Using a variant of Debian’s Iceweasel that keeps pace with Firefox

Left to its own devices, Debian will leave you with an ever ageing re-branded version of Firefox that was installed at the same time as the rest of the operating system. From what I have found, the main cause of this was that Mozilla’s wanting to retain control of its branding and trademarks in a manner not in keeping with Debian’s Free Software rules. This didn’t affect just Firefox but also Thunderbird, Sunbird and Seamonkey with Debian’s equivalents for these being IceDove, IceOwl and IceApe, respectively.

While you can download a tarball of Firefox from the web and use that, it’d be nice to get a variant that updated through Debian’s normal apt-get channels. In fact, IceWeasel does get updated whenever there is a new release of Firefox even if these updates never find their way into the usual repositories. While I have been know to take advantage of the more frozen state of Debian compared with other Linux distributions, I don’t mind getting IceWeasel updated so it isn’t a security worry.

The first step in so doing is to add the following lines to /etc/apt/sources.list using root access (using sudo, gksu or su to assume root privileges) since the file normally cannot be edited by normal users:

deb http://backports.debian.org/debian-backports squeeze-backports main
deb http://mozilla.debian.net/ squeeze-backports iceweasel-release

With the file updated and saved, the next step is to update the repositories on your machine using the following command:

sudo apt-get update

With the above complete, it is time to overwrite the existing IceWeasel installation with the latest one using an apt-get command that specifies the squeeze-backports repository as its source using the -t switch. While IceWeasel is installed from the iceweasel-release squeeze-backports repository, there dependencies that need to be satisfied and these come from the main squeeze-backports one. The actual command used is below:

sudo apt-get install -t squeeze-backports iceweasel

While that was all that I needed to do to get IceWeasel 18.0.1 in place, some may need the pkg-mozilla-archive-keyring package installed too. For those needing more information that what’s here, there’s always the Debian Mozilla team.

Installing VMware Player 4.04 on Linux Mint 13

Curiosity about the Release Preview of Windows 8 saw me running into bother when trying to see what it’s like in a VirtualBox VM. While doing some investigations on the web, I saw VMware Player being suggested as an alternative. Before discovering VirtualBox, I did have a licence for VMware Workstation and was interested in seeing what Player would have to offer. The, it was limited to running virtual machines that were created using Workstation. Now, it can create and manage them itself and without any need to pay for the tool either. Registration on VMware’s website is a must for downloading it though but that’s no monetary cost.

One I had downloaded Player from the website, I needed to install it on my machine. There are Linux and Windows versions and it was the former that I needed and there are 32-bit and 64-bit variants so you need to know what your system is running. With the file downloaded, you need to set it as executable and the following command should do the trick once you are in the right directory:

chmod +x VMware-Player-4.0.4-744019.i386.bundle

Then, it needs execution as a superuser. With sudo access for my user account, it was a matter of issuing the following command and working through the installation screens to instate the Player software on the system:

sudo ./VMware-Player-4.0.4-744019.i386.bundle

Those screens proved easy for me to follow so life would have been good if that were all that was needed to get Player working on my PC. Having Linux Mint 13 means that the kernel is of the 3,2 stock and that means using a patch to finish off the Player installation because the required VMware kernel modules seem to silently fail to compile during the installation process. This only manifests itself when you attempt to start Player afterwards to find a module installation screen appear. That wouldn’t be an issue of itself were it not for the compilation failure of the vmnet module and subsequent inability to start VMware services on the machine. There is a prompt to peer into the log file for the operation and that is a little uninformative for the non-specialist.

Rummaging around the web brought me to the requisite patch and it will work for Player 4.0.3 and Workstation 8.0.2 by default. Doing some tweaking allowed me to make it work for Player 4.04 too. My first step was to extract the contents of the tarball to /tmp where I could edit patch-modules_3.2.0.sh. Line 8 was changed to the following:

plreqver=4.0.4

With the amendment saved, it was time to execute the shell script as a superuser having made it executable before hand. This can be accomplished using the following command:

chmod +x patch-modules_3.2.0.sh && sudo ./patch-modules_3.2.0.sh

With that completed successfully, VMware Player ran as it should. An installation of Windows 8 into a new VM ran very smoothly and I was impressed with performance and responsiveness of the operating system within a Player VM. There are a few caveats though. First, it doesn’t run at all well with VMware Tools so it’s best to leave them uninstalled and it doesn’t seem to need them either; it was possible to set the resolution to the same as my screen and use the CTRL+ALT+ENTER shortcut to drop in and out of full screen mode anyway. Second, the unattended Windows installation wasn’t the way forward for setting up the VM but it was no big deal to have that experiment thwarted. The feature remains an interesting one though.

With Windows 8 running so well in Player, I was reminded of the sluggish nature of my Windows 7 VM and an issue with a Fedora 17 one too. The result was that I migrated the Windows 7 VM from VirtualBox to VMware and all is so much more responsive. Getting it there took not a little tinkering so that’s a story for another entry. On the basis of my experiences so far, I reckon that VMware Player will remain useful to me for a little while yet. Resolving the installation difficulty was worth that extra effort.

Ubuntu 10.10 and Citrix

Many of us with the opportunity to work from home will have met up with logging via a Citrix server. With that in mind, I set to getting an ICA client going on my main Ubuntu box at home. There is information scattered about the web in the form of question on the Ubuntu forum and a step-by-step guide by Liberian Geek. To summarise the process that I followed here, you have to download a copy of the Citrix Receiver installer for Linux from the company’s website. There, you’ll see DEB and RPM packages along with a tarball for other systems. The latter needs a bit more work so I got the x86 DEB package and installed that in the usual way using Ubuntu’s Software Centre to do the installation following the download. Needing to start the Citrix connection via a browser session meant that a browser restart was needed too. That wasn’t the end of the leg work because Thawte certificate errors were to stop me in my tracks until I downloaded their root certificates from their website. Once the zip file was on my PC, I extracted it and copied the required certificate (Thawte Server CA.cer from the thawte Server CA directory) to /usr/lib/ICAClient/keystore/cacerts on my system; it helped that the error message had told me which was the one I needed from the collection in the zip file. With that matter addressed, the connection happened without a glitch and I was able to get to working without recourse to a Windows virtual machine. For once, Linux wasn’t to be excluded from one of the ways of using computers that has been getting more prevalent these days.

Update 2012-04-14: On an equivalent installation on Linux Mint Debian Edition, I found that the installation location for the certificate had moved to /opt/Citrix/ICAClient/keystore/cacerts. This was for the 64-bit edition.

Update 2012-12-17: The above applied to an installation of version 12.10 on 32-bit Ubuntu GNOME Remix too.