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September 8 2020 12th birthday, browsers, MS and packaging

Posted on September 12, 2020
( 9 minute read )

David S is still looking for a decent Android text editor. This query led on to a discussion of Android Firefox problems. Bernard, Darren, Brian, David, John and, later, Nick joined the discussion.

Brian thought that Microsoft had never had an original idea and John commented that MS-DOS had been a copy of CP/M2.2 for which Digital Research threatened to sue Microsoft and IBM stepped in to save the PC after which IBM repackaged a version of DR-DOS as PC-DOS rather than using MS-DOS on its PCs. Windows had been developed after a couple of programmers showed Bill Gates how he could use the hooks for TSR programs to enable windows — which was why it would originally only run on top of MS-DOS.

John did a 12th birthday presentation covering the previous twelve months.

Brian commented that John’s computer seemed to be behaving and John said it appeared to have been a local problem. He was using chromium which was the only browser which seemed to support conferencing software properly though, since the earlier upgrade of Zoom, Zoom no longer worked in chromium — it kept asking for xdg-open and, even when xdg-open was configured for chromium, it still would not load. There is no desktop for Zoom in openSUSE as it is rpm based; so John now uses the Zoom app.

Brian is using Brave which David pointed out had been involved in a number of controversies about redirecting money and links. John said that, though he also uses Firefox for some things, he mostly used Falkon which also uses the chromium core.

Brian commented that it was a bit like the old days when you had to have a browser compatible with IE6; now you have to have one compatible with Chrome.

He went on to say that he had been involved in setting up a computer for someone and, though they said they mostly did things using a browser, in fact they did other things and he had to work out exactly what they did to set the computer up.

There was then a discussion about searching for apps on Android and in Argos where, even if you enter the exact term in the search bar, it does not bring up the item. One way round is to search on the site URL [one way to do this in Chrome is explained in this Searching the website page].

John asked Nick if he had any experience of Apache Guacamole and Nick commented that its key limitation was relying of SSH which could be flaky on poor connections; mosh would be better in these circumstances.

Brian noted that in the latest Windows update the ssh client is installed by default. This led into a discussion of why Microsoft wanted code in the Linux kernel to link to the GPU rather than using openGL. The kernel is for general code, not specific. It was noted that Windows System for Linux 2 is effectively a virtual machine running in Hyper-V and that Microsoft are developing a Docker version for WSL. John commented that Microsoft only really makes any money from Azure — and Office 365, added Nick.

Nick mentioned that, though they mostly have RedHat and Centos at work, he runs Linux Mint Debian edition which he finds usefully agnostic when using other distros.

This was followed by a discussion of Snap which Ubuntu are trying to focus on though in Linux Mint Snap is not enabled by default; one problem is that Ubuntu does not make it clear when you are installing a Snap version.

Nick commented that Flatpack is more agnostic and has a greater focus on user installation; there is no consensus among AppImage, Snap and Flatpack — each have a different focus.

Each in effect are containers; whereas Docker containers serve the outside world and guarantee that nothing malicious can be done, Flatpack only serves the desktop while Snap can serve desktop and server. Snap uses AppArmor to secure itself whereas Flatpack uses Linux Containers (LXC).

It was noted that Steam, which runs as a container, is planning to use containers to segregate the games because it is easier to package and deploy the games in this way as all the dependencies are covered and antique filepaths in older games can easily be simulated.

Nick said that, at the university, they use Singularity which provides containers for high performance computing; though it needs to be installed by an admin, it can be run by a user. Though it is designed to run applications, you can also run Docker containers; for example, he had wanted to run a Wolfram program with Ubuntu dependencies and had managed to get an Ubuntu image for Singularity in order to run it.

He noted that high performance computing is very focused on open source and a very open community.

John commented that, because SUSE and RedHat use live kernel patching, they may remain committed to their current approaches and Nick commented that, because of the lifetimes of enterprise versions, they would have to plan a very long time ahead to move to a different way of packaging software.

Nick recalled having a disk and huge manual of SUSE 6 and John explained that, after originally offering a free personal edition some months after the enterprise edition, in 2006 SUSE had started a parallel free version, openSUSE, which over time had drifted away from the enterprise version but that there was now a definite push to bring them together. Currently about a third of the code is shared between SUSE and openSUSE and the aim is to get that up to around two thirds.

The meeting then developed into a wide ranging discussion of the implications of the Covid-19 pandemic in the course of which Nick reported that John McLear is fitting an electric engine to a Peugeot 205 convertible; the electronics exists but he needs to make the brackets in order to fit the engine in.

Brian commented that he would have bought an electric car had it not been that it cost twice what he eventually got. He also added that he had found some additional connections in the Sonoff which he had demonstrated at the July meeting which would enable him to connect some sensors and link them to Home assistant which he had mentioned in May.