FLOSS Weekly Episode 762: Spilling The Tea

Editor’s Note: We’re excited to announce that Hackaday is the new home of FLOSS Weekly, a long-running podcast about free, libre, and open-source software! The TWiT network hosted the podcast for an incredible seventeen years, but due to some changes on their end, they recently had to wind things down. They were gracious enough to let us pick up the torch, with Jonathan Bennett now taking over hosting duties.

Tune in every Wednesday for a new episode, featuring interviews with developers and project leaders, coverage of the free/libre software you use everyday (maybe without even knowing it), and the latest Open Source news.

This week Jonathan Bennett and Simon Phipps talk with Neal Gompa of Fedora, CentOS, openSUSE and more. The conversation starts off with asking Neal how he went from working on a minor project 11 years ago, to being the lead of KDE on Fedora. How does a company properly sponsor Open Source development? Neal speaks from his experience at Red Hat and other places, to give some really interesting answers.

The crew move on to what happened at Red Hat with CentOS, and why just maybe it was a good thing. Is the age of a company a good indicator of how they will treat Open Source? Is CentOS Stream the best thing to happen to Red Hat Enterprise Linux? What was it like to be at Red Hat during that time? How does a company manage the tension between sales and engineering? We cover this and more!

Continue reading “FLOSS Weekly Episode 762: Spilling The Tea”

Reliving The Authentic 90s Linux Experience

Installing Linux on a modern PC has never been easier. There are tons of tools available that will nearly-automatically download your Linux distribution of choice, image a USB drive, and make it bootable so you can finally ditch your bloated, privacy-violating operating system and get the free performance boost that comes along with it. This wasn’t always the case, though. In the 90s you had to take a trip to a store (or library) and buy (or borrow) a boxed copy of some variety of Linux on floppy disk or CDs, and then install it on your own, often without the help of the Internet. [Action Retro] demonstrates this process for us so we don’t have to relive the pain ourselves.

Complete with a 90s-era Pentium machine enclosed in a beige case, this is really the full 90s experience. He’s found a boxed version of Red Hat version 5.2 with everything needed to get it up and running and, after a brief issue with the installer crashing because it couldn’t figure out the ZIP disk drive, had another era-appropriate experience by erasing the existing Windows 98 installation. This was before automatic partitioning tools were widely available, so it was a real risk for beginner Linux enthusiasts if they were trying to dual boot.

With the installation complete, the X window system still needed to be set up, as well as making sure the settings for the old CRT monitor were correct. With everything finalized, the system can really be explored. It includes out-of-the-box some software plenty of us would recognize today such as GIMP and some other software we might not, like Netscape Communicator. It’s a real time machine experience to get this operating system running on period-appropriate hardware, and a lot of features of modern Linux systems can still be seen especially if your modern distribution of choice still requires a lot of manual configuration during installation. Old operating systems aside, this machine might be capable of running a modern Linux distribution as well, provided it has something slightly newer than a 486.

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SuSE Take On Red Hat, Forking RHEL

One of the Linux stories of the moment has come from Red Hat, with their ongoing efforts to make accessing the source of their Red Hat Enterprise Linux product a paid-for only process. This has caused consternation and annoyance alike, from the open source community angry at any liberties taken with the GPL, and from the community of RHEL users and customers concerned as to what it might mean for them.

Now a new player has entered the fray in the form of SuSe, who have announced the creation of an RHEL fork with the intention of maintaining a freely-available Red Hat compatible operating system distribution.

This is good news for all who use Red Hat derived software and we expect the likes of Rocky Linux will be taking a close look at it, but it’s also a canny move from the European company as they no doubt hope to tempt away some of those commercial Red Hat customers with a promise of stability and their existing experience supporting Red Hat users through their mixed Linux support packages. We hope they’ll continue to maintain their relationship with the open source world, and that the prospect of their actions unleashing a new commercial challenge causes Red Hat to move away from the brink a little.

Need some of the backstory? We’ve got you covered.

The perfect header for this story comes via atzerok, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Rocky Strikes Back At Red Hat

The world of Linux has seen some disquiet over recent weeks following the decision of Red Hat to restrict source code distribution for Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) to only their paying customers. We’re sure that there will be plenty of fall-out to come from this news, but what can be done if your project relies upon access to those Red Hat sources?

The Red-Hat-derived Rocky Linux distro relies on access to RHEL source, so the news could have been something of a disaster. Fortunately for Rocky users though, they appear to have found a reliable way to bypass the restriction and retain access to those RHEL sources. Red Hat would like anyone wanting source access to pay them handsomely for the privilege, but the Rocky folks have spotted a way to bypass this. Using readily available cloud images they can spin up a RHEL system and use it to download their sources, and they can do this as an automated process.

We covered this story as it unfolded last week, and it seemed inevitable then that something of this nature would be found, as for all Red Hat’s wishes a GPL-licensed piece of code can’t be prevented from being shared. So Rocky users and the wider community will for now retain access to the code, but will Red Hat strike back? It’s inevitable that there will be a further backlash from the community against any such moves, but will Red Hat be foolhardy enough to further damage their standing in this regard? They’re certainly not the only large distro losing touch with their users.

Et Tu, Red Hat?

Something odd happened to git.centos.org last week. That’s the repository where Red Hat has traditionally published the source code to everything that’s a part of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) to fulfill the requirements of the GPL license. Last week, those packages just stopped flowing. Updates weren’t being published. And finally, Red Hat has published a clear answer to why:

Red Hat has decided to continue to use the Customer Portal to share source code with our partners and customers, while treating CentOS Stream as the venue for collaboration with the community.

Sounds innocuous, but what’s really going on here? Let’s have a look at the Red Hat family: RHEL, CentOS, and Fedora.

RHEL is the enterprise Linux distribution that is Red Hat’s bread and butter. Fedora is RHEL’s upstream distribution, where changes happen fast and things occasionally break. CentOS started off as a community repackaging of RHEL, as allowed under the GPL and other Open Source licenses, for people who liked the stability but didn’t need the software support that you’re paying for when you buy RHEL.

Red Hat took over the reigns of CentOS back in 2014, and then imposed the transition to CentOS Stream in 2020, to some consternation. This placed CentOS Stream between the upstream Fedora, and the downstream RHEL. Some people missed the stability of the old CentOS, and in response a handful of efforts spun up to fill the gap, like Alma Linux and Rocky Linux. These projects took the source from git.centos.org, and rebuilt them into usable community operating systems, staying closer to RHEL in the process.

Red Hat has published a longer statement elaborating on the growth of CentOS Stream, but it ends with an interesting statement: “Red Hat customers and partners can access RHEL sources via the customer and partner portals, in accordance with their subscription agreement.” What exactly is in that subscription agreement? Well according to Alma Linux, “the way we understand it today, Red Hat’s user interface agreements indicate that re-publishing sources acquired through the customer portal would be a violation of those agreements.” Continue reading “Et Tu, Red Hat?”

CentOS Is Dead, Long Live CentOS

On Tuesday, December 8th, Red Hat and CentOS announced the end of CentOS 8. To be specific, CentOS 8 will reach end of life at the end of 2021, 8 years ahead of schedule. To really understand what that means, and how we got here, it’s worth taking a trip down memory lane, and looking at how the history of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), CentOS, and IBM are intertwined.

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Hackaday Links: May 5, 2019

Simulacra and simulation and Kickstarter videos. The Amigo Robot is a 4-wheeled omnibot robot on Kickstarter. It does STEM or STEAM or whatever. Oh neat, injection molded magnetic pogo pins, that’s cool. Watch the video for this Kickstarter, it is a work of postmodern horror. We live in a post-reality world, and this is beyond parody.  You have the ubiquitous cheerful whistling, a ukulele, tambourine and a glockenspiel. You’ve got a narrator that falls squarely into the uncanny valley and a cadence that could have only been generated by a computer. You’ve got grammar that is very much correct, but somehow wrong; ‘It is the key to interact with family pets’. This is really, really bad.

Who is Satoshi? The creator of Bitcoin, a person or persons known as Satoshi Nakamoto, has been an open question for years now, with many people claiming they are the one that invented Bitcoin (with the implication that they’re in control of the first coins and therefore a multi-Billionaire). Newsweek found someone named Dorian Nakamoto, but that guy didn’t make Bitcoin. Wired magazine used back-dated blog posts to identify the creator of Bitcoin. Needless to say, the creator of Bitcoin has not been identified yet. Now, there’s an unveiling of sorts coming up. gotsatoshi.com has a live countdown and doesn’t use Rockapella as a house band. This bears repeating, again: there is exactly one way to prove the identity of Satoshi Nakamoto. To prove you are Satoshi, all you need to do is move some of the first Bitcoins. That’s it, that’s all you need to do, and it’s not going to happen when the gotsatoshi.com countdown hits zero.

CNC machines controlled by a Pi abound, but here’s a word of warning about buying a ‘bargain’ CNC machine from China from [Rob] via our tips line:

In the “homebrew” community, I know some people have their own CNC machines – I’ve seen a hundred and one projects using Raspberry Pis to run homemade CNCs and so on, so I guess there is a good supply of open-source/freeware to software to control them with.
However, some people, like a mate at work, might be tempted by a good “bargain” from China.  No names, no pack drill, but just before last Christmas, my mate bought a “cheap” CNC system from China – It was about three or four thousand Euros, if I remember rightly.  It has been working well and he done some work for our work as well. No problems.
Last week, our firm was contacted by Siemens. They claimed that someone at our firm has been using unlicensed Siemens software.  At first no-one knew what they were on about.  Someone thought it might be about some CAD system or other – we had been trialing a few to see which suited us best, but we had stuck well within the restrictions for the trials.
Then we found out it was the software on his CNC machine.  Because he had used his work laptop with it, the system had “phoned home” and alerted Siemens that an unlicensed version was being used.  Siemens then demanded EUR 32,000 – yes, thirty two THOUSAND Euros to license the software.  That was something like EUR 27,000 for the commercial license and EUR 5 000 for the second one.  It was explained that he had bought the CNC system from where-ever and had a license issued by the manufacturer.  I license that Siemens do not acknowledge.  They have now accepted that he bought and used it in good faith that it was fully legit, so they waived the commercial license and are now demanding “only” EUR 5,000, but that still comes with the threat – pay up or we take you to court…

We’re all very familiar that Dassault Systems will start hitting you up for that Solidworks license you didn’t pay for, but this is effectively firmware for a CNC machine that is phoning home through a laptop. In effect it’s a reverse Stuxnet, brought to you by a cheap Chinese CNC machine.

Here’s a hot tip for anyone who wants to do something people want. Direct to garment printers (DTG printers) are pretty much inkjet printers modified to print on t-shirts. ‘dtg printer’ is one of Hackaday’s perennial top search terms, most likely because of a post we did ten years ago. If you want to join the cool kids club and do something people desperately want, find a cheap inkjet and turn it into a DTG printer.

Red Hat has changed its logo. Red Hat, the company that somehow makes money on Open Source software, changed their logo this week. The branding for Red Hat hasn’t been very good since 2016 or thereabouts, and the branding for the Fedora project has been taking hits for just as long, m’lady. Beyond that, customer surveys revealed that the old ‘Shadowman’ logo evoked feelings like, ‘sinister, secretive, evil, and sneaky’. The new logo removes the shadowman entirely, and makes the hat the focus of attention. There is now official confirmation that there is a black band around the crown of the hat (in the Shadowman logo, this band could be confused for a shadow), and the crown is sharper. The jury is still out on the fedora vs. trilby argument, and indeed the argument is even more divisive now: the difference between a trilby and a fedora is in how they are worn, and by removing the Shadowman from the logo we now have fewer context clues to make the determination. Bet you didn’t think you were going to read two hundred words about the Red Hat logo today, did you?