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…

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

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.

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.

Ubuntu Linux is for everyone

Ubuntu is a relatively new flavour of Linux. Since the release of ‘Warty Warthog’ in October 2004, it has become the most popular Linux distribution worldwide. Similar to its parent, Debian GNU/Linux, Ubuntu is based entirely on free software. It inherits outstanding package management and provides one-click access to thousands of downloadable applications.
Ubuntu can be installed as an application inside an existing Windows installation. This provides new users with a great opportunity to try Ubuntu at no risk to their existing setup. Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex) is the latest version and available for download from today.

Installing VMware tools for a Ubuntu guest

VMware Tools is a suite of utilities that enhances the performance of a virtual machine’s guest operating system. Begin by setting up a new virtual machine and installing Ubuntu 6.06 LTS as the guest operating system. Start the virtual machine and log in as a user belonging to the admin group. You are now ready to install VMware Tools. Get the necessary packages with the following command:

user@ubuntu:~$ sudo apt-get install build-essential linux-headers-`uname -r`

Become root and create a symbolic link with the following commands:

user@ubuntu:~$ sudo su
root@ubuntu:/home/user# ln -s /usr/src/linux-headers-`uname -r` /usr/src/linux

On the host, select Virtual Machine > Install VMware Tools… from the VMware Workstation menu. After the guest has mounted the VMware Tools installation virtual CD, change the active directory and copy the VMware Tools archive with the following commands:

root@ubuntu:/home/user# cd /root/
root@ubuntu:~# cp /media/cdrom/VMwareTools-7.6.3-87978.tar.gz /root/

Extract the contents of the archive and then change the active directory with the following commands:

root@ubuntu:~# tar -zxvf VMwareTools-7.6.3-87978.tar.gz
root@ubuntu:~# cd vmware-tools-distrib/

Invoke the install script with the following command, choose to install the binary files in /usr/local/bin and and set your desired screen resolution:

root@ubuntu:~/vmware-tools-distrib# ./vmware-install.pl

Restart your virtual machine.
www.townx.org, www.tech-recipes.com

Time synchronisation with NTP

The NTP protocol allows you to synchronise the clock of your computer with that of dedicated time servers on the Internet. Get the necessary packages with the following command:

user@ubuntu:~$ sudo apt-get install ntp-simple ntpdate

Stop the ntpd daemon and manually synchronise your computer’s clock with the following two commands:

user@ubuntu:~$ sudo /etc/init.d/ntp-server stop
user@ubuntu:~$ sudo ntpdate pool.ntp.org

Modify the file /etc/ntp.conf to read:

# You do need to talk to an NTP server or two (or three).
#server ntp.your-provider.example
#server ntp.ubuntu.com
server 0.pool.ntp.org
server 1.pool.ntp.org
server 2.pool.ntp.org

Start the ntpd daemon with the following command:

user@ubuntu:~$ sudo /etc/init.d/ntp-server start

After about one minute, query the status of the ntpq daemon with the following command:

user@ubuntu:~$ sudo ntpq -p

You can further increase the accuracy of time synchronisation by using the time servers in your continental or country zone.

Sharing a PostScript printer with CUPS and Samba

Using Samba and CUPS, the Common UNIX Printing System, Ubuntu can easily be configured to provide printing services to a heterogeneous network of Windows, Macintosh and Linux clients.

Printing with CUPS

Get the necessary packages with the following command:

user@ubuntu:~$ sudo apt-get install cupsys foomatic-filters-ppds

Add the user cupsys to the group shadow:

user@ubuntu:~$ sudo adduser cupsys shadow

Get the file cupsd.conf and move it to /etc/cups/:

user@ubuntu:~# sudo wget "https://edafe.org/ubuntu/cups/cupsd.conf"
user@ubuntu:~# sudo mv cupsd.conf /etc/cups/

The downloaded file contains the following changes from the Ubuntu default configuration:

# Default authentication type, when authentication is required...
DefaultEncryption IfRequested
# Restrict access to the admin pages...
<Location /admin>
  Allow @LOCAL

Setting these options enables members of the admin group to modify the configuration of the CUPS server from clients sharing the same local network.
Modify the file /etc/cups/cups.d/ports.conf to read:

Port 631
Listen localhost
Listen /var/run/cups/cups.sock

For, substitute the IP address of your machine on the local network.
Restart cupsd with the following command:

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

Use a web browser to access http://localhost:631/admin (or from another machine on your local network). Go to Administration > Add Printer and begin to set up your printer. When prompted by the system, authenticate yourself as a member of the admin group. If necessary, obtain the correct PostScript Printer Description (PPD) file for your printer model. Print a test page to confirm that your printer is working properly with CUPS.

Making Printers Available over the Network

Install and configure a Samba server and then add the following options to /etc/samba/smb.conf:

  printing = cups
  load printers = Yes
  printcap name = cups
  comment = All Printers
  printable = Yes
  path = /var/spool/samba/print
  browseable = No
  guest ok = Yes
  read only = Yes

Create the directory /var/spool/samba/print and set its permissions with the following two commands:

user@ubuntu:~$ sudo mkdir -p /var/spool/samba/print
user@ubuntu:~$ sudo chmod 1777 /var/spool/samba/print

Restart the Samba server with the following command:

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

Set your Samba clients to use a printer driver that outputs generic PostScript. Use the the Apple LaserWriter driver on Windows, the Generic PostScript driver on Mac OS X or the Raw Standard driver on Ubuntu.
wiki.ubuntuusers.de, www.samba.org