Linux This Month

Google Project Zero, Slackware 15.0 & Steam Deck

Episode description

In Linux news this month, Jeremy Morgan covers all the latest updates. The initial Steam Decks went out to early reservers; Google Project Zero finds that Linux developers fix bugs the fastest; a privilege escalation flaw found in Snap Package Manager; Slackware 15.0 released; and Linux kernel moves to modern C! Try our free Linux OS Fundamentals course: https://bit.ly/3drAn7t

0:00​ Introduction
0:24​ Steam Deck Release
https://tinyurl.com/jmce5m9e
1:42 Google Project Zero Bug Fix Report
https://tinyurl.com/4xfyukwh
2:29 Snap’s Privilege Escalation Flaw
https://tinyurl.com/2p8rby59
3:10 Linux Kernel Moves to Modern C
https://tinyurl.com/jjfdcmy9
4:05 Slackware 15.0 Released
https://tinyurl.com/mrxfdw3f

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Series description

Linux is an ever-evolving technology, transforming from a simple kernel released in 1991 to 95% of servers in the world now running Linux in 2019. With an unstoppable growth and use on 90% of cloud infrastructures and 100% of supercomputers, Linux This Month is here to provide you with monthly updates from the global Linux community. Helping both the home and professional users stay up to date with the latest changes in Linux development, adoption, and industry changes.

Hello, and welcome to Linux This Month. I'm Jeremy Morgan. We've got some exciting news for the month of February, including the Steam Deck release, great news about Linux security and a new version of an old Linux distro. So let's get to it. The Steam Deck is finally here.

Now there has been a ton of excitement around this device. It's a powerful handheld gaming PC that plays games from Steam. It runs SteamOS, which is based on Arch Linux. It's now being shipped to customers who have reservations with Valve in place. Noted game developer and founder of Valve, Gabe Newell, was seen delivering them in person to customers.

You can make reservations now, but it won't ship until Q2 of 2022. The Steam Deck is only available in the US, UK, Canada, and European Union at this time. But Valve does have plans to expand it to other countries. It retails at about 400 US dollars. It has a seven inch screen, a quad core CPU and 16 Gigabytes of RAM.

It's a powerful device. And now that it's starting to arrive in homes, we'll soon find out what people think of it. Now, why is this such big news? Well, Linux gamers are excited about it because it means further development with gaming and Linux. The Steam Deck uses Proton to ensure that Windows games are compatible on SteamOS, which again is based on Arch Linux. SteamOS will be open source so you can use it on other machines and you can bet game developers are gonna work hard to make sure that it runs well in Linux.

And these innovations are going to help everyone who plays games in Linux. Linux developers fix bugs in about 25 days on average, which is far faster than big tech companies, including Google. Project Zero, formed by Google in 2014, is a team of security researchers who study vulnerabilities and software such as operating systems, browsers, and open source libraries. They found that the average time to fix security bugs is decreasing year over year, which is great for everyone. It's incredible that open source developers, many of them working for free, are fixing bugs faster than big tech companies with many employees working on it.

Now the average time for fixing Linux bugs is faster than companies like Apple at 69 days, or Oracle at 109 days. Overall, everyone is getting faster at fixing bugs, but Linux open source developers are way ahead of the pack. A new privilege escalation flaw was discovered with Snap. A privilege escalation flaw is one where an application can be tricked into giving you root access into a system, and it's bad news. CVE-2021-44731 is the bug, and it's a flaw on the snap-confine function, which is used by snapd to construct the execution environment for all Snap applications.

The exploit can allow an attacker to gain full root privileges on Linux systems that use Snap. Now, it's not remotely exploitable so the attacker has to be logged into the system to run it. A patch was issued on February 17th, so remember to update your system. Now, the Linux kernel is written in C, but what most people don't know is it's written to a very old standard, C89, which is the C standard from 1989. It's also known as ANSI C. Linus Torvalds has decided that they will move to C11, the

2011 C standard. He discovered a significant limitation with the C89 standard while patching a potential security problem. The patch would not be able to be done with C written in the old standard. Now this is something that's likely to happen again, and it's important enough to consider changing the standard now. This isn't a big change because the Linux kernel C compiler already supports C11, and most of the code won't have to be changed.

However, it could uncover some regressions that we don't know about until we run these kernels for a while. The average Linux user may not even notice this change. However, it opens up the kernel for innovation in the future, and it could make things more secure over time. So it's an exciting change. One of the oldest versions of Linux out there, Slackware, just released version 15.

This is pretty exciting stuff. They haven't had a release since 2012. Slackware was the version of Linux that I used for the first time, way back in the mid-90s. Now, what is special is the user base behind Slackware. They're some of the most passionate people who use Linux on a desktop, and it's always been more of a desktop-oriented distribution rather than focusing on servers.

Now the new version has tons of features added, including Pipewire for audio, additional Wayland Support, migrating from QT4 to QT5, and much, much more. It's bringing the oldest still-maintained Linux distribution into the future. I know I'll be trying it out and you should too. That's it for this month's Linux This Month. If you like the show, be sure to give this episode a big thumbs up.

Have a question? Add it into the comments. May your source code remain open and your code compile. See you next time and keep being awesome Cloud Gurus.

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