Category: Q&A


I have been receiving quite a few messages lately suggesting I accept donations.
I’ve always been somewhat reluctant since I don’t want to be that guy that begs for money.

However, I would be extremely grateful for any donations.
Therefore, in the light of everything open-source, you can now make donations via BitCoin.

So, if you wish to make a donation, you can do so by sending it to: 1Mm7a38bATKB9xUxVVqwdywb3yb9jrvaPt

Thank you for your support!

Happy New Year everybody!

It’s already 2013 and I’m glad to see that you all survived the invisible apocalypse of December the 21st 2012.
2012 has been a strange year in the world of Linux.
We saw no real major change in the world of Linux until the last few months.
And those changes weren’t small either, in fact they were huge!

First we seen Valve’s closed testing of Steam, an app which has been dreamed of for quite some time now.
It has since then moved into open beta and it’s everything we have expected.
Originally we all thought Valve decided to cater for us Linux fans but with the announcement of the Steam gaming console, it is fairly obvious why the move had been made.
However, regardless of the motives, we now have Steam and it works very well.

The end of the year also finished rather ominous when Canonical announced that it was going to announce the unveiling of a new exciting product but wouldn’t reveal what until early January.
All kinds of ideas of what it could be started flooding the internet.
Some said it could be an Ubuntu gaming console, and others had even more fantastic ideas.
However, the unveiling was in my opinion even more amazing than all of them.
We were introduced to the Ubuntu Phone.

When I first learned about it I was excited but also slightly worried.
I love Android at the moment but would give it up in a moments notice for an Ubuntu Phone.
And that’s not because I’m an Ubuntu fanboy because I’m not, but because it’s pure Linux.
For those of you who don’t know the difference in terms of Linux inclusion for these phones, let me quickly explain.
It’s often said that Android is a Linux phone, which is technically correct, but not as much as you might hope.
The underlying kernel is in fact Linux, the same as on a computer.
However, what makes Android work is a form of Java.
The entire operating system is actually running Java, which slows it down slightly and let’s be fair, is not Linux.
Ubuntu however are going to cut out Java and make it a complete Linux phone.

The only issue I had was that like so many others I want it, and I want it preferably right now!
But I’m not the wealthiest of people and to buy yet another phone when I really can’t afford it, was slightly worrying.
But, it turns out you don’t have to buy a new phone at all!
In fact, if you have a shiny Samsung Nexus then you can download Ubuntu OS towards the end of February and load it right onto the device for nothing.
You will have an Ubuntu Phone before anyone else and for absolutely nothing.
And even if you have an older phone (like me), then don’t worry, Ubuntu have said they will be ensuring that this OS runs on older hardware too, although you will have to sacrifice the docking to a desktop experience.
Please note that February’s release will have some features missing as they are still working on it, but the majority of the features are already working and all the phone services (calling, texting etc) will work. However, whether a marketplace is working yet is unclear, so it might mean not having any apps to put on there yet. But we will see.

So what will 2013 bring?

Well, the Ubuntu Phone and of course improvements to Steam.
We will also see two new releases to Ubuntu desktop and perhaps even Ubuntu TV.
So if you are a fan of Ubuntu, I think this year will be the year where you can fill your house with everything Ubuntu.
And for Linux as a whole?
I don’t think it will be the year of the Linux desktop.
I say this because I think that ship sailed a long time ago.
Although I personally cannot see the death of computers for tablets for instance (which I feel is now declining), I do think that the desktop is not as important as it once was.
The time that the race for the desktop was important was the days before smartphones, and now that we can get our information and entertainment from many sources, I think the desktop has to share it’s world.

But what about this blog?

Well, I have many personal projects going on at the moment and I think there will be some new ones heading my way. But I like to share my knowledge and I want to see everyone having a brighter future so I have some ideas lined up for you.

Firstly I will be making a series entirely dedicated to the new user.
I will be covering everything from using the desktops (Unity, Gnome3 and KDE) as well as using the terminal, administration and a few more things to put the new user in charge of his/her system.
But for those that are already familiar with these things, and those hoping to make a career out of Linux, I want to try something interesting too.

I will be creating an LPI1 category.
Here I will be showing everything you need to know about Linux for Junior Linux Admins, and that will help you to get an LPI certificate.
Now you most likely will need to read books etc too, but I will try and cover every subject that would come up in an exam, and all I will ask back for it is a cup of coffee if we ever cross paths, that’s not a bad deal is it?

So all in all, let’s make this a great year and I hope we can celebrate it together

If you are getting a little bored by the ‘Steam posts’ lately, please do let me know, but I thought it would be nice to be ahead of the game.

If you are one of those people who is super-excited about Steam natively on Linux, then you will soon run out of excitement when you realise that most games, and the really popular ones, are not yet available for us Linux users.
So how cool would it be if we could play Windows games through Steam on Linux so you have all those features of Steam whilst playing those games, and having your Steam friends know that you are playing those games?

As you can imagine, we will be using Wine for this to be possible, and in particular: PlayOnLinux, when you are done you should have something like this:

As the screenshot above shows, here I have Europa Universalis III inside the native Steam client. This obviously isn’t an official Steam game, therefore it is limited. However, when you play the game, you still have the Steam features

And when you are playing this Wine game, it does show up in chat exactly what you are playing:

Note how it states that I am playing the non-Steam game Europa Universalis III.

Funny enough, this isn’t difficult to do, and has many advantages.
Rather than having your games scattered around, you can have all your games, Linux or Windows inside one client: Steam.
So let’s look how I did it.

For ease and convenience, I used PlayOnLinux.
This is a pretty Wine GUI and allows you to make seperate Wine bottles and install games from a list or manually with minimal effort. For more information on PlayOnLinux, have a look at another post as I won’t be covering that here.

If you have PlayOnLinux installed and have some games running on it, you are ready to go. I do recommend having a few games (or just one) installed through PlayOnLinux before you begin.

Begin by creating a directory in your home folder which I am calling ‘.POLGames’.
I am using the .(dot) in front of the folder name to keep it hidden and keep my home directory clean.

Next, you will want to keep that folder open, then fire up PlayOnLinux.
Select the game you want to add to Steam and click on ‘Create a shortcut’ on the right-hand panel.
This should have created a shortcut to that game on your Desktop.

Right-click on the shortcut and click on ‘Properties’ and then you should see ‘Command’ under the name, and description. This should be filled in by a line typically starting with ‘/usr/share/playonlinux –run …’.
Select that entire line and copy it (Ctrl+C) as we will need this later.
Then close that window and drag the shortcut to the directory we created, in my example ‘.POLGames’.

Now open Steam for Linux.

Click on ‘Library’ and at the bottom click on ‘+ ADD A GAME’ and then ‘Add a Non-Steam Game’.

You should have a window open which takes a moment to populate.
When it is done, look through this list and see if the game is listed and add it, if it is not listed, don’t worry, we will add it manually.

Click on ‘Browse’ and go to ‘/home/USERNAME/.POLGames/’ (if you used .POLGames, otherwise whatever you called the directory). You can move up a directory by clicking on the icon of a folder and an up arrow at the top.

You should find all the .desktop files of games you have added there earlier from the created shortcuts you placed in there earlier.

Select the game you want to add and click ‘Open’.

If all went well, then you should have it at the bottom of your games list.
If the name is incorrect, you can change it in a minute.

Next we need to change the run command since it will just open PlayOnLinux if you click ‘Play’.

Now right-click the game you added to the list in Steam and select ‘Properties’.
This should open the ‘shortcut’ menu.

Here you should see a button named ‘CHOOSE ICON…’, the name of the game, ‘Target’, ‘Start In…’ and a button named ‘CHANGE…’.
If the name of the game was incorrect, change it in the text-box underneath ‘CHOOSE ICON…’.
Now then, underneath target you need to remove what is in that box and replace it with the line we copied earlier from the PlayOnLinux shortcut command.
We can leave the rest alone, just click ‘CLOSE’.

Now you can click ‘PLAY’ and you are able to play the Windows game inside Steam.

Have fun!

Since there seems to be some misinformation, misunderstanding and general confusion about viruses on Linux, I hope to be able to explain a few things.

As we all know, a virus is a program that has malicious intent.
There are many forms in which they appear, but there is not reason for me to explain the ins and outs of virii, so let’s crack on with the issue at hand.

I will be looking at the difference between the Windows OS and Linux OS (specifically Ubuntu). I would use Mac OSX too, but eventhough it’s a Unix operating system, I have not used it enough to be able to speak about it confidently.

Let me start off by dispelling one common held belief.

It’s often said that the reason for a lack in viruses on Linux is because such a small amount of users worldwide use Linux, it is better for virus programmers to target Windows than it is Linux.

Every part of this statement is false.
If you are a clever virus programmer, you are better off targeting Linux than you would be Windows.
Windows is a Desktop operating system which could render home users and businesses useless.
Whilst this seems a great idea, it’s not very clever.
Since the majority of worldwide servers run a Linux distrobution, targeting them would be far more interesting, since they are connected more vitally to others than any home computer or single business.
For instance, if you were to target a virus to the server of a major internet company, instead of it irritating the people in head office, you are now shutting the company down.

But Linux isn’t just servers and a few home computers. There is the Android OS, many car computers, robots and even space systems are running Linux.
In fact, I actually believe more people on this planet use Linux than any other OS.
Actually, if you are anti-Linux, I think you most likely are using Linux many times a day.

So with that myth dealt with let’s actually look at the real issue.

Let us look at the system structure on a Windows OS and it’s security, or lack of.
And I’m not just talking about anti-virus here by the way.

At it’s core, the file structure begins at the hard drive on which the OS is installed, this is usually C:
For comparison purposes, we will call this point ‘root’. Since everything starts from this point, root is possibly the best word for it.

From root, you typically find (on a 32bit system) the Windows folder, Program Files folder, Users folder, and perhaps some others.

When you enter the Windows folder, and head on over to the System32 folder, you will find a lot of files.
These files are the core of a Windows system.
If you have ever encountered the annoying Blue Screen of Death or unrecoverable system crashes, the most likely place where things have gone wrong is in this folder.

Now simply open a file which is vital to the system with Notepad, and change something and save it, or delete a few files (by the way this is for illustrative purposes, DO NOT DO THIS, I will not be held responsible) and congratulations, you have just broken Windows.
Simple isn’t it?

Let me just say before I get told how wrong I am, that I am building this on Windows XP and perhaps Vista. I have never used Windows 7, and Vista was extremely brief, so I expect things to have changed.

What this comes down to is simple security.

It’s all well having anti-viruses but if your system is so easy to tamper with, it’s like lying awake at night with a baseball bat in case burglars come in whilst leaving your front door open. You are more or less prolonging the inevitable.

Now let us look at Linux.

Linux begins at it’s root, actually known as root.
Root in Linux is not given a letter like in Windows, rather it’s symbol is a forward slash (/).
From this point, all the file structure starts.
Linux does not like to throw every important file in one general folder.
Every type of folder holds it’s specific type of file.
For instance, all the configuration files are held in /etc, and /usr hold application files.

However, it gets a little more complicated than that.

For those folders you always need an administration password.

There is also a folder in the root directory called /home.
Within this folder you will find folders named after the different users of the computer.
Going into these folders will hold all the personal files such as pictures, music, videos, etc etc.
But typically, hidden away are separate copies of configuration files and applications.
These do not require a password.

This serves multiple purposes.
Firstly, if for an application such as Emesene (a Linux Windows Live Messenger application) you have individual configuration files within your own home folder, it means that each person has their own login name shown, and other users aren’t shown.
Secondly, if something does not require the use of important administrative programs, then it would make more sense to have it in the home folder.

So let’s now look at how viruses can be made and how easy with each OS.
Technically speaking, if I wanted to just cause damage and nothing else, all I would need to do for Windows is to create an application that deletes files in the Windows folder.
Then I would have achieved my goal and usually without problems in security.

With Linux it’s a different story.
If I wanted to create damage, I would first have to think of where the damage has to be done.
If I simply wanted to damage users files, then I could write a script that deletes things in the users directory because that requires no administrator passwords.
However, it would make no change to the OS which would still run just as well.

If I wanted to damage the system and render it useless, then I rely on skill and the user being somewhat naive.

Firstly, I could write a script that would empty the harddrive.
Funnily, if you are running Linux, whilst still using it, you could empty the harddrive, although most Linux distributions no longer allow you to run the script needed, which for obvious reasons I’m not going to supply.

The issue with this is no matter whether you create a cunning app, or a script, it requires administration rights. Which in debian based systems is sudo and more server style OS’s as su.
They will then be asked for their password.

Now if someone is naive and hasn’t checked the code and just runs it, of course it will do damage.
But usually someone will have checked the code and warned others.
If they aren’t naive they won’t run it.

Also an added bonus that Linux has is their ideals for OpenSource.
Most software is written using scripts (like Bash) or languages (like Python) which most times have the sourcecode easily obtainable and open to scrutiny.
Meaning that the chances in passing a virus in even complex applications is very very small.

But you might also be wondering how anti-viruses work.
Even though that is slightly irrelevant to this article, I do want to explain.

Anti-virus software is not all magical with it’s ability to know what a program does and therefore stop it in it’s track.
In fact, it works totally different than that.

If you have anti-virus software you will have noticed that you hear that a database has been updated, or is not up to date.
What happens is the people who work for companies like Norton, and AVG, find out there is a new virus on the loose.
They scrutinize a copy of this virus and how it reacts.
Then they record it’s patterns in a database which is sent to you.
If you catch that virus it checks the database to see if it matches any in the database and then stops it.
So this also means that if you are the first person to get the newest most evil virus ever, your in trouble since it isn’t in the database.

Now there are many anti-virus software on the market for Windows, but only a couple for Linux.
Most of the basic reasons why I have outlined.

But there is also the point of arrival for the different OS’s.

Windows users are used to getting their software from a website, where, if we are honest, anybody could have created it for whatever purpose and even under different guises.

Linux doesn’t approach software this way.
Linux uses package management. Ubuntu uses the Ubuntu Software Centre, and Debian uses Synaptic for example.
These package managers are thoroughly checked so that you know that whatever software you download is safe.
Sometimes you download software from websites but this isn’t always encouraged, and usually someone warns you if it’s not safe.

Now these are not all the reasons for the reason why Linux viruses are rare, for they do exist.
But they are the most basic reasons.

My advice:
If you cannot find a piece of software you are after in the software centre or Synaptic, and have to download from a website.
First ensure it is safe by seeing what others have to say about it.
If someone promotes a script (as I have for Paltalk and Lotro) first see what others have said about it, and then if you have not enough information, read through the code, or have someone else read through it, to ensure that it’s safe to use.
And obviously, if a script or program asks you for your password, don’t just jump in and give it, find out why it needs it.

A few years ago a picture was leaked from a Microsoft course for businesses selling computers.
The picture showed a slideshow regarding Linux. It gave mythological ‘facts’ about the limitations of Linux compared to Windows.
Mentions of no MP3 player compatibility, no DVD support and Word documents support, there was also the lack of games.

Nowadays we know that MP3 players work perfect and DVD support is most often out of the box.
But gaming seems to still be a reason for many people to not use Linux.

I want to introduce those new to Linux to the choices they have for gaming on Linux.
It’s actually a lot easier than you may think.

So, let’s see what options we have!

Native Linux Games

By native we mean games that were made for Linux.
These usually come in the form of .deb files (or .rpm if your using a RedHat based system) a .bin file or a .run file.
The good side to this is that there are no difficult steps to follow, and you know they run optimally on Linux.

The downside to native Linux games are…well…the real popular games are mostly absent in this list.
But really, that depends on what type of person you are.
I have to admit, I play games neither for their graphics, nor their popularity.
If a game has a great story, or is just great fun to play, then I’m very interested.

If you are a person who absolutely loves first person shooters. Then Linux is heaven for you. As the amount of FPS in the Software Center and websites for Linux is rediculous.
But, if you are a person who wants to keep up with the latest trends in games, then you will find Linux somewhat lacking.
But, there are other options for you.

Wine

Wine stands for Wine Is Not an Emulator.
And what it does not do (since so many people seem to think this), is to emulate Windows a bit like VirtualBox or VMWare.
What it does is convert the signals it gets from programs or games to native Linux equivalents.
This makes sense, since many report that many programs and games designed for Windows run better through Wine. This would not happen if it was an emulator since it would require the Windows system resources which run on top of the Linux ones, making it do more than Windows alone, and therefore run slower.

However, Wine runs Windows apps on Linux, that’s the point.
But before you get all excited, this does not mean that whatever you throw at it will work.
There are a few programs and apps that simply do not work.
Luckily for you, Wine has come a long way since it’s beginnings and there is a far greater chance in something working, than not working.

The upside to Wine is that it’s free, works for games and programs alike and has a fantastic community behind it.
They have an AppDB(Database) which means you can search for a program or game on there to see if it works well or not.

The downside to Wine is that it’s not for the faint hearted.
Whilst it’s not rocket science and if your quite comfortable on Linux it’s not too difficult to use, for new beginners it’s quite difficult.
Also, it’s fairly bare boned.
Especially with games you will find that you need to install extra components such as DirectX in order to get games to work.

Crossover Games (Non-free)

If you are willing to pay money to get games to work with minimal trouble and some commercial support for when it’s not working, then maybe Crossover Games is something worth considering.
Crossover Games is an application built on top of Wine.
It allows you to select a game from a list within the application (not all games are listed) and follow three small steps and it will set up the game with the correct version of Wine, all necessary drivers or additional programs it needs, and without needing to grab headache tablets your game will be set up ready for you to play.
You can also visit their site (all links at the bottom of this post) and if you find a game you want to install, there is a possibility you only have to click on a button on the page and it will install it for you. It couldn’t be easier.

The upside to Crossover Games is the ease with which you can get games to install and work. You don’t need to worry about using Wine, installing extra components since it’s all done for you. You also get great support, and because you pay, it’s like any commercial support, it is answered as quickly as possible.

The downside to Crossover Games is that it costs money. Although there is a demo available, the fact that it’s based on Wine (which is free) and you basically pay to ease it’s use, makes you want to think again. Don’t get me wrong, support is good, and I have used it happily for sometime, but if you already paid for the game, you might not want to pay for having to play it.

PlayOnLinux

PlayOnLinux is like Crossover Games in it’s aim, except it is built by a community rather than a company, it doesn’t have commercial support and it’s free.
PlayOnLinux is also built on top of Wine, and makes installing games a breeze.
You select a game from the list, and it will install the correct version of Wine, necessary drivers and components and makes it ready for you so you can just play the game rather than trying to get it to work.
Sometimes you will have a game that isn’t listed, and if you find it works on Wine through their AppDB, you also have the option to install it manually.

The upside of PlayOnLinux is the ease with which you can install games, and it’s great community support. The list of games is big and always growing with the latest games on the list. I also find an upside that you can remove the shortcuts on your Desktop if you like since it makes a nice list of the games you have installed available when you open PlayOnLinux, and you can just click on one and then click on Play to start the game.

The downside to PlayOnLinux is it’s support. Some installers are not always clear or sometimes outdated. However 99% of the times it works perfectly.

My recommended choice:

Since native Linux games are obviously the best choice, I’m going to exclude that from my choice as it would always be number one.

Out of the remaining three my choice would be:

PlayOnLinux

I have found myself using PlayOnLinux for all Windows games that work.
If a game is not in the list, I install it using PlayOnLinux manually just for organisation.
When a game is listed it’s a case of Next Next Next Finish and you can’t argue with that.
Whether you play World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings Online, Call of Duty series, Fifa or anything else, you will find PlayOnLinux perfect!

Regarding non-listed games:
If you have a game and it’s not in the list, don’t dispair. Go to the Wine AppDB in the link at the bottom and check whether it works, and on which version of Wine.
Then using PlayOnLinux in the games list at the bottom click on the link for non-listed programs and set up a new prefix (a prefix prevents one messed up app from messing up others), select the version of Wine to use, what extra components you need and then install the game.

Please note that the version of PlayOnLinux in the Ubuntu Software Center is almost always out of date, so please use the link at the bottom to use the newest version.

Links

Native Linux Games

www.lgdb.org
http://www.penguspy.com
http://www.happypenguin.org/
www.humblebundle.com

Wine

http://www.winehq.org/

http://appdb.winehq.org/

Crossover Games

http://www.codeweavers.com/products/cxgames/

PlayOnLinux

http://www.playonlinux.com/en/
http://www.playonlinux.com/en/download.html

Help a Linux guy; I need some advice

A little personal post here to see if anyone out there can help me out.

I am a Linux guy living in Holland.
I’m 26 and have used Linux for around 10/11 years now, but I made a slight misjudgement many years ago and now I am struggling to get a career.

Here’s the thing; I was born in Holland and aged 12 I moved to the United Kingdom and did my studies there until I was 16.
I was a big fanatic of Linux but weirdly enough, I never thought I should head into that direction when I was young so never did any studies in IT or Linux.

However, after school I found myself working in an office working with Linux and haven’t done anything else ever since.
I never had problems finding work in that sector as I have plenty of relevant work experience, and in England that’s very valuable.

About 4 years ago, I moved back to Holland, and there the problems started.
You see, Holland is a diploma country.
Your work experience is as good as useless here, if you do not have the relevant certification.
In fact, here in Holland you need a diploma to collect garbage (true story).

So, I enrolled for a university course (HBO) in IT.
I quickly realised it was just plain stupid.
4 year course, costing a lot of money, and they were unbelievably anti-linux.
But worst of all, Linux was covered for the extent of a whole 4 weeks. That’s 4 weeks out of 4 years!

I stopped after a year and a half.

Now here nobody wants to hire me purely because I don’t have qualifications. In fact, one interviewer actually told me she knew I could easily do this job, but the fact I did not have certification meant I was not the right candidate.
Also, here they don’t seem to recognise the LPI, RedHat or any other pure Linux certifications. All they recognise is the HBO (did I mention it covers Linux for 4 weeks???).

So does anyone here have any advice for me?
What can a guy like me do?

N.B. Unfortunately this guide no longer works.
Paltalk now does not work due to the discontinuation of Prism.
Also, Wine no longer works with the latest version of Paltalk.

I seem to be writing a lot of tutorials on possible fixes for Paltalk on Linux.
It seems to be a big issue as most of my traffic shows thats the number one topic.

Unfortunately, the people at the top of Paltalk seem to have a real dislike to the Linux community, and it’s not exactly a smartly built application.

First of all, Paltalk has a reliance of Internet Explorer. Without having that installed, you cannot look at the chatroom lists, or enter the rooms.
Luckily, Wine has this issue fixed since Winetricks allows you to install IE on Wine.
But it seems that whenever a new version is released (which lately NEEDS to be updated), it no longer works with Wine.

The current state of Paltalk through Wine is as follows, it will install, it will run, and if you followed my other tutorial on getting it to run, you can enter rooms and do what you do on Windows.
However, it’s very unpredictable as it seems to crash randomly.

Paltalk will not support Linux, and their answer to a Linux version is that Paltalk Express is a perfect version for us.
Yeah right!

I have given up on trying to get it stable on Wine, and now I am going to leave it with Express.

Paltalk Express

You are probably wondering why on earth I am providing a tutorial for a browser based service.
Firstly, we might aswell make it look partly app-like, and secondly, a lot of people have issues with it I have a fix for.

You can use your browser to go to Paltalk Express, but I would recommend downloading Mozilla Prism.
Opening Prism will allow you to create a webapp from a site. Simply enter Paltalk as the name, and the url as http://express.paltalk.com.
Tick the box to create a desktop shortcut and that’s that.

Now let me adress a problem a lot of people have.

The mic or camera feature does not work!

This is incorrect, and easy to fix.

The problem is that Flash does not always ask you whether you give permission for cam and mic, so we need to tell Flash it’s fine to use.

Go to this site: http://www.macromedia.com/support/documentation/en/flashplayer/help/settings_manager06.html

You will see a long list of websites in the box, scroll down until you get mentions of ‘express.paltalk.com’.
Highlight that and tick the box saying ‘Always allow’…do not select ‘Always Ask’ since this will NOT work.
Go to the other tabs and do the same.

Now when you log into Paltalk Express, you can use mic, and cam.

Enjoy

I have read a lot of your comments and my post on whether Ubuntu was getting better or worse was particularly interesting.

It’s clear that many of you are unhappy and to some extent annoyed at the state Ubuntu is in.

So my question to you all is, if you could take charge of Ubuntu, what would you change and how would it look?

In order to provide you with the best service we can, it is important that you tell us how, so why not take the following poll to tell Ubuntu Army what would make this service better for you by clicking on the link below. To get back to the site afterwards, simply click on the preview window on the right side of the poll after the results.

What would you like to see more information about at Ubuntu Army?

Thank you so much.