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FOSS Week in Review: LibreOffice Fixes Bugs, KDE Release Plans, Automakers ‘F’ on Privacy, and more…

In this week’s roundup, we look at the winding down of LibreOffice’s 7.5 series, how KDE’s getting it together for Plasma’s upcoming 6.0 release, Mozilla’s look at privacy issues and modern automobiles, and more.

It’s Friday, and for a change I’m turning in Friday’s FOSS Week in Review on Friday instead of on Saturday. I’m not making any promises about punctuality for the future, but at least I’m working on it.

It looks like my side lost in the poll we published here last week. If you’ll remember, there were a couple of headlines that were worded in a way that tripped my funny bone, and I couldn’t figure out which one I would use for a “headline of the week,” if we had such a thing — so I ran a poll to let my gentle readers decide.

Has Red Hat changed for the better or for the worse as an open-source company under IBM's ownership?

  • Very much for the worse (58%, 11 Votes)
  • Slightly for the worse (32%, 6 Votes)
  • Neither for the better or worse (11%, 2 Votes)
  • Very much for the better (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Slightly for the better (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 19

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The headline I liked best, “antiX 23: Anarchic for Sure, but ‘Design by Committee’ Isn’t Always the Best for Linux,” came from Liam Proven writing in The Register. The other, “L. Ron Hubbard’s Estate Is Against Right To Repair For Scientology’s E-Meters,” which I liked almost as much, was written by Mike Masnick at Techdirt.

Voting turnout pretty much sucked; only a dozen of you voted. Those who did vote, however liked Masnick’s Techdirt headline the best, by a 3-to-1 margin.

What I don’t know is whether people were voting on the cleverness of the headline, which is what I intended, or on their feelings about the story itself. I suspect the latter, since people like to ridicule both L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology, and even hate-on those celebrities who see themselves as “operating thetans,” which is what the Scientology folks say their followers become after Hubbard & Company gets through with them.

Anyway, low voter turnout or no, I thought it might be fun to do a poll every week in this space, just as a way of checking in and seeing what people think about open-sourcey sort of stuff. Your participation is optional.

Our first poll will be on how much Red Hat has changed for the better or worse since being purchased by IBM. Like last week’s poll, this one will close at 11 pm EDT on Thursday, so we can talk about it here on Friday.

Happy polling!

LibreOffice Bugfixing 7.5

How many of you are old enough to remember when a new release of a popular software title such as LibreOffice was a big deal because new releases were relatively rare, despite Eric S. Raymond’s 1997 advice to, “Release early. Release often”?

For longer than a decade now, open-source devs at major projects have taken Raymond’s advice to heart, which means that on some days you can’t leave your computer for long enough to go to the kitchen to pour a cup of coffee without finding that a handful of projects have come out with a new release while you were away. This includes everybody’s favorite office productivity suite, LibreOffice, which came out with a new release of last year’s model on Thursday.

LibreOffice 7.5.6, which followed version 7.5.5 by two months, is a maintenance release that fixes a total of 53 bugs. Other than that, there’s not much new here, mainly because the 7.5 series has already been supplanted by LibreOffice 7.6, which was released last month.

If you want to upgrade you 7.5.x install, you can do so here, but it’s suggested that you go ahead and install LibreOffice’s latest and greatest 7.6, which you can do from the same page, since support for 7.5 ends at the end of November.

Plasma, Gear, and Frameworks Will Release Together

It looks as if KDE users are in for a red-letter day in early February when KDE Plasma 6.0 gets pushed out the door.

Konqu, KDE mascot

This was already set to be a big day for KDE folks, as 6.0 is already set to represent something of a quantum step forward for the project, as it moves on from the Plasma 5.x series, that was introduced back in 2014, or nine long years ago.

Now we learn from an email that David Edumndson, a KDE software engineer and project lead, sent on Monday to the kde-devel list, that if everything goes according to plan we’re going to see Plasma 6.0, the Qt6-based KDE Gear applications, and KDE Frameworks 6 all happening together — or close enough together to say that their release will be “in-sync.”

Here’s the full text of the email:

“Following on from the last Akademy we checked where we were with our development progress in a meeting and settled on the following plan for all 3 major parts:

– In KDE Gear master will be open for Qt6 code to land for those ready to move. Not all apps need to port.

– The KDE Gear release will move by 2 months to allow for the extra time needed for testing initial Qt6 changes

– An Alpha will be made in November (a soft freeze in Plasma terms)

– Betas/RCs will be made throughout December and January (3 releases, 3 weeks apart)

– Final release of all 3 major parts in sync in February

Due to the delay of KDE Gear by an additional patch release of 23.08 will be made.”

On Thursday, Michael Larabel pointed out on Phoronix, “Those eager to help in testing the new code can easily do so by trying out KDE Neon Experimental.”

Mozilla Gives Automakers ‘F’ on Privacy

It’s been a long time since automobiles were purely mechanical devices. Sure, they’re mechanical by nature, but since the 1970s they’ve increasingly relied on computer technology to operate. It should come to no surprise to anyone who’s been watching how the internet works for the last 30 years or so, that much of the data that the big automakers are collecting from drivers is being sold to the highest bidder.

How much is being sold and how big a problem is it? Really big, and mostly flying under the radar because people don’t as easily equate the family car with privacy issues as they do their PCs and phones. In fact, it’s so bad that on Wednesday Mozilla said, “Cars are the worst product category we have ever reviewed for privacy“:

“While we worried that our doorbells and watches that connect to the internet might be spying on us, car brands quietly entered the data business by turning their vehicles into powerful data-gobbling machines. Machines that, because of their all those brag-worthy bells and whistles, have an unmatched power to watch, listen, and collect information about what you do and where you go in your car.”

To prove their point, Mozilla has made available their privacy reviews of 25 major automotive brands. It’s a recommend read and it might be scary, unless you’re like me and have become so jaded that you already expect the worse.

Digitally Going Mechanical

Finally, as a person who has never used any keyboard as a daily driver other than an IBM Model M in all the years I’ve been computing, I had to laugh (or at least chuckle) this morning when I saw an article on OSTechNix about a program that “plays back the authentic sound of each key pressed and released on your keyboard, just as if you were using an IBM Model-M.”

I’ve read about clickety-clack keyboards, but never saw one that specifically tried to duplicate the bucking spring design of the good ol’ Model M. The program is called Bucklespring, and is available for Linux, FreeBSD, macOS and Windows.

From where I sit, this is really funny. While it’s true that I very much like the sound that my keyboard makes while I type, that’s mainly because the sound acts as feedback, and actually helps me to touch type faster while maintaining accuracy, as anyone who learned to type on an actual old-school typewriter can tell you. Not only that, the tactile feedback provided by the bucking spring design is at least as important, as it reinforces the feedback from the sound and vice versa.

Whenever I have to work on a laptop, or on another computer with a silent keyboard, I do miss the sound and feel of my Model M, but I miss it for practical purposes, not because I’m in love with the clickety-clack sound. Running Bucklespring on my laptop so it would sound like a cheap-loudspeaker version of my desktop makes no sense whatsoever to me.


Well, that does it for this week. If I don’t see you before, I’ll see you next Friday. In the meantime, may the FOSS be with you…

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