Smoothwall Firewall project

Thursday 27 August 2009

Virtual Private clouds are the next logical step for everyone

I have been working with virtualization since I could first get my hands on the code and it has proved to be a great success in many , but not all, environments. The introduction a couple of years ago of Amazons EC3 cloud was a great first step, and you could see the logic for it's uses among many companies, but again not all.

With the announcement of Amazons new Virtual Private Cloud, I think a very large step is now being taken into the next stage of cloud based systems development.

I think this is nothing more than the realisation by Amazon, and I suspect other cloud service providers that many large companies were never, and I mean never , going to put their corporate systems into a global cloud, no matter how long you could talk on the security of separation.

Using this method, corporate IT managers can migrate certain systems into the cloud and see how they go, like all things with corporates, slowly ,slowly. Once they are happy that the world hasn't ended with moving the Intranet into this new cloud extension to their network, they could well be persuaded to start to move other services into this new area.Then five years from now, they will all be sitting at the bar at a conference telling people they were one of the first to see the light and they always new it would be the future ;-)

Have a look at the announcement here Amazons Virtual Private Cloud

Wednesday 26 August 2009

Adobe Air, The BBC and Ubuntu Linux a perfect partnership

Many months ago the BBC was rightly lambasted for trying to force a service on the fee paying public of the UK with a system that only worked with Microsoft. After a massive protest from the MAC and Linux world, their little Redmond toadies were either sacked or moved sideways, and proper public server was introduced. Why anyone could think they could get away with this is beyond me, but maybe there are still some ivory towers in the lofty spires of broadcasting house.

I have been watching the back issues of many comedy programmes on the web, and they have been working fine on Linux for some time, but today I noticed that there was a download option. It might have been there for a while but I hadn't noticed it before.

The upshot is that there is now an Adobe Air application written by the BBC for all platforms ,including the MAC and Linux, and installing it was ridiculously easy. You just click on the download button and follow the clicks.

I'm currently downloading a test program, and all appears well.

I know there is an argument to be had here about the protection of rights of the programme makers, but as we already pay for the BBC, the argument about who actually owns the right in my view is up for grabs. I would contend it is the license fee payer, however I digress.

This is a great new feature, and one well worth looking at. Unfortunately if you live outside of the UK, you won't be able to get the content, that is unless you get TOR to pretend that you do ;-).

Opera 10 release candidate for Linux

I have been been playing with the beta's of this release, and I have been very impressed, and this release candidate is of the same high quality.

It has several new features including turbo mode, faster javascript engine and enhanced tab thumbnail, look at the image above.

Get it here and give it a go, it's available as an RPM/DEB or tar binary package.

Excellent straight forward guide to sqlite

While doing some work on the Firefox sqlite files, I wanted a good guide on how to manipulate the data.

As a O'Reilly on-line Safari library user , I did a search on books that contained any sections on this, and the best one I have found so far is the Appendix contained in the "Android wireless application development" book. This might seem like a strange place, but as Android uses a lot of sqlite, it is not that surprising.

One of the great things about Safari is that you can just download the chapter you are after as a pdf, which is just what I have done.

So, if you need a great , easy to follow guide on the subject, I can certainly recommend this one.

Tuesday 25 August 2009

Some excellent new themes for Ubuntu Linux

Just go to this web site and follow the simple instructions. I shall warn you that if you install them all it will take up around 350M, but with todays storage space, that is a tiny amount.

Mozilla weave really proves it worth on Linux

As I'm constantly testing several different versions of Firefox on my machine at anyone time, I occasionally have problems with extension incompatibilities , and there is a need to start right back at the beginning with a fresh .mozilla directory. I always used to rely on a backed up version of that directory, that was until Mozilla Weave came along.

It is now trivial to get all my settings back by just installing a single extension, the Mozilla Weave one, which I keep around on several types of media for just this purpose.

This is a great example of a cloud based application working extremely well, and as all the information is encrypted locally before being set to the cloud, one I'm very confident in using. It saved me again yesterday, and I can't wait until there is a similar bolt on to chromium, as it is a real winner.

Friday 21 August 2009

New security features in latest Linux Chromium Release

I have just updated to the latest build of Chromium on Linux - 4.0.203r23815 and the developers have been very busy, as it now includes the selection of the type of SSL security you wish to use via the nss security system, which is extremely important for secure access to the web, so not a minor endeavour.

Also the language support has been enabled and implemented, English only at the moment, but obviously with the framework in place it will be a lot easier to build in worldwide language support now.

I now the dev's are work on getting the bookmark sync working for the open-source community, which will also come in very handy for testing on multiple machines.

It just keeps on getting better.

Thursday 20 August 2009

Using a Jumpbox virtual machine as a mobile aide memoir

If like me you have trouble keeping track of all the technical information that comes across your desk on a weekly basis, then I might just have the answer for you.

I have started to use a virtual moinmoin wiki image from Jumpbox, the virtual machine supplier, which just happens to be free, to record all the detailed technical things I need to remember.

The beauty of this solution, is that as long as I have a Xen virtual server around, I can run up this virtual machine where ever I want and have full access to all my information. It also works with VMware, so you could just as easily use VMware server or player, in my case all this would all be done using Linux as the host.

The thing I like most about it is that it can remain accessible, long after all of the underlying technology has been replaced. You can also backup the data you have put in the wiki with ease, and that can be restored to another virtual machine running on a different form of virtualization, neat huh. Another nice feature of this is that it would be trivial to put this into the cloud for global access or even team sharing, it just gets better ;-). However, not all companies allow unfettered access to the cloud, so it's always a good idea to have access to both.

If you are prepared to pay Jumpbox a few pounds a year, which I would recommend, you can do exactly the same with Mediawiki, which offers more facilities.

Tuesday 18 August 2009

Google's next generation search engine Caffeine

I have started playing with the new search engine that Google is offering, "Caffeine", which has improved speed which is impressive for a service which was already very fast.

I have set this as my default search engine in Chromium on Ubuntu to give it a good test, and so far it works without an issue.

It has to be worth taking it for a spin to see if it helps with your search's.

You can test it by simple clicking on this link.

Googles "Caffeine" search engine

Here is the setup to make this work in Chromium.

To install this search engine within Firefox, just visit this site and click on the download button and select ok when asked.

Google Caffeine add-on for Firefox

Friday 14 August 2009

Getting Ubuntu 9.10 running in Virtualbox

After downloading the latest iso this morning I decided to get it installed into a virtual machine and take a look.

Here are a couple of screen shots:

The first shows installing it into the virtual machine using the iso. I used 256 meg of Ram, a 4GB harddisk and bridged ethernet via my wireless card.

Once it was installed , I then installed the client tools from VirtualBox into the virtual machine.

Finally I installed the latest build of the Chromium browser into the virtual machine to test how that runs in the latest build. Instructions on how to get Chromium installed easily in Ubuntu look here on my blog.

It is running fine, and as it is using ext4 it is quick, even as a virtual image, and chromium also flies along to make the experience very pleasurable.

Embedding quotes in a Redhat kickstart file

If you want some specific settings put onto your Ethernet card for instance, then these have to be in quotes within the configuration file. Well you can achieve this from within a kickstart file by surrounding the quotes you need with a set of single quotes.

network --bootproto dhcp --ethtool='"duplex full autoneg off speed 1000"'

(a single quote followed by a double quote, then text 'duplex full autoneg off speed 1000' and then a double quote followed by a single quote).

This took a a lot of digging out, so hoepfully it will save you some time if you need to get this working.

Thursday 13 August 2009

Latest Alpha 4 build of Ubuntu is now available

In the drive to the October release of the next version of Ubuntu, the community has released the latest Alpha build, version 4. The last release showed lots of new features, and this one should build on those advances, especially as it now includes Firefox 3.5.2 and a nice new disk utility called Palimpsest.

The kernel has been moved up to the latest release candidate from, 2.6.31 RC5 and kernel mode has been enabled which should improve speeds on Intel graphics based , this will require testing on several of my laptops.

Get it here Ubuntu 9.10 Alpha 4 and run it up in a virtual machine or a spare disk and give it a test, I know I will be ;-)

Chromium has moved to version 4 on Linux

I noticed this morning that the version of my latest Chromium installation on Linux had moved to 4.0.202, wow that was quick ;-)

Having read the forums, it would appear the devs are polishing the version 3 series code ready for a stable release, which for Linux and the Mac I guess is going to be the beta code first, though I haven't seen any announcement on that.

There is no doubt that this code is getting better with each release, and I very rarely now use anything else.

Sunday 9 August 2009

Windows 7 ludicrous upgrade policy

Using open source software has many benefits, including visibility of the code, security, community , reliability etc etc. The one thing that I really enjoy above all else is the freedom from the old days of license keys and license management.

It was always a pain when a new version of anything from Microsoft came out, figuring out what license you had, and how much you would have to pay them to get the software you really needed. They would argue that it's simple if you just buy a new machine, which is true, but not everyone wants to do that currently.

I then came across this chart posted on CNET, which to be fair has been slated as preposterous by even the worst Microsoft shrills. I did have a little chuckle though, when you think how easy Linux upgrades are.

In Linux land, if you want a different distribution that best fits your requirements, in either 32bit or 64bit release, burn to CD/DVD or USB and then install. Simple. When upgrading any Debian derived machine you just click a single button, and everything remains in place, just the latest releases of code and an improved environment.

Now look at the chart for upgrading to Windows 7 ;-)

All this just to get an Operating System with no applications installed in most cases, as you can't upgrade but have to do a fresh install. There is no doubt that looking at this chart that Microsoft is being run by committee's now, and it was like that in the bad old days of IBM, not a very exciting or inventive place to be.

I think I'll stick with Open Source thanks.

Wednesday 5 August 2009

Chromium theme gallery has opened for downloads

I have been playing around and they all appear to work any issues on the latest build on Ubuntu. However, there is now a face on the close button, which I find very funny, I'm guessing it's either one of the developers or the deb file packager.

Virtualbox has been updated to version 3.0.4

I noticed this morning with the updates to my Ubuntu desktop that virtual box has been updated to version 3.0.4, which in the change logs is a maintenance release.

You can see the bug fixes here Virtual Box 3.0.4 changelog

Here are the Linux specific changes:

Linux hosts: fixed problems leading to wrong colors or transparency in host windows with some graphics drivers (bug #3095)
Linux hosts: hardware detection fallbacks if the hal service fails to find any DVD drives.
Linux and Solaris hosts: Work around color handling problems in Qt (bug #4353)

There are several other X and openGL fixes , which may or may not affect you.

Tuesday 4 August 2009

Open Source to the rescue again - thanks testdisk

One of my USB pen drives is formatted with FAT32 to allow it to move files to Windows when I have need to. It's not very often, but it's very useful when I do need it. Well I discovered another major problem with FAT32 today, after lending this stick to a colleague who tried to write too much data onto the drive, and then just pulled it out without un-mounting it.

Needless to say, it didn't like it and the filesystem was in an unstable state when I re-plugged it into my machine to do some work later on. So I started looking around for some open source tools that could help, and I found testdisk via Google and it worked like a charm. It allowed me to examine the USB stick, grab off the data that I really needed onto my harddrive, so that I could then format it again and put the info back. It works with pretty much any OS, so you are not limited to using Linux, though a useful tip is that this great utility comes pre-installed with the Knoppix distribution.

I do have a backup of the important data on an external HD back at base, but not with me today, so this proved to be a real data saver ;-)

I'm sure it can't fix every problem, no util can, but it offers a great way to restore/retrieve deleted or corrupted data from a drive, and find and rebuild partitions.

I then came across several Windows utils , that people wanted to charge $50 for, which I think is an absolute disgrace , when you think you can get OSX for less. OK, maybe $5 for such a tool, but not $50.

Here is a screen shot of the main menu.

Monday 3 August 2009

There are now themes available for Chromium on Linux

The developers are about to offer a library of themes, but there are currently two that work with the latest build of Chromium on Ubuntu.

1) Is a snowflake theme
2) Is a funny army type theme

All you have to do is click on the links above and they will get automatically installed.

I have changed to the snowflake, and will continue testing with that.

Sunday 2 August 2009

Chromium browser has hit the tipping point for me

Well, I knew it was going to happen at some point with this great open source project, and for me that time has arrived, and I'm now using it as my primary browser, with Firefox for backup. It has been the other way around until the latest release of Chromium, where I would use Firefox for the everyday things I needed to get done on the net, while testing certain things with Chromium.

The latest release though, 3.0.197, has not only added new features and fixed many plugin issues and stability is very solid, but it has got to that stage where I'm not worried about it crashing. I will always say that as I'm happy beta testing, the odd crash doesn't bother me, but it may annoy some, so it's still won't be the primary browser for everyone, but unless it now gets pushed, we can't file the bugs.

I have been checking my Google analytics without an issue, previously it would freeze that tab. That is one of the great strengths of this browser, the way it keeps each tab in it's own process. This means you keep browsing , even if one of the tabs does throw a hissy fit, which will make testing it a whole lot easier.

The developers have finished and polished many of the features now. If you select some text and then press the right button you get the full inspect element which offers a world of developer tools, very useful.

The performance is still there , and this project is flying towards it's goal of an autumn beta, which may now come sooner rather than later.

Saturday 1 August 2009

Logitech laser V450 cordless mouse and Ubuntu

In an effort to cut down on the number of cables on my new desk, I thought I would get myself a wireless mouse. I was at Stansted airport with some time to kill, so I had a look around a new gizmo store, and sure enough they had some on special offer. I looked at a few, but the Logitech offered the best value for money.

Now, as with most third party devices, Linux never gets a mention, but it said it worked with OSX, and as that is basically a copy of Linux, I always take that as a good sign. There is even a download site for more OSX software.

Anyway, the little USB transceiver and the mouse work perfectly with Ubuntu 9.04 on my Dell lappy, and I didn't have to install or modify anything. I using it to create this post, and this device offers very impressive granularity and smooth selections.

It just shows how far Linux has come, in previous years I would never have bought something like this without checking first on-line that others had been successful using one. With USB and the great work of the kernel developers, buying something like this has become very straight forward.

The last piece of the puzzle will be on Monday when I try and get it working with a USB hub, so that I will end up with just one cable coming out of the lappy.

Take a look here for more information. Logitech v450 mouse