Tag Archives: Linux

Enabling HTML5 MP3 Playback in Firefox 30 and Above

The other day I was trying to play a track on Soundcloud and it wasn’t playing. Soundcloud switched to an HTML5 player instead of Flash quite a while ago. This was strange because it had previously worked. I tried Safe mode but it still didn’t work. I tried Chrome and it worked in there so I was somewhat perplexed.  I eventually found that starting with Firefox 30, Firefox started using Gstreamer 1.0 instead of the old 0.10 version. By default not all of the plugins to Gstreamer are installed in (K)Ubuntu. Pretty much all of the open source sound codecs will work (ogg, flac, vorbis, etc) but mp3 will not. The fix to this is simple.

sudo apt-get install gstreamer1.0-plugins-bad gstreamer1.0-plugins-ugly

Enjoy your HTML5 mp3 playback!


Why I Switched to KDE

I have always been a Gnome person. I’ve tried KDE every once in a while but I never really liked it. It seemed it was always either features that were missing that Gnome had or things didn’t work right where they worked fine in Gnome.  I could never get used to it and I would always find myself back in Gnome.

Recently though, the timing was just right. I used to be a big fan of Unity, but I was very put off by the version that is in Ubuntu 11.10.  I liked the version in 11.04 much better. Not to mention it was much stabler. The version in 11.10 was very unstable for me and I did not like some of the new functionality. I quickly became very unhappy with Unity.  I realized that I wasn’t as big of a fan of Unity as I thought. I didn’t want to use Unity anymore I got so frustrated with it. So I started looking at my options.


I decided I would try KDE yet again. Not only did KDE look absolutely beautiful, but all of the features that were missing for me had been implemented and all of the deal breaking bugs had been fixed after many years. So I tried to give KDE a genuine shot. It was a bit awkward getting used to the way KDE does things. But I fell in love with it after just a few days and haven’t looked back. KDE seems very refreshing and freeing compared to Gnome. I can customize every little bit to my likings. Now I look back and Gnome seems very restrictive to me.


tl;dr: Got tired of Unity and tried KDE again. Fell in love with it and never looked back.

On Unity

With the recent announcement of Ubuntu 11.04 shipping Unity instead of Gnome Shell by default, there has been a lot of backlash.  I’m talking about all the knee-jerk reactions such as “I DON’T LIKE THE DIRECTION UBUNTU IS HEADED TIME TO SWITCH TO GENTOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!11”.  It’s funny how people can react like this over an Ubuntu release that hasn’t even been released yet.  Unity has been made the default interface on the netbook edition, but what needs to be understood is that it is kind of a “1.0 release” sort of thing.   In the same way that the first release of KDE 4 was rough around the edges, Unity is rough around the edges. It is definitely not perfect.  Even I have some complaints about it, but for the love of sanity, try it for more than ten seconds and make your decision based on actual experience and not nonsense.  Also realize that the Unity that will ship with 11.04 will be much different from the current version.  The developers are going to get a lot of feedback during this release cycle and will improve upon it.

Transitions can sometimes be a bit uncomfortable.  We’ve been though this many times before.  As I mentioned before, when KDE 4 was initially released there were many, many complaints. Now all I hear is how nice KDE 4 is.  When PulseAudio was released it caused a lot of problems for people.  Over time though it has greatly improved and I would even dare to say that it now works for most people most of the time. When Ubuntu first released Notify-OSD, there was a lot of outcry about that but died down after a while.  Maybe because people become used to it or *gasp* prefer it to the old notification-daemon.  Unity will follow in a similar fashion.  Transitions can be bumpy but everything turns out OK in the end.

Some other things to consider:

  • Gnome Shell will still be in the repositories and easily installable.
  • Gnome 2.x will still be in the repositories.
  • Unity is not replacing Gnome 3

Give Unity a chance before writing it off and don’t spread FUD.


With the introduction of the new theme for Ubuntu 10.04 there has been much controversy over the placement of the window management buttons. A lot of people (or perhaps a small but very loud group of people) have complained about how the positioning on the left is bad. The thing is another major OS places its window management buttons on the left; OS X. I’m positive that Apple put a lot of usability research into the placement of those buttons. There’s no way the developers just arbitrarily placed the buttons on the left. But that’s besides the point of this post. What I find kind of ironic amongst all of the complaining is the most downloaded theme on gnome-look.org is this theme. And guess where the buttons are placed. That’s right, on the left. If buttons on the left are so bad, why do so many people want them? Just sayin’.

File Roller is Terribly Inefficient

The Gnome archive manager, File Roller, is terribly inefficient in the way it handles archive extraction and creation. I just happened to have Htop running while I was extracting a large gziped tar archive which was on my external hard drive with File Roller when I saw what File Roller was actually doing. First off, File Roller is pretty simple in the way it works. It’s just a GUI wrapper for the command line tools like tar, gzip, etc. So here is what File Roller does when you extract something. It copies the whole archive to a temporary directory in ~/.cache/.fr-xxxx. Then it extracts it in the temporary directory and then copies the extracted files to the location you’re extracting them to.  ARRRRRGGGHH! 👿 What is this I don’t even

Now if that archive happens to be sitting on an external drive and you’re extracting it to the same directory or to another directory on the same external drive you can see just how terribly inefficient this is. It has to copy the archive to your home directory then extract it, then copy it back to the external drive! This is such a waste of time, it makes it take twice as long since it has to make unnecessary copies to temporary locations. Like I said before, File Roller is simply a GUI wrapper for command line tools which is what makes me even more frustrated with this. Tar supports extracting to alternate locations with the -C option. So why the hell is File Roller making unnecessary, time-wasting copies to temporary locations!? I can accomplish the same thing in less time and more efficiently than File Roller with something like this

tar -xzvf file.tar.gz -C /path/to/destination

Another reason this is so bad is that if you happen to be running low on disk space in your home directory and you try to extract an archive that is on an external drive and the archive is larger than your free space you won’t be able to because it will complain about the lack of disk space even though you may have more than enough free space on the external drive.

Finally, it does something just as pointless when creating archives too. I had a 2.3GB file on my desktop that I wanted to compress with lzma. Guess what File Roller did. Yep, copied the whole 2.3GB file to a temporary directory, compressed it, then copied back to my desktop. 👿

I see no logical reason File Roller needs to be making these unnecessary copies to temporary locations. If anyone has a good reason why it does this please enlighten me.

Related bug https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/file-roller/+bug/146206


IPtables Tarpit Support in Karmic

Edit: If you’re using Ubuntu 10.04 or higher this is no longer needed. The xtables-addons in the repositories compiles just fine.

IPtables has a nifty feature called Tarpit. In terms of IPtables a tarpit

“captures and holds incoming TCP connections using no local per-connection resources. Connections are accepted, but immediately switched to the persist state (0 byte window), in which the remote side stops sending data and asks to continue every 60-240 seconds. Attempts to close the connection are ignored, forcing the remote side to time out the connection in 12-24 minutes.” source

This basically means that it will be impossible for the person initiating the connection to close it until it times out, wasting their resources. 😈 Great for those pesky spammers that won’t leave your server alone. However, this feature is not considered stable so it is not included in the standard version of IPtables and therefore, Ubuntu does not have this functionality. However, Karmic offers a simple way to install it.

Karmic has a package in the repos called “netfilter-extensions-source” which contains the source to the Tarpit module as well as some other additions to IPtables, however according to upstream this package is deprecated. It’s also broken. So the package we need to use is called “xtables-addons-source”. However that’s also broken in Karmic. Fun fun. 🙄 So we’ll need to steal the version from Lucid.

wget http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/pool/universe/x/xtables-addons/xtables-addons-source_1.21-1_all.deb
wget http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/pool/universe/x/xtables-addons/xtables-addons-common_1.21-1_i386.deb
# For 64bit:
wget http://archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/pool/universe/x/xtables-addons/xtables-addons-common_1.21-1_amd64.deb

Now install them. If you’re doing this on a server I recommend using the command line  version of gdebi since it will help with dependencies. We’ll also need Quilt so that it can apply some patches when it gets compiled.

sudo apt-get install gdebi-core quilt
sudo gdebi xtables-addons-source_1.21-1_all.deb
sudo gdebi xtables-addons-common_1.21-1_i386.deb
# 64bit:
sudo gdebi xtables-addons-common_1.21-1_amd64.deb

Now just run the following command to compile and install it

sudo module-assistant --verbose --text-mode auto-install xtables-addons

Say yes to any additional packages it wants to install and then it will automatically compile it, package it into a deb and install it.

Now you can create some rules using the Tarpit module.

sudo iptables -A INPUT -p tcp -m tcp -dport 80 -j TARPIT

This will create a tarpit on port 80. Heads up if you’re actually running something on that port as it will become inaccessible.

Or perhaps you want to target a specific IP

sudo iptables -A INPUT -s x.x.x.x -p tcp -j TARPIT

Where x.x.x.x is the IP address.

These are only a couple basic examples. There’s a lot more things you can do with IPtables and Tarpitting which are beyond the scope of this post but a quick Googling will reveal a lot of good info on IPtables. For a basic intro to IPtables I recommend reading this.

Update: If you get a kernel update that bumps the ABI (e.g. 2.6.31-15-generic to 2.6.31-16-generic) then you will have to rebuild the xtables package after rebooting into the new kernel. To do this just rerun the module-assistant command

sudo module-assistant --verbose --text-mode auto-install xtables-addons

Actually I’ve found out this is better since you can recompile it before rebooting thus eliminating any period of time without a firewall.

sudo module-assistant --verbose --text-mode -l <kernel-version> auto-install xtables-addons

Replace <kernel-version> with the new kernel such as “2.6.31-17-generic”

So Much Potential

I was doing some thinking and I realized there’s a few pieces of technology in Linux that have so much potential but are extremely under-utilized.


PolicyKit is an awesome piece of software. It allows for a finer grained permission system. Instead of launching an entire application as root, you can elevate your privileges in a seamless manner. However, PolicyKit is so under used. For example, when Gnome deprecated gnome-vfs and moved to gio/gvfs, Nautilus supposedly got a framework in place that would allow PolicyKit integration. So if you needed root permissions to makes changes to the file system you would be able to basically click a button and elevate your privileges through PolicyKit. Synaptic could also benefit from some PolicyKit integration. Why isn’t PolicyKit used more?


Tracker is a great metadata indexer that crawls your files system and indexes metadata from files. Instead of only searching by file name, you can use Tracker to search ID3 tags or search for text in a OpenOffice or Word document. The problem is, no one has integrated this great search functionality into applications. Once again, there’s an opportunity for some integration with Nautilus. If Nautilus could use Tracker as a backend for searching and have the ability to add tags to files, it would really add some great functionality.

There’s so much potential here. It’s a shame it’s not being used.