Has Your Email/Phone (Personal Information) Been Involved In A Data Breach?

Today’s article isn’t all that Linux specific, but pertains to your personal information and whether or not it has been leaked or hacked. This is good information to know. While there’s not much that you can do after the fact, there are steps you can take when the inevitable happens and those steps will vary depending on the severity of the hack and how much information the bad folks got away with.

Basically, when you visit sites you leave at least some information behind. Depending on the site, you may leave more information behind than other sites. For instance, you may leave behind your email address when you signed up for their newsletter. This is relatively benign (insert plug for the Linux-Tips newsletter), but more concerning when you add more information to it – such as your password, phone number, username, answers to security questions, etc…

Sometimes, those sites aren’t all that well defended and people manage to find exploits that give them access to this data. These are known as data breaches. Your data is then, more often than not, put up somewhere online for sale or even for free. The usual goal is to sell this data, as profit is the ultimate motive these days.

There’s quite a bit that bad actors can do with this hacked and leaked data. This is especially true if you do things like re-use passwords. By the way, that’s something you should never do. Don’t use a password or a ‘password system’. Generate random passwords for every use. 

Enter “have i been pwned?”

This have i been pwned? site has been around for a long time. You can visit the site by clicking the following:

have i been pwned?

Go there and enter your email address or phone number. It will then let you know if your data has been exposed in a data breach. The site’s name is a play on the word ‘pwned’ – which means similar to ‘owned’ or, in this case, your personal information been exposed by way of a data breach.

If your personal information has been included in a data breach that was made public, it’ll be listed in the results. For example, I have one email address that was involved in a very dark time for Linux Mint. See this:

my data has been breached
My personal information was compromised in this attack. Also, yes that happened. It’s very much real.

You can be reasonably comfortable putting your email into that site. They have a long, long history of good behavior and, at the end of the day, you’d just lose your email address. So, feel free to drop your email addresses into the site.

NOTE: I take your personal information seriously. If I ask for it, I secure it. I only ask for as much information as required for the role. Signing up for the newsletter doesn’t even ask for a username! Passwords are salted and hashed (not saved in plain text). There’s a layered approach to prevent compromise, including things like requiring 2FA for administrative roles.

Again, “have i been pwned?” has no motivation to do anything with your email address and their reputation is pretty solid. You can drop your email address into the search box safely.

They Lost Your Personal Information: 

So, what can you do if you found out that your personal information has been compromised? There’s not a whole lot, actually. Once the data is out there, it’s out there. You can’t do anything to take it back.

What you can do is stop doing business with these people. You can change your passwords for the compromised sites. You can also check other accounts for signs of compromise. Depending on the data that was lost, you can lock your credit or use a credit monitoring service.

When (not ‘if’) you find your email and personal information in these lists, it can be a little jarring. It’s not entirely unlike finding out that your house has been broken into. But, you can relax. It’s not the end of the world or anything of that nature.

In many cases, passwords aren’t stored in plain text. They’re hashed and salted before they’re stored. The password you typed in is just checked against the hashed values and, so long as you match, you’re let into your account. That’s a great thing, a great start even, but rainbow table attacks still exist to attack hashed passwords.

If there are extra security steps you can take, take them! If you can enable 2FA (2 Factor Authentication), they by all means do so. A login that requires a second factor, such as a code sent to email or to text message, is much more secure. This is more useful before a hack occurs, of course.

When you give out your personal information, ask yourself if you truly need to give the information and if you trust the company with that information. Different companies may have different trust levels for you. I trust this site with all my information, ’cause I own it. I trust sneakydownload.site enough to have my email address and nothing more. There’s a pretty broad spectrum of trust and a very personal choice to make.

Closure:

This article could easily run thousands of words, as security, privacy, and personal information are broad subjects. Be careful who you trust and be sure to check in once in a while to see if your personal information has been compromised. On Linux-Tips.us, I just avoid collecting data. I find it easier to protect your data if I don’t actually have it. However, even this small site is under attack constantly:

Linux Tips attacks
That’s a week’s worth of attacks. That’s just for a small site.

The two spam comment selections are from people/bots who made it through the first levels of defense. Even the rest of the numbers are people who made it through the basic security checks, now that I think about it in this light. Point being that a site is constantly under attack and your personal information is a commodity, so protect it well.

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: Ask A Good Support Question

This article will teach you how to ask a good support question. After all, if you want good support (and of course you do) then you really need to start with a good question. Good questions lead to good answers. Good questions help us help you.

Let’s be frank about this. Asking a good support question is actually a difficult thing  for some people to do. The folks who really need support are often the least-knowledgeable, which already places them at a pretty solid disadvantage. 

Really, it’s hard to ask good questions. In fact, the possible scope of things that would need to be covered in an article of this nature is so large that I’m really only going to be able to give you some general guidelines. I’ll do what I can to help, and remember that various sites may have different conventions, so you’ll have to take from this what you can.

This article is pretty long because it is not easy to ask a good support question. It’s okay, to be new at it. It’s okay to not know everything. But, if you want support, you’ll have to learn how to ask for it. Also, if you’ve been directed to this page, it just means that you could can use some pointers to help us help you.

With all that said and done… Let’s learn how to ask a good support question!

Ask A Good Support Question:

It should be noted that this article is written in a fairly generic manner. After all, I want to make sure it’s useful to as many people as possible. Because of this, I add: When in doubt, follow the local conventions. The support site you’re using may have their own definitions of normal and good. So, as they say, “When in Rome, do as the Romans did.”

Start with a good headline! 

Your headline should actually be a short description. Generic headlines don’t help and won’t attract people to your question. A good headline will inform and be accurate. A good headline will make people want to open the thread and read your question. A bad headline lessens interest and interaction.

Bad: “My computer doesn’t work.”
Good: “After my last update, my computer stops booting after the GRUB screen with a blinking cursor and a black screen.”

Put some effort into crafting your headline. Don’t make it click-bait; make it an accurate summary of the problem. Make it a simple, well-thought-out description of your problem and brief enough to fit as a headline.

But, before you even begin asking questions…

Use the search feature!

Before you post your question, search! Search, search, search! It’s your computer and your problem, you should be the one doing the most research. On top of that, many questions already have an answer. Every support site out there has a search function. Use it!

Don’t just use the forum’s search – use your favorite search engine. Don’t just do a quick search, keep searching. Make it past the first five or ten searcj results, and don’t expect your answer to be on the first link you clicked. You might have to do multiple searches, digging deeper into the problem. Not all problems are easily resolved.

Searching can be hard – especially if you don’t know the jargon or lack the information to know the correct keywords. So, find as much information as you can about your problem and use any error logs you can find. Even if your searching doesn’t give you the answer – it might give you enough information to help us help you.

Hint: If you start an application from the terminal, you might learn something from the text it outputs to the terminal.

Hint: If you want a nice GUI way to read your logs, I highly recommend using ksystemlog. It pulls in just a few dependencies and is a very handy tool to have in your toolbox.

Again, search and then search some more. If nothing else, you’ll have more information, which you can help us to help you. You’ll also learn things along the way. What’s not to love?

While you’re searching, make sure you also search the support site to make sure you put your question in the right sub-forum. The “General” category is not a catch-all, it’s where you put your question when there’s no better category. If your question is about the terminal, put it in the command line sub-forum. If your question is specific to Ubuntu, make sure you put it in the “Debian and derivatives” section, or the “Ubuntu” section if they have it. Use commonsense and put your question in the most appropriate section.

Make your post legible!

If you want help, once again, you have to help us help you. This article is written for more than one site in mind, so I need to be generic. The support forum you choose to use has formatting features – use them! Make use of the formatting to better explain your problem and to better identify the information you’re sharing.

Unless otherwise specified, the language is English. It’s not that we’re trying to be jerks, it’s that we don’t speak your language. Use the DeepL translator (or Google Translate if needed) and post your question in English (when you’re on English-speaking sites). More generic, use the language the forum uses. The translation onus is on you, and not on them.

Use code tags. Every single Linux support forum that I know of has the ability to wrap things in code tags. It will look a little like this:

[code]sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade -y[/code]

Using the code tags where appropriate will properly format the code and make it legible to those who wish to help you. It makes it easier for us to actually see what’s going on. It gives clear line breaks, makes the text distinct, and helps us spot problems. 

Use paragraphs. Giant walls of text aren’t easy to read, nor are they fun to decipher. This is especially true when they’re interspersed with multiple problems and poorly formatted code snippets. Without paragraphs, you might as well be writing gibberish.

For the love of all that’s holy, stop taking screenshots of text! It’s text. Post it as text! When you post your output as text, we can highlight the important bits and search for them. We can edit it and send it back to you. We may know what bit of that text is important and not having to type it out based on a picture is much more efficient.

So, if it is at all possible, do not post text as images. It’s a pain in the butt to get the text during a boot error, so there are obvious exceptions when it’s approached by a reasonable person. But, seriously, try to avoid it. Some of us completely ignore questions that are hard to read or questions that use graphics when text is more appropriate.

Be complete and informative!

There’s almost no such thing as too much information. I mean, sure, you could possibly give us more information than we need, but that’s infinitely better than not enough information.

We not only need to know what distro you’re using, we also need to know what version you’re using. Then, we may also need to know what desktop environment you’re using. We need to know what major changes you’ve made to your system. In some cases, where appropriate, we will also need to know what software version it is you’re talking about. For all but the most basic of questions, we may need to know quite a bit of information.

Believe it or not, we don’t actually know every piece of software that has been written over the years. When necessary, you should provide a link to the software’s home page – so that we can learn about it and help you with it. We’ll maybe even need to know how you installed it, as there are often multiple routes to installation.

If it’s a hardware connection, telling us the model number of your computer isn’t actually enough information. Different models have entirely different configurations while keeping the same model number. We’ll need to know things like what CPU you have, what your GPU model number is, what you have for a sound card, what type of connection to the internet you have, how much RAM you have, and possibly more. A great tool for gathering that information is inxi. We use that tool often on my favorite support site, Linux.org.

Sometimes It’s Not A Problem:

Sometimes, it’s the expected behavior. Yes, your computer will slow down when you have a bunch of browser tabs open and leave them open for days. Yes, your computer will still boot slowly if it’s old and you’re using an OS with a heavy desktop environment while you have everything opening at boot. No, it’s not supposed to show asterisks (some distros do) when you type your password into the terminal.

Be patient and helpful!

Unless you’re paying for support, we’re all volunteers. We owe you nothing. Don’t treat us like paid support and don’t expect us to do the work for you. You’re expected to participate in us helping you. When we ask for follow-up information, provide it in a timely manner. Don’t ask for help unless you have time to follow-up and respond to requests for additional information. Civility and gratitude go a long ways. 

TIP: Limit your questions to one at a time, unless you’re absolutely certain that they’re related. We volunteers tend to specialize in a few areas, so mixing a bunch of questions into one post is just confusing and may lead to your problems remaining unresolved. 

Don’t cross-post.

Pick a forum, one support site, and ask your question there. Chances are good that we’re members of the other forums, so you’re going to get a lot of the same people helping you. Don’t ask the same question at multiple sites, ask at one site – which also makes it easier for the person who’s searching for the same question in the future. Asking at multiple sites is asking folks to duplicate work. It’s just lazy, uninspired, and rude to do so.

Finally!

This is just a general guide. As I told you at the start, asking a good support question isn’t easy. On top of it all, different forums will have different conventions. So, you should probably lurk at a forum before just jumping in. It’s probably a good idea to pick a forum at the same time you pick a distro. That way, they know who you are when you’re asking for their help and you’re already a member of the community before you’re asking for help.

Remember, if your post was resolved, mention it and thank the person that helped you solve it. If you resolve the post on your own, add a comment to let folks know you found the solution – and what the solution was. On the sites that allow it, be sure to edit your title to let folks know the problem has been solved. For example, you can add [Solved] to your original headline and let forum helpers (and people looking for solutions) know that the thread contains a solution.

Closure:

And there it is… I have updated and moved the article that’s meant to help people ask a good support question. Quite a lot of the article has changed, including formatting. In the next day or two, the old link will have a 301 redirect to this link. So, if you’re linking to the older version of this article, it will automatically shunt people over here to view this article about how to ask a good support question.

I’d like to think that this is a ‘living document’. As such, it will change in time. If you can think of worthy additions, please leave a comment below. If this has helped you, please feel free to let us know (in a comment) which section of the article was most helpful to you. Most importantly, I want it to serve as a link folks can use when they want to help folks ask a good support question. The older version of this article was quite beneficial in that way. I hope this one follows suit.

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.

Updated:
02/12/2022 (added the [Solved] and Google translate.

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Meta: I’m Now An Official Lubuntu (And Ubuntu) Member!

It goes without saying that I’m a pretty big Lubuntu fan. The reason it goes without saying is because (as anyone that knows me knows) I have said it plenty of times already! This ‘award’, becoming an official Lubuntu Member, is recognition for past activity in the Linux (specifically in the Lubuntu/Ubuntu sphere) community.

My application was voted on and approved on the 14th of November, so just a few days before you saw this. I actually missed the email notification (just an automated message informing me that I’d been added to a group) and didn’t notice until the congratulations started pouring in. I’ve since received guidance from my mentor, thankfully.

If you don’t know what it means (and what responsibilities you have) to be an official Lubuntu Member, you can learn more about the Membership by clicking this link. There’s more to it and I’ve not yet gone through all the benefits, but I’m pretty happy to have been voted into a rather exclusive club.

Darned right! Not a whole lot of people on the planet can say they’ve been official Ubuntu Members! I guess there are ‘more than 500’ of us currently, which is still a tiny drop in the ocean that is Linux users and the general population at large!

So, yes… Yes, it does make me happy to be a member. The recognition is nice and it’s comfortable to say ‘my peers’ – even though they all pretty much know so much more than I do.

My Lubuntu History:

You should probably start by reading my article here:

What it’s Like To Beta-test Linux, Specifically Lubuntu

That’ll give you most of the information you might need.

Anyhow, Lubuntu has been around since its official recognition in 2011. I’ve been using it nearly as long, as I was really happy to have an Ubuntu official-flavor with LXDE – my preferred desktop at the time. I dare say that it’s still kinda my official favorite DE, but I really have grown to like LXQt. It grows on you in time and is maturing nicely.

About 14 months ago… You know, it’ll take a minute, but let’s get some numbers for posterity! 

Alright, it began officially in October of 2020, when I said the following:

I have some free time coming up. I can toss some hours at this, but not for this release. Do you want testing on bare metal, or is testing in a VM adequate? Is the #Lubuntu IRC the place to go?

Which is the official start of my testing – so to speak. I jumped in just a little while later that month, after 20.10 was released. That means 21.04 was my first full-cycle participation. We’re now testing 22.04 and watching the changes has been informative and interesting.

One of my continued goals has been to learn more while helping. And, man… Did I learn a lot. I’m still learning a lot, and I now have a much better understanding of how Linux works behind the scenes. My troubleshooting abilities have increased because of it. I highly encourage others to get involved. Jump in at the deep end. The immersion helps!

My Lubuntu Future:

After the first cycle, I was actually able to (and was heavily encouraged to do so) apply for official membership. I decided to not apply at that time and to give myself a additional cycle before applying. It seemed prudent to make sure that I was really going to keep helping. 

Sure, the membership is about past contributions but, to me, it implies a level of commitment to future contributions. I plan on keeping on doing what I’ve been doing for the duration. I plan on continuing my education and stepping up to help with the tasks I am able to complete.

Man… It does feel nice to say ‘my peers’, but so many of them know so much more about Linux than I do. I am not even a programmer, at least not a very good one – and time doesn’t seem to be improving that ’cause I don’t have time to learn more. So, I definitely have a bit of that Impostor Syndrome going on.

Just reading the #lubuntu_dev chat has been super informative. Fortunately, I can jump in at any time and ask questions. They’ll help me understand, and point me towards additional educational resources. Everyone I could hope for stood up to help me get my feet on the ground and become a better tester.

It probably doesn’t need saying, but the people in and around the Lubuntu project are pretty awesome. Without them, I’d not be here – of course. I’ve spent a goodly number of years in academia, and it’s comforting to be able to surround myself with the smart people that make up the Lubuntu project.

My contributions elsewhere probably won’t change. I’ve been able to, and fortunate enough to, manage my time – and I’ve been able to set aside blocks of time for different tasks. So, I suspect this means I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing for the foreseeable future.

This also bodes well for the site. If I’m doing what I have been doing, that includes keeping this site active, interesting, and regularly updated with new content. I might as well… If I still have stuff to write about, I might just as well keep writing.

Still, this isn’t set in stone. This site eats a ton of my time. I’m still only planning on a full year – but it seems likely that I’ll just keep pounding the keyboard while hoping an article pops out the other side. It has been a pretty good run so far.

Closure:

For the record: I sure as heck didn’t get here by myself. In fact, if it wasn’t for the many, many positive messages and prompting me to apply, I probably still wouldn’t have applied. I don’t think I’d have felt qualified, if it hadn’t been for the urging. 

The two members I’d like to thank the most for that aspect are Leok and guiverc. Of the two, I consider guiverc to be my mentor. I’m pretty sure there is an official title of “Mentor” in and among the official members. I don’t think guiverc really holds that title, but they have put up with my many questions and given me great guidance over the past year. 

So, I’d like to thank especially both Leok and guiverc, as well as all the other members who have encouraged me, educated me, or just plain tolerated me when I asked questions. I told ’em back at the start that I’d do my best to make sure their time spent helping me learn would not end up as wasted time, and I’d like to think I’ve demonstrated that and made true on my claim.

To the rest of the well-wishing folks, thanks! You too have likely given me reason to keep going with this, in one way or another. Just reading the site is helping to motivate me to continue learning and publishing. Also, please feel free to leave any congratulatory comments here on this site, avoiding leaving them across the various sites. 

As always, 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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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!

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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