Thursday, November 28, 2013

Irssi - The client of the future

It feels strange calling Irssi the "Client of the future"... but in many ways it is.

First off, let me explain what Irssi is. "Irssi is a terminal based IRC client for UNIX systems. It also supports SILC and ICB protocols via plugins."

IRC stands for Internet Relay Chat, and has been around since 1988. It's used for many reasons, from group chat to one on one chat to even file transfer.

I use IRC a lot for Ubuntu problem solving with the official Ubuntu IRC group, found at, channel #ubuntu.

The reason I feel strange about calling Irssi "the client of the future" is because of the fact that it runs from a terminal.

In other words, it would fit right in with a movie about computing in the 80's with black and green non color, non graphics computers.

Here's a screenshot to give you a sense of what I mean:

Don't let the "low tech" appearance fool you however. Irssi is a rock solid reliable, easy to use and complete IRC client. It is my client of choice.

As stated on the Irssi "About" page, here is just a taste of what Irssi has to offer:


Irssi will automatically log any channels, queries or special windows that you want. The logfiles will be separated per IRC network, and even log rotation is supported. Log file formats, themes and destination directories can be easily configured with the Irssi log settings.

Formats and themes

Theming is a popular item in todays desktop enviroments, it's an easy yet powerful way to customize your Irssi client's look and feel. Irssi's formatting is modular which means you can just change the appearance of the objects and all items contaning that object will change into that format.

Configurable keybindings

This feature is a piece of art; it allows you to modify the default keybindings and create your own so you can customize your client. If these keybindings are tuned, you can switch through the windows in no time, execute commands and even complete objects with these bindings.

Paste detection

If you have ever pasted a bunchload of text into a wrong channel, you know how hard the consequences can be. Irssi tries to detect when you are pasting large amounts of text, by looking at the speed that characters are entered; if such pasting is detected [TAB]-characters are sent as-is instead of being tab-completed and eventually ending up in a wrong destination window. When Irssi detects such a pasting, you will get the option to either abort the paste or execute the paste, this way you have total control of the pasting.

Perl scripting

Perl is one of the most used programming languages around the globe and integrating Perl into applications means flexible and powerful scripting capabilities. The entire behavior and appearence of Irssi can be modified within these Perl scripts. Irssi provides a script archive with many contributed Irssi scripts which provide both useful extra features and the required assistance to make your own scripts.


This is much more than just a bouncer, Irssi-proxy is a plugin which allows to bind a port to each IRC server you are connected to. This means that instead of having to remember to identify with a password, you can just connect to the Irssi-proxy with a server password. The copy of Irssi running the proxy works just as a normal client which you can use, but you can also connect one or more clients to it to share the connections. Using Irssi as a proxy has the major advantage of Irssi's power as an IRC client. You never have to worry about losing your connection to IRC. Even if you don't want to use Issi as a client, I can strongly recommend it as a proxy because you can just connect to it with any IRC client by just connecting to the specified port instead of SSH-ing to the machine that your Irssi is running on.


Upgrading your Irssi client to the latest version can be easily done without losing the connections to the IRC servers and without restarting Irssi. You can use the UPGRADE command to load the new Irssi binary and restoring your connections."

In my personal set up, I create an icon with Alacarte. In the icon, my command looks like this:

terminator -x irssi -c -n (nickname) -w (password)

In this case, terminator (arguably the best terminal emulator available for Linux) starts up Irssi. Irssi then takes these commands from terminator, and logs me into the server under my Freenode registered nickname and password.

This makes freenode, and by extension the #ubuntu channel, a mouse click away.

(A nickname and password set up is not required by Freenode, it is just an option if you want a specialized nickname. Nicknames are used to distinguish one user from another, that's all.)

Here's my Freenode access icon, thanks to Alacarte:

I also have a bash script with the name freenode in my home directory.

It looks like this: irssi -c -n (nickname) -w (password).

That way i am just a ./freenode away from chatting it up with #ubuntu.

* These scripts do not work the first time Irssi is started up, because at first launch Irssi has a "welcome to irssi" screen that takes precedence.

You can get Irssi in Ubuntu by Synaptic, the Ubuntu Software Center, or with apt-get via sudo apt-get install irssi.

There is also a Windows version, check for more details.

Well, I have said just about everything I have to say about good ole' Irssi.

If you are looking for a client, or are looking for something better, give Irssi a try.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Steam based Linux gaming machine to rival XBOX, Playstation

Valve, the company behind the game software "Steam" is making great strides in an attempt to be a real player in the console gaming industry.

Basing their new operating system on Linux, they have been able to get very impressive frame rates out of their new hardware package.

The thing is, this hardware package isn't the greatest gaming machine out there. It's very good hardware, just not the greatest.

And yet that have successfully reached a standard of 60 frames per second at 1080p, which is very impressive.

This is the hardware in the prototype model:

- GPU: some units with NVidia Titan, some GTX780, some GTX760, and some GTX660
- CPU: some boxes with Intel : i7-4770, some i5-4570, and some i3
- RAM: 16GB DDR3-1600 (CPU), 3GB DDR5 (GPU)
- Storage: 1TB/8GB Hybrid SSHD
- Power Supply: Internal 450w 80Plus Gold
- Dimensions: approx. 12 x 12.4 x 2.9 in high

To add to this impressive feat is that the starting machine price will be at around $499.

"If prototypes, like the one from iBuyPower, manage to stay in direct competition (from a quality point of view) with the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, while providing a huge array of games from the Steam library, Valve and its Linux-based SteamOS will soon rule the living-room." -Softpedia

I have to admit that while I am not a gamer, I am proud to see Linux taking yet another computer genre position.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

MOC is a rock-solid audio player

I use MOC as my default audio player. It has a lot of wonderful features. My favorite option is the "set it and forget it feature", i.e. start up MOC, choose your audio to play, then quit MOC and it will still play your audio, leaving the console open for other uses.

I use MOC with a terminal emulator to play my audio. (Look below for my set up using Terminator.)

"MOC (music on console) is a console audio player for LINUX/UNIX designed to be powerful and easy to use.

You just need to select a file from some directory using the menu similar to Midnight Commander, and MOC will start playing all files in this directory beginning from the chosen file. There is no need to create playlists as in other players.

However if you want to combine some files from one or more directories on one playlist, you can still do it. The playlist will be remembered between runs or you can save it as an m3u file and load it whenever you want.

Need the console where MOC is running for more important things? Need to close the X terminal emulator? You don't have to stop listening to the music - just press q and the interface will be detached leaving the server running. You can reattach it later, or you can attach one interface in the console, and another in the X terminal emulator, no need to switch just to play another file.

MOC plays smoothly, regardless of system or I/O load because it uses the output buffer in a separate thread. It provides gapelss playback because the next file to be played is precached while the current file is playing.

Internet streams (Icecast, Shoutcast) are supported.

Key mapping can be fully customized.

Supported file formats include: MP3, Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, Musepack, Speex, WAVE (and other less popular formats supported by Sndfile), MOD, WavPack, AAC, SID, MIDI. Moreover most audio formats recognized by FFMpeg/LibAV are also supported (e.g. MP4, Opus, WMA, APE, AC3, DTS - even embedded in video files). New formats support is under development.

Other features:

Mixer (both software and hardware) and simple equalizer

Color themes

Searching playlist or a directory

Configurable title creation from filenames and file tags

Optional character set conversion for file tags using iconv()

OSS, ALSA, JACK and SNDIO output

User defined keys

Cache for files' tags" -About MOC

You start MOC with the mocp command.

I use MOC as my regular audio player. I even went as far as to build an icon for the menu using alacarte.

I did this by using Terminator. my command looks like this: terminator -e mocp

Add an icon of choice, and you can gain access to your audio player from the menu any time. Here's my pic of the menu entry I made for MOC. (Yeah, I stole the Midnight Commander icon for MOC) ;)

Here's my screenshot of MOC:

Click to enlarge
While you can access the list below in MOC using "h", I thought I would include here all the default keys used with MOC.

q              Detach MOC from the server
ENTER          Start playing at this file or go to this directory
DOWN           Move down in the menu
UP             Move up in the menu
PAGE_DOWN      Move one page down
PAGE_UP        Move one page up
HOME           Move to the first item in the menu
END            Move to the last item in the menu
Q              Quit
s              Stop
n              Play next file
b              Play previous file
p SPACE        Pause
f              Toggle ReadTags option
S              Toggle Shuffle
R              Toggle Repeat
X              Toggle AutoNext
TAB            Switch between playlist and file list
l              Switch between layouts
               Switch on/off play time percentage
a              Add a file/directory to the playlist
C              Clear the playlist
A              Add a directory recursively to the playlist
Y              Remove playlist entries for non-existent files
<              Decrease volume by 1%
>              Increase volume by 1%
,              Decrease volume by 5%
.              Increase volume by 5%
RIGHT          Seek forward by n-s
LEFT           Seek backward by n-s
h ?            Show the help screen
M              Hide error/informative message
^r ^l          Refresh the screen
r              Reread directory content
H              Toggle ShowHiddenFiles option
m              Go to the music directory (requires an entry in the config)
d              Delete an item from the playlist
g /            Search the menu
V              Save the playlist
^t             Toggle ShowTime option
^f             Toggle ShowFormat option
o              Play from the URL
G              Go to the directory containing the currently played file
i              Go to a directory
U              Go to '..'
^g ^n          Find the next matching item
^x ESCAPE      Exit from an entry
]              Silent seek forward by 5s
[              Silent seek backward by 5s
M-1            Set volume to 10%
M-2            Set volume to 20%
M-3            Set volume to 30%
M-4            Set volume to 40%
M-5            Set volume to 50%
M-6            Set volume to 60%
M-7            Set volume to 70%
M-8            Set volume to 80%
M-9            Set volume to 90%
'              Mark the start of a block
"              Mark the end of a block
!              Go to a fast dir 1
@              Go to a fast dir 2
#              Go to a fast dir 3
$              Go to a fast dir 4
%              Go to a fast dir 5
^              Go to a fast dir 6
&              Go to a fast dir 7
*              Go to a fast dir 8
(              Go to a fast dir 9
)              Go to a fast dir 10
UP             Go to the previous entry in the history (entry)
DOWN           Go to the next entry in the history (entry)
^u             Delete to start of line (entry)
^k             Delete to end of line (entry)
x              Toggles the mixer channel
w              Toggles the software-mixer
E              Toggles the equalizer
e              Reload EQ-presets
K              Select previous equalizer-preset
k              Select next equalizer-preset
J              Toggle mono-mixing
u              Move playlist item up
j              Move playlist item down
^u             Add a URL to the playlist using entry
T              Switch to the theme selection menu
F1             Execute ExecCommand1
F2             Execute ExecCommand2
F3             Execute ExecCommand3
F4             Execute ExecCommand4
F5             Execute ExecCommand5
F6             Execute ExecCommand6
F7             Execute ExecCommand7
F8             Execute ExecCommand8
F9             Execute ExecCommand9
F10            Execute ExecCommand10
L              Display lyrics of the current song (if available)
P              Toggle displaying full paths in the playlist
z              Add (or remove) a file to (from) queue
Z              Clear the queue

In closing I would like to say that I know there are a lot of other options.

I only bring MOC out because I like the feel of the app, I find it useful, and I find it to be the audio player with the very least fan fair.

MOC is the underdog of the Linux/Unix audio player world. And yet it works beautifully, and has many options that make it a great replacement for bulky audio players like Rhythmbox and Banshee.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Joli Os, we bid you a farewell

It was announced today that the Jolicloud Desktop OS will be discontinued In December.

While the Jolicloud people gave good reasons, it's sad to see as unique a distribution as Joli go this way.

The company's reason is that they are going "to entirely focus on the web with Jolicloud 2".

You will still be able to use the operating system for some time, but updates will no longer be supplied.

The company will now take JoliDrive and rename it to Jolicloud 2. The reason given was that JoliDrive has a very large user base, and so obviously that is where they should put their attention.

“JoliDrive is growing to the point where a lot of the actions that used to require an OS no longer do”, Jolicloud’s communications guru Zak Kaufman told OMGUbuntu's Joey-Elijah Sneddon via e-mail.

“Things like file management, music and video playback, can all be done using Jolidrive, available from any web browser on almost every platform”.

I personally liked the directions they where going. Joli's desktop OS was intended to feel like the online version, and yet to function well offline.

The two "desktops" merged pretty well together.

Joli OS desktop version had at one point made me reconsider my current fave, Xubuntu 12.04 LTS.


P.S. Here's a screenshot in case you wanted to just get a glimpse at what the desktop looks like.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

NSA asked for backdoor to Linux

"Far from being a rumor, word of the approach comes via Linus’ father, Nils Torvalds.

As a Member of the European Parliament (MEP), Nils was present at recent committee inquiry held on the “Mass Surveillance of EU Citizens”. Here, representatives from a number of companies named in documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden were questioned about their own (alleged) involvement.

Following a question put to a Microsoft spokeswoman by Pirate Party MEP Christian Engström on whether the company willingly include “backdoors” for the NSA in their system, Nils Torvalds MEP said:

When my oldest son [Linus Torvalds] was asked the same question: “Has he been approached by the NSA about backdoors?” he said “No”, but at the same time he nodded. Then he was sort of in the legal free. He had given the right answer …everybody understood that the NSA had approached him.

If that sounds familiar to you then you might have seen the snippet on YouTube. Linus went on to insist that he was joking, and that the NSA had not approached him.

But, speaking at November 11th’s inquiry, his father seems to think otherwise.

Following on from allegations that Google, Yahoo!, Facebook and, indeed, Microsoft are among the many companies wilfully cooperating with the agency to provide “backdoor” access to their systems, this revelation is far from earth-shattering. In fact, is makes sense in the grand scheme of things." -OMGUbuntu

I don't think I can add to this... I now realize just how serious the NSA is about gaining information..

Any hole the NSA has added to our software is just another hole others can exploit.

I get why they would want these holes.. I wonder though if they realize the damage they might be causing to those of us who are in the line of fire.

The everyday person just going on the internet, checking their email, and maybe watching youtube or netflix are more vulnerable because of these actions by the NSA...


Monday, November 18, 2013

Canonical engineer deems Mint "vulnerable", Mint responds

Canonical engineer Oliver Grawert called Linux Mint a "vulnerable system" because of Mint's security updates system.

Mint holds back certain updates, mainly for stability issues. (This is an opinion, and has not been stated by the Linux Mint team.)

While the statement made by Mr. Grawert is truthful, I believe it isn't quite as serious as some would believe.

Mint does offer the updates, they just don't automatically suggest installation. (Again, I believe for stability reasons.)

Not that security concerns should be in any way brushed off. Linux is not infallible. It's very solid, but no software made by imperfect beings is going to be flawless.

Mint's response to all of this has also made things in the Linux community more tense, mostly because their reasons for not adding the updates automatically have been as clear as mud.

Also their is a unnecessary rivalry between the Canonical/Ubuntu and Linux Mint communities.

” We explained why the Ubuntu update policy was not good enough for us and we consequently developed the update manager to solve that particular problem.

Firefox doesn't come to you later in Mint than it does in Ubuntu (it’s a level 2 update).

Yes, by default you get updates in Ubuntu for kernels and Xorg and not in Mint. Yes, there’s a very good reason for that.”

Why Mr. Lefebvre doesn't expand on his “very good reason” is uncertain.

Again, Mint does not stop users from installing the updates/upgrades.

Friday, November 15, 2013

EFF criticizes Shuttleworth, Canonical

The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) is an organization that protects the freedom of the open source community. In a statement about Canonical and Mark Shuttleworth, they voiced their frustration at the way things have been handled as of late.

If you read my last article about "fix ubuntu" then you know what some of this is about.

Here is the official release from EFF:

“Over the past few days, EFF and one of our staff technologists, the talented Micah Lee, have had an illuminating back and forth with Canonical Ltd over the use of the Ubuntu mark. While we don’t believe that Canonical has acted with malice or intent to censor, its silly invocation of trademark law is disturbing. After all, not everyone has easy recourse to lawyers and the ability to push back,” states the organization on its website.

Mark Shuttleworth also said that Canonical needed to enforce their patents, or they would lose them. This is one of the ideas that has been pointed out by the EFF as a fallacy.

“Canonical’s trademark ‘policy’ does not and cannot trump the First Amendment. Imagine the impact on free speech if you needed a ‘grant of permission’ from BP, Coca-Cola Amatil, or EFF before using one of their trademarks as part of speech criticizing their conduct.”

“It is well-settled that the First Amendment protects non-commercial websites—like—that use trademarks to comment upon corporations and products,”

For more information on the "fix ubuntu" scandal, check out my post directly below this one.

I personally am glad they spoke up. The fix ubuntu website wasn't even a directly inflamatory attack on Ubuntu or Canonical. It was and is simply a solution to a problem. He doesn't post any opinion at all other than the label "fix ubuntu".


P.S. Thanks goes to Softpedia for their continued excellent coverage of the open source and Ubuntu/Linux world.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Canonical launches campaign against critic contains information on stopping the "online services" provided by Canonical in Ubuntu Dash. For those of you who aren't certain what dash is, it's the button on the top left that houses app icons and helps you to find your media quickly.

The scuttlebutt happened after Canonical took notice of the Ubuntu icon and the obvious homage to Ubuntu in the URL.

Canonical, the company that makes Ubuntu sent an official letter to Micah F. Lee, the owner of, in which they asked him to take down the Ubuntu logo and to change the domain name (URL).

The letter from Canonical reads:

“It has been brought to our attention that your website: is using Canonical’s trademarks including Ubuntu logo on your website and Ubuntu word in your domain name.”

“To keep the balance between the integrity of our trademarks and the ability to use and promote Ubuntu, we’ve tried to define a reasonable Intellectual Property Policy. As you can see from our policy, to use the Ubuntu trademarks and Ubuntu word in a domain name would require approval from Canonical.”

“Unfortunately, in this instance we cannot give you permission to use Ubuntu trademarks on your website and in your domain name as they may lead to confusion or the misunderstanding that your website is associated with Canonical or Ubuntu.”

Mr. Lee replied with the help of a lawyer, that the first amendment of the constitution protects his right to "manage trademark items in non-commercial websites that criticize corporations and products".

This being said, the owner has removed the logo from and has posted a statement that makes it clear he is not affiliated in any way with Canonical.

What does any of this really mean?

Personally I don't think Mr. Lee was trying in any way to mislead people into thinking he was affiliated or held any official position with Canonical.

His website is very straight forward and in now way is an attempt to disgrace/discredit Canonical or Ubuntu.

It's clear from the website (in my opinion) that he simply wished to help people solve an issue he perceived, and that he used the Ubuntu name to make his intentions clear and easy to find.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Debian Switches to Xfce

"Debian, the foundation upon which many Linux distributions, including Ubuntu, are based, is to switch to Xfce as its default desktop environment.

News of the switch came by way of this commit from developer Joey Hess. Hess cites a number of reasons as to why Debian 8.0, code named “Jessie”, will benefit from Xfce. These include:

Accessibility support, particularly for visually-impaired users
Xfce being closer to the “GNOME 2″ experience
CD space constraints
But GNOME isn’t out of contention entirely. Developers intend to re-evaluate this decision before Jessie enters freeze. If data shows that GNOME is the better default option for users it is likely be reinstated as default.

A final decision on this will be taken, Hess says, nearer August 2014, and will be informed by:

The numbers of installs of GNOME 3 on Debian whilst defaulting to Xfce
Improvements made to GNOME 3 in accessibility & feature parity to GNOME 2
User feedback on interface changes on-going in GNOME 3 development
For now Xfce will be distributed by default." -OMGUbuntu

I am looking forward to this, being a XFCE user myself.

I am a fan of Debian, and several times I have considered going straight Debian instead of my Ubuntu derivative, Xubuntu.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Linux Kernel to jump to version 4

Linus Tovalds is now thinking about changing the numbering of the kernel pretty soon, to 4.0, to mark the launch of a bug fix release.

The Linux kernel developer and maintainer has explained that, at some point in the future, the numbering of the Linux kernel will pass from 3.x to 4.x, to keep things manageable, and that he would do it sooner rather than later.

“I don't want us to get to the kinds of crazy numbers we had in the 2.x series, so at some point we're going to cut over from 3.x to 4.x, just to keep the numbers small and easy to remember. We're not there yet, but I would actually prefer to not go into the twenties, so I can see it happening in a year or so, and we'll have 4.0 follow 3.19 or something like that,” said Linus Torvalds in the Linux kernel 3.12 announcement.

Replacing one numbering system with another just for the sake of it would accomplish nothing, so he came with an interesting idea. All the developers have to focus on bug fixing when the decision to go to 4.x is made, and make the new version a very stable one, worthy of the important prefix change.

“If we have enough heads-up that people *know* that for one release (and companies/managers know that too) the only patches that get accepted are the kind that fix bugs, maybe people really would have sufficient attention span that it could work.”

“And the reason I mention ‘4.0’ is that it would be a lovely time to do that. Roughly a years heads-up that ‘ok, after 3.19 (or whatever), we're doing a release with *just* fixes, and then that becomes 4.0’,” said Linus Torvalds.

Bringing a new, extremely stable 4.0 version would be a serious push for distribution developers who would just jump at the opportunity to integrate such a release into their operating systems.

As originally seen here:
Say Hello to Linux Kernel 4.0 and Say Goodbye to 3.x