Robert Pogson

One man, closing all the windows.

Daily Archives / Wednesday, February 29, 2012

  • Feb 29 / 2012
  • 8

Linus Swats Security on SUSE

Linus is more than a bit outspoken and is not shy to use strong language. He is in the news lately because SUSE asks for the root password for:

  • setting up wireless,
  • setting up a new printer, and
  • setting date/time, timezone…

He has a point. There are systems where these settings are crucial for security but a kid’s notebook at school is proabably not one of them. In a business you may well not want 1000 nude photos to be printed in the boss’ office ( I have seen that. A student caught the principal’s password…) but in a school with the local system admin protecting what he wants to protect, not so much.

Fortunately GNU/Linux is flexible and the guy who controls the “root” account can set it up so that a mortal user can do these things. Even if the root user doesn’t want to bother with security settings for some reason, root can set up a cron job to copy settings from a user’s directory to the system. One way or another it can be done.

The machine I am using is not wireless but I can deal with the other two:

  • printer settings – CUPS (Common UNIX Printing System) has settings that allow root to give any or all mortal users the ability to control printing completely. On my Debian GNU/Linux system there is a group for that, “lpadmin”.
    usermod -a -G lpadmin pogson does the trick and pogson is in the group as soon as he logs in and can tweak CUPS/printer settings and add printers. Of course there is a risk of messing it up so a system administrator should backup the settings before doing this so they can be put back if necessary. An ordinary user can use a CUPS client application or the web interface on http://localhost:631 to control CUPS. The web interface needs to be opened up to allow both access from localhost and local clients. You can also give a particular user control over settings of a particular printer and allow them to change settings for that printer only. So, define a printer, “joe” and allow the mobile user to define it to be whatever he needs wherever he needs it.
  • timezone – There is no need to have a travelling normal user change the timezone settings of a PC. They can simply use a client application with a variable set as needed:
    Wed Feb 29 15:55:51 CST 2012
    pogson@beast:~$ TZ='America/Vancouver' date
    Wed Feb 29 13:56:31 PST 2012
    One can easily tweak these things in Debian GNU/Linux. My current desktop uses an XFCE4 date/time plug-in which does have a timezone setting but I could replace it with a cron job to display the string above every minute as needed as a normal user. On my system, I can also redefine the “date” command in .bashrc as alias date="TZ='America/Toronto' date"

So, Linus may be right that SUSE is too inflexible for his daughter but Debian GNU/Linux is not. The system administrator can easily set it up so that a normal user can do what he needs.

  • Feb 29 / 2012
  • 0

Canadian Senator Daniel Lang Starts Debate on Ridding Us of the Long Firearm Registry

Yesterday, in Canada’s Senate Daniel Lang began the debate for second reading. I could not say it any better. There were several fine speeches following. He and others spoke from wisdom on the problems the present bill will cure but nothing will undo the harm done so far by misguided attempts to fix illusionary problems and pitch one group of Canadians against another. Debate was adjourned and may resume today.


Criminal Code
Firearms Act

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Adjourned
Hon. Daniel Lang moved second reading of Bill C-19, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Firearms Act.

He said: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak to Bill C-19, entitled, Ending the Long-gun Registry Act.

I would like to begin with a quote from the poet George Santayana. He said that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Allow me to explain.

Ninety-three years ago, the Canadian Parliament enacted gun control legislation requiring gun owners to obtain a permit for all firearms, including small arms, rifles and shotguns. A year later, this requirement was repealed. I refer to the debates of May 6, 1921, when then Minister of Justice Charles Doherty stated:

There has been very general representation that the existing law operated too rigorously, lent itself to abuses and subjected citizens to unnecessary annoyance. Continue Reading

  • Feb 29 / 2012
  • 2

Proof of the Usability of GNU/Linux

For years, I have been told by various people from the world of IT that GNU/Linux will never make it on the desktop because of [insert list of complaints/claims/exaggerations/irrelevancies] even while many millions of individuals, schools, organizations, businesses large and small and governments installed and used GNU/Linux as their main OS. A lot of these comments came from the USA where, we are told, real businesses depend so much on particular applications and ways of doing IT that M$ is essential and will never be displaced.

If this were mathematics, such assertions would only need one counter-example to be disproved. I will try again with this, NetApplications counts for Mountain View, California, USA.How can any of the FUD be true when a whole community of 74K people can do 88% of its IT with GNU/Linux?

Only a couple of years ago, they were able to do their IT with that other OS but chose to change quickly.

According to NetApplications, virtually all IT can be done by GNU/Linux in a small city in USA. That should be a sufficient counter-example unless the FUDsters claim Mountain View limits its use of IT to trivial stuff, or that everyone in that city is a GNU/Linux geek or that it’s somehow irrelevant. No, the FUD will go on. Denial is too strong an instinct.

UPDATE This just goes to show us that we must not depend on “partners” of M$ for our data. When I wrote this post, the percentage for GNU/Linux was ~90%. Now that show a few percent… see Mountain View, California, Penguin Heaven

  • Feb 29 / 2012
  • 10

M$ Still Confused by Leap Year

Should people who don’t understand Leap Year be in charge of your IT? I don’t think so. I recommend Debian GNU/Linux who seem to have it done right.

M$ lost its cloud today with the February 29 thing. It seems a certificate expired, or something…

M$ has had problems with dates before, sometimes due to making backwards-compatible bugs:

They are brave or foolhardy to be launching a demo today.

see Microsoft’s Azure cloud down and out for 8 hours