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Operating Systems

Linux Mint 18.1 'Serena' Is Here For Christmas (betanews.com) 62

Long time reader BrianFagioli writes: if you love Linux Mint and use it regularly, I have very good news -- version 18.1 'Serena' is finally here. There are two desktop environments from which to choose -- Cinnamon and Mate. Regardless of which version you choose, please know that it is based on Ubuntu 16.04, which offers long-term support (LTS). In other words, Linux Mint 18.1 will be supported until 2021. Linux Mint 18.1 comes with the updated Cinnamon 3.2 which looks to be wonderful. The Mint team touts a new screensaver/ login screen in the desktop environment, and yeah, it looks good.
Security

Zero-Days Hitting Fedora and Ubuntu Open Desktops To a World of Hurt (arstechnica.com) 164

An anonymous reader writes: It's the year of the Linux desktop getting pwned. Chris Evans (not the red white and blue one) has released a number of linux zero day exploits, the most recent of which employs specially crafted audio files to compromise linux desktop machines. Ars Technica reports: "'I like to prove that vulnerabilities are not just theoretical -- that they are actually exploitable to cause real problems,' Evans told Ars when explaining why he developed -- and released -- an exploit for fully patched systems. 'Unfortunately, there's still the occasional vulnerability disclosure that is met with skepticism about exploitability. I'm helping to stamp that out.' Like Evans' previous Linux zero-day, the proof-of-concept attacks released Tuesday exploit a memory-corruption vulnerability closely tied to GStreamer, a media framework that by default ships with many mainstream Linux distributions. This time, the exploit takes aim at a flaw in a software library alternately known as Game Music Emu and libgme, which is used to emulate music from game consoles. The two audio files are encoded in the SPC music format used in the Super Nintendo Entertainment System console from the 1990s. Both take aim at a heap overflow bug contained in code that emulates the console's Sony SPC700 processor. By changing the .spc extension to .flac and .mp3, GSteamer and Game Music Emu automatically open them."
Privacy

First Version of Sandboxed Tor Browser Available (bleepingcomputer.com) 28

An anonymous reader writes: To protect Tor users from FBI hacking tools that include all sorts of Firefox zero-days, the Tor Project started working on a sandboxed version of the Tor Browser in September. Over the weekend, the Tor Project released the first alpha version of the sandboxed Tor Browser. "Currently, this version is in an early alpha stage, and only available for Linux," reports BleepingComputer. "There are also no binaries available, and users must compile it themselves from the source code, which they can grab from here." The report notes: "Sandboxing is a security mechanism employed to separate running processes. In computer security, sandboxing an application means separating its process from the OS, so vulnerabilities in that app can't be leveraged to extend access to the underlying operating system. This is because the sandboxed application works with its own separate portion of disk and memory that isn't linked with the OS."
Open Source

Linux Kernel 4.9 Officially Released (kernel.org) 80

"As expected, today, December 11, 2016, Linus Torvalds unleashed the final release of the highly anticipated Linux 4.9 kernel," reports Softpedia. prisoninmate shares their article: Linux kernel 4.9 entered development in mid-October, on the 15th, when Linus Torvalds decided to cut the merge window short by a day just to keep people on their toes, but also to prevent them from sending last-minute pull requests that might cause issues like it happened with the release of Linux kernel 4.8, which landed just two weeks before first RC of Linux 4.9 hit the streets... There are many great new features implemented in Linux kernel 4.9, but by far the most exciting one is the experimental support for older AMD Radeon graphics cards from the Southern Islands/GCN 1.0 family, which was injected to the open-source AMDGPU graphics driver...

There are also various interesting improvements for modern AMD Radeon GPUs, such as virtual display support and better reset support, both of which are implemented in the AMDGPU driver. For Intel GPU users, there's DMA-BUF implicit fencing, and some Intel Atom processors got a P-State performance boost. Intel Skylake improvements are also present in Linux kernel 4.9.

There's also dynamic thread-tracing, according to Linux Today. (And hopefully they fixed the "buggy crap" that made it into Linux 4.8.) LWN.net calls this "by far the busiest cycle in the history of the kernel project."
Open Source

Fedora-based Linux Distro Korora (Version 25) Now Available For Download (betanews.com) 31

BrianFagioli writes: If you want to use Fedora but do not want to spend time manually installing packages and repos, there is a solid alternative -- Korora. Despite the funny-sounding name, it is a great way to experience Fedora in a more user-friendly way. Wednesday, version 25, code-named 'Gurgle', became available for release.
Bug

5-Year-Old Critical Linux Vulnerability Patched (threatpost.com) 68

msm1267 quotes Kaspersky Lab's ThreatPost: A critical, local code-execution vulnerability in the Linux kernel was patched more than a week ago, continuing a run of serious security issues in the operating system, most of which have been hiding in the code for years. Details on the vulnerability were published Tuesday by researcher Philip Pettersson, who said the vulnerable code was introd in August 2011.

A patch was pushed to the mainline Linux kernel December 2, four days after it was privately disclosed. Pettersson has developed a proof-of-concept exploit specifically for Ubuntu distributions, but told Threatpost his attack could be ported to other distros with some changes. The vulnerability is a race condition that was discovered in the af_packet implementation in the Linux kernel, and Pettersson said that a local attacker could exploit the bug to gain kernel code execution from unprivileged processes. He said the bug cannot be exploited remotely.

"Basically it's a bait-and-switch," the researcher told Threatpost. "The bug allows you to trick the kernel into thinking it is working with one kind of object, while you actually switched it to another kind of object before it could react."
NES (Games)

Doyodo RetroEngine Sigma Is a Linux-Powered Classic Video Game Emulation Console (betanews.com) 91

BrianFagioli quotes a report from BetaNews: The Nintendo NES Classic is quite an amazing console. True, it is not as powerful as modern game systems like Xbox One and PlayStation 4, but it comes pre-loaded with many classic NES titles. Unfortunately, its strength is also its weakness -- those pre-loaded titles are the only games you can play. You cannot load other games, so you are stuck with what you got. As an alternative, some folks use software emulation and ROMs on their computers to play countless video game titles. Of course, there are moral concerns here, as you are often downloading the games illegally -- unless you own the physical copy, that is. Even then, it is a gray area. Today, a company called Doyodo launched a new Linux-powered emulation console on Indiegogo. The device not only plays NES games, but Atari, Game Boy, PlayStation 1, Genesis, and more. You play using USB controllers. In addition, it can serve as a media player (with Kodi) or a full-fledged Linux desktop. Some other features include 4K video playback, Wi-Fi networking built in, and a compact and portable design. There's even a deluxe version that ships with Bluetooth, an extra controller and 32GB of storage; the basic configuration includes just one controller and 16GB of storage. You can view the Indiegogo page here.
Open Source

Linux Mint 18.1 'Serena' BETA Ubuntu-based Operating System Now Available For Download (betanews.com) 137

BrianFagioli shares his story on Beta News: Feeling fatigued by Windows 10 and its constant updates and privacy concerns? Can't afford one of those beautiful new MacBook Pro laptops? Don't forget, Linux-based desktop operating systems are just a free download away, folks!

If you do decide to jump on the open source bandwagon, a good place to start is Linux Mint. Both the Mate and Cinnamon desktop environments should prove familiar to Windows converts, and since it is based on Ubuntu, there is a ton of compatible packages. Today, the first beta of Linux Mint 18.1 'Serena' becomes available for download.

Here's the release notes for both Cinammon and MATE.
Open Source

Devuan's Systemd-Free Linux Hits Beta 2 (theregister.co.uk) 338

Long-time Slashdot reader Billly Gates writes, "For all the systemd haters who want a modern distro feel free to rejoice. The Debian fork called Devuan is almost done, completing a daunting task of stripping systemd dependencies from Debian." From The Register: Devuan came about after some users felt [Debian] had become too desktop-friendly. The change the greybeards objected to most was the decision to replace sysvinit init with systemd, a move felt to betray core Unix principles of user choice and keeping bloat to a bare minimum. Supporters of init freedom also dispute assertions that systemd is in all ways superior to sysvinit init, arguing that Debian ignored viable alternatives like sinit, openrc, runit, s6 and shepherd. All are therefore included in Devuan.
Devuan.org now features an "init freedom" logo with the tagline, "watching your first step. Their home page now links to the download site for Devuan Jessie 1.0 Beta2, promising an OS that "avoids entanglement".
Linux

Ask Slashdot: What's the Best Linux Laptop? 288

Long-Time Slashdot reader sconeu is finally replacing his 10-year-old Toshiba Satellite laptop, and needs suggestions on the best current laptops for running Linux. I'm looking to run some flavor of Linux (probably KDE-based UI, but not mandatory) while using a virtual machine to run Windows 7 (for stuff needed for work). For me personally, battery life and weight are more important than raw power. I'm not going to be running games on this. I've been considering an XPS 13 Developer Edition, or something from System76, ZaReason or Emperor Linux. What laptop do you use? Do you have any suggestions?
It's your chance to share useful information, recommendations, and your own experiences with various brands of laptop. So leave your best answers in the comments. What's the best Linux laptop?
Operating Systems

Taking a Stand Against Unofficial Ubuntu Images (ubuntu.com) 103

Canonical isn't pleased with cloud providers who are publishing broken, insecure images of Ubuntu despite being notified several times. In a blogpost, Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of Ubuntu, and the Executive Chairman and VP, Product Strategy at Canonical, made the situation public for all to see. An excerpt from the blog post: We are currently in dispute with a European cloud provider which has breached its contract and is publishing insecure, broken images of Ubuntu despite many months of coaxing to do it properly. The home-grown images on the cloud, VPS and bare metal services of this provider disable fundamental security mechanisms and modify the system in ways that are unsupportable. They are likely to behave unpredictably on update in weirdly creative and mysterious ways (the internet is full of fun examples). We hear about these issues all the time, because users assume there is a problem with Ubuntu on that cloud; users expect that 'all things that claim to be Ubuntu are genuine', and they have a right to expect that. We have spent many months of back and forth in which we unsuccessfully tried to establish the same operational framework on this cloud that already exists on tens of clouds around the world. We have on multiple occasions been promised it will be rectified to no avail. We are now ready to take legal steps to remove these images. We will seek to avoid affecting existing running users, but we must act to prevent future users from being misled. We do not make this move lightly, but have come to the view that the value of Ubuntu to its users rests on these commitments to security, quality and updates.
Microsoft

Microsoft Exec Urges Linux Developers To Try Windows 10 (softpedia.com) 403

An anonymous reader shares a Softpedia article: Microsoft has finally acknowledged the potential that the open-source world in general, and Linux in particular, boasts, so the company is exploring its options to expand in this area with every occasion. Most recently, an episode posted on Channel 9 and entitled "Improvements to Bash on Windows and the Windows Console" with senior program manager Rich Turner calls for Linux developers to give up on their platforms for Windows 10. "Fire up a Windows 10 Insiders' build instance and run your code, run your tools, host your website on Apache, access your MySQL database from your Java code," he explained. Turner went on to point out that the Windows subsystem for Linux is there to provide developers with all the necessary tools to code just like they'd do it on Linux, all without losing the advantages of Windows 10. "Whatever it is that you normally do on Linux to build an application: whether it's in Go, in Erlang, in C, whatever you use, please, give it a try on Bash WSL, and importantly file bugs on us. It really makes our life a lot easier and helps us build a product that we can all use and be far more productive with, he continued. Editor's note: The original title from Softpedia was edited because it was misleading. A Microsoft employee doesn't represent the entire company (at least in this instant he wasn't speaking for the company), and at no point has he asked "all Linux developers" to "give up" on Linux.
Microsoft

Newest Skype For Linux Enables SMS Text Messages From The Desktop (betanews.com) 177

BrianFagioli writes: Microsoft has delivered an incredible feature to Linux-based desktop operating systems by way of the latest Alpha version of its Skype client... The newly-released Skype for Linux 1.13 allows users to send SMS test messages from the operating system! True, web-based solutions such as Google Voice have long allowed the sending of text messages, but needing to use a web browser can be a chore. There is convenience and elegance in using the Skype for Linux client.
Desktops (Apple)

Fedora 25 Now Available -- Makes It Easier To Switch From Windows 10 Or Mac (betanews.com) 154

Reader BrianFagioli writes: After the release of both alpha and beta versions, Fedora 25 is officially here and ready for production machines. If you aren't familiar with the popular Linux-based operating system, please know that it is the distribution of choice for the founder of the Linux kernel, Linus Torvalds. One of the most endearing qualities of Fedora is its focus on only offering truly free open source software. Also, you can always count on a very modern version of the Linux kernel being available. Despite having very up-to-date packages, it is always very stable too. My favorite aspect, however, is the commitment to the GNOME desktop environment; other DEs are available, though. The team says, "Fedora 25 Workstation now makes it easier to for Windows and OS X users to get started, with Fedora Media Writer serving as the default download for those operating systems. This tool helps users find and download the current Fedora release and write it to removable media, like a USB stick, allowing potential Fedora users to 'test drive' the operating system from that media environment. Fedora can then be installed to their systems with the same process".
Open Source

A Windows 10 Alternative: Ubuntu-Based Zorin OS Linux Distro (betanews.com) 191

"With a click of a button, you can change the desktop layout to match that of Windows versions and Gnome 3. The Ultimate edition...also features Ubuntu, Gnome 2 and macOS-like layouts." BrianFagioli shares an article about a Linux-based operating system "designed for Windows-switchers." While the company does charge for an "Ultimate" version, the "Core" edition of Zorin OS 12 is entirely free... "As Zorin OS 12 is based on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, it will be supported with security updates until April 2021. This makes Zorin OS 12 the ideal choice for large deployments in businesses, governments, schools and organisations", says The Zorin OS Team"... Zorin OS features some really great features, such as Google Drive integration with the file browser.
Although unlike Windows 10, its default browser is Chromium.

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