image-phone-overview

Ubuntu Touch RTM – Not ready yet

I love working in Ubuntu. It’s a great OS for getting things done, fast.

So you might expect me to be excited when Ubuntu announced they were coming out with a touch OS. I was, of course. I scoured the site occasionally until a publicly available stable version would be available for download.

Owning only one phone, an LG Nexus 4, I wanted to make sure Ubuntu Touch was ready for prime time. Finally, I found a dual-boot option which would allow me to enjoy Ubuntu while still being able to boot my phone’s main OS.

So I went about the task of downloading the dual boot installer, rooting my phone, installing the dual-boot app and re-locking the bootloader.

For all intents and purposes, my phone is now an Ubuntu Touch phone.

The interface is sleek, if not a little jarring for those used to iOS or Android. Blackberry users might feel more at home with the swipe-from-edge gestures being your only access to menus and other features.

I quickly became accustomed to the nuances of Ubutnu Touch’s new interface. I kind-of like it! I could definitely use this every day.

The trouble comes when I try to actually use Ubuntu Touch to do any of the things I usually use a smartphone to do.

First, as you might expect, there are basically no native apps. There are some non-native web apps, and they all run terribly. Most flicker and flash, lag terribly and otherwise refuse to function properly.

That wouldn’t be a huge problem, as really I only want to communicate with people as a bare minimum. The problem being that I can’t even do that well.

Facebook, twitter, and other applications which should have access to and trigger notifications in the notification menu simply do not do that.

Facebook Messenger is the primary method of communication for a bunch of my friends. I don’t bother texting hardly anyone these days. So that right there makes this not a daily driver for me. If I can’t get FB messenger notifications, I can’t use it.

Also, the most heinous of problems, is that Ubuntu Touch had a well known problem with locking you out of your SIM card, even if the SIM card is not locked. I ended up having to call my carrier to fix the problem I caused by trying to get my SIM working. This problem seems to have been fixed, but bugs like this would surely be a show-stopper for consumers.

Overall, Ubuntu Touch isn’t ready for you. I don’t really care who you are, it’s just not ready. It’s missing key features everywhere.

Hopefully by the time the RTM period expires, these will all be addressed.

Cat Scratch Fever

Emmett

Emmett

The screeching sound of my male cat trying to enter the work room cuts through the conversation my wife and I were having like a knife. It has been like this for weeks now. I can’t remember the last time I had some time alone at home without our cat Emmett crying for attention.

Emmett is quite a clever cat. Every time we find a way to prevent him from trying to bother us while sleeping he finds a way to continue to do so. At first he would pull up bits of carpet, so we covered the carpet in plastic. He ripped up the plastic, so we put down bins full of water in their place. Emmett then figured out how to perch, balanced on the edge of the bin and scratch at the door.

The only thing that has worked so far, for the past three nights, is a special spray that smells like some kind of cilantro funk. Cats apparently hate it, and the cat repellent seems at least temporarily effective.

I don’t know how long we will have peace. It matters little as I find myself waking up at 5:30am regardless. I have been trained by a cat.

Plead as I might with my feline oppressor, it is clear that he is the boss, and I am his staff.

Wake up!

Bring my wet food!

Play with the laser!

No, not the automatic toy you made me. I want you to fling the laser around in intricate patterns.

Your laser technique is flawed. I can see repetitions in your pattern. I’m bored now.

I go to work, make some money, and bring it home in order to feed and entertain my creative, fluffy commander. Named after the scientist from Back to the Future along with his sister Marty, they are like our children. Children whom we can not effectively set boundaries for, nor will they listen.

Kitten Cuddles

Emmett (left) and Marty (right) cuddling on our couch.

The power of names is amazing. Watch 5 minutes of Back to the Future and you’ll realize that Dr. Brown spends a vast majority of the film looking surprised, running around and freaking out about things. His high-strung character seems to have been transposed onto our feline fuhrer. Yes, Emmett has a bit of a Hitler ‘stache.

Marty, on the other hand, is quite a relaxed creature. She’s happy enough with the standard ebb and flow of the household. She sleeps when we sleep, she wakes when we wake and she eats when we set food out for her. She’s happy to go to the lake with Jennifer and have a nice weekend, or skateboard along behind a vehicle.

Well she doesn’t skateboard, yet. Being a bit timid, she runs around the house chasing or being chased by Emmett. She often hides from us for no discernible reason. But don’t call her chicken, lest she leave your skin in tatters.

When we first picked up Emmett and Marty, we had grand plans for them. We had already purchased a kit in order to attempt to toilet train them. We waited a few weeks as instructed by the kit and by the Internet. Then the fateful day came when we took away the litter entirely. At first they were a bit confused, but they seemed to get the point quickly.

The kit came with several colours of concentric rings. The first ring was in fact a complete cover for the toilet, fastened under the seat and filled with a tiny bit of litter. The cats both took to this quickly and started using it regularly. We had used this set-up for a few weeks before moving on to the next ring.

There was a flaw in this process, however. We had made plans to go to Japan for the entire month of December. We left Marty and Emmett with friends who graciously took them in. They would both be using a standard litter box for the second half of the month of December.

Upon returning home from a quite rewarding trip, the friends dropped-off our lovely terrors and told us how pleasant the cats stay was. Emmett had apparently become a lap cat in their home. Something that has not often been repeated since.

We started them using the toilet training kit again, but this time there was some protest. At any given time, one or the other cat refused to use the toilet for either number one or number two, leaving their mess in various places around the bathroom floor or in the shower. Eventually Marty flat-out refused to leave a poo in the training kit at all and we gave up.

We installed a regular litter tray in the bathroom and Marty has yet to do a single poo in a litter at all. She still goes on the floor each and every day, and I still pick it up and put it in the litter. Or I’ll try putting it in the toilet without flushing. Or I’ll simply flush it away. Nothing has made any difference to her.

I had also tried picking her up when I see her getting ready and trying to put her in the litter or on the toilet. She refuses both. I have no idea what to do with her. We have looked at forums and tried everything they suggest. Our cats flat-out refuse to co-operate with anything we attempt.

We have built a rather large cat-tree to entertain our wily overlords. It stands about six feet tall and about eight feet wide. It takes over an entire wall of our home. The structure features two towers made of two-by-fours with alternating pads for the cats to jump on, all covered in thick carpet. Then to join the two towers we made a long two-by-four beam covered in thin carpet. Adorning tops of both towers are two tubes with circular holes in the sides for the cats to sit in.

Emmett is a large and fairly strong cat. Have you ever seen a cat swing across a beam like a child crossing the monkey-bars? Well Emmett used to do this regularly. He won’t perform this feat very often any-more. It seems that he figured out his ability to hang from the beam by unintentionally missing a jump while chasing his sister.

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Cats are rather proud creatures, meaning that Emmett absolutely could not admit defeat. Rather, he meant to do that, and he put on a show while swinging from paw-to-paw, upside-down across our living-room.

Test for Shellshock (CVE-2014-6271) bash vulnerability

eanbowman@eanbowman:~$ env x='() { :;}; echo vulnerable' bash -c "echo this is a test"
bash: warning: x: ignoring function definition attempt
bash: error importing function definition for `x'
this is a test
eanbowman@eanbowman:~$

That’s what a patched bash shell should look like. To test your own, open up a console and type:

env x='() { :;}; echo vulnerable' bash -c "echo this is a test"

If you see the line “vulnerable” returned, the trailing echo at the end of the function definition is being run and your bash prompt is vulnerable.

An update to bash is already available for most major distributions:

  1. Novel/SuSE
  2. Debian
  3. Ubuntu
  4. Redhat/Fedora
  5. Mageia
  6. CentOS

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

A lot of videos are popping up on the Internet lately surrounding the ALS Ice Bucket challenge. What started as a silly way to raise awareness of the need for ALS research or be punished has actually led many people to both take up the challenge and donate.

Say what you will about those posting the videos, but know that they have raised about $5 million so far. The donations from this time last year were in the mid $30-thousands.

So cool off and hopefully donate to a great cause!

http://www.als.ca/ICEBUCKETCHALLENGE