Meta: I Should Have Numbered These

It’s time for another meta article. These are just articles where I take a bit of a break and write about the site itself. Some of them have been a little tough to write, but this one promises to be pretty darned easy. (I try to avoid swearing on the site, but sometimes I notice I did when I get to the editing phase. In real life, I swear like a trooper, depending on the company I keep.)

You won’t learn anything major from this article, and none of what you learn will be about Linux! You have been warned!

Well, I haven’t written the article yet – but that stands to reason! I don’t plan on writing anything even remotely educational in this article. I won’t even have to use the code blocks for anything – and you won’t even need to open a terminal! That’s right, it’s an article where you do not have to crack open your terminal. (I cut and paste that instructional ext, mixing it up a little from time to time.)

So, well, I do kinda wish I’d started these meta articles off by numbering them. Then I could kinda keep track of how many I’ve written. I suppose I could still filter it and figure that out. Lemme check…

I’ve used the meta tag for some pretty silly stuff – perhaps by accident. This would be like the 8th one that’s really about the site itself. Maybe I’ll remember to call the next one “#9”. There are a couple of other ‘meta’ articles where I’m not quite sure why I used the tag or title. Ah well… It was probably wine.

The State Of Linux-Tips #8:

So, not that long ago there was an article that I posted without disclosing any details. Let’s just say lessons have been learned. I think even Google noticed, ’cause my traffic hasn’t really grown any since the last time I wrote one of these.

In fact, pretty much all the same data from the last one would apply to this one. In a few areas, my traffic actually decreased a little – not much, but a little. The gains made with keywords like ‘apt purge‘ ranking pretty high seem to be countered by fewer clicks on the other articles.

Basically, it’s a wash… I think Google punished me for about a month, because traffic seems to be increasing again. You can help with that, you know. Share the articles on your favorite social media sites and that’ll help a great deal – more than donating or unblocking ads.

Speaking of ads, I got some money from AdSense and I see no reason to suspect the bills won’t get paid. Well, they’re gonna get paid regardless. So, there’s that, which is nice! 

Literally, the same popular content from last time is the same popular content from this time. It’s almost as if Google put me into stasis, or something. So, I do believe I’ve learned a lesson regarding publishing content from other people with different objectives.

Speaking of which, you can also help by writing an article. I’ll clean it up and make it suitable for publication, including formatting and digging for links as needed. That’d be great. It’s summer and I’m pressed for time. So, that’d really help. You might want to make sure that it’s not something I’ve already covered! We’ve got a ton of content already.

Closure:

That’s it, really! I just wanted to touch base with an easy meta article. Normally, they’re a bit more complicated than this. This time, nothing major has changed. Even my drop in traffic is closer to just staying the same and not increasing in traffic as I have been. It’s down like 1.3% – or pretty much a rounding error. However, the site has been experiencing linear growth – which, mixed with other numbers, makes me think we won’t be seeing a repeat of the article shared a month or so ago.

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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Bonus Article: KGIII Rants A Little About Security

The below ‘article’ is a rant about security – except it was written while really, really intoxicated. It’s not very good. I can’t even clean it up to make it good – but it does have some good bits scattered throughout and I’m just going to publish this as a ‘BONUS ARTICLE‘. 

Note: I may someday break this article down into bits and pieces, which is the only way I can think of to make it worth reading. At this point, I just don’t want the time to be wasted, so it might as well get published.


After trying to edit it, again while inebriated, I am not sure I can turn this into an article… I’m a bit inebriated. It’s perfectly legal here. I think I can… It’ll need to be pretty simple.

Let’s talk some basics about security!

You know what I get a kick out of? I get a kick out of seeing the people who move to Linux for “privacy reasons”, only to see them log back in to social media/forums to show that they have now moved to Linux.

They’ll login to accounts where they left plenty of personal information.

I’m not sure who they think they’re hiding from, but it’s not good privacy and they’re hiding from nobody important.

Real privacy is difficult, possibly next to impossible.

Seriously… Even the vaunted Tor is generally only as safe as you are smart, and then only on .onion domains. Once you hit the regular web, you’re probably not safe from a nation-state. Here are some theoretical attacks against Tor.

Realistically? How much privacy do you need or want? As you can guess, it’s a spectrum and and there are extremes on either end. There are also the law of diminishing returns on either end of the spectrum.

By the way, privacy is not security. Privacy is just one aspect of security.

So then, what is security?

Let’s start with the basics. For at least ‘good’ physical security, it should be ‘who you are’, ‘something you have’, and ‘something you know’.

For example, the security guard should check your ID to ensure who you are. The ID is something you have. The something you know is a password, a PIN, or a passphrase. That’s the least amount of security you can physically have to be any good.

Then, there are things you can do to improve it, for example. You can make it a rotating passphrase, make the guards work in pairs, require confirmation from someone proven to be in the building at the time, etc… You can do a layered approach where they may need all three of those things to enter yet another section and incorporate a man-trap between them.

Of course, on the other end of the spectrum is anyone and anything gets in and out. We tend to call those public spaces, when anyone can get in and out. As a general rule, you lose some rights to be in the public spaces – among those rights would be some degree of privacy (which will vary per jurisdiction). That’s pretty damned insecure. As far as security (and privacy goes) that’s the opposite.

So, again, there’s this giant spectrum of security. Where you want to be on that line is up to you. I find it’s a judgement call. We’re even willing to give up some privacy to be recognizable on a forum. Some of that lack of privacy is what keeps the forum secure and running smoothly. We give that privacy up because we get something in exchange.

At the same time, we might not want Google knowing everything we’re up to. We may be some dissident trying to reach a journalist to expose human rights violations and be under legitimate threat of death – or worse than death. We all make judgement calls about how much of our information we’re going to share.

And, really, unless you’re at the extremes, life is pretty good. It’s pretty easy to retain a little bit of privacy while participating in an online community. It’s less easy to do so with a typical Facebook account. where you are in some way connected to a more physical you.

Me? Oh, come on… I’ve long-since eaten the Google kool-aid. The ads here are from Google. I use their Analytics to better optimize the site, and all that – and more. Hell, I use Google Chrome and I’m logged in as the same user that does all those other things. I don’t use Gmail very often, so there’s that. I only use one of their accounts and that’s just to service my phone. But, that too is tied to all things Google.

The thing is, I know this. I know the privacy I give away. I made an informed decision to cede that privacy for those benefits. For me, the risks outweigh the benefits and I have a level of trust for Google. 

That’s the right choice – for me. Y’all make your own choices. If you don’t know how to block Analytics (or ads), just go ahead and ask. Just because I use those things doesn’t mean you need to. You’re perfectly free to block anything you want. You’ll still show up and be counted in the raw server logs. I’ll still be able to see what you did on the site. (Don’t worry, I don’t much care – unless you’re harming the site. The site’s security automatically blocks hundreds of requests per day.) But, yeah, I could see your IP address.

Oh, man… Oh no!!! Your IP address?!?

And the things people think about their IP address, as though it’s some great secret. If you really care, use a VPN – but learn what a VPN actually is before buying into the hype. They tout it as some great security (and it actually can be, but not how you’re using it) but it’s not really. Especially if you’re logging into sites like the video site you’re unlocking!

By the way, it’s ‘security’ when you connect to a VPN ’cause a web access point is locked down so that it only takes inputs from one IP address. That’s not how you’re gonna be using your VPN. (Well, you might, if you keep reading these articles.)

No, your IP address isn’t important. There’s no l337 hacker out there that’s just waiting to learn your IP address before he dusts the Cheetos off his shirt and gets to work hacking you. It’s just bots scanning bots at this point and you’re behind a NAT anyhow. Keep your stuff secure, mostly by keeping it off the public internet.

Ah, yes… The MAC address people…

No, you don’t need to change your MAC. The only reason you’d want to do so would be for something local. It’s not hiding you from Google, ’cause it’s only seen at the very first hop in network traffic. Once the packet is beyond that point, it uses its own MAC address. While changing your MAC address is a useful skill (for local “Spoofing” purposes), it’s not gonna make you appear any different to the rest of the web.

Lemme see… 

More security stuff to spew out onto the page?

I’ve been known to say, “Security is a process, not an application.” I’m probably not the first to express it similarly, but it doesn’t make it any less true. It is indeed a process. It starts best with a good plan and deciding where on the spectrum you’d like to be. Be sure to compare that with where on the spectrum you need to be to accomplish your computational goals. Somewhere in the middle is probably gonna be the sweet spot for you.

The thing is, you have to know where you can be on the spectrum involved. You have to know what the extremes are. You have to be aware of what techniques are available and what they really do. You need to be aware of what threats there are and what goals you want to accomplish. ‘Cause the only completely secure computer is one that doesn’t work and you might want to be extra sure by burying it in 25 feet of concrete.

Want some privacy? How about blocking third party cookies and scripting. How about you take a look at browser fingerprinting and deciding where you want to be on that spectrum? In pretty much every OS you can block DNS requests by using  your hosts file. There are even curated lists that you can download and use.

Alright, I wrote this while impaired. I’ll eventually schedule it or delete it. I’ll probably proofread it, maybe trying to make it salvageable, and the likes.


Meh… After reading this sober, I’m just gonna submit it as a bonus article. It’s not very good. I just barely proofread it and it wasn’t nearly as good as it seemed while drunk!

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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Meta: 200th Post

Today’s article is just a quick note, nothing long or important, that marks our 200th post. It has been a long time coming, but it’s finally here. I’ve had some help along the way, but I’ve written all but a few of the articles. Yeah, we’re at 200 articles on Linux-Tips.

I initially said I’d do this for a year. That year passed a while ago and I’m still going. I’m still not out of ideas for articles, so I keep writing them. Of course, getting to do a non-article type of thing (like this) provides a bit of a break from writing the regular types of articles.

I’ve done these meta types of posts before. In those posts, I pointed out ways you could help. None of you seemed all that interested in helping, so I’ll just skip that section this time around. If you want to help,  you know how to do so. If not, well… I’ll just keep doing it by myself. After all, I got us to the 200th post!

At The 200th Post Mark:

So, the site’s search engine traffic is growing slowly but steadily. In the past 28 days, I’ve had 3100+ visits from just Google. Overall, site traffic increases a little and we’re hovering at about 7500 unique visitors per month. They visit about 13,000 times each month. This excludes bot/scraper traffic, of course. I get quite a bit of non-human traffic but it makes no sense to include them in my records.

The search engine traffic is nifty. They’re most interested in:

screenfetch vs. neofetch
changing the default terminal
Ubuntu’s restricted errors

Those three pages and search terms (combined) make up most of the search engine traffic we get. We rank in the top 10 for a whole mess of keywords. I’m not quite sure how that happened, but I’m glad it did.

That traffic is mostly from the United States, with 80% of the traffic being Linux users – most of whom using Chrome as their browser. However, a large chunk (35%) are unknown browsers. 

The average user also spends about 3m 12s on the site. Excluding those visitors from search engine results, the most frequent referrer is Linux.org. Imagine that? I think that’d be expected. Also to be expected, Linux.org visitors tend to be repeat visitors more than any other visitors – and are so by a very wide margin.

Closure:

I’m not sure what other stats you’d be interested in. Long gone are the days where I visited more than anyone else (meaning the admin control panel was the most opened page). It hasn’t been like that since about a month after I got the site finished. If you’re interested in any other stats, I’ll see what I can dig out – just ask.

The search engine traffic amazes me. I’m always a bit surprised to see so many people using my site – with so few questions, meaning I must be doing something right. Once in a while I get a correction, and I always appreciate that. Google refers to my site as ‘high traffic’ but I’m not sure what they compare us with. Sure, most sites get no traffic, but we really don’t get that much traffic.

Anyhow, we’ve hit 200 articles as of this one – which isn’t really much of an article. Still, I’m gonna count it and let’s hope we get to 400! I suppose we just might get there, but it’s gonna be a long road with a whole lot more articles than I ever dreamed I’d write. So, we shall see!

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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Running Away From Windows

There are many new Linux users, people interested in Linux, that are running away from Windows. Instead, what they should be doing, is running towards Linux. When asked ‘who should use Linux’, my answer would be ‘anyone that wants to’. But, in all the years I’ve been involved in the community, I’ve learned a few things about who is most likely to have more success. 

Today’s article won’t be tech or jargon, or even a how-to… It’s just a bit of a short essay about some observations made over the years. As I said above, I’ve learned a few things. Let me try to explain them as best as I can. (Besides, it’s a nice day to not do a how-to article. A change of pace is always a good idea.)

Important: I don’t want to seem elitist. This is not about elitism – it’s about your point of view and your reasons for the actions you take.

In fact, I figure pretty much anyone can learn to use Linux if they want to and they’re sufficiently motivated to do so. But, I find those that ask the most questions and need the most help are those who are running away from Windows instead of running towards Linux. The folks that are running towards Linux are the ones that read the documentation, search before asking questions, study the books, troubleshoot effectively, etc…

Let me try to distill this into easy to grasp concepts:

A person who is running away from Windows says, “I hate Windows! I’m switching to Linux!” 

A person who is running towards Linux says, “I’m curious about how Linux works, and I want to make it work for me.”

They’re two very different mentalities and, as one might expect, often have very different results. No, not always will the results be different – I’m speaking about averages and observations. It’s very much possible to run away from Windows while becoming a very proficient Linux user. The opposite is also true, you can run towards Linux and fail. This post just speaks to generalities. Outliers exist.

Running Away From Windows:

These folks tend to ask questions that can be easily answered. They rely on you to do the work for them, and expect to be spoon-fed the help they need. I saw a good example thread today where someone was asking about Python and when they were fed all the information they needed, they responded with “… Now what?”

These people fight with Linux rather than embrace it. They never take the time to understand that Linux is not Windows. They’re not that interested in actually learning to use Linux, they’re interested in not using Windows.

Six months later, they’re still  making the same mistakes only now they’re convinced that Linux is broken – and they have the answers about how to ‘fix’ Linux. When they wear out the welcome mat at one support forum, they’ll move to another. Odds are very good that they won’t use Linux for a full year before they quit. They’ll go back to Windows for various reasons, but mostly because they refused to learn. They’ll say things like how Linux is too hard, not ready for mainstream, or fundamentally flawed to the point where it’s not useful as a desktop operating system (even though many, many millions of us do so every day).

Think of it like a zombie movie… The people who are running away are the ones that get captured and eaten. They spend half their time looking back to see what’s chasing them. Their fear leads them to irrational decision making. They lack purpose, confidence, and cognition simply because of their mindset. It doesn’t have to be that way. What they could have been doing was running towards something – like a weapon and higher elevation.

Running Towards Linux:

Now these are the folks I prefer – and for obvious reasons. They’re hungry for knowledge and really eager to learn as much as they can. They’ll burn out, of course, but quite a few will make it through and maybe become proficient forum helpers themselves some day. You can spot ’em pretty easily. They have laser focus. That is, they have clear goals that can be articulated, and the drive needed to reach those goals.

They ask precise questions – questions that can actually be answered. If you want, you can just give them a few keywords and send them out searching on their own, knowing that they’ll do just that. They’re the types of people who try, try, and try again – and then ask for help about the specific area where they got stuck.

They don’t want to be spoon fed, unless they ask for a detailed answer. They don’t need to be spoon fed, because after reading your answer they either understand or they’ll go searching to find more information. They are ‘self-starters‘ with ample motivation.

I don’t want to say that these are the kinds of people who should be using Linux. After all, I think everyone can use Linux – provided they put the effort into learning. (I think people also tend to overlook how long it took them to become truly proficient with Windows, Apple, or whatever OS it was they have been using. They seem to expect their prior knowledge to be some sort of shortcut, even though it’s not that applicable ’cause Linux ain’t Windows!)

But, I will say that those people running towards Linux are more likely to have a better time of it, and remain a Linux user longer, than those who use Linux because they’re running away from Windows. If you’re going to decide to use Linux, make sure you have good reasons to do so. Run towards the goal, not away from a fear. The motivation behind switching to Linux matters.

Final Thoughts:

When you’re running away from something, you’re not making good choices. You’re not looking where you’re going. You stumble and fall and the zombies chasing you end up cracking open your skull to dine on the delicious gushy bits within. 

When you’re running towards something, you’re focused. You don’t just want success, you want to get there as rapidly and as best as you can. You want to know everything you need to know to win the race and you’re motivated to pull yourself up over and over again.

So, before you decide to give Linux a try, you should stop and think about why you’re doing so. Are you running away from something? If you are, maybe think about it a while longer and try Linux when you’re running towards it as a goal – and not when running away from something else as your priority.

The goals and priorities are very different for each mentality and you’ll have a far better time if you’re running towards Linux than you’ll have if you’re running away from Windows (or Apple, or Chrome, or whatever else you might be using).

Just some food for thought.

Me? I ran towards Linux because I wanted something new. I wanted new challenges – and a familiarity of the old (I was a Unix user for part of my life). Additionally, I wanted the comfort that comes from knowing my operating system is gonna be just fine and that I don’t have to worry about it. Plus, I wanted to experience Linux on the desktop as my sole operating system.

Learning new ways of computation was a goal, as was understanding my computer better. I’m happy for those choices and goals and every time I sit down at my computer, I’m still running to meet those objectives. Every day, I make certain to learn more about Linux than I knew the day before.

For the record, I don’t mind Windows users. They don’t concern me. If it works for them, it works for them. ‘Snot my job to change their views. If they want to run towards Linux, we’ll be here to help them. Use the tools you need to get the job done. If that’s Windows, it’s no skin off my back. My ego isn’t so frail that I need people to agree with me about desktop operating system choices. But, don’t switch because you’re mad at Windows, switch because you want to love Linux.

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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Meta Article: The State Of Linux Tips?

I like to do a meta article once in a while, a bit of a break from the normal writing and the chance to just speak about whatever is going on with the site itself. Today, today is one of those meta articles.

More than a year ago, I set out to put my notes online. More than a year later, I’m not even close to complete – and I’ve consistently published an article every other day for just about a year. I still have tons of notes.

The site started off on a .gq domain – a free domain – that was universally hated by every search engine on the planet. On top of that, getting a .gq TLD email through spam filters was pretty much impossible.

At one point, I decided I’d take the project a little more seriously and moved to a .us domain name. You could say that that’s when Linux Tips was truly born. I also decided to reset the clock and to start the year over again. I figured the new site would be motivation and that I could probably keep it going without missing too many days. (Note: I’ve so far missed no days!)

And, like all good things, that year is coming to an end. The very first article on the new domain was Welcome To Our New Home! – on April 16th, 2021. For those who can’t use a calendar, or use a different calendar, that means we’re just about 2 weeks from the official end of this project.

Many of you will have read the comments in my “Closure” sections and already have guessed what I’m going to say next.

The Future: 

I plan on keeping the site going. I plan on continuing to put my notes online and the interesting things I discover.

You might ask why, and I think I’d point to a few reasons (among the many).

  1. I am learning so much.
  2. I am still having fun.
  3. The results have been amazing.

Not a day goes by these days without at least a couple hundred unique visitors. It’s not unique to get twice that many – enough so that I’m now crossing into a position where I am just going to pay for CDN services. (I’m happy with the company I’m currently using and their rates are reasonable.)

Technically, assuming my cost for my time was zero, the site has made a few bucks with the Google Ads. It’s reaching the point where it’s likely to cover expenses – including covering the CDN. I’ve long since come to grips with the fact that it’ll never pay me for my time – and I’m okay with that.

By the way, the CDN isn’t because I worry about bandwidth, it’s because it makes the site faster to load. Google loves a site that loads quickly and this site now ranks pretty high for a bunch of keywords and phrases. Making sure the site is responsive is a definite part of modern SEO. (These are things I’ve mostly had to learn on the fly. Like I said, it has been pretty educational.)

Actually, for the month of March, the site averaged ~250 unique visitors per day. It chewed through about 10 GB (not much) bandwidth – but most of that was CDN bandwidth. The CDN company lets me pay for what I use and not some flat rate, which is nice.

So, you can assume I’ll still keep the site going. Granted, I still have a couple of weeks to decide and may change the publication schedule – but the site’ll remain here and get additional content.

Some Meta Stuff:

Seeing as I’m here, I might just as well give you some other numbers. It seems like the thing to do, and I’ve done something like this in past meta articles. Traffic has steadily increased. Traffic has steadily improved by every metric, with people spending more and more time on the site. Truth be told, I’m quite amazed at the success. At one point, I was legitimately happy when I’d get 25 visitors in a single day.

The three busiest articles this month were:

  1. Disable Hibernation/Sleep On Ubuntu Server
  2. Screenfetch vs. Neofecth
  3. Quickly Reset Ubuntu’s Repositories

I mentioned search engine traffic above and, like the most recent norms, the vast majority of unique visitors came from search engines. Google alone sent me ~5200 visitors – surprisingly some of them were repeat visitors.

A much smaller number of visitors – but still the most from any site other than a search engine – was (of course) Linux.org. It’d be nice to get some more traffic from other places (while not losing traffic from Linux.org). You can help with that!

You Can Help!

I know y’all have social media accounts. Well, some of you… You can easily share to the major social media sites. I made it really, really easy. There are quick links to do so at the top of every article. If your favorite social media site isn’t there immediately – it might be in the menu under the plus arrow –  pointed to in the following image.

Help out Linux-Tips.us by sharing the articles on social media!
The big ones are listed (I can add more at request) and the rest are hidden.

There are literally like 100 social media sites hidden under the arrow and by clicking on the more option. When they say ‘more’, they aren’t kidding. There are sites in there I’ve never even heard of before!

If you participate on Reddit, you can share it in the Linux subredits without making me look like a spammer! I’d do it myself, but that’s just bad form. Actually, I have done it myself – and had some solid results – but it felt kinda icky and one subreddit banned me without warning.

There are still other ways to help… You can donate, you can write articles, you can just vote on the articles, you can leave comments with additional information, and you can sign up for the newsletter – that only sends messages when new articles are published.

If you want to help in some way, just let me know. I hate proofreading but I do it anyhow. A skilled editor would be pretty sweet. Some more guest articles would be fun. Oddly, I get emails asking me if they can pay me for a guest article (and the nofollow links in it), but I decline those offers.

I’d accept the articles if they were topical, but I just can’t seem to figure out how investing strategy would be topical on this site. So, I don’t get to charge for those. I’m told they pay pretty well for a site such as this – like a few digit sum worth of money. I just really don’t want to sully the site with guest articles that don’t fit the subject.

Closure:

So, yeah… The site’s almost certainly going to keep going. I might relax a little and take a day off now and then, but that’s fine. Heck, I still have articles on the original site that haven’t migrated to this site. I suspect I have many articles left in me and I’m not yet bored to tears with the project.

It hasn’t always been easy. But, I’ve not missed a single day, even with a pandemic and internet outages. Even when sicker than a dog, you’ve had an article every other day. A couple of ’em weren’t all that good – but there were articles. I’ve even made a few mistakes along the way, but I love all the feedback I get that tells me when I messed up.

If the site is missing features, let me know. I might be able to do something. I’d toss up a forum, but I don’t want to be seen as competing with other forums. I have thought about chatting and setting up a few chat rooms. All the acceptable scripts are a bit more than I feel like paying, so I’ve never done much with it other than research it.

Anyways… One year is pretty much done. I don’t know what the future holds, but you can help shape that future. All you gotta do is step up and opine or offer to help.

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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