Smoothwall Firewall project

Thursday 29 April 2010

Upgrading my Dell laptop to Ubuntu 10.04 couldn't have been easier

After many successful test's with virtual machine upgrades from 9.10 to 10.04, I decided it was time to try it for real on my work laptop.

I made a few steps before I started the upgrade:

1) Made sure I had plenty of disk space for the new OS downloads
2) Made sure the machine was fully patched and upto date
3) Got ride of the old downloaded patch files by running this command at the command line
apt-get clean
4) Turned off all third party application repositories in "Software Sources". I turned them back on after the upgrade, making sure they now point to the new lucid area.
5) Stopped all applications , apart from Chromium , as I wanted to browse while the machine was busy.

Once all that was done, I just ran update-manager -d and let it do it's stuff. There were a couple of questions on the way, which I just selected the defaults and pressed "Forward/Next"

After about an hour , the Dell Inspiron 6400 was ready to reboot, which is what I did.

The first reboot took a little longer as it moved things into the correct position, and then there I was at the login screen. This is with my two monitor configuration working perfectly.

I have since re-enabled my third party repositories and done an update, and this post is coming from that machine.

I'm really liking Gwibber, I had it installed before, but it is better integrated with the whole OS now.

I would definitely give it a go before the mirrors get red hot with millions of your fellow Linux users trying to do the same.

Tuesday 27 April 2010

Upgrading Ubuntu 9.10 to Ubuntu 10.04 in a virtual machine

As you will know the next major long term release of Ubuntu is about to ship in 3 days time so I thought I would do a test upgrade to make sure all was working well and there were no real show stoppers. This is a controlled environment, so won't be exactly the same as a machine that has been in use for a while, but is none the less a good initial test. If it doesn't work here, then it is definitely not going to work on a machine that has been in use for a while.

So, I installed a 9.10 i386 desktop virtual machine , using Virtualbox 3.1.6 on an Ubuntu 9.10 host. See the pictures below. This has had the Virtualbox tools installed.

I then ran a complete update on the virtual machine to make sure the machine had the latest packages before starting the upgrade.

I then ran
update-manager -d
to start the upgrade process.

Once the process had completed, which took just over an hour with a very fast internet connection, I was able to selct to remove the now obsolete packages and complete the install.

I then re-installed the Virtualbox tools, as we now have a new kernel and the system was up and running without any issues and the Virtualbox tools were working as expected, see below.

So this does leave a really good feeling for all of my machine upgrades that will be taking place after the release of the final version on Thursday.

If you are new to operating system upgrades, then I can't recommend this process enough for making sure you are confident before doing it on your work machine.

Friday 23 April 2010

Ubuntu 10.04 Release candidate is available

Well the long awaited next release of Ubuntu Linux has now reached release candidate stage, which means baring any major issues found in the code now, this is what the final released version will be.

You can get it HERE

You can have a look at the release notes HERE

There are many new features, many of which are in the "Enterprise Cloud" area for building your own internal clouds , and enhanced virtualization support.

The desktop has seen many improvements, and is a definite step forward for desktop Linux, these include the first ever built in Music Store and cloud storage.

It is definitely worth a look.

Thursday 8 April 2010

ebook reader DRM hell - and why I hate DRM

There have been many articles on the web over the years about DRM - digital rights management - putting forward both the pros and the cons of the technology. The basic premis is the copyright holders ability to make sure they get paid for their work, which is perfectly sensible and correct. DRM failed in spectacular fashion with the music industry, so that now every music download site you use does not have DRM enabled. The music industry is doing extremely well and selling billions of tracks, so the need for DRM has been completely disproved.

However, the books and video industries are going to have to go through the same learning curve and get rid of this stupid technology as it is a real barrier to people legally purchasing material.

Here is my little tale of woe , and bear in mind when I tell you this tale I have 25 years experience in the IT industry, goodness know's what some people would do if hit by the same problems.

I borrowed a friends Sony PRS-505 ebook reader to play with and see if I liked the idea, and I have to say that I do so far, apart from buying books for it. I visited the Waterstones ebook web site and bought an ebook, and this is when my problems started. I needed to install a piece of Windows software from Adobe - their DRM application - which does not work on Linux. So I brought up my Windows virtual machine and installed it there, no luck it couldn't see the ereader. Now , I had previously installed another ebook piece of software called Calibre which worked perfectly with ereader, so it was not obvious what the problem was, so off to the Adobe help pages.

The issue was that I had to not only install the Sony ereader software, but I also had to upgrade the firemware ( the program that makes the ereader work) before I could progress. I would think for a large percentage of the population this would be game over, and they would give up. Don't forget here that Calibre has been working perfectly from day one, and if I had been able to just download the file I had bought, I could have spent this wasted hour reading my book I had paid for.

You also need to bear in mind , that with any firmware upgrade, if you get it wrong, you can completely mess up your device, to the point it has to go back to the shop to be fixed.

I eventually got this all sorted and the file onto the ereader - Iain M Banks "Matter" by the way - and hopefully I should have no further issues, but what a mess and a complete waste of my time and effort. I spend hundreds, if not thousands of pounds a year on books, and this is just very annoying.

This is a real barrier to using this device , and I started to understand, but not agree with, why people just buy into Steve Jobs locked down proprietary hell with the Apple iPod,iPhone and iPad using iTunes as it all just works. This is not the way technology was meant to be, and it is a disgrace that our Governments have allowed the companies to visit this nonsense on us.

O'Reilly , the technology book sellers, have solved this problem with a far more elegant solution, they just put your name and details watermarked into everybook you download. At a stroke 99.99% of people are never going to allow their bought material onto the web, would you want your name splashed over every P2P network? I know I don't. You also wouldn't have to be a particularly clever lawyer to find out where it had come from either.

If anyone from Adobe or Waterstones ever reads this post, for goodness sakes re-think this stupid policy and just make it easy for your customers to buy your books. Go visit the O'Reilly site and look how they do it with their Safari library and you will be doing your customers a big favour.

Saturday 3 April 2010

New browser usage stats on W3counter show a huge rise in Linux and Chrome

I like to keep an eye on what the internet statistic people produce on a monthly basis, so that when people try telling me that internet explorer still has 90% of the browser market, and Linux usage is less than 1% I can point them at some facts.

Well the stats are just in from the W3counter web site and they make for interesting reading on both counts.

Google Chrome/Chromium continues to take junks out of internet explorer usage, and most interestingly not at the expense of Firefox, which I find interesting. You see a lot of the people I know in the Linux community have switched to using Chromium, so it would indicate to me that Firefox is also continuing to take usage away from Microsoft.

Also very interesting reading was the large increase in the number of people who are know surfing the web using Linux between February and March. This amounts to not far off a 100% increase. This figure is bound to increase during this years, with the massive increase of people starting to use Android on their Tablets and phones etc.

Anyway, have a look for yourself, and make of them what you will. Statistics never tell the whole story, and this one set certainly will not tell us the real situation, but the trends are more significant, and there are some things like the decline of internet explorer which appears to be gathering pace. This could be explained by the European Union standing up to the monopolistic Behemoth and getting the browser option presented to every user. Why the Americans and the rest of the world is not offered this is quite beyond me.

W3counter stats

Friday 2 April 2010

Creating the Ubuntu countdown banner for my site

I couldn't wait for the official release of the countdown banner so I decided to use my own:

I looked at this site for the banner images I would use.

Thanks to Immanuel Peratoner's Design, as I liked that one the best.

I then borrowed the javascript code from the countdown banner that was used for Ubuntu 9.10 and then modified it.

Here is the javascript that I'm using for the Ubuntu banner on my blog

IMPORTANT NOTE: - To get a good picture of the code I had to shorten the "document.write" line. Everything from the "alt" parameter on the line below should be moved back up onto the line above to make it complete again, I hope that makes sense.

For those of you with programming experience will notice that I have had to set the month variable manually which is odd, but it kept reporting it is still March (3).

Anyway, on Chromium installed on Ubuntu 9.10 32 bit , this now works perfectly, please let me know it doesn't for you.

Thursday 1 April 2010

A new age of reason is dawning thanks to prominent thinkers and the Internet

Unless you have been living on Mars you will have noticed the many new books on the subject of atheism that are available to anyone who cares to open their minds and read them. I thought it was apropos during the Atheist week on Facebook, in itself not an unimportant event, to post a few of my own thoughts on what is making the change to the way we think about life and the meaning of the universe, and our place in it.

I read this blog post from a fellow atheist who has travelled down the road from Christian to non-believer and found that a lot of that story held true for myself. I would recommend spending a few minutes to give it a read as it is very interesting.

In all honesty I have wrestled with the concept of an omnipotent being for most of my life, moving from at some stages of extreme upset in my life - like the death of my father- of being a real theist, trying my damnedest to believe in the whole ten yards of the Bible, including the talking snake. More often than not I was more in the deist camp, where I was happy to believe in some cloud presence who didn't listen to your prayers but was responsible for the creation of the universe. It is the study of Biology as an interested amateur, which brought me into contact with the likes of Richard Dawkins books.

These books started the ball rolling with getting me really thinking about the fundamentals of our existence and where we come from, and once you start down this road, the fables of the old testament suddenly appear as shabby and as nonsensical as they have always been, but now you can see them for what they are. I put his lack of initial clarity down to my very Christian upbringing, and having the King James Bible stuffed down my throat from a very early age. It was ironically during one of my theist periods that I actually read the book from cover to cover, and had my eyes really opened to the nonsense I was wading through in the old testament.

I felt for too many years that it was a topic that should not be discussed, as it was easier not to , and to just confirm to anyone who asked, that I didn't believe in Adam and Eve anymore, but there must be a cloud person somewhere. I don't think this now, and the internet has helped - after a considerable amount of reading - cement my beliefs and thinking. This is due to not just the pro-atheist posts but more importantly the Christian and Muslim posts, that get more desperate and extreme with every day that passes. Too many apologists for religion just can't see how bigoted and entrenched they have become, to the point they are happy to fly planes into buildings and kill thousands of innocent people. The sad truth is, if you read the old testament, there are plenty of examples of horrendous killings and slaughter if you don't worship the right burning bush or golden idol. They have been given a mandate by this two thousand year old book of ramblings and the middle eastern Arabs who dreamt it all up. We used to believe in Alchemy and Phrenology, yet anyone with a brain now laughs at these, why should religion be any different.

It is well worth the time and effort to visit Pat Condell's site on youTube, not just to listen to his posts, which are interesting in themselves, but to watch the rebuttals , which in a lot of cases are even more illuminating.

With the many authors that you can now read on this subject and the easy access to the internet, there has never been a better time to question all of your beliefs and listen to and join the new age of reason.

An Ubuntu 10.04 virtual machine with Virtualbox on Ubuntu 9.10

As I'm sure most of you do, I don't just jump to the latest versions of operating systems until I have had a good look at it before hand in a virtual machine. It doesn't completely guarantee that you wont have any problems with a bare metal installation, but it will give you a good understanding before you start.

The latest version of Virtualbox for Linux - 3.1.6 r59338 - arrived two days ago and the new virtual machine guest tools make it significantly more usable. The picture below shows that version.

This enables more fine grained testing of the Ubuntu 10.04 release with much better graphics and enhanced performance, all of which are gratefully received.

I would recommend downloaded this combination and having a look at the latest offering that is about to be delivered by the Ubuntu community as it's going to be a good one.

Ubuntu 10.04 beta