Facebook

Facebook Open Sources Its Network Routing Platform Open/R (techcrunch.com) 25

Facebook will open source its modular network routing software Open/R, currently used in its backbone and data center networks, which "provides a platform to disseminate state across the network and allows new applications to be built on top of it." An anonymous reader quotes TechCrunch: Facebook obviously has unique scale needs when it comes to running a network. It has billions of users doing real-time messaging and streaming content at a constant clip. As with so many things, Facebook found that running the network traffic using traditional protocols had its limits and it needed a new way to route traffic that didn't rely on the protocols of the past, Omar Baldonado, Engineering Director at Facebook explained... While it was originally developed for Facebook's Terragraph wireless backhaul network, the company soon recognized it could work on other networks too including the Facebook network backbone, and even in the middle of Facebook network, he said. Given the company's extreme traffic requirements where the conditions were changing so rapidly and was at such scale, they needed a new way to route traffic on the network. "We wanted to find per application, the best path, taking into account dynamic traffic conditions throughout the network," Baldonado said.

But Facebook also recognized that it could only take this so far internally, and if they could work with partners and other network operators and hardware manufacturers, they could extend the capabilities of this tool. They are in fact working with other companies in this endeavor including Juniper and Arista networks, but by open sourcing the software, it allows developers to do things with it that Facebook might not have considered, and their engineering team finds that prospect both exciting and valuable.

"Most protocols were initially designed based on constrained hardware and software environment assumptions from decades ago," Facebook said in its announcement. "To continue delivering rich, real-time, and highly engaging user experiences over networks, it's important to accelerate innovation in the routing domain."
The Courts

FOSS Community Criticizes SFLC over SFC Trademark War (lunduke.com) 63

Earlier this month Bruce Perens notified us that "the Software Freedom Law Center, a Linux-Foundation supported organization, has asked USPTO to cancel the trademark of the name of the Software Freedom Conservancy, an organization that assists and represents Free Software/Open Source developers." Now Slashdot reader curcuru -- director of the Apache Software Foundation -- writes: No matter how you look at it, this kind of lawsuit is a loss for software freedom and open source in general, since this kind of USPTO trademark petition (like a lawsuit) will tie up both organizations, leaving less time and funds to help FOSS projects. There's clearly more to the issue than the trademark issue; the many community members' blog posts make that clear.

GNOME executive director Neil McGovern
Apache Software Foundation director Shane Curcuru
Google security developer Matthew Garrett
Linux industry journalist Bryan Lunduke


The key point in this USPTO lawsuit is that the legal aspects aren't actually important. What's most important is the community reaction: since SFLC and Conservancy are both non-profits who help serve free software communities, it's the community perception of what organizations to look to for help that matters. SFLC's attempt to take away the Conservancy's very name doesn't look good for them.

Bryan Lunduke's video covers the whole case, including his investigation into the two organizations and their funding.

Open Source

Proprietary Software is the Driver of Unprecedented Surveillance: Richard Stallman (factor-tech.com) 196

From a wide-ranging interview of Richard Stallman, president of the Free Software Foundation, programming legend and recipient of at least 15 honorary doctorates and professorships: "The reason that we are subject now to more surveillance than there was in the Soviet Union is that digital technology made it possible," he says. "And the first disaster of digital technology was proprietary software that people would install and run on their own computers, and they wouldn't know what it was doing. They can't tell what it's doing. And that is the first injustice that I began fighting in 1983: proprietary software, software that is not free, that the users don't control." Here, Stallman is keen to stress, he doesn't mean free in the sense of not costing money -- plenty of free software is paid for -- but free in the sense of freedom to control. Software, after all, instructs your computer to perform actions, and when another company has written and locked down that software, you can't know exactly what it is doing. "You might think your computer is obeying you, when really its obeying the real master first, and it only obeys you when the real master says it's ok. With every program there are two possibilities: either the user controls the program or the program controls the users," he says. "It's free software if users control it. And that's why it respects their freedom. Otherwise it's a non-free, proprietary, user subjugating program."
Government

Pentagon To Make a Big Push Toward Open-Source Software Next Year (theverge.com) 98

"Open-source software" is computer software with its source code made available with a license in which the copyright holder provides the rights to study, change, and distribute the software to anyone and for any purpose. According to The Verge, the Pentagon is going to make a big push for open-source software in 2018. "Thanks to an amendment introduced by Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) and co-sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), the [National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018] could institute a big change: should the bill pass in its present form, the Pentagon will be going open source." From the report: We don't typically think of the Pentagon as a software-intensive workplace, but we absolutely should. The Department of Defense is the world's largest single employer, and while some of that work is people marching around with rifles and boots, a lot of the work is reports, briefings, data management, and just managing the massive enterprise. Loading slides in PowerPoint is as much a part of daily military life as loading rounds into a magazine. Besides cost, there are two other compelling explanations for why the military might want to go open source. One is that technology outside the Pentagon simply advances faster than technology within it, and by availing itself to open-source tools, the Pentagon can adopt those advances almost as soon as the new code hits the web, without going through the extra steps of a procurement process. Open-source software is also more secure than closed-source software, by its very nature: the code is perpetually scrutinized by countless users across the planet, and any weaknesses are shared immediately.
Businesses

Munich Council: To Hell With Linux, We're Going Full Windows in 2020 (theregister.co.uk) 544

The German city of Munich, which received much popularity back in the day when it first ditched Microsoft's services in favor of open-source software, has now agreed to stop using Linux and switch back to Windows. If the decision is ratified by the full council in two weeks, Windows 10 will start rolling out across the city in 2020. From a report: A coalition of Social Democrats and Conservatives on the committee voted for the Windows migration last week, Social Democrat councillor Anne Hubner told The Register. Munich rose to fame in the open-source world for deciding to use Linux and LibreOffice to make the city independent from the claws of Microsoft. But the plan was never fully realised -- mail servers, for instance, eventually wound up migrating to Microsoft Exchange -- and in February the city council formally voted to end Linux migration and go back to Microsoft. Hubner said the city has struggled with LiMux adoption. "Users were unhappy and software essential for the public sector is mostly only available for Windows," she said. She estimated about half of the 800 or so total programs needed don't run on Linux and "many others need a lot of effort and workarounds." Hubner added, "in the past 15 years, much of our efforts were put into becoming independent from Microsoft," including spending "a lot of money looking for workarounds" but "those efforts eventually failed." A full council vote on Windows 10 2020 migration is set for November 23, Hubner said. However, the Social Democrats and Conservatives have a majority in the council, and the outcome is expected to be the same as in committee.
Open Source

What Happens to Open Source Code After Its Developer Dies? (wired.com) 78

An anonymous reader writes: The late Jim Weirich "was a seminal member of the western world's Ruby community," according to Ruby developer Justin Searls, who at the age of 30 took over Weirich's tools (which are used by huge sites like Hulu, Kickstarter, and Twitter). Soon Searls made a will and a succession plan for his own open-source projects. Wired calls succession "a growing concern in the open-source software community," noting developers have another option: transferring their copyrights to an open source group (for example, the Apache Foundation).

Most package-management systems have "at least an ad-hoc process for transferring control over a library," according to Wired, but they also note that "that usually depends on someone noticing that a project has been orphaned and then volunteering to adopt it." Evan Phoenix of the Ruby Gems project acknowledges that "We don't have an official policy mostly because it hasn't come up all that often. We do have an adviser council that is used to decide these types of things case by case." Searls suggests GitHub and package managers like Ruby Gems add a "dead man's switch" to their platform, which would allow programmers to automatically transfer ownership of a project or an account to someone else if the creator doesn't log in or make changes after a set period of time.

Wired also spoke to Michael Droettboom, who took over the Python library Matplotlib after John Hunter died in 2012. He points out that "Sometimes there are parts of the code that only one person understands," stressing the need for developers to also understand the code they're inheriting.
Android

CopperheadOS Fights Unlicensed Installations On Nexus Phones (xda-developers.com) 97

An anonymous reader writes: Earlier this week security-hardened Android build CopperheadOS temporarily blocked Nexus updates on its servers after finding out that other companies have been flashing the ROM onto Nexus phones and selling them commercially in violation of the CopperheadOS licensing terms. The incident highlights an inherent problem in getting open source to be used by the masses: the difficulty of organizations being able to build and monetize a successful, long-term open source business model...
"We've enabled over-the-air updates again," CopperheadOS tweeted Saturday, "to avoid impacting our remaining customers on Nexus devices and other legitimate users. However, downloads on the site will no longer be available and we'll be making changes to the update client for Nexus devices."

In an earlier series of tweets, they explained it's an ongoing issue. "It's not okay to disrespect our non-commercial licensing terms for those official builds by flashing and selling it on hundreds of phones... This is why we've been unable to sell access to Pixel images. There are people that are going to buy those and flash + sell devices in direct competition with us in violation of the licensing terms. Needing to deal with so many people acting in bad faith makes this difficult.

"It's not permitted for our official Nexus builds and yet that's what's happening. We do all of the development, testing, release engineering and we provide the infrastructure, and then competitors sell far more devices than us in violation of our licensing terms. Ridiculous."
Open Source

Apache OpenOffice: We're OK With Not Being Super Cool (theregister.co.uk) 106

The Register's Thomas Claburn, interviews Jim Jagielski, Apache Software Foundation President and Apache OpenOffice project mentor. From the story: Despite being the subject of a deathwatch -- perhaps mainly by fans of rival LibreOffice -- AOO appears to be rather popular, with the 4.1.4 update racking up at least 1.6 million downloads. [...] While AOO and the ASF formulate a formal statement of direction for the project, Jagielski said more or less that all's well. "AOO is not, and isn't designed to be, the 'super coolest open source office suite with all the latest bells and whistles,'" Jagielski continued. "Our research shows that a 'basic,' functional office suite, which is streamlined with a 'simple' and uncluttered, uncomplicated UI, serves an incredible under-represented community. "Other office suites are focusing on the 'power user' which is a valuable market, for sure, but the real power and range for an open-source office suite alternative is the vast majority which is the 'rest of us. Sometimes we all forget how empowering open source is to the entire world."
The Courts

Appeals Court Rules: SCO v. IBM Case Can Continue (arstechnica.com) 131

Long-time Slashdot reader Freshly Exhumed quotes Ars Technica: A federal appeals court has now partially ruled in favor of the SCO Group, breathing new life into a lawsuit and a company (now bankrupt and nearly dead) that has been suing IBM for nearly 15 years.

Last year, U.S. District Judge David Nuffer had ruled against SCO (whose original name was Santa Cruz Operation) in two summary judgment orders, and the court refused to allow SCO to amend its initial complaint against IBM. SCO soon appealed. On Monday, the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals found that SCO's claims of misappropriation could go forward while also upholding Judge Nuffer's other two orders.

Here's Slashdot's first story about the trial more than 14 years ago, and a nice timeline from 2012 of the next nine years of legal drama.
Firefox

Firefox Borrows From Tor Browser Again, Blocks Canvas Fingerprinting (bleepingcomputer.com) 92

An anonymous reader writes: Mozilla engineers have borrowed yet another feature from the Tor Browser and starting with version 58 Firefox will block attempts to fingerprint users using the HTML5 canvas element. The technique is widely used in the advertising industry to track users across sites. Firefox 58 is scheduled for release on January 16, 2018.

Canvas fingerprinting blocking is the second feature Mozilla engineers have borrowed from the Tor Project. Previously, Mozilla has added a mechanism to Firefox 52 that prevents websites from fingerprinting users via system fonts. Mozilla's efforts to harden Firefox are part of the Tor Uplift project, an initiative to import more privacy-focused feature from the Tor Browser into Firefox.

Open Source

Software Freedom Law Center Launches Trademark War Against Software Freedom Conservancy (sfconservancy.org) 113

Long-time Slashdot reader Bruce Perens writes: The Software Freedom Law Center, a Linux-Foundation supported organization, has asked USPTO to cancel the trademark of the name of the Software Freedom Conservancy, an organization that assists and represents Free Software / Open Source developers.

What makes this bizzare is that SFLC started SFC, SFLC was SFC's law firm and filed for the very same trademark on their behalf, and both organizations were funded by Linux Foundation at the start.

There are a few other wild things that have happened related to this. Eben Moglen, president of SFLC and for decades the General Counsel of the Free Software Foundation, is no longer associated with FSF. Linux Foundation has on its executive board a company that is being sued in Germany for violating the GPL, with the case presently under appeal, and the lawsuit is funded by SFC. And remember when Linux Foundation removed the community representative from its executive board, when Karen Sandler, executive director of SFC, said she'd run?

If you need a clue, the SFC are the good guys in this. There's a lot to look into.

Open Source

Audacity 2.2.0 Released 103

Popular open-source audio editing software, Audacity, has received a significant update. The new version, dubbed Audacity 2.2.0, adds a range of features and options such as additional user interface themes, and the ability to customize themes for advanced users. It is also getting playback support for MIDI files, and better organised menus, the team wrote. You can find the complete changelog here.
AI

Open Source Data Sets? Linux Foundation Introduces 'Community Data License Agreements' (linuxinsider.com) 31

"In open source philosophy, you share source code. Why not share data?" writes Slashdot reader princelobga. Linux Insider reports on the Linux Foundation's new Community Data License Agreement, "a new framework for sharing large sets of data required for research, collaborative learning and other purposes." CDLAs will allow both individuals and groups to share data sets in the same way they share open source software code, the foundation said. "As systems require data to learn and evolve, no one organization can build, maintain and source all data required," noted Mike Dolan, VP of strategic programs at The Linux Foundation. "Data communities are forming around artificial intelligence and machine learning use cases, autonomous systems, and connected civil infrastructure," he told LinuxInsider. "The CDLA license agreements enable sharing data openly, embodying best practices learned over decades of sharing source code."
A principal analyst at Pund-IT told the site that the new data license "reflects the growing importance of information as a resource for big data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence."
Printer

MakerBot Launches New 'MakerBot Labs' Platform (hackaday.com) 42

"MakerBot just announced a new Open Source initiative called 'MakerBot Labs'," writes Slashdot reader szczys. "It is a small move, centering around some new APIs and a new extruder which is listed as experimental and not covered by their normal warranty. Largely they missed the mark on making a meaningful move toward openness, but with a new CEO at the helm as of January this could be the first change of the rudder in a larger effort to turn the ship around."

Makerbot's history is "an example of how you absolutely should not operate an open source company," argues Hackaday, saying it's left them skeptical of Makerbot's latest move: It reads like a company making a last ditch effort to win back the users they were so sure they didn't need just a few years ago... The wheels of progress turn slowly in any large organization, and perhaps doubly so in one that has gone through so much turmoil in a relatively short amount of time. It could be that it's taken Goshen these last nine months to start crafting a plan to get MakerBot back into the community's good graces.
From MakerBot's press release: "After setting high industry standards for what makes a quality and reliable 3D printing experience, we're introducing this new, more open platform as a direct response to our advanced users calling for greater freedom with materials and software."
KDE

Linux Mint Is Killing the KDE Edition (betanews.com) 141

BrianFagioli quotes a report from BetaNews: While both the Cinnamon and Mate versions of Linux Mint are decent choices for computer users, there was one version that was always utterly bizarre -- the KDE Edition. Don't get me wrong, KDE is a fine environment, but Kubuntu already exists. Having a version of Mint using KDE was redundant and confusing. Thankfully, today, the Linux Mint team announces it is finally killing the KDE edition. "In continuation with what's been done in the past, Linux Mint 18.3 will feature a KDE edition, but it will be the last release to do so. I would like to thank Kubuntu for the amazing work they have done. The quality of Plasma 5 in Xenial made backports a necessity. The rapid pace of development upstream from the KDE project made this very challenging, yet they managed to provide a stable flow of updates for us and we were able to ship good KDE editions thanks to that. I don't think this would have been possible without them," says Clement Lefebvre, Linux Mint.

Lefebvre further says, "KDE is a fantastic environment but it's also a different world, one which evolves away from us and away from everything we focus on. Their apps, their ecosystem and the QT toolkit which is central there have very little in common with what we're working on. We're not just shipping releases and distributing upstream software. We're a product distribution and we see ourselves as a complete desktop operating system. We like to integrate solutions, develop whatâ(TM)s missing, adapt what's not fitting perfectly, and we do a great deal of that not only around our own Cinnamon desktop environment but also thanks to cross-DE frameworks we put in place to support similar environments, such as MATE and Xfce."

Open Source

Oracle Engineer Talks of ZFS File System Possibly Still Being Upstreamed On Linux (phoronix.com) 131

New submitter fstack writes: Senior software architect Mark Maybee who has been working at Oracle/Sun since '98 says maybe we "could" still see ZFS be a first-class upstream Linux file-system. He spoke at the annual OpenZFS Developer Summit about how Oracle's focus has shifted to the cloud and how they have reduced investment in Solaris. He admits that Linux rules the cloud. Among the Oracle engineer's hopes is that ZFS needs to become a "first class citizen in Linux," and to do so Oracle should port their ZFS code to Oracle Linux and then upstream the file-system to the Linux kernel, which would involve relicensing the ZFS code.
Open Source

30-Year-Old Operating System 'PC-MOS/386' Finally Open Sourced (github.com) 173

PC-MOS/386 "was a multi-user, computer multitasking operating system...announced at COMDEX in November 1986," remembers Wikipedia, saying it runs many MS-DOS titles (though it's optimized for the Intel 80386 processor).

Today Slashdot user Roeland Jansen writes: After some tracking, racing and other stuff...PC-MOS/386 v5.01 is open source under GPLv3. Back in May he'd posted to a virtualization site that "I still have the source tapes. I want(ed) to make it GPL and while I got an OK on it, I haven't had time nor managed to get it legalized. E.g. lift the NDA and be able to publish."

1987 magazine ads described it as "the gateway to the latest technology...and your networking future," and 30 years later its release on GitHub includes sources and executables. "In concert with Gary Robertson and Rod Roark it has been decided to place all under GPL v3."
Open Source

Companies Overlook Risks in Open Source Software, Survey Finds (betanews.com) 132

An anonymous reader shares a report: Open source code helps software suppliers to be nimble and build products faster, but a new report reveals hidden software supply chain risks of open source that all software suppliers and IoT manufacturers should know about. The recent Equifax breach for example exploited a vulnerability in a widely used open source web framework, Apache Struts, and the study by software monetization specialist Flexera points out that as much as 50 percent of code in commercial and IoT software products is open source. "We can't lose sight that open source is indeed a clear win. Ready-to-go code gets products out the door faster, which is important given the lightning pace of the software space," says Jeff Luszcz, vice president of product management at Flexera. "However, most software engineers don't track open source use, and most software executives don't realize there's a gap and a security/compliance risk." Flexera surveyed 400 software suppliers, Internet of Things manufacturers and in-house development teams. It finds only 37 percent of respondents to the survey have an open source acquisition or usage policy, while 63 percent say either their companies either don't have a policy, or they don't know if one exists. Worryingly, of the 63 percent who say their companies don't have an open source acquisition or usage policy, 43 percent say they contribute to open source projects. There is an issue over who takes charge of open source software too. No one within their company is responsible for open source compliance, or they don't know who is, according to 39 percent of respondents.
Open Source

How Open Source Software Helps The Federal Reserve Bank of New York (hpe.com) 24

Long-time Slashdot reader Esther Schindler quotes Hewlett Packard Enterprise: When you handle trillions of dollars a year in transactions and manage the largest known vault of gold in the world, security and efficiency are top priorities. Open source reusable software components are key to the New York Fed's successful operation, explains Colin Wynd, vice president and head of the bank's Common Service Organization... The nearly 2,000 developers across the Federal Reserve System used to have a disparate set of developer tools. Now, they benefit from a standard toolset and architecture, which also places limits on which applications the bank will consider using. "We don't want a third-party application that isn't compatible with our common architecture," said Wynd.

One less obvious advantage to open source adoption is in career satisfaction and advancement. It gives developers opportunities to work on more interesting applications, said Wynd. Developers can now take on projects or switch jobs more easily across Federal Reserve banks because the New York Fed uses a lot of common open source components and a standard tool set, meaning retraining is minimal if needed at all."

Providing training in-house also creates a more consistent use of best practices. "Our biggest headache is to prove to groups that an application is secure, because we have to defend against nation state attacks."

Slashdot Top Deals