GNOME and KDE team up on the Linux desktop, docs for Nvidia GPUs open up, a powerful new way to scan for firmware vulnerabilities, and more news

GNOME and KDE team up on the Linux desktop, docs for Nvidia GPUs open up, a powerful new way to scan for firmware vulnerabilities, and more news

Catch up on the biggest open source headlines from the past two weeks.

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In this edition of our open source news roundup, we take a look two new powerful data visualization tools, Nvidia open sourcing GPU documentation, exciting new tooling to secure firmware for self-driving cars, and more!

GNOME and KDE partner on the Linux Desktop

Linux on desktop computers has been a space of fragmentation. In a recent announcement, "the two chief Linux desktop rivals, GNOME Foundation and KDE, have agreed to work together."

Both organizations will be sponsors of Linux App Summit (LAS) 2019 in Barcelona this November. This move, in part, appears to be in response to desktop computing no longer being the best place to fight for dominance. No matter the reason, Linux desktop fans have a new reason to hope for a future where there is a standardized GUI environment. 

New open source data visualization tools

There's very little in the world that isn't driven by data. Unless that data is in a shape that people can interact with, it's not much good. Two data visualization projects that were recently open sourced are trying to make data a little more useful.

The first tool, called Neuroglancer, was created by a research team at Google. It "enables neurologists to build 3D models of a brain’s neural pathways in interactive visualisations." Neuroglancer does that by using a neural network to trace paths of neurons in a brain and build a complete visualization. Scientists have already used Neuroglancer, which you can grab off GitHub, to build an interactive map from scans of a fruit fly's brain.

The second tool comes from an unlikely source: the Australian Signals Directorate. That's the country's analog to the NSA, which "open sourced one of its in-house data visualisation and analysis tools." Called Constellation, it can "identify trends and patterns in complex datasets, and is capable of scaling to 'billions of inputs'." Mike Burgess, the agency's Director General, said that he hopes "this tool will help generate scientific and other breakthroughs that will benefit all Australians." Given it is open source, it could benefit the whole world.

Nvidia begins releasing GPU documentation

Over the years, graphics processing unit (GPU) maker Nvidia hasn't made it easy for open source projects to develop drivers for its wares. The company took a big step towards making nice with those projects by publishing GPU hardware documentation.

The documentation, which the company is releasing under an MIT license, is available on GitHub. It covers several key areas — like device initialization, memory clocking/tweaking, and power states. According to hardware news site Phoronix, the Nouveau project (which develops open source drivers for Nvidia GPUs) will be the among the first to use this documentation to boost its development efforts.

New tool for securing firmware

It seems as if every week there's news of a new vulnerability in a mobile device or an internet-connected gadget. Often, those vulnerabilities are found in the firmware that controls a device. Self-driving car service Cruise has released an open source tool for catching those vulnerabilities before they become a problem.

That tool is called FwAnalzyer. It checks firmware code for a number of potential problems, including "identify(ing) potentially dangerous executables," and pinpointing "any debugging code that was mistakenly left behind." Collin Mulliner, an engineer at Cruise who helped develop the tool, said that by running FwAnalyzer over their code, firmware developers "now have the ability to detect and prevent a wide variety of security issues."

In other news

Thanks, as always, to Opensource.com staff members and moderators for their help this week. 

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That idiot Scott Nesbitt ...
Scott Nesbitt - I'm a long-time user of free/open source software, and write various things for both fun and profit. I don't take myself all that seriously and I do all of my own stunts. You can find me at these fine establishments on the web: The Plain Text Project, Open Source Musings, The...