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Sci/Tech

LabPlot 2.8 Released

Filed under
KDE
Software
Sci/Tech

In 2.8 we made it easier to access many online resources that provide data sets for educational purposes. These data sets cover a variety of different areas, such as physics, statistics, medicine, etc., and are usually organized in collections.

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“It Just Works”: An Interview with Dexai Robotics

Filed under
Linux
Interviews
Sci/Tech

The simulators wind up using a lot of computational power, which is one of the reasons why we use System76. Portability is another. I really like the fact that I can run the full software stack on a laptop that I can always have with me. Previously, we had desktops sitting around in a lab environment, and people were often having to sign into them and borrow them. We needed a solution for new hires to have a computer they can rely on at all times.

A co-worker mentioned that she bought a machine from you guys back in 2019. After she recommended it, I did a little bit of digging online for the best Linux laptops available, and you all were named a fair amount in those searches—so I ordered one. I was pleasantly surprised with how it just worked right out of the box. I wasn’t fiddling with drivers, I wasn’t dealing with bootloader problems and figuring out how to get a working desktop environment up; I just opened it up and installed a bunch of software and I was ready to go.

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CAELinux 2020: Linux for engineering

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GNU
Linux
Sci/Tech

CAELinux is a distribution focused on computer-aided engineering (CAE) maintained by Joël Cugnoni. Designed with students and academics in mind, the distribution is loaded with open-source software that can be used to model everything from pig livers to airfoils. Cugnoni's latest release, CAELinux 2020, was made on August 11; readers with engineering interests may want to take a look.

CAELinux's first stable version was released in 2007 and was based on PCLinuxOS 2007. The distribution was created to make the GPL-licensed finite element analysis tool Salome-Meca easier to obtain. CAELinux 2020 is now the eighth release of the distribution, which is based on Xubuntu 18.04 LTS, and has expanded its focus over the years into an impressive array of open-source CAE-related tools.

The minimum requirements for CAELinux 2020 are a x86-64 platform with 4GB of RAM for "simple analysis." For professional use, the project recommends 8GB of RAM or more with a "modern AMD/NVidia graphic card." The entire distribution can be run from an 8GB USB memory drive, with the option to install it to disk (35GB minimum). For those users (like me) who wanted to run the distribution as a virtual machine, the project recommends the commercial VMware Player over the open-source VirtualBox project due to "some graphical limitations" of VirtualBox.

There are too many different software packages unique to the CAELinux distribution to cover them all in a single article. Since the distribution is built on top of Xubuntu, CAELinux comes with all of the standard tools available in the base distribution. In addition to the standard packages, however, CAELinux bundles CAE pre/post processors, CAD and CAM software, finite element solvers, computational fluid dynamics applications, circuit board design tools, biomedical image processing software, and a large array of programming language packages. A review of the release announcement provides a full list of the specific open-source projects available, including a few web-based tools that merely launch the included browser to the appropriate URL.

It would be impossible for me to claim familiarity with the full range of tools provided, but I was familiar with many. For example, FreeCAD has been written about at LWN, and CAMLab was used in our article on open-source CNC manufacturing. I have personally used other bundled packages like FlatCAM for isolation routing of homemade circuit boards and Cura to slice 3D models for printing. What was particularly neat about exploring the distribution was getting introduced to new open-source software that matched my interests. I discovered KiCad EDA's PCB Calculator utility (simple, but handy), and I am looking forward to checking out CAMotics as another CAM alternative for my CNC router.

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Cantor 20.08

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KDE
Sci/Tech

Our developers are adding some usability improvements to Cantor and some initial results from GSoC projects are now available with the 20.08 release.

For example, now you can collapse, uncollapse, and remove all results from the worksheet; exclude entries from the worksheet commands processing; add actions for selected texts; zoom widgets; get tooltips for almost all settings options; use the new horizontal rule entry; and more.

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Cantor - File Browser Panel

Filed under
KDE
Sci/Tech

this is the fourth post about the progress in my GSoC project and I want to present some user experience improvements related to the handling of panels in Cantor and to present a new panel "File Browser" that I implemented recently.

The status of Cantor's panels was not saved when the user closed the application. Potential rearangements and size changes done on panels were gone and the user had to do the changes again upon the next start. Very bad UX, of course. Now, the state is saved and even more, the state is saved for every backend in Cantor. So, if you have a Python session in Cantor, open some panels and arrange them at your will, close and reopen Cantor with a Python session again - the previous state of the panels appears on start.

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Also: GSoC ’ 20 Progress: Week 5 and 6

scikit-survival 0.13 Released

Filed under
Software
GNOME
Sci/Tech

Today, I released version 0.13.0 of scikit-survival. Most notably, this release adds sksurv.metrics.brier_score and sksurv.metrics.integrated_brier_score, an updated PEP 517/518 compatible build system, and support for scikit-learn 0.23.

For a full list of changes in scikit-survival 0.13.0, please see the release notes.

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What Operating System Is the Best Choice for Software Engineers?

Filed under
OS
Development
GNU
Linux
Sci/Tech

GNU/Linux is, hands down, the most highly acclaimed operating system for software engineering. It comes with an absolute ton of development tools and has unprecedented performance with regard to software development.

Linux, in case you are not aware, is a free, open-licensed operating system. This means that it is very developer-friendly and can be, to a certain extent, customized to your own desires.

But, it is not for everyone.

Linux comes with a large selection of distributions (called distros in the trade). Each one, unsurprisingly, has the Linux Kernel at its core, with other components built on top. Many Linux users will tend to switch between these distros until they find the perfect 'recipe' for their needs and tastes.

We will highlight a few of these towards the end of the article.

What are some of the pros of using Linux for software development?

1. One of the main benefits of Linux, not to mention the Linux ecosystem, according to software engineers, is the amount of choice and flexibility it provides. This really does make it the jewel in the crown of operating systems.

2. Linux is free and open-sourced. This means you don't have to fork out tons of cash on licenses for the OS and other apps used on it.

3. It is easy to install directly on your computer, or you can boot Linux from an external drive like a USB flash drive or CD. You can also install it with or inside Windows if you need both.

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Stellarium 0.20.2 Released as 20 Year Anniversary Celebration

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Software
Sci/Tech

Free open-source astronomy software Stellarium 0.20.2 was released a few days ago as the 20 year anniversary celebration.

Stellarium 0.20.2 contains many changes in AstroCalc tool and core of Stellarium, changes in scripting engline and Script Console, Oculars and Satellites plugins, updated DSO catalog, see release note for details.

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Qualcomm’s Linux-driven robotics kit taps Snapdragon 865

Filed under
Linux
Sci/Tech

The 96Boards-compatible “Qualcomm Robotics RB5 Platform” runs Linux and ROS 2 on a Qualcomm QRB5165 based on the 15-TOPS Snapdragon 865 with optional 5G and cameras including RealSense and ToF.

Qualcomm and Thundercomm have followed up on last year’s Qualcomm Robotics RB3 Platform with a similarly 96Boards form-factor Qualcomm Robotics RB5 Platform that supports 5G communications and input from up to 7x concurrent cameras. The Linux and ROS 2 driven development kit advances from a Snapdragon 845 to new custom robotics SoC called the Qualcomm QRB5165 based on the Snapdragon 865. (In other news, Qualcomm announced a 5G-ready Snapdragon 690 SoC for mid-range phones.)

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Linux at Home: Explore the Universe from your Garden

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Sci/Tech

In this series, we look at a range of home activities where Linux can make the most of our time at home, keeping active and engaged. The change of lifestyle enforced by Covid-19 is an opportunity to expand our horizons, and spend more time on activities we have neglected in the past.

Even though many European countries have made significant steps in relaxing some of the restrictions of daily life, the advice is to maintain social distancing rules. The big fear is that there will be a coronavirus resurgence. But it’s important that we don’t cocoonourselves, we need to protect ourselves and be supportive to others. There are many fascinating hobbies that can spark our imagination. Astronomy is a great example.

A widespread belief is that astronomy is an activity which cannot be enjoyed without paraphernalia like telescopes and other expensive equipment. However, astronomy is for everyone, and even with just the naked eye, it can become a fascinating and rewarding hobby for life.

It’s a learning hobby. Its joys come from intellectual discovery and knowledge of the cryptic night sky. But you have to make these discoveries, and gain this knowledge, by yourself. In other words, you need to become self-taught.

With the aid of open source software, budding astronomers can learn how to ‘read’ the stars, to know which constellations lie overhead, their trajectory throughout the seasons, and the legends ascribed to them. With the following software you can learn about the night skies of both the northern and southern hemispheres. I recommend Celestia, Stellarium, and AstroImageJ. For the first two programs, I’ve produced a short video showcasing them in action. The software is cross-platform.

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More in Tux Machines

How to Contribute to the Fight Against COVID-19 With Your Linux System

Want to contribute to the research on coronavirus? You don’t necessarily have to be a scientist for this. You may contribute with part of your computer’s computing power thanks to Rosetta@home project. Read more

Raspberry Pi 4 as Desktop Computer: Is It Really Viable?

There’s little doubt that the Raspberry Pi 4 is significantly more powerful than its predecessors. Its based on the faster ARM Cortex-A72 microarchitecture and has four cores pegged at marginally-higher clock speeds. The graphics subsystem is significantly beefed up as well, running at twice the maximum stock clocks as the outgoing model. Everything about it makes it a viable desktop replacement. But is it really good enough to replace your trusty old desktop? I spent three weeks with the 8GB version of the Pi 4 to answer that million-dollar question. Read more

10 Linux Distributions and Their Targeted Users

As a free and open-source operating system, Linux has spawned several distributions over time, spreading its wings to encompass a large community of users. From desktop/home users to Enterprise environments, Linux has ensured that each category has something to be happy about. [...] Debian is renowned for being a mother to popular Linux distributions such as Deepin, Ubuntu, and Mint which have provided solid performance, stability, and unparalleled user experience. The latest stable release is Debian 10.5, an update of Debian 10 colloquially known as Debian Buster. Note that Debian 10.5 does not constitute a new version of Debian Buster and is only an update of Buster with the latest updates and added software applications. Also included are security fixes that address pre-existing security issues. If you have your Buster system, there’s no need to discard it. Simply perform a system upgrade using the APT package manager. The Debian project provides over 59,000 software packages and supports a wide range of PCs with each release encompassing a broader array of system architectures. It strives to strike a balance between cutting edge technology and stability. Debian provides 3 salient development branches: Stable, Testing, and Unstable. The stable version, as the name suggests is rock-solid, enjoys full security support but unfortunately, does not ship with the very latest software applications. Nevertheless, It is ideal for production servers owing to its stability and reliability and also makes the cut for relatively conservative desktop users who don’t really mind having the very latest software packages. Debian Stable is what you would usually install on your system. Debian Testing is a rolling release and provides the latest software versions that are yet to be accepted into the stable release. It is a development phase of the next stable Debian release. It’s usually fraught with instability issues and might easily break. Also, it doesn’t get its security patches in a timely fashion. The latest Debian Testing release is Bullseye. The unstable distro is the active development phase of Debian. It is an experimental distro and acts as a perfect platform for developers who are actively making contributions to the code until it transitions to the ‘Testing’ stage. Overall, Debian is used by millions of users owing to its package-rich repository and the stability it provides especially in production environments. Read more

LWN on Linux and Linux Foundation Bits

  • Modernizing the tasklet API

    Tasklets offer a deferred-execution method in the Linux kernel; they have been available since the 2.3 development series. They allow interrupt handlers to schedule further work to be executed as soon as possible after the handler itself. The tasklet API has its shortcomings, but it has stayed in place while other deferred-execution methods, including workqueues, have been introduced. Recently, Kees Cook posted a security-inspired patch set (also including work from Romain Perier) to improve the tasklet API. This change is uncontroversial, but it provoked a discussion that might lead to the removal of the tasklet API in the (not so distant) future. The need for tasklets and other deferred execution mechanisms comes from the way the kernel handles interrupts. An interrupt is (usually) caused by some hardware event; when it happens, the execution of the current task is suspended and the interrupt handler takes the CPU. Before the introduction of threaded interrupts, the interrupt handler had to perform the minimum necessary operations (like accessing the hardware registers to silence the interrupt) and then call an appropriate deferred-work mechanism to take care of just about everything else that needed to be done. Threaded interrupts, yet another import from the realtime preemption work, move the handler to a kernel thread that is scheduled in the usual way; this feature was merged for the 2.6.30 kernel, by which time tasklets were well established. An interrupt handler will schedule a tasklet when there is some work to be done at a later time. The kernel then runs the tasklet when possible, typically when the interrupt handler finishes, or the task returns to the user space. The tasklet callback runs in atomic context, inside a software interrupt, meaning that it cannot sleep or access user-space data, so not all work can be done in a tasklet handler. Also, the kernel only allows one instance of any given tasklet to be running at any given time; multiple different tasklet callbacks can run in parallel. Those limitations of tasklets are not present in more recent deferred work mechanisms like workqueues. But still, the current kernel contains more than a hundred users of tasklets. Cook's patch set changes the parameter type for the tasklet's callback. In current kernels, they take an unsigned long value that is specified when the tasklet is initialized. This is different from other kernel mechanisms with callbacks; the preferred way in current kernels is to use a pointer to a type-specific structure. The change Cook proposes goes in that direction by passing the tasklet context (struct tasklet_struct) to the callback. The goal behind this work is to avoid a number of problems, including a need to cast from the unsigned int to a different type (without proper type checking) in the callback. The change allows the removal of the (now) redundant data field from the tasklet structure. Finally, this change mitigates the possible buffer overflow attacks that could overwrite the callback pointer and the data field. This is likely one of the primary objectives, as the work was first posted (in 2019) on the kernel-hardening mailing list.

  • Android kernel notes from LPC 2020

    Todd Kjos started things off by introducing the Android Generic Kernel Image (GKI) effort, which is aimed at reducing Android's kernel-fragmentation problem in general. It is the next step for the Android Common Kernel, which is based on the mainline long-term support (LTS) releases with a number of patches added on top. These patches vary from Android-specific, out-of-tree features to fixes cherry-picked from mainline releases. The end result is that the Android Common Kernel diverges somewhat from the LTS releases on which it is based. From there, things get worse. Vendors pick up this kernel and apply their own changes — often significant, core-kernel changes — to create a vendor kernel. The original-equipment manufacturers begin with that kernel when creating a device based on the vendor's chips, but then add changes of their own to create the OEM kernel that is shipped with a device to the consumer. The end result of all this patching is that every device has its own kernel, meaning that there are thousands of different "Android" kernels in use. There are a lot of costs to this arrangement, Kjos said. Fragmentation makes it harder to ensure that all devices are running current kernels — or even that they get security updates. New platform releases require a new kernel, which raises the cost of upgrading an existing device to a new Android version. Fixes applied by vendors and OEMs often do not make it back into the mainline, making things worse for everybody. The Android developers would like to fix this fragmentation problem; the path toward that goal involves providing a single generic kernel in binary form (the GKI) that all devices would use. Any vendor-specific or device-specific code that is not in the mainline kernel will need to be shipped in the form of kernel modules to be loaded into the GKI. That means that Android is explicitly encouraging vendor modules, Kjos said; the result is a cleaner kernel without the sorts of core-kernel modifications that ship on many devices now. This policy has already resulted in more vendors actively working to upstream their code. That code often does not take the form that mainline developers would like to see; some of it is just patches exporting symbols. That has created some tension in the development community, he said.

  • Vibrant Networking, Edge Open Source Development On Full Display at Open Networking & Edge Summit

    The Linux Foundation, the nonprofit organization enabling mass innovation through open source, today marked significant progress in the open networking and edge spaces. In advance of the Open Networking and Edge Summit happening September 28-30, Linux Foundation umbrella projects LF Edge and LF Networking demonstrate recent achievements highlighting trends that set the stage for next-generation technology.

  • Vibrant Networking, Edge Open Source Development On Full Display at Open Networking & Edge Summit

    The Linux Foundation, the nonprofit organization enabling mass innovation through open source, today marked significant progress in the open networking and edge spaces. In advance of the Open Networking and Edge Summit happening September 28-30, Linux Foundation umbrella projects LF Edge and LF Networking demonstrate recent achievements highlighting trends that set the stage for next-generation technology. [...] “We are thrilled to announce a number of milestones across our networking and edge projects, which will be on virtual display at ONES next week,” said Arpit Joshipura, general manager, Networking, Edge and IOT, at the Linux Foundation. “Indicative of what’s coming next, our communities are laying the groundwork for markets like cloud native, 5G, and edge to explode in terms of open deployments.”