NSA: Please Turn off the Lights When You Leave. Nothing to See Here.

Linux Advocate Dietrich Schmitz shows how the general public can take action to truly protect their privacy using GnuPG with Evolution email. Read the details.

Mailvelope for Chrome: PGP Encrypted Email Made Easy

Linux Advocate Dietrich Schmitz officially endorses what he deems is a truly secure, easy to use PGP email encryption program. Read the details.

Step off Microsoft's License Treadmill to FOSS Linux

Linux Advocate Dietrich Schmitz reminds CIOs that XP Desktops destined for MS end of life support can be reprovisioned with FOSS Linux to run like brand new. Read how.

Bitcoin is NOT Money -- it's a Commodity

Linux Advocate shares news that the U.S. Treasury will treat Bitcoin as a Commodity 'Investment'. Read the details.

Google Drive Gets a Failing Grade on Privacy Protection

Linux Advocate Dietrich Schmitz puts out a public service privacy warning. Google Drive gets a failing grade on protecting your privacy.

Email: A Fundamentally Broken System

Email needs an overhaul. Privacy must be integrated.

Opinion

Cookie Cutter Distros Don't Cut It

Opinion

The 'Linux Inside' Stigma - It's real and it's a problem.

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Turn a Deaf Ear

Linux Advocate Dietrich Schmitz reminds readers of a long ago failed petition by Mathematician Prof. Donald Knuth for stopping issuance of Software Patents.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Customize Fedora's Out-of-the-Box Experience

My Fedora 21 Workstation - Customized


As if I need to tell you, I am 100% behind Fedora.  Those looking for a story on their 'other' Distro can turn away now.

There's nothing wrong with being selective and wanting the best of everything life has to offer, yes?

So, when it comes to Linux on the Desktop, I have put Fedora at the top of my list.  I'll show you my personal configuration and yes it is running remarkably well on my trusty Acer Aspire One D260 Netbook in just 2GB of ram.

I've been on the Fedora bandwagon for nearly a year.  I've watched what other Distro communities are doing and chose Fedora for several reasons.  As for security, there's no better platform than Linux equipped with SELinux, a Linux Security Module (LSM).

With the largest community and having the governance of Red Hat, you can be assured Fedora is going to be around in 5 years.  Safe is not just security;  it's also about stability and longevity.

The 'out of the box' experience with Fedora is quite good.  That is meant to say, one can assume little in the way of post-install configuration is needed.  All bases are covered.

Still, one can put their own personality into adding extra features which is part of the fun of Linux on the Desktop.  There is much one can do--just reach into the Linux parts bin for what you are looking for and bolt on.  Some things require more effort than others.  Let's see what I've done to personalize Fedora Workstation 21.

Fedora chose to break out three products -- Server, Workstation, and Cloud -- in revision 21.  This is no small undertaking and more than trebles the volume of work.  But with careful planning, they will meet their target date for general release, December 9, 2014.

Formerly called Fedora Desktop Edition, Workstation is approximately the same, but the target audience is slanted more towards Student and Developer.  That doesn't make it any more difficult to use -- instead it means the 'mix' of pre-installed applications is slightly different.  What you do is entirely subjective and up to you.  Here goes.

Post-Install Graphical Application Additions



Gnome-Tweak-Tool

As previously mentioned, this tool should be installed by default and as discussed below simply eases making configuration changes.






Gimp
As I do posting to Linux Advocates, often I need access to GIMP and it is a universe unto itself in terms of features for image editing and manipulation.  A must-have for me.







dwb
Fortunately, Fedora Workstation, as in previous revisions, comes with Firefox by default.  This is a pure open source web browser.  I no longer endorse or support Google's Chrome which is proprietary.

I trust that +Tom Callaway will be updating open source Chromium in due course and make it available on or before general release of 21.  I usually keep that on hand for special situations that benefit from using it.  A Big thank you goes to Tom for his hard work.

dwb is my day-to-day browser.  It is lightweight written in C, with webkitgtk bindings and vim keyboard optimizations.  Gear heads will appreciate the vim shortcuts which speeds up everything, besides the compiled C code being inherently super fast.

The version last checked in the 21 repo is from early spring of 2014 and flash isn't working in it.  So, if you are technically inclined, I would suggest getting the dwb-git version with a September 2014 commit number:

[dietrich@localhost ~]$ dwb --version
    This is : dwb-git
    Version : commit 2014-09-20 6a0e483
      Built : Oct 14 2014 13:19:42
  Copyright : (C) 2010-2014 Stefan Bolte
    License : GNU General Public License, version 3 or later

Naturally, you'll need to install the Developer tools that include git, gcc, make and the dependencies listed in the README file and manually with make and make install to fulfill an install of dwb-git.  If you are a true speed geek, it is well worth the effort.


Shutter
Shutter is written in Perl with GTK bindings and ImageMagick.  It is quite useful for special image edit and effects needs.  I recommend both Shutter and ImageMagick to those who are running a website.







Pidgin
Pidgin is a multi-protocol instant messenger GTK program and with the GNOME Shell Extension integration allows one to chat from the shell without opening a Pidgin Chat window.  I prefer it and have used it for years.







Corebird
I've only discovered Corebird in evaluating Fedora 21 Workstation and must say I like it.  This is a GTK Twitter client and it does a nice job of keeping track of those who I follow.





Mailnag
Mailnag is a fairly new Python program with GNOME Shell Extension integration support.  It works quite well in that I use Evolution Email to process my Gmail.  But I leave Evolution closed until Mailnag tells me there is mail.  The notification appears on the top bar with a count for number of emails found.  A python application must be installed and the accompanying Mailnag shell extension.  Opening Mailnag-config, and completing the details for your mail will automatically start a mailnag deamon process running in the background on your system.  I prefer not having Evolution open all the time as it is a memory consumer so go into it only if there is mail to process and then close it to conserve ram.


Under the Hood Non-Graphical System Tweaks



Zswap
Zswap is a Linux kernel loadable module that has been available since version 3.11. It runs resident in its own kernel memory space and compresses data destined for swap to its zram swap 'instead' of your physical swap partition.  When the kernel can put transient data into zram compressed swap, foregoing sending it to slower I/O disk swap space, there is a realized net speed benefit.  This utility is not user-friendly so I would leave it to the gear heads to install it.  There's plenty of documentation on it and I am hoping Fedora will soon upstate the LZO compression method to a newer LZ4 method.

Append the following bolded text to /etc/sysconfig/grub:
GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX="rhgb quiet zswap.enabled=1 zswap.zpool=zsmalloc zswap.max_pool_percent=80" 

Then, save the changes made to grub and run:

#grub2-mkconfig -o /boot/grub2/grub.cfg

You will need then to reboot your PC to have the zwap kernel module load.

Preload
Preload runs as a deamon and monitors your habits, autonomously preloading applications into ram that are used most often.  This can be advantageous on PCs with less ram (2GB or less), such as mine.  Install Preload from a terminal with the following:

$sudo yum install preload

Then you'll need to sudo to root and type:

#systemctl enable preload.service
#systemctl start preload.service

This sets up preload to be maintained by systemd so it will always be resident on boot.

dconf-edit
This graphical tool allows the edit of gnome settings displayed in a tree-structured hierarchical fashion.  Without it you must use gsettings command line tool.  It's good to have not just for editing but for surveying the entire array of configurable settings available.

htop
I always include htop.  Even though I have system-monitor running in the shell tray, sometimes if I am already in a terminal window, it makes doing things easier and faster.  htop is an Ncurses application.

Wallpapers


I'll just mention that there is a nice array of 'stock' wallpapers that many will find aesthetically pleasing.  For those with special needs, there is a 'Pictures' button at the top of the Background application -- pressing that will open into Nautilus to show what you've downloaded into your ~/Pictures folder for selection (see samples below).  I've had more fun lately with GNOME Shell wallpapers than I've had in a long time.  Find that special wallpaper that fits your mood and sensibility.  Here are some that I like:








Customizations Using GNOME-Tweak-Tool



Most people will not go to a terminal to use gsettings and manually install an extension.  It's only gear heads like myself who brave the terminal prompt for various good and peculiar reasons.  As for myself, I prefer not to torture myself and so commenced with installing GNOME-Tweak-Tool.  It's a curiosity to me as to why this tool is not installed by default.  I hope that the Fedora Community will include it in the near term.

So, once installed you are presented with a nice graphical menu with categories, which I will walk down letting you know what changes, if any, I made in each.

Appearance

I've download a bunch of Themes from gnome-look.org and a couple of them are really nice, but, I keep returning to the default, Adwaita.  It's just that good and so I'll leave it up to you to peruse the themes on the website and experiment.

Before you can install a theme, however, you'll need to install the User Theme extension, which takes two seconds to do.  After installing, reload GNOME-Tweak-Tools and a change will be reflected at the bottom of the Appearance page which will allow selection of a user theme.  The only item I changed on the Appearance page is the Font.  I find Faenza icon theme quite pleasing to the eye.  I don't think it is available (yet?) in Fedora 21 repo, but you can still install it from Fedora 19's repo by typing from a terminal:

$sudo yum install --releasever=19 --nogpgcheck faenza-icon-theme

Desktop

On the Desktop page, I've changed nothing with exception to Background Location (aka wallpaper).  You can change it here or by right-clicking on the Desktop and selecting Change Background, or, by going into Settings and clicking the Background Icon.

Extensions
(Go here to view and select from all the available and compatible GNOME Shell Extensions referred to in this section.)

Bitcoin Markets
If you are using Bitcoin (I have a Coinbase account), then, you might want to know where the price is in realtime.  This is the only shell extension for Bitcoin as far as I am aware and updates on the Top Bar.

Caffeine
Have you had it with screensaver?  Well, fret no more.  Go straight to installing Caffeine and this widget will keep screensaver from kicking in.  It can be clicked on and toggled off/on at will and includes preferences in Tweak-Tool.

Dash to Dock
Dash to Dock takes the hidden Dash from the Activities Overview and anchors it to a Dock to so cause Dash to intelligently display and/or be forced to manually display by putting your mouse cursor on the left margin of your screen.  It also has various preferences and allows on appearance the rolling of the mouse wheel to move through your workspaces.

Frippery Applications Menu
This is a simple menu for finding your applications.  It has a right-click preferences menu wherein one can turn off 'text' which results in just the Fedora Icon showing on the left-most part of the Top Bar.  Installing this menu will remove 'Activities' from the Top Bar.  Putting the mouse cursor into the upper left corner of the screen still triggers Activities Overview mode.

Gradient Top Bar
A simple extension with a singular purpose.  It adds a translucent gradient to the Top Bar.  A nice touch.

Mailnag
You'll need this extension as well as the python Mailnag daemon application.  This extension shows a mail icon reminder when your mail arrives and rings a bell to get your attention.  Highly recommended.

OpenWeather
This is so simple, yet, I find it incredibly convenient.  It sits on your top bar and one-click will trigger it's overlay display of useful weather information.  Clean, professional, appropriate.  Recommended.

Pidgin Instant Message Integration
This extension simply integrates with the message tray and facilitates responding to chat directly in the shell message screen without setting focus to your Pidgin application.  An unobtrusive time-saving addition.

Remove dropdown arrows
This does what is says.  The default down arrow on Applications and Places is removed.  I say GNOME should drop the arrow, but that's just my personal preference.

System Monitor
This extension essentially loads your System-Monitor application resident into the message tray.  Using your superkey-M will show a graphical display of the CPU utilization and RAM consumption.  Clicking either sends you into the full-screen application.  I find this and htop quite informational.

User Themes
If you want to use user themes installable outside of the RPM repo and from a user directory, then you need to install this extension first.  After installing the extension, close GNOME-Tweak-Tool and reopen to reflect the change.  A menu option on the Appearance page, Shell Themes, then becomes enabled.

Workspaces to Dock
Much as Dash to Dock applies additional intelligence so too will Workspaces to Dock.  Moving your cursor to the right margin when running a full-screen application will reveal your workspaces in a slightly enhanced but beneficial format.  Drag and Drop of an application from one workspace to another works seamlessly too.  A must have.  I now find myself using workspaces more than ever, spreading out the applications.  A tap of the super-key reflexively goes into Activities Overview and reveals the Dock and Workspaces as well.


Conclusion


As mentioned, the out of the box settings for GNOME Shell are quite adequate.

But within a matter of minutes you can be up to speed installing Shell extensions, applications and tweaks that personalize your Desktop to your liking.  I have found the experience of using Fedora 21 Workstation quite satisfying and, dare I say, Linux on the Desktop has truly become fun again and rivals the professional feel of commercial counterparts Windows and Apple OSX.

That's Fedora 21 customized.  Get the prerelease here.  -- Dietrich




Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Fedora Linux: The Safest Operating System on the Planet

(Image credit: harrisburghelpdesk.com)


Computer Viruses cannot mount an attack on Fedora Linux.

It's a simple fact that millions of Windows users don't know.  In fact, largely, they don't care.  They assume an operating system, like Microsoft Legacy (x86) Windows, comes with AV software to handle the job of fending off viruses as being 'normal'.

Truth be told, it isn't normal.  And whether or not your AV Software catches a virus can be 'hit or miss' and a matter of timing.

I'll get to why Windows gets infected and why Fedora does not in a minute.

How AV Software Works


AV software relies on the fact that every virus will have its own exploit characteristics and the exploit code that invades your PC has it's very own unique CRC 'fingerprint' that when scanned for and compared to a database of 'known exploits' will get a match on that CRC value, which is a unique check sum number.

The problem with that approach is that some of the more clever viruses once they have compromised your system, intentionally alter their own executing code's CRC value on even an hourly basis so as to avoid detection against an AV database which might update only once a day if you are lucky, or worse, once every several days.

And they effectively sit on your system undetected, flying below the radar of your AV software.


Aged Windows NT Kernel


Even today with the very newest Microsoft Windows 8.1 (x86), the WinNT kernel is the same as those going all the way back to Windows 2000.  That's right.  The same.

Microsoft's large base of installed Enterprise systems are running on that kernel and any major redesign would cause hurrendous interruption of service, which simply cannot happen.  So, they continue with their haphazard patch Tuesday sending out updates to known exploits -- that's ones which they 'officially' have taken corrective action on, and doesn't include zero-day exploits.


Zero Day Exploits Prevail


Zero Day Exploits is another matter entirely.  These are exploits which can attack vulnerable unpatched Windows systems for which there is no official fix available.  The wild is filled with a 'black market' for writing Zero Day exploits which sellers sell to criminals who are intent on circumventing your PC on the promise that a Zero Day exploit will be effective.

Around the World, Windows PCs by the millions are prey to attack and this has become quite profitable for a syndicate of criminals intent on parting you from your money.

Such exploits include RansomWare, which is perhaps the most prevalent and pernicious type of virus.  If a successful attack is mounted against your Windows PC, said RansomWare quietly encrypts your hard drive, then puts a private key lock on it, and, only then, notifies the end-user that their PC is locked until they make payment.  It's become like shooting fish in a barrel and the software is now sophisticated enough to even offer the added convenience of payment by Credit Card!  Nice touch ey?  Terrible.

Windows Security is Not Assured


So, you see, running AV on Windows will not guarantee your PC will remain virus-free.  Nope.  Really, from my vantage point, there's nothing that can stop a successful exploit.

Other attacks include Drive by download where the user visits a legitimate website (which is compromised) and by merely going to your 'favorite' website, it can trigger a silent download from your browser a Javascript tag injection of DLL code which then runs unchecked on Windows.

Policing the Kernel's Actions


Unchecked.  The prime defect in WinNT, the aged 2000 kernel, is that there is NO 'third party' policing of what actions are taken by the kernel itself.

Imagine there being a police officer on sentry 24x7 who not only checks the actions taken by your favorite Application, but also those actions spawned by said Application to the kernel to perform specific system functions.

It is at the instant that an Application spawns a SYSTEM call to the Windows kernel (by the injected DLL of a Javascript attack) that a 'third party' should step in to investigate the discrete granular action being taken.  It simply doesn't happen.  The DLL injected code runs and exploit code at this point can perform any SYSTEM related administrative function.  No one called the police.  Your system is owned whether you know it (RansomWare) or not (SpyBot).

Linux Security Modules - A Better Design


Unlike the flawed design of Windows' WinNT kernel, Fedora Linux comes installed with a 'third party' Policing agent -- generically speaking it's called a 'Linux Security Module', specifically the module that is running is called SELinux.

It is this 'policing' aspect of SELinux that sets Linux apart in design and safety from Microsoft Windows.

Any software design which produces an unintended side effect that the software designer never intended to have happen as part of the feature set of a given Application is a 'bug'.  It is also true, that viruses exploit such a bug to induce the Application to behave in an unintended way.  The goal (induced side effect), is to escalate and gain access to the core SYSTEM function API.

SELinux, when your PC boots, binds to the Linux kernel and then makes a 'hook' into the kernel.  This 'hook' is a pause in execution by the SYSTEM at which point SELinux gets the opportunity to approve/deny what the kernel wants to do, BEFORE, execution can happen.  There is no getting by the 'hook' and so anything which is deemed not part of a normal 'policy' for the application which spawned a child SYSTEM call gets a 'deny'.

The exploit simply is stopped cold in its tracks.

So, this was necessarily verbose.  I apologize.  But it is hopefully clearer to you now why I endorse using Fedora 21 Workstation, because it is truly safe and viruses cannot mount an attack.  Ever.

Get Fedora 21 Workstation Prerelease for free (general release December 9, 2014) today, here.

Fedora Linux: The safest operating system on the Planet.

I stake my reputation on it. -- Dietrich

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thanksgiving for a Continued Thriving Linux FOSS Harvest

Happy Thanksgiving (Image Credit: Mepiscommunity.org)

More than ever, we need to give thanks as part of our American yearly custom of celebrating Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November.

It's not about the harvest.  Nor is it about the President 'pardoning' a Turkey or religious proclamations made by Church priesthood in any secular sense.

No, we should not lose sight of what initially formed as the 'Pilgrim' holiday during the early 1600's in New England.  Pilgrim and Puritan immigrants from England brought their traditions to New England in the form of Days of Fasting and Days of Thanksgiving celebration.

It might make more sense to have such celebration following when the 'real' harvest bounty occurs, but history being what it is, the date chosen for Thanksgiving changed over time, most recently to the fourth Thursday of November from the last with a resolution made by President Roosevelt in 1941.

In terms of what we should be thankful for in the Linux Community, I feel the strongest consideration should go to the Gnu Public License from which a great bounty or code base sprang forth.  This bounty remains the stock of open source software that keeps giving of itself over and over, thanks to one Richard Stallman.  We should never forget that without such a novel licensing framework in place, the success of a Linux kernel and its 'moving parts' in the open source 'factory' would not have been possible.

So, remember as you celebrate this holiday that giving back to the FOSS community is essential, or, we would still be under the rigid control of monopolistic proprietary software vendors the likes of Microsoft and Apple.

Thanksgiving wishes go out for a continued thriving Linux FOSS harvest! -- Dietrich



Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Debian on Death's Doorstep: Developers Resist Systemd by Resigning

Is Debian Dying?


There is no shortage of consternation brewing over on the Debian Debacle Cul-de-sac where the nattering nabobs of negativity have forced yet another vote taking for the decoupling (or not) of the current plan to migrate to a replacement for sysvinit system.

The votes are in and it would appear no change in plans will take place.

So, it's full steam ahead with standards-compliant systemd replacing the aged sysvinit middle-ware design.




What lies ahead?  Much discussion preceding the vote taking took place including the proposition of forking Debian.  Yes.  A fork.

And, despite the issue of migrating over 40,000 applications, the proposition is still being taken seriously.

From my vantage point, Debian has always been a 'speed bump' on the road to innovation.  Their software management policy is simply unacceptable in today's world where life can change in a New York Minute.

The concern should present to those Debian derivatives, of which there are many, that delays in moving forward on systemd continue to mount.

Canonical Ltd. Mark Shuttleworth has intimated in a question and answer session (video) including Mir, their Wayland alternative, won't happen any sooner 2016.  I predict that there will be further delay as other unforeseen Debian issues present during their migration to systemd support.

Developers of Debian derivatives and application software ought to be giving serious consideration to the overall 'health status' of their beloved operating system.  They have their work cut out for themselves.  Not only must their Distro middle-ware be modified, but also the applications that run on it.  That is a 'double-whammy' and I'd suspect that when the going gets tough, you'll hear more kvetching and see Developers who can't knuckle-under hitting the exit doors seeking to retire their Derivative or joining up in the RPM camp.  I hope that the latter will be their preference.

Looking at the above chart from Wikipedia showing those major Distros that have adopted systemd, both Debian and Ubuntu stand out and, as a result, all their derivatives will fall into the same status until Debian can reach a stable systemd plateau.  It is interesting to note Gentoo and Slackware have indicated no plan to change over to systemd.

Are these indications that Debian is in the midst of her final initial death throws?

If developers align to advocating for a Fork, then the demise of Debian may well soon follow as a wholesale 'plate tectonic shift' occurs.

As for Me, I am wagering Debian's days are numbered.  What say you?


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

There is no Substitute for #1. Fedora 21 Workstation. Linux Done Right.

There is no substitute for #1.  Fedora 21 Workstation is Linux done right.


You can take this message however you want.

Anyone hoping that Ubuntu Linux will reach critical mass adoption is in for a surprise.  Under the governance of Canonical Ltd. a corporate structure to receive IOUs from one Mr. Mark Shuttleworth, Ubuntu Linux is moving sideways.  It has been a boat without an anchor and no clear charted course.

The good news is that one Distro has overtaken it.  Yes, I've been showing my bias for quite some time.  Most of my readership know that.  But it must be said.

Quietly, industriously, cooperatively, success is here for a true champion Linux on the Desktop.  It is with the arrival of Fedora 21 Workstation I officially see a product with fit and finish that goes beyond what Unity on Ubuntu can ever offer.  Ubuntu lacks critical leadership to be truly successful on a global scale.  It has moved in different directions yet not with the best interests of the Linux Community.  Unity has driven a wedge into the community and has become an island on which no other Distro wants to set foot.  There is no broad support for Unity from the Linux Communiity.

Fedora 21 Workstation integrates, with close direct participation and involvement in design, GNOME Shell 3.14.  Red Hat has taken The GNOME Project under her wing, providing direct infrastructure support for all GNOME-related websites.

This is a turning point.  Fedora 21 Workstation is on a footing to take the mantle and prestige away from Ubuntu.  It succeeds where Ubuntu does not.  Fedora moves forward with clear, published, pragmatic planning and the full support of its community and has traction.  Ubuntu is spinning her wheels and by mere association with Debian will continue to suffer as dependence slows progress by default.

There is no substitute for #1.  Fedora 21 Workstation is truly Linux done right.  -- Dietrich


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Fedora 21 Workstation Prerelease. Pure Awesomeness. Zero Exploitation.

Fedora 21 Workstation Prerelease - Pure Awesomeness.  Zero Exploitation.


What do I mean by Zero Exploitation?

Why pay for recycled software bits when you can get it for free, every version release?  That's Zero Exploitation.  Fedora continually refines its software technology as part of Red Hat's R&D process and becomes part of Red Hat Enterprise Linux when mature.

Unlike Gnu Public Licensed Linux free Open Source Fedora, Microsoft charges a license fee for every software release, both on their Windows operating system and software applications.  The end-user, you, gets a bill for the same software bits they paid for on their first purchase, only with a new skin on top.  Looks different on the outside.  Mostly recycled bits on the inside.  That's exploitation, plain and simple.

So, step off of the Microsoft Licensing treadmill and put an end to the exploitation today.

Enjoy pure awesomeness and complete security of Fedora 21 starting here.


-- Dietrich

Monday, November 10, 2014

Why Working Towards a Singular Purpose With Linux Matters

Viking Ship (Image Credit: image-pearl.com) 

Open Source isn't really about Application Software.  No, it's a philosophy.  That's it.

Most think of Open Source in the context of Software Development, naturally, but it goes further than that.  It is, essentially, a mindset and 'way of life'.

One can share in a cooperative fashion making contributions to a singular cause and remain compatible with Open Source.  This is a human trait -- a willingness to cooperate, share, help others.  Nurturing and embracing the Open Source philosophy can produce positive results on many levels.

Open Source and the Gnu Public License confer the end-user flexibility to access and make changes to the Linux codebase.

Working cooperatively in lock-step fashion in a large team of Developers requires sharing in the goals of a project and furtherance of those goals, even when there might be some disagreement with the approach taken to do a task or disagreement with agreed-to management objectives or community goals.

The current 'rift' which has developed around whether Debian should or should not incorporate middle-ware design changes promulgated by Red Hat has become a focus of discussion with consideration being given to forking the entire Debian codebase in an effort to retain control of those design changes which are pending in merging systemd into Debian.

The very idea of being able to fork a code base is a good thing.  It was demonstrable when Oracle asserted their control over OpenOffice in a way which resulted in irreconcilable differences with the Open Source Community sufficiently to cause a fork to LibreOffice.  It is assumed that conditions were reached where the requirements set forth by Oracle management oversight were recognized as incompatible with Open Source, the philosophy, and so we now see the end result.

The outcome in this example fortunately was a good one.  It relieved an intractable situation and enabled work to continue on an otherwise viable project.

The Debian Project has taken input on the decision to switch away from aged sysvinit to systemd some time ago.  It was all done with requests for public feedback to be considered in making the final choice.

I feel that choice, to switch to systemd, was a good one given systemd's recognized 'net' technical merits.

Yet, today, we see splinter groups who for their own reasons, some which may be valid and some which may not be valid, wish to fork Debian.

What will the unforeseen 'unintended consequences' of taking such action be?

In my estimation, it will put a 'cloud' over Debian, for one, and produce increased end-user confusion with 'mixed messages' implied as to what is 'good verses bad' design.  A fork of Debian is divisive and will so cause an 'us verses them' environment, hostility, isolation, continued disagreement and is not conducive to cooperation and compatible with the Open Source philosophy.

The Vikings learned to build ships with arrays of oars wherein men would cooperate to function in a collective purpose moving their oars in the water in unison to a drum beat, thereby moving the vessel efficiently and speedily like no other.

It was effective.  It was necessarily cooperative or it would not work.  Ignoring the drum beat would cause the ship to founder and not be propelled forward.

Having yet another fork of Linux is arguably good and bad.  It moves manpower away from one project to another.

Forking dilutes the effectiveness of staying to a singular purpose, a singular api, and introduces more variation which makes achieving standards all the more difficult.

It is because Microsoft Windows and Apple OSX are singular apis that a thriving ecosystem was born.  Out of singularity standardization developed, de facto and otherwise.  There was less confusion as all parties involved know the API is singular and coding applications is vastly simplified.

In terms of commercial involvement, such considerations matter greatly.  Cost for one is reduced when it is known in advance that software behaves one and only one way and so administrative controls can be put in place to promote stability.  Enterprise craves stability.  Systems must run uninterrupted.  Any perceived inconsistencies regarding one particular operating system, Linux, will be viewed as 'weaknesses' and that is to be expected.  No CIO wants to have multiple APIs and their attendant complexities to support.  It is at minimum, inefficient and less than stable and less than cost-effective.

Thus, I feel, while forking is important, and Debian 'purists' have the best of intentions, the end result of such a fork will result in a general decline in the use of Debian regardless of which middle-ware is utilitzed.

It is because of this forking, cloning with Distro-sprawl that I reached the conclusion that sticking with ONE Distro was crucial to the overall success of Linux on the Desktop and in the Data Center.  With that said, I chose Fedora by virtue of its Red Hat guidance and breadth of community involvement.

So, just because one can fork, clone, by virtue of the GPLv2 licensing terms, doesn't mean one should.  While it made sense to fork OpenOffice.org, it does not with Debian and will be harmful.

Restraint and adherence to one API is vital to moving Linux into the realm of mass adoption.  -- Dietrich

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Fedora 21 Workstation Preview - YouTube Video

Sometimes you can talk a subject to death and it won't matter.  So, it helps greatly for people who have no Linux experience to get a visualization of what Fedora is all about.

The next Fedora is just around the corner and I have spent extensive time testing Fedora 21 Workstation, currently in beta as of November 4, 2014.

With that, I present to you a YouTube video I created this morning to give a rudimentary view of Fedora 21 Workstation running Gnome Shell 3.14.1.5 and Linux Kernel 3.17.2.

I particularly hope it helps sway new users to come on board. 
-- Dietrich


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Fedora 21 Alpha Workstation Impressions

Fedora 21 Workstation (GNOME 3.14 Desktop GUI)

Draining the Swamp, is the title of a 2001 GUADEC presentation done in Seville Spain back in 2001 by +Jim Gettys, author of the X Window system.  Citing his remarks in an April 2014 story, Christian Schaller (Senior Software Engineering Manager at Red Hat, Developer at GNOME) writes about Gettys' vision:



(...) "We are trying to bring that ‘draining the swamp’ mindset with us into creating the Fedora Workstation product.


With that in mind what is the driving ideas behind the Fedora Workstation? The Fedora Workstation effort is meant to provide a first class desktop for your laptop or workstation computer, combining a polished user interface with access to new technologies. We are putting a special emphasis on developers with our first releases, both looking at how we improve the desktop experience for developers, and looking at what tools we can offer to developers to let them be productive as quickly as possible. And to be clear when we say developers we are not only thinking about developers who wants to develop for the desktop or the desktop itself, but any kind of software developer or DevOPs out there." (...)
That sums up what Fedora 21 Workstation is all about.

Fedora has embarked on an ambitious plan called Fedora.next which breaks out three distinct product lines: Server, Workstation and Cloud.  I only give my initial impressions for Workstation.  Here goes.


Shiny and New


It's a good sign when I find myself smiling, which is what happened after installing Fedora 21 Alpha Workstation.


As I write, and after a week of poking around Fedora Workstation Alpha, I am thinking:

"This is Alpha?  It's more production-ready than other general releases I have seen".  Seriously Folks, it's that stable.

The most obvious change?  Visual.

Fedora Workstation gets the proverbial face lift with GNOME 3.14.   And that is what keeps me smiling.


Adwaita Gets Some Love


In its default form GNOME is fitted to Adwaita Theme.  There are no rough edges.  Just smooth contours, gradients, delicious fonts, all composited to make the eyes feel good.   GNOME has worked diligently in shaping their Human Interface Guidelines to assist GTK Application Developers.

In other work done outside of Fedora, the Adwaita team did a major redesign which improves portability, provides maximum GTK compatibility for Developers and is now the default theme for the GTK toolset.


Bells and Whistles


Alan Day has labored and brings swarming animation.  A nice professional touch of glitz never hurts and lends to the overal professional feel.

Venturing into GNOME Software, you'll discover the newest version now offers Live Search.

Pressing the nine dots icon (or tap the Super key) to type any city name will return the current time in GNOME Clock.

As well, typing a quick calculation into the search field will return from GNOME Calculator an instant result.



Other New Features



  • Touchscreen Gesture support
  • Interactive GTK Inspector (for Developers)
  • Mozilla Location Service
  • New Animations for Activities
  • New Minimize Maximize Transition Effects

Updated Apps



  • Weather App Geolocation Support
  • Maps Route Planning
  • Boxes Multi-Window, VM Snapshot Support
  • Music Online Provider Support
  • Photos Google/PicasaWeb Integration
  • Evince PDF Reader Redesigned
  • dnf (Yum replacement) Speed Improvements

Kernel Update


During this week, Fedora 21 yum update-testing downloaded Linux Kernel 3.17, which the Linux Foundation reports includes several feature enhancements.

New Default Terminal Theme


GNOME Terminal now defaults to using the Solarized theme (below).

GNOME 3.14 Solarized Theme

New System Log Utility


For those who feign going near system logs, a new utility called Logs will come in very handy (below) and makes viewing logs simple.

New System Logs Utility

Wayland Remains Non-Default


To those who have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of Wayland production support, I say: "Good things come to those who wait." ;)

Seriously, Christian Schaller gives an update on the status of Wayland and I will say from my own vantage point while Wayland may be stable, the process of migrating GTK Apps to use Wayland is ongoing.  Schaller writes:


(...) "So we want to keep being a place where you do get access to new and exciting technologies first, but as you see with the Wayland effort we are now going to go the extra mile to make sure we offer this new technologies in a way that allows you to still use Fedora as your day to day working machine without worrying that these new features will hinder your work. So we will keep Wayland available as a separate non-default session until we feel very confident that our users are not going to be negatively impacted by the switch. Which means we want to fix and polish up the last remaining bits and pieces, make sure that performance is top notch, make sure all input hardware works flawlessly, work with NVidia and AMD to help them make their binary drivers available for Wayland before we make this the new default." (...)

Conclusions


As for 'Draining the Swamp', I am giving a thumbs up to the Fedora and GNOME Teams for their hard work.  Fedora Workstation really shines and despite being Alpha, I have not had any major problems aside from what gets sent in the automated crash reports.

Fedora succeeds and while the use case Target Audience includes, Students and Developers I would feel comfortable recommending it to Grandma.

Fedora Workstation product documentation can be found here.
Alpha/Beta Testers are encouraged to participate.  Get the Prerelease here.

-- Dietrich


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Shuttleworth Pronouncements, Proclamations, Palaver and Privacy Integration

I see Mr. "I'm Special" Shuttleworth is at it again.

He seems to enjoy being in the limelight.  And, if you take pictures of him on stage with pictures of him in the backdrop with his name emblazoned -- all the better.  His ego fulfillment is unabashedly on display.

Seriously, I have taken jabs at Canonical Ltd., MS and his community of psychophants in the past and, quite frankly, enjoy doing it.  This is a small society which has little effect on the quality of Linux on the Desktop.

Ubuntu purports to offer new technology paradigms, but, in reality, is in opposition to anything but its own bastardized notions of innovation.  Left-handed doo-dads instead of right, global menus (Mac emulation), broken scrollbars, subverted Wayland code (Mir) all designed with a solitary purpose -- to wrest control from and drive a wedge into the open source community and advance a cause with no clear purpose.

Canonical Ltd. continues to 'spend' down MS IOUs as it capriciously plots its vision of the future that nobody quite understands.

Yesterday, "the King" made another one of his "Brilliant Man!" pronouncements.  Paraphrasing his overly verbose Here be Dragons post:  "Erahhh, gee, this whole invasion of privacy thing is getting out of hand -- I think I need to say something about it -- lend the appearance of having lofty thoughts at least and maybe I can buy some time while I actually come up with some new bright ideas -- Oh a fellowship! -- yes, that's it -- let me throw them a bone -- token gesture".

News Flash, Mr. Shuttleworth.  True Internet Privacy is attainable.  The technology used to protect your Distro, GnuPG, is viable and pivotal to 'the solution'.  It just needs to be made more user friendly with some help from the open source community with Apps that approach usability like Enigma.  Enigma isn't getting the love it could use, in fact, it has gone stale and lost support.  Still, we are not without recourse.

No, Google's End-toEnd encryption is not the solution.  That endeavor is 'reinventing the wheel'.  Google wants to port GPG to Javascript.  Bad Bad Bad.  Improve upstream OpenPGP.  What is needed is a true Desktop-Integrated Privacy App.  It should be transparent and drop-dead easy to use.

Much as we have come to expect of Microsoft Office or LibreOffice, we should provide the means for obtaining iron-clad Internet Privacy as a matter of right.


This is the true mandate.

So, please.  Mr. Shuttleworth.

Pronouncements, Proclamations, and Palaver are not needed.  Start by putting together a list of 'draft actionable items' for discussion that can become the final framework upon which to move forward in the Open Source Community, collectively, without divisiveness, or proprietary twists of any kind. -- Dietrich