Strip Password From A Password-Protected PDF

One company likes to send me a password-protected PDF every month, and it can be a pain typing in the password every time. Fortunately, we don’t have to! To completely remove the password from password-protected PDFs, keep reading!

Now, there are times when removing the password from a password-protected PDF is against corporate policy or may be a violation of regulations. I suppose a good rule might be, “Don’t tamper with the password protection unless the PDF belongs to you.”

That said, it’s actually pretty easy to remove the passwords from password-protected PDFs. It’s easy and I’ll show you how! This won’t even have to be a very long article!

Remove Password From A Password-Protected PDF:

Like oh so many of my articles, this one starts with the terminal open. If you don’t know how to do that, it’s easy. Just use your keyboard and press CTRL + ALT + T and your default terminal emulator will open.

The tool we’ll be using is called ‘qpdf‘ and it describes itself as:

PDF transformation software

Once you have that open, one of the following should help you install qpfd:

Debian/Ubuntu:

Arch/Manjaro:

RHEL/Fedora:

Any of those should get you to the point where qpdf is installed, and there shouldn’t be (m)any dependencies. Using it is just as easy as installing it.

Obviously, you change “PASSWORD” to the password that’s used in the password-protected PDF to the actual password. You also use the name (and path) of the PDF and a new name for the new PDF that has no password. That will, of course, remove the password and you can delete the original after verifying that it worked.

BONUS:

You can actually use qpdf to make a password-protected PDF. It’s also easy and the command would look like this:

In this case, the PASSWORD is your new password and it must be typed twice. The 256 is the key-length used to encrypt the PDF. To get more information like that, just run:

In there, you’ll see that qpdf is really quite a potent application. It can do so much more than just stripping the password from a password-protected PDF. So, give that help file a scan and see what other features it has!

CLOSURE:

See? I told you that this article wouldn’t take all that long. Best part? It’s another in what’s a growing list of articles and it’s something you can actually use when you get a password-protected PDF. Again, if you’re gainfully employed or in a regulated occupation you may not want to remove the password protection.

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Let’s Have Some Fun With Cowsay And Fortune

Today, we’ll be having fun with ‘cowsay’ and doing so while getting your fortune in your terminal. Why not? Linux doesn’t always have to be about work. Today’s article will be not even remotely useful for work and none of what you learn will greatly increase your Linux skills. We are doing this for fun, mostly.

Sometimes, it’s okay to be a little silly and to have some fun.

Besides, you’ll get to use the | (pipe) and that’s always fun! Seriously, the pipe is one of the best tools Linux has. It lets you take the output from one command and use it in another one. The man page helpfully describes it like this:

pipe – Postfix delivery to external command

We’ll just be scratching the surface with pipe, so be sure to run man pipe if you’re unfamiliar with it. Pipe hails from Unix and has been with us, in one form or another, since 1973. I dare say that the longevity is good evidence of the value.

I’m just going to give the directions for Debian/Ubuntu/derivatives. I haven’t checked across all the systems, so I’m not sure what distros this will work on. Probably all of the major distros, but it should work on anything with Debian in its lineage. If you’re not doing so, you should still be able to follow along and just adapt it to your package management systems. 

So, that being said and done, let’s look into this matter of a mad world with cows and fortunes.

Fun With Cowsay:

The first thing we have to do is open a terminal. Press CTRL + ALT + T on your keyboard and the default terminal emulator should open up. Once open, run the following command:

That should install both ‘cowsay‘ and ‘fortune‘, along with any dependencies that need to be satisfied. Those are the only two tools you need to install for this exercise, or at least they should be.

Fortune:

Fortune is a tool that outputs fortunes from a database. A normal use would be:

That should happily output a fortune for you.

Cowsay:

The cowsay application prints a graphic that looks vaguely cow-like and any text you tell it to print. The command would look a bit like this:

All of which is all well and good – but the magic is when you put them together. So, let’s try that. Let’s pipe fortune output to the cowsay application:

Which will have an output similar to this:

cowsay in action
See? You’ve got a cow spouting wisdom in the terminal! Just what you always wanted!

That’s not it! No, dear reader, that is not it! That’s not all you can do! See, you can change the cow to Tux, the Linux penguin mascot.

What the penguin has to do with a cow, I know not. But, I do know that you can use the command and output a penguin. 

The output from that command should look pretty similar to this:

cowsay goes tux
See? It’s Tux! I wouldn’t make this sort of stuff up. It’s too important!

And there you have it. You’ve successfully piped the output from fortune to cowsay and, as a bonus, morphed the cow into tux. Another productive day at the office, while having fun with cowsay!

Closure:

I’ve got a couple of articles ahead, which is nice. This one tells you how to have fun with cowsay, which is also nice. It’s pretty important business!

Now to write some that are scheduled years in the future (so that I don’t mistakenly post them and they’re out of the way) and not fret too much when Mother Nature comes to claim my internet… I’m not giving up on my publishing schedule yet!

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How To: Install The Regular “non-Snap” Version of Chrome Browser In Ubuntu

Install Chrome browser on Ubuntu…

This article was authored while I was sick and pukin’. Well, I’d mostly stopped puking while writing.. Thanks to a fantastic @GGG_246 from Reddit (No thanks to you folks on Linux.org who normally catch this stuff!) the entire intro was meant for Chromium and not Chrome.

This is because I was moving it from the old site to the new one, splitting it into two articles. The old article covered both Chrome and Chromium. Also, I was sicker than I’m gonna describe…

So, here you go… This is how to install Chrome browser on Ubuntu. (I am still not quite back to normal. Ask me about my bowels!)

Install Chrome Browser:

Let’s just jump right into it. You know what Chrome Browser is, or you wouldn’t be here. It’s also not very complicated. Let’s bust open your default terminal emulator by pressing CTRL + ALT + T and enter the following:

That’s it in the terminal. You’re done. When you finish the installation and start Chrome it will let you set it as the default in the terminal or GUI (if you want), among other things. Even better, the installation adds its own repository and will now automatically update the Chrome browser when the rest of the system is updated.

chrome repository

The repository contains the beta version as well, as well as the unstable version. With the repository added, you can install any of them easily. Be aware that beta may have bugs and that unstable is a nightly build that’s also prone to bugs. Using either means you understand the risks – and also kinda comes with the responsibility of reporting bugs.

google chrome other versions
Just use ‘apt install’ and they’re there for the taking. Install as you wish!

And, that’s about it really. There’s not a whole lot to this article and it’s intentionally short. I’ll do a very similar article about Chromium, so be prepared for that!

Closure:

One more article is in the books. This one is short for a couple of reasons. One of those reasons is that I’m not feeling well. That and power outages make me wonder if I’ll actually manage to do this for the full year. I should get a bunch of articles ahead! I’m eventually going to miss an article or two and I should probably prepare for that.

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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!

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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!”

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