Microsoft Updates MS-DOS GitHub Repo To 4.0

We’re not 100% sure which phase of Microsoft’s “Embrace, Extend, and Extinguish” gameplan this represents, but just yesterday the Redmond software giant decided to grace us with the source code for MS-DOS v4.0.

To be clear, the GitHub repository itself has been around for several years, and previously contained the source and binaries for MS-DOS v1.25 and v2.0 under the MIT license. This latest update adds the source code for v4.0 (no binaries this time), which originally hit the market back in 1988. We can’t help but notice that DOS v3.0 didn’t get invited to the party — perhaps it was decided that it wasn’t historically significant enough to include.

That said, readers with sufficiently gray beards may recall that DOS 4.0 wasn’t particularly well received back in the day. It was the sort of thing where you either stuck with something in the 3.x line if you had older hardware, or waited it out and jumped to the greatly improved v5 when it was released. Modern equivalents would probably be the response to Windows Vista, Windows 8, and maybe even Windows 11. Hey, at least Microsoft keeps some things consistent.

It’s interesting that they would preserve what’s arguably the least popular version of MS-DOS in this way, but then again there’s something to be said for having a historical record on what not to do for future generations. If you’re waiting to take a look at what was under the hood in the final MS-DOS 6.22 release, sit tight. At this rate we should be seeing it sometime in the 2030s.

FLOSS Weekly Episode 780: Zoneminder — Better Call Randal

This week Jonathan Bennett and Aaron Newcomb chat with Isaac Connor about Zoneminder! That’s the project that’s working to store and deliver all the bits from security cameras — but the CCTV world has changed a lot since Zoneminder first started, over 20 years ago. The project is working hard to keep up, with machine learning object detection, WebRTC, and more. Isaac talks a bit about developer burnout, and a case or two over the years where an aggressive contributor seems suspicious in retrospect. And when is the next stable version of Zoneminder coming out, anyway?

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Git Good, By Playing A Gamified Version Of Git

What better way to learn to use Git than a gamified interface that visualizes every change? That’s the idea behind Oh My Git! which aims to teach players all about the popular version control system that underpins so many modern software projects.

Git good, with a gameified git interface.

Sometimes the downside to a tool being so ubiquitous is that it tends to be taken for granted that everyone already knows how to use it, and those starting entirely from scratch can be left unsure where to begin. That’s what creators [bleeptrack] and [blinry] had in mind with Oh My Git! which is freely available for Linux, Windows, and macOS.

The idea is to use a fun playing-card interface to not only teach players the different features, but also to build intuitive familiarity for operations like merging and rebasing by visualizing in real-time the changes a player’s actions make.

The game is made with beginners in mind, with the first two (short) levels establishing that managing multiple versions of a file can quickly become unwieldy without help. Enter git — which the game explains is essentially a time machine — and it’s off to the races.

It might be aimed at beginners, but more advanced users can learn a helpful trick or two. The game isn’t some weird pseudo-git simulator, either. The back end uses real git repositories, with a real shell and git interface behind it all. Prefer to type commands in directly instead of using the playing card interface? Go right ahead!

Oh My Git! uses the free and open-source Godot game engine (not to be confused with the Godot machine, a chaos-based random number generator.)

FLOSS Weekly Episode 777: Asterisk — Wait, Faxes?

This week Jonathan Bennett and David Ruggles sit down with Joshua Colp to talk about Asterisk! That’s the Open Source phone system software you already interact with without realizing it. It started as a side project to run the phones for Linux Support Services, and it turned out working on phone systems was more fun than supporting Linux. The project grew, and in the years since has landed at Sangoma, where Joshua holds the title of Asterisk Project Lead.

Asterisk is used in call centers, business phone systems, and telecom appliances around the world. But how does it handle faxes, WebRTC, and stopping spam calls? Just kidding on that last one, still an unsolved problem.

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Exploit The Stressed-out Package Maintainer, Exploit The Software Package

A recent security vulnerability — a potential ssh backdoor via the liblzma library in the xz package — is having a lot of analysis done on how the vulnerability was introduced, and [Rob Mensching] felt that it was important to highlight what he saw as step number zero of the whole process: exploit the fact that a stressed package maintainer has burned out. Apply pressure from multiple sources while the attacker is the only one stepping forward to help, then inherit the trust built up by the original maintainer. Sadly, [Rob] sees in these interactions a microcosm of what happens far too frequently in open source.

Maintaining open source projects can be a high stress activity. The pressure and expectations to continually provide timely interaction, support, and updates can easily end up being unhealthy. As [Rob] points out (and other developers have observed in different ways), this kind of behavior just seems more or less normal for some projects.

The xz/liblzma vulnerability itself is a developing story, read about it and find links to the relevant analyses in our earlier coverage here.

Security Alert: Potential SSH Backdoor Via Liblzma

In breaking news that dropped just after our weekly security column went live, a backdoor has been discovered in the xz package, that could potentially compromise SSH logins on Linux systems. The most detailed analysis so far seems to be by [Andres Freund] on the oss-security list.

The xz release tarballs from 5.6.0 in late February and 5.6.1 on March 9th both contain malicious code. A pair of compressed files in the repository contain the majority of the malicious patch, disguised as test files. In practice, this means that looking at the repository doesn’t reveal anything amiss, but downloading the release tarballs gives you the compromised code.

This was discovered because SSH logins on a Debian sid were taking longer, with more CPU cycles than expected. And interestingly, Valgrind was throwing unexpected errors when running on the liblzma library. That last bit was first discovered on February 24th, immediately after the 5.6.0 release. The xz-utils package failed its tests on Gentoo builds.

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FLOSS Weekly Episode 776: Dnsmasq, Making The Internet Work Since 1999

This week Jonathan Bennett and Simon Phipps sit down with Simon Kelley to talk about Dnsmasq! That’s a piece of software that was first built to get a laptop online over LapLink, and now runs on most of the world’s routers and phones. How did we get here, and what does the future of Dnsmasq look like? For now, Dnsmasq has a bus factor of one, which is a bit alarming, given how important it is to keeping all of us online. But the beauty of the project being available under the GPL is that if Simon Kelley walks away, Google, OpenWRT, and other users can fork and continue maintenance as needed. Give the episode a listen to learn more about Dnsmasq, how it’s tied to the Human Genome Project, and more!

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