Tag Archives: Linux

Test Live CDs via Virtualization with VirtualBox

Last month, I posted about the free VirtualBox virtualization software and how you can use it to run various operating systems on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X (Intel CPU version) computers. Virtualization is also handy for quick and painless operating system evaluation purposes.

There are many Live CDs available today spanning a plethora of distributions of Linux, some Unices and you can even create your own Windows live CD. However, using them usually requires burning the ISO to a CD or DVD. Although media is cheap these days, it’s still a waste to burn discs just to try out things you may never continue using.

With VirtualBox, you don’t have to burn any discs to try things out. Simply follow these steps:

  1. Download the ISO file for the operating system you want to run. Verify from the description/help files/documentation that it is a bootable image (i.e. doesn’t require a boot floppy).
  2. Start VirtualBox and create a new virtual machine with enough memory for the operating system you’re going to try out.
  3. There’s no need to create a virtual hard drive for this machine if you’re using a Live CD/DVD since everything will run in memory. However, if it is an installation disc, then you will need to create a virtual hard drive large enough to install the operating system.
  4. Assign the ISO file to the virtual CD-ROM drive of the virtual machine.
  5. Start the new virtual machine.

Not only does this method reduce waste by avoiding the creation of plastic coasters (wasted CD/DVD media), it boots faster than a CD/DVD drive and your computer system is isolated from anything that may go wrong in the operating system you’re trying out.

So, now you’re all set to go play. Report back on the cool new operating systems you find.

Fix Compiz Fusion on Kubuntu 7.10 Gutsy Gibbon (Ubuntu + KDE)

Having trouble getting Compiz Fusion working on Kubuntu 7.10 (Gutsy Gibbon)? So did I and here’s how I fixed it.

I recently upgraded one of my Kubuntu Fiesty Fawn systems to Gutsy Gibbon (version 7.10). However, since it was a distro upgrade, not a new installation, the Compiz Fusion system wasn’t installed by default. Even after installing the compiz packages, things still weren’t quite right.

First, in addition to the compiz package, you have to select the compiz-kde package. For some reason, Adept doesn’t select it automatically with all the other compiz packages (even though this is Kubuntu, which uses KDE). Failure to install compiz-kde results in your windows not having any borders or widgets.

Second, install the compizconfig-settings-manager package. This is the configuration panel to access all the options for Compiz Fusion. Without this, some things just don’t behave quite right. For example, in the normal KDE desktop, I have focus follow the mouse. This doesn’t translate automatically to Compiz so you have to use the settings manager to adjust it. The tool also gives you access to all the Compiz plugins.

After all that’s done, restart X (Ctrl+Alt+Backspace) and log back in. Run the Compiz Settings Manager by going to the KMenu, Settings, Advanced Desktop Effects Settings. Adjust to your heart’s content.

There are still some quirks running Compiz on Kubuntu (such as the update manager icon sometimes appearing as a separate window rather than an icon in the notification area). But at least this gets it to be operational.

Have more tips? Post them in the comments.

Asus P5E3 Motherboard With Built-in Linux

Just saw on CNET TV that Asus has a motherboard, the Asus P5E3 Deluxe, that contains a Linux operating system with Firefox (Web browsing) and Skype (Internet phone calls) in a flash chip right on the motherboard itself. No need to wait for a full system boot up from the hard drive to check your web mail or call a friend. The feature is called Express Gate and means that within five seconds from powering the system on, you can be in Firefox. How cool is that?

Since Express Gate boots from flash, it’s not only fast, but it’s pretty safe as well as a Web workstation. The system’s main hard drive is not accessible during express mode so it won’t get infected should someone bother to create a Linux/Firefox virus or Trojan. Another benefit is that shutting down is also fast since the operating system doesn’t have to do a lot of cleaning up.

The downside is the price. It’s only available in this high-end version of Asus motherboard. Hopefully, more motherboard manufacturers will be doing this and with more models in the very near future.

TrueCrypt: Free Encryption for Windows and Linux

I was recently asked how to password protect a USB memory stick (a.k.a. thumb drive, USB key, etc.) without having to buy software. TrueCrypt is a free and open source solution for securely encrypting data on any kind of drive including USB keys. In addition, it’s available for both Windows 2000/XP/Vista and Linux so you can share the secure data between operating systems.

With TrueCrypt you can either create a file of a specific size that will appear as a separate drive on your system (virtual encrypted disk) or you can encrypt an entire partition/drive. Of course, you can’t encrypt your entire boot disk because your computer still has to be able to load the TrueCrypt software to read the boot files.

A unique feature of TrueCrypt is that you can create a hidden area inside an encrypted volume that uses a different password. This hidden partition cannot be detected even if it’s analyzed byte-by-byte because it all looks like random bits. By storing your most important data in the hidden area, no one will know it’s there even if they force you to give them the password–you give them the password to the main encrypted area, not the hidden one.

TrueCrypt supports AES, Serpent and Twofish encryption algorithms.

Firefox Tips for Removing Go Button and Restricting Image Loading

Continuing the Firefox tips theme from the last article, here are two more hidden preferences in Firefox that are very handy. To access them, enter about:config in the browser’s address bar and press the Enter or Return key.

  1. browser.urlbar.hideGoButton
    In earlier versions of Firefox, it was possible to remove the Go button. Now, it’s part of the address bar. However, setting this preference value to true will make it go away to give you more room to see the URL in the address bar.
  2. permissions.default.image
    Firefox also used to allow you to prevent it from loading images on the page that were from a different server than the page itself. If you’d like to enable this security feature, set this preference value to 3.