CDs then USB won't mount: Debian sid (unstable)

A little while ago, my Debian sid system stopped mounting CDs.  Shortly thereafter it stopped mounting USB devices also. After searching around a bit I found a solution here (the problem was with Consolekit):  https://lists.debian.org/debian-user/2011/10/msg01252.html

The solution is to create a file etc/polkit-1/localauthority/50-local.d/consolekit.pkla with the contents:

[restart]
Identity=unix-user:*
Action=org.freedesktop.consolekit.system.restart
ResultAny=yes

[stop]
Identity=unix-user:your username here
Action=org.freedesktop.consolekit.system.stop
ResultAny=yes

of course replacing your username here. Also create /etc/polkit-1/localauthority/50-local.d/udisks.pkla with the contents:

[udisks]
Identity=unix-user:*
Action=org.freedesktop.udisks*
ResultAny=yes

Hope this helps if you run into the same issue.
 

Spectrwm

I use KDE as my main desktop environment, however I have been looking for something more lighweight which is focused on keyboard input versus the mouse.  I came across spectrwm [arch wiki], tried it out, and definitely like it.  Just using the default settings I rarely have to use the mouse -- see the Arch wiki for key bindings for basic tasks.   I also surprisingly like working with a tiling window manager.  It is available for both Debian and Arch. Amazingly, the installed size of spectrwm is 196 KiB.  Never has anything so productive taken up less disk space.

Note, while it would be natural to use spectrwm on a lighter system -- like my chromebook running arch -- the increased speed and ease of almost every task makes it competitive for full-powered systems.

Below is a screenshot of one workspace.  What is extremely useful, however, is that you can set up many of these workspaces and flip through them with 'Meta-5' (for the fifth workspace for example).

 

testscrot

 

 

 

Preparing the Acer c720 SSD for Arch Linux

I bought an Acer c720 Chromebook which I intend to use in much the same way as I use my smartphone -- if it works I'll get rid of the phone.

The Chromebook was $200, and has 2GB RAM and a 16 GB SSD.  It has an SD slot so you can add more memory.  For the price it is a great little laptop.  It comes with the Chrome OS, but I have wiped that OS and installed Arch Linux.  The install was fairly easy, though there is only one slightly tricky part which I note below.

There is good information about installing Arch on the c720 here:  https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Acer_C720_Chromebook

Then also be sure to follow an installation guide like this one:  https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Beginners%27_Guide

Now, regarding partitioning the SSD this is what I did (and was successful).  I used fdisk to create an MBR partition with a DOS partition table on /dev/sda. So first:

# fdisk /dev/sda

If you use p to look at the partitions present you'll see /dev/sda has 12 partitions. I first deleted all these partitions with d then 1 then repeat for all 12 partitions (d is delete and 1 is the first partition, so the next is d and choose 2 and so forth).

Once all the partitions are deleted you can input o to make the partition table DOS (this is the letter o) instead of GPT. Then use n to create a new partition. I just created one root partition (no separate home or boot) -- to do so you can just hit enter at the prompts. This parittion will be /dev/sda1. Then write the changes with w (you can check all is what you want with p before you write).

Lastly format the partition (I formatted it as ext4):

mkfs.ext4 /dev/sda1

At this point you can follow the installation guide.

Extracting RSA Key from GnuPG Using Sound

I subscribe to the Debian security mailing list.  The advisories are usually about a buffer overflow in some package -- stuff that is good to know and is the product of hard work by people across the open source community.  However the recently released DSA-2821-1 was a little different:

"Package : gnupg
Vulnerability : side channel attack
Problem type : remote
Debian-specific: no
CVE ID : CVE-2013-4576

Genkin, Shamir and Tromer discovered that RSA key material could be extracted by using the sound generated by the computer during the decryption of some chosen ciphertexts."

That's right, the researchers were able to extract decryption keys from gnupg by analyzing the sound the CPU made during decryption. The news quickly made it to Slashdot here [new tab]. The Slashdot article links to the original research paper where the methodology is explained.

Gmail, Spamassassin, and Kmail

I recently set up Kmail (an email client like MS Outlook or Thunderbird but specifically for the KDE Desktop Environment) to connect via IMAP to my gmail account.  Once I did so, my entire Inbox was moved to 'All Mail' within gmail. I had no messages left in my Inbox.

Thinking this had something to do with Kmail archiving messages, I deleted the gmail account in Kmail. To then fix my gmail account I used the search function to search for any message containing "to: [myaddress]@gmail.com".  I selected all of these messages and hit the "Move to Inbox" button.  This restored my Inbox back to normal.

I looked around Kmail, but couldn't find any setting which would cause the problem.  I then noticed that the emails had been filtered as spam, i.e. this was a problem with Spamassassin and not Kmail.  That they were being filtered as spam was not obvious -- they were simply marked as read and moved to the local trash folder and gmail's 'all mail' folder.  Searching around I found a couple threads describing the problem and links to bug reports and possible fixes on the Spamassassin website (I didn't try any so I won't copy them here).

In sum, if you run into this problem it looks like it might be an easy fix.  However Kmail kept hanging when syncing with gmail, so I switched to Icedove (Debian rebranding of Thunderbird) which conveniently has a built in spam filter.  Note, I was running Kmail on Debian stable, which is version 1.13.7.  I hear Kmail has solved many of the locking up issues in the latest release.