Thursday, 23 July 2009

Owner, Beware

It's a common occurrence that a computer breaks down, and you need it fixed. Leaving you three alternatives.
Call one of your local geeks, or if you have another working computer, talk to them online about it. Quick, if they're around, that is. And they don't always know the problem, but usually have a guess that might work.
Call out a professional. True, this costs, but generally is safest of these three choices.
Take it to be repaired. Oh my.

You'd think the last would be safe too, no?
Read this story. Read all of it.

Still sure it's safe?
Those of you who read my post on FireFox addons know I'm a very paranoid person about tracking and privacy as it is. This, however, bothers me more. The only way around this is practically to format your computer, or at the very least, uninstall everything, remove all browsing history, cookies, saved passwords, everything, and get it into as close a state to 'as new' as you can.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Browsers again

What do all these have in common: A Web Browser, FireFox, IceWeasel, SwiftWeasel.
The answer? They're all based on FireFox, in turn on Mozilla.

Here's the breakdown. FireFox is of course, the main web browser.
A Web Browser is the unbranded FireFox, basically FireFox without the FireFox specific parts.
IceWeasel is the Debian branch, used because Debian doesn't agree with Mozilla's licenses.
SwiftWeasel is a Linux-optimised version of FireFox, and one I'm currently trying.

SwiftWeasel's optimization makes it a lot easier to use on this old laptop, which with normal FireFox 3 has a few issues because FireFox is fat. It uses a considerable amount of system resources, and slows down a fair bit after three tabs, regardless of what's on them, and if there's one tab with many images on will practically kill the browser.

SwiftWeasel manages these issues more gracefully, and so far has managed everything far better.
The only issue I had is importing settings. When installing FF 3.5, it ransacks FF3's settings and profiles, and imports it all. SwiftWeasel however, doesn't. Where I use a lot of computers, I'm used to re-installing a ton of addons (I use a lot, and find it hard to stop using some), but importing settings is tedious. Which is where the FEBE extension comes in. I made a backup from FF3 (and some from 3.5 before it stopped working again) using it, then install FEBE into SwiftWeasel, and import. Solved.
I did attempt to import a complete profile import using it, however with only one profile, it refused, and also crashed. Ah well.

That aside, anyone who uses Linux should, I believe, at least try SwiftWeasel. Google it yourself, too many people rely on people giving links.

As to extensions, for anyone interested, here's my complete list, with a few notes.
Classic Compact - with Classic Compact Options
Ad Hacker - Used to block all ad tracking sites via either NoScript or an Adblock Plus rule
AdBlock Plus - Using filter lists EastList+EasyPrivacy and Malware Domains from the Adblock Plus site - I tolerate Facebook, I hate MySpace. And Twitter.
British English Dictionary - not that I use it, it's usually ignored.
CustomizeGoogle - Damn, where would I be without it, Google search is no longer lame with this
Download StatusBar - Though, I'd prefer something more like Chromium/Google Chrome's instead.
Facebook Beacon Blocker - like I said, I tolerate it. I don't like it spying on what I do. Paranoia online is useful.
Faviconize Tab - useful for hiding incriminating tab descriptions, or saving on space.
FEBE - see above, I've only just started using it, but it's good for saving settings between browsers and computers.
Fission - saves a little space at the bottom with this
Gaia Online Toolbar - Gaia Online is a site I'm sometimes on, I don't do much on there. Look for (currently) Adept Alex on there, that's me.
Gmail Notifier - speaks for itself, I don't actually use Gmail often
Greasemonkey and Greasefire - Greasefire makes finding scripts easy, Greasemonkey's scripts are very useful. No, I'm not telling you which ones I use.
Long URL Please - STOP POSTING SHORT URLS! I like to know exactly WHERE I'm going to be taken.
Nightly Tester Tools - See also my post on how to get incompatible addons working. Bloody useful addon this, plus you can change the titlebar's part which normally says FireFox, SwiftWeasel, etc to whatever you like. I like confusing people by making it read "Windows Internet Explorer", or sometimes Exploder instead of Explorer. Never fails.
NoScript - by itself, any FireFox based browser is an improvement over IE, but this makes it even more secure. If it could be made part of the normal FireFox trunk code, then I think it should be. It's that good.
Stop Autoplay - oh, yes. No more embedded music playing in the background, no more YouTube or Google Video playing when I don't want it to, or even loading, for that matter, which since this old laptop has a few minor issues with either, is perfect.
StumbleUpon - never be bored again. Or get any sleep.
Targeted Advertising Cookie Opt-Out (TACO) - I don't actually know if this helps much, but apparantly, it sets an Opt-Out for cookies. I'd personally prefer if all cookies were Opt In instead.
TrackMeNot - in conjunction with NoScript and the other anti-tracking addons, this also does exactly what it says on the can. As you may have gathered, I don't like being tracked.
TryAgain - Page load errors are a thing of the past. Sort of. This just keeps trying until something different happens. Wait, isn't that the definition of insanity?
Update Notifier - a lot easier for checking for and installing updates for everything, not to mention offering an instant browser restart on demand.
User Agent Switcher - This was an attempt to get Hotmail working in FireFox 3.5, since any emails I sent in that were blanks. With this, most sites will identify your browser as whichever you specifiy. I use the importable massive list of agents, as it provides tons of choices. I use about three - Firefox 2, for hotmail, iPhone for when FF2 fails, or I want to do it really quick, and Opera 9.64 Linux sometimes.
WebbMail Notifier - like Gmail, but this checks my two Hotmail and one Yahoo emails. It used to do Gmail, but that stopped working, hence the Gmail notifier.
WoT - with community ratings for sites, this will tell you if the site is dangerous or not. Useful for avoiding dangerous ones, though NoScript also disables some of the dangerous parts.
Xmarks - a must have for anyone who uses more than one browser, computer, or both. Keeps bookmarks (or favourites for Opera/IE/Safari users)
YouTube to MP3 - It's been a long time since I used this actually, but it does exactly what it says - converts the soundtrack of a YouTube video to an mp3 file and starts a download for it.

I use a lot of Addons, like I said. Some of them I could get rid of. A lot of them are really only there because I'm paranoid online.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Google, Google, Everywhere

Welcome to any of you who followed me here from my infrequently-updated Facebook page. And yes, against what I've said before, I am still using it. Sometimes.

Google is well known to pop up just about everywhere online these days. Most websites have a custom search for their site, some (like this site) are powered by Google and use your Google login. Other sites use code from the Google APIs and the Google code repository (Note: I have no idea what it's actually called, but it seems suspiciously sourceforge-like to me).
And of course, Adsense and Doubleclick, the controversial ads and cookie system that tracks what you look at through the ads, and gives them a profile about you. Which is one reason why my NoScript has forbidden anything from Adsense and Doubleclick, because I'm mildly paranoid about things like that.
It's got it's own web browser, Google Chrome (Based on the Chromium Project, not something everyone knows, and if you want a Linux Google Chrome, get Chromium's development version from them - it's not fully stable, or finished, but it works, and looks like Chrome.)

Google Desktop was one of the more recently discovered (by me) items... and as far as I knew, only recently released on Linux.
Now I have Chromium and Google Desktop on this old laptop. Chromium... I'll come back to. Be patient.
Google Desktop, installed just five minutes ago as I type this, is still indexing what I asked it to. Fair enough, it'll make it a little more efficiant, I can spare 2 hours for it to troll my 10gb hd.
Beyond that, I'm still experimenting. It seems to be just a Google Search for your computer, so far, along with a search-on-command tool, where you hit a hotkey command and a little box pops up which you can search from, and it'll pass it to the default browser for a standard Google online search. I think. Like I said, still experimenting/learning.

Now, browser. s.
I experiment even more here. I currently have 4 browsers on here.
Firefox 3, Firefox 3.5, Chromium and lastly, Epiphany

I switch between them all regularly. FF 3.5 is used when it's stable enough to last more than a few minutes without dieing, as it's slightly faster. FF 3 takes over when 3.5 fails somehow, and is the most used, and most useful, overall.
Chromium is useful, it's fast, it's lightweight, but it doesn't have any addon support at all yet, so even flash won't work. I use this when I need to look for something really quick.
Epiphany takes over from Chromium when I want quick browsing, but also want Flash or Java. This is useful when I'm running other programs too, since both Firefoxes are somewhat fat on the system resources, so Flash and Java slow down considerably on this old laptop.

Opera sometimes makes a breif appearance. I've used it on Windows before, and had few problems, but Firefox beats it for me. (note - anyone who thinks of flaming browserwars in the comments, think again.)
Konqueror, the KDE browser, also sometimes jumps in, but it doesn't have all the features I like from the other browsers, or if it does, it's in such a different way that I prefer not to.
Lastly, sometimes the ies4linux is used, showing up when I either want to check something in IE6, or when the other browsers have issues.
I meant to try and get IE7 working, but it failed to install, and IE8 is out of the question for now until someone discovers how to make it work.

Alright, that's all from me. For now. Rock on, and come back later whenever you're bored stiff, or want to be bored stuff by my rambling.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

How to get your extentions, themes and addons working in Firefox 3.5 - the quick and dirty way

You can find any number of posts which say 'Go to about:config...'
This isn't one of them. Seriously. There are loads of posts of them that say this and not one that says the bleeding obvious.

Go to the addons search for Firefox, and install Nightly Tester Tools (Not the lite version).
Restart Firefox.
Go to the addons window. Look in the bottom right and you'll see a new button saying 'Override all compatibility'. Click it, and restart Firefox once more.
Done. Your addons now work. If you have incompatible themes, go to the themes selector and repeat.

When you install an incompatible addon, it'll tell you, but now you can tell it to override and install anyway.

Ahem. Sorry for the amount of caps there.

Enjoy your quick and dirty way to get all addons working in Firefox 3.5, and remember - this trick will always be the same, in any version you can add the Nightly Tester Tools to.

Thursday, 9 July 2009


So yesterday I told a little lie in that I have 5 commands I use on login.
I've since experimented just a little more with scripting, and now I have one command:
'sudo sh'
where contains all five commands from the previous entry.
I could have left the sudo on the two apt-get commands, but it seems to work this way just as well.

Scripting is useful. You can condense a lot of lines of nonsense into one file, where you never need to remember the command again.
Now if only I could write one for blogging.. er, logging, into the blog to write a new post.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009


The terminal, the console the command line. Whatever you call it, it's damn useful on any system.
Sometimes it's a pain to find though, and it's also hard to remember commands for it.

On the first issue, I've started using Guake Terminal - based off, if I remember correctly, the console in Quake, one key shows a drop-down terminal ready for use, and the same key hides it again with a second touch. It's become so useful it now starts up when I log in.
On the second, there are countless cheat sheets, but I've found it's easier to just experiment with commands you use often, and remember them. Never mind others you won't use, at least not until you do need them.

So now, I've disabled the update manager from doing anything, except once a week interrupting me to tell me I missed an update or two, and now when I log in I run five commands in Guake Terminal:
"sudo apt-get update" to update the package listings
"sudo apt-get upgrade" to handle all upgrades to all packages
"cd svn/openttd" which changes to my source code folder for the OpenTTD game
"svn update" updating the source code to latest nightly, then finally:
"make" which lands me the compiled version.

These five commands mean that after they're all completed, practically everything on my system is up-to-date, and it takes about 5 minutes, including the compiling of OpenTTD.

Handy little package Guake. I recommend any Debian or Ubuntu user to try it, and I do believe somewhere out there is a KDE version too. Knowing their naming habits, probably Kuake. Hmm. Maybe not.

Rock on all.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Package Problems

Say what you like about linux, but it's package managers are a stroke of genius, allowing you to update practically everything on your box at the touch of a few buttons.

For Debian, Ubuntu and other derivatives of either, a .deb package is practically the same as all those 'setup.exe' files you're collecting on your windows system, except that they install, and add themselves to the package manager too.

However, there are some times I have issues with even this.
Firstly, subversion (svn) repositories, which once compiled, are meant to be easily installed with the 'make install', but for me never seems to work.
Secondly, I have yet to find a means of using RPM without a lot of issues. RPM may be good, but it has a lot of problems, as far as I can tell, it doesn't do any dependencies, etc, etc.
Third, and last... non-standard installers, such as the aMSN generic installer, which don't add themselves to the package manager's listings.

I like my package manager - synaptic, for preference. But I still have a few issues with it.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Sod's Law

One of the games I used to play often was OpenTTD, which is an open sourced reimplementation of TTD - Transport Tycoon Deluxe - and TTDPatch, a 3rd party patch adding more new features.

Not long after the OpenTTD 0.6.3 release, I stopped playing. Yesterday, I decided to have a look at it again and see what had changed since then, using a nightly build - which despite their name, are actually relatively stable.

I tried it a little, then deleted it, since I had little interest in rekindling my playing it, and no one else here plays it.
Today, Dad decided he wanted to play it again - he and mum do now and then. Except, the last time they played it, was on a custom build, a nightly with a lot of patches I hand applied because it gave features they used.
Unfortunatly, it didn't work. Patching it had broken something, and I didn't have the source code I used to fix it.

So I downloaded today's nightly, put in some newGRFs for Dad to use, and after several small complaints ("It doesn't do this" "I'm missing that") he had it working again.
Which in turn means I now have to keep a copy around on my computer to keep an eye on things, and so I know how to fix anything he breaks. Or finds broken. Making me put it back on again.

Sod's Law in action at it's finest.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Sat-Nav Silliness

This probably is silly, but so what.
With Sat-Nat in your car, on your phone, on your laptop/notebook/netbook and so on, we're going to eventually end up with a lot of people who are good with technology - but without technology, haven't the faintest clue where anything is, or how to get there.

Think on it.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

On the Pirate Bay

Many of you will have already read this many times, and it's old news, but I don't care. You're reading this, therefore you are the victim of my choice to write about it.

The Pirate Bay sold out.
The founders believe nothing will change.
The buyers say everything will.

TorrentFreak reports in a recent article (Go find it yourself, I'm lazy today) that the new owners are going to pay content providers for putting their content on there, which they'll only do if there's no illegal file sharing - e.g. what's currently there.
And they're going to pay file sharers for sharing it, and that will only work if the users have free DRM-free music. And of course, if they don't jump ship, which by the majority of comments on the posts about it at the Pirate Bay, a considerable portion of them are.

Where are they getting the money? TorrentFreak's article says from a massive ads campaign. So now you have to view hoards of ads before you even see a shred of torrent. Or use FireFox and Adblock Plus extension, and give them nothing while taking anything.
And if everyone did that, they'd get no revenue, they'd get fewer downloads by now (by an immense difference) and they'd owe A LOT.

My friends, the Pirate Bay has turned into the Legal Bay, and is sinking fast.
Which is a shame, because they used to be a highly reputable website, and one of the better places to go for a torrent.

In related news, anyone who can tell me a replacement for TPB and Mininova (Who has also begun filtering copyrighted torrents, I'm told) leave a comment, or an email - I think I left my email around here someplace.

Rock on, and don't drown with TPB's sinking ship.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009


They say no news is good news.
They're right.

My ageing and ancient laptop, about a month ago, stopped working on me. I didn't bother to find out how, I assumed it was going to happen sooner or later.
Just two days ago, I gave it a little troubleshooting, and found it turned out to be the mains power adaptor. Now it works. Problem solved.
The downside is of course that the battery is still shot, and doesn't work at all anymore, but has to be plugged in for anything to work at all.

More good news. I finally solved a little issue I was having with Ubuntu, on the wireless. Ubuntu Jaunty doesn't normally connect to my router by wireless (Intrepid, which powers my laptop, works fine, and always has). I can't change the security type on the router, no matter how many times people tell me to. The solution? The madwifi site has native Linux drivers.
The bad news? I have no idea how to use these ones. I don't pretend to know everything about Ubuntu or Linux, and previously, all wireless drivers I used worked through NDISWrapper, which is basically a translation layer - the router thinks it's talking to a windows computer - NDISWrapper - and NDISWrapper translates the communications to Linux-readable forms.
(You're welcome to give me a hand with sorting this out, by the way)

Last good news. Firefox has an update, 3.5 version being released. Lots of good features, and through the Nightly Tester Tools, I can keep a few of my older addons working until a proper update happens.
The bad news? Windows Live Hotmail sends blank emails. I found a temporary solution, the User Agent Switcher addon, since the prime reason according the the FireFox community is that FireFox 3.5 is blacklisted by hotmail, as are a few other browsers.
I haven't tested this idea yet, since Ubuntu doesn't yet have a 3.5 update for FireFox, I expect that in due course.

So, in this case, my recent silence turned out to prove that no news was indeed good news.