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How to download / buy iPad Apps that are unavailable outside the U.S.

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That was a big buzzkill yesterday at first: After I unwrapped the iPad and did the first few touches on its beautiful glistening screen, I had to realize that in my country the App Store for the iPad is unavailable until the official launch (whenever that will be…).

A solution was quickly found, with a $ gift card or certificate you can open an account in the US-Apple Store. I just opened another account on an address of a relative in the US. For everyone who isn’t lucky enough to have a relative or friend in the states you can open it  to an imaginary address. Although I have no idea how legal or illegal that is, so you might want to check that first before doing something illicit. I won’t write any stupid disclaimer here, you’re a big boy/girl.

These gift cards can be acquired on eBay, just do a search on your local eBay site. Searching for “US apple gift certificate” on ebay.co.uk should give you similar results like this:

Search results for "US apple gift certificate" on ebay

Search results

If you don’t want to wait for your code take a vendor who scans the codes and mails it to you – worked pretty well for me, I had the code in less than 15 minutes.

Next step is, after changing the country by accepting the terms and condition of the US, to enter your coupon code next to “REDEEM COUPON CODE” or similar and select “none” under the payment methods.

That’s it, you should be able to have access to all the sweet iPad apps available now! Have fun and keep this trick in mind for future Apple products.

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Written by eubolist

2010/04/25 at 20:58

Posted in Apple, howto, iPad

Tagged with , , , ,

Google adds site speed as a factor in PageRank

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Google announced on their official webmaster central blog that they have added the speed (=how fast a website loads for the end user) as a factor in their calculations for a site’s page rank.

Google state in their blog that this change will only affect “fewer than 1% of the search queries”. Given that Google has about 91’000’000 search queries a day, “fewer than 1%” is still “fewer than 910’000” search queries – which is quite a lot.

If you own a webserver on your own, like me, you may be worried that websites of you / y0ur customers might be negatively affected by the change. But don’t panic: Testing and improving the speed of your websites is actually very simple.

  • Step 1: Install FireBug, a FireFox extension.
  • Step 2: Install Page Speed, an extension for FireBug.
  • Step 3: Test the websites you wish to improve and follow the instructions of FireBug/Page Speed (=adjust code or webserver config).

See, that wasn’t that difficult, was it?

Written by eubolist

2010/04/11 at 23:15

Posted in Google, Internet

Tagged with , , ,

Ubuntu 10.04 LTS (Lucid Lynx) Beta 2 released

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Ubuntu 10.04 Beta 2 Has just been released. Why don’t you head over to http://releases.ubuntu.com/10.04/ and download a copy?

If you want to upgrade your existing Ubuntu installation to the newest Beta version type “gksu update-manager -d” in a terminal.

Written by eubolist

2010/04/08 at 15:01

Howto: Ubuntu Lucid Lynx Beta 1 Encrypt System Partition using Live CD

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In case the alternate installation doesn’t work for you (there have been some bugs reported in the current Beta 1 version) or you only downloaded the Desktop CD and now suddenly decided to install Ubuntu on an encrypted partition, this is the right guide for you. If you just like pretty GUIs that’s okay too, but be aware that for this tutorial you should be comfortable working from the terminal. (though most of this tutorial you can just copy – paste into a terminal window).

Let’s start by installing lvm2 on your live system (the desktop cd doesn’t have that by default), open a terminal and type:

sudo su

aptitude update && aptitude install lvm2

If that fails check your network connection. You need a working internet connection to download the package. Now you need to set up (at least) two partitions:

  • /dev/sda1: an unencrypted /boot partition (around 250 MB) and
  • /dev/sda2: one encrypted LVM volume for your / filesystem and swap.

In your system it may be /dev/sdb or whatever you choose: Adjust the following commands to your system configuration:

cryptsetup -c aes-xts-plain -s 512 luksFormat /dev/sda2

When choosing a password take a long, safe password which is not prone to dictionary or brute force attacks. But also make sure you won’t forget it – if you forget your password all your files and settings will be lost.

cryptsetup luksOpen /dev/sda2 lvm

pvcreate /dev/mapper/lvm

vgcreate ubuntu /dev/mapper/lvm

lvcreate -L 1300M -n swap ubuntu

You can change the size of the swap partition, usually a value 1.3-1.5x your RAM size is fine.

lvcreate -l 100%FREE -n root ubuntu

If you want more than one partition (eg. a seperate /home partition) don’t use 100%FREE but the value you wish and define the additional partitions using the above scheme before proceeding to the next step.

mkswap /dev/mapper/ubuntu-swap

mkfs.ext4 /dev/mapper/ubuntu-root

Now start the installation process (don’t close the terminal yet, we’ll need it later). In the partitioning step choose /dev/mapper/ubuntu-root -> Mount point: / and reformat the partition with ext4. Choose /dev/sda1 -> Mount point: /boot and also reformat the partition.

Then continue your installation. On my system it wasn’t able to install the bootloader – don’t worry, we’ll fix that later, just continue with the installation. Once it’s finished don’t restart the system: Close the window and go to the terminal again.

mount /dev/mapper/ubuntu-root /mnt
mount /dev/sdX1 /mnt/boot
mount -o rbind /dev /mnt/dev
mount -t proc proc /mnt/proc
mount -t sysfs sys /mnt/sys
chroot /mnt

Now you’re chrooted in your new installation and able to modify it in order to boot into the encrypted partition. Install the necessary software:

aptitude install cryptsetup lvm2

Then you need to write the UUID of the encrypted partition into /etc/crypttab

echo “lvm UUID=VOLUME_ID none luks” >> /etc/crypttab

You can find out the volume id by typing blkid /dev/sda2 in your terminal. Lastly you need to update the initramfs with

update-initramfs -u -k all

If you were able to install the bootloader grub during the installation process you’re done now, you can exit the terminal and reboot. If not there are three more commands you need to run before exiting:

aptitude install grub2

grub-install /dev/sda

update-grub

If all went well you have a 10.04 installation with an encrypted system drive now. Congratulations!

NOTE: The last part of this tutorial (chrooting plus installing grub) may also serve as a workaround if you encounter any problems or bugs setting up grub during the regular installation process.

Written by eubolist

2010/04/05 at 18:51

Anki: An Intelligent Study Card System For Any OS

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A month ago I was looking for a new computer-based method to improve my study schedule. After a bit of searching in the endless depth of the web I discovered Anki, a flash card application that has several very useful features:

  • It is written in Python and available for Windows, Linux, Mac OS X and FreeBSD – which means it runs on virtually any computer.
  • There are a lot of  “Decks” (=sets of flashcards built by other users) already available on the web
  • The interface is really nice and intuitive, adding sound, video or pictures to your cards is very easy, thus can be accomplished by people with little experience with computers. Also there are many options to adjust the program to your study habits.
  • Anki uses spaced repetition. After each card you have to say how well you remembered it – based on that Anki will set the interval after which the card will be brought up again. With this technique facts will be pushed into your long-term memory. That means you won’t experience black outs in exams anymore as the hormone cortisol, released by your body in situations of psychological stress, only affects the short term but not the long term memory.

If that made you curious, why don’t you give it a try! Here are the download links:

Windows

Ubuntu (you can also install it with apt-get/aptitude, but the version in the repositories is pretty old)

Linux

Mac OSX

FreeBSD

Written by eubolist

2010/03/14 at 21:10

A guide to make safe passwords

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There are a lot of informations out there on how to make secure passwords, most of which are about passwords for cryptographic purposes, written by security experts. Of course the most secure password form is a true random password consisting of upper/lowercase letters, numbers and special characters. There are a lot of web services out there to generate such strings, take this one for example: http://clsc.net/tools/random-string-generator.php

Now it occurred to me, that some security enthusiasts – and some folks at Microsoft – also advise people to choose random passwords for their accounts (computer, mail, social networking …) as well – to make it safe, of course. This is idiotic because the average user certainly does not want to memorize multiple random strings and this policy would encourage users to use one password for all their accounts. Using the same password for multiple accounts is a very bad idea – if one account gets compromised (the programmers at your dating site didn’t do a great job in securing their server) all your other accounts (PayPal, eBay, …) will be in danger, too. And even if you can memorize the random password there is a good chance that you will forget it once you haven’t used it in a while. Which is quite probable to happen since most people are too lazy to always type the password and decide to store it in Firefox, the keyring or whatever password manager they’re using. So don’t use random passwords as long as you’re not an autistic savant genious with a superhuman memory.

Now, since I’ve condemned the really safe option of random passwords let’s have a look at the two possibilities an attacker has to crack your password. The first method would be a dictionary attack: The attacker uses a dictionary file with lots and lots of words in it as possible passwords. This attack is the reason why it’s a bad idea to use simple words without modification as passwords. The second method is a bit simpler, it’s called brute force attack.  Similar to the dictionary attack the attacker tries to guess your password, this time – as the name suggests – every possible password is tried, starting with a and ending with ZZZZZZZZ… Brute force is a lot slower than a dictionary attack because obviously many more passwords have to be guessed until the right one is found. But the big advantage is that the password doesn’t have to be a word, so a password such as “123++” doesn’t offer a lot of protection against brute force attacks, despite being quite strong against a dictionary attack (always depending on the dictionary used, of course).

So what properties does a password need to be safe?

  • It should be long. The longer the better. Why not use a short sentence for example? A short sentence consisting of a few words is very easy to remember and contains a lot of characters, making it hard to break. In case spaces are not allowed you can just leave them out or substitute them with a dash or a certain number.
  • It should contain upper and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters. Adding a number and a special character after your usual password vastly increases the security of your password. Let me show an example: if “monday” is your usual password, it consists of 10 lowercase letters. So a brute force attacker has to try a maximum of 246 possible passwords until he eventually will guess the right one. Given he can try 5000 passwords per second he will crack your password in about 10 hours (he would even be a lot faster if he used a dictionary attack in this example). Now we add a number and a special character to your password and capitalize the first letter: “#0nd4y” A brute forcer would have to try the full ASCII set to crack your password: 1286 which would, at the same speed, take the attacker almost 140 thousand years!
  • It shouldn’t be a plain (or simple variation of a) dictionary word. Even if the above sample may seem secure against brute force attacks, it may not be against a dictionary attack where the dictionary has been added variations of the words (a huge list like that can be easily and quickly generated with an automated script). Use words from foreign languages you know, they are not likely to be in a dictionary (since the largest dictionary files are English, and who would guess eg. a french password on a Spanish user and website?)
  • As I already mentioned: One password per account! Don’t use the same password for multiple accounts. Just don’t.
  • Finally, the last and maybe most important point: It should be easy to memorize! How can one achieve that regarding my other points above? Even passwords containing special characters or numbers are easy to memorize if you create yourself a pattern. There an infinity of patterns you could use to generate safe, easy-to-memorize passwords. Here are a few ideas: Always add the same number (e.g. your birthdate) plus one special character after or before the word you use: puppy –> 1351976?puppy / 1351976=puppy / 1351976@puppy / … Or play around with a whole sentence: puppy –> i have a cute puppy 9877+*$ / i-have-a-cute-puppy9877 / ihaveacutepuppy+*$ / i9have8a7cute7puppy!!! / …

This way even if you don’t use a password for a long time you, and only you, will still be able to guess the right one amongst the most likely variations that you have in mind. And even though I certainly do not consider myself a security expert, I think this is one of the safest, most reliable ways to choose your passwords for everyday users.

Written by eubolist

2010/02/19 at 17:12

Install MythTV 0.22 on Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope

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If you want to install the newest version of MythTV on Jaunty, here’s what you have to do:

  1. Add the following lines to your /etc/apt/sources.list:
    deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/mythbuntu/repos/ubuntu jaunty main
    deb-src http://ppa.launchpad.net/mythbuntu/repos/ubuntu jaunty main
  2. Add the Mythbuntu key by typing the following command: gpg –keyserver hkp://keyserver.ubuntu.com:11371 –recv-key 1504888C && gpg -a –export 1504888C | sudo apt-key add –
  3. Update your list and install Mythbuntu-repos: sudo aptitude update && sudo aptitude install mythbuntu-repos && sudo aptitude safe-upgrade

Written by eubolist

2010/02/07 at 21:04