In the Linux world: Tails

tailsYou can download Tails Linux for free. I have it running under Oracle’s Virtual Box inside a Linux host, but the recommended way is to put it on a USB stick and reboot your computer. To quote the website: “Tails is a live operating system that you can start on almost any computer from a USB stick or a DVD.”

What it does:

  • use the Internet anonymously and circumvent censorship; all connections to the Internet are forced to go through the Tor network;

  • leave no trace on the computer you are using unless you ask it explicitly;

  • use state-of-the-art cryptographic tools to encrypt your files, emails and instant messaging.

Tor is a network that bounces your IP address all over the world, just like on movies and TV shows, to make you impossible to trace. Why do people want that? Are they terrorists? Well, what if you don’t want Google to know you are doing research for a novel involving bad guys doing realistic things, or maybe watching porn!

It’s such a clandestine way of using a browser, I read somewhere, that anyone who searches for Tails or Tor Browser, or goes to their site and download it, alarms the NSA.

It’s a pain to use. I tried logging into my Google account with it and it sent up all kinds of red flags that someone from Europe was trying to access my account (it was only me). That’s the whole point. When you use it no one can tell who you are or where you are.

If you don’t want to put the Tails OS on a USB stick to use when you reboot your computer, you can also just download and use the Tor Browser as a stand alone. I suppose people like Edward Snowden and Julian Assange use this stuff to foil authorities.

Have fun and don’t do anything unethical!

How is htop better than top on Linux?

You gotta be kidding me. As a twenty-year veteran of Linux as my only OS, I had no idea about what htop and top were until you asked, and then I just did a simple Google search because I couldn’t stand being asked a question about Linux that I didn’t know the answer to.

“Htop is a free (GPL) ncurses-based process viewer for Linux. It is similar to top, but allows you to scroll vertically and horizontally, so you can see all the processes running on the system, along with their full command lines.”

I’ll have to try htop now. Never have, never needed to. Your question makes me need to.

Ultimate Linux Anonymity

With Linux you can have total privacy even from your ISP.

You can be completely anonymous and free from being spied on – at least with a specific version of Linux called Tails. To quote DistroWatch, “The Amnesic Incognito Live System (Tails) is a Debian-based live DVD/USB with the goal of providing complete Internet anonymity for the user.”

Tails Linux is a live distro that you place on a USB stick. It doesn’t matter whether you run Windows, a Mac or Linux system. You put Tails on the USB stick, reboot the computer and woolah! You have complete anonymity.

This is done through something I don’t understand called the Tor network. Anyway, it’s a way no one can know anything about what you’re doing on the Internet, if that’s important for you. Edward Snowden reportedly uses this to conceal what he does (did if you want to believe he still doesn’t do “it”).

You can also use it in a virtual machine, if you trust the virtual host.

I’m no expert at this stuff, but here it is.

Why I switched from OpenSUSE Tumbleweed to Kubuntu to Fedora

I’ve been doing this awhile – installing Linux on my computer is my hobby. By “awhile” I mean I first started using Linux back in the 1990s. I ran RedHat Linux before it went public!

Let me tell you about my journey from stable point releases to full-rolling distros back to point to point distros and now to Fedora.

Everybody, and I do mean everybody in the Linux world has a million opinions about which Linux OS or desktop environment is best. You can see people arguing this stuff intensely online! I have no intention to try to convince you which Linux to run. I’ve run a lot of them over the years. No sense in naming them.

For stability, I settled on “point to point” distros for years. These included Linux Mint, Ubuntu, Fedora, OpenSUSE Leap – the list will go on and on, trust me.

The problem is that most of these require you to do a reinstall of the OS when there comes along a major upgrade every six or twelve months or so.

It occurred to me, then to move from Ubuntu Studio (which I was using a year ago) to something completely different. I went with Manjaro Linux, a rolling distribution based on Arch. From there I went to Antergos and stayed there a long time.

Then I switched, just to be different, and went with OpenSUSE Tumbleweed, a rolling distribution that worked great for me. I used it for an exceptionally long time – a few months I believe.

Now, as a Linux hobbyist, I’m always fiddling, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve broken my Linux and had to reinstall! What ultimately happened, though, is that my Tumbleweed system broke all by itself with just a simple upgrade. Then it happened two or three more times and I got frustrated. OpenSUSE Tumbleweed began to look unstable and frustrating to me.opensuse_tumbleweed_01

Said I to my wife (who tolerates me – she runs Windows on her computer), “That’s the problem with rolling distributions. I’m going back to something more stable.

So I went with Kubuntu and was very happy for a long time.kubuntu

After some time, however, I did start to notice that online videos from sources like YouTube, Netflix and Amazon, started to get “choppy,” which was very annoying. I reinstalled and it fixed it, but not completely. You could still detect a slight jerk in the video every 5 seconds. Oh how annoying that became. On top of that I started thinking about that selling point of the rolling distros: “Once you install a rolling distribution of Linux you will never have to reinstall it again.”

Well, I know that’s not completely true, because it can break, but it’s still a good selling point.

Then I started thinking about Fedora, the upstream distribution to RedHat Linux (a commercial version of Linux).


Fedora is a point to point distribution. There are minor security system and other updates, but the base system changes once every six months. And…. get this… you don’t have to reinstall to upgrade from Fedora 27 to Fedora 28 (for example). The whole thing can be upgraded simply from a command line interface.

So here I am. Fedora. (Also I’m using KDE these days, but that’s another journey to tell you about sometime.)

And guess what? The “jerking” of the videos? It doesn’t happen anymore! I didn’t expect that, but my video experience has improved many times over.

Of course, learning things like “dnf” instead of “apt-get” and getting things like kdenlive or ffmpeg working for me took some fiddling, but nothing too difficult and always easy to find help online.

That’s why I’m now using Fedora.

What made you switch from Linux to FreeBSD?

I’ve switched to FreeBSD a few times, and always came back to Linux. FreeBSD is useful for various systems. Now days, you can even run top-notch desktop environments on a BSD system, like KDE and Xfce and others.

It just depends on what you like to do with your computer. Me? I do a lot of video and audio editing, writing, and for entertainment, I like to watch YouTube, Netflix and Amazon Video online. BSD still struggles with Flash and certain other non-free programs.

Mainly this happens because, although BSD predated the development of Linux by Linus Torvalds, BSD and subsequent derivatives like FreeBSD, OpenBSD, TrueOS, NetBSD and so on were stalled by court battles over ownership of the Unix code.

BSDs are descendants of Unix. In fact all BSD and Linux OSes are in a class of operating systems called Unix-like.

They are not Unix, however. All the code had to be rewritten from scratch.

Anyway, while Unix/BSD were held up in courts, Linus Torvalds came along and developed Linux, another Unix-like OS with completely new code. That, coupled with the good people at GNU, make up the GNU/Linux family of operating systems.

Linux took off. BSD, including FreeBSD, is still trying to catch up, and is still a little clumsy for some folks (not all).

So despite trying to go to FreeBSD (and other BSDs) I’m forced to keep coming back to Linux. I’m sure it will change over time. The image below is old (I change OS from time to time). I’m now running Fedora. By the time you’re reading this I might be running something else!

Fedora: Banned?

I recently switched from Kubuntu Linux to Fedora KDE and have really been enjoying it. I tried to join the Fedora Forums today. Later I logged in to the forums to see what was going on and received this message:

vBulletin Message
You have been banned for the following reason:
No reason was specified.
Date the ban will be lifted: Never

What did I do? I’m literally stunned. I hadn’t even posted a message yet! It’s odd and really inconvenient.

This has never happened to me before. I belong to a number of Linux forums, and highlight Linux on this website often.

FOLLOW UP: We have Jim Dean to thank for messaging one of the Fedora Forum’s administrators, who said it had been an error and the problem is now corrected! Thanks, Jim!

ISS Sunrise – an animated plymouth theme for KDE Plasma

With most Linux distributions now days you can modify the “boot” screen. This is where you usually see a customized logo for your version of Linux and a little spinning thing to indicate the computer is doing something in the background while you wait for the login screen to enter your password.

The instructions below will assist you to change that boot up screen with an animated Earth sunrise from space using actual NASA images from the International Space Station.

This is a plymouth theme called iss-sunrise modified from another theme called space-sunrise. Gradually a sun rises with the KDE logo on it, and Earth lights up to a second ISS image. It’s quite spectacular. We assume in this tutorial you already have plymouth installed on your system. If not, time to check that out.

  1. Download the iss-sunrise.tar.gz by clicking the link in this sentence. Once you have the file downloaded extract the contents. It will create a directory called iss-sunrise.
  2. Copy this directory and it’s contents (in Ubuntu/Kubuntu) with this command:
    sudo cp -r ./iss-sunrise /usr/share/plymouth/themes
  3. You can skip this step for later if you just want to see what it looks like, but soon you will want to modify the file distro_name.png with something you like. The one included has my name on it. I used the GIMP to create it.
  4. Add the iss-sunrise theme to the Plymouth ‘alternatives’. This is a long line. Make sure you copy the whole thing, then paste it into a terminal.
    sudo update-alternatives --install /usr/share/plymouth/themes/default.plymouth default.plymouth /usr/share/plymouth/themes/iss-sunrise/iss-sunrise.plymouth 50
  5. Set the iss-sunrise theme as the default.
    sudo update-alternatives --config default.plymouth
    There are 3 choices for the alternative default.plymouth
    (providing /lib/plymouth/themes/default.plymouth).
      Selection    Path                                                       Priority   Status
      0            /lib/plymouth/themes/kubuntu-logo/kubuntu-logo.plymouth     150       auto mode
      1            /lib/plymouth/themes/iss-sunrise/iss-sunrise.plymouth   50        manual mode
      2            /lib/plymouth/themes/kubuntu-logo/kubuntu-logo.plymouth     150       manual mode
    * 3            /lib/plymouth/themes/my-plymouth/my-plymouth.plymouth       50        manual mode
    Press enter to keep the current choice[*], or type selection number: 1
    update-alternatives: using /usr/share/plymouth/themes/iss-sunrise/iss-sunrise.plymouth to provide /usr/share/plymouth/themes/default.plymouth (default.plymouth) in manual mode.
  6. Update the initramfs
    sudo update-initramfs -u
  7. Reboot!