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Short Topix: Polkit Vulnerability Discovered, Patched

by Paul Arnote

Falkon Browser 3.2 Released

Falkon browser, the browser offering from KDE, has seen its first update in nearly three years with the release of Falkon 3.2, according to an article on Phoronix. You can see all of the changes/enhancements to Falkon 3.2 here.

Xorg Video Driver Woes

It's no secret that Linux is superb for resurrecting older hardware. Many Linux users purposefully seek out older, less expensive hardware with the aim of resurrecting it, in fact. But recent woes have beset Linux users recently. Many older X.Org user-space mode-setting drivers for powering old graphics cards, at least for display purposes, can no longer even build with modern toolchains/software components, according to an article on Phoronix.

From the article:

Longtime X.Org developer Alan Coopersmith of Oracle recently looked at going through all of the available X.Org drivers that aren't in an archived state and seeing how they fare -- with a goal of at least setting them up for simple continuous integration (CI) builds on GitLab.

Coopersmith noted in the Sunday status update, "It will probably not surprise folks that a fair number of the drivers would not build when I tried this. Some I got building again with simple fixes (though I have no hardware to test these, so can only claim that they build - they may or may not work), others still need some help or may be ready for archiving if no one wants to make them build again."

Those Linux users trying to milk as much life out of older hardware as possible are no stranger to suddenly finding video drivers that no longer keep pace with advances in Xorg. I know I faced this recently with my HTPC, forcing me to buy another refurbished computer to repurpose as my new HTPC. There have been several reports in the PCLinuxOS forum from users with older hardware being left behind by Xorg advances and updates. Progress is usually good, but it's becoming clear that Linux might not be as friendly to older hardware as it used to be. On the other side of the same coin, though, it's also not reasonable to expect 15 or 20 year old hardware to be supported by a modern operating system forever.

Polkit Vulnerability Discovered, Patched

As reported in an article on BleepingComputer (and in many other media outlets), a 12-year-old vulnerability was discovered in Linux's polkit pkexec. The exploit, identified as CVE-2021-4034 (PwnKit), allowed users to easily gain access to elevated privileges on ALL Linux distros. Never fear; pkexec has been patched on PCLinuxOS. As reported by Texstar in a post on the forum, the vulnerability required the attacker to have either physical access to your computer, or you granted access to that computer via SSH.

Now THAT'S A Portable Battery Bank!

We've become so dependent on devices powered by batteries that a portable battery power bank has nearly become a necessity for many people. It's either that, or you carry a charger and charger cord with you everywhere, and then hope that you have access to a power source to recharge your device. Some people carry both (disclosure: I carry both much of the time).

Many of the power banks available today range from a paltry 5,000mAh (usually found at cheap dollar and outlet stores) to nearly 40,000mAh battery power banks. The sweet spot appears to be between 10,000 and 20,000mAh, and are reasonably priced, between $20 and $40 (U.S.). But, that wasn't good enough for Handy Geng of Hong Kong, according to an article on PetaPixel.

Geng, who has built up a popular YouTube channel by building outrageous or absurd devices, used what appears to be a battery for an electric vehicle to build his "portable" battery power bank ... that is rated at 27,000,000mAh! You can watch his video here. In the video, he charges a couple of dozen phones and computers -- all at the same time. At one point, he even drags it to his favorite fishing hole, where he powers a TV, a washing machine, and cooks dinner in an electric pot ... while fishing. Along the way, he even stops to recharge a man's electric scooter that had run out of juice.

While holding to his reputation for the absurd in his video, it isn't difficult to imagine the impact his device might have in areas hit by natural disasters. It would allow many people, at once, to recharge their portable devices and maintain contact with the outside world.

ISS Days Are Numbered

After spending the last 23 years in low Earth orbit, the International Space Station's days are numbered. But don't expect anything soon, as there's still a lot of life left in the orbiting research platform. NASA plans to add five more modules to the space station before "de-orbiting" the space station after spending more than 30 years in space, according to an article in IGN.

NASA plans to crash the space station into a remote part of the Pacific Ocean in 2030. A true international effort between many countries, such as the U.S., Russia, Japan, Canada, the ESA, and many others, the plans are to continue to use the ISS as the unique research platform that it is.

If you want to know more about the ISS, check out this article from the Observer. Meanwhile, NASA plans to allow the ISS to be replaced with commercial space stations, and will become a customer instead of a provider of the platform.

Now ... if only they could figure out how to get rid of the horrendous smell that's been reported on the ISS. It's not as if they can open the windows and air it out. Maybe someone could send them up a couple of cases of those little green tree air fresheners on the next supply mission. It might make things a little more pleasant for the time the ISS has remaining.

MIT Engineers Create Substance Previously Thought To Be "Impossible"

Leave it to the "brains" at MIT to do what many thought were impossible. This time, MIT engineers have successfully used a novel polymerization process that creates a polymer that "self aligns" itself into two dimensional sheets. Before this, polymers only formed one-dimensional "spaghetti" strands. Scientists had thought that it was "impossible" to induce a polymer to form 2D sheets, according to an article on SciTechDaily.

The result is a material that is stronger than steel, but as light as plastic. The new material is reported to be able to be manufactured in large quantities, too. The new material, dubbed 2DPA-1, could revolutionize construction techniques, such as creating buildings and structures with plastics where they would not be feasible before. The material is also impermeable to gasses, so it could be used to coat items that are susceptible to corrosion or oxidation. It is also stronger than bulletproof glass, requiring up to six times the force before deforming or breaking.

The PCLinuxOS Magazine Short Topix Roundup

PCLINUXOS FARED WELL IN AN ARTICLE COMPARING THE "DESCENDANTS" OF MANDRAKE in an article on The Register. In fact, it performed so well that the article author chose it as the one to install.

ISRAELI SCIENTISTS HAVE COMPLETED A STUDY THAT HIGHLIGHTS VITAMIN D'S ABILITY TO FIGHT COVID, according to an article in The Times of Israel. Their study proves that Vitamin D can significantly impact the severity of the disease. Middle Eastern diets are, as a whole, Vitamin D deficient. Taking a daily Vitamin D supplement prior to infection can help patients avoid the worst effects of the disease.

THE MOST RECOGNIZABLE CAR IN THE UNIVERSE MAY BE MAKING A COMEBACK SOON, according to a widely spread report. Yes, we're talking about the 1.2 Gigawatt DeLorean. Well, sorta. See, a company in Humble, TX that specializes in working on and restoring the iconic sports car, bought the remaining new parts stock, rights to use the DeLorean name, and manufactures replica parts where new old stock parts don't exist. They recently teased on Twitter a NEW DeLorean coming in August 2022. And, with the hashtags accompanying the tweet, it's looking like it's going to be an electric version of the storied car. The new car's designers also want to tell interested buyers to not worry that the new car won't have the performance woes of the original version.

From the "Oops! We didn't see that coming after the Y2K debacle" department, FIREFOX AND GOOGLE CHROME BROWSERS MAY SOON BREAK SOME USER AGENT PLUGINS AND WEBSITES as they approach version 100.


GOOGLE is (finally, light years later) trying to follow Apple's lead in LIMITING IN-APP TRACKING of mobile users.

Video games, like everything else, have become collectible. Especially the vintage stuff in sealed packages. Well, in 1994, a video game store in Nebraska closed up shop, and put all of its remaining stock into storage, waiting for a new owner ... who never materialized. There they sat, forgotten, for nearly 30 years, according to an article on Nintendo Life. The results? SOME OF THE TITLES NOW SELL FOR OVER $1,000 (U.S.), and the collection includes some of the "Holy Grail" titles that collectors covet most.

THERE ARE SOME CONCERNS ABOUT THE STATUS OF THE THE FREE INTERNET in Hong Kong, as the Communist Chinese government tightens the noose and moves more of Hong Kong's internet access behind the Great Firewall of China, according to an article on Aljazeera.

It's no secret that the Linux kernel is written in the C programming language. What you might not realize is that it was written using the ancient (in computer terms) C89 standard, introduced in 1989. Well, now LINUS TORVALDS HAS UPGRADED TO C11, A MUCH MORE MODERN VERSION OF C INTRODUCED IN 2011, according to an article on ZDNet. As an end user, you most likely won't notice any difference.

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