Article from Issue 199/2017

Updates on technologies, trends, and tools

Microsoft is Shutting Down CodePlex

Microsoft has announced that it is shutting down its open source code hosting platform CodePlex, which allowed developers to host and share the source code of open source software. Microsoft created the site in 2006.

Microsoft is not the only vendor that has shut down an open source code hosting platform. In 2015, Google shut down Google Code.

Linus Torvald's Git version control system is the reason behind the demise of Google Code and CodePlex. In a blog post, Microsoft engineer Brian Harry wrote, "Over the years, we've seen a lot of amazing options come and go but at this point, GitHub is the de facto place for open source sharing and most open source projects have migrated there."

Even Google and Microsoft are now using the Git-based GitHub to host their open source code. "As many of you know, Microsoft has invested in Visual Studio Team Services as our 'One Engineering System' for proprietary projects, and we've exposed many of our key open source projects on GitHub (Visual Studio Code, TypeScript, .NET, the Cognitive Toolkit, and more). In fact, our GitHub organization now has more than 16,000 open source contributors – more than any other organization – and we're proud to partner closely with GitHub to promote open source."

Microsoft has disabled the ability to create new CodePlex projects. In October, it will be set to read-only, and by December 2017, plugs will be pulled on the service, bringing an end to an era.

Fedora 26 Alpha Released

The Fedora community has announced the alpha release of Fedora 26. According to the release schedule, Fedora 26 is scheduled to be released on June 27, 2017, but unlike Ubuntu, Fedora is not firm with release dates, and they are known for delaying releases if things are not ready.

The alpha is not meant for production usage; it's meant for testing and filing bug reports.

Ryan Lerch wrote in Fedora Magazine, "Fedora Alpha releases are provided for Fedora users to try out the upcoming release. More importantly, Fedora engineers want you to file bugs against the upcoming release. The Fedora 26 Changeset page on the Fedora wiki provides a list of new features provided in Fedora 26."

Fedora 26 comes with newer versions of packages, including Gnome 3.24 and DNF 2.0. You can see the list of packages included in Fedora 26 online (

You can download and test Fedora 26 Alpha from the official download page.

Old Linux Kernel Bug Discovered

Alexander Popov, one of the winners of the 2016 Linux Foundation Training (LiFT) scholarship, has discovered a very old bug in the Linux kernel that can affect modern systems.

Popov wrote on a mailing list, "This is an announcement of CVE-2017-2636, which is a race condition in the n_hdlc Linux kernel driver (drivers/tty/n_hdlc.c). It can be exploited to gain a local privilege escalation. This driver provides HDLC serial line discipline and comes as a kernel module in many Linux distributions, which have CONFIG_N_HDLC=m in the kernel config."

Popov fixed the issue by using a "standard kernel linked list protected by a spinlock and got rid of n_hdlc.tbuf. In the case of transmission error, the current data buffer is put after the head of tx_buf_list," he wrote on the mailing list.

The issue is affecting major distributions, including Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). According to a Red Hat Bugzilla submission, although RHEL 5 is unaffected, the bug does affect the Linux kernel packages shipped with RHEL 6 and 7 and Red Hat Enterprise MRG 2. Because this issue is rated important, it has been scheduled to be fixed in future updates for the respective releases. Canonical has already released a patch; SUSE is working on it.

The bug is old, and the module is used in really old hardware; even if the module is shipped with modern Linux distributions, it's never loaded by default. However, the module is automatically loaded "if an unprivileged user opens a pseudoterminal and calls TIOCSETD ioctl for it setting N_HDLC line discipline," explained Popov.

One might wonder why users should worry about it. Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols explained, because "it's easy to do, which means it's easy for a local user to exploit. Before poo-pooing this as a non-issue, keep in mind that with hosted and cloud computing, many people have 'local' access to Linux servers."

As always, check your distribution and run updates to patch the flaws.


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