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Roy Schestowitz's blog

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

Filed under
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.

Tux Machines Entering a Third Decade Soon

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Site News

Put your tuxedo on

Tux Machines 2020
Getting better over time?

SUSAN created this site a very long time ago, more than a decade and a half in the past. Susan did a spectacular job. With regular news updates she managed to grow the site in terms of pages, screenshots, reviews, readers, and contributors. We are eternally thankful to her.

Rianne and I have run the site since 2013. 2020 is around the corner (just over 3 weeks left!) and that makes another new decade. In terms of site traffic we continue to grow. Other than Rianne and I posting news updates 'around the clock' there's already a systems administrator who volunteered to help keep the site chugging along. We are very thankful to him. He prefers to remain unnamed. So Tux Machines is basically not a one-person operation. It is basically a team of three people now (in addition to various people who add posts/links). Rianne (based in the UK) usually takes the lead with breaking stories, I tend to post summaries or clusters of related links and system integrity/uptime is assured from Scandinavia. The hypervisor is physically in the United States. We're a sort of international team with no income source (other than our jobs).

If you enjoy the site and find it handy, maybe you wish to drop us a tip for Christmas as a token of gratitude. Anything helps, even a cup of coffee's worth. Coffee helps keep us awake to post more links. Wink

Keeping a Web Site Safe and Available With or Without a CDN

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Site News

PostgreSQL

THE site Tux Machines is and has been online for over 15 years. It has not suffered security-related incidents. The same is true for Techrights, which soon turns 13. Tux Machines uses Gallery and Drupal, whereas Techrights uses MediaWiki, WordPress and Drupal. WordPress is its most important component as it contains over 26,000 posts. Tux Machines has about 130,000 nodes in Drupal. We don't use a CDN as we have a reasonably powerful server that can cope with the load on its own. For security we use best practices and keep critical issues plugged. I was recently asked for advice on these matters and explained things as follows.

There are mainly two types of attacks (maybe three if one includes social engineering, e.g. tricking a citizen journalist/blogger/administrator into a trap):

1) capacity-based, e.g. DDOS attack

2) exploiting vulnerabilities to degrade/compromise site's quality of service (similar to (1) above but not the same), access site data (confidential), spy on people (writers/staff/visitors) without them being aware.

WordPress runs lots of stuff and powers a lot of the Web, maybe 20% (or more) of today's Web sites. It's regularly checked for security issues and bugs are regularly fixed. Updates can be set to automatic, which means they happen in the background without user intervention. I check the site for updates several times per day, e.g. this one from yesterday.

I've used WordPress for 15 years as an early adopter and developer.

What's known as the "core" of WordPress is generally secure if kept up to date, manually or automatically (for large sites it might make sense to apply patches manually to reduce risk of unnoticed incidents and enable quality control, patch assessment etc). It's also important to keep the underlying operating system and pertinent packages like PHP (programming language), mysql/psql (WordPress and Drupal typically use MariaDB or MySQL as the database, but PostgreSQL should be possible too) and Apache (there are simpler alternatives e.g. NGINX for Web server) up to date.

If we get to keep everything up to date, and moreover we don't install WordPress extensions that cannot be trusted or are no longer maintained (or scarcely maintained), we should be OK. The social engineering part involves stuff such as phishing, e.g. someone sending out an E-mail in an attempt to obtain passwords of privileged users.

If you use a CDN for content distribution, e.g. CloudFlare, then availability will be mostly down to the CDN company. WordPress generates pages on the fly (dynamic), but it has caching mechanisms that can be further improved with extensions. The CDN likely obviates the need for those. So, if the site is receiving 'too many' requests, the CDN can probably scale to deal with that (maybe a more expensive protection plan).

I peronsally would never use CloudFlare (for a lot of reasons), but to many people it's the only CDN that 'counts' or exists. Brand recognition perhaps.

Daylight Linux Version 4

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Linux

Daylight Linux (Web site) version 4 has just been released.

The Linux kernel is now upgraded to the 5.3 version for the AMD64 live version and Kernel 4.19.68 for the Raspberry Pi version.

All packages are upgraded to the Debian 10 version or to the cutting-edge version (experimental) for all current software packages.

Added compatibility for the Raspberry Pi 4.

By Hamdy Abou El Anein
Founder / Linux system engineer

Daylight Linux V4

Daylight Linux V4

Daylight Linux V4

Daylight Linux V4

Daylight Linux V4

Contact Private Internet Access (PIA) Managers to Help Save Linux Journal From Shutdown

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Site News

Private Internet Access

TUX MACHINES turned 15 almost exactly two months ago. The site has operational costs, as one can expect, mostly the hardware and bandwidth. We've thankfully had these resources very kindly donated to us last year, basically saving us the massive burden of bills somewhere around $10,000. Running a site with a lot of traffic isn't cheap and it isn't getting cheaper, either. As an overhead or addition to server maintenance (uptime requires habitual work on repairing databases, managing backups, patching of software and agonising system upgrades once in a few years) it takes a lot of time to compose new material and moderate to keep spam out.

A lot of the mainstream media is bashing Linux Journal right now. It makes it seem like its demise is a problem with GNU/Linux itself. These are villainous lies from self-serving foes of Linux, sometimes people who are aligned with Microsoft or salaried by Microsoft (we don't want to link to their provocative clickbait). But anyway, the bottom line is that keeping Linux Journal online may be costly and people should prepare for the possibility of Linux Journal becoming unavailable (offline) some time soon. I try very hard to prevent this (today and yesterday). "There is a real (and ever-growing) danger that a massive trove of GNU/Linux and Free software history will vanish unless urgent action is taken right now," I said. There are ways to avoid this (writers of that site need to unite in a union-like sense). I also secure my own sites from such a fate, having reached almost 13 years in Techrights. This week the site is experiencing all-time traffic records.

I've decided to contact Rick Falkvinge (Dick Greger Augustsson), founder of the Swedish Pirate Party and head of privacy at Private Internet Access, which owns Linux Journal. Bear in mind he used to work for Microsoft. We're still friendly online (we've exchanged some messages over the years) and he probably has sufficient clout at Private Internet Access to sway their decisions. In case they plan to shut down the site, we must act fast. Please contact him; as per his Web site, his E-mail address is x1bpsas66na001@sneakemail.com and any message he receives he can relay to other high-level people at the company. I don't personally know anyone else at that company, so that's the only contact I'm able to provide.

Microsoft loves Microsoft Linux

Filed under
Humor

Microsoft loves Microsoft

Summary: A very old cartoon/column (half a century old) rewritten to explain where Microsoft stands when it comes to "loving" Linux

Tux Machines Over the Past 15 Years

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Site News

2005

Tux Machines site in 2005

2010

Tux Machines site in 2010

2012

Tux Machines site in 2012

2013

Tux Machines site in 2013

Late 2013

Tux Machines site in late 2013

2014

Tux Machines site in 2014

2015

Tux Machines site in 2015

2019

Tux Machines site in 2019

Coming Shortly: 15-Year Anniversary

Cake on the way...

Tell Us About Your (or Others') GNU/Linux Blogs

Filed under
Site News

THE MEDIA online is dying. It's no secret. Not all sorts of media are dying but traditional media struggles to survive. Causes for these have been explained for years if not more than a decade. This won't be the subject of this post.

Tux Machines does not produce a lot of original material. Susan used to publish GNU/Linux reviews (with galleries of screenshots), but other than that we mostly cluster and syndicate news. This has been the case for nearly 15 years (our anniversary is next month).

Each year it feels like mainstream media produces a lot less stories (not just about GNU/Linux but about anything, in general terms). So we're 'mining' more and more RSS feeds, typically of blogs. Do you have a GNU/Linux blog or know one/s you wish to recommend? Let us know in the IRC channel because we always hunt for more news sources, no matter if they're 'mainstream' or not as long as they're credible, reliable, and on topic.

The Microsoft Commandments

Filed under
Humor

Microsoft B0rg

  1. Thou shalt not host a FOSS project outside GitHub (otherwise it won’t ‘count’)
  2. Thou shalt not edit code without Visual Studio (which now has an “open” — albeit spying and malicious — component for openwashing purposes)
  3. Thou shalt not code without .NET (or Mono)
  4. Thou shalt not use a voting machine without Windows (we have just announced some openwashing component to make up for the NSA back doors that compromise elections worldwide)
  5. Thou shalt not boot GNU/Linux as a standalone operating system (UEFI might not permit this anyway, unless we sign for approval)
  6. Thou shalt not get get a GNU/Linux distribution outside our Store
  7. Thou shalt not buy a computer without Windows preinstalled; those are “naked PCs” and everyone who buys such PCs is a “pirate”
  8. Thou shalt not disparage or even publicly criticise our staff (that would be in violation of GitHub rules, a Code of Conduct, T&C and so on)
  9. Thou shalt not report back doors in our software or leak NSA tools that take advantage of these (there’s a prison sentence for doing so)
  10. Thou shalt not write in mass media things that refute our narrative (proving that we are chronic liars); we would bribe the publication using advertising money and have you sacked
  11. Thou shalt not use open formats such as OpenDocument except inside Microsoft Office, which is incompatible with all other software (by design)
  12. Thou shalt not distribute Linux without paying Microsoft for patents; we’re still suing companies (in 2019) for having the audacity to do so
  13. Thou shalt not host a site or a service outside Azure; we'd sic patent trolls at you
  14. Thou shalt not oppose Microsoft’s lock-in and proprietary software shims inside Linux; we’d send our media partners (Condé Nast) to oust you, at least for a month if not permanently
  15. Thou shalt not report our crimes to the authorities; doing so would make you a “toxic”, “intolerant” person
  16. Thou shalt not use the GPL unless all other options have been exhausted
  17. Thou shalt not adopt a Web browser other than MSIE or our rebranded Chrome, also known as Edge; we’d occasionally tinker with your computer’s settings to remind you to quit using other browsers or refuse the download of such “malware”
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