Archive

Archive for October, 2016

Alternative software: Midori Browser

October 30th, 2016 No comments

In my previous post I spoke about how the Linux platform has an incredible amount of alternative software and wrote a bit about my experiences using one of those applications: the Konqueror browser. I decided to stay in the same genre of applications and take a look at another alternative web browser Midori.

Midori is an interesting browser whose main goal seems to be to strip away the clutter and really streamline the web browsing experience. It’s no surprise then that Midori has ended up as the default web browser for other lightweight and streamlined distributions such as elementary OS, Bodhi Linux and SliTaz at one time or another. It is also neat from a technical perspective as portions of the browser are written in the Vala programming language.

So what does it look like when you first launch the browser then?

Sigh... Another alternative browser that shows an error on first launch...

Sigh… another alternative browser that shows an error on first launch…

Midori itself is a very nice looking browser but I was disappointed to immediately see an error just like the first time I tried Konqueror. To its credit however I’m almost certain that this error is a result of me running it on Linux Mint 18 – and thus missing the Ubuntu related file it was looking for. So really… this is more of a bug on Linux Mint’s end than a problem with Midori.

Poking around in the application preferences shows a commitment to that streamlined design even in the settings menus. Beyond that there wasn’t too much to note there.

Browsing The Linux Experiment

Browsing The Linux Experiment

So how does Midori handle as a web browser then? First off let me say that it does remarkably better than Konqueror did. Pages seemed to render fine and I only had minor issues overall.

The first issue I hit was that some embedded media and plugins didn’t seem to work. For example I couldn’t get an embedded PDF to display at all. Perhaps this is something that can be fixed by finding a Midori specific plugin?

Another oddity I could see was that sometimes the right fonts wouldn’t be used or the website text would be rendered slightly larger than it would be in Firefox or Chrome for example. For the slightly larger font issue it’s kind of strange to describe… it’s as if Midori shows the text as bolded while the other browsers don’t.

I figured that as a lightweight, streamlined browser it might be a decent idea to quickly see memory usage differences between it and Firefox (just to give a baseline). At first the results showed a clear memory usage advantage to Midori when only viewing one website:

Browser Memory Usage
Firefox 144MB
Midori 46MB

However after opening 4 additional tabs and waiting for them to all finish loading the story reversed quite substantially:

Browser Memory Usage
Firefox 183MB
Midori 507MB

I have no idea why there would be such a difference between the two or why Midori’s memory usage would skyrocket like that but I guess the bottom line is that you may want to reconsider your choice if you’re planning on using Midori on a system with low RAM.

Finally if I had to give one last piece of criticism it would be that even as a stripped down, streamlined browser Midori still doesn’t feel quite as fast as something like Chrome.

Other than those mostly minor issues though Midori did really well. Even YouTube’s HTML5 playback controls worked as expected! I might even recommend people try out Midori if they’re looking for an alternative web browser to use in their day-to-day computing.

Alternative software: Konqueror Browser

October 27th, 2016 5 comments

The Linux platform has an absolute wealth of what I would call alternative software. Many of these applications were built simply to fill in a gap or provide a missing function but since then a real culture of alternative software has emerged as well. What do I mean by this? Well there are many developers who have decided that instead of putting their time and resources into building up a pre-existing application they would rather try building something similar, but different, from scratch themselves. This is both a strength and a weakness for the Linux platform overall because while it means there is always constant innovation many of the applications lack a sense of development and usability maturity about them.

Just visit one of the many, many websites that do nothing but feature these alternatives.

Just visit one of the many, many websites that do nothing but feature these alternatives.

 

One such alternative in the world of file and web browsers is Konqueror. This classic KDE application has been around since 1996 and wears many different hats from file browser and web browser to image and document viewer, etc.

As a bit of background – I only really played around with Konqueror briefly a few years ago, so when I installed it on my Linux Mint 18 Cinnamon computer I was interested in seeing how it performed. Unfortunately when I launched the application the first thing that greeted me was a half-broken interface…

Not the best start...

Not the best start…

I’m not sure if the missing images were as a result of me not running it on KDE but this wasn’t the best first impression all the same.

Next I decided to take a look through the various settings and menus to see what options were available. Most of it was pretty standard fare but I was intruiged by what appeared to be the option to change the web browser engine from KHTML to… well I’m not really sure to be honest as there was only the one option.

Configuring Konqueror

Configuring Konqueror

Being a web browser I figured what better way to run it through its paces than load up a few web sites and see how things go. For the most part Konqueror proved to be an adequate, if not slow, web browser but I also ran into a number of rendering problems along the way. For example while watching videos on YouTube none of the playback controls were visible. Another time I visited a website and there was a weird white square over top of one of the menus.

On the left is Google Chrome rendering it correctly. On the right is Konqueror overlaying a weird square for some reason.

On the left is Google Chrome rendering it correctly. On the right is Konqueror overlaying a weird square for some reason.

When I tried loading up a popular news website Konqueror gave up and completely stop responding. None of these are reasons to recommend anyone actually use this browser over something like Firefox or Chrome.

So if Konqueror isn’t a great web browser how does it compare as a file browser? The short answer is even worse. I tried browsing to my home directory and instead just got what appears to be a low-level file system/type error…

Oh yeah, I'm sure the average user knows exactly what an inode is...

Oh yeah, I’m sure the average user knows exactly what an inode is…

If it isn’t obvious by now I think it’s safe to state the obvious: I would not recommend using Konqueror as an alternative to either one of the mainstream web browsers (i.e. Firefox, Chrome, etc.) or standard file browsers.

Removing old Kernels in Ubuntu 16.04/Linux Mint 18

October 25th, 2016 No comments

Recently I’ve noticed that my /boot partition has become full and I’ve even had some new kernel updates fail as a result. It seems the culprit is all of the older kernels still lying around on my system even though they are no longer in use. Here are the steps I took in order to remove these old kernels and reclaim my /boot partition space.

A few warnings:

  • Always understand commands you are running on your machine before you run them. Especially when they start with sudo.
  • Be very careful when removing kernels – you may end up with a system that doesn’t boot!
  • My rule of thumb is to only remove kernels older than the most recent 2 (assuming I haven’t had any bad experiences with either of them). This allows me to revert back to a slightly older version if I find something that no longer works in the latest version.
First determine what kernel your machine is actually currently running

For example running the command:

uname -a

prints out the text “4.4.0-45-generic“. This is the name of the kernel my system is currently using. I do not want to remove this one!

Next get a list of all installed kernels

You can do this a few different ways but I like using the following command:

dpkg --list | grep linux-image

This should print out a list similar to the one in the screenshot below.

Example list of installed kernels

Example list of installed kernels

From this list you can identify which ones you want to remove to clear up space. On my system I had versions 4.4.0-21.37, 4.4.0-36.55, 4.4.0-38.57 and 4.4.0-45.66 so following my rule above I want to remove both 4.4.0-21.37 and 4.4.0-36.55.

Remove the old kernels

Again this can be done a number of different ways but seeing as we’re already in the terminal why not use our trust apt-get command to do the job?

sudo apt-get purgelinux-image-4.4.0-21-generic linux-image-4.4.0-36-generic

and just like that almost 500MB of disk space is freed up!

Trying out KeePassX

October 23rd, 2016 No comments

KeePassX is an independent implementation of the popular password manager that supports the KeePass (kdb) and KeePass2 (kdbx) database formats. Like the official KeePass application, KeePassX is open source but the main difference is that KeePass requires Microsoft’s .NET framework or the Mono runtime to be installed whereas KeePassX does not.

The feature list from their website shows that KeePassX offers:

  • 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
    • extremly 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
  • Free software
    • KeePassX is free software, published under the terms of the General Public License, so you are not only free to use it free of charge, but also to redistribute it, to examine and/or modify it’s source code and to publish your modifications as long as you provide the same freedoms for your modified version.

I’ve been a long time user of KeePass and figured I would check out KeePassX to see if there were any advantages to making the switch. Opening up my existing KeePass2 database was a breeze and even the ‘experimental’ autofill seemed to work just fine. I should also point out that, at least on Linux, KeePassX seems to be much quicker and definitely feels more native compared to the WinForms+Mono official version (I imagine the opposite is true while running on Windows).

The password generation tool for KeePassX is also very similar to the one in the official KeePass however they’ve opted for some defaults which could actually reduce the randomness, and thus security, of a password: exclude look-alike characters, ensure that the password contains characters from every group, etc.

The Password Generator in the official KeePass application

The Password Generator in the official KeePass application

These defaults do make it a bit easier to read or transcribe the passwords should you ever need to and given a long enough password the impact on security should be minimal.

The Password Generator in KeePassX

The Password Generator in KeePassX

So what are my feelings on KeePassX overall? In my limited use it seems like an excellent alternative to the official KeePass application and one that may almost be preferred on non-Windows platforms. I think I’ll be making the switch to KeePassX for my Linux-based installs.

Update: after some slow progress a few developers decided to fork the KeePassX project over at KeePassX Reboot. We’ll have to see how things with this fork play out but I wanted to mention it here in case you decided that the fork was the better version for you.

KWLUG: Emulating Tor (2016-10)

October 4th, 2016 No comments

This is a podcast presentation from the Kitchener Waterloo Linux Users Group on the topic of Emulating Tor published on October 4th 2016. You can find the original Kitchener Waterloo Linux Users Group post here.

Read more…

Categories: Linux, Podcast, Tyler B Tags: ,

KWLUG: Watcamp calendar, Indieweb, Key Retention using Guile (2016-09)

October 4th, 2016 No comments

This is a podcast presentation from the Kitchener Waterloo Linux Users Group on the topic of Watcamp calendar, Indieweb, Key Retention using Guile published on September 13th 2016. You can find the original Kitchener Waterloo Linux Users Group post here.

Read more…

Categories: Linux, Podcast, Tyler B Tags: ,

Ubuntu 16.04 VNC woes? Try this!

October 2nd, 2016 No comments

You may recall a few years back I made a very similar post about Ubuntu 14.04’s ‘VNC woes’. Well unfortunately it seems things have changed slightly between 14.04 and 16.04 and now the setting that once fixed everything now doesn’t persist and is only good for that session. Thankfully it is pretty easy to adapt the existing work around into a script that gets run on startup in order to ‘fix it’ forever. Note that these steps should also work on any Ubuntu derivatives such as Linux Mint 18, etc.

Credit goes to the excellent post over at ThinkingMedia for confirming that the fix is basically the same as the one I had for 14.04. What follows is their instructions on creating a start up script:

1. Create a text file called vino-fix.sh and place the following in it:

#!/bin/bash
export DISPLAY=0:0
gsettings set org.gnome.Vino require-encryption false 

2. Modify the file’s permissions so that it becomes executable. You can do this via the terminal with the following command:

chmod +x vino-fix.sh

3. Create a new startup application and point it at your script. Now every time you reboot it will run that script for you and ‘fix’ the issue.

One last thing I should point out – this work around disables the built in VNC encryption. Generally I would absolutely not recommend disabling any sort of security like this however VNC at its core is not really a secure protocol to begin with. You are far better off setting up VNC to only listen to local connections and then using SSH+VNC for your secure remote desktop needs. Just my two cents.