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Real-time Tux Machines Chat Over IRC (Internet Relay Chat)

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The first IRC server
"The first IRC server, tolsun.oulu.fi, a Sun-3 server on display near the University of Oulu computer centre." Credit/licence: CC BY 2.5, Urpo Lankinen

TUX MACHINES reached all-time record traffic in the past couple of weeks. This (raw) traffic now stands at about 4 million hits/week, with 3,970,777 hits in the past 6 days and 4,289,540 hits last week (predating these 6 days). It's just a shame that interaction with readers became hard; the forums had a severe spam issue, as did comments and submissions (by new registrants, always, more so at a later stage) -- to the point where it became impractical to allow any new registrations (except adding people manually upon request). The open/incognito registrants would overrun the site within minutes (we tried several times over the years and saw the effect immediately).

So we've decided to try IRC and have added "IRC" to the menu at the top with an applet (JavaScript) to make life easier for those who aren't familiar with IRC clients.

Here's how to join us. This is still experimental. Real-time updates with posts (as they are posted) will in due course be shown in the channel and we can all casually chat in real-time, too. We are also still working on our Android app these days.

Testers Wanted: Android App for Tux Machines Site

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APK icon

Diaspora logo Mastodon logo Pleroma logo

Tux Machines is turning 15 this summer and as we noted over the weekend, many people now access the site using mobile devices, for which the site provides a subpar experience due to legacy. RSS feeds are therefore recommended. There's our RSS feed for news, RSS feed for Tux Machines Blogs and another for Techrights, where I write my original articles.

Most readers, however, do not use RSS feeds. Consider the 700 followers of our Twitter account, the 2,365 followers of our Diaspora account, 1,080 followers of our Mastodon account, and 63 followers of our Pleroma account (so about 4,000 in total). Those are dependent on third parties (we do not self-host these platforms). Even if "apps" are used for access to these social media platforms/sites, the links would lead to Tux Machines Web pages, which don't render particularly well on small screens (phones). So we've made this simple "app" for the site, but we're still testing it. If anyone out there can try it on an Android device and report back to us, we'll appreciate it greatly and use the feedback to improve it.

Screenshot Tux Machines app

Mobile Interfaces, Internet, Devices and UX

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A mobile phone

Summary: Visitors who use mobile phones get a subpar experience, but that's an issue that boils down to preservation versus novelty

TUX MACHINES is turning 15 later this year. Longtime readers may very well know that the appearance or the layout of this site barely changed over the years. The key components have been in place since the very start. We still use node IDs as URLs (not ideal, but that works), mobile devices are barely supported (they were barely used on the Net at the time the site started), and due to SPAM we can no longer allow new user registrations (they overwhelm the site with a flood of SPAM submissions, i.e. noise such as pornographic comments, abusive blog posts etc.) within hours. We know because we tried opening up these registrations several times in the past. Any loosening of these restriction means a complete and utter mess.

"Mobile users who struggle with the site contact me routinely and my best suggestion for them is an RSS reader (many exist for mobile devices), which overcomes these issues and bypasses all the 'cruft'."

So-called 'UX' (buzzword for user interfaces/experience) in Tux Machines is far from ideal, especially for those who use a phone. We are aware of it, but the overhaul required to change that would be truly massive because of the number of pages, images, and the underlying framework, which was heavily modified and tailored for the existing user experience. I spent a lot of time making things work as they do. Susan had also invested a great deal of effort.

Mobile users who struggle with the site contact me routinely and my best suggestion for them is an RSS reader (many exist for mobile devices), which overcomes these issues and bypasses all the 'cruft'. Taking all the implications into account (endless work associated with a change), we don't plan a site redesign/overhaul. Maybe in the distant future, but not any time soon. The RSS feed is already used by a lot of people, even desktop/laptop users. We have no ads and no surveillance in this site, so RSS feeds don't impact some "business model" or whatever. In fact, it helps lower the strain on the server.

Come and Join Tux Machines in Pleroma, Part of the Fediverse

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Pleroma logo

Summary: Tux Machines is on Pleroma.site, a lesser-known part of the Fediverse

Tux Machines has been on the Fediverse for quite some time (our Mastodon account), but months ago we also joined Pleroma, which is an exciting new alternative written in Elixir.

Just a few weeks ago somebody published this "Guide for GPlus [Google Plus] refugees to choose a new social network in the Fediverse" because "G+ will close on April 2nd. So to help people that haven’t decided yet where to go in the Fediverse I made some pointers. I divided this guide in a number of sections. Each section describes a certain use of social networks and which networks are most suitable for this specific use. Combine this with your preferred use of a social network and you should be able make a decision."

Pleroma too is part of the Fediverse and Pleroma.site, one large instance of Pleroma, recently completed hardware upgrades. GNU/Linux aficionados can follow us there.

Tux Machines Turns 14

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Man's clap

IN JUNE 2004 Tux Machines was registered, which makes this site nearly a decade and a half old. Running this site is more than a full-time job; it's not just a hobby but more like a 24/7 duty, not even with holidays or weekends off. But as long as people find the site useful, it makes all the work worthwhile. RIanne and I will keep refreshing our RSS feeds and keep this site abreast of the news.

Tux Machines Privacy Statement

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Summary: Today, May 25th, the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) goes into full effect; we hereby make a statement on privacy

AS a matter of strict principle, this site never has and never will accumulate data on visitors (e.g. access logs) for longer than 28 days. The servers are configured to permanently delete all access data after this period of time. No 'offline' copies are being made. Temporary logging is only required in case of DDOS attacks and cracking attempts -- the sole purpose of such access. Additionally, we never have and never will sell any data pertaining to anything. We never received demands for such data from authorities; even if we had, we would openly declare this (publicly, a la Canary) and decline to comply. Privacy is extremely important to us, which is why pages contain little or no cross-site channels (such as Google Analytics, 'interactive' buttons for 'social' media etc.) and won't be adding any. Google may be able to 'see' what pages people visit because of Google Translate (top left of every page), but that is not much worse than one's ISP 'seeing' the same thing. We are aware of this caveat.

Shall readers have any further questions on such matters, do not hesitate to contact us.

Tux Machines is Now on Mastodon

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Tux Machines on Mastodon

Summary: We can now be found in Mastodon too

A FOSS and decentralised Twitter alternative has received plenty of media attention/traction lately, so Tux Machines belatedly joins in and we invite readers to follow us there if they wish to create an account. The popularity of the platform exploded (number of users quadrupled so far this month).

We've Made It! 100,000 Nodes

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A thousand dollars

Summary: Another milestone for Tux Machines, which will turn 15 in a couple of years

100,000 nodes in Tux Machines will have been published later tonight. This one will be assigned node ID/#99995. Earlier today someone anonymous told us, "I just wanted to say thank you for all the work you've done and new information updates at tuxmachines.org."

That's what we are here for -- to help spread information. We don't profit or gain anything from this site, but it's our way of giving back to the Free/Open Source software community.

On to 200,000 (this may take another decade or more).

Record-Breaking Traffic

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Summary: Quick report about site traffic

Tux Machines has been enjoying growth in recent weeks, though it's hard to attribute it to anything in particular. The following are the past 4 weeks' logs (we delete all logs after 4 weeks, for privacy reasons, assuring no long-term retention).

-rw-r--r--.  1 root root 389699117 Oct  9 04:40 access.log-20161009
-rw-r--r--.  1 root root 454715290 Oct 16 03:46 access.log-20161016
-rw-r--r--.  1 root root 478747167 Oct 23 03:12 access.log-20161023
-rw-r--r--.  1 root root 499911551 Oct 30 03:40 access.log-20161030

We recently quadrupled the servers' CPU capacity.

The above is not the complete picture. That's omitting all the Varnish activity, which handles the majority of the traffic but simply cannot cache all pages. We are still trying to reduce the frequency of spam incidents (some of the spamy submissions manage to inject JavaScript very briefly).

We'll soon reach the 100,000-node milestone of this Drupal site.

Web Site Traffic Growing

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The Linux Foundation recently added the Platform for Network Data Analytics (PNDA)

Panda

Panda

Summary: Network/traffic analytics for Tux Machines

ULTIMATELY, here in Tux Machines we strive to include every bit of relevant news (standalone pages for more important news, clusters of links for the rest, grouped by topic). We rarely blog although sometimes we add an opinion (marked "Ed", shorthand for "Editor").

It has been a long time since we last wrote about statistics. As readers may know by now, we only retain logs for up to 4 weeks (security/diagnostics purposes), then these get deleted for good so as to maintain privacy (we cannot be compelled to hand over data). Those logs show only direct hits, they don't include pages served through the cache* (Varnish) and here is the latest, where the date stands for "week ending":

-rw-r--r--.  1 root root 224439408 Aug  7 03:17 access.log-20160807
-rw-r--r--.  1 root root 310050330 Aug 14 03:22 access.log-20160814
-rw-r--r--.  1 root root 343901488 Aug 21 03:17 access.log-20160821
-rw-r--r--.  1 root root 344256886 Aug 28 03:15 access.log-20160828

The above indicates that, judging by the back end (not cache), traffic continues to increase. Over the past week the site was sometimes unbearably slow if not inaccessible. In the worse case we'll upgrade the server for extra capacity, assuring decent speed. Worth noting is that in the latest log (ending August 28th) less than 1,000 hits came from Edge, so very few among our visitors use the latest and 'greatest' from Microsoft.
____
* The cache server services several domains, notably Tux Machines and Techrights, and it averages at around 1.5 GB of traffic per hour.

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More in Tux Machines

Security: Curl, Two Factor Authentication (2FA) and Hacking With Kali Linux

  • Daniel Stenberg: curl + hackerone = TRUE
    There seems to be no end to updated posts about bug bounties in the curl project these days. Not long ago I mentioned the then new program that sadly enough was cancelled only a few months after its birth. Now we are back with a new and refreshed bug bounty program! The curl bug bounty program reborn.
  • Liz Fong-Jones on how to secure SSH with Two Factor Authentication (2FA)
    Liz mentions that by adding passphrase encryption, the private keys become resistant to theft when at rest. However, when they are in use, the usability challenges of re-entering the passphrase on every connection means that “engineers began caching keys unencrypted in memory of their workstations, and worse yet, forwarding the agent to allow remote hosts to use the cached keys without further confirmation”. The Matrix breach, which took place on April 11 showcases an example of what happens when authenticated sessions are allowed to propagate without a middle-man. The intruder in the Matrix breach had access to the production databases, potentially giving them access to unencrypted message data, password hashes, and access tokens.
  • Hacking With Kali Linux
    Before I talk about the series that I am going to start, let us briefly talk about who should follow this series. I know there are so many people out there who are very curious to learn hacking just to hack their partner's social media account. Well, if you are such a person, please listen to me. Hacking is not about getting into somebody's personal life and steal their information. It is illegal. Somebody well said - “We need to have a talk on the subject of what's yours and what's mine.” So you should not hack information that is not yours. ​But if you are a tech enthusiast who wants to make a career as a penetration tester or white hat hacker, this series can be really a good way to start. So for such enthusiasts, I am creating a page where you can follow the series. You can also follow our social media pages so you get a notification when a new informative article comes out.

Mozilla: VoxelJS, AiC and Mozilla B-Team

  • Mozilla VR Blog: VoxelJS: Chunking Magic
    A couple of weeks ago I relaunched VoxelJS with modern ThreeJS and modules support. Today I'm going to talk a little bit about how VoxelJS works internally, specifically how voxels are represented and drawn. This is the key magic part of a voxel engine and I owe a tremendous debt to Max Ogden, James Halliday and Mikola Lysenko Voxels are represented by numbers in a large three dimensional array. Each number says what type of block goes in that block slot, with 0 representing empty. The challenge is how to represent a potentially infinite set of voxels without slowing the computer to a crawl. The only way to do this is to load just a portion of the world at a time.
  • AiC: Collaborative summary documents
    One of my goals was that we could, at least for a moment, disconnect people from their particular position and turn their attention towards the goal of achieving a shared and complete summary. I didn’t feel that we were very succesful in this goal. For one thing, most participants simply left comments on parts they disagreed with; they didn’t themselves suggest alternate wording. That meant that I personally had to take their complaint and try to find some “middle ground” that accommodated the concern but preserved the original point. This was stressful for me and a lot of work. More importantly, it meant that most people continued to interact with the document as advocates for their point-of-view, rather than trying to step back and advocate for the completeness of the summary. In other words: when you see a sentence you disagree with, it is easy to say that you disagree with it. It is much harder to rephrase it in a way that you do agree with – but which still preserves (what you believe to be) the original intent. Doing so requires you to think about what the other person likely meant, and how you can preserve that. However, one possible reason that people may have been reluctant to offer suggestions is that, often, it was hard to make “small edits” that addressed people’s concerns. Especially early on, I found that, in order to address some comment, I would have to make larger restructurings. For example, taking a small sentence and expanding it to a bullet point of its own. Finally, some people who were active on the thread didn’t participate in the doc. Or, if they did, they did so by leaving comments on the original GitHub thread. This is not surprising: I was asking people to do something new and unfamiliar. Also, this whole process played out relatively quickly, and I suspect some people just didn’t even see the document before it was done. If I were to do this again, I would want to start it earlier in the process. I would also want to consider synchronous meetings, where we could go try to process edits as a group (but I think it would take some thought to figure out how to run such a meeting). In terms of functioning asynchronously, I would probably change to use a Google Doc instead of a Dropbox Paper. Google Docs have a better workflow for suggesting edits, I believe, as well, as a richer permissions model. Finally, I would try to draw a harder line in trying to get people to “own” the document and suggest edits of their own. I think the challenge of trying to neutrally represent someone else’s point of view is pretty powerful.
  • Mozilla B-Team: happy bmo push day!
    Bugfixes + enabling the new security feature for API keys.

Programming Leftovers

Devices: Radiant Software, ASRock and Microsoft

  • Radiant 1.1 Lattice FPGA Design Tools Release Accelerates Design Reuse
    In addition to supporting Windows, Radiant Software 1.1 adds support for the popular Ubuntu LTS 16.4 distribution of Linux. Radiant Software 1.1 is now available for download from Lattices website and currently can be used with a free license.
  • ASRock spins Whiskey Lake-U in thin Mini-ITX, 3.5-inch, and NUC formats
    ASRock announced four products based on Intel’s 8th Gen Whiskey Lake-U: a thin Mini-ITX “IMB-1216” board, a 3.5-inch “SBC-350,” and a NUC 4×4 form-factor “iBox-8365U” mini-PC and NUC-8365U mainboard. ASRock Industrial has been busy lately tapping the latest embedded-oriented x86 chips in products such as the Intel 8th Gen Whiskey Lake-U based iBox-8265U mini-PC, as well as the iBox-R1000 industrial PC and NUC-R1000 mainboard built around the AMD Ryzen Embedded R1000. Now it has announced four more Whiskey Lake-U products aimed at the embedded market.
  • Making Sense of Microsoft’s Acquisition of Express Logic [Ed: Windows is worthless, so Microsoft is buying the competition. Microsoft also bought Danger, Sidekick etc. and it never ended well. Anything Microsoft touches turns to dust. When it bought Skype it was (back then) near-monopoly, but not anymore. Microsoft sometimes announces financial losses.]
    Even the Linux Foundation, home of the Linux kernel, hosts a project called Zephyr, which is an RTOS designed for use-cases, beyond the reach of Linux.