Category Archives: Open Source

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 UbuntuForums.org 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
Assumptions
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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Ubuntu Software Center vs. Mac App Store

As many of you may already know, Mac OS X now comes installed with a “Mac App Store”. Ubuntu also comes installed with an “Ubuntu Software Center”. Both of these applications serve the same general functionality in very similar formats, but I’m going to take a look at what needs to be improved in the Ubuntu Software Center.

First off, lets take a look at both of these applications from a first impressions point of view. Its pretty obvious at a glance that the user interface of these applications are eerily similar. It’s also pretty obvious that one app has received a little more attention to detail and aesthetics.

First Glance

Continue reading Ubuntu Software Center vs. Mac App Store

Akismet + phpBB3 = Clean Forums

Update: deprecated by phpBB 3.1+

I’ve dealt with spam registrations and spam posts for years now in an online forum that I host. Its a burden on the users and a burden on (especially) the owner. No one wants to use a forum that can’t seem to control spam and no one wants to have a daily routine of manually purging hundreds of posts and users either! That’s where Akismet comes into play. 😉

I’ve used it in combination with WordPress from the beginning and to-date it has blocked nearly 500k spam comments! I enjoy working with web stuff, but I enjoy hacking it together even more.. so I’ve put together a “mod” package that will harness the power of Akismet and its super easy to install! While it won’t take care of spam registrations (you’ll need something else for that), it should be able to dramatically curb spam posts!

What you need

  • A web server running at least PHP 5 with phpBB 3 installed (I do not support phpBB2 or lower).
  • An Akismet API Key (* Free for personal use, the donation bar DOES drop to $0, though donate if you wish).
  • My phpBB + Akismet Installation package
  • FTP Access to your phpBB server
  • 15-20 minutes for setup time

Continue reading Akismet + phpBB3 = Clean Forums

What do you install in your Ubuntu?

I’ve been keeping lists for a few years of the applications that I install every time I do a fresh install of Ubuntu. I recently made a new list for Ubuntu 11.10

  • Cheese
  • Chromium Web Browser
  • CompizConfig Settings Manager
  • Dropbox
  • EasyTAG
  • Enable Commercial DVD Playback
  • FileZilla
  • Geany
  • Opera Web Browser
  • RapidSVN
  • Spotify
  • The GIMP
  • Ubuntu Restricted Extras
  • VLC
  • Wakoopa

The applications that I install haven’t changed a whole lot over the years, but it leaves me wondering what applications make the cut for others!

 

Submitting Anonymous Usage Statistics

Being a software developer myself, I tend to pay attention to application functionality and options a little more than the average end user. I’ve noticed that over the last few years when I encounter an option to ‘submit anonymous usage statistics’ I gladly and immediately enable it.

Knowing that you can gain valuable information about the way your end users are using your product, it makes sense for a software developer to include this option and frankly I’m baffled that its not available in most all applications.

I’d like to use this post for two reasons:

  1. To encourage you and others to consider enabling this option in order for developers to get the accurate information that they need to make their product even better!
  2. To maintain a list of these options in various applications that I stumble upon so others are aware.

As I gradually increase the number of applications, feel free to point out applications that I’ve missed and I’ll add them to the list!

Application List:

 

Adium

 

Banshee Media Player

 

Eclipse

 

Google Chrome

 

Google Drive

 

Google Music Manager

 

Opera

 

Ubuntu Software Sources

 

Google Music Manager

 

 

Using Synergy with Mac and Ubuntu

This is just a quick guide for those of you who also use both Mac and Ubuntu (or really any flavor of Linux) side by side. If you’re not already familiar with Synergy, it’s a small application that connects your mouse and keyboard to one or more machines for a more continuous experience.

Mac and Linux use a graphical front-end for Synergy known as QuickSynergy. Here’s how to get it configured for use between Mac and Ubuntu…

Hostnames

You can find the hostnames to use simply by opening a Terminal window, or if you’re unsure still, simply type hostname and press enter. 😉

If you used the hostname command in Ubuntu, you probably noticed that the “.local” part is not printed out, but it is necessary when dealing with Mac OS X.

Connecting the Two

After selecting the system you’d like to share, configure the Use or Share tab as necessary similar to the examples below:

After configuring Synergy/QuickSynergy you’re all set to start making your life easier!

Unity Opera!

With Unity in the recent spot light and a little free time on my hands, I decided it was time to dabble with the Launcher API. What better combination that my two favorite pieces of software: Unity in Ubuntu and Opera!

With my Unity Opera script, you’ll be able to get extra functionality for Opera by simply downloading a script and adding it to your Startup Applications list. No technical modifications necessary!

The Launcher API provides four features at the moment: Count, Progress, Urgency, Quicklists.

At the moment I’m only able to implement functionality for three of these, with the exception being Progress. In its current implementation, Unity Opera has the following features:

Count

The total number of tabs you have open appears on the Launcher icon and is updated in real time as you open and close tabs.

One item to note here is that Opera’s Private tabs are not included in this tab count. Since information about these tabs and their contents are not stored anywhere on your computer, Unity Opera has no way of discovering them.

Progress

At this point in time, the progress functionality for this script is not available. Until I find a way to programmatically determine download progress in Opera, I will not be able to implement this.

If you have any information regarding a way to implement this feature then please let me know!

Urgency

When browsing the net, not every link you click on is from inside the web browser. Sometimes you click a link from an instant message, mail client, Gwibber, etc. This is where urgency comes into play.

Typically clicking these links automatically opens the tab in your browser, but it doesn’t always pull you’re browser into focus. When this happens, you may not know which browser the link opened in or if clicking it was even successful.

When Opera is not in focus and a new tab is opened, the Opera icon in the Launcher now enters urgency mode and wiggles onces. An urgency highlight is also applied to the icon and a small attention reminder in the upper left corner until you focus Opera again (this clears the urgency setting).

Quicklists

Previously I shared a tip on how to customize your Quicklists for Opera. That method meant that you had to manually open and edit the desktop file.

This is no longer the case, as these features are already built into Unity Opera.

On top of that, your Speed Dial items are also appended to the Quicklist, making your life that much easier! 😉

If you use Opera’s built in Mail client, also known as M2, then you will see an Opera for Mail, which is intended to open M2 directly. At the moment, this feature doesn’t work as intended, but hopefully in due time it will.

Download Unity Opera

Unity Opera is written in python and can easily be updated and maintained. I suggest you save and extract it to your Home directory and use it there, but you are free to place it anywhere you wish.

Download

Running Unity Opera

You can run Unity Opera in one of two ways:

1. The easiest way in my opinion is to simply add it to your Startup Applications.

To do this simply open your dash and search for ‘Startup Applications‘. Once there, click ‘Add‘ and fill in the blanks!

To run Unity Opera on startup, I place the script in my home folder. You can place it where ever you wish, but if you pick a place other than your home folder then you will need to provide a full path the script in your startup command.

An example of what I use is as follows:

python unity-opera.py

2. The other option is to open a terminal when you want to use this script and run the command above.

Options

This script has several options. For help and more information type:

python unity-opera.py –help

This script accepts two optional args:

1. Opera Channel: This is used for setting Unity Opera to run against regular Opera and the new Opera Next channel. By default, if you exclude this arg, Opera is set as the browser to run against. Examples of this command include:

python unity-opera.py opera

python unity-opera.py opera-next

2. Enable features: This is used to enable specific features. You can enable only basic quicklists [q], quicklists with Speed Dial entries [qs], tab count [c], urgency notification [u], and progress [p].

As mentioned before, progress is not functional at the moment, but I’ve built the script with this feature ready to include as soon as I find a way. 😉

This second argument requires the use of the first argument. Examples of this command include:

python unity-opera.py opera -qs

python unity-opera.py opera-next -qsu

Troubleshooting

If you experience trouble with this script, please try running it from a terminal to see if there are any errors output to the console. If so, copy and paste these in the comments below and I will take a look at them.

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:
X-Ayatana-Desktop-Shortcuts=NewTab;NewPrivateTab;NewWindow;Mail;

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

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

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

[Mail Shortcut Group]
Name=Mail
Exec=opera -mail
TargetEnvironment=Unity

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.

Conclusion

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!

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 http://deb.torproject.org/torproject.org 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 keys.gnupg.net –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:

    wget https://gitweb.torproject.org/torbrowser.git/blob_plain/HEAD:/build-scripts/config/polipo.conf
    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.

    Host: 127.0.0.1
    Port: 8118

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

    Host: 127.0.0.1
    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.

Conclusion

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.

Interesting Unity Mockup

As usual, when Ubuntu starts the developmental process on the next best ‘buntu I’m quick to begin testing and eagerly lurking in the forums and launchpad bugs.

The next version of Ubuntu is currently, as you may already know, undergoing some fairly drastic interface changes. Ubuntu will be abandoning the use of the traditional GNOME panels and instead use an improved version of their Unity interface.

Lurking through several bugs on launchpad, I stumbled across an interesting one with one interesting mockup in particular.

While its just a suggestion mockup, I think it actually looks rather slick. I’m not saying its the best approach, but certainly one worth noting! According to a follow-up comment, this design is similar to what Gnome Shell is doing, but I’ve not yet looked into Gnome Shell so I can’t confirm this. Either way, its a smooth approach.

Currently Unity doesn’t have a method of letting you know which application’s menu its showing in the top panel. There is an indicator icon in the side dock/panel, but as best I can tell they are planning to add the app name to the top panel similar to the way Mac OS X handles this. Maybe it will be in some Unity updates tomorrow!