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Software: Mumble, HomeBank, UDisks, Calamares, Calamares and zstd

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Software
  • Mumble dreams

    With everyone switching to remote tools for social distancing, I've been using Mumble more and more. That's partly by choice -- I don't like videoconferencing much, frankly -- and partly by necessity: sometimes my web browser fails and Mumble is generally more reliable.

    Some friend on a mailing list recently asked "shouldn't we make Mumble better?" and opened the door for me to go on a long "can I get a pony?" email. Because I doubt anyone on that mailing list has the time or capacity to actually fix those issues, I figured I would copy this to a broader audience in the hope that someone else would pick it up.

  • HomeBank 5.4

    HomeBank is a free software (as in "free speech" and also as in "free beer") that will assist you to manage your personal accounting. It is designed to easy to use and be able to analyse your personal finance and budget in detail using powerful filtering tools and beautiful charts. If you are looking for a completely free and easy application to manage your personal accounting, budget, finance then HomeBank should be the software of choice.

  • The road to UDisks 2.9.0

    While the world is going crazy these days we continue to march in full strength towards the next UDisks release. It’s still a couple of weeks away and there are some interesting features still pending to be merged. With all the changes we’re bound with the promise to keep the public D-Bus and C API stable and that won’t change even that there were major changes under the hood. Overall we’ve been focusing on general stability and predictability, fixing various race conditions. But we’ve also added a couple of new interesting features.

  • Calamares 2020q1

    Over on the Calamares website, most of the news items are about releases and the release schedule. Here’s some more community-related tidbits for the first quarter of 2020.

    Calamares development is sponsored by Blue Systems, which means I can spend three days a week – more, in practice – working on it. This is a form of service to the Open Source community; Calamares is used by some Linux distro’s that Blue Systems is interested in, but I (or Calamares) explicitly support all kinds of distro’s. Every downstream is a welcome downstream.

    In the first few months of 2020 I learned of several “new” distro’s that use Calamares. “New” to me; they have existed for years, usually, and I don’t pay attention to every Linux distro out there. Drop me a note by email, as a GitHub issue, or on Freenode IRC in #calamares if you have a distro that should be listed among the Calamares-users.

  • Plasma Mobile: Join our online sprint!

    To foster the evolution of Plasma Mobile and bring us closer to Plasma Mobile 1.0 we are hosting an online sprint this week. We see this as a perfect opportunity to get new people involved and ask everyone interested to join us.

    We will have two days of discussion about various mobile-related topics as well as a day dedicated to onboarding new people. On top of that, we are having an AMA with the core developers on /r/kde.

  • Zstandard (zstd) Coming to >= gentoo-sources-5.6.4 (use=experimental)

    I just added zstd to gentoo-sources which will apply to gentoo-sources kernels >=5.6.4 when the ‘experimental’ use flag is enabled.

    zstd is described here[1] as “…a fast lossless compression algorithm, targeting real-time compression scenarios at zlib-level and better compression ratios. It’s backed by a very fast entropy stage, provided by Huff0 and FSE library.”

Software: PeaZip, GIMP, Chrome, YADM and Homeshick

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Software
  • PeaZip 7.2.0

    Open and extract 180+ archive formats: 001, 7Z, ACE(*), ARC, ARJ, BZ2, CAB, DMG, GZ, ISO, LHA, PAQ, PEA, RAR, TAR, UDF, WIM, XZ, ZIP ZIPX - view full list of supported archive file formats for archiving and for extraction.

  • Photo software options [Ed: GIMP (the GNU Image Manipulation Program) listed under "Freeware" (which is wrong)]

    GIMP (the GNU Image Manipulation Program) is an open source program that has been around since the mid-to-late 1990s so there’s been plenty of time to refine it. Available for the Linux, Mac OS X and Windows platforms it provides most of the same features as Adobe’s Photoshop and its user interface is highly customisable. It also supports many of the plugins offered by third-party developers.

  • Google Chrome 81 Now Available for Download on Linux, Windows, and Mac

    Google has just released Chrome 81 on all supported platforms, including Linux, Windows, and Mac.

    The new version is 81.0.4044.92, and it includes several notable improvements, including support for the Web NFC API, which means that web apps can finally use the built-in NFC.

    In other words, if your device is bundled with an NFC, web apps can use it though Google Chrome, either for data transfer or for other implementations.

    Google says it has resolves a total of 32 security vulnerabilities with this release, with the company once again paying thousands of dollars in bounties to researchers who reported the flaws.

  • It's all in the dot file - YADM and Homeshick

    Backups are important. Backups are crucial. Backups are love, backups are life. Over the years, I've talked about the cardinal value of keeping your data safe, and that means multiple copies, multiple locations. We also talked about how to concoct your own quick 'n' dirty setup with tar and gpg recently. That one covers both data and application settings. Speaking of the latter ...

    Let's expand on this some more. If you have multiple computers, reinstall systems frequently, or just like to have a consistent configuration across multiple hosts, you might be interested in a way to manage application settings. In Linux, most software keeps their configurations in hidden files inside the home directory, either at the top level (/home/username) or inside the .config sub-directory. Either way, there could be plenty of them, you want to make sure you always have a copy, and if something goes wrong, you can easily revert to a good checkpoint. Introducting YADM and Homeshick.

Watch Synchronized Videos With Your Remote Friends Using Syncplay (Linux, macOS, Windows)

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Software

Syncplay is a free and open source tool to synchronize media players with remote friends to watch videos together, available for Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux and *BSD. It supports mpv, VLC, MPC-BE and MPC-HC, with each user being able to use any of these media players.

The application synchronizes the position and play state of the media player over the Internet, allowing all viewers to watch the same video in the same time. So when one viewer seeks, pauses or unpauses a video, this is applied to all viewers / media players that are in the same Syncplay room, on the same server.

You can choose to use one of the free public Syncplay servers, or you can host your own public or private Syncplay server, be it on Windows, macOS, Linux (including Raspberry Pi).

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Repo Review: VidCutter

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Software
Movies
Reviews

VidCutter is a simple program available in the repository for performing very basic video editing tasks. It allows you to quite easily trim and split videos at multiple points, and also join video clips together without the need for a full featured video editing program.

The user interface is, for the most part, fairly well laid out. Below the video preview screen is a nice timeline with thumbnails. At the right of the preview is the Clip Index. When you start making cuts in a video, each new clip you split will be added to the Clip Index, where you can rearrange the order in which they will be joined. To begin editing, click Open Media and load in a video file.

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Biogenesis - Play evolution

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Software
Reviews
Sci/Tech

Molecular biology is a fascinating thing. Combine it with computers, and you get yourself a platform for studying the evolution of life. Not an easy one, and scientists worldwide have been at this problem for many years now, trying to understand and replicate the environmental conditions that led to the creation of life on Earth.

If you're fascinated by the concepts of amino acids, RNA, cellular division and alike, you can partake in the discovery journey with Biogenesis, a free, cross-platform, Java-based visual microbiology simulator. The idea is simple: you get a primordial soup, and you get to control it, studying and creating organisms of your own. Sounds like good, solid educational fun. Let there be light. I mean Java.

[...]

Biogenesis is not your everyday program, and it will most likely appeal to a tiny, tiny niche of users with some scientific inclination. However, it's a very capable and fascinating educational tool, as it touches on many important aspects of life without forcing you to go through four years of university somewhere, not that you shouldn't. It's smartly designed, it has the right dose of simple and complex, and it entices the brain to think in just the right way.

The one thing I'm missing are the actual algorithms in the background, which determine how applicable Biogenesis is for real-life simulations. Then again, it allows us to contemplate hypothetical early-life scenarios, and maybe gain understanding into why certain organisms are more prevalent, and how they have come to dominate life. Anyway, definitely worth testing. Begin.

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Proprietary Stuff and Openwashing

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Software
  • Federal, State, and Local Law Enforcement Warn Against Teleconferencing [Cracking] During Coronavirus Pandemic

    Western District of Michigan U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge advised video conference users: “Whether you run a business, a law enforcement meeting, a classroom or you just want to video chat with family, you need to be aware that your video conference may not be secure and information you share may be compromised. Be careful. If you do get [attacked], call us.”

  • Zoom CEO says company reached 200 million daily users in March

    In order to address the company’s problems, Yuan detailed steps taken including removing Facebook’s software development kit to stop the collection of unnecessary user data, updating Zoom’s privacy policy to be more transparent, giving tips to users to prevent Zoom bombings and offering more specific programs for classes on Zoom.

  • Update: Zoom issues fix for UNC vulnerability that lets [attackers] steal Windows credentials via chat

    All an attacker needs to do is to send a link to another user and convince them to click it, for the attack to commence. Though the Windows password is still encrypted, the hack claims it can be easily decrypted by third-party tools if the password is a weak one.

  • Thousands of Zoom recordings exposed because of the way Zoom names recordings

    Thousands of Zoom cloud recordings have been exposed on the web because of the way Zoom names its recordings, according to a report by The Washington Post. The recordings are apparently named in “an identical way” and many have been posted onto unprotected Amazon Web Services (AWS) buckets, making it possible to find them through an online search.

    One search engine that can look through cloud storage space turned up more than 15,000 Zoom recordings, according to The Washington Post. “Thousands” of clips have apparently also been uploaded to YouTube and Vimeo. The Washington Post said it was able to view recordings of therapy sessions, orientations, business meetings, elementary school classes, and more.

  • Move Fast & Roll Your Own Crypto

    Zoom documentation claims that the app uses “AES-256” encryption for meetings where possible. However, we find that in each Zoom meeting, a single AES-128 key is used in ECB mode by all participants to encrypt and decrypt audio and video. The use of ECB mode is not recommended because patterns present in the plaintext are preserved during encryption.

    The AES-128 keys, which we verified are sufficient to decrypt Zoom packets intercepted in Internet traffic, appear to be generated by Zoom servers, and in some cases, are delivered to participants in a Zoom meeting through servers in China, even when all meeting participants, and the Zoom subscriber’s company, are outside of China.

    Zoom, a Silicon Valley-based company, appears to own three companies in China through which at least 700 employees are paid to develop Zoom’s software. This arrangement is ostensibly an effort at labor arbitrage: Zoom can avoid paying US wages while selling to US customers, thus increasing their profit margin. However, this arrangement may make Zoom responsive to pressure from Chinese authorities.

  • ‘Zoombombing’ is a federal offense that could result in imprisonment, prosecutors warn

    Federal prosecutors are now warning pranksters and [attackers] of the potential legal implications of “Zoombombing,” wherein someone successfully invades a public or sometimes even private meeting over the videoconferencing platform to broadcast shock videos, pornography, or other disruptive content.

    The warning was posted as a press released to the Department of Justice’s website under the US Attorney’s office for the state’s Eastern district with support from the state attorney general and the FBI.

  • [Attackers] are targeting your kids to infect Android and Chromebook devices with malware

    Hide your kids; hide your wives. Security investigators from Check Point Research discovered 56 malware-infected Google Play apps. Before Google had a chance to pull them down, users already downloaded the apps one million times; 24 of those apps, Check Point Research discovered, targeted children.

    The study -- spearheaded by Israel Wernik, Danil Golubenko , Aviran Hazum -- found that the Google Play Store-based apps were poisoned with Tekya, which is a form of adware. The goal of Tekya, Hazum told Laptop Mag, is to commit mobile-ad fraud.

  • Apparently Microsoft’s Claim of 775 Percent Surge in Cloud Services Wasn’t Really Accurate

    The company has now made a correction, saying that the 775 percent increase was experienced by Microsoft Teams, not all of the cloud offerings, which isn't as surprising since the video calling app generated over 900 million meeting and calling minutes daily in a one-week period alone.

    As it turns out the figure also only came from Microsoft Teams' users in Italy, where millions of people were put under lockdown. The corrected statement now reads: [...]

  • Zoom isn’t actually end-to-end encrypted

    Zoom does use TLS encryption, the same standard that web browsers use to secure HTTPS websites. In practice, that means that data is encrypted between you and Zoom’s servers, similar to Gmail or Facebook content. But the term end-to-end encryption typically refers to protecting content between the users entirely with no company access at all, similar to Signal or WhatsApp. Zoom does not offer that level of encryption, making the use of “end-to-end” highly misleading.

  • Zoom Calls Are Not End-to-End Encrypted Contrary to Claims

    What this means it that Zoom can access the video feed of your meetings. The company did confirm that it does not “directly access, mine, or sell user data.”

    Zoom offers an option where a meeting can only be hosted with mandatory encryption for third-party endpoints. However, when contacted, the company clarified that it is currently not possible to hold E2E video meetings using Zoom.

  • Zoom’s sudden spike in popularity is revealing its privacy (and porn) problems

    With its vaguely worded privacy policies and misleading marketing materials, Zoom’s real overarching issue seems to be a lack of transparency. Combine that with an apparent lack of forethought about how video meetings with insufficient privacy protections — both on the back and the front end — could be exploited by [attackers] or trolls. This entire scenario becomes especially problematic considering the growing number of students that Zoom eagerly recruits for the platform. It all seems like a bad publicity time bomb that went off as soon as Zoom became an essential piece of pandemic software and people started really looking more closely at how the service worked.

  • Dark Sky Has a New Home

    Android and Wear OS App

    The app will no longer be available for download. Service to existing users and subscribers will continue until July 1, 2020, at which point the app will be shut down. Subscribers who are still active at that time will receive a refund.

    Website

    Weather forecasts, maps, and embeds will continue until July 1, 2020. The website will remain active beyond that time in support of API and iOS App customers.

  • Microsoft’s Skype struggles have created a Zoom moment

    The transition lasted years, and resulted in calls, messages, and notifications repeating on multiple devices. Skype became unreliable, at a time when rivals were continuing to offer solid alternatives that incorporated messaging functionality that actually worked and synced across devices. Instead of quickly fixing the underlying issues, Microsoft spent years trying to redesign Skype. This led to a lethal combination of an unreliable product with a user experience that changed on a monthly basis.

  • ‘War Dialing’ Tool Exposes Zoom’s Password Problems

    Lo said a single instance of zWarDial can find approximately 100 meetings per hour, but that multiple instances of the tool running in parallel could probably discover most of the open Zoom meetings on any given day. Each instance, he said, has a success rate of approximately 14 percent, meaning for each random meeting number it tries, the program has a 14 percent chance of finding an open meeting.

    Only meetings that are protected by a password are undetectable by zWarDial, Lo said.

  • Open Source Moves From Rebel to Mainstream

    That shift has its critics. “The degree in which corporations knowingly and openly use open source has grown,” says Karl Fogel, a developer and open-source advocate. Still, some open-source developers feel that although these businesses build a lot of value on top of their work, they’re not seeing “enough of it flowing back to them,” Fogel says.

    But the narrative of a noncommercial open source being colonized by the corporate world also has its flaws, cautions Fogel. Open source has always been commercial to a certain degree. Even in the more radical currents of the movement, where the term “free software” is preferred over open source, making money isn’t necessarily shunned. Richard Stallman, one of the movement’s pioneers, famously said that the “free” in “free software” should be taken as “free speech, not free beer.” All the talk about freedom and digital self-ownership doesn’t preclude making money.

  • HPE announces new open source programme to simplify 5G rollout

    Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) today announced the Open Distributed Infrastructure Management initiative, a new open source programme that will simplify the management of large-scale geographically distributed physical infrastructure deployments. In addition, HPE will introduce an enterprise offering, the HPE Open Distributed Infrastructure Management Resource Aggregator that is aligned with the initiative.

    Open Distributed Infrastructure Management helps resolve the complexity that telcos face in rolling out 5G networks across thousands of sites equipped with IT infrastructure from multiple vendors and different generations of technology. This new initiative underlines HPE’s continued leadership in open 5G technologies and commitment to accelerating industry alignment through open source innovation.

Software: Remote Working, Cockpit, YouTube Tools and Sparky Upgrade

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Software
  • FSFE Supporters write about Free Software for remote working

    Due to the ongoing Covid-19 virus outbreak many employees - voluntarily or mandatory - are working remotely now. Many organisations who have not been used to remote working so far now face a number of difficulties adapting to the situation. To avoid potential lock-ins, some FSFE supporters collectively wrote about the good reasons to use Free Software for remote working and collected a detailed list of practical solutions in our wiki.

    Because of the ongoing Covid-19 virus outbreak many organisations who never previously directed any strategic thought towards the available solutions for remote working in their business now opt for a quick solution and choose to follow the - in the beginning often free of charge - offerings from big tech companies and their proprietary solutions. However, such proprietary solutions lock-in these organisations in the future.

    Choosing a Free Software solution instead means to opt for a solution that has a future, where your organization no longer depends on a particular vendor or file format or whichever other means those vendors choose to lock you in. Free Software puts you in control.

  • Cockpit 216

    Cockpit is the modern Linux admin interface. We release regularly. Here are the release notes from version 216.

  • Excellent Console-Based YouTube Tools

    YouTube is a video-sharing website, created in February 2005, and purchased by Google in November 2006. The web service lets billions of people find, watch, and share originally-created videos. This service lets you watch a wide variety of user-generated and corporate media video. It also offers a forum for people to communicate with others around the world, and acts as a distribution platform. Mainstream media corporations such as CBS, Vevo, Hulu and the BBC publish some of their catalog via YouTube, as part of the YouTube partnership program.

    Although some parents might disagree, YouTube is one of the shining lights of the internet. According to a survey of 1,500 American teenagers commissioned by Variety, the top five most influential celebrities are YouTube stars, with mainstream celebs eclipsed. Moreover, there are many thousands of “YouTube celebs” who have spun a full-time career of creating videos. This new wave of young ‘YouTubers’ threaten mainstream entertainment with their direct video blogs and interaction with their millions of mostly teenage devotees.

  • Sparky Upgrade text tool

    There is a tool available for Sparkers, which lets you make full system upgrade in a text mode via just one command: Sparky Upgrade.

Elisa Music Player by KDE is Refreshing, But Not There Just Yet

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KDE
Software
Reviews

If you’re someone who still listens to locally stored music, in this day and age of several streaming music services, you deserve a good music player app. I use Google Play Music because it also lets me upload my local music files. Yet, I can never really fully switch over because I just don’t like the silly-looking interface. Google Play Music just has the worst interface of all music streaming services. Thus, I still prefer using a nice, beautiful local music player app more often when I can. As such, I’m always on the lookout. Elisa Music Player was just released by the KDE team and is kind of available for every Windows, openSUSE, and Arch Linux user.

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Software: Chafa, Butterfly Builder, Fondo Wallpaper App, kmon and Fre:ac

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Software
  • Chafa 1.4.0: Now with sixels

    April 1st seems like as good a time as any for a new Chafa release — though note that Chafa is no joke. At least not anymore, what with the extremely enterprise-ready sixel pipeline and all.

    [...]

    The most complete existing implementation is probably Hayaki Saito’s libsixel, but I chose to write one from scratch for Chafa, since sixel output is remarkably intensive computationally, and I wanted to employ a combination of advanced techniques (parallelism, quantization using a PCA approach, SIMD scaling) and corner-cutting that wouldn’t have been appropriate in that library. This gets me fast animation playback and makes it easier to phase out the ImageMagick dependency in the long term.

    There are at least two widely available virtual terminals that support sixels: One is XTerm (when compiled with --enable-sixel), and the other is mlterm. Unfortunately, I don’t think either is widely used compared to distribution defaults like GNOME Terminal and Konsole, so here’s hoping for more mainstream support for this feature.

  • Butterfly Builder, a tool to compile PHP

    Butterfly Builder is a tool written in BASH that allows to compile PHP from the source code, Butterfly Builder (before pbt) is the evolution of the php-build.sh script allowing greater flexibility and customization in the PHP compilation / installation process.

  • PAM testing using pam_wrapper and dbusmock

    On the road to libfprint and fprintd 2.0, we've been fixing some long-standing bugs, including one that required porting our PAM module from dbus-glib to sd-bus, systemd's D-Bus library implementation.

    As you can imagine, I have confidence in my ability to write bug-free code at the first attempt, but the foresight to know that this code will be buggy if it's not tested (and to know there's probably a bug in the tests if they run successfully the first time around). So we will have to test that PAM module, thoroughly, before and after the port.

  • Get Unsplash Wallpapers on Linux with Fondo Wallpaper App

    Some people change wallpapers on their desktops, phones or other devices more frequently than they change clothes. Finding new wallpapers on the internet is not that difficult. However, you do start to see the same images over and over the more you look. And then it starts to get a little difficult. That’s when many people flock over to Unsplash. Unsplash is a royalty-free photography site, not remotely aimed at providing wallpapers. However, it is a very popular source of wallpapers for many users. Fondo wallpaper app is a new app for Linux that makes it much easier to find and apply wallpapers from Unsplash.

  • Easily Load, Unload And Blacklist Kernel Modules With kmon (TUI)

    kmon is a new command line kernel manager and activity monitor. It can be used to load, unload and blacklist kernel modules, as well as show module information. The tool also shows kernel activities (hardware logs, etc.) in real time.

    This command line tool is written in Rust, and it uses a text-based user interface (TUI) thanks to the tui-rs and termion libraries.

  • Fre:ac Audio Converter 1.1 Released with Dark Mode Support

    Fre:ac audio converter 1.1 was released a few days ago. Here’s how to install it in Ubuntu 18.04 and higher.

ProtonMail launches Bridge for Linux

Filed under
GNU
Linux
Software

We are excited to announce that starting today, you can use Bridge to connect your ProtonMail account with your desktop email app on the Linux operating system.
ProtonMail Bridge is a desktop app available to all paying subscribers that integrates ProtonMail’s strong privacy and security features, such as zero-access encryption and end-to-end encryption, with your email client.
Bridge implements IMAP/SMTP protocols and is compatible with any email client which follows this standard. The Linux version we are launching today includes special optimizations for Thunderbird.
Since releasing Bridge for Linux in beta, we have collected valuable feedback from our community and improved the speed and performance. Linux users now have access to all the convenience provided by an email client, including full-text search, offline editing, and the ability to export and back up emails from your ProtonMail account.

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Also: 3 Zoom Alternatives to Maintain Your Privacy

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