From the Canyon Edge -- :-Dustin

Friday, January 5, 2018

Dell XPS 13 with Ubuntu -- The Ultimate Developer Laptop of 2018!


I'm the proud owner of a new Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition (9630) laptop, pre-loaded from the Dell factory with Ubuntu 16.04 LTS Desktop.

Kudos to the Dell and the Canonical teams that have engineered a truly remarkable developer desktop experience.  You should also check out the post from Dell's senior architect behind the XPS 13, Barton George.

As it happens, I'm also the proud owner of a long loved, heavily used, 1st Generation Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition laptop :-)  See this post from May 7, 2012.  You'll be happy to know that machine is still going strong.  It's now my wife's daily driver.  And I use it almost every day, for any and all hacking that I do from the couch, after hours, after I leave the office ;-)

Now, this latest XPS edition is a real dream of a machine!

From a hardware perspective, this newer XPS 13 sports an Intel i7-7660U 2.5GHz processor and 16GB of memory.  While that's mildly exciting to me (as I've long used i7's and 16GB), here's what I am excited about...

The 500GB NVME storage and a whopping 1239 MB/sec I/O throughput!

kirkland@xps13:~$ sudo hdparm -tT /dev/nvme0n1
/dev/nvme0n1:
 Timing cached reads:   25230 MB in  2.00 seconds = 12627.16 MB/sec
 Timing buffered disk reads: 3718 MB in  3.00 seconds = 1239.08 MB/sec

And on top of that, this is my first QHD+ touch screen laptop display, sporting a magnificent 3200x1800 resolution.  The graphics are nothing short of spectacular.  Here's nearly 4K of Hollywood hard "at work" :-)


The keyboard is super comfortable.  I like it a bit better than the 1st generation.  Unlike your Apple friends, we still have our F-keys, which is important to me as a Byobu user :-)  The placement of the PgUp, PgDn, Home, and End keys (as Fn + Up/Down/Left/Right) takes a while to get used to.


The speakers are decent for a laptop, and the microphone is excellent.  The webcam is placed in an odd location (lower left of the screen), but it has quite nice resolution and focus quality.


And Bluetooth and WiFi, well, they "just work".  I got 98.2 Mbits/sec of throughput over WiFi.

kirkland@xps:~$ iperf -c 10.0.0.45
------------------------------------------------------------
Client connecting to 10.0.0.45, TCP port 5001
TCP window size: 85.0 KByte (default)
------------------------------------------------------------
[  3] local 10.0.0.149 port 40568 connected with 10.0.0.45 port 5001
[ ID] Interval       Transfer     Bandwidth
[  3]  0.0-10.1 sec   118 MBytes  98.2 Mbits/sec

There's no external display port, so you'll need something like this USB-C-to-HDMI adapter to project to a TV or monitor.


There's 1x USB-C port, 2x USB-3 ports, and an SD-Card reader.


One of the USB-3 ports can be used to charge your phone or other devices, even while your laptop is suspended.  I use this all the time, to keep my phone topped up while I'm aboard planes, trains, and cars.  To do so, you'll need to enable "USB PowerShare" in the BIOS.  Here's an article from Dell's KnowledgeBase explaining how.


Honestly, I have only one complaint...  And that's that there is no Trackstick mouse (which is available on some Dell models).  I'm not a huge fan of the Touchpad.  It's too sensitive, and my palms are always touching it inadvertently.  So I need to use an external mouse to be effective.  I'll continue to provide this feedback to the Dell team, in the hopes that one day I'll have my perfect developer laptop!  Otherwise, this machine is a beauty.  I'm sure you'll love it too.

Cheers,
Dustin

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Ubuntu Updates for the Meltdown / Spectre Vulnerabilities


For up-to-date patch, package, and USN links, please refer to: https://wiki.ubuntu.com/SecurityTeam/KnowledgeBase/SpectreAndMeltdown

This is cross-posted on Canonical's official Ubuntu Insights blog:
https://insights.ubuntu.com/2018/01/04/ubuntu-updates-for-the-meltdown-spectre-vulnerabilities/


Unfortunately, you’ve probably already read about one of the most widespread security issues in modern computing history -- colloquially known as “Meltdown” (CVE-2017-5754) and “Spectre” (CVE-2017-5753 and CVE-2017-5715) -- affecting practically every computer built in the last 10 years, running any operating system. That includes Ubuntu.

I say “unfortunately”, in part because there was a coordinated release date of January 9, 2018, agreed upon by essentially every operating system, hardware, and cloud vendor in the world. By design, operating system updates would be available at the same time as the public disclosure of the security vulnerability. While it happens rarely, this an industry standard best practice, which has broken down in this case.

At its heart, this vulnerability is a CPU hardware architecture design issue. But there are billions of affected hardware devices, and replacing CPUs is simply unreasonable. As a result, operating system kernels -- Windows, MacOS, Linux, and many others -- are being patched to mitigate the critical security vulnerability.

Canonical engineers have been working on this since we were made aware under the embargoed disclosure (November 2017) and have worked through the Christmas and New Years holidays, testing and integrating an incredibly complex patch set into a broad set of Ubuntu kernels and CPU architectures.

Ubuntu users of the 64-bit x86 architecture (aka, amd64) can expect updated kernels by the original January 9, 2018 coordinated release date, and sooner if possible. Updates will be available for:

  • Ubuntu 17.10 (Artful) -- Linux 4.13 HWE
  • Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (Xenial) -- Linux 4.4 (and 4.4 HWE)
  • Ubuntu 14.04 LTS (Trusty) -- Linux 3.13
  • Ubuntu 12.04 ESM** (Precise) -- Linux 3.2
    • Note that an Ubuntu Advantage license is required for the 12.04 ESM kernel update, as Ubuntu 12.04 LTS is past its end-of-life
Ubuntu 18.04 LTS (Bionic) will release in April of 2018, and will ship a 4.15 kernel, which includes the KPTI patchset as integrated upstream.

Ubuntu optimized kernels for the Amazon, Google, and Microsoft public clouds are also covered by these updates, as well as the rest of Canonical's Certified Public Clouds including Oracle, OVH, Rackspace, IBM Cloud, Joyent, and Dimension Data.

These kernel fixes will not be Livepatch-able. The source code changes required to address this problem is comprised of hundreds of independent patches, touching hundreds of files and thousands of lines of code. The sheer complexity of this patchset is not compatible with the Linux kernel Livepatch mechanism. An update and a reboot will be required to active this update.

Furthermore, you can expect Ubuntu security updates for a number of other related packages, including CPU microcode, GCC and QEMU in the coming days.

We don't have a performance analysis to share at this time, but please do stay tuned here as we'll followup with that as soon as possible.

Thanks,
@DustinKirkland
VP of Product
Canonical / Ubuntu

Monday, September 18, 2017

Results of the Ubuntu Desktop Applications Survey


I had the distinct honor to deliver the closing keynote of the UbuCon Europe conference in Paris a few weeks ago.  First off -- what a beautiful conference and venue!  Kudos to the organizers who really put together a truly remarkable event.  And many thanks to the gentleman (Elias?) who brought me a bottle of his family's favorite champagne, as a gift on Day 2 :-)  I should give more talks in France!

In my keynote, I presented the results of the Ubuntu 18.04 LTS Default Desktops Applications Survey, which was discussed at length on HackerNews, Reddit, and Slashdot.  With the help of the Ubuntu Desktop team (led by Will Cooke), we processed over 15,000 survey responses and in this presentation, I discussed some of the insights of the data.

The team is now hard at work evaluating many of the suggested applications, for those of you that aren't into the all-Emacs spin of Ubuntu ;-)

Moreover, we're also investigating a potential approach to make the Ubuntu Desktop experience perhaps a bit like those Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books we loved when we were kids, where users have the opportunity to select each of their prefer applications (or stick with the distro default) for a handful of categories, during installation.

Marius Quabeck recorded the session and published the audio and video of the presentation here on YouTube:


You can download the slides here, or peruse them below:


Cheers,
Dustin

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Running Ubuntu Containers with Hyper-V Isolation on Windows 10 and Windows Server


Canonical and Microsoft have teamed up to deliver an truly special experience -- running Ubuntu containers with Hyper-V Isolation on Windows 10 and Windows Servers!

We have published a fantastic tutorial at https://ubu.one/UhyperV, with screenshots and easy-to-follow instructions.  You should be up and running in minutes!

Follow that tutorial, and you'll be able to launch Ubuntu containers with Hyper-V isolation by running the following directly from a Windows Powershell:
  • docker run -it ubuntu bash
Cheers!
Dustin

Monday, August 21, 2017

Bare Metal Kubernetes: More Containers, Less Overhead

Earlier this month, I spoke at ContainerDays, part of the excellent DevOpsDays series of conferences -- this one in lovely Portland, Oregon.

I gave a live demo of Kubernetes running directly on bare metal.  I was running it on an 11-node Ubuntu Orange Box -- but I used the exact same tools Canonical's world class consulting team uses to deploy Kubernetes onto racks of physical machines.
You see, the ability to run Kubernetes on bare metal, behind your firewall is essential to the yin-yang duality of Cloud Native computing.  Sometimes, what you need is actually a Native Cloud.
Deploying Kubernetes into virtual machines in the cloud is rather easy, straightforward, with dozens of tools now that can handle that.

But there's only one tool today, that can deploy the exact same Kubernetes to AWS, Azure, GCE, as well as VMware, OpenStack, and bare metal machines.  That tools is conjure-up, which acts as a command line front end to several essential Ubuntu tools: MAAS, LXD, and Juju.

I don't know if the presentation was recorded, but I'm happy to share with you my slides for download, and embedded here below.  There are a few screenshots within that help convey the demo.




Cheers,
Dustin

Friday, July 21, 2017

Ubuntu 18.04 LTS Desktop Default Application Survey

Back in March, we asked the HackerNews community, “What do you want to see in Ubuntu 17.10?”: https://ubu.one/AskHN

A passionate discussion ensued, the results of which are distilled into this post: http://ubu.one/thankHN

In fact, you can check that link, http://ubu.one/thankHN and see our progress so far this cycle.  We already have a beta code in 17.10 available for your testing for several of those:

And several others have excellent work in progress, and will be complete by 17.10:

In summary -- your feedback matters!  There are hundreds of engineers and designers working for *you* to continue making Ubuntu amazing!

Along with the switch from Unity to GNOME, we’re also reviewing some of the desktop applications we package and ship in Ubuntu.  We’re looking to crowdsource input on your favorite Linux applications across a broad set of classic desktop functionality.

We invite you to contribute by listing the applications you find most useful in Linux in order of preference. To help us parse your input, please copy and paste the following bullets with your preferred apps in Linux desktop environments.  You’re welcome to suggest multiple apps, please just order them prioritized (e.g. Web Browser: Firefox, Chrome, Chromium).  If some of your functionality has moved entirely to the web, please note that too (e.g. Email Client: Gmail web, Office Suite: Office360 web).  If the software isn’t free/open source, please note that (e.g. Music Player: Spotify client non-free).  If I’ve missed a category, please add it in the same format.  If your favorites aren’t packaged for Ubuntu yet, please let us know, as we’re creating hundreds of new snap packages for Ubuntu desktop applications, and we’re keen to learn what key snaps we’re missing.

  • Web Browser: ???
  • Email Client: ???
  • Terminal: ???
  • IDE: ???
  • File manager: ???
  • Basic Text Editor: ???
  • IRC/Messaging Client: ???
  • PDF Reader: ???
  • Office Suite: ???
  • Calendar: ???
  • Video Player: ???
  • Music Player: ???
  • Photo Viewer: ???
  • Screen recording: ???

In the interest of opening this survey as widely as possible, we’ve cross-posted this thread to HackerNews, Reddit, and Slashdot.  We very much look forward to another friendly, energetic, collaborative discussion.

Or, you can fill out the survey here: https://ubu.one/apps1804

Thank you!
On behalf of @Canonical and @Ubuntu

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Integrity of Amazon Consumer Reviews



Along with most red blooded Texans, I love to barbeque on the back deck. From smoking a brisket to grilling chicken, and any other fish, fowl, pork, or beef in between, there are few ways I’d rather spend a Sunday afternoon.

But we Texans are not the only ones inextricably attracted to the peppery, sweet, smokey aromas emanating from our back deck. No, unfortunately, bbq always means flies. And lots of them. Zipping around the grill, and inevitably, into our house.

And if my love of barbeque has an equal and opposite reaction, it’s my hatred of flies buzzing around inside of my house.

With that in mind, I was grilling some chicken on the back deck a few weeks ago, picking off flies with a Bug-a-salt (way more fun than it even sounds), and pulled out my phone, searching Amazon for 21st century solutions to the flies-in-my-house problem. Surely we’ve IoT-automated away our fly problem by 2017?

I immediately stumbled upon an unusually highly rated product — 4.5 stars over 2,621 reviews for the “Pest Soldier Electronic Plug Ultrasonic Pest Control Repeller for Insects — White, Set of 4”.


So I snapped it up, and figured, what the heck, I’ll give this a shot.

The result was underwhelming. Undetectable, even. There’s no difference, with or without these gadgets plugged in around my kitchen. It was worth a shot. Burned thirty-something dollars. Live and learn. Flies don’t respect ultrasonic annoyances. Ah well.

About a month later, I receive this email, which made me wrinkle my nose a little, asking me to review this product on Amazon, and receive a $25 gift card.


I ignored it.

Three days later, a “reminder”, which I also ignored.



And then, three days later, a third nagging email:


At which point, I did reply:


And I wrote this review.

At this point, things went from bad to worse. I was immediately offered a full refund, and an extra $40 to delete the review.


Wow. Simply, wow. Reading through the other negative reviews of this product, I see multiple reviewers saying they were offered money to delete their critical reviews.

Along with so many of you, we place our trust in the honest and integrity of Amazon’s customer review system. And yet it’s being systematically gamed by sellers such as this.

I’ve reported the product and the seller per Amazon’s instructions, but I for one am a bit more skeptical about Amazon reviews from now on.

Now, I just wonder…
How much will Pest Soldier offer me to delete this blog post?
Cheers,
:-Dustin

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