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Posts tagged with "computer"

Adjusting the Linux (Xfce) Volume Control

Like many others I like to listen to music while sitting at my computer. When I am coding or doing other work I need to concentrate on, I do so at a very low volume level, just enough that the music is audible without distracting me. For this reason I use the volume controls of my keyboard quite often to adjust the level according to the current situation.

Normally the volume keys increase or decrease the volume level by 5%, which in most cases is a reasonable setting. But combined with my DELL AC511 sound bar, a step of 5% sometimes goes from “mute” directly to “too loud”, forcing me to use the mouse to make adjustments with the volume slider control.

I was looking for some way to have a more fine-grained control over the amount of volume change when using the keyboard and came up with two solutions to this “problem”.

The first one is specific to the Xfce desktop environment with the “xfce4-pulseaudio-plugin”, which is what I am using, the second one is more generic and works in Xfce as well as in other Linux desktop environments.

Let’s get started…

Read on...

FreeDOS in QEMU

FreeDOS Icon FreeDOS is a free and open source operating system that aims to be a modern implementation of MS DOS with numerous improvements like networking, support for the FAT32 file system, long filenames and its own package manager. It can be installed on real hardware and I use it myself on an old 486 PC from around 1990. With the upcoming release of version 1.3 of FreeDOS (which is currently at version 1.3RC5) I wanted to have a quick look at the new version and did an installation in QEMU on my Linux laptop.

This post is about how to set it up…

Read on...

Using the mutt email client with Microsoft 365 Exchange Online

More and more companies are outsourcing their email systems to cloud providers, most prominently to Microsoft 365 Exchange Online. Whether or not this trend is an improvement for the worse is up to discussion, but I recently found myself in such an environment and, since I prefer using the mutt email client for all of my emailing, I was looking how to connect it to my mail account.

So, getting straight to it, here are the necessary settings for IMAP and SMTP in the .muttrc configuration file to access a Microsoft 365 Exchange Online account (corporate tenant)…

IMAP configuration:

set ssl_verify_host=no
set ssl_use_tlsv1_3=yes
set imap_authenticators="login:digest-md5:cram-md5"
set spoolfile={outlook.office365.com/ssl}INBOX
set folder={outlook.office365.com/ssl}
set imap_user="yourname@domain.tld"
set imap_pass="yourpassword"
set record="{outlook.office365.com/ssl}Sent Items"
set postponed="{outlook.office365.com/ssl}Drafts"
set mail_check=30
set timeout=60

SMTP configuration:

set hidden_host=yes
set smtp_authenticators = "login"
set ssl_starttls = yes
set ssl_force_tls = yes
set from="yourname@domain.tld"
set realname="Your Name"
set smtp_url = "smtp://yourname@domain.tld@outlook.office365.com:587/"
set smtp_pass="yourpassword"

Backups

At work I was recently in the situation that I needed to recover data from backups of a file server that had crashed due to a hardware failure. The incident has apparently shaken up a few people which subsequently approached me with questions on how they should organize their own personal backups at home.

Although I couldn’t advise each of them to their individual needs, my general recommendations on this topic were:

  • Make backups frequently. It doesn’t help much if your last backup is from one year ago and you loose all data that has been added since. Adjust your backup frequency to how often your data changes or new data is added.

  • In general it is a good idea to automate backups so you do not forget to create them. You may want to choose a specialized software or service to do so. But be careful not to be locked-in to some proprietary solution that prevents you from accessing your backups from other computers.

  • Sometimes it may suffice to just have a simple copy of your data but most often it is better to have multiple complete sets from different points in time. Depending on the volume of your data, you could create a new copy of your data each time you back it up. Or you may want to use some backup software that does this for you.

  • Always have more then one backup and keep them on multiple devices. These days it is quite common to use external USB disk drives, which are great to handle but could easily fail or become defective. You should have at least two or three different devices to save your data to.

  • Make sure you have at least one copy of your data off-site. That means, keep a copy of your data outside your home, for example in a bank deposit box or at a friend’s home. Make sure your data is encrypted in this case and do not forget to freshen these backups frequently as well.

  • An alternative to the previous point may be to use an online storage or backup provider to keep off-site copies of your data. This can be a lot more convenient than passing around physical devices. But never rely entirely on such services as they may become unavailable for any number of reasons. Needless to say that encryption (under your control) is an absolute must before any data passes the wire.

  • Last but not least, verify that your backups are valid and complete. And that you are able to restore your data from them.

In the end, the most important thing is to implement a backup routine at all and to keep backups up-to-date regularly. You do not need a highly sophisticated solution for it. Just make sure that it’s there and holds all the data that is valuable to you.

That being said, you may be interested on how I have set up my own personal backup…

Read on...

UNIX - A History and a Memoir

I recently finished reading the book “UNIX - A History and a Memoir” by Brian Kernighan which was a great read, especially for someone who is into the UNIX operating system as much as I am.

On about 180 pages the book tells the story how UNIX came about and how its groundbreaking concepts changed the path of computer technology and led to a whole lot of new and innovative software, which still is in use over 50 years later.

What I particularly liked about the book is not only the intelligible and entertaining style it is written in, but especially that the events are portrayed first-hand by Brian, who had been closely working with the Unix creators Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie at the time when Unix was created at Computing Science Research Center at Bell Labs.

It was especially interesting to learn, how the particulars, the exactly fitting mix of people and work environment, time and events led to something far beyond what the creators could have imagined.

If you are interested in computing or computing history, or in Unix specifically, this book is for you.

The Book
The Book

At the end of the book Brian had referenced a couple of web links I almost was too lazy to type in. But I did it anyway and it led to some interesting resources on the topic. Mainly for my own reference, I’ve listed some of them below. Be aware that this is by no means the complete list of references Brian had mentioned. There are a whole lot more, especially to papers and books.

Flickering Outlook Webmail (OWA)

A couple of days ago I encountered a strange issue on one of my colleagues notebooks: his Outlook Webmail (OWA) was “flickering”, the list of his emails looked like it was constantly reloading and this strange thing happened in all of his mail folders, no matter what web browser he used…

At first I thought that one ore more of the keys of his notebook are stuck, but as it turned out the culprit was something totally different:

The clock of his notebook was out of sync and lagging a couple of hours behind!

As soon as I had synchronized his notebook’s clock against an internet source, the phenomenon was gone.

Since I never encountered this problem before, I thought I’ll leave a note here, mainly to remind myself of the solution.

Mounting Truecrypt Volumes in Linux

Today I learned (well not actually today, but a few days ago): You can easily mount Truecrypt containers with cryptsetup in Linux. So let's put a quick reminder here, just in case I need this again...

Set up a loop device

sudo losetup /dev/loop0 /path/to/truecrypt/container

Then open it

sudo cryptsetup open --type tcrypt /dev/loop0 tccontainer

And finally mount the container

sudo mount /dev/mapper/tccontainer /mnt

To close it again, go the other way round...

umount /mnt
sudo cryptsetup close tccontainer
sudo losetup -d /dev/loop0

Done.

You can also mount hidden Truecrypt containers by specifying the type tcrypt-hidden in the cryptsetup open... step.

QMMP Linux Media Player

There are plenty of media players for the Linux platform out there, but the one I like most is the QT-based Multimedia Player QMMP. Maybe one of the reasons for this is, that it feels very much like the original [Winamp Player](http://www.winamp.com/), which I had adopted as my media player of choice back in October 1998 when version 2.03 came out.

Read on...

Turn Windows features on or off shows an empty list

When it comes to webservers, my favorite is Apache. Today, however, I needed to install Microsoft’s IIS on my Windows 7 notebook for a bunch of compatibility tests of some Python web applications I wrote.

Installing IIS on Windows 7 is normally a very painless task. You just go to Start --> Control Panel --> Programs and select Turn Windows features on or off from the dialog box that opens. Thereafter you simply select IIS and the additional components you’d like to install. After a few moments IIS is installed and ready to use.

But today, once more, Windows did its best to cod me...

After clicking *Turn Windows features on or off* the upcoming dialog box, that should list these features, was empty. No matter how often I re-opened the dialog, it remained empty and it turned out to be a pretty stubborn problem.

I tried:

None of these steps helped, the list of components remained empty.

After some research on the web, it turned out that this problem has been around since quite a while and both, Windows 7 and Windows Vista, are affected. Microsoft has described the effects in its knowledge base article 934538 but the steps described there didn’t help to fix the problem. Many desperate users seemed to have reinstalled their systems because they didn’t find a solution for this issue.

Fortunately I came across a comment, which led me to this knowledge base article, which – at a first glance – has nothing to do with this problem. However, after installing the described "System Update Readiness Tool" for my version of Windows (in this case Windows 7 Professional x64), the problem was fixed and the list of components was properly populated.

I haven’t investigated this whole issue any further, since I had to get back to my actual task. But I thought I leave a few words about it here, just in case...

Sound feedback for Microsoft Office 2007

As in previous versions of Microsoft Office, there’s an option in Office 2007 that turns on additional feedback sounds. The additional sounds needed for this feature to be activated, can be downloaded from this page at Microsoft's website.

Unfortunately the installer insists on having an older version of Microsoft Office installed and refuses to work if you have Office 2007. But there’s a rather simple solution to get it installed anyway. Here’s how:

All what’s left to do is to turn on the sound feedback in one of your office programs. For example, in Microsoft Word you would click the Office-Button, then "Options" and "Extended", scroll down almost to the end of the dialog and turn on the option "Provide sound feedback".

Enjoy :-)

Still playing with Windows 7

I made some compatibility tests today and found no problems so far. If there’s some spare time this weekend, I’ll install my most used apps under Windows 7 and check if there are any problems.

Read on...

Windows 7 - First Contact

Windows 7 Logo Today I received Windows 7 Ultimate for my notebook and immediately gave it a try. I haven’t used the betas and release candidates before (intentionally), so this was my very first contact with Windows 7.

Read on...