LJ Archive


Pets vs. Cattle

Kyle Rankin's September Upfront piece implored us cloud users to "stop killing our cattle" and keep our troubleshooting skills fresh. However, in a production context, the priority is to minimize downtime, and it's not usually clear how to reproduce the same problem in a testing deployment that tends to be less provisioned with data and traffic. When our web architect moved on to another position, they gave as a mantra: "If it's not working, redeploy it and hope for the best." And without their considerable troubleshooting skills at hand, that advice has indeed served us well, although there has also been plenty of troubleshooting as well. As we as an industry keep building layers and layers of infrastructure and code, the prospect of knowing even where to start looking is daunting. Network config? Middleware version? Any breadcrumbs in the logs? Any breadcrumbs in the browser console? Any recent code changes that smell bad? Which brings all this back to the web/agile paradigm—make it work, launch/update as soon as possible, and fix the rough edges later. But the cost of fixing it later seems to be ever increasing. Too bad for the cattle along the way.

—Nigel Stewart

Firefox and VPN: in Response to Mozilla's Announcement that ProtonVPN Will Be Sold through Firefox Browser

Okay, so let's get the disclaimer out of the way, I'm founder of a new VPN service called SomaVPN—we're based on Wireguard and IKEv2, not the old and potentially dangerous OpenVPN.

When I read the announcement this morning, I was a bit shocked but not surprised. Mozilla has been scrambling for a sustainable business model for years. I thought that the recent deal with Google for search—the "go-to" business model for browsers nowadays—would be enough, so I found this latest move surprising.

Upon further review, I changed my mind. Why? Okay, so let's dissect this a bit. At Soma, we find any digital interaction, particularly online, to be dangerous. We view smartphones, digital assistant speakers, all IoT devices and the web in particular, as hostile environments that people unbeknownst to themselves choose or are forced to interact with. With that in mind, Mozilla is absolutely right in acknowledging the need for everyone to use a VPN. On the other hand, making the choice for the user by advertising it exclusively and in such a prominent manner—unlike the addons on their extensions page—is a bit disingenuous since they're partners in the deal.

Mind you, I'm not even mentioning the fact that from a tech perspective, offering ProtonVPN is a horrible choice. At Soma, we view all VPN providers even more skeptically than Google or Facebook—but not the ISPs—since all the traffic goes through it. Trust is the life and blood of all VPN businesses. When we decided to be a part of this ecosystem, we always conceived of the service as one we would use ourselves. I don't trust anyone, and I couldn't ask anyone else to trust SomaVPN entirely either. So we've done what no other VPN provider AFAIK does, we give the option to skip the monthly subscription and own a trimmed-down VPN server—based on the open-sourced, and much better than Mozilla's choice, AlgoVPN. They pay us $10 and off they go, no need to trust us. You own your own shit, but we won't support it. Moreover, a portion of that money goes back to Jason Donenfeld at Wireguard, AlgoVPN and the other open-source projects we utilize and that make SomaVPN possible.

I hope this gives you our perspective on Mozilla's move. There's much more to say, but this gives you the gist of it. If you have any additional questions, feel free to reach out.



I am deeply concerned about the things that are going on in the GNU/Linux world.

1) Nobody seems too bothered that Linus Torvalds stepped aside after a complaint that has only to do with interpretations on how he runs the kernel management. We know there are a lot of egos in our computer world, but no one has ever complained about a discussion and how it has been done. I hope he follows a course and will be back soon.

2) About systemd and Red Hat: it seems it wants to take over the Open Source community by forcing systemd in our throat.

My prime concern is the way systemd handles a problem: it reboots the whole computer/server no matter what else is running. It seems as if Linux is being taken over by Microsoft, that is now on the board of the Linux Foundation. It behaves as a Microsoft OS. THIS IS NOT WHAT WE WANT.

I want a system that only reboots the service that misbehaves—not all the other systems too.

I do not want to be dependent on one supplier that dictates how things are running. If Red Hat aka Microsoft (because they have too shares in it) wants this behaviour, let them implement it in their version of their Linux, and let's see how far they get.

I decided I'd return to Openrc and changed my OS version to Gentoo. I abandoned all Debian, Ubuntu, Red Hat and derivatives that use systemd. And I suggest you do that too if you still want a free choice of system.

What about the Intel problem Linus Torvalds uttered his concern about? It is still not solved. And AMD is going the same way?

Why I do not read anything about that in Linux Journal?

I am deeply concerned about the way everything is going. Where is the independent press now?

As a Linux pioneer since 1990, I am deeply concerned.

—Patrick Op de Beeck

Webserver in x64 Assembly Using ONLY Syscalls

As a programmer who often writes code in Assembly, I've been told "if you like Assembly so much, why don't you write a web server in it?" So, that's exactly what I did. I wrote a fully open-source web server in Assembly and want to share it with everyone. You can find the program here. It runs on any Linux, has no dependencies except for the kernel and is portable. It runs without privileges and serves files in the current folder. It also works on Windows with Windows Subsystem for Linux. Disclaimer: the software is new and experimental and should not be used in production.

—Ioan Moldovan

The Eee PC

Regarding Jeff Siegel's article "The Asus Eee: How Close Did the World Come to a Linux Desktop?": the Eee PC certainly was a phenomenon!

But, I have to quibble: when I bought my 901, right when they first came on the market, they were not $199! They were going for $599 at least on Amazon and NewEgg. I bought a white one from NewEgg, and that is what I paid.

The pre-installed Xandros was so bad that after a while I started trying other distros, and I finally settled on Fedora at version 10 and later. There was a community doing Fedora kernel builds that tailored it to better fit the 901, and I stayed with Fedora until Fedora 15 when they started shipping the horrid mess called GNOME 3. Fedora was somewhat of a tight fit, but I was able to cram most of it into the 4gig drive, and the remainder, along with userspace, went onto the 16-gig second drive along with room for /home.

Thanks for taking me back!

—Fred Smith


Here's a minor correction to Joey Bernard's article in the October LJ issue on the Genius Calculator for Linux.

The author states that the command sin(45) calculates the sin of 45 degrees, and he shows the resulting value as 0.8509. In fact, 0.8509 is the sin of 45 radians.

There are several other places where he talks about using degrees. I suspect Genius is actually making the calculations using radians.

Thanks for the informative article.

—Michael Andrews

Good Read

i just saw Doc Searls' music biz article ("An Immodest Proposal for the Music Industry" in the November 2018 issue). please let me say i love the thinking; it all makes too much sense, in a perfect world.

sorry to say the biz was formed in the "morris levy world of the jukebox" and much less was paid to the artist back then. which isn't saying much! but the concept that the artist is to be cheated first is hardly new. there is a level of greed our species hasn't been able to overcome once the corporations got this crooked scheme in their sights. couple this with the digitizing of music (all aspects including production and distribution)—AN UNDERWRITERS DREAM. all the greedy tech guys with another greedy corporate structure have raised $$ on the back of a nickel-and-dime/mom-and-pop biz, and see how easy it is to monopolize this industry. i'd have added this to the comment chain, but i refuse to log in if i don't need to. thanks for your writings.

—matthew king kaufman

Doc Searls replies: Thanks, Matthew. My thinking in that piece isn't meant for a perfect world, or for fixing the music industry as it stands. It's for re-creating how we deal with music, much as free software and open source re-created how we deal with code.

Thanks also for bringing up Morris Levy. Reading about his life reminds me of the time (I'm guessing 1972) I ran into some mafia folks in the basement of a New Jersey recording studio that had lots of Four Seasons gold records on the walls. I was working for a radio station in the area at the time, and I was a guest in the studio of a guy in the juke-box business. (One reason I hardly ever watched The Sopranos was that the show was way too close to home for me, a Jersey kid.)

For more on the history of music and copyright, check out this slide deck, based on research by a law student who interned for me the summer of 2009. It ends with an idea that overlaps well with EmanciPay.

From Social Media

OpenSourceInitiative account@OpenSourceOrg:

"If companies that are highly dependent on #OSS don't start providing serious financial support, directly to #opensource projects and associated companies, those resources will dwindle and may disappear." - Glyn Moody (@glynmoody), via @linuxjournal https://www.https://www.linuxjournal.com/content/time-net-giants-pay-fairly-open-source-which-they-depend

Trumpy @trump_onlinux Replying to @OpenSourceOrg @linuxjournal @glynmoody:

Which is why open-source isn't always the best route. Also under the gpl can you not sell support or even the software as long as the source is available?

Khandoker Mazidul Haque:

Well, they bought Red Hat.

S Clarke Ohlendorf @scohlendorf Replying to @utos @linuxjournal @glynmoody:

Interesting argument. I think it would be amazingly beneficial to the #OpenSource and tech communities at large if companies chose to do something like @citusdata is—donating 1% of their equity toward open-source projects (see link).

Utah Open Source @utos:

#CitusData is donating 1% equity to #PostgreSQL organizations | @citusdata This may be the first time a company has #donated 1% of its #equity to support the mission of an #OpenSource foundation. Learn more: http://ow.ly/l3iK50jvdcQ. @postgresql @pgus @PledgeOne #Postgres

Regarding "The Asus Eee: How Close Did the World Come to a Linux Desktop?"

Tim Hoppen:

I have had the 1008HA for a decade. I recently pulled it out of a storage bin with a battery so swollen that it popped the keyboard off.

It was fun while it lasted.

Jim Sanders:

I still have mine, been through multiple batteries, but still works great (running mint).

Clay Cott:

I had the 7 and the 10 and they both slayed as a travel laptop in every way except screen size obv.

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