Thursday, December 6, 2007

Out with the Brown on Ubuntu

To change themes completely to a different color in Ubuntu should be trivial and take only a couple of clicks. It seems though that there is a bug that prevents the background screen from changing colors. I'm going to go through the process of changing everything to a different color.

The first place we need to go is the "System", "Preferences", and "Appearance" menus. Select the background tab. From there I pick the solid color, and then select an alternative color. (Blue, in my case) You can of course download a wallpaper and use that as well. Then select the theme tab to choose a non-brown theme.

The next place we need to go is "System", "Administration", and "Login Window" menus. Select the
local tab. Once there, I chose the Happy Gnome theme and changed the background color to blue.

That should be the only steps required to get rid of all the brown. However, while logging on, the brown background still persists. After searching for a while, I did find a fix.

The script /etc/gdm/PreSession/Default is at fault.
You can download a version that fixes the background color like this:
Then just copy that to the original directory, restart your session, and the brown will be gone.

Because you shouldn't just blindly copy files into your system without knowing what's in them, here's a comparison of the two files, showing what's been changed. I used the program TkDiff to display the output you see here. The original file is on the left, while the new file is on the right.

That's all she wrote.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Most TV networks online aren't Linux friendly

After my original article on ABC.COM (ABC.COM article), I thought I would do a little more research and see how the other major networks fared with Linux. And, here are the results...

ABC.COM - As I originally mentioned, ABC's shows will not work in Linux.

FOX.COM - Their shows can only be viewed on Windows and Mac systems.

TBS.COM - Once again, we have a network that's ignorant to the fact that there are Linux users. I wasn't given an error message, I just wasn't able to play the episodes.

CWTV.COM - Their video ads worked perfectly, but the full episodes only work on Windows and Mac.

CBS.COM - Online episodes were easily viewable.

NBC.COM - Not only was I able to watch online episodes, it was very easy to use.

Congratulations to CBS and NBC for being forward thinking and allowing people on any OS to view their TV shows. ABC, FOX, TBS and the CW need to get on board (sounds like the developers at ABC are already working on this). Please stop by their sites and give them feedback, if you feel they should support ALL OS's.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

ABC.COM developer responds to Linux blog

Here is my original post about ABC.COM compatibility.

Don't ever think that we Linux users have no hope for support. If we keep voicing our opinions, we will be heard. Here is the comment from an ABC developer, or move networks developer..........

We're working on getting a port sanctioned by management.

- A dev at Move Networks
November 28, 2007 2:30 PM

This isn't definitive, but at least they see there's demand. Keep sending your feedback!

Here's my new article with an investigation of Linux compatibility for all major television networks. Television networks Linux compatibility.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Making Ubuntu and Slackware play together

I already had Ubuntu installed, but I wanted to install Slackware on a spare partition and dual boot. On my first attempt, I just went for it and installed Slackware, LILO and all. That screwed up my Ubuntu installation, and I couldn't quickly make LILO boot my Ubuntu installation.

I ended up reinstalling Ubuntu. On my second attempt installing Slackware, I decided to install Slackware, but skip the LILO installation, and research how to make GRUB boot slackware.

It turned out to be fairly simple to do this. Here's the entry from /boot/grub/menu.lst

title Slackware Linux (Slackware 12.0.0) (on /dev/sda5)
root (hd0,4)
kernel /boot/vmlinuz root=/dev/sda5 ro

The main thing is to get the right partition for root. The partition numbering starts from 0, not 1. Extended partitions start with 4 no matter what. So, as you can see, root is on my first hard drive, on the first extended partition. It also wants the read only (ro) flag to be set on bootup. Otherwise it will complain. Other than that, it's a snap.

ABC.COM isn't Linux Friendly

UPDATE: If you look down below, you'll find that a developer from ABC.COM responded to this blog. Also, here's a link for a new article, with the response.
ABC.COM's response.

I went to ABC.COM today to try and watch a TV show online. My mission was quickly aborted when this error message came up.......

Since the error message mentioned Firefox for two operating systems, I still had hope. I quickly installed user agent switcher for Firefox, to try and bluff the website that I was using Firefox on Vista. Still no luck. This time, it told me I need to have flash 8 installed. I actually have Flash 9 installed. That should be sufficient, right? Apparently not.

I'm not sure where to go from here. If anyone has any suggestions on how to fix this, please comment. Or maybe it's not possible at this point in time and we need to leave comments for the developers. I did leave feedback there telling them I use Linux, and that I think they should make it possible to view on Linux.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

My genealogist parents can use Linux now

My parents currently use Windows ME (believe it or not) on a fairly old computer. According to them, their computer crashes quite often, which is not a surprise at all. In fact, I'm surprised it's still in a usable state.

The only thing that would have prevented them from using Linux before is that they use a windows only genealogy program called Personal Ancestral File. They wouldn't be willing to learn a new program like Gramps to switch to Linux. They're not very good with technology, and any program switches would just confuse them. The rest of the OS could be setup to be very similar to theirs.

I've tried installing PAF 5 in wine on quite a few occasions without a lot of luck. I would usually get some things that worked, and others that didn't. Plus the setup of wine was usually just a pain in the butt.

Since Ubuntu 7.10 worked so well for my printer, scanner, and pretty much everything else, I decided to try and install PAF again.

First, I had to of course install wine, which was a simple selection in add remove applications. Then, once I had downloaded the .exe installer for PAF5, from the command line I just type "wine PAF5EnglishSetup.exe". Do this from your regular user account, or it will be installed in root's directory and you won't be able to run it. A shortcut is automatically added to the menu after the install is finished, and everything is ready to go. (yes, it's that simple)


Next time I'm visiting them, you can be damn sure I'll be installing Unbuntu 7.10 on their computer!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Benchmark your system in Ubuntu

When I read about people benchmarking their systems with the screensaver glxgears, I always get a good laugh. The graphics are very simple, and use no advanced graphics techniques whatsoever. If you want to try this on your system just for kicks, run glxgears from the command line and a little window with gears in it will pop up. After a few seconds, it will start to display the frames per second on the command line. With the small window, my system averaged around 8,500 FPS. In the real world, you'll probably have full screen graphics applications. My system averaged 1,200 FPS in fullscreen mode. So, I see my system is super overkill for glxgears, and basically only gives me an idea that my openGL drivers are working as intended. So, how do we get a better idea of real world performance?

We need to install a program called Hardinfo. This program is in the Ubuntu repositories, and can easily be installed from the command line, or the package managers. Once installed, you'll find the program under system tools. Go ahead and open the program. The first thing you'll want to do is go to the information menu, and use the network updater. This will get benchmark results for other systems, and send results from your system. Then, from the information menu, select generate report, and then select everything (it should already be selected by default). Then just click the generate button, and it will start a series of tests. Try not to do anything while the tests are performed, or it may affect the results. Once its finished, it will ask you if you want to display the results in a browser. Tell it yes, and enjoy the results. Along with benchmarks, this is a great way to gather system data.

Hardinfo doesn't include any graphics tests. So, we're going to install something that can push our system and graphics card a little, unlike glxgears. There's a pretty cool open source game in the Ubuntu repositories called Nexuiz. After installing it, running the game and setting it up are a breeze. I turned all the graphics to maximum, with a 1280x1024 resolution. Then I changed anti-aliasing to 2x. There's also a setting in the menu to turn on the FPS display. Definitely do this. While running around fragging bots, I was trying to watch the FPS display as much as possible. I was getting somewhere around 40 FPS. This is a much more realistic test than the 1,200 FPS of glxgears. If you have commercial games that run in linux, they may be better to test actual performance, because they're probably much more optimized than the open source games.

After these simple tests, you should have a much better idea of how your system will perform in Ubuntu.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Keep your passwords safe and secure on any OS

To really keep your local and online accounts secure, you need a different complex password for every account. This is where "KeePass Password Safe" comes into play.

This program is open source and available for Linux, Mac, Windows, Blackberry, PocketPC, PalmOS, and could be easily compiled on other platforms. I'm of course going to cover the Linux version, which comes in the Ubuntu repositories by default.

Here's a feature list:

* Extensive management- title for each entry for its better identification
- possibility to determine different expiration dates
- insertion of attachments
- user-defined symbols for groups and entries
- fast entry dublication
- sorting entries in groups
* Search function
- search either in specific groups or in complete database
* Autofill (experimental)
* Database security
- access to the KeePassX database is granted either with a password, a key-file (e.g. a CD or a memory-stick) or even both.
* Automatic generation of secure passwords
- extremely customizable password generator for fast and easy creation of secure passwords
* Precaution features- quality indicator for chosen passwords- hiding all passwords behind asterisks
* Encryption- either the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) or the Twofish algorithm are used
- encryption of the database in 256 bit sized increments
* Import and export of entries
- import from PwManager (*.pwm) and KWallet (*.xml) files- export as textfile (*.txt)
* Operating system independent
- KeePassX is cross platform, so are the databases, as well
* Open Source- source code is open for anyone
- KeePassX is freeware

To install the program, you can either use the command line and do a quick "sudo apt-get install keepassx", or use the add/remove applications program and search for it in there. It's a fairly small and quick install.

The first time you run the program you'll need to create a new database. You have the option to secure the database with a password, with a keyfile, or with a combination of the two. The best way to secure it would be with a combination of password and key file. For the key file you can use any file. An mp3 is a great option, because no one would ever suspect that it's being used to secure your database. (unless they read this)

From the main dialog, you can start adding your accounts, which can be added to the pre-made categories. You can also create new groups if the provided groups don't fit your needs.

Adding a new account is very simple, as you can see below. If you have an existing password, you can paste it into the dialog, or if you want to create a password, there is a great built in password generator.

The default password length is 20 characters. I've found that many websites only allow a maximum of 15, so you may need to decrease this. The default length can be changed from the options menu. You can select exactly which characters you want to use in your passwords, in case the accounts you use don't support certain characters.

This is a really great program, and I highly recommend it! Enjoy your new password manager.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Easily Contribute to Fedora and Open Source

I was looking over the Fedora website today as I was downloading the just released Fedora 8 Werewolf, and noticed that they have a free media program. This is intended for people who don't have the bandwidth to download Fedora, or those who can't afford it. It can be found here.
Free Media Program
The project works solely on volunteers who sign up to burn 2 to 3 dvd's a month and ship them out, at their own expense. Their dvd distribution seems quite limited, and could use a lot more volunteers. It would be very easy for most people to burn and ship a few dvd's every month.
All you have to do to help out is Join the program, and they'll work with you from there. There is also the option to donate money to the project. And, if neither of those options suit you and you've got some mad skills, they could also use Content Writers, Designers, People Persons, OS Developers, Translators, and Web Developers/Administrators.

Personally, I'm going to start helping out by simply burning some dvd's and sending them out every month, even though Fedora isn't my main distro of choice. I'm sure the Fedora project would be quite pleased to have new people join their community.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Cracking Windows passwords with Linux

Disclaimer: Do not try this on unauthorized systems.

If you lose a Windows password, or you buy a system that has an OS on it, but you don't know the password, what are you to do? The best thing to do would be to throw in a Linux CD, format the drive, and install the Distro. But, what if you want to boot to the system and see what's on there, and get data off?

Well, we have quite a few options. I'm going to cover two of them. I'll start with ophcrack.

"Ophcrack is a Windows password cracker based on rainbow tables. It is a very efficient implementation of rainbow tables done by the inventors of the method. It comes with a GTK+
Graphical User Interface and runs on Windows, Mac OS X (Intel CPU) as well as on Linux."

We're going to use ophcrack live cd, which is a stripped down version of slax using fluxbox, with ophcrack running on top. The cd can be downloaded here. Ophcrack LiveCD
Once you burn the ISO, you just boot the cd, and it goes right to work. In my case, because I'm running on a 64 bit system, I had to pass the noapic option on bootup.

I setup a couple different accounts to test the ability of the software. With the first account, I used a simple password "coldplay". With the second account I used a simple, but randomly generated password "wzgqptjb". For the third account, I generated a 12 character random password with symbols and special characters, "c?4"e9n^bA!t". The last account had the same criteria, "\O0//|?3>q)h".

The results were somewhat predictable, except for the last two accounts. Within 2 minutes, the first two passwords were revealed in the window. I figured the other two may take a while, so I went and played guitar hero for a while, coming back occasionally to check on them. After about 30 minutes, it had completed it's cycle, but told me that the last two passwords weren't found.

For plain character passwords, it doesn't seem to matter whether it's randomly generated, or just a word. They were discovered simultaneously. But as far as the second two go, I guess 12 random special characters is enough to stump ophcrack. I figured it would just brute force it, if nothing else. But that wasn't the case.

So with that program, I was halfway successful. I might have gotten lucky and gained administrative priviledges with those 2 accounts, but with passwords like that, they're most likely regular user accounts.

On to the next program. This is my favorite one, because it's around 3MB for the entire image, and instead of going through a crack process, it completely blanks the windows password in very little time. It's called "Offline NT Password & Registry Editor", and can be downloaded from this website.

Just download the image, unzip it, and burn to cd. Cd's are cheap, so don't complain about wasting a cd for 3MB of space.

Once you boot to it, it will try and autodetect everything. Unless you install Windows in funky directories, all defaults will do the trick. The menu is very straightforward and easy to use.

I selected the admin account (the more difficult password) which is the default. Then I used the command * to blank the password. Then I typed in the name of the other account, and blanked it as well. This took around 3 minutes total including boot time. Then I exited, making sure to save my changes. Once I rebooted into windows, I logged into my accounts with NO password. Everything worked perfectly and I had admin privilges.

With this program, it's really irrelevant how long your password is. It just blanks it with a quick registry edit. Why wait for password cracking software when you have this? Consider your system owned if someone has physical access to it. It's a great precaution to use secure passwords on your systems, but, security is relative and there's always a way around things. You could of course enable a bios password to bump the security up a notch.

Be smart, and never think that your system is impenetrable, especially if you use Microsoft's products.

If you're interested in recovering passwords in linux, here's a great article on ubuntology....

One last thing.....
I wanna give a big HELL YEAH to Wayne, over at fsckin w/ linux. His site is great, and it's only getting better as time goes on!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Cleaning up after Windows Media Player on a Samba share

My music collection is on my NAS and since my wife uses Windows, the only way to share files with her is on a samba share. Since she listens to music a lot with Windows Media Player, it ends putting a lot of unnecessary files into the music folders. Typically, it puts 3 different sizes of the same jpg in a folder, plus an .ini file. On a large music collection, that could end up being quite a large amount of crap files that I don't want in my music folder.

My solution is quite simple, but requires the command line.

You may or may not be familiar with the find command. I use it, along with another, rm, to remove all the waste files. The syntax of the combined commands is a little tricky though. It goes like this....

find . -regextype posix-awk -regex "(.*.jpg|.*.ini|.*.rtf|.*.url|.*.txt|.*.log|.*.sfv|.*.nfo|.*.md5|.*.m3u)" -exec rm {} \;

This tells it to recursively find everything starting from the current directory that has any of the above extensions, and delete it. These are all the BS file extensions people put in shared music folders that I don't want.

Now my music diriectory is de-bastardized and only contains music.

I run this command just before I sync my music directories on my desktop and server, so I'm not syncing a bunch of extra crap. Technically, rsync could handle that too, but I prefer to do it this way.

This could very easily be turned into a bash script and run daily with a cron job, which would completely automate the task. Once you know the commands, the command line can be a much quicker way to accomplish tasks.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Super cool file parity tool

I've used par2 quite a bit, and always found it amazing. The typical use for it would be to repair corrupt files you download on usenet, but you can also use it on your own system to prevent data loss. What it does, basically, is create files that can be used to reconstruct files in the case that they've been corrupted, or even deleted, in most cases.

I'm going to show you how to use a GUI front end for par2 called PyPar2, in Ubuntu 7.10. The interface makes creating file redundancy a breeze. Here's their home page..

So, the first thing you need to do is go to Add/Remove Applications, and do a search for par2. Two programs come up, but it doesn't look like the first one actually supports creating par files, but only verifies. (I didn't test it though, so correct me if you know different) We're going to select the second one, and install it.

Once it's installed, it will show up under "Other" in the Applications menu. Go ahead and run it. Here's a screenshot in it's default state. As you can see, it's very plain and simple.

Since we'll be creating parity files, click on the "Create" tab. Now you'll see an empty window there. At this point all you have to do is drag and drop files, or in my case a folder into the window. If you drag a folder into the window, it will automatically list all the files from the folder in the window.

I'm going to click the "use advanced settings, so I can get some more options. Let's click on the redundancy tab, and set it at 15%. I'm also going to click on the "parity files" tab and set it at 5, with uniform parity file size.

When you have that set, click on the Go button and it will ask you where you want to store the files. I just used the default location, but changed the file name to suit my needs better. Then, when you click save, a console will pop up and show you all the files it's working on, and show a percentage of completion for the redundancy files. On a music album on my system, this process took about 30 seconds.

Now if you look in the folder where your files are stored, you'll see all your regular files, plus 6 par files. 1 main par file, and 5 par files with the main data. And here comes the super cool part. I have 11 music files in my folder. I'm going to go ahead and delete (YES, DELETE) lucky song number 11. If you don't feel comfortable deleting your file, move it to another location so we can test this stuff out.

Once the file is deleted, I'm going to go back to the PyPar2 program and select the other tab "Check". Then you select your par2 file. Any of the files you created will work, but it's standard to work from the first one (the one with the shortest name). And, because we already know our file is completely missing, we're going to choose "Repair".

Click on go, and a console will pop up again, and it will scan through your files, see what needs to be repaired, and if you have enough parity blocks (we should have more than enough) it will repair your file, or in our case completely rebuild it.

By now, I'm sure some of you have examined the size of the parity files. My parity files for one album were 10MB, and one mp3 was 6 MB. So, of course there's enough data in the parity files to recover an mp3. What's the big deal? Why not just back up the mp3's to another folder? Well, here's why this program is amazing. We could have deleted any one of those mp3's(not all at once, please) and it would have been abe to recover it. How does it do it? I have no idea, but after reading a little about it, I discovered it works on the same mathematical principles they use for redundancy in a raid array. As long as it has enough parity chunks to repair your files, it will have no problems. And, in the advanced tab, you can adjust the amount of parity according to your needs. And of course this can be used on any file type, not just mp3.

If you would like to read more about par and par2, here's a link for the wiki.

Thank you and enjoy.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I want to FLAC you like an animal!

After the astounding response from my article on Ogg Vorbis What the hell is Ogg Vorbis, and why should I use it?, I thought it would be nice to do a follow up article on another open source audio format called FLAC.

So, what is FLAC? FLAC is an acronym that stands for Free Lossless Audio Codec. Flac is completely non-proprietary and free of licensing fees, unlike mp3. Flac is also much higher quality than mp3 or Ogg. This format compresses the data without having to dispense of any data.
Essentially, when you rip your cd's to FLAC format, you have an exact digital copy.

I took a CD and used Sound Juicer (opens automatically in Ubuntu when you insert an audio cd) to rip the music to my hard drive in two formats: CD quality Ogg (default) and FLAC. The difference in size is AMAZING.

Duration: 43:15
Album ripped to Ogg - 48.2MB
Album ripped to FLAC - 292.9MB

And, for a song for song comparison...

Duration: 4:04
Song ripped to Ogg - 4.6MB
Song ripped to FLAC - 28.5MB

Wow, I never expected to see that huge of a difference in file size. If I was to have my trivial music collection in FLAC format, it would require at least 60GB, compared to the 10GB required for Ogg. Hard drives are getting larger and cheaper, but that's still a lot of storage space for a relatively small amount of music. There must be a huge difference in the audible quality then, right?

I very un-scientifically listened to multiple songs, first in Ogg, then in FLAC, to see if I could distinguish a difference. Surprisingly, I heard almost no difference at all. In some songs, the FLAC format sounded a little more full than Ogg, but I really had to strain to hear the difference. Although, I am using pretty regular speakers, and soundcard, and I'm by far not a sound expert. I'm just the average user, as far as music goes.

For the average user, it seems much better to stick with the Ogg format for audio. The small difference in audio quality, and huge difference in file size just wouldn't justify switching to FLAC, for most people.

So, when would you want to use FLAC? If you want to make an exact digital backup of your whole music collection, FLAC would be a good way to go (space permitting). If you have an incredibly loud, crisp, clear sound system that can piss off your neighbors two houses away, you'll probably be able to hear a difference as well. Or, if you're an audio aficionado, you'll probably be picky enough about how your music sounds to shell out the extra money for hard drive space so you can listen to everything in great detail. FLAC is also very well supported across OS's Linux, MAC, and Windows. There are also quite a few home theater devices that support FLAC.
I'm not aware of any portable devices that support FLAC, and with size constraints I can see why. (please comment if you know of any) As a commentor pointed out, FLAC would aslo be useful if you're encoding to many different formats because it's more or less as if you're ripping directly from cd since it's lossless.

Impressive as FLAC is, I can't recommend it for the average user. There's just not enough difference in audio quality to justify the huge difference in storage space.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

IE vs Firefox, Linux vs Windows vs Mac - Site Stats

I was looking at visitor statistics to my blog and found the stats to be somewhat interesting, being that's it's a Linux specific blog. I'm definitely glad to see the amount of Firefox vs IE users. This lumps all versions of browsers and all version of OS's into the same category.
So, here they are:

Firefox - 73.4%
IE - 16.46%
Mozilla - 6.59%
Opera - 3.55%


Windows - 55.22%
Linux - 39.91%
Mac OS - 4.87%

I'm glad to see so many Windows users interested in Linux. The curiosity must be driving them mad. They should just install Linux already and get it over with. They won't regret it.

(These stats are from this blog when it was fairly new, so it may not be that accurate. I feel that the future stats from the site will show a more complete picture)

Linux Spyware/Virus challenge: UPDATE

In my original article I outlined how I had challenged a co-worker with the task of infecting a Linux system with spyware and/or viruses within a period of one week. I even offered him a system of mine to use, with a fresh install of Ubuntu. Let me also state that I know that no system is completely immune from viruses or spyware. I just know the risk is very very low.

The Linux spyware challenge

He has officially declined the challenge. He didn't give me an exact reason why, but something along the lines that he was worried that he could possibly infect his other systems (windows), or that his ISP would think his internet activity is suspicious. I think that really, deep down, he knew just how much I would be able to rub it in when he lost.

Now I would like to give the same challenge (minus monetary compensation) to anyone that has had problems with viruses or spyware on windows, or anyone who knows people that have been infested. Why not install Linux on your system or someone else's and show them how great a virus/spyware free system can be.

Enjoy the freedom!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Easy, secure, remote (gui) access for Linux! (10 minutes or less)

If you've ever tried to use the built in remote access for the Linux destkop, you'll know that it's typically laggy, especially if you're connecting remotely using a vpn. Also, nothing is encrypted, making it very non-secure.

I'm going to show you how to remedy these problems with a program called NOMACHINE....

The first thing you need to do is download 3 nomachine programs. The Node, the Client, and the Server. All three of these have to be installed on the "server" that you'll be connecting to.

We'll start with the client. Download the package appropriate for your distro. We'll wait until we have them all downloaded to do anything with them.

NXClient Debian Package (Debian, Ubuntu, Dream Linux, etc)
NXClient RPM Package (Fedora, Suse, PCLinuxOS, etc
NXClient Tarball (Slackware)

And now the node.
NXNode Debian
NXNode RPM Package
NXNode Tarball

And last but most important, the server package.
NXServer Debian Package
NXServer RPM Package
NXServer Tarball

Now that you've got all those downloaded, you need to install them. Since they have dependencies, you have to install nxclient first, then nxnode, and last the server, the same order we downloaded them in. Install them using your package manager. If you're using Ubuntu, all you have to do is click on the package and the package manger will pop up, and you just need to click on the install button. Do that for each package and that's it for installation.

We'll go ahead and test the connection now, with the client that's already on your server. It sounds kind of stupid, but yes, we're going to be connecting to your server from your server to test it and make sure it works. One more thing.... make sure you have openssh-server installed. Ubuntu by default does not install it for some reason. To remedy this, do an apt-get install ssh, and the correct package will be istalled. Other distros I've used have all had it installed.

If you're using Ubuntu, you'll find nxclient is now in your menu, under the internet section. Go to that, and you'll see an nx connection wizard. You'll just need to enter a session name (call it test, unless you have something better) and the ip address of the system you're using. Click next, and select whatever display manager you're using. In Ubuntu's case I would select Gnome. Next, next, let it create a shortcut if you want. Then it will ask you for a password. By default it's setup to use your system users passwords. Go ahead and put in your password and click login. If everything goes well, you'll be seeing your desktop soon. By default, you can't use root to connect, which is a good thing for security.

If you were able to connect, you should be able to connect using any other system on your network. To try it out, download the client program for your other computer and install it, and connect the same way we did with the sever. There is a client available for Mac and Windows as well, so you can connect to your linux server from any computer you want.

Enjoy your new fast and secure remote management!

Friday, October 19, 2007

How do I get root access in Ubuntu?

I first encountered Ubuntu while going to school for a linux certification. I was fairly accustomed to how things were done with rpm packages and how things worked in opensuse. This particular lab I was studying told me I should be using Ubuntu. At the time, the distribution supplied to install and use was Hoary Hedgehog. I quickly realized I hadn't supplied a root password during install, and the lab manual mentioned nothing about it. So, of course I googled it to find out why. I found out Ubuntu implements sudo to give users access to root commands. Interesting. I thought I could deal with that. But, after continuously entering sudo in front of any command that needed root access, it got very old. I thought there must be a way to enable the root account. It turns out, it's actually very simple to do just that.

All you need to do is: sudo passwd root
Then it will ask you for your password, then you have to enter root's new password twice and you're all set. Now you can login to the root account just like you would on any other distro.

Some may argue that sudo is a security measure, because it's in a way disabling root's account. This is true to a degree, but you could also argue that now there's only one password to circumvent instead of two. And user passwords would typically be much simpler than a root password, for convenience. Some may think enabling root's account opens another hole, by allowing the user to login to the graphical environment as a root user, since that's what they may be used to doing in other less secure OS's (microsoft, anyone?). This isn't the case with Ubuntu though, as gnome by default does not let you log on as root.

A definite advantage to having sudo by default is that new users can't login to the root account and obliterate the system with a command a buddy jokingly tells them to execute (rm -r / is a fun example). But any experienced user would have no issues using root's account, as that's what they're accustomed to with other distros anyway. Personally, every system I install Ubuntu on that I'll be using gets a root password assigned. I couldn't have it any other way.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Ubuntu, Satanic Edition!

I was excited when I found this edition of Linux. I'm not Satanic, but I really don't think there should be a separate distro for the Christian edition of Ubuntu, so I thought this was a nice counter distro.

This actually isn't a self contained distro at all. You won't be able to download an ISO even if you try. Satanic Ubuntu basically has a bunch of artwork for the gnome and kde desktop available for download in a repository. They actually suggest installing over the Ubuntu Christian edition (sounds like fun to me) :)

Here is an example of one of their amazingly well done wallpapers. If I recall correctly, they used Blender to render all their 3d artwork.

And here are links to more screenshots.
Their artwork is great as you can see. Top notch. Ultimately for me, the desktop was too dark. I tend to like lighter colors for my desktop. Maybe that's one of the reasons I hate Vista so much. In fact, I think that's even why I hated Windows Media Player 11, on XP. But I guess that's all personal preference stuff.

To actually install Satanic edition is very simple. First, on your existing (K)Ubuntu install, you have to add the repositories to your /etc/apt/sources.list file.

# Ubuntu Satanic Edition
deb feisty main
deb-src feisty main

Once that's done, do an:
apt-get update
apt-get install satanic-wallpapers satanic-gdm-themes usplash-theme-satanic

Or, if you use KUbuntu
apt-get install satanic-kde-themes

To install the screensaver, just do an
apt-get install eternal-damnation

and if you want a ubuntu logo thrown in there as well you can do
apt-get install eternal-ubuntu

Then, depending on your desktop, follow the instructions from their website
Gnome -

You'll be burning in Hell in no time at all! :)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

All your IP are belong to Microsoft!

Microsoft's employees like to flap their lips about Linux violating patents, but they seem to know they have nothing that would actually stand up in court. They claim that there are at least 235 Microsoft patents that are being violated. Somehow they came to the conclusion that the Linux kernel alone violates 42 patents. That's probably the worst insult I've heard in a long time. How is it that the Linux kernel, which works completely different and more efficient than Windows, violates their patents. It sounds like a case of jealousy to me.

Microsoft, if you're going to sue me, do it already! I use many different distros, including openSUSE, Fedora, Ubuntu, Mint, Slax, PCLinuxOS, Sabayon, etc. I have a test partition on my drive just to test out different distros. I don't see how you can exclude one distro or the other in a lawsuit. If you're going to sue one, you need to sue them all. The different distros may use one program or the other that's different, but they all use the Linux kernel, which you claim violates 42 of your patents. (what a bunch of shit) And the majority of the distros use either gnome or kde, which evidently violate another 65 patents. So, how can you target one distribution (Redhat, for example), and say that they violate your patents. It's an all or nothing situation with Linux.

We as Linux users aren't scared of your false claims. By threatening to sue, you're just reassuring everyone how greedy and selfish your company is. Your latest operating system was a flop (and Office as well) and Linux is becoming more competitive than you ever imagined, and you can't handle it. So now you're trying to scare people away from Linux. Well, it won't work. You can shove your evil tactics up your ass, because we're going to continue using Linux, and Linux will continue to thrive. Open source software has a major advantage over propietary software, and that advantage is that there isn't one central point of failure (or control). One distro may go away (for one reason or another), but overnight 5 more distros could be started.

Thank you, and goodnight.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

What the hell is Ogg Vorbis, and why should I use it?

Artigo em português

Most Linux users have probably at least heard of Ogg Vorbis, while most Windows users most likely haven't, unless they are super nerds.

The Ogg Vorbis website sums it up quite nicely.....

"Ogg Vorbis is a new audio compression format. It is roughly comparable to other formats used to store and play digital music, such as MP3, VQF, AAC, and other digital audio formats. It is different from these other formats because it is completely free, open, and unpatented."

Ok, so now we know that it's absolutely free. That alone gives us users some advantages. Linux distributions in general have Ogg Vorbis support built in. That means no additional codec installs. That's good for everyone.

Of course there are other advantages as well. Installing an mp3 codec in linux could be against the law, depending on where you live. Using Ogg Vorbis, you will be worry free and law abiding.

The Ogg Vorbis format will save you hard drive space. If you choose to save your Ogg files at the same quality as your mp3's, the Ogg files will be smaller. Or, you can use a higher quality than the mp3's and still use the same amount of space.
If you're a developer, there's a very large advantage. You can include sound files in your software and you won't pay any licensing fees at all. Many game developers (Epic Games and EA Games for example) have realized this and started using Ogg to keep the money in their pocket.
Ogg Vorbis is also streamable via the icecast audio server. So, there is an alternative for websites and for home media servers that also happens to be completely open source.

At this point, you're probably thinking......... Portable music players don't play Ogg Vorbis. You're absolutely right, if you're talking about the ipod. But, there are actually quite a few players on the market that support Ogg Vorbis. Don't believe me? Here's just one of the many links to lists of Ogg players....

Why should we put up with closed source, licensed, audio codecs when there are perfectly usable alternatives? Why don't we change the world instead of going along with it?

Friday, October 5, 2007

Puppy Linux 3.00 Review

After reading some great reviews of Puppy Linux, I was anxious to download it and take a look, especially since I have some older systems that could really use a light Linux distro. Booting Puppy the first time I was a little surprised for a live cd distro to ask me for the keyboard layout. I selected U.S. and proceeded. I was then prompted to select wether or not I wanted to use xorg or xvesa for the x server. Again, I was surprised but selected xorg, because it's the standard and the only one I had heard of. It then asked me for a resolution. I selected 1280x1024 and continued. The desktop came up in the proper resolution with no issues, but I had already been prompted for three different inputs on a live distro. Incredible. For being a distro that prides itself on quick booting, it really wasn't so impressive in this aspect.

Once the desktop came up, I was greeted by the most horrendous desktop I've seen in a long time. I'll post it here for all to see, but I have to warn you that this could possibly ruin your entire day.

Adjusted slightly to a less horrendous background color, and no instructions built into the wallpaper (ugggghhhhh)..........

As you can tell, I'm not very impressed up to this point. So, I thought I would try out a little web surfing, to see how quick and light the OS and browser were. Here is the result.......

What? No network connection? Let me make it very clear that I'm using a desktop system (wired) and I don't even remember the last time I had to manually configure the network connection. So, to get the network connnection up, I clicked the "connect" icon, clicked all in separate dialog boxes the "connect to internet by net interface", "eth0", "autodhcp", "yes" (to save the config), and "done". So, 6 clicks and five dialog boxes later, my network connection was setup. I didn't actually put any settings in there, I just clicked. There's absolutely no reason this couldn't be scripted at boot time.

At this point I was starting to get quite frustrated. I had read some great reviews, and was really looking forward to having an outstanding experience. So far, I was experiencing just the opposite. This distro had transported me back 10 years to the days of windows 98. The graphics are very poor quality, the fonts are fairly small and hard to read, and the entire documentation of the distro seems to be included in the dialog boxes. The sea monkey web browser seems to be an odd choice, even in a light distro. There are light browsers that are much more aesthetically pleasing and don't look like they're from the 90's. But, 90's seems to be the theme for the whole distro so it actually blended quite well with the rest.

The package manager of Puppy seemed to have a fairly large amount of packages in it, but there is no search feature, so you're stuck looking through all the packages. The installed password manager is Gpasman which looked very dated just like the rest. Even in a light distro, Keepass would fit right in, and look much better.

One program that is included in Puppy that ABSOLUTELY floored me was fragger. I had never even heard of this program, but when I opened it up I was very shocked to see that this was a program that graphically displays disk (or file) fragmentation. Maybe someone should explain to the Puppy developer(s) why fragger is so ironic in linux. I couldn't actually get fragger to view my hard drive fragmentation, but here's a screenshot of the program in all it's windows 98 glory.

Is your jaw on the floor yet? I've got more.........
When you go to the terminal, you already have root access, even if you install it to the hard drive. Press ctrl-alt-backspace to get the terminal and you're given a message that you should type in "xwin" to start xorg again (huh, I could have sworn I was running Linux). Trying init 0 or init 6 to restart the system got me absolutely nowhere. In all it's windows likeness, I guess it forgot how to do linux commands. And last but not least, shutdown is an unknown command.

I almost forgot. Included in Puppy is possibly the worst looking graphical editor I've seen in my life. It closely resembles paint from windows, but it's much more ugly. Here's a screenshot.

On a side note, I did find a couple things that were fairly acceptable with Puppy Linux. The drive mounting program was able to see all drives, mounted or not, and mount or unmount with a single click (a refreshing change from the rest of the distro). The firewall setup program was also very simple. Also, because the programs were all loading from memory, they opened very quickly and the system was very responsive, even when testing on an old system with only 128Mb of memory.

To sum things up, I guess Puppy is an appropriate name for this distro. Puppy is full of energy and very fast, but often misbehaves and poops all over. I completely understand the light concept, but with distros like Slax around, there's no excuse for outdated programs that look like they belong in a Microsoft OS. And for humanity's sake, remove fragger from your distro. What the hell were you thinking?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Connecting to a Windows VPN server with Debian based distros

Debian based distros, specifically Ubuntu, make it a snap to connect to Windows based vpn's.

Here is the link to the RPM for network-manager-pptp, in case you want to do this on an RPM based distro.
network-manager-pptp RPM
--End Edit

You'll need to install two packages... pptp-linux, and network-manager-pptp. If you're using synaptic, just do a search for pptp and select both packages.

You can of course use apt-get install pptp-linux network-manager-pptp if you prefer the command line. (use sudo with apt-get if you chose not to create a root password)

Once those two packages are installed, you can click on network manager and you'll see there's a new entry there called VPN Connections.

Click on Configure VPN.

And, you'll get the VPN Connections dialog.

Click the Add button which will bring you to the next dialog. Click "Forward"

Unless you have other vpn packages installed, pptp should be your only option and you won't have to select anything. Otherwise select pptp tunnel from the list.

Now you just have to enter your VPN info in the next dialog. The most likely case is that you will only have to use the first tab. If you know your VPN has special requirements, go ahead and fill those in, in the other tabs.

Just click finish on the next dialog, and done on the next one.

Now that it's all configured, all you have to do to connect to your new vpn is click on the network manager in the panel, select VPN connections, and select the new VPN that you just created. There will be a little animation above your network manager icon until it's connected. Then you will see a lock on your icon, as long as you're connected. Disconnecting the VPN is done from the same area but you just select disconnect vpn instead. It's very simple and straightforward.

Note: This can also be done on RPM based distributions (or others) if you can find an rpm for network-manager-pptp (you could also compile the source, if you feel so inclined). As far as non-Debian based distros, I have only tested this on SLED, and OpenSuse, and had to search for quite some time to find the rpm as they don't seem to be included in the distro. You're supposed to be able to configure vpn's through yast, but I could never get it to work.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Reasons why I love Microsoft's Operating sytems

Haz clic aquí para Español

I love playing games to put off all those other really important things I need to get done.

There's nothing I like better than to watch my hard drive defragment. It soothes and relaxes me.

After I do a fresh install, I love the hours of challenge provided by hunting down all the drivers for the devices windows doesn't recognize.

I feel like I'm saving the world from viruses when I install anti-virus software on my system. I'll be recognized someday for all the cpu cycles I've used to defend the world from viruses.

Spyware is a tricky animal, but I vow to kill it with my bare hands and drink it's blood. It's the thrill of the hunt.

I think it's important to support billion dollar corporations. Without people like me buying their software they wouldn't be able to control the world. I also love to support all the other billion dollar software companies that I buy my add on software from. It's very invigorating.

I like to reboot after every install and update. It makes me feel fresh and clean like a virgin. And it helps fill the voids in my life.

I like to see those beautiful blue screens that magically appear to me after I install new drivers. I'm always ready for a new challenge.

(Vista Specific) I'm click happy. I love to click and click. I don't care what those dialog boxes are saying. I just want to click some more. Thank you vista for fulfilling my clicking needs.

(obviously, this is satire)

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Dream Linux 2.2 XGL Review

Installation for Dream Linux has to be the simplest installer I've ever seen. You boot from the live cd like many other distros. Although they don't have an install icon on the desktop, you just select "system" and "Dream Linux installer" from the main menu at the top. The complete install is done from ONE dialog. Enter root's password, the user name you want and their password, set up the partitions, and select options for the boot menu. There's also access to qparted and cfdisk if you need that functionality. Once you've got all your settings done there, you just click install and you're done until it asks you to reboot to use the installed version.

A very cool option of the live cd is that you can install or remove software and customize it to your liking, and then use the "mkdistro easy live remaster" to make your own custom live cd's. Although I didn't test this option, it looks like it would be a snap to do it.

I was very surprised to see how nice the desktop looked, knowing that it uses xfce. Typically distros that use this desktop look like a flash-back to the 90's or something. Their graphics are very professional and polished. They customized the whole desktop to more or less mimic the Mac. Personally, I preferred using the "default" window manager theme instead of the Dream-Milk-XFCE that was in use after installing.

Dream Linux includes an "Easy Install" program for a very limited number of programs. This basically makes it a one click deal to install Skype, Opera, Google Earth, Azureus, NVU, Picasa, Adobe Acrobat, Down Tube (download youtube videos), last fm, and the ATI or Nvidia Drivers. It seems to me like the easy install feature would be a lot more useful if they had a large repository of software instead of being so limited. Aslo, they don't show a progress bar as your software is downloading. You'll just have to guess how far it's gotten.

The Nvidia driver install didn't work on my system. I suspect it's because I have a newer Nvidia card, the 8600GT. Typically I have to download the driver directly from Nvidia and install it manually. Because of this, and a limited amount of time, I didn't get a chance to test the 3D features. The 3D features usually seem to be pretty standard across distros, so I also didn't feel the need to test them on this one.

By default, there is a menu editor in Dream Linux, which seemed like it was intuitive and easy to use.

Although I'm testing this on a desktop and don't have wireless, I noticed they have a wireless drivers install program. Clicking on the wireless driver installation prompts for an .inf file, indicating to me that it takes care of the ndis wrapper install along with the windows driver.

An interesting feature that they include is an "upgrade assistant". Evidently, this saves all your desktop and graphical settings so, after an upgrade, you can restore all the settings that you have customized. I don't know how useful this would be in practice, but it sounds cool.

For being a mulitimedia focused distro, it didn't seem to have many codecs pre-installed. It did play mp3 with no further config, but avi files and dvd's wouldn't play. And there was no easy install option for those codecs. I'm sure I could have installed them easy enough though, since it's a Debian based distro. On that note, I still saw quite a few debian logos that they need to remove and replace with their own, to be their own distro.

Being an xfce based desktop, there was no built in support to browse samba shares. I use a linkstation to store all my music and share it on the network. But I soon discovered the LinNeighborhood tool which browses networks. My linkstation didn't show up automatically, but once I put in the IP, I was able to find it without any problem. It also gave me the option to mount it to a local folder, which now made it possible for me to play my music. The LinNeighborhood looked completely out of place with it's 90's style graphics and fonts, but the funcionality was excellent.

Overall, Dream Linux seems like a very useable distro. It could use a little more polish in places, and some funcionality enhancements as well, but I like it. I'd say they have a bright future ahead of them. And, I wish other distros had the attention to detail and polish of graphics that this distro has.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Linux CPU frequency scaling

I recently built a new computer system with an AMD X2 64 processor. My first shot at installing an OS on it was with Ubuntu 7.04. After the initial install menu, it would just go to a black screen and not continue. So, I booted again and looked for clues in the help menu. It suggested I use noapic and nolapic. Once I put those options in, it installed without any further problems.

Once I got the OS installed, everything was working great. It's a very quick and responsive system. I know that my processor is capable of scaling back to 1 Ghz when it's not under any load. So, I added the cpu frequency scaling monitor to the panel. Right away, it told me that frequency scaling wasn't supported, and confirmed this by always showing it at 100% speed.
At first I figured that Ubuntu must not support frequency scaling. But, after booting with the same options and installing a couple other distros with the same results, I realized it was probably because of the boot options I was putting in.

At this point, all I had to do was boot only with the noapic option, and not nolapic. Frequency scaling, at least on an AMD X2 64 seems to rely on lapic. Lesson learned.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Amazon's Windows only Video Service

Haz clic aquí para Español

I was recently browsing the web and saw that Amazon now offers a video download service. A lot of first episodes of TV shows were being offered for free. I thought that would be a great way to see them. After trying to download the video with no success, I looked around for the system requirements. And, here they are.......

Minimum System Requirements

OPERATING SYSTEM: The Amazon Unbox video player application is only compatible with 32-Bit version of Windows including Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition Service Pack 2 (SP2), Windows XP Professional SP2, Windows XP Tablet PC Edition SP2, Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 Update Rollup 2, or Windows Vista (Home Basic, Home Premium, Business, Enterprise, or Ultimate). The Amazon Unbox video player is not compatible with Apple/Macintosh operating systems.

So, Windows users can get free TV episodes, but Linux and Mac users are completely screwed. Even though I would probably never buy the paid for episodes, I was enraged that I was being discriminated against only because I'm using a superior operating system.

I immediately fired off an email to Amazon telling them I was boycotting their site until they started supporting Linux users. Here is the email.

Your new TV download service requires a windows operating
system. I use Linux exclusively, and for that reason I refuse to buy
anything from your website until you start offering the video download
feature for Linux and Mac. Microsoft's operating system isn't the
only one, and it's by far the most virus and spyware infected OS
around. It's not fair to exclude other operating systems just because
that's what the majority of mindless people use. Please offer this
service to everyone and make everybody happy.
and Amazon's response.........
Greetings from the Amazon Unbox team.

I realize that you are frustrated by the fact that currently the
Windows based XP or Vista operating systems are required to run the
Amazon Unbox service on your computer, and that because of this Amazon
Unbox is not supported on the Mac OS or Linux.

I will forward your comments and feedback to the appropriate
department for future consideration. While I am not aware of any
specific development plans, I can certainly pass your feedback to the
appropriate team.

Although it may not be entirely positive, we do appreciate the
feedback we receive about our service or offerings. Comments like
yours are taken into consideration and go toward helping Amazon Unbox
provide a more satisfying experience for all our customers. We
appreciate that you took the time to write to us.

We value our customers who experience our site and services through
the Macintosh platform as well as Linux. We hope to be able to better
serve you in the future.

Thank you for contacting Amazon Unbox with your concerns.

So, if you as a Linux user feel that Amazon should support Linux and Mac, join me in my Amazon boycott by sending them an email refusing to buy from their website until they support us with their video service.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The linux spyware challenge

Haz clic aquí para Español

I've been using linux for quite some time now, and I've never had any problem with spyware or virus infections. At the other end of the spectrum we have Windows. On an almost daily basis working in the IT industry, I see windows machines that are infected with spyware and viruses to the point of not being able to access internet, and not being able to clean the infection off the system with the exception of creating a two day project to do nothing but clean that one system. (who has time for that)

I told a co-worker who is a noob to linux that I would pay him $100 if he could, within the period of one week, infect a linux system with viruses and spyware to the point where it would have performance issues. The only condition was that he has to run as a regular user, not root. Anybody who's used linux for any amount of time knows that this is standard linux procedure and to do otherwise would be idiotic (aka windows).

He is absolutely convinced that he can infect the system. Right off, he told me he would just visit all the warez and porn sites that are typically infested with viruses. The only problem with this thinking is that those are all windows virsuses. Sure, you might come out of there with a great collection of windows viruses, but there's no way in hell you would get them to run in linux (maybe in WINE, but that doesn't really count because it is just imitating an inferior operating system).

I actually put this to the test tonight. The first site that comes to my mind is, which is absolutely infested with trojans. Just as I suspected, absolutely nothing happened. I then continued on to many other warez and porn sites and encountered the exact same things. Lots of windows virsuses, none of which could even think about embedding themselves in my file system. After this little experiment of mine, I'm even more confident about my challenge to my co-worker. My system is completely virus free, and I have absolutely no spyware.

Are any Windows users willing to try the same experiment on their almighty OS?