October 28th, 2020
A new QWERTY-slider mobile lands, with LineageOS and Ubuntu Touch as first-class citizens. The Linux Foundation continues its land-grab, releases for Fedora and fwupd, plus an open Facebook groups and events alternative, and more.
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Fedora 33 has been released. And if we're being honest, anyone that already uses Fedora will probably be updating because of the short support cycle of the distro, and anybody that doesn't is only likely to have a passing interest in the release. But it's a fairly significant one for the project, and not just because it's the first to ship with Btrfs as the default file system for Workstation users, but also because of a renewed focus on its cloud and IoT offerings. The release will see increased visibility for Fedora Cloud Base Image and Fedora CoreOS, with both becoming available in Amazon’s AWS Marketplace for the first time, and Fedora IoT being promoted to full Edition status. But with the distribution remaining primarily a community-supported project, it's not obvious how its apparent ambitions to make inroads into the corporate production market are likely to be received.
• Fedora 33 is officially here!
• Release Notes for Fedora 33
Richard Hughes has released version 1.5 of fwupd. Besides adding support for some new devices, the release adds asynchronous functionality to its underlying library — which will allow GUI tools using it to more easily remain responsive, without otherwise having to work around potentially blocking behavior. The update also brings composite image files to make life easier for firmware engineers, and includes initial work towards supporting Host Security ID — which in time should mature into a robust system to provide assurance for security-conscious users about the updates that they're receiving.
• New fwupd 1.5.0 release
On the last show I mentioned that Debian had given a significant donation to French non-profit Framasoft, to help fund the development of live-streaming functionality for its PeerTube video platform. And while PeerTube is probably its best known project, Framasoft is involved in many more — most of which are designed to provide free and open takes on proprietary products. The organization has now launched a new federated platform dubbed Mobilizon, which aims to be an open alternative to Facebook groups, with a particular emphasis on event management features. The platform allows you to interact anonymously, or if you create a full account, to maintain separate profiles within it — so that you don't have to publicly expose all of the causes that you support. And just like PeerTube, you're free to take the source code and host your own instance of the software, if you want to start building a community completely under your own control.
• Mobilizon. Your events. Your groups. Your data.
There's been another flurry of activity from the Linux Foundation in the last few days, as it continues spreading its reach into yet more areas of our technological life. On Monday the organization announced that it was kicking off a new Software Developer Diversity and Inclusion project, to look at potential ways to increase diversity within the software engineering field. The project is being run in conjunction with American, Australian, and Chinese universities, along with a number of large industry participants, including Intel, GitHub, and Facebook. While the launch announcement mentioned the familiar racial and gender disparities among developers, it's perhaps worth noting that the Linux Foundation also explicitly mentioned both age and cognitive ability as categories of potential underrepresentation that the new initiative will be considering.
• Linux Foundation Focuses on Science and Research to Advance Diversity and Inclusion in Software Engineering
The Linux Foundation has also announced that it will be merging its AI Foundation and Open Data Platform initiative, to create a single new combined umbrella project. The Linux Foundation hopes that its new AI and Data Foundation will become the natural home for projects devoted to artificial intelligence, machine learning, data, and analytics; and that the new organization will benefit end users by helping to drive standards and interoperability in a rapidly growing and increasingly complex sector of modern computing. And while all this sounds very noble, you can't help but think that the somewhat more cynical take on things from an industry watcher at The Register is possibly slightly closer to the truth — and that the Linux Foundation could be frustrated that many of the key AI and data projects out there today, and the funds associated with them, are still controlled by the likes of Google and Facebook, rather than being under its own benevolent stewardship.
• New AI & Data Foundation Combines Industry’s Fastest-Growing Open Source Developments in Artificial Intelligence and Open Data
• Linux Foundation projects on AI and data merge – because one of these concepts simply can't exist without the other
Canonical has been experimenting with the compression algorithm used by its snap packaging system. While the method currently employed results in good compression, and helps save on disk space and download bandwidth, it's also relatively processor-intensive when it comes to uncompressing packages — meaning that applications can sometimes seem very slow to first launch. Testing by the company has shown that while switching to LZO compression might typically increase package size by 60-70%, it could also result in a two to three times faster cold startup time for applications, due to the less demanding decompression algorithm. Having conducted its tests against the complex Chromium browser package, the company is now considering how to rollout the compression algorithm change more widely to other snaps that might also benefit from it.
• Snap speed improvements with new compression algorithm!
The main developer of the Pale Moon web browser has announced that he's moving its source code away from GitHub. The decision doesn't have anything to do with the ongoing controversy over the youtube-dl takedown notice, but has come about due to GitHub's increasing reliance on the use of web components to render its UI, and other user experience changes. And while Pale Moon isn't particularly widely used, and this is a minor story in the scheme of things, it caught my eye because over the last few months I've been seeing increasing concern about the complexity and speed of change of modern web technologies. And we do seem to have already passed the point where nobody other than a major corporation could consider building a new browser engine from scratch, and entered a world where Google is largely dictating the future direction of the web, leaving Apple just about clinging onto its coattails, and everybody else being forced to adopt Google's open source browser technology. That might be great for developers who have less platforms to target, but it rings a few alarm bells — particularly when the ongoing development of the only other significant player, in the form of Firefox's Gecko engine, is almost entirely tied to funding that Mozilla receives from Google itself.
• Pale Moon migrating source code from GitHub
But let's end today on a far more positive note. And while the OnePlus brand has somewhat inexplicably become a firm favorite among the FOSS community over the last few years, a new mobile device announced yesterday could well tempt many away — providing they've got fairly deep pockets. UK smartphone maker F(x)tec has teamed up with the company behind the XDA-Developers website, to jointly launch a refreshed version of its Pro1 QWERTY-slider mobile phone. Powered by a Snapdragon 835, the new phone features either six or eight gigabytes of RAM, paired with 128 or 256GB of internal storage, along with dual SIM support, a proper audio jack, a fingerprint scanner, and an eight megapixel front-facing camera, with five and twelve megapixel shooters on the rear. But apart from being one of the few devices available these days with a sliding keyboard, what really sets the phone apart is that as well as stock Android, you can purchase it with either LineageOS or Ubuntu Touch installed out of the box. And since the new phone also supports HDMI out, if you opt for Ubuntu Touch you can plug it into a monitor and get the convergence experience that the OS was developed to provide — using the built-in keyboard for text entry, and the phone's display for mouse and cursor control. While there are a number of discounted early-bird units available to purchase on Indiegogo, they're being snapped up very quickly. So if the idea of a keyboard-slider running Lineage or Ubuntu Touch is at all appealing, best check out the link in the shownotes as soon as you can.
• The Pro1-X, in partnership with XDA.
• Yeah, XDA made a phone…
• Indiegogo: Pro1 X Smartphone Functionality, Choice & Control
• [Video] Ubuntu Touch + LineageOS? THIS Is The Linux Phone I Want!