Upgrading Ubuntu on a Vostro 1500 laptop : Gutsy (7.10) to Hardy (8.04)

Previously, I have posted about my experiences installing and testing Ubuntu Gutsy (7.10) on my Dell Vostro 1500 laptop. Since I set it up, I’ve been happily using it every day. At the time everything generally went pretty smoothly, but being a fairly new piece of hardware, there were a few hiccups that required some hand editing of config files. The key piece of hardware that didn’t work was the integrated microphone – not essential for me, but nice to have.

I upgraded it to Ubuntu Hardy (8.04) a few months ago. These are my experiences, and a summary of what didn’t work under 7.10, but does under 8.04.

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Forcing Firefox to remember passwords for del.icio.us (and other sites that turn off autocomplete)

A few weeks (months?) ago I noticed that the del.icio.us login page would no longer get auto-filled with my saved username/password information in Firefox. This is presumably Yahoo trying to be uber-secure, but for me, it’s just an annoyance … my Firefox passwords are secured by a Master Password, and having the fields autocomplete just saves me time every morning when I get online. Luckly, Elliotte Rusty Harold had noticed this mis-feature too, and has found a solution to get del.icio.us to accept the passwords remembered by Firefox. Be sure to read the comments to his post, since his helpful readers have provided several solutions … take your pick !

The easiest way I found was this Greasemonkey script which turns off autocomplete for all sites. You can change the site list to only include http*://*.del.icio.us/* if you want.

Edit remote files over SSH / SCP using GVim

GVim, one of the graphical versions of vim for X11, has a handy feature … you can edit remote files over ssh. Launch GVim, and issue the command:

:e scp://username@someremotehost/./path/to/file

where username is your username on the remote server, someremote host is the hostname or ip of the server and /./path/to/file is just that … the path to the file on the remove server. Everytime you save with :w, the changes get transfered.

When used in combination with ssh-keys to avoid typing your password every time, this can make editing remote files really quick and easy.

This is a test of the TomboyBlogposter plugin

TomboyBlogposter plugin

It’s a plugin that allows simple posting of a Gnome Tomboy note to a WordPress, Blogger or LiveJournal blog (or anything else that supports the Atom Publishing Protocol). It doesn’t allow setting of WordPress tags, categories or basically anything else except the title and the body text. But it is a convenient way to quickly get a draft post written and put it on the queue … so if you are already using Tomboy, it’s worth a try.

You can get it at: http://flukkost.nu/blog/tomboyblogposter/
Ubuntu packages at: https://launchpad.net/~hanno-stock/+archive

A visual guide to the crontab file

I sometimes need to remind myself how to edit that crontab file … today I found a great little graphic on the Linuxconfig wiki that sums it up nicely:

The values in the crontab file

Sometimes, I also pipe the stdout and stderr somewhere (like “/usr/local/sbin/backup.sh >>/var/logs/backups.log 2>/var/logs/backups.err“) if I want to avoid getting emails with the output from cron … (although in the example above, which looks like a backup script, I’d probably rather be emailed with a warning that my backups were succeeding or failing).

Thanks Linuxconfig !

Update:

After some FriendFeed discussion, it was noted that the crontab above is a “system crontab”, not the typical “user crontab” you would edit by typing “crontab -e” at the command line. For the “user crontab”, you don’t specify the user (the blue field, “root” in the example above).

Ubuntu Hardy Heron 8.04 is officially out: a “pre-review”

There’s a good concise summary of Hardy Heron installation and upgrade options over at Tombuntu.

I’ve been running the beta version via upgrade from Gutsy 7.10, and continually receiving updates, for the last month or so. I guess with this last round of updates I’ll officially be running Hardy Heron 8.04 LTS.

On the surface the changes between Gutsy 7.10 and Hardy 8.04 don’t appear dramatic, which is a good thing since Gutsy really didn’t need dramatic changes in my opinion, just a little spit’n’polish. Since this is an Long Term Support (LTS), Hardy Desktop users can expect security updates for the next 3 years.

Here’s a few things I have noticed as a user, without digging too much “under the hood”.

Hardy Network Configuration

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Serve files via scp or sftp, without giving full shell access to users

The scp and sftp commands, as part of the OpenSSH suite, are great secure ways to transfer files around … they generally make a great secure alternative to FTP. However, I’d often wondered if there was a way of allowing file transfer with scp or sftp without giving users a full SSH-accessible shell account on my machine. Who knows what they may run 😛

Ubuntu Geek has the answer, with this quick writeup on how to install and configure scponly.

scponly runs in a chrooted environment (under /home/scponly by default), which in theory should stop users fiddling with your machine via ssh, but will still give them read/write access to the incoming directory within the chrooted directory tree.

I probably wouldn’t trust it for unrestricted public access (since I’m just paranoid about things like this, unless it’s a really well known tool on a properly secured server), but it certainly would be useful for friends, family, colleagues and collaborators.

Encrypt your laptop’s /home directory before Christmas

Command Line Warriors is running a campaign to get Linux users to encrypt at least their /home directory by Christmas 2008. It’s a really good idea, since if your laptop gets stolen, without encryption the thief may gain lots of personal data about you or others … possibly enough to steal your identity. And that would suck more than losing your laptop.


Encrypt Home By Christmas

Before you get around to encrypting your /home (and other “data” partitions if you keep sensitive stuff outside /home), here’s a tip that is quick and easy to implement right now. If you use Firefox, turn off saving passwords and forms, or secure your saved passwords with a Master Password. You can do it by going to Edit-Preferences-Advanced-Encryption(tab), click on the “Security Devices” button and select “Software Security Device” from the tree-list and enable it, set a password. This way if your machine gets stolen, the thief won’t be able to simply start Firefox and retrieve the passwords to all your valuable online accounts.

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The Future of Reading (with a Kindle)

Initially when I saw this new Kindle ebook reader thing from Amazon, it sounded mildly exciting (although currently too expensive for me). But thinking about it a little more, I suspected this could be a nasty case of lock-in like iTunes store/iPod or the Wii Virtual Console service.

Mark Pilgram has written this nice little piece, entitled the “Future of Reading”. It highlights various parts of the of the Kindle Terms of Service alongside some quotes from Jeff Bezos (Amazon CEO), as well as some more ominous juxtapositions with some parts of Orwell’s 1984.

The Kindle is DRM infected crap. This is another one of those cases where you can choose convenience or Freedom-with-a-capital-F . . . . I’ll be sticking with dead trees, plain text from Project Gutenburg and maybe the odd unrestricted PDF for the moment.