Smoothwall Firewall project

Monday 30 March 2009

Moving around the tabs with Linux Chromium browser

Well I have been using this alpha version for over a week now, and noticed that the tabs had been enabled, but they didn't appear to work, that is until I started using the keyboard to move between the tabs instead of the mouse.

So I thought I would track down the keyboard commands for google chrome and see if they work, and they do, and what is more impressive now is that I can switch between tabs.

I'm running compiz, which might be causing the lack of mouse control, I'm not sure yet, and I'm not seeing any errors, but with the keyboard now working, it's not so much of a pain.

You can check the full list of shortcuts out here.

Chromium shortcuts

Let me know if you have managed to get the tabs working with the mouse yet.

Friday 27 March 2009

Getting rid of the debug window when testing Chromium Browser

I have been testing the new Chromium browser for several days now, and apart from things that don't work, expected as it is a pre-alpha, I have really enjoyed it's speed.

Now by default it starts with a terminal window for debugging, but this can be turned off.

All you need to is edit the application launcher and set it to Application and not Application in a terminal.

You do this by right clicking on you Applications menu in your top panel, and selecting edit menus. Scroll down to the Internet section and select the Chromium launcher, and then change the settings , as shown below.

It's also fun to watch the changes happening with the new build that comes out on a daily basis, like the tabs that appeared on Tuesday. Give this project 6-12 months, and I have absolutely no doubt that Firefox is going to have another serious contender on the Linux platform.

Open source is all about choice, and this is going to give us another fantastic option.

Well done to the hackers on the Linux Chromium build, you are doing a great job.

Tuesday 24 March 2009

Native Google Chrome (Chromium) pre-alpha release

Well I'm going to take the Chromium teams advice, and not make any silly rash claims about this release, apart from the fact then when installed from PPA repositories that it works fine with Ubuntu 8.10 - fully patched.

There are ,as the team tell you from moment one, many things that don't work, and it is nothing more at this stage than a proof of concept , and to show how far along the trail the developers have come, a big thank you by the way to those guys.

To show just how raw this is, when you have installed the browser, a terminal window opens in the background, so you can see any/all the errors as they happen, obviously for debugging.

The one overriding impression is just how fast this is, it is worth trying just to look at for this reason alone. Many buttons don't work, as don't the tabs, but then you were warned, and it is pre-alpha, and should not be judged on any of these issues.

Give it a test run, just to see were it is at, and look at the speed , and ignore the issues , which are there.

Simply add these lines to your /etc/apt/sources.list

# added for Chromium support

deb intrepid main

Then add this repository key to your software-sources

Version: SKS 1.0.10


Then just run these commands to install.

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install chromium-browser

Have fun ;-)

Sunday 22 March 2009

Using VMware to move an IT department across London

I have been using virtualization in many forms now for years, and when the job appeared to move my IT department across London, with as little disruption as possible, I thought VMware player and workstation could come to my aid, and they did.

The key tool that really helped me was a free one from VMware called VMware converter, which allows you to virtualize a windows installation on a physical machine to a virtual image. It is not a quick process, and you have to get the timing right with the users data, but machines can be done over night, so no disruption there.

Once all the machines were done, it was just a matter of moving all those images to the new premises along with any other data that had been captured after the image was made. We did this with a NAS server, which was small and compact, but held 2TB of data, as some of these virtual images were quiet large, though you can shrink them when you convert them, which we did.

We deployed all of these images onto machines onot quad core HP machines with Ubuntu Linux 8.04 and VMplayer 2.0. We could have used VMware workstation, but then not all of the users ever need to create new images or change their existing one. We there bought only a handful of workstation licences so that power users could create or manage the images for others.

This allowed all of the staff to turn up on the Monday morning with their machines exactly as they had left them on the Friday evening, no downtime, and no wasted time having to re-install the same applications onto new machines.

If the team had all been using virtual images in the first place , this would have made this whole process even easier, and it is another good reason for people to start using virtualized desktops.

It does also open up the possibility of having a thin Hypervisor layer on the desktop so that all it does is service the needs of the virtual client, very much like they are doing in the server world with Ubuntu JEOS. It also allows the team to use many different virtual images for all sorts of development tasks which is extremely useful, which is a great side affect of this process.

A great feature of all of the components used in this solution is that they are all free , apart from VMware workstation, and it would be possible to do exactly the same thing using open source components , if there were either a good P2V ( physical to virtual) tool, or even one that converts VMware images to Xen or KVM.

It worked perfectly, and has been doing so for over a year now, so I can heartily recommend this process to anyone looking to achieve the same sort of move.

Wednesday 18 March 2009

Getting Mozilla Fennec to work through a proxy on Linux

I have just downloaded the latest version of Fennec to have a look at the latest Mozilla mobile offering to run on Linux. Now as my machine sits behind a proxy, I had to make the following changes to the preferences file at the command line, as I couldn't find a way to do this through the UI.

Basically all you need to do is add these lines to the following file, and then re-start Fennec


I added these lines to the bottom of this file:

pref("network.proxy.backup.ftp", "");
pref("network.proxy.backup.ftp_port", 8080);
pref("network.proxy.backup.gopher", "");
pref("network.proxy.backup.gopher_port", 8080);
pref("network.proxy.backup.socks", "");
pref("network.proxy.backup.socks_port", 8080);
pref("network.proxy.backup.ssl", "");
pref("network.proxy.backup.ssl_port", 8080);
pref("network.proxy.ftp", "");
pref("network.proxy.ftp_port", 8080);
pref("network.proxy.gopher", "");
pref("network.proxy.gopher_port", 8080);
pref("network.proxy.http", "");
pref("network.proxy.http_port", 8080);
pref("network.proxy.no_proxies_on", "localhost,,,wiki,");
pref("network.proxy.share_proxy_settings", true);
pref("network.proxy.socks", "");
pref("network.proxy.socks_port", 8080);
pref("network.proxy.ssl", "");
pref("network.proxy.ssl_port", 8080);
pref("network.proxy.type", 1);

Now it works a treat, though with a few graphic issues, but at least you can see what the developers are upto.


Tuesday 17 March 2009

Strange feature to get VMware client to work

I thought I would put up a simple blog post to mention how I got the VMware Windows Infrastructure Client to work with my VMware servers the today. The main reason is I could only find scant mention of it on the Web and this might save someone a lot of time.

Basically once you have installed this client - version 2.5 in my case running in a Windows VM - and attempt to connect to a VMware Server 2.0 server running on Ubuntu, the client would fail with the message displayed.

The solution is to add the port :8333 to the end of the IP address, and it then works. Why you should have to do this is not clear, but it works perfectly once you have done this, so hopefully it will save you some time.

I just hope this post will save you some time and energy.

Sunday 15 March 2009

Sun's open source storage solutions - loving aliteration

I attended the London OpenSolaris users group a few weeks ago and the main topic was their moves to include OpenSolaris into there new SAN storage solutions and how this would be open source and community driven. This appeals as a positively gauranteed future proofing of your storage, which for Enterprises and Governments can only be an exceptionally good thing. You are not tying your "Crown Jewels", the life blood of your organisation, to the proprietary whims of the current storage suppliers.

This I found very interesting, as the massive amount of money that certain large storage vendors extract from their entrapped customers can be truely eye watering, EMC2 and NetApp take a bow now.

It also started me to wonder about the future direction of OpenSolaris , as it will obviously suit some customers to continue their server solutions with Solaris rather than Linux, but it will also now be driven by the requirements to support Sun's SAN/NAS hardware products. I think the chances of it ever becoming a serious desktop operating system are shrinking into the distance, I know I have tried it.

Sun are certainly leveraging their ZFS and Dtrace in this new arena, and I have to say with some considerably success, if the figures being thrown around at the meeting were anything to go by. Dtrace is being used extensively with the storage network management tools, which are also open source and free with the product, and can offer a level of visibilty not seen on other products.This is a massive cost saving for all.

I know the buzz in the storage world at the moment is Flash Disk storage, and how this can be included in your storage hierarchy to improve performance and flexibility. I can see that Sun have this embedded into their latest offerings, and though we are at the early stages of this, it is obvious to me that this is the future direction of storage networks. This is not simply for performance , though that is compelling enough, it is for the datacentre space you will save and the amount of energy you will save. These last two points add up to some serious money savings going forward, and in these hard economic times that can't be ignored.

I think that having worked in this area for many years, that these new products from Sun truely are original and extremely useful, and you would be silly not to have them on your shortlist if you are looking for new/extra storage.

The one caveat is that currently they don't offer firbre channel until the end of this year, but with iSCSI performance I don't see this as a massive issue, but it could be for some.

If you are a Linux house you might worry about how this works within your infrastructure, but as the OpenSolaris can be as visible or invisible as you like, I see this as a benefit over other vendors proprietary offerings.

Go and have a look for yourself, and see what you think.

Suns Open Source Storage

Friday 13 March 2009

Using VMware Server to help save the Planet

I know that all the many new forms of Virtualization can be put to all sorts of tasks today, but I used VMware server 2 the other day to save having to deploy a screen and keyboard for a Windows application box. I have been using and looking at the latest KVM hypervisor in Ubuntu as this I feel will be the future of Virtualization on the Open Source roadmap, but for this implementation I felt VMware would do the job quickly, and without fuss.

The requirement was to set up a simple Windows machine to load the license manager for Mercury Loadrunner performance tool, which will only run on Windows. Now we could have just dumped this onto a lightly loaded windows server, if we had any, which we don't, so I decided to turn this into an XP virtual image.

Normally, this would require you to have the box setup with a screen and keyboard, which is a complete waste of equipment, and makes managing this single application box a real problem.

So as I try and Virtualize everything these days, I decided to Virtualize the XP instance, and install it on the same box , just with Ubuntu server 8.10 and VMware server 2.0 (latest build).

This now means I can stick that box in the server room with no screen and keyboard and manage it remotely with the VMware console and VNC , alongside all my other virtual images. That's because Linux allows me to run it without a screen attached.It will also benefit from all the backup services that are provided there and a computer monitor didn't need to be manufactured or ever powered on.

We can also use this virtual image for other small application requirements as they come along, so the effect will only be more positive over time. I have already thought that we can use it as a TFTP server for network equipment configuration file backups.

I did have some fun and games getting VMware web manager to work on this box, which was down to a miss configuration of the loopback network interface, but it now runs a treat. It would have been helpful to have more diagnostic output from the Java servlets, but that's another tale.

Monday 9 March 2009

My love/hate relationship with my Apple Nano

I'm going to start to tell you what I really like about the nano, and then I will divulge what annoys me about it.

Apple to be fair have done a really good job of closing the market off for their MP3 players, to such an extent that when I looked around there were only a handful to choose from. I do think though that the design of these little units is very user friendly, and would have been on the short list anyway.

I wanted one that would fit easily into my top pocket, hold several albums , and it must work with Linux. The nano fitted the bill on all these counts, and I haven't been disappointed. The screen the unit offers is bright and easy to use, the software is fast and allows you to select the artists/albums with ease. The battery life is extremely good, to the extent I have never run out of power, which was a frequent occurrence on my iriver H20. It also works perfectly with several Linux music programs, I happen to use Rythmbox.

Some additional benefits that I didn't look for or expect when I bought it, were the large array of Apple compatible docking units that you can buy to plug your ipod into and play music around the house. I have subsequently purchased a Gear4 docking unit which works a treat with the little unit, and has a marvellous little remote control. So all is sweetness and light you would think.

Alas no. As someone who uses open source whenever I can , it annoys me that this machine doesn't natively support all the codec's that I want to use, so I have to encode everything as an MP3. This is not the end of the world, but Ogg Vorbis is just better, so I'm having to downgrade the quality to fit the device, which is not the way this should work. It is always worth remembering that the MP3 standard is not an open or free one, so I have to pay for a program that allows me to use these files.

As a Linux user, I'm locked out of the itunes phenomena , so I have to either buy CD's and encode them, or I can now use Amazon to buy my MP3's. Not the end of the world, but it shouldn't be like this. Why should a company who has a virtual monopoly on this market be allowed to lock certain types of user out. I believe they should not be allowed, but as always the European legislators seem to allow American mega companies to get away with murder, until someone screams loudly enough. We only have to look at the current browser investigation, years late, to see how little is done in an appropriate time frame.

I know all of the previous business reason's behind the decision for locking out Linux, but now Apple are moving their music DRM free, there is no obvious reason itunes could not be ported to Linux, so I can access all the music they have to sell. This is beginning to look more like a desire to keep Linux out of their OSX market, something that should not be allowed. If they want to sell their products in Europe, they should be forced to sell on all the platforms Europeans use, not just the ones the North Americans use.

So living in the real world I have to put up with the current situation, not one that I enjoy, and one I would like to see come to an end, but I'm not holding my breath. Pragmatism , though despised by many philosophers, seems to have it's place when wishing to listen to music on a digital music player.

Friday 6 March 2009

Google Android to exploit exploding netbook market

I'm looking forward to what Google offer in the netbook area. I currently use Linux on every machine I use and it works perfectly, but I'm also open to see what others do with Open Source, and that is the real answer here. I have noticed a lot of hostile posts by people who fear this, I can't fathom why. I use Eeebuntu on my netbook, and it works perfectly, as you will know I work on the team, but maybe in the future we could change our base distro, so that is why I find it so interesting.

It is not just Linux , it is it's Open Source underpinnings that will eventually change the current monopoly situation, not just one distro or one implementation. Microsofts biggest problem is there uni hardware architecture approach, Open Source embraces all architectures, and that is what will change the Status Quo. In large part this is one of the great benefits we are derive from Debians efforts.

I have looked at getting a new Google phone as I like the interface, but I'm waiting to see what other handsets it's going to launched on first, choice is a good thing.