Saturday, June 3, 2017

ukuu - KSPlice updates your kernel on the fly, ukuu lets you pick your version

Black Lab Linux tests its new releases rigorously and generally tries to balance the demands of new hardware with what's tried, true and stable. When I asked lead developer Roberto J. Dohnert about ukuu (Ubuntu kernel update utility) this was his response :

Even so, a BLL user might find themselves with a piece of hardware that might be better supported on a non-LTS kernel. These are provided by Canonical, but are not tested through its HWE (hardware enablement stack) process which allows LTS release users to periodically update to more recent kernels which have been vetted. Ukuu simply allows for mainline, untested kernels to be installed. Look for the article on how to install it here and use this PPA (Personal Package Archive) :

After installation, the utility is found in Black Lab's System menu and after launching it, the utility begins to update sources and search for available mainline kernels. As shown in the picture below, the kernel that the current session, Live or installed, is running on is shown. The graphics give the rest of the information : if Tux is displayed in normal colors, it's a stable selection; if Tux is red, it's an unstable, or testing kernel.

Selecting Hide unstable or RC releases under Setttings hides the unstable kernels and only the stable mainline releases are shown :

Since I'm currently running in a Live session on an experimental release, I'm not actually going to install any of these 4.10 or 4.11 series kernels. But I have tested ukuu on a recently released IoT (Internet of Things) build to see if it would improve throughput on a TP-Link AC wireless card; it didn't, appreciably. But it was an interesting exercise and the IoT build was otherwise unaffected. 
To the reader, emphasis PC-Opensystems LLC : try this at your own risk. Black Lab Linux does not support using Canonical's mainline kernels in its consumer or enterprise builds. Roberto J. has mentioned that he might add the utility to future testing builds, but again, user beware!
Take care updating that kernel!

Friday, May 26, 2017

Black Lab Enterprise Linux vs Red Hat Enterprise Linux

Many customers have asked us.  What are the benefits of Black Lab Enterprise Linux vs Red Hat Enterprise Linux.  Below we have prepared a chart that outlines the differences between Black Lab Enterprise Linux vs Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

KSplice Uptrack - kernel updating is necessary, not optional

Even on Black Lab Linux, with its ever-vigilant development squad.
KSplice is an Oracle utility, primarily designed for Linux servers that need frequent patching but can't afford even the the momentary downtime of a reboot.
Roberto J. Dohnert has incorporated this utility at the desktop level to give the desktop user of his Enterprise Desktop a similar ability to update-minus-reboot. I'm using an earlier IoT (InternetofThings) build optimized for single-board systems, which doesn't include KSplice by default. So to install it, I downloaded the .deb from this link and installed it using Gdebi :

After installation, launch the program and from the Accessories -> System submenu in Xfce or Accessories menu in MATE, System Tools submenu. You will be prompted to enter the admin / sudo password and KSplice will begin searching its database :

After installation completes, the utility will open and show available updates to the kernel. Detailed view shows recent patches such as CVE-2017-7308, memory corruption in AF_PACKET socket options. The last sentence in the description of the Common Vulnerability Exposure is cuts to the heart of the matter "A local user could this flaw to elevate privileges." More information can be found here and  here. Linux, because of its basic security model, is a more hardened platform than Windows, but privilege-escalation exploits are the most persistent threat that a Linux server admin or (less likely) desktop user faces. And this is the end result :

Check out Black Lab, it's stable, well-designed and secure. And if you're using a different distro, download KSplice here. Linux has a smaller attack surface, and the average user is unlikely to be hacked, but ransomware and malware are constantly changing threats whose vector can't be anticipated; secure now doesn't necessarily mean secure always.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Back to the Future - Enterprise 11 MATE

The recursive acronym MATE stands for MATE Advanced Traditional Environment. It's a fork of the now unmaintained GNOME 2 code base. The acronym is fitting : while some of its features seem like a throwback, MATE's stability, speed and customizability are being taken into the future by developers like Roberto J. Dohnert, whose customers appreciate ease-of-use, lack of surprises and a desktop environment that can be molded to suit their purposes. And same as last time : no surprises, the shots on this review are of the unmodified Black Lab 11 MATE Enterprise Edition.

This is the default desktop; two panels, Applications, Places and System on top left, notification area on top right, Show Desktop bottom left, Windows Buttons in the middle of the bottom panel, Pager on the bottom right.

The MATE version is 1.2.11 :

The kernel version is 4.8 stable, lining up with the Ubuntu LTS base that Black Lab is built on :

Speed and responsiveness are, once again, very good. Resource useage is low.

Suspend works smoothly in MATE, same as Xfce. AC wireless and the 5 GhZ band are quickly recognized and speed is very good. I haven't caught Roberto J. Dohnert at a moment when he's had enough Starbucks' coffee to tell me why Black Lab is so much better with AC wireless than other distros; it's no doubt a kernel-level change beyond my Linux comprehension.

This version includes the default MATE application set (Caja file manager, Pluma Text Editor, Rhythmbox media player, Brasero DVD-burning, Eye of Mate image viewer) - all work smoothly, I encountered no issues whatsoever performing basic tasks in a Live session.

This time around I'm going to try the Evolvere icon set with Black Lab 11 MATE; once again I'll be using a PPA to install :

I enter the PPA in the terminal, select Enter, apt-update and then install evolvere-icon-suite :

This returns an error which requires editing repositories in the Synaptic Package Manager (included by default in Enterprise 11) :

The distribution line is changed from Xenial to Trusty. After this, the icon suite is shown in Synaptic Search :

But again, errors out; when I performed an apt update && apt install evolvere-icon-suite, the software installed as expected. I don't know why that is, but seems to be an upstream issue unrelated to the current release.

After installation, I selected System - Preferences - Look and Feel, customized the current theme and found the Evolvere Sunken selection available among others :

And here's the desktop, once again, pretty vanilla, no real tweaking necessary :

I prefer Xfce, but MATE is super-solid and another very cool release in the Enterprise 11 series. It's worthy of a place on any user's Desktop. Give it a try!

Black Lab 11 MATE Enterprise


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