Microsoft

Microsoft Open Source Tool Lets You 'Bring Your Own Linux' To Windows (microsoft.com) 135

Long-time Slashdot reader Billly Gates writes: Debian is now available in the Windows app store. It joins Ubuntu, Suse Leap, SuSe enterprise, and Kali Linux for those who cannot or do not want to bother with a virtual machine or a full install of the OS. However, it included stable 9.3. 9.4 is available from the repository if you run apt-get update and apt-get upgrade.
"Fedora is not yet available, although Microsoft has stated openly that it is working to make it so," reports Computer Weekly. And there's more: Microsoft has also provided an open source tool called Microsoft WSL/DistroLauncher for users who want to build their own Linux package where a particular distribution is either a) not available yet or b) is available, but the user wants to apply a greater degree of customisation to it than comes as standard.
Graphics

Programmer Unveils OpenGL Bindings for Bash (opensource.com) 47

Slashdot reader silverdirk writes: Compiled languages have long provided access to the OpenGL API, and even most scripting languages have had OpenGL bindings for a decade or more. But, one significant language missing from the list is our old friend/nemesis Bash. But worry no longer! Now you can create your dazzling 3D visuals right from the comfort of your command line!
"You'll need a system with both Bash and OpenGL support to experience it firsthand," explains software engineer Michael Conrad, who created the first version 13 years ago as "the sixth in a series of 'Abuse of Technology' projects," after "having my technical sensibilities offended that someone had written a real-time video game in Perl.

"Back then, my primary language was C++, and I was studying OpenGL for video game purposes. I declared to my friends that the only thing worse would be if it had been 3D and written in Bash. Having said the idea out loud, it kept prodding me, and I eventually decided to give it a try to one-up the 'awfulness'..."
Google

Google Workers Urge CEO To Pull Out of Pentagon AI Project (nytimes.com) 283

Thousands of Google employees, including dozens of senior engineers, have signed a letter protesting the company's involvement in a Pentagon program that uses artificial intelligence to interpret video imagery and could be used to improve the targeting of drone strikes (Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source). From a report: The letter, which is circulating inside Google and has garnered more than 3,100 signatures, reflects a culture clash between Silicon Valley and the federal government that is likely to intensify as cutting-edge artificial intelligence is increasingly employed for military purposes. "We believe that Google should not be in the business of war," says the letter, addressed to Sundar Pichai, the company's chief executive. It asks that Google pull out of Project Maven, a Pentagon pilot program, and announce a policy that it will not "ever build warfare technology."

That kind of idealistic stance, while certainly not shared by all Google employees, comes naturally to a company whose motto is "Don't be evil," a phrase invoked in the protest letter. But it is distinctly foreign to Washington's massive defense industry and certainly to the Pentagon, where the defense secretary, Jim Mattis, has often said a central goal is to increase the "lethality" of the United States military.

Communications

Tor Winds Down Its Encrypted Messenger App 3 Years After Launch (venturebeat.com) 21

The Tor Project has announced that it's winding down its privacy-focused Tor Messenger chat program, nearly three years after its beta debut. From a report: Tor, an acronym of "The Onion Router," is better known for its privacy-focused browser that directs traffic through a volunteer-run network of relays to prevent any untoward eavesdropping on users' online activity. Indeed, the Tor Browser is often used by activists, whistleblowers, and anyone wishing to remain anonymous, and major companies -- such as Facebook -- have embraced Tor over the years.

The people behind the anonymity network started working on Tor Messenger in early 2014, launched it in alpha a year later, before rolling out the beta version in October 2015, where it has remained since -- though there have been more than 10 separate beta releases. [...] In terms of why Tor Messenger is being sunsetted, well, there are a number of reasons. Arguably the most important of the reasons is that uptake wasn't quite where Tor wanted it to be at to justify working on it, while it also realized that it wasn't the perfect private messaging client due to its metadata problem.

Open Source

Red Hat CEO Talks About State Of Open Source (techcrunch.com) 64

To mark Red Hat's 25th anniversary, TechCrunch spoke with the company's CEO Jim Whitehurst to talk about the past, present and future of the company, and open-source software in general. An excerpt: "Ten years ago, open source at the time was really focused on offering viable alternatives to traditional software," he told me. "We were selling layers of technology to replace existing technology. [...] At the time, it was open source showing that we can build open-source tech at lower cost. The value proposition was that it was cheaper." At the time, he argues, the market was about replacing Windows with Linux or IBM's WebSphere with JBoss. And that defined Red Hat's role in the ecosystem, too, which was less about technological information than about packaging. "For Red Hat, we started off taking these open-source projects and making them usable for traditional enterprises," said Whitehurst.

About five or six ago, something changed, though. Large corporations, including Google and Facebook, started open sourcing their own projects because they didn't look at some of the infrastructure technologies they opened up as competitive advantages. Instead, having them out in the open allowed them to profit from the ecosystems that formed around that. "The biggest part is it's not just Google and Facebook finding religion," said Whitehurst. "The social tech around open source made it easy to make projects happen. Companies got credit for that." He also noted that developers now look at their open-source contributions as part of their resume. With an increasingly mobile workforce that regularly moves between jobs, companies that want to compete for talent are almost forced to open source at least some of the technologies that don't give them a competitive advantage.

In October, Whitehurst also answered questions from Slashdot readers.
Open Source

Interviews: Ask a Question To Christine Peterson, the Nanotech Expert Who Coined the Term 'Open Source' 246

Christine Peterson is a long-time futurist who co-founded the nanotech advocacy group the Foresight Institute in 1986. One of her favorite tasks has been contacting the winners of the institute's annual Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology, but she also coined the term "Open Source software" for that famous promotion strategy meeting in 1998. Now Christine's agreed to answer questions from Slashdot readers. We'll pick the very best questions and forward them along for answers.

Interestingly, Christine was also on the Editorial Advisory Board of NASA's Nanotech Briefs, and on the state of California's nanotechnology task force. Her tech talks at conferences include "Life Extension for Geeks" at Gnomedex and "Preparing for Bizarreness: Open Source Physical Security" at the 2007 Singularity Summit. Another talk argues that the nanotech revolution will be like the information revolution, except that "Instead of with bits, we should do it with atoms," allowing molecule-sized machines that can kill cancer and repair DNA. Her most recent publication is "Cyber, Nano, and AGI RIsks: Decentralized Approaches to Reducing Risks." Christine graduated from MIT with a bachelors in chemistry.

So leave your best questions in the comments. (Ask as many questions as you'd like, but please, one per comment.) We'll pick the very best questions and forward them along for answers.
Businesses

Open Source RISC V Processor Gets Support From Google, Samsung, Qualcomm, and Tesla (seekingalpha.com) 135

An anonymous reader writes: Google, Qualcomm, and Samsung "are among 80 tech companies joining forces to develop a new open-source chip design for new technologies like self-driving vehicles," writes Seeking Alpha, citing a (pay-walled) report on The Information. "Western Digital and Nvidia also plan to use the new chip design for some of their products," while Tesla "has joined the RISC-V Foundation and is considering using the tech in its new chip efforts."

MIT Technology Review adds that while Arm had hoped to bring their low-power/high performance processors to AI and self-driving cars, "The company that masterminded the processor inside your smartphone may find that a set of free-to-use alternative designs erode some of its future success."

GNU is Not Unix

The Prestigious Free Software Award Goes to Karen Sandler (sfconservancy.org) 60

Each year the Free Software award goes to someone making "a great contribution to the progress and development of free software, through activities that accord with the spirit of free software." This year's winner is a former executive of the GNOME Foundation, Karen Sandler. Jeremy Allison - Sam, Slashdot reader #8,157, brought this announcement. Richard Stallman, President of the FSF, presented Sandler with the award during a ceremony. Stallman highlighted Sandler's dedication to software freedom. Stallman told the crowd that Sandler's "vivid warning about backdoored nonfree software in implanted medical devices has brought the issue home to people who never wrote a line of code. Her efforts, usually not in the public eye, to provide pro bono legal advice to free software organizations and [with Software Freedom Conservancy] to organize infrastructure for free software projects and copyleft defense, have been equally helpful."

In her acceptance speech, Sandler spoke about her dedication to free software as a patient, advocate and professional. "Coming to terms with a dangerous heart condition should never have cost me fundamental control over the technology that my life relies on", said Sandler... "This issue is personal not just for me but for anyone who relies on software, and today that means every single person."

Media

An Open Source, Royalty-Free AV1 Codec Has Been Released (aomedia.org) 104

Artem Tashkinov writes: After three years in development the Alliance for Open Media is releasing the royalty-free AOMedia Video Codec 1.0 (AV1) specification. The AV1 codec promises an average of 30 percent greater compression over competing codecs according to independent member tests.
The release of AV1 includes:
  • Bitstream specification to enable the next-generation of silicon
  • Unoptimized, experimental software decoder and encoder to create and consume the bitstream
  • Reference streams for product validation
  • Binding specifications to allow content creation and streaming tools for user-generated and commercial video

Open Source

Ask Slashdot: Can FOSS Help In the Fight Against Climate Change? 154

dryriver writes: Before I ask my question, there already is free and open-source software (FOSS) for wind turbine design and simulation called QBlade. It lets you calculate turbine blade performance using nothing more than a computer and appears compatible with Xfoil as well. But consider this: the ultimate, most efficient and most real-world usable and widely deployable wind turbine rotor may not have traditional "blades" or "foils" at all, but may be a non-propeller-like, complex and possibly rather strange looking three-dimensional rotor of the sort that only a 3D printer could prototype easily. It may be on a vertical or horizontal axis. It may have air flowing through canals in its non-traditional structure, rather than just around it. Nobody really knows what this "ultimate wind turbine rotor" may look like.

The easiest way to find such a rotor might be through machine-learning. You get an algorithm to create complex non-traditional 3D rotor shapes, simulate their behavior in wind, and then mutate the design, simulate again, and get a machine learning algorithm to learn what sort of mutations lead to a better performing 3D rotor. In theory, enough iterations -- perhaps millions or more -- should eventually lead to the "ultimate rotor" or something closer to it than what is used in wind turbines today. Is this something FOSS developers could tackle, or is this task too complex for non-commercial software? The real world impact of such a FOSS project could be that far better wind turbines can be designed, manufactured and deployed than currently exist, and the fight against climate change becomes more effective; the better your wind turbines perform, and the more usable they are, the more of a fighting chance humanity has to do something against climate change. Could FOSS achieve this?
Open Source

LG Releases Open-Sourced Version of webOS in Hopes To Push It Beyond TVs and Smart Refrigerators (theverge.com) 96

LG has released an open-sourced version of webOS that's freely available to anyone that wants to download and poke around the code. From a report: The release of webOS Open Source Edition is meant to act as a catalyst to drive further adoption of webOS beyond LG televisions, smart refrigerators, and the occasional never-to-be-released smartwatch. So, devices like webOS tablets and set-top boxes as pictured in the LG-supplied image above. This is the second time an open-source version of webOS has been released, the first coming under the failed tenure of HP back in 2011. LG's cross-town rival Samsung develops and uses the open-sourced Tizen operating system on a variety of devices including smartwatches, televisions, Blu-ray players, and robotic vacuums.
Open Source

Microsoft Joins Group Working To 'Cure' Open-Source Licensing Issues (zdnet.com) 104

Microsoft is joining Red Hat, Facebook, Google and IBM in committing to extending right to "cure" open source licensing noncompliance before taking legal measures. From a report: On March 19, officials from Microsoft -- along with CA Technologies, Cisco, HPE, SAP and SUSE -- said they'd work with open together with the already-committed vendors to provide more "predictability" for users of open source software. "The large ecosystems of projects using the GPLv2 and LGPLv2.x licenses will benefit from adoption of this more balanced approach to termination derived from GPLv3," explained Red Hat in a press release announcing the new license-compliance partners. The companies which have agreed to adopt the "Common Cure Rights Commitment" said before they file or continue to prosecute those accused of violating covered licenses, they will allow for users to cure and reinstate their licenses.
Space

Google Open Sources Its Exoplanet-Hunting AI (vice.com) 16

dmoberhaus writes: Last December, NASA announced that two new exoplanets had been hiding in plain sight among data from the Kepler space telescope. These two new planets weren't discovered by a human, however. Instead, an exoplanet hunting neural network -- a type of machine learning algorithm loosely modeled after the human brain -- had discovered the planets by finding subtle patterns in the Kepler data that would've been nearly impossible for a human to see. Last Thursday, Christopher Shallue, the lead Google engineer behind the exoplanet AI, announced in a blog post that the company was making the algorithm open source. In other words, anyone can download the code and help hunt for exoplanets in Kepler data.
Google's research blog called the December discovery "a successful proof-of-concept for using machine learning to discover exoplanets, and more generally another example of using machine learning to make meaningful gains in a variety of scientific disciplines (e.g. healthcare, quantum chemistry, and fusion research)."
Open Source

How An Open Source Plugin Tamed a Chaotic Comments Section With A Simple Quiz (arstechnica.com) 154

Long-time Slashdot reader jebrick quotes an article from Ars Technica about how Norway's government-owned public broadcasting company "employs open source tactics to fight trolling": The five-person team behind a simple WordPress plugin, which took three hours to code, never expected to receive worldwide attention as a result. But NRKbeta, the tech-testing group at Norway's largest national media organization, tapped into a meaty vein with the unveiling of last February's Know2Comment, an open source plugin that can attach to any WordPress site's comment section. "It was a basic idea," NRKbeta developer Stale Grut told a South By Southwest crowd on Tuesday. "Readers had to prove they read a story before they were able to comment on it"... He and fellow staffers spent three hours building the plugin, which Grut reminded the crowd is wholly open source... "[W]e realized not every article is in need of this. We are a tech site; we don't have a lot of controversy, so there's not a big need for it. We use it now on stories where we anticipate there'll be uninformed debate to add this speed bump."
What do you think? And would a quiz-for-commenting-privileges be a good addition to Slashdot?
Open Source

Vim Beats Emacs in 'Linux Journal' Reader Survey (linuxjournal.com) 195

The newly-relaunched Linux Journal is conducting its annual "Reader's Choice Awards," and this month announced the winners for Best Text Editor, Best Laptop, and Best Domain Registrar. Vim was chosen as the best editor by 35% of respondents, handily beating GNU Emacs (19%) Sublime Text (10%) and Atom (8%). Readers' Choice winner Vim is an extremely powerful editor with a user interface based on Bill Joy's 40-plus-year-old vi, but with many improved-upon features including extensive customization with key mappings and plugins. Linux Journal reader David Harrison points out another great thing about Vim "is that it's basically everywhere. It's available on every major platform."
For best laptop their readers picked Lenovo (32%), followed by Dell (25%) and System76 (11%). The ThinkPad began life at IBM, but in 2005, it was purchased by Lenovo along with the rest of IBM's PC business. Lenovo evolved the line, and today the company is well known as a geek favorite. Lenovo's ThinkPads are quiet, fast and arguably have one of the best keyboards (fighting words!). Linux Journal readers say Lenovo's Linux support is excellent, leaving many to ponder why the company doesn't ship laptops with Linux installed.
In February readers also voted on the best web browser, choosing Firefox (57%) over Chrome (17%) and Chromium (7%). And they also voted on the best Linux distribution, ultimately selecting Debian (33%), open SUSE (12%), and Fedora (11%).
Earth

Google's New 'Plus Codes' Are An Open Source, Global Alternative To Street Addresses (9to5google.com) 183

Google has developed a "simple and consistent addressing system that works across India and globally." Called "Plus Codes," the location-based digital addressing system is designed for people with addresses that are not easily located through conventional descriptors like street names or house numbers. That's half of the world's urban population, according to a World Bank estimate. 9to5Google reports: Notably, this open source solution composed of 10 characters works globally and can be incorporated by other products and platforms for free, with a developer page available here. It works offline and on print when overlaid as a grid on existing maps. Places that are close together share similar plus codes, while the system is identifiable by the "+" symbol in every address. "This system is based on dividing the geographical surface of the Earth into tiny 'tiled areas,' attributing a unique code to each of them," reports Google. "This code simply comprises a '6-character + City' format that can be generated, shared and searched by anyone -- all that's needed is Google Maps on a smartphone."

The first four characters are the area code, describing a region of roughly 100 x 100 kilometers. The last six characters are the local code, describing the neighborhood and the building, an area of roughly 14 x 14 meters -- about the size of one half of a basketball court. The area code is not needed when navigating within a town, while another optional character can be appended to provide additional accuracy down to a 3 x 3 meter region. Users of Google Maps in India will be able to easily find the plus code for any area in the app, while the mapping service along with Search will support the entry of the new coordinate system. Plus codes for any location can also be found with this tool.

Hardware Hacking

ESR's Newest Project: An Open Hardware/Open Source UPS (ibiblio.org) 232

An anonymous reader writes: Last month Eric S. Raymond complained about his choices for a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply), adding that "This whole category begs to be disrupted by an open-hardware [and open-source] design that could be assembled cheaply in a makerspace from off-the-shelf components, an Arduino-class microcontroller, and a PROM...because it's possible, and otherwise the incentives on the vendors won't change." It could be designed to work with longer-lasting and more environmentally friendly batteries, using "EV-style intelligent battery-current sensors to enable accurate projection of battery performance" (along with a text-based alert system and a USB monitoring port).

Calling the response "astonishing," Raymond noted the emergence within a week of "the outlines of a coherent design," and in an update on GitLab reported that "The response on my blog and G+ was intense, almost overwhelming. It seems many UPS users are unhappy with what the vendors are pushing" -- and thus, the UPSide project was launched. "We welcome contributors: people with interest in UPSes who have expertise in battery technology, power-switching electronics, writing device-control firmware, relevant standards such as USB and the DMTF battery-management profile. We also welcome participation from established UPS and electronics vendors. We know that consumer electronics is a cutthroat low-margin business in which it's tough to support a real R&D team or make possibly-risky product bets. Help us, and then let us help you!"

There's already a Wiki with design documents -- plus a process document -- and Raymond says the project now even has a hardware lead with 30 years experience as a power and signals engineer, plus "a really sharp dev group. Half a dozen experts have shown up to help spec this thing, critique the design docs, and explain EE things to ignorant me." And he's already touting "industry participation! We have a friendly observer who's the lead software architect for one of the major UPS vendors." Earlier Raymond identified his role as "basically, product manager -- keeper of the requirements list and recruiter of talent" -- though he admits on his blog that he's already used a "cute hack" to create a state/action diagram for the system, "by writing a DSL to generate code in another DSL and provably correct equivalent C application logic."

He adds to readers of the blog that if that seems weird to you, "you must be new here."

Open Source

Linux Developer McHardy Drops GPLv2 'Shake Down' Case (zdnet.com) 53

Former Linux developer Patrick McHardy dropped his Gnu General Public License version 2 (GPLv2) violation case against Geniatech in a German court this week. ZDNet explains why some consider this a big "win": People who find violations typically turn to organizations such as the Free Software Foundation, Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC), and the Software Freedom Law Center to approach violators. These organizations then try to convince violating companies to mend their ways and honor their GPLv2 legal requirements. Only as a last resort do they take companies to court to force them into compliance with the GPLv2. Patrick McHardy, however, after talking with SFC, dropped out from this diplomatic approach and has gone on his own way. Specifically, McHardy has been accused of seeking his own financial gain by approaching numerous companies in German courts. Geniatech claimed McHardy has sued companies for Linux GPLv2 violations in over 38 cases. In one, he'd requested a contractual penalty of €1.8 million. The company also claimed McHardy had already received over €2 million from his actions...

In July 2016, the Netfilter developers suspended him from the core team. They received numerous allegations that he had been shaking down companies. McHardy refused to discuss these issues with them, and he refused to sign off on the Principles of Community-Oriented GPL Enforcement. In October 2017, Greg Kroah-Hartman, Linux kernel maintainer for the stable branch, summed up the Linux kernel developers' position. Kroah-Hartman wrote: "McHardy has sought to enforce his copyright claims in secret and for large sums of money by threatening or engaging in litigation...."

Had McHardy continued on his way, companies would have been more reluctant to use Linux code in their products for fear that a single, unprincipled developer could sue them and demand payment for his copyrighted contributions... McHardy now has to bear all legal costs for both sides of the case. In other words, when McHardy was faced with serious and costly opposition for the first time, he waved a white flag rather than face near certain defeat in the courts.

Debian

Debian 9.4 Released (debian.org) 78

An anonymous reader quotes Debian.org: The Debian project is pleased to announce the fourth update of its stable distribution Debian 9 (codename "stretch"). This point release mainly adds corrections for security issues, along with a few adjustments for serious problems... Please note that the point release does not constitute a new version of Debian 9 but only updates some of the packages included. There is no need to throw away old "stretch" media. After installation, packages can be upgraded to the current versions using an up-to-date Debian mirror.
Phoronix adds that Debian 9.4 "has a new upstream Linux kernel release, various dependency fixes for some packages, an infinite loop fix in Glade, several CVE security fixes, a larger stack size for NTP, a new upstream release of their NVIDIA proprietary driver package, Python 3 dependency fixes, and other security fixes."
Open Source

'Java EE' Has Been Renamed 'Jakarta EE' (i-programmer.info) 95

An anonymous reader quotes i-Programmer: The results are in for the vote on the new name for Java Enterprise Edition, and unsurprisingly the voters have chosen Jakarta EE. The renaming has to happen because Oracle refused to let the name Java be used. The vote was to choose between two options - 'Jakarta EE' and 'Enterprise Profile'. According to Mike Milinkovich, executive director at the Eclipse Foundation, almost 7,000 people voted, and over 64% voted in favour of Jakarta EE. The other finalist, "Enterprise Profile," came in at just 35.6% of the votes when voted ended last Friday.
"Other Java projects have also been renamed in Eclipse," notes SD Times. "Glassfish is now Eclipse Glassfish. The Java Community Process is now the Eclipse EE.next Working Group, and Oracle development management is now Eclipse Enterprise for Java Project Management Committee."

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