Open-source News

Canonical Preparing Updated Ubuntu Font For Ubuntu 23.04

Phoronix - Wed, 03/22/2023 - 20:08
Canonical is preparing to ship an updated set of Ubuntu Font files for the Ubuntu 23.04 "Lunar Lobster" release but is hoping to see more user testing ahead of the official release next month...

Linux 6.2 Kernel Begins Rolling Out For Ubuntu 23.04

Phoronix - Wed, 03/22/2023 - 19:37
Canonical has been preparing to ship a Linux 6.2 based kernel for Ubuntu 23.04 and now it's in the process of rolling out over the coming days...

AMD Adds Basic RPC Mechanism To LLVM libc For GPUs

Phoronix - Wed, 03/22/2023 - 18:19
AMD has upstreamed a basic RPC (remote procedure call) mechanism for GPU use to LLVM's libc and wired it up for AMDGPU use...

Intel, RADV & NVIDIA Jump On Supporting Vulkan's New VK_KHR_map_memory2

Phoronix - Wed, 03/22/2023 - 15:00
Introduced last week with the Vulkan 1.3.244 spec update was a new extension, VK_KHR_map_memory2, which is seeing fast support from the open-source Intel "ANV" and Mesa Radeon "RADV" drivers as well as NVIDIA's newest Vulkan driver beta...

8 steps to refurbish an old computer with Linux - Wed, 03/22/2023 - 15:00
8 steps to refurbish an old computer with Linux howtech Wed, 03/22/2023 - 03:00

We live in a remarkable era. It wasn't so long ago we were all chained to the "upgrade treadmill," forced to buy expensive new personal computers every few years.

Today, with the benefit of open source software, you can break out of that cycle. One way is to refurbish old computers and keep them in service. This article tells you how.

1. Grab an old PC

Maybe you have an old computer lying unused in the basement or garage. Why not put it to use?

Or you can get an old machine from a friend, family member, or Craigslist ad. Many electronics recycling centers will let you poke around and take a discarded machine if it fits your fancy. Be sure to grab more than one if you can, as you may need parts from a couple abandoned PCs to build one good one.

Look at the stickers on the front of the machines to make sure you're selecting good refurbishing candidates. Items with Window 7 and 8 logos run Linux quite well. Extended support ended for 8.1 this January, so I'm seeing a lot of those getting dumped.

Many of these Windows computers offer perfectly good hardware. They're only being trashed due to planned obsolescence because they can't run Windows 11. They run open source software just fine.

2. Identify and clean everything

Before you open up your "new" machine to see what you've got, be sure to ground yourself by touching something metal. Even a shock so slight you don't feel it can destroy delicate circuitry.

You'll instantly see if any parts are missing. Many people take out their disks or sometimes the memory before recycling a computer. You'll either have to acquire more than a single box to cover this, or you'll need to buy a part or two to make it whole.

Before proceeding further, it's important to give the machine a thorough cleaning. Pay special attention to the CPU complex, the fans, and all surfaces. Remember that you can't rub electronics without risking damage, so use compressed air for cleaning.

3. Ensure all hardware works

You'll want to verify that all hardware works prior to installing any software. Don't skimp on the testing! It's a huge waste of your time if you find out, for example, that your computer has a transient memory error at a later time because you ran only a short ram test before going to next steps. I find it convenient to run time-consuming tests overnight.

Most computers have hardware-specific diagnostics built in. You usually access these either through the boot-time UEFI/BIOS panels or by pressing a PF key while booting. If your machine doesn't include testing tools, try Ultimate Boot Disk, which provides tons of useful testing utilities.

Be sure you test all components thoroughly:

  1. Memory
  2. Disk
  3. CPU and Motherboard
  4. Peripherals (USB ports, sound, microphone, keyboard, display, fans, etc)

If you find problems, download my free Quick Guide to Fixing Hardware. That plus some searching online enables you to fix just about anything.

4. Prepare the disk

You've assessed your hardware and have gotten it into good working order. If your computer came with a hard disk drive (HDD), the next step is to ready that for use.

You need to completely wipe the disk because it could contain illegally obtained movies, music, or software. To thoroughly wipe an HDD, run a tool like DBAN. After running that, you can rest assured the disk is completely clean.

If you have a solid state disk (SSD), the situation is a bit trickier. Disk-wipe programs designed to cleanse hard disks don't work with SSDs. You need a specialized secure erase program for an SSD.

Some computers come with an secure erase utility in their UEFI/BIOS. All you have to do is access the boot configuration panels to run it.

The other option is the website of the disk manufacturer. Many offer free downloads for secure erase utilities for their SSDs.

Unfortunately, some vendors don't provide a secure erase utility for some of their consumer drives, while others supply only a Windows executable. For an SSD, Parted Magic's secure erase function is the best option.

5. Booting, data storage, and backups

Your disk strategy for your refurbished computer must address three needs: booting, data storage, and backups.

A few years ago, if your refurbishing candidate contained a disk, it was always a hard drive. You'd wipe it with DBAN, then install your favorite Linux distribution, and use it as both your boot and storage device. Problem solved.

Today's technology offers better options. These eliminate the slow hard disk access that was previously one of the downsides of using older equipment.

One option is to buy one of the new low-end SSDs that have become available. These now offer the SATA and external USB interfaces that work with mature computers.

Prices have plummeted. I recently bought a 480 gig SSD/SATA drive for $25. That's so inexpensive that, even if your old computer came with a hard drive included, you might prefer to buy a new SSD anyway. It boots and accesses data so much faster.

The lightweight 2.5" SSDs also solve the mounting dilemmas one sometimes faced with old desktops. With a single screw you can attach them almost anywhere. No more messing with rails, cages, and all the other goofy proprietary parts companies used to mount their heavy 3.5" hard drives.

An alternative to an SSD is to boot off a USB memory stick. Thumb drives now offer enough space to host any operating system you prefer, while leaving some storage space for your data. Beyond speed, you gain flexibility by keeping your system on a portable device.

So consider installing your operating system to a fast SSD or USB and booting and running it from that.

What about other drives? I like to use any hard drive that came with the computer as a backup disk for my boot SSD. Or employ it as mass storage.

I usually remove the optical drives you find in old desktops. Since USB sticks are faster and hold more data, few people use them anymore. Most now stream their films, music, and software programs instead of collecting them on optical media.

Removing the optical drive frees up an extra set of disk connectors. It also opens up lots of space in the cabinet and improves air flow. This can make a big difference if you're dealing with small footprint desktops with slimline or mini-tower cases.

Finally, take a few minutes to decide on your backup strategy. You'll need to back up two separate things: your data and the operating system.

Will you back up to a second drive inside the PC, a detachable storage device, or cloud services? Your decision helps determine whether you'll need a second disk in your refurbished computer.

More Linux resources Linux commands cheat sheet Advanced Linux commands cheat sheet Free online course: RHEL technical overview Linux networking cheat sheet SELinux cheat sheet Linux common commands cheat sheet What are Linux containers? Our latest Linux articles 6. Select and install software

Different people have different needs that drive their software selection. Here are some general guidelines.

If your computer has an Intel i-series processor and at least 4 GB of memory, it can comfortably run nearly any Linux distribution with any desktop environment (DE).

With between two and four gigabytes of memory, install a Linux with a lightweight interface. This is because high-end display graphics is a big consumer of memory resources. I've found that Linux distros with a DE like XFCE, LXDE, and LXQt work well.

If you only have a gigabyte of memory, go for an "ultra-light" Linux distribution. This should probably also be your choice if you have an old dual-core CPU or equivalent.

I've used both Puppy Linux and AntiX with great results on such minimal hardware. Both employ lightweight windows managers for their user interface instead of full desktop environments. And both come bundled with apps selected specifically to minimize resource use.

7. Browse the web efficiently

Web pages have grown dramatically in the past five years. Over half the computer resource many popular websites require is now consumed by advertisements and trackers. So when web surfing, block all those ads and trackers. If you can off-load ad blocking from your browser to your VPN, that's ideal. And don't let those auto-run videos run without your explicit permission.

Look around to see what browser works best for your equipment. Some are designed with a multi-threading philosophy, which is great if your PC can support it. Others try to minimize overall resource usage. Many people aren't aware that there are quite a few capable yet minimalist Linux browsers available. In the end, pick the browser that best matches both your equipment and your web surfing style.

8. Have fun

Whether you want to make use of an old computer sitting in your basement, help the environment by extending the computer life cycle, or just find a free computer, refurbishing is a worthy goal.

Anyone can succeed at this. Beyond investing your time, the cost is minimal. You're sure to learn a bit while having fun along the way. Please share your own refurbishing tips with everyone in the comments section.

A step-by-step guide to refurbishing an old computer to keep it in service.

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Why your open source project needs a content strategy - Wed, 03/22/2023 - 15:00
Why your open source project needs a content strategy emilyo Wed, 03/22/2023 - 03:00

If you search for content strategy in your favorite search engine, I bet that you find that it is a term more strongly associated with marketing content than with technical content. However, a technical content strategy is a powerful way to align stakeholders around content goals for your open source project. In this article, I explore the benefits of technical content strategy and how having one can improve the user and contributor experience of your community projects.

When developing a content strategy, you should consider your goals. The goals differ depending on the user. For the marketing team, the goal of content strategy is to attract and connect with existing and potential customers by using content. Marketing content strategists aim to engage customers and develop relationships with the brand.

The goal of technical content strategists is to guide users with technical content that helps them achieve their goals. It should provide them with just enough information to successfully complete their task.

Creating a content strategy

So how do you create a content strategy that helps you achieve your goal? You can do this by having someone on your project take the role of content strategist. Their task is to document what user content is created, where it is published, how users can find it, and how it can be maintained, published, and retired. The content strategy should be available where contributors can find it easily.

Content types and publication locations

The first step to creating content is to get to know the project's audience. Identifying users is best done with all project stakeholders contributing, so there is a shared understanding of who the users are and what their goals are. A tip for open source content strategies is to consider your contributor personas as well as your end-user consumer personas.

A good content strategy is grounded in meeting the user's needs. The project's content should not tell users everything the content creator knows about something. The content should tell the user just enough to complete a task. When the personas are identified and documented, the strategist considers what types of content help these personas be successful. For example, can the user needs be met completely with microcopy in the user interface, or do they need more detailed documentation? Is the contributor onboarding workflow best demonstrated in a video or a blog with screenshots?

While considering what content types to create, the strategist also looks at where the content should be published so your personas can easily find it. The strategist needs to consider how content creators should progressively disclose information if it is not possible to keep the user in their context. For example, if the user is struggling to understand a log file, you can link them to more information on the project's documentation website.

The strategy should give guidance to help decisions about what types of content might best solve the user's problem. The content creator should be challenged to ask themselves what content type best meets the user's needs in the moment. Do they need a new documentation article on the website? Could the user friction point be avoided with a clear error or log message, a better UI label, or other content type? You should make clear that sometimes the answer to a problem isn't always to create more content.

Content reviews and retirement

Now that you have a strategy for what types of content you want and where to publish them, you need to consider governance. The first part of this process is to decide what types of reviews your content requires before publishing. For example, does it require a content plan review, subject matter expert review, editorial review, peer author reviews, or copy reviews. You should also decide how reviews and approvals are tracked.

The second aspect of governance is to decide on a schedule for retirement or archival of content. The strategist should document how content is reviewed for retirement in the future. You should decide if content needs to be retired annually or before every new version release. You should also consider if the content needs to be accessible in some format for users using older versions.

If you are creating a content strategy for an existing project, the chances are high that your project already has some content. As part of the creation process, the content strategist should audit this content, and consider if it is still current and useful. If it is out of date, it should be retired or archived.

A content strategy is beneficial for everyone

Now that you have a content strategy for your project, you should see how it benefits your users, contributors, and your project as a whole.

Project end users

At the heart of the content strategy is the audience. The strategy is centered on the personas interacting with the project. It considers how you can provide them with easily findable information in a consumable format that helps them complete their goals. End users benefit from a content experience that is built around their needs. It should also be self-service so they can solve problems independently.


Content consumers, just like end users, benefit from self-service content. New contributors to the project benefit from content designed to onboard them to the project quickly and with ease. The experienced contributor persona gets content that helps them learn about new features of the project. They can also get help with more technically challenging areas. Contributor personas benefit from having accessible reference information. This information can describe the interfaces and features that are available to them to use, build on, and use to interact with the product or service.

The contributors to your project are also the people creating the content that your users consume. Content strategy can help them to understand and feel empathy for user personas, their goals, and use cases. Giving contributors a common understanding of the user's content needs and the types of content that satisfies them supports the creation of a consistent content experience.

Creating a strategy helps all content creators easily understand and align with the content vision. It keeps them focused on creating high-value content that reduces user friction.

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In an ideal world, your project would have all the resources needed to create the ideal content experience for your users as envisioned in your strategy. Unfortunately, we live in the real world with conflicting priorities and resource-constrained projects. The good news is that a user-centered content strategy gives the team a shared vision of the content experience. This strategy helps build a content foundation that the project can iterate with each release. It also helps the team make more informed decisions about content.

Your project also benefits from accessible documentation that better serves your users. Your content experience helps users recognize and realize the value of what you have created.

Implement a content strategy

Your content strategy should be a living artifact, guiding content decisions for the project. With this in mind, it should be revisited frequently and tweaked to reflect what is working or not working for your users. Keeping it current enhances your content experience and improves its effectiveness in guiding your users to success.

I believe that the practice of content strategy should be more widely adopted in the technical world as it is a powerful tool. It can help you create a better experience for all of your users. The experience should consider each user's needs, workflow, pain points, and emotions. This helps projects deliver the right content in the right place at the right time.

Explore the benefits of technical content strategy and how having one can improve the user and contributor experience of your open source community projects.

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PCMCIA/CardBus To USB Drivers On The Chopping Block With Linux 6.4

Phoronix - Wed, 03/22/2023 - 03:30
Earlier this month I wrote about Linux 6.4 planning to start removing old, unused, and unmaintained PCMCIA drivers. That began with the PCMCIA "char" drivers queued for removal in this upcoming kernel cycle and now joining them are removing two PCMCIA/CardBus to USB adapter drivers...