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Debian founder Ian Murdock to be a member of Docker’s technical team

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November 17, 2015

Debian founder Ian Murdock has joined the Linux container team at Docker.

Murdock, who created and developed Debian more than twenty-two years ago and led the project for three years during its birth, has taken up position as a member of Docker’s technical team.

Various details of Murdock’s role or responsibilities were not available at the time of this writing, however.

But Docker has a huge interest in perfecting the deployment of Linux applications in its container technology for cloud and micro services.

Until October, Murdock was vice president of platform services for Salesforce’s marketing cloud. He’d been with the as-a-service provider for 4 years.

He joined through the cloudy firm’s $2.5 billion acquisition of ExactTarget in 2013. ExactTarget has since been renamed Salesforce Marketing Cloud.

And before that, Murdock has occupied different open-source friendly executive positions for Sun Microsystems, including some work on operating systems and Project Indiana (the open-sourcing of Solaris as OpenSolaris).

OpenSolaris was such a successful project that Sun’s new owner Oracle killed it by chopping off the community.

Overall, Murdock was also chief technology officer for the Linux Foundation but it’s Debian that birthed the legend of Murdock as the developer’s technologist.

Debian was one of the first Linux distributions to be forged and regarded as a one of the most successful open-source projects ever launched.

The Debian universe consists of more than 43,000 software packages with popular and free programs including LibreOffice and GIMP. Docker is one of the Debian universe’s packages.

Since Murdock’s time, the Debian project has grown in manpower to span more than 1,000 members globally.

There exists fifty-two distributions built on the Debian platform with, arguably, Ubuntu being the best-known and most successful of them.

By extension, a host of Ubuntu spinoffs also use Debian. Debian is available in 73 languages and on ARM, AMD, Intel, MIPS, Power and z architectures, running on desktop, with the Gnome project on servers and in embedded applications.

In other Linux and open source news

Linux Fedora 23 is finally here, even if it's a week late. The new version represents a significant update that was worth waiting for, however.

That’s thanks not just to upstream projects like GNOME, now at 3.18, but also some impressive new features from the Linux community that maintains Fedora.

Like its predecessor, this Fedora new version comes in three base configurations: Workstation, Server and Cloud.

The former is the desktop release and the primary basis for our testing, though we also tested the Server release this time around.

The default Fedora 23 live CD will install the GNOME desktop though there are plenty of spins available if you prefer something else.

We opted for GNOME since a lot of what's new in it, like much improved Wayland support is currently only really available through Fedora.

We have been hard on Fedora's Anaconda installer in the past, but we are slowly coming around now. The installation experience in Fedora 23 is hard to beat, particularly the way you don't need to visit sections if Fedora has guessed something right.

For example, Anaconda correctly guessed our time zone so we can just skip that screen without even needing to click OK. It's a small thing, but it helps set a certain tone of feature completeness right from the start.

But overall, we still think that the button-based approach of Anaconda can sometimes make it difficult to figure out what you've missed if it's your first time using the installer.

But it's a little simpler in Fedora 23 because there's an additional orange bar across the bottom to tell you about whatever you missed.

What's perhaps most encouraging about Anaconda is that Fedora keeps refining it. Having just installed and tested Ubuntu and openSUSE on other machines recently, we wouldn't hesitate to say that Anaconda is a better experience than either.

It's certainly faster thanks to the amount of stuff you can simply ignore. Once you've got Fedora WorkStation installed, the first thing you'll likely notice is GNOME 3.18.

For all intents and purposes, GNOME may be upstream from Fedora, but the repository has long been where GNOME turns to showcase new features, and Fedora 23 is no different.

Among the changes in GNOME 3.18 are faster searching, first-class support for integrating Google Drive in Nautilus, support for light sensors (handy on laptops since you can lower the back light setting and extend battery life) and improved Wayland support.

And some other new features in GNOME 3.18 deserve mention. GNOME Software now has support for firmware updates via fwupd. The firmware support means that you won't need any proprietary tools nor will you have to resort to pulling out the bootable DVDs.

The catch is that the vendor for your hardware needs to upload the firmware to the Linux Vendor Firmware Service.

Another big new GNOME project that will arrive soon is the Xdg project. Xdg will be a system for building, distributing and running sandboxed desktop applications. More on that in a later article.

But for now, aside from the security gains of sandboxing, xdg-app also hopes to allow app developers to use a single package for multiple distributions. The xdg support in Fedora 23 is still very experimental and none of the apps are actually packaged this way, but look for xdg support to continue expanding in Fedora and GNOME's futures.

Fedora has been an early adopter of Wayland, the replacement that will eventually be the default option, coming perhaps as early as Fedora 24. If you'd like to play around with Wayland, this release offers considerably more support than any other distro to date.

Provided that you have the supported hardware, Wayland actually works quite well and with a little extra effort, installing some experimental repos can get you really nice features like full GTK 3 support for OpenOffice 5.

It will also offer support for HiDPI screens, among other things, and even support for running monitors with DPI-independent resolution.

You can also have hi-resolution and normal res monitors running off the same machine and it all just works well.

However, not everything in GNOME 3.18 is great... The GNOME project continues its curious take on usability by removing something that was genuinely useful. In this case, it's the file copy feedback message that was a small window with a progress bar.

The window is gone and now you'll have to get by with a tiny icon in the Nautilus window that kind of shows some progress via a pie chart-looking icon.

We mention this not so much to poke fun at Nautilus's ever-declining usability, but because it is the only file copy feedback you'll get and unless you know it's there you'll probably keep dragging and dropping files, thinking they haven't copied, when in fact you just didn't notice.

In other Linux and open source news

A snippet of new code can give Linux servers a boost by addressing an unnoticed bug in a congestion control algorithm in the operating system's kernel.

The new code was provided by Google's transport networking team, with contributions from Jana Iyengar, Neal Cardwell and a few others.

It repairs an old bug in a set of routines called TCP CUBIC designed to address the slow response of TCP in long-distance networks, according to its creators.

Like any congestion control algorithm, TCP CUBIC makes network-level decisions based on traffic congestion reports.

If the network becomes very busy with sudden bursts of traffic, hosts are told to slow down.

As Mozilla developer Patrick McManus explains, the bug was simple-- TCP CUBIC interprets a lack of congestion reports as an opportunity to send data at a faster rate. That's it. Nothing more.

But of course, that condition could arise merely because the system hasn't been getting any congestion update reports in a while. That's something else, but nothing that can't be addressed.

What's supposed to happen in congestion control is that the operating system starts sending data slowly, increases its transmission rate until the network says 'that's enough', and then backs off a bit. The design is really simple but smart when you think of it.

The bug in TCP CUBIC fools the system into thinking it has a clear run at the network and should transmit at the maximum possible rate, crashing into other traffic, and ruining the performance and the efficiency of the system.

“The end result is that applications that toggle between transmitting lots of data and then laying quiescent for a bit before returning to high rates of sending will transmit way too fast when returning to the sending state,” McManus explained to us in an email.

However, that condition could be quite common, he notes. A server may have sent a short burst of data over HTTP containing a web form for someone to fill out, and go quiet waiting for a response, then assume there's no congestion, and burst out of the blocks at top-rate when it gets the user's response back.

“A far more dangerous class of triggers is likely to be the various HTTP based adaptive streaming media formats where a series of chunks of media are transferred over time on the same HTTP channel”, McManus asserted.

That's why a fix for that old flaw could be important. Linux is used in many media servers, and for the past ten years or more, an important slate of congestion control hasn't been working quite efficiently in some cases.

The code snippet forces the Linux kernel to act a little more intelligently after an idle period.

A more technical description is included with the bug fix. The code snippet is available on Google's website.

In other Linux and open source news

The open source router OpenWrt version 15.05 has hit the streets and the new release is now operational.

One highlight of the new iteration is an upgrade to Version 3.18 of the Linux kernel, and security has been beefed up with ed-25519 package signing support, and also support for jails and hardened builds as well.

But the big news is a fully writable filesystem with package management, according to the project's founders.

This, OpenWrt explains, offers users different options for the installation and the customisation of the upgraded routing system.

Instead of having to use a vendor's application and selection framework, OpenWrt can now be configured using developer-supplied applications, the group said.

“OpenWrt is a framework to build an application without having to build a complete firmware from the ground up”, the announcement says, while users get “full customization to use the device in ways never envisioned in the past”.

Of course, that almost sounds like a challenge to the FCC, which just a few weeks ago issued a proposed new rule-making that would demand Wi-Fi lock down on several systems.

The proposed regulation specifically proposes requiring Wi-Fi vendors to lock down their firmware and names OpenWrt as a potential issue.

As the rule states, router vendors selling new equipment in America would have to answer “What prevents third parties from loading non-US versions of the software/firmware on the device? Describe in detail how the device is protected from “flashing” and the installation of third-party firmware such as DD-WRT,” the new ruling states.

The FCC's overall concerns are that third-party firmware could allow end users to mess around with their wireless settings, and in careless or malicious hands, that could end up with a Wi-Fi router operating outside its radio spectrum certification.

With OpenWrt's new upgrade, its device support has now passed 950 products from 159 vendors, with new devices added from Marvell, Broadcom and Raspberry Pi.

In other Linux and open source news

The next Ubuntu: version 15.10, nicknamed Wily Werewolf, has begun to take shape but as before, the first beta code out of the gate doesn’t belong to the main desktop.

Rather, that honor belongs to the familiar list of Ubuntu fellow travellers – Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Ubuntu GNOME, Ubuntu MATE and Lubuntu.

As could be expected, the amount of new features varies on Kubuntu, which offers some major updates for the KDE platform that serves as its base, to Lubuntu, which consists primarily of a few bug fixes here and there.

The biggest news right now is that Kubuntu 15.10 uses the hot-off-the-presses KDE Plasma 5.4 desktop. Plasma 5.4 is a huge update for KDE, bringing everything from preliminary Wayland support to smaller, but more noticeable changes like a nice new set of Plasma Widgets and improvements to K-Runner, the revamped, extendible launcher in Plasma 5.

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The KDE team has also been finishing up work on the new flat look of Plasma 5. In our initial review of KDE 5, we said it was a bit rough around the edges, with some missing icons and the fact that the search field in the Kickoff app launcher was hard to discover among a range of issues.

As of 5.4, all those elements have been fixed. There are some 1,400 new icons, all consistent with the brighter, flatter design aesthetic the characterises Plasma 5.

The other area that is much improved in this release is KDE's support for HiDPI screens. In previous Kubuntu releases, we had trouble getting the HiDPI support to work in virtual machines, but as of Kubuntu 15.10 that's no longer a problem.

The various features which KDE offers have also been improved. There's a new one for volume and a slick new network app that offers a nice graphical view of your network traffic.

It also now supports SSH connections via a plugin. The Wily Werewolf release of Ubuntu MATE ships with an interesting combination of MATE 1.8 and 1.10, depending on which component of the system you're talking about.

Somehow, it manages to do this without being too buggy, but it can make troubleshooting a little more time-consuming, since you first need to know which version of any problem component you've actually got.

But among Ubuntu's MATE 1.10 elements is Caja, the default file manager. It gains an extension tool for handling various plugins that means it's a lot easier to install and enable plugins since there's no need to restart.

There's also the much-improved multi-monitor support we covered in our Mint 17.2 review a while back.

But there are plenty of MATE 1.8 elements still hanging around, nevertheless. Elements like the main panel, the power manager, applets and the icon theme all remain at their 1.8 versions.

However, Ubuntu MATE was the least stable of the betas we tested. In fact, it would never really run at all in a virtual machine and didn't fare any better on actual server hardware.

In other Linux and open source news

Yesterday, Debian said it has published over the weekend the second update to its Jessie stable release and the 9th update for its older Wheezy flavor.

Debian Jessie version 8.2 mainly adds corrections for security issues to the stable release, along with a few adjustments for serious problems, according to Debian's announcement of its new release.

So far, we have counted no less than 60 security fixes and 68 updated packages in the new release.

By our estimate, Wheezy 7.9, also revealed over the weekend, updated 60 packages and offers no less than 184 security patches.

Many of the bugs have already been addressed, so Debian advises that “Those who frequently install updates from won't have to update many packages and most patches are already included in this update.”

Upgrading to the new releases doesn't need much more than a quick bit of sudo action to get things humming again.

Overall, the Wheezy release is arguably more serious because Debian's releases policy states that “When a new stable version is released, the security team will usually cover the previous version for a year or so.”

The last Wheezy update came out in January of this year, a rather slower release cadence than Jessie which has had two updates since its April 2015 release.

The big new Wheezy update therefore represents one of the few remaining occasions on which Debian's volunteer developers will give the OS their full attention.

Source: The Debian Project.

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