Monthly Archives: September 2014

Rant Wednesday: No Cookies For You!

Run a web site that blocks users who turn off cookies and java? How about rethinking your crappy, backwards attitude!

No, my little Linux blog is not going to change the world, though in this case, I wish it could…

If you take your security and privacy seriously, like me, you probably disable cookies and javascript in your web browser..

Tracking Cookies

We all know that web sites need to make money to stay in business. and we get that. Most commercial sites will use one of the many advertising companies like Google Adsense etc. to serve up advertising on their site. They do this by using cookies, little bits of text that will stay on your computer and tells them all kinds of things about you. Some of the data may include the last time you visited, your comment user name, what advertising you saw or clicked on etc.  Worse, they can be used to track you as you go from site to site in the same ad network.

Are mainstream sites like the news site below using cookies for evil?  No, but I deserve some privacy from your intrusive tracking!

Yes, we get it, we need to enable cookies if we want to participate, comment etc. But for those finding your site through a link from a news aggregator  and just want to read the story quick and move on, you are doing us all a disservice.

No cookies, no view our site!

No cookies? Go Away!


Javascript, can be misused to serve up virus and malware packages to your machine. This in turn can be used to turn your computer into a spam sending email server, botnet client, or even steal your personal financial information!

Yes, if you turn off javascript, many web sites will break. I get that. Javascript is a powerful way to do some really neat things in a web browser. The site below, actually displayes just fine, until their server notices that you have javascript turned off. They then forward you to a nag screen to complain!

No Javascript? Go away!

No Javascript? Go away!

But darn it web developers, completely blocking my access to your site because I have cookies turned off or javascript turned off is just short-sighted and dumb.  Web users are getting smarter about their privacy and safety on the web.

For many sites, it’s pretty easy to get around the no javascript complaint on their site by actually deleting the node that is sending the javascript warning. While that works much of the time, it doesn’t always.

Do we use cookies and javascript in our 7 sites? Sure we do, but all of them can be used without either!

To those sites who don’t play these stupid games, we thank you.

For sites that choose to block those of us who want a little privacy and security,  we’ll take our web surfing elsewhere until you grow up.



Privacy: Pidgin-OTR

We use Pidgin a lot on the farm, chatting back and forth between buildings while we get our farm chores done. There is a plugin for the Pidgin chat client that can make your chats private by encrypting them so you know you are talking to who you think you’re talking to, and prevent man in the middle snooping.

Open your Software Manager and search for pidgin-otr and install it.  Once installed, it’s time to activate and set up the plugin.

First, open Pidgin and select Tools—> Plugins and scroll down to the pidgin-otr plugin.

Pidgin-OTR Setup

Pidgin-OTR Setup

Once you check the box to the left of the description to turn on the plug in, then click the bottom Configure Plugin button to set up your private encryption key and other preferences.

Key Generation

Key Generation

Note that it can take awhile to generate the encryption key on an older, slow machine!

When you first chat with another user using pidgin-otr, the system will ask you to send a question and answer to expect back and forth to authenticate each other. After that, your chats are private and secure!


Linux Tools: Make It WIth Putty

Here on the farm, we have a ton of Linux computers that need to be tended to for updates etc.  and having to go to each machine, one at a time would be a huge pain!

So how do we do it? Simple, we use PuTTY!

Putty SSH Client

Putty SSH Client

Using SSH is a quick and easy way to connect to other Linux computers to do administrative work on them. PuTTY is a wonderful tool to keep all of your settings for each machine you connect to within easy reach. Once configured, all you need to do is load a saved profile and off you go.

To install PuTTY, just open your Software Manager and search for it by name.

Educational: For The Little Ones

Have a youngster or two in the house, or coming to visit? A wonderful, educational software package to keep them busy can be found in your Software Manager. It’s called Gcompris.

Once installed, Gcompris has a nice collection of educational memory games, as well as just plain fun games to play!

Learning the Keyboard

Learning the Keyboard

Many of the activities involved learning how to use a keyboard and mouse. Essential sills that little ones need to learn. Later, the software can take kids through reading, understanding the difference between capital and lower case letters, basic maths and many other early learning skills.

Later, there are several fun games to play, like chess, and connect 4.

Connect 4

Connect 4

A world of warning though, when launched, the software jumps right to full screen mode, with lots of loud music. You’ll want to set the window size and music volume ahead of time, to your liking.



Breaking Things: FFMPG

There have been a bunch of updates to Mint 17 lately, and I always dutifully apply them as they become available.

In one of the last updates however, a couple of things changed that I didn’t really  realize until I went to use the software that was  deleted during the updates.

My ClamTK and ClamAV antivirus package and GUI went away. Turns out I was using a legacy version. Simple enough to fix, just went to the ClamTK site and got the updated version.

The other interesting package that went away was ffmpeg. I’ve been using that wonderful tool for years and years. It was for a long time, the only way to convert about any media type, to about any other kind of media.

Thing is, it’s deprecated. and I just wasn’t paying attention when it happened. Of course there is a replacement, and it’s already part of Mint 17. It’s called avconv and it lives in the /usr/bin/ directory.

WinFF Setup

WinFF Setup

All that I needed to do for the software that I had using ffmpeg, was to change the conversion engine to avconv instead.

The lesson learned: As you do updates, it’s a good idea to actually read the information pop-ups that are telling you what is going to be updated, deleted etc. I usually do, but these changes got right past me.