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Jussi Pakkanen: Pinebook Pro longer term usage report

Filed under
GNU
Linux
Reviews

I originally wanted to use stock Debian but at some point the Panfrost driver broke and the laptop could not start X. Eventually I gave up and switched to the default Manjaro. Its installer does not support an encrypted root file system. A laptop without an encrypted disk is not really usable as a laptop as you can't take it out of your house.

The biggest gripe is that everything feels sluggish. Alt-tabbing between Firefox and a terminal takes one second, as does switching between Firefox tabs. As an extreme example switching between channels in Slack takes five to ten seconds. It is unbearably slow. The wifi is not very good, it can't connect reliably to an access point in the next room (distance of about 5 meters). The wifi behaviour seems to be distro dependent so maybe there are some knobs to twiddle.

Video playback on browsers is not really nice. Youtube works in the default size, but fullscreen causes a massive frame rate drop. Fullscreen video playback in e.g. VLC is smooth.

Basic shell operations are sluggish too. I have a ZSH prompt that shows the Git status of the current directory. Entering in a directory that has a Git repo freezes the terminal for several seconds. Basically every time you need to get something from disk that is not already in cache leads to a noticeable delay.

The screen size and resolution scream for fractional scaling but Manjaro does not seem to provide it. Scale of 1 is a bit too small and 2 is way too big. The screen is matte, which is totally awesome, but unfortunately the colors are a bit muted and for some reason it seems a bit fuzzy. This may be because I have not used a sub-retina level laptop displays in years.

The trackpad's motion detector is rubbish at slow speeds. There is a firmware update that makes it better but it's still not great. According to the forums someone has already reverse engineered the trackpad and created an unofficial firmware that is better. I have not tried it. Manjaro does not provide a way to disable tap-to-click (a.k.a. the stupidest UI misfeature ever invented including the emojibar) which is maddening. This is not a hardware issue, though, as e.g. Debian's Gnome does provide this functionality. The keyboard is okayish, but sometimes detects keypresses twice, which is also annoying.

For light development work the setup is almost usable. I wrote a simple 3D model viewer app using Qt Creator and it was surprisingly smooth all round, the 3D drivers worked reliably and so on. Unfortunately invoking the compiler was again sluggish (this was C++, though, so some is expected). Even simple files that compile instantly on x86_64 took seconds to build.

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Linux can bring your old PC or Mac back to life -- for free

Filed under
OS
GNU
Linux

Have you heard of Linux? It's a version of Unix developed by a Finn, Linus Torvalds. But what is Unix? It's a computer operating system developed by Bell Labs in the 1960s. What was Bell Labs? It was the research arm of Bell Telephone Co.
Unix lives on and we all use it just about every day. Every time we insert a dot (a period) inside something we type on the computer, like a .com, .org, or .gov, it is a Unix command to go to that location in its memory banks and find what came before the dot. Unix ran the big mainframe computers that used to fill large rooms; they had to be specially air-conditioned because of the heat generated by these huge machines. Torvald wanted a similar, free version of the system, so he rewrote it. A co-worker named it Linux, and the name stuck despite Torvalds' objection on grounds that it sounded egotistical.
Linux can run on just about anything. Got an old PC or Mac gathering dust at the back of the closet? You can load Linux into it and it will live again. It's relatively trouble-free and comes in 20 flavors, each with a slightly different look. The most common is called Ubuntu, the latest flavor of which is named after a cat in Madagascar. But a reader wrote to say that he favors Linux Mint because it's similar to the Mac operating system. He installs it for schools and nonprofit organizations for $5 per machine.
You can run Linux and keep your old operating system at the same time in one of two ways: Create a partition on your Windows PC and get an option to start up in either Windows or Linux. Linux will usually set this up automatically. The other way is to load Linux on a thumb drive and plug it in.

Read more (Ed: Really not accurate in a lot of places, but there we have it...)

What has happened and where we've come: A short history of DRM

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GNU

The Free Software Foundation's (FSF) fight against Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) goes a long way back, with efforts that have resulted in victories, and actions that have weakened the chains of DRM or even broken them. In 2006, the FSF ramped up its anti-DRM activities, under the campaign name Defective by Design (DBD). If we are to win the battle against DRM, it is important to have larger numbers on our side. To achieve that, it is fundamental to make people aware of the risk that DRM poses to our privacy and freedom.

Remembering the past is crucial for those who are approaching this problem for the first time and who barely know what DRM is, as well as those who have fought it for years, because the past helps us to better understand the future. Timelines that reconstruct the story of Defective by Design have already been created. What is being done here, instead, is outlining a brief history of our DRM-related campaign activities to highlight important moments in the history of DRM itself, which is now over twenty years old. Before reading this article, the novice to Defective by Design may find it helpful to review how DRM is defined.

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Commonly Asked Questions and Answers For Windows Users Looking to Switch to Linux

Filed under
GNU
Linux
Microsoft

Many people know “Linux” as an operating system, but the term “Linux” is actually referring to the Linux kernel. The kernel is the core of an operating system that controls and facilitates interactions between hardware and software components.

When packaged with different desktop environment and software, it becomes an operating system, just like Windows or macOS. More accurately, it should be called a “Linux distribution” instead of “Linux”.

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Craig Small: 25 Years of Free Software

Filed under
GNU
Debian

So you have written something you think others might like, what software license will you use to distribute it? In 1995 it wasn’t that clear. This was the era of strange boutique licenses including ones where it was ok to run the program as a hamradio operator but not a CB radio operator (or at least they tried to work it that way).

A friend of mine and the author of the Linux HAM HOWTO amongst other documents, Terry Dawson, suggested I use GPL or another Free Software license. He explained what this Free Software thing was and said that if you want your program to be the most useful then something like GPL will do it. So I released axdigi under the GPL license and most of my programs since then have used the same license. Something like MIT or BSD licenses would have been fine too, I was just not going to use something closed or hand-crafted.

That was a while ago, I’ve written or maintained many programs since then. I also became a Debian maintainer (23 years so far) and adopted both procps and psmisc which I still maintain as both the Debian developer and upstream to this day.

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Devices: Raspberry Pi and Beyond

Filed under
GNU
Linux
Hardware
Gadgets

GNU Guix: Improve Internationalization Support for the Guix Data Service

Filed under
OS
GNU

The first half of my Outreachy internship is already over and I am really excited to share my experience. Over the past weeks I’ve had the opportunity to work on the Guix Data Service, watch myself change, and accomplish way more than I thought I would.

The Guix Data Service processes, stores and provides data about Guix over time. It provides a complementary interface to Guix itself by having a web interface and API to browse and access the data.

The work I have done so far revolves around storing translated lint checker descriptions as well as package synopsis and descriptions in the Guix Data Service PostgreSQL database and making them available through the Guix Data Service web interface.

Initially the Guix Data Service database had translated versions of lint warning messages available, but they were not accessible through the web interface, so I made that possible during the contribution period.

[...]

These first 7 weeks of my internship have gone by really fast, but I have enjoyed everything and I am so eager to experience what's to come.

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Carrera Linux Argentina: Teaching Future Linux Leaders

Filed under
GNU
Linux

CLA: In the beginning, we only offered basic courses, but as time went by we realized that Linux was being installed on servers, and, to fill the growing need, we started expanding our course catalog and covering more complex subjects. This brought a lot of opportunities for us as big IT universities started to see that their students could benefit from learning from us.

We also partnered with those universities offering not only our teaching but degrees in Linux system engineering. We also work with IP telephone networks, we teach how to set backups reliably, we help people look after their networks, and ease the way into virtualizing their operating systems. Now we are moving on to DevOps and IoT.

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Audiocasts/Shows: Linux Headlines, System76, Django, LHS and Ubuntu Podcast

Filed under
GNU
Linux
  • 2020-07-24 | Linux Headlines

    Calls for political activism in software projects continue to ramp up, digiKam 7 arrives with enhanced facial recognition, Zulip unleashes its biggest release ever amid tensions between its competitors, and a new ‘zine focusing on Fedora seeks contributors.

  • Brunch with Brent: Carl Richell | Jupiter Extras 75

    Brent sits down with Carl Richell, Founder and CEO of System76. We explore the people, passion, and culture behind the scenes, learn of young Carl, the early years of building a Linux-focused hardware business, how today System76 fuels a tiny piece of SpaceX, and more.

  • Episode 19: Advanced Python Import Techniques and Managing Users in Django

    Would you like to clearly understand what's happening when you use the Python import keyword? Do you want to use modules more effectively to structure your code? Or maybe you're ready to move to the next level with your Django project by adding user management. This week on the show, David Amos is back with another batch of PyCoder's Weekly articles and projects.

  • LHS Episode #358: The Weekender LIII

    It's time once again for The Weekender. This is our bi-weekly departure into the world of amateur radio contests, open source conventions, special events, listener challenges, hedonism and just plain fun. Thanks for listening and, if you happen to get a chance, feel free to call us or e-mail and send us some feedback. Tell us how we're doing. We'd love to hear from you.

  • Ubuntu Podcast from the UK LoCo: S13E18 – Full moon

    This week we’ve been making operating systems for the Raspberry Pi 4. We discuss our favourite gadgets, bring you a verrrry long command line love and round up all your wonderful feedback.

    It’s Season 13 Episode 18 of the Ubuntu Podcast! Alan Pope, Mark Johnson and Martin Wimpress are connected and speaking to your brain.

Bison 3.7 released

Filed under
Development
GNU

I am very happy to announce the release of Bison 3.7, whose main novelty, contributed by Vincent Imbimbo, is the generation of counterexamples for conflicts.

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Android Leftovers

Security-Oriented Kodachi Linux 7.2 Released with One of the Best Secure Messengers

Based on the latest Xubuntu 18.04 LTS point release, Kodachi Linux 7.2 codename “Defeat” comes with the newest Ubuntu kernel that’s patched against recent security vulnerabilities and full sync with the upstream Bionic Beaver repositories to provide users with an up-to-date installation media. On top of that, the new release introduces new security features, such as Session Messenger, a popular private messenger that the Kodachi Linux team doubts as one of the best secure messengers and the Steghide UI utility for hiding encrypted text messages in images, text or audio files. Read more

Linux and Linux Foundation: 5.9 Kernel and LF Edge

  • Intel SERIALIZE, Dropping Of SGI UV Supercomputer, i386 Clang'ing Hit Linux 5.9

    A number of x86-related changes were sent out today for the first full day of the Linux 5.9 merge window. 

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  • Btrfs Seeing Some Nice Performance Improvements For Linux 5.9

    With more eyes on Btrfs given the file-system is set to become the default for Fedora 33 desktop spins, there are some interesting performance optimizations coming to Btrfs with the in-development Linux 5.9 kernel.  On the performance front for Btrfs in Linux 5.9 there are optimized helpers for little-endian architectures to avoid little/big endian conversions around the on-disk format, tree-log/fsync optimizations yielding around a 12% lower maximum latency for the Dbench benchmark, faster mount times for large file-systems in the terabyte range, and parallel fsync optimizations. 

  • As IoT Continues to Evolve, LF Edge Explores the Edge Continuum in a New White Paper

    Earlier this month, LF Edge, an umbrella organization under The Linux Foundation, published a white paper updating the industry on their continued ecosystem collaboration. LF Edge brings together projects within the Foundation, that “aims to establish an open, interoperable framework for edge computing independent of hardware, silicon, cloud, or operating system.”

Open Hardware With Arduino: Counter and MKR ZERO

  • Keep track of your laps in the pool with this Arduino counter

    PeterQuinn925 swims for exercise, and to train for the occasional triathlon, but when doing so he often zones out and forgets how many laps he has swam. To solve this problem without spending a lot of money on a commercial solution, he created his own counter using an Arduino Nano and an ultrasonic sensor. The sensor detects when a swimmer approaches, and the system calculates distance based on this, assuming that a lap is roughly 50 yards or meters. This info is announced audibly via a speaker/amplifier using an Arduino speech library and is shown on a 7-segment display.

  • Recreating Rosie the Robot with a MKR ZERO

    While 2020 may seem like a very futuristic year, we still don’t have robotic maids like the Jetsons’ Rosie the Robot. For his latest element14 Presents project, DJ Harrigan decided to create such a bot as a sort of animatronic character, using an ESP8266 board for interface and overall control, and a MKR ZERO to play stored audio effects. The device features a moveable head, arms and eyes, and even has a very clever single-servo gear setup to open and close its mouth.