What’s your favourite desktop and why?

In response to Voice of the Masses

My favourite Desktop is Unity because it is not MATE. This has been bugging me for quite some time.
Like almost everyone else on the planet, I was unhappy when in 2011 Canonical declared Unity Ubuntu’s new default desktop. After years of using GNOME 2, I just thought that Unity felt a bit awkward. But I stuck with it, mainly for a perceived lack of alternatives and my wish to avoid PPAs if at all possible.
Fast-forward a few years and, thanks to the excellent Martin Wimpress, I hear of MATE Desktop Environment almost every other podcast I listen to. With the release of Ubuntu 15.10, MATE is finally elevated to official flavour status and I was sure to be making the switch away from Unity.
I ended up using MATE for about one day before going back to Unity. It was quite an uncomfortable thing to have to admit, but there was a problem: After years of using Unity, I just thought that MATE felt a bit awkward…
ubuntu-mate.org

What we give away when we log on to a public Wi-Fi network

“Already 20 smartphones and laptops are ours. If he wanted to, Slotboom is now able to completely ruin the lives of the people connected.” Wouter Slotboom is one of the good guys, demonstrating to Maurits Martijn his effortless ability to retrieve people’s passwords, steal their identity, and plunder their bank accounts.
decorrespondent.nl

Executing Linux commands in the background using screen

The screen command allows you to detach a running process from a session and then reattach it at a later time. Its use is simple:

user@debian:~$ screen yourlinuxcommand

Now that yourlinuxcommand is executing, press Ctrl+A followed by D to detach the screen.
Obtain a list of all the running screen processes:

user@debian:~$ screen -ls
There is a screen on:
       18470.pts-0.server(02/03/14 10:03:43) (Detached)
1 Socket in /var/run/screen/S-user.

Note the screen id in the above output. Use the screen id to reattach the session at anytime:

user@debian:~$ $ screen -r 18470.pts-0.server

www.thegeekstuff.com, www.linuxjournal.com

The full story of Nokia and Microsoft

“When the N9, running MeeGo received the strongest positive reviews of any Nokia phone ever, the first handset of any brand considered better than the iPhone—what did Elop do? He said that no matter how well the N9 sold, Elop would never allow another MeeGo based device to be sold by Nokia.” Microsoft has just bought Nokia’s handset division for a knockdown price of 5.3 Billion Euros, prompting former Nokia employee Tomi Ahonen to chronicle the decline of this once mighty company since in September 2010 former Microsoft employee Steven Elop became the first non-Finnish director in Nokia’s history.
communities-dominate.blogs.com

The Debian Administrator’s Handbook

“We wanted the book to be freely available (that is under the terms of a license compatible with the Debian Free Software Guidelines of course). There was a condition though: a liberation fund had to be completed to ensure we had a decent compensation for the work that the book represents. This fund reached its target of €25K in April 2012.” Raphaël Hertzog and Roland Mas hope that you will enjoy the book.
debian-handbook.info

Frequently asked questions

These are some of the most frequently asked questions about the Freeview VDR:

Q: Is the Freeview VDR as difficult to use as it is to build?
A: Building the Freeview VDR is actually not that difficult. Once put together, it is as easy to use as your average set-top box.

Q: How do I connect the Freeview VDR to my TV?
A: The Freeview VDR connects to your TV using standard audio and video cabling.

Q: It records radio, right?
A: Yes. The Freeview VDR records all the programmes transmitted free-to-air, and that includes radio.

Q: Can I store my recordings forever?
A: Certainly. However, bear in mind that a one hour recording takes about 1.5 GB of space on the Freeview VDR’s hard drive.

Q: What size hard drive should I use to build the Freeview VDR?
A: The larger the better. Hard drives of around 250 GB currently afford the best value for money, enough space for approximately 160 hours of your favourite TV programme.

Q: How do I get the Freeview VDR to record the programme I am watching?
A: Just one button press on the remote and the Freeview VDR will start recording immediately. It really is that simple.

Q: Why should I get excited about time-shifting?
A: Time-shifting here means that you start watching a programme while it is still being recorded. If you allow the Freeview VDR to record the first few minutes of a broadcast, you could then begin watching the recording and use it as a buffer to fast-forward your way through any advertising.

Q: I’ve heard about live pause. Can the Freeview VDR do that as well?
A: Yes. Press pause at any time to halt the programme you’re watching. Go make yourself a cup of tea. Come back and press play to continue where you left off.

Q: Can I get rid of the advertising on my recordings?
A: Yes. You can use the Freeview VDR to edit your recordings. Get rid of any advertising or compile your own programme highlights with ease.

Q: How are picture and sound quality affected by my editing the recordings?
A: They are not affected in any way. Because everything is done digitally, the quality of your edits is always the same as that of the original recordings.

Q: All this Freeview VDR business sounds interesting, but wouldn’t it be easier to just buy one of those PVRs instead?
A: The Freeview VDR is a Personal Video Recorder. However, because it is based on a full Linux distribution, there are many more things it can do. There are many ways in which you can expand the Freeview VDR’s capabilities.

Q: Can I get network access to my recordings?
A: Yes. This is easily configured.

Q: Do I need a subscription and how much does it cost?
A: No, just be sure your TV license is paid…

Q: I only want to watch digital terrestial television. Why do I need a satellite card?
A: The satellite card generates the Freeview VDR’s output signal to the television. You need the DVB-S premium card to be able to watch what the DVB-T budget card receives.

Q: How many programmes can the Freeview VDR record simultaneously?
A: It depends. For every DVB card, the Freeview VDR is able to record a minimum of two programmes at any given time. Use two cards and record, say, BBC One, Two, Three and Four all at the same time.

Q: Does the Freeview VDR work reliably?
A: Yes. If there is ever a need to reload the drivers for the DVB-T card(s), the Freeview VDR will handle this automatically and in a matter of seconds. Unlike other PVRs, the Freeview VDR does not have a tendency to freeze and therefore rarely requires manual intervention to get going again.

Q: What does the Freeview VDR actually look like?
A: There are endless possibilites…

Windows applications making GRUB 2 unbootable

“We need to defend ourselves against the predatory practices of some companies making us look bad: a relatively small number of people do enough detective work to realise that it’s the fault of a particular Windows application, but many more simply blame our operating system because it won’t start any more.” Debian developer Colin Watson asks for your help in an effort to mitigate the problems caused by antifeatures built into Windows software that result in broken Windows/Linux double-boot systems.
www.chiark.greenend.org.uk/ucgi/~cjwatson/blosxom

Redirecting mail for the local root user

postfix is Ubuntu’s default mail transfer agent (MTA) and can be configured to deliver mail using a relay host that requires SMTP authentication. Get the necessary packages with the following command:

user@ubuntu:~$ sudo apt-get install postfix bsd-mailx

Begin to configure your postfix installation by choosing satellite system as the general type of configuration. Enter the local machine name as the mail name (eg mycomputer.edafe.org) and the SMTP server address of your email service provider as the SMTP relay host (eg smtp.relayhost.com). Edit the file /etc/postfix/main.cf and add the following:

smtp_sasl_auth_enable = yes
smtp_sasl_password_maps = hash:/etc/postfix/sasl_passwd
smtp_sasl_security_options = noanonymous

Create the file /etc/postfix/sasl_passwd and make the following entries:

smtp.relayhost.com user:password

Substitute smtp.relayhost.com with the address of the SMTP relay host and user:password with your login details. Continue by executing the following three commands:

user@ubuntu:~$ sudo chown root.root /etc/postfix/sasl_passwd
user@ubuntu:~$ sudo chmod 600 /etc/postfix/sasl_passwd
user@ubuntu:~$ sudo postmap hash:/etc/postfix/sasl_passwd

Instruct postfix to reload its settings with the following command:

user@ubuntu:~$ sudo /etc/init.d/postfix reload

Making changes to the alias table

The aliases table provides a system-wide mechanism to redirect mail for local recipients. Edit the file /etc/aliases to contain the following entries:

postmaster: root
root: localuser
localuser: user@yourdomain.com

The localuser is the system administrator. Substitute user@yourdomain.com with the email address that you would like mail for the root user to be redirected to. Finally, update /etc/aliases.db using the following command:

user@ubuntu:~$ sudo newaliases

Mail for the local root user from now on will automatically be forwarded to user@yourdomain.com , using smtp.relayhost.com as the relay host.
www.postfix.org, help.ubuntu.com

Monitoring hard disks with smartmontools

SMART stands for Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology and is built into most modern hard disks. The smartd daemon is part of smartmontools and monitors a disk’s SMART data for any signs of hardware problems. SMART is available with Parallel and Serial ATA disks, drives appearing as either /dev/hd* or /dev/sd*, respectively. Use the following command to obtain relevant information for your system:

user@ubuntu:~$ df -hl

If required, start by configuring postfix to redirect mail for the local root user. Get the necessary packages with the following command:

user@ubuntu:~$ sudo apt-get install smartmontools bsd-mailx

Configuring smartd

Edit the file /etc/smartd.conf and comment out any lines beginning with DEVICESCAN. If you are using a netbook or a laptop, add the following line for the smartd daemon to monitor the device /dev/sda:

/dev/sda -a -d ata -n standby -o on -S on -m root -M daily -M test

If you are using a desktop or a server, add the following line for the smartd daemon to monitor the device /dev/hda:

/dev/hda -a -d ata -n never -o on -S on -s (L/../../7/04|S/../.././02) -m root -M daily -M test

See man smartd.conf for more information on how to tailor the operation of smartd to your needs.

Starting smartd

Edit the file /etc/default/smartmontools and uncomment the line containing start_smartd=yes. Restart the smartd daemon with the following command:

user@ubuntu:~$ sudo /etc/init.d/smartmontools restart

Verify that the local root user has received a test message from the smartd daemon. From now on, the smartd daemon will monitor the disk and, in the event of impending disk failure, alert the local root user by email.

Desktop Linux for the Windows power user

“As a lifelong Windows user, system builder, ex-gamer, and performance freak, I’m not drinking anyone’s Kool-Aid. I just want the most amount of control over my system as possible, and at this point in time, Ubuntu is the best follow-up to Windows XP.” Adam Overa walks the Windows user through the Ubuntu installation process from downloading the CD image to finding help online.
www.tomshardware.com

What exactly is LaTeX for?

“Many people discover LaTeX after years of struggling with wordprocessors and desktop publishing systems, and are amazed to find that TeX has been around for over 25 years and they hadn’t heard of it.”
Peter Flynn

LaTeX is a free document preparation system that enables you to create beautifully typeset pages. It implements a set of commands designed to control TeX, the typesetting engine developed by Donald E Knuth. LaTeX stores the information about your documents as plain text, thus avoiding the risk of vendor lock-in and ensuring that your documents will still be editable twenty years from now. LaTeX processes the plain text data and, with pdfTeX working in the background, generates PDF output of the highest typographic quality—perfect for viewing on-screen or printing on paper. LaTeX runs on many platforms and is included as standard with most Linux distributions. Ready-to-run LaTeX systems are also available for Windows and Mac OS X.
miktex.org, tug.org/mactex