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LinuxSecurity - Security Advisories

  • [$] Microsoft drops support for PHP
    For years, Windows PHP users have enjoyed builds provided directly by Microsoft. The company has contributed to the PHP project in many ways, with the binaries made available on being the most visible. Recently Microsoft Project Manager Dale Hirt announced that, beginning with PHP 8.0, Microsoft support for PHP on Windows would end.

  • [$] Creating open data interfaces with ODPi
    Connecting one source of data to another isn't always easy because of differentstandards, data formats, and APIs to contend with, among the manychallenges. One of the groups that is trying to help with the challenge ofdata interoperability is the Linux Foundation's Open Data Platforminitiative (ODPi). At the 2020Open Source Summit North America virtual event on July 2, ODPiTechnical Steering Committee chairperson MandyChessell outlined the goals of ODPi and the projects that are part of it.She also described how ODPiis taking an open-source development approach to make data moreeasily accessible.

  • Security updates for Friday
    Security updates have been issued by Fedora (curl, LibRaw, python-pillow, and python36), Mageia (coturn, samba, and vino), openSUSE (opera), and Ubuntu (openssl).

  • [$] LibreOffice: the next five years
    The LibreOffice project wouldseem to be on a roll. It produces what is widely seen as the leadingfree office-productivity suite, and has managed to move out of the shadowof the moribund (but brand-recognized) ApacheOpenOffice project. The LibreOffice 7 release is coming within a month, and the tenthanniversary of the founding of the Document Foundation arrives inSeptember. Meanwhile, LibreOfficeOnline is taking off and, seemingly, seeing some market success.So it is a bit surprising to see the project's core developersin a sort of crisis mode while users worry about a tag that showed up inthe project's repository.

  • Six new stable kernels
    Greg Kroah-Hartman has announced the release of the 5.7.8, 5.4.51,4.19.132, 4.14.188, 4.9.230, and 4.4.230 stable kernels. As usual, these allcontain important fixes; users should upgrade.

  • Security updates for Thursday
    Security updates have been issued by CentOS (firefox), Debian (ffmpeg, fwupd, ruby2.5, and shiro), Fedora (freerdp, gssdp, gupnp, mingw-pcre2, remmina, and xrdp), openSUSE (chocolate-doom), Oracle (firefox and kernel), and Ubuntu (linux, linux-lts-xenial, linux-aws, linux-kvm, linux-raspi2, linux-snapdragon and thunderbird).

  • [$] Linux Mint drops Ubuntu Snap packages
    The Linux Mint project has made good on previous threats to actively prevent Ubuntu Snap packages from being installed through the APT package-management system without the user's consent. This move is the result of "major worries" from Linux Mint on Snap's impact with regard to user choice and software freedom. Ubuntu's parent company, Canonical, seems open to finding a solution to satisfy the popular distribution's concerns — but it too has interests to consider.

  • Security updates for Wednesday
    Security updates have been issued by Debian (roundcube), Fedora (chromium, firefox, and ngircd), Oracle (firefox and thunderbird), Scientific Linux (firefox), Slackware (seamonkey), SUSE (djvulibre, ffmpeg, firefox, freetds, gd, gstreamer-plugins-base, icu, java-11-openjdk, libEMF, libexif, librsvg, LibVNCServer, libvpx, Mesa, nasm, nmap, opencv, osc, perl, php7, python-ecdsa, SDL2, texlive-filesystem, and thunderbird), and Ubuntu (cinder, python-os-brick).

  • The "Open Usage Commons" launches
    Google has announcedthe creation of the Open UsageCommons, which is intended to help open-source projects manage theirtrademarks. From theorganization's own announcement: "We created the Open UsageCommons because free and fair open source trademark use is critical to thelong-term sustainability of open source. However, understanding andmanaging trademarks takes more legal know-how than most project maintainerscan do themselves. The Open Usage Commons is therefore dedicated tocreating a model where everyone in the open source chain – from projectmaintainers to downstream users to ecosystem companies – has peace of mindaround trademark usage and management. The projects in the Open UsageCommons will receive support specific to trademark protection andmanagement, usage guidelines, and conformance testing." Initialmembers include the Angular, Gerrit, and Istio projects.

  • Sandboxing in Linux with zero lines of code (Cloudflare blog)
    The Cloudflare blog is running anoverview of sandboxing with seccomp(), culminating in a toolwritten there to sandbox any existing program. "We really liked the'zero code seccomp' approach with systemd SystemCallFilter= directive, butwere not satisfied with its limitations. We decided to take it one stepfurther and make it possible to prohibit any system call in any processexternally without touching its source code, so came up with the Cloudflaresandbox. It’s a simple standalone toolkit consisting of a shared libraryand an executable. The shared library is supposed to be used withdynamically linked applications and the executable is for statically linkedapplications."

  • [$] Hugo: a static-site generator
    Static web-site generators take page content written in a markuplanguage and render it into fully baked HTML, making it easy for developersto upload the result and serve a web site simply andsecurely. This article looks at Hugo, astatic-site generator written in Go and optimized for speed. It is aflexible tool that can be configured for a variety of use cases: simpleblogs, project documentation, larger news sites, and even governmentservices.

  • [$] Sleepable BPF programs
    When support for classic BPF was added to the kernel many yearsago, there was no question of whether BPF programs could block in theirexecution. Their functionality was limited to examining a packet'scontents and deciding whether the packet should be forwarded or not; therewas nothing such a program could do to block. Since then, BPF has changeda lot, but the assumption that BPF programs cannot sleep has been builtdeeply into the BPF machinery. More recently, classic BPF has been pushedaside by the extended BPF dialect; thewider applicability of extended BPF is nowforcing a rethink of some basic assumptions.

  • Security updates for Tuesday
    Security updates have been issued by Debian (php7.3), Fedora (gst), Mageia (libvirt, mariadb, pdns-recursor, and ruby), openSUSE (chocolate-doom, coturn, kernel, live555, ntp, python3, and rust, rust-cbindgen), Oracle (virt:ol), Red Hat (file, firefox, gettext, kdelibs, kernel, kernel-alt, microcode_ctl, nghttp2, nodejs:10, nodejs:12, php, qemu-kvm, ruby, and tomcat), SUSE (libjpeg-turbo, mozilla-nspr, mozilla-nss, mozilla-nss, nasm, openldap2, and permissions), and Ubuntu (coturn, glibc, nss, and openexr).

  • [$] Home Assistant improves performance in 0.112 release
    The Home Assistant project has released version 0.112 of the open-source home automation hub we have previously covered, which is the eighth release of the project this year. While previous releases have largely focused on new integrations and enhancements to the front-end interface, in this release the focus has shifted more toward improving the performance of the database. It is important to be aware that there are significant database changes and multiple potential backward compatibility breaks to understand before attempting an upgrade to take advantage of the improvements.

LXer Linux News

  • Use DNS over TLS
    The Domain Name System (DNS) that modern computers use to find resources on the internet was designed 35 years ago without consideration for user privacy. Modernize it by wrapping its queries with Transport Layer Security (TLS)!

  • Microsoft to pull support for PHP: Version 8? Exterminate, more like...
    No support 'in any capacity' for PHP for Windows for v8 and beyond, but Windows users not to worry, says release managerBorn-again open source fan Microsoft is celebrating 25 years of PHP by, er, pulling its support for the scripting language that is beloved (or dreaded) by server operators the world over.…

  • Linux-ready Coffee Lake systems support Nvidia graphics
    Neousys’ “Nuvo-8240GC” embedded PC runs on 8th or 9th Gen CPUs with 2x PCIe x16 for dual Tesla T4 GPUs and offers 2x PCIe x8, M.2 for NVMe, and 2x mini-PCIe. A similar Nuvo-8108GC system was tapped by Baidu as a dev kit for its Linux-based Apollo automotive platform. Neousys announced a rugged, Intel Coffee […]

  • Making compliance scalable in a container world
    Software is increasingly being distributed as container images. Container images include the many software components needed to support the featured software in the container. We should design source code availability into container tools and processes to facilitate open source license compliance that is efficient and portable:

  • Add videos as wallpaper on your Linux desktop
    The Linux desktop is a beautiful thing, but if you[he]#039[/he]re tired of boring wallpaper, then you should try wallset, a command-line utility allowing you to set a video as your wallpaper. Wallset can also help you manage your wallpaper collection so you can conveniently make changes as often as you want.

  • How to Upgrade to Linux Mint 20 from Linux Mint 19.3
    You can only upgrade from Linux Mint 19.3 64-bit version to Linux Mint 20. The following upgrade process will not work for Linux Mint 19.3 32-bit version. If you are running Linux Mint 19.3 "Tara", here are the steps you need to perform to upgrade to the latest Linux Mint 20.

  • Coffee Lake system supports seven independent displays
    Vecow’s rugged “RCX-1000 PEG” series runs Linux or Win 10 on 8th or 9th Gen Coffee Lake CPUs with up to 2x PCI/PCIe x16 slots for graphics plus PCIe x4, 2x M.2, 2x mini-PCIe, 4x SATA, 6x USB 3.1 Gen2, and 2x GbE ports. Vecow announced another rugged, PCIe-enabled system with Intel 8th/9th Gen Coffee […]

  • Thank you, Julie Hanna
    Over the last three plus years, Julie Hanna has brought extensive experience on innovation processes, global business operations, and mission-driven organizations to her role as a board member of Mozilla …

  • How To Set Up Nginx Server Blocks on Ubuntu 20.04
    A server block is an Nginx directive that defines settings for a specific domain, allowing you to run more than one website on a single server. For each website, you can set the site document root (the directory which contains the website files), create a separate security policy, use different SSL certificates, and much more. This article describes how to set up Nginx server blocks on Ubuntu 20.04.

  • Virtualbox Guru Meditation Critical Error In Linux
    I have been testing KVM extensively this week. Today I learned that KVM and Oracle VirtualBox doesn’t work at the same time. If you start a VM from VirtualBox when one of a KVM instance is running, you will be encountered with an error box titled "Virtualbox Guru Meditation".

  • Rockchip PX30 based in-vehicle system supports OBD-II telematics and ADAS
    Arbor’s 8-inch “IOT-800N” automotive telematics panel PC for ADAS and fleet management runs Android 8.1 or Linux on a quad -A35 Rockchip PX30 and offers CAN/OBD-II, 4G, GPS, WiFi/BT, NFC, and an 8MP camera. Arbor announced a Rockchip PX30-based telematics computer with an 8-inch touchscreen for Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) and fleet management that […]

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  • Police Surveilled Protests With Help From Twitter-Affiliated Startup Dataminr
    An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Intercept: Leveraging close ties to Twitter, controversial artificial intelligence startup Dataminr helped law enforcement digitally monitor the protests that swept the country following the killing of George Floyd, tipping off police to social media posts with the latest whereabouts and actions of demonstrators, according to documents reviewed by The Intercept and a source with direct knowledge of the matter. The monitoring seems at odds with claims from both Twitter and Dataminr that neither company would engage in or facilitate domestic surveillance following a string of 2016 controversies. Twitter, up until recently a longtime investor in Dataminr alongside the CIA, provides the company with full access to a content stream known as the "firehose" -- a rare privilege among tech firms and one that lets Dataminr, recently valued at over $1.8 billion, scan every public tweet as soon as its author hits send. Both companies denied that the protest monitoring meets the definition of surveillance.   Dataminr's Black Lives Matter protest surveillance included persistent monitoring of social media to tip off police to the locations and activities of protests, developments within specific rallies, as well as instances of alleged "looting" and other property damage. According to the source with direct knowledge of Dataminr's protest monitoring, the company and Twitter's past claims that they don't condone or enable surveillance are "bullshit," relying on a deliberately narrowed definition. "It's true Dataminr doesn't specifically track protesters and activists individually, but at the request of the police they are tracking protests, and therefore protesters," this source explained. According to internal materials reviewed by The Intercept, Dataminr meticulously tracked not only ongoing protests, but kept comprehensive records of upcoming anti-police violence rallies in cities across the country to help its staff organize their monitoring efforts, including events' expected time and starting location within those cities. A protest schedule seen by The Intercept shows Dataminr was explicitly surveilling dozens of protests big and small, from Detroit and Brooklyn to York, Pennsylvania, and Hampton Roads, Virginia.   Company documents also show the firm instructed members of its staff to look for instances of "lethal force used against protesters by police or vice-versa," "property damage," "widespread arson or looting against government or commercial infrastructure," "new instances of officer-involved shootings or death with potential interpretation of racial bias," and occasions when a "violent protests spreads to new major American city." Staff were also specifically monitoring social media for posts about "Officers involved in Floyd's death" -- all of which would be forwarded to Dataminr's governmental customers through a service named "First Alert." [...] First Alert also scans other popular platforms like Snapchat and Facebook, the latter being particularly useful for protest organizers trying to rapidly mobilize their communities. On at least one occasion, according to MPD records, Dataminr was able to point police to a protest's Facebook event page before it had begun.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Canadian Genetic Non-Discrimination Act Upheld
    Long-time Slashdot reader kartis writes: Canada's Supreme Court upheld the Genetic Non-Discrimination Act (GINA) which prohibits under criminal penalty, employers or insurers from demanding or using genetic information. This was a result of a private member's bill in Parliament, which meant it passed without the government's support, and in fact both the Federal government and Quebec government (which had gotten it declared unconstitutional as outside federal powers) argued that it extended criminal powers into a provincial jurisdiction. Well, the Supreme Court has surprisingly upheld it in a 5-4 decision, which means great things for Canadians' privacy, and also suggests a wider ability for federal privacy legislation than many jurists had thought.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Tyson Bets On Robots To Tackle Meat Industry's Worker Shortage
    At Tyson's 26,000-square-foot, multi-million dollar Manufacturing Automation Center near its headquarters in Springdale, Arkansas, the company will apply the latest advances in machine learning to meat manufacturing, with the goal of eventually eliminating jobs that can be physically demanding, highly repetitive and at times dangerous. Bloomberg reports: Advances in technology are making it possible to make strides in automation. For example, machine vision is now accurate and speedy enough to apply to meat production, which is highly labor intensive compared with other food manufacturing. Also, a lot of washing and sanitizing occurs in a meat-packing plant, which has traditionally been difficult on robots, but now the machines are built to withstand that. At Tyson's new facility, a series of laboratories showcase different types of robots. Mechanical arms in glass cases use smart cameras to sort colorful objects or stack items. In another room, a larger machine called a palletizer performs stacking tasks. There's also a training space.   Many of the types of robots that a meatpacking plant would need are not on the market currently, so the company needs to innovate and collaborate with partners to create them, said Doug Foreman, a director in engineering at Tyson. But the technology is ready. The processing capabilities of cameras are "so advanced even from a few years ago," Foreman said. "Processing-speed-wise, it's there now for us."

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Apple Supplier Foxconn To Invest $1 Billion In India
    Foxconn plans to invest up to $1 billion to expand a factory in southern India where the Taiwanese contract manufacturer assembles Apple iPhones. Fox Business reports: The move, the scale of which has not previously been reported, is part of a quiet and gradual production shift by Apple away from China as it navigates disruptions from a trade war between Beijing and Washington and the coronavirus crisis. "There's a strong request from Apple to its clients to move part of the iPhone production out of China," one of the sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters. Foxconn's planned investment in the Sriperumbur plant, where Apple's iPhone XR is made some 50 km west of Chennai, will take place over the course of three years. Some of Apple's other iPhones models, made by Foxconn in China, will be made at the plant.   Taipei-headquartered Foxconn will add some 6,000 jobs at the Sriperumbur plant in Tamil Nadu state under the plan. It also operates a separate plant in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, where it makes smartphones for China's Xiaomi Corp, among others. "With India's labour cheaper compared with China, and the gradual expansion of its supplier base here, Apple will be able to use the country as an export hub," Neil Shah of Hong Kong-based tech researcher Counterpoint said.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • The Uncertain Future of Ham Radio
    Julianne Pepitone from IEEE Spectrum writes about the uncertain future of ham radio. An anonymous reader shares an excerpt: Will the amateur airwaves fall silent? Since the dawn of radio, amateur operators -- hams -- have transmitted on tenaciously guarded slices of spectrum. Electronic engineering has benefited tremendously from their activity, from the level of the individual engineer to the entire field. But the rise of the Internet in the 1990s, with its ability to easily connect billions of people, captured the attention of many potential hams. Now, with time taking its toll on the ranks of operators, new technologies offer opportunities to revitalize amateur radio, even if in a form that previous generations might not recognize. The number of U.S. amateur licenses has held at an anemic 1 percent annual growth for the past few years, with about 7,000 new licensees added every year for a total of 755,430 in 2018. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission doesn't track demographic data of operators, but anecdotally, white men in their 60s and 70s make up much of the population. As these baby boomers age out, the fear is that there are too few young people to sustain the hobby.   This question of how to attract younger operators also reveals deep divides in the ham community about the future of amateur radio. Like any large population, ham enthusiasts are no monolith; their opinions and outlooks on the decades to come vary widely. And emerging digital technologies are exacerbating these divides: Some hams see them as the future of amateur radio, while others grouse that they are eviscerating some of the best things about it. No matter where they land on these battle lines, however, everyone understands one fact. The world is changing; the amount of spectrum is not. And it will be hard to argue that spectrum reserved for amateur use and experimentation should not be sold off to commercial users if hardly any amateurs are taking advantage of it. One of the key debates in ham radio is its main function in the future: Is it a social hobby? A utility to deliver data traffic? And who gets to decide? "Those questions have no definitive or immediate answers, but they cut to the core of the future of ham radio," writes Pepitone. "Loring Kutchins, president of the Amateur Radio Safety Foundation, Inc. (ARSFi) -- which funds and guides the 'global radio email' system Winlink -- says the divide between hobbyists and utilitarians seems to come down to age."   "Younger people who have come along tend to see amateur radio as a service, as it's defined by FCC rules, which outline the purpose of amateur radio -- especially as it relates to emergency operations," Kutchins (W3QA) told Spectrum last year. Kutchins, 68, expanded on the theme in a recent interview: "The people of my era will be gone -- the people who got into it when it was magic to tune into Radio Moscow. But Grandpa's ham radio set isn't that big a deal compared to today's technology. That doesn't have to be sad. That's normal."   "Ham radio is really a social hobby, or it has been a very social hobby -- the rag-chewing has historically been the big part of it," says Martin F. Jue (K5FLU), founder of radio accessories maker MFJ Enterprises, in Starkville, Miss. "Here in Mississippi, you get to 5 or 6 o' clock and you have a big network going on and on -- some of them are half-drunk chattin' with you. It's a social group, and they won't even talk to you unless you're in the group."

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Charter's Hidden 'Broadcast TV' Fee Now Adds $197 a Year To Cable Bills
    Charter is raising the "Broadcast TV" fee it imposes on cable plans from $13.50 to $16.45 a month starting in August. "Charter has raised the fee repeatedly -- it stood at $9.95 in early 2019 before a series of price increases," reports Ars Technica. "It $16.45 a month, the fee will cost customers an additional $197.40 per year." From the report: Charter says the Broadcast TV fee covers the amount it pays broadcast television stations (e.g. affiliates of CBS, NBC, ABC, and Fox) for the right to carry their channels. But for consumers, it is essentially a hidden fee because Charter's advertised TV prices don't include it. Charter imposes a smaller Broadcast TV fee on its streaming TV plans, but is raising that charge from $6 to $8.95 a month, Stop the Cap wrote. Charter is also raising the base price of its TV service. "Spectrum's most popular TV Select package is expected to increase $1.50/month to $73.99/month," Stop the Cap wrote. "Customers on a promotional pricing plan will not see this rate increase until their promotional pricing expires."   The Broadcast TV fee change will apparently apply even to customers who are on promotional deals that lock in a price for a set amount of time. Charter told us that promotional prices apply to the "package price," which "will not change until the end of their promotional period." But Charter said that the "Broadcast TV Service Charge is separate from the TV package price," so it can go up regardless of whether a customer is still on a promotional deal. For comparison, Comcast's Broadcast TV fee is $14.95 a month.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Android 10 Had the Fastest Adoption Rate of Any Version of Android Yet
    Google announced that Android is seeing the fastest adoption rates of any version of Android. The Verge reports: According to Google, Android 10 was installed on 100 million devices five months after its launch in September 2019 â" 28 percent faster than it took the company to reach a similar milestone for Android Pie. Google credits the faster adoption rate to improvements the company has been making over the years, like Android Oreo's Project Treble and Android 10's Project Mainline, which makes it easier for hardware companies to create new updates.   But while those numbers are impressive, Google's post is notably missing some crucial information, like what percentage of Android devices are running Android 10 -- a number that's sure to be lower than Google would like. In fact, Google has effectively stopped publishing the breakdown percentage of which Android devices are running which version of Android entirely, following a similar announcement last August that looked back at Android 9 Pie adoption rates. (At the time, Android Pie had been installed on 22.6 percent of Android devices ahead of the release of Android 10.)

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Facebook Considers Political-Ad Blackout Ahead of US Election
    An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Facebook is considering imposing a ban on political ads on its social network in the days leading up to the U.S. election in November, according to people familiar with the company's thinking. The potential ban is still only being discussed and hasn't yet been finalized, said the people, who asked not to be named talking about internal policies. A halt on ads could serve as a defense against misleading election-related content spreading widely right as people prepare to vote. Still, there are also concerns that an ad blackout could hurt "get out the vote" campaigns, or limit a candidate's ability to respond widely to breaking news or new information.   Facebook doesn't fact-check ads from politicians or their campaigns, a point of contention for many lawmakers and advocates, who say the policy means ads on the platform could be used to spread lies and misinformation. The social-media giant has been criticized in recent weeks by civil rights groups that say it doesn't do enough to remove efforts to limit voter participation, and a recent audit of the company found Facebook failed to enforce its own voter suppression policies when it comes to posts from U.S. President Donald Trump. Hundreds of advertisers are currently boycotting Facebook's advertising products as part of a protest against its policies.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Google Bans Stalkerware Ads
    Google announced plans this week to ban ads that promote stalkerware, spyware, and other forms of surveillance technology that can be used to track other persons without their specific consent. From a report: The change was announced this week as part of an upcoming update to Google Ads policies, set to enter into effect next month, on August 11, 2020.   Examples of products and services that advertisers won't be able to promote via Google Ads anymore include: 1. Spyware and technology used for intimate partner surveillance including but not limited to spyware/malware that can be used to monitor texts, phone calls, or browsing history; 2. GPS trackers specifically marketed to spy or track someone without their consent; 3. Promotion of surveillance equipment (cameras, audio recorders, dash cams, nanny cams) marketed with the express purpose of spying.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Amazon Delays Next Video Game Half a Year After Latest One Flops
    Following scathing reviews of a computer game it released in May, is delaying its next big-budget game by at least six months. From a report: The decision represents another setback for the technology giant's ambitions to break into the gaming industry. The next game, New World, was supposed to debut in late August but is now scheduled for spring 2021, Rich Lawrence, director of Amazon's game studio, wrote in a blog post Friday. The company wants extra time to implement changes suggested by players who have been testing the game, he wrote. Delays are fairly common in the video game industry, but this was an important opportunity for Amazon to redeem itself after a recent flop. Amazon is trying to make a name for itself as a maker of big-budget video games that can compete with those from the likes of Activision Blizzard and Electronic Arts. But Amazon's Crucible, a free-to-play PC game introduced in May, was panned by critics, prompting Amazon to take the highly unusual step of pulling the game from wide circulation.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Signal's New PIN Feature Worries Cybersecurity Experts
    Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, writing for Vice: Ever since NSA leaker Edward Snowden said "use Signal, use Tor," the end-to-end encrypted chat app has been a favorite of people who care about privacy and need a chat and calling app that is hard to spy on. One of the reasons security experts recommended Signal is because the app's developers collected -- and thus retained -- almost no information about its users. This means that, if subpoenaed by law enforcement, Signal would have essentially nothing to turn over. Signal demonstrated this in 2016, when it was subpoenaed by a court in Virginia. But a newly added feature that allows users to recover certain data, such as contacts, profile information, settings, and blocked users, has led some high-profile security experts to criticize the app's developers and threaten to stop using it.   Signal will store that data on servers the company owns, protected by a PIN that the app has initially been asking users to add, and then forced them to. The purpose of using a PIN is, in the near future, to allow Signal users to be identified by a username, as opposed to their phone number, as Signal founder Moxie Marlinspike explained on Twitter (as we've written before, this is a laudable goal; tying Signal to a phone number has its own privacy and security implications). But this also means that unlike in the past, Signal now retains certain user data, something that many cybersecurity and cryptography experts see as too dangerous. Matthew Green, a cryptographer and computer science professor at Johns Hopkins University, said that this was "the wrong decision," and that forcing users to create a PIN and use this feature would force him to stop using the app.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Apple Advises Against MacBook Camera Covers Due To Display Cracking
    Apple, in a new support document, is warning users against closing their MacBook lids with a cover over the camera. From a report: Placing a cover, sticker or tape over a laptop camera is a practice adopted by some privacy- and security-conscious individuals to protect against webcam hijacking. Now, however, Apple is explicitly advising against the tactic. In a support document published earlier in July, Apple urges users not to close their MacBook Pro or MacBook Air lids if there's a camera cover installed on it. "If you close your Mac notebook with a camera cover installed, you might damage your display because the clearance between the display and keyboard is designed to very tight tolerances," Apple notes. The support document also outlines some of the privacy and security functions of the camera, including the green indicator light that lets users know when the camera is active and the camera permission settings introduced in macOS Mojave.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • France To Introduce Controversial Age Verification System For Adult Websites
    The French Parliament unanimously agreed this week to introduce a nationwide age verification system for pornography websites, months after President Emmanuel Macron pledged to protect children against such content. From a report: Macron made the protection of children against adult content online a high-profile issue well before the coronavirus crisis hit. In January, tech companies, internet services providers and the adult movies industry signed a voluntary charter, pledging to roll out tools to help ensure minors don't have access to pornographic content. Within a broader law on domestic violence, the Senate decided in June to introduce an amendment requiring pornography websites to implement an age verification mechanism.   In order to enforce the law, the French audiovisual regulator CSA will be granted new powers to audit and sanction companies that do not comply -- sanctions could go as far as blocking access to the websites in France with a court order. The choice of verification mechanisms will be left up to the platforms. But lawmakers have suggested using credit card verification -- a system first adopted by the U.K., which mulled similar plans to control access to pornography but had to drop them in late 2019 because of technical difficulties and privacy concerns. Italy also approved a similar bill in late June, which raised the same concerns over its feasibility and compliance with the EU laws.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • US Finalizing Federal Contract Ban For Companies That Use Huawei, Others
    The Trump administration plans to finalize regulations this week that will bar the U.S. government from buying goods or services from any company that uses products from five Chinese companies including Huawei, Hikvision and Dahua, Reuters reported Friday, citing a U.S. official said. From the report: The rule, which was prompted by a 2019 law, could have far-ranging implications for companies that sell goods and services to the U.S. government since they will now need to certify they do not use products from Dahua or Hikvision, even though both are among the top sellers of surveillance equipment and cameras worldwide. The same goes for two-way radios from Hytera and telecommunications equipment or mobile devices like smartphones from Huawei or ZTE. Any company that uses equipment or services in their day-to-day operations from these five companies will no longer be able to sell to the U.S. government without obtaining a U.S. government waiver. Further reading: 'UK Faces Mobile Blackouts if Huawei 5G Ban Imposed By 2023.'

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

  • Nearly 70,000 Tech Startup Employees Have Lost Their Jobs Since March
    Technology startups have been laying off tens of thousands of workers to cope with the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, potentially blunting a key innovation pipeline for the enterprise information-technology market, according to industry analysts. From a report: "Startups are a great source of innovation in the IT industry, but are now especially cash constrained," said Max Azaham, a senior research director at research and consulting firm Gartner. Mr. Azaham said the coronavirus has made startup investors far more risk averse, resulting in a sharp downturn in investment capital for IT companies looking to raise less than $100 million. As of last week, nearly 70,000 tech-startup employees world-wide had lost jobs since March, led by ventures in the transportation, financial and travel sectors, according to a report by U.K.-based brokerage   Startups in the San Francisco region, including Silicon Valley, have shed more than 25,500 jobs, including layoffs at high-profile companies such as Uber, Groupon and Airbnb, the report said. Uber in May announced more than 6,500 layoffs, cutting roughly a quarter of its workforce. A month earlier, Lyft said it would cut about 17% of its workforce, furlough workers and slash pay in cost-cutting efforts to cope with lost sales during the coronavirus pandemic. Startups developing artificial intelligence and other emerging digital tools fall under the category of tech-sector employers, which have cut jobs for four consecutive months, said Tim Herbert, executive vice president for research and market intelligence at IT industry trade group CompTIA. The cuts included a record 112,000 layoffs in April, as tech companies scrambled to slash costs, according to CompTIA's analysis of federal employment data.

    Read more of this story at Slashdot.

The Register

  • The reluctant log trawler: The buck stops with the back-end
    Hope for web success, but plan for every possible (and impossible) failure
    On Call Everyone's favourite day of the week, Friday, has waddled into view. Grab a steaming mug of schadenfreude and settle down with another tale from those Register readers saddled with the On Call phone.…

  • China’s preferred Linux distro trumpets Arm benchmark results
    Which sounds just like what you’d do if future x86 supply looked a bit iffy
    KylinOS, the Linux distribution that China’s government has encouraged to become a national OS for desktops and services, has pointed out that it’s clocked up a Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation (SPEC) benchmark running on Huawei’s Arm silicon.…

  • Philippines government tech agency seeks 750 percent budget boost for COVIDigital transformation
    Most of it to go on new internet infrastructure to keep citizens working and learning remotely
    The Philippines's Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) has sought approval of a PHP46.6bn ($942m) budget for fiscal 2021 to help the country adapt to the "new normal" during the COVID-19 pandemic - a lazy 750 percent higher than the PHP6bn budget it's working with this year.…

  • Show a little spine? Nokia whips out SR Linux, a new routing network OS for cloud clients
    Finnish firm might do best with telco clouds, says analyst
    From enterprise behemoths to those desperately home-schooling, the appetite for cloud-based services shows no sign of faltering. Behind the scenes sit vendors like Nokia, which today unveiled its latest network operating system (NOS), which aims to simplify the process of automating and scaling data centre fabrics.…

  • Heir-to-Concorde demo model to debut in October
    With air travel in a horrible hole it’s ahead of its time in a weirdly viral way
    The beardy-Branson backed company attempting to build a new supersonic airliner will reveal its tech to the world in October.…

  • Indonesia slaps 10 percent tax on three Googles
    But only on one AWS, one Spotify and one Netflix - and zero Microsofts
    Indonesia has made good on its promise to introduce a digital services tax by including four tech titans – but six entities – in its value added tax (VAT) scheme.…
 offline for now


  • Cling C++ Interpreter Looking To Upstream More Code Into LLVM
    Not to be confused with Clang as the well known C/C++ compiler front-end for the LLVM compiler, Cling is a separate project as an interactive, JIT-based C++ interpreter. Cling has been in development for years and at least partially is looking to upstream where possible back into LLVM...

  • Linux Might Pursue x86_64 Micro-Architecture Feature Levels
    Stemming from the recent GNU glibc work on better handling modern CPU optimizations with newer instruction set extensions across Intel and AMD product families, the concept of x86-64 micro-architecture feature levels is being talked about by open-source/Linux developers...

  • AMD Ryzen 9 3900XT vs. Intel Core i9 10900K Linux Gaming Performance
    Following the 130+ benchmarks of the AMD Ryzen 3000XT series earlier in the week looking at the CPU/system performance on Ubuntu Linux, here is our first look at the Linux gaming performance with putting the Ryzen 9 3900XT up head-to-head against the Intel Core i9 10900K.

  • Wayland-Info Spun From Weston Code For Offering Wayland Helper Tool
    Wayland's Weston compositor has provided a weston-info utility to display information on supported Wayland extensions and versioning along with other details of the Wayland compositor environment. That utility is now being spun out as wayland-info as a Wayland compositor-agnostic utility for displaying this information...

  • KDE Seeing Fresh Improvements For HiDPI Support
    It took the GNOME/Ubuntu side until Canonical developer Daniel van Vugt picked up a 4K display with Intel graphics for various 4K/Intel graphics optimizations to be discovered and continue to be addressed for the GNOME desktop. Now on the KDE side, well known contributor Nate Graham recently picked up a new laptop with HiDPI display and there he has been working to resolve a number of lingering high DPI issues on the KDE front...

  • Intel Architectural LBR Support Going Into Linux 5.9
    Intel CPUs have long supported LBR for last branch records as a means of recording the branches to which software has taken along with exposing other control flow information. This has relied upon model-specific registers while with future Intel CPUs this is being folded into a more universal CPU architectural feature. Support for Intel "Arch LBR" is set to come later this year with the Linux 5.9 kernel...

Engadget"Engadget RSS Feed"

  • Tesla's 'Battery Day' event is scheduled for September 22nd
    Tesla’s long-delayed battery event has a new date, according to a new SEC filing spotted by reported that Tesla intends to reveal the developments from its secret Roadrunner project at the presentation. The project reportedly aims to produce cheaper battery cells on a massive scale in order to allow the company sell electric vehicles at the same price as gasoline cars even without subsidies. It’s specifically looking to bring battery costs down to below $100 per kWh. Tesla will apparently include its mass production plans for the cheaper cells as part of its announcement.

  • Facial recognition linked to a second wrongful arrest by Detroit police
    A false facial recognition match has led to the arrest of another innocent person. According to the In a high-profile case earlier this year, they arrested and detained Robert Williams for almost 30 hours for a crime he didn’t commit. These are the first two known cases of wrongful arrests to stem from false facial recognition matches.

    Late last month, Detroit Police Chief James Craig suggested the technology the department uses, which was created by DataWorks Plus, isn’t always reliable. “If we were just to use the technology by itself, to identify someone, I would say 96 percent of the time it would misidentify,” he said in a public meeting, according to Various studies have suggested there are elements of racial bias in facial recognition tech.

    “Detroit police’s new policy is a fig leaf that provides little to no protection against a dangerous technology subjecting an untold number of people to the disasters that Robert Williams and Michael Oliver have already experienced,” American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan legal director Dan Korobkin told Engadget in a statement.

    “Lawmakers must take urgent action to stop law enforcement use of this technology until it can be determined what policy, if any, can effectively prevent this technology's harms. At the same time, police and prosecutors nationwide should review all cases involving the use of this technology and should notify all individuals charged as a result of it. This technology is dangerous when wrong and dangerous when right.”

    There have been calls at varying levels of government to ban police use of facial recognition tech, including from Black Democrats in the Michigan House of Representatives. Several cities, including Boston and San Francisco, have banned or limited the use of facial recognition. Members of Congress filed a bill last month that seeks to “prohibit biometric surveillance by the federal government without explicit statutory authorization.”

    Some tech companies that have worked on facial recognition have reassessed their positions on the tech. IBM says it’ll no longer develop “general purpose” facial recognition due to human rights concerns. Amazon has paused police use of Rekognition, while Microsoft won’t sell its facial recognition tech to police departments until there are federal rules “grounded in human rights.”

  • Amazon's 'New World' MMO is delayed again
    Amazon is once delaying its upcoming colonial online RPG New World (via saysit now plans to release the game sometime in the spring of 2021. It's also delaying the title's final beta test to that same time frame. 

    The decision comes on the back of player feedback, with Amazon Games studio director Rich Lawrence saying the developer wants to spend the extra time adding more mid and endgame content to the title. "We want our players to feel completely immersed in the game, and know that our studio stands for quality and lasting gameplay you can trust -- and that means added time to get things where we want them before we fully release," he said. 

    When Amazon first announced New World, it initially planned to release the MMO in May 2020. Earlier this year, the company delayed the game to August 25thdue to the coronavirus pandemic. As a kind of apology for the latest delay, people who signed up for New World's open beta, pre-ordered the game or took part in its alpha test will be able to play the RPG in its current state for "a limited period" starting on August 25th.  

    The delay comes a week-and-a-half after Amazon took the unusual step of rolling back the availabilityof its hero-based shooter Crucible following a rough launch. As of July 1st, the game is once again in closed beta so that developer Relentless can polish its gameplay. Amazon Games has been working on New World for more than four years. With how much massively online games cost to develop, it's understandable that the studio would want to take more time to give the project a chance at success.      

  • Ask Engadget: How do I get help while 'schooling from home'?
    This week's question asks how to get help at home from teachers and professors. Weigh in with your advice in the comments -- and feel free to send your own questions along to!

    What are the best ways of approaching a teacher or a tutor about remote extra help sessions?

    Getting help on your school work can be tough under normal circumstances and it won't be any easier if you're attending Zoom classes. If you need assistance on an assignment or a general topic you're studying, reach out to your teacher or professor as soon as you think you might need help.

    “I would advise students looking for additional help from their instructors to reach out as early as possible,” Andrew J. McClurg, IT Analyst at Syracuse University’s Online Learning Services center, told Engadget in an email. “The class is a partnership between the two, with both wanting the student outcome to be positive. By contacting instructors when they first realize they need help, students can avoid becoming too overwhelmed with the material as the class progresses.”

    McClurg also recommends using the method of contact that your instructor prefers. “As a best practice instructors will have communication policy on how they prefer to be contacted, whether that be email, telephone, or another method,” he says. “Additionally, instructors will state how long they typically take to respond to student communications. The usual timeframe is 24 to 48 hours, if not sooner.” If that information isn’t clear to you on day one of classes, you can always reach out to your professor and ask how they wish to be contacted before you bombard them on all fronts with your questions.

    You should also consider using your instructor’s office hours (if they still have them). According to McClurg, office hours have often gone underutilized even when students were physically on campus — but they’re a great time in which you can seek one-on-one help. “Office hours are a great resource for students and instructors to connect .... We have had great success with online office hours using Blackboard Collaborate and Zoom, even before the move to online instruction the past spring.”

    And if you end up needing more help than your professor can provide, ask them if they know of any reputable tutors that you can contact. They may be able to direct you to resources your college or university has available to all students, or outside tutoring sources you can consider.

    —Valentina Palladino, Commerce Editor

  • Facebook may pause political ads prior to the 2020 election
    Facebook could make a major change to its advertising policies in an effort to fight election-related misinformation. The social network is considering a ban on political advertising in the U.S. in the days before the 2020 election, Bloomberg reports

    Unlike Twitter, which banned political ads entirely last year, Facebook’s plan would only limit ads for a few days. The proposed policy would create a “blackout” period that would bar political ads from the platform in the lead-up to Election Day, according to Bloomberg. It’s not clear how long this period could last, but there is some precedent for such a policy. Many countries, including the U.K, have laws that bar political ads on election day or in the days immediately before.

    The report comes as Facebook deals with a growing advertiser boycott, which now includes more than 1,000 companies, as well as a backlash over its hate speech policies. An independent civil rights audit released earlier this week was sharply critical of the company’s political advertising rules, which exempt politicians from having their ads fact checked.

  • Google will prohibit ads for 'intimate partner surveillance' tech
    Starting August 11th, Google is banning advertisements for “stalkerware” apps and hardware, which enable someone to track the phone activity or movement of another person. These apps and hardware tend to be used for “intimate partner surveillance,” according to an update on Google’s advertising policies change log. The apps are already banned in Google and Apple’s app stores, however some still slip through while others are available directly on developers’ websites.

    The update further specifies that affected products include, “spyware/malware that can be used to monitor texts, phone calls, or browsing history; GPS trackers specifically marketed to spy or track someone without their consent; promotion of surveillance equipment (cameras, audio recorders, dash cams, nanny cams) marketed with the express purpose of spying." Accounts that violate the policy will be suspended, according to the update.

    The change comes as domestic violence cases are on the rise not just in the US, but worldwide, according to an April report from The New York Times. Many abuse victims have been quarantined with their abusers, and lockdown orders make it difficult for them to escape. 

    Hopefully Google’s ban helps remove another potential abuse tool from those who wish to do harm. While a ban on advertising is a good business policy, Google could also do a better job ensuring the apps don’t make it to the store in the first place.

    If you or someone you know are in an abusive situation, The National Domestic Violence Hotline offers 24/7 support at its website, 1-800-799-7233 and 1-800-787-3224.

  • HBO Max plans spin-off series based on upcoming 'The Batman' movie
    HBO Max is working on a police drama set in the same universe as the upcoming Batman movie, which stars Robert Pattinson as the Caped Crusader. Matt Reeves, the director of The Batman, is developing the show with Warner Bros. Television, Boardwalk Empire creator Terence Winter (who'll act as writer and executive producer) and The Batman producer Dylan Clark.

    The streaming service has given the untitled show a series commitment. According to a press release, it’ll be "set in the world Reeves is creating for The Batman feature film and will build upon the motion picture’s examination of the anatomy of corruption in Gotham City, ultimately launching a new Batman universe across multiple platforms. The series provides an unprecedented opportunity to extend the world established in the movie and further explore the myriad of compelling and complex characters of Gotham."

    HBO Max already has a number of DC-related projects with others in the works, but it could do with some more major original programming. Tapping into the most popular DC character and building on an upcoming blockbuster movie seems like a solid choice. It’s unclear whether Pattinson will make any appearances in the show, but if he does, that might persuade some of his fans to sign up to HBO Max. In any case, it's a fairly safe bet that a show set in the world of The Batman will pull in some subscribers.

    There’s no word as yet on when you can expect to start streaming this show. However, given that it’s in development, and most TV and movie productions are on hold amid the pandemic, we’re probably in for quite a wait. The Batman, meanwhile, will be released on October 1st, 2021.

  • Instagram bans all posts promoting conversion therapy
    Instagram will no longer allow any kind of post that promotes conversion therapy. The app is expanding its policy, which already banned the promotion of conversion therapy in paid ads, to include organic posts as well. 

    The move comes after users in the UK called on the company to ban a widely criticized UK-based organization that promotes gay conversion therapy. Instagramtold CNN that it had removed some of the group’s posts as part of its new policy. 

    A company spokesperson confirmed the new rules to Engadget, and said that while the company won't be banning specific organizations, it will remove posts that break its rules and that repeat offenders could have their accounts disabled. 

    “We don’t allow attacks against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity and are updating our policies to ban the promotion of conversion therapy services,” an Instagram spokesperson said in a statement. “We are always reviewing our policies and will continue to consult with experts and people with personal experiences to inform our approach.”

  • Amazon email banning TikTok on employee phones was an 'error' (updated)
    Amazon has requested that all of its employees delete the TikTok app from their phones citing security concerns. According to the July 10, 2020
    TikTok has been under increased scrutiny lately. The app, which is owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance, was banned in India last month. More recently, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that the US could ban Chinese apps like TikTok due to the potential threat to national security.

    TikTok itself also pulled out of the Hong Kong market on Monday, citing a new Chinese national security law that would make it impossible to use. Despite TikTok being based in China, the country itself does not have access to the app. The company has even decided to stop employing Chinese moderators and claimed that none of its data is stored in China. TikTok has also taken pains to say that a lot of its business and data decisions are made outside China, a move which the company hopes will alleviate any concern that it’s controlled by the Chinese government.

    Amazon has reportedly said in the email that employees can still check TikTok on their laptop browsers.

    Update (5 PM ET): In a statement to Engadget, an Amazon spokesperson said “This morning’s email to some of our employees was sent in error. There is no change to our policies right now with regard to TikTok.” What was the error? Amazon did not specify, but for now at least, employees are not required to remove the app from their phones.

  • This week's best deals: AirPods, Nintendo Switch game sale and more
    As another week comes to a close, there are a number of gadget deals to pick from as well as some leftovers from the July 4th holiday. Apple’s AirPods with wireless charging case remain on sale for $150 and and you can still grab a bunch of first-party Nintendo Switch titles on sale at GameStop. Weber’s SmokeFire connected grills are also discounted by $200, creating a prime opportunity for those who want to level-up their grilling game during the rest of the summer. Here are the best deals from this week that you can still get today.
    AirPods with wireless charging case
    Amazon’s sale on Apple’s AirPods with wireless charging case drops their price down to $150. That’s $50 off and the lowest price we’ve seen since May. We gave these AirPods a score of 84 for their improved wireless capabilities (thanks to Apple’s H1 chip) and their solid five-hour battery life. The included wireless charging case with this model makes it even easier to power up the AirPods if you have a Qi-capable charging pad.

    Buy AirPods with wireless charging case at Amazon - $150
    GameStop Nintendo Switch game sale Nintendo
    GameStop’s latest sale remains ongoing, so you can grab some first-party Nintendo Switch games for less. Some of the discounts are even better than those we saw in Nintendo’s own start of summer sale a few weeks ago. Notable titles on sale include Shop the sale at GameStop

    Buy New Super Mario Bros U Deluxe at GameStop - $40

    Buy Splatoon 2 at GameStop - $40

    Buy Yoshi’s Crafted World at Gamestop - $40
    Apple Watch Series 3 Chris Velazco / Engadget
    The Apple Watch Series 3 remains at $169 at Amazon, the lowest price ever for the smartwatch. While not the newest Apple Watch, the Series 3 has most of the features you’d expect a solid wearable to have including all-day activity and exercise tracking, built-in heart rate monitor and GPS, and on-watch apps and smartphone alerts. We gave it a score of 82 when we first reviewed it thanks to all of the features previously listed as well as its solid performance and good battery life.

    Buy Apple Watch Series 3 at Amazon - $169
    Macbook Air Engadget
    The base model of the latest MacBook Air is still on sale for $899 at Amazon, which is $100 off its normal price (just be sure to clip the $50 coupon on the page before adding it to your cart). It has a Core i3 processor, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, plus the much improved Magic Keyboard that replaced Apple’s butterfly mechanism recently. It’s one of the reasons why we gave the new MacBook Air a score of 87, in addition to its sharp Retina display, smooth trackpad and accurate TouchID sensor.

    Buy MacBook Air at Amazon starting at $899
    Amazon Echo Plus Amazon
    Amazon’s smart speaker turned home hub is down to its lowest price ever, only $80, and that includes a free Philips Hue smart light bulb. The Echo Plus normally costs $150, so this is a great deal if you’ve wanted a smart speaker that pulls double-duty as a smart home hub. Any Zigbee-compatible device, like the Hue bulb included in the bundle, can be connected directly to the Echo Plus — no other hubs required. We gave the Echo Plus a score of 86 for its much improved audio quality, more attractive design and its new stereo audio ability that let’s you connect two devices at once.

    Buy Echo Plus bundle at Amazon - $80
    Weber SmokeFire connected grills Billy Steele / Engadget
    Now’s a good time to upgrade your grill while Weber has its SmokeFire series on sale. You can get $200 off both fo the grills in the lineup, bringing the SmokeFire EX4 down to $799 and the SmokeFire EX6 down to $999. We originally gave these grills a score of 71 but recently bumped it up to 80 thanks to the updates Weber has made to its connected platform. Both grills now feature remote temperature adjustment and shutdown, better push notifications and more efficient handling of temperature fluctuations.

    Buy SmokeFire EX4 from Weber - $799

    Buy SmokeFire EX6 from Weber - $999
    New deal additionsAukey USB-C portable charger
    Engadget readers can get Aukey’s 30,000mAh USB-C power bank for $42 by using the code ENGADGETY3 at checkout. That’s $18 off its normal price and the lowest price we’ve seen it. this high-capacity power bank can charge any USB device you throw at it including the newest iPhones and Android devices as well as the Nintendo Switch. It also supports Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 to power up compatible devices quickly and safely.

    Buy Aukey 30,000 power bank at Amazon - $42
    Amazon Echo Show 5 and Show 8
    Both Amazon’s Echo Show 5 and Echo Show 8 are on sale right now — the Show 5 is down to $60 and the Show 8 is down to $90. This is a decent sale, even if they’re not the lowest ever prices we’ve seen for the two smart displays (that’s $50 and $80, respectively). We gave the Echo Show 5 a score of 85 for its sunrise alarm feature, good sound quality and its compact design that makes it a good nightstand device. The Echo Show 8 is much better as a communal device thanks to its larger display. If you plan on using it as a cooking guide for recipe instructions and videos, you should consider the deal Amazon has that includes one free year of Food Network Kitchen (which typically costs $40) when you buy the Echo Show 8.

    The Echo Flex is also on sale for $17.49. This is the lowest price we’ve seen on the handy little adapter — it plugs into a wall outlet, allowing you to put Alexa in rooms that maybe don’t have room for a standalone smart speaker.

    Buy Echo Show 5 at Amazon - $60

    Buy Echo Show 8 at Amazon - $90

    Buy Echo Flex at Amazon - $17.49
    SteelSeries Arctis 1 gaming headset (PS4)
    The SteelSeries Arctis 1 is one of our favorite wireless gaming headsets and now the PS4 model is on sale for $80 at Amazon. That’s $20 off its normal price and close to the lowest we’ve seen it. We like the Arctis 1 for its clear, consistent wireless connection and its detachable microphone. Also, SteelSeries makes some of the most attractive gaming headsets you can get.

    Buy Arctis 1 (PS4) at Amazon - $80
    Amazon Music Unlimited (3 months)
    Prime members can try out Amazon Music Unlimited for free for three months with this offer. Aside from being an Amazon Prime subscriber, you also have to be new to Music Unlimited (so you can’t have paid for it or tried it out before). If you meet those requirements, you can snag this offer and try out Amazon’s Spotify competitor. It offers most of the same features as other music subscription services: unlimited music listening, an ad-free experience, unlimited offline listening and convenient voice control with Alexa. Just keep track of time — your subscription will renew at the standard $10-per-month price after the trial is up.

    Get Amazon Music Unlimited (3 months)

  • Ubisoft posts 'Far Cry 6' teaser starring Giancarlo Esposito
    This morning, a listing for Far Cry 6 leaked on the Hong Kong version of the PlayStation Store,
    — anjohn0422 (@anjohn0422) July 10, 2020
    Screenshots from the leak show Giancarlo Esposito (aka Gus Fring of Breaking Bad) as the game’s lead. Ubisoft’s tweet reads, “Anton would not be pleased,” and it shows a seven-second clip of Esposito taking a deep drag of a cigar.

    Anton would not be pleased. See you on Sunday at #UbiForward.
    — Ubisoft_UK (@Ubisoft_UK) July 10, 2020
    Based on the screenshots, it appears Esposito’s character, Anton Castillo, is the dictator of Yara, “a tropical paradise frozen in time.” Castillo’s “ruthless oppression” ignites a revolution, and players will assume the role of Dani Rojas, a guerilla fighter battling Castillo’s military.

    It’s not clear if Ubisoft originally planned to announce Far Cry 6 at its Ubisoft Forward showcase this Sunday, but thanks to this leak, we can expect more details from the digital event. The leaked screenshots list the release date as February 18th, 2021.

  • Amazon Prime Video will soon have the content, but it needs a better home
    Earlier this week, Amazon announced that it would finally add user profiles to its Prime Video service. At long last, you can separate profiles for each family member (up to six) so that your Watchlists and recommendations don’t get mixed up. It’s a simple feature that should really have been there from the start, and is a stark reminder of how backwards and lacking the Prime Video experience is compared to the competition. 

    And that’s a shame, considering how much money Amazon is sinking into original content. Take the company’s investment in the Lord of the Rings prequels, for example. Production has now dragged on for over two years and will likely cost up to a billion dollars. There’s also the recently announced video market in 2011. The company knew it couldn’t compete with Netflix in terms of content, so to draw subscribers in, CEO Jeff Bezos decided to add the service to the company’s Prime free shipping program. 

    Since then, Amazon’s Prime Video platform has evolved into three parts: the aforementioned option to rent or buy titles, a service that lets you stream thousands of shows and movies (as long as you have Prime membership), and Prime Video Channels which lets you subscribe to third-party services like CBS All Access or Britbox and watch them directly on Amazon’s video platform. 

    If that sounds a little confusing, well, it is. And that confusion is reflected in Prime Video’s utter mess of an interface. On the home page, you’ll frequently see recommendations and ads for all of the above right next to each other. In mine, I see a promotional banner at the top that advertises Amazon Originals like “Hanna” and “Upload”, the movie Ford v Ferrari via an HBO Prime Video Channel subscription, and a “Prime Member Deals” page where I can buy shows and movies for up to 50 percent off. Underneath that are carousels for Britbox, Acorn TV, CBS All Access, and it isn’t until I scroll all the way down to the fourth carousel that I see recommendations for Amazon’s Original shows.  

    Putting all of these products together leads to so much clutter that it is near impossible to figure out what is what. Sometimes I’d be interested in a TV show only to find out that it’s only available if I rent or buy it. Sometimes that show is only available on a Prime Video Channel that I haven’t subscribed to. And this bait-and-switch feeling is apparently quite common. According to a study done last year by analyst firm MoffetNathanson, almost 30 percent of the most popular titles on Amazon Prime Video aren’t actually included in a Prime subscription. The analysts said that there’s a “high level of brand confusion when it comes to streaming content” and that “consumers are confusing the streaming service for the Amazon video store.” 
    stockcam via Getty Images
    Another problem with such a cluttered interface is that discovering new shows is difficult. Essentially, the UI is a tweaked version of Amazon’s retail storefront, apparently designed to bombard you with as much content and choice as possible. It often leaves the user confused and overwhelmed. Compare that to Netflix, on the other hand, which is clean, orderly, and places all of the popular and recommended content at the very top, with no need to scroll through carousels from third-party services. 

    In a way, it isn’t surprising that Amazon has treated its Prime Video offering like yet another storefront. Amazon has made no secret of the fact that it’s really using its video store as a way to entice more people to shop. Amazon’s “Making The Cut” is perhaps the most extreme example of this, as it’s really just a giant ad for the company’s e-commerce site disguised as a reality show. “When we win a Golden Globe, it helps us sell more shoes,” Bezos said at the Code Conference in 2016. That’s why Bezos and co. have actively sought to find critical darlings for its Amazon Originals. 

    But those accolades don’t always bring in results. According to documents uncovered by number of subscribers -- almost 54.5 million -- in just under a year. It’s to Amazon’s benefit to remain ahead of the curve, not just in new content, but also in how its users find it. 

  • Get an Amazon Echo Plus with a free Philips Hue light bulb for $80
    A couple of Amazon Echo devices are on sale right now, but the best deal of the bunch is on the Echo Plus. The speaker with a built-in smart home hub is now $80, which is $70 off its typical price of $150. You can get the Echo Plus by itself for $80, or you can choose the bundle the includes a Philips Hue smart light bulb for free.

    Buy Echo Plus bundle at Amazon - $80

    The Echo Plus levels-up the standard Echo by including a Zigee home hub inside of it. That means you don’t need to buy any extra connecting hubs when you purchase other IoT devices like light bulbs, door locks, security cameras and others. If it works with the Zigbee protocol (a majority of IoT devices do) or Amazon’s own Works with Alexa platform, then it’ll be able to connect to the hub inside of the Echo Plus.

    This makes it a great device for those just starting out with smart home devices. Instead of buying some smart lights only to find out you need an extra piece of the puzzle for them to work properly, you can opt for an Echo Plus and have a plethora of smart devices available to you after that. The Philips Hue light bulb that comes in the Echo Plus bundle, which normally costs $30 on its own, can connected directly to the smart speaker. Then, you can then ask Alexa to control the lighting in your home whenever you want.

    The Echo Plus also improves on the original Echo’s sound quality — that’s one of the reasons why we gave it a score of 86. However, audiophiles will, (unsurprisingly) still want to look elsewhere for a smart speaker with the best audio quality possible. The Echo Studio is your best bet on that front within Amazon device family.

    Among the other Echo devices on sale, theEcho Show 5 for $60 and the Echo Show 8 for $90 are decent sales. Though not the lowest prices ever ($50 and $80, respectively), these sales are worth considering if you’ve wanted a smaller smart display. The Show 5 makes a good smart alarm clock, while the Show 8 could make a good kitchen TV of sorts if you use it to follow along with recipe videos. The Echo Flex adapter has also dropped to its lowest price ever, only $17.49, and it’s useful if you want to have Alexa voice controls in a room with no space for another IoT device.

  • Was the Motorola Razr worth reviving?
    A few weeks ago we asked you to review Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip, one of the few foldable smartphones on the market. Now we want to know if any of you early adopters opted for the Motorola Razr instead — it’s an updated version of the much loved V3 from 2004. This year's model has two displays, 128GB of storage, a 16-megapixel main camera and a hefty price tag of $1500. Our reviewer Chris Velazco liked the design and hardware, but wasn’t impressed by its battery life, dull screen or mid-range chipset. He gave the smartphone a rather weak score of 61

    If you took a gamble on Motorola’s folding phone, how did you feel about it? Did you experience a creaking hinge when opening or closing the handset? Were you underwhelmed by the cameras? Do you feel the device was worth its high cost? As usual, we want to hear all about your purchase on our Motorola Razr product page. Remember, your writeup could get included in an upcoming user review roundup article

    Write a review of the 2020 Motorola Razr

    Note: The comments to this article are closed because we really want your input over on the Motorola Razr product page — head there to weigh in!

  • The influencers of pandemic gardening
    To the untrained eye, Kevin Espiritu’s garden is an overflowing hodgepodge of containers: stackable planters growing beans, herbs in traditionally narrow windowsill planters and a variety of trellises inside canvas grow bags. The front yard is packed tightly with raised vegetable beds made from sheets of corrugated metal, and a loquat tree sits in the corner, heavy with fruit.

    Getting a personal tour via Zoom feels like a treat after watching hours of Espiritu’s gardening tutorials, where he rarely features his front yard in its entirety. I suspect it’s because the space is compact and aesthetically unimpressive when lined up against popular Instagram homesteads. And I mean this as a compliment. This focus on the harvests themselves, and the idea that you can grow your own produce with major space limitations, is at the heart of Espiritu’s work.

    Espiritu is behind Epic Gardening, the hugely popular, multiplatform gardening social media presence. At age 32, the San Diego-based gardener has laid down roots in YouTube (660,000 subscribers), Instagram (221,000), TikTok (523,000), even Pinterest, and his follower count easily crests 2 million across them. Thanks to a mix of advertising revenue and brand deals -- Espiritu is the official American purveyor for Australian raised-vegetable-bed brand Birdies, for example -- Epic Gardening is his full-time job.

    A cornerstone of Espiritu’s appeal is that he’s self-taught. He first began gardening in 2011, after graduating with a business degree: He had been paying his bills through playing online poker and planted his first seeds as a hobby. By 2016, he left his role as a founding member of publishing startup Scribe Media to pursue Epic Gardening full time. His style is easygoing, knowledgeable and approachable. His recent series tackles beginner mistakes like “Starting Your Garden in The Wrong Place and “Planting at the Wrong Time.” He’s made most of these mistakes himself.

    “It started when I noticed there wasn’t really gardening information that speaks to an average human being,” Espiritu said. “There’s all of this jargon -- like deadheading your roses [pruning a dead bloom to encourage new growth] -- and we don't know what that means when we're just starting out. We need someone to speak to us in plain English, on a platform that we actually consume, not the county extension office website or a Master Gardener website.” (The Master Gardener program is a national system for basic horticulture training.)

    He added, “Those are great sources of information, if you're already in the game -- but these people aren't in the game.”
    A post shared by Epic Gardening (@epicgardening) on Apr 18, 2020 at 6:09pm PDT

    These months of sheltering in place have been boom times for urban-gardening influencers. Amateurs have flocked to the hobby, and Espiritu’s following has grown astronomically. “It's like 150,000 in a month,” Espiritu told me, of his YouTube following, “and it took me five years to get my first 100,000.” He’s had to post a disclaimer on his Instagram Stories, explaining he’s getting too many questions, in comments and DMs, to adequately answer all of them. His blog, started in 2013, has crested 1 million views per month. When we first spoke over the phone, in late March, he was packing hundreds of signed copies of his urban-gardening book. As of mid-June, Espiritu had bought a new home, with the intention of turning it into an Instagram-worthy homestead

    This all goes back to the pandemic. While most of the panic buying is around survivalism -- toilet paper, frozen foods, canned beans -- seeds have also been selling wildly, is far from the truth. The fantasy plays out in games like Stardew Valley (which has sold more than 10 million copies), where you leave your big-city job to work on your grandfather’s land. Ideas of agrarian self-sufficiency also litter the American imagination historically, with victory gardens -- personal gardens meant to divert stress from the agricultural system -- emerging during World War I and II.

    I’ve also noticed this trend anecdotally. Friends who had been disinterested in gardening have begun growing basil, mint, rosemary. During an early March trip to Target in Los Angeles, I noticed the seed display had been moved by the checkout, suggesting you might casually consider growing an entire plant the same way you’d buy a last-minute pack of gum. When I returned to that Target in April, the “edible” side of the display had been ransacked of everything but a few potato-seed packets. The ornamental section, plied with images of beautiful flowers, was fairly untouched.
    Toiling with the land can sound like liberation for a generation consigned to a nine-to-five until death -- even as that idealized version of farming is far from the truth.
    “There is a bump in sales for all garden centers, seed companies and growing-related products,” Brijette Romstedt, owner of San Diego Seed Company, wrote to me, “due to the insecurity people are feeling due to the pandemic.” There is much to be insecure about: We’re relying on fashion houses and perfumers to produce PPE and hand sanitizer. 

    Social media presences like Epic Gardening have become vital entry points for first-timers -- many of whom are quarantined in an apartment or a parent’s home, have limited space to grow and have never done it before. Yet gardening influencers also present a specific irony: Tending to soil requires deep patience while social media is a factory of instant, aggressive gratification. 

    “I just did a video about the things you can grow in under a month, though there's not that many,” Espiritu said. “And the questions have become a lot more basic. People are like, ‘Why didn't my lettuce grow, why is it looking bad.’ I tell them, ‘That's because it's only been alive for two weeks.’”

    Newer urban-gardening accounts have rapidly gained followers, using the pandemic as a vehicle for growth. YouTube videos of low-effort tutorials, like regrowing green onions by sticking them in a glass of water, have gained serious traction, though some of them aren’t useful. “Yes, you can regrow like twentysomething different types of common vegetables,” Espiritu explained. “But what you get is unexpected. If you're regrowing your carrot tops you don't get carrots -- you get greens, which no one's going to eat.”

    Growing something you can eat is more complex than admiring how quickly your green onions regenerate, especially if you’re starting with a seed. Considerations include hardiness zone (climate regions where certain plants thrive), container type, pest control, to name a few. But it’s easier to get hooked on the beautiful gardening inspo of Instagram and other platforms, where the time between planting and harvesting appears to be just a few seconds.

    “It’s not a fast field,” Espiritu said. He had recently released a TikTok video of his five-level vertical garden of green beans and strawberries, brimming with leaves. “That’s 45 days of growing.”
    A post shared by Epic Gardening (@epicgardening) on Feb 17, 2020 at 3:53pm PST

    Instagram is designed to monetize the time you spend on it, regardless of accuracy. It’s easy to smash that follow and fall down a wormhole of unrealistically beautiful people, places or potatoes. My explore tab feeds me triptychs of dewy plants and dewier faces, and I’m debased enough to admit it doesn’t not work for me.

    Nick Cutsumpas -- who competed in Netflix’s The Big Flower Fight -- runs farmernicknyc, a Brooklyn-based “houseplant consultant” account. He says he’s more invested in sustainability and agriculture but found those passions less ’grammable. “You’ve seen the people on Instagram who have these amazing homesteads, right?” he explained. “It only looks that way for maybe two or three months. If I took a picture of my garden in December it would get three likes, because there's nothing there.”

    The popularity of urban gardening during the pandemic has allowed Cutsumpas to post more agricultural content, like germinating seeds in his bedroom. (He’s also taking courses at the New York Botanical Gardens and has partnered with Greensulate, a “green roof” company, to convert the rooftop of a Staten Island building into a garden.)

    But the majority of his content still plays to what attracts eyeballs. “I hate the term ‘influencer,’” Cutsumpas explained, invoking images of bikini-clad women in far-flung locales. It’s a bit hypocritical when Cutsumpas also flaunts his abs in front of a plant for World Naked Gardening Day. “If this is what it takes for someone to be inspired to buy more plants, eat more plants, follow my account and pick up sustainability tips, then I am 100 percent OK with that,” Cutstampas said. But I get it: Instagram favors the thotty.
    A post shared by Nick Cutsumpas (@farmernicknyc) on May 29, 2020 at 1:27pm PDT

    Contrast this with the Master Gardener program -- also known as Extension Master Gardener, or EMG. This national program was created in Washington State in 1972 to address the public lack of knowledge about gardening. The program is often tied to universities: The EMG website has every state university’s program listed. Though course load varies by state, becoming certified might require a semester of studies and some 40 hours of volunteering, along with an open-book final. The program isn’t meant to confer academic mastery. Instead it gives laypeople a ground floor of horticultural knowledge and a scientific approach that’s way more effective than Googling alone. 

    “People bring in a plant sample or email a photo to the extension office Master Gardener desk,” said Signe Danler, instructor of the EMG program at Oregon State University (OSU). “The Master Gardeners on duty that day might say, ‘You've got aphids,’ if it’s obvious. If it's more complicated, there's a library and lots of online resources. If necessary, they can bump it up to the university level and have a pathology test done.” Under normal circumstances, Master Gardeners also run demonstration gardens and tables at farmers’ markets to field questions.

    “I was interested in gardening from a very young age,” said Danler. “I gardened when I was in my teens, and I started gardening in planter boxes as soon as we bought our first house, my husband and I, back in 1981.” Though Danler took community college courses in horticulture in the late ’80s, she waited until her youngest child was in high school before pursuing a bachelor’s at OSU. Thanks to encouragement from an advisor and a scholarship, Danler went on to complete her master’s; OSU hired her soon after.

    Over the phone, Danler cracked jokes that make starting out as a gardener feel more approachable. “I emphasize with my students, expect to kill plants,” Danler said. “Obviously, you don't wanna kill your vegetables every year, or you don't get anything to eat. But when you've been doing it as long as I have -- I’ve killed hundreds of plants. That's just part of the learning process.”
    “I’ve killed hundreds of plants. That's just part of the learning process.”
    Like farming influencers on Instagram, OSU has seen a recent spike in urban-gardening interest, especially after making its courses free to the public. Its urban-vegetable-gardening module had 34,000 students in mid-April -- compared to the usual size of a dozen students. Danler said that there were so many signups in the first weekend the system crashed.

    Danler is suspicious of urban-gardening influencers -- or more precisely, suspicious of solutions that are peddled without scientific rigor. “There are definitely people presenting themselves as authorities and handing out information that’s plain wrong,” Danler explained. “For example, people may think, ‘If I make a home remedy, it’ll be safer than something I buy at the store.’ But you can harm plants, you can do permanent damage to your soil, you can harm other animals.”

    Danler has been working hard to diversify her student base, put more of OSU’s courses online and make the program more accessible. When she teaches the home horticulture certificate course, which has “the same training, the same classes” but doesn’t require volunteer hours, she gets far more students, from more-diverse backgrounds.

    Unfortunately, EMG requirements can weed out folks who might otherwise be interested. A 2016 demographic study found that Master Gardener volunteers were primarily white women “educated, retired, and of economic means.” Their mean age was just under 65 years old.

    “I took a store-bought potato -- and I knew nothing about farming potatoes -- and I just stuck it in the dirt.” Fanny Liao, the gardener behind Instagram account fansinthegarden, said. “It was winter time, and I didn't know that it was going to be slow-growing because there's no sun. It took about six months for that plant to grow. I thought, ‘It's pretty, I'm going to get a pound or two of potatoes, it will be awesome.’ I dug it up, and I got one. It was smaller than my fist.”

    Liao, who is based in Los Angeles County, began gardening for the first time in December 2017 and started her account in order to “photo-journal for [her] mental health.” Liao knew nothing about gardening when she started, and this entry-level focus helped her reach over 11,000 followers as of July, despite having less than 5,000 followers at the start of the pandemic. She intends to keep her platform open to beginners, and with a smaller following she’s less likely to get bogged down with questions. 

    Liao has no intentions of changing her strategy to attract more followers -- though it helps that her account already adheres to the Instagram aesthetic. Despite her story of the solitary potato, her feed boasts vibrant harvests, like a handful of radishes in an ombre from white to fuschia or carrots that look like they’re hugging. “I take images that are appealing, because it shows people yes, you could grow this,” Liao said. “When people see it, they're like, ‘What variety is this’ or ‘How long does it take from seed to harvest?’”
    A post shared by Fanny i‍> SoCal Gardener 1 (@fansinthegarden) on Mar 19, 2019 at 7:49am PDT

    Rather than seek formal educational programs -- or online extension courses -- Liao has relied on advice from other gardeners on social media, and a healthy dose of trial and error. She credits much of her learning to Epic Gardening, and to CaliKim’s YouTube and Instagram. “Gardening is a never-ending learning process,” Liao said. “I'm not an expert in this field, so I'm going to leave it for the experts to answer the technical questions like Kevin [Espiritu] does. If you're asking me what's the ratio of soil that I need to put into the amendment? That's not something that I know.” 

    Her success is just one example of the way Instagram has democratized access, diversifying the pool of urban-gardening educators. This pool includes Espiritu, who is half Filipino and half white, and someone like Timothy Hammond, a Black urban gardener based in Houston, Texas, who runs bigcitygardener on Instagram. He started bigcitygardener in April 2017 “to try and make gardening accessible and related to everyone.” Liao has become well-known enough that she inspired another Asian American woman -- Northern California-based friend Alex Hisaka, who runs forestlandfarmer -- to start her own gardening Instagram account. 

    I felt comfortable asking Liao novice questions like what grows fastest (lettuce and radish) and whether I can expect to grow enough basil to make pesto (I’ll need to prune aggressively for basil to be bushy enough), questions asked in earnest at the end of the interview, after we’d shaken off our formalities. I wanted to hear from the woman who spent six months nurturing a single potato -- so embarrassingly off target from her ambitions, comparable to the three months I spent doting over 10 basil seeds, whose yield provided me with a sprinkle of garnish for a grocery store frozen pizza rather than the pesto of my dreams.

    Danler plays in a different league from the influencers -- one that takes in mind the health of the soil over time and its larger environmental impact, one a beginner might eventually aspire to.

    “It can be hard for experienced folks like myself to remember just how much there is to know,” Danler said after I shared Espiritu’s videos with her. “All of his information is correct. I like his low-key, straightforward style. He's addressing that level of basic knowledge, and doing it well.” 

    Despite this gulf, when I asked her for advice for first-time gardeners, she echoed the same sentiments as every influencer I spoke to: “Don't get too bogged down. Gardening should be first and foremost something that you enjoy. It should feed your soul.”
    “Don't get too bogged down. Gardening should be first and foremost something that you enjoy. It should feed your soul.”
    This is easy to forget, thanks to the gig economy, which has recast hobbies as side hustles, narrowing their value into what can be monetized or used to build a social media audience.

    But posting my own plants to Instagram has only ever offered me a cheap, momentary thrill. It is the slower, unanticipated joys of growing that have actually been nourishing: watching an orchid send out roots, seeking footholds and future lives in the humidity of the air; watching a Pilea peperomioides sprout new limbs, living up to its nickname, “friendship plant,” when I gift these cuttings to others. Eating my basil was a separate, individual delight from actually growing it. I checked its progress every morning like a parent marking their child’s height on the door frame. 

    Regardless of qualification or skill, my favorite instructors have been the ones who remind me of the joys of growing for the sake of growing. TikToker Garden Marcus captures this ethos best. Watching one of his most popular videos about propagating pineapple is like taking a shot of sunlight. 

    The steps are simple: Cut the top off, put it in water until it sprouts roots, plant it in soil and water it. Marcus reflects on the pineapples he’s rooted over the years -- this method of propagating doesn’t produce new pineapples, instead the top grows more leaves -- and zooms in on a lizard that lives in one of the older bushes. He likes to feed the plant the water it was rooted in, a move with no particular utility, just a warm human impulse. And yes, he also regrows the tops of his carrots.
    A post shared by Garden Marcus | Choice Forward (@garden_marcus) on Jun 21, 2020 at 11:35am PDT

  • NASA upgrades Australia’s Deep Space Station for future missions to Mars
    NASA is in the midst of upgrading Deep Space Station 43 — one of its Deep Space Network’s largest antennas located in Canberra, Australia — to prepare for future missions. The agency’s Deep Space Network is a collection of dishes that make communication with robotic spacecraft possible, and DSS 43 is the only one capable of sending commands to Voyager 2. It’s the network’s sole 70-meter antenna in the Southern Hemisphere, so it’s the only one powerful enough to reach a probe that’s traveling southward in interstellar space. If you’ll recall, Voyager 2 left the region of space called the “heliosphere” where solar wind is still present back in 2018.

    The agency shut DSS 43 down in early March to equip it with a new X-band frequency cone, which will give it a powerful state-of-the-art transmitter system and highly sensitive receivers. NASA expects the upgrade to be completed by January 2021, in time for the dish to receive telemetry and science data back from future missions. The upgraded antenna will help the agency communicate with the Perseverance rover, which is scheduled to launch by the end of July and to arrive on Mars by February 2021. It will also play a critical role in ensuring NASA scientists can communicate with and navigate both uncrewed and manned Artemis missions to the Moon and Mars.

  • A Facebook SDK issue caused Spotify and other popular iOS apps to crash
    If you woke up this morning ready to listen to your Release Radar mix on Spotify, well, we have some bad news — at least for iPhone users. The Spotify app for iOS has been completely down for much of the morning. Spotify acknowledged the issue on its support Twitter page, and the reliable Down Detector site also shows major issues. However, by 11AM ET, Facebook’s developer issues page said the issue had been resolved. While the app was crashing hard on both an test iPhone and iPad, the desktop and Android apps seem unaffected.
    Something’s out of tune. We’re currently investigating, and we’ll keep you posted here!
    — Spotify Status (@SpotifyStatus) July 10, 2020
    It’s not just Spotify, either — TikTok, Tinder, Pinterest and a number of other apps were also having issues this morning. What’s the common link between these all these apps? Some some are speculating it’s a problem with Facebook’s iOS SDK. Since Spotify, TikTok, PInterest and Tinder all offer Facebook logins, any problems with that SDK could cause trouble with the apps in question. That’s true even if you don’t use Facebook to log in. Indeed, the very same issue caused Spotify and a host of other apps to go offline just about two months ago.

    Update, 11:00AM ET: Facebook’s developer page has been updated to say that the issue has been resolved.

  • The first laptop with Apple's ARM chip could be the 13-inch MacBook Pro
    Apple’s first Mac with its own ARM processor will be the 13.3-inch MacBook Pro, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo (via iMore). He believes that production of that model will start in Q4 of 2020, with an A-series powered MacBook Air arriving shortly afterwards either in Q4 2020 or early 2021. Apple will also release 14- and 16-inch versions of the MacBook Pro with its own silicon that will enter production in Q2 or Q3 of 2021.

    Apple already said that it would ship its first ARM-powered Macs by the end of 2020, but the big mystery was which model would arrive first. It was logical to expect a more lightly powered, lower-stakes productivity PC like a 12-inch MacBook or MacBook Air. With a MacBook Pro, however, folks will reasonably expect to do heavier chores like photo and video editing.

    According to Kuo, the new chips could reduce the cost of Macs and allow Apple to sell them at a lower price. Under that scenario, he predicted Apple could ship 18 to 20 million Macs in 2021, compared to 14.5 to15.5-million units in 2019. Of course, all of this assumes that Kuo is accurate with his predictions and while he often is, he’s not infallible either.

  • Klipsch T5 II and T5 II Sport earbuds arrive in August starting at $199
    Back at CES, Klipsch revealed several true wireless models, including the high-end AI-powered (and super tiny) T10. You’ll have to wait a bit longer on those, and the noise-cancelling version of the T5, but today the company is announcing that a few of its new models will ship in “early August.” What’s more, you can pre-order them now. Those options include the redesigned T5 II ($199), the T5 II Sport ($229) and the T5 II Sport McLaren edition ($249). Plus, the company has detailed most of the final specs, so we have more info on each model than we did in January.

    The T5 II is a completely revamped successor to the T5 that debuted in 2019. While there was a lot to like about those earbuds — primarily the sound quality — the design led to an awkward fit and the physical controls meant you were constantly pushing them further into your ear. Klipsch redesigned the earbuds entirely, getting rid of the longer stem that made the original uncomfortable. The company says they’re 25 percent smaller and “more closely mimic the shape of the ear” for increased comfort. It also includes six pairs of ear tips to provide a better fit for more ears. Most companies only include three.

    Inside, there’s a new Bluetooth antenna that should offer a better connection and improved audio quality is onboard thanks to a new driver and diaphragm. There’s also a handy transparency mode to allow you to hear your surroundings without removing the buds from your ears. The T5 II is IP67 rated against dust and water, an improvement from the IPX4 on the previous model. Klipsch kept the battery life at eight hours on the buds themselves with three more charges in the case. And thankfully, the Zippo-like case is back. That was one of the best things about the T5. Even with all of the changes, Klipsch managed to keep the price at $199.
    The T5 II Sport is a brand new model for Klipsch. As the name implies, these true wireless earbuds have a more rugged design, right down to the case. That accessory is actually dust and water tight itself, rated IP67 just like the earbuds. Plus, the case has a moisture removal system that keeps the buds dry, and it supports wireless charging. That’s definitely something we look forward to putting to the test. Like the T5 II, Klipsch includes six pairs of ear tips, but it adds one set of Comply memory foam tips and three sizes of ear wings to the Sport version for a more secure fit. Battery life is the same as the T5 II: eight hours on the buds with three more charges in the case for 32 hours of combined play time. In terms of color options, the regular version of the T5 II Sport comes in black, white and green. There’s also a McLaren version of the T5 II Sport that’s $20 more. For the extra cash, you get the auto company’s signature papaya orange and carbon fiber color scheme and a wireless charging pad.

  • 'Flight Simulator 2020' closed beta starts on July 30th
    Microsoft’s Flight Simulator 2020, which blew our minds with hyper-detailed graphics and real-life weather and traffic conditions, is about to take a big step. The development team has announced (via Windows Central) that the closed beta is set to arrive on July 30th, meaning it’ll move from bug-smashing to a refinement operation ahead of the big release.

    Microsoft will also expand the pool of participants, giving you a chance to try out the beta if you’ve been shut out of the alpha program so far. “As a reminder, if you are currently an Alpha tester, you will be automatically granted access to the closed beta,” the team wrote. “If you are not currently an alpha tester, we will be sending out new invitations for the closed beta participation.”

    If you’ve applied for the alpha program, you could still get in before the beta, as Microsoft also unveiled the alpha 5 update with a new wave of invitations. The release itself focused on killing more glitches, with fixes to flight dynamics, individual aircraft, multiplayer characteristics, peripherals, weather and more. It’s still paying attention to detail, apparently, as one of the bugs was “snow does not last on the ground surfaces as expected.”

    If you decide to jump in, remember that to get the most out of the game (particularly those gorgeous graphics), you’ll need to have a reasonably powerful PC and lots of extra storage — the game reportedly requires about 150GB of space.

  • NASA wants to protect Moon and Mars from human contamination
    NASA wants to make sure we don’t unknowingly take organisms or other contaminants from Earth to other worlds (and vice-versa) when humans start exploring space beyond Low Earth Orbit. In a tweet, NASA Administrator Jim Brindestine has announced that the agency has updated its policies to reflect that commitment ahead of the upcoming Artemis missions. “We will protect scientific discoveries and the Earth’s environment, while enabling dynamic human exploration and commercial innovation on the Moon and Mars,” he wrote.

    While the space agency has been sending rovers and other unmanned spacecraft to the Moon and Mars, it’s concerned about the biological contaminants associated with human presence. If we unknowingly take contaminants to other worlds when we start human exploration, we risk compromising the search for extraterrestrial life. At the same time, NASA wants to ensure its crewed missions don’t cause adverse changes to Earth’s environment with the introduction of contaminants from outer space.

    You can read the NASA Interim Directives here:
    — Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) July 9, 2020
    The agency has issued two Interim Directives to update its policies, with the first one focusing on robotic and crewed missions traveling to and from the Earth’s Moon. NASA Science Mission Directorate Thomas Zurbuchen explained: "We are enabling our important goal of sustainable exploration of the Moon while simultaneously safeguarding future science in the permanently shadowed regions. These sites have immense scientific value in shaping our understanding of the history of our planet, the Moon and the solar system."

    Meanwhile, the second directive focuses on biological contamination for Earth-Moon to Mars missions. The agency says it will use data and experience gained via ground-based tests to conjure guidelines and develop capabilities to monitor biological processes associated with human presence in space exploration. It also aims to develop technologies to mitigate contamination, such as more effective waste disposal tools and techniques. In addition, the agency wants to have a better understanding of Martian environmental processes in order to figure how to properly sterilize terrestrial organisms released by human activity.

    NASA is hoping to send the next man and the first woman to the Moon by 2024 and to establish a sustainable human presence there.

  • iFixit takes the Oura smart ring apart to see how it works
    As we continue to work and live during the coronavirus pandemic, interest in technology that might help fight the disease has spiked, and one of the clearest examples of that is Oura’s smart ring. Early in June, researchers revealed data showing that, as part of a protocol of surveying and data reporting, wearers of the Oura smart ring may be able to detect symptoms of a COVID-19 infection early.

    Multiple tests that include having health professionals using wearable devices are ongoing with even more participants, but once the NBA announced it would use the devices during its restarted season in Orlando, it became the most visible testbed. As people wonder if the ring can live up to the hype — and if it’s trustworthy, as Los Angeles Laker Kyle Kuzma said it “looks like a tracking device” — the folks at iFixit have done what they do, diving in and taking one apart.

    X-rays performed by Creative Electron provided a non-destructive view inside, while the video shows that pressure, heat and an alcohol bath all went into separating the device’s various parts. There aren’t many surprises mixed in with the circuit boards and medical grade plastic, but if you were hoping to do any battery swaps then that seems unlikely.

    It’s not the only device that will be in use (provided as a voluntary option) taking part in the NBA’s restart at Disney World, as ESPN reporter Malika Andrews also showed off a Kinexon-provided proximity alarm that reminds people to stay six feet away from each other.

    ESPN NBA reporter @Malika_Andrews displays the social distance monitor/buzzer folks in Orlando are receiving to remind each other to stay six feet apart.
    — Ben Cafardo (@Ben_ESPN) July 9, 2020

  • Worldwide PC shipments grew due to work-from-home arrangements
    The PC industry bounced back in the second quarter of 2020 after its weakest quarter in years mostly due to shelter-in-place orders prompted by the coronavirus pandemic. According to both Gartner and IDC, PC shipments grew year-over-year in the second quarter — the former says shipments totaled 64.8 million units (a 2.8 percent increase from Q2 2019), while IDC says global shipments reached 72.3 million units, which is 11.2 percent higher compared to the same period last year.

    Both organizations attribute the growth to PC production ramping up after supply chains were disrupted in the first quarter and to strong demand, now that more people need computers to work or study from home. “After the PC supply chain was severely disrupted in early 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the growth this quarter was due to distributors and retail channels restocking their supplies back to near-normal levels,” Gartner research director Mikako Kitagawa said.

    The mobile PC or laptop segment did very well, in particular, due to people’s remote learning and working needs. However, both organizations are skeptical that the demand would continue beyond 2020. Kitagawa says the uptick in demand is “short-term... due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.” IDC research vice president Linn Huang issued a similar statement:

    "With inventory still back ordered, this goodwill will continue into July. However, as we head deeper into a global recession, the goodwill sentiment will increasingly sour."

    Both organizations also noted that traditional PC shipments exceeded expectations in the US and in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region. HP and Lenovo topped the list of PC vendors worldwide, with Dell coming in third for both IDC and Gartner.


  • Microsoft and Google team up to make PWAs better in the Play Store
    We’re glad to announce a new collaboration between Microsoft and Google for the benefit of the web developer community. Microsoft’s PWABuilder and Google’s Bubblewrap are now working together to help developers publish PWAs in the Google Play Store. is Microsoft’s open source developer tool that helps you build high quality PWAs and publish them in app stores. Bubblewrap is Google’s command line utility and library to generate and sign Google Play Store packages from Progressive Web Apps. I hope this further improves PWAs, since they are a godsend for smaller operating systems and even bigger ones that are not macOS or Windows. Sure, nothing beats a proper native application, but if the choice is no application or a reasonably integrated PWA  Ill take the PWA.

  • Resurrecting BeIA
    Did you ever wonder what BeIA really was? A lot of people talked about BeIA back in the days Be, Inc. was still developing its OS for internet appliances, but after Be, Inc. closed its doors, BeIA vanished as well. A thread over on the Haiku discussion forums  which began as a talking point for how Haiku could recreate a BeIA style concept  turned in to a treasure trove of BeIA information, including examples of BeIA running and an overview of some of the process of building BeIA distributions. This video shows it all in action, including BeIA running under emulation. Theres also a wonderful video shot in Be, Incs offices where a Hungarian UG member gets a tour and shown BeIA hardware, with terrible framerate and resolution, but well worth checking out.

  • Canonical and Google enable Linux desktop app support with Flutter through snap
    It has long been our vision for Flutter to power platforms. We’ve seen this manifest already at Google with products like the Assistant so now we’re thrilled to see others harnessing Flutter to power more platforms. Today we are happy to jointly announce the availability of the Linux alpha for Flutter alongside Canonical, the publisher of Ubuntu, the world’s most popular desktop Linux distribution. I welcome any additional investment in Linux or other operating systems that arent the macOS or Windows, but this one has a major downside: its all tied to Canonicals snaps and Snap Store. In case you are unaware  snaps are quite controversial in the Linux world, and Linux Mint, one of the most popular Linux distributions, has taken a very proactive approach in removing them. Their reasoning makes it very clear why snap is so problematic: Applications in this store cannot be patched, or pinned. You can’t audit them, hold them, modify them or even point snap to a different store. You’ve as much empowerment with this as if you were using proprietary software, i.e. none. This is in effect similar to a commercial proprietary solution, but with two major differences: It runs as root, and it installs itself without asking you. On top of all this, the snap server is closed source. Snap is simply a no-go, and Im saddened Google decided to opt for using it. Then again, Google has never shown any interest whatsoever in desktop Linux  preferring to simply take, but not give. None of their applications  other than Chrome  are available on Linux, and opting for snap further demonstrates Google doesnt really seem to understand the Linux ecosystem at all. All they had to do was release a source tarball, and for a few extra brownie points, maybe a .deb and/or .rpm, but that isnt even necessary. If your tool is good enough, it will be picked up by distributions and third parties who will make those packages for you. Google opting for snap instead indicates they have little faith in their own product being good and valuable enough to be embraced by the Linux distribution community. And if they dont have any faith, why should I?

  • Microsoft and Zoom join Hong Kong data pause
    Microsoft and Zoom have said they will not process data requests made by the Hong Kong authorities while they take stock of a new security law. They follow Facebook, Google, Twitter and the chat app Telegram, which had already announced similar pauses! in compliance over the past two days. China passed the law on 30 June, criminalising acts that support independence, making it easier to punish protesters. This feels more like a lets get some good press in the west while we resume normal operation in aiding the genocidal Chinese regime when people stop caring! than a real principled stand, but with how everybody just rolls over for China, Ill take any element of resistance  no matter how weak sauce  I can get. It doesnt get much weaker than pausing!, though. Apple says it is assessing! the rules. Oh turns out I was wrong. It does get weaker.

  • The super duper universal binary
    A question I got repeatedly the last couple days was, now that AARM (Apple ARM) is a thing, is the ultimate ARM-Intel-PowerPC Universal Binary possible? You bet it is! In fact, Apple already documents that you could have a five-way binary, i.e., ARM64, 32-bit PowerPC, 64-bit PowerPC, i386 and x86_64. Just build them separately and lipo them together. Youll be able to eventually build a binary that contains code for every Mac hardware and software platform starting from Classic all the way up to macOS Big Sur, and from m68k all the way up to ARM. I doubt anyone will use it, but that doesnt make it any less cool.

  • Nokia to add open interfaces to its telecom equipment
    Finland’s Nokia on Tuesday became the first major telecom equipment maker to commit to adding open interfaces in its products that will allow mobile operators to build networks that are not tied to a vendor. The new technology, dubbed Open Radio Access Network (Open RAN), aims to reduce reliance on any one vendor by making every part of a telecom network interoperable and allowing operators to choose different suppliers for different components. Im definitely not versed enough in low-level networking equipment to understand just how significant it is, but on the face of it, it does sound like a good move.

  • The Document Foundation clarifies Personal Edition! label for LibreOffice 7.0
    Due to draft and development work in the area of branding and product naming, some speculation, in particular related to the “Personal Edition” tag shown in a LibreOffice 7.0 RC (Release Candidate), has started on several communication channels. So let us, as The Document Foundation’s Board of Directors, please provide further clarifications: 1. None of the changes being evaluated will affect the license, the availability, the permitted uses and/or the functionality. LibreOffice will always be free software and nothing is changing for end users, developers and Community members. Basically, The Document Foundation intends to offer  through partners  professional paid-for support for LibreOffice to enterprise customers, and hence the tentative name to differentiate the LibreOffice we all know from the supported one.

  • Booting a 486 from floppy with the most up-to-date stable Linux kernel
    Since I wanted to see how Linux would detect the drive that meant I needed to find a way to boot Linux. After a bit of googling I discovered the make tinyconfig option which makes a very small (but useless) kernel, small enough to fit on a floppy. I enabled a couple of other options, found a small enough initramfs, and was able to get it to boot on the 486. And as expected Linux has no problem with seeing that the drive is connected and the drives full capacity. Next step is to actually get Linux installed to the hard drive. Id rather not roll my own distro but maybe Ill have to. Another possibility is to boot Linux from floppy and then download a kernel and initrd from a current distro and kexec over to it. But that feels to me like reinventing iPXE. Thats version 5.8 of the Linux kernel running on a 486. I shouldnt be surprised that this is possible, yet Im still surprised this is possible.

  • Google-backed groups criticize Apples new warnings on user tracking
    Sixteen marketing associations, some of which are backed by Facebook Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google, faulted Apple for not adhering to an ad-industry system for seeking user consent under European privacy rules. Apps will now need to ask for permission twice, increasing the risk users will refuse, the associations argued. Cry me a river. Theres an interesting note later in the linked article: Apple engineers also said last week the company will bolster a free Apple-made tool that uses anonymous, aggregated data to measure whether advertising campaigns are working and that will not trigger the pop-up. But of course it doesnt. Its made by Apple, after all, and we all trust Apple, right? Its not like Apple rushed to sell out everything privacy-related to a regime committing genocide, so we clearly have nothing to worry about when Apple forces itself into the advertising business by leveraging its iOS platform.

  • Hands-on: 85+ new macOS Big Sur changes and features
    After going in depth with iOS 14 earlier this week, today we focus on macOS Big Sur. The biggest takeaway from my hands-on time with the follow up to macOS Catalina is that Apple’s latest OS is clearly being designed with the future in mind. Although it’s unmistakably Mac, Big Sur is a departure from previous versions of macOS in terms of aesthetics. Everything, from the dock, to the menu bar, to window chrome, icons, and even sounds have been updated. A good overview of the many, many changes in Big Sur. Interesting sidenote: with both Windows and macOS now heavily catering towards touch use, this leaves Linux  and most of the smaller platforms, like the Amiga or Haiku  as one of the last remaining places with graphical user interfaces designed 100% towards mouse input. Big buttons, lots spacing, lots of wasted space  its coming to your Mac.

  • Chrome for Android is finally going 64-bit
    The first Android version to support 64-bit architecture was Android 5.0 Lollipop, introduced back in November 2014. Since then, more and more 64-bit processors shipped, and today, virtually all Android devices are capable of running 64-bit software (excluding one or two or more oddballs). However, Google Chrome has never made the jump and is only available in a 32-bit flavor, potentially leading to some unnecessary security and performance degradations. Thats finally changing: Starting with Chrome 85, phones running Android 10 and higher will automatically receive a 64-bit version. It seems odd to me that it took them this long to move one of the most important applications in Android to 64 bit.

  • Microsoft just sank to a new low by shoving Edge down our throats
    If I told you that my entire computer screen just got taken over by a new app that I’d never installed or asked for — it just magically appeared on my desktop, my taskbar, and preempted my next website launch — you’d probably tell me to run a virus scanner and stay away from shady websites, no? But the insanely intrusive app I’m talking about isn’t a piece of ransomware. It’s Microsoft’s new Chromium Edge browser, which the company is now force-feeding users via an automatic update to Windows. People should run whatever the hell they damn well please, but the last few years it has become increasingly clear that Windows is deteriorating fast. Oddly enough, its not the operating system itself thats deteriorating  in fact, Windows is probably in a better technical state than its ever been  but the policies and anti-user features draped around it. If you read OSNews, you are most likely technically inclined. People who read OSNews dont need Windows, and shouldnt be running it. Its actively hostile towards its users, and you deserve better.

  • Chrome OS preparing Steam gaming support, starting with 10th Gen Intel Chromebooks
    Through a fair bit of digging, we were able to obtain a copy of Borealis, which turned out to be another full Linux distribution. Unlike Crostini, which is based on Debian, Borealis is based on Ubuntu, another popular variety of Linux. Just like the existing Linux apps support, we believe Borealis will integrate itself with Chrome OS rather than being a full desktop experience. However, we found one key difference between Borealis and a normal installation of Ubuntu, as Borealis includes a pre-installed copy of Steam. This lines up with what we learned at CES 2020, when Kan Liu, Google’s director of product management for Chrome OS, shared that the upcoming Steam gaming support would be based on Linux. I am very curious to see how this will perform. My gut feeling is that they will position this more as an endpoint for Steams in-home streaming feature than as a way to play games locally on-device, since I dont know of any ChromeBook with more graphical power than whatever integrated GPU Intel stuffs in their low-end processors.

  • Review: System76s Lemur Pro
    If youre a Linux user on the hunt for a new laptop, theres quite a bit of preparation and research you must do on top of the regular research buying such an expensive piece of equipment already entails. Reading forum posts from other Linux users with the laptop youre interested in, hunting for detailed specifications to make sure that specific chip version or that exact piece of exotic hardware is fully supported, checking to see if your favourite distribution has adequate support for it, and so on. There is, however, another way. While vastly outnumbered, there are laptops sold with Linux preinstalled. Even some of the big manufacturers, such as Dell, sell laptops with Linux preinstalled, but often only on older models that have been out for a while, or while not fully supporting all hardware (the fingerprint reader and infrared camera on my XPS 13 were not supported by Linux, for instance). For the likes of Dell, Linux in the consumer space is an afterthought, a minor diversion, and it shows. If you want the best possible out-of-the-box Linux experience, youll have to go to one of the smaller, more boutique Linux-only OEMs. One of the more prominent Linux OEMs is System76, who have been selling various laptops and desktops with Linux preinstalled for more than decade now. Recently, they launched their new ultraportable, the Lemur Pro, and they kindly loaned one to us for review. Full disclosure: System76 sent us the laptop as a loan, and it will be returned to them after publication of this review. They did not read this review before publication, and placed zero restrictions on anything I could write about. Specifications The Lemur Pro configuration System76 sent to us comes in at $1492, and packs a 4C/8T 10th Gen Intel Core i7-10510U, with frequencies of 1.8 up to 4.9 GHz and 8MB Cache. It came with 16GB of RAM, of which 8 is soldered onto the motherboard, and 8 is seated in the single RAM expansion slot. Storage-wise, it is equipped with a 500GB SSD in one of its two user-accessible M.2 slots  a Samsung 970 Evo Plus. The 14.1C display has a resolution of 1920×1080 with a matte finish, with a maximum refresh rate of 60Hz. The display is powered by the integrated GPU, and theres no option for a discrete GPU. The battery is a 73 Wh unit, and is entirely user-replacable. Bucking a trend in the industry, the Lemur Pro is reasonably equipped when it comes to ports: one USB 3.1 Type-C Gen 2 port, two USB 3.0 Type-A ports, a MicroSD Card Reader, a full-size HDMI port, a barrel connector for the included charger (USB-C charging is also supported), a combined headphone/microphone jack, and the usual Kensington lock. The USB-C port can also be used as a display port with DisplayPort 1.2. Hardware The design of the Lemur Pro is unassuming, mostly black, and free of the kind of design frivolities other laptops tend to suffer from. Theres no RGB here, no flames painted on the lid to make it go faster, no screaming logos or gamer accents  just a black laptop with a System76 logo on the lid. Thats it. It is incredibly light, weighing a mere 0.99 kg  for comparison, a MacBook Air weighs 1.29 kg, so the Lemur Pro is considerably lighter. This does come at a price, however, and the Lemur Pro just doesnt feel as strong and sturdy as similar laptops with a bit more heft to it. Theres an amount of flex in the display lid, bottom cover, and keyboard cover that you just wont see in a MacBook Air or an XPS 13. Its a trade-off you have to make  if you really value the extreme kind of portability the Lemur Pro provides, it means giving in somewhere else. Im disappointed System76 does not provide a high refresh rate display on the Lemur Pro, in the very least as an option. Once youve gotten used to 144Hz (or even higher) on your computer displays, using a 60Hz display feels like a major step back. I understand the battery life concerns, but Im definitely more than willing to give up a little bit of battery life if it meant a buttery-smooth 144Hz UI. Aside from the lack of a high refresh rate option, the display is excellent  its bright and the colours look normal, but note that Im not a colour expert, so I cant make any claims about colour accuracy. For my general use, however, I didnt run into any issues. Speaking of battery life  this is one of the major strong points of the Lemur Pro. System76 advertises a maximum battery life of 14 hours, and while these kind of figures are usually complete nonsense, I think theyre not far off the mark here. Since we do not (yet) have a long history of laptop reviews, we do not have any consistent methodology for measuring battery life, so anything I say here is very subjective and difficult for you as a reader to parse. That being said, with casual use  meaning, browsing, writing, Twitter and e-mailing while watching YouTube videos  I could definitely hit the 10 hour mark at the balanced power setting. Switching to the power saver setting yielded me even more hours of battery life, but it did cause a notable hit in performance, especially for video. Simple 1080p YouTube video  either played in Firefox or locally  would stutter and lag, but everything else seemed to perform just fine. My guess is that the power saver setting targets the integrated Intel GPU quite aggressively, but honestly, for several hours of additional battery life, I think its worth it. The battery life is especially remarkable since getting proper battery life out of laptops designed for Windows running Linux is often a major hassle, and no matter what you do, Linux battery life on laptops not designed for Linux always lags

  • System hardening in Android 11
    In Android 11 we continue to increase the security of the Android platform. We have moved to safer default settings, migrated to a hardened memory allocator, and expanded the use of compiler mitigations that defend against classes of vulnerabilities and frustrate exploitation techniques. An overview of the security-related changes in Android 11.

Linux Journal - The Original Magazine of the Linux Community

  • Linux Journal Ceases Publication: An Awkward Goodbye
    by Kyle Rankin    IMPORTANT NOTICE FROM LINUX JOURNAL, LLC: On August 7, 2019, Linux Journal shut its doors for good. All staff were laid off and the company is left with no operating funds to continue in any capacity. The website will continue to stay up for the next few weeks, hopefully longer for archival purposes if we can make it happen.  –Linux Journal, LLC

    Final Letter from the Editor: The Awkward Goodbye

    by Kyle Rankin

    Have you ever met up with a friend at a restaurant for dinner, then after dinner you both step out to the street and say a proper goodbye, only when you leave, you find out that you both are walking in the same direction? So now, you get to walk together awkwardly until the true point where you part, and then you have another, second goodbye, that's much more awkward.

    That's basically this post. 

    So, it was almost two years ago that I first said goodbye to Linux Journal and the Linux Journal community in my post "So Long and Thanks for All the Bash". That post was a proper goodbye. For starters, it had a catchy title with a pun. The post itself had all the elements of a proper goodbye: part retrospective, part "Thank You" to the Linux Journal team and the community, and OK, yes, it was also part rant. I recommend you read (or re-read) that post, because it captures my feelings about losing Linux Journal way better than I can muster here on our awkward second goodbye. 

    Of course, not long after I wrote that post, we found out that Linux Journal wasn't dead after all! We all actually had more time together and got to work fixing everything that had caused us to die in the first place. A lot of our analysis of what went wrong and what we intended to change was captured in my article Go to Full Article          

  • Oops! Debugging Kernel Panics
    by Petros Koutoupis   
    A look into what causes kernel panics and some utilities to help gain more information.

    Working in a Linux environment, how often have you seen a kernel panic? When it happens, your system is left in a crippled state until you reboot it completely. And, even after you get your system back into a functional state, you're still left with the question: why? You may have no idea what happened or why it happened. Those questions can be answered though, and the following guide will help you root out the cause of some of the conditions that led to the original crash.

    Figure 1. A Typical Kernel Panic

    Let's start by looking at a set of utilities known as kexec and kdump. kexec allows you to boot into another kernel from an existing (and running) kernel, and kdump is a kexec-based crash-dumping mechanism for Linux.
     Installing the Required Packages
    First and foremost, your kernel should have the following components statically built in to its image:
    You can find this in /boot/config-`uname -r`.

    Make sure that your operating system is up to date with the latest-and-greatest package versions:
      $ sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade  
    Install the following packages (I'm currently using Debian, but the same should and will apply to Ubuntu):
      $ sudo apt install gcc make binutils linux-headers-`uname -r`  ↪kdump-tools crash `uname -r`-dbg  
    Note: Package names may vary across distributions.

    During the installation, you will be prompted with questions to enable kexec to handle reboots (answer whatever you'd like, but I answered "no"; see Figure 2).

    Figure 2. kexec Configuration Menu

    And to enable kdump to run and load at system boot, answer "yes" (Figure 3).

    Figure 3. kdump Configuration Menu
     Configuring kdump
    Open the /etc/default/kdump-tools file, and at the very top, you should see the following:
        Go to Full Article          

  • Loadsharers: Funding the Load-Bearing Internet Person
    by Eric S. Raymond   
    The internet has a sustainability problem. Many of its critical services depend on the dedication of unpaid volunteers, because they can't be monetized and thus don't have any revenue stream for the maintainers to live on. I'm talking about services like DNS, time synchronization, crypto libraries—software without which the net and the browser you're using couldn't function.

    These volunteer maintainers are the Load-Bearing Internet People (LBIP). Underfunding them is a problem, because underfunded critical services tend to have gaps and holes that could have been fixed if there were more full-time attention on them. As our civilization becomes increasingly dependent on this software infrastructure, that attention shortfall could lead to disastrous outages.

    I've been worrying about this problem since 2012, when I watched a hacker I know wreck his health while working on a critical infrastructure problem nobody else understood at the time. Billions of dollars in e-commerce hung on getting the particular software problem he had spotted solved, but because it masqueraded as network undercapacity, he had a lot of trouble getting even technically-savvy people to understand where the problem was. He solved it, but unable to afford medical insurance and literally living in a tent, he eventually went blind in one eye and is now prone to depressive spells.

    More recently, I damaged my ankle and discovered that although there is such a thing as minor surgery on the medical level, there is no such thing as "minor surgery" on the financial level. I was looking—still am looking—at a serious prospect of either having my life savings wiped out or having to leave all 52 of the open-source projects I'm responsible for in the lurch as I scrambled for a full-time job. Projects at risk include the likes of GIFLIB, GPSD and NTPsec.

    That refocused my mind on the LBIP problem. There aren't many Load-Bearing Internet People—probably on the close order of 1,000 worldwide—but they're a systemic vulnerability made inevitable by the existence of common software and internet services that can't be metered. And, burning them out is a serious problem. Even under the most cold-blooded assessment, civilization needs the mean service life of an LBIP to be long enough to train and acculturate a replacement.

    (If that made you wonder—yes, in fact, I am training an apprentice. Different problem for a different article.)

    Alas, traditional centralized funding models have failed the LBIPs. There are a few reasons for this:
        Go to Full Article          

  • Documenting Proper Git Usage
    by Zack Brown   
    Jonathan Corbet wrote a document for inclusion in the kernel tree, describing best practices for merging and rebasing git-based kernel repositories. As he put it, it represented workflows that were actually in current use, and it was a living document that hopefully would be added to and corrected over time.

    The inspiration for the document came from noticing how frequently Linus Torvalds was unhappy with how other people—typically subsystem maintainers—handled their git trees.

    It's interesting to note that before Linus wrote the git tool, branching and merging was virtually unheard of in the Open Source world. In CVS, it was a nightmare horror of leechcraft and broken magic. Other tools were not much better. One of the primary motivations behind git—aside from blazing speed—was, in fact, to make branching and merging trivial operations—and so they have become.

    One of the offshoots of branching and merging, Jonathan wrote, was rebasing—altering the patch history of a local repository. The benefits of rebasing are fantastic. They can make a repository history cleaner and clearer, which in turn can make it easier to track down the patches that introduced a given bug. So rebasing has a direct value to the development process.

    On the other hand, used poorly, rebasing can make a big mess. For example, suppose you rebase a repository that has already been merged with another, and then merge them again—insane soul death.

    So Jonathan explained some good rules of thumb. Never rebase a repository that's already been shared. Never rebase patches that come from someone else's repository. And in general, simply never rebase—unless there's a genuine reason.

    Since rebasing changes the history of patches, it relies on a new "base" version, from which the later patches diverge. Jonathan recommended choosing a base version that was generally thought to be more stable rather than less—a new version or a release candidate, for example, rather than just an arbitrary patch during regular development.

    Jonathan also recommended, for any rebase, treating all the rebased patches as new code, and testing them thoroughly, even if they had been tested already prior to the rebase.

    "If", he said, "rebasing is limited to private trees, commits are based on a well-known starting point, and they are well tested, the potential for trouble is low."

    Moving on to merging, Jonathan pointed out that nearly 9% of all kernel commits were merges. There were more than 1,000 merge requests in the 5.1 development cycle alone.
        Go to Full Article          

  • Understanding Python's asyncio
    by Reuven M. Lerner   
    How to get started using Python's asyncio.

    Earlier this year, I attended PyCon, the international Python conference. One topic, presented at numerous talks and discussed informally in the hallway, was the state of threading in Python—which is, in a nutshell, neither ideal nor as terrible as some critics would argue.

    A related topic that came up repeatedly was that of "asyncio", a relatively new approach to concurrency in Python. Not only were there formal presentations and informal discussions about asyncio, but a number of people also asked me about courses on the subject.

    I must admit, I was a bit surprised by all the interest. After all, asyncio isn't a new addition to Python; it's been around for a few years. And, it doesn't solve all of the problems associated with threads. Plus, it can be confusing for many people to get started with it.

    And yet, there's no denying that after a number of years when people ignored asyncio, it's starting to gain steam. I'm sure part of the reason is that asyncio has matured and improved over time, thanks in no small part to much dedicated work by countless developers. But, it's also because asyncio is an increasingly good and useful choice for certain types of tasks—particularly tasks that work across networks.

    So with this article, I'm kicking off a series on asyncio—what it is, how to use it, where it's appropriate, and how you can and should (and also can't and shouldn't) incorporate it into your own work.
     What Is asyncio?
    Everyone's grown used to computers being able to do more than one thing at a time—well, sort of. Although it might seem as though computers are doing more than one thing at a time, they're actually switching, very quickly, across different tasks. For example, when you ssh in to a Linux server, it might seem as though it's only executing your commands. But in actuality, you're getting a small "time slice" from the CPU, with the rest going to other tasks on the computer, such as the systems that handle networking, security and various protocols. Indeed, if you're using SSH to connect to such a server, some of those time slices are being used by sshd to handle your connection and even allow you to issue commands.

    All of this is done, on modern operating systems, via "pre-emptive multitasking". In other words, running programs aren't given a choice of when they will give up control of the CPU. Rather, they're forced to give up control and then resume a little while later. Each process running on a computer is handled this way. Each process can, in turn, use threads, sub-processes that subdivide the time slice given to their parent process.
        Go to Full Article          

  • RV Offsite Backup Update
    by Kyle Rankin   
    Having an offsite backup in your RV is great, and after a year of use, I've discovered some ways to make it even better.

    Last year I wrote a feature-length article on the data backup system I set up for my RV (see Kyle's "DIY RV Offsite Backup and Media Server" from the June 2018 issue of LJ). If you haven't read that article yet, I recommend checking it out first so you can get details on the system. In summary, I set up a Raspberry Pi media center PC connected to a 12V television in the RV. I connected an 8TB hard drive to that system and synchronized all of my files and media so it acted as a kind of off-site backup. Finally, I set up a script that would attempt to sync over all of those files from my NAS whenever it detected that the RV was on the local network. So here, I provide an update on how that system is working and a few tweaks I've made to it since.
     What Works
    Overall, the media center has worked well. It's been great to have all of my media with me when I'm on a road trip, and my son appreciates having access to his favorite cartoons. Because the interface is identical to the media center we have at home, there's no learning curve—everything just works. Since the Raspberry Pi is powered off the TV in the RV, you just need to turn on the TV and everything fires up.

    It's also been great knowing that I have a good backup of all of my files nearby. Should anything happen to my house or my main NAS, I know that I can just get backups from the RV. Having peace of mind about your important files is valuable, and it's nice knowing in the worst case when my NAS broke, I could just disconnect my USB drive from the RV, connect it to a local system, and be back up and running.

    The WiFi booster I set up on the RV also has worked pretty well to increase the range of the Raspberry Pi (and the laptops inside the RV) when on the road. When we get to a campsite that happens to offer WiFi, I just reset the booster and set up a new access point that amplifies the campsite signal for inside the RV. On one trip, I even took it out of the RV and inside a hotel room to boost the weak signal.
        Go to Full Article          

  • Another Episode of "Seems Perfectly Feasible and Then Dies"--Script to Simplify the Process of Changing System Call Tables
    by Zack Brown   
    David Howells put in quite a bit of work on a script, ./scripts/, to simplify the entire process of changing the system call tables. With this script, it was a simple matter to add, remove, rename or renumber any system call you liked. The script also would resolve git conflicts, in the event that two repositories renumbered the system calls in conflicting ways.

    Why did David need to write this patch? Why weren't system calls already fairly easy to manage? When you make a system call, you add it to a master list, and then you add it to the system call "tables", which is where the running kernel looks up which kernel function corresponds to which system call number. Kernel developers need to make sure system calls are represented in all relevant spots in the source tree. Renaming, renumbering and making other changes to system calls involves a lot of fiddly little details. David's script simply would do everything right—end of story no problemo hasta la vista.

    Arnd Bergmann remarked, "Ah, fun. You had already threatened to add that script in the past. The implementation of course looks fine, I was just hoping we could instead eliminate the need for it first." But, bowing to necessity, Arnd offered some technical suggestions for improvements to the patch.

    However, Linus Torvalds swooped in at this particular moment, saying:

    Ugh, I hate it.

    I'm sure the script is all kinds of clever and useful, but I really think the solution is not this kind of helper script, but simply that we should work at not having each architecture add new system calls individually in the first place.

    IOW, we should look at having just one unified table for new system call numbers, and aim for the per-architecture ones to be for "legacy numbering".

    Maybe that won't happen, but in the _hope_ that it happens, I really would prefer that people not work at making scripts for the current nasty situation.

    And the portcullis came crashing down.

    It's interesting that, instead of accepting this relatively obvious improvement to the existing situation, Linus would rather leave it broken and ugly, so that someone someday somewhere might be motivated to do the harder-yet-better fix. And, it's all the more interesting given how extreme the current problem is. Without actually being broken, the situation requires developers to put in a tremendous amount of care and effort into something that David's script could make trivial and easy. Even for such an obviously "good" patch, Linus gives thought to the policy and cultural implications, and the future motivations of other people working in that region of code.

    Note: if you're mentioned above and want to post a response above the comment section, send a message with your response text to
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  • Experts Attempt to Explain DevOps--and Almost Succeed
    by Bryan Lunduke   
    What is DevOps? How does it relate to other ideas and methodologies within software development? Linux Journal Deputy Editor and longtime software developer, Bryan Lunduke isn't entirely sure, so he asks some experts to help him better understand the DevOps phenomenon.

    The word DevOps confuses me.

    I'm not even sure confuses me quite does justice to the pain I experience—right in the center of my brain—every time the word is uttered.

    It's not that I dislike DevOps; it's that I genuinely don't understand what in tarnation it actually is. Let me demonstrate. What follows is the definition of DevOps on Wikipedia as of a few moments ago:

    DevOps is a set of software development practices that combine software development (Dev) and information technology operations (Ops) to shorten the systems development life cycle while delivering features, fixes, and updates frequently in close alignment with business objectives.

    I'm pretty sure I got three aneurysms just by copying and pasting that sentence, and I still have no clue what DevOps really is. Perhaps I should back up and give a little context on where I'm coming from.

    My professional career began in the 1990s when I got my first job as a Software Test Engineer (the people that find bugs in software, hopefully before the software ships, and tell the programmers about them). During the years that followed, my title, and responsibilities, gradually evolved as I worked my way through as many software-industry job titles as I could:
     Automation Engineer: people that automate testing software.    Software Development Engineer in Test: people that make tools for the testers to use.    Software Development Engineer: aka "Coder", aka "Programmer".    Dev Lead: "Hey, you're a good programmer! You should also manage a few other programmers but still code just as much as you did before, but, don't worry, we won't give you much of a raise! It'll be great!"    Dev Manager: like a Dev Lead, with less programming, more managing.    Director of Engineering: the manager of the managers of the programmers.    Vice President of Technology/Engineering: aka "The big boss nerd man who gets to make decisions and gets in trouble first when deadlines are missed." 
    During my various times with fancy-pants titles, I managed teams that included:
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  • DNA Geometry with cadnano
    by Joey Bernard   
    This article introduces a tool you can use to work on three-dimensional DNA origami. The package is called cadnano, and it's currently being developed at the Wyss Institute. With this package, you'll be able to construct and manipulate the three-dimensional representations of DNA structures, as well as generate publication-quality graphics of your work.

    Because this software is research-based, you won't likely find it in the package repository for your favourite distribution, in which case you'll need to install it from the GitHub repository.

    Since cadnano is a Python program, written to use the Qt framework, you'll need to install some packages first. For example, in Debian-based distributions, you'll want to run the following commands:
      sudo apt-get install python3 python3-pip  
    I found that installation was a bit tricky, so I created a virtual Python environment to manage module installations.

    Once you're in your activated virtualenv, install the required Python modules with the command:
      pip3 install pythreejs termcolor pytz pandas pyqt5 sip  
    After those dependencies are installed, grab the source code with the command:
      git clone  
    This will grab the Qt5 version. The Qt4 version is in the repository

    Changing directory into the source directory, you can build and install cadnano with:
      python install  
    Now your cadnano should be available within the virtualenv.

    You can start cadnano simply by executing the cadnano command from a terminal window. You'll see an essentially blank workspace, made up of several empty view panes and an empty inspector pane on the far right-hand side.

    Figure 1. When you first start cadnano, you get a completely blank work space.

    In order to walk through a few of the functions available in cadnano, let's create a six-strand nanotube. The first step is to create a background that you can use to build upon. At the top of the main window, you'll find three buttons in the toolbar that will let you create a "Freeform", "Honeycomb" or "Square" framework. For this example, click the honeycomb button.

    Figure 2. Start your construction with one of the available geometric frameworks.
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  • Running GNOME in a Container
    by Adam Verslype   
    Containerizing the GUI separates your work and play.

    Virtualization has always been a rich man's game, and more frugal enthusiasts—unable to afford fancy server-class components—often struggle to keep up. Linux provides free high-quality hypervisors, but when you start to throw real workloads at the host, its resources become saturated quickly. No amount of spare RAM shoved into an old Dell desktop is going to remedy this situation. If a properly decked-out host is out of your reach, you might want to consider containers instead.

    Instead of virtualizing an entire computer, containers allow parts of the Linux kernel to be portioned into several pieces. This occurs without the overhead of emulating hardware or running several identical kernels. A full GUI environment, such as GNOME Shell can be launched inside a container, with a little gumption.

    You can accomplish this through namespaces, a feature built in to the Linux kernel. An in-depth look at this feature is beyond the scope of this article, but a brief example sheds light on how these features can create containers. Each kind of namespace segments a different part of the kernel. The PID namespace, for example, prevents processes inside the namespace from seeing other processes running in the kernel. As a result, those processes believe that they are the only ones running on the computer. Each namespace does the same thing for other areas of the kernel as well. The mount namespace isolates the filesystem of the processes inside of it. The network namespace provides a unique network stack to processes running inside of them. The IPC, user, UTS and cgroup namespaces do the same for those areas of the kernel as well. When the seven namespaces are combined, the result is a container: an environment isolated enough to believe it is a freestanding Linux system.

    Container frameworks will abstract the minutia of configuring namespaces away from the user, but each framework has a different emphasis. Docker is the most popular and is designed to run multiple copies of identical containers at scale. LXC/LXD is meant to create containers easily that mimic particular Linux distributions. In fact, earlier versions of LXC included a collection of scripts that created the filesystems of popular distributions. A third option is libvirt's lxc driver. Contrary to how it may sound, libvirt-lxc does not use LXC/LXD at all. Instead, the libvirt-lxc driver manipulates kernel namespaces directly. libvirt-lxc integrates into other tools within the libvirt suite as well, so the configuration of libvirt-lxc containers resembles those of virtual machines running in other libvirt drivers instead of a native LXC/LXD container. It is easy to learn as a result, even if the branding is confusing.
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Page last modified on October 08, 2013, at 07:08 PM