Web dev in DC http://ross.karchner.com
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One Year of The Omni Show

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It just popped in my head to check today — and, sure enough, I’ve been doing The Omni Show podcast for just over a year now.

There are a bunch of reasons why I like doing it. The main reason is that it’s fun to show the personalities of the people who work at Omni — and the personality of the company — to the outside world.

It’s also fun as a way for co-workers to get to know each other a little better. We’re showing our personality to ourselves.

I also like it as documentation. This is a special time — our industry is still so young — and so I like it in the same way I liked doing The Record with Chris Parrish. This history will all be lost unless we record it.

And recording this history means not just talking to the usual suspects, the same people you hear every week. It means talking to people who’ve never been on podcasts before, but who all have stories to tell. This is a personal challenge — it takes extra work to prepare for someone different every episode — but it’s so satisfying. I love it.

PS For the curious: last April I wrote, on The Omni Blog, How We Do the Omni Show.

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rosskarchner
8 days ago
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The recent episode on "Omnifocus for the Web" was REALLY interesting
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Thoughts on IBM’s acquisition of Red Hat

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There’s been quite a stir in our communities following the announcement that IBM is acquiring Red Hat. As I considered the announcement, one part of the email to employees by Jim Whitehurst posted on the Red Hat blog really struck me:

I appreciate that everyone will experience a range of emotions as a result of this news. Excited, anxious, surprised, fear of the unknown, including new challenges and working relationships - these are all ways I would describe my emotions. What I know is that we will continue to focus on growing our culture as part of a new organization. We will continue to focus on the success of our customers. We will continue to nurture our relationships with partners. Collaboration, transparency, participation, and meritocracy - these values make us Red Hat and they are not changing. In fact, I hope we will help bring this culture across all of IBM.

In addition to the normal anxiety, surprise and fear experienced by employees of companies in the wake of an announcement of a merger, takeover or ordinary reorganization, this transaction will also reverberate through the community outside of the company. Because of this, I think it’s a good time to remind everyone of the ways we can protect ourselves now and in the future from these kinds of uncertainties related to changes in ownership, structure or motivations of corporate players in free and open source software.

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rosskarchner
18 days ago
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Red Hat takes over IBM

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So IBM is buying Red Hat (home of the largest Enterprise Linux distribution) for $34 billion and readers want to know what I think of the deal. Well, if I made a list of acquisitions and things to do to save IBM, buying Red Hat would have been very close to the top of that list.  They should have bought Red Hat 10 years ago when the stock market was in the gutter. 

Jumping the gun a bit, I have to say the bigger question is really which company’s culture will ultimately dominate? I’m hoping it’s Red Hat.

The deal is a good fit for many reasons explained below. And remember Red Hat is just down the road from IBM’s huge operation in Raleigh, NC.

Will Amazon, Google, and Microsoft now run out and buy SUSE, Ubuntu, Apache, etc?  Yes.

Will there be a mad rush to create new Linux distros? No. I think that boat has already sailed and further Linux branding won’t happen, at least not for traditional business reasons.

Oracle has to hate this deal. Oracle’s Linux (the kernel part) is based on Red Hat.  This will definitely cramp Oracle’s style.  Most cloud providers resell Red Hat software, so now IBM will be getting money on their business.  IBM could be in the position Microsoft has been for the last 30 years.  For every PC made Microsoft got money.  

Microsoft will hate this deal. Amazon will, too.

IBM’s core cloud technology and development stack has been seriously lagging the others, so Red Hat fills a huge void in IBM’s portfolio.

Here’s a question I haven’t heard being asked about this deal: Internally in IBM when one division uses another’s products, they pay for it including a profit margin.  Internal sales at other software companies generally aren’t handled this way, which originated with the consent decree of 1956.  IBM always took things to an extreme to give the right appearances (and boost earnings).  Will they keep doing this or start doing what other companies do? I’d say that depends on Red Hat.  

Looking forward, here is the key issue with this deal: Will IBM allow Red Hat to mostly operate independently … or will IBM do to them what they’ve done to so many other acquisitions and suck the life out of otherwise good companies?  Will IBM continue to allow Red Hat to do its development work?  Will Red Hat’s support team(s) be laid off and the work sent to IBM call centers in India?  Will IBM start increasing prices to help its earnings statements?  Or will IBM contribute big parts of its software portfolio for Red Hat to make open, improve, promote, etc?  IBM really doesn’t know how to manage and promote its good stuff.  This could be a big improvement for IBM.  If they don’t kill Red Hat first.

These big questions have yet to be answered, of course. Only time will tell. But we’ll shortly begin to see hints. What happens to Red Hat management, for example? There are those who think Red Hat will, in many ways, become the surviving corporate culture here — that is if Red Hat’s Jim Whitehurst gets Ginni Rometty’s IBM CEO job as part of the deal. That’s what I am predicting will happen. Ginni is overdue for retirement, this acquisition will not only qualify her for a huge retirement package, it will do so in a way that won’t be clearly successful or unsuccessful for years to come, so no clawbacks. And yet the market will (eventually) love it, IBM shares will soar, and Ginni will depart looking like a genius.

And maybe Ginni is a genius, but it sure took her long enough to show it.

In the end the C-suite of IBM may be finally admitting to themselves what you and I have known for several years — that their strategic imperatives are not doing as well as they promised.  They also know they’ve invested way too much in stock repurchases and way too little in the business.  So with this Red Hat deal they’ve basically bet the farm to get themselves back in the game.

With Whitehurst at the top of IBM, the company will not only have an outsider like Gerstner was, it will have its first CEO ever who won’t be coming with a sales background. This is very good, because IBM will have a technical leader finally running the show.

Let’s review:

Ginni Rometty is past the age where IBM likes to retire CEO’s, which is 60.

Jim Whitehurst is 51, the age when IBM likes to hire new CEO’s.

I don’t see Whitehurst moving to Armonk, I do see IBM moving to Raleigh.

I do see Whitehurst as CEO of IBM in six months or less.

The Red Hat team will expand their products into new areas. IBM executives will retire in droves because they can’t compete and will resist learning something new.

IBM’s Distinguished Engineer Program and other paperwork-centric design engineering will soon be gone.  Training will go from collecting badges on “mentoring, training, IBM processes” to “do you know how to do something technical?”  Really technical like Red Hat, Cisco, Cloud, not paperwork processing or feel-good.

RedHat sales will explode with IBM’s big customers.  Now the 1,800 largest IBM customers will-have a solution outside of Microsoft that they can respect. IBM Cloud will finally have a fully functional easy-to-develop Cloud solution with Red Hat where IBM owns the solution and is not just a VAR. 

As I said, Microsoft will hate this deal, which is also bad news for Dell’s VMware and EMC divisions.

The deal should move IBM sales from its long obsession with profit or loss on gross revenues to a concentration on net new sales, killing the old Country Club sales force in the process. 

Younger IBM management and younger IBMers will change the culture dramatically, making it more competitive. No, make that finally competitive.

Look for a huge shuffle in organization structures, reporting, departments, experience, and the current seven or eight tiers of management to be replaced with three or four. 

Lots of old hands at IBM — the bulk of the current organization — will go.

Who knows, IBM might even become a cool place to work again. 

That’s if they don’t screw it up.








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rosskarchner
20 days ago
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Reproducible builds with Bitcoin, Tor and turtles

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Reproducible builds with Bitcoin, Tor and turtles
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rosskarchner
24 days ago
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Fedora Toolbox ready for testing!

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As many of you know we kicked of a ambitious goal to revamp the Linux desktop when we launched Fedora Workstation 4 years. We wanted to remove many of the barriers to adoption of Linux as a desktop and make it a better operating system for all, especially for developers.
To that effect we have been pushing a long range of initiatives over the last 4 years ago, ranging from providing a better input stack through libinput, a better display system through Wayland, a better audio and video subsystem through PipeWire, a better way of doing application packaging and dependency handling through Flatpak, a better application installation history through GNOME Software, actual firmware handling for Linux through Linux Vendor Firmware Service, better manageability through Fleet Commander, and Project Silverblue for reliable OS updates. We also had a lot of efforts done to improve general hardware handling, be that work on glvnd and friends for dealing with NVidia driver, the Bolt project for handling Thunderbolt devices better, HiDPI support in the desktop, better touch support in the desktop, improved laptop battery life, and ongoing work to improve state of fingerprint readers under Linux and to provide a flicker free boot experience.

One thing though that was clear to us was that as we where making all these changes to improve the ease of use and reliability of Linux as a desktop operating system we couldn’t make life worse for developers. Developers are the lifeblood of Fedora and Linux and thus we have had Debarshi Ray working on a project we call Fedora Toolbox. Fedora toolbox creates a seamless experience for developers when using an immutable OS like Silverblue, yet want to be able to install the wonderful world of software libraries and tools that makes Linux so powerful for developers. Fedora Toolbox is now ready for early adopters to start testing, so I recommend jumping over to Debarshi’s blog to read up on Fedora Toolbox.

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rosskarchner
25 days ago
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clunky name, but it seems like a pleasant way to work.
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Firefox 63 Lets Users Block Tracking Cookies

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As announced in August, Firefox is changing its approach to addressing tracking on the web. As part of that plan, we signaled our intent to prevent cross-site tracking for all Firefox users and made our initial prototype available for testing.

Starting with Firefox 63, all desktop versions of Firefox include an experimental cookie policy that blocks cookies and other site data from third-party tracking resources. This new policy provides protection against cross-site tracking while minimizing site breakage associated with traditional cookie blocking.

This policy is part of Enhanced Tracking Protection, a new feature aimed at protecting users from cross-site tracking. More specifically, it prevents trackers from following users around from site to site and collecting information about their browsing habits.

We aim to bring these protections to all users by default in Firefox 65. Until then, you can opt-in to the policy by following the steps detailed at the end of this post.

What does this policy block?

The newly developed policy blocks storage access for domains that have been classified as trackers. For classification, Firefox relies on the Tracking Protection list maintained by Disconnect. Domains classified as trackers are not able to access or set cookies, local storage, and other site data when loaded in a third-party context. Additionally, trackers are blocked from accessing other APIs that allow them to communicate cross-site, such as the Broadcast Channel API. These measures prevent trackers from being able to use cross-site identifiers stored in Firefox to link browsing activity across different sites.

Our documentation on MDN provides significantly more technical detail on the policy, including: how domains are matched against the Tracking Protection list, how Firefox blocks storage access for tracking domains, and the types of third-party storage access that are currently blocked.

Does this policy break websites?

Third-party cookie blocking does have the potential to break websites, particularly those which integrate third-party content. For this reason, we’ve added heuristics to Firefox to automatically grant time-limited storage access under certain conditions. We are also working to support a more structured way for embedded cross-origin content to request storage access. In both cases, Firefox grants access on a site-by-site basis, and only provides access to embedded content that receives user interaction.

More structured access will be available through the Storage Access API, of which an initial implementation is available in Firefox Nightly (and soon Beta and Developer Edition) for testing. This API allows domains classified as trackers to explicitly request storage access when loaded in a third-party context. The Storage Access API is also implemented in Safari and is a proposed addition to the HTML specification. We welcome developer feedback, particularly around use cases that can not be addressed with this API.

How can I test my website?

We welcome testing by both users and site owners as we continue to develop new storage access restrictions. Take the following steps to enable this storage access policy in Firefox:

  1. Open Preferences
  2. On the left-hand menu, click on Privacy & Security
  3. Under Content Blocking, click the checkbox next to “Third-Party Cookies”
  4. Select “Trackers (recommended)”

Preference panel screenshot showing how to enable third-party cookies.

If you find a broken site, you can tell us about it directly in Firefox with the “Report a Problem” button in the Control Center. If you encounter problems in the implementation of this policy, please let us know on Bugzilla. Site owners may also be interested in our debugging tools.

Does this mean Firefox will no longer support the Tracking Protection feature?

Tracking Protection is still available to users who want to opt-in to block all tracking loads; with our updated UI, this feature can be enabled by setting “All Detected Trackers” to “Always”. All tracking loads will continue to be blocked by default in Private Browsing windows.

Expect to hear more from us in the coming months as we continue to strengthen Firefox’s default-on tracking protection.

The post Firefox 63 Lets Users Block Tracking Cookies appeared first on Mozilla Security Blog.

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rosskarchner
26 days ago
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