Linux Successes (And Failures) in 2017


Linux Successes

Linux Gaming: Despite what you may hear from those gamers who are game title loyal to Windows-specific video games, 2017 has been a decent year for gaming on the Linux desktop. Some of the most notable games have come from video game publisher, Feral Interactive. Notable title examples provided by this publisher include XCOM 2, Tomb Raider, Mad Max, and Total War: WARHAMMER (among other great game titles).

Discovery and installation of great Linux games is possible because of Steam (Valve), GoG.com, and the Humble Bundle. It’s also worth noting that crowd sourcing efforts on Kick Starter (among others) has also given Linux gaming a fair bit of traction. I think overall, Valve’s Steam client provides the best example of Linux game discovery and even curation thanks to the ample reviews and user generated lists to help gamers decide on their next purchase.

It’s also worth mentioning that there are actually entire distros dedicated to Linux gaming. The first one, based on Debian is called Steam OS as it’s provided by Valve. Steam OS makes sense if you plan on running it as a dedicated gaming box or pre-installed on a “Steam Machine.”

Another great gaming distro that I personally think is vastly more interesting than Steam OS is Sparky Linux. While it lacks the big company backing found with Valve’s offering, it does come with WINE support pre-installed. This is useful for those of you who also enjoy playing WINE supported Windows games on your Linux box. I also love how it utilizes a lightweight desktop environment which means more resources are dedicated to your Linux gaming.

Linux Docker and Kubernetes: Rather than deep diving into the incredibly complex differences between VMs and containers, I’m simply going to point out that container technology for 2017 has been red hot. What started with Linux containers evolved into what we see with Docker today – dedicated single application LXC containers (and much more these days). Historically Docker’s claim to fame is that it allows you to run single process application environments. And perhaps this is part of the reason why Docker has been so popular. Docker has taken away the hassle of distributing applications into environments that might otherwise not play nicely with the provided application in the Docker container. In layman’s terms, Docker is basically a flexible container platform. And it’s not just popular in 2017, it’s going to grow even more popular in 2018.

Then we have the container storage platform known as Kubernetes. This Google sponsored storage platform is often said to be flexible, yet more complicated than other container platforms. The best comparison with Docker would be to compare Kubernetes with Docker Swarms. In all honesty while Kubernetes has seen a great deal of press in 2017, Docker continues to be the buzz word to watch as we enter the new year.

Linux VARs (Dell, System76, etc): Overall, 2017 has been a great year for Linux VARs (value added reseller). Dell has stepped up their Linux offerings just as System76 also has taken recent steps to create their own distro based on Ubuntu. With Dell, locating their Linux laptops isn’t as straight forward as other Linux computer sellers. The easiest way is to browse their offerings then sort by operating system.

Be mindful however, you will need to browse Dell laptops for work. If you try this for home offerings, your only option is Windows 10. Personally, Dell will never get my money because they tend to run hot and cold with Linux on the desktop. But despite my own personal misgivings, they are ramping up their XPS notebook offerings. I have seen a lot of adoption for their XPS line in 2017 and believe we’ll see more of it in 2018.

System76 by contrast, is a Linux ONLY computer seller. Bundle this with a much cleaner website design, locating a new computer that supports Linux first is a far easier endeavor than those computer providers that try to support “everything” in the OS space.

No matter which VAR you choose to buy from, the one thing they all have in common is growth. Despite the reported marketshare not being what we might hope, the fact is people are clearly buying new Linux PCs with Linux pre-installed. And that’s a very positive thing that has been great for 2017. Some people might question why someone would want to buy a computer at a premium with Linux installed vs buying a Windows PCs and installing Linux manually.

The easiest answer is long term support. If I buy with Linux pre-installed, any VAR worth buying from will offer me help should I run into hardware compatibility issues down the road. Buying with Windows pre-installed and then installing Linux myself means I’m on my own. While I’m comfortable with this, some people simply prefer to have things “just work” without any extra guesswork. For example: Google AMD video card or Broadcom wifi and the word Linux. This and hybrid graphics are why people are willing to pay a little extra for something that doesn’t require additional work.

Super Computers: As of 2017, Linux is “the” operating system running the world’s supercomputers. Yes, there are supercomputers that run Microsoft Azure. However there is absolutely no question that supercomputing belongs exclusively to Linux. The most notable aspect to Linux supercomputers in 2017 is that China has taken the lead in this area over the US. My prediction is that as we move beyond 2017 into the new year, the US will be playing catch up and that means even more Linux being used in supercomputing.

Linux Failures

Marketing and presence within online marketplaces: Some might be quick to point out that perhaps the biggest failure for Linux on the desktop is the lack of marketshare. Considering the decline of the desktop computer as a whole and the fact that Android (powered by Linux) is the number one OS out there, I think the entire debate on marketshare is a matter of perspective.

Setting that aside, I see the real failure for Linux being the lack of a brick and mortar presence. And while I completely understand the tremendous hurdle it is to get shelf space at various big box stores, I remain disgusted at the Linux VAR offerings on Amazon, NewEgg and TigerDirect. There is zero excuse for this and I will go to my grave maintaining this isn’t as hard as we’re lead to believe.

First of all, anyone can sell on Amazon. I’ve sold on Amazon for goodness sake! So while it could be argued as cost prohibitive to be a “feature” in the computer section of Amazon or other online seller sites, it’s pure foolishness not to find a way to make your offerings available on these sites “officially.”

Now to be clear, System76 does indeed have an Amazon presence which is awesome. Unfortunately, I believe it’s limited and would be better suited if they teamed up with Dell or other to co-op a “Welcome to Linux” presence page on Amazon. For example, have a featured space on Amazon when I browse to Computers and Tablets. When I browse to that page, I’m limited to Microsoft, Google and Apple only offerings. This is because those companies likely pay a premium to be the de facto offerings in this section. Imagine if “Linux” was also offered; listing various Linux VARs? I actually presented this idea to a couple Linux VARs and was met with a lukewarm reception to the idea.

Currently the marketing for Linux VARs is limited in my opinion and will continue to advertise to an existing audience of people who already know who they are and what they do (press releases, “reviews” and other related activities that don’t introduce Linux to frustrated Windows users or PC gamers who don’t realize how far Linux gaming has evolved). Adword campaigns only go so far, folks. Moving on.

Overcoming legacy software hurdles: This has continued to be a tough one. Trying to get a Photoshop user or someone who has extensive work with Microsoft Excel spreadsheets to utilize open source alternatives on Linux simply isn’t going to happen. I know, I’ve migrated countless Windows users over the years. The success of these migrations usually hinged upon how deep into legacy programs the user was attached to that were Windows only.

While there are some success stories on this front, there are just as many stories of people who switched back due to various frustration with having to change their work-flows to meet the needs of their new desktop operating system. I completely understand this. As a GIMP and LibreOffice user, I feel completely lost and frustrated using Photoshop and MS Office products. I simply don’t enjoy changing my work-flow and those coming from Windows often feel the same way, just in reverse.

How about you? Have you felt that 2017 has been a good year or a backpedaling year for the Linux desktop? Hit the Comments and let’s talk about it.

Are Hair-Loss Drugs Safe?



Go see your doctor about a receding hairline, and there’s a good chance you’ll walk away with a prescription for finasteride — better known by its brand name, Propecia. The FDA-approved pill, which came out in 1997, thickens hair in 65 percent of those who take it. More than 26 new generic versions, priced at less than a dollar a pill (versus $3 for Propecia), have made the drug even more attractive. While the packaging warns of a 1 to 2 percent chance of temporary sexual side effects, millions of men consider it a risk worth taking. But emerging research and a slew of lawsuits suggest that finasteride may be more dangerous than previously believed, with side effects — inability to orgasm, painful erections, chronic depression, insomnia, brain fog, and suicidal thoughts — that can last long after patients stop taking the pill.

“My yardstick for treating any patient is, what would I do if this were my own son?” says Dr. Nelson Novick, a clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. “Ten years ago I would have answered differently, but now I would not feel comfortable recommending Propecia to a young, sexually active man.”

Most dermatologists still prescribe finasteride, explaining that they rarely hear of persistent symptoms from patients. There could be a reason for that, researchers say. Men may have no idea that cognitive side effects would have anything to do with taking a hair-loss pill, particularly if those problems continue after they stop taking the drug. And many would be embarrassed to bring up sexual problems to a dermatologist or researcher, particularly a female. “Sexual impairment induced by antidepressant drugs was underestimated for decades for just this reason,” wrote Thomas Moore, a researcher with the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, in an editorial in the June issue of JAMA Dermatology. Moore said side-effect estimates for those drugs have since jumped from between 1 and 3 percent to between 30 and 60 percent.

RELATED: 10 Myths And Facts About Hair Loss

Since 2011, 1,245 lawsuits have been filed against Propecia’s manufacturer, Merck, alleging that the company failed to warn users of a constellation of sexual and cognitive side effects — which patients and physicians call Post-Finasteride Syndrome (PFS) because, they say, symptoms often persist after discontinuing the drug. This spring, the National Institutes of Health added PFS to its rare-diseases database. And in March, a California woman filed the first wrongful death suit against Merck. Her husband, a 40-year-old IT executive and father of two with no history of mental illness, killed himself in March 2013. His family blames finasteride.

In a statement, Merck said the company “stands behind the demonstrated safety and efficacy profile of Propecia.” In recent years, it also added depression and persistent sexual problems to its list of possible side effects, deep in the fine print. It intends to defend itself vigorously when the first cases go to court, likely in 2016. The company will undoubtedly argue that millions use Propecia without harm — sales hit $264 million in 2014 — and that serious problems are rare.

Not rare enough, says Steven Rossello, a 32-year-old who filed the first suit against Merck, in 2011. “There’s a lot of talk about sexual side effects, but the worst effects are the mental ones,” Rossello says. Despite stopping the drug in 2010, he says he suffered a finasteride-induced long-term depression that cost him his fiancée and job as an agent with the Department of Homeland Security.

Recent research suggests that finasteride can impact levels of neuro-protective, mood-regulating steroids in the brain, explains Dr. Michael Irwig, an associate professor of medicine at George Washington University whose research has linked its use to depression and suicidal tendencies. According to a review published in Pharmacotherapy: The Journal of Human Pharmacology and Drug Therapy in July, the FDA has received more than three dozen reports of suicidal tendencies among Propecia users. Most resulted in hospitalization, death, or disability.

RELATED: Everything You Need to Know to Treat Erectile Dysfunction

“Patients and physicians have been falsely reassured,” says Steven Belknap, an assistant professor of dermatology at Northwestern University. In a meta-analysis published in JAMA Dermatology in April, he reviewed the 34 clinical trials performed on finasteride and found that “none adequately assessed safety,” and all underreported potential adverse effects. “It is stunning,” says Belknap. “Here we are 18 years after the initial approval, and if someone were to ask me if this drug is safe, I would have to say, ‘I don’t know.’ ” Merck, in its statement, said it “conducted well-designed clinical trials.”

Why do so many doctors still prescribe the drug? The research on its cognitive side effects is relatively new, and the number of patients reporting problems low, dermatologists say. “I don’t hesitate to prescribe it to appropriate patients, but I do spend more time now counseling them about the risks,” says Boulder, Colorado, dermatologist Jeanie Leddon.

Knowing the drug’s origins might prompt some to shy away from it. Finasteride has its roots in the 1970s, when scientists discovered a rare group of men in the Dominican Republic who were born with ambiguous genitalia and often mistakenly raised as girls. These men possessed other unique traits: They never lost their hair or had prostate problems. This was because they failed to produce an enzyme that converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone, or DHT. DHT is critical for fetal development of male genitals, but in adults it impairs hair growth. Enter Merck, which unveiled a compound — finasteride — that slashes DHT levels 70 percent. As Belknap puts it, the drug works by mimicking the sex-steroid profile of pseudohermaphrodites. Some former male users equate this to “chemical castration.” To this day, health officials warn women not to even touch finasteride pills, because doing so could cause genital malformations in an unborn boy.

In 1992, drug companies rolled out a finasteride tablet to treat an enlarged prostate. It’s still prescribed by urologists who contend that, in this case, avoiding serious health problems outweighs the risk. Propecia, however, is a different story. “This is cosmetic,” stresses Belknap. “This is not a lifesaving drug.” And one that may come with a steep price.

Twitter Officially Giving 280 Characters To Tweet



Yes you heard right, now Twitter is not limit to 140 characters its increase up-to 280 characters. Twitter is the biggest Social networking website is expanding its character limit.

We – and many of you – were concerned that timelines may fill up with 280 character Tweets, and people with the new limit would always use up the whole space. But that didn’t happen. Only 5% of Tweets sent were longer than 140 characters and only 2% were over 190 characters. As a result, your timeline reading experience should not substantially change, you’ll still see about the same amount of Tweets in your timeline. For reference, in the timeline, Tweets with an image or poll usually take up more space than a 190 character Tweet, said in blog.

Support Languages:

Twitter said that those who tweeted in languages like Japanese, Korean and Chinese were able to express around double the amount of information in a single character, compared with users who spoke English, Spanish, Portuguese or French, for example.

Uber AI Labs release Pyro- A Deep Probabilistic Programming Language


UBER PyroIn order to Achieve the goal of providing transportation that is reliable to everyone, it requires optimization and effortless prediction at every turn that comes the way. Where, the opportunities and challenges range from matching drivers to riders to suggesting routes, finding sensible pool combinations, or even creating the next generation of intelligent vehicles, to find a solution to these, Uber comes up with the combination of a rich expertise of data scientists, engineers and other users with inculcating the techniques of artificial intelligence (AI). “We are exploring a tool-first approach that will enable us and others to make the next generation of AI solutions.”, Says the Uber Team.

After sharing the fruitful outputs of its research into both artificial intelligence and self-driving cars in general, Uber is now releasing a new programming language called Pyro, a flexible, scalable programming library built on PyTorch that aims in helping the developers to create probabilistic models for research in AI and is a tool to unify the best of Bayesian modeling, modern deep learning, and software abstraction: It is truly a universal, modern, and a deep probabilistic programming language we can say.

Pyro, that is the first public project released by Uber AI Labs, was designed with a motive to make it easier to train computers to infer outcomes. “Pyro is a tool for deep probabilistic modeling, unifying the best of modern deep learning and Bayesian modeling,” wrote Noah Goodman, the member of Uber AI Labs.

The Notable four design Principles that were kept in mind to be satisfied during the creation of Pyro, that is an alpha release were:

  • Universal: The language is a universal PPL that means that it can represent any computable probability distribution.
  • Scalable: It scales to large data sets with little overhead when compared to hand-written code.
  • Flexible: The language aims for automation when the user wants it and control when needed by the user. This is accomplished through high-level abstractions to express generative and inference models, while, on the contrary allowing experts easy-access to customize inference.
  • Minimal: It is maintainable, agile and is implemented with a small core of composable, powerful abstractions.

Pyro is said to touch on interesting aspects in PPL research may it be dynamic computational graphs, deep generative models or even programmable inference. By open sourcing Pyro, it is expected that the scientific world gets encouraged to collaborate on making AI tools more flexible, open, and easy to use. Also, it is hoped that the current version of Pyro, to all the probabilistic modelers who want to leverage large data sets and deep networks, will turn out be of most interest.

Since Pyro is still in its initial state, and Even though, it is still useful for research, when we talk about improvement and changes in the programming language, it is expected to change very rapidly as it is further engaged with deep learning and communities the probabilistic programming. The Possible directions for improving and extending Pyro are many, but their highest-priority directions Include:

In the Long term, it is hoped that the crucial directions of the development of Pyro will be driven by the priorities and applications of the emerging Pyro community. Now, All that is yet to see is where Pyro will come to fruition.

About Artificial Intelligence



We now understand how very complex and even apparently intelligent phenomena, such as genetic coding, the immune system, and low-level visual processing, can be accomplished without a trace of consciousness.

But this seems to uncover an enormous puzzle of just what, if anything, consciousness is for. Can a conscious entity do anything for itself that an unconscious (but cleverly wired up) simulation of that entity couldn’t do for itself?

~ Dan Dennett

Nintendo Revealed Why There Are Holes On Famicom Cartridges



Famicom cartridges are much different from their American counterparts, but there was one particular difference that has been a mystery for years. Instead of indentations that were used to snap the cart in place, Famicom cartridges have holes. Surprisingly, this is something that Nintendo never explained, until now. In an interview with Japanese website Afternoon News, they revealed that the Famicom cartridges had holes on the top because “they were just part of the design”. Here’s the conversation in full:

Afternoon News: ‘I believe there are holes on the top of [Famicom] cartridges. Do you know what kind of meaning they had?’

Nintendo: ‘Yes, to be honest, they were just part of the design.’

Afternoon News: ‘Um, these aren’t holes made during the molding or the assembly?’

Nintendo: ‘That’s correct. They’re just [part of the cartridge’s] design.’

Afternoon News: ‘Then, the holes on the front and the back of Irem’s cartridges are also design?’

Nintendo: ‘That’s correct. Similarly, that’s the design.’

Is Sex Really Exercise?



You don’t need a scientist to tell you that sex can be a full-tilt, sweat-drenched workout. But how many calories does a good romp really burn? In a recent study, researchers at the University of Québec at Montréal measured energy expended during sex versus running, and found that we get our hearts pumping and muscles cranking enough during sex for it to be considered moderate exercise.

The researchers recruited 21 healthy, active, heterosexual couples in their early 20s to jog on treadmills at about 65 percent of their maximum heart rates for 30 minutes. While running, they wore lightweight armband monitors that measure energy expenditure in calories and exercise intensity in METs, or metabolic equivalent of task.

Next, the couples were asked to have sex once a week for a month while wearing the same armbands to track their calories and intensity during sexual activity. The duration of the sex varied, but the average session across all couples for the month was about 25 minutes.

On average, the men burned 9.2 calories per minute while jogging (or about 230 calories for a 25-minute jog) and had a mean intensity of 8.5 METs, compared to 4.2 calories per minute (105 calories per session) and 6 METs during sex. Women burned a little less, logging 7.1 calories per minute and 8.1 METs on the treadmill, and 3.1 calories per minute and 5.6 METs during sex.

Unsurprisingly, jogging for a half-hour taxed everyone’s bodies more than having sex – but the researchers were impressed at how much energy these people exerted during sex. According to study author Antony Karelis, the participants burned enough calories and reached high enough intensities for sex to be considered “moderate intensity” exercise, the equivalent of walking briskly. While it’s not on the level of doing wind sprints or 30-lap pool sessions, sex can be a legit form of exercise, says Karelis.

Sex is good for you, but it isn’t always exercise: Karelis points out that sometimes sex isn’t hot and heavy and doesn’t always last long, so you can’t count every quickie as a moderate workout. “Sex should not replace regular exercise,” Karelis says. “Rather, sex and exercise should both be incorporated into your routine on a regular basis. Studies show that each improves health, so the combination of the two leads to a greater quality of life.”

Microsoft ends support for Office & Outlook 2007, users encouraged to upgrade



Starting this week on October 10th, Microsoft’s Office 2007 suite of programs have begun to transition out of support and users are being encouraged to migrate to either the Office 365 service or Office 2016.

One of the major reasons for users to upgrade is the discontinuation of support for the RPC over HTTP (Outlook Anywhere) protocol which is currently used in Outlook 2007 to communicate between Outlook for Windows and Exchange. The reason for the discontinuation of support for this protocol is because its successor, MAPI over HTTP, boasts significantly higher levels of security and allows for multi-factor authentication in Office 365.

“MAPI over HTTP was not backported to Outlook 2007 or earlier versions. If you’re using Outlook 2007, you will be in an unsupported state on October 31, 2017. If you want to continue to access Exchange Online mailboxes through the Office 365 portal (portal.office.com), we recommend that you move to a current version of Outlook that is under mainstream support, or use Outlook on the web,” the official Microsoft faq recommends. “Additionally, make sure that you don’t have any Outlook add-ins or third-party apps that rely on the RPC over HTTP protocol to connect to Office 365 data.”

Still using Windows 10 version 1511? Upgrade it to a newer release before October 10



Microsoft is currently busy with the development of the Fall Creators Update, the next Windows 10 release. Although Windows 10 is the last version of the Windows operating, the older versions of Windows 10 will be soon no longer supported. As a result, you will need to upgrade your machine to a newer and supported version of Windows 10.

When Microsoft announced the Windows 10 Creators Update, the company also confirmed that the first Windows 10 feature update ‘November Update’, version 1511 will reach the end of servicing on October 10, next week.

Microsoft recommends that the users should upgrade their machines to a newer version of Windows 10 operating system, otherwise the machines will be vulnerable to hacks. Microsoft still continues to offer updates to the original version of Windows 10 and it is likely that the Windows 10 version 1511 will still be updated but it wouldn’t be the company’s priority.

Microsoft has also revealed that the Windows 10 version 1511 end of service impacts the following editions of the operating system:

  • Windows 10 Home
  • Windows 10 Pro
  • Windows 10 Education
  • Windows 10 Enterprise

If you are still using the older version of Windows 10, you should upgrade your machine before October 10. You can head to Settings > Security & Updates > Windows Update to install the latest updates. Alternatively, you can download the ISOs and perform a clean install.

Windows 10 Fall Creators Update is coming on October 17 with major improvements such as Fluent Design. Microsoft is improving Windows 10 with every new release and it is recommended that the users should keep their devices up-to-date.

What She’s Actually Thinking About During Sex



The most prevalent thought for both men and women during sex is a fairly obvious one: “How am I doing?” But this question leads to very different thought processes for the sexes. “While you’re worrying about how long you’ll be able to last, she’s worrying that things are taking too long on her end,” says Emily Morse, a sex and relationship expert and host of the top downloaded podcast Sex with Emily. You can thank the orgasm gap: While the average man reaches climax in about five to seven minutes, a woman, on average, requires at least 20 minutes of direct stimulation. But there’s more to it than that. Here, taken from the experts, are some of the more prevalent thoughts you could expect her to be having.

“Am I taking too long?”

Many women worry that they’re taking too long to reach orgasm and/or that their partner will orgasm before they do. “Women sometimes take longer to get aroused and therefore take longer to orgasm, particularly if they aren’t receiving enough persistent, direct clitoral stimulation — otherwise known as the orgasm gap. Promescent, an OTC spray, is one way men can extend their latency time and prolong intercourse, particularly if they have a partner who generally takes longer to reach orgasm than they do (which is most men),” says Ian Kerner a psychotherapist and sexuality counselor.

Jack, her more handsome co-worker.

Women fantasize more than men do during sex, and many don’t fantasize about the act they’re engaging in or the person they’re having sex with. “This isn’t because they’re bored or disinterested — rather, it helps to quiet the parts of the brain that are associated with anxiety and outside stressors. It’s been shown that women, unlike men, need to turn off parts of their brain in order for the rest of their body to turn on, and fantasizing — even if it’s not about you — is a great way to do that,” says Dr. Kerner.

Flaws with her own body. 

Women in general suffer from an epidemic of body-image dissatisfaction. Too many women feel as though their bodies are flawed. During sex, rather than focusing on what they are feeling, they worry about what our partner thinks of our body: Does s/he see this wiggle here, this stretch mark there, the way my boobs flop over there? “We try to hide our body (only having sex in the dark, keeping clothes on during sex, only getting undressed under the covers), sometimes we avoid having sex in positions that could be unflattering, etc. All of this compromises a woman’s pleasure because when our heads are filled with worries and anxieties, we aren’t present in the current moment. When we are busy worrying about how to position the sheets in a way that will flatter our belly or hide our thighs, we aren’t attuned to the pleasurable physical sensations of our partner’s touch, and this can interfere with our ability to derive satisfaction from the sexual experience,” says Alexis Conason, Psy.D., Licensed Psychologist (www.drconason.com).

Your scorecard.

“During intercourse women often think about their man’s performance, what he’s doing that feels good and what doesn’t,” says Dr. Fran Walfish, Beverly Hills child, parenting, and relationship psychotherapist, author, The Self-Aware Parent, and co-star of Sex Box on WE tv. Frequently, women (and men) fantasize about other people and various behaviors that titillate and excite their fire. “Although I am a proponent of open, honest, direct communication, I strongly urge people not to tell their partners their personal bedroom fantasies during intercourse. All it does is fuel jealousy, rivalry, competition, and low self-esteem in your partner, creating a wedge between you and your beloved.”

When it’s going to end. 

“This is especially true when they weren’t really into it in the first place, but agreed to engage, hoping that they would get in the mood,” says Rhonda Milrad, a relationship therapist, and founder and CEO of Relationup.