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Linux Mint outlines better, unobtrusive update notifications
by Paul Hill
Clem Lefebvre, head of the Linux Mint project, has written a blog post outlining new notifications that try not to be annoying but also remind users that they need to perform software updates to keep their computer secure. The details arrive a little over a month since Lefebvre pointed to stats that show some users were not applying security updates and in some cases, people were even running end of life versions of Linux Mint.
The Linux Mint team prides itself on its users controlling their computer rather than the other way around. New Mint versions only ever introduce conservative changes so that the whole operating system doesn’t need to be relearned and users are also given complete control over when, how, and which updates are installed; unfortunately, this mindset has led to some users running outdated, vulnerable software.
To remedy the issue, a new pop-up has been created which lets the user know how many updates are available, it says why updates need to be applied, it lets users view available updates, and gives users the option to turn on automatic updates. If the user dismisses the notification it will come back two days later so it’s not overbearing.
If the user decides to install updates, the notification will disappear for quite a while on the default settings. By default, the notification will appear if an update has been available for more than seven logged-in days or if it’s older than 15 calendar days. The number of days can be changed to anything between two and 90 days depending on how often you want to see updates. Additionally, these notifications will only be triggered by security and kernel updates but this can be adjusted in the settings.
There is also a grace period setting which is set to 30 days by default, essentially, this means that if an update has been applied in the last 30 days, you will not be bugged by notifications until that time has elapsed.
The Mint team hopes that the default settings will work for most people in that they keep their system moderately up-to-date without being overburdened with constant reminders to update their machine. The new notifications are set to arrive in Linux Mint 20.2 but Lefebvre has also said that it could be backported to older versions.
Debian 10.9 released with updates to popular packages
by Paul Hill
Image via Alex Makas The Debian project has announced the availability of Debian 10.9. The new ISO image, which can be used to install Debian, comes with all the latest package updates which will save you time when installing the operating system on a computer. If you already have Debian 9 installed on your computer, there is no need to download Debian 10.9, simply apply any available updates to your system and you’ll be on the latest release.
Commenting on the launch, the project said:
Some of the packages that are updated in Debian 10.9 include LibreOffice, the Linux kernel, Python, Firefox ESR, Chromium, and Tor. The Debian installer has also been updated to include the latest fixes.
Debian 10 was first released on July 6, 2019, and will continue to receive updates until 2024. As big Debian releases come out every two years, we should see Debian 11 at some point this year but so far no release date has been given. Upon release, Debian 10 will be demoted from Stable to Old Stable with Debian 9 being cut off from updates in mid-2022.
Tails 4.17 launched with improved upgrade process
by Paul Hill
The team behind the privacy-oriented operating system, Tails, has launched Tails 4.17. This update includes several important updates to key packages such as the Tor Browser which are essential for maintaining your privacy but it also comes with several improvements to the upgrade process which should result in less failed upgrades.
The first of the reliability improvements to automatic upgrades pertains to the file system. The release notes state that automatic updates were previously failing because of an unclean file system. To address this, Tails now automatically repairs the file system being used during an upgrade to eliminate the issue.
Another change to improve upgrade reliability is the download process of new updates. Each Tails upgrade requires the users to download the new image over Tails’ Tor connection which can sometimes be spotty. With Tails 4.17, downloads will now automatically resume if they do stop so it’ll save users a lot of time.
In terms of new package updates, the Tor Browser has been updated to 10.0.14, Thunderbird has been bumped to 78.8.0, Tor is now on 0.4.5.7, the GRUB bootloader is on 2.04-16, and several firmware packages that improve Intel, Broadcom, and Cypress interfaces have been included too.
If you’re running Tails 4.14 or above you will get a notification telling you to update your system as soon as you connect to the internet. If you do not yet have a Tails USB to boot from but would like one, you can find instructions on downloading and installing Tails on the project’s website.
Edge Dev gets sync support on Linux, color themes
by João Carrasqueira
Microsoft is releasing a new Edge Dev build today, as it tends to do every Tuesday, but ahead of its rollout, the company has announced a couple of additions in this week's release. One major one is support for signing into the browser and enabling sync on Linux. This will allow Linux users to have things like passwords, history, extensions, and so on available across different devices.
Right now, Microsoft account sign-in is still disabled by default, but you can enable the feature in edge://flags. The flag is called MSA Sign In, and once enabled, you can sign in with a Microsoft account, just like on other platforms. Azure Active Directory accounts aren't supported yet, though. As you'd expect from experimental features, some instability is to be expected.
Another new feature added today is available for all platforms, and you may have heard of it before. The latest Edge Dev update will add a selection of 14 simple color themes, which are available directly from the Appearance section of the Edge settings. Unlike full-blown themes, these will just add a splash of color to the tab and address bars, leaving the new tab page intact. They also pair with your choice of dark or light theme, and the two settings don't affect each other.
The feature was first spotted in Edge Canary back in December and it was hidden behind a flag at the time. Now, it will be much more widely available, and we should see it come to the Beta and stable channels in the next few weeks and months. Color themes are saved per user profile, so you can also use them to make it easier to know what account you're using. Of course, themes are still supported, and Microsoft launched a few Xbox-related themes on the Edge add-ons store earlier this year.
Raspberry Pi Imager 1.6 comes with hidden advanced settings
by Paul Hill
The Raspberry Pi Foundation has just announced the release of Raspberry Pi Imager 1.6, its installation media writer. Imager retains its very simple interface in this update but an advanced settings menu has been included if you know the key combination to access it. To open the advanced settings, use the Ctrl-Shift-X combo and you’ll have access to the additional settings.
According to Gordon Hollingworth, Director of Software Engineering at the Raspberry Pi Foundation, Imager was designed to be as easy to use as possible and to reduce the number of items you interact with. After some pressure from the community to add more advanced settings, Hollingworth decided to add a hidden advanced settings menu that gives the user more flexibility when creating installation media.
Once you’re in the advanced menu, you can choose to apply settings for this session or for all future sessions. The options include pre-configuring Wi-Fi and locale settings, enabling SSH, setting a custom hostname, and disabling telemetry.
If you’d like to download the new version for Raspberry Pi Imager, head over to the software’s download page – it’s available on all the popular platforms. If you already have Imager installed, just pop it open and you should receive a notification explaining that a new update is available and you’ll be able to install it.