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Archive for January, 2017

Blast from the Past: The Search Begins

January 26th, 2017 No comments

This post was originally published on July 29, 2009. The original can be found here.


100% fat free

Picking a flavour of Linux is like picking what you want to eat for dinner; sure some items may taste better than others but in the end you’re still full. At least I hope, the satisfied part still remains to be seen.

Where to begin?

A quick search of Wikipedia reveals that the sheer number of Linux distributions, and thus choices, can be very overwhelming. Thankfully because of my past experience with Ubuntu I can at least remove it and it’s immediate variants, Kubuntu and Xubuntu, from this list of potential candidates. That should only leave me with… well that hardly narrowed it down at all!

Seriously... the number of possible choices is a bit ridiculous

Seriously… the number of possible choices is a bit ridiculous

Learning from others’ experience

My next thought was to use the Internet for what it was designed to do: letting other people do your work for you! To start Wikipedia has a list of popular distributions. I figured if these distributions have somehow managed to make a name for themselves, among all of the possibilities, there must be a reason for that. Removing the direct Ubuntu variants, the site lists these as Arch Linux, CentOS, Debian, Fedora, Gentoo, gOS, Knoppix, Linux Mint, Mandriva, MontaVista Linux, OpenGEU, openSUSE, Oracle Enterprise Linux, Pardus, PCLinuxOS, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Sabayon Linux, Slackware and, finally, Slax.

Doing a both a Google and a Bing search for “linux distributions” I found a number of additional websites that seem as though they might prove to be very useful. All of these websites aim to provide information about the various distributions or help point you in the direction of the one that’s right for you.

Only the start

Things are just getting started. There is plenty more research to do as I compare and narrow down the distributions until I finally arrive at the one that I will install come September 1st. Hopefully I can wrap my head around things by then.

Ripping DVDs on Ubuntu 14.04

January 24th, 2017 No comments

Remember DVDs? For those of you too young to have had to deal with the hassle of physical media, DVDs were how us old folks got all of our movies and TV seasons before Netflix existed. These days, I’ve got boxes of the things gathering dust in closets. I hadn’t thought about them since the last time I moved until last night, when my wife asked if I could make her Yoga DVDs available on our home Plex server.

I mean… yes? Sure, why not? Can’t be too hard right? Now all I need is a computer with a DVD drive…

After realizing that one of our laptops still has the appropriate hole in the side of it, I slid one of her disks into the slot, and listened while the machine made all sorts of noises and did… nothing at all.

At first, I thought maybe the drive was broken. So I dug through a drawer to find an old CD (another ancient fossil of a format, kids), and confirmed that the drive did, in fact, work. Physical capability confirmed, I figured that I might be running up against some kind of format issue, and did some Googling.

My cursory research turned up a helpful  page in the Ubuntu Documentation that provides instructions for installing the libdvdread4 package, which includes a set of libraries that allow Ubuntu machines to read DVDs. For Ubuntu 14.04, the instructions look something like this:

~$ sudo apt-get install libdvdread4
~$ sudo /usr/share/doc/libdvdread4/install-css.sh

After this, I had to restart my computer. I’m not sure why, but assumed that it had something to do with the fact that hardware is involved. Once it came back from its brief nap, it happily mounted the DVD that I had left in the drive.

The next step was to install Handbrake from the Ubuntu Software Centre. This is a handy little utility with a tropical-themed logo that can convert damned near any video format to nearly any other. I’ve used it in the past to shrinkify video for playback on my iPhone with great success.

If you open up Handbrake and use the Source button to choose your DVD, it will scan the disc, find the titles available, and show ’em in a dropdown box. Simply select the one that you want to rip, give it a reasonable file name, choose where to put the file on your machine, select High Profile from the presets box on the right hand side of the window, and press the big Start button up at the top.

If yoga were this easy, I’d be exercising instead of writing this article

Pleased with my progress, I returned to my wife, told her that I had made her yoga DVDs available, and asked when she was going to start sporting abs as tight as Jillian Michael’s. She was not impressed. You can’t win them all.

Categories: Jon F, Ubuntu Tags: ,

Blast from the Past: Installing Gnome Do with Docky on openSUSE

January 19th, 2017 No comments

This post was originally published on September 28, 2009. The original can be found here.


Before I switched to Windows 7 for my laptop, I used a a dock software called RocketDock to manage my windows and commonly used desktop shortcuts. I liked being able to see my whole desktop ever since I found a good wallpaper site. Back when I rolled Ubuntu, I installed this application called Gnome Do. It’s a Quicksilver like program that just works. However, the newest feature of Gnome Do that I loved was its Docky theme. It puts a dock similar to RocketDock on the bottom of your screen, and integrates it’s OS searching features right into the dock.

I decided to install the application from YaST, the default system administration tool. It indexes a fairly large number of repositories, and it did have Gnome Do. A few minutes later I had the app running, but unfortunately the version was way out of date. Gnome Do is on roughly version 0.8.x, and YaST gave me 0.4.x.

So off I went trying to find a .rpm for Gnome Do that would install. I was met with a lot of failure, with a ton of dependencies unable to be resolved and so on. Next I tried the openSUSE file from Gnome Do’s homepage, but for some reason the servers were down and I was unable to install that way either.

Frustrated and not knowing what to do next, I decided to hop on IRC and see if anyone in #SUSE on irc.freenode.net could help me out. They told me about this service called Webpin. There I found a .ymp [which is an openSUSE specific installer file like a .deb or .rpm] for Gnome Do, and a ymp for Gnome Do’s plugins. Downloading and opening the files installed the programs without any problems. The last step I had to take to enable Docky was to install compiz and enable desktop compositing. After that, a quick trip to Gnome Do’s preference dialog allowed me to use the Docky theme, and I was up and running!

Blast from the Past: The Distributions of Debian

January 12th, 2017 No comments

This post was originally published on August 21, 2009. The original can be found here.


Like many of the other varieties of Linux, Debian gives the end user a number of different installation choices. In addition to the choice of installer that Tyler B has already mentioned, the Debian community maintains three different distributions, which means that even though I’ve picked a distribution, I still haven’t picked a distribution! In the case of Debian, these distributions are as follows:

  1. Stable: Last updated on July 27th, 2009, this was the last major Debian release, codenamed “Lenny.” This is the currently supported version of Debian, and receives security patches from the community as they are developed, but no new features. The upside of this feature freeze is that the code is stable and almost bug free, with the downside that the software it contains is somewhat dated.
  2. Testing: Codenamed “Squeeze,” this distribution contains code that is destined for the next major release of Debian. Code is kept in the Testing distribution as long as it doesn’t contain any major bugs that might prevent a proper release (This system is explained here). The upside of running this distribution is that your system always has all of the newest (and mostly) bug free code available to users. The downside is that if a major bug is found, the fix for that bug may be obliged to spend a good deal of time in the Unstable distribution before it is considered stable enough to move over to Testing. As a result, your computer could be left with broken code for weeks on end. Further, this distribution doesn’t get security patches as fast as Stable, which poses a potential danger to the inexperienced user.
  3. Unstable: Nicknamed Sid after the psychotic next door neighbour in Toy Story who destroys toys as a hobby, this is where all of Debian’s newest and potentially buggy code lives. According to what I’ve read, Sid is like a developer’s build – new users who don’t know their way around the system don’t generally use this distribution because the build could break at any time, and there is absolutely no security support.

I’m currently leaning towards running the Testing distribution, mostly because I like new shiny toys, and (I think) want the challenge of becoming a part of the Debian community. Since we’ve been getting a lot of support from the various development communities lately, perhaps some of our readers could set me straight on any information that I might have missed, and perhaps set me straight on which distribution I should run.

KWLUG: Vigrant (2017-01)

January 11th, 2017 No comments

This is a podcast presentation from the Kitchener Waterloo Linux Users Group on the topic of Vigrant published on January 9th 2017. You can find the original Kitchener Waterloo Linux Users Group post here.

Read more…

Categories: Linux, Podcast, Tyler B Tags: ,

Shove ads in your pi-hole!

January 8th, 2017 No comments

There are loads of neat little projects out there for your Raspberry Pi from random little hacks all the way up to full scale home automation and more. In the past I’ve written about RetroPie (which is an awesome project that you should definitely check out!) but this time I’m going to take a moment to mention another really cool project: pi-hole.

Pi-hole, as their website says, is “a black hole for Internet advertisements.” Essentially it’s software that you install on your Raspberry Pi (or other Linux computer) that then acts as a local DNS proxy. Once it is setup and running you can point your devices to it individually or just tell your router to use that instead (which then applies to everything on the network).

Then as you’re browsing the internet and come across a webpage that is trying to serve you ads, pi-hole will simply block the DNS request for the ad from really resolving and instead return a blank image or web page meaning that the site simply can’t download the ad to show you. Voila! Universal ad blocker for your entire network and all of your devices! Even better – because you’re blocking the ads from being downloaded in the first place your browsing speeds can sometimes be improved as well.

Pi-hole dashboard

You can monitor or control which domains are blocked all from a really nice dashboard interface and see the queries come into pi-hole almost in real time.

After running pi-hole for a week now I’m quite surprised with how effective it has really been with removing ads. It’s legitimately pleasant being able to browse the web without seeing ads everywhere or having ad blockers break certain websites. If that sounds like something you too might be interested in then pi-hole might be worth taking a look.


This post originally appeared on my personal website here.

Blast from the Past: Of filesystems and partitions

January 5th, 2017 No comments

This post was originally published on August 25, 2009. The original can be found here.


Following from my last post about finalizing all of those small little choices I will now continue along that line but discuss the merits of the various filesystems that Linux allows me to choose from, as well as discuss how I am going to partition my drive.

Filesystem?

For a Windows or Mac user the filesystem is something they will probably never think about in their daily computing adventures. That is mostly because there really isn’t a choice in the matter. As a Windows user the only time I actually have to worry about the filesystem is when I’m formatting a USB drive. For my hard drives the choices are NTFS, NTFS, and.. oh yeah NTFS. My earliest recollection of what a filesystem is happened when my Windows 98 machine had crashed and I had to wait while the machine forced a filesystem check on the next start up. More recently FAT32 has gotten in my way with it’s 4GB file size limitation.

You mean we get a choice?

Linux seems to be all about choice so why would it be surprising that you don’t get to pick your own filesystem? The main contenders for this choice are ext2, ext3, ext4, ReiserFS, JFS, XFS, Btrfs and in special places Fat16, Fat32, NTFS, and swap.

Ext2

According to the great internet bible, ext2 stands for the second extended filesystem. It was designed as a practical replacement for the original, but very old, Linux filesystem. If I may make an analogy for Windows users, ext2 seems to be the Linux equivalent to Fat32, only much better. This filesystem is now considered mostly outdated and only really still used in places where journaling is not always appropriate; for example on USB drives. Ext2 can be used on the /boot partition and is supported by GRUB.

Ext2 Features

  • Introduced: January 1993
  • File allocation: bitmap (free space), table (metadata)
  • Max file size: 16 GiB – 64 TiB
  • Max number of files: 10^18
  • Max filename length: 255 characters
  • Max volume size: 2 TiB – 32 TiB
  • Date range: December 14, 1901 – January 18, 2038

Ext 3

Ext3 is the successor to ext2 and removed quite a few of the limitations and also added a number of new features, most important of which was journaling. As you might have guessed it’s full name is the third extended filesystem. While ext3 is generally considered to be much better than ext2 there are a couple of problems with it. While ext3 does not have to scan itself after a crash, something that ext2 did have to do, it also does not have a an online defragmenter. Also because ext3 was primarily designed to shore up some of ext2’s faults, it is not the cleanest implementation and can actually have worse performance than ext2 in some situations. Ext3 is still the most popular Linux filesystem and is only now slowly being replaced by its own successor ext4. Ext3 can be used on the /boot partition and is fully supported by GRUB.

Ext3 Features

  • Introduced: November 2001
  • Directory contents: Table, hashed B-tree with dir_index enabled
  • File allocation: bitmap (free space), table (metadata)
  • Max file size: 16 GiB – 2 TiB
  • Max number of files: Variable, allocated at creation time
  • Max filename length: 255 characters
  • Max volume size: 2 TiB – 16 TiB
  • Date range: December 14, 1901 – January 18, 2038

Ext4

Ext4 is the next in the extended filesystem line and the successor to ext3. This addition proved to be quite controversial initially due to its implementation of delayed allocation which resulted in a very long time before writes. However ext4 achieves very fast read time thanks to this delayed allocation and overall it performs very well when compared to ext3. Ext4 is slowly taking over as the defacto filesystem and is actually already the default in many distributions (Fedora included). Ext4 cannot be used on the /boot partition because of GRUB, meaning a separate /boot partition with a different filesystem must be made.

Ext4 Features

  • Introduced: October 21, 2008
  • Directory contents: Linked list, hashed B-tree
  • File allocation: Extents/Bitmap
  • Max file size: 16 TiB
  • Max number of files: 4 billion
  • Max filename length: 256 characters
  • Max volume size: 1 EiB
  • Date range: December 14, 1901 – April 25, 2514

ReiserFS

Created by Hans ‘I didn’t murder my wife’ Reiser, in 2001 this filesystem was very promising for its performance but has since been mostly abandoned  by the Linux community. It’s initial claim to fame was as the first journaling filesystem to be included within the Linux kernel. Carefully configured, ReiserFS can achieve 10 to 15x the performance of ext2 and ext3. ReiserFS can be used on the /boot partition and is supported by GRUB.

ReiserFS Features

  • Introduced: 2001
  • Directory contents: B+ tree
  • File allocation: Bitmap
  • Max file size: 8 TiB
  • Max number of files: ~4 billion
  • Max filename length: 4032 characters theoretically, 255 in practice
  • Max volume size: 16 TiB
  • Date range: December 14, 1901 – January 18, 2038

Journaled File System (JFS)

Developed by IBM, JFS sports many features and is very advanced for its time of release. Among these features are extents and compression. Though not as widely used as other filesystems, JFS is very stable, reliable and fast with low CPU overhead. JFS can be used on the /boot partition and is supported by GRUB.

JFS Features

  • Introduced: 1990 and 1999
  • Directory contents: B+ tree
  • File allocation: Bitmap/extents
  • Max file size: 4 PiB
  • Max number of files: no limit
  • Max filename length: 255 characters
  • Max volume size: 32 PiB

XFS

Like JFS, XFS is one of the oldest and most refined journaling filesystems available on Linux. Unlike JFS, XFS supports many additional advanced features such as striped allocation to optimize RAID setups, delayed allocation to optimize disk data placement, sparse files, extended attributes, advanced I/O features, volume snapshots, online defragmentation, online resizing, native backup/restore and disk quotas. The only real downsides XFS suffers from are its inability to shrink partitions, a difficult to implement un-delete, and quite a bit of overhead when new directories are created and directories are deleted. XFS is supported by GRUB, and thus can be used as the /boot partition, but there are reports that it is not very stable.

XFS Features

  • Introduced: 1994
  • Directory contents: B+ tree
  • File allocation: B+ tree
  • Max file size: 8 EiB
  • Max filename length: 255 characters
  • Max volume size: 16 EiB

Btrfs

Btrfs, or “B-tree FS” or “Butter FS”, is a next generation filesystem will all of the bells and whistles. It is meant to fill the gap of lacking enterprise filesystems on Linux and is being spearheaded by Oracle. Wikipedia lists its new promised features as online balancing, subvolumes (separately-mountable filesystem roots), object-level (RAID-like) functionality, and user-defined transactions among other things. It’s stable version is currently being incorporated into mainstream Linux kernels.

Btrfs Features

  • Introduced: 20xx
  • Directory contents: B+ tree
  • File allocation: extents
  • Max file size: 16 EiB
  • Max number of files: 2^64
  • Max filename length: 255 characters
  • Max volume size: 16 EiB

So what’s it all mean?

Well there you have it, a quick and concise rundown of the filesystem options for your mainstream Linux install. But what exactly does all of this mean? Well, as they say, a picture speaks a thousand words. Many people have done performance tests against the mainstream filesystems and many conclusions have been drawn as to what is the best in many different circumstances. As I assume most people would chose either XFS, ext3, ext4 or maybe even Btrs if they were a glutton for punishment I just happen to have found some interesting pictures to show off the comparison!

Rather than tell you which filesystem to pick I will simply point out a couple of links and tell you that while I think XFS is a very underrated filesystem I, like most people, will be going with ext4 simply because it is currently the best supported.

Links (some have pictures!):

EXT4, Btrfs, NILFS2 Performance Benchmarks

Filesystems (ext3, reiser, xfs, jfs) comparison on Debian Etch

Linux Filesystem Performance Comparison for OLTP with Ext2, Ext3, Raw, and OCFS on Direct-Attached Disks using Oracle 9i Release 2

Hey! You forgot about partitions!

No, I didn’t.

Yes you did!

OK, fine… So as Jon had pointed out in a previous post the Linux filesystem is broken down into a series of more or less standard mount points. The only requirements for Fedora, my distribution of choice, and many others are that at least these three partitions exist: /boot for holding the bootable kernels, / (root) for everything else, and a swap partition to move things in and out of RAM. I was thinking about creating a fourth /home partition but I gave up when I realized I didn’t know enough about Linux to determine a good partition size for that.

OK, so break it down

/boot

Fedora recommends that this partition is a minimum of 100MB in size. Even though kernels are each roughly 6MB in size it is better to be safe than sorry! Also because ext4 is not supported by GRUB I will be making this partition ext3.

LVM

I know what you’re thinking, what the hell is LVM? LVM stands for Logical Volume Manager and allows a single physical partition to hold many virtual partitions. I will be using LVM to store the remainder of my partitions wrapped inside of a physical encrypted partition. At least that’s the plan.

swap

Fedora recommends using the following formula to calculate how much swap space you need.

If M < 2
S = M *2
Else
S = M + 2

Where M is the amount of memory you have and S is the swap partition size in GiB. So for example the machine I am using for this experiment has 4 GiB of RAM. That translates to a swap partition of 6 GiB. If your machine only has 1 GiB of RAM then the formula would translate to 2 GiB worth of swap space. 6 GiB seems a bit overkill for a swap partition but what do I know?

/ (root)

And last but not least the most important part, the root partition. This partition will hold everything else and as such will be taking up the rest of my drive. On the advice of Fedora I am going to leave 10 GiB of LVM disk space unallocated for future use should the need arise. This translates to a root partition of about ~300 GiB, plenty of space. Again I will be formatting this partition using ext4.

Well there you go

Are you still with me? You certainly are a trooper! If you have any suggestions as to different disk configurations please let me know. I understand a lot of this in theory but if you have actual experience with this stuff I’d love to hear from you!

Top 10 Antivirus You Must Try on Linux

January 4th, 2017 No comments

Many people use Linux because of its higher level of security, and it’s true that a Linux-based operating system is generally more secure than Windows and Mac, for several reasons. First of all, Linux is not nearly as popular as the Mac or Windows, which means that fewer coders go through the trouble of programming malware that works on this operating system; Windows and Mac users are more often their targets. And second, when using Linux the user generally has rather limited privileges unless they elevate them manually (in order to be able to install software, for example), which means that even in the event that malware does get on your PC, it won’t be as powerful or as “privileged” as on a Windows PC logged into an Administrator account with full privileges.

However, that’s not to say that you’re entirely safe from malware just because you use Linux. You should still be careful about the websites you browse, preferably through a VPN and set your operating system up with some kind of third party antivirus protection. In this article, we’re going to present to you the best antivirus software that you can find for Linux, in our personal opinion, so you can secure your PC and stop worrying about malware doing damage to your system.

1. AVG

One of the most popular anti-virus apps for Windows has an equally good counterpart that you can use on Linux-based operating systems. Sadly, AVG for Linux does not have a graphic user interface, so you’re going to have to know your way around the terminal a bit in order to use it effectively. On the plus side, this means that AVG for Linux is very lightweight and won’t impact your performance at all.

2. BitDefender

BitDefender is downloadable directly from the Linux repository, but unlike AVG it features a nice GUI version (in addition to a command-line version if you like that sort of thing) that makes using BitDefender a breeze. If you want a solid antivirus that will offer state-of-the-art protection to your PC, be sure to check out BitDefender.

3. Comodo Antivirus

Comodo is a powerful, free firewall application that you can use to ward off Internet-based malware from your Linux operating system. Comodo is excellent at detecting and quarantining various types of cyber attacks such as phishing, trojan horses and so on.

4. Sophos

Sophos features a heuristic-based detection system and real-time scanning, and is capable of removing malware written for Android, Windows and even Mac, in addition to Linux. Not only does this protect your own machine from any imminent malware threat, it also makes sure that other computers won’t get infected by dormant virus applications that don’t work on your system, but may work on theirs.

5. Rootkit Hunter

If you have a rootkit problem and want to get rid of it, this nifty little open-source application is what you need. It’s command-line only unfortunately but it’s really not that hard to learn, and it’s as lightweight as they get. Rootkit Hunter uses SHA-1 hash comparison to hunt down malware, and includes a portable version that you can use on any Linux PC without installing it.

6. ESET Antivirus

ESET is a paid antivirus solution for malware on Linux machine that features proactive malware detection and very low resource use, so you won’t even notice is running in the background. The onboard GUI is sleek, easy to use and intuitive, but powerful enough so you can customize the software to your needs.

7. F-PROT Antivirus

F-PROT antivirus comes in a free home version and an enterprise one for commercial use. A powerful and lightweight anti-virus application for Linux that detects various types of malware such as Trojans, boot sector viruses and so on.

8. Avast

One of the most popular free anti-virus programs on the market today. Avast features a solid, easy to use GUI so you don’t have to fiddle around with terminal commands, and has a variety of additional features such as real-time protection, an anti-rootkit shield and even e-mail protection.

9. ClamAV

An open source, commandline-based anti-virus solution for Linux that features a minimalistic GUI for scanning purposes only. You can download the ClamAV package directly from the Linux repository by typing “$sudo apt-get- install clamav clamtk” into the terminal.

10. Chkrootkit

Another powerful anti-rootkit checker for Linux-based operating systems that sadly is only controllable via a commandline interface. On the plus side, though, this software is usable from a live CD, so in case that your system is too far gone to actually boot up, you can use it with a live version of Linux in order to exterminate the virus infection without actually having to start your system.


Thomas Milva is 28 and has been in an Information Security Analyst for over four years. He loves his job, but he also loves spending his time in nature, because he’s working from home, which sometimes means not getting enough fresh air. He also regularly writes for wefollowtech.com, where he often comments on the latest web trends in his articles. Thomas currently lives in Baton Rouge with his dog, two fish and his girlfriend.