Google

Google Moves To Debian For In-house Linux Desktop (zdnet.com) 141

Google has officially confirmed the company is shifting its in-house Linux desktop from the Ubuntu-based Goobuntu to a new Linux distro, the DebianTesting-based gLinux. From a report: Margarita Manterola, a Google Engineer, quietly announced Google would move from Ubuntu to Debian-testing for its desktop Linux at DebConf17 in a lightning talk. Manterola explained that Google was moving to gLinux, a rolling release based on Debian Testing. This move isn't as surprising as it first looks. Ubuntu is based on Debian. In addition, Google has long been a strong Debian supporter. In 2017, Debian credited Google for making [sic] "possible our annual conference, and directly supports the progress of Debian and Free Software." Debian Testing is the beta for the next stable version of Debian. With gLinux, that means it's based on the Debian 10 "Buster" test operating system. Google takes each Debian Testing package, rebuilds it, tests it, files and fixes bugs, and once those are resolved, integrates it into the gLinux release candidate. GLinux went into beta on Aug. 16, 2017.
Software

Slack Now Available As a Snap For Linux (betanews.com) 140

BrianFagioli writes: Today, yet another wildly popular program gets the Snap treatment, and quite frankly, it is arguably more significant than Spotify. What is it? Slack! Yes, Canonical announces that the ubiquitous communication app can be installed as a Snap. True, Slack was already available on the Linux desktop, but this makes installing it and keeping it updated much easier. "In adopting the universal Linux app packaging format, Slack will open its digital workplace up to an-ever growing community of Linux users, including those using Linux Mint, Manjaro, Debian, Fedora, OpenSUSE, Solus, and Ubuntu. Designed to connect us to the people and tools we work with every day, the Slack snap will help Linux users be more efficient and streamlined in their work. And an intuitive user experience remains central to the snaps' appeal, with automatic updates and rollback features giving developers greater control in the delivery of each offering," says Canonical.
EU

City of Barcelona Dumps Windows For Linux and Open Source Software (europa.eu) 249

An anonymous reader quotes Open Source Observatory: The City of Barcelona is migrating its computer systems away from the Windows platform, reports the Spanish newspaper El País. The City's strategy is first to replace all user applications with open-source alternatives, until the underlying Windows operating system is the only proprietary software remaining. In a final step, the operating system will be replaced with Linux... According to Francesca Bria, the Commissioner of Technology and Digital Innovation at the City Council, the transition will be completed before the current administration's mandate ends in spring 2019. For starters, the Outlook mail client and Exchange Server will be replaced with Open-Xchange. In a similar fashion, Internet Explorer and Office will be replaced with Firefox and LibreOffice, respectively. The Linux distribution eventually used will probably be Ubuntu, since the City of Barcelona is already running 1,000 Ubuntu-based desktops as part of a pilot...

Barcelona is the first municipality to have joined the European campaign 'Public Money, Public Code'. This campaign is an initiative of the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) and revolves around an open letter advocating that publicly funded software should be free. Currently, this call to public agencies is supported by more than 100 organisations and almost 15,000 individuals. With the new open-source strategy, Barcelona's City Council aims to avoid spending large amounts of money on licence-based software and to reduce its dependence on proprietary suppliers through contracts that in some cases have been closed for decades.

Security

Meltdown and Spectre Patches Bricking Ubuntu 16.04 Computers (bleepingcomputer.com) 233

An anonymous reader writes: Ubuntu Xenial 16.04 users who updated to receive the Meltdown and Spectre patches are reporting they are unable to boot their systems and have been forced to roll back to an earlier Linux kernel image. The issues were reported by a large number of users on the Ubuntu forums and Ubuntu's Launchpad bug tracker. Only Ubuntu users running the Xenial 16.04 series appear to be affected.

All users who reported issues said they were unable to boot after upgrading to Ubuntu 16.04 with kernel image 4.4.0-108. Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu OS, deployed Linux kernel image 4.4.0-108 as part of a security update for Ubuntu Xenial 16.04 users, yesterday, on January 9. According to Ubuntu Security Notice USN-3522-1 and an Ubuntu Wiki page, this was the update that delivered the Meltdown and Spectre patches.

Operating Systems

Linux Mint 19 Named 'Tara' (betanews.com) 124

BrianFagioli writes: Today, we get some information about the upcoming version 19 of Mint. The biggest news is that it will be called 'Tara.' If you aren't aware, Mint's distros are always named after a woman.

Clement Lefebvre, Linux Mint leader, shares the following information: "The development cycle only just started so it's a bit early to give details about Linux Mint 19, but here's what we can say already: Linux Mint 19 is estimated to be released around May/June 2018. Linux Mint 19.x releases will be based on Ubuntu 18.04 LTS and supported until 2023. Linux Mint 19.x will use GTK 3.22. GTK 3.22 is a major stable release for GTK3. From there on, the theming engine and the APIs are stable. This is a great milestone for GTK3. It also means Linux Mint 19.x (which will become our main development platform) will use the same version of GTK as LMDE 3, and distributions which use components we develop, such as Fedora, Arch..etc. This should ease development and increase the quality of these components outside of Linux Mint."

Music

PSA: Spotify Now Available As a Snap For Linux (betanews.com) 66

BrianFagioli shares a report from BetaNews: Speaking of Spotify, the most popular streaming music service in the world has long supported Linux-based operating systems. Installing the official app was not an easy affair, however. Today this changes, as installation gets much simpler. You see, Spotify is now officially available as a Snap for easy installation on any Snap-supporting operating systems such as Ubuntu and Linux Mint. Canonical, the creator of both Ubuntu and Snaps, explains, "Snaps are containerized software packages designed to work perfectly and securely in any Linux environment. As well as supporting all major Linux systems from a single build, snaps can be also updated or rolled back automatically to ensure that users are always benefiting from the latest version of the application. Since their launch last year, close to 2,500 snaps have been released by developers as they adopt the format for its reliability and security."

Jamie Bennett, VP of Engineering, Devices & IoT, Canonical says, "In launching their own snap, Spotify has ensured that their users in the Linux ecosystem are now able to enjoy the latest version of their leading music streaming application as soon as it's released regardless of which distribution they are using. We're glad to welcome Spotify to the snaps ecosystem and look forward to unveiling more leading snaps in 2018."

Bug

Ubuntu 17.10 Temporarily Pulled Due To A BIOS Corrupting Problem (phoronix.com) 167

An anonymous reader writes: Canonical has temporarily pulled the download links for Ubuntu 17.10 "Artful Aardvark" from the Ubuntu website due to ongoing reports of some laptops finding their BIOS corrupted after installing this latest Ubuntu release. The issue is appearing most frequently with Lenovo laptops but there are also reports of issues with other laptop vendors as well. This issue appears to stem from the Intel SPI driver in the 17.10's Linux 4.13 kernel corrupting the BIOS for a select number of laptop motherboards. Canonical is aware of this issue and is planning to disable the Intel SPI drivers in their kernel builds. Canonical's hardware enablement team has already verified this works around the problem, but doesn't provide any benefit if your BIOS is already corrupted.
Cloud

Is Open Source Innovation Now All About Vendor On-Ramps? (infoworld.com) 58

InfoWorld published an interesting essay from Matt Asay, former COO at Canonical (and an emeritus board member of the Open Source Initiative), about innovation from the big public cloud vendors, which "even when open-sourced, doesn't really help the community at large... All this innovation is available to buy; none of it is available to build. Not for mere mortals, anyway." Google in particular has figured out how to both open-source code in a useful way and make it pay. As Server Density CEO David Mytton has underlined, Google hopes to "standardize machine learning on a single framework and API," namely TensorFlow, then supplement it "with a service that can [manage] it all for you more efficiently and with less operational overhead," namely Google Cloud. By open-sourcing TensorFlow and backing it with machine-learning-heavy Google Cloud, Google has open-sourced a great on-ramp to future revenue.

My question: why not do this with the rest of its code? The simple answer is "Because it's a lot of work." That is, Google could open-source everything tomorrow without any damage to its revenue, but the code itself would provide other providers and enterprises only limited ability to increase their revenue unless Google did all the necessary prep work to make it useful to mere mortals not running superhuman Google infrastructure. This is the trick that AWS, Microsoft, and Google are all racing to figure out today. Not open source, per se, because that's the easy table stakes. No, the AWS/Microsoft Azure/Google Cloud trio are figuring out how to turn their innovations into open source on-ramps to their proprietary services. Companies used to lock up their code to sell it. Today, it's the opposite: They need to open it up to make their ability to operate the code at scale more valuable. For them.

Intel

System76 Will Disable Intel Management Engine On Its Linux Laptops (liliputing.com) 149

System76 is rolling out a firmware update for its recent laptops that will disable the Intel Management Engine altogether. The decision comes after a major security vulnerability was discovered that would allow an attacker with local access to execute arbitrary code. Liliputing reports: What's noteworthy in the System76 announcement is that the PC maker isn't just planning to disable Intel ME in computers that ship from now on. The company will send out an update that disables it on existing computers with 6th, 7th, or 8th-gen Intel Core processors. System76 also notes that Intel ME "provides no functionality for System76 laptop customers and is safe to disable." Right now the firmware update will only be available for computers running Ubuntu 16.04 or later or a related operating system with the System76 driver. But the company says it's working on developing a command line tool that should work on laptops running other GNU/Linux-based operating systems. System76 says it will also release an update for its desktop computers... but on those machines the update will patch the security vulnerability rather than disabling Intel ME altogether.
Intel

Clear Linux Beats CentOS, openSUSE, and Ubuntu in (Enterprise) Benchmark Tests (phoronix.com) 136

An anonymous reader writes: Recently completed Linux distro benchmarks by Phoronix show Intel's Clear Linux is the most powerful on x86 hardware. A six-way, enterprise-focused Linux distro comparison show Clear Linux being the fastest with a Core i9 and Xeon systems, easily beating CentOS, openSUSE, and Ubuntu in a majority of the tests.

When doing an 11-way Linux distro boot test they also found Clear Linux easily booted the fastest followed by the Clear-inspired Solus distribution. Clear Linux does work on AMD hardware and works on Intel CPUs back to Sandy Bridge but leverages its speed from optimized compiler settings, specially built libraries capable of AVX instructions on supported systems, a specially tuned kernel configuration, and other optimizations/patches.

Debian 9.2 and Fedora 27 "ended up being dropped from this article due to data overload," the article concludes, "and those distributions really not offering anything really different in terms of the performance."
Wine

Ask Slashdot: What Are Your Greatest Successes and Weaknesses With Wine (Software)? 252

wjcofkc writes: As a distraction, I decided to get the video-editing software Filmora up and running on my Ubuntu box. After some tinkering, I was able to get it installed, only to have the first stage vaporize on launch. This got me reflecting on my many hits and misses with Wine (software) over the years. Before ditching private employment, my last job was with a software company. They were pretty open minded when I came marching in with my System76 laptop, and totally cool with me using Linux as my daily driver after quickly getting the Windows version of their software up and running without a hitch. They had me write extensive documentation on the process. It was only two or three paragraphs, but I consider that another Wine win since to that end I scored points at work. Past that, open source filled in the blanks. That was the only time I ever actually needed (arguably) for it to work. Truth be told, I mostly tinker around with it a couple times a year just to see what does and does not run. Wine has been around for quite awhile now, and while it will never be perfect, the project is not without merit. So Slashdot community, what have been your greatest successes and failures with Wine over the years?
Cellphones

New Samsung Video Demos Linux on Galaxy Smartphones (liliputing.com) 100

Slashdot reader boudie2 tipped us off to some Linux news. Liliputing reports: Samsung's DeX dock lets you connect one of the company's recent phones to an external display, mouse, and keyboard to use your phone like a desktop PC... assuming you're comfortable with a desktop PC that runs Android. But soon you may also be able to use your Android phone as a Linux PC [and] the company has released a brief video that provides more details. One of those details? At least one of the Linux environments in question seems to be Ubuntu 16.04... While that's the only option shown, the fact that it does seem to be an option suggests you may be able to run different Linux environments as well.

Once Ubuntu is loaded, the video shows a user opening Eclipse, an integrated development environment that's used to create Java (and Android apps). In other words, you can develop apps for Android phones with ARM-based processors on an Android phone with an ARM-based processor.

Samsung promised in October that its Linux on Galaxy app will ultimately let users "run their preferred Linux distribution on their smartphones utilizing the same Linux kernel that powers the Android OS."
Bitcoin

Samsung Made a Bitcoin Mining Rig Out of 40 Old Galaxy S5s (vice.com) 73

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Samsung is starting a new "Upcycling" initiative that is designed to turn old smartphones and turn them into something brand new. Behold, for example, this bitcoin mining rig, made out of 40 old Galaxy S5 devices, which runs on a new operating system Samsung has developed for its upcycling initiative. Samsung premiered this rig, and a bunch of other cool uses for old phones, at its recent developer's conference in San Francisco. Upcycling involves repurposing old devices instead of breaking them down for parts of reselling them. The people at Samsung's C-Lab -- an engineering team dedicated to creative projects -- showed off old Galaxy phones and assorted tablets stripped of Android software and repurposed into a variety of different objects. The team hooked 40 old Galaxy S5's together to make a bitcoin mining rig, repurposed an old Galaxy tablet into a ubuntu-powered laptop, used a Galaxy S3 to monitor a fishtank, and programed an old phone with facial recognition software to guard the entrance of a house in the form of an owl. Samsung declined to answer specific questions about the bitcoin mining rig, but an information sheet at the developer's conference noted that eight galaxy S5 devices can mine at a greater power efficiency than a standard desktop computer (not that too many people are mining bitcoin on their desktops these days).
Ubuntu

Why Did Ubuntu Drop Unity? Mark Shuttleworth Explains (omgubuntu.co.uk) 215

Ubuntu's decision to ditch Unity took many of us by surprise earlier this year. Now Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth shares more details about why Ubuntu chose to drop Unity. From a report: Shuttleworth says he, along with the other 'leads' at Canonical, came to a consensual view that they should put the company on the path to becoming a public company. And to appear attractive to potential investors the company has to focus on its areas of profitability -- something Unity, Ubuntu phone, Unity 8 and convergence were not part of: "[The decision] meant that we couldn't have on our books (effectively) very substantial projects which clearly have no commercial angle to them at all. It doesn't mean that we would consider changing the terms of Ubuntu for example, because it's foundational to everything we do. And we don't have to, effectively," he said. Money may have meant Unity's demise but the wider Ubuntu project is in rude health. as Shuttleworth explains: "One of the things I'm most proud of is in the last 7 years is that Ubuntu itself became completely sustainable. I could get hit by a bus tomorrow and Ubuntu could continue. It's kind of magical, right? Here's a platform that is a world class enterprise platform, that's completely freely available, and yet it is sustainable. Jane Silber is largely to thank for that." While it's all-too-easy for desktop users to focus on, well, the desktop, there is far more to Canonical (the company) than the 6-monthly releases we look forward to. Losing Unity may have been a big blow for desktop users but it helped to balance other parts of the company: "There are huge possibilities for us in the enterprise beyond that, in terms of really defining how cloud infrastructure is built, how cloud applications are operated, and so on. And, in IoT, looking at that next wave of possibility, innovators creating stuff on IoT. And all of that is ample for us to essentially put ourselves on course to IPO around that." Dropping Unity wasn't easy for Mark, though: "We had this big chunk of work, which was Unity, which I really loved. I think the engineering of Unity 8 was pretty spectacularly good, and the deep ideas of how you bring these different form factors together was pretty beautiful.
Ubuntu

Ubuntu 17.10 Artful Aardvark Released 134

Canonical has made available the download links for Ubuntu 17.10 "Artful Aardvark". It comes with a range of new features, changes, and improvements including GNOME as the default desktop, Wayland display server by default, Optional X.org server session, Mesa 17.2 or Mesa 17.3, Linux kernel 4.13 or kernel 4.14, new Subiquity server installer, improved hardware support, new Ubuntu Server installer, switch to libinput, an always visible dock using Dash to Dock GNOME Shell extension, and Bluetooth improvements with a new BlueZ among others.
Windows

Munich Plans New Vote on Dumping Linux For Windows 10 (techrepublic.com) 412

An anonymous reader quotes TechRepublic: The city of Munich has suggested it will cost too much to carry on using Linux alongside Windows, despite having spent millions of euros switching PCs to open-source software... "Today, with a Linux client-centric environment, we are often confronted with major difficulties and additional costs when it comes to acquiring and operating professional application software," the city council told the German Federation of Taxpayers. Running Linux will ultimately prove unsustainable, suggests the council, due to the need to also keep a minority of Windows machines to run line-of-business software incompatible with Linux. "In the long term, this situation means that the operation of the non-uniform client landscape can no longer be made cost-efficient"... Since completing the multi-year move to LiMux, a custom-version of the Linux-based OS Ubuntu, the city always kept a smaller number of Windows machines to run incompatible software. As of last year it had about 4,163 Windows-based PCs, compared to about 20,000 Linux-based PCs.

The assessment is at odds with a wide-ranging review of the city's IT systems by Accenture last year, which found that most of the problems stem not from the use of open-source software, but from inefficiencies in how Munich co-ordinates the efforts of IT teams scattered throughout different departments. Dr. Florian Roth, leader of the Green Party at Munich City Council, said the review had also not recommended a wholesale shift to Windows. "The Accenture report suggested to run both systems because the complete 'rollback' to Windows and MS Office would mean a waste of experience, technology, work and money," he said... The city's administration is investigating how long it would take and how much it would cost to build a Windows 10 client for use by the city's employees. Once this work is complete, the council will vote again in November on whether this Windows client should replace LiMux across the authority from 2021.

A taxpayer's federation post urged "Penguin, adieu!" -- while also admitting that returning to Windows "will devour further tax money in the millions," according to TechRepublic.

"The federation's post also makes no mention of the licensing and other savings achieved by switching to LiMux, estimated to stand at about €10m."
Android

Bill Gates Has An Android Phone. Has Microsoft Changed? (neowin.net) 156

Bill Gates uses an Android phone now. "It may not be the most surprising revelation, given profits are sinking faster than a boat without a hull and big-name partners are jumping ship left and right, but the founder of Microsoft has presumably left Windows Mobile," reports Neonwin. Long-time Slashdot reader Billly Gates (no relation) writes: I would assume this is the final nail in the coffin for Windows Phone and the rumored Surface Phone which may never see the light of day. Over the past few months we have seen a change in Microsoft with them being friendly to Linux with stories of porting .NET core over to Linux, helping write a custom Linux kernel, as well as introducing the not-so-popular-on-slashdot WSL Ubuntu for WIndows 10.
Noting the Android emulators in Visual Studio, he's wondering if the company's ambitions go beyond developers, and if they're planning a Microsoft version of Android, "as the tools are in place with Ubuntu, Node.js, Python, Microsoft Code editor, and the Visual Studio 2017 Community Edition."

His original submission points out that 10 years ago these stories would have been unimaginable, but he also asks a second question: has Microsoft really changed? "Could we be seeing a new Microsoft now that the world is moving to mobile and they have no operating system in it?"
Communications

Microsoft Releases 'Next Generation' Preview of Skype For Linux (skype.com) 92

BrianFagioli writes: Friday, Microsoft released a refreshed preview of Skype for Linux. There are both DEB and RPM packages available, making it easy to install on, say, Ubuntu, Debian, or Fedora. In fact, I successfully installed it on Pop!_OS earlier today. Believe it or not, the new interface is quite nice, making it something I could possibly enjoy using on my Linux machine.

"Great news for Skype for Linux users -- the next generation of Skype for Linux is launching!" says The Skype Team. "Starting today, you can download Skype Preview for Linux and start enjoying new features across all your devices -- including screen sharing and group chat. With Skype for Linux, you can take advantage of the screen sharing feature on your desktop screen. Now, you can share content with everyone on the call -- making it even easier to bring your calls to life and collaborate on projects."

Ubuntu

Ubuntu To Stop Offering 32-Bit ISO Images, Joining Many Other Linux Distros (bleepingcomputer.com) 133

An anonymous reader writes: Canonical engineer Dimitri John Ledkov announced on Wednesday that Ubuntu does not plan to offer 32-bit ISO installation images for its new OS version starting with the next release — Ubuntu 17.10 (Artful Aardvark) scheduled for release on October 19. The decision comes after month-long discussions on the dwindling market share of 32-bit architectures. Ledkov made it clear that Canonical does not plan to stop support for 32-bit architectures. The Ubuntu team plans to continue to offer security updates and bug fixes, but they won't be offering new ISO images. Lubuntu and Xubuntu, which are Ubuntu offshoots created to run on older computers, will most likely continue to provide 32-bit ISO images, as this is their bread and butter. Manjaro, Tails, and Arch Linux announced similar decisions. Even Google dropped support for Chrome on 32-bit Linux platforms, way back in 2015, predicting the overall trend.

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