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Install Ubuntu 18.04 on an Acer Aspire ES1-531

29 Aug

I recently installed Ubuntu 18.04.3 on an Acer Aspire laptop. The model is described on the stickers as both ES1-531 (more generic) and “ES15 model ES-531-P8NJ”.

Here are the steps to get it to work.

You can get an ISO of Ubuntu from the official website: https://ubuntu.com/download/desktop

Once you have created a bootable USB from it (you can find tutorials specific to your operating system by searching “bootable USB” on the Ubuntu tutorials page), you will have to get into the laptop’s BIOS to change a few settings. You can do that by pressing the F2 key on your keyboard repeatedly when booting up the laptop, when you see the “Acer” logo.

Once you’re in there, you can go the the “Security” tab and set up a new “supervisor password”, so you can change more settings.

BIOS photo of options in the Security tab, with "Set Supervisor Password" highlighted.

BIOS photo of options in the Security tab, with “Set Supervisor Password” highlighted.

You can then go to the “Boot” tab, and make sure that your boot method is UEFI, and that the USB HDD option is at the top of the list, so the laptop boots into your plugged in, bootable USB stick.

Photo of the BIOS option, in the "Boot" tab, with the "USB HDD" option at the top of the list.

Put the “USB HDD” option at the top of the list by using the F5 and F6 keys.

When you “Exit saving changes” and restart, you should see a menu, in which you can select “Install Ubuntu”. Follow the prompts and install your new operating system.

Now, when you restart and remove your USB stick as prompted, you are likely to see your laptop stuck into a reboot loop with the “Acer” logo and a glimpse of an error message that reads something like:

System BootOrder not found. Initializing defaults.

Creating boot entry “Boot0006” with label “ubuntu” for file  “\EFI\ubuntu\shimx64.efi”

Reset system

You can then access the BIOS options again (with the F2 key), go to the “Boot” tab and make sure “Secure Boot” is enabled:

Photo of the BIOS options, in the "Boot" tab, with the "Secure Boot: [Enabled]" line highlighted.

Make sure the Secure Boot option is enabled to then get into its settings.

This will allow you to change Secure Boot settings in the “Security Tab”, including where the EFI file is located. Go to “Select an UEFI file as trusted for executing” and press Enter.

Photo of the BIOS options, in the Security tab, with the line "Select an UEFI file as trusted for executing: [Enter]" selected.

Change the Secure Boot option to point to the right UEFI file.

We can now navigate to the right UEFI file for our Ubuntu installation. Navigate down the partition by sequentially selecting:

HDD0 > EFI > Ubuntu > shimx64.efi

You will then be prompted to give the boot option a name. “Ubuntu” should be good enough to identify it.

You can now exit the BIOS options (saving the changes) for the laptop to reboot, enter the BIOS options once more with F2, and go to the “Boot” tab to move your new Ubuntu boot option all the way to the top of the list. (Mine was called “EFI File Boot 0: Ubuntu1”.)

Photo of BIOS options, in the Boot tab, where the boot option "EFI File Boot 0: Ubuntu1" was moved to the top of the Boot priority order list.

Move the new custom boot option to the top of the boot priority order list.

Once you “Exit saving changes” one last time, your laptop should boot straight into Ubuntu!

Here are some links that helped me figure it out, and/or that you mind find useful to further troubleshoot:

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Fix limitcheck error when trying to print a PDF

17 Mar

I use an old salvaged office printer (Kyocera Ecosys FS-1118MFP) which might not be able to handle some fancy things with recent PDFs – or, who knows, the PDF was a very crappy one?

When trying to print the PDF in questions, I got an empty page and another one with the following error message:

ERROR:
limitcheck
OFFENDING COMMAND:
filter
STACK:
--nostringval--
--nostringval--
--nostringval--
--nostringval--
/DataSource
--nostringval--
--nostringval--
false
-mark-
-mark-
-mark-

A limitcheck error happens when a request “Exceeds printer’s memory or PostScript language limit.” The “offending command here” is “filter”, which probably has to do with decompressing an image.

On the second attempt at printing, the printer was stuck with the “receiving” led blinking for ages.

What helped me to print that PDF: I opened it with LibreOffice Draw (currently using version 6.1.5.2), which now does a great job at handling PDFs. I then exported it as a new PDF, which interestingly changed the size from 626.4 kB to 125.5 kB. I was then able to print the PDF without any error, and without having the printer think about it for an hour.

There will be other ways to fix that. You can try different way to reduce the complexity of the document (including converting it to an image before sending it to the printer). People often have success with reinstalling their printer for some reason.

Some links that might be of interest if you have that kind of error:

That was tested on an Ubuntu 18.04-derivative, with LibreOffice Draw version 6.1.5.2, Gnome Document Viewer 3.28.4 and CUPS 2.2.7.

fix all boot options gone from Asus F201E after LibreElec installation

16 Mar

I recently tried to install LibreElec 9.0 on my old Asus F201E, and the installation from the bootable USB seemed to work well, but at first boot from the hard drive, the system goes straight to the Bios options, with the usual boot options nowhere to be seen.

I noticed that I had never updated the BIOS version, so I got the latest from this page, put it on a USB kid (unzipped), turned the laptop on with the USB stick in, accessed the BIOS settings and used the EZ Flash tool. You can see your current BIOS version in there, and you can also navigate on your USB stick to find the update. The tool can then install that and reboots.

Straight after updating the BIOS, the computer booted the LibreElec partition as expected.

I assume that this could also work by restoring the existing version of the BIOS.

Add “open terminal here” in Gnome Files on Ubuntu Budgie 18.04

30 Aug

The distribution I currently used is shipped with Tuxedo computers and is based on Ubuntu Budgie 18.04. The thing that I missed the most when I started using it was the right-click menu item to “Open terminal here” in Gnome Files (version 3.26.3 at the time of writing).

Tilix is the default terminal on this distribution, but it does no matter which one you use. To add an extra right-click menu item to open your default terminal in the current directory, you can open the Software app and search for “Nautilus” (which is the other name of Gnome Files; check that it is indeed marked as “installed”) and tick the add-on called “Terminal plugin for Files“.

You shouldn’t need to log out and back in to see the change: right-clicking inside a directory should now offer the option “Open Tilix Here”.

Install the Riot desktop client on a Debian-based system

20 Jan

Riot is a messaging app that uses the Matrix decentralised communication network. It can be described as a Slack alternative.

It is available as a webapp from your browser, but you can also install a desktop client (which currently looks pretty much the same as the webapp) on a Debian-based system (i.e. all Debian, Ubuntu and Mint derivatives).

To do that, you need to type a few commands in a terminal.

First, you’ll need to add the right repository to fetch the packages from. To do that, open the sources.list file with your favourite text editor (Kate in my example; you might need to be root to be able to save your modifications):

sudo kate /etc/apt/sources.list

In that file, add a new line for the Riot repository, making sure you use the name of the Debian or Ubuntu version your distribution is based on (the list of available versions for this repo is here; for Linux Mint, see this list; in my example, I use “trusty” because my distro is based on Ubuntu 14.04):

deb https://riot.im/packages/debian/ trusty main

Then, download and add the corresponding key for authentication:

cd ~/Downloads
wget https://riot.im/packages/debian/repo-key.asc
sudo apt-key add repo-key.asc

You can now update your repositories and install the app with the two following commands:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install riot-web

Enjoy!

Start an 8-day data detox

20 Dec

Recommended to me by Mozilla, I started a Creative Commons-licensed “Data Detox” that was produced for the Glass Room London in 2017, and is curated by Tactical Technology Collective. It was originally a printed/PDF kit created for the Glass Room New-York in 2016.

I thought I might try that little exercise to see if I could learn something more about e-privacy. Turns out there were quite a few things that I did not know about, especially when it came to Google settings, and iPhone configuration. (I am currently using a salvaged iPhone 4 which does not want to die – better for the planet.)

The Data Detox runs over 8 days and runs you through little tasks you can follow to leave less of a data trail while using your Internet-connected devices.

It is of course not covering 100% of what could be said about e-privacy, but I was surprised at how much it taught me about a bunch of privacy settings in my Google account, and about location services in my iPhone. I would recommend following the detox even if you feel you have a good grasp of what you need to do to stay safe and anonymous on the Internet.

Here is a couple of things I would add to the tasks already offered by the Data Detox, in no particular order. Feel free to add those to the list if you feel motivated, or cherry-pick whatever you feel like doing.

  • Using a password manager like KeePassX (which is mentioned in the detox) is a good way to safely store a bunch of diverse and complicated passwords, but another benefit I have learned to appreciate is that it constitutes a record of how many accounts you own, and allows you to review which unused ones you could delete. Here’s a challenge: every time you add a new account and password, try to delete a different one (or two?) so you don’t build up a collection of them.
  • When reading your emails, start directly deleting the ones you know you will never go back to. That will make your email account less of a data trove waiting to be mined. Another benefit is that you are freeing some valuable storage space for your ethical privacy-respecting email account provider (because you use one, right?).
  • The Alternative App Centre that the detox recommends is good, but I would also recommend to have a look at the Free services that Framasoft offers (more directed at offering Free Software alternatives to the ones offered by the GAFAM: Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, i.e. the main huge data silos of the Internet), as well as the list of alternatives from PRISM Break (more directed at privacy-respecting apps to fight state surveillance). Another excellent website that lists alternatives, tools, add-ons and services to protect your privacy, along with valuable information, is PrivacyTools.io.
  • Related to the previous point, if you specifically want to get away from data-gathering social networks, I recommend two decentralised Free Software-based alternatives: Mastodon as a Twitter replacement, and Diaspora* as a Facebook replacement. They are both mature projects with a lively healthy community to interact with.
  • Finally, the detox probably didn’t mention it because of the technical knowledge required to set it up, but I’d also recommend looking into self-hosting your own cloud services. Nextcloud, YunoHost and Sandstorm are good starting points. You can also find a service provider that uses Free Software and guarantees to respect your privacy in exchange for some money. I am currently a happy subscriber of IndieHosters (they use Nextcloud for the most part) but you can find more providers on Chatons.org (at the time of writing, 48 providers mainly located in France).

Use Enigmail with Thunderbird 56 beta

12 Sep

If you are trying the sign and encrypt your emails with Enigmail (v. 1.9.8.2 in my case) in the latest Thunderbird 56 beta (v. 56.0b3 in my case), you might run into a blocker:

  • In Enigmail Preferences > Basic > Files and directory, a simple “(error)” appears and there is no way to fix the path the the gpg binary with an override;
  • When you try sending an email, an error message pops up: “Failed to initialize Enigmail. Send unencrypted message?”;
  • When you click on the Enigmail button in the composer window, a window pops up and vanishes in a fraction of a second;
  • The error console (ctrl + shift + J) shows an error message: “Contract ID ‘@mozilla.org/enigmail/cline-handler;1’ was registered as a command line handler for entry ‘cline-enigmail’, but could not be created.”

The issue has been fixed in a development version of Enigmail, so you will have to install the Enigmail Nightly build (the version 2.0a1pre works for me).

To install a downloaded addon (as an .xpi file), you will have to go to add-ons > extensions > cog button > install add-on from file.

Fix “unmet dependency” issue for pulseaudio in KXStudio (and others)

18 Aug

[note: this tip will apply to other “unmet dependency” situations, but definitely not all of them]

If you are a user of the KXStudio repos, and use an environment rid of pulseaudio, you probably were disappointed to see that Firefox recently stopped supporting the ALSA backend. The issue came back recently for me, as Firefox 55 does not seem to have been compiled with the --enable-alsa.

If you are having the “unmet dependency” issue when trying to install pulseaudio-module-jack with apt-get, it might be an issue with conflicting package versions from different sources.

The following packages have unmet dependencies.
pulseaudio-module-jack : Depends: pulseaudio but it is not going to be installed
E: Unable to correct problems, you have held broken packages.

If you use aptitude instead, you will get some more info:

The following packages have unmet dependencies:
pulseaudio : Depends: libpulse0 (= 1:4.0-0ubuntu11.1) but 1:4.0-0ubuntu11.1+kxstudio1 is installed.

The culprit seems to be libpulse0 here. In other cases, you might have to follow the thread of unmet dependencies down until you get to the bottom of it (as in the case of Wine in another similar situation I had).

You can see that the conflicting versions of the package are basically the same, so using one over the other should not cause issues. The problem here is that the KXStudio version has an extra long name to identify its source. You can now identify the different versions of the package that are available:

apt-cache policy libpulse0

… and force the installation of a specific version:

sudo apt-get install libpulse0=1:4.0-0ubuntu11.1

After that, you should be able to install pulseaudio-module-jack without running into any issue.

Remember to start PulseAudio in Cadence so sound comes out of Firefox (no need to restart anything).

Remove DRMs from Kobo’s KEPUB format

1 Nov

Kobo decided to go the proprietary Digital Restriction Management (DRM) way by providing some ebooks bought on their platform in their in-house Kepub format. This means that they can only be read on a Kobo device.

You might have noticed that, when trying to copy an ebook from your Kobo device to your desktop Calibre library, it tells you it can’t do that because the book is “virtual”.

You can actually remove the DRMs from that format by using a plugin called Obok, part of the great DeDRM toolbox provided by Apprentice Harper.

  1. Download the latest obok_plugin.zip file from GitHub;
  2. Open Calibre (if you don’t have this amazing ebook management app already, install it);
  3. Install the plugin: `Preferences > Plugins > Load plugin from file`;
  4. Use the Obok plugin with your device plugged in: select the problematic Kepub ebook(s) and let it do its magic. You can now copy the ebook to your library without those pesky DRMs!

Learn more about the Kepub format on wiki.mobileread.com.

This was tested with Calibre 2.71, Obok DeDRM 6.5.3 and a Kobo Touch with its software at version 3.19.5761.

Fix PGP error NO_PUBKEY when apt-get updating

28 Oct

It is common to find that a  sudo apt-get update does not do a clean job because of a couple of missing public keys. You might get something of the type:

W: GPG error: <a href="http://ppa.launchpad.net">http://ppa.launchpad.net</a> trusty InRelease: The following signatures couldn't be verified because the public key is not available: NO_PUBKEY 8BAF9A6F

Usually, it is possible to directly fetch the missing public key from a popular key server like Ubuntu’s:

sudo apt-key adv --keyserver keyserver.ubuntu.com --recv-keys PUBKEY

… where PUBKEY is replaced by the right identifier in your warning message.

That is usually enough and concludes with gpg: Total number processed: 1

However, if the key is not found on the server, you might have to look for it yourself. For example, in the case of the following error:

W: GPG error: http://download.opensuse.org  Release: The following signatures couldn't be verified because the public key is not available: NO_PUBKEY F2AA0B1E5EF8303B

… the missing key was not available on the Ubuntu key server. I had to first check what exactly the problematic source’s URL looked like, which you can do by either using your distribution’s updater’s GUI (for example, Muon Update Manager > More… > Advanced … > Configure software sources), or by finding it in /etc/apt/sources.list or /etc/apt/sources.list.d/. In my case, the URL was http://download.opensuse.org/repositories/home:/antonbatenev:/tox/xUbuntu_14.04/, which is where I navigated to in my Internet browser to find a Release.key file.

Once you have downloaded that key, you can use the following command to add it to your keyring:

sudo apt-key add Downloads/Release.key

(Make sure you replace Downloads/Release.key with the right path/name.)

Now, you should be able to re-run sudo apt-get update and not run into any warning!