Archive for December, 2009
Difficult to imagine what life is like for those who don’t have the luxury of an internet connection. For many living in the developing world, the experience of the Internet is mediated through Internet Cafes and less often than not, libraries. Updating an offline Ubuntu installation therefore represents a major challenge. Luckily there are some excellent projects which mitigate the problem.
Keryx is an amazing offline wxWidgets utility that allows users to update their machines whenever they find bandwidth on another computer.
Apt-on-CD is a tool with a graphical interface which allows you to create one or more CDs or DVDs (you choose the type of media) with all of the packages you’ve downloaded via APT-GET or APTITUDE, creating a removable repository that you can use on other computers
Apt-offline is a recently released terminal utility that promises to speed up development of Keryx. It can also be used as a stand-alone, though slightly more complex solution.
Here is the Debian Administration article
I found this great article on helping Linux users without broadband.
And there I was thinking it was my proxy service on the blink since I haven’t paid my bill for months. Turns out the latest Pidgin update is decidedly proxy unfriendly:
Pidgin 2.6.4 Changes Proxy Behavior Filed under: Miscellaneous, Tools — Julian @ 10:11 pm I use Pidgin for all of my IM functions including Facebook and Skype and I love the application. I especially like the OTR plug-in that allows me to have “private” conversations with my buddies regardless of the underlying protocol being used. I also use the Portable Apps version so that I can “take” my contacts, history, and other settings with me. I recently updated to the 2.6.4 version and after the update completed and I started Pidgin, I was unable to connect to any of my accounts. I use a remote HTTP proxy server to relay my IM connection so that restrictive corporate firewalls don’t block my IM accounts. I opened the debug window and after seeing the “Access Denied” message, I thought that it might be the proxy server itself. After verifying that nothing in the server configuration has changed recently, I started to look at other possibilities. I was able to configure Firefox to use the proxy server successfully, so I started to look at the Pidgin client as the culprit… I did a quick Google search and I found the reason. In the change-log for version 2.6.4 is a line in the libpurple component:
* Don’t send Proxy-Authorization headers to HTTP proxy servers until we’ve received a “407 Proxy Authentication Required” response from the server. (thecrux)
For some reason, the Squid Proxy Server that I use does not send this 407 response back and Pidgin never sends the credentials. So of course the Proxy Server replies with Access Denied since it does not allow unauthenticated users to use it. I’m sure that the developers fix the problem for a good reason, but it is still frustrating that existing working behavior in one version stops working in the next version. Until I can upgrade the Squid server or figure out how to make it send the 407 response, I’ll stay at version 2.6.3…
Thank you Julian, I would never have figured this out if it were not for your enlightening posting on the problem
As novelty goes the WWW cannot be beaten, but for many, the metaphor of interlinked pages that create a “spiders web” of information, now only accessible by the most sophisticated search engines, is a bewildering array of challenges. The least of which is that todays’ information society lacks any formal structure. Surfing the rough and diving into uncharted territory only to go down a rabbit hole is all part of the fun, but surely there is a better way? A way out of the disoganised library whose subject catalogue is designed by a cacophony of disparate view-points and not the uniform logic of librarians. Where then is the meta-catalogue, the civilised index of all the information on the Internet?
One solution is a return to the gopher protocol. At least this would be the starting point on any discussion about developing a better method of accessing information. Imagine what gopher could look like if it were updated with the tango icon set? Can Ubuntu bring a new logic to the gopher protocol?
GOPHER is a network protocol that enables multiple servers to create a single, uniform filesystem that transcends system architecure and operating systems (GOPHERSPACE). With GOPHER, information holds the most value. Since presentation is uniform across GOPHERSPACE, the user does not encounter any challenges in ‘learning’ a new site. Because of its simplicity and its emphasis on the importance of informational texts, GOPHER is ideal for those who are visually impared
For those who want to see what gopher is all about, you can install gopher in your terminal, or try Forg a new graphical browser for gopher written in python. Forg will let you browse the world-wide gopherspace and handles various types of media, including HTML and video. While the programme still needs a bit of spit and polish, and lacks a proxy option, its good to see some gopher applications being written.
sudo apt-get install forg
Many people think the http protocol has deprecated gopher, but that just isn’t true. Where do you think GOPHERs live? underground.
When you build your GOPHERSPACE on SDF, you are contributing to an underground network of systems that still believe in the gopher protocol. There is no commercialism, no banner ads, no spam, no pop-up ads. GOPHER gives you what you want: information and files (in any form) without the silliness of HTML and clumsiness of websites. No HTML development is needed to contribute to GOPHERSPACE.. since sites are uniform, all you need to do is upload or create your files
There are also various plugins for Firefox which turn the browser into a gopher client:
And a jump-off point for the gopher underground.
This is SheepShaver 2.3.1 running in Karmic. It was patched and compiled from a 2006 source snapshot. There is slightly newer code available from CVS, but the Linux code is not being maintained and SheepShaver is still not available in the Ubuntu repository. It appears most development of the wonderful PowerPC emulator is being done on OSX and Windows. A forked development would really assist Apple System 9 lovers on Ubuntu. If you want to see what all the fuss is about and wish to avoid the hassle of compiling, I’ve uploaded a patched deb here. Be warned, it’s the 2.3.1 unstable version.
UAE is the best Amiga emulator we have. Unfortunately the application in the Karmic repos segfaults and is badly maintained. I had to download the source and compile. Like cooking a meal. Works fine, except the sound isn’t exactly what it should be. If you want to test it. Here is the link to the deb compiled against Alsa. I might try this exercise again when I have the time, adding the < –with-oss flag> for the OSS open-sound server. Enjoy.
Yes there’s always IRC but if you want something a little more counter-cultural, why not try MUD? Multi-User Dungeons are the mainstay of the old-school UNIX BBS. Similar to IRC, the text-based chat & role-play is a lot more entertaining. To log into a MUD you will need to set up a shell account with an online BBS.
There are a number of shell accounts & BBSs available. The telnet BBS guide is a good place to start.
I ssh’ed into the Super Dimension Fortress, a Seattle-based BBS with an evocative name and set-up my account like this:
This took me through a setup in which I was asked to supply a username and password. I could then login with username@server.
Then using the unix commode programme available from the shell I quickly learnt how to join a room. Sound familier? MUDs are essentially chatrooms, but with a slightly different ethos and character. Some are exceedingly elaborate. I actuallyprefer the good old cyberspace hackers meeting up in text-mode. B&W or Colour, toggle on of off, you choose. To enter the real MUD game using the mud command, I chose a character and became a samurai leprechaun.
My first realisation on returning, was that today’s MUD, apart from the game, could make a nice addition to Pidgin, as a plugin. A better nCurses interface would also be cool in terms of development.
Whereas IRC is usually organised around a topic or channel, MUDs are very connected to a sense of place and presence on the Net. You can feel like you live and work in Seattle for instance, by joining SDF which also has a Texas presence.
MUD, considered by many to be some kind of Pre-Mosaic relic,, may have slipt under the radar, but thanks to Ubuntu, the shell is making a come-back. Chatting via a MUD is more anonymous than Facebook, and less of a chore than IRC, which is geared towards rapid communication. MUD is also a lot slower, and laid-back. Give it a try and let us know what you like or dislike.
UPDATE: There are two clients in the repos which one should consider. PuTTY is an sh client with some excellent options such as proxy. There is also Gnome-MUD, a GTK MUD client.
Those living on the bleeding edge of computing, ignore this. And those who keep up with the pace of change in Ubuntu, no need to read further. I moved from Hardy to Karmic with a fresh install and can’t be any happier. It’s a 12 month cycle as opposed to six-months in which two editions, Intrepid Ibex and Jaunty Jackolope have come and gone. Why am I so happy. Well, everything just works, except of course my Sheepshaver Apple emulator.
The notifications for Rythmnbox are great. My low-end iSonix webcam which I bought for R80 works. No need to compile a driver. I have pidgin doing its thing with cool plugins. Adobe AIR has given me a bunch of great applications like Tweetdeck. Google Chrome flies around, having come of age (no longer alpha). I have a more responsive, faster and slicker system. The change is more than noticeable. Pulseaudio just works (with some caveats). My Lexmark printer now functions after I moved from 64bit hell to the safety of 32bit. All in all, I have a lot to be thankful for with Karmic.
In fact, after installing the 15 channel graphic equaliser, which is still a bit buggy but improves my high fidelity audio and promises to bring a whole new world of audio plugins to the Ubuntu desktop, I must say, I have been transported into the inner realms of bliss by good karma which is manifesting in the community.
So here are a couple of things Ubuntu still needs to get right.
The thing about wordprocessors is not all wordprocessors are created equal. Some offer just barebones text editing, while others, like the leader MSword, are advanced enough to provide any writer with creature comforts like easy menus, great typography and spell-checkers that actually function on an academic level. Ubuntu Karmic comes with OpenOffice 3 (with docx support) and there is also the linux staple Abiword in the repos.
I was pleasantly surprised to find there are alternatives, like Oxygen Office Professional which is OpenOffice with Debian menus and added features, and NeoWin, which is OpenOffice with OSX menus. Both point towards an evolving ecosystem surrounding the OpenOffice suite which emphasises professional service over nuts and bolts computing. Don’t get me wrong, I am very happy that a free and open-source alternative to MSword exists, but I must admit, a desire to possess the same slick interface that MSword 2007 introduced. (Note: Another option is Siag Office, a free office package available on Unix which can be easily ported to Ubuntu. I also found wordgrinder, a console-based word-processor)
Surely it is time for the Ubuntu Community to come up with Human menus for the world’s number one open source wordprocessor? I don’t mean a new colour scheme. I mean the Human interface, the user aspect of computing which all too often gets lost in the abstractions of computer science and the pretensions of geekdom.