Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Roundabout Resource

If you subscribe to the Ubuntu weekly newsletter, you'll know that it is a superb resource for all things Ubuntu: if you don't, shame on you!

I don't normally mine the newsletter just for material to blog about, but every now and again there's something in the newsletter that deserves a special mention and I like to increase its exposure in whatever limited way I am able via Karmic Odyssey. Issue 274 (July 19 - 15) is just such an edition and my attention was drawn to an excellent resource for newcomers to Unity. Daniel States has produced a guide to lenses and scopes and, if you want to get the best out of Ubuntu's latest offering, it's well worth downloading.

The links to the download are circuitous so I've included a direct link to the download below. However, it's also worth stopping in at the French Fortune Cookie blog on your way.

Sources & References:

Monday, 30 July 2012

A Blogger @ the Opera

It seems that Blogger no longer supports the Opera browser. For a while I've been getting warning notices that my favourite browser is no longer supported, but I've been able to log in to my dashboard nonetheless.

However, tonight I got an error message in Opera when I tried to post but had no difficulty using Firefox or Chrome (no surprise there!). As a matter of principle I won't switch to Chrome and will use Firefox to access my Blogger dash, but I am irritated that I have to use a different browser at all!

Sources & References:

  • None

A Second Opinion on the Veho VSS-002W Speaker

It's possible that I was a little hasty in my evaluation of the Veho VSS-002W speaker: it turns out that (if you know what you're doing) the sound quality is better than I might have led you to believe!

Whilst my advice to position the speaker on the floor and add the equalizer to Rhythmbox are both sound (no pun intended) tips, something that seems to improve the reproduction quality is to select the Analogue option when setting the sound preferences.

Sources & References:

  • None

Friday, 13 July 2012

Turn Off, Switch On!

It matters not how good No-IP's service might be (and it is good) if you don't think before you act. This week I had to attentd to an urgent matter that required access to files on my server: no problem I thought, I can access them from work (during my lunch break, of course!) using NoMachine.

Except I couldn't!

It took several hours of racking my brain to figure out why my IP address hadn't been updated by the No-IP client before I realized that it wasn't updating the DDNS server because it wasn't running! I'd rebooted my server after a software update and had never restarted the client. Clearly, if you are as absent minded (read, stupid) as I, it's better to start the client automatically every time the pc boots and, fortunately, this is easy to achieve.

Open a terminal and login as root:

sudo -i

Then add the client to the startup file (/etc/rc.local):

echo '/usr/local/bin/noip2' >> /etc/rc.local

Remember to exit from root & the terminal by typing exit twice:



In my defence, I had implemented a fail-safe using email and file copies, so all was not lost. More to the point, I was actually pretty chuffed that I'd figured out the problem without resorting to Google, so all-in-all the episode was far from a disaster.

Sources & References:

Sunday, 8 July 2012

The Tail Wagging the Dog

When technology serves its owners, it is liberating. When it is designed to serve others, over the owner's objection, it is oppressive. There's a battle raging on your computer right now -- one that pits you against worms and viruses, Trojans, spyware, automatic update features and digital rights management technologies. It's the battle to determine who owns your computer. Bruce Schneier May 04, 2006

Bruce Schneier has long argued that proprietary code is a bad thing for end-users: fixing broken code doesn't generate much revenue and most of the big software houses only patch vulnerabilities when they can no longer be ignored. Now, Microsoft has introduced a new wheeze; make someone else responsible for its shoddy code.

With the forthcoming release of Windows 8, manufacturers will be required to install something called Secure Boot if they want their equipment to be certified as Windows compatible. This is a potential problem for anyone who wants to install a different operating system (like Linux) on their computer: if the software isn't approved by the UEFI interface, it won't load and you'll be locked out of your system. In essence, Microsoft has found a way to shackle your hardware to its software and all in the name of security.

Let's not pretend, Windows is ubiquitous and most (probably all) OEMs will comply with Redmond's fiat. So it's not surprising that Mark Shuttleworth has discussed the possibility of Canonical generating its own encryption key to pass the Secure Boot test. This is probably just pragmatism at work, but the reality is that you will no longer own your pc, you'll effectively lease it from those software providers that can get their keys incorporated in the UEFI. I can't help wondering if the tail is still wagging the dog.

Sources & References:

NoMachine - Installation & Configuration

I use NoMachine's NX Client to connect to my FreeNX server: it's fast and accurate and gives the user an almost local desktop experience. As I'm just loading it onto my 1501 (running Kubuntu), I thought it would be useful to record the installation & setup process.

First, head over to NoMachine's Download page and select the NX Client for Linux. You can download this either as a .tar or a .deb package - I'm going with the DEB!

Click on the download icon and you'll be taken to the download page (yes, it is a bit clumsy) and there select the Download Package option. Once the package is downloaded, navigate to the download location and click on the file: the packager installer should open automatically.

Click the Install Package option.

Use your file browser to navigate to /usr/NX/bin and click on the nxclient application: this should start the NX Connection Wizard.

  1. Your Session name can be anything you like. For instance, if you want to set up two sessions, one behind your router (LAN) and one for when you're outside your router (WAN), you could call them Local and Remote respectively.
  2. Your Host name will depend on how you intend to connect to your server:
    • From inside your LAN, you'll probably connect using your LAN IP address - something like 192.168.x.x (where x is a number).
    • If you are outside your LAN and have a static IP address, you can connect using the ISP issued address - you'll find this from your router/modem interface.
    • If you don't have a static IP address and use a DDNS service like No-IP, you'll use the human friendly name that you allocated to your server when you signed up for the service. It'll be something like; host.no-ip.org or whatever subdomain you chose.
  3. NoMachine uses SSH as its connection agent so the default port is 22. You can change this port number by amending the /etc/ssh/sshd_config and (perhaps) the /etc/nxserver/node.conf files: you'll find instructions on how to make these amendments here
  4. Unless you have a specific reason, leave the Internet Connection Type as ADSL.
  5. Click Next
  6. In the Desktop dialog, leave the OS type as Unix but change the desktop type to Custom and then click the Settings... button
  7. Select the Run the following command radio button and enter the following command in the dialog box below:

    gnome-session --session=ubuntu-2d

    Now select the New virtual desktop radio button in the Options dialog and click OK. Don't change the Disable encryption option!
  8. Choose the display sizes as appropriate and click Next.
  9. Now click Finish

Finding the client depends on what version of Ubuntu you're running: in 12.04 just use the dashboard and type nxclient; in 11.04, you'll find it lurking in the Internet menu (as you will with Kubuntu).

When the client starts you'll be prompted to authenticate yourself by providing your username and password. Use the Session drop-down to select the session type and enter your details. Then simply click the Login button.

Sources & References:

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Rhythmbox Extras

Now that Rhythmbox is the default music player in Ubuntu 12.04, it's probably worth getting the best out of it. One notable absentee from the shipped application is an equalizer. You can install this plugin individually or you can install a range of working plugins from a ppa mainatined by fossfreedom.

To install the complete collection of plugins, add fossfreedom's ppa. Open a terminal and type:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:fossfreedom/rhythmbox-plugins

Then update:

sudo apt-get update

Then install the plugins with:

sudo apt-get install rhythmbox-plugin-complete

Once installed, open Rhythmbox and click Edit and then Plugins: check the Equalizer checkbox and you're done.

Sources & References:

WiFi Not HiFi

When I first started my journey into open source software I resolved that the experiment would cost me nothing (unless you count the sunk cost of an old DELL Dimension 8400 and a replacement hard drive): those days are long gone! Now it seems that I'm happy to spend money on new hardware and gadgets just to see if I can make them work with Ubuntu!

One of the nice things about being single again is that I can indulge my technophile tendencies without embarrassment. Moreover, having my own home means that I no longer have to share my office with my bedroom or my lounge with my kitchen (alright, I do share my lounge with my kitchen, but that's how the apartment is designed!). However, recently I've been thinking that it would be nice to stream music from my server in the office to my lounge without having to fire up my thirty year old Technics! I looked at Bluetooth speakers, but the intervening walls made connectivity a problem, so I started wondering if I could find some WiFi speakers.

Well, I did find some and today they turned up in the post!

Veho VSS-002W Mimi Qube speakers work using a wireless dongle operating at the 2.4GHz range. In Ubuntu 12.04 it's a Plug 'n' (almost) Play device. Just plug the dongle into a spare USB port and then open the Sound settings dialog (System Settings > Sound). If all's gone well, you should see two options (Digital & Analogue) both labelled SYNIC Wireless Audio. Select your preference and you're good to go.

To be honest, the sound quality isn't the greatest but it can be tweaked using the Rhythmbox equalizer and placing the speaker on the floor. That said, its sound reproduction is perfectly adequate for all but the most pedantic audiophile and it saves a lot of hassle as well as a lot of wiring.

Sources & References:

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Static IP with No-IP

One minor problem that I've experienced with my new server set-up is random changes in my IP address. Ordinarily, I would expect my IP address to stay fixed for as long as my router remained up and connected to the WAN, but short interruptions at the exchange have renewed my IP address on several occasions meaning that I couldn't connect to my network using NoMachine. My new ISP doesn't offer static IP addresses to domestic customers (no surprise there), but I have found a way to achieve the same result using a dynamic IP address.

No-IP is a service that uses a client to update and redirect service to map a static (DNS) or dynamic (DDNS) IP address to an easy to remember subdomain. The good news is that, when my exchange renews my IP address, I don't need to worry any more, I just point No-Machine to my server's new subdomain. Even better, the entry level service is free! The bad news is that the installation instructions for Ubuntu 12.04 out there on the Internet are not as accurate as they could be and I found installation a little tricky. So, here's how I did it!

Firstly you have to sign up for your No-IP account and set-up your host in the Account section - you'll need to know your current IP address for this. The process for setting up your host is pretty straightforward, so I won't replicate it here.

Next is to install the client on your server: don't bother with the sudo apt-get install option to download the No-IP client (suggested on the No-IP site), it doesn't work! Go to the downloads page, click on the penguin and save the file to the location of choice (mine was home/jogga/Downloads/). When the client has downloaded, use Nautilus to navigate to the download directory, right-click the noip-duc-linux.tar.gz file, and select the Open With Archive Manager option. Click Extract.

Now open a terminal and change directory to your extracted file:

cd /home/jogga/Downloads/noip-2.1.9-1

Tip: keep an eye on your folder/version number - mine is 2.1.9-1; yours could be different.

Now issue the make command.

sudo make

Now issue the make install command.

sudo make install

You'll be prompted for your login details and password. Leave the update interval to 30 (unless you have a good reason to change it) and check that the correct nic is selected (probably eth0).

To check that the client is running:

/usr/local/bin/noip2 -S

If not:


That's it!

Sources & References: