X2Go, Remmina and X2GoKdrive

In this blog post, I will cover a few related but also different topics around X2Go - the GNU/Linux based remote computing framework.

Introduction and Catch Up

For those, who haven't come across X2Go, so far... With X2Go [0] you can log into remote GNU/Linux machines graphically and launch headless desktop environments, seamless/published applications or access an already running desktop session (on a local Xserver or running as a headless X2Go desktop session) via X2Go's session shadowing / mirroring feature.

Graphical backend: NXv3

For several years, there was only one graphical backend available in X2Go, the NXv3 software. In NXv3, you have a headless or nested (it can do both) Xserver that has some remote magic built-in and is able to transfer the Xserver's graphical data to a remote client (NX proxy). Over the wire, the NX protocol allows for data compression (JPEG, PNG, etc.) and combines it with bitmap caching, so that the overall result is a fast and responsive desktop experience even on low latency and low bandwidth connections. This especially applies to X desktop environments that use many native X protocol operations for drawing windows and widget onto the screen. The more bitmaps involved (e.g. in applications with client-side rendering of window controls and such), the worse the quality of a session experience.

The current main maintainer of NVv3 (aka nx-libs [1]) is Ulrich Sibiller.

Chromium Policies Managed under Linux

For a customer project, I recently needed to take a closer look at best strategies of deploying Chromium settings to thrillions of client machines in a corporate network.

Unfortunately, the information on how to deploy site-wide Chromium browser policies are a little scattered over the internet and the intertwining of Chromium preferences and Chromium policies required deeper introspection.

Here, I'd like to provide the result of that research, namely a list of references that has been studied before setting up Chromium policies for the customer's proof-of-concept.

Difference between Preferences and Policies

Chromium can be controlled via preferences (mainly user preferences) and administratively rolled-out policy files.

The difference between preferences and policies are explained here:
https://www.chromium.org/administrators/configuring-other-preferences

The site-admin (or distro package maintainer) can pre-configure the user's Chromium experience via a master preferences file (/etc/chromium/master_preferences). This master preferences file is the template for the user's preferences file and gets copied over into the Chromium user profile folder on first browser start.

Note: By studying the recent Chromium code it was found out that /etc/chromium/master_preferences is the legacy filename of the initial preferences file. The new filename is /etc/chromium/initial_preferences. We will continue with master_preferences here as most Linux distributions still provide the initial preferences via this file.

BBB Packaging for Debian, a short Heads-Up

Over the past days, I have received tons of positive feedback on my previous blog post about forming the Debian BBB Packaging Team [1]. Feedback arrived via mail, IRC, [matrix] and Mastodon. Awesome. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, folks...

Therefore, here comes a short ...

Heads-Up on the current Ongoings

... around packaging BigBlueButton for Debian:

  • While looking at Kurento Media Server, we stumbled over forked portions of code that are not uploadable to Debian as is (kmsjsoncpp, kms-gstreamer). These components would contain old and unmaintained, but also KMS-patched copies of code. Uploading those would violate Debian policy (which in short forbids code duplications in the archive). We are in touch with Kurento upstream and they have removing these forked projects on their development roadmap, although it is unclear when this might be ready for productive use.
  • At the same time, we read BBB developer posts that suggested Janus WebRTC as a possible alternative to Kurento Media Server. As our main directive is getting BigBlueButton into Debian, we might drop the Kurento packaging initiative and spend resources on other components (as Janus WebRTC, thanks to Jonas Smedegaard, already is in Debian).
  • The coming week (what a great coincidence), BigBlueButton World 2021 [2] will be held online and the schedule promises a lot of interesting talks and speakers. If interested, join up for free registration. Amongst others, Paulo Lanzarin will be speaking about "BigBlueButton’s Media Stack: Overview and the Road Ahead" (12:30 EST(!), June 23rd).

New: The Debian BBB Packaging Team (and: Kurento Media Server goes Debian)

Today, Fre(i)e Software GmbH has been contracted for packaging Kurento Media Server for Debian. This packaging project will be funded by GUUG e.V. (the German Unix User Group e.V.). A big thanks to the people from GUUG e.V. for making this packaging project possible.

About Kurento Media Server

Kurento is an open source software project providing a platform suitable for creating modular applications with advanced real-time communication capabilities. For knowing more about Kurento, please visit the Kurento project website: https://www.kurento.org.

Kurento is part of FIWARE. For further information on the relationship of FIWARE and Kurento check the Kurento FIWARE Catalog Entry. Kurento is also part of the NUBOMEDIA research initiative.

Kurento Media Server is a WebRTC-compatible server that processes audio and video streams, doing composable pipeline-based processing of media.

About BigBlueButton

As some of you may know, Kurento Media Server is one of the core components of the BigBlueButton software, an ,,Open Source Virtual Classroom Software''.

The context of the KMS funding is - after several other steps - getting the complete software component stack of BigBlueButton (aka BBB) into Debian some day, so that we can provide BBB as native Debian packages. On Debian.

Linux on Acer Spin 3

Recently, I bought an Acer Spin 3 Convertible Notebook for the company and provided it to Robert Tari for his daily work on Ayatana Indicators (which currently is funded by the UBports Foundation via my company Fre(i)e Software GmbH).

Some days ago Robert reported back about a sleepless night he spent with that machine... He got stuck with a tricky issue regarding the installation of Manjaro GNU/Linux on that machine, that could be -- at the end -- resolved by a not so well documented trick.

Before anyone else spends another sleepless night on this, we thought we'd better share Robert's solution.

So, the below applies to the Acer Spin 3 series (and probably to other Spin models, perhaps even some other Acer laptops):

Acer Spin 3 Pre-Inst Cheat Codes

Before you even plug in the USB install media:

  1. Go to UEFI settings (i.e. BIOS for us elderly people) [F2]
  2. Security -> Set Supervisor Password [Enabled]
  3. Enter the password you'll use
  4. Boot -> Secure Boot -> [Disabled] (you can't disable it without a set supervisor password)
  5. Exit -> Exit Saving Changes
  6. Restart and go to UEFI settings again [F2]
  7. Main -> [Now press CTRL + S] -> VMD Controller -> [Disabled]
  8. Exit -> Exit Saving Changes
  9. Now plug in the install USB and restart

Esp. the disabling of the VMD Controller is essential.

UBports: Packaging of Lomiri Operating Environment for Debian (part 05)

Before and during FOSDEM 2020, I agreed with the people (developers, supporters, managers) of the UBports Foundation to package the Unity8 Operating Environment for Debian.

Bye bye, Freenode!

This is a very short notice that I am not available via Freenode anymore. You can now reach me and the projects I am involved in (#x2go, #arctica, #ayatana-indicators) via the libera.chat IRC network.

Of course, I am also available and hanging out on OFTC IRC for all Debian related topics.

For details on the reasoning, I noticed that I am fully aligned with Antoine Beaupré's statements in his recent blog post on the same matter [1]. A recommended read.

light+love
Mike

[1] https://anarc.at/blog/2021-05-24-leaving-freenode/

Upcoming brainstorming discussion about Debian for the Enterprise

Recently, Raphael Hertzog published ideas [1] about how to make Debian more attractive for big enterprises. One missing key stone here is the possibility to sign up for an enterprise support subscription scheme. Another question tackles how to provide such a support scheme within Debian, without disturbing the current flow of how Debian is developed these days.

And, there are likely more questions to asks, riddles to solve, and hurdles to overcome.

We want to discuss this topic, brainstorm on it, collect new ideas and also hear your concerns on a public channel. Over the past weeks there already have been mail exchanges off-list.

We want to reboot this privately started discussion now in public (as that's where it belongs) starting +/- at the end of the coming week via the currently quite inactive Debian mailing list 'debian-enterprise' [2]. Please join the discussion (and the mailing list) [3] if interested in this topic.

light & love
Mike (aka sunweaver)

[1] https://raphaelhertzog.com/2021/03/30/challenging-times-for-freexian-1/
(also read parts 2-4)
[2] debian-enterprise@lists.debian.org
[3] https://lists.debian.org/debian-enterprise

UBports: Packaging of Lomiri Operating Environment for Debian (part 04)

Before and during FOSDEM 2020, I agreed with the people (developers, supporters, managers) of the UBports Foundation to package the Unity8 Operating Environment for Debian. Since 27th Feb 2020, Unity8 has now become Lomiri.

Things got delayed a little recently as my main developer contact on the upstream side was on sick leave for a while. Fortunately, he has now fully recovered and work is getting back on track.

Welcome, Fre(i)e Software GmbH

Last week I received the official notice: There is now a German company named "Fre(i)e Software GmbH" registered with the German Trade Register.

Founding a New Company

Over the past months I have put my energy into founding a new company. As a freelancing IT consultant I started facing the limitation of other companies having strict policies that forbid the cooperation with one person businesses (Personengesellschaften).

Thus, the requirement for setting up a GmbH business came onto my agenda. I will move some of my business activities into this new company, starting next year.

Policy Ideas

The "Fre(i)e Software GmbH" will be a platform to facilitate the growth and spreading of Free Software on this planet.

Here are some first ideas for company policies:

  • The idea is to bring together teams of developers and consultants that provide the highest expertise in FLOSS.

  • Everything this company will do, will finally (or already during the development cycles) be published under some sorf of a free software / content license (for software, ideally a copyleft license).

  • Staff members will work and live across Europe, freelancers may possibly live in any country where German businesses may do business with.

  • Ideally, staff members and freelancers work on projects that they can identify themselves with, projects that they love.

  • Software development and software design is an art. In the company we will honour this.

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