Sunday, 26 February 2023

Hello 2023: Current Setup and State of Affairs

It's been a while since I posted anything original here. Testing various distros eventually loses its appeal and we settle on one or a mix of distributions. I'm not really using Slackware anymore except very occasionally in the form of Alien's LiveSlak on a USB stick and experimenting with Porteus. Slax also once again has a version based on Slack but I find Porteus the better choice these days if a system working around modules is what you want. All this is toying around though.

My day to day work is done on a mixture of MX Linux KDE, and for a while prior to that AntiX, and Linux Mint. Yes, the one with systemd. Simply due to the fact that it is the one distribution that I tried that managed to set up the Nvidia driver without further fiddling and work correctly with my hybrid graphics laptop to allow for some advanced Steam gaming. The other reason would be that it is the one distribution where Cinnamon really shines in combination with the Mint tools. If not for that I'ld be going Plasma only. This combo has proven to be more than adequate to deal with anything I throw at it and is a great production setup.

As a side note, I'm still confused about the difference between AntiX and MX Fluxbox and if there is any.

The real star though has been the community maintained Trinity edition of PCLinuxOS which as we all know continues to provide KDE 3.5 to all who knew and loved it and I find myself booting it more and more often and doing a good chunk of work in this. Linux Mint, gaming aside, also acts as a host to various full cloned installations of PCLOS TDE which, similar to MX, also makes it easy to create an ISO file of the installed system to back up, export and reinstall if required. Maybe I'll move it to bare metal one day but as light as it is in Virtualbox on Mint there is really no need. Accessing the internets via snapshots in a virtual session through a VPN and a firejailed browser also feels pretty safe.

That's the state of affairs here and they are unlikely to change soon. I might write something again but it will most likely be related to above setup.

Best wishes in these uncertain times and until later.

Friday, 4 February 2022

Slackware 15.0 Finally Released After 5 1/2 Years

Wow, it has really happened. Slackware 15 is out and we live to see the day.

Here's an excerpt from the announcement. 

"Well folks, in spite of the dire predictions of YouTube pundits, this morning the Slackhog emerged from its development den, did *not* see its shadow, and Slackware 15.0 has been officially released - another six weeks (or years) of the development treadmill averted. This has been an interesting development cycle (in the "may you live in interesting times" sense). Anyone who has followed Linux development over the years has seen the new technology and a slow but steady drift away from the more UNIX-like structure. The challenge this time around was to adopt as much of the good stuff out there as we could without changing the character of the operating system. Keep it familiar, but make it modern. And boy did we have our work cut out for us. We adopted PAM (finally) as projects we needed dropped support for pure shadow passwords. We switched from ConsoleKit2 to elogind, making it much easier to support software that targets that Other Init System and bringing us up-to-date with the XDG standards. We added support for PipeWire as an alternate to PulseAudio, and for Wayland sessions in addition to X11. Dropped Qt4 and moved entirely to Qt5. Brought in Rust and Python 3. Added many, many new libraries to the system to help support all the various additions. We've upgraded to two of the finest desktop environments available today: Xfce 4.16, a fast and lightweight but visually appealing and easy to use desktop environment, and the KDE Plasma 5 graphical workspaces environment, version 5.23.5 (the Plasma 25th Anniversary Edition). This also supports running under Wayland or X11."

Also, for the first time ever a "" script that allows automatically rebuilding the entire operating system from source is included. All the sources have been tested and confirmed to build properly.

Monday, 26 April 2021

DNS Level Blocking with ControlD

As you probably know I'm quite interested and active in testing different security approaches like sandboxing, firewalls and VPNs. Compartmentalizing with virtual machines is also a good strategy. Part of a good multi-layered defence is also a well curated hosts file like this one kept by Dan Pollock and secure, encrypted DNS services. Better even if you can combine features of the last two and keep the nasties out with DNS level blocking. This will give us a much cleaner internet and might even negate the need for a browser level blocker like uBlock Origin.

Windscribe VPN includes a DNS blocker where we can opt to block certain areas like malware, trackers, gambling, fake news, becoming victim to crypto miners and others. These are quite broad and can be customized with your own rule set. Pro subscribers get a thousand rules to define for themselves which includes black listing, white listing and spoofing capabilities but adding all these entries is a lot of work. Unfortunately all similar services I've come across don't allow us to import our own hosts file. No, you have to add them one at a time.

Now there's a new service out. ControlD is a more fine grained type of DNS blocker that makes it easy to filter whole areas as before like malware, telemetry, ads and trackers, social, click bait and so on but also most known web services with sliding a button. It's just come out of beta. We can schedule filters to only be active at certain times, we can still add our own custom rules too and select a global proxy which, although this is not a full VPN service as it doesn't encrypt the connection, would be enough if one just wants to get around geo-blocking and have secure DNS requests so our ISP doesn't know everything about our surfing habits. Or preventing them from injecting ads into our session that are usually not filtered out by browser extension ad-blockers.  

"And finally, drum roll please, we're very excited to announce that our DNS service is finally ready, and we call it ControlD (p.s. It’s Control-space-D, not contro-ID). After 1.5 years of development, bruised fingers from excessive coding, enough Redbulls to power a space shuttle, and 5 months of closed beta testing, we're ready to show it to the world. You can get a free 30-day trial, which is just enough time to fall in love with it, and then miss it and wonder what could have been - except you don’t have to wonder you can always just use it! There is no other service like it out there, and we know with 344% certainty you will enjoy using it, a lot. Just trust us on this one."

This is not a free service and actually I have no idea how much it will be as I'm currently still on the free beta trial but I guess it will be something around the cost of a VPN. A more basic service is available from four free DNS servers at the bottom of the page.

We can change our current DNS in the legacy format which means good old fashioned IPv4 address, DNS-over-HTTPS and DNS-over-TLS to be preferred if you want your requests to be encrypted. If you choose automatic global proxy it will connect to which ever one is nearest so this is the most flexible on your phone if travelling a lot.

The set up tutorial is straight to the point and easy to follow. Give it a go, you might like it. It's not a full VPN but allows for more fine grained filtering and can be combined with running a VPN.

Slackware Beta: Kernel 5.12 Has Arrived in Testing

Hell yeah, on 12 th April Pat Volkerding announced the first beta of what will eventually be Slackware 15.0 using a 5.10.29 kernel, ending the changelog entry on his typical cheery note. "I'm going to go ahead and call this a beta even though there's still no fix for the illegal instruction issue with 32-bit mariadb. But there should be soon (thanks ponce!) No build regressions noted with the official gcc-10.3 release. Please report any new (or old) issues on the LQ Slackware forum. Enjoy! :-)".

Monday, 1 March 2021

GParted 1.2.0 Live CD & USB Image: Nimble and Effective

Continuing the theme of Debian based rescue distributions, simply because most of them are built on Debian, I am looking at GParted this week as last one in this short series. GParted is of course known as a tool to work with and edit partitions that is included with most distributions where it could be considered a de facto standard. But it also lends its name to a rescue CD image where it is at the centre of the collection of tools.

Monday, 15 February 2021

Introducing the Linux Mint Devuan Edition

The Mint project has been a long-time favorite among Linux users who are mainly home users. Its friendly and common sense approach to a distribution appeals to many people who want to run something with the Linux kernel on their desktop. There's ample testimony of this, from the inception and creation of the Cinnamon desktop as common sense, traditional but still sleek and modern alternative to the evolving desaster and dumbing-down assault from other desktops at the time to coming up with great little tools like the Warpinator for file sharing on a LAN, the Hypnotix IPTV app and other little improvements to make things just a little easier, for the average Joe and the Techie who just wants to get things done alike.

Monday, 8 February 2021

Rescatux 0.73: Rescuing GNU/Linux and Microsoft Systems with Rescapp

According to the Distrowatch summary "Rescatux is a Debian-based GNU/Linux live distribution that includes a graphical wizard for rescuing broken GNU/Linux installations." It features a graphical interface where one can choose a task to perform, including the option to restore the GRUB bootloader, Linux and Windows password resets, and Linux file system checks. Being based on Debian (Stable) it is using the Linux kernel 4.19.0-8 and systemd in the background. Right off the bat this could be a problem for machines needing a newer kernel but it was ok for my hardware, the newest machine now being around 20 months old.


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