Oct 20, 2014

Tor GUI `SelekTOR` Sees New Major Release

SelekTOR, an open source Java-based GUI front-end for Tor, was updated to version 3.12 (now 3.12e) recently and it includes new advanced options as well as a new Tor Monitor panel that shows the Tor client startup info and its current status.

For those not familiar with SelekTOR, here's a quick list of features:

  • automatically sets up your web browser to use Tor, without any addons (supports Google Chrome, Chromium, Opera, Palemoon, Iceweasel and Firefox);

  • can be used in two modes: Proxy all Traffic or Proxy by Pattern (with the latter, Tor will only be used for websites matching a pattern you can set in the SelekTOR settings);

  • allows you to quickly select the Tor exit nodes by country (useful to access websites which aren't available in your country, such as Netflix, Hulu, CBS, ABC, Pandora, British TV, HBO Go and so on);

  • Nodes are filtered to ensure that they support HTTP on port 80, and thus ensuring greater reliability when used with web browsers;

  • Whois and Atlas Node details (pretty graphs) available with a single mouse click;

  • more.

If you haven't tried SelekTOR yet, I suggest reading our initial SelekTOR article which includes more information, instructions for how to install SelekTOR and Tor in Ubuntu or Linux Mint (and optionally, using the latest Tor from its official repository), as well as how to use Tor and SelekTOR with Privoxy, useful for apps that don't support SOCKS5.

The latest SelekTOR V3.12 (V3.12e) ships with a new Preferences layout and quite a few new advanced options, such as an option to toggle Safe Socks on/off, useful for applications that use unsafe variations of the socks protocol - for instance, without disabling Safe Socks, Spotify doesn't work with Tor as a SOCKS5 proxy.

Another new option, called "Use 2 hop circuits", can be used for improved latency however, because this option reduces your anonymity, it is only active in Proxy by Pattern mode so if you switch to Proxy All Traffic mode, Tor will use 3 hop circuits.

Other new advanced options available in the latest SelekTOR include:

  • set the Tor logging level (Debug, Info or Notice;;

  • re-implemented the default HTTP proxy (any traffic not routed through Tor will be redirected through this HTTP proxy);

  • avoid disk writes (when enabled, Tor tries to disk less frequently);

  • optional startup arguments which can be passed to Tor.

Another new feature added recently to SeleKTOR is a Tor Monitor panel, which shows the Tor client startup info and its current status:

It's also worth mentioning that SelekTOR is now available for Windows, but it's not free and a license costs $14.95 plus tax. The Linux version remains free and open source software.

Download SelekTOR

Ubuntu / Linux Mint and derivatives: check out our initial SelekTOR article for installation instructions (and more).

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Make Screencast Movies of your iPhone or iPad with QuickTime

Did you know that your Mac ships with a screencasting software that can be used for quickly recording movies of your computer screen? You can record the microphone audio along with the video, there’s an option to show or hide the mouse clicks during the screen recording and the movies can be exported in HD formats. This very-capable app is called QuickTime Player.

And it just got better. If you have upgraded your Mac to OS X Yosemite, you can use the same QuickTime Player software to record the screen of your iOS device in 2 easy steps. All you need is an iPhone or iPad running iOS 8 and a Lightning to USB cable – it is the same cable that you are currently using to connect your iOS device to the computer or the charger.

Record iPhone Movie

QuickTime as an iOS Screen Recorder

Step 1: Connect the iPhone to the computer through the 8-pin Lightning to USB cable. This will not work with older iOS devices that use the 30-pin connector.

Step 2: Open the QuickTime Player on your Mac (Yosemite) and choose “New Movie Recording” from the File menu (screenshot). If you are to record screencasts of your desktop, choose the “New Screen Recording” option.

Step 3: Click the arrow near the red record button and choose iPhone or iPad as the source camera. You can also select your device name in the Microphone section to record any audio coming out of your iOS device.

Once you are done recording the iOS screen, you can use the File -> Export menu in the QuickTime Player to save the movie in .mov format at 720p or 1080p resolution that can be uploaded to YouTube without conversion.

Also see: How to Record Android Screencasts

iOS Screencasting without the Mac

The iOS screencasting feature is only available with QuickTime on Mac OS X Yosemite and requires a relatively newer device running iOS 8 or later.

If you are however using Windows, or running an older version of Mac OS X, you can still record iOS screencasts with the help of apps like AirServer, Reflector or X-Mirage. AirPlay is built into iOS and Mac OS X and these apps use the the same AirPlay technology to mirror anything on your iOS screen to your Mac or Windows computer over a wireless local network. No cables required.

This story, Make Screencast Movies of your iPhone or iPad with QuickTime, was originally published at Digital Inspiration on 20/10/2014 under Apple Mac, IPad, IPhone, Screencasting, Software

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Upgrade your Macs without Using all your Monthly Bandwidth

I have almost exhausted my download bandwidth for this billing cycle and, lest you assume anything, I haven’t downloaded any torrents or movies from the Internet. All I have done is updated the Macs to the recently released OS X Yosemite and also downloaded the latest version of Apple iMovie, Keynote and other Mac software.

The Mac OS X Yosemite installer is about 5 GB in size and, for some unknown reason, the Apps Store doesn’t always support resumable downloads. So if your Internet connection goes down while the installer is getting downloaded or if there’s a problem connecting with Apple servers, you get the “unknown error has occurred” message and you’ve to download the whole thing again. I have to upgrade two Apple computers – an iMac and a Macbook – so the downloads are even a bigger hit on the monthly bandwidth.

Mac OS X Yosemite

If you are like me and have more than one Mac to upgrade, here an obvious tip that will help you save data – upgrade the OS and apps of one Mac and use the same offline installers to upgrade the software on your other Mac computers.

After some Twitter hunting, I figured out a Dropbox page where you can download the standalone offline installer of Mac OS X Yosemite. This is better than downloading from the Mac Store since the Dropbox client will automatically download the file to my Mac and it can resume broken downloads automatically.

Download and extract the zip file and double-click the yosemite.app file to run the installer on your Mac. The upgrade takes about 20-30 minutes and goes through without a hitch. If the progress bar at the OS X installation screen isn’t moving, you can press the CMD+L key to open the installation log and you’ll know if anything is happening in the backgroud.

The next step is to upgrade your existing Mac apps like iMovie (2 GB), Keynote (0.5 GB), Garageband (1.2 GB) and others. They are huge file and thus, in order to save data, you can upgrade them on one Mac and transfer the apps to your other Mac computers through the LAN or a USB drive.

Here’s what I do. My iMac and Macbook are connected to the same network and thus I can easily access each other’s files through the Finder. Say I have upgraded the apps of Mac A and need to transfer them all to Mac B. I will go to Mac A and temporarily share the Applications folder. I’ll launch Finder on Mac B and open the shared Applications folder of Mac A. I can now drag and drop the upgraded .app files from A to B. It will ask for the administrator password and the files are copied. You can’t do it the other way though (copying to B from A computer).

Copy Mac Apps

This is the easiest approach to copy applications from one Mac to another (and perfectly legal* if you own both the computers) but a downside is that your settings aren’t transferred. In that case, you’ll also have to manually copy the associated application folders from ~/Library/Preferences and ~/Library/Application Support/ to your other Mac.

[*] Apple says that “Apps [downloaded] from the Mac App Store may be used on any Macs that you own or control for your personal use.”

This story, Upgrade your Macs without Using all your Monthly Bandwidth, was originally published at Digital Inspiration on 20/10/2014 under Apple Mac, Software

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Oct 16, 2014

How to Color Alternate Rows in Google Sheets

Microsoft Excel and other programs in Microsoft Office provide a handy feature called “Quick Styles” to help you quickly format a selected range as a striped table. The table can have zebra lines meaning alternating rows are formatted with different colors (see example).

Alternate Row Colors in Google Sheets

Google Sheets do not support zebra stripes (yet) but you can use conditional formatting combined with a simple Google Formula to create a formatted table. You can apply alternating colors to both rows and columns in Google Sheets easily.

Here’s the trick.

Open a Google Sheet and choose Conditional formatting from the Format menu. Select Custom Formula from the dropdown and put this formula in the input box.


Select a Background color for the rule and set the range in A1 notation. For instance, if you wish to apply alternating colors to rows 1 to 100 for columns A to Z, set the range as A1:Z100.

Click the “Add another rule” link and repeat the steps but set =ISODD(ROW()) as the custom formula and choose a different background color. Save the rules and the zebra stripes would be automatically applied to the specified range of cells.

Google Formulas with Conditional Formatting

Tip: If you wish to extend this technique to format columns with different colors, use the =ISEVEN(COLUMN()) formula. Simple!

This story, How to Color Alternate Rows in Google Sheets, was originally published at Digital Inspiration on 16/10/2014 under Google Docs, Internet

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Use Google Sheets for Multilingual Chat with Speakers of Different Languages

You can only speak and write English so how do you converse with a person in China who writes Mandarin but doesn’t understand a word of English? Google Translate is no doubt a good option but it is going to be tedious for you (and your Chinese friend) to translate each and every sentence manually before sending them through any messenger.

How do you break down the language barrier and chat with someone in another country when there’s no ‘common’ language between the two parties? Microsoft is building a version of Skype for that will allow real-time translation for voice and video calls. You can watch the video demo though the actual software is expected to become available for Windows 8 later this year.

There’s another option now for people looking to have multi-lingual text chats – Google Sheets. Since two people can work on a Google Sheet simultaneously, it can actually work as a simple chat client. And if you integrate the same sheet with Google Translate – which is easy – the text typed inside Google Sheets can be translated in real-time and automatically (Demo GIF).

Google Chat - Multi Languages

Multi-lingual Chat with Live Translation

Here’s the idea. You have two participants speaking different languages that have opened a Google Sheet at the same time. There are 2 columns in the sheet for each participant. Now Participant A can write text in his own language in column A and the translated version in Participant B’s language will appear instantly in the second column. And vice-versa.

To get started, open this Google Sheet and choose File -> Make a copy to make your own copy of the sheet in your Google Drive. Now hit the share button in your sheet and share it another person with “edit” permissions (since he or she would write the text inside your sheet).

That’s pretty much it. All you have to do now is put your name and your friend’s name in cells C4 and G4 respectively. Also select your native languages from the drop-down in cell C5 and C6. Now type anything in the yellow cell and it will appear in the second column in the participant B’s language. Similarly they can write in the green cell and the translated text would show up in your column.

Multi-lingual Chat in Google Sheets

Internally, the sheet is powered by Google Scripts. And it supports all language pairs that are supported by Google Translate from Hindi to French to German to Tamil. Give it a try!

This story, Use Google Sheets for Multilingual Chat with Speakers of Different Languages, was originally published at Digital Inspiration on 16/10/2014 under Google Translate, Internet

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Oct 15, 2014

Install Syncthing In Ubuntu Or Linux Mint Via PPA

Syncthing is a cross-platform peer-to-peer file synchronization client/server application written in Go. Similar to BitTorrent Sync, the tool can be used to synchronize files between computers however, unlike BitTorrent Sync, Syncthing is open source.

The tool comes with an option to update the binary to the latest version however, since we covered Syncthing back in June (check out that article for more information on Syncthing) there were almost 40 new versions released so using a PPA to automatically update the app is a must if you're a regular Syncthing user.

There's no official Syncthing PPA however, Niklas Sombert has created a unofficial PPA for Syncthing, so you can easily install / update the tool in Ubuntu 14.04 and 14.10. Note that unfortunately, Launchpad PPAs don't support ARM by default so this PPA won't work on ARM devices / Raspberry Pi.

Install Syncthing in Ubuntu 14.04/14.10 or Linux Mint 17/17.1 via PPA

To add Niklas Sombert's PPA and install Syncthing in Ubuntu 14.04/14.10 or Linux Mint 17/17.1 via PPA, use the following commands:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ytvwld/syncthing
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install syncthing

If you're looking for a Syncthing GUI, check out: Syncthing GTK: GTK3 & Python GUI For Syncthing [Ubuntu PPA]

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Oct 14, 2014

LXQt 0.8.0 Released With Full Qt5 Support, Various Improvements

LXQt is the Qt port and the upcoming version of LXDE (a lightweight desktop environment, used by Lubuntu for instance), which resulted from the merge between LXDE-Qt and Razor-Qt projects.

After five months of development, LXQt 0.8.0 was released yesterday, bringing quite a few interesting changes, including full Qt5 support, a new lxqt-admin component, two new themes themes and more.

"In the five months since the release of LXQt 0.7.0, we have seen a surge of interest and several new developers have joined us. Collaboration with other desktop environments has been very promising and we are very excited to be able to pick up new KDE Frameworks libraries to replace custom, duplicated and often sub-par functionality".

- LXQt 0.8.0 release announcement

LXQt 0.8.0 ships with full Qt5 support (and the Lubuntu daily PPA already provides packages built with Qt5) however, Qt4 is still supported. For the next release though, Qt4 will be "dropped entirely", mentions the release announcement.

With this LXQt release, PCManFM (Qt), which was the first LXDE component to use Qt, has received support for single-click to active items, drag & drop support on the desktop, Ark archive manager integration as well as improved readability in icon view. Here's a screenshot with the latest PCManFM (Qt) 0.8.0:

Another component that has received some useful changes it the LXQt Panel, which now supports reordering taskbar buttons, "urgency" hint and also, OSS is now supported in volume control, if available.

Here's a screenshot featuring the latest LXQt Panel along with one of the two new themes (Dark Alpha - see panel theme):

Other changes in LXQt 0.8.0:

  • new component: lxqt-admin. This brings an optional set of basic admin tools such as configuration for date & time as well as users and groups;

  • two new themes: Plasma Next (based on KDE Plasma Next theme) and Dark Alpha;

  • improved multi-monitor support;

  • lxqt-config-randr been replaced by lxqt-config-monitor;

  • support for RGBA transparency if compositing is available;

  • lxqt-powermanagement: Improved compatibility with systemd/logind;

  • Compton integration (if available, disabled by default);

  • added support for setting a default UI font;

  • lots of performances improvements and bug fixes.

Here are screenshots with the new LXQt admin tools and the new Monitor configuration tool:

LXQt admin configuration tools for date & time / users & groups

LXQt Monitor confg tool

LXQt Monitor confg tool

Testing LXQt

If you want to try LXQt, you'll find packages for quite a few Linux distributions on its homepage. Note that it will probably take a while until the packages are updated to the latest LXQt 0.8.0 (currently, there are only Arch Linux and Ubuntu - well sort of -, for the latest version)

Ubuntu 14.04 and 14.10 users: the Lubutu Daily PPA provides development LXQt packages which are built daily, so most components should be up to date (I've used this PPA in Ubuntu 14.10 to test the latest LXQt). However, since the PPA provides unstable packages not only for LXQt, but also for the standard LXDE, I won't add exact instructions for how to install it (especially since reverting the changes is pretty complicated). But if you want to test it and you know how to revert the changes in case something goes wrong, simply add the PPA and install the "lxqt-metapackage" package - that should provide everything you'll need to run LXQt.

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Partial Workaround For Black / Distorted Battle.net UI On Linux (Wine) With Intel Graphics

Blizzard's Battle.net tool was updated recently, probably in preparation for the upcoming WoW expansion called Warlords of Draenor, resulting in either a black screen or distorted / scrambled graphics on Linux (with Wine) with Intel graphics.

It looks like this is not a Wine or Battle.net bug but an Intel graphic drivers bug, at least that's what the Wine developers suggest.

There is a partial workaround that you can use to get Battle.net to work under Linux (Wine) with Intel graphics - launching Battle.net with "LIBGL_ALWAYS_SOFTWARE=1".

Unfortunately, using this workaround isn't a solution if you use Battle.net to launch Blizzard's games because they will use software rendering and the performance will be awful. That's why the title says "partial workaround".

This tweak should only be used if you want to install or update Blizzard's games via Battle.net. Of course, if you only want to update games and you've enabled automatic updates, you won't need this, because Battle.net may look broken, but it actually works and it will install the updates (but you won't be able to see the update progress, obviously).

After you've successfully installed a game, you can launch it via command line or using a script - see our World of Warcraft article for how to run WoW using a script (with some performance tweaks).

Here's how Battle.net looks like on my laptop (with Intel graphics) before using this tweak:

And after:

To launch Battle.net with "LIBGL_ALWAYS_SOFTWARE=1", use the following command:

LIBGL_ALWAYS_SOFTWARE=1 wine ~/.wine/drive_c/Program*/Battle.net/"Battle.net Launcher.exe"

Note that the command above assumes you've installed Battle.net in the default location (~/.wine/drive_c/...) but if you've used a different location, you need to change the path for the command above.

Note: instructions tested with Wine 1.7.28 and World of Warcraft.

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