Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Gnome 2.22 to be released today

I'm excited. Gnome 2.22 is set to be released today. Check out what's new in the release notes. The changes I find most useful are PolicyKit integration (so I don't have to type in my password if I just want to do something like view the partitions in GParted) and GVFS. Those changes will help and will continue to help make Gnome a more usable desktop in future releases.

The official release hasn't been posted yet but once it is I plan to download a Foresight LiveCD to check it out for myself. Foresight is the distribution used as "the top choice when demonstrating the latest GNOME". Once the ISOs are posted, the Gnome 2.22 LiveCD torrents will be here.

I won't be running Gnome 2.22 regularly until after Ubuntu 8.04, which will have it, is released on April 24th (as currently scheduled). That is the date I am really looking forward to. It is funny to read the release notes of Gnome and Ubuntu because much of the new stuff in Ubuntu is because it is new in Gnome. The Ubuntu 8.04 Alpha 6 release notes mention PolicyKit, the new world clock applet and GVFS. All of those are also in the Gnome 2.22 release notes.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

G-Archiver stole my password! Why Open Source is more secure

No, it didn't really steal my password. I've never used G-Archiver or even heard of it before. But it did expose over 1,700 of other users' GMail login info.

News hit today that a G-Mail archive application steals user passwords by sending them to an email account of one of the developers. Whoops! This was discovered by Dustin Brooks and posted on the Coding Horror blog. The publisher claims it was debug code inadvertently left in the final release. Possible but I doubt it.

This shows yet another reason to run Open Source software. Security. I will not claim that malicious code hasn't ever made it's way into an Open Source software release or that Open Source is immune and never will have something like this happen but it is much less likely. With more independent users looking at the source, it is more likely that anything like this will get removed if someone is even successful enough to get the code included in the first place.

Go read Is Open Source Good for Security? for a more in depth review. An excerpt:

It's sometimes argued that open source programs, because there's no enforced control by a single company, permit people to insert Trojan Horses and other malicious code. Trojan horses can be inserted into open source code, true, but they can also be inserted into proprietary code. A disgruntled or bribed employee can insert malicious code, and in many organizations it's much less likely to be found than in an open source program. After all, no one outside the organization can review the source code, and few companies review their code internally (or, even if they do, few can be assured that the reviewed code is actually what is used). And the notion that a closed-source company can be sued later has little evidence; nearly all licenses disclaim all warranties, and courts have generally not held software development companies liable.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Why haven't I heard of Ubuntu backports before now?

I've been having the annoying problem of file dates not being retained when copying or moving files to an NTFS partition in Ubuntu 7.10. This has particularly kept me from transferring files from my digital camera in Linux because I don't want the file date lost and I don't want to put them on a non NTFS partition. It took me quite a bit of searching to figure out this was limited to a problem with NTFS and due to a bug in ntfs-3g. I also eventually found out that the problem in ntfs-3g has been fixed.

My problem at this point though was I could not find a way to get the new release installed. I didn't want to compile it myself. I found that a new version that fixed the problem was in the repository for the 8.04 release but attempting to install that didn't work due to other dependencies.

At some point, I heard about Ubuntu Backports.

The Backports team believes that the best update policy is a mix of Ubuntu's security-only policy AND providing new versions of some programs. Candidates for version updates are primarily desktop applications, such as your web browser, word processor, IRC client, or IM client. These programs can be updated without replacing a large part of the operating system that would affect stability of the whole system.
And it turns out a new release package of ntfs-3g that I need to fix my problem is right there in the backports repository. So now my problem is fixed and I still have a stable system. Nice!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Start applications in Gnome automatically on login in Ubuntu

After figuring out how to have Gnome automatically login, I realized I was still missing a few things in that process. I wanted some applications to auto start when I login too.

The main application is my instant messaging client, Pidgin. I ALWAYS forget to login so my friends and coworkers often wonder where I am when I would normally be at the computer or should be working, respectively. Adding new application is not to hard as long as you know where to look. The hardest part may be having to know where the application you want to launch is located on the file system.

To start an application automatically on login, first go to System -> Preferences -> Sessions. That is where all the already configured startup programs are and where we will add our new one(s).

Then, obviously, click on Add to add the application you want to start up automatically.

This is the hardest part because you have to know the location of your application. There is no nifty select application like there is when you use "Open With" from right clicking on a file. I think there really should be! It works great. See the screen shot to the right for what I would like to see.

Instead you have to know or find your application. I didn't know where Pidgin was. The best way to find out is with the command whereis. Like so:

$ whereis -b pidgin
pidgin: /usr/bin/pidgin /usr/lib/pidgin
(The -b switch means only look for binaries.) So pidgin is installed in /usr/bin/. Configure it like so below. All that matters of course is the Command. The rest is just to help you identify it.

And there you have it:

You can load anything there, including scripts. That is very helpful if you have specific things to configure at boot for your UI.

And as a side note. The Windows boot up is a little easier to configure. All you have to do is stick your application in your Startup command folder (All Programs -> Startup) or use msconfig. But be careful when you add programs to startup or your system will run like my Windows system on startup which is horrible! It takes 6 1/2 minutes for my Windows system to get from the BIOS screen to a desktop with no hour glass mouse. Even then, trying to open MS Money takes another 5 minutes! In all, it takes 10-15 minutes to get to a usable desktop in Windows for me!! That is sad. Welcome to Ubuntu where I don't have that problem. Ubuntu is ready to go after about a minute. I just hope over time I don't get the problem in Linux.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Unable to download with the Amazon MP3 Downloader in Linux?

I have seen that a few people have had problems getting the new Amazon MP3 Downloader for Linux working for them. See here and here.

Although I didn't have any problems on my main home system (Ubuntu 7.10), I did have problems on my Ubuntu system at work. The difference is that my system at work is running Firefox 3.0b3. (The other difference may be the download destination though, hmm...)

The problem I have seen has to do with the .amz file that is downloaded. Once it is downloaded the downloader is launched with the downloaded file passed in. The problem I have seen is that if the file is read-only, it will not work. The worst part is the downloader doesn't give you any errors or anything. It just fails silently. I think the problem with it not working is Amazon needs to be able to delete the file as soon as it starts downloading to keep you from downloading multiple times using that file.

So just change the .amz file you downloaded from read-only to read-write and open it again in the Amazon MP3 Downloader. Then, enjoy your new DRM free tunes in Linux.

I really hope Amazon fixes this issue in a release soon or at least changes the application to give the user some feedback instead of failing silently. Of course the bigger question for me is why are files I download being set as read-only sometimes but not others? The FAQ doesn't even provide any help yet.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Amazon MP3 Downloader for Linux is here!

A few months ago Amazon announced that they were working on a Linux version of their MP3 downloader. They already had a version for Windows and OS X. Well now it is ready for download. There are packages available for Ubuntu 7.10 Gutsy, Debian 4 Etch, Fedora 8 and OpenSuSE 10.3.

The reason this release matters is because Amazon is selling 256 kbps DRM free MP3 tracks for the same price ($0.89 and $0.99 per track) as the DRM restricted files on iTunes. I've only downloaded the occasionall free track from iTunes. I have not bought anything from them specifically because of the DRM. The other reason this Linux downloader release matters is because Linux users never could buy from iTunes anyway. It is a double win. Linux users can now download DRM free music that they can use on any device (everyone and everything supports mp3).

So here is my brief experience with the Linux downloader. Installation was a breeze and making my first purchase was a pleasant experience.

I installed the amazonmp3.deb package in no time.
Dependencies were downloaded for me.

My first purchase was the new Nine Inch Nails album, Ghosts I-IV. I would have purchased it directly from NIN for the same price ($5) but I wanted to show my support for Amazon's Linux release in addition to NIN. Trent Reznor has really impressed me with his actions when it comes to digital music delivery.

My mp3s were saved in the default location ~/Music/Amazon MP3. That directory, of course, is configurable. My only problem with the download was there was no artwork included. Had I purchased it directly from NIN I would have also gotten a "PDF book covering the whole release" and a "digital extras pack with wallpapers, icons, and other graphics". Good thing I can still download that stuff for free from NIN. So Trent, don't use me as a statistic in your "Free Downloaders" because I paid for it, just not from you directly. If there wasn't a Linux downloader from Amazon I would have gotten it from your directly.

I just tried to download the free version (first 9 of 36 tracks + artwork/pdf) and it just stopped after about 9mb into the 82.5mb download. I wonder if they are getting slammed with traffic or if the flakiness of my Internet connection over the last few days is to blame. I will try it again later I guess. I want all those little extras!

One more thing about the download from NIN directly. You can also get lossless FLAC or lossless Apple versions from them too. How awesome is that? I am not enough of an audiophile to want a FLAC version but I can appreciate the availability of one.

This native Linux version sure beats the hacks and work arounds it took to buy music using the Windows version under Wine.

The Windows version under Wine is not so great

P.S. - Ghosts I-IV is good stuff. It is all insturmental and though I would enjoy some lyrics, this is a nice change and great music to work to.

What Ubuntu Brainstorm ideas are you voting for?

I am sure by now everyone and their brother has shared their excitement in a blog post about Ubuntu Brainstorm. Well here comes another.

Just over a year ago the massive computer manufacturer Dell started a site called Idea Storm. The purpose of this site was to get feedback from customers about what they would like to see from future Dell products and services. The site has been a great success and has helped to lead to such things as Dell selling preinstalled Ubuntu systems, Legal DVD playback on Dell Ubuntu systems and reducing all the preinstalled bloatware. Companies listening to their customers, who would have thought!

Ubuntu has decided to do the same thing. The are making it easier for us, their customers, to share our feedback.

I've already voted on a few things like:

And the one I really want to see is related to file meta data sorting in the file manager. I want to see and be able to sort by all those MP3 ID3 tags and my photos EXIF data, amongst other metadata. I marked one as a duplicate but I accidentally did it the wrong way. I wanted the primary idea to be "idea #1045: Nautilus: support file metadata in alternate view modes" instead. Go vote for this idea:

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Copying or moving files to an NTFS partition changes the modified date of the file on Linux

UPDATE 3/7/08: There is a fix thanks to Ubuntu Backports.
UPDATE 5/20/08: I wrote this post under Ubuntu 7.10. File modifications dates aren't being preserved under 8.10 either but for a different reason now.

I complained a while back about how copying files from my digital camera changed the modified date to the current time. Well now I can qualify that behavior a little more. It is a much more limited problem than I thought (though still a pretty big deal).

It appears that this only happens when copying a file to an NTFS partition. Ubuntu has only supported writing to NTFS partitions since release 7.10 (the current release I am running) thanks to NTFS-3G which has only been considered stable for a year (since February 2007) after 12 long years of development.

Want some proof and pretty screen shots? (I love some screen shots if you haven't noticed.) I created a file earlier today at 2:52:44 PM EST in my home folder on an ext3 partition.

The original file on an ext3 file system,
check out that modified date

Then I searched to see if I could find a work around, walked the dog and posted on Ubuntu Forums for help. Look at the subsequent accessed dates but the modified date that is intact.

Copying to another location on the ext3
file system retains the modified date

Copying to my external USB
FAT32 drive also works

But then I copy the same file to my NTFS partition. Look at that! Now the modified date is 4:15:15 PM EST instead of 2:52:44 PM EST like it should be and as it is when copying to ext3 and fat32.

But copying the same exact file to my old
My Documents folder on the Windows NTFS
partition changes the modified date! Argh!!

So how can I fix this? I don't know yet. I am not even sure if it is a bug or if it is just an unimplemented or misconfiguration. Either way, it is a problem. Lets hope someone in the Ubuntu forums has some ideas.

Ah, and after a little more research, this is in fact a known bug. #157396 - Copyng a file to a NTFS drive change the date and the time of the file Unfortunately it also doesn't look like there is much interest in fixing it.

UPDATE: It looks like there actually was a lot of interest in fixing it by the ntfs-3g developers. Wohoo! I think it was fixed in the November 20, 2007 release (release number 1.1120). Ubuntu 7.10 is running version 1.913 from September 13, 2007. I didn't have much luck upgrading to that release so I am not positive this fixes it but that is what the release notes make it sound like. Also, that is the release of ntfs-3g currently in the Hardy 8.04 repository.

But then it gets even better! (And by better I mean worse.) If I copy the file on the command line using the cp command then the modified date gets updated regardless of the destination partition, fat32 and ext3 included. This is unlike the copy in Nautilus where the modified date remains the same, as expected. Thanks for the consistency. UPDATE 2: It was pointed out to me that you can use the -p switch when using cp to preserve the mode, ownership and timestamps. Why isn't that the default?