Skip to content

Year: 2008

Geeky Greats: Useful & Interesting Web Sites

The timeline of Internet Memes is an amazing journey through time, all the way back to the early days of the internet.  What makes it funny and interesting is that it chronicalizes a thorough history of internet memes:  those funny themes that run through the internet subculture.

ColorCombos.com is a useful site which helps you test and select color combinations for use on your web sites or digital creations.  I love this type of tool, not being a person who can match colors very well.

For the desktop, I recommend carrying a copy of the awesome, free tool known as Color Cop.  I’ve been using it for years, so I donated to them a while back, and if you find it useful, you should too!  Color Cop is an eyedropper tool that provides much of the same functionality as the eyedropper in Photoshop, but is lightweight, versatile, and easy to use.

FormatFactory does and amazing job of converting your Windows media files from one format to another, and it does it all for free.

Do you freelance from home?  Check out FreelanceSwitch, who offers a bunch of good resources for freelancers.  I have found their page on Legal Resources for Freelancers to be very helpful.

This Web Site is Changing

As much as I love WordPress, I have found myself using Tumblr a lot more.  I like it’s mobile-friendly interface, simplicity, and ease of use.

You can find my regular blog posts at http://blog.willchatham.com now

I will be updating this site some day so that it all makes more sense now that I am relocating the blog portion of it.  Look out!

Google Chrome – Installation

Chrome just came out, and I downloaded it and have it installed.  Expect a review here once I have time to kick the tires a little bit.

One thing that made me chuckle during the installation was a dialog box that popped up when I told Chrome to import my settings from Firefox:

Sadly?  I’m impressed they feel so compassionate about the fact that Firefox was open on my computer.

Anyway, the first 3 minutes of messing with Chrome have been a series of “oooh cool!” moments for me.  Look for more opinions soon…

Google Chrome – The GBrowser

Holy friggin moly Google is coming out with a web browser tomorrow.

Presenting Google Chrome.

This should be interesting.

I can only wonder:

  • Will it have plugins that could ever match those of Firefox?  Enough to lure me away?
  • What will standards support be like?  Will it pass the Acid3 test?
  • How pervasive will it end up being?  Could it really be the Windows killer?
  • How will it tie into Google apps, docs, search, and services?

I know what I’ll be doing tomorrow…

Captchas. No, I didn’t sneeze.

Are captchas annoying to you?  They are to me.  I probably fail at solving them about 15% of the time, which is far too often for my liking.  They get annoying, and as spammers find ways to automate solving them, the captchas continue to get more difficult to read.

Someone who knows a lot about combating spam, and has done a pretty darned good job at it, Matt Mullenweg, suggests in a recent Guardian article that “…Captchas are useless for spam because they’re designed to tell you if someone is ‘human’ or not, but not whether something is spam or not.”  I would have to agree.

There are many efforts to improve upon Catpchas, such as the 3-D Captcha.  In my opinion, this is just making things more complicated than necessary, and would be difficult to implement easily on a typical blog or contact form.

I run about 6 to 8 blogs (depending on my mood from week to week), and have been reluctant to use Captchas on any of them, partly out of usability concerns, but also because they are so easy to fail.  Instead, for my blog comments, I rely upon Mullenweg’s own Kismet spam system.  This feature is built into WordPress blogs, which makes it a breeze to set up, and I am constantly amazed at the loads of spam comments that it stops.

As Mullenweg suggests, focusing on the content rather than the submitter, is the way to go in the long term, and Kismet is great at doing that.

However, I also rely on a simpler test to determine if someone is a human or not mainly because it’s not as annoying as a Captcha, and it prevents a lot of spam comments from making it through in the first place.  It’s easy to add a basic question to a form which must be answered correctly in order for the form to be submitted succesfully.  Questions could be as simple as:

  • What color is an orange?
  • What is 3 plus 3?
  • How many wheels does a car have?

There is a great WordPress plugin which provides this capability and is relatively easy to set up called the Secure and Accessible PHP Contact Form.  If you run any WordPress blogs, I recommend you try it out.

By having a list of simple questions that are randomly selected to appear on your forms, you can stop automated scripts from filling out your forms quite easily.  This, combined with Kismet, a content-based filter of what gets submitted, will pretty much stop spammers in their tracks without creating a hassle for your visitors.

Setting up Samba Shares on RedHat Enterprise 5

My goal was to set up a network share on a RHEL5 server using Samba, so that our Windows users could access the shared folder from their desktops.  It was difficult to find any information on doing this and nothing else, such as setting up Samba as a domain controller, which I was not interested in.  Sometimes Google gives you more than you want.

If you are running RedHat Enterprise 5, and are interested in setting up Samba shares for Windows users to access, read on.  This may work for other flavors of Linux, and older versions of RHEL, but I can’t vouch for that.

First, make sure the correct Samba packages are installed:

#> rpm -qa |grep samba
samba-client-3.0.28-1.el5_2.1
samba-3.0.28-1.el5_2.1
samba-common-3.0.28-1.el5_2.1
system-config-samba-1.2.39-1.el5

If these are not installed, use yum to grab them and install them.

You may need to open ports in the system firewall so that all of this will work.  The ports that need to be open for Samba to work are:

139 and 445

It’s easiest to do this from your RedHat gui (System > Administration > Security Level and Firewall).

Next, set up the smb service to run at boot time:

#> chkconfig smb on

In RedHat, this will also cause the nmb service to run, which is fine.

Now, start Samba:

#> service smb start

Now, create the directory you want to share.  For this example, I will make it simple:

#> mkdir /dv1

Set permissions accordingly.  In my scenario, I wanted our developers to all be able to access this directory from Windows, and they were all part of the ‘developers’ group on my RedHat server, so I set the permissions like so:

#> chown developers.developers /dv1
#> chmod 755 /dv1

In order to get Samba to share this directory, I had to add the appropriate policies for SELinux, which are mentioned in the smb.conf file.  Assuming you are running SELinux (it’s default with RedHat Enterprise 5), these can be added at the command line.

Since you created a new directory that will be shared with Samba (the ‘dv1’ directory you created earlier), a label must be set for that as well.  Using ‘dv1’ as the directory name, run this:

To set a label use the following:

#>  chcon -t samba_share_t /dv1

Now to configure the Samba configuration file.  Always make a backup of the original before editing any config file!

#> cp /etc/samba/smb.conf /etc/samba/smb.conf.orig

To edit the config file, do this:

#> nano /etc/samba/smb.conf

Under [global] settings, uncomment the necessary lines and make changes so that it looks something like this:

workgroup = YourWindowsWorkgroupName
server string = YourRedhatServerName
netbios name = YourRedhatServerName
hosts allow = 127.0.0.1 192.168.1.

Leave everything else in that section the way it is.

Note:  the 192.168.1.  address needs to be that of your local network.

Then under Standalone Server Options:

    security = user
    passdb backend = tdbsam

I commented out all Printer sharing crap since I didn’t use any of that.

Lastly, under Share Definitions:

[homes]
        comment = Home Directories
        browseable = no
        writeable = yes
;       valid users = %S
;       valid users = MYDOMAIN%S

;[printers]
;       comment = All Printers
;       path = /var/spool/samba
;       browseable = no
;       guest ok = no
;       writeable = no
;       printable = yes

[dv1]
        comment = My dog has fleas
        path = /dv1/
        valid users = user1,user2,user3
        public = no
        writeable = yes
        create mask = 0765

Obviously, swap out user1,user2,user3 with the users who will be accessing this share.  You put the username for the RedHat box you are on, not the Windows username (unless it’s the same).

Save the file and go back to the command line. Test it out by running this:

#> testparm

You shouln’t see any error reported.  If all is good, run this:

#> service smb restart

You will see smb and nmb stop and restart.  There should be no errors or “FAILED” notices.

Assuming your users already have accounts on your RedHat box, you need to add them to Samba like so:

#> smbpasswd -a username
New SMB password:
Retype new SMB password:

I set a temporary password here, then ask them to change it next time they log into the server at the command line by running this:

#> smbpasswd

It will prompt them for their old password (the temporary one you just gave them), and for the new one.

Once all that is done and you have set your own Samba password, you should be able to do this from Windows:

Go to Start and select Run.  Type in the hostname of your RedHat server (which you specified in the smb.conf file) like so:

\YourRedhatServerName

You will be prompted for a username and password, and you should enter the RedHat server login name and the Smaba password that you just created.

If all goes well, a window will appear which shows the dv1 directory.  You can now drag, drop, copy, and paste to and from this folder as if it were on your Windows machine!