Category Archives: Stiri iT & C

Firefox Users Warned to Patch Critical Flaw | Cybersecurity


Mozilla is urging users of its Firefox browsers to update them immediately to fix a critical zero-day vulnerability. Anyone using Firefox on a Windows, macOS or Linux desktop is at risk.

The vulnerability, CVE-2019011707, is a type confusion in Array.pop. It has been patched in Firefox 67.0.3 and Firefox ESR 60.7.1.

Mozilla announced the patch Tuesday, but the vulnerability was discovered by Samuel Gro of Google Project Zero on April 15.

Mozilla implemented the fix after digital currency exchange Coinbase reported exploitation of the vulnerability for targeted spearphishing attacks.

“On Monday, June 17, 2019, Coinbase reported a vulnerability used as part of targeted attacks for a spear phishing campaign,” Selena Deckelmann, senior director, Firefox Browser Engineering, told TechNewsWorld. “In less than 24 hours, we released a fix for the exploit.”

The Significance of the Coinbase Hack

Hackers have been going after cryptocurrency with a vengeance. There have been as many
attacks in the first half of this year as there were through the whole of last year, according to Cointelegraph.

So far this year, tens of millions of dollars’ worth of cryptocurrencies been stolen have from exchanges, Cointelegraph said.

Cybercriminals
00000stole nearly one billion dollars’ worth of cryptocurrency by Q3 last year, Ciphertrace reported.

The attack on Coinbase is in keeping with the trend.

The exchange has been targeted repeatedly. In 2018, a
string of hacks cost it more than 40 bitcoins.

In January, Coinbase temporarily
froze all trading on Ethereum Classic after it detected an attack on the cryptocurrency’s network.

The spearphishing attacks could be an attempt to gain control of the majority of a blockchain network’s power, in what’s called a ”
51 percent attack.”

David Vorick, cofounder of blockchain-based file storaeg platform SIA declared 2019 the
year of the 51 percent attack.

Technical Details of the Flaw

A type confusion vulnerability can occur when manipulating JavaScript objects due to issues in Array.pop, Mozilla said.

An array in JavaScript is a single variable used to store multiple elements. It often is used when devs want to store a list of elements and access them with a single variable.

A type, or data type, is an attribute of data that tells the compiler or interpreter how the programmer intends to use the data. It constrains the values that an expression such as a variable or a function might take, defining the operations that can be carried out on the data, the meaning of the data, and the way values of that type can be stored.

Type confusion occurs when a program uses one type to allocate or initialize a resource, such as an object, pointer or variable, but later uses another type that is incompatible with the first to access that resource. That can trigger logical errors because the resource does not have the expected properties. In some cases, it can lead to code execution.

The pop() method removes the last element from an array, returns that element, and changes the array’s length.

“Array.pop is usually used with Array.push to delete and add new values to the array by developers,” remarked Usman Rahim, digital security and operations manager at The Media Trust.

“This technique is also used by many malicious actors to shuffle obfuscated malicious code during execution,” he told TechNewsWorld.

The Threat Level

Gro said the flaw can be exploited for remote code execution (RCE) and for universal cross-site scripting (UXSS).

Both methods have been used widely in past hack attacks.

RCE “will have the user at an attacker’s mercy by thoroughly compromising the application and the Web server,” Rahim said. Sophisticated attackers who know what they are looking for “can deal a severe blow.”

UXSS is just as dangerous because it opens gates for attackers to inject malicious code and bypass or disable the browser’s security features, he noted. It “can also be used as a first step to disable security in conjunction with other attacks.”

Most exploits reported “are theoretical without evidence of active use,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

“This one has evidence of active use, meaning it’s known and already people are taking advantage of it,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“Given it was used in an attack, it’s very dangerous, but it has been fixed,” Enderle said. “This showcases that keeping your software products, particularly browsers, patched and up to date is incredibly important. Patching remains your best defense.”


Richard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology.
Email Richard.





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How to Set Up Your Computer to Auto-Restart After a Power Outage | How To


Aside from malware and viruses, nothing has the potential to be more dangerous to your computer’s health than power outages. Here is how to ensure your computer keeps it boot on when a power failure turns the lights off.

With the approach of the turbulent summer season, it is important to know what kills the electrical lifeline, how to safeguard your digital gear from fatal reboot disease, and how to reach the desktop when the computer refuses to restart. This knowledge is vital whether you use computers to do your job in a business office or your own home office environment.

To minimize the potential damage from electrical power fluctuations, you should have your computers and modems plugged directly into power surge protective strips. Surge protectors are effective protection against glitches due to normally fluctuating energy levels.

However, a direct lightning strike is likely to fry the surge protector and then burn out the electronic gadgets plugged into it. A good strategy is to unplug the surge protector from the electric wall socket when a storm arrives.

Another essential piece of protective equipment is an uninterruptible power supply, or UPS. A UPS is a sophisticated battery-containing device that supplies backup power to desktop PCs during electrical grid outages and brownouts. One of the most important services a UPS can deliver is continuation of the electrical power — usually about 15 minutes — giving you enough time to safely save your data and power down your equipment. The UPS will kick in when its sensors detect an interruption of electricity from the main service line to your home or office.

The latest UPS models can reset to an off position automatically as their rechargeable batteries run out of energy. When the normal power supply returns, your computer can restart without its power supply being blocked if it is so configured. The BIOS settings in many computers let you adjust the power settings so the computer senses when normal electrical supply returns. You can pick up a UPS at office supply retailers and box stores, as well as your favorite online shopping center.

The software that comes with it safeguards the computer when it is unattended. This is useful if you use remote access services and file-syncing cloud storage services. Getting your PC to restart automatically after a power outage involves getting the computer to “see” the power returning by making some changes to the PC’s BIOS settings and installing the UPS-included software. Read on to learn how to do this.

What Breaks the Power

Causes of power outages involve some obvious and a few subtle situations. Mother Nature, device fatigue and dumb luck all figure into the power breakdown equation. Other than being prepared before trouble strikes, there is little you can do when the power grid fails. Here is a quick list of power failure causes:

  • Weather — Lightning, high winds and ice are weather hazards that often impact the power supply. Interruptions can last several days, depending on how rapidly ground conditions improve to let work crews find and repair the damage. Lightning can strike equipment or trees, causing them to fall into electrical lines and equipment.
  • Severe distress — Earthquakes of all sizes and hurricanes can damage electrical facilities and power lines. This sometimes catastrophic damage can cause long-term power outages.
  • Equipment failure — Even when the weather is not a primary cause of a power outage, faulty equipment in the electrical system can be a primary cause of outages. Hardware breakdowns result from failure due to age, performance and other factors. Sometimes, adverse weather, such as lightning strikes, can weaken equipment. High demands on the electrical grid also can cause overloads and faults that make equipment more susceptible to failure over time.
  • Wildlife — Small creatures have an uncanny knack for squeezing into places they do not belong in search of food or warmth. When squirrels, snakes and birds come into contact with equipment such as transformers and fuses, they can cause equipment to fail momentarily or shut down completely.
  • Trees — Weather can be a secondary contributor, causing circumstances that can lead to power outages when trees interfere with power lines. During high winds and ice storms, tree limbs or entire trees can come into contact with poles and power lines.
  • Public damage — Accidents happen. Vehicle accidents or construction equipment can cause broken utility poles, downed power lines and equipment damage. Excavation digging is another cause of power loss when underground cables are disturbed.
  • Tracking — When dust accumulates on the insulators of utility poles and then combines with light moisture from fog or drizzle, it turns dust into a conductor. This causes equipment to fail.
  • Momentary circuit interruptions — Blinks, or short-duration interruptions, are annoying. However, they serve a valuable purpose by shutting off the flow of electricity briefly to prevent a longer power outage when an object comes in contact with electric lines, causing a fault. If power surge strips (not multi-socket power strips) are not attached to your computer gear, the sudden loss of electricity and then a surge of power can cause data loss or component failure.

Dealing With It

You can not prevent the power grid from going down, but you can takes steps to ensure that it does not take your computer down with it. You also can learn what to do if your computer refuses to boot up to the desktop once the power returns.

First, before trouble strikes, make sure you set the BIOS switches to enable your computer to restart after a power interruption. The BIOS circuits are hardwired to the computer’s motherboard. You must establish the restart settings when there is no loss of electricity. You must be able to start the computer to reach the BIOS controls.

Just how you get there depends on the make and model of your computer. The BIOS restart setting is operating system-independent. It does not matter whether you run Microsoft Windows or Linux as the operating system of choice. The BIOS is responsible for “bootstrapping” the computer hardware and telling it to begin the startup process that leads to your desktop.

Adjusting the Dials

Here is how to set your computer’s BIOS to start automatically after power outage.

  1. Power On your computer and press “DEL” or “F1” or “F2” or “F10” to enter the BIOS (CMOS) setup utility. The way to enter into BIOS Settings depends on the computer manufacturer. Watch for a message in tiny print along the bottom edge of the screen when it first turns on.
  2. Inside the BIOS menu, look under the “Advanced” or “ACPI” or “Power Management Setup” menus* for a setting named “Restore on AC/Power Loss” or “AC Power Recovery” or “After Power Loss.”

    *Note: The “Restore on AC/Power Loss” setting can be found under different places inside BIOS setup according to computer manufacturer.

  3. Set the “Restore on AC/Power Loss” setting to “Power On.”
  4. Save and exit from BIOS settings. (The menu on the screen will give you the function key combination to do this.)

If you use a Linux-powered computer as a server, it probably is essential for you to get it up and running as soon as the power comes back on. The server might be located in a less accessible part of the building.

You can select additional settings to ensure an unattended restart after a power interruption. There are four places where you have to set things up to continue without human intervention:

  • BIOS: Make sure that the BIOS is set up to boot when power resumes.
  • Boot loader: Set up the boot loader to not wait for a user to select what OS to boot. Boot into the default OS right away.
  • Login: Set up the boot procedure to log in to a particular user automatically after boot. Do not wait for a person to log in.
  • Application restart: Set up the boot procedure to start the application programs automatically without human intervention.

Set Up Auto-Restart

Some computers have a BIOS option that prepares the computer to restart more easily when failed power is restored. You need to check ahead of time to verify that your computer has this feature and it is activated.

Here is how to do this:

  1. Open your computer’s BIOS settings menu. This is a hardware-dependent process that works fairly similar on all computers whether you boot into Windows or Linux. Restart the computer and watch for the first flash-screen to appear.

    Look for the Setup function key description. It will be “Setup F2” or F12, or something similar. Restart the computer and at the same time press the appropriate function key. Tap the key repeatedly during this initial startup period and the BIOS Settings menu will appear.

  2. Look for the Power Settings menu item within the BIOS and change the AC Power Recovery or similar setting to “On.” Look for a power-based setting that affirms that the PC will restart when power becomes available. Some older PCs lack this functionality. If your gear has it, save the configuration by pressing the designated function key as displayed on the screen. This reboots the computer.

If you are using a UPS to provide a short-interval battery supply when the power outage occurs, see the additional steps below to make the hardware connections. Meanwhile, let’s focus on how to restart computers when the power grid is back online.

Get Windows 10 to Start Again

After a power outage, your Windows system may not boot or restart properly. Any attempt to boot the system could bring you to a stalled loading screen or a blue screen with an error message.

Power surges are a common cause of booting issues with Windows. The sudden loss of power can corrupt system files. These suggestions may help you get around that problem.

  1. Start Windows 10 in Safe Mode.
    • Press the power on button on the computer.
    • Press Windows logo key + I on your keyboard to open Settings.
    • Select Update & Security > Recovery.
    • Under Advanced startup, select Restart now.
    • After your PC restarts to the Choose an option screen, select: Troubleshoot > Advanced options > Startup Settings > Restart.
    • After your PC restarts, select an option to finish the process.
  2. Windows 10 System Configurations, Safe boot screenshot
  3. Here is a second method to restart Windows 10 after a power outage. Use the built-in System Configuration Utility
    • From the Win+X Menu, open Run box and type msconfig; then and hit the Enter key.
    • Under the Boot tab, check the Safe boot and Minimal options. Click Apply/OK and exit.

    When the computer restarts, it will automatically enter Safe Mode. It will continue to boot into Safe Mode until you change the setting back to normal boot.

    So before you shutdown Windows 10, open msconfig again and uncheck the Safe Boot check box; click Apply/OK, and then click the Restart button.

  4. Windows Startup Settings screenshot

Get Windows 7 to Reboot

Each version of Microsoft Windows has a slightly different procedure to apply. If you have not yet upgraded to Windows 10, follow these steps to jump-start Windows 7.

  • Press the power on button to attempt to restart the computer.
  • Press F8 before the Windows 7 logo appears.
  • At the Advanced Boot Options menu, select the Repair your computer option. Then press the Enter key.
Windows 7 System Recovery Options screenshot

Fix the Linux Boot Failure

Linux may be more able to fight off malware and viruses and such than Microsoft Windows. Still. it is no more immune to electrical surges and power grid outages than any other piece of electronic equipment.

The electricity issue attacks the hardware before it impacts the operating system by inadvertently corrupting Linux files. So you should make sure that your BIOS settings are enabled to restart after a wrongful shutdown when the power fails.

Follow the same steps detailed above for “adjusting the dials.” When trouble strikes, apply the steps outlined below to force your Linux-powered computer to restart into Safe Mode, which is actually a recovery mode.

The process with most Linux distributions can be a little different than with Windows-powered boxes. The process depends in large part on your computer hardware.

Some computers — especially those custom-made with Linux preinstalled — have a BIOS option called “fast boot” activated in the BIOS setup, which disables the F2 setup and F12 boot menu prompts.

This is something you will have to verify while the computer is still operational. In that case, power off your device and turn it back on. Hold down the F2 key (or whatever key combination is displayed on the screen).

Activate Safe/Recovery Mode in Linux

When you see the BIOS setup utility on the screen, disable “fast boot,” save the setting and reboot.

Using the “fast boot” option, the Linux OS, in essence, jumps into the startup routine by forcing the computer to run the Grand Unified Bootloader (GRUB) or GRUB 2 menu.

  1. Press the Computer’s power on/off button.
  2. Hold down the left Shift key as the computer starts to boot. If holding the Shift key doesn’t display the menu, press the ESC key repeatedly to display the GRUB 2 menu. Sometimes the SHIFT & ESC keys work instead.

From there you can choose the recovery option. Follow the on-screen directions to attempt to restart your Linux computer.

Linux GRUB restart sccreenshot

Use a Live CD Boot Repair Disk

Super Grub2 Disk and Rescatux are strong and reliable
emergency boot solutions for Linux computers. Super Grub2’s stark interface makes it intimidating to use. Rescatux is far more user-friendly. Both are developed by the same source.

Super Grub2 Disk is a bit limited in its fix-and-go capabilities. If all you need is to bypass the problem and boot your failed system, it usually does the job. If you need a bona fide repair solution, use Rescatux.

The Rescatux emergency repair app is actually a live Linux distro CD environment. You can boot the dead computer from the CD/DVD (which you obviously must have created ahead of time).

Linux GRUB repair restart screenshot

Make the Hardware Connections

One of the major benefits of having a connected UPS is the ability to have the computer restart once the power supply resumes. The main things to look for when investigating which UPS to get are the initial cost, the cost of replacement batteries and the frequency with which you’ll have to replace them, the ability to manage and monitor the UPS from Linux, and the watts and volt-amps provided.

The batteries in a UPS degrade over time, resulting in a loss in its total power capacity. You might have to replace the batteries in the UPS in three to five years. If you only need to run a machine for five minutes and have the choice of a UPS that can run a machine for seven minutes or one that can give you 10, you can get away without replacing the batteries in the larger capacity UPS for a longer time — although the batteries for the larger UPS likely will be more expensive as well.

If you run the Linux OS, make sure the UPS you buy has software that supports Linux. If it does not, you will have to manually turn off the computers before the UPS’ batteries run out of juice.

Follow these steps to connect the UPS to your computer and peripherals such as printer and modem.

  1. Plug the PC and monitor into available controlled AC outlets on the UPS. Do not plug a power strip into the UPS socket first. Plug each hardware directly into its own UPS connection.
  2. Connect the included USB cable between UPS and PC. It is used for communications. Do not use a powered USB hub between UPS and PC or the lack of power during an outage will cause communications to fail.
  3. Plug the UPS into the wall power supply and allow it to charge. This takes four or more hours to charge fully.

Install and Configure the UPS Software if available. The directions will vary based on the UPS you have and the software that comes with it.

  1. Install the included software.
  2. Navigate to the Energy Management tab or similar within the Configuration setting.
  3. Check the Enable Energy Management check box and choose the Default settings in PowerChute. Look for any “Turn On Again” settings in any other power management software and check as appropriate.

A Few More Tips

With no endorsement intended, following is a list products to provide a starting point for purchasing a UPS or supporting software.

  • PowerPanel for Linux is a simple command line Linux daemon to control a UPS system attached to a Linux-based computer. It provides all the functionality of
    PowerPanel Personal Edition software, including automatic shutdown, UPS monitoring, alert notifications, and more. PowerPanel for Linux is compatible with Fedora 23, Suse Enterprise 12 SP1, CentOS 7, Red Hat Enterprise 7.2, Ubuntu 15.10 and Debian 8.4.
  • Apcupsd is a program for monitoring UPSes and performing a graceful computer shutdown in the event of a power failure. It runs on Linux, Mac OS X, Win32, BSD, Solaris and other OSes.
  • Linux comes with GPL-licensed open source apcupsd server (daemon) that can be used for power management and controlling most of APC’s UPS models on Linux, BSD, Unix and MS-Windows operating systems. Apcupsd works with most of APC’s Smart-UPS models as well as most simple signaling models such a Back-UPS, and BackUPS-Office.
  • WinPower is a UPS monitoring software that provides a user-friendly interface to provide power protection for computer systems encountering power failure.

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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Linux Mint Turns Cinnamon Experience Bittersweet | Reviews


By Jack M. Germain

May 24, 2019 5:00 AM PT

Linux Mint Turns Cinnamon Experience Bittersweet

Linux Mint no longer may be an ideal choice for above-par performance out of the box, but it still can serve diehard users well with the right amount of post-installation tinkering.

The Linux Mint distro clearly is the gold standard for measuring Cinnamon desktop integration. Linux Mint’s developers turned the GNOME desktop alternative into one of the best Linux desktop choices. Linux Mint Cinnamon, however, may have lost some of its fresh minty flavor.

The gold standard for version 19.1 Tessa seems to be a bit tarnished when compared to some other distros offering a Cinnamon environment. Given that the current Linux Mint version was released at the end of last December, it may be a bit odd for me to focus on a review some five months later.

Linux Mint is my primary driver, though, so at long last I am getting around to sharing my lukewarm experiences. I have run Linux Mint Cinnamon on three primary work and testing computers since parting company with Ubuntu Linux Unity and several other Ubuntu flavors many years ago. I have recommended Linux Mint enthusiastically to associates and readers in my personal and professional roles.

Linux Mint Cinnamon desktop icons, desklets, applets

The Linux Mint Cinnamon desktop lets you place launch icons and screen desklets on the desktop and applets on the panel bar for added functionality.

– click image to enlarge –


However, my ongoing dissatisfaction with Tessa has led me to rethink my continuing allegiance. I’ve patiently waited for a kernel or core component upgrade to fix what has been giving Linux Mint a less than cool taste, at least for me. As I have waited, updates have come and gone — but not the fix for the maladies that linger within.

Comparing Tessa’s performance with a few recent distros that run the Cinnamon desktop apparently caused the self-appointed Mint police on a Linux Mint community forum to vilify my views. More on that situation later.

Linux Mint is an Ubuntu-based distribution that comes with four choices to provide a classic desktop experience. Version 19.1 (Tessa) is based on Ubuntu 18.04 Bionic Beaver and is scheduled to receive long-term support (LTS) until April 2023. It is available in three desktop versions: Cinnamon, MATE and Xfce, as well as a Debian Linux-based offering —
LMDE3.

Performance Woes

The problem for some Linux OS reviewers — including me — as well as a cadre of users is that Tessa’s performance is not always optimum. Linux Mint requires overly long bootup times. It takes longer to load many applications compared to how quickly the same software loads in other distros.

Lots of stumbling occurred while I was running Tessa on three computers that ran previous versions without encountering those issues. Out of the box, the performance was sluggish. At times the desktop interaction and system activity become unresponsive for fleeting seconds. A collection of little things and a few major annoyances made working with Tessa into an unhappy computing experience.

I deal primarily with the Cinnamon desktop, but the issues were not isolated to it. Some published documents offering “performance booster” tips for Linux Mint include fixes for MATE and XFCE editions.

I got used to the performance malaise to an extent, and I tried to ignore the issues. However, in recently testing other Cinnamon desktop iterations, I noticed that those same issues were not present.

Two that come to mind are
Feren OS and
Condres OS. There are others.

Cinnamon Itself Remains Tasty

Overall, I consider the Cinnamon desktop to be one of the most configurable and productive desktop options in Linux. Linux Mint’s developers worked on numerous improvements in version 19.1, which was a major upgrade from Linux Mint 19.

For instance, they reduced input lag on Nvidia cards and made the window manager feel more responsive when moving windows. Developers made it easy to turn off vertical sync in the System Settings. This delegates VSYNC to your GPU driver.

If that driver performs well, the input lag goes away and performance improves, according to release notes. Again, this might account for some of the performance factors. Maybe not.

The Linux Mint team ported a huge number of upstream changes from the GNOME project’s Mutter window manager to the Muffin window manager, a fork of Mutter by the Linux Mint team. Might this be another possible cause for performance issues in 19.1 despite the community’s claims that the OS is now more responsive? Again, maybe not.

The code base for Mint 19 is different. Since I really started having issues with LM with the upgrade to 19.1, I suspect that the fly in the Mint ointment landed there.

Waiting, Not Switching

The Cinnamon desktop is the perfect fit for my workflow and computing productivity. Even with the availability of Cinnamon on other distros, I am hesitant to switch players and move to a smaller distro community. I see value in using an OS maintained by a large thriving Linux community that took on open source giants and developed an equally powerful Linux distro alternative.

This is what makes the Linux experience so different than using proprietary operating systems. Linux users have choices. We are not locked into a rigid single computing path.

If one variation of a favorite desktop or distribution style has a problem, users can change distros to try something similar or something very different. Linux applications are mostly interchangeable. So is the data we use.

It is relatively easy to move from one Linux platform to another — or change distros and still be able to keep a favorite desktop environment.

So waiting for fixes seemed a better option than leaving Linux Mint behind, at least for now. Some Linux distro developers put their own unique styles into a particular desktop to make it different or better than plain vanilla versions. That is the case with Linux Mint.

Critical of the Critic

I logged onto the Linux Mint user forum recently to look for helpful hints on solving performance issues. I used my own LM forum user credentials, which are not identifiable with this publication. Of course, I found nothing. What I did find was my name and reference to the Linux Mint-related comments from a few of my LinuxInsider reviews. That is when I discovered the vitriol directed at me.

One of the suggestions made to me in the LM forum was to buy a new computer or upgrade to lots of RAM if I wanted trouble-free performance. Merely upgrading from LM 19 or doing anything other than a clean install on a new computer would have been asking for trouble. The implication was that nobody else had trouble, so whatever was causing my so-called issues must have been my fault.

Really? My computers running Linux Mint all far exceed the recommended hardware requirements. Is Linux Mint falling into the required upgrade path just like Windows 10?

Other user forum comments included the alleged performance troubles I “claimed” to be having were simply my fault because I was obviously a newbie, didn’t know what I was doing, or was trying to “get more eyeballs” for my LinuxInsider reviews by making “snide, unsubstantiated comments” derogatory to Linux Mint.

The trolls rejected my polite explanation that I was a long-time Linux Mint user who went from having no issues with earlier versions to experiencing the same issues on the same three computers. Since nobody else had trouble, it must have been me, they suggested. Another suggestion was that maybe I was making up the problems.

One of the sticking points was that in my recent comments about other Cinnamon desktop Linux distros I reviewed, I suggested that they did not have the performance snags and thus might be better alternatives to Linux Mint. In general, the LM forum trolls were angered that anyone — particularly ME — would be so heretical as to make negative attacks on the Great Linux Mint god.

Of course, the Linux Mint god protectors had no way of knowing that LinuxInsider readers on several occasions had conversed with me via email about similar issues they experienced with Linux Mint. They had asked what better options I could recommend for running a Cinnamon-based Linux distro.

I tried to explain to the LM forum naysayers that my comments were neither snide nor unsubstantiated, and that I still used Linux Mint 19.1 Cinnamon, in fact. Of course, the flamers once again insisted that I had attacked Linux Mint unfairly and repeatedly. So I stepped out of the conversation.

Ironically, while the LM forum diatribe was unfolding, I received an email at ECT News Network from a supposed reader who claimed to be interested in my reviews about Linux Mint. She asked me to send her a link of all my published reviews on that topic.

One forum participant actually jumped into the fray to suggest there were performance issues that he had addressed in his own blog about Linux Mint. He
posted a link to fixes I could try.

Mixed Success at a Price

That post was very useful and informative. It laid out fixes to try for all three Linux Mint Tessa desktops. I tried several of the suggested tweaks, and the improved performance speed was enough to salvage my faltering relationship with Linux Mint.

I noticed what appeared to be a pattern in the tweaks. Many of them address default settings. That makes perfect sense, since other than adding a few favorite applets to the Cinnamon bottom panel after installation, I had made few changes. I had not ventured to change the look-and-feel factors.

One major tweak involved overriding the memory swap settings. The speedup tips for Tessa noted that by default the “swappiness” factor (aka the inode cache) was set to 60. The suggested fix was to reduce the size to 10. The tweak tips author noted that this area was the “absolute number one” fix to try.

That process involved typing a string of commands into a terminal and rebooting the computer. It worked! Booting time still takes longer than booting other distros, but the overall system responsiveness definitely was improved.

LibreOffice presented a glaring example of unacceptable performance. Before the swap tweak, it took two minutes or more to load a document or spreadsheet. Subsequent reloads took a bit less time. Now that loading time interval is cut down by at least half the time.

Applying other speedup tweaks also improved performance system-wide, but those tweaks came at a price. The adjustments involved turning off most of the visual effects, such as animations. That resulted in turning Linux Mint into more of a plain vanilla experience without many of the special effects that made Linux Mint’s integration of Cinnamon, MATE and XFCE different from the rest.


Linux mint 19.1 Tessa, Scale and Expo views

Scale and Expo views of running applications on multiple desktops are among the special effects not hampered by tweaks to speed up Linux mint 19.1 Tessa.

– click image to enlarge –


Bottom Line

I’d love to hear about your experiences in using the Linux OS. Use the link below to offer your perspective in our Reader’s Comments section.

If you now use or in the past used Linux Mint, what can you share about your experience with its performance?

Do you think distro developers should be more forthcoming with users in addressing issues such as how to tweak their distribution for better performance?

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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MakuluLinux Core OS Is Dressed to Impress | Reviews


By Jack M. Germain

Apr 30, 2019 5:00 AM PT

A new Linux OS gets to the core of Linux computing with a revamped desktop environment and a new way to have fun with your daily computing tasks. Developer Jacque Montague Raymer on Monday debuted the
MakuluLinux Core OS. He hopes Core becomes the crown jewel of the Series 15 release family.

MakuluLinux released the latest versions of family members
LinDoz and
Flash several months ago. While the Core entry integrates some of the features of its two cousins, it offers something new and exciting that brings MakululLinux to a higher level of usability. It adds a homegrown desktop design that turns something old into a modern Linux platform.

This story was originally published on April 10, 2018, and is brought to you today as part of our Best of ECT News series.

MakuluLinux is a relative Linux newcomer. Its positive reputation has been growing since 2015, thanks to a variety of desktop environments the developer adapted for better integration. Its small developer team, based in Vietnam, forged the first two desktop distributions, both efficient and productive, in a relatively short time period.

All three of the Series 15 editions — LinDoz, Flash and now Core — feature a redesign of the original Ubuntu-based LinDoz OS. First, the team revamped LinDoz’s Ubuntu foundation. Series 15 is based on a hybrid that gets its primary updates from both Debian and Makulu directly.

Serious Revamping

The new strategy is not to borrow the base from Debian or Ubuntu, as other big developers have done. Makulu’s team chose to build its own base instead.

LinDoz uses an in-house modification of the Cinnamon desktop developed by Linux Mint. Flash runs a modified version of the previously forked environment the developers designed for Flash. Series 15 is not an update of previous editions.

Both LinDoz and Flash are complete rip-and-replace builds on top of developed-in-house computing bases. The new Core OS is not an upgrade of Flash.

Instead, Core introduces some radical changes under development for the last two years. Core borrows heavily from features designed for Flash and adds even more adaptations.

For me, the most exciting eye candy that the Core edition offers is the dynamic animations that provide a new way to interact with the OS. Core does not have the classic Linux layout.

Getting the Timing Right

The debut of MakuluLinux Core was held up for more than a month while developers debated the merits of waiting for a newer, better kernel. At stake was speedier performance with a patched kernel to avoid the infamous slowdown bug caused by computer chip vulnerabilities discovered last year, said developer Raymer.

“Core is ready. However, we can already see some problems on the horizon and are not sure we should rush to release,” he told LinuxInsider last month.

The distro team gets kernel updates from the Testing Repository, which then was on the 4.18 kernel and soon would go to version 4.19. That posed a potential performance hit.

One of the upcoming 4.20 kernels that will be moving through testing repo slows down Linux by 50 percent. The kernel after that one fixes that bug, Raymer explained.

“So we are just sitting and waiting to see how the testing repo handles this,” he said. “It will be a big blow if we release now and three weeks later that kernel with the slowdown bug enters testing.”

A second dilemma added to the mix was that Raymer’s team also was busy working on an Ubuntu variant of Core.

“So there is that to consider as well,” he said. “To release now and release the Ubuntu variant later — or make use of this time and get the Ubuntu variant on par and release both.”

Good Seasonings

Core uses a combination of a Cairo-style dock for favorite applications and a spin-wheel style circular menu display. This approach is innovative and attractive.


MakuluLinux Core's innovative circular menu display.

The centerpiece of MakuluLinux Core’s innovative homegrown user interface is a spin-wheel style circular menu display.

– click image to enlarge –


The biggest difference that distinguishes the new Core OS from LinDoz and Flash is the way the Xfce desktop design works as the Core desktop. A dock along the lower right vertical edge of the screen holds system icons and notifications. This design keeps the essential system elements separate from the applications dock.

In numerous ways, Core’s new desktop design blends some of the best features found in Flash’s use of Xfce and the forked Cinnamon environment that LinDoz uses. Core especially borrows heavily from the Xfce tweaking in Flash.

Both the latest editions of LinDoz and Flash remain unique operating systems in their own right. Core has the winning recipe for a tasty change in computing platform design, however.

Adding the Cinnamon spices to Xfce boosts the new desktop’s performance. Mixing in MakuluLinux’s own special sauce bakes Core into a computing environment that is exciting and refreshing.

Change of Scenery

One of the little things that makes the three MakuluLinux distros artistically distinct is the wallpaper. The background images are stunning.

Core, Flash and LinDoz use the same Wallpaper Changer tool, but each has a unique set of scenery to display.

The wallpaper changer in Flash and LinDoz displays thumbnail views in a vertical display on the right edge of the desktop. Scrolling through them is quick and easy. One tap and the background is updated.


MakuluLinux Core's two additional menus as alternatives to the spin-wheel menu

MakuluLinux Core has two additional menus as alternatives to the spin-wheel menu. A wallpaper changer banner display at the top makes choosing background images quick and simple.

– click image to enlarge –


Core goes one better. Its wallpaper display scrolls across the top of the screen.

Core has many new color schemes for the themes and icon sets. These themes are not the same as the ones in Flash. They use the same color schemes, but the Themes themselves are quite different. Also, Core is optimized for Virtualbox.

Optional Fine-Tuning

The settings controls let you fine-tune how Core looks and how its features behave. The animations and options come close to the degree of personalization that used to be available in the KDE environment.

If you are a power user, you can fine-tune Core to your heart’s delight. If you are not into fiddling with settings, Core’s default configurations work fine.

Core comes stuffed with Makulu toolkit applications that supplement the usual Xfce settings panels. The system tools provide yet another layer of settings.

You also get a large collection of desktop applets. To add or remove them, open the Conky Manager panel and check/uncheck your choices.

Menu Innovations

Core’s new menu system is far superior to the tired columnar-style panels that pop up from a traditional panel bar in other distros. Core provides multiple options for using menus and docks. The interface is mouse-driven with a touchscreen gesture system.

The traditional Xfce right-click menus and panel-style menus are still part of the user interface. There is much more than the right-click Xfce standard.

Put the mouse pointer into the left bottom corner to get a traditional two-column vertical menu to appear along the bottom left edge of the screen. Or press the dedicated Windows key to pop up the same Whisker-style menu in the center of the screen.

One of Core’s more radical interface innovations is the new circular menu display. Application icons and launchers for system tools appear in a spin-wheel design displaying icons for each software category.

Fly over any icon in the circular array to have the contents of that category hang in a larger circle layered over the main menu display in the center of the screen. The menu system is also hot corner-based.

You trigger the new menu along with a few custom actions by mousing into the designated screen corners. Use the Hot Corner option in System Settings to set up your choices.

Easy Transition

Another option for launching the circular menu is to pin its menu launcher to the Cairo dock. Oh yes, the dock is another replacement feature in Core. There is no panel bar at the bottom of the screen or anywhere else.


MakuluLinux Core's Cairo dock

The MakuluLinux Core Edition runs on a heavily tweaked forked Xfce environment that functions as a new style desktop. The Cairo dock at the bottom of the screen replaces the traditional bottom panel. The design includes a Web applet bar at the top, system icons in a right-side panel, and a collection of Conky widgets.

– click image to enlarge –


The Cairo dock hides at the bottom of the screen when covered by an active window. Otherwise, it sits centered at the bottom of the screen.

Slide the mouse pointer to the bottom of the screen to have the dock appear. When an application is running, its icon appears on the dock. You can pin or unpin an icon to the dock to use as a frequent program launcher by right-clicking an icon showing on the dock.

Core is a marriage of old and new. The new style circular menu displays may take time to adjust and fully adapt. Transitioning is easy, though.

Unusual Xfce Effects

Core still runs the Xfce desktop, sort of. This is a new type of Xfce, however. The developer integrated transparency and glitzy animations to give Core a version of Xfce you will not find elsewhere.

It goes far beyond the original MakuluLinux fork used in the current Flash edition. The new MakuluLinux base, combined with in-house tweaks that modernize the Xfce desktop, hikes features and convenience to another level.

MakuluLinux Flash comes with Compiz OpenGL compositing manager preconfigured for on-the-fly window dressing and fancy screen displays. With 3D graphics hardware you can create fast compositing desktop effects like minimization animation. Also, you can turn the Compiz effects off or on with a single click.

Workspace Navigation

I am somewhat anal when it comes to using virtual desktops or workspaces. My workflow demands multitasking: researching, note-taking, writing, editing and creating graphics.

If moving among workspace screens is not fast, fluid and intuitive, I do not hesitate to flag a Linux distro. The key to success for me usually is anchored in keyboard shortcuts and workspace switcher applets on a bottom panel.

MakuluLinux Core changes that assessment cycle. It does have the right-click desktop menu option built into window top borders — but Core has no panel applets.


MakuluLinux Core on-screen switcher display

With no panel bar, Core has no workspace widget applet, but keyboard shortcuts and mouse movements easily launch an on-screen switcher display.


Core lacks keyboard shortcut mapping. It also does not have slide-out panels with graphical views of workspaces for point-and-click channel changing.

What Core does have might well be the best-yet solution for moving among virtual desktops. The absence of a workspace switcher applet at first seemed heretical!

My panic quickly subsided when I discovered that all I had to do was point the mouse pointer on the desktop and press and hold the button wheel or the middle button. Other options include pressing the CTRL + left/right arrow keys. Or pressing the left and right touchpad buttons. Perhaps the handiest of all solutions to navigating around multiple workspaces is finger gestures on the screen or touchpad.

Handy Features

I can think of only a small handful of Linux distros that have Web applets built in. The feature is starting to gain attraction as a result of users liking the connection shortcut icons in Android and Chrome-based OSes.

Raymer borrowed the Web applets feature from an earlier distro he developed called “LeThe.” In Core, it is built into the Web Apps bar and is a handy feature.

Web applets are activated and deactivated easily with a single click. You can access the shortcut for the Web Applets toolbar from the bottom panel or in the settings manager.

Core comes with a few pre-set URLs mapped to icons. It is easy to configure additional Web app launch icons.

These Web applets do add to memory usage and are not recommended for use on systems with low memory. The developer recommends enabling this feature only on systems with at least 4 GB RAM available.

This lets you go directly to a frequently visited Internet spot without the baggage of using a full-featured Web browser. You can have a Web browser open and use the Web apps independently.

Smooth Installation

Like LinDoz and Flash, Core uses the Calamares installer. Core replicated the hassle-free installation I enjoyed when testing the earlier MakuluLinux offerings.

To its credit, the developers added updated scripts to ensure that Core installs smoothly. Core’s new ISO format has a fully working second update patch script that will allow the developer to patch any botched packages that come through the Debian repository.

Bucking a trend of Linux developers retiring 32-bit distro releases, Core will be available for both — 64-bit now and 32-bit systems soon. That makes it an ideal Linux platform for aging computers.

Raymer released the 64-bit version on Monday, but the 32-bit version is not yet ready. It will be released in a few weeks — most likely toward the end of February.

Quick Facelift

Core supports a facelift feature that eliminates the need to reinstall completely when an update goes wrong. This facelift script lets users reset the desktop to its current look and feel.

At the initial log in, the routine asks users to select a default Window Border and a GTK Color scheme. This is a repeat of the booting process when the DVD boots the host computer in a live session.

You can change your selections easily in the settings panel under the theme manager. This new feature is unique. The display changes color depending on which GTK theme is selected.

Bottom Line

I have charted the progress of Core’s development through sometimes daily ISO releases over the last few months. I can attest to the near constant revisions and design tweaks Raymer has applied.

The more I used Core, the better choice it became over its LinDoz and Flash kin. That, of course, is purely a personal observation. But the features I loved in the other two MakuluLinux options either were even better when integrated into Core, or were surpassed by the Core-only innovations.

MakuluLinux Core’s rebuilt Xfce desktop is so well tweaked it looks and feels like something new.

Given the amount of forking Raymer did to Xfce, he could call the desktop something new. For me, referring to it as “the new Core desktop” makes perfect sense.

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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Microsoft’s Edge Goes With the Chromium Flow | Developers


By Jack M. Germain

Apr 10, 2019 5:00 AM PT

Microsoft on Monday released the first Dev and Canary channel builds of the next version of Microsoft Edge, which is based on the Chromium open source project.

The company last year revealed that it was reworking its Edge browser to be based on Chromium. Now the latest developments are ready for early testers and adopters on several versions of Windows and macOS. So far, however, no support is available for Linux.

The new Microsoft Edge builds are available through preview channels called “Microsoft Edge Insider Channels.” The first two Microsoft Edge Insider Channels,
Canary and
Dev, are available for all supported versions of Windows 10, with more platforms coming soon.

Microsoft will update the Canary channel daily and the Dev channel weekly. You can install the new Edge builds from multiple channels side-by-side for testing. Each has its own separate icon and name.

Microsoft uses the Canary channel to validate bug fixes and test brand new features. The Canary channel offers the bleeding-edge, newest builds. The Dev channel build has undergone slightly more testing but is still relatively fresh.

The Dev channel offers the best build of the week from the Canary channel based on user feedback, automated test results, performance metrics and telemetry. It provides the latest development version of Microsoft Edge as a daily driver.

The company later will introduce Beta and Stable channels to provide significantly more stable releases. Those more developed releases will give Enterprises and IT Pros lead time to start piloting the next version of Microsoft Edge.

Microsoft will not change the existing installed version of Microsoft Edge yet. It will continue to work side by side with the builds from any of the Microsoft Edge Insider Channels.

The browser upgrade is not likely to draw more users to the retooled Edge browser than dedicated Microsoft customers, suggested Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

“That is especially true since Microsoft is disabling many of the functions integrated with Google apps and tools,” he told LinuxInsider.

Logical Next Step

Microsoft’s decision to adopt the Chromium open source project in the development of its new Edge browser on the desktop is a logical step in the company’s efforts to become more embedded with open source technology. The Edge browser has been struggling.

The new development road map is based on a microservices/componentized approach, according to the company. Microsoft’s goal is to create better Web compatibility for its customers. It also aims to reduce fragmentation of the Web for all Web developers.

Rebuilding the Edge browser around Chromium reinforces Microsoft’s commitment to open source. Its software engineers have started making contributions back to Chromium in areas involving accessibility, touch and ARM64.

The company plans to continue working within the existing Chromium project rather than creating a parallel project. The Microsoft team is working directly with the teams at Google.

It’s not likely that Microsoft’s increased involvement with open source will give the company any competitive edge, King observed.

“I expect them to function much as any contributor. It’s less of an issue today than it would be if Steve Ballmer were still Microsoft’s CEO,” he said.

Other Good Options Lacking

Microsoft was faced with one of those “if you can’t beat them, join them” situations, according to King. That might have figured into the Chromium decision.

“As a technology comes to dominate online functions and interactions, developers focus on optimizing sites and apps for it. To ensure that customers have optimum online experiences, vendors adopt those dominant technologies,” he pointed out.

That is the current situation with Chromium. Ironically enough, Microsoft once was in a similar situation with its Internet Explorer technology, King recalled.

Rebuilding the Edge browser on Chromium is a great move on Microsoft’s part, said Cody Swann, CEO of
Gunner Technology.

“This is going to be a huge cost saver for Microsoft,” he told LinuxInsider. The company “can basically reassign or release a ton of engineers who were given to a losing effort to begin with.”

Revised Technology

The Edge browser will differ in several key areas from the existing open source Chromium project that Google initially developed. Most of the heavy-duty differences will be hidden under the hood.

On the technical underbelly, Microsoft is working on replacing its EdgeHTML rendering engine with Chromium’s Blink. Microsoft also is replacing its Chakra JavaScript engine with Chromium’s V8.

Microsoft is replacing or turning off more than 50 Chromium services in Edge. Some of these include Google-specific services like Google Now, Google Pay, Google Cloud Messaging, Chrome OS device management and Chrome Cleanup. Others involve existing Chromium functions such as ad blocking, spellcheck, speech input and Android app password sync.

In shifting from Google-based services to its own ecosystem, Microsoft is building into its new Edge browser support for MSA (Microsoft Accounts) and Azure Active Directory identities for authentication/single sign-in.

Microsoft also is integrating other Microsoft-based services, such as Bing Search; Windows Defender SmartScreen for phishing and malware protection; Microsoft Activity Feed Service for synchronizing data across Edge preview builds and across Edge on iOS and Android; and Microsoft News.

Bringing More to the Edge

Microsoft plans to build support for PlayReady DRM into its new Edge browser platform. Edge supports both PlayReady and Widevine.

Also in the works are additional services integration and single sign-on capabilities that presumably will support a widening deployment of Microsoft-based offerings.

Microsoft is planning to build in more than just cosmetic design changes to the Chromium browser, however. The intent is to avoid giving the new Edge a distinctively Chromium look and feel.

However, company officials have said the user interface will not be a priority until further along in the process.

Pros and Cons

On the plus side, users typically have better experiences with optimized tools and applications. On the negative, the situation entrusts a lot of power to individual companies, noted King.

“Sites that are not optimized for dominant tech also tend to perform relatively poorly compared to those that are. That results in a two-tier Web of sorts, which is one of the reasons Mozilla developed Firefox,” he said.

There is no downside to Microsoft switching to the Chromium platform in Swann’s view.

“Microsoft has been dying a slow death in the browser wars since Firefox was released,” he said, “and they’re basically just throwing in the towel.”


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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