Installing Firefox Developer Edition in Linux Mint

Having moved beyond the slow response and larger memory footprint of Firefox ESR, I am using Firefox Developer Edition in its place even if it means living without a status bar at the bottom of the window. Hopefully, someone will create an equivalent of the old add-on bar extensions that worked before the release of Firefox Quantum.

Firefox Developer Edition may be pre-release software with some extras for web developers like being able to to drill into an HTML element and see its properties but I am finding it stable enough for everyday use. It is speedy too, which helps, and it has its own profile so it can co-exist on the same machine as regular releases of Firefox like its ESR and Quantum variants.

Installation takes a little added effort though and there are various options available. My chosen method involved Ubuntu Make. Installing this involves setting up a new PPA as the first step and the following commands added the software to my system:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntu-desktop/ubuntu-make
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install ubuntu-make

With the above completed, it was simple to install Firefox Developer edition using the following command:

umake web firefox-dev

Where things got a bit more complicated was getting entries added to the Cinnamon Menu and Docky. The former was sorted using the cinnamon-menu-editor command but the latter needed some tinkering with my firefox-developer.desktop file found in .local/share/applications/ within my user area to get the right icon shown. Discovering this took me into .gconf/apps/docky-2/Docky/Interface/DockPreferences/%gconf.xml where I found the location of the firefox-developer.desktop that needed changing. Once this was completed, there was nothing else to do from the operating system side.

Within Firefox itself, I opted to turn off warnings about password logins on non-https websites by going to about:config using the address bar, then looking for security.insecure_field_warning.contextual.enabled and changing its value from True to False. Some may decry this but there are some local websites on my machine that need attention at times. Otherwise, Firefox is installed with user access so I can update it as if it were a Windows or MacOS application and that is useful given that there are frequent new releases. All is going as I want it so far.

Automatically enabling your network connection at startup on CentOS 7

The release of CentOS 7 stoked my curiosity so I gave it a go in a VirtualBox virtual machine. It uses GNOME Shell in classic mode so the feel is not too far removed from that of GNOME 2. One thing to watch though is that it needs at least version 4.3.14 of VirtualBox or the Guest Additions kernel drivers will not compile at all. That might sound surprising when you learn that the kernel version is 3.10.x and that for GNOME Shell is 3.8.4. Much like Debian production releases, more established versions are chosen for the sake of stability and that fits in with the enterprise nature of the intended user base. Even with that more conservative approach, the results still please the eye though attempting to change the desktop background picture managed to freeze the machine. Other than that, most things work fine.

Even so, there are unexpected things to be encountered and one that I spotted was that network connectivity needed to switched on every time the VM was started. The default installation gives rise to this state of affairs and it is a known situation with CentOS from at least version 6 of the distribution and is not so hard to fix once you know what to do.

What you need to do is look for the relevant configuration file in /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ and update that. Using the ifconfig command, I found that the name of the network interface. Usually, this is something like eth0 but it was enp0s3 in my case so I had to look for a file named ifcfg-enp0s3 and edit that. The text that is sought is ONBOOT=no and that needs to become ONBOOT=yes for network connections to start automatically. To do something similar from the command line, CentOS had suggested the following:

sed -i -e ‘[email protected]^ONBOOT=”[email protected]=”[email protected]’ ifcfg-enp0s3

The above uses sed to do an inline (and case insensitve) edit of the file to change the offending no to a yes, once you have dropped in the /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ directory. My edit was done manually with Gedit so that works too. One thing to add is that any file editing needs superuser privileges so switching to root with the su command and using sudo is in order here.

ERROR: Can’t find the archive-keyring

When I recently did my usual system update for the stable version Ubuntu GNOME, there were some updates pertaining to apt and the process failed when I executed the following command:

sudo apt-get upgrade

Usefully, some messages were issued and here’s a flavour:

Setting up apt (0.9.9.1~ubuntu3.1) …
ERROR: Can’t find the archive-keyring
Is the ubuntu-keyring package installed?
dpkg: error processing apt (--configure):
subprocess installed post-installation script returned error exit status 1
Errors were encountered while processing:
apt
E: Sub-process /usr/bin/dpkg returned an error code (1)

Some searching on the web revealed that the problem was that there were no files in /usr/share/keyring when there should have been and I had not removed them myself so I have no idea how they disappeared. Various remedies were tried and any that needed software installed were non-starters because apt was disabled by the lack of keyring files. The workaround that restored things for me was to take a copy of the files in /usr/share/keyring from an Ubuntu GNOME 14.04 installation in a VirtualBox VM and copy them in to the same location in its Ubuntu GNOME 13.10 host. For those without such resources, I have packaged them in a zip file below. Other remedies like Y PPA also were suggested where I was reading but that software package needed installing beforehand so it was little use to me when the likes of Synaptic were disabled. If there are other remedies that do not involve an operating system re-installation, I would like to know about them too as well as possible causes for the file loss in the first place and how to avoid these.

Ubuntu Keyrings

A fallback method of installing Nightingale in Linux

When I upgraded to Ubuntu GNOME 13.10 and went for the 64-bit variant, I tried a previously tried and tested approach for installing Nightingale that used a PPA only for it not to work. At that point, the repository had not caught up with the latest Ubuntu release (it has by the time of writing) and other pre-compiled packages would not work either. However, there was one further possibility left and that was downloading a copy of the source code and compiling that. My previous experiences of doing that kind of thing have not been universally positive so it was not my first choice but I gave it a go anyway.

In order to get the source code, I first needed to install Git so I could take a copy from the version controlled repository and the following command added the tool and all its dependencies:

sudo apt-get install git autoconf g++ libgtk2.0-dev libdbus-glib-1-dev libtag1-dev libgstreamer-plugins-base0.10-dev zip unzip

With that lot installed, it was time to checkout a copy of the latest source code and I went with the following:

git clone https://github.com/nightingale-media-player/nightingale-hacking.git

The next step was to go into the nightingale-hacking sub-folder and issue the following command:

./build.sh

That should produce a sub-directory named nightingale that contains the compiled executable files. If this exists, it can be copied into /opt. If not, then create a folder named nightingale under /opt using copy the files from ~/nightingale-hacking/compiled/dist into that location. Ubuntu GNOME 13.10 comes with GNOME Shell 3.8, the next step took a little fiddling before it was sorted: adding an icon to application menu or dashboard. This involved adding a file called nightingale.desktop in /usr/share/applications/ with the following contents:

[Desktop Entry]
Name=Nightingale
Comment=Play music
TryExec=/opt/nightingale/nightingale
Exec=/opt/nightingale/nightingale
Icon=/usr/share/pixmaps/nightingale.xpm
Type=Application
X-GNOME-DocPath=nightingale/index.html
X-GNOME-Bugzilla-Bugzilla=Nightingale
X-GNOME-Bugzilla-Product=nightingale
X-GNOME-Bugzilla-Component=BugBuddyBugs
X-GNOME-Bugzilla-Version=1.1.2
Categories=GNOME;Audio;Music;Player;AudioVideo;
StartupNotify=true
OnlyShowIn=GNOME;Unity;
Keywords=Run;
Actions=New
X-Ubuntu-Gettext-Domain=nightingale

[Desktop Action New]
Name=Nightingale
Exec=/opt/nightingale/nightingale
OnlyShowIn=Unity

It was created from a copy of another *.desktop file and the categories in there together with the link to the icon were as important as the title and took a little tinkering before all was in place.  Also, you may find that /opt/nightingale/chrome/icons/default/default.xpm needs to be become /usr/share/pixmaps/nightingale.xpm using the cp command before your new menu entry gains an icon to go with it. While the steps that I describe here worked for me, there is more information on the Nightingale wiki if you need it.

Wiping of hard drives with Linux

More than a decade of computer upgrades and rebuilds can leave obsolete kit in your hands and the arrival of legislation controlling the dumping of electronic goods during this time can leave one wondering how anyone can dispose of them. Thankfully, I discovered that the local council refuse site only a few miles away from me accepts such things for recycling and saw me a good few times over the last summer with obsolete and non-working gadgets that has stayed with me far too long. Some were as bulky as a computer monitor and a printer but others were relatively diminutive.

Disposing of non-working and utterly obsolete equipment is an easy choice but I find this is harder when a device still works as intended and even might have a use yet. When you realise that computer motherboards still come with PS/2, floppy and IDE ports, things get trickier. My Gigabyte Z87-HD3 mainboard just has one PS/2 when predecessors would have had two and the same applies to IDE sockets and there still is a floppy drive socket on there too, a surprising sight for anyone used to thinking that such things are utterly outmoded these days. So, PC technology isn’t relinquishing backwards compatibility just yet since that mainboard is part of a system with an Intel Core i5-4670K CPU and 24 GB of RAM on there.

Even with that presence of an IDE port, I was not tempted to use leftover 10 GB and 20GB hard drives that I have had for just over a decade. Ten years ago, that sort of capacity would been respectable were it not for our voracious appetite for data storage thanks to photography, video and music. Apart from the size constraints, the speed of those drives cannot compare well with what we have today either and I quickly saw that when I replaced a Samsung 160 HD of a similar age with a Samsung SSD.

The result of this line of thought was that I was minded to recycle the drives so I started to think about wiping and Linux has a good tool for this in the form of the dd command. It can overwrite data on the disks so as to render the information virtually irretrievable. Also, Linux has a number of dummy devices that can supply junk data for overwriting purposes. They are like /dev/null which is used to suppress the issuing of output to the command. The first is /dev/zero which supplies octal zeros and I have used this. However, there also is /dev/random and /dev/urandom for those wanting a more random element to the overwriting.

To overwrite data on a disk with zeroes while having feedback on progress, the following command achieves the required result:

sudo dd if=/dev/zero | pv | sudo dd of=/dev/sdd bs=16M

The whole operation needs to be executed with root privileges and the if parameter of dd specifies the input data and this is sent to a pv command that shows a progress bar that dd would not produce by itself while sending the output on to another dd command with the disk to be overwritten specified using the of parameter. The bs parameter in that second dd command specifies the block size for the disk writing job. Unfortunately, pv is not installed by default so you need to add it yourself. On a Debian, Ubuntu or Linux Mint system, the command is the following:

sudo apt-get install pv

That pv sandwich also is invaluable for those times when dd is needed to copy partitions between different physical or virtual (in a virtual machine) disks. Without it, you might wonder what exactly is happening in the silence and that especially is concerning when you are retrying an operation that failed previously and it takes a while to complete each time.