May 3

Rai + DTT + Mux-A = Nulla!!!

Category: General

Con lo switch off parziale in programma per il Piemonte per la fine del mese, ho pensato che fosse il caso di provare a far funzionare il digitale terrestre nella mia TV. Funziona tutto… tranne il mux-A della rai: cio√® Rai 1,2,3,4 …. Buono!!!

Cercando su internet ho capito che il problema √® causato dall’uso “arbitrario” della frequenza (UHF 66) da parte di pi√Ļ emittenti. Questo problema sembra coinvolgere, in maniera pesante, la zona Torino Lingotto.

Come far√≤ a vedere la rai quando spegneranno l’analogico? Beh, intanto si suppone che nel momento dello switchoff le assegnazioni di banda saranno pi√Ļ “severe” e che quindi il problema si dovrebbe risolvere da solo.

Se ci√≤ non accadesse, per√≤, ho trovato una soluzione abbastanza “agile”: lo streaming della RAI via web. Si possono vedere (oltre ai tanti contenuti ondemand) anche i canali rai in diretta. La qualit√† dell’immagine √® abbastanza buona (se lo si guarda sul pc)… purtoppo per√≤ il sito √® basata su Microsoft Silverlight. Questo vuol dire che senza un sistema Windows non potrete ammirare i contenuti in HD!!!! Gli altri contenuti saranno facilmente fruibili installando Moonlight (la versione di Silverlight sviluppata dal team di mono)…

L’idea √® buona, ma avrei preferito sinceramente che venisse usata una tecnologia pi√Ļ consolidata e diffusa come Flash (pur non essendo open)… vedremo come andr√† a finire!

Note: Do you want to watch italian Television? Well, you might want to give a try to http://www.rai.tv !!!



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Mar 14

Nostalgia (II)

Category: technology

GUI’s history… they make me feel a bit nostalgic…

Screenshot

Screenshot



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Mar 7

Touch Book: I want one!!!!

Category: General

Yesterday I saw something that really impressed me: the touch book by Always Innovating.

This is much more than a netbook, mainly because it runs on ARM processor, has a detachable touch screen, has two batteries that sum up for up to 15h and has internal USB ports that can be used by simply sliding the touchscreen cover. This means you can tweak your system the way you want: you can buy a UMTS/HDSPA/GPRS/GSM usb connectivity key, a gps module or whatever comes to your mind that comes in USB flavour. All this at the amazing price of 399$.

The OS is a customized Linux (based on OpenEmbedded) but you should have no problem getting Debian, Gentoo or Android on this device. Debian ships for many architectures, so you will probably find all the packages you normally use for the ARM architecture. If you are Microsoft user, I don’t think you’ll be able to use XP, but I don’t see any problem in getting Windows Embedded working.

A longer (video) presentation can be found on OsNews, while an early drive-test can be found on Gizmodo.

If you live in the US you can pre-order this great-toy… unfortunately the rest of the world will need to wait.



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Feb 14

Debian Lenny Finally Stable

Category: General

The wait is over! Today Debian Lenny was released as the new stable! What does it means? Actually, if you have been using it for a while, not too much. That’s because Lenny went into deep-freeze in the first days of February. This means that in the past weeks you only received critical updates.
Please take a look at your apt/sources.list and change “testing” with Lenny wherever it appears. Otherwise in the following days you’ll be updating to squeeze (the new testing).
A new release means that you get a new installer with a wider hardware support. But if your system already has been installed you’ll not see a big difference. So if you were waiting for a good opportunity to test Linux… here you have!!!

I uploaded here a copy of the i386-netinstall-cd to soften Debian’s mirror traffic.

Motivated by the big success of etch-and-half it was stated by the Debian Team that a lenny-and-half will be release, somewhere between now and the next stable, to cover new hardware.

Now with the new stable we got also a new shiny debian front page! Update: the translation of this page took a bit of time (at least the italian version) so between the 14th and the 15th you probably saw writings like: Stable is 4.0 and last release was 14th February !!!!

As a big Debian evangelist I would really like to thank everybody who made this release possible!!!

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Feb 14

How to create VM for VMware Player

If you are using vmplayer, you know that you cannot create a new vm with it. That’s a pity, because if you want to test a new VM you need to do one of the following:

  1. Download an existing Virtual Appliance
  2. Install VMware Server and build your VM
  3. Keep a Clean VM template on your disk and then install an OS on it

The last option is the best, but requires a bit of premeditation. What you are actually going to do is build a VM having 1 disk, Network, CDROM and RAM and save the configure file (.vmx) and the empty disk (.vmdk) somewhere safe. When you need to install a new VM you’ll only need to copy those files to create a “new” vm. Because you can make vmdk disk grow when you use them, your zip will be very small. (~ 2 MB)

If you, like me, forgot/deleted/didn’t made a template to keep you’ll find easyvmx.com a very useful site. The site is very simple to use: select SuperSimple if all you need is a vm to test a LiveCD, or easyvmx 2.0 if you want to have a more complete configuration with working vmdk files included. But if you are a maniac of settings you cannot miss Expert mode to tweak your vmx.

If you run into any problem while testing your new vm remember that vmx are just text files, and you can try to change them to fit your needs.

Unfortunatly Easyvmx covers only hardware version 6 while latest hw version, used by Workstation 6.5 or Server 2.0, is 7.

Unfortunatly VMware player doesn’t allow you to install VMware tools. This means you cannot use, shared folders, soft shutdown and you’ll have a slower system.

To adress those problem you can try installing open-vm-tools. Those are a part of the VMWare tools that VMWare decided to release under GPL. If you are using Debian (as you know you should) and have the “contrib” repository, you are an apt-get install away from installing them. To get a better idea of what you are installing, consider reading the FAQ.

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Jan 12

Bruteforcing for fun & profit (TM)

A couple of days ago some people I know spent almost 1h¬Ĺ playing this “Hack game” . They got stuck at level 9 so I decided to take a look at the game to see how much time would it take me to solve it.

It is a very simple hack game… actually it is a JavaScript game… if you know a couple of tricks to manipulate JavaScript you will pass the first 8 levels without any effort!!! (Actually if you use Opera it will be easier!!!)

The 9th level is the longest one to solve. In short it will ask you to solve this problem:

You are given a number D (eg. D=10) and a vector of numbers V (V=[1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9]). You are asked to select N numbers¬†from V so that they sum up to D (eg. 1+2+3+4 = 10 ). Then you need to concatenate the index of those number to obtain the answer (eg. “0123″).

As you can see this problem doesn’t have a unique solution. First there are more combinations that will sum up to D and then you can sum them in different order and will obtain different strings.

To solve this problem the “right way” you can implement a recursive function to check all the combination that sum up to D and obtain a list L of possible solutions. Then for each element of L you need to calculate all the possible permutations. Unless you eat recursion and combinatorial math everyday, it can be quite time consuming to write such a program (30min ?). So I decided to save time and brute force the answer: I will try every possible URL generated by the problem.

Tools needed

The most interesting thing about this hack is that you don’t need any “complex” tool. Actually it is really easier to write the bruteforcer than to write the “right way” solver. All you need is probably present in you favorite Linux distribution:

  • bash
  • echo
  • grep
  • nc

You probably know bash, echo and grep. You may not know nc… shame on you !! :D Netcat (nc) is the network utility you always wanted! It allows you to open network connections as client or server both TCP and UDP, forward connections and execute program when a connection is established. In our case we are going to use it to send the HTTP requests to the server.

The Code
[codesyntax lang="bash"]
#!/bin/bash
c=$[$1*$1]
echo -e “GET /daniele/default.asp?lev=$c HTTP/1.0rn
Host: www.telerie-effegibi.itrnrn” |
nc www.telerie-effegibi.it 80 | grep saresti

if [ $? -eq 1 ]
then
echo KEY=$1
fi
[/codesyntax]
So the first of all we need to build the HTTP request. The variable $c is the variable we are going to bruteforce computed from the command line parameter $1. Note that the request is on one line only and we are using rn to explicitly state the newlines CRLF (using echo -e). Please note that this is a HTTP/1.0 request. HTTP/1.1 will keep the connection open after the first request/response pair, so you'll have to wait for the timeout for the connection to be closed: waisting resources! Using HTTP/1.0 the server will close the connection immediately after sending the response, and that's exactly what you want.

Next thing to do is to pipe the request through nc and wait for the response. In this case I knew the response had the phrase "Tu saresti un hacker? Non farmi ridere!" ("And you should be considered an hacker? Don't make me laugh!") if you provided the wrong answer. So we are actually looking for a particular word using the exit status of grep ($?).

That's all! All you have to do is wrap that script around a loop:
[codesyntax lang="bash"]
for i in $(seq 0 40 );do sleep 5; echo STEP=$i;
for j in $(seq $[$i*50] $[$i*50+50]);
do (./request $j &);done ;done | grep -v saresti
[/codesyntax]
After running this you will be provided (hopefully) with the KEY. Please note the sleep I added in the loop. This is because the first time I tried it I opened to many sessions concurrently and my laptop crashed (40*50=2000). This way you are opening 50 connections each 5 secs.

Conclusion
This same method can be used to perform other types of bruteforcing (although mainly HTTP) and requires very little coding.

Please note that I'm trying to figure out a better way to display source code. So if you are going to try the code make sure to check it after copying. Update - I installed a plugin to manage the code but I need to adjust the colors!

Ps. "For fun ad profit" is TM by Aleph One

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Dec 20

Oracle 10g XE on Debian lenny

Oracle 10g XE is the free version of Oracle Database. You can download it for free (upon registration) from oracle site and it’s available both for Windows and Linux.

For Linux there is an .rpm and a .deb package. The .deb is thought for Debian 3.1 (sarge) but will work also on lenny.

In the requirements it is stated that you need glibc and libaio library. Those are available through the “libaio1″ and the “libc6″ pkg. You will also need a lot of swap space!

What is not clearly stated is that you need a LSB system. LSB is the Linux Standard Base: a common-ground of “things” you can relay on when making portable application across different distributions. So I searched the whole repository about lsb* packages and installed them all, then I installed Oracle’s deb. It didn’t work… I had to install the graphical interface to be able to run the system. At first I installed X + Xfce because the access is enabled only on localhost by default (I could fire up my friend lynx but I though it would be simpler with iceweasel.) and then I restarted oracle and it started working…

The installation process is not clear, there are no easly-foundable logs to understand what is happening and the important error messages on the console start with “Warning:”… Maybe it is my C background that leads me to think that a Warning is not an Error!!!

What really nerves me is that the WebGUI is not working correctly neither with Iceweasel nor with Opera… Most of the things are working fine, but when I try to upload a script file and run it nothing happens. I had to use IE to be able to run those scripts…

I’m not doing real work on this DB but at the moment it took me more time to install then MySQL… It better has an ace up sleeve !

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Dec 7

Opera 10 alpha released

Category: technology

Opera released the alpha version of the next major release: Opera 10.

What’s new in this release? From the change log the major upgrades are:

1. Acid 3 100% compliant : Opera 10 is the first browser to pass Acid3 test with 100/100. Acid3 tests how much the browser is complaint to standards like ECMA script (Javascript), DOM, Css etc. Opera 10 pass this test because the rendering engine, named Presto, was upgraded. This upgrade improves also SVG rendering and speed.

2. HTML Email Client : Opera 9.62 gives you the ability to receive html or text emails but you can only write text-only. There was a big debate in the Opera user community. Lot of people (me included) think that html emails are not necessarily a  good thing. Now you can choose (on a per-email basis) whatever to write a text or a html email.

3. In-line spell-check : Apart from the email If you blog or post frequently you always wanted a spell-checker in your browser. I have to admit that this feature is a bit late. It was already present in Firefox, and it is present in blogging software like WordPress. So it is nothing extremely new but its worth having it. It uses the OpenOffice dictionary so you are not limited to English!

4. Easier update and Debian Repository : Updating Opera wasn’t rocket science but was longer that needed. Now Opera features an automatic update that should make thing quicker. Now you can also add Opera repository to your apt repository, making the update process even simpler if you are on a Debian based distribution.

5. Scrolling marker: This feature was already present in 9.62 but disabled by default. This is a simple marker that helps you keep trace of where you were when you scroll quickly a page.

For being an alpha it is very stable. It only crashed once in 3 days use on a heavy flash page. The rest is really smooth.

NOTE: After Installing the pkg on Debian  the link /usr/bin/opera now points to opera 10 by default. You still have opera 9.62 under /usr/lib/opera/9.62/opera but I suggest you to make a backup copy of the /usr/bin/opera launch script.

Now go and give it a try!

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Oct 31

Ubuntu 8.10, Debian Lenny and the future

Yesterday Ubuntu 8.10 was released with great enthusiasm from the Ubuntu community. But also I, as a Debian-ist, am happy to see this new version release.

Apart from the version numbering used by Ubuntu, which I find really funny, I think Ubuntu did a great job in those years. If you ask some Linux newbie what distro is he using he’ll probably say {Xu,Ku,U}buntu. I know lots of people that are now using Linux systems thanks to Ubuntu.

As a faithful Debian user I have to underline that Ubuntu is a Debian derived distro. This proves, beyond any doubt, that Debian is a very flexible, robust and highly customizable distro. Indeed I don’t recall I ever saw a derived distro from something that wasn’t Debian. Grml, Knoppix, Damn Small Linux, Xandros (powering the eeePC family) and Mepis are just the most famous ones I can recall by heart.

Having more users approaching Linux is a good thing but it’s hard to tell if they are doing so because its Free Software as free beer or as free speech (TM). I found myself arguing more than once with people criticizing Debian’s choice of rebranding Firefox. Indeed is quite an unpopular choice to rebrand the Flagship of desktop open source software but I think Open Source is also this: have a philosophy and stick to it. I think from this point of view Debian is always doing a great job. I could spend days telling you good things about Debian but I prefer to do something different and tell you what’s wrong in Debian.

We (I at least) have been waiting for Lenny release to become stable for a long time now. Etch was released on April 2007… Lenny will probably be release by end 2008/beginning of 2009. Debian doesn’t have release dates: when it’s ready, it’s ready!

This is good because you know that when you install a stable there are no big bugs to worry about. You also know that the packages you are gonna install work smooth together. BUT this is bad because it seems that the distro is not moving on.

I personally don’t use the Stable since October 2006. I’m using Lenny on my laptop and I didn’t had any big problem so far. This means the stable is useless? Not at all! I use Debian stable on every server I install. The problem here is that if a stable release last too long you can have incompatibility issues with newer software you may need. I remember I had to upgrade a stable to a testing because I was trying to access a Network Storage that used a¬†Samba backward-incompatible version. Note: that this problem was caused by 1) The system being heterogeneous¬†2) Samba having release an incompatible update.

I think Debian has not enough man power to keep being the best. Few people know that Debian is not a Linux Distro. Debian is the Universal Operating System. That’s why you can find Debian for FreeBSD and Debian for Hurd and other similar ports.

Indeed there is already a strict cooperation between Ubuntu and Debian but I think more work is needed in this sense to bring both distributions to their top potential.

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Oct 28

Opera 9.6 (9.61)

Category: General,technology

Choose Opera

Choose Opera

21 October 2008 Opera released 9.61. This is a security fix for the new 9.60, covering some (IMHO) minor issues (1 2 3).

You probably heard about this amazing browser but you probably didn’t tried it. Indeed opera only accounts for 0,7% of browser market share so you are probably wondering why you should use it… In this post I will try to convince you to give it a try, and remember that it’s free and it’s available for Windows, Linux, Mac and many mobile devices.

Disclaimer: This is not a “Opera is better than firefox” post. I do use firefox too, but my personal choice is Opera.

Why?

  • First of all most of the cools thing you use on your browser today were first implemented by Opera: tab-browsing, fast-history search and sessions are just an example.
  • Do you switch frequently between Windows and Linux? Do you have a mobile phone that’s capable of connecting to the Internet? Opera helps you keep data¬†synchronized with Opera Link. With Opera Link you can synchronize Bookmarks, Speed Dial, Notes,
  • Modify the appearance of the page you are looking as you want! Not only you can Zoom In/out, but you can also make the page fit the width of your browser making the horizontal scroll bar useless! Or you can apply your own CSS to any web page: cool CSS are already included like high-visibility or structural views to make HTML elements more visible. You can also disable loading of images on a per page base, or load only already cached images!!!!
  • Sessions: If you use firefox you probably know that when you close the browser you are asked if you want to save your current session. Not only opera does it automatically, but gives you the ability to save them with different name and, when opera starts, what session do you want to load. For maniacs of tabbed browsing, this is a MUST.
  • Speed dial: There are a bunch of sites I browse every day. When you open a new tab instead of browsing a blank page you are presented with 9 thumbnails of your site of choice.
  • Opera is not a Browser! It is an Internet suite. It has an integrated Mail and feed client.Opera also supports Bittorrent and IRC, so you don’t need to install different software.
  • Keyboard shortcuts and mouse gestures allow you to do thing without the need of clicking anywhere. For example if you press your left mouse button and then press the right (while keeping the left pressed) you can move forward. Obviously you can move¬†backward in your history pressing first right and then left. But what if you don’t have anything on your history to move forward? Opera will use a function known as smart-forward and will try to find what link to follow. You can try it on the Bash Beginner Guide to navigate through the book. (if you don’t know what the Bash Beginner Guide, take a look at Mastering the shell)
  • Fast search: You can use your favorite search engine by typing a letter in your address bar! For google you can type “g marga” but you can also make your own shortcuts like I did for dictionary.com “d blog”.
  • Pop-ups and closed tabs are managed through the trash bin, were you can recover useful pop-ups, or accidentally closed tabs.
  • If you are a web developer, you need to know that opera comes with Dragonfly, a complete debugging tool for site! You can look at the dom of a page, see the scripts and debug them, and much more!
  • Opera is always trying to stay update with the standards and even to look forward. It has a good SVG support and is the only browser I know that supports Voice XHTML!!! Yes, you can talk to your browser or have it read you the web pages!!!

There are thousands of things I could add like Widgets, Tab Thumbnail, Skins, Kiosk Mode… Did I already mentioned that also the Wii runs opera?

Now GO and try it, you won’t regret it!

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