Issuu on Google+



Pages of tutorials and features Ubuntu bare METAL server LibreBoot your laptop Build a file sharing box Coding Academy: Take Rust further and build a REST app

Get into Linux today!

New MINT! The most refreshing distro of 2016 is here Your complete guide to Mint 18 Enable key kernel updates Get inside Cinnamon 3.0 Discover the new X-Apps …try it all today!

Puppet on a string

They’re hungry, like really ready to eat, and there’s nothing for them to put their food on!

Kara Sowles on building successful events Roundup

Shared server

Broadcast to the world with the best open source tools

Dump Evernote for this open source star – it’s easy!

Screen casting

Turtl notes

Build a Pi Linux drone! Create a fully functioning drone powered by a Pi Zero

Welcome Get into Linux today!

What we do

We support the open source community by providing a resource of information, and a forum for debate. We help all readers get more from Linux with our tutorials section – we’ve something for everyone! We license all the source code we print in our tutorials section under the GNU GPL v3. We give you the most accurate, unbiased and up-to-date information on all things Linux.

Who we are

This issue we asked our experts: What do you like or not like about Mint? Or how did you first come to use it?

Jonni Bidwell Mint has been great for ‘fixing’ various old XP machines. Auntie Ethel loves it – she’s currently learning ROP exploits in order to exact revenge following some poor adjudication at the bridge club. As well as being accessible, it has the most wonderful squelchy effect on the context menu. It’s reason enough to get a new video card.

Neil Bothwick It has to be the colour. While many people switched to Mint because of the old-school desktop environments, for me it was the chance to have a desktop that was anything but a murky brown or purple. Please don’t tell me defaults can be changed when all it takes is a switch of distro.

Matt Hanson My favourite feature of Mint is actually the Cinnamon desktop environment. It’s helped me convince a number of friends and family members that Linux isn’t this scary alien operating system, but is just as easy to use – and runs far better – than their ageing Windows XP.

Nick Peers The best thing about Mint is that it’s basically Ubuntu for Windows switchers. Its Cinnamon desktop makes it that bit easier to wean yourself off your Microsoft dependency, giving new users the confidence to explore Linux before coming to the right conclusion: who needs Windows anyway? Les Pounder I first used Mint 17 after hearing how good it was from Tony Hughes at my local LUG. Tony was right, Mint is the ideal distro for those moving from Windows machines. It just works really well no matter the hardware – you just get a really good experience for any level of user.

Information wars 2016 is turning out to be an exciting year for GNU/Linux distro releases. First we had the release of the classleading Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, and from that a host of spin-off distros have been slowly appearing. The next most popular release is Linux Mint 18. Based on that LTS Ubuntu release, this next big Mint release brings with it a host of huge changes to the popular distro. To celebrate Linux Mint 18 being released, we’re running a comprehensive feature on what’s new and exciting in this release of Mint, from its all-new X-Apps to the new improved Cinnamon desktop that so many know and love. We run you through the install process, look at how Mint is built, examine where it went wrong with its security in the past, show how it has fixed the situation and where Mint could still improve itself. We’re sure you’re going to love Mint 18, so we’ve got both the 64- and 32-bit releases on the disc. As we know, Linux is expanding in all directions, and one of these is into more and more embedded applications. This issue we explain how you can build your own Pi-powered Linux-run drone. Importantly, it won’t break the bank and you don’t need to be Elon Musk to build it. It’s just another example of the expansion of Linux into real-time hardware applications. We’re also continuing to look at the issue of open hardware, this issue by examining how useful LibreBoot – the completely open BIOS replacement – actually is. Would you want to try it? Read our feature to find out. There’s also much, much more this issue: with tutorials covering basic terminal tasks to the utterly involved ggplot2 and finishing looking at Rust plus the absorbing Play and Wrangle, we’re continually blown away by how varied and interesting living in the FLOSS world is. Enjoy!

Neil Mohr Editor

Subscribe & save!

On digital and print, see p30

Summer 2016 LXF214    3


“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” – Pascal

Reviews Dell Chromebook 13.......... 17 Dell continues its rollout of top-flight Chromebook offerings, this time with a model that feels more like a business-class ultra-laptop than a cheap budget system.

Dell is back and this time it has brought a new Chromebook line.

Asus Chromebook C202...18

Get started with Mint 18 One of the most loved and easy to use distros gets its biggest upgrade. We dive deep into what’s new. Get going on page 32

Roundup: Screencasting tools p24

Can another rugged Chromebook rule the classroom? Asus thinks so and has built something as solid as a tank. We’re not so sure, as it runs about as fast as a tank…

LulzBot Taz 6......................19 Reflecting its open hardware origins, the Taz 6 refines all that has come before. Alastair Jennings checks out the latest features of this hotly anticipated 3D printer.

Fedora 24............................ 20 Another Goliath in the distro world has been released. Jonni Bidwell takes an extended look at this latest release and all the cuttingedge technology it offers.

For those who love living on the edge Fedora delivers a vast amount.

AMD Radeon RX 480....... 22 We put the first Polaris GPU from AMD that uses its open source first AMDGPU driver through its paces and we love what we find.

S.USV Pi Advanced.......... 59 Even a Raspberry Pi deserves UPS protection... Les Pounder tests a solution that can keep your projects running.

4     LXF214 Summer 2016

Interview Something’s going to go wrong, I don’t know what, but I’m excited to face it. Puppet Labs’ Kara Sowles on event planning p40

On your FREE DVD Mint 18 Cinnamon, Mint 18 Mate Edition, Peppermint 7. 64-bit



Subscribe p96 & save! p30

Only the best distros every month PLUS: Hotpicks, Roundup & more!

Raspberry Pi User

In-depth... Build a Linux drone............... 44

Pi news.................................... 58

With Linux drones selling for up to £2,000, we head out to build our own for a tenth of the cost. Alastair Jennings is your engineering friend.

Scratch games celebrate the 2016 Olympics in Rio, and the Pi gets killer AI.

S.USV Pi Advanced............... 59 What happens when your Pi project loses all its power? Nothing, cos you have a UPS attached!

Pi camera effects.................. 60 Les Pounder shows us how to use the new Raspberry Pi Zero and official Pi Camera to create a device to instantly capture the moment.

Build a Pirate Box................. 62 Nate Drake shares a treasure map to turn   your Raspberry Pi into a secure device for   offline chat and sharing your media.

What will you do with your drone?

Coding Academy

Tutorials Terminal basics X11 remote access...........66

Play and Swagger................. 83 Bernard Jason explains how to expose your APIs using REST, then with a little Swagger how to make it clear to use.

Nick Peers has had enough of the terminal and fires up a remote SSH connection capable of running X11.

Rust: Multi-threading........... 88

Ubuntu server Hitting the METAL...........68

Our series finally rusts to nothing with Mihalis Tsoukalos... This month we explain what you need to start using threads in Rust.

Mayank Sharma explains how Ubuntu Server offers an easy way to quickly fire up multiple servers on real hardware.

Regulars at a glance News.............................. 6 Subscriptions............30 Overseas subs...........82 32-bit, your days are numbered! So

Subscriptions are really important, so We ship Linux Format all around the

say a host of distros. Linux users are

we’re told. So go, run, subscribe and

now the 2 percent. And Vulkan starts

make the Masters ever so happy!

to power open source gaming.

Mailserver................... 10

Sysadmin....................48 Mr. Brown is having a mid-life crisis,

globe, subscribe and save money!

Next month................98. We celebrate the Linux kernel turning 25 years old by looking back at how

From RAID to Linux AV we’ve got a

takes a stab at machine learning and

it developed, the key distro releases

bulging post bag and just the one

has a play with Amazon’s Lambda

and how you can relive those days.

angry Englishman this time.

services without infrastructure.

Les Pounder heads to Liverpool as

Alexander Tolstoy hasn’t been sacked from the Baltic fleet, he’s too


Boot it Libreboot the X200.......... 78

source waters for: Eko, StyleProject,

Mayank Sharma wants to teach the

Qt Virt Manager, SquashFS, Synapse, qBittorrent, Trojitá, FlightGear, Raging

he’s screen casting his singing. Awful.

Gardens, PDFGrep and Shotwell.

We start using the latest open source system that promises pervasive note taking and more – it’s awesome!

Mihalis Tsoukalos isn’t doing Game of Thrones but graphical plotting.

busy navigating the temperate open

world to sing in perfect harmony, so

Notes server Using Turtl........................ 72

Plotting ggplot................................. 74

User groups.................14 HotPicks..................... 52 Makefest takes over the library.

Metal as a service.

Our subscription team is waiting for your call.

Neil Mohr takes his perfectly functioning laptop and decides to wipe its brain.

Summer 2016 LXF214    5

This ISSUE: 32-bit support

Linux desktops at 2%

Linux gaming


Distro news

More distros drop 32-bit

But you won’t need to upgrade just yet...


he European Union, David Cameron, almost all of the Labour Shadow cabinet… all are going out of fashion or disappearing completely, but will 32-bit distributions (distros) follow suit? Painfully forced UK politics comparisons aside, the fate of Linux distros that support 32-bit hardware is once more up for debate, with Ubuntu’s Dimitri John Ledkov suggesting in a mailing list in June ( that Canonical should consider dropping support for 32-bit distros in the near future. He did so pointing out that 32-bit hardware is becoming ever more uncommon, with third parties dropping support, and that “Building i386 images is not ‘for free’, it comes at the cost of utilizing our build farm, QA and validation time… As well as [taking] up mirror space and bandwidth.” Canonical has already confirmed that there won’t be a 32-bit image of Ubuntu 16.10, though you will be able to install the 32-bit version from installers. Before Ubuntu users with 32-bit hardware panic, this is in no way an official stance of Canonical, and even Ledkov himself suggests a long time

6 LXF214 Summer 2016

frame for phasing out 32-bit support, with April 2021 seeing the end of i386 as host/base OS architecture (coinciding with the end of support for Ubuntu 16.04 LTS) and April 2023 the end of running legacy i386 applications with security support.

Bit long in the tooth

Ledkov states that “between now and 2018, it would be logical to limit the amount of new installations of i386, because cross-grading between i386>amd64 is not something we can reliably ship. We must continue [to] provide the i386 port, to support multiarch and third party legacy application that are only available as i386 binaries.” With decreasing downloads of 32-bit versions, many distros and projects are evaluating the time and energy spent on creating these versions, with distros such as Fedora and OpenSUSE dropping 32-bit images. It was also announced in May this year that Debian would be dropping support for i586 and hybrid i586/i686 processors in Debian 9, with the changes implemented to the Linux kernel 4.3 packages that have been uploaded to Debian’s Unstable repositories (repos). Again, owners of 32-bit hardware won’t have to upgrade their components just yet, with the 32-bit supporting Debian 8 “Jessie” scheduled to enter the LTS stage in May 2018, and support stretching to 2020. Of course, you should consider upgrading your hardware in the next few years to ensure you continue to get mainstream support. But we’re sure there will continue to be specialist distros that will support 32-bit hardware.

Good night, sweet prince—support for 32-bit processors such as the Intel i386DX may be dropped by many mainstream distros in the near future.

It’s also worth noting that dropping support for 32-bit processors, such as i386, i586 and i586/i686 hybrids, does not mean that support for all 32-bit hardware is going to be dropped. There

“Building i386 images is not ‘free’, it costs build, QA and validation time.” was a flurry of speculation a few years ago when the Linux kernel dropped support for 386 processors. Many people thought this signalled the end of 32-bit support when, in fact, it simply meant 386-specific code. So the end of 32-bit support in Linux is not quite nigh just yet... but it might not hurt to begin thinking of switching to 64-bit in the near future to make your life easier.

Newsdesk newsdesk Desktop news

We are the 2%!

The latest figures show Linux use has now risen above 2% of desktop market share, but Windows is still a little way ahead.


inux now has 2% of the desktop market, rising from the 1.63% it had in August 2015. In a graph published by Net Market Share (, there was quite a jump in June 2016. At 2.02% market share, Linux is still behind Mac OS (8.19%), and Windows still has a huge lead with 89.79% of the market as of June 2016. By the time you read this, the numbers may be even be slightly higher for Linux. The way Net Market Share collects its data is from browsers that visit certain websites that are

included in the network of HitsLink Analytics and SharePost clients, which is made up of 40,000 websites and brings data from around 160 million unique visits per month. So while this gives us a very good idea of OS usage for internet users, it doesn’t tell the whole story. So what could be the cause of this surge in Linux use? It could be down to the growing popularity of Chromebooks: as we reported last issue, Chromebooks have now outsold Macs for the first time in the US, with Dell, HP and Lenovo combined shipping almost 2 million of the devices.

Newsbytes After six years it looks like Sony is finally going to pay PlayStation 3 owners, after it removed the ability to install Linux in March 2010, which annoyed many people who’d already bought the console only to find a much trumpeted feature had been taken away from them. While the deal is still being thrashed out, it looks like Sony will pay $55 to any PS3 owner who had a console manufactured between November 2006 and September 2009 and can prove they lost the use of Linux. If you don’t have proof you may still be able to claim $9. You should get an email from Sony (if you signed up for the PlayStation network) detailing how to claim.

Did you use Linux on the PS3 before the feature was dropped? Sony might owe you some cash…

This graph from Net Market Share shows the rise in Linux use – now above 2%!

Linux gaming news

Big names continue to get behind Linux

Vulkan, Dell Steam Machines and AMD support.


nother month and another round of great news for Linux gamers. At this year’s E3 gaming convention Dell announced new Steam Machines in its gaming enthusiast Alienware range. These console-like PCs can be plugged into TVs in the front room and run the Debian-based SteamOS operating system. With the latest Intel Skylake CPUs and Nvidia GTX 960 graphics cards, these Steam Machines will play the latest blockbuster games with ease,

The Alienware Steam Machine looks like a console, and brings Linux games to your lounge.

and an increasing number of these games are being ported over to Linux thanks to Valve. AMD also took to the stage to announce that its new Radeon RX 470 and Radeon RX 460 graphics cards, which are based on its eagerly anticipated Polaris architecture, will ship with both open and closed source Linux drivers. Nvidia has also offered Linux drivers for its latest GTX 1080 and 1070 GPUs, further strengthening Linux’s gaming credentials. Support for the Vulkan API is also growing, which makes it even easier for graphically intensive games to be ported from the Windows 10-only DirectX 12 API, with big titles – such as the recent reboot of Doom – embracing Vulkan, and game engines, such as Unity, looking to implement Vulkan support in the future. This could finally put a stop to Microsoft using DirectX to force gamers to use its Windows operating system.

Security researcher Dymtro “Cr4sh” Oleksiuk has found another critical vulnerability in Lenovo PCs affecting the UEFI which disables firmware write protection. This zeroday exploit is dubbed ThinkPwn and Oleksiuk observed that “Running of arbitrary System Management Mode code allows [an] attacker to disable flash write protection and infect platform firmware, disable Secure Boot, bypass Virtual Secure Mode (Credential Guard, etc) on Windows 10 Enterprise and do other evil things.” Has nano, the popular text editor, opted out of GNU with version 2.6.0? After a post saying “with this release, we take leave of the herd” on the nano news page ( many thought so, perhaps due to plans to move nano to Github, which is incompatible with the GNU licence. But it may be simply a fork – one of the GNU maintainers team posted on Hacker News ( that GNU Nano continues: “The current maintainer of GNU Nano, Chris Allegretta, was hoping to add Benno Schulenberg as a co-maintainer, [but] Benno refused to accept GNU’s maintainership agreement… It seems Benno decided to fork the project. But he updated the official GNU Nano website rather than creating a website for the fork.” The plot thickens...

Summer 2016 LXF214 7

Write to us at Linux Format, Future Publishing, Quay House, The Ambury, Bath BA1 1UA or


Mailserver we did outline how it was pretty straightforward to use something like ZFS to store your boot OS alongside. Being more helpful, Ubuntu does offer a software RAID install guide SoftwareRAID but be aware if you’re planning to dual-boot Windows you’ll likely need to use ther FakeRAID path http://bit. ly/FakeRaidHowto unless you have a true hardware RAID controller. It’s certainly something we’re interested in and will hopefully get to look at, right after we get to Slackware…

No English I have read the letter from Harvey Rothenberg, USA and I’m absolutely astonished at his lack of knowledge regarding the distribution of magazines. First, LXF is not an American published magazine so why would it target that area? Second, USA manufacturers and suppliers of electronic equipment seem to think that

We love the smell of RAID in the morning, and the burning sensation.

the only language in the world is American English, and nobody actually speaks or writes the English language. There is no American English language the Americans have bastardised standard English and claimed it as their own. Last, Harvey Rothenberg of USA should stick with an American version of Linux (if such a thing exists) and if he doesn’t like EU versions of anything then he should realise

We don’t want to start an argument, but look—it’s in Wikipedia.

You know, you’ve been posting some darned useful articles recently. Back in LXF206 there was one on RAID [Tutorials, p76]. I remember messing with that back with Ubuntu 10.04, with the objective of building a high-reliability PC. I even got to scripting the RAID build, to make it easier and faster. Then in LXF207 you had a review of Fedora Security Lab [p20], and put it on the cover-disk of LXF208. So far, so brilliant. Next step? How about an article on how to install Linux on a RAID set? Back with Ubuntu 10.04, Canonical produced the ‘Alternate-build’ CD, with a simple text-based installer to make room for the RAID additions, but not any more. An article on how to augment and process a standard-release would be ooh-so-helpful. And an excellent follow-up to the Security Lab/Suite would be an introduction to the basics of pentesting such as some of the most useful commands and what they discover. Dare I look forward? Peter Overfield, Shefford Neil says: Thank you for your kind words. Often Jonni sidesteps the issue saying just use RAID for your main storage and run Ubuntu on a small SSD, it’s almost like he’s avoiding the issue… Last issue in

10     LXF214 Summer 2016

that there are places in the world other than the USA! Robin Strachan, UK. Neil says: As we’ve just chosen to Brexit the EU, we’re not going to take any high grounds here. But, really, what’s in a name? I often see the English (US) option so that’s seems close enough and don’t get Effy started on Spanish, the Spanish are always telling him how to talk.

RUST FTW! I agree with Jim Blandy about C. It is as worthless as Basic and Fortran, the only advantage is that nobody will ever steal your source as it is completely incomprehensible. Around 1978, I ‘ordered’ my computer group to switch to Pascal. One person refused: a good programmer does not make mistakes, only

All the latest software and hardware reviewed and rated by our experts

Dell Chromebook 13 Seeing a Chromebook that means business, Steven Wong rubs his eyes in disbelief at its battery life. Specs CPU: 1.7GHz Intel Celeron 3215U (dual-core, 2MB cache) Graphics: Intel HD Graphics GT1 RAM: 4GB DDR3L Screen: 13.3inch 1920 x 1080 Matte FHD LCD Storage: 16GB M2.NGFF Solid State Drive, MicroSD slot Optical drive: None Ports: 1x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0, HDMI, headphone and microphone combo jack Connectivity: Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 802.11AC, Bluetooth 4.0 Camera: Built-in 720p HD video camera Weight: 2.17kg (4.8lb) Size: 382 x 252.5 x 20mm (15.04 x 9.94 x 0.78 in) W x D x H

All models in the range sport 13.3-inch FHD displays.


erhaps high-end Chromebooks were inevitable, but it looks like the Chromebook Pixel has started a trend. This new Dell model features an FHD screen, more memory, and more processing power than one might expect – or arguably need – from an average Chromebook. Perhaps it is overpowered, but the growing popularity of Chromebooks in recent years begs for some kind of upgrade, if for no other reason than to stand out from the previous generation. The Dell Chromebook 13 does just this. Although it shares the same minimalistic focus on light productivity and web browsing use as other Chromebooks, the high-resolution screen and spiffy internals indicate that Chromebooks are moving toward a higher class of computing. If it weren’t for the colour logo on the lid, one might not be able to tell it’s a Chromebook, and that might be the point. The black carbon fiber cover and magnesium alloy chassis suggest there are high-end components inside. It’s a very attractive notebook that fits in perfectly with Dell’s other businessclass machines. We tested the base model with a 1.5GHz Intel Celeron processor, 4GB of memory, and a 16GB solid state drive. However, the premium frame and 1080p screen basically double the price. That’s still enough power to

run Chrome OS efficiently, and the internal storage is supplemented with a microSD slot and two USB ports (one of which is USB 3.0).

Business class The Dell Chromebook 13’s matte FHD 13-inch screen has excellent viewing angles and works reasonably well in sunny conditions. It also sports a backlit keyboard, which makes it convenient to work with in darkened rooms. Web pages and cloud-based applications load quickly, but text often appears very small on the 13-inch screen, which made working with documents a pain, unless you’re keen on squinting a lot. That said, streaming video from YouTube and Netflix looks sharp at Full HD, although the picture can be a bit dark at half brightness. In fact, the brightness has to be turned up all the way in sunlit spaces. Slim speaker grilles are located on the bottom of the tapered sides, so the sound comes out clear and loud, especially on solid surfaces. The Dell Chromebook 13 comes in four varieties, with one that includes a touchscreen display but no 2-in-1 functionality. The most expensive configuration has a 2.9GHz Intel Core i5 processor with 8GB of memory and a 32GB SSD. All models sport 1,920 x 1,080 FHD displays. The Dell Chromebook 13 performed well in our suite of benchmark tests, scoring Octane 13,795 and Mozilla Kraken 2,139.6ms. For battery life (HD film test) it managed a very usable 14 hours and 30 minutes. This means the Chromebook’s Celeron processor delivers impressive performance. The system scored well in both the Octane and Mozilla Kraken JavaScript benchmarks. The battery

The new Dell looks the business.

is rated for 12 hours, and it means it. In fact, our movie test ran for 12 and a half hours at 50% brightness, and the battery still had 19% left in it; at maximum brightness it managed 10 hours with about 16% battery left. The Dell Chromebook 13 is a greatlooking little notebook that, at first glance, is almost indistinguishable from other brands of business class systems. It offers strong performance and is ready for both work and play. LXF

Verdict Dell Chromebook 13 Developer: Dell Web: Price: £580

Features Performance Ease of use Value

9/10 9/10 9/10 6/10

Looks great and has the performance to support the needs of both work and play, all at a reasonable price.

Rating 8/10

Summer 2016 LXF214    17

Kara Sowles

Community relations Jonni Bidwell meets Kara Sowles, Puppet Labs’ Community Manager, to learn about the perils of organising tech events.

Kara Sowles is Puppet Labs’ Community Manager, who by lucky coincidence happens to also enjoy making stop-motion movies using actual puppets. We met her at OSCON 2015 to talk about planning tech events, cultural differences, hungry sysadmins and the special importance of community in the tech sector.


Linux Format: Puppet Labs is famed for all kinds of complicated provisioning and cloud-

40     LXF214 Summer 2016

conjuring tools, but there’s a lot more to the organisation than making and maintaining software. Tell us about what you do there. Kara Sowles: I’m Community Manager, which means I help build and support programmes that support the community that we have. And when I say community I mean the whole thing – enterprise users, the thousands of open source users, contributors, people at the company... it’s a really broad definition. In our Community department we work on a lot of different programmes. For example I built a user group programme which we’ve grown from around five user groups to around 50 or 60 right now. These user groups are run by community

members and users, but we help support them with resources. We also plan events for contributors and stuff like that as well as travelling and helping to run one-day PuppetCamp events that we do. I also do content selection for those I help a little bit with our main conference. And then I think one of the most important aspects of Community Manager is also working with other teams in the company so that they can better understand the community and they can then tailor their work to be more valuable to that community. LXF: So we’re at OSCON, which is quite an amazing tech event. A huge amount of work

Build your own drone


This project is only suitable for those aged 18 or over. Piloting any drone is a dangerous and skilled task, please seek suitable guidance and training before attempting to do so. Be aware there are serious legal consequences for failing to follow UK Civil Aviation Authority guidelines (

Build your own drone

At the heart of the commercial drones is Linux and Alastair Jennings shows you how to build your own. WHAT YOU NEED Raspberry Pi Zero Erle Robotics PXF Mini Erle Robotics PXF Mini Power Module HobbyKing Spec FPV250 100mm male to male servo cable FlySky-i6 controller Edimax AC EW-7811UAC RC XT-60 connectors


uadcopters (drones) used to take hours of practice to master as even the simplest manoeuvres, such as takeoff and landing, could prove difficult. Learning to fly one took time and ultimately determination and before you even took to the skies there was the small matter of building one. Now that there’s a good selection of pre-built and programmed drones on the market, you can go into major High Street retailers and buy one directly off the shelf. Drones such as the 3DR SOLO, Parrot Bebop and DJI Phantom have revolutionised the market, and slowly there are drones appearing with advanced flight features that make flying and controlling a drone much easier. The big turning point in drone design was when they got intelligent through small

processors being placed onboard that were able to stabilise flight and apply advance features, such as auto-braking, takeoff and landing. These enabled the pilot to get on with having fun rather than worrying about the mechanics and programming. As the availability of commercial drones has increased in popularity so has the open

far into the DIY drone community to find out that many of the main manufacturers are extremely active in the open source world and regularly contribute and support those wishing to build their own, eg companies such as 3D Robotics sell autopilot systems that can be programmed through software applications such as Mission Planner. 3D Robotics involvement in the community is apparent when you take a closer look at one of their drones. Exploring under the bonnet of the 3DR SOLO, you’ll see that it’s Linux based. The company also run a huge education program and a full SDK is available for the SOLO. We’re going to take a look at building a basic drone from this recent open source community project with the latest Raspberry Pi Zero and Erle Robotics PXFMini.

“The latest open source drones are challenging more expensive rivals with advanced features.”

44     LXF214 Summer 2016

hardware and software communities. The latest open source drones are challenging their more expensive rivals with advanced features, such as object avoidance and GPS navigation. This challenge to the commercial models is no real surprise and you don’t have to look too

Libreboot Free your system of binary blobs by using open boot firmware

Libreboot: Free your BIOS Chasing the dream of an entirely blob-free system, Neil Mohr rips open his Lenovo X200 and performs morally questionable surgery on it.


Our expert Neil Mohr

has booted more systems than he cares to recall, though there was that one time he booted a PC out of the window, well, he had given it plenty of warning…

ou don’t want to install Libreboot on your perfectly working system, you really don’t. But you’re now thinking “why wouldn’t I want to install Libreboot?” which is akin to someone that’s walked up a slight incline getting to work thinking “why wouldn’t I want to climb K2?” It’s not that climbing K2 is a bad idea – it’s actually a terrible idea – it’s just that for most people it’s entirely unnecessary. Hopefully that’s put off most people but we’ll persevere putting the rest of you off. Libreboot is a solution looking for a problem. That problem takes two forms: the first is a entirely open hardware system that requires a firmware bootstrap – Libreboot would be awesome for that – and, second, someone wanting to eradicate all closed-source, proprietary binary blobs from a system. Currently that first scenario doesn’t exist outside of a few engineering samples or highly expensive commercial development boards. The second is rallying behind the philosophically sound, idealism of the open software and open hardware doctrine championed by the likes of Richard Stallman. That latter reason is fine, if you really do live the life. Otherwise you’re taking a system that is perfectly set to boot any operating system you’d like to throw at it and installing unsupported firmware using techniques that could potentially brick the entire system. Still here? Then let us begin. What is Libreboot? It’s a GPLv3 project that aims to replace any proprietary closedsource firmware BIOS on a supported system. Now, as you’ll see the number of supported systems is somewhat limited (see below for a full list of laptops and motherboards). The reasons are understandable: Libreboot won’t support systems that use binary blobs. This eliminates almost all Intel chipsets made after 2008, as they use the locked-down Intel

Compatible hardware Motherboards


Gigabyte GA-G41M-ES2L - Intel G41 ICH7 Intel D510MO - Intel NM10 ASUS KCMA-D8 - AMD SR5670/ SP5100 ASUS KFSN4-DRE - NVIDIA nForce Professional 2200 ASUS KGPE-D16 - AMD SR5690/AMD SP5100

ASUS Chromebook C201 Lenovo ThinkPad X60/X60s - Mobile Intel 945GM Lenovo ThinkPad X60 Tablet Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (some) Lenovo ThinkPad X200 - Intel GM45 Lenovo ThinkPad R400 Lenovo ThinkPad T400 Lenovo ThinkPad T500 Apple MacBook1,1 Apple MacBook2,1

78     LXF214 Summer 2016

Behold! The glorious Lenovo Stinkpad X200, greatest of all humankind’s laptops.

Management Engine which can’t be disabled or removed. Similarly, most AMD systems post-2012 can’t be used with Libreboot as AMD has its own black-box Platform Security Processor that it refuses to provide anyone access to. At this point it’s probably worth mentioning that Libreboot itself is a parallel development of CoreBoot, but one that aims to be entirely freed of proprietary binary blobs and one that offers at least a semi-automatic installation. Coreboot is an open source BIOS development that’s used to create firmware for many devices, but leaves it to the user to sort out the details. For example Coreboot is used by Google to boot its Chromebooks. Its wider use is explained by the fact that Coreboot is happy to utilise binary blobs to access hardware features, an example is with Intel systems. Intel supplies a binary blob called the Firmware Support Package, which handles the POST elements and is almost impossible to reverse engineer in any useable timeframe. This enables Chromebooks to use Intel processors along with Coreboot – that they do very successfully – and be able to use an open source BIOS without disclosing the source for the elements that remain proprietary. While this might be fine for Intel, it is not fine for FLOSS fans. As an example we’re going to take a look at the most widely known system that supports Libreboot: the 8-year old Lenovo ThinkPad X200. It’s not because IBM/Lenovo at the time was feeling benevolent, but just luck, flaw and timing that Intel released the Intel GM45/ICH7 chipset that wasn’t entirely locked down – the ME (Management Engine) can be removed and all binary blobs replaced – while the Core 2 Duo processor today remains powerful enough. This is a recurring theme for Libreboot, only a small

Linux Format 214 (Sampler)