10 Years Of Ubuntu Linux

ArsTechnica - In October of 2004, a new Linux distro appeared on the scene with a curious name—Ubuntu. Even then there were hundreds, today if not thousands, of different Linux distros available. A new one wasn't particularly unusual, and for some time after its quiet preview announcement, Ubuntu went largely unnoticed. It was yet another Debian derivative.
Today, Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, estimates that there are 25 million Ubuntu users worldwide. That makes Ubuntu the world's third most popular PC operating system. By Canonical's estimates, Ubuntu has roughly 90 percent of the Linux market. And Ubuntu is poised to launch a mobile version that may well send those numbers skyrocketing again.

This month marks the tenth anniversary of Ubuntu. As you'll soon see in this look at the desktop distro through the years, Linux observers sensed there was something special about Ubuntu nearly from the start. However, while a Linux OS that genuinely had users in mind was quickly embraced, Ubuntu's ten-year journey since is a microcosm of the major Linux events of the last decade—encompassing everything from privacy concerns and Windows resentment to server expansion and hopes of convergence.


Those Darned Hobbit Movies

The third of Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy, The Battle Of The Five Armies, is fast approaching, and I am more and more conflicted as December draws nigh. I very much enjoyed the Lord Of The Rings trilogy of movies - it was a startling series of attempts to realize the classic fantasy novels in a modern movie format. In large part they worked beautifully, even allowing for quite a bit of license with the characters and stories. 

Some of the changes could be explained by the requirements of making an accessible and exciting movie from a dense, wordy novel - and they certainly succeeded in bring Tolkien's Middle Earth to vibrant life. Other changes seemed arbitrary and unnecessary though, especially since I am now enjoying the audiobook of the original story again and find myself wondering at some of the choices with the benefit of hindsight. You can likely come up with your own list if you are familiar with the books.

Azog - CGI baddie


More Ebola Infections - Via Malicious Email

As usual, the bad guys adhere to the Rahm Emanuel "never let a good crisis go to waste" school of thought. This time, it's Ebola-themed emails carrying infected attachments or links to malware-infested sites.
Last week, the United States Computer Readiness Team, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, issued an advisory warning users about spam campaigns that used the Ebola virus to bait users into clicking on malicious web links or attachments. This week, Trustwave, a private security and compliance consulting company, discovered several Ebola-themed threats.
One email purporting to be from the World Health Organization included a bogus file that claimed to include Ebola safety tips. Once downloaded, the file dropped a program onto the victim’s machine that evaded antivirus defenses. The program can do everything from grab shots off the victim’s webcam, record sounds from their computer’s microphone, take control of their desktop remotely, modify and upload files and steal passwords.


C.H.A.M.P. - The Canton Hacker And Maker Place

Bill Locke is a buddy, and although we have not talked face to face for years, I keep up with him on Facebook. He is a bit of a renaissance man, if such a thing still exists. He's married with kids, plays in a (wild) local band, goes bow hunting, still skateboards on occasion, hosts wicked Halloween parties, owns a computer repair shop, and has just started a "hacker space" - and no, that's not a "bad" thing. Read all about The Canton Hacker And Maker Place in the Canton Repository.

CantonRep.com / Scott Heckel


Now Soda Pop Will Hasten Your Demise

I never quite know how to take these pronouncements that come up with disheartening frequency. Is it researchers with too much time on their hands or worse, researchers with some kind of axe to grind? One never can be entirely sure when every bloody thing we ingest is "tied to" or "contributes to" or is "associated with" one deadly thing or another. Now it's a daily soda pop shortening the telomeres in our cells....
The researchers calculated daily consumption of a 20-ounce pop is associated with 4.6 years of additional biological aging. The effect on telomere length is comparable to that of smoking, they said. "This finding held regardless of age, race, income and education level," researcher Elissa Epel said in a press release.


An Imaginary Friend, With A Twist

Apple's Siri was the first of the current crop of "digital personal assistants" - a way for we humans to communicate with our mobile devices in a more natural way. What if you had an autistic child, and you suddenly became aware that the usually reticent kid was forming something of a relationship with Siri? It's kind of like an imaginary friend, but of course Siri is real enough in the sense that "she" is part of a concrete object. In this rather poignant story from the NY Times you can begin to see how a computer, robot, or in this case an app running on a mobile device could become a non-judgemental and infinitely patient teacher or friend figure to the writer's son, Gus.
It’s not that Gus doesn’t understand Siri’s not human. He does — intellectually. But like many autistic people I know, Gus feels that inanimate objects, while maybe not possessing souls, are worthy of our consideration. I realized this when he was 8, and I got him an iPod for his birthday. He listened to it only at home, with one exception. It always came with us on our visits to the Apple Store. Finally, I asked why. “So it can visit its friends,” he said.


Apple: Bose Products? What Bose Products?

Bose products have magically disappeared from Apple's online store following a lawsuit between Bose and Beats. Apple had purchased Beats earlier this year.
As of last week, Apple's online store listed a total of 17 Bose products, including a range of SoundLink Bluetooth speakers, and its popular QuietComfort series of noise-canceling headphones.

It was Bose's noise-canceling technology that prompted the company to file a lawsuit against Beats in July, accusing its Studio and Studio Wireless series of infringing on its patents. But one week ago, Bose announced in court that it had settled its patent infringement lawsuit against Apple's Beats.

It's unknown whether the removal of Bose products from Apple's store was part of the terms of the settlement or if another reason was at play. The settlement between Beats and Bose remains confidential.


Dropbox Usernames And Passwords Leaked

ArsTechnica posted an item about Dropbox user accounts and passwords being leaked online:
Popular online locker service Dropbox appears to have been hacked. A series of posts have been made to Pastebin purporting to contain login credentials for hundreds of Dropbox accounts, with the poster claiming that altogether 6,937,081 account credentials have been compromised. 
Reddit users who have tested some of the leaked credentials have confirmed that at least some of them work. Dropbox seems to have bulk reset all the accounts listed in the Pastebin postings, though thus far other accounts do not appear to have had their passwords reset.
According to a subsequent statement by the company:
Dropbox has not been hacked. These usernames and passwords were unfortunately stolen from other services and used in attempts to log in to Dropbox accounts. We'd previously detected these attacks and the vast majority of the passwords posted have been expired for some time now. All other remaining passwords have been expired as well.
I changed my password anyway...


Real-Time Web Page Animation

I am old enough to remember when blinking text was a pretty big deal on the Internet. We have come a long way since then, to put it mildly. If you have a fairly recent PC with decent graphics, and a modern web browser that supports HTML 5, you should go see this page. It features an computer-generated animation you can interact with - the instructions are on the page itself on the right side. Another example would be this page, where the "liquid particles" are affected by your mouse movements. These sorts of demos are often put forth to show how HTML 5 may be used to replace or improve upon Adobe Flash for some interactive web elements.


Slow Adoption Of iOS 8

Apple iOS updates are usually snapped up, much more so that Android updates. Android has a more fragmented environment, and new versions aren't available to all systems at once (and sometimes never). Apple's ecosystem makes more sense in this regard; and Apple device is an Apple device, there are not multiple brands and a wide range of hardware, and so updated versions of iOS tend to be propagated quickly. iOS 8 has been noticeably slower than usual, though - currently iOS 8 adoption is less than 50%. Maybe it's something about the number 8? Windows 8, I'm looking at you.

More practically, there are likely two main reasons - the initial buggy release may have given some people pause, and they are waiting until things are sorted out - maybe till version 8.1. Apple mobile device users have experienced buggy releases before though. Perhaps more to the point, the update is BIG, requiring around 6GB on the target system to run the install process - a bit tight on an 8GB iPhone or iPad, particularly if you actually already have anything on your device.


Best Linux Distro Of 2014 (So Far)

Linux Voice has a look at the best Linux distros of 2014, broken down into categories such as "best for beginners", "best performance", "best security" and so on. They then pick the overall winner - and it's not one of the usual suspects like Mint, Ubuntu, Suse, etc, etc. Their final choice surprised me quite a bit actually, but thinking about it does make some kind of sense - even though my own faves this year have been Zorin, Mint, Elementary and LXLE (I like to futz around with different distros).
Just as the sports team with the best stats doesn’t simply win the game, the distro with the best scores in six areas doesn’t simply get awarded the best distro status. To come up with an ultimate winner, we stared deep into each distro, and drew on our personal experience. We looked into every option, and meditated on the concept of distro nirvana.
We were looking for a distro that performs well in every area, and excellently in many, making it a good all-round distro. However this alone isn’t enough. It needs to have something that pushes it ahead of the competition – and the competition is getting better every year. It needs that certain X factor to make it stand out. It should be a distro people want to install; a distro that people get passionate about; a distro that makes you remember why you love Linux.


Shock - The Internet Is A Time-Waster

In an unanticipated and shocking revelation, research has shown that the Internet can be a big waste of time, gobbling up hours out of people's waking hours.
Over the last couple of decades the internet has revolutionized how we work, how we shop, how we communicate, and how we consume media. In most regards it has made life quicker and easier, but it has also brought challenges and side-effects. Technology may have made many tasks simpler, but it has also increased distractions and shepherded in more ways to procrastinate. You've probably noticed that while you can get many things done faster than ever, you spend a great deal of time doing nothing of worth.

In fact, rather than saving money, the widespread adoption of technology could be costing business dearly. Research shows that nearly two-thirds of employees spend work hours browsing sites unrelated to work -- a surprising 3 percent of them spending more than 10 hours a week actively avoiding work online. All of these wasted man hours add up, resulting in an average cost of almost $3,000 for employee each year.

BetaNews (with Infographic)


"BadUSB" Is Pretty Bad - And The Code Is Now Out

The so-called BadUSB firmware vulnerability seems to be pretty dire, and now the exploit code is available on Github. Given that this is reportedly an "unpatchable" vulnerability and potentially affects all manner of USB devices, putting it "out there" seems like an extraordinarily bad idea.
Previously, it was demonstrated by Karsten Nohl and Jakob Lell at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas, showcasing that the firmware of USB devices made by Taiwanese electronics manufacturer Phison could be injected with undetectable, unfixable malware.
Crucially, however, Nohl did not release the code used for the exploit at the time. But Caudill and Wilson have subsequently made the decision to release fuller details about BadUSB at the recent DerbyCon hacking conference in Louisville, Kentucky.
“The belief we have is that all of this should be public. It shouldn’t be held back. So we’re releasing everything we’ve got,” Caudill said to the audience at DerbyCon. “This was largely inspired by the fact that [SR Labs] didn’t release their material. If you’re going to prove that there’s a flaw, you need to release the material so people can defend against it.”
The vulnerability functions by modifying USB device firmware, hiding malicious code in USB sticks and other devices in a way that is undetectable. Even wiping the contents of a device doesn’t work, and Wired called the vulnerability “practically unpatchable.”
Once a USB device is infected, it will attempt to infect anything it connects to, or any USB stick that comes into it.


JP Morgan Hacking Part Of A New Cold War?

The recent JP Morgan Chase hacking episode that affected over 80 million accounts belonging to individuals and businesses is distressing enough on its own, but could it be part of a new "Cyber Cold War"? The Russian hackers may have at least loose ties to the Soviet government, according to a NYTimes article.
The breadth of the attacks — and the lack of clarity about whether it was an effort to steal from accounts or to demonstrate that the hackers could penetrate even the best-protected American financial institutions — has left Washington intelligence officials and policy makers far more concerned than they have let on publicly. Some American officials speculate that the breach was intended to send a message to Wall Street and the United States about the vulnerability of the digital network of one of the world’s most important banking institutions.
“It could be in retaliation for the sanctions” placed on Russia, one senior official briefed on the intelligence said. “But it could be mixed motives — to steal if they can, or to sell whatever information they could glean.”



Linux - The OS With No Games - Now Has Hundreds On Steam

That's pretty cool - even though my FPS gaming is pretty much in the dust these days, it's nice to see that you can do some decent gaming now on Linux via Steam. To my thinking the lack of available games, native or otherwise, was always a bit of a knock on Linux as a competitive Desktop OS.
Steam's official count currently at the time of writing lists it at 702 games, but SteamDB however only lists 676 as actually working.


Google Glass Takes A Bite Out Of Crime

(Reuters) - Dubai police plan to issue detectives with Google Glass hands-free eyewear to help them fight crime using facial recognition technology, a police spokesman in the wealthy Gulf Arab emirate said.

The wearable device consists of a tiny computer screen mounted in the corner of an eyeglass frame and is capable of taking photos, recording video and playing sound.

The spokesman confirmed a report in Dubai's 7 Days newspaper that software developed by Dubai police would enable a connection between the wearer and a database of wanted people.

Once the device "recognized" a suspect based on a face print, it would alert the officer wearing the gadget.

The gadget would be used in a first phase to combat traffic violations and track vehicles suspected of involvement in motoring offences. A second phase would see the technology rolled out to detectives, the spokesman said.

Read the rest of "Dubai detectives to get Google Glass to fight crime" at Reuters

Dubai police also get to use Lambos and Ferraris...


Installing Windows 10 Preview

If you want to install Windows 10 preview on your PC, HowToGeek has the skinny. I would not advise installing something like this on your only PC, as it is not a finished product - it's a preview of an operating system that will be released in some form next year. But, I confess I have done it in the past with Windows 8, so take that hollow warning for what it's worth. A better, or at least more prudent, method might be to install it in a VM. Honestly, I am kinda done with Windows over the last few years, at least for my laptop, so I'll probably just watch the YouTube videos and read the reviews this time around...