Category Archives: News

OpenID Authentication Plugin for vBulletin 4

Recently I volunteered to help fix an existing project or develop an OpenID authentication plugin for the vBulletin platform. The group in need was and I would have never known if it hadn’t been for Jorge Castro’s public request for help.

The Story

The existing plugin had been developed specifically for vBulletin 3.x, however, they are (as of writing this) in the process of upgrading their forums to vBulletin 4 especially wanted OpenID to be available when they make the upgrade. That’s where I came in.

Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, provided me with necessary software licenses for vBulletin 4 and from there it was a lot of late nights attempting to simply get a successful OpenID process to occur.

Working a full time job doesn’t make projects like this as easy as I remember them once being… Nonetheless I was able to successful port the plugin to vB4 where there were several significant differences that took me some time to address and to be honest, the previous code was a bit more complicated to follow than it should have been.

One major change from vB3 to vB4 was the way templates work. I’d never worked with vBulletin before, but I’ve had an extensive amount of experience with phpBB and bbPress in the past. After getting over the frustration of how vBulletin prefers to store ALL template information (in the database rather than pull from template files) I was ready to begin the repair process.

Continue reading OpenID Authentication Plugin for vBulletin 4

Debugging PHP in Ubuntu using Eclipse

This guide walks you through the necessary steps to configure the Eclipse IDE for PHP debugging. This can be very handy, especially when you’re trying to resolve an issue in a complex PHP application or plug-in.

Things you’ll need

  • Eclipse
  • Eclipse PHP Development Tools (PDT)
  • Xdebug
This article assumes that you are configuring Eclipse and Xdebug for development on a localhost web server. If you are not, be sure to make appropriate adjustments to accommodation your needs. Likely the only changes you will need to make will be differences in connecting to your server verses localhost.

Quick Overview

For those that are unaware, Eclipse is a very popular IDE for developing in Java. However, Eclipse is much more powerful than that and can in fact easily be used for developing in many other languages including PHP.

Xdebug is a brilliant debugging extension designed for use with PHP. Once configured, Xdebug will allow you to remotely connect to your web server… or in my case connect to my development localhost web server. Rather than using crude echo and logging techniques to debug your PHP code, Xdebug allows you to literally step through and inspect values and function flows in real-time.

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First Time to the West Coast

I went on a business trip recently to Reno, NV. While I was out that way I decided to make a quick trip to Los Angeles, CA and see the West Coast for the first time.

It was a fun trip and I took a lot of pictures. Unfortunately it rained most of the time I was in LA and the pictures I took didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped. I do however have some pretty fantastic pictures from my trip that I wanted to share.

Me at North Lake Tahoe in Nevada.
Me at North Lake Tahoe in Nevada.
Room 1191 view from the Grand Sierra Hotel & Resort.
Room 1191 view from the Grand Sierra Hotel & Resort.

This was a pretty interesting view with the clouds and the mountains surrounding everything. There was basically a 360 degree view of these mountains.

Continue reading First Time to the West Coast

Nvidia patches a bug I’ve waited 9 months for…

I’ve been following an Nvidia bug that’s been affecting me for a while now and am happy to say that its apparently been fixed! I say apparently, because I’ve not been around my Linux box for several days (due to the holidays) and haven’t had a chance to confirm for myself.

If you have an Nvidia card, especially the 7300le model like I have, and have had difficulties using Unity 3D with the proprietary drivers, then you may have experienced this bug: [nvidia, 7300, 7400] display freeze when using unity desktop

Nvidia has just released an update which resolves this issue and it can easily be installed right away!

Continue reading Nvidia patches a bug I’ve waited 9 months for…

Quicklists for Opera in Unity

Thanks goes to Jorge Castro and a recent post of his about Quicklists in Unity.

After reading his post and seeing how easy it was to add new Quicklist entries, I decided to give it a go with Opera.

As you can see, my efforts were successful, but there are many more list items you could add to customize Opera’s Quicklist to suit your needs.

Get It for Yourself

If you’re using Ubuntu 11.04 with Unity and want to customize this menu for yourself then just follow follow these simple steps.

1. Open a terminal and type the following (and enter your password when prompted):
sudo gedit /usr/share/applications/opera-browser.desktop

2. Scroll down to the bottom of this open file and paste the following:

[NewTab Shortcut Group]
Name=New Tab
Exec=opera -newtab

[NewPrivateTab Shortcut Group]
Name=New Private Tab
Exec=opera -newprivatetab

[NewWindow Shortcut Group]
Name=New Window
Exec=opera -newwindow

[Mail Shortcut Group]
Exec=opera -mail

3. Save and close the text editor. You may need to restart Unity or your computer before changes take effect.

Customize your Quicklist

If you’d like to add more items to the Quicklist, simply add a shortcut name for it in “X-Ayatana-Desktop-Shortcuts" and create a "Shortcut Group" for it.

A couple of things that I considered adding were Gmail and Google Reader so that they simply open in new tabs. I’m sure you can find other useful shortcuts to add or maybe even more Opera command line options!

Remove your Changes

If you don’t like the Quicklist items that you’ve added, all you need to do is open the opera-browser.desktop file and remove the lines that were added. Save, close and voila.


Quicklists are great, but they would be more useful with Opera if we were able to select from a list of open or recent tabs.

The new tab and window shortcuts that I’ve added are enough for me at the moment, but I would really love to see them added by default in the near future!


I’m leaving for Boston later this afternoon to explorer the city a little for a few days. I’m hoping the weather won’t be as its forecast to be (rain all but two days I’m there).

One place that is high on my priority list to visit is the Cheers Bar from the television show. While most of the show was actually filmed in a replica bar, it was indeed modeled and based on this actual bar in Boston. I’m sure this is a popular tourist attraction, but its even more important for me to visit since I’ve been watching the show for the past couple months from Netflix. 😀

Other than that I guess we are just planning to visit the typical tourist attractions of Boston, but since we don’t know much about the area and have never been there before, we will likely just follow a top list of places to visit.

I’m planning to make use of my blog while traveling and posting a few pictures here and there, so stay tune. 🙂

Also, if you’ve got any suggestions as to interesting or cool places to visit then please let me know! I’d be glad to hear a few suggestions so we know where to start!

Mac OS X 10.7

Stumbling upon a download for Mac OS X 10.7 Developer Preview, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to give install it on my MacBook and see how things went.

So far it seems that OS X 10.7 has several tweaks and added bells and whistles, but LaunchPad is the only significant difference that I’ve found.

After the upgrade completes and your computer is restarted, you’re presented with a typical OS X intro video with some music that turns into the “Thank You” that you see above.

Quick look at About This Mac.

With LaunchPad, you’re presented with a “Home” screen similar to what you might find on an iPhone/iPod touch/iPad. This screen lists your default apps first as you would see on your i-device and other applications on subsequent pages.

The old style Dashboard is no longer lowered in and floating above your desktop or workspace, but instead slides in from the left where it occupies its own workspace area.

I don’t see a real advantage to this over the previous style Dashboard and it feels like a change for the sake of change, but I’m sure there is a better reason behind this UI change.

The Mail app has been updated, cleaned up and rearranged. I find the new layout to be nicer overall and easy to get used it. Hotmail has used a similar design for a while now, but its never felt as user friendly as this.

Spot Light also got a few updates. Tooltips appear for some files and resources with more details without having to click anything. For instance, definitions that are listed in the results now display a tooltip with everything you need.

Several of the mouse gestures have changed by default and the up/down scrolling motion has been reversed by default to mimic a touch device such as your iPhone. This is the only thing that I’ve switched back thus far as I couldn’t stand the scrolling working opposite of what I’m used to.

Looking through my Sharing settings I noticed that FTP is no longer listed. I’m hoping its only been moved and has not been removed, but time will tell.

AirDrop looks to be promising, though I have no one to test it with just yet. Also, FaceTime is now installed by default.

Windows are now resizeable from all sides and corners. Windows are now animated to when clicking the plus button to enlarge or shrink a window.

There are many more changes in OS X 10.7, most of them are simple visual tweaks. The window controls for close/minimize/maximize have been slightly updated, however the controls displayed in iTunes have yet to be updated and still use the styling from OS X 10.6.6.

Mac OS X 10.7 Developer Preview is turning out to be a pretty stable and promising update so far. Some features show since of performance problems, but I’m sure many of the remaining issues will be resolved in time for its official release.

Crossing my fingers that more new features find there way into OS X 10.7 before its released, but its probably not very likely at this point.

Girl Talk @ Disco Rodeo

Got some follow-up pictures from the Girl Talk show I went to last week and mentioned in my previous Girl Talk post! Not all of the pictures turned out so hot, but these are a few of the better ones.

My favorite one is the one where he is squatting on top of his dj table with the microphone, but I think they’re all pretty amazing…as is the range of colors.

In the end our ears were all ringing, but it was a blast and great to be so close this time around! If you ever get the chance, I highly suggest you see Girl Talk live!

Girl Talk

I’m going to see Girl Talk perform tomorrow night in Raleigh! I can’t wait! I saw him live at Moogfest 2010 and the show was amazing!

Unfortunately I didn’t get any great close up pictures from Moogfest of Girl Talk, but here are some of the better ones that I have from his previous performance and similar to what I hope to get at the concert tomorrow!

Hopefully this time we can get a little closer, but I’m guessing the show will be very similar to the last one we saw. You should checkout Girl Talk’s latest album called All Day if you haven’t already!

Props to a friend, @Coxy, who is going to see Sleigh Bells perform tonight! I saw them briefly at Moogfest and they were great!

How to setup and use Tor Anonymity in Ubuntu

Just before the new year, I saw a news article by Wired that highlighted flaws found in the Tor Anonymity Network. I had never used Tor, but I knew what it was, the benefits it could provide, and a bit about how it worked.

With a little free time on my hands I decided to set it up and see what all the fuss was about. At the time I was installing the Tor components in OS X, but I was curious about installing it in Ubuntu and the resources and instructions that I came across were not as straight forward as they could have been. That is where this post comes it, to provide a simple step by step guide with no fuss.

What is Tor?

This is how Wikipedia explains Tor:

Tor is a system intended to enable online anonymity, composed of client software and a network of servers which can hide information about users’ locations and other factors which might identify them. Use of this system makes it more difficult to trace internet traffic to the user, including visits to Web sites, online posts, instant messages, and other communication forms. It is intended to protect users’ personal freedom, privacy, and ability to conduct confidential business, by keeping their internet activities from being monitored.

What does it look like?

Tor itself doesn’t have a graphical user interface (GUI), but there is an application known as Vidalia which provides a nice and simple user interface for controlling all of your Tor needs.

When installing Tor in Ubuntu, you will need to install 3 components: Tor, Polipo, and Vidalia. Tor and Vidalia should now be obvious to you (since I’ve explained that Vidalia provides a GUI to Tor).

Again, according to Wikipedia here is what Polipo is:

Polipo is a fast and lightweight, forwarding and caching proxy server, SOCKS proxy and computer software daemon.

Install Tor in Ubuntu

This is really quite simple and I could easily provide a simple bash script to automate all of this for you, but that would mean that I would have to maintain it and that you wouldn’t learn anything. 😉

For simplicity, I will write this guide assuming you are using Ubuntu 10.10, aka Maverick. If you’re using a different version, make sure you change the necessary bits below.

  1. Open “Software Sources,” select the “Other Software” tab, click the “Add” button at the bottom and paste the following:

    deb maverick main

    Click “Add Source,” then click Close. When it asks if you want to Reload, click yes and ignore any errors for now.

  2. Open a Terminal and add the Tor Repository keys and update Apt:

    gpg –keyserver –recv 886DDD89
    gpg –export A3C4F0F979CAA22CDBA8F512EE8CBC9E886DDD89 | sudo apt-key add –
    sudo apt-get update

  3. Install Tor, Polipo, and Vidalia:

    sudo apt-get install tor tor-geoipdb polipo vidalia -y

    When prompted during the installation of Vidalia, select the option to permanently replace (or however it is worded).

  4. Download a pre-made config file for Polipo:

    sudo mv /etc/polipo/config /etc/polipo/config.bak
    sudo mv polipo.conf /etc/polipo/config

  5. Now Stop and Restart both Tor and Polipo for safe measure:

    sudo /etc/init.d/tor stop
    sudo /etc/init.d/polipo stop
    sudo /etc/init.d/polipo start

    Open the application Vidalia when you would like to connect to the Tor network. If you want it on by default, you can always set Vidalia to autostart with your computer.

  6. All thats left is to configure your Applications to use the Tor proxies! If you don’t adjust the network settings of your applications to use the Tor proxy settings then you’re not using Tor at all. You can confirm that Tor is indeed working by visiting the Tor detector page.

If you run into issues for any reason, check back through the steps listed above. If that still doesn’t fix them, you might check the Community Ubuntu Documentation on Tor page or the official Tor for Linux/BSD/Unix page.

Configuring applications to use the Tor proxies

There are 2 types of configurations for Tor:

  1. HTTP or HTTPS – Typically used for web browsers such as Opera, Firefox, Safari, Google Chrome, etc.

    Port: 8118

  2. Sockets – Typcially used for instant messaging applications such as Trillian, Digsby, MSN, AOL, Empathy, Pidgin, etc.

    Port: 9050

Nearly any application that allows you to adjust network settings by using proxies can make use of the Tor Anonymity Network. Configuring your application of choice is a matter of selection to use HTTP or Sockets.

If you’re unsure, use trial and error. 😉

A great note that I came across on the Community Ubuntu Documentation page for Tor that I think everyone should read carefully before using Tor is as follows:

What’s the use of having Tor and Privoxy setup without enabling your new anonymous proxy in your common web applications? At this time Tor only supports HTTP and HTTPS traffic, but still recommends using Tor in your browser’s proxy settings for all protocols as a hidden image link can give away your IP address if linked to an image on an FTP site.


Hopefully by this point you’ve successfully configured Tor for all of your anonymity needs. Will Tor works great, it only works great if you’ve configured it correctly.

Some Tor connections may be slower than others. If you’re experiencing a connection that is simply too slow for your needs or if you need a new ip address so you can get that file from RapidShare without having to wait for an hour, simply open Vidalia Control Panel and click “Use a New Identity.”

Remember that Tor can be used for Windows and Mac, and is more straightforward to install for them as well.

While there have been a few flaws exposed, as mentioned before, I would tend to think the risk of being identified over Tor is very low since the attacks would have to occur on the same network that you’re connected to. I typically only use Tor at public internet access points (which is where these attacks would be most likely to occur), but it can be very handy in many situations and will likely continue to be on the list of my apps to install for a long long time.