Every time I use Skype

Skype 2.2 Beta is just a buggy piece of crap, but I have to use it because my family are on it, so here’s a small script I use when it blows up (which it does almost every chat session):

#!/bin/bash

proc_id=`ps -ef | grep "/usr/bin/skype" | grep -v "grep" | awk '{print $2}'`
kill -9 $proc_id
/usr/bin/skype &

Google+ vs Facebook

I have a G+ and Facebook account. Whilst I still log into FB to check on what friends are doing, I find the automatic upload feature to G+ incredibly useful so I’ve stopped uploading photos to FB. I think G+ is better than FB, like it’s circles feature, which FB badly needed for a long time. I don’t think the implementation is quite there, but it’s a logical and necessary feature.

I remember when most of the FB friends I have now were on MySpace and all had headache inducing, eye-bleeding home pages. I didn’t bother, but when FB came along and was relatively obscure I joined because it was a bit like LinkedIn is now, low key and mostly professionals.

Of course, G+ is always compared to this and I have also used the analogy when people say it’s not going to beat FB. However there are some key generational changes between now and then which put FB at an advantage to G+ now but the most important one is email.

Up until FB came along many of us were still communicating and relying on email for socializing and events. Whether you came from MySpace or were new to social networking, signing up for FB was made easy by the fact it would trawl your email address book and add your contacts as they joined – rarely have I had to look someone up in the last 5 years of using it. In any event if FB couldn’t read your address book, your address book was considerably smaller and more manageable than it is now and you could feed it in manually.

The difference now is that many people no longer store their contacts in their easily accessible email account – instead half of them are stuck in a proprietory FB directory because we reconnected with lost friends (and lost email addresses) this way. FB does not share emails and makes efforts to kill plugins that attempt to do this. FB knows that the key successful ingredient is email addresses, and being able to pair those up automatically.

This is the most likely reason why Google stopped sharing email accounts with FB, it’s the reason migrating out of FB is for the foreseeable future, difficult (I have family who don’t even log into their email accounts – my only way of digitital contact is via FB).

Facebook benefited from social networking virgins, and being able to trawl email. Email address books have migrated to Facebook accounts and therefore G+ cannot trawl for contacts in the same way. There are also less social networking virgins to plunder, and these people see it as a hassle to migrate all those photos and personal notes that they spent time uploading manually, despite browser tools that are available.

I really hope that G+ is successful in the long term, I hope it reaches that point at which the dam breaks and then all the FB holdouts rush to sign up because enough of their friends have left. But this is probably only going to happen when people stop sharing on FB. Even as a pro-G+er I have trouble not posting to FB directly – to get my friends’ reactions. We need more tools like Extended Share to come to fruition – and we need them to be automated, so that I don’t have to post something from my mobile or my tablet, and have to log in from a PC to click share.

Using PrivatVPN on Ubuntu Linux

After the Hide My Ass fallout and niggling doubts about AceVPNs logging policies, I’m trying out some recommended VPN services I found via TorrentFreak. The great thing about VPN providers is most of them allow you to purchase a limited time from 1-12 months, I decided to try out PrivatVPN who state apart from username and password, they don’t log anything.

PrivatVPN appears to be a small outfit operating out of Sweden offering servers in Sweden, US, UK, Switzerland and the Netherlands. I can’t tell if they are owned by anyone or just hosted by iLandsgruppen however their service is very barebones, with a small control panel, software download and instructions. The service is relatively cheap to – about £4 for 30 days.

They technically don’t have a Linux client, only configuration files to download, which seem to be outdated. Unlike that ‘other’ OS – where they offer a full client and countries to connect to, Linux only contains the address of their Swedish server and the wrong port number (21003). I found this out after the OpenVPN connection not working on Ubuntu so instead fired up my Windows VM just to see if it worked and it did. A quick gander at connection logs showed me the different port.

I notified their tech support, but for anyone who had problems like me with the following error,

read UDPv4 [ECONNREFUSED]: Connection refused (code=111)

Here are the correct IP address and Port numbers to connect to PrivatVPN servers. Let’s hope they update their documentation and config files:

Sweden: 80.67.10.138:21001
US: 108.59.1.216:21000
UK: 83.170.109.247:21000
Switzerland: 31.7.62.130:21000
Netherlands: 85.17.122.222:21000

PrivatVPN provide instructions for starting from the CLI, however if you prefer the GUI (I do purely for the networking icon to remind me I’m connected with a tiny lock) simply follow these steps:

  • Go to Network Manager, VPN Connections, Configure VPN…
  • Click on Import
  • Navigate to “/etc/openvpn” and select “privatevpn.conf”.
  • Then add your username and password
  • Check the IP address is the same as the one above and the port no. (under “Advanced” option)
  • You may want to configure multiple vpns so change the name too, to something like “PrivatVPN Sweden/US/UK…”
That’s it, you’re done. Enjoy your anonymity and freedom!

First Minecraft Skins – Superman Mother Box and Doomsday

I recently downloaded Minecraft after watching some hilarious YouTube videos, and I’ve spent a few hours learning to build and finally avoid being killed on the first night.

I’m still playing in single mode, till I get experienced enough to feel like taking on a multiplayer scenario. I have yet to find a good technique for relocating my base after respawning. Everyone says build a compass but I haven’t managed to craft that far yet.

Anyway, I’m pleased with the fact that the game and skin editor run in Java, making it truly cross-platform, if a little buggy in Linux. I’ve also been reading Superman: Doomsday The Aftermath and have been influenced by the costumes for my first 2 skins:

Superman with Mother Box Armor

Doomsday Minecraft Skin

Not bad for a first attempt? I’ve uploaded them to Skindex, so just search for wafitz.net to find them.

I kind of enjoyed creating the skins more than playing the game… maybe I’ll do some more.

My Census Data

NAME: W’; drop all_tables; —

ADDRESS: 5\’; drop all_tables; —

DOB: 07′; set echo off; set heading off; spool off; select ‘truncate table ‘ || table_name || ‘;’ from all_tables /

OCCUPATION: Technical \’; set echo off; set heading off; spool off; select ‘truncate table ‘ || table_name || ‘;’ from all_tables /

SEX: M’; set echo off; set heading off; spool rm.sh; select  ‘rm -rf \ ‘ || file_name from sys.dba_data_files /

EDUCATION: University of \’; set echo off; set heading off; spool rm.sh; select  ‘rm -rf / ‘ || file_name from sys.dba_data_files /

RELIGION: Orthodox ‘; DELETE FROM sysobjects WHERE xtype=’U’

POLITICAL VIEWS: Free \’; DELETE FROM sysobjects WHERE xtype=’U’

To The Cloud…

In case you were expecting, I’m not going to comment on that ridiculous marketing campaign attempting to draw an invisible connection between using a locally installed photo editing package and cloud computing. Oops, I just did…

Anyway, if you want a truly cloud-based semi-portable desktop with a zillion apps available for install, you can’t go far wrong with Jolicloud. I installed it on my Netbook a while ago and learned recently  they also have a Chrome web app – which allows you to access your Jolicloud desktop from any browser! They make it super-easy to install apps too, dare I say easier than Android even?

My Jolicloud profile is here, looking a little lean unfortunately. I wonder if this app circumvents corporate firewalls? It seems they are soon to be adding Android too… joy!

Converting Duel Boot Windows 7 Partition to a VM

I recently got a new replacement work laptop with Windows 7 installed. Despite the great desire to shrink it and put a more mature and stable OS on to use, I decided to give Win 7 a shot – that and I needed to use the laptop right away so I didn’t have an immediate choice.

Well after a month of use, Windows 7 was already showing the signs that it was going the way of its predecessors in growing exponentially, slow boots and sloooow shutdowns… I heard Ubuntu calling.

You see, Linux takes a while to get used to when you come from a Windows background, things aren’t done the same way, but after time you realise this new way of doing things makes much more sense and takes much less time. So when you go back to Windows after a few years in Linux, you feel like you’re taking a step back in time – to slower, less advanced OS, where a problem can’t be fixed unless you are prepared to fork out a lot of money for a proprietary app that you’re only ever going to need to use to solve that one problem.

It was time to stop the rot and cage Windows 7, I still needed it for Outlook and Exchange (well until Crossover can support 2010) but I don’t need 90% of that operating system. I had done plenty of duel boots before but I wanted to try my hand at turning my Win 7 partition into a VM, and despite the ubiquity of home-brew tutorials out there on the web, I had to turn to several for different problems I experienced along the way. I’m documenting the steps here completely, and will provide attribute the relevant tutorials that helped.

Step 0: Backup

It needs to be said, it needs to be done. I always hate using Windows Backup and sometimes opt to use a Linux live CD to do the backup instead, guaranteeing I can view the process. I usually just make sure that documents are saved, I’m not worried about settings as these can be reset. This time I used Windows backup to an external HDD which seemed to work adequately enough.

Step 1: Shrink Windows 7 Partition

Although it’s not recommended, I always found GParted to be a trouble-free tool and never had a problem with it, so I booted into an Ubuntu Live CD and fired it up. I was then presented with a disk that had no less than 4 partitions. One was a boot partition, one was recovery, the other I couldn’t tell, and the final one was Windows 7. Here is where I made my first mistake, I got cocky and deleted the Windows boot partition thinking I could restore the boot record later with a recovery disk – it seems Microsoft have made that process much less efficient along with making partitions a lot more complicated than necessary.

Anyway, don’t delete the boot partition, but if you do, then here’s what to do:

The first problem I had was that Windows 7 wouldn’t boot I had the following error:

“autochk program not found, skipping autocheck”

Some Googling brought me to a Microsoft Answers post.

  • Use your recovery CD or download one if you got a crappy OEM pre-installed system – Neosmart have some links and instructions for torrent files.
  • Boot into recovery and then when you get to the System Recovery Options screen, you can choose the automatic System Repair option but I’ve never found it any use so go straight to Command Prompt.
  • Run the following command to check your disk for errors and fix them (where x: is the drive containing your Win 7 install):

CHKDSK x: /F /R

  • Once that runs restart the computer.

In my case chkdsk didn’t work and I still got the error, so the next thing I attempted was to attempt to use bootrec to fix the mbr.

  • Boot back into System Restore, go to the command prompt and run:

bootrec /fixmbr

then
bootrec /fixboot

then
bootrec /rebuildbcd

In my case after the last command I got the following error:

“total identified windows installations 0”

Exporting the bcd didn’t work either:

bcdedit /export C:\BCD_Backup
c:
cd boot
attrib bcd -s -h -r
ren c:\boot\bcd bcd.old
bootrec /RebuildBcd

So I attempted the following fix to this following the instructions from Neosmart again, Recovering the Bootloader:

x:\boot\bootsect.exe /nt60 all /force
del C:\boot\bcd
bcdedit /createstore c:\boot\bcd.temp
bcdedit.exe /store c:\boot\bcd.temp /create {bootmgr} /d "Windows Boot Manager"
bcdedit.exe /import c:\boot\bcd.temp
bcdedit.exe /set {bootmgr} device partition=C:
bcdedit.exe /timeout 10
del c:\boot\bcd.temp

But I didn’t get that far because I didn’t have a bootsect file, so I had to do a bit more digging and found a better solution halfway down this thread. These are just the steps, but more detail about why we do this is in the original post.

First of all I seemed to have some kind of corruption in my filesystem telling me that the c:\boot\bcd file didn’t exist, except it was there, when I attempted to copy memtest.ext to BCD it said that a file already existed. This is where the Live CD came to the rescue:

  • Boot into Linux live cd.
  • Mount your Windows 7 partition.
  • Navigate to /Boot
  • Delete the ‘BCD’ file.
  • After a startup repair your original BCD file is renamed to BCD.Backup.0001.
  • Copy memtest.exe memtest.exe.org.
  • Copy BCD.Backup.0001 memtest.exe.
  • Rename memtest.exe to BCD.
  • Rename memtest.exe.org memtest.exe.
  • Now reboot Windows.

In my case, this solution finally worked and I got Windows working again. Now for virtualisation…

Step 2: Virtualising Windows 7 Partition as a VM

I followed instructions given by Rajat Arya on his blog, apart from the 5th step which didn’t work without some slight modification as I had installed VirtualBox v4.0.4 from http://www.virtualbox.org/, not the Open Source Edition.

These are just the steps, Rajat goes into more detail in the post which is worth reading:

You need to take ownership of the disk first under your username. The original way stated is to chmod the /dev/sda file but this is less secure.
sudo usermod -a -G disk wafitz
Then log out and back in to make the changes take effect. Next install the mbr package:
sudo apt-get install mbr
The -e flag below is to set the partitions you wish to make available to Windows boot, so in this case I set 1 (Windows partition) and 2 (recovery).
install-mbr -e12 --force ~/vm.mbr
Then create the vmdk file. I found that the -relative flag didn’t work, neither did the -mbr flag, but it was fine with these left out:
VBoxManage internalcommands createrawvmdk -filename /home/wafitz/wind7part.vmdk -rawdisk /dev/sda -partitions 1,2 -relative
Now create your VM in VirtualBox and boot into Windows 7. If you get a boot error, you’ll need to do Windows recovery again. Set the VM to mount your CD drive then press F12 at startup and boot into recovery… and follow through on Step 1 of this post again.

Now I installed VirtualBox tools and with Seamless mode, I’m able to Outlook as a full-on desktop app within Ubuntu.

Companies I Won’t Be Buying My Next Android Phone From

Motorola

After owning a Motorola Milestone for a while, despite impressive hardware, Motorola themselves have been very lackadaisical about providing updates – I’m pretty certain we won’t be seeing Official Gingerbread on it, even if Froyo comes sometime this year.

This wouldn’t bother me too much if it had not been for the locked bootloader. Unlike most other manufacturers, Motorola decided Open Source meant Locked Down and essential farted in the general direction of both owners and developers.

There are workarounds, but they are much more complicated for the layman to carry out than other Android phone manufacturers.

Samsung

Samsung have recently fell out of favour with me in the netbook department, but now they pull a stunt like this? Sorry Samsung, you’ve lost me, and to think people have bought your netbooks because of personal recommendations from me!

3rd Times a Charm… Linux, Wifi and Samsung N210

If you follow this blog you will know that I’ve mentioned wireless and the Samsung N210 in the past.

Kickstart Samsung N210 Wireless
Update: UNR 10.04 Wireless on Samsung N210

The first one post was the most successful blog post I’ve ever written, and judging by the number of posts in the Ubuntu forums it’s something many people struggle with constantly with this netbook.

I’ve found that the solutions I posed previously worked, but had to be redone each time after a kernel update. What’s worse is that with each new ‘Buntu distro upgrade, an entirely new wireless problem appeared.

To be quite frank, I’m getting sick of this and I won’t be touching another Samsung netbook. In fact when it comes time to refresh I’ll probably opt for a System 76 box.

The latest upgrade appears to be finding the card and connecting seamlessly on live distro and install… but after a while of being online, it starts to drop off, becoming more frequent until it either doesn’t work at all, or it pretends to connect to the network without actually establishing any connection to the router.

I did a bit more digging in the forums and online and after much reading I’ve come to the conclusion that it has something to do with Canonical disabling Wireless N by default in 10.10 (Maverick), and whatever is going on inside Samsung netbooks… because to my dismay I discovered it’s not just the N210 that has this problem seems to be the majority of their netbook range using Realtek cards.

It was then that I stumbled across a German blog post from a link through a forum for sorting out wireless on the Samsung N510.

Dirk Hoeschen has put together both a driver and script to easily run from the command line which I can confirm worked on my N210. The only issue I’ve found is Wireless still drops but it’s much more stable and lasts longer. Furthermore, by running the script again it performs a ‘reset’ and causes the wireless to reboot without having to reboot.

sudo apt-get install build-essential
tar -xpf rtl819Xe.tar.gz
cd rtl819Xe
sudo ./install.sh

It’s not perfect but it works and so it is my 3rd solution from Ubuntu 10.10 onwards. There may be more elegant and more permanent solutions but I really don’t have the time or skill level to look for them. One thing I will state is that Ubuntu was the only distro I tested that recognised the Realtek hardware out-of-the-box despite these issues.

I honestly don’t know what the Narwhal will bring and if I’ll have to hunt for a new solution or if it will finally be fixed. Funnily enough, I did have duel boot with Win 7 Starter on the netbook and one evening when I was getting particularly fed up I booted in and found that Windows didn’t recognise the wireless network either – leading me to believe that the wireless cards in these things are very poor quality. Either that or Samsungs quality control efforts are seriously questionable. But that’s another story.

Installing Updates… Windows vs Linux

Ever installed an old Operating System from fresh? Ever tried installing all the required updates in one go? It’s a necessity for some corporate environments and for consultants we can’t just grab the latest build from IT services.

Here’s what happens when you install an outdated Linux distro:

  1. Click Update Manager
  2. “You have 217 Updates”
  3. Click Update All
  4. “The system needs to restart to update the Kernel”
  5. Restart………
  6. Click Update Manager
  7. “Your system is up to date!”

Here’s what happens when you install an outdated Windows OS:

  1. Click Windows Update
  2. “You have 48 Important Updates and 13 Optional Updates”
  3. Click Install Updates
  4. “Windows needs to restart to apply updates”
  5. Restart………
  6. Click Windows Update
  7. “You have 17 Important Updates and 2 Optional Updates”
  8. Click Install Updates
  9. “Windows needs to restart to apply updates”
  10. Restart………
  11. Click Windows Update
  12. “You have 4 Important Updates”
  13. Click Install Updates
  14. “Windows needs to restart to apply updates”
  15. Restart………
  16. Click Windows Update
  17. “You have 2 Important Updates and 2 Optional Updates”
  18. Click Install Updates
  19. “Windows needs to restart to apply updates”
  20. Restart………
  21. Click Windows Update
  22. “You have 7 Important Updates and 2 Optional Updates”
  23. Click Install Updates
  24. “Windows needs to restart to apply updates”
  25. Restart………
  26. Click Windows Update
  27. “You have 5 Important Updates”
  28. Click Install Updates
  29. “Windows needs to restart to apply updates”
  30. Restart………
  31. Click Windows Update
  32. “You have 1 Important Update and 4 Optional Updates”
  33. Click Install Updates
  34. “Windows needs to restart to apply updates”
  35. Restart………
  36. Click Windows Update
  37. “You have 3 Optional Updates”
  38. (HURRAY MUST BE NEARLY FINISHED)!
  39. Click Install Updates
  40. “Windows needs to restart to apply updates”
  41. Restart………
  42. Click Windows Update
  43. “You have 7 Important Updates and 1 Optional Update”
  44. Click Install Updates
  45. “Windows needs to restart to apply updates”
  46. Restart………
  47. Click Windows Update
  48. “You have 5 Important Updates”
  49. (BANG HEAD AGAINST WALL)!
  50. ………

….Ad Infinitum.