Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Installing Apache on Ubuntu

Addison Berry provides a very nice video walking the viewer through the installation of Apache/PHP/MySQL on Ubuntu: http://www.lullabot.com/videocast/install-local-web-server-ubuntu

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Security Profiteering

Reducing the chances that we'll ever get away from security screenings is the new view of the security checkpoint as a profit center. Airports, and now football stadiums have security checkpoints, long lines, and now faster, low-security lines available to customers willing to pay. This may be less objectionable in a stadium than in an airport, since stadiums have more room for more checkpoints, but it still seems to be primarily a way to profit off security theater. First of all, what reason do we have to believe that the background checks of those willing to pay the fees are actually effective? Second, in an airport, there is limited space for security checkpoints, so adding express lanes reduces the space for other security lanes, so people willing to pay for the low security line slow the rest of us down. Finally, a new segment in the security theater industry creates a new group lobbying against change. Once these fees are in place, and being funneled to "entrepreneurs" profiting from them, there will be lobbyists fighting any attempt to do away with these trusted traveler/fan programs. And we'll have another example of congress following the money rather than listening to the citizenry--who, BTW, don't seem to care enough to stay informed or to vote. The odds of being killed by a terrorist is nearly zero, but the probability of being inconvenienced by, losing privacy and liberty to, and footing the bill for security theater is 1.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

If I Had a Hammer...

I have my new RFID passport. I considered whacking it with a hammer and hoping that would kill the RFID chip. A lot of people are doing this, or at least talking about it. Instead I've gotten a new passport holder that doubles as a credit card holder and a Faraday cage. Now I feel better with the not easily testable assertion that when the passport's closed, it can't be read. Apparently the chip's easily read if the passport is open just a bit, and not so easy if it's closed. The Faraday cage adds a layer of security. Using a Faraday cage rather than a hammer has the added benefit of not being illegal. The US government says it's illegal to try to maintain just a little privacy. Soon we'll have Real ID with RFID chips, and the game will be over, game set match to the shadowy overlords. I really should get and play around with an RFID reader.

Gnome Caps Lock, Insert Keys

Some time back I discussed disabling the caps lock and insert keys in gnome. In Hardy Heron (Ubuntu 8.04) the caps lock suggestion I made stopped functioning. Here's the new fix:
#! /bin/sh
# Kills the stoopid caps lock and insert keys.


if test ! -e $file ; then
        /usr/bin/xmodmap -e "keycode 66 = "
        /usr/bin/xmodmap -e "keycode 106 = "
        /bin/date >$file
I'm still amazed every time a new release of Gnome comes out and they still don't give the user a way of getting rid of these. As a system staffer in the Ohio State CIS department (Frank Adelstein? Frodo?) once said: "The caps lock key shouldn't be right next to keys that are used all the time. It should be somewhere off in the next room." Ok, that was a paraphrase, not really a quote, and I don't remember who I'm paraphrasing. Anyhow, the above script does it. I call the script from my .cshrc. Those of you who use bash (yuck) would put it in your .profile.

Evince Bug Workaround

Evince has been a continuous battle for me ever since I switched from KDE to Gnome. Ok, more of an occasional annoyance than a continuous battle, and the various problems I've had with Evince convinced me to install and primarily use kpdf for awhile. Well, I've got a fresh Ubuntu install, and didn't want to litter it with all the junk that comes along with kpdf, so I've been using evince. However, evince wants to print everything in A4 format. Yes, my printer defaults are letter. Yes, the PDF documents are letter size. Yes, /etc/papersize contains one line, letter.

I remember wasting an afternoon on this sometime back, so the question became tell evince to use letter every single time I print, go back to kpdf, or waste another afternoon with no guarantee of better results than last time.

First tried the obvious thing:
man evince

Totally useless. Instead of placing everything in one place, the evince folks have decided to scatter documentation all over the place at their web site. But, unlike last time, Google found me a solution, a recent blog entry by Dominique Cimafranca at UbuntuLiving. He apparently uses bash, and so suggests a change to the user's .profile. I use tcsh, and so added this line to my .cshrc:
setenv LC_PAPER en_US.UTF-8@letter

UbuntuLiving suggests that after making this change, one log out and then back in. Not necessary. Any new xterm opened from that point will have the correct setting, or one can just type
source ~/.cshrc

in an existing xterm (or gnome-terminal, or konsole, or whatever) and LC_PAPER is set. Then the next time you type the evince command, it'll actually print correctly with no gyrations by the user. Imagine that.

Is this a bug within evince? The evince folks may think not, but Google is unable to find any mention of LC_PAPER at site:www.gnome.org/projects/evince/ and the man page is useless, so the documentation is woefully lacking. Yeah, I'm using an undocumented feature. It'll probably break with the next release.