get GNU/Linux!

Sometimes, one comes upon a resource on the web that should be shared. Today I found Get “GNU/Linux”.“GNU/Linux, or simply Linux, is an alternative to Microsoft Windows. It is easy to use and gives more freedom to users. Anyone can install it: Linux is free as in freedom, and often available free of charge.” It has a lot of good information for the novice and doesn’t drown folks in detail. It gives a number of starting points and helpful pushes. Further, I agree with most of the information. ;-)

GNU/Linux is the right way to do IT. The site lists a lot of the restrictions of that other OS that get in the way of doing IT properly: restrictions on how you can use the software and your hardware, stuff M$ has no right to do if it were a normal business with normal consumer products. Who would buy a product that could expose one to criminal penalties for sharing the product, giving it away, or selling it? Copyright law doesn’t do that but M$ demands slavery if you want to pay for and use their product. I’m not writing about violating Copyright, but using the software and disposing of it. Copyright says nothing about how many network connections a PC may have. Copyright says nothing about not being able to sell a product that you buy. Copyright says nothing about being forced to pay for software you don’t want to use when you buy a PC but M$’s EULA says you get a refund from the retailer. Good luck with that. The retailer likely has no idea how much you paid for the right to use the “product”.

Well, the site would be just about perfect if they recommended Debian GNU/Linux but they recommend Ubuntu GNU/Linux. I think a site emphasizing freedom should mention that Debian gives the users more control of everything than Ubuntu. Debian has a few defaults I don’t like but at least I have the option of changing them at installation. Good luck doing that with Ubuntu’s installer. You may get one or two options Debian doesn’t have but you don’t get to choose desktops at all. It’s disUnity or nothing. Ubuntu hides choices from the newbie just like M$. Of course, newbies may not know much about desktop choices but an installer could give some hints.

Well, that’s a small difference. Generally the advice is good. If you need/want to give GNU/Linux a try, visit it.

See get GNU/Linux!.

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Limited Potential For Wintel Means Unlimite Growth For */Linux

IDC, the great optimist of Wintel, sees limited potential for growth of the legacy PC going forward. They finally see that a whole new generation has grown up in a world of IT where M$ is not the goto company.“as younger generations become more mobile and Web oriented, and emerging regions in particular prioritize converged devices (or economy in number of devices to purchase), the PC market will continue to face tough competition and be more focused on replacements, with limited potential for growth.” Young folks are much less sedentary than older folks and feel no need to be touching a legacy PC all day long. They also use IT more. At the same time, these young folk are loving small cheap computers running */Linux. There is room for a lot of growth in billions of users still to come to IT. Meanwhile smartphones are becoming smarter and more powerful every year and tablets are becoming mature technology with growth like the legacy PC used to have.

See PC Outlook Remains Cautious, Despite Modest Third Quarter Gains.

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Yes, M$, Audits Are Easier To Give Than To Receive

People are of two minds on this one. The year 2004 was around the time US DOJ v M$ was very interesting and one might think IRS went on a fishing expedition but this is only a recently started action.“Quinn Emanual was hired to investigate certain transactions between Microsoft and its own foreign subsidiaries, which presumably were organized as a way for Redmond to reduce its US tax burden.
I think Obama once joked publicly about auditing his enemies… It’s a fair question whether this is the tax-man doing his job or whether it’s some fishing expedition. I’m on the tax-man’s side. ;-) M$, who is used to extorting money from users with audits, is now being probed by IRS for the way it shifts money around the globe to dodge taxes. It would be a big hit if IRS could prove the money was earned in Redmond, WA and they were due a decade of triple income-tax. How does it feel, M$?

See US taxmen won't say WHY they're probing Microsoft. So Redmond is suing the IRS.

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Son of Pogson Tightens Up The Gene-Pool

To many folks, hunting is an anachronism, something our ancestors did out of necessity and something with agriculture and industry we no longer need to do. It’s not true. Where I live the white-tailed deer is not a native species. They could not survive our winters without an abundance of agriculture giving them grain/forage/edges, an artificially increased food-supply. The deer can’t move around in the deep snow in winter and fast, living off their fat, and making easy prey for coyotes and wolves. We’ve had three extraordinarily severe winters in a row and deer populations are down to ¼ of their usual values. With a normal winter, the deer population nearly doubles in a single year with each mature doe yielding one, two or three fawns. The milder the winter, the more fawns are born. The more severe the winter the fewer young/small animals survive. So, we are short of does and long on bucks because one buck can service many does. Mating is a competitive event in the early winter. Without hunting deer would be fruitful and multiply, eating the farmers’ crops, homeowners’ gardens, causing thousands of car-deer collisions, and so forth. Hunting is one of the main ways of limiting numbers of deer.

Hunting is also a great way to tighten up the gene-pool of the deer, with the less careful/able deer more likely to encounter a hunter. This year, because of the numbers, we had a bucks-only hunt and here’s my son with his first buck. He is capable of shooting a deer off-hand at over 300 yards but this young buck made the mistake of dawdling out in the open with the hunter in plain sight at less than 100 yards. This was the consummation of several days of hunting, sometimes in bitter cold/wind. The bullet was one I loaded, a Hornady 165 grain Boat-Tail Spire-Point, fired from a .308 Winchester bolt-action rifle with 44 grains of IMR 4064 propellant and overall length of 2.800″. The usual 150 grain bullet will expand more violently at close range. This is not a hot load and with the heavy bullet at a lower velocity (~2600 ft/s), damage to the rib-cage was not severe. Nevertheless, the buck bounded a few times and bled out. We’ve had a few steaks, some neck and liver. All were delicious and tender…

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I GIve Up On Systemd

After many hours of reading/fiddling/reconfiguring I’ve given up on Systemd. It doesn’t work for me, preventing me from logging in until absolutely every service is running on my desktop system. Before, with systemd in charge, it was 83s to get a login screen. That was unacceptable. Today, after apt-get install sysvinit-core and a reboot, I fired up Beast at 7:40:10 and by 7:40:53, I had a login screen even with mysql and postgresql starting. With all the servers and databases held back, from the starting of Linux until my browser ran was 28s. I’m now back in Runlevel 2 so I had to tweak the scripts but Debian’s /etc/rc2.d/README was explicit and helpful and concise, so everything worked right away. I then removed systemd almost entirely. Now virt-manager won’t run (“Unable to connect to libvirt…libvirtError: error from service: CheckAuthorization: The name org.freedesktop.PolicyKit1 was not provided by any .service files”)… sigh. Hello, VirtualBricks:
I’ll be installing Wheezy in my virtual machines for now.

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wIntel Decides to Keep Tablet Subsidies

You know Wintel is feeling the pressure when they cut prices. They really hate to do that so they call those adaptations “subsidies” or “promotions” or what not…“Although the strategy helps Intel to maintain a share of around 90% in the notebook market, the strategy has taken a heavy toll out of Intel in the mobile device market as the company has generated about US$7 billion of losses from its mobile and communications business during the past two years and will continue to see losses in the fourth quarter, the sources noted.
Internally, Intel has been debating about whether to stay in the tablet market, but the company has decided to push for the market since its absence could impact its PC business and create a hole in its Internet of thing (IoT) lineup, the sources explained.”
but they are effectively price-cuts to the market. Folks see the prices are lower and buy/sell more units. It’s pretty serious if Intel is willing to take a huge loss just to defend the desktop monopoly on its deathbed, but this is what I predicted years ago. So, I was off a few years. Sue me… The dying dinosaur will thresh mightily for more time alive.
See Intel decides to keep tablet subsidies, say sources.

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Some Debris In The Systemd Debate

Sometimes in a war, a side-issue emerges that provides combatants with a moment of distraction. Compared to the horror of the systemd-debate, discussion of GNU/Linux on the desktop is a welcome respite…“Linux never went anywhere on the desktop, and the right conclusion from that is *not* to go on like we always did (i. e. "just build a bunch of components and let distros figure out the integration") but to try something new and different. And the fact that systemd beats the pants off every other init system both in terms of performance and in terms of functionality, all while unifying stuff across distributions and thus making life easier for administrators, users and developers, proves that point.” I stumbled upon this snippet in the debate. Yet another mention that GNU/Linux has failed on the desktop because of something GNU/Linux is/is not doing. It’s just not so. GNU/Linux shipped on more than 5% of PCs in the last year. Whole governments are preferring GNU/Linux or adopting it or introducing it to students on national scales. That kind of movement is still growing, in Europe, Asia, South America, Africa, and USA.

That’s not failure. That’s vitality, growth, a promise for the future. Repeating a lie doesn’t make it truth but there it is in folks discussing the future of GNU/Linux via systemd. My own battle with systemd is going badly. It seems I have to radically reconfigure systemd to get it to operate at least as well as sysvinit did on my own system. I run apache, mysql and postgresql on my desktop system. I know that may be strange but it’s one of the strengths of GNU/Linux that one can do so: no special server licence is required, the packaging system makes it easy to install and a local server is much faster than one out on the web or even on the LAN. It’s just the right way to do IT for me, doing more in the browser and less on the desktop per se. Yet systemd insists on starting and settling all those services before allowing me to access the desktop to check the time of day, record by blood sugar or check the weather, you know, stuff I can do on the desktop or on servers out on the web that just may be up when I start my PC… I know it’s possible to set up systemd the way I want with my desktop starting before all those nice to have services but the default configuration of Debian Jessie has them all load first. I am the highest priority process on my system, not PID1… I just have to rewrite a bunch of configs in /etc/systemd/system to make that happen. I just haven’t figured it out yet. Instead my system waits 30s on udevd to finish and 10s on my other services to load while I am reminded of PIIIs and that other OS… Systemd certainly hasn’t made my life easier as a desktop user and as a system administrator.

See Russ Allbery leaves the Debian technical committee.

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FLOSS Works – Now It Has Salesmen

A brand new illustration of the growth of LibreOffice…

The estimate of 80 million users comes from The Document Foundation. It’s very conservative, based on unique IPs of pings for updates. In their annual report for 2013, LibreOffice claimed 100 million users based on download numbers.

Then there is Canonical distributing Ubuntu GNU/Linux. In 2012, Shuttleworth estimated that most users of GNU/Linux had installed it themselves but that they were gearing up to ship Ubuntu GNU/Linux on 20million PCs annually from OEMs. In 2013, Ubuntu Forums had a break in and 1.8 million hashed passwords were stolen. That supports the idea that Ubuntu GNU/Linux has tens of millions of users. In 2014, Canonical claimed 20 million PCs had shipped from OEMs in 2013/2014 with Ubuntu GNU/Linux.

Then there is Dell with ~1K stores in China and India. They are likely selling most of those Ubuntu GNU/Linux PCs.

Then there is Linpus, dealing with OEMs directly in China where most PCs are made.

Then there is Europe with governments like France pushing FLOSS and India, making its own distro for use in government and business.

GNU/Linux and FLOSS now have many promoters besides us computer-geeks and it shows. FLOSS has become a major player in IT on a global scale whether it wins one PC at a time or takes over whole governments.

See New LibreOffice infographic ready.

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IT All Falls Down

For how long has the world’s IT been running naked, with anyone on the network able to take over the whole system?“it’s high impact and easy to exploit. And if you are exploited, the price is high, irrespective of any damage the attacker does: The only way to remediate is to rebuild the domain from scratch. Don’t let this happen to you.” Any length of time is too long. Yesterday, M$ told the world they were naked and now system administrators are scurrying around to make sure every system running InActive Directory has a patch. Meanwhile, the bad guys have been out there a while compromising whatever they could phish into.

Monoculture is dangerous whether it affects the survival of you progeny, your supply of food or your IT. Don’t let it happen to you. Use Debian GNU/Linux widely to avoid monoculture in IT.

This makes the occasional flaw in GNU/Linux pale into insignificance. What will M$’s apologists write now? That M$ has the One True Way to do IT? That the problem is fixed? That it’s the user’s fault??? Ignore them and think for yourself. M$ has let down the world in a big way. Would you continue to do business with the locksmith who installed a useless lock on your front door? Would you continue to do business with the car-maker who cranked out ten million lemons even after discovering the problem? Would you permit your daughter to date a guy with a history of vehicular crashes? Would you do business with a company that can’t rely on its own software? Don’t do it. Get software that works for you, not M$, M$’s “partners” and the bad guys. Get Debian GNU/Linux.

See Details emerge on Windows Kerberos vulnerability.

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300K. That’s how many folks have taken the Intro to Linux course offered by The Linux Foundation. “we were able to offer our Intro to Linux course for free to nearly 300,000 people from all over the world. While the United States ranks first in the number of students taking Intro to Linux, it only represents about 30 percent of all class participants. The top geographies include the U.S., India, United Kingdom, Brazil and Spain.” That’s about half the population of Winnipeg, my nearest big city. That’s several times the size of the Canadian armed forces. It’s 50% more than the number of people involved in the invasion of Normandy. I would call it significant.

What are those folks going to do with that knowledge? Install GNU/Linux on their PC? Set up a computer lab? Migrate some department or organization to GNU/Linux? Perhaps, but one of the second or third tier of obstacles to wider adoption of GNU/Linux has been the availability of local people with the requisite skills. I remember my first exposure to GNU/Linux. It took days of reading and days of trying stuff to get a working system. Without the web I likely would not have been able to do it. The actual installation was trivial when I was armed with just a little knowledge. Now, thanks again to the web, GNU/Linux is mass-producing skilled people. I like it. With my knowledge I was able to install GNU/Linux hundreds of times. 300K people could install GNU/Linux millions of times or buy and install GNU/Linux systems millions of times. Expect increased growth in adoption of GNU/Linux everywhere.

See Introducing 300,000 People to Linux.

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Another Racket Run By M$

Oh dear! The city of Arnhem, the place with the Bridge Too Far, where paratroopers died because of the folly of higher ranks, is now involved in another less costly but egregious disaster.“To compensate for not having adequately licensed the software used by the town’s civil servant’s who were working from home, Arnhem has paid 600,000 euro for new licences. These allow the use of the ubiquitous proprietary office software for the next three years, says the city’s CIO, Simon Does.
“It makes no sense not to use these licences, so we’ve stopped looking for alternatives”, the CIO told the European Commission’s Open Source Observatory and Repository (OSOR). Possible alternatives would have been LibreOffice or Apache OpenOffice, two closely related open source office suites.”
The city was caught using unlicensed copies of M$’s office suite…

The folly? Instead of beating a path to LibreOffice ASAP, they meekly paid for a new set of licences thus increasing their lock-in and delaying progress. This still exposes them to further audits, further rounds of licence-upgrading, and the longer they use M$’s stuff the harder it will become to escape. Already it’s tough because many of their other applications depend on M$’s office suite. You don’t solve a problem you created by continuing to make the same mistakes. They do have the future possibility of migrating to FLOSS like LibreOffice in the future but this is a missed opportunity and will raise the cost of future migrations to FLOSS.

Shortsighted IT makes Arnhem part of its own problems with M$. If they’d gone to and LibreOffice years ago, none of this would have happened. Want to bet the cost of migration would have been less than the cost of the “fine” many years ago?

See Licence fine forces town to drop move to alternative office tools.

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With the recent discussion here of randomness/entropy, it’s timely that a story emerges of a guy“there’s an avalanche diode, which generates entropy from the quantum noise of its own operation. “That’s not some scary quantum effect that’s hard to understand”, Campbell said, “but it’s a a particularly random type of noise”.
Second, there’s a radio receiver, which Campbell explained to Vulture South picks up noise, of which OneRNG retains the least significant bit, so as “to guard against a third party generating a signal” to try and defeat the randomness of the entropy.”
planning to ship an open-design random number generator.

The hardware is familiar to me. I’ve been doing electronics since the 1960s. He’s using a Zener diode as a noise-source and a radio receiver to pick it up. I think that’s kind of silly because it might open up the process to non-random radio sources. I know about those. I used to work in a cyclotron laboratory where every cable had 28MHz RF dancing on it. I would just pick up the noise directly with a wide-band amplifier and sample it periodically and digitize the stream with an ADC or even a Schmitt trigger. Compare with the average value of the signal and the odds are equal for ones and zeroes.

Whatever. The real issue is the bandwidth of the device and the quality of the data. Any decent computer system may need tons of random bits to do the job. I guess it will work fine for salting more productive methods like multiplicative congruence and descendents (I’ve used RANDU, one of the worst, on a S/360…) but it would not be the best for XORing with data-streams. With the necessity of random number generation in IT these days, it’s a wonder that every CPU or motherboard does not have a really great generator built in.

See Meet OneRNG: a fully-open entropy generator for a paranoid age.

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