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Microsoft Dropped for Open Source Again in Germany: Hamburg Follows Munich's Lead

Slashdot.org - Sat, 06/06/2020 - 22:34
"The trend towards open-source software on government computers is gathering pace in Germany," reports ZDNet: In the latest development, during coalition negotiations in the city-state of Hamburg, politicians have declared they are ready to start moving its civil service software away from Microsoft and towards open-source alternatives. The declaration comes as part of a 200-page coalition agreement between the Social Democratic and Green parties, which will define how Hamburg is run for the next five years. It was presented on Tuesday but has yet to be signed off. The political parties in charge in Hamburg are the same as those in Munich, who recently agreed to revert back to that city's own open-source software. "With this decision, Hamburg joins a growing number of German states and municipalities that have already embarked on this path," said Peter Ganten, chairman of the Open Source Business Alliance, or OSBA, based in Stuttgart. He's referring to similar decisions made in Schleswig-Holstein, Thuringia, Bremen, Dortmund, and Munich. But, he adds: "The Hamburg decision is nevertheless remarkable because the city has always been more aggressively oriented towards Microsoft. "In the future we will aim to have more open-source software in digital management [systems] and we also want to develop our own code, which will remain open," the head of the local Hamburg-Mitte branch of the Greens, Farid Mueller, wrote on his website. Hamburg wants to be a leading example of digital independence, he stated. The article also adds a final interesting detail. A Microsoft spokeperson told a Germany technology site "that the company didn't see the desire for more open-source software as an attack on itself. Microsoft now also uses and develops a lot of open source and welcomed fair competition, the spokesperson added."

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New Java-Based Ransomware Targets Linux and Windows Systems

Slashdot.org - Sat, 06/06/2020 - 20:34
"A newly uncovered form of ransomware is going after Windows and Linux systems," reports ZDNet, "in what appears to be a targeted campaign." Named Tycoon after references in the code, this ransomware has been active since December 2019 and looks to be the work of cyber criminals who are highly selective in their targeting. The malware also uses an uncommon deployment technique that helps stay hidden on compromised networks. The main targets of Tycoon are organisations in the education and software industries. Tycoon has been uncovered and detailed by researchers at BlackBerry working with security analysts at KPMG. It's an unusual form of ransomware because it's written in Java, deployed as a trojanised Java Runtime Environment and is compiled in a Java image file (Jimage) to hide the malicious intentions... [T]he first stage of Tycoon ransomware attacks is less uncommon, with the initial intrusion coming via insecure internet-facing Remote Desktop Protocol servers. This is a common attack vector for malware campaigns and it often exploits servers with weak or previously compromised passwords. Once inside the network, the attackers maintain persistence by using Image File Execution Options (IFEO) injection settings that more often provide developers with the ability to debug software. The attackers also use privileges to disable anti-malware software using ProcessHacker in order to stop removal of their attack... After execution, the ransomware encrypts the network with files encrypted by Tycoon given extensions including .redrum, .grinch and .thanos — and the attackers demand a ransom in exchange for the decryption key. The attackers ask for payment in bitcoin and claim the price depends on how quickly the victim gets in touch via email. The fact the campaign is still ongoing suggests that those behind it are finding success extorting payments from victims.

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How SpaceX Uses Linux, Chromium, C++ and Open Source Libraries

Slashdot.org - Sat, 06/06/2020 - 18:34
Long-time Slashdot reader mrflash818 ("Linux geek since 1999") shared a ZDNet article pointing out that SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket has an onboard operating system that's "a stripped-down Linux running on three ordinary dual-core x86 processors. The flight software itself runs separately on each processor and is written in C/C++." Interestingly, back in 2018 a Slashdot headline asked whether C++ was "a really terrible language," and Elon Musk replied on Twitter with his single-word answer. "Yes." ZDNet points out that "ordinary" processors are often needed because of the multi-year development time for the spacecraft they power. Their article notes that the International Space Station actually runs on 1988-vintage 20 MHz Intel 80386SX CPUs: Of course, while those ancient chips work for the station's command and control multiplexer/demultiplexer, they're not much good for anything else. For ordinary day-in and day-out work, astronauts use HP ZBook 15s running Debian Linux, Scientific Linux, and Windows 10. The Linux systems act as remote terminals to the control multiplexer/demultiplexer, while the Windows systems are used for email, the web, and fun. Usually, though, chips that go into space aren't ordinary chips. CPUs that stay in space must be radiation-hardened. Otherwise, they tend to fail due to the effects of ionizing radiation and cosmic rays. These customized processors undergo years of design work and then more years of testing before they are certified for spaceflight. For instance, NASA expects its next-generation, general-purpose processor, an ARM A53 variant you may know from the Raspberry Pi 3, to be ready to run in 2021... The Dragon spacecraft's touchscreen interface is rendered using Chromium and JavaScript. If something were to go wrong with the interface, the astronauts have physical buttons to control the spacecraft. Today the SpaceX software team answered questions on Reddit, revealing they use Chromium with a reactive library developed in-house, and that "All of our on-board computers either run Linux (with the PREEMPT_RT patch) or are microcontrollers that run bare-metal code...." Later they emphasized that for the Falcon 9 and Dragon software, "All of the application-level autonomous software is written in C++. We generally use object oriented programming techniques from C++, although we like to keep things as simple as possible. "We do use open source libraries, primarily the standard C++ library, plus some others. However, we limit our use of open source libraries to only extremely high quality ones, and often will opt to develop our own libraries when it is feasible so that we can control the code quality ourselves."

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1962 Roger Ebert Article Unearthed On Distance Learning For Homebound Students

Slashdot.org - Sat, 06/06/2020 - 17:34
Long-time Slashdot reader theodp writes: In 2011, the late film critic Roger Ebert gave tech's movers-and-shakers a PLATO history lesson in his Remaking My Voice TED Talk. "When I heard the amazing talk by Salman Khan on Wednesday, about the Khan Academy website that teaches hundreds of subjects to students all over the world, I had a flashback," explained Ebert. "I was sent over to the computer lab of the University of Illinois to interview the creators of something called 'PLATO.' The initials stood for Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations. This was a computer-assisted instruction system. Which in those days ran on a computer named ILLIAC. The programmers said it could assist students in their learning...." Ebert probably would have been surprised to see how the COVID-19 pandemic caught U.S. schools flat-footed in 2020. In a never-before-published chapter that didn't make it into his book The Friendly Orange Glow: The Untold Story of the PLATO System and the Dawn of Cyberculture, author Brian Dear reveals that Ebert reported on PLATO's potential to deliver online learning to homebound students in a 1962 article he wrote for the News-Gazette while still in high school. Ebert's Jan. 6, 1962 story on PLATO began: "For no more than the price of a good television set, homebound handicapped children may soon be able to get an education equal to those offered in schools. [...] Other predicted uses for the unique teaching system include [...] an education system which allows the student to set his own pace, instead of forcing him to 'stay with the class.'..." Dear points out that the PLATO project launched the first week of June 1960, more than sixteen years before Salman Khan was even born.

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