Monday, January 30, 2017

Learned how to install TTF fonts not in PCLINUX

I use a twitter client CoreBird and it works almost perfectly.  The only issue is that it wouldn't display some of the emoji characters.  I checked around and it was missing the SYMBOLA TTF library.  I checked PCLINUXOS and it wasn't in the repository.  My next task was to figure out where it was and then download and then how to install the font.

The download was easy and I had a copy of the font in ZIP format.  The next task wasn't as easy, but, a quick Google search found me a link with instructions.  I followed it and created a local directory in my profile and ran the command fc - cache -fv in a terminal window.  I did it that way as I didn't want to mess around with system folders and if I screwed up it was fast and easy to remove it from my user account.  With the instructions it was easy and when I shut down CoreBird and restarted I could see the emoji displayed properly.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Software and Tools - Backups

One of the most important things you can do after you secure your device is to make regular backups and just as important is to test your backups.

Why backup?

  • Hard drives fail.  It doesn't matter how new the drive is or even if it is a SSD they will fail sooner or later;
  • You lose your device or it is stolen;
  • You drop your device and now it does not work;
  • When you patch or update your operating system it fails.  It doesn't matter the O/S you are using, I have had failed Linux updates and it required me to rebuild the machine;
  • You migrate to a new device and want all the files on the old machine moved to the new machine;
  • You finger slips and you accidentally delete an important file/directory; 
  • There is a disaster (ie. fire or flood);
  • Your device(s) infected with a virus or a trojan.  Again, it doesn't matter the O/S you are using, there are nasty programs out there that works in Windows, Linux and OS/X.
If one or more of the above happens you will need a backup so that your important documents are available to you when you rebuild the device or copy to a new device.  I have had people come to me with dead and dying devices asking if I can pull off their data and they have not made any backups.  Too often I cannot recover all of their files and important documents, images, videos are lost and they don't have any backups.

Things to think about

How often do you backup? 

  • That all depends on your personal preferences and how many documents you are adding to your device;
  • If you don't create very many then it may be safe to backup infrequently (monthly); 
  • If you create a lot of files (like scanning family photos), then frequent backups (daily) may be a good thing;
  • Once you set a schedule stick to it.  I put up a recurring reminder in Google calendar to remind me of when backups should be run.  Also you can set up a recurring task in Windows and Linux (cron) to run your backup scripts on a set schedule.

How many copies do you want to keep?  

  • Again this is a personal preference, but, multiple full backups is a good thing just in case one fails for some reason; 
  • An option here is a monthly full backup and then weekly backups of new/changed (differential backups) files;
  • Another reason as backups may fail and if you have only one copy then you have nothing to go back to.  I know this happens as decades ago when at work we were doing a DRP (Disaster Recovery Plan) exercise at work and one of the corporate backup tapes failed.  It wasn't a major problem as we did keep multiple backups and restored from an older image;

Off-site location for your backups?  

  • It doesn't matter if you have a good set of backups if you cannot get access to your site;
  • How secure is the off-site.  If you have sensitive information you don't want anyone getting access to the backup;
  • You should also figure out who should have access to your backups and let them know where it is and how they can get access to the backups if required;

Media for backups.  

  • Decades ago floppies were the media, then CDs followed by USB drives;
  • When you backup make sure that the tools, hardware and software is there to allow you to read the backups.  An example of this is some time ago I had to pull off backups from my father-in-law 3.5" floppy drives as he didn't have a floppy drive in his machine.  We were lucky in that I have an external 3.5" USB floppy drive for this and it was set up in Linux.  I also have an external CD drive and a blu-ray drive (call me paranoid) so I can pull files from backups in that format;
  • To the cloud.  Don't depend on that as your main backup as it may not be there when you need it.  I like Google drive for a secondary backup myself and the bonus is that the files I put there are available anywhere I have a web browser (and the firewall allows access).  With the various sites getting hacked I also don't keep files there that are sensitive and when I do put up a file of that nature I use encryption on the file/directory.  I also have a small script using GRIVE in Linux to pull a backup from GOOGLE drive to my machine.

Software and file format for backups.  

  • Over time operating systems do change and the software that did the original backup may not run on your new device and the new devices may not even be able to read your backups;
  • I tend to work with the lowest common denominator for backups that does work across platforms.  I prefer to use "ZIP" files as I know Windows and Linux both can work with that file format.  I assume OS/X will be able to read them too, but, I don't use that operating system so I am not 100% sure;
  • On my Linux machine I am partial to KBACKUP.  It is fairly easy to set up and use and it stores the files in a format that I can open in an Linux distro and Windows;
  • On my Windows box I use a simple XCOPY routine.  It isn't pretty, but, it works and the files are in a format that my Linux machines can read;
  • For my Android devices they get backed up to Google drive;
  • Several times a year I take one of my backups and plug it into a different machine to see if it is readable and I can pull one or more files off the backup.  Make sure what is backed up can be restored!  It is also a quick and easy test to see if your restore steps work and if there is anything else you should be doing when restoring from a backup;

When you restore.

  • If the restore is due to a virus or a trojan I strongly recommend that you don't ever use your backups until you have a clean and patched machine.  If the machine is still infected and the media you are using can be written to you don't want those backup files corrupted;
  • Make a checklist of what you need to do the restore and the steps performed when doing a restore.  This includes steps on how to verify that the restore worked;

My KBACKUP routine

Here are screen shots of my starting KBACKUP, running the backup and when it finishes.
Shortcut in my toolbox

Loading my backup profile

Directory & file list for backup

Backup running

Backup done with filename

Monday, December 26, 2016

Software and Tools - Social

A large part of people being online is the various 'social' applications.  For myself the major ones I use is Twitter and Facebook.  There are others, but, the basics I will cover here should be applicable to the other sites/applications.  I use Twitter mainly to quickly comment and notify about various events and information that I find of use.  I have the account linked to my Facebook so that my friends and family can get the information at the same time.  I like Twitter as it is small enough for my low end smart phone to run without a problem.  Facebook to be blunt, is a pig on resources and when I did have it running on my phone it would take 5-10 seconds at times to do a simple action like posting an update.  Facebook runs well on my tablet and my laptop and that is the main way I socialize electronically with friends and family.  I use both to supplement my contacting friends and family and it does not replace face-2-face.  I like them both as I can quickly set up photo albums of events and quickly share them for those who could not make it to the event.

One of the first things you should do when joining is to read the terms and service.  I know they are extremely long, boring and full of legalese, but, you should be aware of the basics just-in-case there is a problem in the future.


Next up is to check the settings, especially the privacy settings to make sure you share only what you are comfortable with and turn off the rest.
Facebook Android Client Settings

Facebook Android Client Privacy Settings

Twitter Android Client Settings

Twitter Windows 10 Client Settings
Facebook Windows 10 Client Settings

As you can see above the applications have a similar look-and-feel and the web browser rendering looks very similar.  Take 15-30 minutes and navigate through the various settings and read up on what they do and then set your account to what you want people to know about you and the marketing firms gets to see.

Once you are set up then you can think about what to post.  What ever you post always assume that your employer can see all your postings so exercise some prudence on what you post!  You may have your account locked down so that only friends and family can see what you put up, but, if they re-post or share and they don't exercise good judgement on their privacy settings they can expose what you put up.  I have seen people put up photos of events that to put it kindly was less than a positive image they wanted to project socially and professionally.  When in doubt ask yourself - what would mom think if she sees it?


On the security side of things be careful on what links you click, especially in Facebook.  I have noticed a large increase in what is claimed to be news (or at least what people want to you think is news), but, is at best clickbait or trolling and at worst a link to sites that may contain scripts that can infect your machine.  Best thing I can say is to exercise caution with links to news.  If the articles come from friends and family still exercise caution, but, if it is a promoted article then be very suspicious.  Most of the clickbait sites are there to make money by showing you a lot of ads and the content at best is misleading.  For the fake news sites they tend to show to people articles written in a way to inflame them (or troll them).  Personally when I get unsolicited 'ads' I click the drop down and pick the option telling Twitter/Facebook that they are not interesting.  Before I re-post a tweet or a Facebook news story I check out the article and review it.  If it is clickbait, inflammatory or misleading I just ignore it and not give them additional views by re-posting.

When I am done with my session in Twitter and/or Facebook I log out of the account.  It is a bit of a pain, but, if for some reason some gets access to my phone, tablet of PC they don't get easy access to my accounts.  When I leave the machine I also lock it!  It takes only a few seconds to unlock the machine and then log back in, but, if someone gets access to that device they can destroy my account and credibility in a few seconds.

Another thing I strongly recommend is a good anti-virus package.  It may not stop 100% of the nasty virus/Trojans out there, but, it is another layer of defense to make it harder to get access to your device.  You can read my short blog on this topic to give you an idea of what is out there.

Adding friends/family/businesses

One of the other things I am very careful of is adding people to Twitter or Facebook when I get a request.  It does not matter who it is doing the request!  All friends/family get vetted as to who they are before I add them.  I have received requests from people claiming to be a friend or family, but, when I check with the person directly I find out they didn't make the request.  When that happens I have the friend or family member report it to Twitter or Facebook and I do the same.  On Twitter I regularly get requests to add people and I  review them very carefully before I add them.  For a while the requests were from very questionable accounts and the content and images were not the type I wanted associated with my account.  In the past several months I think Twitter has gotten better nuking the accounts quickly as it is a very rare event when I get such a questionable request.  Every couple of weeks I review who I have linked to and those who link to me and verify that the accounts are still legit and the content is what I want associated with me.  I have found that some Twitter accounts looks legit for a month or two and then the true nature shows itself.


On uploading images I try to be careful of what is uploaded, especially when someone tells me they don't want a particular photo posted.  I also resize the image to around 1024x768 or 2048x1536.  Not everyone has high speed internet and at those resolutions the image is still good enough and is small enough for them to download quickly.  I keep the originals on my machine so if they want the original image I can send them that when requested.


Twitter does have the ability to backup your posts.  The link on how to do that is here.  Facebook has a similar facility and the link on how to do that is here.  I strongly recommend that you do this now and then.  If for any reason you lose access to your account you have a backup.  When you backup your accounts you may also want to think about how to backup your phone/tablet/PC at the same time.  Machines do fail and I remember a person calling me to see if I restore their hard drive.  They had thousands of images and a lot of the pictures of their children when they were small was on the failed drive and they had NO backups.  I couldn't restore a lot of images, but, I could restore several thousand images.  They now have an external USB drive they backup their files to on a semi-regular basis now.  External USB hard drives are fairly inexpensive and capacities are in the multi-terabyte range now.