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Install separate Firefox (Beta) Snap on Ubuntu 22.04

August 3rd, 2022

To try out a beta version of Firefox snap, you have to enable the experimental – read developer options – of parallel instances install of snap.

sudo snap set system experimental.parallel-instances=true

Them you can install a beta version of Firefox next to the stable version

sudo snap install --beta firefox_beta

But that doesn’t work, you will probably get some error/warning message like this:

error: cannot perform the following tasks:
- Set automatic aliases for snap "firefox_beta" (cannot enable alias "geckodriver" for "firefox_beta", already enabled for "firefox")

As it seems you’ll need to add  --unaliased when installing firefox_beta

sudo snap install --beta --unaliased firefox_beta

See the snap forum thread

That does work.

How to install Firefox Beta snap parallel to Firefox

sudo snap install --beta --unaliased firefox_beta
firefox_beta (beta) 104.0b5-1 from Mozilla✓ installed

To my surprise it copied the profile directory, I had all the same extensions and bookmarks installed and available.

Different profile directories

Firefox stable profiles path:

~/snap/firefox/common/.mozilla/firefox/…

Firefox Beta profiles path:

~/snap/firefox_beta/common/.mozilla/firefox/…

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Debugging Firefox and `hidden` features of the browser: the about pages

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August 1st, 2022

Here is a list of all about: pages of Firefox Desktop.

Especially the about:telemetry page is interesting, I always try to disable any telemetry whatsoever, but this pages show exactly what your sharing. Too much in my opinion, especially the list of all activated extension. That’s a kind of digital fingerprinting.

Firefox Desktop about: pages

Also the networking tab is interesting for debugging. Robots is an Easter-egg.

And here is the list of al about pages for Firefox Android Mobile

Firefox Mobile Android about: pages

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Scanning the WiFi network with the Raspberry Pi Pico W

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July 22nd, 2022

Let’s try the Wifi features of the new Raspberry Pi Pico W.

The Pico W has two Wifi interfaces:

  • network.STA_IF, the station interface
  • network.AP_IF, the access-point interface

network.STA_IF

The station (or standard) interface, can be used to connect the Pico W to another 2.4GHz WiFi access point. This seems to be the default.

network.AP_IF

The access-point interface can be used to turn your Pico W into a WiFi access-point that can connect up to 4 devices at the moment.

Use the Pico W to scan access points

Let’s try out the station interface, network.STA_IF.

Using micropython it’s really a breeze:


import network
import binascii
wlan = network.WLAN() #  network.WLAN(network.STA_IF)
wlan.active(True)
networks = wlan.scan() # list with tupples with 6 fields ssid, bssid, channel, RSSI, security, hidden
i=0
networks.sort(key=lambda x:x[3],reverse=True) # sorted on RSSI (3)
for w in networks:
      i+=1
      print(i,w[0].decode(),binascii.hexlify(w[1]).decode(),w[2],w[3],w[4],w[5])

In most example code you need to specify the interface, but apparently it defaults to the standard station network.STA_INF interface.

The output is a list with tupples that according to the docs should contain six fields ssid, bssid, channel, RSSI, security, hidden.

The bssid is the same as the hardware unique MAC-address.

There are five values for security:

  1. open (0)
  2. WEP (1)
  3. WPA-PSK (2)
  4. WPA2-PSK(3)
  5. WPA/WPA2-PSK (4)

and two for hidden:

  1. visible (0)
  2. hidden (1)

The docs states that for hidden 0 = visible and  1 = hidden, but actually the output I get, some twenty networks(!?) gives no 0, but several undocumented values for hidden: 1,2,3,4,5,7.

Twenty WiFi-networks? Yes, I do work in a city. And that’s only the 2.4GHz band. 🙁

So what does those values mean, what is there more than visible or hidden?

Also the security results differ with outputs from 0 (=open), most 5, but some report 7.

What do those values for security mean?

Is it a bug or a (undocumented) feature?

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Blinking a led on the Raspberry Pi Pico W

July 21st, 2022

One much requested feature has landed to the Raspberry Pi Pico, and that is connection, Wifi and in the future Bluetooth are added, and that new Raspberry Pi Pico W just landed in my postbox.

Blinking a led is the first thing most lads try out, a bit like printing “Hello World” in any new program language.

The official documentation gives this example

from machine import Pin
led = Pin(25, Pin.OUT)
led.value(1) // led on
led.value(0) // led off

I blinked my eye twice, but running this code the Pico W did not light its led.

How to blink a led on the Raspberry Pi Pico W

I did remember reading about a change in GPIO pins, because the Wifi-modules needed some for connection, but I was surprised it was not mentioned in the official Raspberry Pi Pico documentation.

Actually with the introduction of the Wifi variant there are changes made in the micropython framework, to let the same code blink a led on any Raspberry Pi Pico, they gave the needed pin a name; “LED”, and added two functions, on and off.

from machine import Pin
led = Pin("LED", Pin.OUT)
led.on()  // a method instead of setting the value
led.off() // turn it off again.

Do remember you need to download a different firmware for the Pico and the Pico W.

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Raspberry Pie with a Taste of Chocolate, the funny Desktop Droste effect

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June 28th, 2022

The original Droste Effect

Trying out the new Ubuntu 22.04 on my Raspberry Pi 400, I was surprised by the smoothness of the new Ubuntu distribution. Much better impression then the first time I tried Ubuntu on the RPI, I think that was the 20.10 release.

A funny thing to try out, especially if you love fractals or you are an admirer of the Dutch graphic artist Escher who’s work features features mathematical and even impossible objects, is the subject of this post.

Another returning phenomenon in his drawings and paintings is the Droste-effect , and I’ll shwo you how to create a Droste effect on your Raspberry Pi with a few mouse-clicks.

Creating a Droste effect on your Raspberry Pi

Yes, you can do that with just a couple of mouse-clicks, you don’t need a mathematical package or a graphical editor like Gimp or so.

Trying out the new Gnome Desktop Sharing feature, which let you share your desktop not only with the older VNC protocol, but also with the newer RDP protocol, gave me this idea.

To activate:

Settings -> sharing -> enable -> enable Remote Desktop -> and setup some authentication: username and password

For creating the Droste-effect we gonna do something silly: we gonna connect to our-self! Yes a Remote Desktop Connection with a local client.

A Remote Desktop Connection with a local client

Introspection!

Start up the default remote desktop client Remmina.

Quick setup a new connection, enter your IP-address and the authentication you just entered: username and password.

To find your IP-address, open a terminal, (CTRL ALT T) and type `ip address` return. Then you will find it in the output, or look it up under details in the network settings.

Save and connect in the Remmina dialog, and see the connection being made.

Click the `Toggle Scaled Mode` button to rescale the desktop (CTRL_R S), and there it is.

A nice Raspberry Pi Droste Effect of the Ubuntu Desktop in a local remote Desktop connection: 🙂

Remmina Droste effect

Remmina Droste effect

Gnome-connections

An alternative to `Remmina` is Gnome-connections. That program is in development, but like all Gnome apps, it does offer an very easy and intuitive approach.

Can all the settings in Remmina be overwhelming, gnome-connections is easy as it can be.

But the default resolution seems to be quite poor. And I could not find a scaling options, so you end up with a more spacey psychedelic form of computer art.

The Gnome-Connections Art

The Gnome-Connections Art

Cool as well.

Update: Actually there is a scale setting for Gnome-Connections, a bit hidden, under properties once you established a connection. Using Gnome-connections for managing my Pi400 from another Ubuntu 22.04 is working quite well, although I had to restart the Pi400 to get control working.

So maybe Gnome-connections is lacking a lot of settings, it’s working out of the box surprisingly well in Ubuntu 22.04.

Give it a try, if you own a Pi.

How does the Pi create a Droste effect?

You open up a program that shows your complete desktop scaled including the program that shows your desktop scaled, etc etc.

Actually I was expecting a crash, or out of memory error, you will probably get that when you let it run for hours, but the Raspberry Pi kept being responsive for the couple of minutes I tried. Enough time to take a screenshot.

So it seems Ubuntu and Gnome are much more optimized for running on less powerful hardware in 2022 then a couple of years ago.

This funny showcase of the Droste-effect is the prove, and that is all a big win.

Please let me know what you think in the comments.

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Adding virtual columns in MySQL/MariaDB

June 22nd, 2022

A small MariaDB database with a simple table with just a couple of columns (id, name, `description` ) drives a PHP website. The table lacks a `slug` column.

You could still get away with spaces in an URL although it’s against the specs.

`”example.com/user/John Doe”` will work if you parse “John Doe” to a variable and do a search in your database.

select * from `people` where `name` like 'John Doe' limit 1

But you can’t copy the url, it will lose Doe.

Spitting out a better url with a slug/url PHP function should output something like `”example.com/user/john-doe”`

But then there is a problem in the database:

select * from `people` where `name` like 'john-doe' limit 1

doesn’t return anything.

So we need to add a `slug` column to the database, and why not try out a VIRTUAL column. A virtual column doesn’t exist in memory of disk, but is generated on the fly.

Can that work?

To sluggify a string in MariaDB, is a bit problematic, probably you should write you own custom function but I took the easy road. The REPLACE function which can only REPLACE one character a time, it doesn’t have the more powerful TRANSLATE function, but you can nest the REPLACE function so that should do the job.

Adding a virtual slug column to a Maria/MySQL database

Not really clean and concise but let’s try:

ALTER TABLE `users` add `slug` VARCHAR(50) AS (LOWER(REPLACE(REPLACE(REPLACE(`name`," ","-"),"(",""),")",""))) VIRTUAL;

Filtering out spaces, and brackets.

Doesn’t work. Doesn’t even execute.

Got this error in  PHPMyAdmin:

Error

Static analysis:

3 errors were found during analysis.

 	A new statement was found, but no delimiter between it and the previous one. (near "replace" at position 52)

 	Unrecognized alter operation. (near "," at position 68)
	
 	Unrecognized alter operation. (near "" at position 0)

 

Took me some time to find out was wrong.

Nothing!

It’s a bug in PHPMyAdmin!

Executing the same command in a MySQL console worked perfectly fine.

A search on the internet gave me this issue, guess my PHPMyAdmin is too old on my local server.

Anyhow for the moment I’m testing a virtual `slug` column instead of a real one. Should save some MB on expensive disk-space.