Monday, February 27, 2006

FTP server - oops

When I set up the FTP server I had a series of ids and passwords, not a problem. I recently used my main id to create a directory and files for a birthday, again not a problem. I used another machine and then used the admin id to verify that the files and again not a problem. Sister-in-law pointed out that she could see the file names but not the contents. Oops, I forgot to change the owner and permission flags to allow the various users and groups access to the files. It didn't show up as the admin id was the owner and only admin group could see the files, everyone was denied access.

That is a handy thing. I now know how to set up password protected files that only certain people can access even if everyone else can see the names of the files. I also learned how to set up an anonymous id with only read access to the files.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

New printer and Linux

I finally got a new laser printer. Staples had a sale on with an 'instant' rebate and a mail-in rebate. There were two things that also influenced my decision on purchasing the machine:
  1. Replacement cartridge is about $80;
  2. It actually mentioned on the packaging that it is Linux compatible.
The printer itself is a Samsung 2010. It has both parallel and USB connections. I went with USB when I connected it into the computer. It was a breeze installing and configuring. I used Mandrakes control center, picked the hardware tab, clicked on set up printer. It detected the type of machine without a problem. The only thing I had to do was define the model of the printer. It didn't have the exact model so I went through the list looking for the model number closest to mine and tried them. The ML-1750 didn't work correctly, but, the 1710 worked perfectly. I didn't have to insert an install CD or reboot the machine, Linux recognized the printer and in about five minutes I was done and printing again.

The test pages came out very quickly and the graphics were great. I then set up Samba to share the printer throughout the house for myself and the family. That took all of 30 seconds to do.

One little feature on the printer I like is the off/on button. Most manufacturers think leaving this out and trumpeting 'sleep mode' is great. Personally if I am not using the printer I want it off and not in sleep mode. Sleep mode still uses hydro and I am paying for that.

Last note, Staples has an online site where you can fill in for the rebate. I did that this morning and I will see how that process goes. It beats filling in a paper form and then use a stamp to get money back. There is also a web site so you can monitor the status of the rebate. More on how this worked later on.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Fried printer

It looks like my HP4L is fried. I got the machine about ten years ago and it has served the family well until today. The machine was showing its age and new cartridges are expensive for the printer ($125 Cdn). Yesterday during the snow storm we lost hydro several times. I have all of my equipment plugged into surge protectors, but, the printer still does not work.

I will try the printer on another computer later to verify that it is the printer and not the server that has problems. This gives me another excuse to look at a newer model printer for our home network. The price of cartridges also is a factor. The only upside is the last time I replaced the cartridge was August 2002.

Time to do my homework. I prefer laser, but, if it is not fully supported in Linux I will use an injet. Cost is another factor. A new printer is actually cheaper to buy than replacing a cartridge many times.

FTP Server

My wife was talking to her brother earlier this week. He was looking for a way to send pictures and home movies to us without using email. He has a number of files that would go past the limit that most ISPs would allow. He wanted to know if he could do a direct connect to our machine and send the files and then we would be able to distribute the files locally.

I thought about using SSH, but, had a thought. Why not set up a FTP server and he can dump his files here and then send an email to everyone else that new files are there for anyone in the family to look at. This is a good way of putting up the files as a number of people are on dial up and it won't take hours to download their email with photos/movies, they can go to the server and download only the files that are of interest to them.

I did a quick look through the Mandriva CDs for what FTP packages are available. I finally settled on GPROFTPD. It was small and simple. It took me all of five minutes to set up and the server. A generic account with read-only access was quickly created for family members. My brother-in-law had his id created quickly along with myself. Setting up the software, configuring and playing with the settings and options took one day. I tested the link from work and it didn't work. When I got home I found the problem in that I set it up as an XINET daemon rather than a stand-alone application. Once that was fixed it worked without a problem.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Computer Viruses - Naming and confusion

With the fizzling out of the latest over-hyped virus and all of the different names for the same virus I was thinking out how these critters are named. It seems that each and every company will define their own name and standard. This to me causes a huge amount of confusion in the user community about what virus is being discussed. As an example the last virus had the following names:
  • Mywife
  • Blackmal
  • Kama Sutra
  • Nyxem version D
  • Nyxem version E
  • Kapser
  • KillAV
  • Grew
  • Blackworm
The actual official name was CME-24. Everyone wants to be credited with the discovery of a new virus and be the first to have the fix but enough, all you are doing is confusing the public and the media.

As a suggestion how about a central reposititory of discovered viruses, how it works, etc? The security community can then define a standard naming convention so that the short name is meaningful, but, allow the first to discover it to give it a 'common name'. In other words a 'Taxonomy' for computer mal-ware. This is good enough for the scientific community for identifying and naming organisms so why not for security software companies to define mal-ware? I use the phrase mal-ware so that viruses, trojans, spyware can all be classified, not just viruses, and the results are available to the public and media. Just enough information should be available to the general public to inform themselves on the risks and how to clean up the mal-ware.

The other benefit is that the massive list of viruses and trojans will be cut down and companies will find it harder to trumpet the number of mal-ware items they scan for as a marketing tool and not as a consumer information tool. In my opinion a lot of the counts are inflated with minor and meaningless variants on the same virus. It would also make it easier for the consumer to compare products to see which package fits their needs. At this time you almost have to be a computer security expert to determine the package that truly fits your security needs.

Linux and Canadian tax preparation software

Another tax season will soon be upon us and with that personal income taxes. Every year I keep checking to see if there will be any Linux bases tax software and every year I come away disappointed. My personal belief is that the tax companies think that there is not a large enough market and as a result are ignoring a completely untapped market.

They should be looking at this as an opportunity to take their software and break the Windows® dependecy. What sections of the code does not require windows and what does. From what I figure there are three very basic sections for the software. First if the database where you store the data, second is the calculation engine and the third is the presentation (and printing) engine. If you modularize the code so that only small specific sections in the modules are operating system specific then developing a package that will run on different operating systems is simplified.

The last thing you should think about. Linux runs on IBM mainframes and Windows® does not. Is there an opportunity to offer the software to corporations who can then offer the chance to do their taxes at work as a corporate benefit? Just a thought.