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February 19th, 2016

#codeforaubrey, WebKit Linux Risk & More…

FOSS Week in Review

The good news this week is that the latest Linux vulnerability finally scared me enough to take the time to fix the issues I’ve been having with the updater on the Linux box we use here at the office and get our machine up-to-date with all the latest patches. Other than that, it’s just been the usual, which can be summed-up as waiting for Godot, who so far remains a no show…

Now for this weeks roundup:

Often the best place to find hope is in the middle of despair. I think somebody famous once said that; if not, I’ll take credit for it. Anyway, there’s been an example of that adage this week which has me feeling…well, full of hope, and at the same time, concerned for someone I’ve never met.

Aubrey Howell

February 16 was Code for Audrey day, to show support to FOSS dev Aubrey Howell, who was recently in a serious bicycle accident and remains in a coma.

Aubrey Howell is a developer heavily involved with open source projects, who currently calls Baghdad by the Bay — that would be San Francisco — her home. She’s also an avid bicyclist who recently had a serious accident while practicing for an upcoming bicycle event which has left her in a coma.

After the accident, a call went out in the San Francisco Bay area, and in her former home of Colorado as well, to make this past Tuesday, February 16, Code for Aubrey day. Developers and coders throughout the Bay Area and elsewhere dedicated all of the code they wrote on that day to Ms. Howell, “to show her our support and to send her good vibes,” and then post comments and screenshots of their commits to Twitter using the hashtag #codeforaubrey. Her fellow coders, friends and supporters have also been donating generously to a Go Fund Me account set up to help the family.

It takes a special person to be able to pull a community together like this while lying in a coma. Here’s wishing for her a complete and speedy recovery.

Is WebKit a security risk? While the security scare-of-the-week has been the brouhaha over the glibc vulnerability, there might be another security problem just under our nose according to Michael Catanzaro, who works with GNOME’s WebKitGTK+ project. In a blog post dated February 1, which was given wider exposure on Thursday by Chris Hoffman with PCWorld, Catanzaro explains that the security problems surrounding the use of WebKit have to do with the fractured nature of the browser engine. In Apple products, he says, WebKit is relatively safe, because Apple keeps its implementation in Safari well patched. However security updates made in the ports used by Linux rarely make it into the distros and applications that rely upon WebKit. Hopefully, now that this issue has been brought to light we’ll see some effort put to correcting it.

Quote of the Week: This week’s quotable quote comes from security expert and Libertarian presidential hopeful John McAfee. In the op-ed piece he penned for Business Insider this week, in which he promised to eat his shoe if he and his team can’t break Apple’s iPhone encryption for the FBI in three weeks, he asks and answers a question: “And why do the best hackers on the planet not work for the FBI? Because the FBI will not hire anyone with a 24-inch purple mohawk, 10-gauge ear piercings, and a tattooed face who demands to smoke weed while working and won’t work for less than a half-million dollars a year.”

I want a job at McAfee.

Another day, another distro: This week saw new distros releases for both the Raspberry Pi and X86 machines. For the Pi there was the fourth release of Chromium OS for Raspberry Pi version 0.4, or “Lenny Bruce” (which reminds me of a funny story about a funnel and some hot lead, but that for another article on another website), and Tizen 3.0 beta for the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B was released by the Samsung Open Source Group. For the PC: Emmabuntüs 8 Debian Based Beta is especially designed for use on refurbished computers donated to humanitarian organizations. Also, there was the release of React OS 0.4.0, for those of you who want to pretend to be running Windows even when your not.

Quick takes: According to the latest research by Gartner, Microsoft’s share of the mobile market continues to fall and is now at 1.1 percent, less than half of what it was at this time last year when it was at 2.8 percent. Although Redmond has been moving into new phone markets, such as business phones, many industry insiders are saying the death of Windows mobile is probably at hand. … Don’t hold your breath, but the FCC made a move this week that could lead to consumers being able to buy their own set top cable box instead of having to rent one through cable providers. As it is now, nearly 100 percent of cable users pay an average of $230 yearly to rent a box that costs the cable companies about half that much. This week the FCC took action to get the ball rolling to end cable’s monopoly on the boxes, but we won’t know more until spring.

Parting shot: Here at FOSS Force, we’re falling further behind in our efforts to raise $3,700 through our Indiegogo campaign. The money is needed to cover operational expenses at least through the end of the year and perhaps much longer. However, our efforts have slowed to a standstill. With 19 days left in the campaign, we are $1,778 short of reaching our goal. So far we have raised $1,922, or 52 percent of what we need. A few heavy hitters stepping up to the plate would be good about now.

That’s it for this week. Until next time, may the FOSS be with you…

Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

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