SHA2017: hacker conference/camp videos are up

SHA2017: hacker conference/camp videos are up

SHA2017 is on today (it started over the weekend and ends tomorrow) and it is a hacker conference and camp.

Most of the conference videos are up on Youtube and they are very informative and fun. There are a lot of good talks. I’ve picked a few to showcase here but you should check out the whole playlist of SHA2017 videos.

Decentralize! Self-hosting in your own home using Sovereign

In the Decentralize! talk, the software Sovereign is explored and shown to be a good way to set up your own personal cloud and host your own services and data. Sovereign is a set of playbooks that can be run to install the software on a server that you run. It’s similar to the Freedom Box project.

The software you can self-host with Sovereign is:

  • Dovecot, Postfix and Roundcube for email servers and a webmail interface
  • Jabber/XMPP messaging server with Prosody
  • RSS reader
  • VPN server with OpenVPN (FreedomBox also can do this)
  • Git code repository hosting

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HowTo: Downscale HiDPI to scaled resolution

HowTo: Downscale HiDPI to scaled resolution

 

I have seen the future and it is HiDPI monitors and laptop screens (what is known as Retina Display in the Apple world). My current laptop is the Dell XPS 13 (9360) which came out of the box with Ubuntu. The highest resolution is 3200×1800. This is astonishing and really puts Dell ahead of other laptop manufacturers who are still putting out non-Retina laptop displays.

3200×1800 = Tiny Icons, Tiny Text

Unfortunately, no one is really ready for the future with HiDPI in GNU/Linux! When I left the native resolution at 3200×1800, the GNOME3 theme was small and had to be scaled to a factor of 2, the icons in most GTK and KDE applications were also tiny.

To try and solve those problems I asked on AskUbuntu (a Stackoverflow/Stack Exchange off-shoot):

The ArchLinux wiki has a page for HiDPI screens and on it you will find ways to:

Downscale from 3200×1800 to 1920×1080

But what if you wanted to downscale rather than upscale everything? I thought of this idea when using the Macbook Pros at my job (every developer job seems to have consolidated on Apple Macbooks as the gear of choice, guess it’s less of a pain for the IT support department to deal with? or they get a nice volume discount?)

The Macbook Pro has a Retina screen with a high native resolution, 2880×1800. However, Apple has downscaled to a lower resolution, 1400×900 to be precise. Apple labels that as the best resolution, and this Anand Tech article explains that for every pixel at the lower resolution you actually four pixels (since the native resolution is so much higher). I have actually found it hard to go back to regular monitors after working on a downscaled Macbook and I wanted the same experience on the Dell XPS. Not only that, but downscaling would also fix my problems with tiny text and icons.

Here are the instructions on how to downscale a HiDPI GNU/Linux desktop to a scaled resolution, specifically on GNOME. Unity has its own tweak tool and there are instructions on the ArchLinux Wiki to downscale KDE.

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The KDE Slimbook: a new laptop for users of free/open source software

The KDE Slimbook: a new laptop for users of free/open source software

We’ve covered how to buy a fully loaded Linux laptop before, and now we have another choice! The Odin Group, based in Spain and operating for over 10 years, has created a laptop, the Slimbook, that comes fully loaded with GNU/Linux. The KDE Slimbook version comes with GNU/Linux and the KDE Desktop Environment.

It is a beautiful laptop that weighs in at just under 3 lbs (2.99 lbs, 1.36 kg; for comparison, the Dell XPS 13 laptop weighs around 2.7 lbs). The screen is 1920×1080 LED, a very welcome from the older laptops that were stuck at 1366×720 resolution. The laptop comes in two versions, one has the Intel i5-6200U processor while the other version has the Intel i7-6500U processor. The graphics card is an Intel Graphics HD 520 and the RAM comes in three sizes; 4gb, 8gb or 16gb. Most users will want to go with at least the 8 gb option. Click here to read more about the KDE Slimbook’s hardware.

The price for the base model (4gb RAM, 120GB SSD for storage) is very reasonable, it is 729 Euros for the i5 version, and 849 Euros for the i7 version. This translates to about $858 USD and $999 USD, respectively. Upgrading to 8GB of RAM is an extra 65 Euros while fully loaded with 16GB of RAM is an extra 190 Euros.

Slimbook

My favourite option is that the screen can be changed from LED to Matte. This makes a huge difference when programming near bright and reflective lights. Matte screens are less reflective and easier to read.

What’s interesting is that the KDE Slimbook can apparently be shipped anywhere in the world for a fee of 99 Euros (outside of Europe and aside from any tariffs or other country-specific fees).

Definitely worth a look if you are in the market for a laptop that is running GNU/Linux out of the box.

Open Source Startups: Learn From MySQL’s Pitch Deck

MySQL’s pitch deck is an instructive example of how to pitch a free/open source startup to investors. With this pitch deck they raised $16 million in their Series B round way back in 2003 when it wasn’t so clear to investors that free/open source was the better way to develop software.

I wanted to point out some of the highlights that are especially relevant to startups and why startups that develop proprietary software should consider making their software open source instead.

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Bitcoin, cypherpunks, a thoughtful perspective on the future

Bitcoin, cypherpunks, a thoughtful perspective on the future

Thought-provoking article in Bitcoin Magazine about a conference that happened at the end of September, the Hackers Congress Paralelni Polis in Prague.

It’s an interview with two crypto-anarchists who explain their views on the direction of society and the possibilities of a future that includes mainstream usage of Bitcoin and encryption technologies.

One of the first questions asked by the interviewer is, “what is cryptoanarchy?”

This is their answer:

Sip: Simply put, crypto-anarchy is the idea that people can govern and organize themselves without governments, by using the tools of cryptography, cryptocurrencies and other means of decentralization.

Lupták: With these tools, we can build a more effective, a more free and a more voluntary society…

This is a nifty idea, and what makes it nifty is that free software and open source developers have been collaborating for decades and have been more effective, more free and all open source developers are contributing voluntarily.

In fact, there was a recent article by Daniel Pink suggesting that the further we are from a problem, the more creatively we will think about it. In open source development, we are close to the problem but when reviewing other people’s code or submitting patches, we are further away from the problem meaning we can be more creative in coming up with solutions.

So at least for software development, a decentralized model can work. Can it work as a replacement for government? That question is still open but we have seen lots of actions to make government more transparent and more accountable to the people. If you’re looking for small-scale examples of “anarchy” in action, you can look at the Workplace Anarchy described by someone who works at Igalia, a software co-operative that sells consulting service and is quite profitable.

In the interview they mention OpenBazaar which is free/open source software that lets you run a peer2peer ecommerce site. The idea there is to reduce transaction costs to whatever the bitcoin transaction costs are and to remove any middlemen that would cut into profits. A thoroughly free-market-oriented concept that is based on market efficiency and accomplished through free/open source software with the BitCoin currency.

About Workplace Anarchy

About Workplace Anarchy

The blog of Guile co-maintainer, Andy Wingo, has a series of blog posts detailing how the Igalia workers’ co-operative works:

This is a very interesting subject as there are few workers’ co-operatives in existence…or maybe there are a lot of them but the problem is they don’t advertise how they do business and they don’t always discuss how they do consensus-based decision making and the inner workings which could help others start their own workers’ co-operative. It’s very easy to find a million books on how to start a capitalist, non-egalitarian workplace, it’s next to impossible to find one on a co-operative.

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Metrolinx provided customer data from transit cards to police

In Ontario, Canada, the Presto card is the transit card that many daily commuters use. The company Metrolinx has provided customer information to the police without requiring a warrant in many cases.

According to the article,

The transit agency has received 26 requests from police forces so far this year and granted 12 of them, according to Metrolinx, which is the provincial transit agency that operates the Presto fare card system used across the GTHA and in Ottawa. It is not known how many requests Metrolinx granted in previous years because the agency only began tracking them in 2016.

The problem in this case is that while it may be legal for them to share information with the police, customers have been entirely unaware of what information is being shared and when and with who. Metrolinx’s privacy policy is not clear enough and they aren’t transparent enough. As one of the largest operators of public transit payment systems, they have to be held accountable and must offer clear information on how they respect customers and their personal data.

This is one of the biggest risks of moving to an all digital payment system that is controlled by one entity. In many cases customers are actively discouraged from using privacy-safe alternatives like cash or tokens.

To bring this back to open source and professionalism. If the transit card systems were open source they could be audited. If the administration software was open source it could be audited and improved to add police data requests as part of the database. Whoever built the system to gather customer data should have been professional and raised the privacy concerns that affect customers.