Sunday, February 28, 2010

Backup! Backup! Restore!

I'm sure many of my fans probably think that I only use the command line.  While true that I do use command line considerably.  I also use gui tools.  As I just set up yet another virtual machine in Virtual Box, I thougth I might explain how I add the world of text to gui.

So, I've written about my gpg encrypted password file.  I leave it in my dropbox account as well as a the gnupg.vim plugin.  Of course, dropbox is primarily a gui application, which has a command line element that can be used after the gui has been launched.  So the first thing I do is set that up my password file.  Then also from dropbox I have bashrc and bash_aliases.  I soft link those to the home directory as well as the bin/ folder where I dabble in scripting.

After my last install, I started making my list of apps that I install on my Ubuntu systems knowing they are in the repos.  Basically I just cat that file and paste and wait. 

While that's going, I get the firefox up and running where I add my xmarks extension and run it.   This brings by browser up to speed more or less.  Once my chromium is installed, I just have it import the settings from firefox (google chrome the same).  Again, that's a matter of a gui application that I do rely on and use on many different systems, even cross platform.

This puts me in very familiar teritory and within a short time after a fresh install, I have my bash shell restored with my comfort zone of aliases, my browser set up with bookmarks and the odds and ends that I keep in my Dropbox.   The single behaviour modification that I keep on is making sure that anything I "might need later" I put in my dropbox or my Ubuntu One (gui).  Included in that would be the most recent .deb for skype, google chrome beta, and anything else where just having it arrive in the dropbox/Ubuntu One sync keeps me from having to hunt it down online.

This kind of file syncing actually has made system restore or first set up quite easy.  I have done this a few times and now it feels quite "normal" and I have no worries at all if any one (or truth all) of my systems were to die, I could still recover in short order.  Working directly out of my backup system/service keeps me always on the spot should anything go wrong.

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

AdBard - FOSS advertising

I read Thomas Gideon's blog post about advertising using a FOSS based advertiser.  I was as usual impressed on a personal and moral level with TheCommandLine's choices and one who truly supports, through actions and works, his support of digital liberties and Open Source.

So, as mimicry is the best form of flattery, I applied with AdBard to apply their adverts for FOSS companies using FOSS software on my blog too.  As Thomas points out in his blog post, they are even "endorsed" by the FSF which is the closest thing to a "golden seal" as there is by my measure.

The process includes a human review of your site to ensure that your content aligns with the views of AdBard.  They have a different payment model for the ads, than the popular AdSense from Google, and approval process for those companies as well.  They have a very hands-on approach to both the ads going out and where the ads are seen, which I feel is good since it means there will be relative ads where the relevant content is.  Feel free to show your support for Adbard by applying to display ads on your site, and if you don't have a site, click the advert from them you see on the right of this blog just to show your support for the whole idea.

I'll be leaving the AdSense on my blog as well, in the hopes that one day they might show pertinenant links.  As a quick disclaimer at the time of this writing I have not been paid by any advertiser as a result of having this blog.  But I felt that this was a step in the right direction and with motivation I could get behind.

Kudo's and much respect as always to Thomas Gideon who's podcast I've reviewed.  I am always impressed with the maturity, insightfullness, leadership and critical thinking that goes into his productions both on his blog and in his podcast (yes, I'm a fan).

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Jared Bernard - CLI user

 I heard on HPR episode a short talk given by Jared Bernard at the Utah Open source conference on his use of the command line.  I had absolutely no disagreement with what he said and was amazingly impressed with his list of command line application alternatives.

Really, this blog post is to promote Jared's site.  I think it's a great resource and found it educational if for nothing other than the list of CLI Applications.

If you would like to hear what he had to see please listen to HPR Eps 0518 "Live without a GUI" and visit his site.

Honestly, with the long list of applications he has listed there, I might be busy for quite a while reviewing the applications he has on the list.  Thanks Jared, and keep up the great work.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Maybe Linux is *not* for everyone

Well, I've been giving quite a bit of thought to the ongoing discussion of 1.) Year of the linux desktop and 2.) Commercial decisions of Canonical for yahoo search and the music store.

I just wanted to dialog here some of the internal discussions and my point of view on the subject. That seems to split irc channels the way the American Civil War split families so many years ago.  Of notice just like with the Mono debate it seems this conversation has no one "on-the-fence".

I don't want to in any way imply by my blog post that opinions on the matter aren't important, or that anyone should just "be quiet".  Like with any points of disagreement, listening is as important as stating.

So, for the purposes of this article "we" shall refer to the Linux/OSS community, I fancy myself one of these and will include myself in the possessive plural pronoun.  And I think that we should stop and consider the overall situation and view.

So the "Year of the Linux Desktop" seems to ever evade us.  And on one hand I sigh as I feel many (if not most) distributions are up to snuff and completely usable, even by grandma.  Someone has to make the "labeling on the box" up to par with the commercial options, which is no exception in any other OSS application we try to offer for buy-in by the general public.  It has to do at the very least what the other one does.  I mean, none of us suggested Firefox until it was baked enough to stand up.  No one got an office manager to use OpenOffice in the first version after StarOffice since it was junk then.

I can appreciate vocal concern over the commercial decisions of Canonical, but I would argue two points.  1.) They *are* a company and need to make money.  2.) If they don't do things like a music store, Linux will never have buy-in on the Desktop everywhere since people expect the "iTunes" experience.   To the gist of it, if Canonical doesn't make this kind of commercial decision, who will?  We hated Novell for making deals with Microsoft, but it has come to serve them since some server business comes there way when server customers "downgrade" to Novell.

I say good on Canonical and may the force be with them.  They stated quite clearly in their early days was to make a linux that anyone could use and I see these steps as logical in the progression of that goal and not in conflict with anything they "promised" to the community.

I have now decided for myself, and myself alone, that I'm quite glad that everyone isn't using Linux.  I would prefer that Linux stay lean and svelte, and always retain focus on what made it a better functional operating system since it's beginning.  If losing even one ounce of that to gain "market share" is what is needed, then I would prefer not to do it at all.  My Linux, the one I came to know and use worked fast and better than any other one out there, if we have to make the entire OS bloated to anticipate every non-thinking end-user action, then we will just end up with a different version of Windows.

So, in conclusion.  Yes, I'm an elitist.  I don't want grandma to use Linux unless she is willing to learn enough to use the command line without releasing a shoulder dropping sigh.  She can use windows.

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Paranoid security or just modern Privacy?

As many of you have noticed I'm posting in my social networking streams using base64 decode statements.  I just wanted to explain that I will be doing this even for the mundane.  I have had the ephifany that "some is good, more must be better" is maybe not the way I intended for my social live to be.

I should explain that I expected that these would be mostly walled gardens with each social networking service offering it's unique and special approach to the broadcast communication issue.  As more of these services have started integrating, using back door API's and making it a giant collective, that while my single voice is not important, it adds to a logarithm of what is the collective whole. 

I am not foolish, I don't think that my posting the command to decrypt what I post keeps my messages "secure", and that is not my intention for them.  What I do hope to succeed in is that my messages aren't being grokked for the commercial, financial and statistical benifit of corporate entities for whom I hold no allegiance, holding or care.  It's mine, and I made it for public consumption.  As I see venture capitalist investing millions of dollars in companies who scrub what is the internet collective for profit and gain, I am saddened.  I would understand if doing this created a benefit for the consumer or the internet as a whole. 

My goal is to allow me, my family and my friends to continue using the tools as they were originally designed without offering my portion of mind-share away.  I feel that, especially in the case of the base64 posts, I achieve the goals of:
  1. communicating with family and friends with miniumum tech overhead.
  2. make it easy for someone to ignore me on a broadcast stream.
  3. upset the machines on the far side of the services I use from gaining profit over my ideas and opinions.
I would be lying if I didn't see the added benifit of this preparing myself and family for secure communications in the case we feel corporations or the state care far too much about what we say or limiting our freedoms.  This is just an advance warning that it only escalates from the base64 posts.  It is my humble opinion that what used to be called "paranoid" measures, by todays standards, can at best be referred to as moderate privacy.

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Friend of the Show -

I'd like to promote a friend who I have come to know via IRC and named Jonathan Nadeau (a.k.a. frostbite).  I first heard of Jonathan on HPR radio being interviewed by Klaatu.  Jonathan is visually impaired.  Jonathan does however run a computer store.  He has with renewed conviction started to sell computer systems preloaded with Linux (multiple distros) pre-configured and installed for visually impaired computer users.

I have tremendous respect for Jonathan, who has not only overcome his handicap in a area of expertise where vision is a seemingly obligatory sense, but he has also gone out of his way to try alternatives to the expensive proprietary systems which are marketed to people with the same special needs.  Jonathan seems to have done away with thousands of dollars of software from companies who's only customers are handicapped and discovered free software which is comparable.

Jonathan has recently turned up his new site for selling computer systems which is Frostbite Systems and has been quite active on it's companion blog which he calls the Frostblog.  He is quite the vocal open source advocate and should be an inspiration within our community.  I would strongly encourage in the same way as a company like System76 to support Jonathan and the open source community by buying your next linux original install system from him if possible.  I would say that even if he weren't blind but to advertize for any company that has the nuts to install linux and support it.

Your doing great work Jonathan keep it up.  You are, at the very least an inspiration to me and I am not handicapped.  You are the picture in the dictionary next to "handicapable".

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Twitter is dead to me

This is my official blog post to explain my reason for migrating from Twitter to  I have to say up front that both of these services do about the same job and I have very nearly the same list of folks I follow on both.

Let me just get these points out there and you may all comment as you wish.  I hope that maybe you will consider that my dive into social networking has been quite telling to me in that I still hang with the same geeks in the same IRC channels and some of them have basically become my social network.  I realize that maybe being on every service, and feeling an obligation to make different posts isn't the right way.  I feel that this step will not reduce the number of people who will see my stuff or make suffer anyone who follows me on either network.  This is also just one more step for me to try and reduce the number of social networking interfaces I have to deal with.

  1. Open source.  I should put my money where my mouth is and promote the service that is open source.
  2. The commercialism of services that scrub Twitter and have profits from the words of the masses bothers me.  You may feel different, and this is not a condemnation of you.  My "boycott" will not make/break Twitter.
  3. Function: I enjoy that I get an email to direct reply to my posts on
  4. Function: I enjoy that conversations are now visible in context.
  5. The community on seems to be populated with folks who are more like me.  Twitter has just gotten too big for my tastes.  It is too mainstream and I probably won't hang out there.

With all that being said, I think it important in this internet age that I keep my presence and moniker present in the Twitter system therefore, I will be keeping the Twitter account, but all of my posts will be made to where there is a "connect" feature that will forward posts to Twitter.   The poor part is that I will never know about folks who @cafeninja me on Twitter.  I would ask that if you don't have an account, please DM me in twitter so that I receive an email.  Again, I won't be logging into twitter directly anymore.

If my choice has managed to sever some sort of communication channel for any of you, please post a comment.  I'm human and fallible, maybe there is something/someone I haven't considered.

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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Steganography - Some new fun

After reading an article in Linux Magazine, I've been playing with the steghide program available on most linux distros and popular repos.  I am quite impressed with this programs ability to insert quite a bit of information into an image or wav file.

The word steganography is of Greek origin and means "concealed writing" (citation wikipedia).  Really, as a word it is just describing covert messaging.  It offers no context in which it must occur or any kind of standard.  This technique is designed to put the message in a quite public place, kind of like the symbology clues you might have heard about in "The DaVinci Code".  The concept of security through obscurity is primary here.

The program recodes color codes in a jpg file to replace a shade of color with another and then uses the digit difference to insert the message.  The steghide program actually takes the image and the message and shuffles them together on the level of the data.  The receiver would NEED to know to look for the message since there is no visible indicator of a hidden message.

The application steghide is a command line tool.  There is a gui tool called steg-gui, but I didn't feel like compiling it, and since not in my repos I didn't use it yet.  So I won't offer any opinion of it here, maybe in the future if it can manage to be included in the repos.

As another example.  The image of Bettsy above, is also a steganograph.  Feel free to have a go and treat the image like a captcha.  After steghide is installed the following will produce the message that is this blog post, give it a try.