled developer could sue them and demand payment for his copyrighted contributions... McHardy now has to bear all legal costs for both sides of the case. In other words, when McHardy was faced with serious and costly opposition for the first time, he waved a white flag rather than face near certain defeat in the courts.

Open Source

'How I Coined the Term Open Source' ( 117

Today is the 20th anniversary of the phrase "open source software," which this article says was coined by the executive director of the Foresight Institute, a nonprofit think tank focused on nanotech and artificial intelligence. The phrase first entered the world on February 3rd, 1998, according to Christine Peterson: Of course, there are a number of accounts of the coining of the term, for example by Eric Raymond and Richard Stallman, yet this is mine, written on January 2, 2006. It has never been published, until today. The introduction of the term "open source software" was a deliberate effort to make this field of endeavor more understandable to newcomers and to business, which was viewed as necessary to its spread to a broader community of users... Interest in free software was starting to grow outside the programming community, and it was increasingly clear that an opportunity was coming to change the world... [W]e discussed the need for a new term due to the confusion factor. The argument was as follows: those new to the term "free software" assume it is referring to the price. Oldtimers must then launch into an explanation, usually given as follows: "We mean free as in freedom, not free as in beer." At this point, a discussion on software has turned into one about the price of an alcoholic beverage...

Between meetings that week, I was still focused on the need for a better name and came up with the term "open source software." While not ideal, it struck me as good enough. I ran it by at least four others: Eric Drexler, Mark Miller, and Todd Anderson liked it, while a friend in marketing and public relations felt the term "open" had been overused and abused and believed we could do better. He was right in theory; however, I didn't have a better idea... Later that week, on February 5, 1998, a group was assembled at VA Research to brainstorm on strategy. Attending -- in addition to Eric Raymond, Todd, and me -- were Larry Augustin, Sam Ockman, and attending by phone, Jon "maddog" Hall... Todd was on the ball. Instead of making an assertion that the community should use this specific new term, he did something less directive -- a smart thing to do with this community of strong-willed individuals. He simply used the term in a sentence on another topic -- just dropped it into the conversation to see what happened.... A few minutes later, one of the others used the term, evidently without noticing, still discussing a topic other than terminology. Todd and I looked at each other out of the corners of our eyes to check: yes, we had both noticed what happened...

Toward the end of the meeting, the question of terminology was brought up explicitly, probably by Todd or Eric. Maddog mentioned "freely distributable" as an earlier term, and "cooperatively developed" as a newer term. Eric listed "free software," "open source," and "sourceware" as the main options. Todd advocated the "open source" model, and Eric endorsed this... Eric Raymond was far better positioned to spread the new meme, and he did. Bruce Perens signed on to the effort immediately, helping set up and playing a key role in spreading the new term... By late February, both O'Reilly & Associates and Netscape had started to use the term. After this, there was a period during which the term was promoted by Eric Raymond to the media, by Tim O'Reilly to business, and by both to the programming community. It seemed to spread very quickly.

Peterson remembers that "These months were extremely exciting for open source," adding "Every week, it seemed, a new company announced plans to participate. Reading Slashdot became a necessity, even for those like me who were only peripherally involved. I strongly believe that the new term was helpful in enabling this rapid spread into business, which then enabled wider use by the public."

Wikipedia notes that Linus Torvalds endorsed the term the day after it was announced, that Phil Hughes backed it in Linux Journal, and that Richard Stallman "initially seemed to adopt the term, but later changed his mind."
Open Source

FSF Adds PureOS To List of Endorsed GNU/Linux Distributions ( 46

Long-time Slashdot reader donaldrobertson writes: The Free Software Foundation on Thursday announced PureOS as an endorsed GNU/Linux distro. PureOS is an operating system focused on privacy, security and ease of use. Endorsement means the system meets the FSF's Free System Distribution Guidelines by providing and promoting only free software, with a dedication to making sure the system always remains free.

Could 2018 Be The Year of the Linux Desktop? ( 383

Suren Enfiajyan writes: Red Hat worker and GNOME blogger Christian F.K. Schaller wrote why GNU/Linux failed to become a mainstream desktop OS... "My thesis is that there really isn't one reason, but rather a range of issues that all have contributed to holding the Linux Desktop back from reaching a bigger market. Also to put this into context, success here in my mind would be having something like 10% market share of desktop systems. That to me means we reached critical mass."

He named the following reasons:

- A fragmented market
- Lack of special applications
- Lack of big name applications
- Lack of API and ABI stability
- Apple's resurgence
- Microsoft's aggressive response
- Windows piracy
- Red Hat mostly stayed away
- Canonical's business model not working out
- Lack of original device manufacturer support

Then he ended with some optimism:

"So anyone who has read my blog posts probably knows I am an optimist by nature. This isn't just some kind of genetic disposition towards optimism, but also a philosophical belief that optimism breeds opportunity while pessimism breeds failure. So just because we haven't gotten the Linux Desktop to 10% marketshare so far doesn't mean it will not happen going forward. It just means we haven't achieved it so far.

"One of the key identifiers of open source is that it is incredibly hard to kill, because unlike proprietary software, just because a company goes out of business or decides to shut down a part of its business, the software doesn't go away or stop getting developed. As long as there is a strong community interested in pushing it forward it remains and evolves, and thus when opportunity comes knocking again it is ready to try again."

The essay concludes desktop Linux has evolved and is ready to try again, since from a technical perspective it's better than ever. "The level of polish is higher than ever before, the level of hardware support is better than ever before and the range of software available is better than ever before...

"There is also the chance that it will come in a shape we don't appreciate today. For instance maybe ChromeOS evolves into a more full fledged operating system as it grows in popularity and thus ends up being the Linux on the Desktop end game? Or maybe Valve decides to relaunch their SteamOS effort and it provides the foundation for a major general desktop growth? Or maybe market opportunities arise that will cause us at Red Hat to decide to go after the desktop market in a wider sense than we do today? Or maybe Endless succeeds with their vision for a Linux desktop operating system...."

System76 Will Disable Intel Management Engine On Its Linux Laptops ( 149

System76 is rolling out a firmware update for its recent laptops that will disable the Intel Management Engine altogether. The decision comes after a major security vulnerability was discovered that would allow an attacker with local access to execute arbitrary code. Liliputing reports: What's noteworthy in the System76 announcement is that the PC maker isn't just planning to disable Intel ME in computers that ship from now on. The company will send out an update that disables it on existing computers with 6th, 7th, or 8th-gen Intel Core processors. System76 also notes that Intel ME "provides no functionality for System76 laptop customers and is safe to disable." Right now the firmware update will only be available for computers running Ubuntu 16.04 or later or a related operating system with the System76 driver. But the company says it's working on developing a command line tool that should work on laptops running other GNU/Linux-based operating systems. System76 says it will also release an update for its desktop computers... but on those machines the update will patch the security vulnerability rather than disabling Intel ME altogether.

Security, Privacy Focused Librem 5 Linux Smartphone Successfully Crowdfunded ( 82

prisoninmate shares a report from Softpedia: Believe it or not, Purism's Librem 5 security and privacy-focused smartphone has been successfully crowdfunded a few hours ago when it reached and even passed its goal of $1.5 million, with 13 days left. Librem 5 wants to be an open source and truly free mobile phone designed with security and privacy in mind, powered by a GNU/Linux operating system based on Debian GNU/Linux and running only Open Source software apps on top of a popular desktop environment like KDE Plasma Mobile or GNOME Shell. Featuring a 5-inch screen, Librem 5 is compatible with 2G, 3G, 4G, GSM, UMTS, and LTE mobile networks. Under the hood, it uses an i.MX 6 or i.MX 8 processor with separate baseband modem to offer you the protection you need in today's communication challenges, where you're being monitored by lots of government agencies.
GNU is Not Unix

Richard Stallman vs. Canonical's CEO: 'Will Microsoft Love Linux to Death?' ( 269

TechRepublic got different answers about Microsoft's new enthusiasm for Linux from Canonical's founder and CEO Mark Shuttleworth, and from Richard Stallman. Stallman "believes that Microsoft's decision to build a Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) amounts to an attempt to extinguish software that users are free to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve." "It certainly looks that way. But it won't be so easy to extinguish us, because our reasons for using and advancing free software are not limited to practical convenience," he said. "We want freedom. As a way to use computers in freedom, Windows is a non-starter..." Stallman remains adamant that the WSL can only help entrench the dominance of proprietary software like Windows, and undermine the use of free software. "That doesn't advance the cause of free software, not one bit," he says... "The aim of the free software movement is to free users from freedom-denying proprietary programs and systems, such as Windows. Making a non-free system, such as Windows or MacOS or iOS or ChromeOS or Android, more convenient is a step backward in the campaign for freedom..."

For Shuttleworth, Windows' embrace of GNU/Linux is a net positive for open-source software as a whole. "It's not like Microsoft is stealing our toys, it's more that we're sharing them with Microsoft in order to give everyone the best possible experience," he says. "WSL provides users who are well versed in the Windows environment with greater choice and flexibility, while also opening up a whole new potential user base for the open source platform..." Today Shuttleworth takes Microsoft's newfound enthusiasm for GNU/Linux at face value, and says the company has a different ethos to that of the 1990s, a fresh perspective that benefits Microsoft as much as it does open-source software. "Microsoft is a different company now, with a much more balanced view of open and competitive platforms on multiple fronts," he says. "They do a tremendous amount of engineering specifically to accommodate open platforms like Ubuntu on Azure and Hyper-V, and this work is being done in that spirit."

The article also points out that Microsoft "does seem to be laying the groundwork for WSL to extend what's possible using a single GNU/Linux distro today, for instance, letting the user chain together commands from different GNU/Linux distros with those from Windows."

ESET Spreading FUD About Torrent Files, Clients ( 60

An anonymous reader writes: ESET has taken fear mongering, something that some security firms continue to do, to a new level by issuing a blanket warning to users to view torrent files and clients as a threat. The warning came from the company's so-called security evangelist Ondrej Kubovic, (who used extremely patchy data to try and scare the bejesus out of computer users (Google cache). Like all such attempts at FUD, his treatise ended with a claim that ESET was the one true source whereby users could obtain "knowledge" to protect themselves. "If you want to stay informed and protect yourself by building up your knowledge, read the latest pieces by ESET researchers on WeLiveSecurity," he wrote. Kubovic used the case of Transmission -- a BitTorrent client that was breached in March and August 2016 with malware implanted and aimed at macOS users -- to push his barrow. But to use this one instance to dissuade people from downloading BitTorrent clients en masse is nothing short of scaremongering. There are dozens, if not more, BitTorrent clients which enjoy much wider usage, with uTorrent being one good example. Kubovic then used the old furphy which is resorted to by those who lobby on behalf of the copyright industry -- torrents are mostly illegal files and downloading them is Not The Right Thing To Do. But then he failed to mention that hundreds of thousands of perfectly legitimate files are also offered as torrents -- for instance, this writer regularly downloads images of various GNU/Linux distributions using a BitTorrent client because it is the more community-friendly thing to do, rather than using a direct HTTP link and hogging all the bandwidth available.
Operating Systems

Slackware, Oldest Linux Distro Still In Active Development, Turns 24 70

sombragris writes: July 17 marked the 24th anniversary of Slackware Linux, the oldest GNU/Linux still in active development, being created in 1993 by Patrick Volkerding, who still serves as its BDFL. Version 14.2 was launched last year, and the development version (Slackware-current) currently offers kernel 4.9.38, gcc 7.1, glibc 2.25, mesa 17.1.5, and KDE and Xfce as official desktops, with many others available as 3rd party packages. Slackware is also among the Linux distributions which have not adopted systemd as its init system; instead, it uses a modified BSD init which is quite simple and effective. Slackware is known to be a solid, stable and fast setup, with easy defaults which is appreciated by many Linux users worldwide. Phoronix has a small writeup noting the anniversary and there's also a nice reddit thread.
GNU is Not Unix

15 Devices (Including 6 Laptops) Awarded FSF's 'Respects Your Freedom' Certification ( 85

This week the Free Software Foundation awarded its coveted 'Respects Your Freedom' certification to 15 products -- more than doubling the number of certified products (from 12 to 27) since the program began in 2012. An anonymous reader writes: The non-profit FSF certified six different laptops, two docking stations, three WiFi USB adapters and two internal WiFi devices, a mainboard, and their first-ever certified Bluetooth device, the TET-BT4 USB adapter. The products are all from Technoethical (formerly Tehnoetic), a Romania-based company who previously had just one mini wireless USB adapter on their list of FSF-certified products. "In 2014 we started selling hardware compatible with fully free systems in order to fund the free software activism work that we've been doing with our foundation," said Technoethical founder, Tiberiu C. Turbureanu. "Since then, we worked hard to build a hardware catalog that allows free software users to choose what best fits their computing needs, while also helping with the funding of different free software projects."
"We are excited that Technoethical has brought out such an impressive collection of hardware whose associated software respects user freedom," said the FSF's executive director, John Sullivan. "RYF certification continues to gain speed and momentum, thanks to companies like them."
The Courts

Bruce Perens Explains That 'GPL Is A Contract' Court Case ( 179

Bruce Perens co-founded the Open Source Initiative with Eric Raymond -- and he's also Slashdot reader #3,872. Bruce Perens writes: There's been a lot of confusion about the recent Artifex v. Hancomcase, in which the court found that the GPL was an enforceable contract. I'm going to try to explain the whole thing in clear terms for the legal layman.
Two key quotes:
  • "What has changed now is that for the purposes of the court, the GPL is both a license, which can be enforced through a claim of copyright infringement, and a contract, which can be enforced through a claim of breach of contract. You can allege both in your court claim in a single case, and fall back on one if you can't prove the other. Thus, the potential to enforce the GPL in court is somewhat stronger than before this finding, and you have a case to cite rather than spending time in court arguing whether the GPL is a contract or not..."
  • "Another interesting point in the case is that the court found Artifex's claim of damages to be admissible because of their use of dual-licensing. An economic structure for remuneration of the developer by users who did not wish to comply with the GPL terms, and thus acquired a commercial license, was clearly present."


Technology Is Making the World More Unequal; Only Technology Can Fix This ( 145

mspohr shares an excerpt from an article written by Cory Doctorow via The Guardian: The inequality of badly-run or corrupt states is boosted by the power of technology -- but it's also easier than ever to destabilize these states, thanks to technology. The question is: which future will prevail?" [The article discusses two sides to the issue:] Here's the bad news: technology -- specifically, surveillance technology -- makes it easier to police disaffected populations, and that gives badly run, corrupt states enough stability to get themselves into real trouble. Here's the good news: technology -- specifically, networked technology -- makes it easier for opposition movements to form and mobilize, even under conditions of surveillance, and to topple badly run, corrupt states. Long before the internet radically transformed the way we organize ourselves, theorists were predicting we'd use computers to achieve ambitious goals without traditional hierarchies -- but it was a rare pundit who predicted that the first really successful example of this would be an operating system (GNU/Linux), and then an encyclopedia (Wikipedia). [Cory also has a new novel, Walkaway , which explores these ideas further.] The future will see a monotonic increase in the ambitions that loose-knit groups can achieve. My new novel, Walkaway, tries to signpost a territory in our future in which the catastrophes of the super-rich are transformed into something like triumphs by bohemian, anti-authoritarian "walkaways" who build housing and space programs the way we make encyclopedias today: substituting (sometimes acrimonious) discussion and (sometimes vulnerable) networks for submission to the authority of the ruling elites.
Open Source

Alpine Linux 3.6.0 Released ( 59

An anonymous reader quotes DistroWatch: Natanael Copa has announced the release of Alpine Linux 3.6.0. Alpine Linux is an independent, minimal operating system that is well suited to running servers, routers and firewalls. Version 3.6.0 introduces support for 64-bit POWER machines, 64-bit IBM z Systems computers and features many up to date packages, including PHP 7.1, LLVM 4.0 and version 6.3 of the GNU Compiler.
"Noteworthy new packages" include Rust 1.17.0 and Cargo 0.18.0, as well as Julia 0.5.2, as we ll as "significant updates" like Go 1.8, Python 3.6, and Ruby 2.4. And in addition, "MD5 and SHA-1 hashes have been removed from APKBUILDs, being obsoleted by SHA-512."

Devuan Jessie 1.0 Officially Released ( 237

prisoninmate quotes a report from Softpedia: Announced for the first time back in November 2014, Devuan is a Debian fork that doesn't use systemd as init system. It took more than two and a half years for it to reach 1.0 milestone, but the wait is now over and Devuan 1.0.0 stable release is here. Based on the packages and software repositories of the Debian GNU/Linux 8 "Jessie" operating system, Devuan 1.0.0 "Jessie" is now considered the first stable version of the GNU/Linux distribution, which stays true to its vision of developing a free Debian OS without systemd. This release is recommended for production use. As Devuan 1.0.0 doesn't ship with systemd, several adjustments needed to be made. For example, the distro uses a systemd-free version of the NetworkManager network connection manager and includes several extra libsystemd0-free packages in its repository.
Open Source

Linux 4.10 Kernel Reaches End of Life ( 58

prisoninmate quotes Softpedia: As it's not an LTS (Long Term Support) branch, the Linux 4.10 kernel series was doomed to reach end of life sooner or later, and it happened this weekend with the release of the Linux kernel 4.10.17 patch, which is a major one changing a total of 103 files, with 981 insertions and 538 deletions. Therefore, users are now urged to move to the Linux 4.11 kernel series. If you're using a GNU/Linux distribution powered by a kernel from the Linux 4.10 series you need to update to version 4.10.17 as soon as it makes its way into the stable repositories. However, please inform your OS vendor that they need to upgrade the kernel packages to the Linux 4.11 series immediately.
Open Source

Court Allows Case Over Violating Open Source License ( 156

Slashdot reader destinyland writes: The District Court for the Northern District of California recently issued an opinion that is being hailed as a victory for open source software. In this case, the court denied a motion to dismiss a lawsuit alleging violation of an open source software license, paving the way for further action enforcing the conditions of the GNU General Public License... As part of its motion to dismiss, Hancom argued that using open source code offered under open source licensing terms does not form a contract... The District Court ruled that Artifex's breach of contract claim could proceed, finding that the GPL, by its express terms, requires that third parties agree to the GPL's obligations if they distribute the open-source-licensed software [and] concluded that royalty-free licensing under open source conditions does not preclude a claim for damages...

In denying a motion to dismiss, the District Court only holds that the claims may proceed on the theories enunciated by Artifex, not necessarily that they will ultimately succeed. Still, the case represents a significant step forward for open source plaintiffs... In the past decade, while enforcement of open source licensing violations has become more common, few enforcement cases result in published law. The open source community will be watching this case carefully, and this initial decision vindicates the rights of the open source authors to enforce GPL terms on both breach of contract and copyright theories.

GNU is Not Unix

How Psychology Today Sees Richard Stallman ( 247

After our article about Richard Stallman's new video interview, Slashdot reader silverjacket shared this recent profile from Psychology Today that describes Richard Stallman's quest "to save us from a web of spyware -- and from ourselves." By using proprietary software, Stallman believes, we are forfeiting control of our computers, and thus of our digital lives. In his denunciation of all nonfree software as inherently abusive and unethical, he has alienated many possible allies and followers. But he is not here to make friends. He is here to save us from a software industry he considers predatory in ways we've yet to recognize... for Stallman, moralism is the whole point. If you write or use free software only for practical reasons, you'll stop when it's inconvenient, and freedom will disappear.
Stallman collaborator Eben Moglen -- a law professor at Columbia, as well as the FSF's general counsel -- assesses Stallman's legacy by saying "the idea of copyleft and the proposition that social and political freedom can't happen in a society without technological freedom -- those are his long-term meanings. And humanity will be aware of those meanings for centuries, whatever it does about them." The article also includes quotes from Linus Torvalds and Eric S. Raymond -- along with some great artwork.

In addition to insisting the reporter refer to Linux as "GNU/Linux," Stallman also required that the article describe free software without using the term open source, a phrase he sees as "a way that people who disagree with me try to cause the ethical issues to be forgotten." And he ultimately got Psychology Today to tell its readers that "Nearly all the software on our phones and computers, as well as on other machines, is nonfree or 'proprietary' software and is riddled with spyware and back doors installed by Apple, Google, Microsoft, and the like."

Debian 8.8 Released ( 65

prisoninmate quotes Softpedia: The Debian Project announced today Debian GNU/Linux 8.8, the most advanced stable version of the Jessie series, which brings corrections for numerous packages and various security flaws discovered and patched since the release of the Debian GNU/Linux 8.7 maintenance update back in mid-January 2017... "This update mainly adds corrections for security problems to the stable release, along with a few adjustments for serious problems. Security advisories were already published separately and are referenced where available," reads today's announcement.

"Please note that this update does not constitute a new version of Debian 8 but only updates some of the packages included. There is no need to throw away old 'jessie' CDs or DVDs but only to update via an up-to-date Debian mirror after an installation, to cause any out of date packages to be updated."

Debian 8.8 contains more than 150 bug fixes and security updates.
Open Source

Linux Kernel 4.11 Officially Released ( 55

prisoninmate quotes Softpedia: Linux kernel 4.11 has been in development for the past two months, since very early March, when the first Release Candidate arrived for public testing. Eight RCs later, we're now able to download and compile the final release of Linux 4.11 on our favorite GNU/Linux distributions and enjoy its new features. Prominent ones include scalable swapping for SSDs, a brand new perf ftrace tool, support for OPAL drives, support for the SMC-R (Shared Memory Communications-RDMA) protocol, journalling support for MD RAID5, all new statx() system call to replace stat(2), and persistent scrollback buffers for VGA consoles... The Linux 4.11 kernel also introduces initial support for Intel Gemini Lake chips, which is an Atom-based, low-cost computer processor family developed using Intel's 14-nanometer technology, and better power management for AMD Radeon GPUs when the AMDGPU open-source graphics driver is used.

Slashdot Top Deals