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Posted on by Arnon Erba in News

On Monday, CentOS 7.6 (1810) became generally available for download. CentOS 7.6 follows the October release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.6, as CentOS is the open source community-supported rebuild of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL).

A list of changes, deprecated features, and known issues can be found in the release notes for 7.6. Notably, the golang package is no longer included in the default CentOS repositories, and instead must be installed from the EPEL testing repository as discussed in the release notes.

You can trigger an upgrade to CentOS 7.6 in one step by running:

yum clean all && yum update

The upgrade requires a reboot to load the new kernel version. After upgrading, you can check your new distribution and kernel versions by running cat /etc/system-release and uname -r, respectively.

Posted on by Arnon Erba in General

You’ve probably heard of RFC 2324, the iconic 1998 April Fool’s joke that gave the world the Hyper Text Coffee Pot Control Protocol (HTCPCP/1.0):

Any attempt to brew coffee with a teapot should result in the error code “418 I’m a teapot”. The resulting entity body MAY be short and stout.

Some of the nerdier among us may even remember the IPv10 RFC draft, an elaborate piece of delusion or trolling still going strong after almost two years. Of course, we all know nothing helps reduce the number of competing standards like adding more competing standards [obligatory XKCD].

However, to locate true genius, we must peruse the list of April Fools’ Day RFCs and select one from April 1st, 1990. Yes, it’s none other than the one and only RFC 1149, a.k.a. IP over Avian Carriers (IPoAC). In perhaps the best form of proof that IP can be adapted to run over almost any physical link imaginable, RFC 1149 lays out the basics for a working IP-based network using carrier pigeons.

Really, no one can describe IPoAC better than its creator, David Waitzman:

The IP datagram is printed, on a small scroll of paper, in hexadecimal, with each octet separated by whitestuff and blackstuff. The scroll of paper is wrapped around one leg of the avian carrier. A band of duct tape is used to secure the datagram’s edges. The bandwidth is limited to the leg length.

If you haven’t read all of RFC 1149, it’s only two pages and is certainly worth the read. When you’re finished, you can read RFC 2549, David’s quality of service-enabled extension to the original IPoAC spec. I’ll leave you with this absolute gem from that follow-up RFC:

The ITU has offered . . . formal alignment with its corresponding technology, Penguins, but that won’t fly.

All jokes aside, this is a good reminder that anyone can submit their own RFC, and that you probably shouldn’t believe everything you read on the Internet.

Posted on by Arnon Erba in How-To Guides

Julia, the fast-moving and popular open source programming language for scientific computing, allows for the usage of multiple BLAS implementations. Pre-built Julia binaries ship with OpenBLAS due to licensing restrictions surrounding the Intel Math Kernel Library, but by building Julia from source you can replace OpenBLAS with a free copy of MKL obtained from Intel’s Yum or Apt repositories. As of the time of writing, there are instructions for this process on the Julia GitHub repository.

Determining the BLAS Vendor

Regardless of which BLAS implementation you choose, it is nice to check that Julia is actually using the one you want, especially if you are building Julia from source. In recent versions of Julia, you can run the following two commands in the Julia REPL to find your BLAS vendor:

julia> using LinearAlgebra
julia> LinearAlgebra.BLAS.vendor()

The second command should output a string indicating which BLAS implementation your Julia installation is currently built with.

Posted on by Arnon Erba in News

This September, iOS 12 brought software optimizations to a wide range of Apple devices, but one seemingly minor change to the iPad keyboard has confused users and prompted a slew of complaints. For no clear reason, Apple reversed the layout of the “.?123” and emoji keys in the bottom left of the keyboard, throwing off users who expected to find their punctuation and number keys in the usual location.

Notably, iOS 12.0.1 brings a fix for some charging and Wi-Fi issues that iPhone XS users have experienced, but it also restores the iPad keyboard to its pre-iOS 12 layout. This should be a welcome change for users who are accustomed to touch-typing on their iPad keyboards.

iOS 12.0.1 is immediately available for download on all supported devices.

Posted on by Arnon Erba in Op-Ed

Apple released iOS 12 to the public this Monday, where it immediately became available for download on a sizable list of supported devices. As announced at WWDC this year, iOS 12 is a conservative release intended to prioritize performance improvements and bug fixes over shiny new features.

As it turns out, iOS 12 delivers on those promises.

New Life for Old Hardware

Apple’s continued support for the iPhone 5S and iPad Air directly contradicts the idea that the company intentionally sabotages older hardware.

Ever since the release of iOS 7 for the iPhone 4 and the release of iOS 8 for the iPhone 4S, it’s been clear that new iOS releases have the potential to cripple old hardware. However, this isn’t 2014 anymore, and Apple is supporting a much more capable lineup of devices. It’s also clear that Apple is trying to provide a more consistent and usable experience across all supported devices.

iOS 12 is remarkably fast on an original iPad Air, a device that was sold so long ago that it originally shipped with iOS 7. There’s no fooling anyone into thinking that an Air with iOS 12 is a brand-new iPad, but it turns an almost-obsolete tablet into a very usable device.

On my iPhone 7, iOS 12 feels just as fast as it did with iOS 10, which is what it originally shipped with back in 2016. There’s less dropped frames than in iOS 11, and this is the first time I can remember an iOS update making my phone feel faster instead of making it feel slightly out of date. It doesn’t hurt that almost all the new features in iOS 12 are supported across Apple’s entire lineup as well, with the exception of ARKit which requires an A9 processor or later (iPhone 6S or newer).

In the end, it’s great to see Apple committing to a better user experience for new and old iOS customers. There’s never been a better time to own an older iPhone.

Posted on by Arnon Erba in News

In a blog post last week, Microsoft announced an interesting new feature for Windows 7 business users. With Windows 7 reaching end-of-life on January 14, 2020, many companies have already migrated to Windows 10, but it’s likely that not everyone is going to meet the 2020 deadline. With this in mind, Microsoft is going to provide a new paid service called “Windows 7 Extended Security Updates” to help ease the last few business customers onto Windows 10.

Only For Businesses, Not Home Users

Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESU) will be available exclusively for Volume Licensing customers, which means only the Professional and Enterprise flavors of Windows 7 will be supported. However, that didn’t stop Gordon Kelly from Forbes from writing a confusing article about the new feature. Instead, in his post titled “Microsoft ‘Confirms’ Windows 7 New Monthly Charge”, Kelly insinuates that Microsoft is about to start charging individual Windows 7 users a monthly fee as a penalty for not upgrading to Windows 10.

That isn’t the case at all. In fact, home users will not be able to pay for Extended Security Updates even if they want to since the feature is only available for Volume Licensing customers. In reality, this feature is specifically targeted at enterprises with specialized requirements that need assistance or just a bit more time to migrate their critical systems off of Windows 7. Extended Security Updates does not impose any additional penalties over the already well-established end-of-life date for the aging OS.

A Smoother Transition

The enterprise world works very differently than the usual home/small office Windows environment. There are a lot of factors that hold back major OS upgrades, and, as we saw with Windows XP, these delays can cause major businesses to run past the end-of-life date of software and become vulnerable to newly discovered security flaws. When Windows XP left extended support, Microsoft was forced to continue supporting select customers (for a fee) who were unable or unwilling to migrate to Windows 7 in time.

At any rate, Microsoft will only provide the Windows 7 Extended Security Updates option until January 2023, so Windows 7 is certainly not going to be around forever.

Oh, and Microsoft is not planning to force Windows 10 home users to pay a monthly fee either, no matter what clickbait nonsense Kelly writes.