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Article from Issue 242/2021
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In the news: Dell to Enable Privacy Controls for Linux Hardware; Linux Mint Unveils New Packages; Pop!_OS 20.10 Now Supports DEB822 Format; Ubuntu 20.10 with Raspberry Pi Support; SaltStack Acquisition Brings More Automation to VMware; and New Storage Model Could Replace POSIX.

Dell to Enable Privacy Controls for Linux Hardware

Dell has completely embraced the Linux community. With one of the finest Linux-based laptops on the market (the XPS Developer Edition), Dell is definitely no stranger to open source and the needs of those who use it. Case in point, many Linux users are quite savvy in the realms of privacy and security. With most modern laptops equipped with webcams and microphones, which can be used (either by accident or via nefarious means) in less-than-desirable ways, it has become crucial for many users to have control over those features.

To that end, Dell has offered up code to the Linux kernel for the Dell privacy drivers. What this feature will do is allow users (via keyboard shortcuts) to disable the built-in microphone and/or webcam on supported devices. The applicable shortcuts will be Ctrl+F4 for the microphone and Ctrl+F9 for the webcam.

The Dell privacy drivers will go a long way to prevent malicious (or accidental) usage, but users will have to wait until 2021 for the new feature to find its way into Dell hardware.

It should also be noted that, tucked away in the code, there is mention of PRIVACY_SCREEN_STATUS, which could extend the privacy driver functionality to horizontal and vertical viewing angles of the screen.

For more information about Dell privacy drivers, check out the kernel.org entry (https://lore.kernel.org/lkml/20201103125542.8572-1-Perry_Yuan@Dell.com/).

Linux Mint Unveils New Packages

For those who prefer their Linux a bit mintier, but aren't terribly keen on everything installed via Snap, the developers of Linux Mint have announced they'll be bringing an official Chromium package to the next release of the distribution (20.1, aka Ulyssa). Unlike some Ubuntu-based distributions, Linux Mint users will be able to install Chromium from the traditional Apt repositories, instead of having to go with the Snap package (which is blocked by default). That installation is as simple as sudo apt-get install chromium -y.

This decision wasn't just made because of Snap. According to the Linux developers, this was about release delays. To that, their official take is, "We noticed significant delays between official releases and the versions available in almost all Linux distributions. For this reason we set up our own packaging and we're building directly from upstream."

Chromium isn't the only package getting attention in the upcoming release. The Linux Mint developers have also created an M3U IPTV player, called the Hypnotix IPTV player. This new media player will connect with FreeIPTV to stream a variety of television shows. Hypnotix IPTV player is very much in the developmental stage, but the prototype can be downloaded and installed already (https://linuxmint.com/tmp/blog/3978/hypnotix_1.0.0_all.deb).

For more information about the development of Linux Mint 20.1, check out the official announcement (https://blog.linuxmint.com/?p=3969).

Pop!_OS 20.10 Now Supports DEB822 Format

Most users of Debian-based distributions are familiar with the single line Apt repository format that includes all of the information for a repository. With the new DEB822 format, those single lines are converted to multi-line entries, which allow more flexibility and extensibility over the standard for Debian software repositories.

In fact, the single-line format standard is planned for depreciation, so most distributions will eventually convert over. For Pop!_OS users, that time is now. Pop!_OS is the Linux distribution created by System76 as both a developer and general usage desktop operating system. Up until 20.10, Pop!_OS defaulted to the single-line style of repository entries. Now, instead of the /etc/apt/sources.list file, you'll find those repository entries in /etc/apt/sources.list.d/system.sources. As well, instead of a number of entries, (at least as of the initial release) you'll find only one in that file, which follows the new DEB822 format of:

  • URIs – repository address
  • Suites – various release-related repositories (such as groovy, groovy-security, groovy-updates, and groovy-backports)
  • Components – main and other repositories (such as universe and multiverse)

The idea behind DEB822 is that it should make it easier for users, developers, and even machines to create, extend, and modify Apt entries, especially if a larger number of sources and/or options are involved.

Although not all repositories work with the new format yet, developers are being encouraged to switch to the new multi-line style.

For more information on what's new with Pop!_OS 20.10, check out the official System76 blog (https://blog.system76.com/).

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