NSA: Please Turn off the Lights When You Leave. Nothing to See Here.

Linux Advocate Dietrich Schmitz shows how the general public can take action to truly protect their privacy using GnuPG with Evolution email. Read the details.

Mailvelope for Chrome: PGP Encrypted Email Made Easy

Linux Advocate Dietrich Schmitz officially endorses what he deems is a truly secure, easy to use PGP email encryption program. Read the details.

Step off Microsoft's License Treadmill to FOSS Linux

Linux Advocate Dietrich Schmitz reminds CIOs that XP Desktops destined for MS end of life support can be reprovisioned with FOSS Linux to run like brand new. Read how.

Bitcoin is NOT Money -- it's a Commodity

Linux Advocate shares news that the U.S. Treasury will treat Bitcoin as a Commodity 'Investment'. Read the details.

Google Drive Gets a Failing Grade on Privacy Protection

Linux Advocate Dietrich Schmitz puts out a public service privacy warning. Google Drive gets a failing grade on protecting your privacy.

Email: A Fundamentally Broken System

Email needs an overhaul. Privacy must be integrated.


Cookie Cutter Distros Don't Cut It


The 'Linux Inside' Stigma - It's real and it's a problem.

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Turn a Deaf Ear

Linux Advocate Dietrich Schmitz reminds readers of a long ago failed petition by Mathematician Prof. Donald Knuth for stopping issuance of Software Patents.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Wishes for a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to All

by Dietrich Schmitz

This has been one roller coaster of a year.  But, by the grace of God, I am still here.

And, Linux Advocates hasn't done so bad turning in an average 60,000 page views per month.  I will be around on and off through this and next week, but expect 2014 to be another productive year for story writing on LA.

A special 'Thank You' goes to all those who have made contributions to LA.

Thank you to all of my readership for their support.

Merry Christmas and a Happy Prosperous New Year

Dietrich Schmitz
Site Owner

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Double-Dreaded Fedora 20 Yum "Group Does Not Exist" Error -- Remedy

by Dietrich Schmitz

Okay, things have been going along swimmingly with Fedora 20 and I did have this error message turn up during the beta testing phase.  I thought they nipped it in the bud, but apparently not.  Anyhow, here is a link to a FedoraForum.org post which can fix the error message, including this screen snapshot of the forum page. Oh the Humanity. -- Dietrich

Fedora 20 Yum "Group Does Not Exist" Error Remedy

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Fedora 20 Linux for the Masses

by Dietrich Schmitz

Hey, you never know.  It could happen.  That is, Fedora will become the 'de facto' long-term Linux Community Distribution standard after 5 years.  I give to you below embedded my Google Plus stream of consciousness uncensored, unabridged for your consumption. :)

-- Dietrich

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Friday, December 13, 2013

Money in the Bank: Fedora Btrfs Filesystem With Yum-plugin-fs-snapshot

by Dietrich Schmitz

The IT Scenario

You are a veteran System Administrator.  You know the drill.  You have an operating system upgrade to do.  It must be done in such a way that there is no 'down time' for the end users in your business setting.

Taking Precautions -- Backup

That, usually means doing it over the weekend when nobody is in the office.  It also means that you must apply due diligence in being sure you have a 'viable' backup set of the system -- not just a differential backup.  So creating one takes time with a decent tape archiver, or, if you are lucky you work for a larger Enterprise Datacenter with a dedicated rack NAS server to stream image the drive across to another hard drive.  But that's pricey and many small- to medium-sized businesses simply can't afford to spend $40,000 or more for such technology.

So, tape back up it is.  It might take 6 hours to complete on a Saturday.  And you hope that verify confirms it is a good set.  Any errors, then you may need to start over switching in a different tape assuming the first has media damage.

It's something you incorporate into standard operational procedure to precede any Change Management request for work on any server upgrade.  Never deviate.  Your job depends on it.

If your system crashes, for whatever reason, you pray your tape backup will restore and the turnaround time to do a restoral can take several hours depending on the tape archiver subsystem being used.

Often Murphy's Law comes into play: "when things can go wrong, they will go wrong."

You discover that something in the install log doesn't look right and the system has decided to abend several times during your post-upgrade testing.

It's now midnight on Saturday.  You need to pull the plug and restore from tape backup so that the system will be 'up' on Monday at 8:00 am.

So, you come back in again Sunday morning and proceed with tape restoral and babysit the job to completion and if you are lucky, the system boots up and is ready for Monday morning's business.  You get to keep your job for another day, maybe the whole week even.

Btrfs and Yum-plugin-fs-snapshot

Today, if you set up your server with Fedora Linux and partition the system using Btrfs filesystem, you get the capability to do snapshots that interleave your hard drive with no need to send the snapshot to an external drive.

The process for doing so is near-instantaneous, a second or two at most to perform.  It's that fast and with Fedora's YUM package manager you also can avail yourself to using the yum-plugin-fs-snapshot plugin which will automatically create a snapshot of your Btrfs filesystem partitions before commencing with your operating system upgrade scenario.  Again, it's just one second to create the snapshot and the yum 'update' to upgrade the O/S proceeds to completion normally.

Post-Install Quick Snapshot Recovery

Were you to encounter problems post-install during your system testing, it takes just one minute to revert to your yum created snapshot and reboot.

This process might take total 2 hours invested time verses the whole weekend consumed using the old tape archiver method.

My Testing

I installed Fedora 20 last evening with Btrfs to test out yum-plugin-fs-snapshot.  Indeed, it works as advertised and all in a matter of a few scant seconds I had a snapshot of the root (/) and home (/home) partitions as backup following my test install of nmap and it's accompanying nmap-frontend gui.  Similarly, it took two seconds to remove the two snapshots.  Below is shown the output from my test:

Install  2 Packages

Total download size: 4.5 M
Installed size: 19 M
Is this ok [y/d/N]: y
Downloading packages:
(1/2): nmap-frontend-6.40-2.fc20.noarch.rpm                | 659 kB   00:01     
(2/2): nmap-6.40-2.fc20.i686.rpm                           | 3.8 MB   00:04     
Total                                           1.1 MB/s | 4.5 MB     00:04     
Running transaction check
Running transaction test
Transaction test succeeded
Running transaction
fs-snapshot: snapshotting /: /yum_20131213160036
fs-snapshot: snapshotting /home/: /home/yum_20131213160036
  Installing : 2:nmap-6.40-2.fc20.i686                                      1/2
  Installing : 2:nmap-frontend-6.40-2.fc20.noarch                           2/2
  Verifying  : 2:nmap-frontend-6.40-2.fc20.noarch                           1/2
  Verifying  : 2:nmap-6.40-2.fc20.i686                                      2/2

  nmap.i686 2:6.40-2.fc20           nmap-frontend.noarch 2:6.40-2.fc20          

New leaves:

Then, I deleted snapshots just created:

[dietrich@localhost~]$ sudo btrfs subvolume delete /yum_20131213160036/
[sudo] password for dietrich:
Delete subvolume '//yum_20131213160036'
[dietrich@localhost~]$ sudo btrfs subvolume delete /home/yum_20131213160036/
Delete subvolume '/home/yum_20131213160036'


So, there you have it.  Some technologies are just 'better' than others, yes?
This is why I endorse Fedora Linux.

Get your server configured with Fedora's Btrfs and Yum-plugin-fs-snapshot and have some peace of mind.

Money in the Bank. -- Dietrich
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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Ignore Linux Standards at Your Own Peril

by Dietrich Schmitz

So, I've been watching the progression of all things Linux for the past few months and noting how many Distributions are falling in line with systemd adoption and those which are not.

Systemd adoption by major Linux Distributions

The freedom to make choices in software design which introduce variation ultimately exacts a cost.  It's not apparent up front but in the long term, introducing 'variation' of any kind into a operating system results in additional complexity.  Only recently has holdout Debian gotten around to recognizing that their sysvinit system is beginning to show its age and 'limitations'.  Uniformity lends to conformity and implied standardization, sometimes in the form of 'de facto' standards.

Today, I am reminding readers of the importance of adhering to standards as the image below shows how being Linux Standard Base compliant can and will lead to lower cost of operation and ongoing maintenance.

Linux Foundation promulgated 'Linux Standard Base'

Does having to adhere to standards stifle creativity and freedom of choice?  

Well, there's room for debate on that question and while to a degree standards compliance does impose a restriction on the respective developer's freedom to deviate, it also results in reducing complexity and to a larger extent fosters an environment in which software vendors and business concerns can reliably make assumptions which utilize those standards, including standard software behaviors, to streamline cost of operation from both consistency and reliability points of view: less complexity, fewer points of failure.  With fewer points of failure, reliability goes up and support costs go down.

Is my preferred Distro 'X' Linux Standard Base compliant?

It's an important question.  Let's take a look at Microsoft Windows for an answer.

Historically, over the past fifteen years preferring to work with Windows has been rightfully perceived by CIOs and CEOs as an implied standard, and despite Microsoft being a Monopoly, every developer knows that they have only one software API to deal with when choosing to code Windows executables on the Windows Legacy x86 platform.  That makes Windows an implied or 'de facto' standard, in lieu of there being any other competitor in a market.  And the choices imposed on Developers are made simple.  There's just one theoretical 'Distro' to think about when it comes to designing a piece of software for a given market.

But, there aren't any 'Distros' in the Windows world.  

Of course, but you see, Distro variation is non-existent, along with the implicit complexity stemming from compiler dialectic variations, differing package management and file hierarchy structure design considerations.  They're all gone and the attendent costs exacted on program development don't pertain in the Windows software development thriving ecosystem.

Should there be fewer Linux Distros?  

I don't argue for fewer Distros.  However, I do maintain that if the designers of Distro X conform to a base standard and not deviate, they will not have compromised their right to creative choice.  One need only look to the richness and diversity of software written to the Windows API to have an answer.

As long as Linux developers continue to clone new Distros and cheerlead the way, all the while ignoring standards, the chance for long-term survival of their work is put at peril.

Big Business Craves Stability

Simply put, Big Business Enterprise cannot afford downtime and thus the reputation of any Enterprise grade software system hinges on its stability and reliability in addition to effectiveness in providing a business solution.

There will not be as many Distros in five years as there are today.  

That fact is a certainty.

By attrition, some Distros will simply fade away into disuse.  The sturdy long-termers will consolidate and survive by adopting common standards and as there will be far fewer Distros, more programming effort will be spread across the few remaining base Linux Distros.  My prediction is there will be no more than six remaining in five years.

But be assured, Linux will continue to endure and survive, flourishing on a base set of LSB-compliant Distributions for many years to come.  -- Dietrich
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Monday, December 9, 2013

G+ Conversations on Fedora 20, KDE User Perceptions

By Dietrich Schmitz

We had a lively exchange over at Google Plus on Fedora 20, due out tomorrow, 12/10/2013.  (Image credit: www.infusivefive.com)

+Tycho Softworks, a regular participant, initiated the post and shared his thoughts on Fedora 20 and the 'free association' thread of comments took off leading to KDE Plasma Desktop and some of the issues users are confronted with, legitimate or otherwise.

Per usual, perception is reality and I solicited +Aaron Seigo for his view on all things KDE.  He is as always the 'Thinking Man' and has no shortage of interesting things to say.

Here is the Google Plus Post in its entirety (you will need to click through the G+ post's "time" to see the full thread of comments):

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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Saturday, December 7, 2013

End Proprietary Software Exploitation. Use Open Source Linux

by Dietrich Schmitz

It seems that every day, we learn more information about how governmental agencies can with impunity view your Internet activities, your emails, documents, everything.

Today, Liveleak has a story about how the FBI admits they have a method whereby they can remotely activate your PC's camera should they need to do so.  Of course they add that it would only be done in extreme narrowly restricted cases such as terrorism.  Isn't that the excuse our government used for invoking the Patriot Act?

Anyhow, it is quite illustrative of how proprietary based software development can ultimately lead to exploitation.  I can assure the readers that no such exploitation will occur with open source transparency at work.  That's thousands of eyes around the world  thoroughly scrutinizing Linux source code.  Whereas, by comparison, there are only a limited few at Microsoft and, given each project being segregated, one hand won't necessarily know what the other hand is doing and the 'whole picture' becomes obscured.  Many simply don't want to do anything but their own coding and won't participate in cross project code maintenance and debugging. 

That is the essence of open source transparency.  Nothing ever goes unnoticed for long.  Bugs are identified, fixed and the repository system gets an update within a matter of hours.  The codebase remains 'fresh', not stale.  

Unlike open source Linux, bugs in Microsoft's proprietary code may linger for months, even years, going entirely overlooked and unfixed which contributes to exploits such as the one discussed in this story.

So please. End proprietary software exploitation.  Begin using open source Linux today, won't you?

Be safe.

-- Dietrich

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Friday, December 6, 2013

Google: Don't try to change the law. ENCRYPT GMAIL/DRIVE!

by Dietrich Schmitz

Okay so Google are pushing today for changes to be made to Internet request for access to their data infrastructure by third party entities, namely, our Government.

I think this is the wrong way to go about it, and I won't sign their petition (below). (Image credit: zeroknowledgeprivacy.org)

If Google can encrypt their 'Google Cloud' product, then they should apply the same standard for the general consumer (public) of their Gmail/Drive services.

If software vendors like SpiderOak, Wuala, and now Microsoft and Yahoo can muster the requisite technology to facilitate encrypting all of consumers' private data, there is no excuse for Google not following suit.

Do the right thing Google.  ENCRYPT GMAIL/DRIVE with Zero Knowledge Encryption technology.  -- Dietrich

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fedora Desktop 20 (Gnome): A Class Act

by Dietrich Schmitz

If there is one thing I have learned, it's that life is dynamic.  And so it is in life that many things change  -- not just the material objects -- but our social mores and mindsets evolve to such an extent that completely different views and perspectives are gained.

This is a story about Fedora Desktop 20 and how it has changed my view of several things.

I am using the pre-release version of Fedora Desktop 20, which is scheduled for release on December 10, 2013.  As pre-releases go (beta 5 at the time of this writing), one can expect a 'bumpy' ride.  That has not been my experience.  In fact, it has been quite stable compared to other betas I have tested in the past.


You see, unlike Ubuntu, Red Hat-owned Fedora Desktop 20, is a 'true' community-based Distro that gets most of the feature enhancements added and chosen by 'community' participants.   The 'derivative' Ubuntu Distros?  Well, they are playing 'second fiddle' and rest atop the Canonical-supplied Ubuntu Linux Kernel and repository system coupling their own non-Unity chosen GUIs.

Despite Canonical Ltd.'s best efforts to lend the appearance of having a true community-driven Distribution (Distro), I have reached the conclusion that most of their decision making comes from corporate, not community, participants.  In fact, Canonical Ltd. does not differentiate between their 'commercial' Ubuntu and a Ubuntu community version.  There simply isn't one.

Fedora's Default Desktop GUI - Gnome

This is where I found myself pleasantly surprised.  Historically, I liked neither Unity nor the Gnome 3.x GUIs for many reasons stemming from my 20 years in IT software and user interface design development experience.

As was the case with the initial 4.x release of KDE Plasma Desktop, there was a period of 'instability', during which users responded with feedback for a year or more until the KDE Development Team replicated rearward features from the 3.5.x generation.  Ultimately, KDE prevailed and matured to the point where I would call it the 'best' Desktop GUI for Linux.

Gnome Shell 3.10 shown in 'Window Selection' mode
Today, I find myself chuckling because, despite 'major' past usability issues acknowledged by the Gnome Team, they've managed to surmount them and have reached what I call a stable usability plateau.  Fedora Desktop 20 uses The Gnome Project's Gnome 3.10.1 and I can honestly say that this is a far sight better than the previous versions of Gnome and it is well beyond Ubuntu in overall usability, fit and finish.

Hats off to both The Gnome Project and the Fedora Developer Team in doing a superb job of integration.  The name 'Fedora Desktop' now really takes on special meaning for me. It's drop-dead easy to use like Windows and quite professional in all respects.  

In surveying the Distrowatch.com Top 5 Distributions, I'd place Fedora Desktop as the best Gnome implementation, Canonical's Ubuntu as the Unity GUI, Mint as the best KDE, Xfce, Cinnamon and MATE implementations (which includes their Debian spin), and Lubuntu as the best LXDE Distro.  (That's the top 5 Distros, so, don't take it personally if I didn't mention your favorite Distribution.)


Many of you already know I am an ardent security advocate so I view those Distros which promote advanced security features with great favor.

Fedora has a long-standing reputation for excellent security and implements by default Linux Security Module SELinux which places user activities in a 'Mandatory Access Control' 'sandbox'.  This ensures that if some unsuspecting exploit tries to escalate and gain administrative access to your system, the SELinux policy will simply kill the process.

In addition to the standard Linux security features that all Distros inherit from the Linux Kernel, the Fedora Desktop 20 now incorporates stronger gcc compilation controls to mitigate risk of buffer overflow using a new compiler switch, -fstack-protector-strong.

New Features

From a Red Hat press release, here's a brief summary of Fedora 20's new features taken verbatim:

What’s New in Fedora 20First and foremost, we are pleased to announce that, in keeping with Fedora’s commitment to leading edge open innovation, ARM is now a primary architecture. While Fedora has supported a number of hardware architectures over the years (with x86/x86_64 being the default for the majority of Fedora users), the ARM team has made massive strides over the past year. The technology already dominates the mobile market and shows great promise for the server world as well, hence Fedora’s adoption of the architecture to satisfy end users and developers targeting the ARM platform.
Cloud and Virtualization EnhancementsOS Installer Support for LVM Thin Provisioning – With the introduction of thin provisioning via Logical Volume Manager (LVM) in the Linux kernel, Fedora 20 can now support the configuration of thin clients during OS installation.
VM Snapshot UI with virt-manager – While QEMU and libvirt are fully capable of performing safe virtual machine (VM) snapshots/checkpoints, a simple, discoverable UI did not exist previously. This feature adds a UI to virt-manager, simplifying the VM process.
Developer GoodiesFedora features a host of new features and updated packages to interest developers using a wide variety of languages, including Ruby on Rails 4.0 and Perl 5.18.
Maturity/Advanced FeaturesNetworkManager Improvements – Users can now add, edit, delete, activate and de-activate network connections via the nmcli command line tool, and support for bonding and bridging interfaces is now included, improving usability for enterprise and virtualization users.
No Default Sendmail, Syslog – As systemd continues to mature, the systemd journal now takes its place as the default logging solution in place of syslog, while Sendmail is no longer installed by default.


I've really been trying hard to come up with some justification which would sway me to prefer Ubuntu over Fedora Desktop 20.  I can't.  The security is better.  The package manager, YUM, I have reviewed and it is simply superior to APT.  

Fedora is Linux Standard Base (LSB) compliant and the staging area for any new LSB enhancements which merge to Red Hat Enterprise Linux.  Fedora also takes the technology lead by being the first community Distro to have implemented systemd.  Many other Distros have followed suit, yet, Ubuntu chose some time ago to develop and still employs Upstart.  

Laggard Debian only recently made a feature freeze decision for Debian 8 and chose Upstart, despite the long-term benefits of systemd.  Gnome 3.10.1 as I mentioned has reached a new plateau of stability and usability and is a cut above Canonical Ltd.'s competing Unity overall.  

Yes, Gnome's time has come.  It integrates exceedingly well with Fedora to provide a  professional Linux Desktop experience.   

Fedora Desktop 20 -- It's a 'class act'.  -- Dietrich
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