Category: technology

Moving from Ubuntu to Manjaro + testing Windows after 6 years of using Linux

Moving from Ubuntu to Manjaro + testing Windows after 6 years of using Linux

Ubuntu is an operating system that relies on Canonical (the company) to survive and evolve and this is not good. They have added Amazon to their search and as an “app” in Ubuntu and recently they added an opt out data collection, which basically means they collect data about users unless users “opt out”. Why not add it as “opt in”? Sure, they say they only want to see what users are using in order to improve Ubuntu but this is a very slippery slope and Ubuntu has proven in the past that they are not all about “open source”, but they also have to be about “making money”. Anyways, I found a better Linux distribution: Manjaro. I tested several other distros before finally deciding to Manjaro.

Ubuntu is based on Debian and Manjaro on Arch Linux. So, at their core, they are different, but for a user like you and me they are not.

4 reasons why I moved from Ubuntu to Manjaro:

  1. I don’t like that Ubuntu relies on a company for funding and development. Manjaro seems more “decentralized” in that regards.
  2. Manjaro is newer and faster – it uses 50% less RAM on my laptop than Ubuntu did. Also, to have access to the latest releases of kernels and software is always a great advantage.
  3. Manjaro is a rolling release. Meaning you get updates all the time, forever. Ubuntu had major releases ever two years or so.
  4. Manjaro’s repositories and package manager (software center): if you enable AUR repository in Manjaro (super easy to do) then you have access to pretty much any software that is available on Linux. In Ubuntu I ended up manually adding lots of software via “ppa” or install it via deb files, flatpak, appimages or snaps, and it became a monster. In Manjaro is as easy as opening the “software center”, search for an app, and install. That’s all.

Therefore Manjaro is much faster, is super stable so far, I can find any Linux software I need and want, and it is pretty much at the “bleeding edge” of software and kernel releases. It also has a few of its own tools that makes it easier for you to install any drivers you need. And honestly it feels like it is a “one piece” thing. No more going on websites to find deb files to install on Ubuntu or add ppas and use the terminal for that. Anyways, I love Manjaro and I will be doing some videos to showcase how to install and set up, what customizations I did to my Manjaro and stuff like that. So, subscribe to my ytb channel for that. And, like with pretty much all Linux distros that I tried, installing Manjaro was a pain in the ass because of my Nvidia graphic card. I spent some 2 days without being able to boot into the distro, and I had to “hack” it a bit to work with the help of the great Manjaro community. It is not Manjaro’s fault, it is Nvidia’s fault who is shitty about providing an open source driver for its graphic card, or a proper proprietary one. Here are a few screenshots and a long video I did about testing Windows 10 again and comparing it to Linux (Manjaro and Solus).

 

And here’s a HUGE video I made: Trying Windows 10 again after 6 years of using Linux (Windows vs Manjaro vs Solus)

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Ditching Gmail for Thunderbird

Ditching Gmail for Thunderbird

My quest of using only FOSS (free and open source software) continues. One of the things I could not change over the years was to move to a new email client. I used Gmail for the past many many years where all of my email addresses were flocked, and some big advantages were that it was super easy: to set up, to manage, to compose mail, to send files, to filter spam, to everything. Making a gmail account and then using gmail is super easy too. But gmail sucks – it reads your emails for different purposes (like serving ads) and it is not encrypted + is limited. Plus is owned by Google and you can have your account shut down by them for various reasons, like they closed one of mine and then reopened it in 3 months. So, fuck Google! 🙂

Ok. First thing first I have my own emails for my own tromsite.com and tiotrom.com domains and I need a mail client to manage them. Thunderbird! Free and open source, and the most known and good of them all. I tried it many times before but it did an awful job at filtering Spam and it looked like it was made in 1994. But now I managed to change both things.

Dealing with SPAM.

I get tons of spam email for both of my mail addresses. To fix that, install Thunderbird, go to Edit > Account Preferences > Junk Settings. Now use SpamAssassin for sorting the junk. In Thunderbird, Spam is called Junk.

Now the key to this is to train the Junk filter for a few days, even weeks. Mark the Spam emails as Junk as often as you can. At first, can be annoying but the system must learn what is Junk and what’s not. To mark them just press “J”. When I added my emails to Thunderbird I was inundated with Junk and I thought I can’t train the filter for so much shit emails that I want to mark as Junk. Thing is I mark Facebook notifications as Junk alongside Twitter, and other such sources that are not on anyone’s list as “spam” emails, so I need to train the filter to understand that for me these are SPAM. I have to train this for my needs. But I found a simple solution: sort all your emails by “correspondents” – now select in bulk the correspondents (mail addresses) you consider Junk and mark them as Junk. So I selected hundreds like that in bulk and marked as Junk. Now the system had a lot of data to know how to sort my emails, but it was not enough. For the next days, I had to keep an eye on the system, on both the Inbox and the Junk folder. In Inbox I would mark any new email I considered as Junk, and in Junk I would “un-mark” any email that was not Junk. After just a few days the Junk filter started to do wonders and 99% of the new Spam emails ended up in the Junk folder. However, there were several good emails ending up in the Junk folder so I had to un-mark them as Junk. Basically from time to time the system will mark good email as Junk so you have to say “No no no, this is good mail.”.

Point is the system works wonders, as good or even better than Gmail, but you have to train it. Thunderbird recommends to keep a close eye daily for about 2 weeks, then for the next months look at the Junk folder at least once a week to see if there is any good email who ended up there.

Right now with SpamAssassin and after training the system for about a week, my Junk filter works wonders. I am so happy because this was the no1 reason I could not give up Gmail.

 

Make Thunderbird look cool.

Here’s how the original Thunderbird looks like:

not my screenshot

And this is how mine looks like:

Much nicer :). Problem is, this is not straight forward to setup. Here’s what I did it:

  1. Download a theme pack from Github. More info here.
  2. Extract it to a particular Thunderbird folder. For Ubuntu: /home/[user]/.thunderbird/[random letters and numbers].default/
  3. Rename the folder from “thunderbird-monterail” to “chrome”
  4. Now that you’ve done all of this, go to the new “chrome” folder and find the file “userChrome.css” – that’s what you have to slightly edit. Find the line that says “@import “themes/system.css”; and replace “system” with the name of the theme you want, and save the file. That’s it. They have several and they all look slick. Here they are:

LIGHT

DARK

FULLDARK

MONTERAIL

So if you add “monterail” instead of “system” then your Thunderbird will look like in the image above. Don’t forget to restart Thunderbird after you edit the file.

But I made mine a bit better becuase although these themes look nice, once you go to menus and the compose window they look a bit odd. Maybe it also depends on what desktop theme you have installed. So, I went to Thunderbird Addons (from the menu) and installed the Theme “TT DeepDark”. Activate it. Now using the above tutorial use the “fulldark” theme. Right now Thunderbird combines the two themes (“fulldark” +”TT DeepDark”) to make a more complete one.

Here’s the original “fulldark” version:

Here’s mine:

The slight top left button changes fit better on my version but the biggest difference is with the composer window. Here’s their version and notice how those grey left buttons are very odd. You can’t even read what they are all about. Also the buttons for editing the text are hardly noticeable.

My version:

See? Small but important changes. And I only combined two themes, that’s all.

It is weird that you have to hack this tool to make it look 2018, but the good news is that Thunderbird developers already work on a new version of the app (see here) – it is in Beta now – and it will look more modern out of the box, interestingly enough using the designs above.

So now I have my own FOSS email client to manage my emails. Awesome! I also installed 2 more tools to encrypt emails. First is GnuPG (sudo apt-get install gpa) and second is Enigmail (sudo apt-get install enigmail) (source). Install these, restart Thunderbird, and follow the steps from here to set them up (2 min setup). Now you can also send and receive encrypted email, though only with those who support email encryption. In my case not many. Basically I can send and receive encrypted mail, but others can’t. The others suck, not me and my Thunderbird :D.

Anyhow, I say give up Gmail for Thunderbird because it’s worth it. Or for that matter give up any email client and use the big T :).

The free and open source software I use on my phone

The free and open source software I use on my phone

I don’t use my phone that much at all, so this post won’t be as interesting as the previous two where I discuss FOSS (free and open source software) that I use on my laptop. I have a Samsung Galaxy S7 with the operating system that came with – Android with Samsung flavour on top. That’s far from being FOSS. You can find several FOSS Android OS (operating systems) here, but that means installing them manually on your phone or find a phone that comes with one of them installed. I can’t install one on my phone because I will lose the NFC Payments option from Samsung if I install another OS, and I use NFC payments all the time. Basically, that’s what I use my phone for: to pay, and for the maps (GPS).

Anyways, I do use some FOSS apps that you may find useful. What I noticed is that these apps are so simple and straight to the point that you’ll love them. If I need a calendar app then for fuck sake let me have one that has that function, and don’t add bloatware (google!) like when certain holidays are, friends’ birthdays, and who knows what shit I don’t need. These FOSS apps are also voided of ads, which is amazing.

The first thing to do is to replace the Android Play store with F-Droid. That’s the place where you’ll find FOSS apps.

Basic apps: calculator, calendar, file manager, music player, notes, audio recorder.

ScreenCam: app for recording screen – has many options even an option to save as GIF.

Currency – super fast currency converter.

Barcode Scanner – scans bar codes and QR codes.

Document Viewer – PDF reader.

Always On AMOLED – for screens with AMOLED to enable the function of always on display (useful little thing).

NewPipe – amazing replacement for the YouTube app. The app is super fast, you can listen to videos as audio in the background, you can pop-up videos, and even subscribe to channels without a YouTube account. Also, no ads ;). Once you use this you won’t use the YouTube app anymore.

KeePass2Android – perfect password manager. Though this is FOSS, you can’t find it on F-Droid. So download it from the Play Store.

Brave Browser – browser based on Chromium that blocks ads, can download torrent files, and blocks all kinds of trackers. Super great browser. That’s also available only on the Play store even though it is FOSS.

OsmAnd – Maps and Navigation. A perfect replacement for the Google Maps. You have to tweak it a bit here and there, but once you get a hold of it it is more feature rich than perhaps any closed source and paid alternative.

Blokada – the best FOSS ad-blocker I tested so far. Super simple to use and you need to root access. Blocks everything except some popup video ads in certain apps/games.

LibreTorrent – simple, download torrents.

Signal Messenger – best encrypted messenger. You can audio/video call, make groups, send files, and pretty much everything you may need to do with such an app.

KDE Connect – connect your phone to your Linux computer. Can’t tell you how useful this is. I can send files from one to another, see notifications from phone to my laptop; if I copy something like a text or URL form one device, I can past it to the other one; I can use my phone as a touch pad, or media controller (remote). This is perhaps the most useful app I used.

Survival Manual – offline guide of how to make a fire or even hunt animals :)) – who knows when I may need it.

 

And so, that’s what I mainly use on my phone. You can use F-Droid to find tons more apps. There are a few closed source apps that I still use because there are no better FOSS alternatives that I could find. AdGuard (premium version) is still the best ad-blocker out there; Google Weather for checking the weather – although there are tons of such FOSS apps, the Google Weather is so simple and intuitive I didn’t find anything close to it; Gmail for email – can’t find a better mail client with a better spam filter; Google Photos because you can store unlimited photos and share with everyone; Cerberus – anti-theft app; Some ISS trackers and some Astronomy apps like SkyView Free, or Stellarium; RadioGreen for listening to radio; Symptomate – AI symptom checker – pretty neat; WiFi Map – find free WiFi networks or passowrds for them to be able to connect.

How I manage all of my passwords on Linux with FOSS

How I manage all of my passwords on Linux with FOSS

For the past years I’ve been using LastPass to manage my passwords. This is a proprietary freemium app that basically stores all of your passwords behind a master password. As long as you remember the master password you can unlock all of the stored passwords. This app has a browser extension to make this super easy for you to use because it has autofill for websites and the only thing you have to do is to click an icon and LastPass will insert the login credentials and you’ll log in right away. Super easy. If you ever register on a new website then LastPass detects it and asks you if you want to save the new credentials. It even has a password generator for generating secure passwords. Since using it my passwords look something like: 3V$%ervwEWFCGw4_?=ky – I don’t have to remember them, LastPass will. And with such super secure passwords, you can be sure that they are virtually impossible to hack.

Keep in mind that since using LastPass I “collected” thousands of login credentials stored there. So I know one single master password, and for hundreds of websites I have no clue of any passwords.

But LastPass is proprietary software so you never know exactly what they do with your data or if they are capable to keep it secure. Plus, its free version lacks some of its premium features. On top of that, LastPass, like most “free” services out there, collects your data for various reasons (source).

But then I decided to go full open source with this. And I found KeePass. This is probably the most well known and robust open source password manager out there. But its user interface sucks big time. It looks like it was designed 20 years ago.

Not a screenshot of my computer.

However since it is an open source project it mutated into various forms. I then found a nice mutation called KeePassXC – nicer looking and more adapted for Linux.

Not a screenshot of my computer.

Installed it. Then went to my LastPass account (website) – More Options – Advanced – Export. I exported my passwords – they show up as plain text. Copy that text in a text editor and save it as CSV file (.csv) and make sure you select the encoding to be UNICODE (UTF-16) before saving. Now I had all my password as a CSV file. Go to KeePassXC and import CSV and choose a master password – can be the same as the LastPass one. Now the important part comes: make sure you choose the tables correctly so the Username tab is filled with LastPass usernames, Password tab with the LastPass passwords, and so forth. You’ll see it is super easy, just a few things to select. That’s it. Now I imported my passwords into KeePassXC. And now delete the fuckin’ CSV file :D. No need to keep such a file with all of your passwords on your computer or anywhere else.

But I wasn’t happy, I need a better KeePass mutant and integration with Chromium. KeeWeb! – great interface, and super easy to use. In terms of interface, you have multiple themes: dark, light, etc..

Not a screenshot of my computer.

Download, install. Went back to KeePassXC (the semi-ugly one) and saved the database as .kdbx file. Now went to KeeWeb and imported it. Migration done! My LastPass database is imported into KeeWeb. I basically used KeePassXC only to properly convert LastPass CSV file into a proper KeePass database (file).

Now I could play around with KeeWeb settings like “Clear clipboard after copy”, or when to lock the app, etc.. But I also wanted to integrate it with Chromium because that’s the point. To do that go to its settings, then plugins, and find “keewebhttp” plugin. Install it.

Now I install a browser extension called chromeIPass. It’s open source too. That’s it. Clicked the extension and it will ask you to connect with the KeeWeb. Connect it and you’re done.

Now I have my LastPass database converted to KeePass format, managed via KeeWeb (the pretty mutant), and connected to my Chromium via chromeIPass.

As long as KeeWeb is open on your system and you are logged into it, then the browser extension functions exactly like LastPass. Will detect websites and login forms automatically and fills the logins for you. Super neat! You can set up KeeWeb to never close.

But now the awesomeness comes 😀 – ready?

You might think: why all of this fuss? Why move from LastPass to this only because it is open source? Well because is fucking neat and I’ll tell you why. The only thing KeePass (original one) needs is this .kdbx database. That’s a file containing all of your passwords and login credentials. This file is encrypted with your master password and you can move this file anywhere you want it. Leave it on your computer so that you know all of your passwords belong to you and are hosted only by you and not a 3rd party company. No one can open this file, but you (with the master password). And you can do cool stuff with it – this database works with any KeePass fork (mutant). Don’t like KeeWeb? No problem, move to the original and more feature rich KeePass. The Chromium extension I installed will work with any KeePass mutant too.

And here’s what I did with my .kdbx database (my passwords): I saved it on my computer as a simple file. Now KeeWeb has a backup option and I opted for making backups on my computer every time I modify the database (add a new password, change something, etc.). So, I have my .kdbx file + backups of it on a folder on my computer. They are encrypted already. But I also make daily encrypted backups of my Ubuntu system files on an external hard drive too, so the .kdbx file and its backups are also backed up daily on my external hard drive alongside all of my other operating system files. Not enough! :D. Now I sync this folder with my raw .kdbx file and its backups, to my Dropbox and Mega.

Ok, let’s recap. I have a folder on my computer where the .kdbx file and its backups are – this folder is synced to Dropbox and Mega + it is backed up on my external hard drive.

Why all of this? For one, for security reasons (that’s the external hard drive backup that I make and the Mega sync), and second is because once the .kdbx file is on Dropbox then I can use it on my mobile – you can use Google Drive or WebDAV for this too, but Dropbox was the easiest solution for me. Here’s how:

Let’s now sync the password manager KeeWeb with my phone. Install the open source Keepass2Android on your phone. Then click “open file” and select Dropbox. Now select the .kdbx file that you synced to your Dropbox. Put in the master password in and login. Done! Now your app on your desktop (KeeWeb) and your app on your phone (Keepass2Android) are using the same exact database of passwords and this database is synced and backed up in multiple locations. Change something on your desktop app (like add a new login, or change a password) and it will reflect the changes on your phone because it is sent to Dropbox. And the other way around. Super fucking neat! And of course you can unlock Keepass2Android with your fingerprint, so no need to ever write down the database password. Also, you can tweak its settings to suit your needs.

 

Let me stress this out: now all of my passwords are locked inside a file with a master password that only I know. The password is strong enough. This file can be unlocked and managed with many apps that are free and open source so they don’t collect your data or do anything fishy. This file is also backed up like nuts in multiple locations, and synced so that I can use it from any device I want.

I have full 100% control over my passwords/accounts. And even though I had to put the file on Dropbox to be able to sync it to the phone easily, the file is already encrypted so there is no way Dropbox or anyone else can read what’s inside.

You may think the process of using KeeWeb or moving from LastPass to it, is a bit complicated. But it’s not at all considering the benefit of having full control over your passwords and accounts credentials. As soon as you create the .kdbx file (the database) you can use it any way you want with several apps, online, or offline, on any device. 😉

Tell me that’s not fucking neat! 🙂

This is how LastPass converted into FOSS for me.

 

In short, you need KeeWeb and KeePass2Android.

The free and open source software that I use on my laptop

The free and open source software that I use on my laptop

Free and Open Source Software = FOSS

All of my life I used Windows as an Operating System together with proprietary software that I often pirated because it was too expensive. That changed some 5-6 years ago when I discovered Linux. Since then I’ve mainly used free and open source software and I absolutely love it. It is stable, awesome, not bloated with ads or unnecessary features, and since it is made for free it is made by people who are passionate about what they do so that results in an overall better user interface and more useful software.

Today I use Ubuntu 16.04 with Unity Interface. I love it. A few things that I absolutely love are:

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There are many other reasons to love Linux, like the updates and upgrades (that I used to hate on Windows), or the built-in features that allow for easy management of programs (they have an app store). No point to list here all the goodies, but I am going to list my most used FOSS apps. So, there you go, my go-to free and open source software:

 

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In case you wonder I use Paper icons and the Ark-Dark theme.

There are a few free but closed source software that I also use because I didn’t find better FOSS alternatives: Master PDF Editor (great tool for editing pdfs); Private Internet Access as VPN (the app is free but you have to pay for the service); Slack (for managing TROM teams – it is a chat app); TeamViewer (remote desktop access/control); XnConvert (to bulk editing images). I also use a few websites as apps since in Ubuntu you can save websites as apps via Chromium: TROM News (my only source of news), MusikWave (my music website – built by me); Radio Garden (awesome radio website); Jamedo Music (free music that you can also use for your projects). I use lots more websites but only these I use as “apps”.

Let me know what you use and maybe suggest something FOSS for the above non-FOSS ones. 😉