2021-07-22 12:14:55 ..
2021-11-29 10:45:50 UTC
2021-11-29 15:25:23 UTC --martyb
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Deploying apps for the Linux desktop is hard. A major problem has historically been library compatibility. Different Linux distributions, and even different versions of the same distribution, have had incompatible libraries. Unfortunately, there hasn't always been a culture of backwards compatibility on the Linux desktop.
This is finally changing. The stability of the Linux desktop has dramatically improved in recent years. Core library developers are finally seeing the benefits of maintaining compatibility. Despite this, many developers are not interested in depending on a stable base of libraries for binary software. Instead, they have decided to ignore and override almost all libraries pre-installed on the user's system.
The current solutions involve packaging entire alternate runtimes in containerized environments. Flatpak, Snap, AppImage, Docker, and Steam: these all provide an app packaging mechanism that replaces most or all of the system's runtime libraries, and they now all use containerization to accomplish this.
Flatpak calls itself "the future of application distribution". I am not a fan. I'm going to outline here some of the technical, security and usability problems with Flatpak and others. I'll try to avoid addressing "fixable" problems (like theming) and instead focus on fundamental problems inherent in their design. I aim to convince you that these are not the future of desktop Linux apps.
Suppose you want to make a simple calculator app. How big should the download be?
This is uncompetitive with Windows on its face. If I ship an app for Windows I don't have to include the entire Win32 or .NET runtimes with my app. I just use what's already on the user's system.
Other solutions like Flatpak or Steam download the runtime separately. Your app metadata specifies what runtime it wants to use and a service downloads it and runs your app against it.
So how big are these runtimes? On a fresh machine, install KCalc from Flathub. You're looking at a nearly 900 MB download to get your first runtime. For a calculator.
[...] Snap and Flatpak in their current incarnations have been around for at least five years. AppImage, Steam and Docker have been around even longer. None of the above is new. The problems with alternate runtimes were known from the very beginning, yet little progress has been made in fixing them. I don't believe these are growing pains of a new technology. These are fundamental problems that are mostly not fixable.
All of these technologies are essentially building an entire OS on top of another OS just to avoid the challenges of backwards compatibility. In doing so, they create far more problems than they solve. Problems of compatibility are best solved by the OS, the real one, not some containerized bastardization on top. We need to make apps that run natively, that use the system libraries as much as possible. We need to drastically simplify everything if we have any hope of attracting proprietary software to Linux.
The full article is a very interesting read.
A little-known species of tropical bee has evolved an extra tooth for biting flesh and a gut that more closely resembles that of vultures rather than other bees.
Typically, bees don't eat meat. However, a species of stingless bee in the tropics has evolved the ability to do so, presumably due to intense competition for nectar.
"These are the only bees in the world that have evolved to use food sources not produced by plants, which is a pretty remarkable change in dietary habits," said UC Riverside entomologist Doug Yanega.
Honeybees, bumblebees, and stingless bees have guts that are colonized by the same five core microbes. "Unlike humans, whose guts change with every meal, most bee species have retained these same bacteria over roughly 80 million years of evolution," said Jessica Maccaro, a UCR entomology doctoral student.
Given their radical change in food choice, a team of UCR scientists wondered whether the vulture bees' gut bacteria differed from those of a typical vegetarian bee. They differed quite dramatically, according to a study the team published today in the American Society of Microbiologists' journal mBio.
Laura L. Figueroa, Jessica J. Maccaro, Erin Krichilsky, et al. Why Did the Bee Eat the Chicken? Symbiont Gain, Loss, and Retention in the Vulture Bee Microbiome, mBio [open] (DOI: 10.1128/mBio.02317-21)
Apple on Tuesday sued NSO Group, an Israeli firm that sells software to government agencies and law enforcement that enables them to hack iPhones and read the data on them, including messages and other communications:
Earlier this year, Amnesty International said it discovered recent-model iPhones belonging to journalists and human rights lawyers that had been infected with NSO Group malware called Pegasus.
Apple is seeking a permanent injunction to ban NSO Group from using Apple software, services, or devices. It's also seeking damages over $75,000.
[...] NSO Group software permits "attacks, including from sovereign governments that pay hundreds of millions of dollars to target and attack a tiny fraction of users with information of particular interest to NSO's customers," Apple said in the lawsuit filed in federal court in the Northern District of California, saying that it is not "ordinary consumer malware."
Also at The Guardian.
Scientists warn, without good biosecurity measures 'alien organisms' on Earth may become a reality stranger than fiction.
Published in international journal BioSciences, a team of scientists, including Dr. Phill Cassey, Head of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Adelaide, are calling for greater recognition of the biosecurity risks ahead of the space industry.
"In addition to government-led space missions, the arrival of private companies such as SpaceX has meant there are now more players in space exploration than ever before," said Associate Professor Cassey.
"We need to take action now to mitigate those risks."
Space biosecurity concerns itself with both the transfer of organisms from Earth to space (forward contamination) and vice-versa (backward contamination). While the research points out that at present the risk of alien organisms surviving the journey is low, it's not impossible.
Dr. Cassey said: "Risks that have low probability of occurrence, but have the potential for extreme consequences, are at the heart of biosecurity management. Because when things go wrong, they go really wrong."
Anthony Ricciardi, Phillip Cassey, Stefan Leuko, et al. Planetary Biosecurity: Applying Invasion Science to Prevent Biological Contamination from Space Travel, BioScience (DOI: 10.1093/biosci/biab115)
Nvidia has revealed the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has expressed concerns over the company's $40 billion deal to acquire Arm that was announced in September last year.
Nvidia CFO Colette Kress said at the company's Q3 results call on Wednesday evening that the FTC was reviewing the deal, and that the company has been in talks with the US regulator about how it can alleviate concerns around the deal.
She added that some Arm licensees have expressed concerns or objected to the deal.
Nvidia's update about the FTC review comes a day after the UK government launched an in-depth antitrust investigation into the deal. The European Commission has also commenced an in-depth investigation into the deal.
Both the UK and European Commission investigations arose after initial reviews from both jurisdictions found the deal would lessen competition across various markets such as data centres, IoT, automotive sector, and gaming applications markets.
[...] Outside of the regulatory concerns around Nvidia's deal, the company revealed third-quarter revenues rose 9% to hit $7.1 billion, while net income jumped 84% to $2.46 billion.
Verizon on Tuesday said it had completed its acquisition of prepaid mobile company Tracfone, just a day after the US Federal Communications Commission voted to approve the $6 billion deal. Verizon announced the acquisition in September, pending the regulatory approval that finally came this week.
[...] When the deal was announced, Verizon's CEO Hans Vestberg tweeted that the company was excited to "put the full support of Verizon behind this business." It's another big investment from the wireless carrier, following Verizon's spending $53 billion on radio airwaves this March.
[...] The FCC's approval came with a long list of "binding conditions to address potential harms and to ensure the transaction will be in the public interest," according to an FCC press release. Those conditions are largely centered on keeping Tracfone's products and services accessible and affordable for low-income consumers and ensuring Tracfone's existing customers don't get left behind in the transition.
In a pilot human study, researchers from the University of Minnesota Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital show it is possible to improve specific human brain functions related to self-control and mental flexibility by merging artificial intelligence with targeted electrical brain stimulation.
[...] The findings come from a human study conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston among 12 patients undergoing brain surgery for epilepsy — a procedure that places hundreds of tiny electrodes throughout the brain to record its activity and identify where seizures originate.
In this study, Widge collaborated with Massachusetts General Hospital's Sydney Cash, MD, PhD, an expert in epilepsy research; and Darin Dougherty, MD, an expert in clinical brain stimulation. Together, they identified a brain region — the internal capsule — that improved patients' mental function when stimulated with small amounts of electrical energy. That part of the brain is responsible for cognitive control — the process of shifting from one thought pattern or behavior to another, which is impaired in most mental illnesses.
"An example might include a person with depression who just can't get out of a 'stuck' negative thought. Because it is so central to mental illness, finding a way to improve it could be a powerful new way to treat those illnesses," Widge said.
Ishita Basu, Ali Yousefi, Britni Crocker, et al. Closed-loop enhancement and neural decoding of cognitive control in humans, Nature Biomedical Engineering (DOI: 10.1038/s41551-021-00804-y)
This seems to be sparked by Nikita Popov, one of the main contributers to the language, switching focus to LLVM:
Nikita is leaving JetBrains as of December 1 and will spend significantly less time on PHP. As sad as it is to see him go, we congratulate Nikita and wish him every success in his new journey!
[...] In May 2021, right after Joe Watkins published his Avoiding Busses blog post, we started discussing the idea of a PHP Foundation. It's not something new and has been floating around for a long time.
[...] We were proceeding rather leisurely, thinking that the problem was not critical. However, Nikita's decision forced us to intensify our work on the foundation.
The Association for Computing Machinery's publication, ACM Queue, had Kirk McKusick of FreeBSD fame interview Margo Seltzer and Mike Olson about the development of Berkeley DB. The two, along with Keith Bostic, have been awarded the 2020 ACM Software System Award for the database. Berkeley DB is a dual-licensed (AGPL and proprietary), simple, efficient, transactional, nosql database and currently maintained by Oracle.
Kirk McKusick: Berkeley DB came out of the University of California at Berkeley Computer Systems Research Group's work to create a version of Unix unencumbered by AT&T's ownership rights to the original version of Unix. To do that, we needed a new kernel, written without using any of the AT&T code. We also needed all the applications and libraries that shipped with the operating system.
My colleague on the Berkeley BSD Project, Mike Karels, and I were in charge of getting a clean version of the kernel—that's another story! But Keith Bostic took on the task of getting all the apps and libraries done. He solicited volunteers for much of that work. I know he worked with you two on that. Why don't you start the story there?
Berkeley DB has been around since 1991 and can be found in many places, including inside OpenLDAP. In its 30 years, it has raised public awareness of non-relational databases. It is in general one of the more useful, reliable, and long-lived software projects around.
From our energy grid to the manufacturing of certain textiles and other products, many parts of our society are built to use fossil fuels. Transitioning away will come at some cost.
But what if we could produce an economically attractive replacement for fossil fuels? New research from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) suggests a way to do just that. Biologists have devised a way to engineer yeast to produce itaconic acid[*]—a valuable commodity chemical—using data integration and supercomputing power as a guide.
Itaconic acid has enormous potential as a renewable chemical building block. It could substitute for some fossil-fuel-derived products. In 2004, it was named one of the "top value added chemicals from biomass" in a report by the Department of Energy (DOE). Seeing the potential of itaconic acid as a petrochemical replacement, data scientist Neeraj Kumar set out to inexpensively produce it using microbes.
Kumar and colleagues had previously developed a way to calculate how engineered changes in microbes could affect their metabolism. Building upon this idea, Kumar wanted to see if he could use these metabolic predictions to engineer yeast to produce high amounts of itaconic acid.
[*] Itaconic acid on Wikipedia.
Designing microbe factories for sustainable chemicals https://phys.org/news/2021-11-microbe-factories-sustainable-chemicals.html ,
The James Webb Space Telescope is a very big, very overdue and very sensitive project. After years of delays, it was supposed to launch on Dec. 18 and become the newest flagship observatory. The launch has now been moved to no earlier than Dec. 22 after an incident during launch preparations.
The telescope is in the process of getting together with the Ariane 5 rocket that will escort it into space. "A sudden, unplanned release of a clamp band — which secures Webb to the launch vehicle adapter — caused a vibration throughout the observatory," NASA said in a statement Monday.
[...] NASA expects to deliver an update on the telescope's condition at the end of the week.
Let your Mac-owning friends boast all they want about the blinding speeds of Apple's new M-series chips, because who needs fast performance when you have freedom of choice? That's one of the benefits of buying a PC—or at least, it's supposed to be.
It turns out Microsoft might have been restricting the hardware powering certain Windows 11 laptops. According to XDA Developers, ARM-based Windows devices have only been powered by one brand of processor because of an exclusive deal between Microsoft and Qualcomm.
Want Windows on ARM laptop without a Qualcomm chip? Sorry, it doesn't exist. At least, not yet. Multiple people familiar with the deal told XDA that the agreement between these tech giants is "set to expire soon," but a specific timeline was not given.
[...] That certainly isn't due to a lack of trying. Microsoft announced Windows on ARM in 2016 with the ability to run 32-bit, x86 apps via an emulator. A few years later, the company launched the Surface Pro X, an ARM-based version of its Surface Pro tablets running on a custom version of the Snapdragon 8cx SoC. It was critically panned for being overpriced and underpowered, along with software compatibility issues. Microsoft addressed that last issue recently by bringing 64-bit, x84 emulation to Windows 11 (but abandoned plans to do so for Windows 10).
The influence of aspirin on heart failure is controversial. This study aimed to evaluate its relationship with heart failure incidence in people with and without heart disease and assess whether using the drug is related to a new heart failure diagnosis in those at risk.
The analysis included 30,827 individuals at risk for developing heart failure who were enrolled from Western Europe and the US into the HOMAGE study. "At risk" was defined as one or more of the following: smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Participants were aged 40 years and above and free of heart failure at baseline. Aspirin use was recorded at enrolment and participants were classified as users or non-users. Participants were followed up for the first incidence of fatal or non-fatal heart failure requiring hospitalization.
The average age of participants was 67 years and 34% were women. At baseline, a total of 7,698 participants (25%) were taking aspirin. During the 5.3-year follow-up, 1,330 participants developed heart failure.
The investigators assessed the association between aspirin use and incident heart failure after adjusting for sex, age, body mass index, smoking, alcohol use, blood pressure, heart rate, blood cholesterol, creatinine, hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and treatment with renin-angiotensin-aldosterone-system inhibitors, calcium channel blockers, diuretics, beta-blockers, and lipid-lowering drugs. Taking aspirin was independently associated with a 26% raised risk of a new heart failure diagnosis.
Blerim Mujaj, Zhen-Yu Zhang, Wen-Yi Yang, et al. Aspirin use is associated with increased risk for incident heart failure: a patient‐level pooled analysis [open], ESC Heart Failure (DOI: 10.1002/ehf2.13688)
A team of University of Arizona researchers has developed an ultra-thin wireless device that grows to the surface of bone and could someday help physicians monitor bone health and healing over long periods. The devices, called osseosurface electronics, are described in a paper published Thursday in Nature Communications.
[...] The outer layers of bones shed and renew just like the outer layers of skin. So, if a traditional adhesive was used to attach something to the bone, it would fall off after just a few months. To address this challenge, study co-author and BIO5 Institute member John Szivek -- a professor of orthopedic surgery and biomedical engineering -- developed an adhesive that contains calcium particles with an atomic structure similar to bone cells, which is used as to secure osseosurface electronics to the bone.
It's not for that kind of bone.
Cai, Le, Burton, Alex, Gonzales, David A., et al. Osseosurface electronics—thin, wireless, battery-free and multimodal musculoskeletal biointerfaces [open], Nature Communications (DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-27003-2)
Those seven threads (technically, they're back-to-back, high-voltage, direct-current connections) join America's Eastern and Western interconnections and have 1,320 megawatts of electric-power handling capacity. (The seam separating the grids runs, roughly, from eastern Montana, down the western borders of South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas and along the western edges of the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles. Texas, with its own grid, is mostly outside the two big grids.)
And they are big grids -- the eastern grid has a generating capacity of 700,000 megawatts and the western 250,000 megawatts. So, up to 1,320 megawatts isn't much electricity moving between the two.
But what if there were bigger connections between the two grids? What if more power moved back and forth? Could that move Iowa wind power, Southwest solar power and Eastern off-shore wind power from coast to coast? Could the West help the East meet its peak demand, and vice versa? Would bigger connections boost grid reliability, resilience and adaptability? Would the benefits exceed the costs?
The short answer: Yes.
That's according to the Interconnections Seam Study, a two-year, $1.5 million study launched as part of a $220 million Grid Modernization Initiative announced in January 2016 by the U.S. Department of Energy.
[...] "The results show benefit-to-cost ratios that reach as high as 2.5, indicating significant value to increasing the transmission capacity between the interconnections under the cases considered, realized through sharing generation resources and flexibility across regions," says a summary of the latest paper.
"So, for every dollar invested, you get up to $2.50 back," said James McCalley, an Iowa State Anson Marston Distinguished Professor in Engineering, the Jack London Chair in Power Systems Engineering and a co-author of the papers.
How much would you have to invest? McCalley said it would take an estimated $50 billion to build what researchers are calling a "macrogrid" of major transmission lines that loop around the Midwest and West, with branches filling in the middle and connecting to Texas and the Southeast.
1.) Aaron Bloom, Josh Novacheck, Gregory L. Brinkman, et al. The Value of Increased HVDC Capacity Between Eastern and Western U.S. Grids: The Interconnections Seam Study, (DOI: 10.1109/TPWRS.2021.3115092)
2.) Armando L. Figueroa Acevedo, Ali Jahanbani-Ardakani, Hussam Nosair, et al. Design and Valuation of High-Capacity HVDC Macrogrid Transmission for the Continental US, (DOI: 10.1109/TPWRS.2020.2970865)