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Facebook Threatens To Pull Out of Europe If It Doesn't Get Its Way

Slashdot - Hën, 21/09/2020 - 5:21md
Facebook has threatened to pack up its toys and go home if European regulators don't back down and let the social network get its own way. From a report: In a court filing in Dublin, Facebook said that a decision by Ireland's Data Protection Commission (DPC) would force the company to pull up stakes and leave the 410 million people who use Facebook and photo-sharing service Instagram in the lurch. If the decision is upheld, "it is not clear to [Facebook] how, in those circumstances, it could continue to provide the Facebook and Instagram services in the EU," Yvonne Cunnane, who is Facebook Ireland's head of data protection and associate general counsel, wrote in a sworn affidavit. The decision Facebook's referring to is a preliminary order handed down last month to stop the transfer of data about European customers to servers in the U.S., over concerns about U.S. government surveillance of the data. Facebook hit back by filing a lawsuit challenging the Irish DPC's ban, and in a sworn affidavit filed this week, the company leveled some very serious accusations about the Irish data-protection commissioner, including a lack of fairness and apparent bias in singling out Facebook. Cunnane points out that Facebook was given only three weeks to respond to the decision, a period that is "manifestly inadequate," adding that Facebook wasn't contacted about the inquiry prior to judgment being handed down. She also raises concerns about the decision being made "solely" by Helen Dixon, Ireland's data protection commissioner.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

'Huang's Law Is the New Moore's Law'

Slashdot - Hën, 21/09/2020 - 4:40md
As chip makers have reached the limits of atomic-scale circuitry and the physics of electrons, Moore's law has slowed, and some say it's over. But a different law, potentially no less consequential for computing's next half century, has arisen. WSJ: I call it Huang's Law, after Nvidia chief executive and co-founder Jensen Huang. It describes how the silicon chips that power artificial intelligence more than double in performance every two years. While the increase can be attributed to both hardware and software, its steady progress makes it a unique enabler of everything from autonomous cars, trucks and ships to the face, voice and object recognition in our personal gadgets. Between November 2012 and this May, performance of Nvidia's chips increased 317 times for an important class of AI calculations, says Bill Dally, chief scientist and senior vice president of research at Nvidia. On average, in other words, the performance of these chips more than doubled every year, a rate of progress that makes Moore's Law pale in comparison. Nvidia's specialty has long been graphics processing units, or GPUs, which operate efficiently when there are many independent tasks to be done simultaneously. Central processing units, or CPUs, like the kind that Intel specializes in, are on the other hand much less efficient but better at executing a single, serial task very quickly. You can't chop up every computing process so that it can be efficiently handled by a GPU, but for the ones you can -- including many AI applications -- you can perform it many times as fast while expending the same power. Intel was a primary driver of Moore's Law, but it was hardly the only one. Perpetuating it required tens of thousands of engineers and billions of dollars in investment across hundreds of companies around the globe. Similarly, Nvidia isn't alone in driving Huang's Law -- and in fact its own type of AI processing might, in some applications, be losing its appeal. That's probably a major reason it has moved to acquire chip architect Arm Holdings this month, another company key to ongoing improvement in the speed of AI, for $40 billion.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Microsoft's Xbox Expands, Buying ZeniMax Media and Fallout Maker Bethesda For $7.5 Billion

Slashdot - Hën, 21/09/2020 - 4:00md
Microsoft's Xbox team significantly expanded its list of game development studios on Monday, announcing the purchase of ZeniMax Media for $7.5 billion in cash. From a report: The entertainment company owns several industry-leading game developers, including Bethesda Softworks, the maker of the post-apocalyptic Fallout games and the fantasy series the Elder Scrolls. It also owns id Software, known for its Doom, Rage and Wolfenstein shooting game franchises. The move grows the number of in-house Xbox game development studios to 23, up from 15 earlier, and giving it control of some of the game industry's most popular franchises. Microsoft also plans to run Bethesda as its own division, with leadership and structure intact. "As a proven game developer and publisher, Bethesda has seen success across every category of games, and together, we will further our ambition to empower the more than three billion gamers worldwide," Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in a statement.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple Urged to Stop Advertising to Minors

Slashdot - Hën, 21/09/2020 - 1:34md
The BBC reports: Tech firms have been urged to stop advertising to under-18s in an open letter signed by Members of Parliament, academics and children's-rights advocates. Behavioural advertising not only undermines privacy but puts "susceptible" youngsters under unfair marketing pressure, the letter says. It is addressed to Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft. In a separate move Google-owned YouTube is accused of unlawfully mining data from five million under-13s in the UK... "The fact that ad-tech companies hold 72 million data points on a child by the time they turn 13 shows the extent of disregard for these laws, and the extraordinary surveillance to which children are subjected," the letter reads.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

next-20200921: linux-next

Kernel Linux - Hën, 21/09/2020 - 11:21pd
Version:next-20200921 (linux-next) Released:2020-09-21

Google Returns to Using Humans (Instead of AI) to Moderate Content on YouTube

Slashdot - Hën, 21/09/2020 - 10:34pd
"Google is bringing back human moderators to oversee YouTube content, taking over from automated systems that were given more responsibilities at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic," reports Digital Trends: YouTube revealed in late August that in the three months prior, 11.4 million videos have been removed from the platform for violating its Community Guidelines. This is the highest number of videos taken down from YouTube over a three-month period since the service was launched in 2005, and it was attributed to the higher reliance on A.I. as the pandemic prevented human reviewers from going to work. YouTube admitted, however, that some of the videos would have been erroneously removed... Mashable reports: According to the Financial Times, YouTube reversed content moderation decisions on 160,000 videos. Usually, YouTube reverses its rulings on less than 25 percent of appeals; under AI moderation, half of the total number of appeals were successful... Now, the company is able to reassign some of that work back to humans who can make more nuanced decisions.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

From Climate Change to the Dangers of Smoking: How Powerful Interests 'Made Us Doubt Everything'

Slashdot - Hën, 21/09/2020 - 7:19pd
BBC News reports: In 1991, the trade body that represents electrical companies in the U.S., the Edison Electric Institute, created a campaign called the Information Council for the Environment which aimed to "Reposition global warming as theory (not fact)". Some details of the campaign were leaked to the New York Times. "They ran advertising campaigns designed to undermine public support, cherry picking the data to say, 'Well if the world is warming up, why is Kentucky getting colder?' They asked rhetorical questions designed to create confusion, to create doubt," argued Naomi Oreskes, professor of the history of science at Harvard University and co-author of Merchants of Doubt. But back in the 1990 there were many campaigns like this... Most of the organisations opposing or denying climate change science were right-wing think tanks, who tended to be passionately anti-regulation. These groups made convenient allies for the oil industry, as they would argue against action on climate change on ideological grounds. Jerry Taylor spent 23 years with the Cato Institute — one of those right wing think tanks — latterly as vice president. Before he left in 2014, he would regularly appear on TV and radio, insisting that the science of climate change was uncertain and there was no need to act. Now, he realises his arguments were based on a misinterpretation of the science, and he regrets the impact he's had on the debate. Harvard historian Naomi Oreskes discovered leading climate-change skeptics had also been prominent skeptics on the dangers of cigarette smoking. "That was a Eureka moment," Oreskes tells BBC News. "We realised this was not a scientific debate." Decades before the energy industry tried to undermine the case for climate change, tobacco companies had used the same techniques to challenge the emerging links between smoking and lung cancer in the 1950s... As a later document by tobacco company Brown and Williamson summarised the approach: "Doubt is our product, since it is the best means of competing with the 'body of fact' that exists in the minds of the general public." Naomi Oreskes says this understanding of the power of doubt is vital. "They realise they can't win this battle by making a false claim that sooner or later would be exposed. But if they can create doubt, that would be sufficient — because if people are confused about the issue, there's a good chance they'll just keep smoking...." Academics like David Michaels, author of The Triumph of Doubt, fear the use of uncertainty in the past to confuse the public and undermine science has contributed to a dangerous erosion of trust in facts and experts across the globe today, far beyond climate science or the dangers of tobacco. He cites public attitudes to modern issues like the safety of 5G, vaccinations — and coronavirus. "By cynically manipulating and distorting scientific evidence, the manufacturers of doubt have seeded in much of the public a cynicism about science, making it far more difficult to convince people that science provides useful — in some cases, vitally important — information. "There is no question that this distrust of science and scientists is making it more difficult to stem the coronavirus pandemic."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

With New Security and Free Internet Issues, What Did the TikTok Deal Really Achieve?

Slashdot - Hën, 21/09/2020 - 4:19pd
Though the U.S. government averted a shutdown of TikTok through a new Oracle/Walmart partnership, that leaves much bigger questions unresolved. The biggest issue may be that banning apps "defeats the original intent of the internet," argues the New York TImes. "And that was to create a global communications network, unrestrained by national borders." "The vision for a single, interconnected network around the globe is long gone," Jason Healey, a senior research scholar at Columbia University's School for International and Public Affairs and an expert on cyber conflict. "All we can do now is try to steer toward optimal fragmentation." But the Times also asks whether the TikTok agreement fails even at its original goal of protecting the app from foreign influence: The code and algorithms are the magic sauce that Beijing now says, citing its own national security concerns, may not be exported to to a foreign adversary... Microsoft's bid went further: It would have owned the source code and algorithms from the first day of the acquisition, and over the course of a year moved their development entirely to the United States, with engineers vetted for "insider threats." So far, at least, Oracle has not declared how it would handle that issue. Nor did President Trump in his announcement of the deal. Until they do, it will be impossible to know if Mr. Trump has achieved his objective: preventing Chinese engineers, perhaps under the influence of the state, from manipulating the code in ways that could censor, or manipulate, what American users see. Other questions also remain, including America's larger policy towards other apps like Telegram made by foreign countries. Even Amy Zegart, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and Stanford's Freeman-Spogli Institute, complains to the Times that "bashing TikTok is not a China strategy. China has a multi-prong strategy to win the tech race. It invests in American technology, steals intellectual property and now develops its own technology that is coming into the U.S... And yet we think we can counter this by banning an app. The forest is on fire, and we are spraying a garden hose on a bush." And another article in the Times argues that the TikTok agreement doesn't even eliminate Chinese ownership of the app: Under the initial terms, ByteDance still controls 80 percent of TikTok Global, two people with knowledge of the situation have said, though details may change. ByteDance's chief executive, Zhang Yiming, will also be on the company's board of directors, said a third person. And the government did not provide specifics about how the deal would answer its security concerns about TikTok... A news release published by Walmart on Saturday on its website — then edited later — captured the chaos. "This unique technology eliminates the risk of foreign governments spying on American users or trying to influence them with disinformation," the company said. "Ekejechb ecehggedkrrnikldebgtkjkddhfdenbhbkuk."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Could Open Source Licensing Stop Big Pharma Profiteering On Taxpayer-Funded Covid-19 Vaccines?

Slashdot - Hën, 21/09/2020 - 2:05pd
Two professors at the University of Massachusetts have co-authored a new essay explaining how open source licensing "could keep Big Pharma from making huge profits off taxpayer-funded research" in the international, multi-billion-dollar race for a Covid-19 vaccine: The invention of the "General Public License," sometimes referred to as a viral or reciprocal license, meant that should an improvement be made, the new software version automatically inherits the same license as its parent. We believe that in a time of a global pandemic, a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine should be licensed with General Public License-like properties... Fortunately, some pharmaceutical companies, national governments, nonprofits like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and international organizations like the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Initiatives — which supports vaccine development — are putting policies in place that embrace openness and sharing rather than intellectual property protection. Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Initiatives officials have stated that all of their funding agreements require that "appropriate vaccines are first available to populations when and where they are needed to end an outbreak or curtail an epidemic, regardless of ability to pay." That's an important start. However, when there is a safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine, the U.S. and other national governments need to create contractual agreements with firms that provide fair and reasonable funding to cover their costs or even some reasonable profit margin while still mandating the open sharing of the processes for vaccine production, quality assurance and rapid global distribution.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

5.9-rc6: mainline

Kernel Linux - Hën, 21/09/2020 - 1:33pd
Version:5.9-rc6 (mainline) Released:2020-09-20 Source:linux-5.9-rc6.tar.gz Patch:full (incremental)

Bill Gates vs. Steve Jobs: the Books They Recommended

Slashdot - Hën, 21/09/2020 - 12:52pd
Slashdot has featured "the 61 books Elon Musk has recommended on Twitter" as well as the 41 books Mark Zuckerberg recommended on Facebook. Both lists were compiled by a slick web site (with Amazon referrer codes) called "Most Recommended Books." But they've also created pages showing books recommended by over 400 other public figures — incuding Bill Gates and the late Steve Jobs — which provide surprisingly revealing glimpses into the minds of two very different men. Here's some of the highlights...

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Browser Extension uMatrix Ends Active Development

Slashdot - Dje, 20/09/2020 - 11:40md
Slashdot reader Hmmmmmm quotes Ghacks: Raymond Hill, known online as gorhill, has set the status of the uMatrix GitHub repository to archived; this means that it is read-only at the time and that no updates will become available. The uMatrix extension is available for several browsers including Firefox, Google Chrome, and most Firefox and Chromium-based browsers. It is a privacy and security extensions for advanced users that provides firewall-like capabilities when it is installed... Hill suggests that developers could fork the extension to continue development under a new name. There is also the chance that Hill might resume development in the future but there is no guarantee that this is going to happen. For now, uMatrix is no longer in active development.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Maybe CS Class Isn't the Best Way To Expose Most Kids To CS

Slashdot - Dje, 20/09/2020 - 10:42md
Long-time Slashdot reader theodp writes: "If we want all students to learn computer science (CS for All), we have to go to where the students are," writes University of Michigan Grand Valley State University CS Professor Mark Guzdial. "Unfortunately, that's not computer science class. In most US states, less than 5% of high school students take a course in computer science. "Programming is applicable and useful in many domains today, so one answer is to use programming in science, mathematics, social studies, and other non-CS classes. We take programming to where the students are, and hope to increase their interest and knowledge about CS." America's National Science Foundation (NSF) was intrigued enough by this idea to fund Creating Adoptable Computing Education Integrated into Social Studies Classes, a three-year project created by Guzdial and Grand Valley State University history professor Tamara Shreiner, a project which "aims to provide more students computing education by integrating programming activities into social studies classes and to use the computing to enhance students' data literacy." Along the same lines, the NSF has also greenlighted Northwestern University's CS professor Marcelo Worsley's Computational Thinking and Physical Computing in Physical Education for this fall, which will bring computer science to K-5 gym classes. While the tech giants have lobbied for billions in spending on "rigorous" K-12 CS courses, could it be that the best "CS class" for most K-12 students is no CS class?

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

America's Air Force Secretly Designed, Built, and Flew a Brand-New Fighter Jet

Slashdot - Dje, 20/09/2020 - 9:48md
"The U.S. Air Force revealed this week that it has secretly designed, built, and tested a new prototype fighter jet," reports Popular Mechanics: According to Defense News, the Air Force developed the new fighter in about a year — a staggeringly short amount of time by modern standards. The Air Force first developed a virtual version of the jet, and then proceeded to build and fly a full-sized prototype, complete with mission systems... It took the Air Force just one year to get to the point with the "Next Generation Air Dominance" (NGAD) fighter that it reached in 10 years with the F-35. The Air Force designed the NGAD to ensure the service's "air dominance" in future conflicts versus the fighters of potential adversaries. The new fighter, then, is almost certainly optimized for air-to-air combat. It's a safe bet the fighter uses off-the-shelf avionics, engines, and weapons borrowed from other aircraft, such as the F-35 and F/A-18E/F... If the Air Force and industry can design a new fighter in one year, it could come up with all sorts of cool new planes. This could encourage the development of more exotic, riskier designs that contractors would not otherwise want to devote a full decade to develop. The ability to fail — or succeed — faster will drive innovation in the world of fighter jets in ways not seen for a half century or more. "We are ready to go and build the next-generation aircraft in a way that has never happened before," says Will Roper, the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, in an interview with Defense News: Should the Air Force move to buy NGAD in the near term, it will be adding a challenger to the F-35 and F-15EX programs, potentially putting those programs at risk. And because the advanced manufacturing techniques that are critical for building NGAD were pioneered by the commercial sector, the program could open the door for new prime contractors for the aircraft to emerge — and perhaps give SpaceX founder Elon Musk a shot at designing an F-35 competitor. "I have to imagine there will be a lot of engineers — maybe famous ones with well-known household names with billions of dollars to invest — that will decide starting the world's greatest aircraft company to build the world's greatest aircraft with the Air Force is exactly the kind of inspiring thing they want to do as a hobby or even a main gig," Roper said.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Are Tesla's Data-Gathering Cars Secretly Improving Autopilot's Algorithms?

Slashdot - Dje, 20/09/2020 - 8:34md
"When the history of autonomous cars is written, the winner will be Tesla," speculates long-time technology pundit Robert Cringely. "Heck, I think they've already won." But his article includes a disclaimer that it's "based pretty much on logic, not knowledge, which is to say I might again be too frigging stupid to read, much less write." Tesla has more than a million data-gathering devices on the roads. We call them cars. Tesla cars have no LIDAR but they have eight cameras and RADAR. Every night all those cars wirelessly report their driving data back to Tesla. I would love to know how Tesla decided what to put in those reports. Given the limited bandwidth LTE connection involved, it can't be a complete data dump. They have to pick and choose what to report. And what does Tesla do with the reports? I think it comes down to algorithms, mapping, and exceptions. They are logically trying to improve their algorithms, improve their maps, but mainly — after having already parsed billions of miles of driving data — they are looking for exceptional events that are testing their algorithms in ways never seen before... Tesla has a dual processor system in their cars — two completely distinct computers. Why...? Because every night is an A-B test for Tesla — a test that is running on your car. One processor is driving the car (or following the driver's actions if Autopilot isn't being used, which is most of the time) with production software while the second processor is running beta software, simulating the drive, and noting discrepancies between the two software versions. Multiply this times a million cars per night. Whether Autopilot is used or not doesn't matter: the evolution of the software continues. And it's finished when the beta software stops improving and the outcome shows the only difference between human and Autopilot driving is that Autopilot does it better. Continue for another month or year or decade just to confirm your results, then announce that full autonomous mode is available. That is exactly where I believe Tesla has been heading for as long as those two-processor cars have been on the road. Tesla's autonomous driving software could be ready right now for all we know. Elon certainly hints at this from time to time in his tweets. And THAT's why I believe Tesla has already won the autonomous driving war, because they have real cars facing real exceptions that you won't find in a simulation, and their dual processor system knows what it knows. Yes, I reached out to Tesla about this last week. They still haven't replied. Again, Cringely wants that this is "based pretty much on logic, not knowledge, which is to say I might again be too frigging stupid to read, much less write."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

US Judge Blocks Attempt to Ban WeChat

Slashdot - Dje, 20/09/2020 - 7:34md
"The popular Chinese messaging and payments app WeChat looks like it might still be available in the U.S. beyond Sunday night, after all," reports the Street: U.S. Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler of San Francisco stopped the Trump administration from forcing Apple and Alphabet to take the Tencent Holdings' messaging app offline for downloading by late Sunday, according to a report from Reuters. The decision — which also blocks other restrictions imposed by the U.S. government on the app — follows the U.S. Commerce Department's move on Friday to virtually eliminate access to the application and impair its ability to function, in part by prohibiting companies from distributing or maintaining it and blocking financial transactions over the app in the U.S... The order also stated that the Commerce Department's orders "burden substantially more speech than is necessary to serve the government's significant interest in national security, especially given the lack of substitute channels for communication."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Chinese Intelligence Compiles 'Vast Database' About Millions Around the World

Slashdot - Dje, 20/09/2020 - 6:34md
Australia's national public broadcaster ABC reports: A Chinese company with links to Beijing's military and intelligence networks has been amassing a vast database of detailed personal information on thousands of Australians, including prominent and influential figures. A database of 2.4 million people, including more than 35,000 Australians, has been leaked from the Shenzhen company Zhenhua Data which is believed to be used by China's intelligence service, the Ministry of State Security. Zhenhua has the People's Liberation Army and the Chinese Communist Party among its main clients. Information collected includes dates of birth, addresses, marital status, along with photographs, political associations, relatives and social media IDs. It collates Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and even TikTok accounts, as well as news stories, criminal records and corporate misdemeanours. While much of the information has been "scraped," some profiles have information which appears to have been sourced from confidential bank records, job applications and psychological profiles. The company is believed to have sourced some of its information from the so-called "dark web". One intelligence analyst said the database was "Cambridge Analytica on steroids", referring to the trove of personal information sourced from Facebook profiles in the lead up to the 2016 US election campaign. But this data dump goes much further, suggesting a complex global operation using artificial intelligence to trawl publicly available data to create intricate profiles of individuals and organisations, potentially probing for compromise opportunities. Zhenhua Data's chief executive Wang Xuefeng, a former IBM employee, has used Chinese social media app WeChat to endorse waging "hybrid warfare" through manipulation of public opinion and "psychological warfare".... The database was leaked to a US academic, who worked with Canberra cyber security company Internet 2.0 and "was able to restore 10 per cent of the 2.4 million records for individuals... "Of the 250,000 records recovered, there are 52,000 on Americans, 35,000 Australians, 10,000 Indian, 9,700 British, 5,000 Canadians, 2,100 Indonesians, 1,400 Malaysia and 138 from Papua New Guinea."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

The Fridge: Call for Ubuntu Community Council nominations

Planet Ubuntu - Pre, 18/09/2020 - 9:32md

As you may have noticed, the Ubuntu Community Council has been vacant for a while. Happily, a decision has recently been made to repopulate it. Thus, this official announcement for nominations.

We will be filling all seven seats this term, with terms lasting two years. To be eligible, a nominee must be an Ubuntu Member. Ideally, they should have a vast understanding of the Ubuntu community, be well-organized, and be a natural leader.

The work of the Community Council, as it stands, is to uphold the Code of Conduct throughout the community, ensure that all the other leadership boards and council are running smoothly, and to ensure the general health of the community, including not only supporting contributors but also stepping in for dispute resolution, as needed.

Historically, there would be two meetings per month, so the nominee should be willing to commit, at minimum, to that particular time requirement. Additionally, as needs arise, other communication, most often by email, will happen. The input of the entire Council is essential for swift and appropriate actions to get enacted, so participation in these conversations should be expected.

As you might notice from Mark Shuttleworth’s post, there is a greater vision for the structure of the Ubuntu community, so this term could be an exciting time with perhaps vast and sweeping changes. That said, it would be wise that nominees have an open mind as to what is to come.

To nominate someone (including yourself), send the name and Launchpad ID of the nominee to community-council [AT] lists.ubuntu.com. Nominations will be accepted for a period of two weeks until 29 September 2020 11:59 UTC.

Once the nominations are collected, Mark Shuttleworth will shortlist them and an actual election will take place, using the Condorcet Internet Voting Service . All Ubuntu Members are eligible to vote in this election.

If you have any other questions, feel free to post something in the Ubuntu Discourse #community-council category so all may benefit from the answer.

Thanks in advance to all that participate and for your desire to make Ubuntu better!

Ubuntu Blog: The Expandables – snapcraft extensions and the secret code

Planet Ubuntu - Pre, 18/09/2020 - 1:11md

If you’re a snap developer, you know that snap development is terribly easy. Or rather complex and difficult. Depending on your application code and requirements, it can take a lot of effort putting together the snapcraft.yaml file from which you will build your snap. One of our goals is to make snap development practically easier and more predictable for everyone. To that end, we created a framework of snap extensions, designed to make the snap journey simpler and more fun.

In a nutshell, extensions abstract away a range of common code declarations you would normally put in your snapcraft.yaml file. They help developers avoid repetitive tasks, reduce the knowledge barrier needed to successfully build snaps, offer a common template for application builds, and most importantly, save time and effort. But what if you want – or need – to know what is behind the abstraction?

Expand your horizons, expand your extensions

Let’s examine a real-life example. Just a few weeks ago, Jonathan Riddell and I did a workshop on how to build snaps during KDE Akademy. We demonstrated with KBlocks, and the snapcraft.yaml file references the kde neon extension, which makes the latest Qt5 and KDE Frameworks libraries available to KBlocks at runtime. The necessary code block [sic] is as follows:


adopt-info: kblocks
apps:
    kblocks:
        extensions:
        - kde-neon
        common-id: org.kde.kblocks.desktop
...

But we need to see what happens behind the scenes.

You can expand an extension declaration in any snapcraft.yaml file by running:

snapcraft expand-extensions

This command will look for the snapcraft.yaml file in the current directory or snap subdirectory, and print to the standard output the expanded version of the YAML file. You can redirect the output into a separate file, and then compare the two to understand what gives.

The diff is greener on the other side

The expand-extensions command does quite a bit. First, we can see that the declaration of the extension for the kblocks app in the YAML has been removed. Then, we can also see that the expanded file has several additional plugs declared, namely desktop, desktop-legacy, wayland, and x11. Another important element is the desktop-launch command, which contains a number of common environment configurations to make sure the application runs correctly.

<noscript> <img alt="" src="https://res.cloudinary.com/canonical/image/fetch/f_auto,q_auto,fl_sanitize,w_720/https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/XC7l3swl0B2Rfo4O4MFu0OVobu5oW-CfEcy5S2AhlJWcZclk7hpfM2WvvIVFZp9EEqbhlxHhD0wfrSphLX26RNodrWow5Wf32WbaX5uk8459vAClmcrbFzy59qEZJskGgTNAyaGR" width="720" /> </noscript> Original YAML on the left, the expanded version without the extension on the right. For brevity, only part of the complete snapcraft.yaml file is shown.

The biggest difference is an entire new block of code at the bottom of the YAML – not visible in the screenshot above, but you can just grab the KBlocks snapcraft.yaml file we used in the workshop, and try for yourself:

  • It compiles the kde-neon-extension part using a pre-existing source available in the snapcraft build environment.
  • It defines several plugs – icon and sound themes as well KDE Frameworks libraries available in the existing gtk-common-themes and kde-frameworks-5-core18 content snaps. This way, you do not need to worry or manually satisfy the various components required to make your application behave and look as intended. All of these dependencies are satisfied automagically.
  • It defines the runtime environment that ensures the snap will function correctly.
  kde-neon-extension:
    build-packages:
    - g++
    plugin: make
    source: $SNAPCRAFT_EXTENSIONS_DIR/desktop
    source-subdir: kde-neon
plugs:
  icon-themes:
    default-provider: gtk-common-themes
    interface: content
    target: $SNAP/data-dir/icons
  kde-frameworks-5-plug:
    content: kde-frameworks-5-core18-all
    default-provider: kde-frameworks-5-core18
    interface: content
    target: $SNAP/kf5
  sound-themes:
    default-provider: gtk-common-themes
    interface: content
    target: $SNAP/data-dir/sounds
environment:
  SNAP_DESKTOP_RUNTIME: $SNAP/kf5

As you can see from the example above, extensions not only save time, they also ensure your snaps use a consistent structure, containing all the required assets to look and run correctly. You also end up with smaller snaps, because the common components and libraries are already included in the content snaps. This can be quite useful, especially if you develop multiple applications that share common code, as is the case with the KDE software.

What’s next?

Now, you may actually have a use case that only requires a portion of the code shown above, or you want to understand how extensions work behind the scenes. You can expand existing YAML files, and then use the relevant snippets as you sit. Overall, the use of extensions, in full or in part, should help you make snaps with a more consistent theming, smaller size, and more predictable behavior, as you baseline against a well-tested set of packages used across a large number of applications.

Summary

Extensions and the associated expand command allow you to make best use of the snapcraft.yaml files, whether to learn new things, or to adopt existing code for your own needs. You may already have snaps published in the Snap Store, and you would like to improve your code. Indeed, we encourage developers to use the extensions, as they can help avoid various papercut issues in the look & feel of their applications, as well as reduce the development burden, as they need to maintain a smaller, more compact, more precise code base.

If you have any questions or suggestions on this topic, please join our forum for a discussion. In particular, if you can think of practical use cases that would warrant a creation of new extensions, we’d definitely like to hear from you.

Photo by Charlie Seaman on Unsplash.

next-20200918: linux-next

Kernel Linux - Pre, 18/09/2020 - 10:41pd
Version:next-20200918 (linux-next) Released:2020-09-18

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