You Can, And Probably Should, Use VSCodium Instead Of VSCode

This article’s goal is to raise awareness of VSCodium, an open-source alternative to VSCode that has a couple of important benefits and changes. This isn’t the kind of article that I usually write, but it seems important to make people aware of the choices they have here.

This isn’t really a software review, nor is it really news. After all, if you’re in the business you’re already aware of VSCode (Visual Studio Code) and the benefits. If you’re not in the business, VSCode is a source code editor that comes with a bunch of features that make a programmer’s life easier.

VSCode is quite popular, made by Microsoft, and is available to Linux users. Microsoft has made VSCode’s source code mostly open (but not necessarily ‘free’) and VSCode is free-as-in-beer for anyone who wants a source code editor. It’s popular because it’s actually pretty good. 

It was released back in 2015, with most of the source code covered by the MIT license. In the 2019 SE Dev Survey results, it was #1 among respondents, which was the most recent I could actually find. By most accounts, it’s a great piece of software and a valuable tool.

Why VSCodium:

Not all of VSCode is open source and it’s only free as in beer. The source isn’t free as in libre, because it doesn’t preserve all freedoms. It also comes with telemetry, meaning that it reports on things like how you use the software, what software you’re using with it, what kind of hardware you’re using, and things like that. 

Many Linux users care about those two things. They want their software to have a permissive license. They don’t want their software reporting anything about them to anyone. Those are reasonable wants and the community is usually pretty good about providing alternatives.

In this case, they’ve changed the way it is compiled, and what is compiled with it. They’ve also packaged it for most operating systems out there. They’ve made a package available that’s entirely licensed under the MIT License (permissive, free) and made it easy to get.

I’m not going to duplicate a bunch of information by cutting and pasting. That’s also a good practice when the content may change, so I’ll just link to a couple of pages.

Visit the VSCodium home page, click here.
Visit the VSCodium code repo page, click here.

To get a feel for the project, and to see the vast amounts of effort the maintainers put into it, visit the first link. If you just want to find the right package to get for your system, click the second link. Those links will help you get VSCodium properly installed, usually in a pretty painless fashion. Worst case scenario, they show you how to compile it and how to make your own packages.

It’s so easy to install that I did so just to have access to it on this system, one I mostly only use for writing and browsing. It took a total of three commands. If you’ve done it properly, it’ll look something like this:

VSCodium's about page
That’s the current version, using the PPA method. It was an easy-enough process.

Just follow the installation instructions for your particular version of Linux and you shouldn’t have any issues. If you do, you can always raise issues at their GitHub link, leave a comment here, or drop us a line at Linux.org. Someone will help get you sorted.

By using VSCodium, you can have all the greatness that is VSCode while preserving the important liberties. It’s a great piece of software!

Closure:

This isn’t my “normal” type of article, but I’ve really wanted to make sure people are aware of the options when it comes to VSCode and VSCodium. This is one of those times when you can have your cake and eat it to. 

By the way, there are all sorts of great pieces of software out there. I’ve written a review, an introduction, and some comparative pieces. I think I may do more of them. They take about the same amount of time to write and edit, but there are some great pieces of software out there and people just aren’t aware of them. Feel free to drop an idea or the name of your favorite software as a comment. If you like these types of article, be sure to vote and comment!

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balenaEtcher: A Tool To Turn Linux .ISO Files Into Bootable USB Drives

balenaEtcher is a free software tool used to write .ISO files to USBs so that you can boot from them and install Linux. balenaEtcher is just one of many tools to do this, but it is both simple and effective. That makes it fit for purpose and is why it is getting its own article.

You’re going to need a blank USB drive, like a thumb drive. Well, it needn’t be blank but it should be. It needs to be large enough to meet the requirements of your distro – usually 4 GB is adequate. Larger is fine.

You’re also going to need the correct .ISO from the distro you’re trying to install. I have no way of knowing what that is, so here’s an article about picking the distro that’s right for you. You should verify the integrity of the .iso to eliminate it as a source of problems.

You’re also going to need to know how to boot to USB. That link will take you to an article that covers that, and includes DVD. It covers booting to something other than your default drive.

Finally, you’re going to need balenaEtcher. Head to this page and scroll down. If you scroll down, you’ll see many download options. It’s available for everything from Linux to MacOS.

Download the correct version for the operating system you’re currently using. If you download the AppImage, be sure to make it executable before trying to run it. Either way, you’ll need to download balenaEtcher (maybe install it) and then run it. That’ll vary depending on your OS, but they even have .deb and .rpm files available.

All set?

Let’s Use balenaEtcher:

With all those pieces in place, balenaEtcher is fairly self-explanatory. I’m going to assume you got it to work properly. If you can’t get it installed or running from the AppImage, just leave a comment and I’ll talk you through it for your system. You can also ask on Linux.org.

It’ll look something like this when you first open it.

balenaEtcher pick a file
In this case, you’ll pick “Flash from file”.

Then, you’ll click ‘Flash from file’ and doing so will let you navigate to and select the .iso you want to use. Do so, being sure to get it correct.

Next, you’ll select the target. The target in this case means the USB drive that you want to write the .iso to. So, that will be the smaller flash drive in most cases and will look something like this:

balenaEtcher in action
Select the right flash drive. Be very careful at this stage! This step can go horribly wrong!

There’s just one step remaining! You need to click the Flash button and wait for it to do its job writing the .ISO to the USB drive. It looks like this:

balenaEtcher in action
Click the ‘flash’ option and wait patiently while it does its job.

That could take a little while, though not all that long if you’re using USB 3.0. On USB 2.0 it takes a bit, so be prepared to wait – but not terribly long. 

When this is all done, just close the program and your new USB device should be ready. You should be able to boot your computer, select the USB drive as the boot device, and then install Linux. Most of the time, it goes just swimmingly. If it doesn’t, ask for help.

Again, don’t forget to verify the integrity of the downloaded .ISO before you do any of this. The process for doing that varies, and the distro will tell you how on their download page. Have fun installing Linux!

I’ll probably eventually take the screenshots of me installing Linux in a virtual machine, but I haven’t done that article yet. It seems like a good future article to write.

Closure:

Well, there’s another article. This is just a nice, quick article. It’s handy for when you need to know how to use balenaEtcher, or when you need to tell someone else how to use it. It’s one of the articles I’d expect to see people linking to on a regular basis. “Hey, this is how you use Etcher!”

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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‘traceroute’ in Linux, Let’s Take a Closer Look!

This article will explain a little about ‘traceroute’ as a network diagnostic application. We’ll give a few traceroute examples, enabling you to figure out some networking issues.

Whenever I find myself unable to connect to a networked device, including websites online via the internet, one of the first tools I reach for is called ‘traceroute’. It’s not exclusive to Linux and you may know of the tool ‘tracert’ in Windows that does the same thing.

traceroute defines itself as this:

traceroute – print the route packets trace to network host

More realistically, it shows you the hops (devices) you go through in order to make a connection. See, when you connect to a different computer over the network, you don’t generally do so without going through other devices. Your data will travel through multiple devices to reach the source device and all those hops along the way are potential points of failure.

Sometimes those devices are under your control and you can actually do something about it. Other times, it’s just informative and all you can do is wait, or inform someone else and hope they fix it. If nothing else, you’ll know where your packets stopped or slowed down to the point of uselessness.

For example, there 13 hops (devices) between me and linux-tips.us.

traceroute in action
See? There are 13 hops to reach my destination. 

So, while that picture should explain it well enough, let’s get a little deeper.

Using traceroute:

You may find that traceroute isn’t already installed. If it isn’t, it’s absolutely in your default repositories. However you would normally install software is how you install this. If you look, traceroute is sure to be in there. So, go ahead and install it if it’s not already installed. For example:

Just adjust that to your package management system and it’ll be in there. It’s that important a tool that I’m sure it’s in there. In fact, I’m a bit surprised that it’s not always installed by default, but it isn’t.

Now, the most basic usage is just like you saw in the image above.

So long as you’re within 30 hops and use 60 or fewer packets, that’s going to work well enough. The information it spits out is what devices it has traveled through (their hostname and IP address) and RTT – Round Trip Times. There are three of them because three packets are sent. Ideally, you’ll see your destination listed last. If not, you’ll see the closest you got to your destination.

If you see an asterisk, that means the device didn’t respond as expected. Frequently, this means the device is blocking ICMP. You can try to get around this by using ICMP ECHO (-I) or TCP (-T) packets. However, both of those will require elevated permissions, or the use of sudo.

All of this is mostly informative – unless you’re in control of the network and devices.

When it’s a network and devices under your control, you can use this information to troubleshoot. You can see the device names and time taken for packet transit, narrowing down your choices for troubleshooting.

When you’re using this over the public internet, you’re subject to other people who control the devices. If you find a break along the way, about all you can do is wait – or maybe use the data to contact your ISP (or hosting provider, if it’s your site that you’re trying to reach).

There are other options with traceroute. You can change the port you use, you can send more or fewer packets, you can not resolve hostnames, and more. To see the rest of the traceroute options:

That will fill you in with the many other choices you have. I find I don’t really need the advanced options, but system admins may need some of the features. As a regular user, I just use it to troubleshoot my own connections on my private network or when I am having web hosting/connectivity issues.

Closure:

And there you have it. Another article is in the books, and this time it’s just a nice easy article about the venerable traceroute. If you don’t already have this tool in your toolbox, it’d be worth adding and adding a basic familiarity to your mental toolbox.

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: Properly Delete a User’s Account

Today’s article will show you how to properly delete a user’s account. It’s a pretty basic task and an astute observer would note that I’ve not yet written an article about creating user accounts. I may have to write said article at some point, because why not? This promises to be a pretty easy and brief article!

When you install some software, it may add a user. When you remove that software, it may just leave that user behind. You may have multiple people using your devices, or you may be working in a corporate environment. Either way, there comes a time when you may want to clean house and delete user accounts that are no longer necessary.

It can be just a little tricky to properly delete a user’s account, so I figure it’s something worth covering. The tool we’ll be using is ‘userdel‘ and my checking indicates it’s universal. Let’s get to it!

Delete A User:

I’m gonna assume that you already know the name of the user you’d like to remove from your system. With that information in hand, let’s open the terminal by pressing CTRL + ALT + T on your keyboard. 

Once you have the terminal open, you can do a basic user delete with:

If the user has a /home/user directory, you can delete that at the same time with this:

Seems nice and easy, right? Well, before you should run any of those commands you should be sure that the user is both not logged in and has no processes running in their name. If you do have either of those things, you will want to run this command before running either of the userdel commands above:

You can also try the -f (force) option with the userdel, but I’ve never had good luck with that. So, your better using killall before you use userdel. If you’d like to try it, here it is:

And that’s actually everything. There’s likely to also be a graphical way to delete users and that’ll depend on your desktop environment. Rather than play around with learning and documenting all those, you can just do it in the terminal where it’s easy enough and equally effective.

Closure:

And now you know how to delete a user account, and how to do it properly. Indeed, this is another article in the books and hopefully this one will help people for years to come. It’s a good idea to not have pointless users around on your system. If they exist, they can be used.

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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Let’s Use rkhunter To Look For Rootkits

In this article, we’ll go hunting for rootkits with a tool known as ‘rkhunter‘. It’s relatively easy to use rkhunter and this article will show you how. Don’t worry, it’s not all that complicated. You can do it.

Recommended reading: What You Need to Know About Linux Rootkits

So, what is a rootkit? Well, for the purposes of this exercise, a rootkit is malware that hides itself while allowing privileged access to the system. In other words, it’s the kit that allows an unauthorized person to use the system with root privileges. The word ‘malware‘ refers to software that would do you or your system harm.

A rootkit is one of many types of malware, like viruses and trojans, and Linux isn’t entirely immune to such. If you give an application privileges, it can and will use those privileges. That’s true for software you want and software you don’t want.

Malware exists for Linux! Know what you’re installing before you install it, and get your software from legitimate sources! Linux has some security advantages, and your actions can easily nullify those advantages. If you give something the permissions necessary to make it executable, it can be executed – even if it’s malware.

The rkhunter application is a software tool that will help you check your system for rootkits and some other exploits. It doesn’t help you remove them, it only helps you identify them. 

If you’re curious, rkhunter describes itself as:

rkhunter is a shell script which carries out various checks on the local system to try and detect known rootkits and malware. It also performs checks to see if commands have been modified, if the system startup files have been modified, and various checks on the network interfaces, including checks for listening applications.

Let’s put it to use!

Hunt Rootkits With ‘rkhunter’:

In order to use rkhunter, you have to install it. It’s possibly in your default repos and your package manager is ready to install it. If not, you can grab a copy from their repository and build it. Those using Debian or the likes, can just install it with:

You can adjust that for your distro to see if it’s available. If it’s a mainstream distro, it’s probably available. Once installed, you start the scan with:

This command (there are others, jcheck man rkhunter) will be interactive. You need to sit there to press ENTER once in a while. It’s quick and monitoring it means you’ll see any warnings.

Once it has finished running it will tell you about any warnings. A warning doesn’t necessarily mean an infection!

After checking the warnings, see the log for more information. Read the log every time – that’s where most of the output is stored. Read the log with:

Now it’s up to you. You need to process that information. You may see output such as this:

That doesn’t mean I have 8 rootkits, it means I need to check the logs further to see what it’s calling a potential rootkit. In this case, one of the signs of a rootkit is a process that takes up a lot of RAM. Well, my browser is taking up a bunch of RAM and that’s one of the things it is warning me about.

When I say it’s up to you, it’s really up to you. You have to read the report and the logs to understand what is going on. DO NOT PANIC! The warnings can look scary – but they’re often just warnings. Read the logs thoroughly and understand what you’re reading before you do anything drastic!

Closure:

And there you have it! Another article in the books and this one about security. If you think you have a rootkit, feel free to leave a comment, but rkhunter tends to be a little trigger-happy with the warnings.

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.

Last Updated on October 15, 2021 by KGIII

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