Ubuntu going back to GNOME

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For those that haven’t guessed it yet by my other tech based posts I’m a big fan of open source software. My main computer at home runs Linux.

Over the years the flavor of Linux on it has changed from time to time. But it has been SimplyMepis, Debian, Fedora, or Ubuntu mostly. All depending on what I wanted to do at the time. Even the server running this blog is powered by Linux.

I have liked Debian and Debian-based systems more than others. It’s just the feel is better to me and that is one of the great options about Linux. You get to decide.

Currently at home I am running the GNOME community edition of Ubuntu. For a desktop environment I prefer the feel again of GNOME over the multitude of other environments available.

A number of years ago Ubuntu decided to make their own in-house desktop environment called Unity. My systems really didn’t like it and it was a factor that made me try out other flavors of Linux.

But come next year in 2018 Ubuntu is switching back to GNOME as the default desktop environment. And I am ecstatic and thrilled to hear this news. It’s a good move for the company and the users alike.

The Lawnmower Man

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Technology is coming a long way. A friend of mine has created semi almost autonomous lawn mower. Pretty cool huh. He can mow his lawn from inside his house using his computer.

The basics of the mower is a RaspberryPi, one of those small single board computers that runs Linux.

He has a kickstarter up at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/lawnmower/almost-autonomous-lawn-mower

Maybe you can see it for yourself!

Hosts files are great

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If you have a computer, a hosts file is an absolute must. These handy files located where most system type files are kept can be used to prevent unwanted malware, ads, and other sites from attacking your computer.

The folks at https://github.com/StevenBlack/hosts have created a fine database source for maintaining and installing a hosts file for most operating systems. I strongly suggest checking it out.

On Linux, they created a python script for updating the hosts file. I in turn decided to create my own updating script using bash. Mainly as an exorcise in writing it. So here is my hosts file update script for Linux written in the bash shell.

#!/bin/bash
#---------------------------------
# hosts file updating script
# writen by bynw anlarye
# November 2016
#---------------------------------

# function to merge new hosts file into the system
mergehosts ()
{
mv /etc/hosts /etc/hosts.backup.$(date +"%Y%m%d")
mv hosts /etc/hosts
}

# script needs root access
if [[ $EUID -ne 0 ]]; then
echo "This script needs to be ran by root or with sudo"
exit 1
fi

# downloads latest version of main hosts file
while :
do
clear
echo "  Menu Options  "
echo ""
echo "[A] - The master hosts file"
echo "[B] - The master hosts file + gambling sites"
echo "[C] - The master hosts file + porn sites"
echo "[D] - The master hosts file + social media sites"
echo "[E] - The master hosts file + gambling & porn sites"
echo "[F] - The master hosts file + gambling & social media sites"
echo "[G] - The master hosts file + porn & social media sites"
echo "[H] - All hosts file sites"
echo "[X] - Exit Script"
echo ""
read -p "Please choose one of the above options [A-H or X] and press [ENTER]: " whichhosts
case $whichhosts in
a|A) wget -q --no-clobber https://raw.githubusercontent.com/StevenBlack/hosts/master/hosts
break ;;
b|B) wget -q --no-clobber https://raw.githubusercontent.com/StevenBlack/hosts/master/alternates/gambling/hosts
break ;;
c|C) wget -q --no-clobber https://raw.githubusercontent.com/StevenBlack/hosts/master/alternates/porn/hosts
break ;;
d|D) wget -q --no-clobber https://raw.githubusercontent.com/StevenBlack/hosts/master/alternates/social/hosts
break ;;
e|E) wget -q --no-clobber https://raw.githubusercontent.com/StevenBlack/hosts/master/alternates/gambling-porn/hosts
break ;;
f|F) wget -q --no-clobber https://raw.githubusercontent.com/StevenBlack/hosts/master/alternates/gambling-social/hosts
break ;;
g|G) wget -q --no-clobber https://raw.githubusercontent.com/StevenBlack/hosts/master/alternates/porn-social/hosts
break ;;
h|H) wget -q --no-clobber https://raw.githubusercontent.com/StevenBlack/hosts/master/alternates/gambling-porn-social/hosts
break ;;
x|X) echo
echo "Host file will not be updated"
exit 1 ;;
*) sleep 1
clear
echo "Invalid responce."
echo "Please choose from [A-H or X]"
sleep 1 ;;
esac
done

# adds user defined custom hosts to file
sed -i '/Custom host records are listed here/r myhosts' hosts

# checks for existance of whitelist
if [ -f whitelist ]
then
grep -Fvxf whitelist hosts > hosts.tmp
mv hosts.tmp hosts
mergehosts
else
mergehosts
fi

echo
echo "Hosts file has been updated"
echo

exit 1

Website Ads

194 Views

I joined the internet when it was young. Before the beginning of web pages. Now that is all people think of as the “internet”, but it only one part of a greater whole.

When the world-wide web was born I started tinkering around with making my own web presence. And I’ve had one in some form ever since. Currently I own about half a dozen domain names. All of them have an active web site. And none of them have ads.

Web advertising is a booming business. And in may cases it does pay for a site’s hosting, bandwidth, and maintenance costs. It does take money to keep a site running. I fully understand why ads are there.

I use an ad blocker on my own browsers. And I may turn it off on some sites but for the majority it’s on. I’m not interested in the ads and I don’t want to see them. Not to mention the potential exploits and privacy violations some ads contain.

But what I really hate is going to a site to read an article much like this one. Only to be bombarded by ads. They slide up from everywhere on the page compleatly blocking the content making it unreadable. Like a hydra, you can remove them one by one but they are replaced by twice as many more.

On a machine without an ad blocker I just close that tab or browser window when I encounter those sites. And I don’t go back to them. They get no ad revenue and no return visits from me. It’s just not worth the hassle.

Does this mean I wont ever have ads on my sites? No it doesn’t mean that at all. But before I place ads on any site I own it will be vetted first to make sure it is not intrusive in any way. After all it’s the end user, the customer coming to read or look at the site content that is the most important. Far more important than advertising revenue.

Android Devices

135 Views

The last time I had an Android device was with my 1st smart phone. That was about 3-4 years ago. It kinda sucked. It was an older model device running an older version of Android than most other devices at that time.

A lot has changed since then. The Android OS has gotten a lot better over all. But apparently the option to move an app to an external SD card has been removed from the main code. A developer has to specifically code this feature into an app to have the functionality.

Rooting a device has become a lot easier as well. In many cases its just a one-click solution. Installing custom ROM images remains about the same. And many devices don’t have custom image available.

Apps are still the biggest issue when it comes to Android devices. Although there are many more apps to chose from for Android when compared to the number available for Apple devices. The quality suffers greatly on Android. Many of the apps are just junk apps. You have to install and remove several to find the best app for your needs and device.

Since I do have an iPhone and previously had an iPod Touch. I do prefer the quality of the Apple apps. Sometimes finding something compatible is difficult. Not all developers create apps for multiple platforms. Even some that do, there are different functionalities present in them as well.

But despite these minor issues when working with Android instead of Apple, I do like my new Android tablet. It has come in handy at various political and technological events I have attended since it’s purchase. All in all, I give it a 4 star rating. But I’ll keep my iPhone.

Linux on Windows

149 Views

Sometime this summer when a Windows 10 user gets an update. They will find that there is now a Linux Bash shell available to them.

Bash is the most commonly used shell in the *nix world. The majority of scripts are written in it and most *nix users spend a lot of time in Bash.

Microsoft has partnered with Canonical, the maker of the popular Ubuntu Linux distribution, to bring this Bash shell to life in Windows. This is not going to be a VM or other kind of emulator. This is a true Bash application on Windows.

It’s made possible by a new Windows subsystem for Linux. It’s not yet complete of course so somethings are not working but beta testers are out there working on it.

Some folks in the Linux community don’t like the idea at all. While others do like the idea. Many Linux users, administrators, and developers do operate on a Windows computer for their day to day work. This will help them with the administration and development of the Linux servers they hold dear.

I am going to withhold judgement on it until more information comes out on it. But it is very interesting and worth keeping an eye on its progress.

Who Watches the iWatch-men?

234 Views

It was a battle of two heavyweights. In the blue corner, the United States government. In the, well, equally blue corner, Apple. And the tech world couldn’t microwave popcorn fast enough to keep up with the exciting twists and turns.

For those of you who haven’t heard, the FBI wanted Apple to break into an iPhone previously owned by one of the San Bernardino shooters, stating they wanted the information from the phone in case there was news about impending terrorist attacks. Geez, everyone knows that sort of thing gets sent into the Cloud these days…

Anyway, Apple refused, citing their belief the government would use whatever they created to hack into one iPhone as a “skeleton key” for other iPhones. As a result, the government sued Apple. Then, miracle of miracles, the government figured out a way to get into the iPhone (i.e. they got a 4 year old to do it) and suddenly dropped the suit against Apple. So, win-win, right?

Not so much. On the one hand, Apple still has the proprietary technology used in iPhones, but now they know the government has figured out a way to circumvent that technology. And, surprise surprise, the government isn’t going to let Apple have information on the security flaws with the iPhone.

On the other hand, the federal government attempted to force a major company to help them with a terrorism investigation. At first, it was a request, but once the government lawyered up, it turned into an attempt at forced compliance. But as long as it was for national security, it makes it okay, right?

Wellllll…that’s where the problem lies for me. After 9/11, government found a new excuse to take more tax dollars to fund pet projects by slapping a “national security issue” sticker on proposed spending. Want your local First Responders to have a Sherman Tank for weekends? It’s national security! Want to bail out the airline industry, which was already failing before 9/11? It’s national security! Heck, I’m surprised the National Endowment for the Arts didn’t try to get more funding for itself by claiming bad art is linked to national security.

Regardless, the Apple standoff showed us there is a fine line between freedom and security. I’m not a big fan of getting attacked by terrorists, but I’m also not a big fan of government using the threat of a terrorist attack to justify further overreach into our freedoms. Especially when it’s clear the government may not have needed Apple’s cooperation in the first place. So, why did the government go through the motions of this Kabuki theater?

Control.

Once you give the government a little bit of control, they aren’t too keen on giving it back. That’s why it’s important to use some critical thinking when a situation like what happened to Apple arises. What happens from here is dependent upon the morals and ethics of the government.

In other words, we’re screwed.

Social Media

223 Views

There are a ton of social media sites out on the internet now days. We have Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Flickr, DeviantArt, Foursquare, Google+, Identi.ca, Instagram, and MySpace, just to name a few. There are many more than these.

Some are designed and targeted to specific interest groups while others are more generalized. Some have apps and file sharing while others are just text based. And everything in between.

I have accounts on several of the sites I listed above. Some are very inactive accounts as I haven’t looked at them or updated anything on them in years. And some social media sites I just visit without being a member and browse the postings without leaving any of my own.

The goal of social media is to have virtual interactions like we would have in real life. One-on-one or in groups settings. Be it games, general chit-chat, or business collaboration. Even blogs like this one are a form of social media as they encourage interaction between users and visitors.

The most common complaints against today’s social media sites are on the topics of privacy/security, censorship, and content ownership. And sometimes they are just a time suck. Facebook is hit quite often with these types of complaints.

But there are alternatives to these social media sites where the issues of privacy/security, censorship, and content ownership are greatly reduced. And these alternatives have been around far longer than the term “social media”. In fact social media has really been around since the infancy of the internet. And many of these ancient alternative social media forms are still in use today. Even by you right now.

E-mail (electronic mail) is the oldest form of social media. One-on-one and group conversations are all possible. Files can be shared, edited, and re-shared again. And it is generally very private. You don’t have to worry about another friend who wasn’t included accidentally seeing your e-mail post.

IRC (internet relay chat) is also an early form of social media. And like e-mail it’s still very much around. Even if you currently participate in some fancy web-based text chatroom it might be IRC driving it behind the scenes. With IRC you have a lot of control on who you let into your chat and who you do not.

Both IRC and e-mail predate webpages. There was no world wide web on the internet when people started with e-mail and they were chatting on IRC. The last early form of social media had it’s birth after the web came into being. It was the start of the internet as we know it today. These are online forums. With forums groups could interact with one another and individuals could also have private conversations as well. Pictures, documents, and other files could also be shared and downloaded just as they are today. And forum administrators could setup private boards that only it’s users could see.

So social media has been around for a long time. From the very birth of the internet. It’s outward forms have changed over the years but many of the oldest are still around. I am a member of a couple of online forums that date back more than 10 years. And they are still going on today. If you don’t care for the current incarnations of social media try the grandparents that started it all.

3rd Generation Raspberry Pi

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Well the folks at the Raspberry Pi Foundation have come out with the 3rd generation Raspberry Pi board. And I am amazed. It has a faster 64bit processor than previous versions. It also now has Bluetooth and wireless built in. And compared to my 1st generation Raspberry Pi board, this one makes me want to get the new version. And I will.

And of course it still runs Linux and even since the 2nd generation Microsoft has gotten into the RPi act and made an RPi Windows 10 version as well for those interested in that. I might go ahead and turn my old RPi into a full time media server and then use the new one to play around with and see what I can do with it.

The sad part is, with the 3rd generation of the Raspberry Pi, they will be hard to obtain at first until production meets the demand. But still at just $35 for the board. It’s the best deal out there for a computer.

Check out the 3rd Generation Raspberry Pi

When Net Neutrality Isn’t

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On Thursday Feb 26th, the FCC passed rules to regulate the internet using Title II regulations from 1934 that are used on monopoly telephone companies. Prior to this day, the internet has been largely free of government regulation. And has boomed exponentially.

The FCC likes to pass this ruling as a form of Net Neutrality. But it isn’t at all. In fact it is very bad for the internet and internet users in general.

For those that aren’t familiar with Net Neutrality and what it means for everyone. It is a simple concept that any traffic on the internet is treated the same by all internt service providers. That is as, your provider shouldn’t block or restrict any lawful content moving across the internet.

There are some internet service providers that have purposely blocked their user’s traffic so true Net Neutrality is needed. But Title II is not the path to ensure the internet remains free.

Title II grants the FCC the power to tax the customers of internet service providers, regulate their rates and cause costs to be increased as the internet service providers spend millions in legal fees to understand the new regulations now forced upon them. And all of these cost increases will be past to us as the end consumer of the internet.

Additionally this has no effect on the internet content providers like Netflix, Google, Yahoo, Apple, and many others. Thus they can still make it harder for the internet providers to access their content and raise fees for the use or misuse of what they provide. Again these costs will eventually reach the end consumer. Me and you.

Net Neutrality should be in the hands of our representatives in Congress. Not the 5 unelected bureaucrats in the FCC.