A Chrome Password Problem

I found a strange issue with Google Chrome and its saved password list. Chrome will save passwords and you can view the list of passwords that have been saved. If you change a password it will remember the new password and use it to log you into the site. However I found that if you view the password list it shows the previous password not the updated password.

To explain that a little more clearly, say you set up an account at a site with your username and a password of “abc123”. Then you realise that that isn’t a good password and so change it to “xyz321”. You can log out of the site and next time you try to log in, Chrome will autofill the username and password boxes with the current password. However if you look at Chrome’s settings – advanced – manage passwords, it will still show the original value of “abc123” in the password field.

I tried a few things, including resetting the Chrome profile, which is the Chrome help site’s fallback fix for everything, but they didn’t work. The only thing that did work was to delete all the displayed passwords for that site from Chrome’s settings screen. Then log in to the site again, Chrome still remembered the login credentials even though I had deleted everything that was displayed. Then the saved password list was updated and I could view the current password.

A rather strange issue I know. I should mention that I use the beta version of Chrome so that maybe part of the problem but hopefully this will help someone else.

Google Chrome in Korora

Korora comes with many repos already set up so you can just install many software packages from the Package Manager or command line. One of the repos that is set up is Google Chrome. A simple

dnf install google-chrome

will install the stable version of Google Chrome.

However if you want the beta or unstable version, I prefer the beta version, then you need to edit the repo file. Actually other versions like the beta will install with the specific command

dnf install google-chrome-beta

but they won’t be updated in future. Using your preferred text editor open /etc/yum.repos.d/google-chrome.repo. The last line is an exclude statement. You will need to delete or comment out this line. Alternatively you could edit it by removing the version you wish to install / update from that line.

Now you can use the beta or unstable version of Google Chrome in Korora.

Creating PDF from Any Application

This is a version of a post I made on the Kororaa forums in the Tips section. It has application to more that just Kororaa so I repeat it here.

There are many tools available for Linux, too many for one person to get to know them all so this is an introduction to just one. One of those hidden gems is Cups-PDF. This short introduction to Cups-PDF will tell you what it is and what you can do with it.

Quite simply Cups_PDF is a virtual printer that creates PDF files. It can produce a PDF file from any application that can print. It is simple to use as it behaves just like any other printer.

Why Use It?

Why use Cups-PDF when LibreOffice can create PDFs? Cups-PDF works with every application that can print. Also it can do a couple of things that the built in LibreOffice PDF can’t.

Activate Cups-PDF

Although cups-pdf is installed with every Kororaa system it will need to be installed on many Linux systems including Fedora. Use your favourite package manager, in most distros the package name is ‘cups-pdf’. There is one step needed before it can be used. It needs to be added to the printer list. Select “Printing” from the menu, (actual name on menu and the location differs with different desktops) or in a terminal run ‘system-config-printer’

Click the ‘+’ and the system will show you the available printers. Select ‘Generic Cups-pdf Printer’ and it will search for a driver. Select the recommended ‘generic’ driver and select the recommended options. I found system-config-printer slow to do each step so be patient, it will get there. When it returns to the Printing window you can right click on the Cups-pdf icon and change some options, go to Properties – Printer options. I usually reduce the dpi setting as I don’t normally want a high quality output. The minimum setting is still quite good.

There is a configuration file at /etc/cups/cups-pdf.conf but it doesn’t have many options. Fortunately it is well commented so you can see what each option does. The one you might want to change is the output location, the default on Fedora and Kororaa is the user’s desktop.

Using Cups-PDF

Using it is simple. Just select it as the printer and print. A file with the same name as the original with the extension changed to pdf will appear on the desktop. It also changes any spaces in the name to underscores.

One of the things I use Cups-PDF for even in LibreOffice is to use some of the printing options. E.G. you can change the number of pages per sheet in the printing screen but this option doesn’t exist in “Export to PDF”. Experiment with it you may find Cups-PDF is a better alternative than the built-in option plus it works with other applications.

One thing Cups-PDF can’t do, but the LO built-in PDF converter can, is create bookmarks within the document. At least I haven’t found a way to do it, if anyone does know please add a comment.

 

Downloading Photos

I have recently been using the “RAW + jpg” setting on my Canon DSLR.  It is useful in some circumstances as it gives a jpg image that can be used immediately. If I’m not happy with the jpg or want to do some editing for any reason I use the RAW file. I find I only use the RAW about 10% of the time so it allows me to upload my photos much faster.

There is a couple of drawbacks. First it reduces the number of images that can be taken before the camera stops shooting and gives its busy message while it saves them. This is only an issue when in continuous mode. If shooting single shots it is fine.

The other issue is downloading the images to the computer. I use digiKam for photo management. I always rename the files as I download them from the “image_xxxx” format to something a little more meaningful, normally I use a “date-subject-num” format. When downloading with the default settings digiKam will number the cr2 raw file as 1 and the jpg as 2 etc. However I found a setting in the download options for numbers to use the extensions. This will give the cr2 and jpg the same number with only the extension to differentiate the 2 files. Exactly what I wanted. digiKam continues to amaze me with how powerful and useful it is.

Of Data and the Base

It is not surprising that the first thing most people install after the operating system is an office suite. It is one thing that is standard in all Linux distros too. Even if you only write the occasional letter it is an application that everyone seems to use. Perhaps the least used part of most suites is the database. In fact it is not included as a standard part of every office suite. Base was not added to OpenOffice until version 2 and even Microsoft only includes Access in the more expensive version of Office.

However I have always thought that database apps are undervalued. Few people realise the power of them and I guess the steeper learning curve deters the more casual user. I have made extensive use of various database apps for sometime now. Strange to say though the most ubiquitous one (Access) is one I have no experience with. I am not talking of full professional multiuser solutions but I do need something more than the basic Mailing list. So when I started using Linux it was natural that I would look for a database solution that ran under Linux.

When I heard Base was to be added to OpenOffice, yes that is how long ago this story starts, I was very excited. The other OO packages had proved useful replacements for the Office suite I was using at the time. In fact I started using OO in Windows before my move to Linux. When I experimented with Base though I was disappointed. I found it clunky, slow and counter-intuitive. It was only after finding a couple of tutorials online that I could get anything done.

Perhaps I was being unfair to Base as it was an immature product at the time and I was used to something with over a decade of development behind it. I had been using Approach which was part of the Lotus suite. It had always been a powerful yet relatively easy to use application. Lotus is part of IBM and they are no longer developing the Smartsuite which included Approach. They have released a beta of Lotus Symphony that is based on OpenOffice. At this stage there is no indication they will be adding a database application although there is strong support for it on the forum on their site.

In fact I had not found anything I wanted to do that I couldn’t find a way to accomplish using Approach. And I have never needed to use scripting either. Sadly that is not something I could say about other applications. An example is the simple use of a calculated field. A calculated field is one that the content is automatically developed (or calculated) from other field(s). A simple example would be the addition of tax in a price list. If you had a list of products you would type in the price and the tax code / percentage and the final selling price would be worked out. Of course this could be done using reports but if you wanted a quick visual reference you could use without the need to print price lists a calculated field is the easiest way. There are many other uses and they don’t need to be numeric fields either. In Approach it was simply a matter of defining the field as a calculated field and defining the formula and it worked. In Base it required the use of a query and adding that query as a displayed field. It is necessary to manually edit the SQL statement to ensure the result is formatted the way you require. And that is just one example.

I don’t want to spend the time developing a professional solution using mySQL or Firebird although they would do what I require. It would be like using a freight train to bring home the groceries. So what are my alternatives?

Well Base works for simple databases and can be forced to do some powerful things but it is slow and difficult to use. I hope it gets the development it deserves as it could be a useful tool with a better interface. Another option I found was Kexi. Kexi is part of the Koffice suite and my first impressions are good. It was easy to start using with an intuitive interface and good layout. I was able to create a simple table without using a tutorial or even the help screens. I haven’t worked out if it can do everything I require but it is worth a further look.

The other option is to stay with Approach. I have found it will run, with some restrictions, under Wine. For those who aren’t familiar with Wine it is an application that allows selected Windows programs to run under Linux and other ‘nix systems. No need to get into the technicalities of Wine but some programs run well and others with limitations. Unfortunately Approach falls into the latter category. It is possible to access and edit the data and even do simple maintenance work but creating a new table or report are among the tasks that are not possible. I have had mixed results with printing too. So I could do some day to day work with it but would require a windows system for any development etc.

That is what I am doing at the moment but long term I would like to consolidate everything under Linux. So the short term solution is to use Wine / Approach but long term I will give Kexi and other Linux apps further investigation. I would appreciate any suggestions for consumer level database apps that run under Linux.

New Life for Old Laptop

I’m writing this on my Thinkpad T20. Nothing unusual in that you may say and you would be right, sort of. This old machine hasn’t seen much use recently as it was showing its age. It has a P3 700 and used to run W98SE on 128meg Ram, all on a 12gig hard drive. It seemed its days of usefulness were over.

I had been considering replacing it but it doesn’t get a lot of use, mainly as a terminal for Internet use and occasional use in meetings etc. and it is in good condition. I couldn’t really justify the cost of a new machine. There is not much available under $800 to $1000 here in Australia. So what other choices did I have?

I found a dealer selling used ram, important as the new Ram was very expensive if you could find it. I had been quoted $220 from an interstate supplier. For $50 I had an extra 256m installed and tested.

The hard drive was the next to go. I was going to get 80 gig but on a dollar per gig basis 160 was much cheaper so I splashed out. My old machine now had almost as good specs as a machine selling for $1200 or more. All for an investment of under $200. All it needed was a modern OS.

I have been using Linux for a number of years on my desktop but the hassles of getting WiFi working on the laptop meant I hadn’t used it here. I have read reports of much better support now so decided it was time to give it another go.

I had a few different distros on disks laying around so I tried some. The older ones still had wireless problems and some of the newer ones had other hardware issues, the video card is a problem. The DVD drive is a bit fussy too, some disks that work fine on my desktop wouldn’t load on the laptop.

After a couple of experiments I installed Ubuntu 7.04 Feisty Fawn. WiFi worked with WPA (when I found the correct password) on my Netgear WPN511 card out of the box. But no sound and video was a problem.

With the Savage driver X refused to load. I set it to vesa and it worked but wouldn’t allow resolutions greater than 800×600 and 1024×768 is the native resolution of this screen. The screen looks terrible at the smaller resolution too, but that is probably the driver. I spent some time on Thinkwiki (a recommended site for Thinkpad users) and the Ubuntu forums trying many suggestions without success. A live CD is handy here, it allows editing of messed up files, I found it the easiest way of restoring the last working setup. Finally on the forums I found a way of editing xorg.conf that worked. Now I have 1024×768 on a good clear screen.

I wasn’t too worried about the sound as I often work with it turned off so as not to disturb others but a chance find on the forums mentioned a similar problem solved by pressing the volume keys next to the Thinkpad key. So simple I hadn’t tried it. I’m embarrassed to say it worked.

There have been other issues too. I spent some time trying work out why ACPI won’t load. Every time I rebooted I got a message that I needed to force it to load, which I had done. Then I realised it was loading. I still get the message but it seems to work. The battery life is not as good as it was previously but that will take some fine tuning. The battery icon works well as does the wireless one.

With memory of 384 meg, which is less than the recommended but more than the minimum for Feisty, I find some programs slow to load but work well once loaded. I wouldn’t try using too many programs at a time but I have had no problem so far.

This is the first time I have used Gnome. All my Linux experience has been with KDE. So far so good. Of course I could install KDE and thereby make my system Kubuntu if I want but at the moment it is fine.

The result is a usable laptop for a minimum of expense, around $A200 and an investment of several hours of my time. Would I recommend it to others? Not unless they are willing to invest the time to make it work but I am pleased with the outcome.

UPDATE. One small problem has come to light since I wrote this. As this is an old computer the bios doesn’t know about big drives. It doesn’t handle anything over 33 gig. However Linux overcomes this problem except in one area. Linux can’t do anything until it is running. Consequently the boot partition must be on the first 33 gigs. I tried adding another copy of Linux as a dual boot but as the new partition was added on the end it wouldn’t boot. Not a big problem but worth noting.

Keeping It Private

A blog is somewhere you can share your thoughts, ideas and views with the world so the idea of a private blog sounds like an oxymoron. But a blog can be much more and can have uses beyond that originally intended. A private blog may be the very tool you need for the job at hand.

First what is a private blog? A private blog is one that you control access to. It is not open to public view. It may be one only you can read or one that only selected people can read or optionally post to.

Most blogging platforms have some type of privacy controls. WordPress.com allows a totally private blog, one to which only you can have access, or one with controlled access, you select who can read and post to it. Other blogs may allow you to control access to the whole blog or just individual entries. Look for Privacy or access levels or it may be like Vox and ask “who can read this?”.

So you have a private blog, what can you do with it? The answer is almost anything but here are a few ideas.

OK the simplest one first, a personal diary. As long as you keep the password secret your innermost thoughts are safe from curious partners, siblings or house mates. Better still keep its existence secret.

A private blog can be a basic form of groupware. You have an idea for a scheme that will make you a fortune but you need some help getting it off the ground and your most trusted ally is on the other side of town, country or planet. You need somewhere you can bounce ideas around until you come up with the prefect plan. A private blog with you selecting just the two (or more) of you to have access and you are set. More colleagues can be brought on board as needed.

You travel regularly and carry your contacts, schedules and meeting notes on your laptop, pda, cellphone etc. What happens when it is stolen, lost or just stops working, do you have a backup? If you had entered all that information on a private blog you do. Just find the nearest internet café. Give your assistant access too and any updates are there when you need them. After the meetings add your reports and they are back are at the office and hopefully being acted on before you get back.

Your family is spread across different time zones but you still want to feel close. A private blog only the immediate family can access is the perfect place to share your news, photos or whatever.

What about an electronic sticky note? There are applications for your desktop but if you use a number of computers a blog can be a temporary storage to keep notes, addresses, numbers etc.

These a just few ideas you may find useful. But what could you do with a private blog? Do you use one now? and what for?

Scanning Film

I find when scanning film it pays to follow a procedure. Failure to do this often equals failure to achieve a successful scan (or archived copy). I mentioned earlier the steps I had to go through to get the scanner working so this time I will concentrate on the actual scanning process. I follow the same regime whether I am working with slides or negatives. It can be broken down into three steps – scanning, produce an archive, produce the required useful image.

Scanning

I use Vuescan to control the scanner. It has the advantage of being cross platform but I principally run it under Linux.

After selecting the shot to be scanned I select the appropriate settings in Vuescan. I have set the defaults to be close to what I need so the main settings to be made are negative or slide and type of film. Vuescan comes with presets for common film so this is easy if I can identify the film. With negatives it is printed on the film strip but with mounted slides it is not possible to tell.

I sometimes change the presets particularly if the film is faded or otherwise degraded, some of the film I am working with is more than 20 years old. Next a preview is made. Although the quality is a little less than the final scan it is a good indication of what I will get. At this point I may try some changes to the settings. Eg, I may preview different white balance settings. The area to be scanned is selected at this point too. There are options to keep the existing aspect ratio if that is important. I don’t crop too heavily at this stage especially if any perspective adjustments are going to be made later.

When I am happy with the preview I select scan. When the scanner has finished it will ask for a file name. Over time I have developed a naming procedure that works for me, it is YYYY_mmddtitle-nnnn.ext. This is year followed by an underscore then month and day, a title (or subject) follows then the image number. The image number is made up of my film catalogue number and the frame number on the film. (I use the same system with digital images but there is no film number so I just use a shot number.) I save the output of the scanner as a tiff.

Produce an Archive

As the output of the scanner has been saved I have an archive but I may do some additional work with a photo editing package. I use the Gimp for most editing. This includes fixing any perspective problem (ie. straightening sloping horizons or leaning buildings) and cleaning up any dust or scratches. A graphic tablet is an ideal tool for cleaning up images. It allows excellent control. I find it a must for detailed editing.

When I am satisfied with the results I save it, still as a tiff. I usually replace the scanned image but I sometimes rename it, usually by appending an “a”, if I consider I have altered it to the stage it is a new image, although this is rare.

Most importantly I save and backup this original scanned image.

The Final (or Useful) Image

This can be done at any time but usually I have scanned an image with the intention of using it, often as a post on my photo blog, “cewatticey”. So at this stage I make any changes to the image I think it needs and resize it and save as a jpeg if it is for use online. I will save in a different format if needed for some other use. I keep the name, just changing the extension unless the site has restrictions on file names, this applies to my photo blog. In this case I rename it to a generic name often using the title. If I have changed a colour photo to monochrome for example I will append a “m” to the filename to make it easy to identify in future.

The copy is saved with the original, if I want to post it somewhere else it saves reprocessing it. If I want to create a version for a different purpose it is created from the original.

Open Source Software – Take 2

What is Open Source Software? I gave a quick and in many ways not very accurate description in my last post of this series but for a much clearer understanding see the Free Software magazine.

I also mentioned in that post that I didn’t agree with all of his choices. One of the good things about OSS that there are usually many choices in each category. So listed below are the changes I would make to the list.

3. If only Google Calendar had a “To Do” list. It’s not open source but Google Calendar is great. For “ToDo” I use “Remember the Milk”. The suggested Sunbird is the best OSS option.

4. I haven’t used Abiword but as choice 5 is Open Office why duplicate. Open Office Writer is a good Word replacement and reported to be the most compatible with the MSOffice format.

6. My choice would be AVG which while not OSS is free, or at least a free option is available.

18. Handbrake is a Mac program.

29. GnuCash, this choice is a little strange as there doesn’t appear to be a version for Windows. I say doesn’t appear to be as the website gives instructions on how to compile under Windows and how the problems may be handled. So while some people with access to the right tools may be able to have it, GNUCash is not available for download from the official site however unofficial copies can be found. I don’t have a replacement but can say GnuCash works well under Linux.

And the one item missing from the list –

31 Nvu

http://www.nvu.com

A wysiwyg html editor, a suitable OSS for website creation whether you want to work at code level or wysiwyg level.

Have I missed anything? Let me know what you think.