Eight features you didn’t know about in Ubuntu

10 12 2007

New blog is at: http://www.bradshawenterprises.com/

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Installing NoMachine NX on any modern Linux including Ubuntu 7.10

28 11 2007


NX is a remote desktop type piece of software that lets you log in remotely to another linux computer. It is useful in that it lets you log in simultaneously with other users – that is, you can use it as well as another user as you log into a new session. It also works over SSH, so it’s secure. The data is compressed as well, so it’s pretty quick. In my experience, it’s much quicker than VNC, especially over the internet.

The server only works on computers running an X server, but the client works on any OS, so you can connect securely from Windows PCs to your home Linux box. This is really useful in public libraries, or when you are at a friends house, as you can use your own PC at almost native speed without any hassle.

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Diagram showing how NX works. (Copyright NoMachine)

This only works to a normal X11 server, so Compiz Fusion or Beryl (or any other compositing window manager) doesn’t work over the connection, it’s only for standard window managers such as metacity, Kwin etc are fine.

Right then, let’s get going!

On your Linux pc (this tutorial is for Xandros, Debian and Ubuntu, though there are packages for Red Hat, Mandriva and Fedora as well), open a terminal and run:

sudo apt-get install openssh-server

To install the ssh server. This allows you to connect remotely using a normal shell. For more info on this, check the Ubuntu community page.

mkdir ~/nxdownloads
cd ~/nxdownloads

to make a directory to store the relevant packages.

wget http://64.34.161.181/download/3.0.0/Linux/nxclient_3.0.0-84_i386.deb
wget http://64.34.161.181/download/3.0.0/Linux/nxnode_3.0.0-93_i386.deb
wget http://64.34.161.181/download/3.0.0/Linux/FE/nxserver_3.0.0-79_i386.deb

to download the files.

run

sudo dpkg -i nxclient_3.0.0-84_i386.deb
sudo dpkg -i nxnode_3.0.0-93_i386.deb
sudo dpkg -i nxserver_3.0.0-79_i386.deb

to install the packages.

run

sudo /usr/NX/bin/nxserver --start

to start the server, changing start to status will let you know if it’s running or not.

On your Windows computer, download nxclient for Windows and install it. Notice how much more complex it is to download and install Windows software!

Once it’s installed, run it, and enter the IP address of your Linux computer to connect, give it a session name for your own reference, and choose your connection speed.

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The next screen lets you choose what window manager to log in to, default is KDE – for Ubuntu, change that to Gnome.

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Next, put in your username and password on your Linux computer – this is just your usual username and password.

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The first time it will ask you if you trust the fingerprint of your computer. Say Yes – in future if you get this something has changed, so you might want to double check things. You should in theory only see this once.

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Wait a few seconds for it to log in, and you will get something like this:

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Brilliant!

I use this on my old laptop to make a poor mans thin client, I boot it up, then connect to my real computer to get the most out of it.

If you want to use this over the internet, remember to forward port 22 on your router to your Linux computer. You might want to use DynDNS.org to set up an alias for your dynamic IP address if you have one to make things easier.

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Solutions to ‘Man in the browser’ online banking security threat

27 11 2007


As reported by Computer World UK malware is shifting towards intercepting traffic inside the browser – a kind of man in the middle attack, rather than keystroke logging or phishing. This style of malware would intercept the password entered on the webpage using exploits in the browser. How about this solution to combat this?

Banks should offer their own applications to use for online banking – for instance, a virtual machine that saves it’s state running something like damn small linux + a web browser. This could be packaged with qemu.

You’d boot the virtual machine, use your banking, then when you closed it off, the virtual machine wouldn’t save changes, so it would always be the same.

This could be distributed on read only flash memory, or even plain old CDs to avoid malware modifying the image.

So: how do you do this?

1. Download DSL Embedded edition

2. Unzip it, and click dsl-base.bat

3. Up comes DSL linux, it boots using QEMU in a matter of seconds

4. Use your online banking as you wish (Ctrl – Alt releases the window so you can get back to your other applications)

5. That’s it…

The protection of using both Linux and a virtual machine in windows in 5 steps!

Now, if only banks would redistribute this, you can imagine how easy it would be to rebrand DSL, and to auto open firefox on the correct page.

Comments?

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Bash tips and tricks

25 11 2007

This post is at my new blog at Interesting Things. Thanks.





KDE 4.0 RC 1 running on Kubuntu 7.10

21 11 2007


Having been as excited about KDE 4.0 as most people, I was keen to try the beta releases, though I didn’t want to compile it myself. Consequently, I waited for packages to become available for Kubuntu 7.10, as this seems the most convenient way to try it out. I followed the instructions detailed on the Kubuntu website, though found that several of these packages are broken and won’t install correctly. These unfortunately include Konqueror and Dolphin amongst others, so the testing I was able to do was limited. (see Edit at bottom – this has been resolved!)

To install on Kubuntu 7.10, add deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/tsimpson/ubuntu gutsy main to your /etc/apt/sources.list then make sure you run sudo aptitude remove kdebase-workspace kde4base-dev kdelibs5 before running sudo aptitude install kdebase-dev-kde4 kdebase-workspace-dev kdebase-runtime kdm-kde4for best results. (i.e. fully uninstall any previous betas of KDE 4)

Then run cp usr/lib/kde4/share/kde4/apps/kdm/sessions/kde.desktop /usr/share/xsessions/kde4.desktop Change the Name section in /usr/share/xsessions/kde4.desktop to be called “KDE 4” by using nano /usr/share/xsessions/kde4.desktop Then nano /usr/lib/kde4/bin/startkde and add

export LD_LIBRARY_PATH=/usr/lib/kde4/lib
export KDEDIRS=/usr/lib/kde4
export PATH=/usr/lib/kde4/bin/:$PATH
export KDEHOME=~/.kde4

to the top of the file. Log out and choose KDE 4 in the session chooser in KDM. (I didn’t bother with the xephyr stuff as suggested on the Kubuntu page, as that’s only if you don’t want to run KDE 4 as it’s own session.)

On boot up, it’s clear that there are numerous bugs in these packages that make it unusable – all the different components or plasmoids open up, but you can’t move them. Also, none are stuck to the panel at the bottom, meaning that there is a free floating KDE menu that can’t be moved. The easiest thing to do is to close them all, then just activate one at a time to see them. If you add plasmoids, they appear behind the add widgets window, so you might want to move it first, otherwise you will end up with loads of them behind it!

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Add widgets dialog

Weirdly, if you move the scroll wheel on the desktop, it scrolls up and down – currently this has some weird behaviour as shown below – this does let you move the K menu down though so you can see it all.

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Looking at the K menu, it has been nicely redesigned, as in previous releases – there are multiple sections on it, including a favourites section that remembers the most used applications.

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The many faces of the new K menu.

As mentioned previously, Konqueror and Dolphin don’t install, so we can only see the old versions. Below are some other screen shots, including those of the icon themes and the widget themes.

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Default widgets

Over all, things look good – shame that it’s not really ready to use full time, but I think that it’s worth waiting for!

Edit:

Having played some more, it turns out you can drag and drop the widgets, but they won’t stick to the panel yet. You can also rotate them and enlarge them however you like.

KDE 4.0 RC 1

The ? lets you move them round, the purple circle lets you rotate and scale.

 

I also managed to get Dolphin et al. installed – here’s a look at that.

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Here’s the system monitor with new SVG graphs:

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First look at Edubuntu 7.10

17 11 2007


Edubuntu 7.10 is a linux distribution based on Ubuntu aimed at schools and teachers. As a new teacher I thought that I would take a look at what Edubuntu has to offer, and whether I think that I would use it in a school environment. I ordered a free cd from ShipIt, and as always this took a couple of weeks to arrive.

On booting the cd, I was surprised to see that it’s not a live cd like the other deriviatives of Ubuntu, meaning that you have to install it before you can try it out. This adds another barrier to potential users, as installing things is always a pain. When installing you are offered whether to install as a server or workstation. I chose a workstation, as I haven’t got enough computers to try out the thin-client functionality that the server version offers.

The installer is the standard text installer rather than the more user friendly Ubiquity, but it was easy to use anyway. Again, a live cd would be so much nicer.

After installing and rebooting we are greeted by the Edubuntu spash screen shown below. The modification of the standard Ubuntu logo to have a child with their hand up works well, and looks really good.

Edubuntu Spash Screen

 

After this we are shown a log in screen, again modified from the Ubuntu one.

Edubuntu Login Screen

Perhaps a little too orange, but this isn’t the worst colouring choices, as we will see!

 

The default desktop looks like this:

Edubuntu Desktop

Nice idea for the background, but the colours are slightly jarring.

Nautilus running in Edubuntu

Again, a rather unusual choice of colours. The Nautilus file browser is themed with a bright red title bar whilst icons use the Gartoon theme, which doesn’t quite match with the rest of the system. I can see why they have chosen childish colours and themes, but I’m not sure that it really works – it looks disjointed.

As this is an OS aimed at schools, you would expect there to be some extra applications installed – instead it’s just the usual Ubuntu applications, with the additon of Gobby collaborative editor. This is essentially gedit but with collaborative features. You can chat with other users and edit documents as a group. Perhaps useful, but if that’s the only addition, then it’s not overwhelming.

The only other new feature is the Lockdown Editor, found in the admin menu.

Edubuntu Lockdown Editor

This offers ways to lockdown various components of the OS, such as disabling the command line, or changing Epiphany so that it can’t be closed. (Epiphany isn’t installed by default by the way, so this is slightly odd!)

Apart from those two things, this is just Ubuntu with a garish theme and two extra things installed by default.

According to the Edubuntu site there is another CD that contains all the educational software – you can just get this from the repositories anyway – as you can in Ubuntu normally. In other words, why not just use Ubuntu?

Conclusion

As a teacher, I would not use Edubuntu in a school environment just yet, though I think that the idea behind the OS has a lot of potential.

Pros

  • Thin client functionality sounds interesting – I’ll try and test it when I get a chance
  • Ubuntu has loads of good software installed, Edubuntu inherits this
  • Hardware detected easily, uses the Ubuntu 7.10 core, so Compiz etc is all there
  • Lockdown editor makes it easy to change users permissions

Cons

  • Essentially just Ubuntu with new theme
  • No live cd, so new users may find it hard to set up
  • Distracting colour scheme

Get it at the Edubuntu website.

Edit: There is a live cd, just the version ShipIt send out isn’t one.