Saturday, November 22, 2008

New Rule for registration processes

I just signed up for a site that asked for a password. Like most people, I don't create a different password for every site I visit I'd never be able to remember them.

Instead, I have a set of them, for differing levels of importance or required security. It works well, and so far I don't think I've ever had any security breaches.

The problem though is knowing which password you should use beforehand. This is a problem because some sites will email include your password in plain text in the welcome email after registration.

We all know that as soon as a password is emailed in plain text is can no longer be considered secure. These sites will no doubt also email it in plain text if you use the "Forgot Password" link too, which of course makes it worse.

I'm actually ok with this: some sites simply aren't that important and if you account gets hacked then meh. But I would like to know beforehand that they are going to be treating my password in this way before I decide which password I'm going to use.

So, New Rule: registrations should disclose if they are going to be sending the password via email in plain text prominently on the registration form itself.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Why I can't use KDE 4 (yet)

I've always been a flip-flopper when it comes to desktop environments. When I first started with Linux I think I was using KDE. Spent a bit of time playing with things like Enlightenment and black blox before settling for quite a while on XFCE4.

After a while I got itchy feet and tried gnome again, and I've been a gnome user ever since.

KDE3 just didn't do it for me, for many reasons that I mostly can't remember now. I do remember that its default themes were as ugly as hell, and I could never for the life of me get other themes to work well at all. They required weird contortions like compiling (for a theme?!?!), and never looked as good as the screenshots would have you believe.

So I stuck with gnome. Simple, clear and crisp. Compiz has given it a really nice boost, and I think the combination works really well.

But, I'm still a flip flopper, so I'm always on the lookout for something new. Unfortunately, E17 appears to have become to Duke Nukem Forever of desktop environments, so it was in the end KDE4 that got my interest.

I tried KDE 4.0 shortly after it first came out, and quickly switched back. It was unstable, and didn't have everything in place. I figured I'd try again with 4.1.

That I did, and this time it fared better. I decided to give it a week and make notes on what bugged me about it so I wouldn't forget. This way, when 4.2 comes out I'll be able to see if they've sorted any of the issues that bug me...

My work environment involves a desktop machine and a laptop, both of which are running (k)ubuntu Intrepid Ibex. I use the keyboard and mouse of the desktop machine and control the laptop via synergy. My KDE4 experiment has been run on the desktop machine (with the laptop continuing to run gnome).

So, without further ado, here is my list:

  1. Taskbar entries don't appear to be movable. That is, I can't change their order. This bugs the hell out of me: I like to have specific things on the far left, and if they aren't there I get lost.
  2. The taskbar is too chunky. Having just one at the bottom is nothing like enough space, so I opt to have one above and below in the gnome style, but the size of the taskbar means that quite a significant amount of vertical screen space disappears.
  3. No applet for Tomboy Notes. Yes, I know that KDE has its own note-taking application, but it's not as good, and I'd rather be able to use the same notes whichever desktop environment I'm using. It doesn't even have to use the same backend: just standardise on the file formats and that should do the trick.
  4. Is there any decent integration with MetaTracker? If there is I can't find it mentioned anywhere...
  5. Grabbing windows seems to be a bit sluggish. I'll point click and drag, and find that the window was never grabbed. So I'll have to go back and do it more slowly.
  6. There is no applet for the Revelation password manager
  7. Many applications appearing the notification area have a horrible white box around them. Something nasty going on with transparency I'd imagine. It only seems to affect non-KDE native icons too...
  8. Trying to assign CTRL+ALT+Left/Right to allow me to cycle through desktops doesn't work. They keys assign, but they don't actually do anything when pressed.
  9. Created a new panel, added a clock and System Tray to it. I can't get them to align to the right. The clock insists on taking up about a quarter of the panel's horizontal space, while the System Tray does even worse. Can't see any way to force them to behave.
  10. It is worth pointing out that gnome hosts KDE apps far better than KDE hosts Gnome apps. Not in terms of look and feel integration, but in terms of things actually working properly. Gnome apps in KDE seem to have weird quirks such as scroll bars disappearing.
  11. It makes really horrible things happen with the clipboard on the Gnome machine that this KDE machine is controlling (via synergy). I simply cannot paste sometimes: it just keeps pasting things I copied previously (and yes, I am trying both methods of pasting). Clearing Klipper seems to work around the problem, and it seems that this happens when Klipper's list gets full, which is rather annoying...
  12. Kopete doesn't do IRC.
There were other minor things too that I just forgot to write down.

And it is interesting to find that a number of the complaints above (such as the window grabbing issue) transferred to the laptop machine too. I wonder if this is indicative of it being a simple configuration issue?

Anyway, KDE 4.2 is now in beta, so it won't be much longer before I'll be able to give it another go...

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Thoughts about Ubuntu 8.10 - Intrepid Ibex

I've not posted about a Linux distro before, but I figured I would this time... just because!

Last week my Gentoo-based work laptop (IBM Thinkpad T43p) encountered a package blockage when updating. As usual, I tried to fix it myself, failed, and then discovered via the forums that this was a particularly tricky one to navigate that was probably going to require things like booting into recovery mode and doing manual surgery.

I decided that enough was enough, and that it was time to move on. It was a day before Intrepid's release, so I just went with the release candidate: I had done the same thing with the previous Ubuntu release on my desktop machine so I knew it would be ok.

And it was. Installation was as easy as it usually is, and the grub installation correctly picked up on the Windows XP dual boot partition which came with the laptop.

The first thing that has really impressed me is the networking and wireless support. This worked flawlessly straight away. Connecting to and disconnecting from the wireless network is handled properly authatically. Very impressed with this.

I was also impressed that hibernation support appears to works too. This is something that I had got working in the past but only by using the TuxOnIce kernel. This again appears to work out of the box, which is fantastic.

It's a shame that OpenOffice 3 didn't make it, but it can be installed pretty easily using a PPA.

I'm also a fan of the new "FUSA applet" which sits in the top right corner on the panel and provides one place from which to switch users, shutdown/restart/hibernate/suspend and also affect IM online presence. I'm not really one to manually mess with my online presence, but I do much prefer this to the previous shotdown window popup: it just seems cleaner and faster.

The only problem I have had is a keyboard repeat problem which I think is represented in Launchpad in the form of bug #278078. This only happens when I am controlling the intrepid system over synergy, not when using the machine's keyboard directly. Hopefully it will be fixed soon, becasue it is really quite annoying!

So all in all, I'm impressed. The next thing for me to look at is KDE 4: but that's another post. :)