Colored terminal window text on Ubuntu (Linux)

After a clean install, or simply access to a new machine, I often find it helpful to enable colored prompts in the terminal/command line environment.
For standard Ubuntu / Debian / Linux environments, this only requires you to remove a comment from a single line in a config file.

In /home/%USERID%/.bashrc you will find the following text, the last line simply needs to have the hash removed:

# uncomment for a colored prompt, if the terminal has the capability; turned
# off by default to not distract the user: the focus in a terminal window
# should be on the output of commands, not on the prompt
#force_color_prompt=yes

Open vi/vim or your editor of choice and remove it and you are done!

NOTE: If you are using Nautilus, you will not see this file as it is hidden, choose “View”, “Show Hidden Files” (CTRL-H) and it should appear.

Firefox Beta and Aurora Release Channels

With the recent rapid release cycle (currently every 6 weeks) for Firefox, it’s a good idea for developers and testers to use the upcoming release versions before they are released to the general public.

For Windows users, you can download and install an appropriate version from:
http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/channel/

On Ubuntu, it’s a little more difficult, but rather straight-forward:

  1. Open a new Terminal window
  2. sudo add-apt-repository ppa:mozillateam/firefox-next
  3. sudo apt-get update
  4. sudo apt-get install firefox

REFERENCES:

That’s all…. Happy Testing!

NoMachineNX – SSH Remote Desktop for Linux/Unix

I’ve used a variety of means to connect to remote machines. Long ago, PCAnywhere was common place, later replaced by VNC and Windows Remote Desktop (RDP). As I’ve migrated nearly all of my work to Ubuntu, I’ve found that VNC is generally too slow, and SSH alone only gives access to my command line environment. NX over SSH allows for efficiently visual access to my entire desktop and all accessories remotely, regardless of my client system.

Setup on the server/host system only takes a few minutes, but is only available on Linux and Solaris. Installation of SSH on the host is required first.

Setup of the client is even easier, and is available for Linux, OS/X and Windows.

NOTE: A “NX Free Edition” is available for use.

REFERENCES:

Linux/Windows file cleanup

If you make heavy (or even typical) use of your computer, you’ll often notice that it just doesn’t seem as fast as it once was. For a slight increase in performance, disk space and to generally remove some of the ‘temporary’ files/cruft that are routinely written to disk you have a few options.

Here are a few of my current favorites for doing ‘Spring Cleaning’ on my computers… BleachBit and CCleaner

BleachBit is available on all major platforms (Windows, OS/X, Linux).

Hard drive forensics

This one is quite eye-opening. I recently suffered a hard-drive failure and was unable to boot either operating system in a multi-boot environment. The only item not backed up was a large number of photos and movies that I had accumulated and intended to burn to a CD/DVD. Using a ‘Live’ Ubuntu CD, I was able to use the Foremost program to analyze the drive media and locate all JPG and MPG files and copy them to a ‘safe’ location.

What’s frightening here is that these files are not located by their filenames, but by their contents… largely the first few bytes of the file itself when stored on disk. In my experience, Foremost was easily able to parse NTFS and EXT4 partitions.

Word to the wise… this is only possible if you do not use encryption to obscure the data on the drive itself. I’d personally recommend enabling the options provided by your operating system itself if you store sensitive data. Alternately, software like TrueCrypt can be used to hide specific assets.

Happy Recovery!

Linux kernel updates without reboot

Here’s another great reason to use Linux over Windows.    Ksplice Uptrack provides for runtime patching of the Linux kernel without rebooting of the machine.  This has great advantages where you need to maintain the security of a server but have limited opportunites to reboot due to SLA’s (Service Level Agreements).   Ubuntu Linux was the first supported operating system, other variants are now available too, though often for a fee.

Atari 2600 Emulator

While it was not technically a personal computer, the Atari 2600 was one of the first pieces of technology that I had experience with in my youth. I’ll likely outline the progression of machines/operating systems in a future post.

I’ve heard about Stella for quite a while, but never had any time to fiddle with it. Recently I found that Ubuntu includes an installer for it and took a chance look. Other versions are available for MacOS and Windows.

I also found a few websites that contain ROM images for the emulator and was playing some of my old games in a matter of minutes.

For those legal types out there… I actually do own the games that I played, in fact, they are currently boxed up in my basement.

References:

Happy Retro Gaming!!!

Free Computer Based VOIP

I’ve used a variety of computer based VOIP over the years. My current preference in this space is Skype as it’s free for computer-to-computer calls and even allows calls to and from regular phones (at a fee).

Video and text chat are also provided, as is ‘white-boarding’ with additional plugins.

Skype is available for most platforms, even mobile phones… I’ve found that while the Windows beta versions has some additional features, the Linux release is rock-solid.

http://www.skype.com/

There are also several hardware based solutions, like Vonage, available to replace your traditional phone service… perhaps we’ll cover that later.

Skype me!

Open Source FTP Client (and Server)

At one time, FTP was the only means available to move large files, times have changed but the need still exists, especially for developers like myself.

For years I’ve happily used FileZilla for my FTP needs, the client is available on most platforms. There is also a server available for Windows as most Linux variants already provide FTP.

Happy file transfers!

Open Source Operating Systems

I’ve posted a lot of information about the common ‘free’ open-source software that I routinely use, however… I just realized that I missed one of the most important applications you use, the Operating System itself.

While my “day job” relegates me to use Windows products for much of my work, I do a lot of additional work at home and for friends.

Currently I use and highly recommend Ubuntu Linux for most users, it’s got most of the usability features of Microsofr Windows and Apple OS/X, but without all of the additional baggage. It’s updated regularly, with new releases every 6 months and software patches made available almost daily. Updates are as non-intrusive as the Windows Update process, and only a very few ever require a reboot.

To quiet the other Linux users out there, I’ve used a lot of Linux ‘flavors’ in the past… each has had it’s place and may do so again…. this is my opinion for the moment and will likely change again in a few years. 🙂

Here’s the list:

Cheers!