Android app tip: LBE Privacy Guard

For those of us who worry more than the average bear about privacy, here's an Android app tip - grab LBE Privacy Guard. What is does is simple yet awesome: it lets you deny permissions to apps, on a case-by-case basis or through policies. Yes, finally you can stop the damn Facebook app knowing where you are all the time! Highly recommended. You do need a rooted phone to use it.

There's an alternative called PDroid which has some advantages, but it's a bit of a hacker-only thing - it requires modifications to your actual ROM (pre-modded ROMs are available for some phones). There's no ICS port yet unfortunately.

But you definitely want one or the other. It's amazing how much crap some apps want to get into. No, WhatsApp, you may NOT know about my call history, thanks. You're a messaging app. zap zap zap

edit: It's been pointed out that CyanogenMod 7 has built-in capabilities to do something like this. I'm running a non-CM ICS ROM at present, so I didn't notice. Looking around, there seem to be a few things cited as advantages of LBE / PDroid over the CM7 stuff, but I don't know in detail as I never tried the CM7 implementation. So hey, if you're running CM7, give that a try. I don't know if it exists in CM9.

KDE and Virtualization Test Days this week, and Fedora 17 Beta status

We have more Test Days for your delight and delectation this week, starting with the KDE 4.8 Test Day tomorrow (or today, depending on the TIME IN YOUR REGION), Tuesday 2012-04-10. It's the KDE team's first time running a Test Day, so please be gentle! It looks like they have most of the tests ready, and live images are ready for downloading on the page, so please read the instructions on the page and join us in #fedora-test-day on Freenode IRC to take part in the event. Of course, if you're not sure how to use IRC, you can read these instructions or use WebIRC.

On Thursday 2012-04-12 we have Virtualization Test Day, which has been running for a few cycles now so should be purring like a well-oiled machine. Or something. They'll be following a freeform testing approach focusing on the new virtualization features in Fedora 17 - see the areas to test section of the page for details - so it's particularly important to join #fedora-test-day to get involved with this event. To participate fully, you'll want a system you can install Fedora 17 onto to test out its capabilities as a host, but you can do some testing with a Fedora 16 or Fedora 15 host machine and Fedora 17 as a guest.

Something I haven't touched on for a bit here is the Fedora 17 Beta - unfortunately we couldn't continue the Alpha record of not slipping, and we've actually slipped two weeks so far. A pretty major change landed in anaconda between Beta TC1 and Beta TC2, and since then we've been running around mopping up blockers. We're up to RC3, which was fully tested and found to contain only two blockers, both of which are fixed for the pending RC4, so that one should be ready to ship. Beta RC4 should be coming tonight or early tomorrow morning.

Test Day time again: Power Management and installation i18n / l10n

It's that time again (how it flies) - Test Day time!

Today, 2012-04-04, is Power Management Test Day. This is a regular one that's been running for a while, so it should be nice and smooth by now.

Of course, if you have a laptop - or even a desktop you regularly suspend - this should be of interest to you! So please, find a few minutes to stop by, boot up a Fedora 17 live image, and see if it copes well with power management on your system.

As usual, the Wiki page is a one-stop shop, with testing instructions, test cases, and a table into which you report your results, so head there and follow the guide! Also as usual, the Test Day organizers will be hanging out in #fedora-test-day on Freenode IRC to discuss bugs and help out with testing, so please join in there too. If you don't know how to use IRC, read these instructions, or just use WebIRC. Thanks!

Tomorrow - 2012-04-05 - we have another Test Day: l10n/i18n Installation Test Day. This will be focusing on translations and non-English input during installation. It's very important to make sure the installation experience is smooth for users of all languages, so if you speak any language besides English, please do come along and help test! As always, full instructions are on the Wiki page, and Freenode IRC #fedora-test-day will be available for discussion. Thanks again!

*sucks finger* ow!

So you may have noticed (but probably not, as you have ten thousand more interesting things to do than refresh my front page) the site was down for a few hours today (right after I blogged about how uptime would be better).

There's a good reason for that, though. Well...a reason. 'Good' may be pushing it.

The host machine for all my server VMs, and all the servers themselves, are now all running Fedora 17. Yup, because hosting production servers on a pre-release of Fedora has never caused anyone any kind of problems before, right?

They were all on F15 before; in blatant defiance of our official upgrade policies, I upgraded them via yum. The /usr move code in dracut doesn't seem to be working in F15's dracut (even the latest one in updates-testing), so I upgraded them all to F16 and then from F16 to F17.

It went remarkably smoothly, really. Four systems (the host and three servers), and only one real problem - it turns out F17's Apache has probably been completely broken as regards SSL for six weeks. The fact that no-one apparently noticed this before probably indicates I'm the only one who's a big enough idiot to run production servers on F17...

Still, fixed that up with some help from a very helpful person on #httpd, and all is well. So far, anyway. I'm sure I'll wake up tomorrow and everything will have exploded.

Did I back up the server images first, you ask? Heh. Heh, heh heh. Of course I didn't. Come on, anyone dumb enough to do this in the first place is too dumb for backups...

More hardware musings

It was time for another trip to the computer store yesterday...

I replaced the second oldest bit of my desktop (the oldest, by a wide margin, is the keyboard): the mouse. I'd just been talking about how the old one seemed to be pretty much indestructible (it's a Logitech MX510) when, lo and behold, the scroll wheel started going wonky - only about half of the turns would actually result in scroll events. Bit annoying.

As I was in the shop anyway (see below) I picked up its modern-day apparent equivalent, the G500. My criteria for a mouse are that it has a cord, has back/forward buttons, and doesn't look like it just escaped from a 23rd century alien spaceship. The G500 meets all those and seems closest to the old one that was so reliable, so it seemed a good bet.

The 'tunable weight' thing amuses me unreasonably - as a former olde times FPS player I can kind of see the point, but it's just hilarious to have a mouse with a little altoids tin full of tiny weights in various denominations, and a little tray you can push them into and slide into the mouse to adjust its weight. Technology!

Aside from that bit of frivolity, the mouse seems fine, fits the hand nicely, tracks well, the buttons work. The only thing that annoys me is the middle button / scroll wheel; as with seemingly all modern Logitechs it's much too easy to move it while trying to press it. I think Windows users more or less never have to middle click, so they don't care, but for a Linux user it's annoying. The old MX510's scroll wheel had pretty stiff resistance before it started moving, which made clicking much easier. But I guess I'll adjust.

EDIT: Ah, thank you's unreasonable flexibility. There's a button between the Back and Forward buttons which I don't have any other use for, so I mapped it to be another middle button. Solves that problem!

Anyway, the real trigger for me going to the store was that the power went out on me suddenly yesterday afternoon while I had about four important tests running at once. After the power had kicked back in and I'd restarted my server host box and all my server VMs and got my tests running again, I thought it was time to bump 'buy some UPSes' several notches up my todo list...

So now I have a couple of brand spanking new CyberPower 1500AVRLCD boxes protecting my desktop, my VM host box, my cable modem and my routers. So even if the power goes off, my servers and desktop will keep on trucking (assuming my ISP is still up). No more interrupted tests, no more annoying server restarts, and increased uptime on too. It's a win-win!

Brian Lane recommended the CyberPower boxes, and though I have little experience with UPSes, they seem fine. Decent price for the capacity (each self-reports that it'll have about 50 minutes to 1 hour of uptime when the power goes, with the two loads described above), construction feels solid, sufficient outlets (four battery-backed and three just surge-protected), they have LCD status displays, the fan doesn't kick in except when they're charging or discharging, and they work out of the box with apcupsd (in USB smart mode). Nice stuff. GNOME even integrates with apcupsd, so my desktop has a battery status now...

Test Days this week: kdump and GNOME Shell software rendering

Time to advertise some Test Days again!

Todayish - Tuesday, 2012-03-27 - is Kdump test day. This Test Day aims to test out the system-config-kdump tool, which lets you configure a variety of settings relating to kernel crash dumps - letting you trigger system actions when a crash dump happens, or have them stored on a remote system via ssh or NFS, for instance. If this sounds like something you'd be interested in, please come and check out the event!

Thursday 2012-03-29 will be GNOME Shell software rendering Test Day. Software rendering of GNOME Shell is one of the big new features of Fedora 17 - it allows the full, beefy goodness of the Shell to shine through even on systems without graphics drivers capable of sufficient acceleration to render the shell via hardware. Most obviously, virtual machines without 3D passthrough (such as the official Fedora virtualization stack). Of course, as this is a big new feature, we want to test it extensively to make sure it's stable and also to get some feedback on performance. So please come and help out! This Test Day isn't just one you can contribute to with a virtual machine - it's practically made for them. So you've got no excuse not to come and take part.

As always, the test day pages have full instructions for testing and returning your results, and you can come and join us on #fedora-test-day on Freenode IRC to chat with the developers and other Test Day participants. If you're not sure how to use IRC, see here, or just use WebIRC to connect to the channel and get chatting right away (as they say on all the best late-night commercials).

Sugar Test Day tomorrow!

It's Test Day time again, everyone: tomorrow, 2012-03-22, is Sugar Test Day. Sugar is the learning-focused desktop environment originally written for the OLPC XO machines.

This Test Day is a collaboration between the Sugar and Fedora communities, so we'll be looking for a double-size turn out! The goal will be to test that the Sugar environment is fully functional on the Fedora 17 base, and identify any bugs in the environment or any of the Sugar 'activities' packaged for Fedora so they can be resolved before the final release.

It's very easy to test - Sugar is designed to be deployed as a live image, and runs well in virtualized environments. So you can test on any system or virtual machine without disturbing your regular environment. There are instructions for downloading and booting a Sugar live image on the Test Day page, as well as full instructions for testing and reporting your results.

There will be Fedora QA and Sugar team members available on Freenode IRC #fedora-test-day all day long to help you out with testing and chat about Sugar, so please come by! If you're not sure how to use IRC, see this page for information, or you can just drop by using WebIRC - just click that link and you'll be in the chat.

Please come along tomorrow and help us make sure Fedora and Sugar continue to work well together!

Short Notice Test Day Time: firewalld Test Day today

Apologies for the short notice, as this one was only added to the schedule very recently.

Today, RIGHT NOW, it's firewalld Test Day in #fedora-test-day on Freenode IRC. firewalld is a dynamic firewall daemon which provides a modern alternative to the iptables system for managing kernel-level firewalling. It allows for much more flexible and powerful application control of the firewall, and allows for changes to happen on the fly without the firewall being 'recompiled' every time.

The firewalld developer, Thomas Woerner, hopes to have firewalld included by default in Fedora 17, if the results of the Test Day are positive, so it would be very helpful to get some wider testing of firewalld from the Fedora community. It's pretty easy to test, and all you need is a Fedora 17 system of some kind - a virtual machine or live image should work fine. Full testing instructions are available at the Test Day page.

Join #fedora-test-day on Freenode IRC to participate, and post your results to the Wiki page. If you're not a regular IRC user, see here for details on IRC, and you can join via WebIRC if you like.


This week in Fedora 17: Test Days galore

Yup, it's Test Day time again. We did start up quite late this cycle, it feels like, but we're stacking them deep each week to make up for it!

Tomorrow, Tuesday 2012-03-13, is USB 3.0 Test Day. The aim here is to do some fairly in-depth testing of USB 3.0 support to make sure it's all working okay from the kernel to the desktop. As this is hardware testing, the requirements are obviously a bit 'higher' than normal - you will need an actual bare metal machine to install Fedora 17 onto, with at least one USB 3.0 port, and a USB 3.0 stick. If you have all of the above, though, please come along and help out!

Wednesday 2012-03-14 is desktop internationalization (i18n) Test Day. In contrast to last week's localization Test Day, we'll be focusing here on areas like input methods and language packs for packages like Firefox and LibreOffice. All you need to help out here is a virtual machine or real system to run Fedora 17 on - you can run many of the tests from a live image, if you like - and, ideally but not required, a non-US keyboard and knowledge of a non-English language.

Finally, Thursday 2012-03-15 is GNOME Shell Test Day, sure to be a well-attended event! Please check your flamethrower at the door. We'll be doing general reliability and functionality testing on Shell as it stands in Fedora 17, and focusing particularly on new features and Shell extension integration. All you need for this one is a system on which you can run Fedora 17; you can use a live image to do most of the testing, and you could use a virtual machine in theory, though at time of writing, there are various problems with running Shell in the three major virtualization frameworks that may make this not the best idea.

As always, these test days will be taking place in #fedora-test-day on Freenode IRC. If you're not sure what IRC is, see here, and you can use WebIRC to join in. Please do come along and help - it's a great way to contribute to Fedora!