Interesting Links - May 2013, Batch 2

Here's the second batch of Interesting Links for the month of May.

Things concerning Linux:

  • Tails 0.18 released with more persistence related additions.
  • Debian GNU/Hurd 2013 released. Did you know that the kernel is named GNU Mach while Hurd refers to a collection of servers that run atop the Mach kernel? I used to think that Hurd was the kernel ...
  • Ubuntu planning a new package format, initially for the Ubuntu Phone and Tablet.
  • Tired of long freeze periods for Debian? Who isn't? Well, these guys have a proposal to fix that.
  • Here's why I feel that systemd is overkill.

Internet and Browsers:

  • Firefox 21 released with more useless additions to Do Not Track (DNT). An interesting addition is the Firefox Health Report feature. Hopefully, it won't have a negative effect on Firefox's performance because of the constant collection of data.

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Loading updated nvidia module when X is started through inittab

For a while, I have been using /etc/inittab to start X. I have set autologin on one getty and X is started from that through ~/.bash_profile, automatically.

But, starting X through inittab has a limitation that if you try to kill X, it keeps respawning! It is a known limitation, but I never had the need to kill X and so I never ran into this problem, until today.

What happened was — that I tried playing a video using mplayer2, but it failed to play the file. Among its output was the following:

API mismatch: the client has the version 319.23, but this kernel module has the version 319.17. Please make sure that this kernel module and all NVIDIA driver components have the same version.

This was because I had updated my Arch Linux system a few hours earlier but had not restarted it. Turns out, that the nvidia package was updated too.

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Excluding yourself from your Piwik Logs

What is Piwik?

Piwik is a web analytics software similar to the omnipresent Google Analytics. I chose Piwik instead of Google Analytics as I wanted a self-hosted solution instead of yet another third-party service. As a bonus, Piwik is licensed under GPLv3. It is always heartening to see high quality free software.

So, while Piwik works great for its intended task of providing analytics, I found that it was tracking my visits to my website too. This is not good, as it pollutes the actual useful data such as, how many people visit the website, time spent by the visitors on the website, etc.

Excluding yourself from being tracked

Thankfully, Piwik provides multiple ways to exclude yourself from being tracked.

First log in to your Piwik account and go to Settings -> Websites. There are two options available on this page.

  • Global list of Excluded IPs

    First option is to add your IP to the "Global list of Excluded IPs". Unfortunately, this only works with static IPs, and most home users, including me, are assigned dynamic IPs these days. So, this option was ruled out.

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Preventing reStructuredText sources from being Indexed by Search Engines

While doing a search for my website on Google, I discovered that Google had indexed the reStructuredText (reST) sources for my posts as well.

What is reStructuredText?

reStructuredText is a markup format used to write text in a relatively simple format, which can then be converted to other formats such as HTML, LaTeX, PDF etc. It uses a filename extension of .rst. As you can see from the footer of my blog, I use Nikola for generating this blog. I write the posts in reStructuredText, and Nikola converts them to HTML. Pretty neat, huh?

On Topic: The issue is that Google is indexing those .rst files as well, which is polluting the search results. I am pretty sure people won't be searching for the reST sources of the content posted here.

So, I started looking for ways to prevent web crawlers from indexing the .rst files. I found that it can be done by adding the following to your site's robots.txt file:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /*.rst$

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OpenRC on Arch Linux

Introduction

So, let's begin with some overview of OpenRC.

OpenRC is an init system which is primarily developed for Gentoo Linux, but can be ported to other Unix-like systems too.

It was the brainchild of Roy Marples, who developed it from 2007-2010, but it is currently developed by the Gentoo OpenRC Project developers.

OpenRC is not a replacement for the init binary, which is provided by sysvinit. Instead, it works in conjunction with it.

initscripts, systemd and OpenRC

Before 2012, Arch Linux used a custom BSD-Style init system called initscripts. But, according to the current set of Arch developers, initscripts weren't modern enough and were a chore to maintain.

There was a new kid in town called systemd, it was modern and provided a lot of features (all?) that made the developers drool.

The main reason for adopting systemd was — less effort on part of the developers as they no longer had to develop and maintain initscripts.

Another reason was that (theoretically) upstream developers would be providing systemd service files (required to run daemons and more) for their packages and hence distro packagers wouldn't have to write their custom service files. In reality, I don't think many software developers have started providing service files for their programs. But, this could change in the future.

Anyway, there was a proposal to incorporate OpenRC into Arch, but it was rejected.

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MTR: Ping on Steroids

Well, the title is a bit misleading, as mtr is not just an alternative for ping but also for traceroute.

What is does is it combines the features of ping and traceroute in an ncurses interface. A GTK version is also available.

MTR stands for My traceroute, but was originally known as Matt's traceroute (source). There are many reviews of mtr available on the Internet, but still I feel that not enough people know about it. What's surprising is that it is by no means a new software, with the initial version being released in 1997.

Installation

You can install mtr using your distribution's package manager. For Arch Linux, you can do:

# pacman -S mtr

or, for the GTK version

# pacman -S mtr-gtk

Alternatively, you can get the tarball from here, and install it using the usual:

  1. ./configure
  2. make
  3. make install

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Interesting Links - May 2013, Batch 1

Taking an inspiration from Allan McRae, I have decided to come up with an Interesting Links type post myself. I will probably make such posts more than once a month, depending on how many interesting links I find.

Se let's begin with some Linux stuff:

  • Debian 7.0 A.K.A. Wheezy was released earlier this week. I wonder when my VPS provider will provide updated images...
  • hut of ranger fame has come up with a systemd killer named minirc. Well, not exactly a killer, but it seems to be a great choice for the minimalists. Yes mirror, I am talking to you.
  • The first release candidate for Tails is out.
  • phpMyAdmin 4.0.0 has been released, and it comes with a JavaScript UI!
  • Jekyll 1.0 released. It's a major release of Jekyll after a long time. But, I am sticking with Nikola.

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