GNU is Not Unix

Interviews: Ask Richard Stallman a Question 324 324

RMS founded the GNU Project, the Free Software Foundation, and remains one of the most important and outspoken advocates for software freedom. He now spends much of his time fighting excessive extension of copyright laws, digital restrictions management, and software patents. RMS has agreed to answer your questions about GNU/Linux, how GNU relates to Linux the kernel, free software, why he disagrees with the idea of open source, and other issues of public concern. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
Software

Why Your Software Project Is Failing 118 118

An anonymous reader writes: At OSCON this year, Red Hat's Tom Callaway gave a talk entitled "This is Why You Fail: The Avoidable Mistakes Open Source Projects STILL Make." In 2009, Callaway was starting to work on the Chromium project—and to say it wasn't a pleasant experience was the biggest understatement Callaway made in his talk. Callaway said he likes challenges, but he felt buried by the project, and reached a point where he thought he should just quit his work. (Callaway said it's important to note that Chromium's code is not bad code; it's just a lot of code and a lot of code that Google didn't write.) This was making Callaway really frustrated, and people wanted to know what was upsetting him. Callaway wanted to be able to better explain his frustration, so he crafted this list which he called his "Points of Fail."
Open Source

Project IceStorm Passes Another Milestone: Building a CPU 104 104

beckman101 writes: FPGAs — specialized, high speed chips with large arrays of configurable logic — are usually highly proprietary. Anyone who has used one is familiar with the buggy and node-locked accompanying tools that FPGA manufacturers provide. Project IceStorm aims to change that by reverse-engineering some Lattice FPGAs to produce an open-source toolchain, and today it passed a milestone. The J1 open-source CPU is building under IceStorm, and running on real hardware. The result is a fairly puny microcontroller, but possibly the world's most open one.
Open Source

Battle For Wesnoth Seeks New Developers 58 58

jones_supa writes: Twelve years ago, David White sat down over a weekend and created the small pet project that we know today as the open source strategy game The Battle For Wesnoth. At the time, Dave was the sole programmer, working alongside Francisco Muñoz, who produced the first graphics. As more and more people contributed, the game grew from a tiny personal project into an extensive one, encompassing hundreds of contributors. Today however, the ship is sinking. The project is asking for help to keep things rolling. Especially requested are C++, Python, and gameplay (WML) programmers. Any willing volunteers should have good communication skills and preferably be experienced with working alongside fellow members of a large project. More details can be found at the project website.
KDE

KDE Community Announces Fully Open Source Plasma Mobile 44 44

sfcrazy writes: Today, during the Akademy event, the KDE Community announced Plasma Mobile project. It's a Free (as in Freedom and beer), user-friendly, privacy-enabling and customizable platform for mobile devices. Plasma Mobile claims to be developed in an open process, and considering the community behind it, I don't doubt it. A great line: "Plasma Mobile is designed as an ‘inclusive’ platform and will support all kinds of apps. In addition to native apps written in Qt, it also supports GTK apps, Android apps, Ubuntu apps, and many others." And if you have a Nexus 5, you can download and play with a prototype now.
AMD

AMD Forces a LibreOffice Speed Boost With GPU Acceleration 143 143

New submitter samtuke writes: AMD processors get rated and reviewed based on performance. It is in our self-interest to make things work really, really fast on AMD hardware. AMD engineers contribute to LibreOffice, for good reason. Think about what happens behind a spreadsheet calculation. There can be a huge amount of math. Writing software to take advantage of a Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) for general purpose computing is non-trivial. We know how to do it. AMD engineers wrote OpenCL kernels, and contributed them to the open source code base. Turning on the OpenCL option to enable GPU Compute resulted in a 500X+ speedup, about ¼ second vs. 2minutes, 21 seconds. Those measurements specifically come from the ground-water use sample from this set of Libre Office spreadsheets.
Open Source

Video Meet OpenDaylight Project Executive Director Neela Jacques (Video) 14 14

The OpenDaylight Project works on Software Defined Networking. Their website says, "Software Defined Networking (SDN) separates the control plane from the data plane within the network, allowing the intelligence and state of the network to be managed centrally while abstracting the complexity of the underlying physical network." Another quote: it's the "largest software-defined networking Open Source project to date." The project started in 2013. It now has an impressive group of corporate networking heavyweights as sponsors and about 460 developers working on it. Their latest release, Lithium, came out earlier this month, and development efforts are accelerating, not slowing down, because as cloud use becomes more prevalent, so does SDN, which is an obvious "hand-in-glove" fit for virtualized computing.

Today's interview is with OpenDaylight Project Executive Director Nicolas "Neela" Jacques, who has held this position since the project was not much more than a gleam in (parent) Linux Foundation's eye. This is one of the more important Linux Foundation collaborative software projects, even if it's not as well known to the public as some of the foundation's other efforts, including -- of course -- GNU/Linux itself.
Graphics

Open-Source Mesa 3D Library/Drivers Now Support OpenGL 4 30 30

An anonymous reader writes: The Mesa 3D project that is the basis of the open-source Linux/BSD graphics drivers now supports OpenGL 4.0 and most of OpenGL 4.1~4.2. The OpenGL 4.0 enablement code landed in Mesa Git yesterday/today and more GL 4.1/4.2 patches are currently being reviewed for the Intel, Radeon, and Nouveau open-source GPU drivers.
Technology

Ask Slashdot: Are There Any Open and Affordable IPCams? 134 134

New submitter criticalmess writes: I'm about to give up on any decent hardware to be found to roll my own web-based camera setup around the house and office — and thought that the nerds and experts at /. would be my last resource I could pull out. Having bought multiple IPCamera (DLink, Abus, Axis, Foscam, TP-Link, ...) and always getting the 'requires DirectX' treatment, I'm wondering if there are any open and affordable IPCams out there? I've been looking at BlueCherry and their kickstarter campaign to create a complete opensource hardware solution, I've been looking at Zavio as they seem to offer the streams in an open enough format while not breaking the bank on the hardware. Anything else I should be looking at? I can't for the love of it understand why most of these hardware companies require you to run DirectX — anybody care to enlighten the crowd? Should be simple enough really: hardware captures images, a small embedded webserver transforms this into an RTSP stream or HTTP stream, maybe on h264 or similar — done.
Open Source

On Being Pro-GPL 250 250

just_another_sean writes: Christopher Allan Webber, recently returned from OSCON, shares his thoughts on the GPL and why he dislikes people pitting one type of software license against another. He says, "I am not only pro-copyleft, I am also pro-permissive licensing. The difference between these is tactics: the first tactic is towards guaranteeing user freedom, the second tactic is toward pushing adoption. I am generally pro-freedom, but sometimes pushing adoption is important, especially if you're pushing standards and the like. But let's step back for a moment. One thing that's true is that over the last many years we've seen an explosion of free and open source software... at the same time that computers have become more locked down than ever before! How can this be?

And notice... the rise of the arguments for permissive/lax licensing have grown simultaneously with this trend. ...The fastest way to develop software which locks down users for maximum monetary extraction is to use free software as a base. And this is where the anti-copyleft argument comes in, because copyleft may effectively force an entity to give back at this stage... and they might not want to. ... Copyleft's strings say, 'you can use my stuff, as long as you give back what you make from it.' But the proprietary differentiation strategy's strings say, 'I will use your stuff, and then add terms which forbid you to ever share or modify the things I build on top of it.' Don't be fooled: both attach strings. But which strings are worse?"
Security

How Developers Can Rebuild Trust On the Internet 65 65

snydeq writes: Public keys, trusted hardware, block chains — InfoWorld's Peter Wayner discusses tech tools developers should be investigating to help secure the Internet for all. 'The Internet is a pit of epistemological chaos. As Peter Steiner posited — and millions of chuckles peer-reviewed — in his famous New Yorker cartoon, there's no way to know if you're swapping packets with a dog or the bank that claims to safeguard your money,' Wayner writes. 'We may not be able to wave a wand and make the Internet perfect, but we can certainly add features to improve trust on the Internet. To that end, we offer the following nine ideas for bolstering a stronger sense of assurance that our data, privacy, and communications are secure.'
Operating Systems

Haiku OS Will Get New Service Manager 93 93

jones_supa writes: Axel Dörfler writes in his blog that he is working on a replacement for Haiku OS's current shell script based boot process. It would be replaced with something more flexible, a solution similar to OS X's launchd and Linux's systemd. While there is still a lot to do, the new project called launch_daemon is now feature complete in terms of being able to completely reproduce the current boot process. Since the switch to their package manager, there was no longer a way to influence the boot process at all. The only file you could change was the UserBootscript which is started only after Tracker and Deskbar — the whole system is already up at this point. The new service manager gives the power back to you, and also allows arbitrary software to be launched on startup. Alternatively, you can prevent system components from being started at all if you so wish. Furthermore, it allows for event based application start, start on demand, a multi-threaded boot process, and even enables you to talk to servers before they actually started.
Graphics

Renderman Gets Blender Integration 31 31

jones_supa writes: Now that Renderman has been available for free for non-commercial use for a while, there has been many requests for integration with Blender. An initiative spearheaded by Pixar now presents the first Blender to Renderman plugin. With the release of PRMan 20, a small group of developers headed by Brian Savery of Pixar have been working on support for using Renderman and Blender together. The plugin is still in early alpha but has had many great developments in the last few weeks. The source code is available in GitHub.
Government

NSA Releases Open Source Security Tool For Linux 105 105

Earthquake Retrofit writes: The NSA's systems integrity management platform — SIMP — was released to the code repository GitHub over the weekend. NSA said it released the tool to avoid duplication after US government departments and other groups tried to replicate the product in order to meet compliance requirements set by US Defence and intelligence bodies. "By releasing SIMP, the agency seeks to reduce duplication of effort and promote greater collaboration within the community: the wheel would not have to be reinvented for every organisation," the NSA said in a release.
GUI

Speed-Ups, Small Fixes Earn Good Marks From Ars For Mint 17.2 69 69

Ars Technica reviews the newest release from Linux MInt -- version 17.2, offered with either the Cinnamon desktop, or the lighter-weight MATE, which feels like what Gnome 2 might feel in an alternate universe where Gnome 3 never happened. Reviewer Scott Gilbertson has mostly good things to say about either variety, and notes a few small drawbacks, too. The nits seem to be minor ones, though they might bite some people more than others: Mint, based on Ubuntu deep down, is almost perfectly compatible with Ubuntu packages, but not every one, and this newest version of Mint ships with the 3.16 kernel of Ubuntu 14.04, which means slightly less advanced hardware support. (Gilbertson notes, though, that going with 3.16 means Mint may be the ideal distro if you want to avoid systemd.) "This release sees the Cinnamon developers focusing on some of what are sometimes call "paper cut" fixes, which just means there's been a lot of attention to the details, particularly the small, but annoying problems. For example, this release adds a new panel applet called "inhibit" which temporarily bans all notifications. It also turns off screen locking and stops any auto dimming you have set up, making it a great tool for when you want to watch a video or play a game." More "paper cut" fixes include improved multi-panel options, graphics-refresh tweaks, a way to restart the Cinnamon desktop without killing the contents of a session, graphics-refresh tweaks, and other speed-ups that make this release "noticeably snappier than its predecessor on the same hardware."
Open Source

Calculating the Truck-Factor of Popular Open Source Projects 79 79

An anonymous reader writes: The Truck Factor describes the minimal number of developers that have to be hit by a truck (or quit) before a project is incapacitated. Wikipedia defines it as a "measurement of the concentration of information in individual team members. A high truck factor means that many individuals know enough to carry on and the project could still succeed even in very adverse events." The term is also known by bus factor/number. In this article, the authors calculate the truck factor for 133 popular GitHub applications. Spoiler, but unsurprising: Linux ranks near the top (meaning that it's highly resilient).
Bug

Linux Foundation's Census Project Ranks Open Source Software At Risk 47 47

jones_supa writes: The Core Infrastructure Initiative, a Linux Foundation effort assembled in the wake of the Heartbleed fiasco to provide development support for key Internet protocols, has opened the doors on its Census Project — an effort to figure out what software projects need support now, instead of waiting for them to break. Census assembles metrics about open source projects found in Debian's package list and on openhub.net, and then scores them based on the amount of risk each presents. Risk scores are an aggregate of multiple factors: how many people are known to have contributed to the project in the last 12 months, how many CVEs have been filed for it, how widely used it is, and how much exposure it has to the network. According to the current iteration of the survey, the programs most in need of attention are not previously cited infrastructure projects, but common core Linux system utilities that have network access and little development activity around them.
Open Source

Video MetaMorph Helps non-Engineers Design Circuits (Video) 21 21

MetaMorph grew out of Vanderbilt University’s Institute for Software Integrated Systems. The introduction video you see here explains and steps you through its basic operation. The second "bonus" video goes a little deeper into the software's function. And the transcript covers everything in both videos, so if you prefer reading to watching you aren't left out -- except for the visual design process walk-through, of course. It's all open source, and their site has free demos available, so if you want to try your hand at designing circuitry with MetaMorph, go right ahead.
Open Source

French Government IT Directorate Supports ODF, Rejects OOXML 75 75

jrepin writes: The final draft version of the RGI (general interoperability framework), still awaiting final validation, maintains ODF as the recommended format for office documents within French administrations. This new version of the RGI provides substantiated criticism of the OOXML Microsoft format. April thanks the DISIC (French Inter-ministerial IT directorate) for not giving in to pressure and acting in the long-term interest of all French citizens and their administrations. As Wikpedia notes, OOXML (Office Open XML) is not to be confused with OpenOffice.org XML. (Also on the open-source office-document format front, OpenSource.com has taken a look at five open alternatives to Google Docs.)
Open Source

Open Compute Project Comes Under Fire 86 86

judgecorp writes: The Open Compute Project, the Facebook-backed effort to create low-cost open source hardware for data centers has come under fire for a slack testing regime. The criticism was first aired at The Register where an anonymous test engineer described the project's testing as a "complete and total joke." The founding director of the project, Cole Crawford has penned an open letter in reply. The issue seems to be that the testing for standard highly-reliable hardware used by telcos and the like is very thorough and expensive. Some want the OCP to use more rigorous testing to replicate that level of reliability. Crawford argues that web-scale data centers are designed to cope with hardware failures, and "Tier 1" reliability would be a waste of effort.