Inconspicuousness may be the common denominator of the initiatives we support in November. Today we’ll talk about the inspiring power to act despite disability and about a tool that did not need a marketing package to become popular at universities and among developers.
This month’s selection of open‑source and non‑profit projects has been made by Wojtek Siewierski AKA Vifon—an experienced Full‑Stack Developer and IT Administrator, a cybersecurity expert and enthusiast of open‑source technology.
It supports a number of formats, from standard .doc or .pdf to those used by developers, such as: Markdown, org-mode, LaTeX, Jupyter Notebook or HTML. The project author himself points out the tool’s multi-functionality, comparing it to Swiss Army knife.
“At Sidnet, we use it in our SidPDF software—an internal tool to generate PDFs based on templates. The strength of Pandoc is that even if we need to convert from/to a format that is new to us, the tool probably supports it,”—says our developer.
In addition to many formats, Pandoc can perfectly handle document aspects such as:
metadata (title, author, date);
subscripts and superscripts;
You can see the capabilities of Pandoc in the browser demo version.
Marcin Sztrubel (Avalon Foundation beneficiary)
Wojtek’s friend, Marcin Sztrubel, suffers from progressive muscular atrophy. Thanks to the Avalon Foundation, he collects funds for orthopedic equipment and specialist rehabilitation.
When his health and time allowed him, he used to be involved in issues close to people with disabilities. He was a member of the board of the Polish Neuromuscular Diseases Association, which has gathered over a thousand members. He is also the author of over 20(!) blogs in Polish dedicated to people with disabilities, including:
“Last year Marcin broke both legs during rehabilitation, which made his condition much worse as he had to cease all exercise. Because of Marcin’s health, the injury required several surgeries. Right now, he must use a special elevator,”—explains Wojtek.
Marcin is looked after by the Avalon Foundation, which also helps many other people with disabilities and chronic diseases. It acquires funds, activates those under its care during rehabilitation and improves their self‑reliance. It inspires the disabled to play sports through the Avalon Extreme project.
In the Sidnet team, it is easier to find mild variations of ‘Googlephobia’ or ‘proprietaryphobia’ than discrimination based on any personal characteristics.
These attitudes are well reflected by open‑source and non‑profit projects, which we will support in October in accordance with the request of Tadeusz Sośnierz (Tadzik)—a talented Backend Developer, programming trainer and co-creator of open source software, including Perl 6 (now known as Raku).
Open-source operating system for smartphones and tablets. It is based on Android, but unlike Android, it does not contain proprietary software.
“The goal of LineageOS (formerly CyanogenMod) is to develop Android as free software. Although the standard version of Android is technically open, most smartphones on the market come with a version modified by the manufacturer, network operator, and Google.”—Tadzik explains.
LineageOS offers a number of features not available in the official Android Open Source Project (AOSP) software.
Examples of unique features of LineageOS:
Advanced customization of buttons (including physical ones), lock screen or profiles (e.g. ‘Work’, ‘Home’). The latter can be customized to start automatically when connected to a specific Wi‑Fi network or Bluetooth device.
Increased security and privacy. From full control over application authorizations through the ability to hide sensitive numbers (e.g. emergency numbers for victims of violence) in the call log, to ‘PIN scramble’—a feature related to mixing numbers on the lock screen, making it difficult to see the PIN used to unlock the phone.
Features for developers and demanding users. Advanced features regarding recovery or recording of phone calls.
The community around LineageOS is also committed to keeping Android updates for devices made years ago, extending their life cycle.
“LineageOS gives a second life to older smartphones for which updates (including security updates) are sometimes delayed by months or even completely unavailable. With LineageOS, I continue to receive updates for my five‑year‑old phone, reducing both expenses and the production of electronic waste.”—our developer adds.
Campaign Against Homophobia (Kampania Przeciw Homofobii)
Nationwide public awareness organization campaigning against homophobia and transphobia. It was established in 2001 by Robert Biedroń. It educates, organizes social campaigns, provides free legal and psychological assistance to people experiencing discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. It organized the powerful project ‘Let them see us’ (‘Niech nas zobaczą’, 2003)—the first campaign for same‑sex couples in Poland.
“Much has changed during these 17 years, but it is still common for some people to try to dictate to others what normality is. The authorities in Poland feel entitled to compare someone’s nature to ideology or a whim. I hope that thanks to the Campaign Against Homophobia and similar initiatives, I will finally stop worrying about the health and life of my friends and will not have to lower my eyes again when telling foreigners where I am from.”—says Tadzik.
The organization also operates outside Poland, supporting the LGBT movement in Eastern Europe. It provides assistance to refugees from countries where non‑heterosexual or transgender people are threatened with the death penalty or imprisonment.
I have the impression that some September holidays, like International Charity Day and the Programmer’s Day, are celebrated at Sidnet at least 12 times a year. After all, we are always supporting the open‑source and charity projects our team members choose halfway through each month.
The Linux Foundation
The Linux Foundation is a non‑profit organization whose members include tens of thousands of programmers and over a thousand companies, such as IBM, Microsoft and Intel. It was established in 2000 to develop and protect Linux. Today it maintains numerous open-source projects. It supports them financially, provides essential services and infrastructure, and shares its expertise at events and certified training sessions.
“The Linux Foundation is responsible for the largest open-source project in history. It also skilfully capitalizes on this experience to serve as an incubator for other revolutionary technologies,” said Jakub.
The open-source projects sponsored by The Linux Foundation include:
Kubernetes—a platform for scaling, automating and managing container-based applications and microservices
Jenkins—CI/CD tool for building, testing, deploying and automating software.
GraphQL—a highly efficient query language for API servers. Created by Facebook developers, it was later made publicly available and became an alternative to REST.
Apart from driving the development of open‑source projects, The Linux Foundation promotes equal access to technology, as well as encourages people to acquire programming competencies and build careers in IT.
Warsaw Hospice for Children Foundation
The foundation enables children suffering from incurable diseases to spend the final period of their lives at home. They are periodically visited by a team of nurses, doctors, psychologists and physiotherapists. The hospice staff help the children to live through their last moments with dignity, free of pain. They also prepare the families for their child’s inevitable passing and support them in mourning.
Additionally, before they start working with the foundation, the parents may ask the foundation to help them contact a family who have already dealt with a similar disease and also taken advantage of palliative home care.
This is the 3rd time that we are supporting the Warsaw Hospice for Children, according to Jakub’s wishes:
“They are my first choice. They help and comfort families who suffer, who often do not understand why this has happened to them, and to allow them to come to terms with the inevitable. A lot of us are unaware of the personal dramas happening just a step away,” Jakub explained.
One of the things that every Sidnet team member learns quite promptly, is respect for open-source software. You may not know much about it when joining, but after some time (and especially after the first Sidnet donation made on your behalf), you begin to understand why the idea of open-source software is so commendable.
This was the case for both Staszek and myself, and now it is time for Angelika Wiskont, the board assistant who coordinates the work of the Rawa Mazowiecka office, to make the choice. Angelika handles the team’s billing and administrative matters and keeps our meeting calendar in check.
What open-source and non-profit projects will we be supporting based on Angelika’s choices?
PDF merge allows you to merge entire PDF files or their parts (including any outlines and Acroforms in them).
PDF split allows you to split a PDF file into smaller files based on the specified page range, header level or target PDF size.
PDF mix allows you to combine pages from PDF files in the appropriate way, even in cases where some scans have been arranged in the reverse order.
Rotate PDF allows you to either rotate all or selected pages by 90°, 180° or 270°.
Extract pages allows you to create a new PDF from the pages selected.
“I work with PDF documents every day, so I was looking for a tool that would be multifunctional, but also quick and easy to use. I now use PDFsam Basic, which gives me more options than other free software. I would like to contribute to its further development,”Angelika explained.
“As a young mother, I cannot fathom how anyone can use violence against children or abuse them sexually. I want to say a firm ‘NO’ to both the direct perpetrators of violence—which often has dire consequences for children’s development—and anyone who turns a blind eye to such behavior”, said Angelika.
Empowering Children Foundation offers legal and psychological help to children and their guardians who have suffered abuse. It organizes wide-ranging social campaigns to educate children and adults alike. It also strives to change the Polish law to better protect the best interests of children.
The challenges of working remotely, COVID-19-related phishing attacks, a business-oriented perspective on cybersecurity and live penetration testing. The up-to-date nature of the Security First conference program was truly impressive—even for a security geek like myself.
A remote conference on cybersecurity simply would not be complete without a discussion about remote work. At Sidnet, we have been running projects outside the main office for years—after all, our team members work remotely from various cities of Poland. The coronavirus pandemic has made our remote working experience even more vital in the eyes of customers virtually overnight. Everything points to the belief that the tendency to replace office work with remote work will continue in the coming years.
The future of cloud services
Michał Kurek confirmed that the COVID-19 pandemic is bound to further popularize cloud technologies. According to KPMG research, 43% of Polish companies already utilize cloud solutions with another 17% planning to commence using cloud services shortly.
A revolution in the work environment
According to Paweł Marciniak from Matrix42, the work environment is undergoing several changes, including:
A change in the way work is perceived: a shift from work seen as a place to work seen as an activity.
Changes in the needs of both employers and employees: a shift from fixed hours to flexible hours; from permanent employment contracts to freelancing and the gig economy; from hierarchies to dynamic organizational networks.
A change in the approach to the company IT management: a shift from central management to employee self-service thanks to the access to remote systems and the knowledge on how to use them to continue the company’s operations from anywhere in the world.
Cybersecurity vs. business development
The relationship between IT security and business was a vital topic. It is astonishing just how often the first step to resolve a company’s technical problems is improving communication. However, this works both ways—removing technical issues can ease tensions at the company, e.g. in situations where the security department is perceived as an obstacle.
Stages of maturity in IT security management
Paweł Wojciechowski from Fortinet outlined the security challenges based on the company’s scale:
The lowest level characterizes medium-sized companies with IT departments that deal with few incidents.
The second level is a domain of medium/large businesses with dedicated security teams.
The highest level of maturity is attained by the enterprise sector companies with dedicated Security Operations Centers (SOC), advanced processes and written rules of conduct.
Industrial network security (OT)
Learning more about cybersecurity challenges in the manufacturing industry, which uses both IT solutions and industrial networks (Operational Technology, OT), was certainly interesting.
Threats to the Industrial Control System (ICS)
Roland Kulanek’s presentation was meant to remind everyone that cybersecurity is a continuous process. In addition, a speaker representing Rockwell Automation also addressed some of the myths related to Industrial Control System (ICS) security. Any system—even if hidden behind a firewall or cut off from the Internet altogether—can become the target of an attack.
IDS and IPS systems—differences and applications
Wojciech Kubiak from PKP Energetyka explained when and why IDS and IPS solutions should be used. Wherever industrial (OT) and corporate (IT) networks coexist, using a hybrid system is necessary:
An Intrusion Prevention System (IPS) is a solution that actively protects IT components, especially operating systems, databases and web applications.
An Intrusion Detection System (IDS) is better suited to protecting OT components. It should passively monitor applications and control systems and search for any network anomalies.
IT security novelties
COVID-19 as phishing bait
The pandemic has generated anxiety, which increases the likelihood of making irrational choices, alongside the need to work and learn remotely—often with the use of private networks and equipment. Scammers have quickly begun exploiting this opportunity to launch coronavirus-themed attacks. Joanna Karczewska presented the scale of this phenomenon along with several alarming examples. What are the forecasts? It will only get worse unless we start employing proper security standards.
Live penetration testing
Michał Sajdak conducted a live reconnaissance of servers and network devices using penetration testing. I was particularly curious about this presentation, given that I follow Michał’s activity on the Sekurak.pl web portal and appreciate his factual, concise articles. The presentation itself was very similar in this regard.
Daniel Olkowski from Dell Technologies presented the idea of a digital bunker that allows users to recover data after an attack. What should you consider when making one?
Isolate the digital bunker from the rest of the infrastructure.
Retain deletion- and modification-resistant backups.
Automate such operations as data retrieval, verification and recovery.
HP Sure security systems
I have been using Linux for years and typically do not stay up to date with the Windows software provided with most computers. Nonetheless, opening websites and attachments using virtual machines (HP Sure Click) is bound to protect many computers from malware. The HP Sure View Gen3 privatization filter built into a laptop screen was also a positive surprise. I will bear this option in mind when buying a new device.
If we were to put Krzysiek Skarbek’s name in a crossword puzzle, the hint could be something like this: “a fan of Debian and a cat lover.” His choices in the #SidnetDonations program reflect these traits quite well. This time is no different. Today our developer from Łódź, who maintains Blogi z pierwszego tłoczenia (the First-pressed blogs) and the website of mali bracia Ubogich (the little brothers of the Poor) association, as well as others, will be choosing the recipients of Sidnet donations for the 8th time.
What charity and open-source projects will we be supporting this month based on Krzysiek’s choices?
Debian is a 100% free operating system, which has been under development by a dedicated community since 1993. It has become the basis for hundreds of Linux distributions, including Ubuntu, Mint and Deepin.
Since it supports multiple architecture types, it can work on various devices, e.g. Raspberry Pi microcomputers, which even have a dedicated distribution available for them—Raspbian. Debian in also fast and uses little memory, so it can also be effectively used on obsolete computers with weaker hardware.
As a server administrator, Krzysiek values Debian primarily for its reliability:
“Debian works well both on a server and a desktop—I use it daily on my PC and laptop. It is renowned for its stability, which is a crucial thing for any server,” Krzysiek said.
Any Toy Story fans will appreciate the fact that all releases are named after the film characters. There were already releases such as Buzz, Woody and Slink. The unstable version, which is akin to a testing ground, is named after Sid—the film’s antagonist who enjoyed testing the durability of his toys.
The JOKOT Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping homeless and free-living cats. Its volunteers provide temporary shelter for homeless cats in their own homes, where they treat and tame the animals to prepare them for adoption. They also take care of sterilizing free-living cats in Warsaw.
The foundation also helped Krzysiek make some new friends:
“In 2011, I adopted Boluś and Lala, two cats that had been discovered with their whole family in a bunker next to railway tracks in Warsaw. Boluś quickly found himself at home in the new place but unfortunately, he passed away a few years ago. Since then, Lala has been following me everywhere I go, even though she is still somewhat fearful. But she is slowly getting used to the new household members—Gucio and Leosia,” said Krzysiek.
When choosing new homes for animals, the foundation’s primary criterion is animal welfare. New owners are required to:
adopt cats in pairs (a single cat may be adopted if another one already lives in the house);
install safety nets on balconies and windows and secure any tilt windows;
remove plants that may be poisonous to cats;
consent to a pre-adoption visit of foundation volunteers.