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Roy Schestowitz's blog

Video: Editing Work in Tux Machines

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Site News

Video download link

THE site is turning 17 very soon. We thought it would be worthwhile belatedly explaining how it works and how editorial policies evolved to better serve readers and lurkers.

Tux Machines Turning 17 Shortly

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Site News

Video download link

THIS site will turn 17 in a couple of weeks (screenshot below). The video above explains how we got here, who's responsible for it, and where we move from here. Wink

Tux Machines whoisThe video is very informal (totally unscripted, unedited, improvised), but it's also the first time we publish such a video in this site (or the blog).

We wish to thank all those who have supported or merely read us for many years. Spread the word. We're always eager to reach audiences that don't know much about GNU/Linux and may consider switching to it.

In retrospect, as this is composed after making the above video, it's worth noting that the antiX-19.4 page could not be found because of the dash (or hyphen). We rarely miss important news and we're typically very quick to cover/mention important stories.

Elephant and Its Ivory

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Just talk

Elephant and Its Ivory

LIVES at risk. This is a travesty. REPUBLIC OF NAMIBIA'S MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT, FORESTRY AND TOURISM: "We should manage elephants based on science and not emotions." By auctioning/selling off 170 live elephants? Give us a break. Oftentimes, animals were to make a sacrifice over humans because they are just "animals", so they can't speak to us, and can't protest. We're asked to assume they're just the least important, therefore we can eradicate (or "cull") them -- as simple as that. How I wish the the Animal Kingdom will become a force and burn this kind of society just to make a statement -- and then, maybe, humans will truly realise the value of animal rights. Shame on those African countries which don't give a shit about all those people who tirelessly devoted their time and life to protecting the wild animals, and specifically the elephants. Animals can't speak, but they can see you and they can feel you; just look into and gaze at their eyes, doesn't that give you goosebumps? Burn.

Big Traffic in Tux Machines Ahead of 17th Anniversary

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Site News

Big Big Traffic
Credit: Penguin rendering by Mogz

THE Tux Machines site turns 17 in a couple of months and traffic has never been better. This past week it was on average 100,000 hits per day and later this month we will have posted the 150,000th node.

Sorting out the news isn't a simple task, but with experience it gets a lot easier and we're glad to be a leading syndicator in that space.

Migrating TuxMachines to a Bigger Server

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Site News

We are in the process of moving the TuxMachines Web site to a better server with more capacity and better hardware. There may be temporarily odd behaviour on the site (if data is accessed which is out of date).

Monitoring Tux Machines With Apachetop, Nmon and Htop

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Site News

Monitoring Tux Machines

Summary: A little glimpse at how we monitor this site for DDOS attacks and general performance, especially now that DDOS attacks have already become pervasive and routine (Apachetop helps identity attack patterns and visual, colourful alerts are triggered in Nmon and Htop)

Malicious Bots

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Site News

Choking on bots, cannot cope

TUX MACHINES may seem to have become rather slow if not unreachable at times. Over the past few months we've had issues with bots that request as many as 10,000 files per minute from the site's server, which is obviously unable to cope with the load/bandwidth and actually deliver what's requested. Sometimes it even resets Apache in order to regain order. At the moment we lack a permanent solution, but we have some mitigations in place.

More than 5 years ago we had to stop new account sign-ups due to spammers setting up loads of dummy accounts (hundreds per day), then directing these to vandalise the site. This inevitably led to tighter control from an editorial perspective and it reduced the number of comments.

Running a site is no picnic; it's a 24/7 responsibility. We do the best we can to maintain a reliable service whilst at the same time also pursuing the latest news stories of interest. This takes a huge amount of time and dedication.

If it is difficult to reach the site or if the site feels very slow, it's almost definitely due to those bots. The server's uptime is now 160 days.

Microsoft Loves Painting Apple (or "GAFA") as the Problem

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Just talk

Mask Me No Questions: The 'new' Microsoft; Mask Me No Questions

Summary: The latest twist in Microsoft's PR strategy is, divert attention and blame to other companies [1,2], even if their alleged abuses are in fact a copy of Microsoft's own

  • Microsoft Backs Epic’s Apple Battle on Game Technology Access

    The graphics technology, known as Unreal Engine, is a suite of software used by millions of developers to build 3-D games and other products. Cutting off Epic from Apple’s iOS and Mac developer tools would mean the gaming company can no longer distribute Unreal Engine to other developers, Epic said in its legal filing. Microsoft, which makes the Xbox, uses the technology for games developed for consoles, PCs and mobile devices.

  • Microsoft Supports Epic Games, Says Apple Blocking Access to Unreal Engine Would Harm Game Creators

    In a declaration in support of Epic Games [PDF], Microsoft gaming executive Kevin Gammill wrote that "Apple's discontinuation of Epic's ability to develop and support Unreal Engine for iOS or macOS will harm game creators and gamers." Specifically, Gammill said that games utilizing Unreal Engine will be put at a "substantial disadvantage," citing Microsoft's own racing game Forza Street for iPhone and iPad as an example.

140,000 Reached

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Site News

Clock

THIS may be hard to believe, but after more than 16 years we've managed to put together 140,000 Drupal nodes (this one is the 140,000th). Most of these are news clippings and clusters of links. The rest are pages, blog posts and forum threads.

The next meaningful milestone will be the 150,000th node and our 20th anniversary (some time in 2024). We're quite certain we'll get there, along with 200,000 nodes, as this past week we've been in the region of all-time record traffic.

Susan is still involved sometimes, albeit behind the scenes. We thank her enormously for all the work she did.

3 Months From Home

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Site News

TM setup portrait


TUX MACHINES has been run from one single place over the past 3 months because of the COVID-19-induced lock-downs. We no longer travel far from home (it's impractical)... and we both work from home anyway.

The prolonged shut-down of businesses (they only reopened a fortnight ago) resulted in lack of access to some digital necessities, but that almost always meant more free time to rethink and reassess the workflow and the workspace with existing hardware (reshuffling what we already have, both new and old).

Last month I showed how the screens on my desk were split to handle multi-tasking. Last week I shuffled to portrait mode (as shown above). Rianne too uses 2 or 3 screens, but her setup is somewhat simpler. We basically both use a combination of RSS readers. I mostly use QuiteRSS and she uses Thunderbird and QuiteRSS in conjunction (best of both worlds). We're still hoping that an intern based in Africa will start participating soon. The pandemic has made access to the Internet a lot harder for him. He wants to cover programming and Web-related topics for us.

Sweet Sixteen

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Site News

Exuberant dog

TUX MACHINES is turning 16 today. Yes, 16. Not many sites last this long.

The interesting thing is, this past week we had an all-time traffic record and the same is true for the week prior. So for two weeks in a row, despite relatively slow news, we broke a record.

We aren't celebrating the birthday this year (we're still restricted in what can be done here, due to the virus), but maybe next year we'll do something and even share some photos.

Peaking Again

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Site News

Summary: In terms of number of daily nodes, we're at the pinnacle still (despite slow news at times of lock-downs)

Tux Machines is turning 16 exactly one month from now. We've decided to plot activity over time, as measured by number of posts/nodes. It's not the most important measure (e.g. original articles), but it's something that's not too hard to plot.

Attached to this post is tux-posts.txt, which can be converted into tux-numbers.txt as follows:

sed 's/[\t ][\t ]*/ /g' < tux-posts.txt | cut -d' ' -f3,5 >tux-numbers.txt

We can then plot it:

gnuplot -p -e 'plot "./tux-numbers.txt" with linespoints linetype 1 pointtype 2 linecolor 10'

And voila!

Plot tuxmachines posts

In a month from now we might buy a cake.

Running Tux Machines

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Site News

Roy's deskop

Roy's deskop and laptop

Roy's deskop and laptop with text

Running Tux Machines with my wife (the lead editor, I mostly sweep up and cluster related stories) is a hobby but it feels like a full-time job, a 24/7 job that involves picking and sorting news as quickly as possible, almost non-stop around the clock. My own workflow -- not speaking about Rianne's -- can be shown in this annotated photo, which I took a couple of hours ago. Readers might find it interesting, knowing roughly how the site is run from my side (not Rianne's). The office is at home of course, as we're both remote workers in the area of computing. We're like sysadmins for a living and maintaining Tux Machines helps keep us abreast of the latest technologies.

Turning 16 This Summer

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Site News

No crisis for the "tuxmachiners"

tuxmachines at whois

AS keen observers may be aware, bearing in mind last year's anniversary party (when such parties were still permitted), we're soon turning 16. There won't be a party or anything; not even online (it's pointless).

This past year has been our strongest and for whatever reason since the pandemic began (epidemic escalated and declared "pandemic"), then soon thereafter lock-downs were enforced, we saw another uptick in traffic. We don't spy on visitors, but we merely observe the size of Apache logs, which are then wiped for privacy reasons.

When Rianne and I took over the site in 2013 it had already flourished, thanks to the love of care of Susan. We continue curating the news, clustering together related reports. The list of blogs we syndicate continues to grow because the mainstream media perishes, leaving a vacuum for people who are eager to find timely information, such as distro reviews and howtos.

If you run a GNU/Linux-oriented blog in the English language that we do not link to (most likely because we're not aware of its existence), let us know in the comments, in IRC, or other contact means. We soon turn 16 and we're quite confident that we'll make it to 20 as well. At the moment, as of this month, we also do server upgrades and we hope to add SSL soon. We've already moved one of this site's databases to a separate container in Alpine Linux. We make improvements while maintaining the site's spirit and long tradition.

Stay home. Save lives.

100,000 Tweets

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Site News

@tuxmachines in Twitter
The @tuxmachines account in Twitter as of this morning

We have been on Twitter for nearly a decade. It's proprietary and centralised, but some of our audience comes from there. In the start of March we'll have posted our 100,000th tweet in Twitter. A milestone? Maybe for Twitter. We try to focus on our presence in Free/libre networks, such as Mastodon, Pleroma and Diaspora. We joined Pleroma a year ago and have more followers there than we have in Twitter. Spring is fast approaching, which means we soon turn 16.

Why Tux Machines Occasionally Adds Editorial Comments

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Just talk

Editorials

Summary: Editorial remarks (or Editor's comments, "Ed" for short) play a role in highlighting potential inaccuracies -- and manipulations of the mind -- when those aren't so shallow and aren't abundantly obvious

Recently, and as lately as a few hours ago, Richard Stallman exchanged some messages and we might meet again in a few months (he is traveling to the UK). Stallman and I share a concern about neglect of truth and history; for instance, many GNU programs are nowadays dubbed "LINUX COMMANDS" (I saw one example of that just 2 hours ago) and people sometimes lose sight of the important goals, focusing on brands instead of philosophy, political aspects and so on.

"Sometimes we link to something which isn't entirely accurate or can be misleading."

I would like to take this moment, on the last day of this year, to explain where we stand on issues pertaining to software freedom. A few times in the past one reader bemoaned my editorial comments (marked "Ed"), which typically bemoan something about the cited article/s. Sometimes we link to something which isn't entirely accurate or can be misleading. One example of that is openwashing. Another rather common and increasingly ubiquitous example concerns Microsoft "loving" Linux (it actually loves Windows).

We live in a world with Public Relations and marketing agencies. They exist to mislead; they shape perceptions -- that's their business model! To blindly link to just anything online without commentary or curation would likely lead us astray. Truth does matter. Facts need to be checked. This is what Tux Machines strives to achieve; throwing the word "LINUX" into something like Google News would expose one to loads of cruft, irrelevant stuff, plagiarism, pure spam and sometimes intentional lies. With no human operator or editor just about anything can be dunked into search results, owing to SEO manipulation and mishandling of indexes. I've seen that for well over a decade. Automation just doesn't work; someone who understands the problem domain needs to assess things for quality and accuracy.

"To be fair, comments are open, so readers can respond."

My adult life (since age 18 or so when I became a GNU/Linux user) involved very hard work and lifelong activism for software freedom. Not everyone agrees with me and if sometimes I may say something readers disagree with (e.g. in editorial comments), then it's likely because I try to be realistic, not jingoistic. Moreover, no two individuals will agree on everything 100% of the time. That's inevitable. So some readers might dislike these editorial comments. To be fair, comments are open, so readers can respond.

At the moment, the way I personally see it, Free software is under a number of attacks. There are different types of attacks. I think Free software will endure regardless. On a more positive note, Free software is nowadays used everywhere, it's just not being called that ("Open Source" is the term corporate media prefers) and it has been leveraged as a low-cost 'cushion' for DRM, surveillance, militarism etc. Think of companies like Facebook and Netflix (GNU and Linux at their back ends). Is this what we strive for? Closed systems that are merely built upon Freedom-respecting stacks?

"At the moment, the way I personally see it, Free software is under a number of attacks."

Software freedom is a huge objective in a world where almost everything becomes digital (only more so over time). I think it's up to us to somehow guide the world's software towards ethical uses, without necessarily imposing how it's used, and that is perhaps a future challenge for the Free Software Movement. It's a monumental challenge because politics can be a massive terrain to navigate. Over at Techrights I mostly focus on issues such as patents (laws), with emphasis on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the European Patent Office (EPO) granting software patents in Europe and so on. Patents on algorithms are one kind of barrier (among many) impeding Free software adoption.

The End of Tux Machines' Strongest Year

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Site News

Tux Machines 2020

TODAY is the last day of the last month of this year if not decade. We're pleased to close this year with record traffic levels. In 2019 we increased our coverage of programming-centric matters, especially when the underlying frameworks/languages were Free/libre software.

Earlier this year we also celebrated our 15th anniversary. There are three of us working behind the scenes to make the site up to date and keep it up (online). We're all passionate users of GNU/Linux who want to spread the word and encourage more people to use the platform.

In 2019 not only did we see record traffic levels; we also saw an unprecedented level of success for GNU/Linux in the adoption sense. Rianne is responsible for "Android leftovers" and remember that each Android device has Linux (or "Tux") in it. Google explored alternatives, but we haven't heard of these for months. It's nowadays very difficult to run a company or start a company without Linux -- no matter if in the server or device space. Let's hope Tux Machines will be around -- and online -- for many years to come. Happy new year.

Moving Into 'Christmas Mode'

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Site News

Slow news day

Summary: Fewer news items in days to come and potentially some planned downtime as well

AS ONE can expect, we won't be able to find much news over the next few days, and perhaps be 'low volume' for as long as a week or more to come (a problem to news addicts or neophiles). We'll try to also upgrade/migrate the site if all goes according to plan. In that case, there might be limited downtime (scheduled, altogether expected, no need to panic).

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it.

Keep the Bees Going

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Site News

Bee

MANCHESTER is known as the city of "working bees" because of the work ethics or its hard-working people. Working bees are the symbol of Manchester, where my wife and I are based and spend each day -- morning, afternoon, evening and sometimes night -- posting updates here in Tux Machines.

The end of the year is fast approaching. Literally 22 days left, i.e. 3 weeks and a day. We wish to thank those who tipped up yesterday to keep us going. We accept donations through PayPal and we're grateful for any contribution readers can make, even if as meager as a cup of coffee's worth. It gives my wife and I motivation to continue and circulate updates as soon as we find them. Thank you! Smile

Using Menus For Command Line Programs and Scripts

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Howtos

THE holidays are coming (Christmas approaching), so I've taken advantage of some spare time to menu-ise commands that I use frequently. Those commands aren't the mere opening of an application and they often require dealing with input and output (in the command line). So I've created menu.sh and used dialog to craft the following menu, e.g. for operations associated with Techrights. I invoke this menu with the click of one button (of the mouse).

Rianne has a similar menu for commands she often runs (which are long and would otherwise need pasting or typing in length). Her menu looks something like this:

Rianne's menu

Here's the code (bash file) that renders the menu above (it's really that simple!):


#!/bin/bash

HEIGHT=15
WIDTH=40
CHOICE_HEIGHT=4
BACKTITLE="Aloha, Rianne"
TITLE="Rianne @ Ted"
MENU="Choose one of the following options:"

OPTIONS=(1 "Start VPN"
         2 "REDACTED"
         3 "REDACTED"
	4 "REDACTED"
	5 "REDACTED"
	6 "REDACTED"
	7 "REDACTED"
)

CHOICE=$(dialog --clear \
                --backtitle "$BACKTITLE" \
                --title "$TITLE" \
                --menu "$MENU" \
                $HEIGHT $WIDTH $CHOICE_HEIGHT \
                "${OPTIONS[@]}" \
                2>&1 >/dev/tty)

clear
case $CHOICE in
        1)
            echo "You chose Option 1"
sh ~/vpn.sh ;;

        2)
            echo "You chose Option 2"
REDACTED COMMAND ;;
        3)
            echo "You chose Option 3"
REDACTED COMMAND ;;
        4)
            echo "You chose Option 4"
REDACTED COMMAND ;;
        5)
            echo "You chose Option 5"
REDACTED COMMAND ;;
        6)
            echo "You chose Option 6"
REDACTED COMMAND ;;
        7)
            echo "You chose Option 7"
REDACTED COMMAND ;;

esac

Hopefully this inspires other people out there to do the same. It takes a while to set up, but it's a big time saver over the long run.

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