Topic linux

Opensource game rejected from Debian for authors' social beliefs

Anonymous Coward
in linux on (#2V55)
An open source casino video game was recently posted to the Debian bug tracker as a request for packaging, as is the standard method for pursuing such things in Debian. The bug was quickly closed, tagged as "won't fix." The reason given by one of the Debian developers alluded to the authors' conservative views and his advocacy of them.

The author in question clearly expressed his views back in 2005, resulting in him being the first person ever banned from Debian mailing lists, and a month later from the bug tracking system.

The piece of software in question is licensed under the GPL and is one of the only of it's kind for Linux (ASCII-art console slot machine software). Is professing progressive politics now a hard requirement for being allowed to contribute to open source?

[Ed. note: The question is, rather, where should the line be between personal and professional?]

Halloween Friday Distro: Ubuntu Satanic Edition

in linux on (#2TTH)
When I proposed a Linux Distro every Friday, I'd hoped to mostly avoid distros that are simply "Ubuntu plus a theme and/or windowmanager choice" but this week it's impossible. World, meet Ubuntu Linux Satanic Edition, the most appropriate distro for a Halloween Friday. Linux for the Damned is their subtitle, and if you're planning on going off to hell after this and listening to all sorts of awesome death metal in the afterlife, this is probably for you.

So what is it? It's Ubuntu, with a special selection of wallpapers, and a pre-configured Eternity Screensaver set to play the "Eternal Damnation" ray-traced screensaver when it kicks in. I looked around a bit to figure out if there's anything to Ubuntu Satanic other than the screensaver and wallpapers and found something unique: this distro also comes preconfigured with a ton of metal music! I think preloading a soundtrack on a distro might be unique; at least, I am not aware of any other distros that take this approach. Install U/S and you too can enjoy dozens of tunes by the likes of Severed Fifth, Blueprint for Disaster, Music for the Damned, Frontside, Taste of Hell, Holy Pain, and ScapeGoat. To my surprise, most of the artists are French and all of it is licensed freely via Jamendo.

All of this supports U/S's motto: "Ubuntu Satanic Edition is dedicated to combining the best software with the heaviest music." U/S connects you to Ubuntu's own repos, so no worries about the best software consisting of a reduced subset. To those of you who are offended by the presence of a Satanic distro, no worries: there are Ubuntu Muslim Editions and Christian editions as well, all using the same repos - just think about that for a second.

Happy Halloween, Pipedotters! Next time, we'll go back to distros that offer more than superficial skins (although hopefully we'll find some more distros with awesome soundtracks).

Lunduke says the LXDE Desktop is "Nothing to write home about"

in linux on (#2TP9)
Somebody just go ahead and call this article a troll. That's essentially what it is. But heck, maybe it will get some discussion going. Linux pundit Bryan Lunduke over at Network World has spent some time using the LXDE desktop and writes, I've used LXDE for weeks, and I'm still having trouble finding much to say about it. That's not a good sign. What the hell, man?
I feel like, after all this time, I should have something interesting to talk about. But I just plain don’t.

It’s fast, blisteringly fast. And it’s damned lightweight too. After that, things get pretty boring. LXDE is built on GTK+, which means GTK-based apps are right at home. So that’s a plus, I suppose. Though that really isn’t a problem on any desktop environment I’ve tried so far. But… you know… it’s something that I can write down about it. After that, things get average and mundane… in a hurry.
I'm not sure what the issue is: in my opinion, LXDE is simple, intuitive, and stays the heck out of your way so you can work. How can that possible be a negative? So, go ahead: insult the author. Then the guy who submitted this article (me) and posted it (me again). Then discuss. I'm verklempt.

Friday Distro: Redo Backup & Recovery

in linux on (#2TNW)
Too many Linux distros out there seem to be pet projects, focused on minor choices of theme and desktop environment. Redo Backup & Recovery is much more focused and is worth a look as a useful and important sysadmin tool. For starters, note they don't even bother to call it a distro: the fact that there's Linux underneath is not the point. But take a closer look and it's obvious that it's the power of Linux that makes this thing possible.

RB&R is simple: you download it and burn it to a disk or USB stick you then use to backup your machines. Boot the machine from your B&R disk, and let it work its magic. RB&R will mount the machine's partitions, and create a backup you can store elsewhere, say on a network share. If that machine ever gets misconfigured, virus infected, or anything else, you can simply restore one of the backups as though it were a bare-metal restore. It's essentially OS-agnostic, permitting sysadmins to backup and restore Windows or Linux machines with equal ease (it's not clear how good its Mac support is though!). It's graphical, auto-configs network shares, and because you make the backup by booting the machine from your disk/USB stick, you don't even have to have login rights on that machine.

The whole thing is a simple 250MB disk image, that gets you a graphical interface based on Openbox. Under the hood, it's simply a clever GPLv3 Perl script that leverages GTK2+ and Glade, plus partclone, which does the block-level disk backup or re-imaging. Partclone supports ext2/3/4, HFS+, reiserfs, reiser4, btrfs, vmfs3/5, xfs, jfs, ufs, ntfs, fat(12/16/32), and exfat.

I like this approach: they don't make much noise about Linux; they just present a useful tool any sysadmin would be grateful to be able to use. It is tightly focused on providing a single service and doesn't get wrapped up in troubles related to inevitable "feature creep". It does one thing, and does it well. I know my openSUSE box has recovery tools built into its YaST management system, but my brief test shows B&R is way easier, user-friendly, and hassle-free. I will be continuing to use it as recovering from an image is way easier and undoes the inevitable trouble I get into by downloading and experimenting with software packages that eventually combine to hose my system. Give it a look for yourself, and sleep a bit easier.

Is it time to fork Debian?

in linux on (#2TFM)
The grumbles over systemd and its ramifications are well known and have even been discussed on Pipedot [links below]. But it's taken on a new urgency. The members of the Debian community are set to vote on an init system, and if by any chance the "give preference to systemd" option wins, this group of angry sysadmins is organized, willing, and prepared to fork Debian. Their argument is measured and calm, but they've got their finger on the trigger. Here is just a portion of their argument.
Who are you?!
We are Veteran Unix Admins and we are concerned about what is happening to Debian GNU/Linux to the point of considering a fork of the project.

And why would you do that?
Some of us are upstream developers, some professional sysadmins: we are all concerned peers interacting with Debian and derivatives on a daily basis.We don't want to be forced to use systemd in substitution to the traditional UNIX sysvinit init, because systemd betrays the UNIX philosophy. We contemplate adopting more recent alternatives to sysvinit, but not those undermining the basic design principles of "do one thing and do it well" with a complex collection of dozens of tightly coupled binaries and opaque logs.

Are there better solutions than forking?
Yes: vote Ian Jackson's proposal to preserve freedom of choice of init systems. Then make sure sysvinit stays the default for now, systemd can be optional. Debian leaders can go on evaluating more init systems, just not impose one that ignores the needs of most of its users.

Why is this happening in your opinion?
The current leadership of the project is heavily influenced by GNOME developers and too much inclined to consider desktop needs as crucial to the project, despite the fact that the majority of Debian users are tech-savvy system administrators.

Can you articulate your critique to systemd?
To paraphrase Eric S. Raymond on the issue, we see systemd being very prone to mission creep and bloat and likely to turn into a nasty hairball over the longer term. We like controlling the startup of the system with shell scripts that are readable, because readability grants a certain level of power and consciousness for those among us who are literate, and we believe that centralizing control services, sockets, devices, mounts, etc., all within one daemon is a slap in the face of the UNIX philosophy.
Also see:
Kernel hacker's rant about systemd
Boycott Systemd movement takes shape
Uselessd, an alternative to systemd
Debian to vote on init system again

Debian to vote on init system... again

in linux on (#2TEV)
Ian Jackson is at it again.

A proposal has been submitted in the Debian vote mailing list to ensure that the next version of Debian, Jessie, will not require any specific init system. This comes after the Debian technical committee (TC) already decided in February to adopt systemd as the default init system for Jessie. The TC had left the door open for a general resolution to decide whether other init systems would be supported in Jessie. At this time, it appears that enough support has been garnered for the proposal to ensure that there will be a vote on this issue. From the text of the proposal:
This GR seeks to preserve the freedom of our users now to select an init system of their choice, and the project's freedom to select a different init system in the future. It will avoid Debian becoming accidentally locked in to a particular init system (for example, because so much unrelated software has ended up depending on a particular init system that the burden of effort required to change init system becomes too great). A number of init systems exist, and it is clear that there is not yet broad consensus as to what the best init system might look like.
When the TC debated the issue, keeping SysVinit was an unpopular opinion. The two real contenders were systemd and upstart, and there seemed to be a general agreement that the init system must change. Is this vote an attempt to delay the inevitable? Let's remember that the reason the TC had to vote on this issue is that the developers wanted to be set on which init system to support. Could this resolution end with Debian "supporting" other init systems as second-class citizen, with many developers choosing not to bother supporting anything that's not systemd?

Friday Distro: SliTaz Linux

in linux on (#2T2T)
story imageMy current fetish, if you can call it that, is lightweight distros. Once you decide you don't need a heavyweight desktop like Gnome or KDE, down the slope you go, asking, "How light a system can I really get?" Depending on how much you're willing to compromise, the answer is, "pretty far!" And well at the far end of lightweight is SliTaz Linux. It's a marvel of engineering. What you get is a full graphical desktop, web server, Firefox, and database tools, all configured to run in less than 256MB of memory with no need to even hit the hard drive when running! The whole distro fits easily on 30MB on a (small!) USB stick.

The compromises aren't that drastic, but you need to know them. But one is that the distro is built on busybox, which is a reduced set of basic *nix utilities. You get the JWM window manager, the lighttpd webserver, SQLite, Firefox and Midori. You don't get stuff like LibreOffice or much selection of graphical software. There's a packaging system, but it uses a custom format (TazPKG) with repositories that are a bit lean. But the idea isn't to be your new desktop. Put SliTaz on a USB stick and you can quickly get to a command prompt to shell into your servers, FTP some files around, set up quick HTTP access to some files somewhere, listen to some music (it's got ALSAplayer), or browse the web. And you can do so without much script fu: when the system boots you're sitting at a JWM desktop (or openbox, if you want). And not only does it boot quickly, but your machine is super-fast when running since the entire system can run in memory &emdash; and not much memory, at that!

Increasingly, this kind of system has huge appeal to me. All my stuff is on network storage, and my mail and calendar are on hosted internet services. I don't need much in a desktop box a lot of the time. Naturally, it runs on a Raspberry Pi. Want to check it out? Read another review at Dark Duck or check out the DistroWatch page. There are some screenshots at

Friday distro: Grml Linux

in linux on (#2SYN)
story imageGrml Linux is a bit of a unique distro whose vision and focus have shifted over the past ten years. It represents the personalities of its developers, who prefer the zshell, focus on sysadmin tasks (deployment, disk cloning, backup, forensics, and rescuing borked systems). Lastly, one of the developers is visually handicapped. Thus: grml focuses on scripting, tools managed from the command prompt, and has chosen zsh as the basis for its innovations. Its Distrowatch page is here.

These days grml is a live CD or USB-stick based on Debian. You're not supposed to install it. It requires little more than 256MB of memory, and though it's intended to be mostly a command line environment, they've packaged Fluxbox and you can get there via startx. That's useful if you want to launch a browser to read up on a issue, but most of your day you'll be sitting at the command prompt in a zsh. Have a look at their zsh introduction page or their reference card then to get a sense of the shortcuts, command aliases, and scripts that help you administer your systems, or the dpkg package list showing installed packages.

I find the package list to be limited, and to my knowledge, there are no tools available that you can't find on other distros. But I find grml's advantage to be that they love and have put a lot of energy into the zshell, and if you're interested in the zsh this is a good place to see it showcased. It's also an easy distro to carry around on a USB stick if you're a command prompt warrior and want to quickly boot up to a useable command prompt from where you can do other things. For example, you simply run the grml-network script from the command prompt to discover, configure, and connect to a wireless network. And of course it's based on Debian's excellent hardware recognition and configuration system. This is a niche distro that won't appeal to everybody, but odds are better than average you'll soon find yourself at the ZSH Reference page looking into additional resources for using the amazing zshell (For starters, try the 429 and dense page ZSH Manual and this 14 page zshell reference card from the guys at bash2zsh. Have fun.

Gnome 3.14 has been released

in linux on (#2SWS)
story imageGnome 3.14 has been released, six months after the last version. Sporting "new features and bug fixes, and 28859 changes by approximately 871 contributors," install this new version to enjoy:
  1. a new weather panel
  2. support for captive portal (wifi hot spot authentication)
  3. multi-touch features
  4. household network connection sharing
  5. support for online picture-sharing sites
  6. improvements to the evince PDF reader
... and more.

[Ed. note.] I've never seen release notes that look they were put together by a website designer and marketing agency. What happened to a bunch of bullet points in ASCII posted to Usenet? These release notes are "gorgeous."

RedHat looks to mobile apps with purchase of FeedHenry

in linux on (#2STT)
story imageIn a move to compete on the mobility front, Red Hat Linux is acquiring FeedHenry for about US$82 million. The enterprise mobile application platform provider essentially makes it possible for Red Hat to support mobile application development in public and private environments.

From ConvergedDigest:
FeedHenry, which is based in Waterford, Ireland, helps enterprises to accelerate mobile app backend integration via private clouds, public clouds, and on-premises systems with connectors and plug-ins to common enterprise systems such as, SAP, Oracle, etc. The FeedHenry platform offers developers the flexibility to create native (Android, iOS, Windows Phone and Blackberry), hybrid, HTML5 or web apps. The platform supports a wide variety of popular toolkits including native SDKs, hybrid Apache Cordova, HTML5 and Titanium, as well as frameworks such as Xamarin, Sencha Touch, and other JavaScript frameworks.

FeedHenry was founded in 2010 as a spin out from the Telecommunications Software and Systems Group at the Waterford Institute of Technology.
Seems like good news for mobile platforms based on FOSS technologies. Or is this just RedHat trying to stay relevant in a world where operating systems matter less than web services and mobile access?