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Android's best kept secret

TL;DR: Android has a secret which, apparently, is still not well known. It is... the 'skip' button, because you do not need a Google account to use your Android smartphone.

Recently my wife switched over to a new mobile phone ( Fairphone ). During the setup, I showed her the 'skip' button. With that, you can skip the Google registration of your phone (which most people believe is mandatory, but is actually optional). So you are not required to agree to Google's Terms of Service.

After skipping the registration and entering Google account credentials, you will be presented with an Android phone. The things you'll likely notice to be 'missing' is the Google Play Store, Google's Youtube etc... After installing F-droid, an open source marketplace, you'll be able to find and install many useful applications. If you still need some proprietary apps, most of them are also available as an APK download from the website of the vendor (example: Signal and Whatsapp).

If a vendor only provides their app via the Google Play Store, contact them about it. Of course you can download the APK via a 3rd party website, but that can be insecure. It would be much better if the vendor would publish the APK (or even better, make the application open source).

wpull running on Ubuntu 20.10

As some of you might know, I have a tendency to be an archivist sometimes. This makes me appreciate the online resources we have (and often are not well known), such as the internet archive or the wayback machine. Luckily there are more archivists online, for example the archive team and likeminded people at DataHoarder (reddit). And apparently there is also a awesome web archiving list. anarcat also has a good post about Website mirroring and archival.

My current (unfinished) goal is to archive/backup a specific website and being a good netizen about that (e.g. not hammering the website or abusing the archived content). Of course you can use wget or httrack, but I also found wpull.

To get wpull installed and running on my Ubuntu 20.10 machine, I had to do the following:

pip3 install wpull
pip3 install tornado==4.5.3
pip3 install html5lib==0.9999

Note: the last 2 commands I found in issue 384 thanks to m4ntic0r.

Apparently Python >= 3.7 is not really supported (see issue 404), but luckily francisg-gc has a pull request with a fix. So edit ~/.local/lib/python3.8/site-packages/wpull/driver/ and change:

self._stderr_reader = asyncio.async(self._read_stderr())
self._stdout_reader = asyncio.async(self._read_stdout())


_async=getattr(asyncio, 'async')
self._stderr_reader = _async(self._read_stderr())
self._stdout_reader = _async(self._read_stdout())

And off you go. wpull is working and is creating warcs.

Microsoft Teams on Linux

For my job I am required to use Microsoft Teams. Preferbly I use it on a Linux desktop using the deb or snap packages (it is great that those are provided). However there are some issues which you should be aware of.

Meeting URLs not working

TL;DR if you want to be able to join Microsoft Teams meetings using a URL, you should stick with the older version and not update to the newer version.

Very recently I noticed I was not being able to join meetings using a Microsoft Teams Meeting URL anymore. This appears to be a small, but extremely annoying bug which has already been reported at Q&A here and here.

Unavailable features

I've also discovered some downsides for the Linux client (aside from it being closed source):

  • screen sharing is not possible
  • background blurring is not possible
  • sometimes the client likes to eat RAM for breakfast
  • automatic gain control cannot be disabled
  • "new meeting experience" feature is not available (e.g. the ability to pop-out a meeting)

No public bugtracker

Unfortunately there is no public bugtracker where issues can be submitted. So people are forced to use tools like the Microsoft Q&A or (in my case) Twitter.

So I have tried submitting bugs via Twitter, but it did not a trigger a response or fix:

Twitter question which received zero response

Wouldn't it be great if that could be possible via a github repo? ;)

parted bug/enhancement

So imagine, you want to edit the root partition of your server (to enlarge it), and you suddenly could not do that anymore with your favourite tool parted. Today I was confronted with this error on a SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 12 (SLES12SP5) machine using parted 3.1 :

Error: Partition /dev/sda2 is being used. You must unmount it before you modify it with Parted.

What fresh hell is this?

Maybe it is an "enhancement"? Perhaps to prevent someone to not accidentally trash their server? For me it is a regression. I know exactly what I want to do and I'm now prohibited in doing so. Unfortunately I could not find a "force" option or the such to force parted to do my bidding :-(

Luckily the good old fdisk still has my back, since that just works

P.S. This issue is fixed in parted v3.2 (in parted.c)

Translators, please do not translate everything


I'm grateful for translations by translators. But translating everything causes icons to break. Ubuntu MATE 20.04 has several broken icons and most of them are fixed in Ubuntu MATE 20.10 already.

Advice: Please do NOT translate the 'Icon' text, just leave that translation blank (""). Copy/pasting the English text will cause superfluous lines in .desktop files and might cause additional work later (if the original name is updated, you will need to copy and paste that string again). So getting a 100% translation score, might even be non-optimal.

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st, xft and ubuntu 20.04.1

Some time ago I switched to AwesomeWM and with that came another change, my default terminal emulator. Having used GNOME terminal for years, I soon switched to Terminator back in the day. Leaving GNOME behind, in search for a more lean desktop with less frills and more keyboard centric features, I also had to ditch that terminal emulator (it has too many dependencies for my use case). Eventually I stumbled upon st, which fit the bill.

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Password fail: Flying Blue

Yesterday I received an e-mail that Flying Blue moved away from their 'pin' (a few digits only) password for online services. My initial response was being very pleased about this move. I've just changed my pin to a password, but... See the screenshot below for the password restrictions. facepalm