Tag Archives: software

Lock Down Firefox, With Public Fox Extension

Another problem solved

Something  plaguing us here on the farm has been  our adult autistic son installing Windows software to his Linux computer.

Because he is so skilled in the original Windows Paint software, we have WINE installed on his Linux Mint computers so he can run Paint. The trouble with this arrangement is that even though he only has user access to his Linux desktop, he can still install Windows software under WINE.

No amount of research, permission changes etcetera on may part could prevent this from happening. I was constantly going in at night and uninstalling things like YouTube downloaders, questionable tool bars full of malware and other nonsense. My son was also installing about every Firefox extension he stumbled upon. There were 20 different video downloaders alone, and dozens of other  bits and bobs.

Then this week, I stumbled upon Public Fox

Lock down Firefox with this great tool!

Lock down Firefox with this great tool!

This Firefox add on, allows you to really lock down Firefox. Locking users out of the ability to add or change other Firefox add ons,  locking out the about:cong, history saving, and most all the other Firefox preferences!

Best of all, this add on will allow you to block the downloading of any file type you wish, simply by entering the banned extension!

Files ending in .zip  .exe  .com  .bat  .pdf  now all blocked from even being downloaded. He can’t install a Windows program, if he can’t download it!

Further, you can specify web sites that you wish to block. Yes, I block many sites in my router, but my crafty son figured out that he could go to the secure version of a site and bypass the router’s ability to block it!  This has been a real problem lately, as he’d do a web search for a favorite cartoon character, and end up on a secure porn site that my router couldn’t block.

Using the features in Public Fox, I can block for instance, all .xxx sites, all sites with certain key words, along with my extensive list of sites I’ve compiled that I don’t want him on.

Installation is as easy as other add ons. Just search for it by name, install it, then click on Preferences and set it how you want it.

Preferences

Preferences

Then set the password for Public Fox. This way any changes to Firefox preferences and add ons will be locked tight!

Edit:

There are some reviews that state that this extension no longer works in Firefox. Further that it is serving up adds on its own. All I can say, is that running under Linux, using Firefox version 49, it seems to do exactly what it is supposed to do, and I am not getting any adds from it, though one of my other extensions is AdBlock Plus.

 

Kernel 4.4.15 Long Term Support Is Out – It’s Great!

In my  last post I mentioned that I had to downgrade my kernel for Linux Mint 18 because of freezing issues with the 4.4.0 that shipped with Mint 18.tux

With the announcement and release just yesterday of the newest long term support kernel 4.4.15, I decided to bite my lip and give it a try, as I really wanted to have all that is new and improved on my primary computer.

Heading back to the Ubuntu repository, I was able to find, download and install 4.4.15 using the same steps outlined in my last post.

My first impression after running it for 24 hours, it’s great!  Just 1 freeze so far, unlike all the freezing I had with 4.4.0.

Well done to the Linux Kernel team!

Making Mint 18 Work For My Situation: Downgrading The Kernel

I truly love Mint 18 Beta, but as I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been having random freezes, 2 or 3 a day when doing general computer work, and 100% of the time if I try to Normalize audio in Audacity. These freezing problems were also occurring in Mint 17.3 after I let a kernel update proceed.

After much experimenting while running Mint 17.3, I found  the 3.16 kernel to be totally stable on my current platform.. Wanting to run Mint 18 Beta for its obvious software upgrades, I decided to attempt to downgrade the kernel.

Because the Update Manager does not offer a way to downgrade kernels using the GUI, I did it manually.

First was to find the kernel I wished to install. The kernel I wanted is in the Ubuntu Trusty kernel repository.

It is extremely important that you download the kernel image for your hardware architecture!

The kernel designed for my machine is the: linux-image-3.16.7-992-generic_3.16.7-992.201604152257_amd64.deb package

Once downloaded, you can simply double click on the package to open the package installer automatically, and once the installer reports that all dependencies are met, go ahead and install it.

Next, reboot your machine, and using the grub menu, select the kernel you wish to boot into. If you don’t see a grub menu at system startup, you can follow these instructions:

To show the grub menu at boot, you need to edit the GRUB config file, as I was booting quietly, not displaying the boot menu. To do that, simply drop to a terminal and edit it with your favorite text editor. I use medit

$ sudo medit /etc/default/grub

will open your text editor in super user mode.

Edit grub

Edit grub

Editing Grub

Editing Grub

You’ll see in the above example, I’ve commented out, using the # symbol, to have the boot process ignore the two commands at lines 7 and 8. Doing this, will now let me see the grub boot menu at startup. Save and close the file, and then, it’s very important that you tell grub that you’ve changed it. Do this by issuing the command:

$ sudo update-grub

Now it’s time to reboot. When you do, at the grub boot window, arrow down to Select previous Linux version, and select that.

 

Since downgrading my kernel, I have had zero, none, nada freezes on this machine. All the applications that are designed for Mint 18 work without issue, and I am one happy goat farmer!

Showing Mint 18 with older kernel

Showing Mint 18 with older kernel

When you’re done, go ahead and uninstall the kernels that were causing you problems.

As new versions of kernel version 4.2+ are released, I will of course give them a try as time allows.

When Servers Blow Up – Disk Images Save The Day

We rely heavily on our ownCloud server here on the farm. Be it keeping up with our finances or maintaining health records on ourselves and our animals, we couldn’t live without it!

Friday brought severe weather in Florida, and a power outage that occurred during that storm was very hard on some of our electronics. We lost 3 cameras out in the goat pen, plus a computer monitor, and most importantly, our ownCloud server.

Yes, we have house-wide surge suppression, and yes, everything that got blown up was plugged into a further surge suppressor and UPS! Still, lightning goes where it wants, and on Friday, it chose those items.

Enter today’s tale of recovery. You see, while setting up an ownCloud server from scratch isn’t all that hard, it is very time consuming. Getting the Apache web server running just the way you want it, with SSL properly configured can take hours. But, not when you can work with a disk image!

Once our ownCloud server was up and happy many months ago, we used a Linux utility already installed in most Linux platforms, to do a mirror image disk image of our ownCloud boot disk. That disk image sat on an external USB hard drive, just waiting for the day it was needed.

First thing to do was slap a new computer together from our vast stores of often ancient computer hardware. Next, take the drive you want to use for the new server and plug it into a USB drive adapter. Those are handy devices to have around, and are very inexpensive.

Plug your hard drive via the USB cable into a working computer, and then launch the Disks utility

Click on your Menu button, and select Control Center.

Control Center

Control Center

Then select Disks which will launch today’s useful software tool.

Disks Utility

Disks Utility

Here’s where you need to use caution. Make sure that the drive you have selected is the one you wish to write to, and not your current computer’s hard drive!

Select the drive you wish to write to, select the disk image you wish to put on that disk, and let ‘er rip!

Preparing for the restore

Preparing for the restore

Because the new drive was much larger than the original, you’ll notice the warming in the above screen grab. After the disk was written, I then used GParted to resize the Linux partition to use the entire available disk space.

Of course our ownCloud data directory is on an external drive to our ownCloud server, so once the new drive was written and installed into the new computer, all we had to do was boot it up, plug our data drive in and it’s like it never blew up!

So save yourself some grief, make that disk image of your ownCloud or NAS server now, so you have it when you need it!

 

Oops, That Kernel Didn’t Work!

Being security conscious, I try to keep everything up to date. This includes the Linux kernel that is the heart of our systems.

In keeping with that, a few weeks ago I changed all of my Mint 17.3 machines to the kernel recommended in the kernel chooser.

Kernel chooser

Kernel chooser

As you can see above, I’m running the kernel recommended by Linux Mint. This went well for all but one of my machines. My bedside, 4 processor, 8 gigs of RAM machine seemed to run fine for a week or so, but I found that when running certain software packages; the computer would completely freeze. Anything to do with video or graphics would freeze at random times with no warning.

Scouring the logs was pointless, as the freeze happened before anything was logged.

At first I blamed a new wireless keyboard / mouse combo that was purchased at the same time. Putting a USB set back in, proved the wireless was not the cause.

Searching the Mint and other forums showed that many people were having the same problem I was. A combination of the processor type and graphics card seemd to be to blame.

By this time I had already removed the previous kernel, so it was time to put it back!

Open your Update Manager, click on View, and then select Linux kernels

In my case, I re-installed the 3.13 kernel that had been working flawlessly before. Of course if there are notes about security issues or regressions that could impact your system, then chose another.

Installing a different kernel

Installing a different kernel

Next you need to edit the GRUB config file, as I was booting quietly, not displaying the boot menu. To do that, simply drop to a terminal and edit it with your favorite text editor. I use medit

$ sudo medit /etc/default/grub

will open your text editor in super user mode.

Edit grub

Edit grub

Editing Grub

Editing Grub

You’ll see in the above example, I’ve commented out, using the # symbol, to have the boot process ignore the two commands at lines 7 and 8. Doing this, will now let me see the grub boot menu at startup. Save and close the file, and then, it’s very important that you tell grub that you’ve changed it. Do this by issuing the command:

$ sudo update-grub

Now it’s time to reboot. When you do, at the grub boot window, arrow down to Select previous Linux version, and select that.

Once you’ve booted up, and after you are satisfied that there are no issues with the new kernel, you can then go back into the update manager and un-install the previous kernel that was giving you fits.

Note: After much experimenting, I was able to upgrade to kernel 3.16, and maintain a stable machine!