Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Large Hadron Collider

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the world's largest and highest-energy particle accelerator complex, intended to collide opposing beams of protons or lead, two of several types of hadrons, at up to 99.99 percent the speed of light.

After the September 2008 system failure (suspected electrical connection), work is expected to reschedule in 2009.

Keep updated at the following sites
  1. LHC Home Page
  2. http://www.interactions.org/LHC/
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LHC@home
  4. Reports on experiments with the LHC

The LHC computing grid uses Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC) where volunteer MS Windows and Linux machines assist in the processing of data. The primary configurations for the computers used on the grid is based on Scientific Linux (OS based on RHEL).

Spam, Scam and Hoaxes

Internet, Email and other forms of Online tools are increasingly getting accessible to all level of users. This includes the students, teachers, housespouse (i thought housewifes may soon be subjective), business person, security guards, cleaners and other professions.

There are some out to take advantage of the new comers, ignorant or busy Internet people with these new technologies. The ideas may be as old as the Ford T but many people still find themselves a victim. As a start, if any thing on the Internet is doubtful or sound too opportunistic there are some web sites that list common issues.

  1. Hoax-Slayer (http://www.hoax-slayer.com )
  2. Scambusters (http://www.scambusters.org )
  3. Sophos (http://www.sophos.com)
There are many more sites, but the list above is a start.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Courseware for OSS usage/licensing

Its a dying time trying to read up all the stuff for this courseware.

Still havent actually written anything yet but am able to stick to the objectives.

  • Know the various sources of OSS

  • Know common OSS licenses

  • Able to list where to find OSS projects

Hope I dont get assigned with more distractors.

CentOS 5.2 x86_64 installed

Installed CentOS 5.2 x86_64 with the Netinstall CDROM via the mirror.oscc.org.my site in under 25mins. Smooth installation and added wine with OOo 3.

It comes with Firefox 3. I sent a minor bug report and the next day it was fixed and is available for next update. That is how fast OSS works.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Mail Merge with OOo

OpenOffice 2.0 provides a comprehensive list of Mail Merge features.

What is mail merge?
This is taking a list of details (usually in column and rows format) from a spreadsheet or database and forming a document (Writer) with details from each of the database rows in a user defined format. Namely this is used for letters and labels for a large number of users.

OOo provides several methods to achieve a mail merge.

In the following examples, I take the registered database name is db. The database as a spreadsheet file named db.ods that contains the following column names in a table called friends;

Position, Salutation, Name, Address1, Address2, Postcode, Area, State

A. Data to Text Method - simplified
This provides a list of the records which is usually separated by new lines.
  1. Open a new Writer document.
  2. Press F4, Select the database db, Tables friends
  3. In the database view, select the cell that is in the upper left corner (highlights all) and in the Datasources toolbar, select the button Data to Text.
  4. In the pop-up, Insert data as: Text
  5. Select the fields from the Database Column into the right empty box. Here, you can arrange the position of the fields and add extra text. Click OK when done.
  6. A document with all the data is prepared, save and exit.
B. Multiple records per page
Create a single file containing continuous rows of records.
  1. Open a new Writer document.
  2. Press F4, Select the database db, Tables friends
  3. In the database view, select the column headers that you want into the text document. Rearrange and format as needed. In the last row, select the Insert ->Field ->Other. A pop-up box appears, select Database ->Next Record, set value to TRUE. Click Insert then Close. This should provide the basic set of information to display a single record.
  4. Highlight the rows for the newly create record. Copy and paste as many as required per page.
  5. Click File ->Print.
  6. On the pop-up "Do you want to print a form letter" click Yes.
  7. Select File, Save as Single Document. Click OK.
  8. Enter a filename and click Save.
  9. Open the newly created file to verify the records are correct.
  10. Save the file with the formatted rows as a template for future use.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Linux Password Managers.

What happens when there are too many accounts with different passwords? Well, recently I heard a number of people losing their access to their email passwords. This prompted me to write on Password Managers. Here are some points on using password managers.

1. Passwords must be strong. Example is passwords not using the same as the username and using easily recognised words like "password". Password managers can advice if a password is strong.

2. Since all passwords are now centralised, the manager itself must be secured. The master password to launch the application should be well encrypted and strong.

3. The code to the password manager must be clean. This means that various parties have access to audit the source code for compromising functions.

4. Password Managers should be run on own computer to avoid others from accessing a data that is open.

5. Know the Password Manager database filename and back it up. When you need to change computers or reinstall, all the old data can be retrieved.


Below are examples of GNOME applications released under the GNU GPL licence to manage a collection of passwords. To retrieve the password select the key and press c or c to copy to clipboard. This means that you can paste the password into the password field. However, problem is that the clipboard must be cleared else others can dig the password.
Note: I have tested these on a Ubuntu 7.10 Linux.

(A) GPass. Uses Blowfish encryption.
Homepage http://projects.netlab.jp/gpass/

i. How to install? At the prompt;
$ sudo apt-get install gpass

Download size 113K, install version 0.5.0-2

ii. After installation menu, select
Application ->Accessories ->G Password Manager
First time, enter a master password (if you forget this, all is lost).
This saves all password in ~/.gpass/paswords.gps (perm 600)


(B) Revelation. Uses AES encryption.
Homepage http://oss.codepoet.no/revelation/development/

i. How to install? At the prompt;
$ sudo apt-get install revelation
Download size 1565k, install ver 0.4.11-2ubuntu2 . Dependency is pycrypto and crack-lib2 (2.7-19)

ii. After installation menu, select
Application ->Accessories ->Revelation Password Manager
First time, save and enter a master password (if you forget this, all is lost).
User is requested for a filename to saves all password. I used nicholas.revelation (perm 600)

Contains a password generator and checker for weak passwords.

(C) KeePass 1.x is also available on MS Windows. Uses AES and Twofish encryption.
Download http://keepass.info/download.html or for the linux version

i. How to install? At the prompt;
$ sudo apt-get install keepassx
Download size 1036k, installs ver 0.2.2-2.

ii. After installation menu, select
Application ->Accessories ->KeePassX

The database is saved as .kbd

(D) Password Gorilla
A multi platform Tcl/tk tool. The gui is rather poor but you can use this program without worry of people looking over the shoulder as all passwords are hidden.

In 1.4-3, it uses the Blowfish encryption.

i. Installation
sudo apt-get install password-gorilla

ii. Create a password store.