Linus Torvalds Weighs in on Commercial Users of Open Source Code

This week Linus Torvalds continued a long email interview with Jeremy Andrews, founding partner/CEO of Tag1 (a global technology consulting firm and the second all-time leading contributor to Drupal). In the first part Torvalds had discussed everything from Apple's ARM64 chips and Rust drivers, to his own Fedora-based home work environment — and reflections on the early days of Linux. But the second part offers some deeper insight into the way Torvalds thinks, some personal insight, what he'd share with other project maintainers — and some thoughts on getting corporations to contribute to open source development: While open source has been hugely successful, many of the biggest users, for example corporations, do nothing or little to support or contribute back to the very open source projects they rely on. Even developers of surprisingly large and successful projects (if measured by number of users) can be lucky to earn enough to buy coffee for the week. Do you think this is something that can be solved? Is the open source model sustainable? Linus Torvalds: I really don't have an answer to this, and for some reason the kernel has always avoided the problem. Yes, there are companies that are pure "users" of Linux, but they still end up wanting support, so they then rely on contractors or Linux distributions, and those obviously then end up as one of the big sources of kernel developer jobs. And a fair number of big tech companies that use the kernel end up actively participating in the development process. Sometimes they end up doing a lot of internal work and not being great at feeding things back upstream (I won't name names, and some of them really are trying to do better), but it's actually very encouraging how many big companies are very openly involved with upstream kernel development, and are major parts of the community. So for some reason, the kernel development community has been pretty successful about integrating with all the commercial interests. Of course, some of that has been very much conscious: Linux has very much always been open to commercial users, and I very consciously avoided the whole anti-corporate mindset that you can most definitely find in some of the "Free Software" groups. I think the GPLv2 is a great license, but at the same time I've been very much against some of the more extreme forms of "Free Software", and I — and Linux — was very much part of the whole rebranding to use "Open Source". Because frankly, some of the almost religious overtones of rms and the FSF were just nutty, and a certain portion of the community was actively driving commercial use away. And I say that as somebody who has always been wary of being too tainted by commercial interests... I do think that some projects may have shot themselves in the foot by being a bit too anti-commercial, and made it really hard for companies to participate... But is it sustainable? Yes. I'm personally 100% convinced that not only is open source sustainable, but for complex technical issues you really need open source simply because the problem space ends up being too complex to manage inside one single company. Even a big and competent tech company. But it does require a certain openness on both sides. Not all companies will be good partners, and some developers don't necessarily want to work with big companies. In the interview Torvalds also thanks the generous education system in Finland, and describes what it was like moving from Finland to America. And as for how long he'll continue working on Linux, Torvalds says, "I do enjoy what I do, and as long as I feel I'm actually helping the project, I'll be around... "in the end, I really enjoy what I do. I'd be bored to tears without kernel development." Read more of this story at Slashdot.
2021-05-09 22:00:01 preview's
Are We Now Experiencing 'a Great Reassessment of Work'?

The Washington Post reports on "growing evidence — both anecdotal and in surveys — that a lot of people want to do something different with their lives than they did before the pandemic." In a piece titled "It's not a 'labor shortage.' It's a great reassessment of work," they argue that "The coronavirus outbreak has had a dramatic psychological effect on workers, and people are reassessing what they want to do and how they want to work, whether in an office, at home or some hybrid combination." A Pew Research Center survey this year found that 66 percent of the unemployed had "seriously considered" changing their field of work, a far greater percentage than during the Great Recession. People who used to work in restaurants or travel are finding higher-paying jobs in warehouses or real estate, for example. Or they want a job that is more stable and less likely to be exposed to the coronavirus — or any other deadly virus down the road... Economists describe this phenomenon as reallocation friction, the idea that the types of jobs in the economy are changing and workers are taking awhile to figure out what new jobs they want — or what skills they need for different roles... Even among those who have jobs, people are rethinking their options. Front-line workers are reporting high levels of burnout, causing some to seek a new career path. There's also been a wave of retirements as workers over 50 quit because they don't want to return to teaching, home health care or other front-line jobs. More affluent Americans say they are retiring early because their retirement portfolios have surged in the past year and the pandemic has taught them that life is short. They don't want to spend as much time at a desk, even if it is safe... [I]t's notable that the manufacturing sector has bounced back strongly, yet the industry has only added back about 60 percent of the jobs lost. This suggests many factories are ramping up automation in a way that allows them to do more with fewer workers. The overall expectation is still for hiring to pick up this summer as the economy reopens fully and more people are vaccinated. But the past year has fundamentally changed the economy and what many Americans want in their working life. This big reassessment — for companies and workers — is going to take awhile to sort out and it could continue to pop up in surprising ways. Read more of this story at Slashdot.
2021-05-09 20:15:01 preview's
Unlike Clearview AI, this Facial-Recognition Search Engine is Open to Everyone

This week CNN investigated PimEyes, a "mysterious" but powerful facial-recognition search engine: If you upload a picture of your face to PimEyes' website, it will immediately show you any pictures of yourself that the company has found around the internet. You might recognize all of them, or be surprised (or, perhaps, even horrified) by some; these images may include anything from wedding or vacation snapshots to pornographic images. PimEyes is open to anyone with internet access. It's a stark contrast from Clearview AI, which became well-known for building its enormous stash of faces with images of people from social networks and limits its use to law enforcement (Clearview has said it has hundreds of such customers). PimEyes' decision to make facial-recognition software available to the general public crosses a line that technology companies are typically unwilling to traverse, and opens up endless possibilities for how it can be used and abused. Imagine a potential employer digging into your past, an abusive ex tracking you, or a random stranger snapping a photo of you in public and then finding you online. This is all possible through PimEyes: Though the website instructs users to search for themselves, it doesn't stop them from uploading photos of anyone. At the same time, it doesn't explicitly identify anyone by name, but as CNN Business discovered by using the site, that information may be just clicks away from images PimEyes pulls up... PimEyes lets users see a limited number of small, somewhat pixelated search results at no cost, or you can pay a monthly fee, which starts at $29.99, for more extensive search results and features (such as to click through to see full-size images on the websites where PimEyes found them and to set up alerts for when PimEyes finds new pictures of faces online that its software believes match an uploaded face)... Although PimEyes instructs visitors to only search for their own face, there's no mechanism on the site to ensure it's used this way... There's also no way to ensure this facial-recognition technology isn't used to misidentify people... The website currently lists no information about who owns or runs the search engine, or how to reach them, and users must submit a form to get answers to questions or help with accounts. Read more of this story at Slashdot.
2021-05-09 18:45:01 preview's
Electric Vehicles May Drive a Lithium Supply Crunch

A carbon-free future "will require many millions of batteries, both to drive electric vehicles and to store wind and solar power on the grid," reports IEEE Spectrum. Unfortunately, today's battery chemistries "mostly rely on lithium — a metal that could soon face a global supply crunch." Recently, Rystad Energy projected a "serious lithium supply deficit" in 2027 as mining capacity lags behind the EV boom. The mismatch could effectively delay the production of around 3.3 million battery-powered passenger cars that year, according to the research firm. Without new mining projects, delays could swell to the equivalent of 20 million cars in 2030. Battery-powered buses, trucks, ships, and grid storage systems will also feel the squeeze... [T]he solution isn't as simple as mining more hard rock — called spodumene — or tapping more underground brine deposits to extract lithium. That's because most of the better, easier-to-exploit reserves are already spoken for in Australia (for hard rock) and in Chile and Argentina (for brine). To drastically scale capacity, producers will also need to exploit the world's "marginal" resources, which are costlier and more energy-intensive to develop than conventional counterparts... Concerns about supply constraints are driving innovation in the lithium industry. A handful of projects in North America and Europe are piloting and testing "direct lithium extraction," an umbrella term for technologies that, generally speaking, use electricity and chemical processes to isolate and extract concentrated lithium... In southwestern Germany, Vulcan Energy is extracting lithium from geothermal springs that bubble thousands of meters below the Rhine river. The startup began operating its first pilot plant in mid-April. Vulcan said it could be extracting 15,000 metric tons of lithium hydroxide — a compound used in battery cathodes — per year. In southern California, Controlled Thermal Resources is developing a geothermal power plant and lithium extraction facility at the Salton Sea. The company said a pilot facility will start producing 20,000 metric tons per year of lithium hydroxide, also by 2024. Another way to boost lithium supplies is to recover the metal from spent batteries, of which there is already ample supply. Today, less than 5 percent of all spent lithium-ion batteries are recycled, in large part because the packs are difficult and expensive to dismantle. Many batteries now end up in landfills, leaching chemicals into the environment and wasting usable materials. But Sophie Lu, the head of metals and mining for BloombergNEF, said the industry is likely to ramp up recycling after 2028, when the supply deficit kicks in. Developers are already starting to build new facilities, including a $175 million plant in Rochester, N.Y. When completed, it will be North America's largest recycling plant for lithium-ion batteries. The Economic Times also argues that electric cars and renewable energy "may not be as green as they appear. Production of raw materials like lithium, cobalt and nickel that are essential to these technologies are often ruinous to land, water, wildlife and people. "That environmental toll has often been overlooked in part because there is a race underway among the United States, China, Europe and other major powers. Echoing past contests and wars over gold and oil, governments are fighting for supremacy over minerals that could help countries achieve economic and technological dominance for decades to come." Read more of this story at Slashdot.
2021-05-09 17:45:02 preview's
Twitter and TikTok are Losing the War Against COVID Disinformation

America's leading social media companies "pledged to put warning labels on COVID-19 and COVID vaccines posts to stop the spread of falsehoods, conspiracy theories and hoaxes that are fueling vaccine hesitancy in the USA," reports USA Today. "With the exception of Facebook, nearly all of them are losing the war against COVID disinformation." That's the conclusion of a new report shared exclusively with USA TODAY. As the pace of the nation's immunizations slows and public health agencies struggle to get shots in arms, Advance Democracy found that debunked claims sowing unfounded fears about the vaccines are circulating largely unfettered on Twitter and TikTok, including posts and videos that falsely allege the federal government is covering up deaths caused by the vaccines or that it is safer to get COVID-19 than to get the vaccine. Twitter began labeling tweets that include misleading or false information about COVID-19 vaccines in March. It also started using a "strike system" to eventually remove accounts that repeatedly violate its rules. Yet none of the top tweets on Twitter using popular anti-vaccine hashtags like #vaccineskill, #novaccine, #depopulation and #plandemic had labels as of May 3, according to Advance Democracy, a research organization that studies disinformation and extremism. What's more, when USA TODAY searched these hashtags on Twitter, unlabeled posts were served up along with advertisements for major consumer brands including Cheetos, Volvo, CVS, even Star Wars... After coming under fire for its slow response to COVID-19 misinformation, Facebook has made significant progress in labeling COVID-19 posts, according to Daniel Jones, president of Advance Democracy... As of May 3, all of the top 10 posts discussing COVID-19 vaccines that used the #vaccineskill hashtag were labeled, compared to only two of the top 10 on March 28, Advance Democracy found... Facebook told USA TODAY it has removed more than 16 million pieces of content on Facebook and Instagram for violating its COVID and vaccine policies since the beginning of the pandemic.... As of May 3, TikTok failed to consistently apply labels to anti-vaccination hashtags used in videos with millions of views, the report said. Nine of the top 10 videos related to COVID-19 vaccines using the hashtag #NoVaccine did not have a label. Videos with the #NoVaccine label racked up 20.5 million views... The Advance Democracy research did not look at vaccine-related content on Facebook-owned Instagram or Google's YouTube. "Promises to address public health misinformation online are only consequential if there is action and follow through..." Jones told USA Today. "This pandemic is not over, and with the rate of vaccinations on the decline, directing users to reliable information on vaccines is more important than ever," Jones said. Read more of this story at Slashdot.
2021-05-09 16:45:01 preview's
Hitting the Road This Winter? Take Your Kitchen With You

2021-05-09 14:45:04 preview's
4 Rugged French Presses for Your Coffee-Fueled Summer Escape

Whether you're an avid camper or vacation home–renter, try one of these glass-free French presses made for traveling.
2021-05-09 14:45:03 preview's
New book Press Reset investigates the high human cost of game development

Beloved game-industry journo aims his lens at the little people making big video games.
2021-05-09 09:00:03 preview's
What If Gravity Is Actually a Double Copy of Other Forces?

An enigmatic connection between the forces of nature is allowing physicists to explore the quantum side of gravity.
2021-05-09 08:15:01 preview's
What's Google Floc? And How Does It Affect Your Privacy?

There's a battle raging over how advertisers can target us on the web—or whether they should be able to target us at all.
2021-05-09 08:15:01