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Licensing/Legal Facets of FOSS

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  • 5 Best Drag and Drop Builders For WordPress of 2019 [Ed: And proprietary software with "free bait".]

    Depends on your requirements, really. One thing that you need to keep in mind is that the prices are different for different packages, so money is a factor you need to consider before making the decision. For example, Elementor could as well have been the best for beginners had their license not been so restrictive. Also, their Pro version is not GPL.

    Other such drawbacks for other builders make Beaver Builder and Divi clearly the most preferred WordPress page builders. Visual Composer comes very close to these two. So, while there may be a bit of a pocket pinch, you can go for any of these if you want to be on safe hands. Also, while the recent Gutenberg editor holds a lot of promise, it is still going to be a while before it comes anywhere close to any of these powerful builders.

  • Upstream First

    This talk was mostly aimed at managers of engineering teams and projects with fairly little experience in shipping open source, and much less experience in shipping open source through upstream cross vendor projects like the kernel. It goes through all the usual failings and missteps and explains why an upstream first strategy is the right one, but with a twist: Instead of technical reasons, it’s all based on economical considerations of why open source is succeeding. Fundamentally it’s not about the better software, or the cheaper prize, or that the software freedoms are a good thing worth supporting.

    Instead open source is eating the world because it enables a much more competitive software market. And all the best practices around open development are just to enable that highly competitive market. Instead of arguing that open source has open development and strongly favours public discussions because that results in better collaboration and better software we put on the economic lens, and private discussions become insider trading and collusions. And that’s just not considered cool in a competitive market. Similar arguments can be made with everything else going on in open source projects.

  • The sustainability of open source for the long term

    The problem of "sustainability" for open-source software is a common topic of conversation in our community these days. We covered a talk by Bradley Kuhn on sustainability a month ago. Another longtime community member, Luis Villa, gave his take on the problem of making open-source projects sustainable at the 2019 Legal and Licensing Workshop (LLW) in Barcelona. Villa is one of the co-founders of Tidelift, which is a company dedicated to helping close the gap so that the maintainers of open-source projects get paid in order to continue their work.

  • On technological liberty

    In his keynote at the 2019 Legal and Licensing Workshop (LLW), longtime workshop participant Andrew Wilson looked at the past, but he went much further back than, say, the history of free software—or even computers. His talk looked at technological liberty in the context of classical liberal philosophic thinking. He mapped some of that thinking to the world of free and open-source software (FOSS) and to some other areas where our liberties are under attack.

    He began by showing a video of the band "Tears for Fears" playing their 1985 hit song "Everybody wants to rule the world", though audio problems made it impossible to actually hear the song; calls for Wilson to sing it himself were shot down, perhaps sadly, though he and the audience did give the chorus a whirl. In 1985, the band members were young and so was open source, he said. But there were new digital synthesizers available, with an open standard (MIDI) that allowed these instruments to talk to one another. It freed musicians from the need for expensive studio time, since they could write and polish their music anywhere: a great example of technological freedom.

Crowdsourcing license compliance with ClearlyDefined

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Open source use continues to skyrocket, not just in use cases and scenarios but also in volume. It is trivial for a developer to depend on a 1,000 JavaScript packages from a single run of npm install or have thousands of packages in a Docker image. At the same time, there is increased interest in ensuring license compliance.

Without the right license you may not be able to legally use a software component in the way you intend or may have obligations that run counter to your business model. For instance, a JavaScript package could be marked as MIT license, which allows commercial reuse, while one of its dependencies is licensed has a copyleft license that requires you give your software away under the same license. Complying means finding the applicable license(s), and assessing and adhering to the terms, which is not too bad for individual components adn can be daunting for large initiatives.

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GNU and GPL Picks

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GNU
Legal
  • The decade long wait for Bash 5

    It's a coincidence that the Linux kernel and Bash jumped to version 5.0 at about the same time. While Linus assigns the numbers as he sees fit, Bash changes its version when major adjustments are made. Here's what users can expect in Bash 5.

    My last article about a Bash version change is 10 years old [1]. Version 4 was in the starting blocks at that time, but it took some time for all distributions to switch to this version. Nobody puts their production system at risk without good reason.

    Nevertheless, the change was very attractive for developers of complex scripts, because – thanks to associative arrays – a completely new data structure was introduced. The advantages were more elegant, simpler programs that were also easier to maintain. Other important changes included the coproc command (which supports parallelization) and redirection operators.

  • Stack Clash mitigation in GCC: Why -fstack-check is not the answer

    In our previous article about Stack Clash, we covered the basics of the Stack Clash vulnerability. To summarize, an attacker first uses various means to bring the heap and stack close together. A large stack allocation is then used to “jump the stack guard.” Subsequent stores into the stack may modify objects in the heap or vice versa. This, in turn, can be used by attackers to gain control over applications.

  • Cooperation and freedom for all

    The GPL's "freedom zero" can be applied to more than just open-source software.

    Recently, a discussion came up on one of the mailing lists for a GNU/Linux distribution, on which I feel it is necessary to comment. Because this discussion has a place in world politics today, I am bringing my input to this column.

    I started working for Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) in 1983. At that time, I had traveled only domestically in the USA, never internationally.

  • Software Freedom Conservancy Announces End to VMware Lawsuit

    Linux developer Christoph Hellwig has announced that he is discontinuing his lawsuit against VMware for non-compliance with the terms of the GPL. Hellwig and the Software Freedom Conservancy accused VMware of including GPLed code associated with vmklinux into VMware's proprietary vSphere product. A German appeals court dismissed the case on February 28. Hellwig and the Software Freedom Conservancy have decided they will not appeal the case further in German courts.

The mysterious history of the MIT License

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I say "seemingly straightforward" because the MIT License is one of the most popular licenses used by open source software. The MIT License, Apache License, and BSD license are the main permissive licenses, a term that contrasts with reciprocal licenses like the GPL, which require source code to be made available when software is redistributed.

Given its popularity, you'd think the license's inception would be well-documented. I found various clues that added up to a date in the late 1980s but nothing definitive. However, Keith Packard and Jim Gettys jumped on the thread to offer first-hand accounts of the license's creation. In addition to providing early examples of the license, their help also gave me the context to better understand how the license evolved over time.

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What the new EU copyright law means for open source

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The global open source community was able to breathe a small sigh of relief as the controversial and, at times, bitterly opposed European Union's (EU's) Copyright Directive was finally approved last week. Some last-minute amendments a few weeks before the vote resulted in open source software development being left relatively, but not wholly, unscathed.

In its earlier iterations, the EU copyright proposal, specifically Article 13, made content-sharing platforms directly liable for copyrighted content that users upload. This, in effect, made it mandatory for software code sharing platforms to monitor all content that users upload for potential copyright infringement. The proposal was primarily aimed at music and video streaming platforms rather than software code but the wording was so broad that software code, and developing and sharing platforms like GitHub, Software Heritage, GitLab, GNU Savannah and SourceForge, would be caught in the net.

With the whole premise of open source software being the free and open sharing of code, the open source community was appalled. Several campaigns were launched to push back. The Free Software Foundation Europe and OpenForumEurope joined forces on a campaign, Savecodeshare.eu, to garner support for opposition to the proposed directive.

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Licensing Tricks and Traps in Fake 'FOSS'

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Linux developer abandons VMware lawsuit

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Linux
Legal

In August 2006, well-known Linux developer Christopher Helwig spotted Linux source code being used illegally in the VMware ESX bare-metal virtual machine (VM) hypervisor. Helwig, with the aid of the Software Freedom Conservancy, eventually sued VMware, Now, after the German Hamburg Higher Regional Court dismissed Helwig's appeal, he has decided that it would be pointless to appeal the decision.

The heart of the lawsuit had been that Hypervisor vSphere VMware ESXi 5.5.0 violated Linux's copyright. That's because VMware had not licensed a derivative work from Linux under the GNU General Public License (GPL). True, VMware had disclosed the vmklinux component under the GPL, but not the associated hypervisor components.

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James Bottomley: A Roadmap for Eliminating Patents in Open Source

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The realm of Software Patents is often considered to be a fairly new field which isn’t really influenced by anything else that goes on in the legal lansdcape. In particular there’s a very old field of patent law called exhaustion which had, up until a few years ago, never been applied to software patents. This lack of application means that exhaustion is rarely raised as a defence against infringement and thus it is regarded as an untested strategy. Van Lindberg recently did a FOSDEM presentation containing interesting ideas about how exhaustion might apply to software patents in the light of recent court decisions. The intriguing possibility this offers us is that we may be close to an enforceable court decision (at least in the US) that would render all patents in open source owned by community members exhausted and thus unenforceable. The purpose of this blog post is to explain the current landscape and how we might be able to get the necessary missing court decisions to make this hope a reality.

What is Patent Exhaustion?

Patent law is ancient, going back to Greece in around 500BC. However, every legal system has been concerned that patent holders, being an effective monopoly with the legal right to exclude others, did not abuse that monopoly position. This lead to the concept that if you used your monopoly power to profit, you should only be able to do it once for the same item so that absolute property rights couldn’t be clouded by patents. This leads to something called the exhaustion doctrine: so if Alice holds a patent on some item which she sells to Bob and Bob later sells the same item to Charlie, Alice can’t force Bob or Charlie to give her a part of their sale proceeds in exchange for her allowing Charlie to practise the patent on the item. The patent rights are said to be exhausted with the sale from Alice to Bob, so there are no patent rights left to enforce on Charlie. The exhaustion doctrine has since been expanded to any authorized transfer, even if no money changes hands (so if Alice simply gave Bob the item instead of selling it, the patent still exhausts at that transaction and Bob is still free to give or sell the item to Charlie without interference from Alice).

Of course, modern US patent rights have been around now for two centuries and in that time manufacturers have tried many ingenious schemes to get around the exhaustion doctrine profitably, all of which have so far failed in the courts, leading to quite a wealth of case law on the subject. The most interesting recent example (Lexmark v Impression) was over whether a patent holder could use their patent power to enforce any onward conditions at all for which the US Supreme Court came to the conclusive finding: they can’t and goes on to say that all patent rights in the item terminate in the first authorized transfer. That doesn’t mean no post sale conditions can be imposed, they can by contract or licence or other means, it just means post sale conditions can’t be enforced by patent actions. This is the bind for Lexmark: their sales contracts did specify that empty cartridges couldn’t be resold, so their customers violated that contract by selling the cartridges to Impression to refill and resell. However, that contract was between Lexmark and the customer not Lexmark and Impression, so absent patent remedies Lexmark has no contractual case against Impression, only against its own customers.

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Copyright Threats to FOSS: Copyrights on APIs and Upload Filter (for Code Also)

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  • No Allies for Oracle’s Win Against Google

    The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has received over a dozen amicus briefs in support of Google against Oracle in a long-lasting battle for Java API (software interface) usage. Among others, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Microsoft, Red Hat, Mozilla, Python Software Foundation, Developers Alliance, along with IP scholars, computer scientists, software innovators, start-ups, and investors raised their concerns about the rulings of the Federal Court of Appeals in 2014and 2018.

  • Support for Google mounts as its Oracle petition is considered

    Google’s argument that it used Oracle’s copyright fairly – with $8.8 billion in the balance – finds support as it hopes for US Supreme Court review

    Google’s petition for certiorari at the Supreme Court represents its last effort in a protracted copyright battle with software company Oracle. The near-decade-long conflict centres on Oracle’s Java programming application, which Google admitted to using...

  • Copyright reform: it’s the final countdown

    This Tuesday MEPs will cast the final vote in a long running process to reform the EU’s copyright law. Their decision will define whether consumers will be able to continue enjoying the internet as a place where they can easily share content with friends and family or be at risk of seeing their uploads systematically blocked by automated filters.

  • Swedish MEPs Announce Support For Article 13, Demonstrate Near Total Ignorance Of What It Actually Entails

    As MEPs get ready to vote on the EU Copyright Directive -- and specific amendments concerning Articles 11 and 13 -- many have not yet said how they are going to vote. However, two Swedish MEPs, Jytte Guteland and Marita Ulvskog, who many had believed would vote against the plan, have suddenly switched sides and say they plan to vote for it. In a rather astounding interview with reporter Emanuel Karlsten the MEPs reveal their near total ignorance of what Article 13 does and what it would require.

    Guteland spoke to Karlsten by phone, and he asked all the right questions. It's worth reading the entire conversation, but here are a few snippets with my commentary.

  • New Report: Germany Caved To France On Copyright In A Deal For Russian Gas

    In the hours leading up to the vote in the EU Parliament on the EU Copyright Directive, the German publication FAZ (which has been generally supportive of the Directive) has released quite a bombshell (in German), suggesting that the reason Germany caved to France on its terrible demands concerning copyright was in order to get France's approval of the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia.

    If you don't recall, the German delegation had actually pushed back on the more extreme versions of Article 13 -- and, in particular, had demanded that a final version have a clear carve-out for smaller companies, so as not to have them forced out of business by the onerous demands of the law. However, after some back and forth, Germany caved in to France's demands, with many left scratching their heads as to why. However, some noted the "coincidence" in timing, that right after this, France also withdrew its objections to the pipeline which is very controversial in the EU (and the US, which is threatening sanctions).

  • EU Copyright Directive Vote, GNU nano 4.0 Released, Redox OS 0.5.0 Announced, Sailfish OS 3.0.2 "Oulanka" Now Available and Linux Kernel 5.1-rc2 Released

    Members of the European Parliament vote tomorrow on the Directive on Copyright. Those in the EU can go to SaveYourInternet to ask their representatives to vote against Article 17 (previously Article 13). See this Creative Commons blog post for more information. From the post: "The dramatic negative effects of upload filters would be disastrous to the vision Creative Commons cares about as an organisation and global community."

    [...]

    Sailfish OS 3.0.2 "Oulanka" is now available. Named after the Oulanka national park in Lapland and the Northern Ostrobothnia regions of Finland, this new version fixes more than 44 bugs. In addition, "With this new update you will find that the Top Menu has a new switch for silencing ringtones and there's a new battery saving mode to make the most out of low battery in those moments you need to stretch productivity. Email app supports now sending read receipts to inform that you have read the senders' email. Connectivity was improved in terms of firewall and global proxy. As for the user interface, home screen had memory optimizations for handling wallpapers, freeing memory for running other apps."

  • Inside GitHub’s fight to protect devs from EU’s disastrous Copyright Reform [Ed: Microsoft is a patent and copyright maximalist, this time it just doesn't suit one site.]
  • European Parliament to vote on EU Copyright Directive
  • How #Article13 is like the Inquisition: John Milton Against the EU #CopyrightDirective

    Fundamentally, policing of speech can happen at one of two points: before content disseminates, or after. Policing content after it disseminates involves human agents seeing and reporting content and taking action or requesting action. This can happen on a huge scale or a tiny one: Facebook’s content flagging system, obscenity law in much of the EU and USA, parents who object to books assigned in schools, and China’s 50 Cent Army of two million internet censors, all these act to silence content after it disseminates.

  • The EU votes on a confusing new copyright law Tuesday

    Both provisions are maddeningly vague—laying out broad goals without providing much detail about how those goals can be achieved. This is partly because the EU's lawmaking system occurs in two stages. First, EU-wide institutions pass a broad directive indicating how the law should be changed. Then each of the EU's member nations translates the directive into specific laws. This process leaves EU-wide legislators significant latitude to declare general policy goals and leave the details to individual countries.

    Still, if the legislation's goals are incoherent or contradictory, then something is going to have to give. And critics warn that the package could wind up damaging the Internet's openness by forcing the adoption of upload filters and new limits on linking to news stories.

  • Music Labels Forgot Their ‘Secret’ Article 13 Weapon, So Dan Bull Used it Against Them

    Music is widely acknowledged as one of the most potent and emotive ways to tell a story and send a message. Yet, inexplicably, no major artists in favor of Article 13 have used their talent to tell the world why it should pass. In that silence, UK rapper Dan Bull (with support from Grandayy and PewDiePie) has now seized the day - to explain why it shouldn't.

  • EU backs controversial copyright law

    The European parliament has backed controversial copyright laws which critics say could change the nature of the internet.

  • Even after today's EU Parliament vote, we can still kill Article 13 through pressure on German government to prevent formal adoption by EU Council

    Under normal circumstances, today's outcome of the European Parliament's plenary vote would mean we lost the fight against Article 13 ("upload filters") definitively because a 348-274 majority adopted the bill without amendments after an incredibly narrow 317-312 majority disallowed votes on individual amendments. The latter result indicates a majority against Article 13 was in striking distance, given that no amendment had nearly as much as momentum as the one that would have deleted Article 13 (now named Article 17). Some folks may have given up prematurely, but that's another story.

    If we organize another and even bigger round of street protests in Germany, work with opposition parties, and put maximum pressure on Merkel's junior partner (the Social Democratic Party of Germany, SPD), we may be able to prevent Germany from allowing the directive to pass into law. But we only have two weeks to make it happen. Let me explain step by step.

  • EU’s Parliament Signs Off on Disastrous Internet Law: What Happens Next?

    In a stunning rejection of the will five million online petitioners, and over 100,000 protestors this weekend, the European Parliament has abandoned common-sense and the advice of academics, technologists, and UN human rights experts, and approved the Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive in its entirety.

    There’s now little that can stop these provisions from becoming the law of the land across Europe. It’s theoretically possible that the final text will fail to gain a majority of member states’ approval when the European Council meets later this month, but this would require at least one key country to change its mind. Toward that end, German and Polish activists are already re-doubling their efforts to shift their government’s key votes.

    If that attempt fails, the results will be drawn-out, and chaotic. Unlike EU Regulations like the GDPR, which become law on passage by the central EU institutions, EU Directives have to be transposed: written into each member country’s national law. Countries have until 2021 to transpose the Copyright Directive, but EU rarely keeps its members to that deadline, so it could take even longer.

Licensing: Amazon AWS, CAST and Free and Open source Software (FOSS) Licences

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  • Amazon Ups Its Game On Open Source, Elastic Shares Down By 5%

    After the year of ups and downs with its relationship with Elastic, AWS has launched its independent library of open source-code known as Open Distro.

  • With its Elasticsearch distribution, Amazon Web Services sends more shockwaves through open-source software

    Nobody really knows what lies ahead for the future of open-source software as cloud computing becomes the dominant force in enterprise tech, but the times are definitely changing.

    Just about anything that Amazon Web Services does has massive ripple effects throughout this world, and last week’s decision to release its own open-source version of Elasticsearch, a popular engine for searching and analyzing internal company data maintained by newly public company Elastic, was no exception. AWS open-source czar Adrian Cockcroft was careful to describe the Open Distro for Elasticsearch as a distribution, rather than a fork, but the move underscores a fundamental conflict between companies based around open-source projects and the growing popularity of cloud service providers.

  • Debunking the open source sustainability myth [Ed: Mac Asay siding with the exploitation and the closing of code (former employer)]

    Open source vendors are draping themselves in the flag of "sustainability" to try to garner support against AWS—it's not working. Here's why open source sustainability is fake news.

  • Open source a silent killer? CAST talks about their new alliance with Software Heritage [Ed: That typical pretense that proprietary software does not have security issues (it has back doors too) and proprietary licensing is somehow "safe" and "predictable" (the opposite is true). FUD by omission.]

    Combine IP lawsuits with the aforementioned security concerns and organisations could really have a problem on their hands, which is why the market for software composition analysis (SCA) tools is picking up a bit of steam. SCA tools aim to provide a ‘diagnostic' view of the all the OSS components that exist within a business and determine whether or not there is a vulnerability or particular licencing requirement to consider. CAST is one of these vendors, and they've just announced a new alliance with source code archival not-for-profit Software Heritage, with the aim of taking SCA one step further.

    Essentially CAST is working with Software Heritage, who oversee the world's largest open archive of software source code, to develop a ‘provenance index' which allows users to trawl through Software Heritage's archive using CAST's Highlight SCA software to identify the original occurrence of any given source file, and all of its subsequent occurrences. CAST says this will allow users to assess any third-party source code within Software Heritage's library of five billion plus known source code files, weeding out and vulnerabilities and licencing risks they present.

  • Types of open source software and Licenses

    Free and Open source software (FOSS) is a very popular term in the world of software because their license distribution terms.

    There are many open source software in the market. Many people may think that the most obvious feature of open source software is free, but it is not the case. They widely recognize because the availability of source code of the open source software available for anyone to modify.

    It means any developer or community can change the software to improve, adds features, fixing of bugs, distribution under own branding and more. However, the open source system also has copyright, which is also protected by law.

    While using/distribution of open source projects for some commercial or personal use, the users should not only indicate the products are from open source software and the name of the source code writer but also submit the modified products to open source software community, otherwise the modified products can be regarded as an infringement. The indifference of copyright awareness is the biggest obstacle to the development of open source.

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More in Tux Machines

today's howtos

  • A guided tour of Linux file system types

    While it may not be obvious to the casual user, Linux file systems have evolved significantly over the last decade or so to make them more resistant to corruption and performance problems. Most Linux systems today use a file system type called ext4. The “ext” part stands for “extended” and the 4 indicates that this is the 4th generation of this file system type. Features added over time include the ability to provide increasingly larger file systems (currently as large as 1,000,000 TiB) and much larger files (up to 16 TiB), more resistance to system crashes and less fragmentation (scattering single files as chunks in multiple locations) which improves performance.

  • Testing the Linux Malware Detect.
  • Kushal Das: Remember to mark drive as removable for tails vm install

    If you are installing Tails into a VM for testing or anything else, always remember to mark the drive as a removable USB drive. Otherwise, the installation step will finish properly, but, you will get errors like the following screenshot while booting from the drive.

  • How to Set DNS Nameservers on Ubuntu 18.04

Security Leftovers

  • NSA Researchers Talk Development, Release of Ghidra SRE Tool

    The National Security Agency released its classified Ghidra software reverse-engineering (SRE) tool as open source to the cybersecurity community on April 4. NSA researchers Brian Knighton and Chris Delikat shared how Ghidra was built and the process of releasing it at Black Hat 2019. Ghidra is a framework developed by the NSA’s Research Directorate for the agency’s cybersecurity mission. It’s designed to analyze malicious code to give security pros a better understanding of potential vulnerabilities in their networks and systems.

  • Linux Is Being Hit with Zero-Day Exploits/ Zero-Day Attacks [Ed: This is not news. If you have a system that is unpatched for months, despite many warnings, it is a risk, no matter the OS/kernel.]

    It was once the popular opinion that Linux was immune to zero-day exploits. However, even before the Equifax exploit, vulnerabilities were found in Linux distributions like Fedora and Ubuntu. In particular, back in 2016, a security researcher discovered that you could exploit a Linux system by playing a specific music file. Then, in 2017, a group of attackers used Struckshock vulnerability to carry on the attack on Equifax. These zero-day attacks are Advanced Persistent Attacks that exploit recently discovered vulnerabilities. Read on to learn more about what are zero-day exploits and how they can affect a Linux system.

  • Intel, Google, Microsoft, and Others Launch Confidential Computing Consortium for Data Security

    Major tech companies including Alibaba, Arm, Baidu, IBM, Intel, Google Cloud, Microsoft, and Red Hat today announced intent to form the Confidential Computing Consortium to improve security for data in use.

  • Intel, Google, Microsoft, and others launch Confidential Computing Consortium for data security

    Major tech companies including Alibaba, Arm, Baidu, IBM, Intel, Google Cloud, Microsoft, and Red Hat today announced intent to form the Confidential Computing Consortium to improve security for data in use. Established by the Linux Foundation, the organization plans to bring together hardware vendors, developers, open source experts, and others to promote the use of confidential computing, advance common open source standards, and better protect data. “Confidential computing focuses on securing data in use. Current approaches to securing data often address data at rest (storage) and in transit (network), but encrypting data in use is possibly the most challenging step to providing a fully encrypted lifecycle for sensitive data,” the Linux Foundation said today in a joint statement. “Confidential computing will enable encrypted data to be processed in memory without exposing it to the rest of the system and reduce exposure for sensitive data and provide greater control and transparency for users.”

Linux-driven modules to showcase new MediaTek AIoT SoCs

Innocomm is prepping an “SB30 SoM” with the new quad -A35 MediaTek i300 followed by an “SB50 SoM” with an AI-equipped, octa-core -A73 and -A53 MediaTek i500. Both modules ship with Linux/Android evaluation kits. Innocomm, which has produced NXP-based compute modules such as the i.MX8M Mini driven WB15 and i.MX8M powered WB10, will soon try on some MediaTek SoCs for size. First up is an SB30 SoM due to launch in October that will run Linux or Android on MediaTek’s 1.5GHz, quad-core, Cortex-A35 based MediaTek i300 (MT8362) SoC. In November, the company plans to introduce an SB50 SoM based on the MediaTek i500 (MT8385). Read more

Devices: Raspberry Pi and More