The XGL Linux Desktop

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XGL/Compiz has turned the graphical desktop of Linux into something that rivals even the latest version of Mac OS X. Check out this video of Linux running on a dual monitor system with XGL/Compiz.

I belive that SUSE 10.1 has XGL/Compiz included by default. You can download it for free here.


Phishing Test: Can You Spot the Fake Email?

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Mailfrontier.com has an interesting phishing test. They show you 10 emails and ask you to spot the fake ones.

Give the test a try and see if you can spot the fraudulent emails 100% of the time...

The web page also has some interesting facts about phishing:

  • 5.7 billion phishing emails are sent daily
  • A successful phishing attack causes a victim to lose an average of $1,200
  • and more

XGL / Compiz - the New Look of Linux

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Check out this video of the new XGL/Compiz desktop for Linux. It is arguably a more graphically advanced desktop than even Mac OS X.


Ubuntu Billboard Spotted

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An Ubuntu billboard has been spotted in California, USA.

My search of the Web brought me to another page about the Ubuntu billboard that also showed some Google trends comparing Ubuntu to other Linux distros. It shows the steady increase of popularity of Ubuntu.

I tried my own search of Google trends to compare the popularity of Ubuntu with portable apps. Many travelers have heard of portable apps, but not of Ubuntu. The Ubuntu live CD is a good choice for Linux live CD when traveling.

How to Switch to Ubuntu

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Ubuntu.com has a few good articles on how to make the switch to Ubuntu Linux.

How to Switch from Windows to Ubuntu Linux

The guide for Windows users explains some of the differences between Windows and Ubuntu Linux.

It recommends running an Ubuntu live CD first to make sure that Ubuntu works with your hardware.

If you are going to switch from Windows to Ubuntu, I recommend trying a dual boot system first. A dual boot system allows you to run Windows and Linux next to each other on the same computer. Ubuntu makes installing a dual boot system easy.

How to Switch from Mac to Ubuntu Linux

If you are switching from Mac to Ubuntu it is less of a leap than switching from Windows to Ubuntu. Mac OS X is also a Unix-based operating system and it is similar to Linux on the inside.

Mark Pilgrim lists some of his tips for switching from Mac to Ubuntu on his blog. It's an interesting discussion for anyone who is making the switch to Ubuntu.

How to Switch From Another Linux Distro to Ubuntu Linux

This is the easiest switch. Ubuntu is one of the easiest to use Linux distros and you shouldn't have any problems switching to Ubuntu.

Beware of Hardware Keyloggers

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It is not common, but computers can have hardware keyloggers attached to them. If a computer has a hardware keylogger on it, it will be able to record your keystrokes even if you are using a Linux live CD.

There is a solution though. While using an on-screen keyboard will not protect you against software keyloggers, an on-screen keyboard should protect you against hardware keyloggers. So the combination of a Linux live CD and the use of an on-screen keyboard to enter your passwords should protect against both hardware keyloggers and software keyloggers.

The Risk of Hardware Keyloggers in Public Internet Cafes

I suspect that hardware keyloggers are not common in public Internet cafes. It is much easier for Internet criminals to use malicious software to do their work for them remotely. Physical devices attached to the computer increase their chances of getting caught.

While most public computers have spyware, viruses, and trojans, very few have hardware keyloggers. In any case, here are some tips:

What Do Hardware Keyloggers Look Like?

I've linked to some images of hardware keyloggers below. The most common hardware-based keyloggers are a physical device that fits between the end of the plug of the keyboard and the box of the computer:

Hardware Keylogger Lookalikes

Be aware that not every device that fits between a keyboard and a computer is a keylogger. There are similar-looking devices that are made to convert one type of plug to another (for example USB to PS/2). These adapter plugs are harmless.

How to Protect Yourself Against Hardware Keyloggers

It's always good to take a moment to look at the connection between the keyboard and the computer before you use a public computer. That is not the only kind of hardware keylogger though. There are also hardware keyloggers that can be put inside keyboards, or in other hard-to-detect places. By using a Linux live CD in combination with an on-screen keyboard, you should be able to bypass hardware keyloggers.

Phishing

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I mentioned phishing recently. I just got a phishing attempt in one of my email accounts so I have a good example to show.

The following email looks like it might be from eBay, but it is from an Internet criminal. The links in phishing emails usually lead to fake web sites where you are tricked into giving your credit card or other financial information. Notice how the email describes how you will need to update your credit card information.

Because this email is addressed to "eBay user" and not my real name, I know it is probably fake. Another clue that it is fake is that I don't have an eBay account. If I couldn't determine whether it were real or not, I would open a browser and type in http://www.ebay.com and login on the actual eBay site. Never click on links in these kinds of emails.

eBay phishing attempt

Keylogger Exploit

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A recent story on the Register describes a computer attack that shows how easily a Windows computer can become infected with a keylogger:

"Surfers who follow this link are taken to a spoof copy of the BBC story hosted on a maliciously constructed site that exploits the unpatched createTextRange vulnerability in an attempt to install key logging software on victim PCs.

This key logger monitors activity on various financial websites and uploads captured information back to the attacker, security firm Websense warns."

It is very easy to infect a Windows computer with malicious software, which is why strong precautions should be taken when using public computers for financial purposes.

Free Travel Blogs

Many travelers like to keep a blog of their travels.

My first choice for blogging is WordPress. It is free, highly customizable, and has many plugins and templates. Full-featured WordPress hosting is generally not free though. You can get cheap WordPress blog hosting with FTP access for a few dollars per month through Site5 hosting. They are the best cheap Web hosting company that I've used, and more information can be found on the How to make a travel blog page...

You can also get a free WordPress blog at WordPress.com, but the features are more limited than the do-it-yourself version.

An extensive list of photoblogging software can be found in the photoblogs.org wiki.

Other free travel blog options include:

If you have any reviews of these services, or know of others free travel blog services to add to this page, leave a comment below.

Free Linux Programs

You can use a Linux live CD for security on public computers, but there is also another benefit: Linux has thousands of free programs that can replace many of the programs that run on Windows and Mac.

A comprehensive list can be found on the replacements for Windows software on Linux list. I'll highlight some of the best ones here:

Free Graphics Programs

The GIMP

A great replacement for Adobe Photoshop is the the GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program). There are many free GIMP tutorials online. There is also a version for Windows called Portable GIMP that you can download to any Windows computer for editing digital photos. The GIMP can do most of what Photoshop can do. Here is a screenshot of the GIMP tools:
The GIMP

Inkscape

If you like to work with vector graphics, try Inkscape. Vector graphics are good for clip art, illustrations, and any kind of image that needs to be resized. An advantage of vector graphics is that they can be resized without losing any image quality. Inkscape comes with a set of excellent tutorials that you can find in the help menu.
A map of the Czech Republic viewed in Inkscape

F-Spot

F-spot is similar to Google's Picasa (which also runs on Linux). It is a good program for simple editing and organization of your digital photos. Check out the features list for more information.

Web Browsers

There are many Web browsers for Linux. Firefox is the most common one. Another one that you may come across is Konqueror. I prefer Firefox, but Konqueror is a good secure browser that can also be used as an FTP client. Parts of Konqueror were used for Apple's Safari browser.

Office Programs

The most advanced free office suite for Linux is OpenOffice. It is compatible with MS Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. OpenOffice comes on many Linux live CDs. You might also find alternatives like Abiword and K-office.

Instant Messengers

The most popular instant messenger program for Linux is Gaim. It is found on most Linux live CDs. Gaim allows you to log into Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger, AIM, ICQ, IRC, and others all at the same time. Another popular instant messenger for Linux with similar features is Kopete.

Email Clients

A great email program that can replace Outlook Express and that runs under Linux is Mozilla Thunderbird. It allows you to check your POP and IMAP email accounts.

Media Players

There are many media players for Linux. My favorite music player is called Amarok. Other options include Juk, Rhythmbox, XMMS, and others.

For video files, I like VLC media player. Other popular movie players are Mplayer, Kaffiene, and Totem, among others.

PDAs

Programs for synching your Palm with a Linux computer include Gnome Pilot and K-Pilot.

Linux Programs

This post is intended to be only an introduction. A more complete list of Linux software can be found here.