Sep 16, 2014

Amazon's New Europe Strategy?

Party in Europe. The Fire is burning.
Something interesting has happened. Twice in 2-3 weeks.
You know, people in Europe got mad at Amazon many times for waiting too long to get new services announced in the USA. But in the last weeks, the company outposts in Europe, e.g. Germany, has not only offer the FireTV to pro-oder, but also the Fire Phone.

While with the FireTV it was only a matter of time to be announced (let's say 6-12 month?), the Fire Phone wasn't even expected anytime soon. But they all got it wrong, and the press didn't saw that coming. Now wonder if you see how long the Kindle Fire tablet took to take the trip to oversea.

As of now you can pre-order both devices. In Germany the Fire Phone will be available with a contract from T-Mobile exclusively for 1€. Yes, no misspelling. 1 Euro. For a new phone with these tech specs, it's a price attack.
The FireTV pre-order was a huge success. Within 1 day the first contingents were gone. If you order one now, there is no guarantee to get one before January 2015. A special offer for prime customers only pulls 49 Euro from your wallet. Normal price is 99 Euro.

Maybe this shows Amazon that even in Europe there is a demand for this.
How and why theses obvious policy changes are made, is not clear. Everyone was surprised. A few days ago, Amazon made it possible to watch Amazon Instant Video content on normal Android devices. Out of the sudden the app was available.

Looks like Amazon set Europe on Fire.

Sep 11, 2014

Actor Richard Kiel dies at age 74... so sad

Richard Kiel 2.JPG
Richard Kiel 2“ von dejahthoris from Vancouver, Canada - [1].
Licensed under 
CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
I were shocked today to read that actor Richard Kiel died today.
He was widely known for the role of  "Jaws" in 2 James Bond movies together with Roger Moore.
In "The Spy Who Loves Me", and "Moonraker", he quickly got a big fan crowd.
He participated in more TV productions and movies. But never topped the appearance in the 007 movies.

A great actor and the best of the James Bond villains. In fact, he got more sympathies than expected for a "bad guy".

Richard Kiel, we'll never forget!

[via The Guardian]

Sep 7, 2014

Flickr Commons publishing a huge amount of copyright free photos

Take a look at Flickr Commons if you want historic photos with no, or free licenses. Check the remarks on that.

Scene from Fuerth, Germany

You can search for topics and more, and access this huge database. You will find a lot of photos scanned from old documents. Highly important shots, or just random life all around the world. I'm sure if you need to refer to something in the past, this could come handy.

Aug 8, 2014

How To Encrypt an USB Stick or Ext. Drives With GNU+Linux

So, I showed you, in short, how to encrypt your home directory and your swap. That's fine and helps a lot to secure your system. But now and then you want to put data on external drives. No matter if you use an USB stick or an external HDD, the procedures are the same.

First of all you need to determine what drive you want to encrypt. This is very important and choosing the wrong drive can get you in big trouble and losing your data on that drive. That is right. All data will be erased on the drive you chose.
So let's assume our USB Stick is sdb1 which is quite common if you have only 1 internal harddrive and no other drives attached. But double check!

Open a shell and enter sudo cryptsetup luksFormat /dev/sdb1 - again, you need to replace /dev/sdb1 with your device (could be sdc1, sdd1 etc. but certainly NOT sda1).
You will be asked for a passphrase. Use a good one. You need to remember it everytime you plug in the drive. Without you lose access to all data stored on it. Use special chars, uppercase letters, numbers. Don't use a weak passphrase.
Then go ahead to create a device mapper with sudo cryptsetup luksOpen /dev/sdb1 nameofdrive where nameofdrive can be replaced with the name you want to give that secure device. You need to enter the passphrase that you chose in the previous step.
Now you need to choose a filesystem. I recommend ext4 for normal distributions. But you can use ext3 or even fat. Since Windows can't decrypt this drive at the moment anyway, you won't get any good if you use fat, but some problems. Use mkfs.ext4 /dev/mapper/nameofdrive to do so. It can take a while.


Now it is a good time to switch to your GUI and find the drive. Unmount (eject safely) the drive and remove it from your computer. Put it back in. Now if you open the device, a requester will pop up asking you for the password. If you enter the right passphrase, the device will be mounted just like any other drive ready to use as usual.
Here it is, your own secure drive ready to go.

Jul 18, 2014

The End of The American Web Dominance

Way to go, but the carefree usage of US Internet services is over. This will lead to an emerging market in Europe for replacement services and companies. A big chance for the European market to break the American dominance of the Internet.

What happened? What we all knew is now manifested in a vote that the official German TV-Station ARD, financed by the government, has made.



It isn't this vote alone. People in Germany and elsewhere in Europe are condemning the aggressive behavior and mass spy attacks of the USA. Now that first governments in Europe are officially acting against those activities, the public roar rises to new heights and can't be dismissed any longer.

This affair opens chances for many companies that will offer replacement services for big companies from the US. Some, like mail providers, are already directly marketing against the surveillance agencies. A migration within Germany is notable. Now, with that kind of opinion, more companies will replace other things. And there is a lot. Replacinge Google Docs or Microsoft Office online is a big chance. Online photo albums are the next. If cloud services can be saved at all, depends on the European ability to defend their networks from US spying. Security firms that offer strong encryption, and services that help companies and private persons to enforce methods like GPG/PGP and other secure encryption software, are now having a big opportunity, too.

Welcome to the new Internet. Starting slowly in 2014.

Jul 10, 2014

Manjaro GNU+Linux: Installation and Some Tips

You know, I like these combined short reviews with a how-to. So here is one more. I scrapped the recent installation of Linux Mint 17 KDE in favor of this "Manjaro 0.8.10 KDE Edition" which is based on Arch.


Before you start to shivering, I wrote "is based on Arch" not that it is Arch. The Manjaro team has own repositories to assure a stable system and still having a rolling release. Octopi for updating and package selection seems like a good thing to me. If you want you can use Arch repositories, but this is really not recommended.

The installer, available as with simple GUI or shell UI for advanced configs, is very easy to understand, looks clean and runs off the live-cd. You can try it on an USB drive and it might be as catchy for you as it was for me. Really a good default selection of software. Yakuake, Rekonq, VLC, some theme editors for KMail and Contact and so on. I like the decision to deliver a KDE system with Konqueror and Rekonq set as the default browser. That comes handy for me, I banned Mozilla completely off my system for several reasons, and Chromium is only an emergency option. However, you can install one of them with octopi quickly. This is the way it should be imho. KDE should have a free KHTML browser as default.
See later how to get Chromium work with Flash, as this is horrible on newer versions, but not the fault of the distribution. Chromium is to blame. Another reason for Rekonq, as this works with Flash out of the box.

So the system is complete after install, and you can go right into productive mode. Or install some additional software. The system runs stable, and demands to install the last wave of updates. Over 200 packages including a kernel update. Update went smooth. the second update this morning (2014-07-10) with about 170 packages also went smooth with again a new kernel. Runs like it should!

After the first installation, it was a bit tricky to get the encrypted home-dir running. more to that later. And that brings us to some problems. First, there are no options to encrypt your home folder and set everything up at the installation. This should be mandatory in 2014 with all the things going on. All packages are installed, but you need modprobe it (really? Coming from Mint/Ubuntu it's illogical to get a service manually running after you installed it).
Then there is the graphic driver. I have the video-hybrid-intel-nouveau-bumblebee running. And its performance is horrible. I don't know why. This configuration runs very smooth with Linux Mint 17 and Ubuntu derivatives. On Manjaro 0.8.10 don't even try to use Chromium with hardware-acceleration enabled. It's unusable. Stuttering around even on text-scrolling. After disabling it, it's usable. Video output is okay, but you can clearly see the sluggish rendering. Also when moving windows fast or scrolling quickly through text in a web browser. I'm pretty sure this will get better in one of the coming updates. Keep in mind that it's a 0.xx release. So nothing to be dramatic about.
All in all it's a great distribution, and I totally like it. Recommended for sure. It's a real fun distribution that you can <3.

Now for the fixes and (ugly) workarounds for some problem that occur for me

To get your Garmin GPSr working with it, I have written a dedicated short article.

To encrypt your home directory you can partly follow the instructions on howtogeek for Ubuntu. You need to do a sudo modprobe ecryptfs before even trying it, since the module is not loaded by default even though ecryptfs is already installed. It is recommended to just log in your root account instead of creating a new user. Then you can migrate your home folder. Also follow closely the instructions on screen. You must login as the user with the migrated home BEFORE you reboot. And also do a ecryptfs-unwrap-passphrase . Do not forget to encrypt your swap partition, too. But be careful to choose the correct partition marked as swap.
Then you need to make some changes in /etc/pam.d/system-auth according to this article on Arch-Wiki (please follow closely).

To get Chromium running with Flash you need to install pepper-flash, since no other method is possible with newer versions of Chromium. Do so by typing sudo yaourt -S chromium-pepper-flash in the Konsole. Answer all questions about edits with no. Mind the warning that it might not be a good idea to build this as root. However it worked for me. After that, Chromium has Flash support again.

The everlasting xbacklight / brightness problem. You can solve it with almost the same instruction from this old article for Ubuntu. Just care about some differences. You need to change the GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT like this:
Insert after "quiet splash": "acpi_osi=Linux acpi_backlight=vendor"
Do not alter anything after "resume=..."
The line should then look something like this (UUID depends on your system):
GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="quiet splash acpi_osi=Linux acpi_backlight=vendor resume=/dev/disk/by-uuid/xxxxxxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxxxxxxxxx"

Last but not least, the printer driver (HL-2030) does not work. I tried many different drivers that came with Manjaro. None of the Brother driver did work (HL2030, HL2035, HL1250).
Visit http://www.openprinting.org , select your printer and download a PPD-File.
Then select "Manually provide a PPD-File" in Settings-> Printer-> configure-> select custom driver.
It works great with the driver from openprinting.

As always, use these tips and workarounds at your own risk.

Have a lot of fun!