Proposing a new newsgroup: Internet History

I am thinking about making a formal proposal for one of two new
unmoderated groups. The group would either be comp.internet.history or
soc.history.internet. I think you can see where these two names could
possibly overlap.

The general idea of the new group is to discuss retro internet
technologies such as IRC, ftp sites, BBSs (telnet and otherwise), MUDS,
MOOs, and of course Usenet and others. We could also discuss the culture
that surrounded many of these technologies especially IRC and Usenet as
they were maturing. Many of use don’t consider these technologies to be
“retro” because we use them everyday and yet interest in them is waning
and in order for them to continue, fresh interest must be continually be
added.

I don’t know if anyone could possibly be interested, but the only way to
find out is to ask. If I get enough positive feedback, I’ll write up an
official CFD and submit it to the board. I won’t do anything if no one is
interested.

Why Stack Exchange is Broken (and Reddit too)

I’m going to begin this rant by saying that there are some things that that the Stack Exchange network is really good with: mainly, programming help.

However, it really sucks when it comes to providing help with a specific application where there is already a community. For the past year, I have been the #1 person to answer questions on tor.stackexchange.com. I’m not saying that to pat myself on the back; just to say that I have actually been doing this for a little while. However, I feel that many, if not most, of the questions should never have been there. Here’s what I mean:

  1. Nobody googles anything for themselves anymore. A huge number of questions have been answered time and time again and can be found by just searching.
  2. Nobody reads documentation or man pages.
  3. There are better places to ask the questions.

While #1 and #2 are annoying, it’s #3 that I want to focus on. For example, we get a lot of questions about running Tor relays. Many times, I will copy and paste from the documentation and answer their question. However that question should never have been there at all. It should have been posted to the tor-relays mailing list. That way more people who actually run relays can answer and give better insight. Also other newbies to the list can learn also and the person asking the question can actually be a part of the community.

When it comes to subreddits that are based on a specific application like Tor, take my 3 examples and multiple it by 1000x because it is a continual cycle of the same crap week after week. I had to leave before I flamed someone for asking the same stupid question for the 9th time in a row. I miss good netiquette.

Featured

Announcement

From news.groups.newgroups:

This is an official communication from the Big-8 Management Board. Please note that followups are set to news.groups.

After a careful review of the Big 8 Management Board’s activity and process, all remaining members of the Big 8 Management Board opted not to consider re-election and instead have voted to install two new volunteers as the new members of the Big 8 Management Board. These two volunteers are:

Tristan Miller Jason Evans

We believe these volunteers have the technical and social skills necessary to maintain the Big-8. Please give them your support while they develop their vision for the future mission and goals of the Big 8 Board.

Kathy Morgan, Chairperson Emeritus Bill Horne, former Chairperson

Thoughts on LBRY

At the behest of people like Bryan Lunduke and DTLive on YouTube, I have started using LBRY more and last night I even uploaded a few test videos of my own. I would eventually like to put up some of my own tutorial videos.

With that said, LBRY has some serious issues. So, let’s be frank. LBRY has no rules against hardcore porn or if they do, they are not enforced. That’s fine, and I don’t care. It’s not hard to find porn on YouTube also. However if a porn channel doesn’t flag their own content as mature, then it will be in your search results and there’s no way right now to flag it yourself. The suggestions that I got in the help forum (aka the discord server) was to report it to the #report-spam room which I did. Will that result in these channels being told to reflag their content? Who knows. It seems a little iffy.

I realize that this is a startup and there is only so much time and energy to put into such things for a small team. I am rooting for them to make LBRY a great alternative to YouTube.

Communities in the distrowatch.org top 20

Distribution Forum Wiki Community Membership Bug Reporting Mailing List Chat
MX Linux Yes Technical Only No No Yes No No
Manjaro Yes Yes No No Forum Only Yes Yes
Mint Yes No Yes No Upstream or Github No IRC
elementary Stack Exchange No No No Yes No Slack
Ubuntu Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes IRC
Debian Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes IRC
Fedora Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes IRC
Solus Yes No Yes No Yes No IRC
openSUSE Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes IRC
Zorin Yes No No No Forum Only No No
deepin Yes Yes No No Yes Yes No
KDE neon Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes IRC
CentOS Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes IRC
ReactOS* Yes No Yes No Yes Yes Webchat
Arch Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
ArcoLinux Yes No No No No No Discord
Parrot Yes Debian Wiki No No Forum Only No IRC/Telegram
Kali Yes No Yes No Yes No IRC
PCLinuxOS Yes No No No Forum Only No IRC
Lite Yes No Yes Yes Yes No No

*All are Linux distributions except ReactOS

Column descriptions:

  • Distribution: Name of the distro
  • Forum: Is there a support message board?
  • Wiki: Is there a user-editable wiki?
  • Community: Are there any links where I can directly contribute to the project?
  • Membership: Can I become a voting member of the community?
  • Bug Reporting: Is there a way to report bugs that I find?
  • Mailing list: Is there an active mailing list for support, announcements, etc?
  • Chat: Is there a way to talk to other people in the community directly?

What is this list?

This is the top 20 active projects distributions according to distrowatch.org in the past 12 months.

Things that I learned:

Only well-funded corporate sponsored Linux distributions (Fedora, Ubuntu, OpenSUSE) have all categories checked. That doesn’t mean that anyone is getting paid. I believe this means that employees are probably the chief contributors and that means there are more people putting in resources to help.

Some distributions are “Pat’s distribution”. Pat’s group owns it and Pat doesn’t want a steering committee or any other say in how the distro works. Though contributions by means of bug reports may be accepted.

A few distributions “outsource” resources to other distributions. Elementary allows Stack Exchange to provide their forum. Parrot Linux refers users to the Debian wiki. Mint suggests that you put in bug reports with the upstream provider unless it is a specific Mint create application.

There are a few Linux distributions that leave me scratching my head. How is this in the top 20 distros on distrowatch? There’s nothing here and the forum, if there is one, is nearly empty. Who uses this?

What do you want from an open source project?

Do you want to donate your time, make friends, and really help make a Linux distribution grow? Look at Fedora, Ubuntu, OpenSUSE, or Arch. These communities have ways to help you make this happen.

Do you want to just install a free OS on your machine and not worry about what goes into it until something breaks? Check out a Linux distribution with an active and friendly support community. Sometimes the more avenues the better. Sometimes you only need one really good and helpful forum.

Suggestions for distro owners:

Explicitly declare on your website what you want from the people who use your distribution and how they can help! Maybe you just need funding so you can quit your day job and do this full time.  Maybe you really need well written bug reports and testers. Say so and help them help you!

Did I miss something? Did I say that you have no chat but you have a thriving community on IRC? Then let me know and I will update this blog post! Also, make sure that it is visible on your page and not hidden away.

Email Consolidation

I’ve got too many email addresses.

I have:

  • 2 for work
  • 1 alias for opensuse.org
  • 1 paid account with protonmail with 5 addresses shared in that account
  • 1 very old gmail account (I signed up the first day I heard about it).
  • 1 seznam account (Czech provider)
  • 1 installation of mail-in-a-box with 4 domains that I own but only one real account that I use
  • 1 librem.one account (this is a mistake and a disappointment)

The goal is to change all of the services, mailing lists, etc that I use to point to a single email account either directly or through aliases so that all of my email is in one place with the exception of my work email which should always stay separate. Also, to get people to only email me at the one account.

to be continued…

Bedrock Linux: Strangest Linux Distro Ever?

What is Bedrock Linux?

From their website:

Bedrock Linux is a meta Linux distribution which allows users to utilize features from other, typically mutually exclusive distributions. Essentially, users can mix-and-match components as desired. For example, one could have:

  • The bulk of the system from an old/stable distribution such as CentOS or Debian.
  • Access to cutting-edge packages from Arch Linux.
  • Access to Arch’s AUR.
  • The ability to automate compiling packages with Gentoo’s portage
  • Library compatibility with Ubuntu, such as for desktop-oriented proprietary software.
  • Library compatibility with CentOS, such as for workstation/server oriented proprietary software.

All at the same time, all working together like one, largely cohesive operating system.

So, what is this thing? Bedrock Linux is a package manager compatibility overlay. Ever wanted to use CentOS or Arch packages on your Debian system? Bedrock Linux will let you do that.

Strata

A stratos in Bedrock Linux is a package management overlay. For example, if you want to add a CentOS Strata, you run:

$ sudo brl fetch centos

The BRL app will then download yum and it’s required apps and libraries into the overlay. Once it’s done you can then yum install whatever you want.

Have multiple versions of the same package? Use:

$ strat [stratus name] [packagename]

For example with the Nano editor:

tux@debian:~$ strat arch nano -V
GNU nano, version 4.2
(C) 1999-2011, 2013-2019 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
(C) 2014-2019 the contributors to nano
Email: nano@nano-editor.org Web: https://nano-editor.org/
Compiled options: --enable-utf8
tux@debian:~$ strat debian nano -V
GNU nano, version 2.7.4
(C) 1999..2016 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
(C) 2014..2016 the contributors to nano
Email: nano@nano-editor.org Web: https://nano-editor.org/
Compiled options: --disable-libmagic --disable-wrapping-as-root --enable-utf8
tux@debian:~$ strat centos nano -V
GNU nano version 2.3.1 (compiled 04:47:52, Jun 10 2014)
(C) 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007,
2008, 2009 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
Email: nano@nano-editor.org Web: http://www.nano-editor.org/
Compiled options: --enable-color --enable-extra --enable-multibuffer --enable-nanorc --enable-utf8

There are problems

It’s not as easy as it sounds. In order to install Bedrock Linux, you must have a compatible base OS. Here is the list that’s currently on the website:

Distro Hijack-able Fetch-able Maintainer
Alpine Linux Yes Yes paradigm
Arch Linux Yes Yes paradigm
CentOS Known issues Yes paradigm
Clear Linux Mixed reports Experimental support N/A
CRUX Known issues No N/A
Debian Yes Yes paradigm
Devuan Needs investigation Yes paradigm
Elementary OS Yes, but limited testing No N/A
Exherbo Yes In development Wulf C. Krueger
Fedora Yes Yes paradigm
Gentoo Linux Yes Yes paradigm
GoboLinux Known issues No N/A
GuixSD Needs investigation No N/A
Manjaro Yes, but pamac/octopi broken No N/A
Mint Needs investigation No N/A
MX Linux Known issues No N/A
NixOS Known issues No N/A
OpenSUSE Yes Experimental support N/A
OpenWRT Needs investigation Experimental support N/A
Raspbian Yes Yes paradigm
Slackware Linux Known issues Experimental support N/A
Solus Yes Experimental support N/A
Ubuntu Yes Yes paradigm
Void Linux Yes Yes paradigm

Hijack-able distros are suitable base installations. Fetch-able distros can be used as overlays.

However this isn’t entirely true or at least not up to date. My first attempt was with OpenSUSE Tumbleweed. After installing, it failed to boot. My second attempt was with Fedora 30. Same resume. It worked on the third try with vanilla Debian. Finally, while Fedora is listed as fetch-able, I couldn’t install it because the brl application couldn’t find a suitable mirror.

Should I give it a try?

Yes! It’s a very interesting project, but don’t do it on any machine where you need your data to be protected. A spare VM is the ideal platform until it becomes more stable.

In Defense of Tumblweed: Why @BryanLunduke is wrong

What is OpenSUSE Tumbleweed?

OpenSUSE Tumbleweed is a cutting-edge Linux distribution from the OpenSUSE team. It uses the latest versions of software applications and the Linux kernel for those who want to see what will be coming up in other Linux distributions in 6-months to a year or more from the time that they appear in Tumbleweed. This means that there are bugs; lots of them. Things break, This is the price that you pay for having the very cutting edge or software technology.

What did Bryan Lunduke actually say?

Let’s break down his complaints. There are only two.

  • SUSE Studio
  • YaST (ugly, cumbersome, hard to use, stupid, bloated)

The first complaint is an application stack that doesn’t actually have anything directly to do with Tumbleweed. I never used it. It was going by the wayside when I started using OpenSUSE as my daily OS of choice. The source code is still out there and maybe it should be forked and brought back to life. I don’t know. I can’t argue with this point because it is a red herring and has nothing to do the OpenSUSE Tumbleweed distribution.

The second list of complaints is pretty vague, but his complaint is basically that YaST has issues that are causing it to bring does the entire distribution as a whole.

What is YaST?

YaST (Yet Another Setup Tool) is a set of system management tools that are grouped together in a single management application called YaST though they can be installed and run separately as needed.

The modules allow the user to easily control most administrative functions that might be needed. Not all of the modules are the same though. Some such as the printer and scanner modules suck. Other modules like the Software Management module are great. I consider this to be on par with Debian’s Synaptic package management tool which is freaking amazing. If unevenness in the quality of the modules is the reason why he dislikes it so much, then it’s not a completely wrong reason but it’s not a really good one either.

I say that it’s a given that some of the modules are out of date or need a fresh new rewrite, but that’s not specifically what he is saying. He keeps his complaints vague and oddly personal. I’m not privy to much of the inner-workings of the OpenSUSE distribution but I’ve seen from social media that there is some bad blood there between him and folks in OpenSUSE and I really hope this isn’t just a rant against them instead of really against the distribution.

With that aside, let’s talk about the real issue with YaST and any GUI based configuration tool. It is yet another level of abstraction away from actually working with the operating system. For example, YaST has an module called HTTP Server. If you run it, it will set up Apache and any modules like PHP for you and will give you some basic options for tuning it without actually needing to work with the command line or configuration files directly. If someone told me that they had been a system administrator for 5 years but they had only ever used YaST, I wouldn’t hire them because many times things break and they can’t be fixed with YaST. Tools like YaST should mainly be a time saver not a replacement for good configuration and I think that’s what it is currently.

Even with my own genuine complaints above, they don’t really co-inside with Bryan Lunduke’s complains (it’s ugly, cumbersome, hard to use, stupid, and bloated) because I can’t see all of that. It’s no more ugly than any other tool (besides real nerds care about function over form). Granted, some of the modules are cumbersome and hard to use, but not all of them. It’s “stupid, stupid and it’s stupid” what the heck is that supposed to mean? Use your words Lunduke! Don’t just emote. “It’s bloated.” There are currently 183 total YaST modules. Many will never be used by an end user because they are only used during installation. However if you were to install them all, it would take up 176MiB which would average out to .96MiB per module. There are some required Ruby libraries that I’m not taking into account here, but this really isn’t what I would call bloat. You can even uninstall the modules that you don’t want without causing a huge fuss.

Let’s Wrap Up

Bryan Lunduke is wrong when he says that OpenSUSE Tumbleweed is one of the worst distros out right now. He is wrong when he says that YaST is dragging down the entire distro. YaST has problems, but they aren’t what he says they are.

LattePanda Gigglescore

A Gigglescore is a ratio score of price to performance for single-board-computers like the LattePanda or Raspberry Pi. A lower Gigglescore means a better value for the money. A higher one is worse. You can see more here: https://gigglescore.com/

My LattePanda:

sudo ./benchmark.sh 149
Repository 'openSUSE-Leap-15.0-Non-Oss' is up to date.
Repository 'openSUSE-Leap-15.0-Oss' is up to date.
Repository 'openSUSE-Leap-15.0-Update' is up to date.
Repository 'openSUSE-Leap-15.0-Update-Non-Oss' is up to date.
All repositories have been refreshed.
Category5.TV SBC Benchmark v1.1
Powered by sysbench 1.0.11
Number of threads for this SBC: 4
Performing CPU Benchmark… WARNING: the --test option is deprecated. You can pass a script name or path on the command line without any options.
576.760 events per second. Price: Ģ930.02 per unit.
Performing RAM Benchmark… WARNING: the --test option is deprecated. You can pass a script name or path on the command line without any options.
3,625,781.466 events per second. Price: Ģ0.15 per unit.
Performing Mutex Benchmark… WARNING: the --test option is deprecated. You can pass a script name or path on the command line without any options.
6.873 events per second. Price: Ģ7.80 per unit.

Total Giggle cost of this board: Ģ1,397.58

Giggles (Ģ) are a cost comparison that takes cost and performance into account. While the figure itself is not a direct translation of a dollar value, it works the same way: A board with a lower Giggle value costs less for the performance.
If a board has a high Giggle value, it means for its performance, it is expensive. Giggles help you determine if a board is better bang-for-the-buck, even if it has a different real-world dollar value. Total Giggle cost does not include I/O since that can be impacted by which SD card you choose. Lower Ģ is better.

Being that the suggested retail price is currently $149, we get a Gigglescore of 1,397.58. This is right between the Raspberry Pi 3 B+ and the ODROID XU4 in terms of value for the dollar.

Does it Leak? — Tumbleweed Edition

The following is a spreadsheet that I put together this weekend testing Linux applications and how well the work on Tor.

The first column is the name of the application and the second is the Linux distribution. In this case, I am using the latest build of OpenSUSE Tumbleweed with the latest patches applied.

The Torsocks column is whether or not the application is compatible with torsocks which is a wrapper around an application that send it’s networking requests to Tor instead of the standard internet.

The Proxy column is whether or not the application supports a SOCKS5 proxy with a DNS Proxy, specifically the one used by the Tor application.

The DNS Leak column is a test that I ran with Wireshark to see if any of the applications were misbehaving with DNS. i.e. Did they try to use DNS even though I set a proxy not to use it and/or did they go around the torsocks application and use DNS directly?

In the No DNS Test, I commented out the nameserver entry in /etc/resolv.conf so that the VM that I was using as a whole would not have access to DNS. Would the application be able to use DNS via Tor alone?

Finally, I tested to see if the application could reach a .onion site. I don’t have a OpenSUSE Repo in an .onion site or a steaming service like youtube to try so I didn’t test those.

ApplicationLinuxTorsocksProxyDNS LeakNo DNS Test.onion
FirefoxTumbleweedNoYesNoPassYes
ZypperTumbleweedYesNoNoPassn/a
LinksTumbleweedNoYesNoPassYes
LynxTumbleweedYesNoNoPassYes
w3mTumbleweedYesNoNoPassYes
curlTumbleweedYesYesNoPassYes
ChromiumTumbleweedNoYesNoPassYes
BraveTumbleweedNoYesNoPassYes
OtterTumbleweedNoYesNoPassYes
Youtube-dlTumbleweedYesNoNoPassn/a

My findings were that none of the applications that I tested had DNS Leaks though there could be other issues that I did not test for. If your concern is strictly about privacy and not being tracked, the official Tor Browser is the way to go. However I am keenly interested in other applications for Tor so this is my first step in finding what could be possible.