I’m on YouTube… Sort of

I decided to do a series of videos on Kubuntu Linux, and publish them on YouTube.  I’ll cover topics like an overview, programs and features, installing programs, configuring the system, security and others.

The first video is below.  It’s essentially a screenshare of my Kubuntu desktop inside of a virtual machine.  Forgive my voice and speaking style, as I’m not adjusted completely to the format yet.  You can find me on YouTube as PatsCompServices.

As I create more, I’ll upload them here too.  The next video will be a description of the different programs and features found in Kubuntu.  As always, comments and suggestions are welcome.

Have a great daySmile
Patrick.

Ubuntu Lucid Lynx is out.

On Friday, Canonical released Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid Lynx).  Amongst it’s features/changes/improvements are a newly designed GUI and startup screen, changes in their color scheme and logos, and improved social networking capabilities.  Lucid is a LTS (Long Term Support) release, which is the equivalent of Microsoft releasing a new version of Windows.  The interim releases (Jaunty Jackalope, and Karmic Koala for example) are the equivalent of Microsoft releasing Service Packs for the latest version of WIndows.  The main difference is Canonical releases every six months on schedule—where Microsoft releases when the updates are ready.

If you’re upgrading from an earlier version of Ubuntu (or in my case Kubuntu), especially from Hardy Heron, Jaunty Jackalope, or Karmic Koala, one thing you will notice during the upgrade is that Canonical also upgrades most of your programs to the latest versions.  Even some of your third party programs (like myth-tv) are upgraded.  On my desktop, the upgrade went smooth as silk—even though the desktop was built in 2003.  On my laptop, it wasn’t as easy. 

If you want to upgrade from a CD, and don’t want to lose your data, my suggestion is to use the Alternate Install CD.  This is a text-based installer and also offers System Rescue (which is how I ultimately finished the installation on my laptop).  If you have an active network connection, the Alternate Install CD will download the latest updates and patches for the installation.  Otherwise, it will use the files on the CD itself.

If you want to try Kubuntu/Ubuntu/Xubuntu/Edubuntu out, but don’t want to sacrifice your computer, then the Live CD is the way to go.  It will give you most of the experience along with testing out whether your hardware is compatible, and it won’t cost you any hard drive space or troubles with installing.  And if you find that you do like the distro, you can install it over or alongside your current operating system.  I prefer dual-boots or triple-boots of Windows and Linux.  And if you already have a previous version of *buntu installed, it will keep some of the previous versions for you to boot into (simply pick the kernel that you want to boot, and you’re in that version of *buntu).  Try that with Windows.

Over the next couple of weeks, I’m planning on doing some features on Kubuntu.  And I plan on doing some features on programming.  So stay tuned.

Have a great day:)
Patrick.

Linux News: North Korea’s “Red Star” Linux, and is FOSS an Enemy of the State?

http://www.linuxinsider.com/rsstory/69541.html

North Korea announced their own distribution of Linux called “Red Star.”  It’s aimed at the North Korean People and Government and provides a Korean language interface.  Meanwhile the International Intellectual Property Alliance (which coincidentally is made up of mainly American based organizations) claims that because Open Source options deny “legitimate companies” a place in governments, then any government that uses Open Source software should be deemed an “Enemy of the State.”

Now, here’s my take on this.  If a Government purchases a closed source application, they do not know what is in the code.  Yes, they can get the source code from the manufacturer.  But until they do, they could potentially be leaking information to other Governments through the manufacturer.  **NOTE that there is no proof of this happening that I know of…****

However, if they use Open Source software, they limit the chances of this happening.  Why? Because they can have their coders look through the source code and remove anything that they deem a security risk.  And they can compile the updated code—without risking loss of data or secrets.  Plus with the code being open, the chances of a company sneaking something into the product are nil.  This is because the Open Source Community won’t stand up for it.  It goes against the Free Open Source Software principles.  Can the IIPA say the same about their closed source counterparts?

Now, unlike the IIPA (and to an extent some of the Open Source Community), I feel that there is a place for both.  It boils down to whichever product provides the most effective tools for the situation.  In some cases, Open Source provides the tools.  In others, it’s closed source (or open source designed to run on closed source systems).  The Government (as well as the People) should have the right to choose whichever product suits their needs better—without fear of being called an “Enemy of the State” from organizations like the Business Software Alliance, MPAA, RIAA, Association of American Publishers,  Entertainment Software Association, Independent Film & Television Alliance, and the National Music Publishers’ Association. (These are some of the organizations in the IIPA.)

So, please read the article, and come back here with your comments.  I’d really appreciate them (both for or against Open Source).  And I’m working my way back into daily blogging, so I’ll be back soon.

Have a great day:)
Patrick.

It’s Good to Be Home… Maybe not.

This morning I switched back to Windows 7 from my Kubuntu linux week.  Before I did though, I decided to take the plunge and upgrade to Kubuntu 9.10 again.  Ironically enough, the upgrade installed all of the available security updates (and all but the XBMC updates).  And my computer booted fine on the next restart.

I ran into one set of problems immediately though.  My GPG keys were wiped out.  This wouldn’t be a problem—except that I moved the backups to a server.  Kleopatra (and GPG in general) won’t import from a non-local drive.  And when I tried to copy them from the server, they wouldn’t copy.  So, I left Kubuntu slightly defeated…

So, it’s good to be home then, right?  Well not exactly.  I booted into Windows… And blue-screened.  Rebooted into Windows… And blue-screened again.  After the third or fourth time, I did the startup-repairs and did a System Restore. Possibly, it was caused by my going into the drive in Kubuntu—but since I’d gotten blue screens before last week, I doubt it.

Then, I couldn’t open my encrypted e-mails in Outlook.  Not because I didn’t have the keys for the accounts that I mailed them from (I did).  Not because I didn’t have gpg or my S/MIME certificates set up (I did). Why?  Because I had imported older keys for my hotmail account (which I no longer have the passwords for), and it used those to encrypt the e-mails.  Luckily, I can view/send them from my gmail account.

I’ve copied my keys over to a local drive and will be able to go back into Kubuntu and fix the issue with GPG.  And I’m finding and signing more keys for sites that I use regularly.  I may do a series of posts on GPG and other digital certificates again.

I’m almost prepared to move my site.  The hosting company will most likely be BlueHost, unless I find a better deal within the next three months. 

So, overall I still love Windows.  But, I’ve found that I can easily do things in Kubuntu.  If you’re the least bit curious about Linux, then I highly recommend that you check it out (http://www.kubuntu.org)  You can download a Live CD (which is a good idea if you’re doing online banking or shopping), or you can install it alongside Windows (wubi or a true dual-boot setup).  And if you find that it’s up to your standards, you can easily install it in place of Windows.

Have a great day:)
Patrick.

Linux Day 6 finished

Well I accomplished most of what I wanted to do yesterday.  I watched television (and recorded some things), played movies in XBMC and tweaked it a little to add a function that they are strangely missing (the Eject button), and migrated more things to gmail.  I believe that I only have four or five e-mails to go, and I’m all set (and a couple of those are "I really don’t care" ones).

For starters, how to fix the lack of an eject button.  In my case, I did the dirty method (of altering the Favorites button).  What you need to do is find the directory (or folder on Windows) for the skin that you are using (in my case it’s Confluence 720p), then edit the Home.xml file.  The quick and dirty method is to change the action from whatever to XBMC.EjectTray() and alter the description to match.  I removed the texture controls tags, so it shows a blank box (but you can probably find a texture control that shows the Eject button).

It’s strange that they don’t include this in at least the Windows/Linux/Mac versions (I’m not sure if it’s supported on the X-Box at all or not).  Especially since if you try clicking "Play" without a DVD, it brings up the option to Play or Eject (open/close) the tray.  So for any XBMC developers who may check this blog, PLEASE include an Eject DVD button on the DVD controls window. (I believe it’s the "PlayerControls.xml file that would be the best place for an eject button, but I’m not sure).

I also discovered that for some odd reason my online learning labs don’t work properly in Chrome on Linux.  Oddly enough it’s not all of them–only one.  I think it has to do with the fact that I was tagged as a Presenter in his lab, where in my Live chats, I’m a participant.  But, it means that I have to try firefox, or switch to Windows, in order to view the lab correctly.  The tech support people at the college aren’t familiar enough with Chrome on Linux, to be able to help out with it.  In fact they said that it doesn’t work very well at all.  So, I guess when I’m doing my course work, it will have to be in Firefox.

Anyhow, tonight’s the last night…  I’ll most likely stay in Linux until I wake up tomorrow (to make up for the hours that I spent in Windows this week).  And maybe I’ll stay in Linux afterwards.  I just need to get a few things ironed out, and it’s off to the races. I know Windows Home Server will be glad to see me boot into Windows again.  It would be nice if someone would figure out a way to back up your Linux systems to WHS as well (it wouldn’t be able to happen through Windows though).  Of course that would require Microsoft to release the API for the connector software–and we know THAT will probably never happen.

Have a great day:)
Patrick.

Linux Day 5/6

Day 5 is over, and Day 6 is just starting…  What did I learn last night?  Well, I spent a good portion of the evening trying to get certain applications to always open up on specific workspaces.  For the Windows people, workspaces are like virtual desktops.  You can have as many as your memory will allow (if there’s a maximum number, I’m not sure).  And you can organize each one to do certain tasks.  For example, I have my Main Desktop, Mail Twitter & RSS desktop, Programming desktop, and IM desktop.  If you have all of the "bells and whistles" installed for compiz, then the taskbar will only show the applications open on that specific desktop.  Otherwise, they all show up, and you can click on one to switch to it.  It’s organization at it’s finest–and built right into Linux (not a downloaded application like WIndows).

The way to go about this is Alt + F3 (which opens the menu option on the top left corner of the window in focus) –> Advanced –> Special Application Settings –> Geometry tab —> Desktop. Select either "Remember" or "Force" and choose the desktop that you want.  It ***should*** put all windows from that application on that desktop.  So far, it works perfectly.

I’m still migrating mail over to my gmail addresses.  I think I have about 90% of it done.  The other 10% is either things that I’ve missed, people that I just haven’t sent a notice to, or junk that I don’t really care about anyhow.  Since I’m keeping the hotmail and msn addresses (for now at least), I’m not too worried about them.  I’ll probably be doing this for a week or two.

Another thing I finally figured out was how to play my music from my windows server on here through Amarok and other music players.  They all seemed to balk at using SaMBa for it, so I mounted the directory into a subdirectory off of my Home.  (Note for Windows users, folders == directories.  It’s a semantic thing).

The command is :   mount.cifs //192.168.2.80/Music/ /home/yourusername/subfolder/  You can use mount -t smbfs in place of mount.cifs (I was having problems with mount -t, so I did it this way).  And change the IP address to your servers name or your IP address  (for example mount.cifs //WORKGROUP/Servername/directory/ /home/patrickdickey/musicfromnetwork/)  You should be prompted for a username and password, if you don’t have them stored somewhere (or you can use the -o user=username option).

It’s funny.  I’m doing all of these things (like installing a firewall– firestarter on Kubuntu, setting up compiz to make my computer have fancy effects, getting my music mounted over, installing programming applications and such, etc) and I’ll probably go back to Windows in three days.  Why would I do all of this?  Because when I decide "Hey, I want to play in Linux some more" or I decide "Hey, I’m sick of Windows.", all I have to do is boot into Linux and it’s ready to go…  Now, if I could only get the latest version of Karmic to boot–I’d probably only leave when I had to.

What’s on the agenda for today…. I’m going to rent some movies and watch them in XBMC (if it doesn’t freeze up like last night).  I’m going to write more blog posts.  Maybe watch some tv (on the television, since my video cards aren’t supported on Linux), and shop.  Plus I’ll tinker around with this some more.  Maybe I’ll make a video podcast of my desktop and experiences.

Have a great day:)
Patrick.

Linux Day 5

Yesterday was a more productive day.  The only "snag" that I ran into was that a webcast for Microsoft’s Certifications wouldn’t load up properly– so I had to go to Windows in order to view it.  I spent about 2 hours viewing the webcast and trying to figure out my situation with the UPS’s (which I’m going to be swapping them out soon).  Hopefully the addin that I found will be able to shut down my other computer(s).

I did run into a snag with firefox though.  The other day, my desktop crashed (it has to do with opening applications like Kate using sudo in the terminal).  When it came back, my profile in Firefox was completely screwed up.  So, I ended up creating a new profile.  Minor issue.  But, a learning lesson anyhow.  If you’re using KDE, then it’s recommended that you use kdesudo in place of sudo (for opening desktop applications from the terminal).  Typically you won’t bother with this at all, but there are times when you may need to do it (such as editing a configuration file).  I realize that you have vim and emacs available, but for someone who’s coming over from Windows (and probably has never used a DOS-based editor (or Unix-based editor in this case)), being able to edit with Kate and KWrite are bonuses.

I’ve spent the last couple of hours migrating things over from my hotmail account to my gmail account.  Fun, fun fun, to say the least.  Now I have a system though.  I’ve marked everything as read in Hotmail, so the only things that will show up between now and tomorrow are things that I still need to move.  And as more incentive to get this done, I cannot get my hotmail or msn or patscomputerservices e-mails through Evolution right now.  The POP servers don’t like the commands sent (you know… things like "Username" and "password").  So, it’s a waiting game (or I can always log in through a browser)….  Funny thing is, yesterday I had this issue with two of my accounts. A little while later, those worked, and two others wouldn’t.  Today none of them work.  All the more reason to jump ship– I think. 

After 4 full days and starting the fifth, I came to some conclusions.

1.  If you’re just doing things like checking e-mail and surfing the web (in other words not playing Windows Games), then you can easily switch to Linux.  I’m able to work on my college homework and even view the live chats without a problem… In fact, they seem to work better here than in Windows.

2.  If your games involve things that Linux doesn’t offer (eg anti-hack programs and such) and they don’t offer a Linux version, then you have to make a choice.  Either dual-boot, so you can play your games, or find new games.  You can always push to get the games ported to Linux–but that may not work out the best.

3.  If you require specific applications that don’t have Linux versions, you can try to run them under Wine (which may or may not work– you’ll want to check their site for details), look for Linux applications which do the same thing (albeit differently), or dual-boot.

4.  If you have to do any Windows Administration, then you’ll be using Windows at least part of the time (this is the boat that I’m in).  Whether it be through Remote Desktop, or actually booting into a Windows machine–either way, you won’t be able to make a complete break.

Do I miss Windows? Yes, a little.  Am I ready to go back? I’m torn on this one.  Part of me wants to go back, because it’s more familiar. But part of me likes using Linux too.  I can easily say that I won’t be anti-Windows.  And I can say that I will keep using Linux.  And when the time comes that I can do everything I need here, I may consider switching for my day to day use.  Does Windows miss me?  Well… Windows Home Server misses this computer.  It is sitting with a "Yellow" status because this computer hasn’t backed up since Sunday night.  Boy is it in for a shock 😛

There are definitely some quirks in Linux that I don’t like.  For example, I have Chrome set as my default browser.  Yet Evolution keeps opening up Firefox.  aMSN keeps opening up Konqueror, and mailto: links keep opening up in KMail.  So, I think I’ll be figuring out how to change some of these things.  What I like though is this:  If I want to change these things, I can easily download the source code for the application, and code it differently.  Can you do that with Outlook or Internet Explorer?  NOPE.  Can you do that with Windows applications that are hard-coded to use Internet Explorer for everything?  Only if they are open-source…  For that reason, Linux gets a + in my book.

Have a great day:)
Patrick.

Linux Day 3

Well today I finally got down to productivity with Linux.  I completed one program in Java (the assigned one) and also one that was intended to demonstrate the concepts that we went over (polymorphism).  I still have to go to the hotmail website to mark my mail as read (or delete some of it).  On that note, I’m slowly migrating mail over to my gmail accounts. 

As for being solely on Linux, I have spent a total of about 6 hours on Windows machines since Sunday night.  3 hours was at the college, tutoring someone in Visual Basic.  The other three were in trying to solve a problem that I have with my UPS system.  On my desktop, I have a UPS system that has USB connectivity to the computer.  However, the one that I bought for my server doesn’t have this feature.  I’ve been trying to set up a configuration where my desktop will send the shutdown signal to the server when it goes onto battery power.  Unfortunately, the applications for the desktop’s UPS won’t allow that.  So, I’m going to check the addons for Windows Home Server to see if they support the UPS I currently have on my desktop.  If they do, I’m going to swap them out and have the server shut the desktops down.

Here are some commands that you will find useful if you are considering the switch to Linux.

tar xvzf filename  This will unpack compressed files (.tar, .tar.gz, .tar.bz2, .zip) and put the contents into a subdirectory.

./configure  This will prep the source code for installation and check for potential errors.  If any are encountered, configure will alert you to them, and not allow you to "make" the files.

make and make install  These are the two commands which will create the executable files from source code, and then install the application.  Note, that if you want to install to a folder other than your home, you will need to use sudo make install (or su on other systems).

sudo chmod 777 filename.ext  This command will change the permissions on the filename to allow for execution.  Typically when you download an executable file, it’s permissions are read only (-r–r–r–).  The "777" portion adds the write and execute to all three portions (owner, user, group).

sudo apt-cache search name  This command will search for an installation package and report any instance of it.  It’s useful when you know the package title, but not the version numbers or complete package name.  You may not have to use sudo, but it works that way.

sudo apt-get install name  This is the command to actually install a package from the repositories.  The repositories are the preferred method of installation, as the version of the packages are tested and certified for your distribution.

sudo apt-get -f install  This command is used when certain dependencies are not met.  You don’t specify anything after the install, and Linux will take care of the rest.  Then you can install the packages.  Typically this is used in conjunction with dpkg.

sudo dpkg -i filename.deb  This is the method of installing a .deb file that you’ve downloaded from a site other than the repositories.  If all of the required dependencies are met, it will install without a problem.  Otherwise, you will be prompted to use sudo apt-get -f install to fix the issues.  dpkg is also used for repairing corrupted installations and cleaning out unnecessary temporary files and packages.

In tomorrow’s post, I will dicuss moving from Outlook or Outlook Express/Windows Mail/Windows Live Mail to Evolution or KMail (and KOrganizer).

Have a great day:)
Patrick.

Day 2 on Linux

Well, Day 2 has started out interesting.  First of all, KMail refuses to remember what I’ve called "Ham" and "Spam", so all of my e-mails are ending up in the trash folder–marked as read (even though I told it to put "Spam" in the Junk folder and not mark them read).  After fighting with that for about 20 minutes, I decided to go back to Evolution.  Since I’m forwarding all of my Microsoft e-mail to gmail now anyways, it’s a mute point about which client I use.   And Evolution seems to be working right.

The next thing that I had to figure out is how to get all of my folders in Evolution sorted the exact same way.  Turns out, that it’s a minor change (a workaround actually).  Pick a folder, and set it up the way you want.  Then Click on View–> Save Custom View.  Click the Replace Existing radio button, and choose Messages.  Click OK.  After it filters all of the folders (which may take a while), they will all be sorted the way you want.  The recommendation that I found was to use Received (instead of Date) if you want to sort by Date.  This is because the sender’s Date may be wrong, so the e-mails will show up in various places in the folder.  Thanks to Andrew & Susanne’s Blog for the information.

I think once I get everything ironed out, this won’t be so bad.  Ironically enough, some of the "issues" that I have in Windows are not present in Linux.  For example, I use TweetDeck to read and post to Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, and LinkedIN.  In Windows (with a Microsoft Wireless Keyboard and Mouse), my mouse won’t scroll inside of the columns.  However in Linux, using the same Microsoft equipment, it scrolls perfectly.  Flash sites aren’t as big of a problem in Linux as they are in Windows–although they can still become a OS stopper.

One thing that I don’t find a lot of information on is Antivirus Programs for Linux.  Typically if you search for them, you find posts and comments that say "You don’t need an antivirus on Linux because you can’t get a virus on Linux."  And you’ll find arguments about whether this is true or sound advice.  Personally, I believe in the layered approach to Security.  So, regardless of whether or not I ***can*** get a virus on Linux or not, I want to make sure I’m protected.  Plus, unless you have a Crystal Ball (or your name is Nostradamus), I don’t believe you when you say "You will never get a virus on Linux."

The layered approach is this:
1.  Firewall
2.  Antivirus
3.  Antispyware
4.  Antispam
5.  Updating everything regularly
6.  Smart surfing. (This could actually be #1 because it needs to be done regardless of the other 5).

I downloaded and installed Avast! Home Edition for Linux (which is Free).  While doing a scan, I was configuring my e-mail and checking it, installing different applications, running Pidgin (Yahoo!), aMSN, and Skype, and TweetDeck.  And I didn’t notice a performance hit at all (this is on my Toshiba Laptop that I’ve mentioned in other posts).  Which leads me to another "like" about Linux.  I have yet to see my computer freeze up (like it does in Windows 7 on occasion).

Anyhow, it’s time to post this.  There will be another post entitled "Linux Day 1" which may come after this.  That’s because I sent it to the wrong e-mail address, so I have to repost it.

Have a great day:)
Patrick.

Linux Day 1

*** I tried to send this out on Day 1, but it wouldn’t go, so I’m posting it tonight.***

It’s the end of the first day, and I spent 99% of it on Linux. The first half
hour, I was on Windows trying to get my Outlook calendar exported over
to my gmail account. After that, it was all Linux–all day. I moved a
mouse for about 30 seconds on Windows (while tutoring in Visual
Basic.NET) but that’s all.

Things that I’m learning and solutions. The POP access for Live
(Hotmail) e-mail sucks. You get one folder — inbox. It doesn’t support
the UIDL standard (which I didn’t understand until later on), which
means that clients like KMail and Evolution can’t tell it “Hey, I’ve read
this.” or “Hey, I’ve deleted that.” Basically that means that I have to
read my e-mails, and then go to the website to mark them read (or wait
and mark them read in Outlook next week). And since I have messages
sorted into subfolders, I have to log into the website to check those…
This IS NOT a fault of Linux. It’s a fault with how Microsoft implements
their POP access. I didn’t try their IMAP as I’m not entirely sure that it
works (or is any better).

My Solution? I created gmail accounts for each one of my hotmail ones.
As I’m typing this, the Google mail importer is moving my mail over from
each account to it’s respective Gmail account. It will take a couple of
days probably. But at least everything will be over. Now, I will start the
tedious task of changing my e-mail accounts everywhere to the gmail
account (so I can access it there instead of hotmail). Ironically enough,
I’ve had the hotmail account for 10 years–and would continue except
for the fact that I can only access it through Outlook, Outlook Express,
or Windows Live Mail (I’m choking on that) without having to jump
through hoops.

Enough of the Microsoft rant.

Problem 2. I can’t get my SMIME certificates to validate in KMail, so that
I can send signed e-mails. They validate and work beautifully in
Evolution. I may end up going back to Evolution–although I have KMail
set up more or less how I want. If anyone knows how to get them to
validate, that would be awesome. The certificates are through
startssl.com.

I still miss some things about Windows. Especially Windows 7. I keep
hovering over my taskbar, waiting for the thumbnail to come up… For
the most part, it was just click and go with Windows. That being said, I
think it still took me a day or two to get it just the way I wanted it. So, I
can’t say much about Linux in that respect.

I won’t be able to print from Linux. My Lexmark X2350 isn’t supported
(at least that I can find). Again, it’s not Linux’s fault. It’s Lexmark who
isn’t creating drivers for the Operating System. That’s ok though. I’ve
got three other printers laying around that still work. If nothing else, I’ll
see if one of them will work, and use that for the week.

Believe it or not, aside from my rants, I’m enjoying my time here. And if
I can find solutions to my problems, I may just stay here for a while. If
worse comes to worse, I can always flip to Windows long enough to print
or whatever, and come back here for the rest. Or, I can set up the
second printer (if it works with Linux) and print to it. I can even set it
up on Windows, and share it to Linux.

Tomorrow will be a new day. And tomorrow, I’ll be getting down to
business. Classwork awaits.

Have a great day:)
Patrick.