Tag Archives: Practical Tech

Joining Debian 8 to Active Directory

Joining a GNU/Linux machine to a Microsoft Active Directory has been possible for years, but it’s always been a bit of a science project that involved touching half-a-dozen obscure config files and usually resulted in me getting completely locked out of the machine. Various commercial packages such as Likewise and Centrify aimed to smooth out the process, but they weren’t universally accessible across distros, and often produced inconsistent results.

After upgrading a system to Debian 8, I noticed a new option for joining the domain, courtesy of the folks at RedHat: realmd. Realmd puports to make joining an Active Directory domain dead simple. How does it do?

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Building a Linux system for a Child, part 4: a wishlist

The previous articles in this series helped you set up a Linux-based system for a child, and explored some of the great educational and kid-friendly software available. I’ve based this on almost eight years of experience in setting up GNU/Linux on computers for my own kids, and for their friends. So, based on that experience, what things do I wish the Free software community could come up with to make Linux a better experience for kids (and their parents!)?

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Building a Linux system for a Child, part 3: Security concerns

By now you’ve got that old computer purring along like a panther with your new favorite distribution of Linux, loaded to the brim with educational software, ready to propel your child to the heights of intellectual stimulation. But before we launch this starship, let’s take a bit to make sure the safety equipment is in order and reign in some potential problems.

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Building a Linux system for a Child, part2: Distros and software

The last article in this series described some of the more general realities of running Linux on a child’s computer. Now that I’ve (surely) convinced you to go ahead an put GNU/Linux on your child’s computer, it’s time to get down to nuts and bolts: which distribution, and what software?

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Building a Linux system for a Child, part 1: What and Why

One of the common suggested uses for old computers is to install GNU/Linux on it and give it to your kids. I have five children, ranging in age from pre-teen to infant, and all but the youngest (naturally) regularly enjoy the use of computers running some variant of GNU/Linux. We’ve been using it at home since about 2005, and over the last eight years I’ve gained a reasonable amount of experience setting up Linux on computers for my children or their friends. This series of articles will cover some of my insights on setting up a Linux computer for kids.

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Backporting with apt-src

So often with Linux distributions, the choice is between running a bleeding-edge system, or sticking with stable (and sometimes stale) software.  Most of us settle in to a distro that balances both to our liking, but there are times when you just have to have a little newer version of a package than the default repositories offer.  While it’s great to find a backport repo or PPA that offers newer stuff, sometimes that’s not possible.

So for times like that, I’m going to describe a method by which Debian or Ubuntu users can backport their own software using handy little tool called “apt-src”.

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Trying out Ubuntu 12.04? My tips

Ubuntu 12.04 is nearly upon us, and probably will be by the time anyone bothers to read this post.  With all the excitement and general hubbub around it, I imagine it will result in a lot of people unfamiliar with Ubuntu or GNU/Linux trying it out for the first (or first-in-a-long-) time.

There is a lot of good general advice out there, but I’m going to give a few specific tips of my own for folks trying it out:

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Launching URLs with awesome’s Run command

Following on the heels of my google search hotkey in awesome, I decided to tackle expanding the functionality of the run prompt.  Awesome’s run prompt, by default, is basically a command-launcher; it chokes on any input that doesn’t represent an executable file.

I wanted it to behave more like the run prompt in other desktops, so that typing in a URL would open the URL in an appropriate application.

With help from Alexander Yakushev on the awesome mailing list, I managed to figure it out….

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Quick google search in Awesome window manager

I’m back to using AwesomeWM on my work desktop; not sure what brought me back, but I will say that overall I prefer the way it handles multiple monitors and multiple desktops a little better than how KDE does it.  That, and KWin’s tiling mode is still useless with dual monitors even in 4.8.

Something about running a window manager like Awesome makes you uber-sensitive to operations that require you to do a lot of mouse-maneuvering or manual window management, and thus encourages you to streamline these operations.  One such thing for me is searching google for something, an activity which I’m bound to do at least six dozen times during a workday, especially when developing (since I can’t remember API’s for squat).

With a little help from a bash script and surfraw, I came up with a pretty cool solution.  (more…)

Recovering data from a PC: a guide for “not computer people”

It’s a little unfortunate how much we rely on something as unreliable as a computer.  There you are, working along, happily doing your thing, and suddenly Windows (or OSX, or Linux, or BEOS, or whatever it is that sits between your hardware and your web browser) pukes up some error and refuses to boot, work, or be otherwise useful.

Fixing the computer itself is just a matter of time and money; getting back those pictures, documents, emails, and other files that you always meant to back-up is another issue.   So in this article I’m going to show you a simple way to recover documents from a system that won’t boot.

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