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GNOME

Black is Back: GNOME Shell Ditches Translucent Top Panel

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GNOME

Prepare to bid bye-bye to the fancy translucent top panel in the GNOME Shell desktop environment.

GNOME developers have removed the eye-candy see-through panel effect from the default Shell theme’s code, citing outstanding (and unaddressed) issues with text legibility.

“Nobody stepped up to address those issues in two years, so revert back to the fully opaque top bar”, GNOME dev Florian Müllner explains in a commit.

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GNOME 3.32 Gives Users More Say Over What Apps Can Access

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GNOME

Users can look forward to greater control over installed applications in the upcoming release of GNOME 3.32.

A new ‘Applications‘ panel has been created by developers that offers users more control over the majority of locally installed applications, including Flatpak and repo apps, and on a per-app basis.

Naturally a much wider range of settings are surfaced for installed Flatpak apps. Given that the fledgling format has more fine-tuned permissions model, this isn’t a surprise.

Switches to control access to your local files, system integration, notifications are present, along with a link to control permissions via the Privacy section. There’s also ‘Usage’ section that shows you how much space a given app is taking up.

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GNOME Settings: more GNOME, more settings

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GNOME

Before deep diving into the more extensive architectural changes that I’ve been working on GNOME Shell and Mutter, let’s take a moment to highlight the latest changes to GNOME Settings.

Being the (co)maintainer of Settings for a full year now, the development pace has been great so far. I would go as far as to say that the project is healthy and sustainable now. The shared maintainership model that we adopted allows us to decrease the review time, and yet make sure that every single contribution is reviewed by at least one maintainer.

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Shortwave – GTK3 internet radio software

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Software
GNOME

I recently explored the virtues of odio, a cross-platform radio streaming software that pulls 20,000 stations from a community database, radio-browser.info. Sadly, odio is not released under an open source license, although its developer is considering reviewing the position.

If you’ve a strong commitment to using open source software, is there a good alternative to odio? Step forward Shortwave, a quirky name for software that streams radio stations over the net. Like odio, Shortwave uses the radio-browser.info community database.

Shortwave was previously known as Gradio. Shortwave is its latest reincarnation. Whereas Gradio was written in the Vala programming language, Shortwave is a rewrite in the Rust programming language.

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4 Stunning Icon Themes for Your Linux Desktop

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GNU
Linux
GNOME
Ubuntu

We spotlight 4 stunning new Linux icon themes that will look great on any desktop, Ubuntu or otherwise.

Although the Suru icon theme now ships as Ubuntu’s default icon set, and although GNOME designers are busy working on a major icon revamp of their own, third-party icon themes still have their place.

After all, one size doesn’t fit all; plenty of Linux users prefer to curate and customise the look of their desktop themselves.

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A mutter and gnome-shell update

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GNOME

Ever since the wayland work started on mutter, there’s been ideas and talks about how mutter “core” should become detached of X11 code. It has been a long and slow process, every design decision has been directed towards this goal, we leaped forward on 2017 GSOC, and eg. Georges sums up some of his own recent work in this area.

For me it started with a “Hey, I think we are not that far off” comment in #gnome-shell earlier this cycle. Famous last words. After rewriting several, many, seemingly unrelated subsystems, and shuffling things here and there, and there we are to a point where gnome-shell might run with --no-x11 set. A little push more and we will be able to launch mutter as a pure wayland compositor that just spawns Xwayland on demand.

What’s after that? It’s certainly an important milestone but by no means we are done here. Also, gnome-settings-daemon consists for the most part X11 clients, which spoils the fun by requiring Xwayland very early in a real session, guess what’s next!

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Screencasting over Wi‑Fi on GNOME

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GNOME

On GNOME we usually had no good way of using remote display devices like Chromecast, Miracast or AirPlay. VLC for example does support streaming to Chromecast, but the Miracast implementations were all not integrated well enough to be usable. Also, at least Miracast requires the use of the H264 or H265 codecs, which have been problematic due to licensing requirements.

I have been working on a gnome‑screencast application, which currently has working support for Miracast devices. It requires a current development version of NetworkManager, but should work out of the box otherwise. If you are on Fedora, you can try out gnome‑screencast by using my copr repository.

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  • GNOME Screencaster App Promises WiFi Display (Miracast) Support in GNOME Desktop

    While the GNOME desktop environment already offers a few ways for users to stream to Chromecast, AirPlay, or Miracast devices, such as the VLC Media Player, Miracast support isn't at its best right now due to the use of the H.264 or H.265 codecs, so Benjamin Berg has been trying to fix this problem with a new app.

  • Firefox 66 to Offer Better Compatibility with GNOME Desktop, Improve Scrolling

    Just like with almost all new Firefox releases, Mozilla will try to improve the stability and performance of its popular web browser by implementing new features and options. This is the case of Firefox 66, which is now open for development and promises several changes to make your browsing experience better and more enjoyable.

Gradio is Dead! Long Live Shortwave!

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GNOME

Ever listen to radio stations on the Linux desktop? If so, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Gradio.

The desktop radio player app, which I mentally pronounce “gray-dee-oh“, has been a staple part of the Linux desktop app scene for the past few years.

Heck, we’ve certainly written enough about it enough since its debut back in 2016!

But the developer of Gradio, the terrifically talented (and appropriately named) Felix Häcker, has become a member of the GNOME foundation (and a collaborator on the new GNOME Podcasts app) he’s decided to make some changes.

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3 simple and useful GNOME Shell extensions

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GNOME
HowTos

The default desktop of Fedora Workstation — GNOME Shell — is known and loved by many users for its minimal, clutter-free user interface. It is also known for the ability to add to the stock interface using extensions. In this article, we cover 3 simple, and useful extensions for GNOME Shell. These three extensions provide a simple extra behaviour to your desktop; simple tasks that you might do every day.

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5 Major Improvements Headed to Epiphany, the GNOME Web Browser

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GNOME
Web

Epiphany — the web browser most of us would like to use, but don’t — has a new release on the way.

Having had a sneaky peek at the upcoming update’s change-log I think it’s fair to say that the next release of Epiphany could make some of us reconsider.…

Some 7 years since we wrote about Epiphany’s rebirth as ‘Web’, a core GNOME app, it feels appropriate to highlight a crop of improvements expected to be on offer in GNOME Web 3.32 this March…

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Kernel and Security: BPF, Mesa, Embedded World, Kernel Address Sanitizer and More

  • Concurrency management in BPF
    In the beginning, programs run on the in-kernel BPF virtual machine had no persistent internal state and no data that was shared with any other part of the system. The arrival of eBPF and, in particular, its maps functionality, has changed that situation, though, since a map can be shared between two or more BPF programs as well as with processes running in user space. That sharing naturally leads to concurrency problems, so the BPF developers have found themselves needing to add primitives to manage concurrency (the "exchange and add" or XADD instruction, for example). The next step is the addition of a spinlock mechanism to protect data structures, which has also led to some wider discussions on what the BPF memory model should look like. A BPF map can be thought of as a sort of array or hash-table data structure. The actual data stored in a map can be of an arbitrary type, including structures. If a complex structure is read from a map while it is being modified, the result may be internally inconsistent, with surprising (and probably unwelcome) results. In an attempt to prevent such problems, Alexei Starovoitov introduced BPF spinlocks in mid-January; after a number of quick review cycles, version 7 of the patch set was applied on February 1. If all goes well, this feature will be included in the 5.1 kernel.
  • Intel Ready To Add Their Experimental "Iris" Gallium3D Driver To Mesa
    For just over the past year Intel open-source driver developers have been developing a new Gallium3D-based OpenGL driver for Linux systems as the eventual replacement to their long-standing "i965 classic" Mesa driver. The Intel developers are now confident enough in the state of this new driver dubbed Iris that they are looking to merge the driver into mainline Mesa proper.  The Iris Gallium3D driver has now matured enough that Kenneth Graunke, the Intel OTC developer who originally started Iris in late 2017, is looking to merge the driver into the mainline code-base of Mesa. The driver isn't yet complete but it's already in good enough shape that he's looking for it to be merged albeit marked experimental.
  • Hallo Nürnberg!
    Collabora is headed to Nuremberg, Germany next week to take part in the 2019 edition of Embedded World, "the leading international fair for embedded systems". Following a successful first attendance in 2018, we are very much looking forward to our second visit! If you are planning on attending, please come say hello in Hall 4, booth 4-280! This year, we will be showcasing a state-of-the-art infrastructure for end-to-end, embedded software production. From the birth of a software platform, to reproducible continuous builds, to automated testing on hardware, get a firsthand look at our platform building expertise and see how we use continuous integration to increase productivity and quality control in embedded Linux.
  • KASAN Spots Another Kernel Vulnerability From Early Linux 2.6 Through 4.20
    The Kernel Address Sanitizer (KASAN) that detects dynamic memory errors within the Linux kernel code has just picked up another win with uncovering a use-after-free vulnerability that's been around since the early Linux 2.6 kernels. KASAN (along with the other sanitizers) have already proven quite valuable in spotting various coding mistakes hopefully before they are exploited in the real-world. The Kernel Address Sanitizer picked up another feather in its hat with being responsible for the CVE-2019-8912 discovery.
  • io_uring, SCM_RIGHTS, and reference-count cycles
    The io_uring mechanism that was described here in January has been through a number of revisions since then; those changes have generally been fixing implementation issues rather than changing the user-space API. In particular, this patch set seems to have received more than the usual amount of security-related review, which can only be a good thing. Security concerns became a bit of an obstacle for io_uring, though, when virtual filesystem (VFS) maintainer Al Viro threatened to veto the merging of the whole thing. It turns out that there were some reference-counting issues that required his unique experience to straighten out. The VFS layer is a complicated beast; it must manage the complexities of the filesystem namespace in a way that provides the highest possible performance while maintaining security and correctness. Achieving that requires making use of almost all of the locking and concurrency-management mechanisms that the kernel offers, plus a couple more implemented internally. It is fair to say that the number of kernel developers who thoroughly understand how it works is extremely small; indeed, sometimes it seems like Viro is the only one with the full picture. In keeping with time-honored kernel tradition, little of this complexity is documented, so when Viro gets a moment to write down how some of it works, it's worth paying attention. In a long "brain dump", Viro described how file reference counts are managed, how reference-count cycles can come about, and what the kernel does to break them. For those with the time to beat their brains against it for a while, Viro's explanation (along with a few corrections) is well worth reading. For the rest of us, a lighter version follows.

Blacklisting insecure filesystems in openSUSE

The Linux kernel supports a wide variety of filesystem types, many of which have not seen significant use — or maintenance — in many years. Developers in the openSUSE project have concluded that many of these filesystem types are, at this point, more useful to attackers than to openSUSE users and are proposing to blacklist many of them by default. Such changes can be controversial, but it's probably still fair to say that few people expected the massive discussion that resulted, covering everything from the number of OS/2 users to how openSUSE fits into the distribution marketplace. On January 30, Martin Wilck started the discussion with a proposal to add a blacklist preventing the automatic loading of a set of kernel modules implementing (mostly) old filesystems. These include filesystems like JFS, Minix, cramfs, AFFS, and F2FS. For most of these, the logic is that the filesystems are essentially unused and the modules implementing them have seen little maintenance in recent decades. But those modules can still be automatically loaded if a user inserts a removable drive containing one of those filesystem types. There are a number of fuzz-testing efforts underway in the kernel community, but it seems relatively unlikely that any of them are targeting, say, FreeVxFS filesystem images. So it is not unreasonable to suspect that there just might be exploitable bugs in those modules. Preventing modules for ancient, unmaintained filesystems from automatically loading may thus protect some users against flash-drive attacks. If there were to be a fight over a proposal like this, one would ordinarily expect it to be concerned with the specific list of unwelcome modules. But there was relatively little of that. One possible exception is F2FS, the presence of which raised some eyebrows since it is under active development, having received 44 changes in the 5.0 development cycle, for example. Interestingly, it turns out that openSUSE stopped shipping F2FS in September. While the filesystem is being actively developed, it seems that, with rare exceptions, nobody is actively backporting fixes, and the filesystem also lacks a mechanism to prevent an old F2FS implementation from being confused by a filesystem created by a newer version. Rather than deal with these issues, openSUSE decided to just drop the filesystem altogether. As it happens, the blacklist proposal looks likely to allow F2FS to return to the distribution since it can be blacklisted by default. Read more

gitgeist: a git-based social network proof of concept

Are you tired of not owning the data or the platform you use for social postings? I know I am. It's hard to say when I "first" used a social network. I've been on email for about 30 years and one of the early ad-hoc forms of social networks were chain emails. Over the years I was asked to join all sorts of "social" things such as IRC, ICQ, Skype, MSN Messenger, etc. and eventually things like Orkut, MySpace, Facebook, etc. I'll readily admit that I'm not the type of person that happily jumps onto every new social bandwagon that appears on the Internet. I often prefer preserving the quietness of my own thoughts. That, though, hasn't stopped me from finding some meaningfulness participating in Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and more recently Google+. Twitter was in fact the first social network that I truly embraced. And it would've remained my primary social network had they not killed their own community by culling the swell of independently-developed Twitter clients that existed. That and their increased control of their API effectively made me look for something else. Right around that time Google+ was being introduced and many in the open source community started participating in that, in some ways to find a fresh place where techies can aggregate away from the noise and sometimes over-the-top nature of Facebook. Eventually I took to that too and started using G+ as my primary social network. That is, until Google recently decided to pull the plug on G+. While Google+ might not have represented a success for Google, it had become a good place for sharing information among the technically-inclined. As such, I found it quite useful for learning and hearing about new things in my field. Soon-to-be-former users of G+ have gone in all sorts of directions. Some have adopted a "c'mon guys, get over it, Facebook is the spot" attitude, others have adopted things like Mastodon, others have fallen back to their existing IDs on Twitter, and yet others, like me, are still looking. Read more