347 stories
·
1 follower

JMP: Why Bidirectional Gateways Matter

1 Share

A big part of the vision of Sopranica, and Cheogram in particular, is bidirectional gateways.  A bidirectional gateway is one that allows (at a minimum) any user of either protocol to contact any user of the other protocol without creating an account.  This is not possible with all protocols, but works well when both sides are federated.

Simple Example

Take for instance sip.cheogram.com, which is a bidirectional gateway between XMPP and SIP.  Any federated Jabber ID can communicate with any federated SIP URI with no configuration at the gateway.  This is possible because every valid SIP URI is assigned a Jabber ID of the format xmpp:user\40domain.tld@sip.cheogram.com and every Jabber ID is assigned a SIP URI of the format sip:user%40domain.tld@sip.cheogram.com.

Contrast this with irc.cheogram.com, which is not a bidirectional gateway even though IRC is an open protocol, due to the non-federated nature of that protocol.  While every IRC channel and nick is given a Jabber ID, not every Jabber ID can be given a channel or nick on every IRC network out there, and even to do it on a single network would require creating many connections or a special peering arrangement.  Using the Jabber ID assigned to an IRC channel may require registering a nick with that IRC network and configuring the associated password at the gateway.  It works well enough, and is quite useful, but it’s not bidirectional.

User Experience

One of the big advantages of a bidirectional gateway is the seamless user experience for those who know the gateway exists.  Instead of asking “is this room bridged to protocol X” or “do you also have an address on protocol Y” the existance of the bridge is sufficient to know that, yes, with no extra setup by either party, communication will be possible.  One does not need to convince users to switch to the favored protocol, or bend by creating an identity with the other’s favored protocol, but simply to add the other party directly.  Users with Jabber IDs can advertise how they may be contacted via SIP, SMTP, Matrix, SMS, and more without the other party thinking anything more than “this address looks a bit long”.

Raising the Whole Network with Chaining

Because a high-quality bidirectional gateway effectively makes one network out of two networks, any service or gateway added to either network can be used from both sides.  Thus, Matrix, SMTP, or even SMS users can get phone numbers from JMP.  Even further than that, a Matrix user could advertise an SMTP or SIP contact address using the Cheogram gateways, all without any SMTP or SIP gateway needing to exist for Matrix at all.

Stable Addresses

If someone is going to give out an address that goes via a gateway, they need confidence that this address will not need to be changed.  So long as their main address on their preferred protocol remains the same, so should their address on other protocols.  This requires a stable DNS name with gateways that are open to anyone, free of charge.  That is the vision behind Cheogram, an infrastructure project inside of Sopranica to maintain stable addressing for bidirectional gateways.

Conclusion

Obviously there is still lots of work to do. Most of the gateways mentioned in this post are missing important features they could have in order to facilitate more seamless communication.  Clients of every protocol can gain features to make using a bidirectional gateway a more obvious choice for users.  Unique use cases need more testing to find where the rough edges are.  Cheogram infrastructure is supported in part by JMP, but can always use financial support.  Together we can help people connect to all their contacts.  Come join us.

Read the whole story
kclowers
92 days ago
reply
Seattle, WA, US
Share this story
Delete

Singing in the brain

1 Share
For the first time, neuroscientists have identified a population of neurons in the human brain that light up when we hear singing, but not other types of music.
Read the whole story
kclowers
92 days ago
reply
Seattle, WA, US
Share this story
Delete

Evidence for exotic magnetic phase of matter

1 Share
Scientists have discovered a long-predicted magnetic state of matter called an antiferromagnetic excitonic insulator -- broadly speaking, a novel type of magnet. Understanding the connections between electrons' 'spin' and charge in such materials could have potential for realizing new technologies.
Read the whole story
kclowers
92 days ago
reply
Seattle, WA, US
Share this story
Delete

An Elaborate Employment Con in the Internet Age

3 Shares

The story is an old one, but the tech gives it a bunch of new twists:

Gemma Brett, a 27-year-old designer from west London, had only been working at Madbird for two weeks when she spotted something strange. Curious about what her commute would be like when the pandemic was over, she searched for the company’s office address. The result looked nothing like the videos on Madbird’s website of a sleek workspace buzzing with creative-types. Instead, Google Street View showed an upmarket block of flats in London’s Kensington.

[…]

Using online reverse image searches they dug deeper. They found that almost all the work Madbird claimed as its own had been stolen from elsewhere on the internet — and that some of the colleagues they’d been messaging online didn’t exist.

[…]

At least six of the most senior employees profiled by Madbird were fake. Their identities stitched together using photos stolen from random corners of the internet and made-up names. They included Madbird’s co-founder, Dave Stanfield — despite him having a LinkedIn profile and Ali referring to him constantly. Some of the duped staff had even received emails from him.

Read the whole sad story. What’s amazing is how shallow all the fakery was, and how quickly it all unraveled once people started digging. But until there’s suspicion enough to dig, we take all of these things at face value. And in COVID times, there’s no face-to-face anything.

Read the whole story
kclowers
92 days ago
reply
Seattle, WA, US
Share this story
Delete

Today is the end of mask mandates, which is why my tests finally arrived.

jwz
3 Shares
Got my 4 squares of toilet paper in the mail today! I signed up 30 days ago, on Jan 18. I gather that I must share these with the other 150+ people who live in my building, since only one of us was allowed to order them.

But today is also the day that San Francisco dropped its masking requirements, against the guidance of the CDC and WHO. Because if we're all just over it then that means it's over, right? That's how it works, right?

But I guess Maskless Mayor Breed is just following the political winds and doing what the people want, right? Oh wait, strike that, reverse it.

And in case you hadn't tried it yet: no, you cannot order 4 tests each month. You get 4. Period.

Previously, previously, previously, previously.

Read the whole story
kclowers
94 days ago
reply
Seattle, WA, US
Share this story
Delete

Getting rid of the need for the usecase Linux distribution

1 Share

There was an article on Open for Everyone today about Nobara, a Fedora-based distribution optimized for gaming. So I have no beef with Tomas Crider or any other creator/maintainer of a distribution targeting a specific use case. In fact they are usually trying to solve or work around real problems and make things easier for people. That said I have for years felt that the need for these things is a failing in itself and it has been a goal for me in the context of Fedora Workstation to figure out what we can do to remove the need for ‘usecase distros’. So I thought it would be of interest if I talk a bit about how I been viewing these things and the concrete efforts we taken to reduce the need for usecase oriented distributions. It is worth noting that the usecase distributions have of course proven useful for this too, in the sense that they to some degree also function as a very detailed ‘bug report’ for why the general case OS is not enough.
Before I start, you might say, but isn’t Fedora Workstation as usecase OS too? You often talk about having a developer focus? Yes, developers are something we care deeply about, but for instance that doesn’t mean we pre-install 50 IDEs in Fedora Workstation. Fedora Workstation should be a great general purpose OS out of the box and then we should have tools like GNOME Software and Toolbx available to let you quickly and easily tweak it into your ideal development system. But at the same time by being a general purpose OS at heart, it should be equally easy to install Steam and Lutris to start gaming or install Carla and Ardour to start doing audio production. Or install OBS Studio to do video streaming.

Looking back over the years one of the first conclusions I drew from looking at all the usecase distributions out there was that they often where mostly the standard distro, but with a carefully procured list of pre-installed software, for instance the old Fedora game spin was exactly that, a copy of Fedora with a lot of games pre-installed. So why was this valuable to people? For those of us who have been around for a while we remember that the average linux ‘app store’ was a very basic GUI which listed available software by name (usually quite cryptic names) and at best with a small icon. There was almost no other metadata available and search functionality was limited at best. So finding software was not simple, at it was usually more of a ‘search the internet and if you find something interesting see if its packaged for your distro’. So the usecase distros who focused on having procured pre-installed software, be that games, or pro-audio software or graphics tools ot whatever was their focus was basically responding to the fact that finding software was non-trivial and a lot of people maybe missed out on software that could be useful to them since it they simply never learned about its existence.
So when we kicked of the creation of GNOME Software one of the big focuses early on was to create a system for providing good metadata and displaying that metadata in a useful manner. So as an end user the most obvious change was of course the more rich UI of GNOME Software, but maybe just as important was the creation of AppStream, which was a specification for how applications to ship with metadata to allow GNOME Software and others to display much more in-depth information about the application and provide screenshots and so on.

So I do believe that between working on a better ‘App Store’ story for linux between the work on GNOME Software as the actual UI, but also by working with many stakeholders in the Linux ecosystem to define metadata standards like AppStream we made software a lot more discoverable on Linux and thus reduced the need for pre-loading significantly. This work also provided an important baseline for things like Flathub to thrive, as it then had a clear way to provide metadata about the applications it hosts.
We do continue to polish that user experience on an ongoing basis, but I do feel we reduced the need to pre-load a ton of software very significantly already with this.

Of course another aspect of this is application availability, which is why we worked to ensure things like Steam is available in GNOME Software on Fedora Workstation, and which we have now expanded on by starting to include more and more software listings from Flathub. These things makes it easy for our users to find the software they want, but at the same time we are still staying true to our mission of only shipping free software by default in Fedora.

The second major reason for usecase distributions have been that the generic version of the OS didn’t really have the right settings or setup to handle an important usecase. I think pro-audio is the best example of this where usecase distros like Fedora Jam or Ubuntu Studio popped up. The pre-install a lot of relevant software was definitely part of their DNA too, but there was also other issues involved, like the need for a special audio setup with JACK and often also kernel real-time patches applied. When we decided to include Pro-audio support in PipeWire resolving these issues was a big part of it. I strongly believe that we should be able to provide a simple and good out-of-the box experience for musicians and audio engineers on Linux without needing the OS to be specifically configured for the task. The strong and positive response we gotten from the Pro-audio community for PipeWire I believe points to that we are moving in the right direction there. Not claiming things are 100% yet, but we feel very confident that we will get there with PipeWire and make the Pro-Audio folks full fledged members of the Fedora WS community. Interestingly we also spent quite a bit of time trying to ensure the pro-audio tools in Fedora has proper AppStream metadata so that they would appear in GNOME Software as part of this. One area there where we are still looking at is the real time kernel stuff, our current take is that we do believe the remaining unmerged patches are not strictly needed anymore, as most of the important stuff has already been merged, but we are monitoring it as we keep developing and benchmarking PipeWire for the Pro-Audio usecase.

Another reason that I often saw that drove the creation of a usecase distribution is special hardware support, and not necessarily that special hardware, the NVidia driver for instance has triggered a lot of these attempts. The NVidia driver is challenging on a lot of levels and has been something we have been constantly working on. There was technical issues for instance, like the NVidia driver and Mesa fighting over who owned the OpenGL.so implementation, which we fixed by the introduction glvnd a few years ago. But for a distro like Fedora that also cares deeply about free and open source software it also provided us with a lot of philosophical challenges. We had to answer the question of how could we on one side make sure our users had easy access to the driver without abandoning our principle around Fedora only shipping free software of out the box? I think we found a good compromise today where the NVidia driver is available in Fedora Workstation for easy install through GNOME Software, but at the same time default to Nouveau of the box. That said this is a part of the story where we are still hard at work to improve things further and while I am not at liberty to mention any details I think I can at least mention that we are meeting with our engineering counterparts at NVidia on almost a weekly basis to discuss how to improve things, not just for graphics, but around compute and other shared areas of interest. The most recent public result of that collaboration was of course the XWayland support in recent NVidia drivers, but I promise you that this is something we keep focusing on and I expect that we will be able to share more cool news and important progress over the course of the year, both for users of the NVidia binary driver and for users of Nouveau.

What are we still looking at in terms of addressing issues like this? Well one thing we are talking about is if there is value/need for a facility to install specific software based on hardware or software. For instance if we detect a high end gaming mouse connected to your system should we install Piper/ratbag or at least make GNOME Software suggest it? And if we detect that you installed Lutris and Steam are there other tools we should recommend you install, like the gamemode GNOME Shell extenion? It is a somewhat hard question to answer, which is why we are still pondering it, on one side it seems like a nice addition, but such connections would mean that we need to have a big database we constantly maintain which isn’t trivial and also having something running on your system to lets say check for those high end mice do add a little overhead that might be a waste for many users.

Another area that we are looking at is the issue of codecs. We did a big effort a couple of years ago and got AC3, mp3, AAC and mpeg2 video cleared for inclusion, and also got the OpenH264 implementation from Cisco made available. That solved a lot of issues, but today with so many more getting into media creation I believe we need to take another stab at it and for instance try to get reliable hardware accelerated encoding and decoding on video. I am not ready to announce anything, but we got a few ideas and leads we are looking at for how to move the needle there in a significant way.

So to summarize, I am not criticizing anyone for putting together what I call usecase distros, but at the same time I really want to get to a point where they are rarely needed, because we should be able to cater to most needs within the context of a general purpose Linux operating system. That said I do appreciate the effort of these distro makers both in terms of trying to help users have a better experience on linux and in indirectly helping us showcase both potential solutions or highlight the major pain points that still needs addressing in a general purpose Linux desktop operating system.

Read the whole story
kclowers
102 days ago
reply
Seattle, WA, US
Share this story
Delete
Next Page of Stories