Weather In The Terminal? We can do that!

Weather in the terminal? There are people who pretty much live in the terminal! They do everything there, including checking the weather! This article will show you how to get your local forecast in your terminal, because why not?

Where I live, they have a saying, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.” The weather is constantly changing and is responsible for killing quite a few people every year. We have some pretty extreme weather. Because of this, I pay fairly close attention to it – but, really, I don’t tend to check it in the terminal. I use a more robust solution. This article is for those folks who want to. You’re welcome!

First, a little poem:

Whether the weather be fine, or whether the weather be not,
Whether the weather be cold, or whether the weather be hot,
We’ll weather the weather, whatever the weather,
Whether we like it or not.  — anonymous

See? Who says we’re uncultured here?

Anyhow, this is just going to be a pretty brief article. It’s pretty simple to check and it requires just your terminal and a tool called ‘cURL‘ (which has been covered already, so click that link to save some time). If it turns out to be something you like, you can always alias it for regular use or just commit the short commands to memory.

Weather In The Terminal:

Seeing as this is ‘weather in the terminal’ we should probably start with opening the terminal! That’s easy enough, just press CTRL + ALT + T and your default terminal will open.

Once you have it open, you’ll be using a website known as WTTR.IN. You can actually just click that link and get the weather in your browser. It should be your local-ish weather, unless you’re using a VPN. The site is using IP Address Geolocation to show your local weather and a VPN presents a different IP address, meaning it may not actually be your local weather. The same is obviously true in the terminal.

Start with just a basic example, try:

That should be ‘close enough’, depending on where you live and how accurate the geolocation is. If it’s not, you can add some information – such as town and state (or province, or whatever your country uses). It’d look something like:

The output from that command would look a little something like this:

weather forecast in the terminal
See? It even knows I’m in the USA, so it uses the correct units. Neat, huh?

You can even use some landmarks and it will try to figure it out. For instance, you can check the output from this command:

If you’re in the US, then it will show you the results in our goofy units – even if metric is used at the location. Well, it will try to – within the limitations of geolocation. If you want to change it up, you use a ‘u’ or an ‘m’. To force the above with metric units, you enter:

Anyhow, there’s so much more that you can do. Frankly, the above are all I really use it for – and I seldom bother with that. Living where I do, I get my weather in a browser and with a browser extension. So, be sure to use the following to learn more:

You can also just visit https://wttr.in/:help to get that same information in your browser. It’s up to you, but you’re already in the terminal so you might as well keep using it!

Additional info: GitHub repo is located here.

Closure:

And there you have it. Another article is in the books, this one showing you how to use your terminal to check the forecast and current conditions. There are a ton of options that I didn’t bother covering, but options that you may find useful. Be sure to check the help page and keep up with the project on GitHub.

Thanks for reading! If you want to help, or if the site has helped you, you can donate, register to help, write an article, or buy inexpensive hosting to start your own site. If you scroll down, you can sign up for the newsletter, vote for the article, and comment.

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I’ll Try To Answer The Question, “Should I Use Linux?”

Should you use Linux? That is the question! In fact, it’s an important question and one that I’ve wanted to try to answer for a while. I use Linux, after all, so shouldn’t you? The conclusion might surprise you. No, really, it might. I don’t want it to seem like clickbait – but read on!

As I sit here watching the 2020 (technically 2021) Olympics in Tokyo, I’m reminded of a few things. First among those things is that I’m not really all that into sports, and secondly that sports make good analogies. As I watch the Olympics, I’m seeing some similarities.

On one end, you have the casual fan – the person watching on television simply because it’s moving pictures and sound. They recognize most of the sports and maybe even know some of the rules to some of the events. They might know that hands get limited use in soccer, but have no idea how to score gymnastic’s floor events.

On the other end, you have the people standing on the podiums at the end of events because they’ve devoted their entire lives to mastering the skills required to get them there. They are the absolute greatest players at the time and worked their asses off to get there. They’ve devoted their lives to getting on the podium.

Between all this, there’s a huge spectrum. There are those who are fans of a single event, maybe having competed themselves at a much lower level. There are the fans that also head weekly to the Rec. Center to play pick-up games, organized tournaments, regional tournaments, or even compete at the national level without any chance of ending up at the Olympics – and they’re okay with that.

Sports? WTF?

To put that into Linux-terms, on one end you have the person that’s tinkered with Linux in a virtual machine or a live install, having never converted to Linux entirely. And, on the opposing end of the spectrum, you have the person that devotes 40+ hours maintaining the kernel. (If you’re new to Linux, trust me when I say that’s a very important job.)

It works for the opensource software as well. On one end, you have the person who uses LibreOffice once or twice a month. In the middle you have the person who has set up their small company with LibreOffice being the integrated suite of choice. At the other end, you have the developer’s spending 8 hours a day trying to fix bugs while trying to add new features.

Just like the Olympics, there are tons of ‘events’ in Linux. Each event can be a single piece of software or software that performs a specific function. You can be a fan of that single piece of software – and a fan completely along the spectrum, from a casual fan to someone that spends considerable time making that software better.

It’s entirely up to you to determine where you want to be on the spectrum. Just like the Olympics, it’s very much a meritocracy. The system rewards ability. Those that have the ability and desire make it at the top – maybe even turning it into a paid gig. Also true, is that if you lack the ability, you need only show some initiative and you’ll find people willing to ‘coach’ you.

If you want to learn how to triage bugs, program, or answer support questions for your favorite project, someone will help you learn to do those things – just like coaches. How much effort and time you put into it are going to be the strongest indicators of how far you can go. Keep at it long enough, and if it’s your objective, you too can help maintain the kernel. You too can help influence the directions your favorite distro moves.

On top of all that, you can start your own sport (write your own software) and, if enough people like it and it does the job better than other applications, you too can end up at the top – like the IOC deciding to add new events to the games. The last time I paid any attention to the games, skateboarding was not an event. These days there are numerous skateboarding events. In this case, skateboarding got popular and was recognized as taking skill to perform at the highest levels. So too goes software.

If you are enjoying this article, you might also like to click and learn which distro is the best distro. It’s similar writing to this.

Decide To Use Linux:

So, what does the above have to do with helping you decide if you should use Linux?

Well, for starters, nobody is competing in the 1500 meter swimming events because they hate Microsoft. They’re competing at the Olympics because they’re passionate about their sport, not because they dislike the business practices of Apple. They’re competing because they’re passionate about their event.

You shouldn’t use Linux because you dislike something, you should use Linux because it works. You should use Linux because it suits your needs, because it fills a role in your life as a tool, or you should use Linux because you’re passionate about the things it provides, be it a service or a liberty.

When you decide to use Linux, you should also start figuring out how far you want to take it. Do you care enough to try to make it to the top, or do you just want to be an end user? Do you want to help make Linux (or an application) better for people, or do you just want to use applications to get your work done?

Use Linux because you’re intellectually curious, or because you value the freedoms it provides. Use Linux because you want to reach the top of the mountain, not because you want someone to guide you there. Make the choice to use Linux not because dislike Windows, but because you like Linux. Decide to commit to a life of learning, and switch to Linux.

Maybe Don’t Use Linux:

We see it time and time again. Someone decides to use Linux because they ‘hate’ Microsoft. In the greatest computer irony ever, they revert to using Windows because Linux didn’t act like Windows and they didn’t want to put in the effort to learn. They do not end up as Linux users. Linux isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay. Neither is table tennis or competing in a triathlon. 

If you’re unwilling to put the effort into understanding the game, it’s probably not going to be all that interesting to watch it. When you don’t put in the effort to learn to make Linux work, it doesn’t mean that Linux sucks. It means you just didn’t put in the effort to learn.

Linux has gotten easier. For the most part, it just works. But, no… No, it’s not for everyone. Not everyone should use Linux. There won’t ever be a “Year of Linux on the Desktop” because of so many reasons – chief among them is because Linux isn’t for everyone. Not everyone wants to reinvest the time they spent learning one operating system into learning a new operating system. Not everyone can reinvest that time.

Over the years, I’ve seen thousands of people claim they were going to switch to Linux. Those that say they’re going to do so because they hate something are less likely to stick around than those who say they’re switching because they like something about Linux. The ones that post first posts about how they’re intellectually drawn to learning how it works are the ones that are still there five years down the road, often helping new people learn the ropes.

The others run into a hurdle and try to solve it like it’d be solved in Windows. When that doesn’t work, they give up. They’ll keep trying it the Windows way and keep getting frustrated. At best, you can spoon feed them commands for a few months before they disappear from the support forums forever.

Instead of trying to make it to the Olympics, they give up when they realize it takes practice and dedication. At the first big stumbling block, they quit. For reasons of their own, they don’t dedicate the time to learn to use Linux. They don’t even make it to the point of being a casual fan.

Who Should Use Linux:

You should use Linux if you’re willing to put the effort in to reach your Linux goals. Your goal doesn’t have to be becoming a kernel maintainer. Your goal may just be becoming a bog-standard end-user with a stable system. Both are fine goals and the latter requires much less effort. Both require effort, however.

If you are willing to put the effort in, then use Linux. When you’re curious about how your computer works, want to customize your experience, or appreciate the things Linux brings to the table, then use Linux! When you want the freedom offered with FOSS, jump on the Linux bandwagon. If you have a goal and you can use Linux to reach that goal, do it!

Again, use Linux because you’re passionate about it – or at least willing to put the effort in to learn how to use it. You need to be willing to read help pages. Searching for help is one of the greatest Linux skills you can learn – search engines are a great help. But, use Linux because you want to learn something different, not because you hate something else. You have to be willing to learn! If you do not learn, you will not succeed.

Even at the most basic level of Linux, it requires a willingness to learn – and to “unlearn” what you learned with your previous computer experience. The person who should be using Linux is the kind of person that values knowledge and understanding. You should be the kind of person that expects the best from yourself and the kind of person willing to put the time in to be exactly that. 

In other words, you should be somewhere along the spectrum that is the Olympics. From dedicated fan to standing on the podium with a medal on your chest, there’s room for all. You don’t have to aim for gold – you can just aim for understanding how the game works. Aiming to be a kernel developer isn’t a requirement, but a willingness to learn how the kernel works will help you truly appreciate and use Linux.

Closure:

I’ve been wanting to write this for a while, but couldn’t ever think of a way to start it, nor could I think of a way that’d not be too preachy. I realize this still comes off as a bit elitist, but pretty much anyone can learn to use Linux well enough to be an end user. It’s not that hard and it only requires a little bit of effort. At the same time, for those that want to put the effort in, the sky is the limit and the proverbial podium awaits.

I kinda like the essay format, but I worry that it is too long for people to read. There are some potential multi-part articles that I’d like to challenge. My goal has been short bites of data that help you become a more proficient Linux user, or something like that. However, there’s room for more than that and the readership varies in preferences. We shall see what happens.

Thanks for reading! If you want to help, or if the site has helped you, you can donate, register to help, write an article, or buy inexpensive hosting to start your own site. If you scroll down, you can sign up for the newsletter, vote for the article, and comment.

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How To: Use S.M.A.R.T. To Check Disk Health

Disk health is an important matter. Your storage media has a useful lifespan and the clock is ticking it from day one. Either hard disk drive (HDD) or solid state drive (SDD), your storage media has a limited lifespan.

You should plan on your drives failing because, given enough time or use, they will fail. This is a known limitation and there are ways to monitor disk health. Heck, in theory, many systems are supposed to monitor disk health and alert you of impending failure (see some BIOS options), though I’ve personally had poor luck relying on automated alerts. I periodically perform manual disk health checks.

We’ll be using “S.M.A.R.T.” (Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology) and “smartmontools” for this exercise. It’s actually pretty accurate data – sorta… If it tells you there’s a problem, chances are good that drive health is an issue. However, drives are perfectly happy failing without giving you any warning at all. As I said in the opening paragraph, there’s a limit to how long your drives will last – but it will eventually and certainly fail.

At the same time, there are probably many of us who have ‘magical’ drives. I have an external HDD that gets used constantly – and it’s well over a decade old. On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve had drives fail within weeks of the warranty ending – and sometimes before the warranty ended. Drive failure is real and you should be prepared for it. The best way to be prepared for it is to have spares and a good backup plan.

So, let’s get started! (Also, click on the Wikipedia link above.)

Install ‘smartmontools’:

As I said above, we’ll be using ‘smartmontools’ to check the disk health with S.M.A.R.T. reporting. It’s a fairly robust application and is available for the major distros. Smartmontools is easily installed with your package manager, or you can do it in the terminal. If you want to do that, first open the terminal with CTRL + ALT + T and, once open, enter the appropriate command.

Debian/Ubuntu:

RHEL/Fedora:

Arch/Manjaro:

Any of those will work on the appropriate systems. If you use a distro that’s not listed, it’s probably available in your repositories. It’s a fairly common tool and disk health is important!

This doesn’t work with NVMe drives. If you’re looking for NVMe support, look up ‘nvmi-cli’. I’ll probably write an article on the subject sometime in the future.

Anyhow, the tool you’ll be using from smartmontools is ‘smartctl’. It’s included with the package and is pretty easy to use. Read on to see how!

Check Disk Health With ‘smartctl’:

First, you should check to see if the device reports disk health by looking to see if the device has S.M.A.R.T. enabled. You can run this command:

Where ‘/drive/path’, it’s often something like ‘/dev/sda’. You can look up your drive’s path easily enough. If it’s not enable, you can turn it on with:

Now, you can go ahead and check the status. To do that, you run:

That should output some data. Remember how I highly recommended you click the Wikipedia link above? Well you should. The data in the report is fairly well-covered on the Wiki page. If you didn’t click it above, you can click now.

Anyways, the data in the report above might be old because the command may output some stale information. To refresh the data in the report, you can run a short (or long) test. In this first case, we’re going to run a short test (lasting 2 minutes or less) with this command:

Wait the couple of minutes as prompted and then run the original command again to get a report with the updated information:

You can also run a long test. That’s done by changing the short to long, as in the command used above. It’s done like this:

That’ll take up to 10 minutes and you can check the results after that time has passed. Once again, you will simply run the same command you’ve been using all along:

Anyhow, pay attention to the results in that report. They’ll give you a lot of information. You can check the results and technical details against the Wikipedia link. With that information in hand, you can keep a reasonable eye on your disk health.

There’s more to smartctl and even smartmontools, but not a whole lot that’s terribly interesting or important. Simply run man smartctl and look through the options. The most interesting/valuable disk health checks are covered above, but there’s nothing wrong with knowing more about your tools.

Closure:

You know, if you install ‘gnome-disks’ then you can just do all of this graphically. Chances are good that all the distros out there that have smartmontools also have gnome-disks. If that’s more your style, just install it and poke around. It’s right there in the ‘three dot’ menu. Like so:

gnome-disks - check disk health with  SMART status
A nice GUI way! Give it a shot if you want!

But, that’d be cheating! It’d also be a much more basic article and where’s the fun in that? Nowhere. That’s where the fun isn’t. Seriously, the GUI method with gnome-tools works just fine for this if you’d prefer to go that route. Again, check your results against the Wikipedia link posted throughout the article. 

Anyhow, there’s another article in the books. One more article said and done, in my attempt to keep this going for a full year. It has been pretty fun. This article is about disk health and reminds me that I need to write one about backing up your data. That’s good, ’cause it means I’ve still got all sorts of ideas for articles! 

Don’t forget, you too can write articles. I don’t mind and it’d help me reach the year goal going!

Thanks for reading! If you want to help, or if the site has helped you, you can donate, register to help, write an article, or buy inexpensive hosting to start your own site. If you scroll down, you can sign up for the newsletter, vote for the article, and comment.

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Make Ubuntu Provide Feedback (Asterisks) When Typing Passwords In The Terminal

By default, Ubuntu doesn’t show anything when you type passwords in the terminal. They made this decision for security reasons. Shoulder-surfing is a thing. People looking over your shoulder could see how many characters you entered, thus narrowing down the number of possible passwords.

This article will show you how to show asterisks on the screen, as some folks prefer, when you enter your passwords in the terminal. This tip is actually rather easy and shouldn’t take very long. It’s not even all that advanced, and it can be undertaken by most anyone. You should at least understand the implications before changing the behavior.

Frankly, it’s a perfectly acceptable choice to not show anything when typing sensitive material, but others prefer to have some feedback. It makes it easier for slower typing people to keep track of where they are, for example. On top of that, there are many situations where you really don’t have to worry a whole lot about people shoulder surfing.

When you’re using a computer that’s never going to be out in public, it’s probably not much of an issue if you show asterisks. If it’s a laptop that you use in coffee shops and you’re security conscious, you may want to leave it the way it is. You have a choice. You can leave it the way it is, or you can go ahead and change it. Linux is pretty awesome like that. You get to make the decisions!

Passwords With Asterisk Feedback:

First, let’s crack open the terminal. Press CTRL + ALT + T and your default terminal should open so we can edit the sudoers file. It’s done like this:

Enter your password and hit enter, of course. (Mark it on the calendar! This should be the last time you enter your password in the terminal without some visual feedback!)

Use the down arrow until you’re at the start of the line that says:

Press the ENTER button. This should move that line down and leave a blank line above it. Use the arrow button to move up to that blank line and enter:

Note: This spacing isn’t technically required. It is done for convention and to aid in ease of reading/processing information-dense more accurately and swiftly. You can also probably put the new line anywhere in that file. For some reason, that’s how I have it in my notes.

When you’re done, you will then need to save the file. As this is nano, press CTRL + X, then Y, and then ENTER.

That’s it. That’s everything. You will probably need to close and reopen all of your terminals to notice the difference. Then you can test it by opening a new terminal window and tying in:

Type your password when prompted and you’ll hopefully see some asterisks as feedback. It should look a little like this:

password with asterisk feedback in the terminal
See? Asterisks for passwords feedback in the terminal.

As mentioned above, Ubuntu made this change for security reasons. If you change this, you’re making it so that people can see how many characters you typed when you entered your password. Of course, they can also count how many times you pressed a key on your keyboard. Just be aware of it and decide for yourself.

Closure:

And there you have it, another article published. This one is about the passwords you type and if they’ll give you any feedback by appearing as asterisks on the screen. It’s a decision that you get to make, and the security implications are real – but not universal. You may prefer asterisks when typing your passwords, or you may prefer the defaults.

Thanks for reading! If you want to help, or if the site has helped you, you can donate, register to help, write an article, or buy inexpensive hosting to start your own site. If you scroll down, you can sign up for the newsletter, vote for the article, and comment.

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TeamViewer; My Most-Recent Favorite Alternative To VNC.

Today’s article is going to be about my latest favorite VNC alternative, TeamViewer. It’s a surprisingly handy application that just works. Read on to learn more about it!

I’m a pretty big fan of VNC (Virtual Network Computing, from RealVNC). Actually, it’d be a bit more accurate to say that I’m a pretty big fan of remotely managing devices. Among the ways I do this, VNC is a nice way to do so graphically.

Basically, remote administration software such as this forwards the remote desktop to a window on my local desktop and allows me the control as though I was physically seated at the device. I have quite a few devices, and remotely manage the majority of them. I have computers in my house that I seldom physically use, I manage them all remotely. 

SSH is often adequate for anything I want to do, but not always. I can even forward SSH but not all applications work well with that. Sometimes I just want a GUI, as some things are best done in a GUI.

Besides, TeamViewer is free for personal use, and I like TeamViewer because it just works, even over the world wide web without knowing an IP address. I can use it to help friends and relatives by just talking to them long enough to get started.

Frankly, VNC can be a pain in the butt to configure and my favorite VNC client (RealVNC) is proprietary. So, using the proprietary TeamViewer doesn’t bother me. 

If you insist on opensource, this isn’t the tool for you. If you want something that is easy and just works, read on:

Getting and Using TeamViewer:

I’ll explain how to install it with Debian/Ubuntu/etc, but you can easily install TeamViewer for other Linux package management systems. Start by opening your terminal by pressing CTRL + ALT + T.

Once open, let’s grab the latest .deb with wget and install it. If you don’t have wget installed, you can do that with sudo apt install wget and then proceed with:

Copy and paste all three of those lines individually, of course. Press ENTER after each one. The last command should complete the process and would normally be the last step but this is proprietary software so you’ll need to run TeamViewer at least once in order to accept the license agreement. You can just do that in the terminal with:

That should pop up a window where can accept the license and keep on trucking.

Now, you’ll have to install TeamViewer on each device you want to manage and it’ll need to be installed on any device you wish to use to control the rest. Just be careful and read the prompts. It installs and works like a champ.

You’ll need to configure it on each device as well, allowing remote connections and setting up passwords as needed. It can check a centralized server, so the host doesn’t need to know things like ports and passwords.

It’s easily configured the first time, and once you’re done it a remote connection will hopefully look a bit like this:

TeamViewer in action.
This is what a connection might look like. It’s what mine looks like at this minute in time.

You can use this as a single instance or you can configure an account online with the management console to keep track of all your connections from a single point. You’ll spend a confusing amount of time making your browsers and devices ‘trusted’ status. All of this, of course, has obvious privacy implications.

Privacy & Security Concerns:

Again, they’re absolutely going to track your usage. They’ll know your IP addresses and the names of the devices you’re connecting to. They will know when you connect, how long you stay connected, and more. On top of that, they’ll know your email address, if you give it to them.

Having used them for a while, I see no spam from them and they’ve been nothing but acceptably and professionally behaved from my perspective. I don’t even get any regular newsletter emails from them. I think it’s safe to assume they’re currently not doing so. They do a whole lot of email verification steps if you want to trust devices.

Being proprietary, we have no idea what the source code looks like. We have no way to be sure that they’re not being malicious. They’re a business and they’d do poorly if it turned out they were malicious and using this information for spying or anything of that nature. 

If you’re running from an oppressive government, I’d probably not use them. They’re a business and that means they’re likely to respond to lawful requests – and laws around the globe can be pretty terrible.

In fact, if you’re doing anything that’s even remotely secure, I’d suggest not doing so over TeamViewer. Sure, when the application is terminated you can verify that it’s down, but at the same time don’t connect to your remote device to do your banking. That’d just be silly regardless.

As I stated above, I’m quite okay with the potential privacy and security implications. I don’t use Linux because of any philosophical reasons, I use Linux because it just works. If you’re different and object in some way, you should probably just move on and use alternative software to remotely manage your devices.

Closure:

And there you have it! It’s yet another article in the books, another article in the records. Traffic has been high lately, and that’s great. Things are growing in a linear feature and I’m okay with that. Even my Reddit sub is growing – at 50 viewers, up from just a few when I first took the sub over. So, things are going great.

Thanks for reading! If you want to help, or if the site has helped you, you can donate, register to help, write an article, or buy inexpensive hosting to start your own site. If you scroll down, you can sign up for the newsletter, vote for the article, and comment.

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