That Was The Week That Was (TWTWTW)
This is the first edition of TWTWTW, a weekly blog promoting interesting developments in the open source world. TWTWTW seeks to whet your curiosity. The name pays homage to the satirical British TV comedy programme aired in the early 1960s. Except satire isn’t the the raison d’etre for this blog. Instead, it provides a concise distilled commentary of notable open source related news from a different perspective. For the first edition, we present a brief catchup covering software, hardware, and a useful web service.
This certainly came out of the blue — a new release of MusicBrainz Picard. It is a fabulous cross-platform Python-based music tagger which sadly saw no new release for the past 18 months. But the developers have stormed back with a significant code update adding some useful features including support for the audio AIF file format, improved searching, as well as a bundle of bug fixes. Definitely worth a download.
Another significant announcement is the release of TensorFlow 1.0, a software library for machine intelligence from Google. Using data flow graphs, the library analyzes data to make highly reliable predictions. The library is often used to solve problems like ranking search results, image recognition, language translations, and other domains. Google has added an initial release of XLA, a domain-specific compiler for TensorFlow graphs, that targets CPUs and GPUs, an experimental Java API, with docker images, and debugging improvements.
The MariaDB project has released MariaDB 10.1.2.21, which mostly offers security fixes. It is an award-winning open source database which has been voted database of the year for the past 3 years in the LinuxQuestions.org Members Choice awards.
Since 2006 the Debian Project supplies Icedove, a re-branded version of Thunderbird without logos and copyrighted names. This followed Mozilla Corporation’s request for the Debian Project to comply with Mozilla’s licensing policies. Thunderbird is a marvelous cross-platform email, news, RSS, and chat client. After a spat that has lasted more than a decade, this balderdash has been resolved, and the Debian Project has de-branded the software. Happy days!
LosslessCut also sees a new release this week. This cross platform video editor losslessly trims and cuts videos. While the new release does not add any new features, it fixes some bugs. LosslessCut is based on Chromium and uses the HTML5 video player. Green Recorder is another multimedia open source tool with a new release. It is a simple Linux session recorder that records in MKV, AVI, MP4, WMV and NUT formats. A tool I will be following closely, as Linux is somewhat light on session recorders for the desktop.
There is a new release for –shots, a little known minimalistic screen-shotting tool. The new release lets users send screen-shots to Facebook, Twitter, and VKontakte.
Enterprise Networking Planet reports that SnapRoute has raised $25 million to develop an open source networking operating system. Bear in mind the development cost of the Linux kernel is estimated at $1.4 billion. In this respect, $25 million is almost chicken feed.
Going Open Source
It always engenders a warm fuzzy feeling when an organization takes the valiant step of releasing their code into public view. Wickr Inc. has seen that light this week. Wickr is an instant messaging app that lets users exchange end-to-end encrypted messages with photos, videos and file attachments. The cross-platform Wickr app allows users to set an expiration time for encrypted communications. This week Wickr has released its core cryptographic protocol to public review making the code available on GitHub. I haven’t had the time to check out the Wickr Public Review License in any great detail. Let me know what you think.
I’m a big fan of mini PCs, and not just the Raspberry Pi series. Low power consumption and a fanless design are essential requirements in my book. I received an email this week about the Jetway JBC420, promoted as a dedicated Linux-based media or network appliance device. It is rugged, fanless with integrated heatsink fins.
What makes this mini PC interesting is the combo of 3 independent graphics outputs, a 1.6GHz Quad Core Celeron N3160 processor and High Efficiency Video Coding hardware acceleration. It should be good for pfSense usage with its Intel LAN ports and hardware AES-NI support.
Samsung has announced its latest addition to their family of IoT Systems-on-Module with the Samsung ARTIK 530 Smart IoT module. This Fedora ready kit adds a quad-core ARM Cortex A-9 processor, an integrated OTG USB/device controller and built-in HDMI output. It comes with 512MB and 4GB flash (eMMC). The Fedora Linux package has multimedia, connectivity, graphics, power management and security libraries.
I have been researching an interactive toy to buy for a friend’s daughter. My Friend Cayla Interactive Doll answers questions, plays games, tells stories, and talks about picture with the help of the internet. An IoT doll. It has become under increasing scrutiny this week. The Federal Network Agency, an official German watchdog, now recommends parents destroy the doll because of lax security. It transpires the doll is easy to hack because the software developers’ Android (and iOS) applications fail to require a ping code when connecting via Bluetooth. A pretty fundamental flaw considering a child’s wellbeing is at risk. It’s a sage reminder of the importance of designing well behaved applications; just because they run on an open source operating system doesn’t mean the application will provide even basic security.
Web site of the week
Here’s a useful load time tester from Securi which I stumbled upon this week. It simply tests the speed of a website. Now there are literally hundreds of web sites that offer this type of information. But they are often laden with obtrusive advertising, pop ups, demands to join a mailing list, or some other nastiness. This one is particularly clean, presents the information in a clear way, and includes data on the time to first byte. Lovely jubbly.