Nintendo Switch Linux Hack

Switch Hack
Someone has hacked the Switch, but it is not all goof news.

Nintendo Switch Linux hack offers good news for homebrew

SlashGear – By: Eric Abent – “For as long as consoles have been around, people have been hacking them. Nintendo in particular has a long and storied history with hackers, especially with its more modern consoles. Healthy homebrew scenes popped up around the Wii, DS, and 3DS, and now that the Switch is on the scene, hackers have turned their attention to it.

Toward the end of last year, a team of hackers created an exploit tool that allowed for homebrew on the Switch, but there was one major drawback. As the exploit ran on Switch firmware version 3.0.0, it meant that those who applied it (and wanted to keep it) weren’t able to play Super Mario Odyssey, one of the console’s must-own games. The fact that there isn’t a significant amount of homebrew applications for the Switch just yet is also a problem, but it’s one that will fix itself as time goes on.

Now, however, we’re hearing of new progress on the homebrew front. A group called fail0verflow (which some of you will already be familiar with) posted a very intriguing image to Twitter a few days back, showing the Switch running Linux. The folks over at Nintendo Life got in touch with fail0verflow today, and the group makes some pretty big claims about the potential longevity of this exploit.

According to fail0verflow, this exploit can’t be fixed by a future firmware update by Nintendo. That’s big talk, but if it’s true, it means good things for a homebrew community that has been trying to gain a foothold when it comes to hacking the Switch.

Of course, the flip side of that benefit for the homebrew community is that an exploit that can’t be patched is bad news for Nintendo, as it opens the platform up to piracy. Indeed, whatever advances the homebrew community makes always seem to go hand-in-hand with an increase in piracy, so you can bet that Nintendo will be looking for a way to fix this exploit regardless of fail0verflow’s claims. Stay tuned.”

Serious OpenVMS Security Issue!

I include this news item for personal nostalgia reasons! I started my computer career working with OpenVMS and the DCL Command language. In fact, my first professionally published article was in DEC Professional magazine on a menu system I wrote in DCL! Amazing that people are still using OpenVMS!

Mission-critical system alert: 40-year-old OpenVMS hit by exploitable bug
ZDNet – By Liam Tung – “A patch is available for a privilege-escalation flaw affecting the 40-year-old OpenVMS operating system on hardware powered by ancient VAX and Alpha processors from Digital Equipment Corporation.

The OS, which has been supported by HP, is known for its reliability and has historically been used for core business systems that require high availability, including nuclear power plants and process-control systems.

The Register reports that a patch for the privilege-escalation flaw, CVE-2017-17842, has been made available ahead of a detailed description of the issue due in March. The delay is to give admins time to patch affected systems.

VMS Software Inc (VSI), the company to which HP licensed OpenVMS in 2014, said a ‘malformed DCL command table may result in a buffer overflow allowing a local privilege escalation in non-privileged accounts’. DCL is the VMS shell.

The vulnerability affects all versions of VMS and OpenVMS dating back to version 4.0, when it was just called VMS.

While this vulnerability is exploitable on VAX and Alpha hardware, it only causes a crash on Intel Itanium-based hardware and isn’t directly exploitable.

However, according to Simon Clubley, the researcher who found the flaw, a different version of the same vulnerability could make Itanium systems exploitable.

‘The only reason Itanium is not compromisable with this specific version of the exploit is because the return address is handled very differently on Itanium,’ he wrote.

‘It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that someone could find a different variant that could be used to compromise an Itanium system. For example, if you can overwrite a pointer to a data structure, then you can force code within DCL to process memory that you control.’

Additionally, Itanium systems can be indirectly compromised using the exploit he has if they’re part of a cluster with affected VAX or Alpha processors.

‘If your Itanium systems are part of a mixed-architecture cluster, then you can use the vulnerability to compromise a vulnerable cluster member and then use that cluster member to compromise your Itanium systems,’ he noted.

Clubley told The Register that anyone with shell access can compromise any version of OpenVMS released for VAX or Alpha architecture in the past 30 years.

There are different courses of action to remedy the issue for different customers, according to VMS Software’s VP of software engineering, Eddie Orcutt.

Alpha customers running VSI OpenVMS V8.4-2L1 or VSI OpenVMS V8.4-2L2 for Alpha need to contact VSI support.

Customers with Itanium running VSI OpenVMS V8.4-1H1, VSI OpenVMS V8.4-2, or VSI OpenVMS V8.4-2L1 can contact HPE if they have a HPE support contract for their version. Otherwise customers need to contact VMS Software VSI support.

Customers running HPE OpenVMS versions prior to and including V8.4 must contact HPE customer support.”

Keeping Alexa Quiet

Shhhh...Amazon uses undetectable audio cues to keep Alexa quiet during commercials.

Amazon has a neat trick for keeping Alexa quiet during its Super Bowl ad

Android Central – By: Joe Maring– “Previous commercials from other companies have used assistant hot words in intrusive ways, but Amazon’s done something special to ensure that your Alexa doesn’t continually go off when its ad is airing.

All the way back in September of 2014, Amazon published a patent by the name of ‘Audible command filtering.’ The patent describes two different methods for preventing Alexa from waking up when its name is said, and of the two, Amazon went with one that sends out an acoustic tone – not noticeable by humans – to cue Alexa to remain silent.

Amazon started to really push its Echo speakers with short advertisements about a year ago, and shortly after this, Reddit user Aspyhackr decided to investigate why the ads weren’t triggering their Echo even though they clearly say ‘Alexa’ at one point or another. After running a few tests, they were able to conclude (and confirm through tests), that the commercials send out audio signals anywhere from 3,000 to 6,000Hz so that Alexa doesn’t respond with a command.

The same technique will be used during Sunday’s game, and while it’s not technically new, it’s a nice reminder that there’s more to Amazon’s commercials than meets the eyes (or voice).”

Windows 10 Surpasses Windows 7

Windows 7 - Windows 10
Windows 10 has finally surpassed Windows 7 in usage… this is good news for security.

StatCounter: Windows 10 overtakes Windows 7 in usage share

VentureBeat – By: Emil Protalinski – “Windows 10 has overtaken Windows 7 in usage share. The milestone was reached some 29 months after the latest and greatest operating system from Microsoft first debuted, according to StatCounter.

Specifically, Windows 10 started the year with 42.78 percent usage share (up 1.09 points from 41.69 percent), while Windows 7 fell to 41.86 percent (down 0.03 points from 41.89 percent). Windows 8.1 followed with 8.72 percent (down 0.34 points from 9.16 percent), Windows XP had 3.36 percent (down 0.24 points from 3.60 percent), Windows 8 had 2.44 percent (down 0.42 points from 2.86 percent), and Windows Vista brought up the rear with 0.74 percent (up 0.04 points from 0.70 percent).

Windows 10 adoption started out very strong, but it naturally slowed down as the months progressed. The operating system was installed on over 75 million PCs in its first four weeks, passed 110 million devices after 10 weeks, 200 million in under six months, 270 million after eight months, 300 million after nine months, 350 million after 11 months, 400 million after 14 months, 500 million after 21 months, and 600 million after 27 months.

Windows 10 is a service, meaning it was built in a very different way from its predecessors so it can be regularly updated with not just fixes, but new features, too. Microsoft has released four major updates so far: November Update, Anniversary Update, Creators Update, and Fall Creators Update. Because these updates are free and include new functionality, Windows 10 is more attractive than its predecessors, further helping its adoption.

StatCounter measures usage market share by examining aggregate data of about 10 billion pageviews per month across its network of over 2 million websites. The results thus show which platforms are used the most, as opposed to which ones have the most users (for user market share, you’ll want to look at data from Net Applications). Put another way, StatCounter is saying Windows 10 is used more than Windows 7, when looking at total pages visited, but it may or may not have more users — one person naturally visits more than one page.

Net Applications places Windows 10 and Windows 7 at 28.19 percent and 44.81 percent market share, respectively. Given it passed 25 percent mark almost a year ago, Windows 10 is unlikely to take the market share crown this year.”

A YouTube Rant!

Grumpy CatOkay folks, it’s time for a bit of a rant! For those of you that are not aware YouTube has, in the past, paid YouTube creators based on ad revenue generated by people watching their videos on YouTube. At least that’s how it’s been up to this point. You have to enroll in their monetization program, and agree to allow ads to be shown during your videos. You can opt out of this, and you might want to if you’re a non-profit organization. However, it has always been beneficial to earn at least a little revenue off of people watching your videos. This was a nice feature for those of us that put videos up on YouTube.

However, YouTube has just changed the rules to make it harder to be eligible for monetization on your YouTube channel. In order to qualify you have to have at least 1000 subscribers, and those subscribers must have watched at least 4000 hours of your videos over the last year. Now, for those of us that have small channels, and less than 1000 subscribers, we are eliminated from any monetization opportunities on YouTube!

Now, to be fair, I have never made much money off of YouTube videos. In fact, months go by before any ad revenues generate enough financial benefit for them to pay out anything. It was kind of nice to occasionally get a check for a small amount of money that can then be used to offset the cost of equipment, items I might be reviewing, and other various costs involved in producing a channel. It never rose to the level of earning enough money to support myself by YouTube. However, to me that’s not the point. If ads are going to be shown on my channel, and people are going to be watching them, then why would I not get a cut of those ad revenues? It only seems fair to me, no matter how few are watching, or how many are subscribed.

But, this is not the way YouTube is looking at it. From my point of view, it seems to me, that this will cause less people to post videos and express themselves via YouTube. Overall, this would seem to be counterproductive to YouTube itself. This is because the content that small providers generate is what gives YouTube the content that people like to watch.

Anyway, I think it’s a shame that this has happened, though I don’t call it the “death of YouTube” as some people have! YouTube will continue and small providers, like me, will probably continue to produce videos, perhaps not as enthusiastically as before, but as an outlet for self-expression. YouTube is out there, and we will keep using it!

Apple’s iTunes Analytics Show Podcast Listeners Are Out There!

PodcastsYou folks ARE out there listening to podcasts!

Podcast Listeners Really Are the Holy Grail Advertisers Hoped They’d Be

Wired – By: Miranda Katz – “Misha Euceph was nervous. The public radio producer had started a podcast as a side project in early 2017, and the exploration of her experience as a Pakistani-American immigrant had taken off faster than she’d ever imagined, making its way to the top 50 in the Society & Culture category on Apple’s Podcasts chart and attracting some big-name advertisers. But the same question that has long plagued many podcasters nagged at the back of Euceph’s head: Were people actually listening all the way through her show? Were the ‘midroll’ ads that played throughout an episode breaking up the narrative? When she finally got detailed data on how people listened to Beginner, would she have to rethink the way she structured her show?

Since the beginning of the current podcast boom, often attributed to 2014’s Serial, data on how people listen to podcasts has remained woefully scarce, even as advertising spending climbed to an estimated $220 million in 2017. When Apple Podcasts announced last year that it would soon be offering podcasters more data on their listenership, some worried it would force a ‘reckoning’—and possibly an ‘ad apocalypse,’ if brands decided that the fledgling new medium wasn’t worth their dollars, after all.

Apple’s Podcast Analytics feature finally became available last month, and Euceph—along with podcasters everywhere—breathed a sigh of relief. Though it’s still early days, the numbers podcasters are seeing are highly encouraging. Forget those worries that the podcast bubble would burst the minute anyone actually got a closer look: It seems like podcast listeners really are the hyper-engaged, super-supportive audiences that everyone hoped.

Forget those worries that the podcast bubble would burst the minute anyone actually got a closer look: It seems like podcast listeners really are the hyper-engaged, super-supportive audiences that everyone hoped.

‘I think some people had an apocalyptic fear that, ‘Oh my God, we’re going to get this data and see no one’s listening,” says Erik Diehn, CEO of Midroll Media. Thanks to surveys and data from Stitcher, Midroll’s distribution platform, the podcast network had long felt confident that a nightmare scenario was unlikely—and now thanks to Podcast Analytics, Diehn says, it’s finally indisputable fact. On average, according to Midroll’s data, podcast listeners are making it through about 90 percent of a given episode, and relatively few are skipping through ads.

Across the podcast ecosystem, the results are similarly uplifting. At Panoply, home to podcasts like Slate’s Political Gabfest and Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History, CTO Jason Cox says that listeners are typically getting through 80-90 percent of content; the same is true at Headgum, the podcast network started by Jake Hurwitz and Amir Blumenfeld. Those numbers tend to be steady regardless of the length of the show—and according to Panoply, the few listeners who do skip ads continue to remain engaged with the episode, rather than dropping off at the first sign of an interruption. ‘I think people are overall very relieved to see that people are actually listening the way that we hoped,’ says Headgum CTO Andrew Pile. ‘There are really audiences out there who listen to every word that comes out of [a host’s] mouth.’

So what does this all mean for podcast listeners? For starters, it means you don’t need to worry that your feed will become populated with shows nearly identical in structure and length as podcasters rush to optimize around the new data—the doomsday podcast equivalent of, say, pivoting to video. ‘What we’re not seeing is any glaring indication that all podcasts should be, say, 15 minutes and 30 secs long, and that’s the optimal length,’ says Cox. Quite the contrary, in fact: podcast enthusiasts may expect to see more experimentation in form over the coming months, as podcasters are now able to evaluate how their audiences respond when they drop an entire season at once or switch to a daily format for a week.

That’s exactly what Nastaran Tavakoli-Far did on her podcast, The Gender Knot. The first season of her show featured 45-minute episodes interspersed with shorter, newsier dispatches, but she suspected that the longer episodes were performing better—and Apple’s data confirmed that hunch. ‘It helped validate the decision to move back toward a 45-minute format,’ she says. Mark Pagán, host and producer of Other Men Need Help, has been similarly emboldened by Apple’s new tool: Though the first season of his show adhered to a three-act, roughly 20-minute structure, he’s now inspired to get a bit more playful and see what sticks. ‘To do something where it’s like, boom, this is a five-minute musical, and we’re just going to do that and see if this is engaging the same sort of listenership—it’ll be nice to be able to chart that a little bit easier,’ says Pagán.

On the business side, it’s likely that these high engagement rates and low levels of ad skipping will see a flood of new advertisers who have until now been reticent to enter the Wild West of podcasting—welcome news to anyone who feels about ready to throw their phone across the room any time they hear another ad for Squarespace or Casper. ‘What this will do now is give us a better story and more data to show to brands who maybe haven’t been in the podcasting space,’ says Panoply’s Cox.

There’s also reason to believe that ads on podcasts will become increasingly entertaining—something so organic to a show itself that you might not want to skip it. ‘When it really does feel like part of a show, there’s less of a skip rate, which just confirms what we’ve been telling advertisers for years and years,’ says Midroll’s Diehn, noting that when Earwolf put Hollywood Handbook on Stitcher Premium and removed the show’s ads, listeners actually complained. ‘Native spots in the style of the show keep people engaged, keep them from skipping, and now we have data that frankly proves it.’

Still, Apple’s new tool comes with caveats. For starters, it currently only counts users listening with devices that have been upgraded to iOS 11, so it’s best viewed as a representative sample of listeners, rather than hard data on how a show’s listenership is growing over time. And tracking ad-skipping is still a squishy business: Thanks to new technology that supports dynamic ad insertion, the length of a given ad break can vary depending on when a listener downloads a new episode, which can make it difficult to get an exact read on how many people might be skipping past the branded bits. But for a digital medium that’s had comically little data available to date, even slightly imprecise numbers will go a long way.

Podcasters and advertisers alike have long suspected that their listeners might just be a holy grail of engagement. The medium is inherently intimate, and easily creates a one-sided feeling of closeness between listener and host—the sense that the person talking into your ear on your commute is someone you know, whose product recommendations you trust, and whose work you want to support. Cox describes it as a ‘lean in’ medium: ‘People are really listening and want to consume all of the content that is there and available. There’s a level of dedication that comes from podcast listeners that you otherwise don’t find.’ And now the numbers prove it. Podcasts aren’t a bubble, they’re a boom—and that boom is only getting louder.”

A LibreOffice Cheat Sheet from TechRepublic

LibreOffice SuiteI love LibreOffice! LibreOffice is a cross-platform, open source office suite. If you’re looking for a free alternative to Microsoft Office or G Suite, read about LibreOffice to discover if it will meet your needs.

Cheat sheet: LibreOffice

TechRepublic – By: Jack Wallen – “LibreOffice is an open source alternative to Microsoft Office. LibreOffice comes with every productivity tool you need, making it fully capable of serving as a free replacement for the costlier alternatives, such as Microsoft Office, Apple Pages, G Suite, and more.

LibreOffice is a powerful tool with a very user-friendly GUI interface that enables you to keep your creativity and productivity flowing—all from within one tool. LibreOffice includes the following:

  • A word processor
  • Spreadsheets
  • Presentations
  • Formulas
  • An image editor
  • A fully functioning database tool

This LibreOffice smart person’s guide is a quick way to get up to speed on the office suite. We’ll update this resource periodically when there is new information about LibreOffice.

Executive summary
What is the LibreOffice office suite? LibreOffice is a free, open source office suite that includes all of the productivity tools you and your office needs. It can work with nearly any file format (which means you can work with or collaborate on Microsoft Office documents) and defaults to the open document format. LibreOffice is freely available to install on Windows, macOS, and Linux.

Why does the LibreOffice productivity suite matter? LibreOffice is the go-to office suite for the open source platform Linux. Because LibreOffice is a cost-effective solution, it is most often the tool used when Microsoft Office is not an option. LibreOffice is also the one office suite that best follows the guides and regulations laid out by the OpenDocument Format (an XML-based file format for spreadsheets, charts, presentations, and word processing documents developed with the aim of providing an open file format specification for office applications).

Who does LibreOffice affect? LibreOffice affects any Linux desktop user needing an office suite; yes, there are alternatives, but LibreOffice is the de facto standard for the open source platform. But LibreOffice doesn’t only affect Linux users; for anyone (regardless of platform) who is looking for a powerful office suite and wants to avoid the cost of Microsoft Office, LibreOffice is an outstanding alternative.

When was LibreOffice released? LibreOffice was originally forked from Apache OpenOffice in 2010 and is currently in version 5.4.
How do I install and use LibreOffice? LibreOffice comes pre-installed on many Linux desktop operating systems or can be installed from within most Linux application stores such as GNOME Software or Synaptic. LibreOffice can also be installed on Windows or macOS via easy to use installer packages from the LibreOffice Download page.

What is the LibreOffice office suite?
LibreOffice is a full-featured office suite program that consists of:

  • LibreOffice Writer – a word processor
  • LibreOffice Calc – spreadsheets
  • LibreOffice Impress – presentations
  • LibreOffice Math – formulas
  • LibreOffice Draw – image editor
  • LibreOffice Base – database
  • LibreOffice Charts – charts

Besides having zero learning curve (thanks to a very familiar user interface), one of LibreOffice’s best features is that it is compatible with a wide range of document formats, including the Microsoft Office native format (.doc, .docx, .xls, .xlsx, and more). LibreOffice also includes native support for the modern OpenDocument Format (ODF), so any document saved in LibreOffice can be opened in Microsoft Office and Google Docs; in fact, Google Docs support for LibreOffice native documents far surpasses those of Microsoft Office native formats.

LibreOffice offers a number of very compelling features, such as a highly flexible interface (you can easily switch from the old-school menu-based interface to more modern and even very minimal interfaces). No matter how you like to work, LibreOffice can conform to that need. LibreOffice is also highly extensible, with the help of a number of extensions and templates.

According to information on the LibreOffice site, these are some of the users of LibreOffice:

  • LibreOffice is used by MIMO, France’s inter-ministerial working group on free software, on more than 500,000 PCs.
  • The administration of Valencia has installed LibreOffice on more than 120,000 PCs.
  • Italy’s Ministry of Defence is transitioning to LibreOffice onto more than 100,000 computers.
  • Taiwan’s Ministry of Finance has installed LibreOffice on more than 24,000 PCs.
  • Estadual Paulista (Brazil) has transitioned more than 10,000 PCs to LibreOffice.

Although LibreOffice is an incredibly powerful, user-friendly office suite, it’s not perfect. The biggest issue some people face with the tool is that it’s not 100% compatible with Microsoft Office. Yes, you can open and save files in the default Microsoft format (.docx, .xlsx, etc.), but there may be instances when the formatting isn’t an exact conversion. Chances are, this won’t be a problem for most users.

LibreOffice users will also be glad to know they can digitally sign and password protect their documents. To sign a document, you only need to open the file in question and click File | Digital Signatures | Digital Signatures. The one caveat to this is that you must have a tool like GnuPG installed and a certificate generated. To password protect a document, open the file, click File | Properties | Security and then click the Protect button. Once a document has been secured, it cannot be opened without the assigned password.

Why does the LibreOffice productivity suite matter?
For anyone looking to use a full-featured office suite, without either having to spend precious budget dollars or be limited to proprietary offerings (and the offerings’ narrow scope of functionality), LibreOffice is the perfect alternative. But the importance of LibreOffice goes well beyond price and features.

Aside from the Linux operating system, LibreOffice is one of the the most popular open source projects. As of 2016, LibreOffice has been downloaded more than 120 million times since its inception, and more than 1,000 developers have contributed to the software, making it one of the largest open source collaborations on the planet. The fact that Microsoft finally includes support for native LibreOffice formats is telling that the open source alternative matters.

To make matters more interesting, for anyone that uses the Linux operating system, LibreOffice is your best bet for collaboration with other platforms, as LibreOffice documents can be easily opened from nearly all other office suites.

Beyond that, LibreOffice has become a crucial leader for the open source community. Besides Firefox, many other open source desktop applications have struggled to find their way onto the average user’s desktop—LibreOffice has managed that feat on a global level. Apache, NGINX, and Docker have proved open source belongs in the enterprise data center, and LibreOffice has proved open source can function on the desktop.

Another very important reason LibreOffice matters lies in its portable version. With LibreOffice Portable, you can carry around a full-fledged office suite on a USB drive. And if you’re looking for an online version of LibreOffice, look no further than Collabora Online, which supports all major document, spreadsheet, and presentation file formats.

Who does LibreOffice affect?
LibreOffice will be of interest to anyone who is looking for spreadsheet and document alternatives.

If you’re a Linux user without access to Microsoft Office, LibreOffice is your de facto standard office suite. If you’re a Windows user, LibreOffice offers an alternative to the costlier Microsoft Office. If you’re a macOS user who doesn’t like the idea of working with Microsoft products, LibreOffice is a much more flexible alternative to the built-in office suite.

SEE: 20 quick tips to make Linux networking easier (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

If you’re a student or a home user on a tight budget, you can be just as productive with LibreOffice as you would be with Microsoft Office. Plus, you will be able to produce documents that are compatible with the Microsoft equivalent.

Because LibreOffice is the office suite that best adheres to the ODF specifications, anyone looking for a tool that creates files with the most standardized open format would be remiss for not using this open source tool.

When was LibreOffice released?
LibreOffice was born as a fork of Apache OpenOffice, which was based on the now-defunct StarOffice. StarOffice originated as StarWriter, by Marco Börries, in 1985 and soon became StarOffice and StarSuite (which included language support for Japanese, Korean, Simplified Chinese, and Traditional Chinese). Börries eventually created StarDivision and began development of StarOffice. In 1999, Sun Microsystems purchased StarOffice for $73.5 million and renamed both StarOffice and StarSuite to Oracle OpenOffice.

On September 28, 2010, it was announced that The Document Foundation would serve as the host for the newly-forked LibreOffice. LibreOffice is fully open source (source code download instructions are here).

There has been speculation in the open source community for some time that, at some point, LibreOffice and Apache OpenOffice might merge back into one project, but there is no proof to support this rumor. However, this LibreOffice/OpenOffice merger needs to happen. Pulling the two projects together would give more resources to the singular project, which means it could advance faster.

Main competitors to LibreOffice
The main competitors to LibreOffice are open source and proprietary solutions, which include:

Microsoft Office
Google Docs

How do I install and use LibreOffice in Linux, Windows, and macOS?
If you’re a Linux user, chances are LibreOffice came pre-installed on your desktop; if not, you can easily install LibreOffice from your desktop’s ‘app store.’ If your Linux distribution doesn’t include the latest release of LibreOffice (e.g., Ubuntu tends to be a bit behind the curve on this), you can download either the .deb or .rpm packages for your distribution and install from the command line. Because some distributions include versions of LibreOffice that may not be the ‘latest release,’ I often recommend downloading the installer file from the LibreOffice website and installing the application manually.

SEE: Linux distribution comparison chart (Tech Pro Research)

After you download the necessary file, extract it, change into the LibreOffice-XXX/ directory (XXX is the release number), and then change into either the DEBS or RPMS directory depending on your distribution, and install from the command line like so:

sudo dpkg i *.deb

rpm -i *.rpm

If you’re a Windows or a macOS user, download the installer file from the LibreOffice Download page and double-click to run the installer (according to your platform of choice) to open the user-friendly installer.

You’ll find that using LibreOffice is incredibly intuitive. In fact, if you’re familiar with any office suite, you’ll be instantly familiar with LibreOffice.”

Kids Learn the Wonders of Open Source!

Students Learn LinuxA Middle School innovates by teaching kids the exciting world of Open Source and Linux! A middle school’s Tech Stewardship program is now an elective class for science and technology students. (Image courtesy of Affordable Tech for All)

Refreshing old computers with Linux – By: Don Watkins – “It’s nearly impossible to enter a school these days without seeing an abundance of technology. Despite this influx of computers into education, funding inequity forces school systems to make difficult choices. Some educators see things as they are and wonder, ‘Why?’ while others see problems as opportunities and think, ‘Why not?’

Andrew Dobbie is one of those visionaries who saw his love of Linux and computer reimaging as a unique learning opportunity for his students.

Andrew teaches sixth grade at Centennial Senior Public School in Brampton, Ontario, Canada, and is a Google Certified Innovator. Andrew said, ‘Centennial Senior Public School hosts a special regional science & technology program that invites students from throughout the region to spend three years learning Ontario curriculum through the lens of science and technology.’ However, the school’s students were in danger of falling prey to the digital divide that’s exacerbated by hardware and software product lifecycles and inadequate funding.

Although there was a school-wide need for access to computers in the classrooms, Andrew and his students discovered that dozens of old computers were being shipped out of the school because they were too old and slow to keep up with the latest proprietary operating systems or function on the school’s network.

Andrew saw this problem as a unique learning opportunity for his students and created the Tech Stewardship program. He works in partnership with two other teachers, Mike Doiu and Neil Lyons, and some students, who ‘began experimenting with open source operating systems like Lubuntu and CubLinux to help develop a solution to our in-class computer problem,’ he says.

The sixth-grade students deployed the reimaged computers into classrooms throughout the school. When they exhausted the school’s supply of surplus computers, they sourced more free computers from a local nonprofit organization called Renewed Computer Technology Ontario. In all, the Tech Stewardship program has provided more than 200 reimaged computers for students to use in classrooms throughout the school.

The Tech Stewardship program is now an elective class for the school’s science and technology students in grades six, seven, and eight. Not only are the students learning about computer reimaging, they’re also giving back to their local communities through this open source outreach program.

A broad impact
The Tech Stewardship program is linked directly to the school’s curriculum, especially in social studies by teaching the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The program is a member of Teach SDGs, and Andrew serves as a Teach SDGs ambassador. Also, as a Google Certified Innovator, Andrew partners with Google and the EdTechTeam, and Tech Stewardship has participated in Ontario’s Bring it Together conference for educational technology.

Andrew’s students also serve as mentors to their fellow students. In one instance, a group of girls taught a grade 3 class about effective use of Google Drive and helped these younger students to make the best use of their Linux computers. Andrew said, ‘outreach and extension of learning beyond the classroom at Centennial is a major goal of the Tech Stewardship program.’

What the students say
Linux and open source are an integral part of the program. A girl named Ashna says, ‘In grade 6, Mr. Dobbie had shown us how to reimage a computer into Linux to use it for educational purposes. Since then, we have been learning more and growing.’ Student Shradhaa says, ‘At the very beginning, we didn’t even know how to reimage with Linux. Mr. Dobbie told us to write steps for how to reimage Linux devices, and using those steps we are trying to reimage the computers.’

The students were quick to add that Tech Stewardship has become a portal for discussion about being advocates for the change they want to see in the world. Through their hands-on activity, students learn to support the United Nations Sustainable Development goals. They also learn lessons far beyond the curriculum itself. For example, a student named Areez says he has learned how to find other resources, including donations, that allow the project to expand, since the class work upfitting older computers doesn’t produce an income stream.

Another student, Harini, thinks the Tech Stewardship program has demonstrated to other students what is possible and how one small initiative can change the world. After learning about the program, 40 other schools and individuals are reimaging computers with Linux. Harini says, ‘The more people who use them for educational purposes, the more outstanding the future will become since those educated people will lead out new, amazing lives with jobs.’

Joshua, another student in the program, sees it this way: ‘I thought of it as just a fun experience, but as it went on, we continued learning and understanding how what we were doing was making such a big impact on the world!’ Later, he says, ‘a school reached out to us and asked us if we could reimage some computers for them. We went and completed the task. Then it continued to grow, as people from Europe came to see how we were fixing broken computers and started doing it when they went back.’

Andrew Dobbie is keen to share his experience with schools and interested individuals. You can contact him on Twitter or through his website.”

People are Moving to Linux!

Moving to Linux

Lot’s of folks are catching the Free and Open Source vision!

Moving to Linux from dated Windows machines – By: Michael Korotaev – “Every day, while working in the marketing department at ONLYOFFICE, I see Linux users discussing our office productivity software on the internet. Our products are popular among Linux users, which made me curious about using Linux as an everyday work tool. My old Windows XP-powered computer was an obstacle to performance, so I started reading about Linux systems (particularly Ubuntu) and decided to try it out as an experiment. Two of my colleagues joined me.

Why Linux?

We needed to make a change, first, because our old systems were not enough in terms of performance: we experienced regular crashes, an overload every time more than two apps were active, a 50% chance of freezing when a machine was shut down, and so forth. This was rather distracting to our work, which meant we were considerably less efficient than we could be.

Upgrading to newer versions of Windows was an option, too, but that is an additional expense, plus our software competes against Microsoft’s office suite. So that was an ideological question, too.

Second, as I mentioned earlier, ONLYOFFICE products are rather popular within the Linux community. By reading about Linux users’ experience with our software, we became interested in joining them.

A week after we asked to change to Linux, we got our shiny new computer cases with Kubuntu inside. We chose version 16.04, which features KDE Plasma 5.5 and many KDE apps including Dolphin, as well as LibreOffice 5.1 and Firefox 45.

What we like about Linux

Linux’s biggest advantage, I believe, is its speed; for instance, it takes just seconds from pushing the machine’s On button to starting your work. Everything seemed amazingly rapid from the very beginning: the overall responsiveness, the graphics, and even system updates.

One other thing that surprised me compared to Windows is that Linux allows you to configure nearly everything, including the entire look of your desktop. In Settings, I found how to change the color and shape of bars, buttons, and fonts; relocate any desktop element; and build a composition of widgets, even including comics and Color Picker. I believe I’ve barely scratched the surface of the available options and have yet to explore most of the customization opportunities that this system is well known for.

Linux distributions are generally a very safe environment. People rarely use antivirus apps in Linux, simply because there are so few viruses written for it. You save system speed, time, and, sure enough, money.

In general, Linux has refreshed our everyday work lives, surprising us with a number of new options and opportunities. Even in the short time we’ve been using it, we’d characterize it as:

  • Fast and smooth to operate
  • Highly customizable
  • Relatively newcomer-friendly
  • Challenging with basic components, however very rewarding in return
  • Safe and secure
  • An exciting experience for everyone who seeks to refresh their workplace

Have you switched from Windows or MacOS to Kubuntu or another Linux variant? Or are you considering making the change? Please share your reasons for wanting to adopt Linux, as well as your impressions of going open source, in the comments.”

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