Friday, 23 September 2011

Wallpaper of the Month - 6400 (2)

Fairy Glen didn't quite make it to the end of the month: somehow it seemed a little claustrophobic on such a small screen.

However, this picture is quite the opposite; open and bright, it makes a beautiful background for the 6400.

Petr Cunderlik captured this beautiful scene at one of the Nové Mlýny resevoirs (in the Czech Republic) - you can download the wallpaper from National Geographic's Photo of the Day.

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Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Rotten Apple?

I was surprised by the news that an attacker can potentially change a user's password on Apple's OS X Lion without knowing the owner's existing credentials - after all, the OS X is "[b]uilt on a rock-solid UNIX foundation", so system changes must require password authorization, right?

Apparently not!

I don't expect this to be a widespread exploit, not least because an attacker needs access to the machine while the owner is logged-on and Apple users are protected by a relatively low market share; but it beggars belief that Apple could drop such a clanger.

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Two Good Reasons to Use Opera

In his essay, Safe Personal Computing, Bruce Schneier informs us that he uses Opera as his web browser. That's as good a reason as any to choose Opera - here's another one.

The Register is reporting that:

"Researchers have discovered a serious weakness in virtually all websites protected by the secure sockets layer protocol that allows attackers to silently decrypt data that's passing between a webserver and an end-user browser."

In essence, the researchers (Thai Duong and Juliano Rizzo) intercept and decipher the authentication cookie on a secure connection: They plan to demonstrate the attack later this week at the Ekoparty Security Conference.

The attack is only effective against earlier versions of the TLS protocol; TLS1.2 is impervious to the attack. Few browsers support TLS1.2 by default, so few websites have switched to the protocol - a vicious circle! However, there is one browser that does support TLS 1.2 by design:

"While both Mozilla and the volunteers maintaining OpenSSL have yet to implement TLS 1.2 at all, Microsoft has performed only slightly better. Secure TLS versions are available in its Internet Explorer browser and IIS webserver, but not by default. Opera remains the only browser that deploys TLS 1.2 by default."

Whilst switching to Opera makes no difference to users' security if the majority of websites eschew the latest security protocols, this story does show that the Opera developers design-in the latest security and that is another good reason to switch.

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Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Quick Tip - Share a Kubuntu Folder on your LAN

If you want to share a folder on your local network using Kubuntu (10.04), you'll need to install the kdenetwork-filesharing package.

Open a terminal and type:

sudo apt-get install kdenetwork-filesharing

Enter your password at the prompt.

To create your shared folder - in Dolphin:

  1. Right-click the folder that you want to share on your network.
  2. Select Properties from the pop-up menu.
  3. Click the Share tab.
  4. Click the Configure File Sharing... button.
  5. In the File Sharing - KDE Control Module, click Add...
  6. Enter the path (or browse) to your folder.
  7. Select the NFS and/or Samba options.
  8. Click OK three times to create your share.

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An interesting project to create a Windows clone is under way in Russia and one of its developers has just asked Dmitry Medvedev for €1m.

Whilst I see nothing wrong with investing in a competitor to the dominant commercial software manufacturer, it seems a shame that governments haven't been prepared to spend cash on developing the existing alternatives!

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Saturday, 10 September 2011

Office 364½

I doubt that the news that Microsoft's online services recently suffered from a "major service failure" came as a great surprise to anyone - after all, server outages happen all the time. However, once again, the news highlights the potential problems of over-reliance on online storage/service providers.

The farther data is removed from its owner, the more fragile are the access and security protocols associated with that data. That's why I advocate removable media as the preferred method of secure storage - even in a power outage, providing I have a charge in one of my laptop batteries, I have access to my critical data: do you?

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Quick Tip - Kubuntu Muted System Sounds

If you've installed Kubuntu and find that you have no system sounds, open a terminal and type:


When you've hit the Enter key, the control panel for your sound card will appear in the terminal window.

Make sure that the Master & PCM volume levels are not set to zero by using the left/right arrow keys to select the playback type and the up/down arrow keys to set the levels.

F4 will give you access to the Capture (input) levels and F5 will display both input & output levels. Hitting the Esc key returns you to the command prompt.

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Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Oneiric - On Love & Leaving

The Register's Scott Gilbertson has reviewed Oneiric Ocelot and, whilst Gilbertson is balanced in his appraisal, it's not entirely flattering!

Gilberson concludes:

"The message of 11.10 seems pretty clear: Unity is here and you're either going to love it or leave it. While Unity is clearly improving - and getting faster - it remains a departure from the old GNOME interface that isn't going to please everyone."

It's worth mentioning that 11.10 is still in beta stage, but the fact is that Gilbertson is right and I for one have decided that I really don't like Unity. The problem is that I'm not completely enamoured with GNOME 3 either, so I've been searching for an alternative. At the moment, the favourite candidate to replace my 10.04 setup is the KDE desktop: however, I'm not even sure that it will by running on an Ubuntu OS!

OpenSUSE is about to be installed on the Inspiron 1501.

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Monday, 5 September 2011

Just How Much?

So, just how much does the British Government spend on software?

The answer is...

...It doesn't know!

Well, that may be overstating the facts: many departments do seem to know and the numbers are astonishing! Furthermore, some departments refused to release details (implying that the information is available) "on the grounds that it would cost too much" [to collate] - you have to wonder that a Government department (presumably accountable to the Public) doesn't already know the answer!

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Multiple Live CDs on a Single USB Startup Disk

Recently, I tried out a Live USB for the first time. It's a great way of installing a Linux-based operating system or simply trying one out before committing to an installation. In fact, I liked the idea of a convenient, reusable medium for testing new distros so much, that I purchased a new USB drive in order to keep a copy of Kubuntu to hand.

Whilst I didn't put a great deal of effort into my search, the smallest thumb-drive that I found was 4GB - that's an enormous drive for a c.700mb image file and I started wondering whether I could put multiple images on a single usb stick - it turns out that sundar_ima has already thought of the idea and produced a fantastic utility called MultibootUSB.

Put simply, MultiBootUSB is:

"... a shell script which allows user to install multiple Linux Distros in to USB drive / Pendrive / Flash drive and able to boot from it."
And it works!

You can find some great instructions for installing MultiBootUSB at, so I won't use up space replicating them here. However, it might be useful to point out a couple of things to watch out for if you want to use this application.

After installation, make sure that the thumb-drive is mounted in the /media/ directory before starting the application - I know that it sounds obvious, but check anyway! The easiest way is to plug-in the drive and click on the icon in the Places sidebar in Nautilus or Dolphin. When the drive is mounted, you can find the application (in Kubuntu) via the Applications > Utilities menu.

When you want to add a new image to an existing MultiBootUSB, you'll still receive a warning that "Grub2 will be installed in the MBR!" - don't worry, this will not overwrite or delete any existing images on the drive. Select the drive from the device list and click the confirm button to access the Multisystem menu.

If you are installing OpenSUSE, be patient: it seems to take much longer to install to the pendrive than Ubuntu-based distros.

A really nice feature is the test function in the Multisystem menu: you can test using either QEMU or Virtualbox.

So far, I've put four images on my 4GB drive (Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Mint, & OpenSuse) and still have 1.1GB free! For those who want to explore the vast world of Linux distros, take a look at DistroWatch for some ideas about other bootable offerings.

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Saturday, 3 September 2011

Installing Ubuntu One on Kubuntu

Ubuntu One is easy to install on Kubuntu: open Konsole and type:

sudo apt-get install ubuntuone-control-panel-gtk

This command will install the following six packages

  1. python-ubuntuone-client
  2. python-ubuntuone-control-panel
  3. python-ubuntuone-storageprotocol
  4. ubuntuone-client
  5. ubuntuone-control-panel
  6. ubuntuone-control-panel-gtk

Alternatively, search for ubuntuone-control-panel-gtk in KPackageKit and install Ubuntu One from the software manager.

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Friday, 2 September 2011

Some Days...

Today has been fairly challenging for me insofar as technology is concerned.

My first surprise was an email from Facebook telling me that

"A new unknown device logged into your Facebook account (Thursday, 01 September 2011 at 15:51)"
- well, I was at work at ten-to-four yesterday afternoon, so I know that it wasn't me! Strangely, my daughter also got a similar message, so it's entirely possible that this is a false alarm, but I don't take chances with security: time to change passwords.

Of course, the problem with a potential account compromise is that any infiltrator may have gained access via one of the email accounts associated with the account, so I also changed my email account passwords - or at least, I tried to change my email account passwords! It seems that one of my email account providers only accepts passwords between 8 & 16 characters long and only those that contain letters and (at least) one number - that's only a 95 bit password and not particularly secure! Doubtless, had I bothered to read these instructions, my task would have been so much simpler, but I was too busy trying to convince the dialog to accept a 210 bit password that contained all manner of characters.

Any way, I sorted it all out eventually and then decided to delete my Facebook account. It's too high in maintenance costs for my tastes and, notwithstanding its latest moves to secure users' privacy, it often plays fast and loose with users' personal details. When I came to post a quick note here to let people know that my account was in the process of being deleted, I got another surprise:

It seems that blogger doesn't support Opera 11.51!

Any way, I'm leaving Facebook and, if my friends need to know what I'm up to, I can be contacted via Karmic Odyssey. As for my intended post (on enabling Kubuntu's Desktop Effects on unsupported video cards), that'll have to wait until another day!

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Thursday, 1 September 2011

Wallpaper of the Month - 6400

Since upgrading to Kubuntu 11.04 on my DELL Inspiron 6400, I've been struggling to get the look & feel right: trying to find my way round a new desktop environment, getting stuff to work, and trying to find something pleasing to look at has not been easy!

To cap it all, I haven't found the Plasma themes to be particularly intuitive and I haven't come across a wallpaper that has really called to me for a while. So, I thought that I'd see what one of my photographs looked like as the background for my new set up.

For those interested, the picture is of Fairy Glen on the Conwy River, near Betws-y-Coed (Conwy). It was taken using a Canon PowerShot S3 IS (Lanscape Easy Mode - literally, point & click!).

Actually, I'm quite pleased and this picture might make it through the month. With Autumn fast approaching, I'm planning a return trip to get a shot of the leaves turning to those beautiful pre-winter hues.

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Quick Tip - Installing Plasma Themes from .tar

If you download a Plasma theme as a .tar package, you can install it by extracting the package to the ~/.kde/share/apps/desktoptheme/ directory.

Restart the Desktop Theme application (System Settings > Workspace Appearance > Desktop Theme) to access and apply your new theme.

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