On centralized development forges

Dec 2, 2021
Since the launch of SourceForge in 1999, development of FOSS has started to concentrate in centralized development forges, the latest one of course being GitHub, now owned by Microsoft. While the centralization of development talent achieved by GitHub has had positive effects on software development output towards the commons, it is also a liability: GitHub is now effectively a single point of failure for the commons, since the overwhelming majority of software is developed there.

On CVE-2019-5021

Nov 22, 2021
A few years ago, it was discovered that the root account was not locked out in Alpine’s Docker images. This was not the first time that this was the case, an actually exploitable case of this was first fixed with a hotfix in 2015, but when the hotfix was replaced with appropriate use of /etc/securetty, the regression was inadvertently reintroduced for some configurations.

the problematic GPL "or later" clause

Nov 16, 2021
The GNU General Public License started life as the GNU Emacs Public License in 1987 (the linked version is from February 1988), and has been built on the principle of copyleft: the use of the copyright system to enforce software freedom through licensing. This prototype version of the GPL was used for other packages, such as GNU Bison (in 1988), and Nethack (in 1989), and was most likely written by Richard Stallman himself.

an inside look into the illicit ad industry

Nov 4, 2021
So, you want to work in ad tech, do you? Perhaps this will be a cautionary tale… I have worked my entire life as a contractor. This has had advantages and disadvantages. For example, I am free to set my own schedule, and undertake engagements at my own leisure, but as a result my tax situation is more complicated.

spelunking through the apk-tools dependency solver

Oct 31, 2021
In our previous episode, I wrote a high level overview of apk’s differences verses traditional package managers, which many have cited as a helpful resource for understanding the behavior of apk when it does something different than a traditional package manager would. But that article didn’t go into depth in enough detail to explain how it all actually works.

It’s time to boycott AWS

Oct 26, 2021
I woke up this morning not planning to write anything on this blog, much less anything about AWS. But then, as I was eating breakfast, I read a horrifying story in Mother Jones about how an AWS employee was treated as he did his best to cope with his wife’s terminal cancer.

don't do clever things in configure scripts

Oct 25, 2021
Recently, a new version of ncurses was released and pushed to Alpine. The maintainer of ncurses in Alpine successfully built it on his machine, so he pushed it to the builders, expecting it to build fine on them. Of course, it promptly failed to build from source on the builders, because make install did not install the pkg-config .

the Alpine release process

Oct 22, 2021
It’s almost Halloween, which means it’s almost time for an Alpine release, and all hands are on deck to make sure the process goes smoothly. But what goes into making an Alpine release? What are all the moving parts? Since we are in the process of cutting a new release series, I figured I would write about how it is actually done.

Trustworthy computing in 2021

Oct 19, 2021
Normally, when you hear the phrase “trusted computing,” you think about schemes designed to create roots of trust for companies, rather than the end user. For example, Microsoft’s Palladium project during the Longhorn development cycle of Windows is a classically cited example of trusted computing used as a basis to enforce Digital Restrictions Management against the end user.

Bits related to Alpine Security Initiatives in September

Oct 1, 2021
The past month has been quite busy as we prepare to wrap up major security-related initiatives for the Alpine 3.15 release. Some progress has been made on long-term initiatives as well. OpenSSL 3 migration As I noted in my last status update, we began the process to migrate the distribution to using OpenSSL 3.