Category Archives: Stiri iT & C

Arduino Aims to Secure IoT With New Dev Platform, Hardware | Developers


By Jack M. Germain

Jan 10, 2020 9:59 AM PT

Arduino on Tuesday announced a new low-code Internet of Things application development platform at CES 2020 in Las Vegas. It also introduced the low-power Arduino Portenta H7 module, a new family of Portenta chips for a variety of hardware applications.

Arduino has achieved prominence as a go-to developer of an innovation platform for connecting IoT products. Its open source microcontroller platform simplifies the creation of modular hardware to power everyday objects that are smart and connected.

The combination of a low-code application development platform with modular hardware enables users to design, build, measure and explore various prototypes in a single day. This process lets companies eliminate expensive consultations and lengthy integration projects.

Arduino’s offerings build on the considerable work Arduino has performed and the success it has achieved in developing microcontrollers and other modules, noted Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

Given the amount of buzz IoT has generated at CES, Arduino chose a good time and venue for its announcement, he added.

“In early-stage markets, swift time to market can be critically important. By simplifying application and hardware product development, Arduino should provide tangible benefits to customers focused on IoT,” King told LinuxInsider.

IoT Building Blocks

Arduino’s solution is built on
Arm Pelion technology. It gives users simplicity of integration with a scalable, secure, professionally supported service.

Arduino’s production-ready IoT hardware and Portenta modules are “really disruptive,” noted Arduino CEO Fabio Violante.

“Among the millions of Arduino customers, we’ve even seen numerous businesses transform from traditional ‘one-off’ selling to subscription-based service models, creating new IoT-based revenue streams with Arduino as the enabler,” he said.

The availability of a huge community of developers with Arduino skills is also an important plus. It gives them the confidence to invest in Arduino’s technology, Violante added.

Portenta Features

Arduino Portenta H7 is a complete tool kit for building an IoT hardware platform. The new Arduino Portenta family is designed for demanding industrial applications, AI edge processing and robotics. It features a new standard for open high-density interconnects to support advanced peripherals.

The first module in this family is the Arduino Portenta H7. It has a 32-bit dual-core processor comprised of Arm Cortex-M7 and Cortex-M4 cores operating at 480MHz and 240MHz, respectively, with industrial temperature range (-40 to 85°C) components. The modules target applications that require significant computing power but have tight power constraints.

The Portenta H7 is capable of running Arduino code, Python and JavaScript. It features a crypto-authentication chip and communications modules for WiFi, Bluetooth Low Energy and LTE, as well as Narrowband IoT. These features make it accessible to an even broader audience of developers.

Portenta H7 is directly compatible with most Arduino libraries. It offers new features that will benefit makers. These include DisplayPort out, fast multichannel ADC and high-speed timers.

The new Arduino Portenta H7, now available for pre-order on the Arduino online store, is priced from US$49.99 to $99.99. Its estimated delivery date is late February.

Disruptive Influence

Arduino’s new product line is positioned to help small and medium businesses with IoT connectivity and management, noted Pund-IT’s King.

At this point, IoT is inspiring a lot of enthusiasm among companies of every size. That includes small, often highly specialized startups as well as enterprises with market- or industry-spanning platforms.

“Arduino already has a substantial following in small and medium-sized organizations, and I expect its popularity among those customers will continue or increase as IoT matures,” King predicted.

Bridges Deployment Gaps

One of the biggest challenges to companies deploying IoT is the ability to progress from the experimentation and prototyping phase to the production phase, according to Charlene Marini, vice president of strategy at
Arm IoT Services Group.

“Arduino is enabling developers to utilize the same hardware across their journey, without the need for costly and time-consuming redesigns of software and hardware once a program moves from concept to production,” she told LinuxInsider.

Another IoT hurdle is the cost to deploy use cases, noted Marini, as IoT systems and applications are still essentially bespoke. Packageable pieces often are not the whole solution and typically limit the application’s capabilities.

“A custom deployment can quickly outpace the resources or range of skillsets of a small company,” Marini pointed out. “With Arduino’s focus on simplicity and usability for a wide range of developer skillsets, and deployment of cutting-edge tools and software for devices and connectivity, they are targeting an unmet need in the market for smaller companies that are relying on an ability to harness IoT capabilities for their growth and innovation.”

Arm Partnership

Arm is partnering with Arduino to make secure, connectable and manageable devices available to a broad base of developers.

Two innovations so far illustrate the results of that partnership.

“Mbed OS on Portenta is one tangible result of the partnership,” said Marini. “Another example is the Arduino SIM that leverages Pelion Connectivity Management.”

The companies see an opportunity to enable secure IoT at a broad scale, she said.
That is the foundation for machine learning, automation, and rapid evolution of applications that cross physical and digital worlds.


Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software.
Email Jack.





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New Feren OS Does Plasma Better | Reviews


By Jack M. Germain

Jan 7, 2020 10:53 AM PT

Feren OS now is built around Ubuntu Linux 18.04 and the KDE Plasma desktop instead of Linux Mint. The Cinnamon desktop version could retire later this year.

Ubuntu’s parent company Canonical last spring released Ubuntu 18.04, Bionic Beaver, as a Long-Term Support edition, good until April 2023. Canonical released a newer version, Ubuntu 19.10, Eoan Ermine, last October with a nine-month support cycle that ends this July.

The Feren OS developer last month released a new version of this pseudo rolling release, code-named “Yttrium.” This new Feren OS 2019.12 snapshot, dubbed “Feren OS Next” through the beta process, represents the distro’s new development direction, with a highly customized Plasma design.

A Feren OS popup menu provides access to specialized Plasma UI features

Right-click anywhere to get a popup menu that provides access to specialized Plasma UI features without cluttering up the desktop view.


The Feren OS community also released a mostly maintenance snapshot update for the Feren OS Cinnamon version, which is now called “Feren OS Classic.” The developer of the British-made Linux distro explained in the change notice over the holidays that no decision had been made about keeping the Cinnamon desktop version beyond its approaching end-of-support date.

This new Feren OS release meets the goal of mixing something familiar (the Cinnamon desktop) with a more capable desktop (KDE Plasma 5) to make a better distro. It comes with a transition tool that literally rolls the updated system components in the 2019.12 snapshot release into the modified KDE desktop.

The transition tool gives current users an option to keep many of their existing Cinnamon settings. The result is a look and feel that resembles the Cinnamon design. The tweaked user interface provides improved functionality. Current users, at least for now, can skip using the transition tool and continue with the existing Cinnamon desktop.

A Feren OS popup menu provides access to specialized Plasma UI features

The desktop design looks and mostly feels like the Cinnamon Classic desktop. Five more styles allow you to tweak the view with a menu click. Differences in the Plasma UI are more evident as you navigate around the screen and menus.


The transition is not flawless, however. The shift from Cinnamon to Plasma comes with quite a few trade-offs and developmental glitches. Deciding between the Feren OS Classic or the new Feren OS with its tweaked KDE desktop could be a tough choice for die-hard Cinnamon users. The modified Plasma design might soften the loss of the Cinnamon desktop for some who otherwise dislike the Plasma environment.

Behind the Scenes

This is one of the biggest snapshots in the history of Feren OS, according to the developer’s change announcement. The KDE Plasma design is an extremely stable and lightweight desktop environment that pushes beyond Cinnamon’s capabilities.

Plasma has much more support from the community as one of the major desktop environments available in Linux, the developer noted. For those users who stick with the Cinnamon version, that update includes mostly cosmetic changes to themes and minor visual tweaks.

The original release date for the new snapshot was delayed by two months so the finalized product could be as polished as possible for a first release. The new Feren OS was a year in the making.

For existing Feren OS users, the new Plasma desktop offering may be a little jarring. The developers swapped new default applications that are more in tune with the KDE software family.

Major changes in the KDE Plasma default application set touch productivity and system tools. I was able to finesse some of the Plasma system settings to retain parts of the Cinnamon look and feel, but the KDE and Cinnamon desktops ultimately are different in both the UI and under the hood.

New Look and Feel, Sort of

The Feren OS website presents the new version’s change of direction as a familiar experience with a desktop that is more refined and better than Cinnamon. At first blush, that assessment is mostly accurate. However, the Feren OS version of the KDE Plasma desktop is so well integrated and edited that the Cinnamon look and feel is generally the more predominant UI.

Until you get into the system settings, it is difficult to distinguish one or the other except for a few features. The KDE style design is well blended with the overall appearance of Feren OS running the Cinnamon desktop. Many of the operational changes and the subtle tweaking to blend the two styles into one become more obvious the longer you go through menus and work with the applications.

For instance, Feren OS’ theme utility is now an expansion of the Global Theme tool in KDE Plasma in the new Feren OS. A related significant back-end change is that in Feren OS Classic, the overall theme page in System Settings -> Themes has been ported to Plasma as an expansion of Plasma’s Global Theme changer. This results in even more settings that can be changed, including the Files look and feel, GTK Theme and more.

The updated menu styles bring a new degree of menu functionality. You can add this functionality as a widget and as an optional title bar button. This lets you put your application menus back in the panel, or as a button in the title bar of every window.

Another example is the Simple Menu, a Slingshot-style menu for Plasma. It is the default menu for the default Feren OS (aka KDE) layout. It is definitely a different menu experience than the main Cinnamon menu.

Feren OS default menu

The Simple Menu, a Slingshot-style menu for Plasma, is the default menu for the new Feren OS (aka KDE) layout.


Tiled Menu is also available in Plasma as a replacement for the CinnVIIStarkMenu for the Cinnamon desktop’s Familiar layout option. Tiled Menu is a grid-based menu somewhat similar to Microsoft Windows Start Menu.

Layout Options

One of the things I dislike in KDE integrations other distros use is the helter-skelter approach to styles and layout options, as well as system settings. Refinements to those layouts in the new Feren OS Plasma schemes were welcome.

The developer significantly reduced the number of available layouts to six style choices. I like the focus on quality over quantity. It tames the dizzying settings choices in Plasma.

These six layouts cover the most common layout styles. The Layout options are a nice improvement over the few default choices available in the Cinnamon desktop.

The Cupertino Layout provides a typical panel and dock scheme with global menus and left-sided window buttons. The Redmond and Familiar Layouts are similar. Redmond offers a classic panel and menu style, while Familiar is a more modern variation on the Redmond Layout.

Tablet Mode provides a bigger panel with a virtual keyboard button but otherwise is the same look as the default Feren OS with a bottom panel instead of a Latte Dock. The final Layout option is Ubuntu Unity, with the panel hugging the left side of the screen.

Not the Plasma You Know

I give much credit to the developer for making the KDE Plasma desktop environment more inviting and unified than found elsewhere. I have grown fond of the Cinnamon desktop. If Feren OS Classic goes away, the prospect of going to Linux Mint — which just announced its major upgrade to version 19.3 with Cinnamon, MATE and Xfce desktops — or taking up the recently released
Ubuntu Cinnamon Remix or another distro using Cinnamon looms heavily.

Waiting out the developer’s decision about discontinuing Feren OS Classic later this year remains a safe option. Still, I discovered that with some work the transition tool for the Cinnamon-to-KDE Feren OS produced a UI close to the computing experience of the Cinnamon desktop, thanks to how the developer patched and tweaked the Plasma desktop.

Those alterations made KDE Plasma and the newly introduced applications very usable and familiar. The numerous patches and edits the developer applied make the KDE desktop in Feren OS new and inviting.

Check out
the long list.

Not a Smooth Ride

Be aware that the upgrade path from the Cinnamon desktop/Feren OS Classic edition to the new Feren OS is not one fit for all installations. Transitioning to the new Feren OS Plasma desktop requires getting past several stumbling blocks.

I kept the Cinnamon desktop on a primary computer and rejected the roll-up to KDE option. I applied only the non-Plasma update, the Feren OS Classic 2019.12 snapshot. That kept my desktop layout fairly intact. Problem solved if the Classic edition is supported long term.

I applied the upgrade transition to the new KDE Plasma desktop on a second computer. Then I burned the newly released ISO to do a new installation on a third computer. The results on the second and third computer installations were different in several key areas.

I am not a stranger to the KDE Plasma desktop environment, and I preferred it to Plasma — at least until now. I spent considerable hours configuring each one to reflect settings as nearly identical as possible to have a straightforward comparison to the Cinnamon desktop.

I had trouble with the rollover into Plasma on the second computer. I took the option to preserve compatible settings from the Cinnamon installation. When the second computer rebooted, the look and feel were nearly identical to the first computer. As expected, KDE-centric applications were added. Quite a few GNOME-based applications were gone.

Some Flawed Results

Several of the missing applications were key production and testing tools that I use. So assessing the replacement applications and looking for alternatives within the Software Center was time-consuming. Since I was familiar with the Plasma environment, I had a head start in realigning my software selections. If you are not familiar with the KDE software family or the Plasma desktop, you can expect a longer learning curve.

Another major problem was the time I spent going through the massive panels of settings. KDE is different from Cinnamon. As flexible as I found the Cinnamon desktop, Plasma has even more usability. You have to get used to it first, though.

For example, KDE’s settings tools are a lot less organized or unified compared to Cinnamon’s system tools. Getting a close look and feel to match my computing routines with the Cinnamon desktop became more frustrating and challenging the longer I focused on tweaking configurations.

Those issues also were present with the virgin installation on the third computer. Unlike the Cinnamon roll-up to Plasma with the second computer, however, the third computer’s installation avoided some of the look-and-feel issues by presenting the chance to start with a clean slate.

Some Usability Issues

I suspect the developer has not yet worked out all of the glitches involved in melding Plasma onto the new Ubuntu Linux base. The previous Feren OS was based on Linux Mint, which in turn is based on Ubuntu. With the latest Feren OS release, I initially experienced problems with some of the settings.

The most bothersome problem involved task-switching features that relied on displayed animations. Displays such as desktop fade and cube motions, along with cover switch, flip switch and grid display, either failed to work at all or suddenly stopped working. The same thing happened with some of the desktop effects.

I finally tracked down the cause. The displays and animations need the OpenGL graphics engine, which is installed. However, a checkbox deep in a settings panel that loaded OpenGL at startup was not enabled. Once I found the cause, it was an easy fix, but on subsequent reboots, I had to go into settings and re-save the checkbox to enable OpenGL.

The problem still came and went. My first response was to reboot the computer. Sometimes the screen would lock up, causing the same response. I had a hunch that one or more applications caused a conflict as I was opening numerous unfamiliar applications, both for suitability purposes and general fault-checking.

I eventually found yet another well-hidden checkbox that needed to be enabled. It overrode the ability of individual applications to turn off OpenGL.

Bottom Line

Overall, Feren OS’ Plasma patches do a fanciful job of going beyond a Cinnamon desktop-like appearance and functionality. Or the patches do a workable job of bringing most — but not all — of the Cinnamon features and applications to the KDE environment.

Feren OS Classic and the new Feren OS install with only the Vivaldi Web browser. A handy Web tool lets you automatically install other browsers. It also lets you remove Vivaldi if you wish.

In almost any Cinnamon desktop-running distro, numerous panel applets and desktop desklets failed to install and run. The desktop cube almost never was compatible.

Not so with Feren OS with the KDE desktop. The cube task switcher actually works. Widgets, AKA applets and desklets install and work on both the screen and the panel. Those successes are rare with the Cinnamon desktop.

Want to Suggest a Review?

Is there a Linux software application or distro you’d like to suggest for review? Something you love or would like to get to know?

Please
email your ideas to me, and I’ll consider them for a future Linux Picks and Pans column.

And use the Reader Comments feature below to provide your input!


Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software.
Email Jack.





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Remix Could Bring Some Cinnamon Lovers Back to Ubuntu | Reviews


By Jack M. Germain

Dec 20, 2019 10:55 AM PT

Ubuntu Cinnamon Remix arrived just in time for the holidays. Its first stable version, released on Dec. 4, is based on Ubuntu 19.10 Eoan Ermine.

It utilizes Linux Mint’s Cinnamon desktop environment on top of Ubuntu Linux’s codebase. Work on several release candidate and beta versions stretches back to 2013. The efforts stayed under the radar until the announcement of the new distro’s debut stable release.

Ubuntu Cinnamon Remix is a mix of the Cinnamon desktop and Ubuntu Linux 19.04

This new distro layers the Cinnamon desktop over the Ubuntu Linux 19.04 base.


As its name suggests, Cinnamon is the only desktop option. What makes this release so significant is that it supplies a missing link in the current Ubuntu Linux desktop family.

This remix release could be a welcome gift for many Cinnamon desktop users who fancy the Ubuntu Linux family. Some Ubuntu Linux users moved to other Ubuntu desktop flavors years ago, or outright fled Ubuntu Linux, when parent company Canonical adopted the now-discarded Unity desktop. In its place, Ubuntu made GNOME the flagship desktop.

For Cinnamon desktop fans, this Ubuntu Cinnamon Remix entry is welcome news. I fall into that user class. I was unhappy with lingering issues that befell recent versions of Linux Mint, but I did not want to give up on the Cinnamon desktop Linux Mint’s developers created as an alternative.

Potential Cinnamon Unifier?

I found
Feren OS to be a very reliable replacement for Linux Mint, without its issues. Feren OS is based on Linux Mint. Linux Mint itself is based on Ubuntu. A Cinnamon desktop offering based directly on Ubuntu’s newest release makes this Remix version a potential game-changer.

Other Cinnamon desktop options exist. Some distros offer Cinnamon as a desktop option, but they are not all based on Ubuntu. Debian Linux has a Cinnamon desktop variant. Linux Mint offers a Debian-based release with its Cinnamon desktop as a developmental option, should something befall Ubuntu Linux.

Ironically, Feren OS has a notice that pops up on its website alerting users to check back on Dec. 25 for an announcement on the future of the Feren OS. So it may be fortuitous to have a new Ubuntu-based Cinnamon desktop option in the mix.

Ubuntu Remix Back Story

Ubuntu Cinnamon Remix is an Ubuntu-branded OS released as an unofficial flavor of Ubuntu, a Gnu/Linux computer operating system. The Ubuntu branding is a bit of misdirection, though.

When loading and quitting Ubuntu Cinnamon Remix, the splash screen you’ll see is the standard Ubuntu purple screen and logo. The distro’s name is missing within menus and other internal signage.

An eye-jarring orange neon icon fills the center of a black and gold swirl screen display when the desktop loads. This is the default screen. You easily can change the screen appearance to a more comforting color or image display.

All that takes is right-clicking on the desktop (or go into system settings) to select from an ample inventory of colors and background images. Despite the inclusion of the “Ubuntu” name on the opening screen, this distro is not issued by the official Ubuntu Linux community.

Canonical does not support the Ubuntu Cinnamon Remix, nor is Canonical affiliated with this remix project. However, that non-affiliation easily could change after a few more Ubuntu Cinnamon Remix releases successfully assess if the new distro is a worthy adoption choice by Canonical.

The lead developer, Joshua Peisach (known by the handle “ItzSwirlz”), is an ex-developer of the now discontinued Ubuntu GNOME project, according to some reports. Some Ubuntu team members also are helping with the development.

First Look

The Remix is designed for average computer users. This project is merely a repackaging of already available components intended to be completely ready for the end-user.

Ubuntu Cinnamon Remix  utilizes Linux Mint's Cinnamon desktop environment on top of Ubuntu Linux's codebase

Ubuntu Cinnamon Remix is a new distribution that utilizes Linux Mint’s Cinnamon desktop environment on top of Ubuntu Linux’s codebase.

– click image to enlarge –


The developers kept a close eye on the features built into the Cinnamon desktop design without overwhelming new users. The default settings provide a familiar computing platform with few applets installed on the bottom panel and no screen applets activated.

This approach gives Ubuntu Cinnamon Remix a clean and uncluttered look. The same is true of its bundled applications. The installed software provides a basic assortment.

You wind up with a very functional desktop environment with basic accessories and a few productivity tools to get started. Even a few games are included.

What you do not get is a Welcome Panel that makes it easy to turn on tool sets and useful features. Conspicuous for its absence is the Firewall Configuration Tool, for instance.

GUFW, a standard Internet firewall application with its simple Firewall Configuration panel in most Linux distros, is not installed. That is a critical oversight, especially for new users who need a reminder to add the firewall security.

Installation and Observations

Ubuntu Cinnamon Remix uses the Calamares installer and features Cinnamon desktop version 4.0.10. The ISO file is available only for 64-bit computers as an isohybrid, so you can burn it to a DVD disk or to a USB stick. It supports EFI and UEFI systems.

The installation process was fairly simple. I installed it on an existing partition that contained a no-longer needed Linux distribution. The Calamares installer completed that task with just a few clicks.

I did not encounter any major problems in setting up and using this Remix release, but I did have some run-ins with some of the Cinnamon features. That surprised me because the desktop is in an advanced state of development.

The troubles seemed more the result of its integration into the Ubuntu base. For example, several of the panel applets did not work.

A key failure for me was the screenshot launcher. It refused to load even though Cinnamon reported its installation on the panel was successful. No problem, I thought. I’ll just use the screenshot tool I expected to find in the Accessories section of the main menu. It was not there. So I had to install it from the software store.

Another sign of this Remix distro’s immaturity is unresponsiveness when trying to apply some of the settings. For example, the Themes panel was next to useless. Clicking on the window borders, icons, controls, mouse pointer and desktop categories and their contents produced no effect.

The more I used this distro over the last few weeks, the more inconsistencies I spotted with displays and such.

Bottom Line

Since I am an avid Cinnamon user, I was a bit disappointed in the performance of this initial stable release. The critical stuff worked fine. The Ubuntu base is very forgiving. What did not work was an annoying list of small stuff. I am a lot less forgiving of those glitches.

I am sympathetic to the challenges a small developer team faces in swapping a heavyweight desktop design the likes of Cinnamon into a powerhouse operating system such as Ubuntu. Given that it has come this far in the last five years or so, I hope it will be a short time before the next stable remix release is ready.

Planned improvements for the 20.04 release include a new GRUB, a Plymouth theme, an improved layout application, and a Welcome screen. Also planned is a slideshow presentation during installation.

I want to see a better installed base of applications that rises to the volume of what Ubuntu now offers in its desktop offerings. I am not in favor of application bloat, but I think the current installed software inventory is far too minimal.

I look forward to seeing the Cinnamon desktop spice up Ubuntu as an official competitive desktop option. Hopefully, this new remix distro will improve and become part of the official Ubuntu Linux lineup. I can not help but wonder why Canonical has not already done this, without waiting for a third-party distro to join the Ubuntu spice rack.

Want to Suggest a Review?

Is there a Linux software application or distro you’d like to suggest for review? Something you love or would like to get to know?

Please
email your ideas to me, and I’ll consider them for a future Linux Picks and Pans column.

And use the Reader Comments feature below to provide your input!


Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software.
Email Jack.





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Data-Munching Bug Throws Chrome 79 Android Rollout Into Chaos | Mobile


By Jack M. Germain

Dec 17, 2019 10:32 AM PT

Google has stalled the rollout of its Chrome 79 Web browser for Android devices until it can find a way to neutralize a data-destroying bug. Affected users have been vilifying Google and app developers for failing to head off the problem.

The latest Chrome version contains two highly anticipated new features: phishing protection, and the ability to reorder bookmarks.

Google started rolling out Chrome 79 on Dec. 10, last Wednesday. The latest Chrome version contains two highly anticipated new features: phishing protection, and the ability to reorder bookmarks.

App developers and users began reporting a problem with missing data in some of their Android apps by Friday morning, Dec. 13.

As a result, Google on Saturday temporarily suspended the Chrome 79 rollout to Android devices. Google officials said the rollout had reached 50 percent of Android users.

A patch for the problem will be available in five to seven days, according to Google. Until then the rollout will not continue.

The bug wipes data in certain apps that use Android’s built-in WebView, the component that renders Web pages inside of apps. Chrome kicks in to load content when users log into a Web page inside an app, or if the default Android browser lacks its own internal rendering engine.

“It is rare for Google Chrome to let a bug like this leak through,” said Thomas Hatch, CTO of
SaltStack.

“Google has certainly had bugs in releases, but Chrome and the Chromium platform are tested extensively to prevent these issues,” he told LinuxInsider.

The change Google made to the Chrome 79 WebView code that its development team believes caused the problem occurred in a beta version six weeks ago. Had the issue been picked up at that point, Google
would have been able to address it before it significantly impacted users, suggested a Google software engineer in a forum post on Sunday.

Symptom Synopses

Google engineers are fairly certain the missing data is the result of a change in storage location. However, patching that code to eliminate the problem is still challenging engineers. So far no guarantee exists that the patch will return the missing data to the impacted Android apps.

Some Android apps run inside WebView. This includes applications built with Apache Cordova or packaged Web apps like Twitter Lite.

The malfunction appears related to a change in how Chrome 79 handles the location where Web data is stored. When devices were updated to Chrome 79, Web apps and WebView applications had some (or all) local data rendered unreachable for viewing. Chrome did not delete old data after the migration. That data may still be intact but is inaccessible now.

2 Local Storage Containers on Mobile Devices

Mobile devices such as Android phones and tablets rely on localStorage and WebSQL locations to provide storage mechanisms. They allow a website or Web app to store data on a user’s device inside a user’s Chrome profile directory.

Some Android app developers prefer to upload user data to dedicated database servers. Some websites still use localStorage or WebSQL locally, however. Many mobile app developers use localStorage and WebSQL stored locally on mobile devices.

In practice, many Android apps typically are just a website loaded inside the WebView component. This process functions as a light version of Chrome. It is a simpler, more compact method for saving user settings and data locally than an on-board SQLite database.

Playing Roulette

The two most obvious solutions to regaining access to the “deleted” data is to continue the migration by moving the missed files into their new locations, or to reverse the change by moving migrated files to their old locations, according to Google. Yet developer comments on the Chromium Bug Forum do not fully support either solution. The most common opinion is to wait out the problem and hope that Google can resolve all of the issues is a speedy patch issued this week.

Google Chrome developers are not fully confident they can salvage or retrieve the missing user data left behind in the older localStorage and WebSQL files. On some devices the Chrome update process actually might have wiped the data. A cleanup app process might have deleted the data after the update operation, according to explanations from Google engineers on tech forums.

In attempting to fix the mess, another problem could result from moving the old files to the new location. That could overwrite new files the user created since the update installed, leading again to data loss.

A Waiting Game

Users whose devices have yet to be updated to Chrome 79 may not be subjected to the bug when the new version includes the fix, according to some software workers. They advise against deploying it if they run WebView apps, however.

The problem with Chrome 79 is that people are losing their data. Google is working on solutions, but there is not much those who have lost data can do at this point, according to hardware technician Steve Foley, CEO of
Bulk Memory Cards.

“The best thing people can do now is wait for a revised Chrome 79. There is not even a list of apps it impacts, so without knowing what data is at risk the best course of action is to avoid using Chrome 79 until the issue has been corrected,” he told LinuxInsider.

Reactions Galore

App developers flooded the Chromium bug Tracker forum with diatribes about what some described as a “catastrophe” and a “disaster.” After the rollout, end users found the affected apps appeared to have experienced a reset and then functioned as a new install with no saved data or log-in credentials intact.

App developers on various forums decried the snafu for damaging their reputations. They complained that many affected users deleted their apps. Other devs reported that users were posting very negative reviews focusing on their particular app’s unreliability due to the data loss.

Google did not respond to our request for an update on the patch progress.


Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software.
Email Jack.





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Plenty of Linux Power Is Built Into Linux Lite 4.6 | Reviews


By Jack M. Germain

Dec 13, 2019 10:13 AM PT

Serving two masters, in theory, is nearly impossible. In practice, the
Linux Lite distribution easily satisfies Linux newcomers and veteran penguin fans as well.

This distro is very beginner-friendly. That is in large part the result of a fine-tuned Xfce desktop interface that gives former Windows and macOS users a familiar base. More established Linux users can tweak the Xfce settings to adjust its functionality beyond the already well-suited default settings.

Linux Lite 4.6 needs no set-up and runs the Xfce desktop integration.

Linux Lite 4.6 is an easy-to-use Linux OS that needs no set-up and runs the Xfce desktop integration.

– click image to enlarge –


Version 4.6, based on Ubuntu 18.04.3’s long-term support (LTS) release, debuted on Dec. 3. It should not matter that Ubuntu 19.10 recently arrived. That release is not an LTS version, so stability during its two-year lifespan can become an issue.

I have always considered the distro’s name — “Linux Lite” — to be a distracting misnomer. Developer Jerry Bezencon no doubt wanted the name to underscore the ease-of-use built into his Linux distribution when he first released it years ago.

To me, it suggests a lesser-performing operating system than a so-called Linux standard or Linux heavy distro typically provides. That misconception does a great disservice to Linux Lite ‘s real performance quality. The notion of “lightness” is rooted in the lightweight quality of the Xfce desktop.

Light But Full Featured

Linux Lite is a full-featured operating system that lets you get down to serious business right out of the box. This distro has numerous strong traits in its favor.

Xfce is a resource-conservative desktop environment that runs well on older computers and is super capable when installed on the latest hardware. This energized desktop interface, combined with the high-performance traits of the Ubuntu Linux base, produces a powerful operating system that runs reliably.

Linux Lite primarily targets Windows users looking for an ideal on-ramp to Linux migration. It is also a good choice for already-there Linux users looking for an all-purpose computing platform ready to take them to the next Linux Level.

Linux Lite 4.6 is no slouch under the hood. It is powered by Linux kernel 4.15.0-58 with custom kernels available from the community’s repository. It comes preloaded with the Firefox 68.0.2 Quantum Web browser and Thunderbird 60.8.0 email application.

What’s Included and New

New in this latest distro release is a theme selector that makes it easy to choose either a light or dark theme from the initial setup. Or you might prefer the updated Papirus icon theme, which is updated to the latest release.

The CPU Performance mode plugin xfce4-cpufreq-plugin now is included as an option to the system tray. Select it by right-clicking on Taskbar, Panel, Add new items, CPU Frequency Monitor. Right-click on it and move it to where you want it.

New system documentation makes moving into Linux Lite 4.6 even easier than previous releases. It includes a new keyboard and number lock informational guide in the Lite Welcome application.

The Linux Lite community maintains a comprehensive Help Manual to provide new users with a trouble-free transition. This is an impressive information source.

Linux Lite community user help system provides new users with a trouble-free transition.

The Linux Lite community maintains a comprehensive user help system to provide new users with a trouble-free transition.

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Be sure to check out the Help Manual, which includes a new tutorial on how to install Linux Lite to a USB drive with persistence to store configurations, added software and personal data. Linux Lite is not issued primarily as a portable Linux distro.

A growing trend among Linux distro developers is to provide a method of copying the ISO files to a bootable USB storage device as an alternative to booting from a DVD live session. Having the ability to save system changes adds a feature that not all USB installations provide. Linux Lite does, however.

System Overview

Despite its name, Linux Lite has nothing minimalist about it. Its “lightness” makes this distro an ideal fully functional OS for underpowered and legacy computers as well as newer hardware configurations.

Another factor that makes Linux Lite what its name implies is its somewhat skimpy default software base. Linux Lite does not install two or three applications for the same task, as is sometimes found in other Linux distros, which tend to clutter up menus and home directories with never-used applications.

Linux Lite comes stocked with a small set of applications to assist users with their everyday computing needs. Its robust package management system and repository give you ample access to a wide range of software to add as needed. Plus, the Xfce system tools are extensive and give you complete control over how Linux Lite looks and works.

The developers make an exception by including several essential applications not usually found in default Xfce default software bundles. These include the LibreOffice 6.0.7.3 suite, the VLC media player version 3.0.7, the Gimp version 2.10.12 image editor, and Timeshift version 19.08.1, to make automated daily backup copies of your entire Linux Lite installation.

The Lite Info application lets users register their system with the distro’s hardware database. You can check to find if other users had success running Linux Lite on a computer that matches yours. The database displays the make and model, CPU, audio, network and storage technical specifications of systems successfully running the Linux Lite distro.

Runs on Almost Any Hardware

You can run Linux Lite 4.6 on computers that meet these minimum requirements:

  • 1Ghz processor
  • 768mb ram
  • 8gb HDD/SD
  • VGA screen capable of 1024×768 resolution
  • DVD drive or USB port for the ISO image

You will get better performance with these preferred specs:

  • 1.5GHz processor+
  • 1024mb ram+
  • 20gb HDD/SSD+
  • VGA, DVI or HDMI screen capable of 1366×768 resolution+
  • DVD drive or USB port for the ISO image

Look and Feel

The Xfce desktop screen is neat and simple. It provides easy navigation to the menus, system settings and configuration options.

The taskbar sits along the bottom edge of the screen and resembles an earlier Windows design that is not atypical for Linux. It is very common for the more popular Linux desktop interfaces — Xfce, LXDE, MATE, Cinnamon — to use a design scheme that places a fully functional panel bar at the bottom of the screen and allow icons and quick launchers on the panel and the desktop.

Linux Lite distro usability options with a classic taskbar and Windows 7 style Control Panel.

The Linux Lite distro offers flexibility and usability options with a classic taskbar and Windows 7 style Control Panel.

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That describes the layout of the Xfce desktop. The bottom panel fills the entire lower edge of the screen. You can unlock mac-like planks or other dock-style designs.

Xfce’s panel is highly configurable. The system settings panels accessible from within the menus provide tools for all the tinkering you desire. In Linux Lite, the Xfce panel has a virtual workspace switcher applet preconfigured with two desktops. You can add up to several dozen more.

One of my favorite features with the Xfce desktop is the right-click access to full menus that can pop up anywhere on the desktop. One of the best system tools in Linux Lite is Lite Tweaks. It provides a list of configuration tasks that fills several screens. Click on the check boxes for the ones you want to execute. Then click on the Begin button in the lower right corner of the Tweaks window.

Navigating the Desktop

The menu button in the far left corner of the panel bar has a two-column display. The left column shows all categories. The wider right column shows all of the choices in the selected category.

A search window fills the left half of the bottom of the menu window. To its right are buttons to launch the settings panel, the lock screen, and the Log Out panel.

The far right of the taskbar holds the typical clock readout, volume control icon, Internet connection status icon and Workspace Switcher applet. The center of the taskbar shows the minimized windows and other running apps. You can right-click on any menu item to place it in Favorites, on the desktop, or on the quick launch portion of the taskbar.

Bottom Line

Linux Lite 4.6 offers a great deal of flexibility and usability. Its desktop offers considerably more system controls and configuration options than many of the more modern desktops, such as Enlightenment, GNOME 3 and Budgie.

All of the system controls and settings are located in the Settings option within the main menu display. Windows users will find a close similarity to the Control Panel.

Even recent Linux newcomers will not need much exploring or head-scratching to navigate their way around Linux Lite. The layout is familiar and intuitive. The Welcome panel provides a very useful listing of information and how-to resources for using Linux Lite.

Want to Suggest a Review?

Is there a Linux software application or distro you’d like to suggest for review? Something you love or would like to get to know?

Please
email your ideas to me, and I’ll consider them for a future Linux Picks and Pans column.

And use the Reader Comments feature below to provide your input!


Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software.
Email Jack.





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