LUGM submission on the ICTA consultation paper

“The Linux User Group of Mauritius takes note of MITM measures on ICTA’s request for public consultation for regulating the use and misuse of social media in Mauritius.

From a technical perspective, the MITM proxy toolset involving a Certificate Authority not in the default trust store of major web browsers and operating systems will undermine the security model of Transport Layer Security and weaken the security of users on the Internet.

The proposed solution also poses issues such as not being compatible with the enhanced security mechanisms of some smartphones, and internet enabled-devices such as gaming consoles, smart televisions etc. For these technical reasons, the LUGM considers the MITM model in the consultation paper as bringing more negative results than perceived positive results”

ICTA Public consultation for TLS MITM in Mauritius

The Information and Communication Technologies Authority (ICTA) is asking for public consultations on a framework to regulate use of social networks in Mauritius. One of the ideas is requiring Internet users using social networks to install as an ICTA-issued Certificate Authority certificate in their operating system or browser so that certificates can be issued for domains such as facebook.com. This is required to allow a Man in the Middle (MITM) proxy server intercept, decrypt, inspect, log, and/or block access to URLs. The public consultation paper is accessible on:
https://www.icta.mu/docs/2021/Social_Media_Public_Consultation.pdf
The public has up to May 20th 2021 to send their comments about the consultation paper to the email address contained in the PDF document linked above.

Convert multiple lines into one tab-separated line using paste

I generally have a lot of text files with such content:

1
Play track
Turn Around
Unlove this track
Panic Attack
Avinash Meetoo
110 scrobbles
2
Play track
Playing the Angel
Unlove this track
Precious
Depeche Mode
101
3
Play track
The Singles 86>98
Unlove this track
Personal Jesus
Depeche Mode
98

These are the three tracks I have listened to most since I started using Last.fm way back in 2005.

What I want to achieve is to easily convert these 21 lines (3 x 7) into 3 tab-separated lines which can then be easily imported into, say, Libreoffice Calc:

1<TAB>Play track<TAB>Turn Around<TAB>Unlove this track<TAB>Panic Attack<TAB>Avinash Meetoo<TAB>110 scrobbles
2<TAB>Play track<TAB>Playing the Angel<TAB>Unlove this track<TAB>Precious<TAB>Depeche Mode<TAB>101
3<TAB>Play track<TAB>The Singles 86>98<TAB>Unlove this track<TAB>Personal Jesus<TAB>Depeche Mode<TAB>98

For many years, each time I had to do that, I wrote a small Awk script. But, today, thanks to RudiC on the Unix Stack Exchange, I have the perfect recipe using paste:

paste -s -d "\t\t\t\t\t\t\n" file-containing-all-the-lines.txt

Naturally, you can adjust the number of “\t” if you have fewer or more fields.

Enjoy :-)

openSUSE distributions dedicated page

openSUSE distributions dedicated page

Previously, it would take someone new to the project quite some time to learn about the distributions and understand their differences. Not every new openSUSE user would know that it's ideal to use openSUSE MicroOS for single-purpose server hosting and Kubic for container orchestration with Kubernetes.

Thanks to a revamp of the openSUSE Project website, now the distributions get a dedicated page at get.opensuse.org. A little work is still needed on the documentation part for each specific distribution. If you would like to help with that, you are most welcome. Join the openSUSE Documentation mailing list and coordinate with what's already being done to improve doc.opensuse.org.

For now, each distribution's individual page on get.opensuse.org points to the same official documentation guide which is Leap-centric. The documentation does not cover specific instructions for MicroOS, Kubic or even Tumbleweed.

How to host a free 1 year server running UBUNTU in AWS?

How to host a free 1 year server running UBUNTU in AWS?

In this tutorial we are going to get you started with Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2). You'll learn how to launch, connect to, and use an Ubuntu instance.

First and foremost you will need to create an account: https://aws.amazon.com/resources/create-account/

Once you have created your account, we will need to find a region of lowest latency for us and the easiest way is to go to this website that runs the AWS latency test. https://ping.psa.fun/ . For Mauritius, it is the af-south-1 region (Cape Town, Africa) which has the lowest latency.

Launching your instance:

  1. Open the Amazon EC2 console at https://console.aws.amazon.com/ec2/.
  2. On the top right corner, choose your preferred region
  3. From the console dashboard, choose Launch Instance.
  4. The Choose an Amazon Machine Image (AMI) page displays a list of basic configurations, called Amazon Machine Images (AMIs), that serve as templates for your instance. Select an Ubuntu Server 20.04 (Free tier eligible).
  5. On the Choose an Instance Type page, you can select the hardware configuration of your instance. Select the t3.micro instance type, which is eligible for the free tier. Β For more information, see AWS Free Tier.
  6. Choose Review and Launch to let the wizard complete the other configuration settings for you.
  7. On the Review Instance Launch page, under Security Groups, you'll see that the wizard created and selected a security group for you. You can use this security group, or alternatively you can select the security group that you created when getting set up using the following steps:
  8. Choose Edit security groups.
  9. On the Configure Security Group page, ensure that Select an existing security group is selected.
  10. Select your security group from the list of existing security groups, and then choose Review and Launch.
  11. On the Review Instance Launch page, choose Launch.
  12. When prompted for a key pair, select Choose an existing key pair, then select the key pair that you created when getting set up.
    Warning
    Don't select Proceed without a key pair. If you launch your instance without a key pair, then you can't connect to it.
    When you are ready, select the acknowledgement check box, and then choose Launch Instances.
  13. A confirmation page lets you know that your instance is launching. Choose View Instances to close the confirmation page and return to the console.
  14. On the Instances screen, you can view the status of the launch. It takes a short time for an instance to launch. When you launch an instance, its initial state is pending. After the instance starts, its state changes to running and it receives a public DNS name. (If the Public DNS (IPv4) column is hidden, choose Show/Hide Columns (the gear-shaped icon) in the top right corner of the page and then select Public DNS (IPv4).)It can take a few minutes for the instance to be ready so that you can connect to it. Check that your instance has passed its status checks; you can view this information in the Status Checks column.

Connecting to your newly created Ubuntu Instance

Open an SSH client.

  1. Locate your private key file. The key used to launch this instance is nu-server.pem
  2. Run this command, if necessary, to ensure your key is not publicly viewable.
    chmod 400 *.pem
  3. Connect to your instance using its Public DNS as provided in your dashboard

Example:

ssh -i "server.pem" ubuntu@ecX-XX-XXX-XX-XXX.af-south-1.compute.amazonaws.com


Grab a cool wallpaper for your Linux desktop

Grab a cool wallpaper for your Linux desktop

I tweeted about a blog post which I published on opensuse.mu, explaining how I configured the GNOME desktop theme Yaru (by the Ubuntu community) on my openSUSE Tumbleweed machine. The tweet got a lot of reaction, not just for the blog post or cool Yaru theme but also for the nice wallpaper showing penguins using a computer.

I got a question whether the wallpaper was freely available. The answer is yes. The wallpaper was released, among many others, by Digital Ocean in 2016.

You can head to imgur.com now and grab a cool wallpaper for your Linux desktop.

RHEL no-cost* vs openSUSE Leap

RHEL no-cost* vs openSUSE Leap

Ever since Red Hat announced that they are changing the development model of CentOS and making it an upstream project rather than downstream, it left many CentOS users frowning. No matter what argument brought forward, CentOS users, especially running production machines, relied on the stability of an enterprise-grade Linux distribution. Compiled from RHEL sources, CentOS offered such stability that it powered many web servers and enjoyed a massive 20% share of the top 500 supercomputers of the world.

RHEL no-cost* vs openSUSE Leap
Source: TOP500.org Statistics November 2020

Some time back, Red Hat made another annoucement, about new Red Hat Enterprise Linux programs. Under the new program RHEL can be used in production for up to 16 systems (which Red Hat considers a small workload) at zero license costs. Also, Red Hat is making it easier for a customer's development team to join the program and reap the benefits.

What risks lie ahead for an enterprise if Red Hat changes or cancels the program in the future? πŸ€”

On the other hand, since 2018, SUSE has worked closely with the openSUSE community to bring the Leap distribution closer to SUSE Enterprise Linux (SLE), such that now Leap and SLE are binary compatible.

openSUSE currently offers two distinct distributions, Leap & Tumbleweed.

Tumbleweed is a rolling distribution constantly getting updated software whereas Leap has planned releases that sync with SUSE Linux Enterprise and its Service Packs.

RHEL no-cost* vs openSUSE Leap
Source: suse.com

The above image depicts how openSUSE & SUSE Linux Enterprise are developed together. Factory is the rolling development codebase for both openSUSE & SLE. In the pipeline we can see that Leap & SLE are synced and both receive software packages from the same source; that is why they are both binary compatible.

In a series of blog posts explaining how SUSE builds its Enterprise Linux distribution, author Vincent Moutoussamy details the relationship between openSUSE & SLE.

Conclusion

Red Hat allows its clients to use RHEL for free on up to 16 machines. On the other hand, openSUSE Leap boasts binary compatibility with SUSE Linux Enterprise and comes without any restriction on usage.


Cover image source:
Photo by Gratisography from Pexels

SOGo calendar synchronization breaks due to emoji in the event title

SOGo calendar synchronization breaks due to emoji in the event title

An emoji can break a calendar. 😳

I am using the SOGo Groupware. I noticed that certain emojis in the event title would prevent calendar apps from synchronizing using the CalDAV protocol. I checked the logs but could not find much. I had my doubts about what could be causing it. Then, this bug report confirmed that I should investigate on the UTF-8 encoding support.

I checked the database character set.

MariaDB [sogo]> select @@character_set_database;
+--------------------------+
| @@character_set_database |
+--------------------------+
| utf8                     |
+--------------------------+
1 row in set (0.001 sec)

The database name is sogo and we are using MariaDB.

I found the character set to be utf8, to my surprise. I had to dig a little further to understand what was wrong with it.

It turned out that the MariaDB utf8 character set supports a maximum of there bytes per character. Therefore, emojis being four bytes long weren't being inserted into the database. Consequently, that breaks the calendar synchronization. The solution was to use the utf8mb4 character set which supports four bytes per multi-byte character.

I altered the database character set and collation.

MariaDB [sogo]> ALTER DATABASE sogo CHARACTER SET = utf8mb4 COLLATE = utf8mb4_unicode_ci;

I also applied it to every table in the database, e.g:

MariaDB [sogo]> ALTER TABLE sogo_store CONVERT TO CHARACTER SET utf8mb4 COLLATE utf8mb4_unicode_ci;

Afterwards, I could create events using an emoji in the title. The event would synchronize across my calendar apps but the emoji would not show. Instead, it would appear as four questions marks (????) instead.

SOGo calendar synchronization breaks due to emoji in the event title
SOGo calendar emoji issue

A little bit of further digging and I found that SOGo needs to be made aware of the full unicode support. It should be specified in the /etc/sogo/sogo.conf configuration file.

MySQL4Encoding = "utf8mb4";

Restart the SOGo service. Emojis should be then accepted in the event titles.

SOGo calendar synchronization breaks due to emoji in the event title

I can now put my recurrent coffee breaks in the calendar. β˜•


Credits:
Web vector created by stories - www.freepik.com

openSUSE community elects Axel, Gertjan and Neal to serve on the Board

openSUSE community elects Axel, Gertjan and Neal to serve on the Board

The election lasted for two weeks and it ended last night at 23h59 UTC. The results were published today at mid-day (for me).

The complete election results are:

  • Axel Braun β€” 142 votes
  • Gertjan Lettink β€” 134 votes
  • Neal Gompa β€” 131 votes
  • Maurizio Galli β€” 103 votes
  • Nathan Wolf β€” 59 votes

Five votes were recorded for the "none of the above" option. Out of 518 eligible voters, 229 voters have cast their vote in this election, which represents a turnout of 44%. It's a low turnout compared to last year's board election which was 56%.

Axel, Gertjan and Neal are elected to serve for two years on the openSUSE Board.

Ubuntu Mauritius 🐧

Ubuntu Mauritius 🐧

Last week, Chittesh and I were discussing about Ubuntu 20.10 and we shared how things are effortless and boring. I installed Ubuntu on my personal laptop the previous week-end. I was indeed impressed by the out-of-the-box experience with the drivers and codecs.

For a long time I had forgotten that Ubuntu has the tendency to keep things as "human" as possible; and therefore adhering to their motto, "Linux for human beings!"

Out of the discussion, we then decided we will put some energy into the dormant Ubuntu Mauritius LoCo Team. The latter was created in 2011 and we organised a few events around those years, such as the Ubuntu Global Jam and Installation Festivals. Later on, I continued to focus on my experiments with openSUSE and spent less time at the Ubuntu activities.

In 2021, we are going to sort out a few things and make the Ubuntu Mauritius group active again. Chittesh has agreed to take on the reign. He is already the team's go-to person. Expect to see more purple desktops next year!