LWN Headlines

SUNY math professor makes the case for free and open educational resources (Opensource.com)

Opensource.com looks at the availability of open educational resources (OERs), where to find them, and what the advantages of OERs are. Math and computer science professor David Usinski is a strong advocate for OERs and was interviewed for the article. "The ability to customize the curriculum is one of David's favorite benefits of OER. 'The intangible aspect is that OER has allowed me to reinvent my curriculum and take ownership of the content. With a textbook, I am locked into the chapter-by-chapter approach by one or two authors,' he says. Because of OER 'I am no longer hindered or confined by published materials and now have the flexibility to create the curriculum that truly addresses the course outcomes.' By freely sharing the content he creates, other instructors can also benefit."

Uiterwijk: Fedora package delivery security

On his blog, Patrick Uiterwijk writes about about Fedora packaging and how the distribution works to ensure its users get valid updates. Packages are signed, but repository metadata is not (yet), but there are other mechanisms in place to keep users from getting outdated updates (or to not get important security updates). "However, when a significant security issue is announced and we have repositories that include fixes for this issue, we have an 'Emergency' button. When we press that button, we tell our servers to immediately regard every older repomd.xml checksum as outdated. This means that when we press this button, every mirror that does not have the very latest repository data will be regarded as outdated, so that our users get the security patches as soon as possible. This does mean that for a period of time only the master mirrors are trusted until other mirrors sync their data, but we prefer this solution over delaying getting important fixes out to our users and making them vulnerable to attackers in the meantime."

Security updates for Friday

Security updates have been issued by Debian (cups, gcc-6, irssi, kernel, and squid3), Fedora (mupdf), Mageia (irssi, mpv, qpdf, and quagga), openSUSE (libmad and postgresql95), SUSE (kernel and php5), and Ubuntu (kernel, linux-lts-trusty, linux-raspi2, and wavpack).

[$] Some advanced BCC topics

The BPF virtual machine is working its way into an increasing number of kernel subsystems. The previous article in this series introduced the BPF Compiler Collection (BCC), which provides a set of tools for working with BPF. But there is more to BCC than a set of administrative tools; it also provides a development environment for those wanting to create their own BPF-based utilities. Read on for an exploration of that environment and how it can be used to create programs and attach them to tracepoints.

Security updates for Thursday

Security updates have been issued by Arch Linux (strongswan), Fedora (torbrowser-launcher), openSUSE (libdb-4_5, libdb-4_8, postgresql96, python3-openpyxl, and xv), Red Hat (rh-maven35-jackson-databind), and Ubuntu (kernel, libreoffice, linux, linux-aws, linux-kvm, linux-raspi2, linux-snapdragon, linux-hwe, linux-azure, linux-gcp, linux-oem, and linux-lts-xenial, linux-aws).

[$] New tricks for XFS

The XFS filesystem has been in the kernel for fifteen years and was used in production on IRIX systems for five years before that. But it might just be time to teach that "old dog" of a filesystem some new tricks, Dave Chinner said, at the beginning of his linux.conf.au 2018 presentation. There are a number of features that XFS lacks when compared to more modern filesystems, such as snapshots and subvolumes; but he has been thinking—and writing code—on a path to get them into XFS.

[$] An overview of Project Atomic

Terms like "cloud-native" and "web scale" are often used and understood as pointless buzzwords. Under the layers of marketing, though, cloud systems do work best with a new and different way of thinking about system administration. Much of the tool set used for cloud operations is free software, and Linux is the platform of choice for almost all cloud applications. While just about any distribution can be made to work, there are several projects working to create a ground-up system specifically for cloud hosts. One of the best known of these is Project Atomic from Red Hat and the Fedora Project.

[$] Licenses and contracts

Some days it seems that wherever two or more free-software enthusiasts gather together, there also shall be licensing discussions. One such, which can get quite heated, is the question of whether a given free-software license is a license, or whether it is really a contract. This distinction is important, because most legal systems treat the two differently. I know from personal experience that that discussion can go on, unresolved, for long periods, but it had not previously occurred to me to wonder whether this might be due to the answer being different in different jurisdictions. Fortunately, it has occurred to some lawyers to wonder just that, and three of them came together at FOSDEM 2018 to present their conclusions.

Subscribers can read on for a report on the talk by guest author Tom Yates.

[$] Open-source trusted computing for IoT

At this year's FOSDEM in Brussels, Jan Tobias Mühlberg gave a talk on the latest work on Sancus, a project that was originally presented at the USENIX Security Symposium in 2013. The project is a fully open-source hardware platform to support "trusted computing" and other security functionality. It is designed to be used for internet of things (IoT) devices, automotive applications, critical infrastructure, and other embedded devices where trusted code is expected to be run.

Security updates for Wednesday

Security updates have been issued by Arch Linux (libmspack), Debian (zziplib), Fedora (ca-certificates, firefox, freetype, golang, krb5, libreoffice, monit, patch, plasma-workspace, ruby, sox, tomcat, and zziplib), openSUSE (dovecot22, glibc, GraphicsMagick, libXcursor, mbedtls, p7zip, SDL_image, SDL2_image, sox, and transfig), Red Hat (chromium-browser), and Ubuntu (cups, libvirt, and qemu).

Hovmöller: Moving a large and old codebase to Python3

Anders Hovmöller has posted an account of migrating a large application to Python 3. There were multiple steps on the journey and plenty of lessons learned. "Our philosophy was always to go py2 →py2/py3 → py3 because we just could not realistically do a big bang in production, an intuition that was proven right in surprising ways. This meant that 2to3 was a non starter which I think is probably common. We tried a while to use 2to3 to detect Python 3 compatibility issues but quickly found that untenable too. Basically it suggests changes that will break your code in Python 2. No good. The conclusion was to use six, which is a library to make it easy to build a codebase that is valid in both in Python 2 and 3."

Security updates for Tuesday

Security updates have been issued by Debian (libav), Gentoo (chromium, firefox, libreoffice, mysql, and ruby), SUSE (kernel), and Ubuntu (bind9).

[$] BPF comes to firewalls

The Linux kernel currently supports two separate network packet-filtering mechanisms: iptables and nftables. For the last few years, it has been generally assumed that nftables would eventually replace the older iptables implementation; few people expected that the kernel developers would, instead, add a third packet filter. But that would appear to be what is happening with the newly announced bpfilter mechanism. Bpfilter may eventually replace both iptables and nftables, but there are a lot of questions that will need to be answered first.

Security updates for Monday

Security updates have been issued by Arch Linux (irssi), Debian (bind9, gcc-4.9, plasma-workspace, quagga, and tomcat-native), Fedora (p7zip), Mageia (nasm), openSUSE (exim, ffmpeg, irssi, mpv, qpdf, quagga, rrdtool, and rubygem-puppet), and SUSE (p7zip and xen).

SuiteCRM 7.10 released

SuiteCRM is a fork of the formerly open-source SugarCRM customer relationship management system. The 7.10 release has been announced. "SuiteCRM 7.10 includes a long list of enhancements, improving user experience, adding new functionality and providing a new REST API. This edition of SuiteCRM also assists companies to be ready for GDPR, including opt-in functionality to track the consent of individuals."

[$] The boot-constraint subsystem

The fifth version of the patch series adding the boot-constraint subsystem is under review on the linux-kernel mailing list. The purpose of this subsystem is to honor the constraints put on devices by the bootloader before those devices are handed over to the operating system (OS) — Linux in our case. If these constraints are violated, devices may fail to work properly once the kernel starts reconfiguring the hardware; by tracking and enforcing those constraints, instead, we can ensure that hardware continues to work properly until the kernel is fully operational.