Where did my Emacs color-theme go in Ubuntu 20.04.LTS?!

Having recently upgraded a small VPS from Ubuntu 18.04.LTS to Ubuntu 20.04.LTS, I ran into a little snag with Emacs and its color-theme (from the emacs-goodies-el package).

After some digging, it seems this is now done somewhat differently in Ubuntu 20.04.LTS.

This is what my .emacs file used to contain:

(require 'color-theme) 

This is what I changed it to:

(add-to-list 'custom-theme-load-path 
(file-name-as-directory "/usr/share/emacs/site-lisp/elpa/color-theme-modern-0.0.2"))
(load-theme 'charcoal-black t t) 
(enable-theme 'charcoal-black)

In addition, I also had to install the elpa-color-theme-modern package (from the Ubuntu 20.04.LTS distribution).


pdftk and php-pdftk on Ubuntu 18.04 without using snap

During a product launch I recently came across an “interesting” issue involving pdftk (and php-pdftk). Some of the developers had made assumptions (ever heard that one before?) about the operating environment and how things were/are configured.

These assumptions were based on a development environment that in no way reflected the final production environment (ever heard that one before?). In this particular case, they were expecting the great PDF toolkit (pdftk) to be available and working just like it did in their development environment.

To summarize the issue: pdftk has been removed from Ubuntu 18.04 due to dependency issues. The “recommended” solution is to install pdftk using snap. This, in itself, is not a bad recommendation. But in a web server environment, it may put you in a place you don’t want to be in.

So after a few hours of toying with ideas and testing various things, I figured there must be some Debian-like package that would actually work when installed on Ubuntu 18.04 and that is not a snap package.

There is.

Later versions (or packages) of pdftk now exist as pdftk-java, and they do work with php-pdftk as well.

In my case, I located pdftk-java_3.1.1-1_all.deb and installed it. Or tried to rather. It has a number of dependencies that you will see for yourself. You’ll need to decide if their “weight” makes it worthwhile for you to go down this path. But it was one, reasonably good, way for us to solve the problem.

The developers you ask? They have been sent to /dev/codersgulag/cobol and will spend a number of solar iterations there.

(The file I ended up using was http://ftp.debian.org/debian/pool/main/p/pdftk-java/pdftk-java_3.1.1-1_all.deb, and it does work on Ubuntu 18.04.LTS)



Webmin, Virtualmin and APT for Ubuntu and Debian

I often use Webmin and Virtualmin to manage basic stuff on Linux servers, mostly so because others sometime need to change minor settings on these servers, and they may or may not be very familiar with doing things from the CLI.

You can, of course, update Webmin and Virtualmin manually, from within Webmin. But if you’re using APT, there is an automated, better, way of keeping these lovely software packages up to date.


Create a file in /etc/apt/sources.list.d/ like webmin.list

Add the following line to that file:

deb https://download.webmin.com/download/repository sarge contrib

Add Jamie Cameron’s GPG key for the repository like so:

cd /root
wget https://download.webmin.com/jcameron-key.asc
apt-key add jcameron-key.asc

Finalize everything with

apt-get install apt-transport-https
apt-get update

You may now install/update Webmin with via APT (apt-get, aptitude, etc).


Create a file in /etc/apt/sources.list.d/ like virtualmin.list

For Ubuntu 18.04.LTS (“Xenial”), add the following to that file:

deb http://software.virtualmin.com/vm/6/gpl/apt virtualmin-xenial main
deb http://software.virtualmin.com/vm/6/gpl/apt virtualmin-universal main

There are, of course, sources available for other distributions too. Simply replace xenial above, with the name of the distribution you’re running. You can find a list of the Debian based distributions here: software.virtualmin.com/vm/6/gpl/apt/dists/

Add the virtualmin GPG key for the repository like so:

cd /root
wget http://software.virtualmin.com/lib/RPM-GPG-KEY-virtualmin-6
apt-key add RPM-GPG-KEY-virtualmin-6

Finalize everything with

apt-get update

You may now install/update Virtualmin via APT (apt-get, aptitude, etc). You can find some more information about this in relation to Virtualmin on the Virtualmin forum.

Forcing apt-get to use IPv4

When or if you run into trouble with apt-get and IPv6 connections timing out or not resolving properly at all, it may be a good idea to simply prevent apt-get from using IPv6.


-o Acquire::ForceIPv4=true

when running apt-get, or create /etc/apt/apt.conf.d/99force-ipv4 and put

Acquire::ForceIPv4 "true"

in it.

If this does not work for you, you may want to have a look at /etc/gai.conf (this will, however, affect your system on a deeper level for IPv4 vs IPv6 connectivity). If you’re not interested in IPv6, it should cause no problems.

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Resizing windows in XFCE / XFWM4

This does not seem to be a problem for everyone nor for every XFCE theme, but sometimes it can be a real drag (no pun intended) to resize the windows in XFCE / XFWM4. For no apparent reason whatsoever, this seems to be known by the developers but marked as “wontfix” … #WTF

Anyway, hold down the (left) Alt key (PC keyboard), right click the mouse and then drag in the desired direction to “easily” resize the windows. This is a lot easier with an actual pointing device rather than a “touchpad”, but at least there’s a way.

You can also use Alt+Space and then press R to resize the current window.

This sort of “behavior” is one of (many small) things that annoys and frustrates people with “Linux Desktops”, and in all honesty, this should not be an issue in 2019! #FFS

So, remember:



ALT + [SPACE] followed by the [R] key

Using sfdisk to recover a partition table on Linux

As he re-entered the sfdisk dump manually in the remote recovery console, using the devil’s editor (vi), he was silently thanking the Linux developers for not screwing around with the file system when it cannot be mounted.

Messing around with partition tables, disk volumes, and similar critical configuration parameters can lead to quite unexpected and unintended results. So, it may be a good idea to actually dump the current configuration before you begin your magic.

Using sfdisk, you can dump your Linux partition configuration in a fairly straightforward way. You can try the command by typing just sfdisk -d /dev/disk, where disk is one of the disks in your Linux system. For a list of disks in your system, use the lsblk command. They are identified as “disk” (surprise).

sfdisk -d /dev/sda > sda.txt

This would dump the partition table data for the /dev/sda disk to the file sda.txt. Your output will look something like this:

label: dos
label-id: 0xa828a5d8
device: /dev/sda
unit: sectors

/dev/sda1 : start= 2048, size= 997376, type=83, bootable
/dev/sda2 : start= 999424, size= 999424, type=82
/dev/sda3 : start= 1998848, size= 249659359, type=83

The partition table information can then later be restore by issuing the reverse, i.e.

sfdisk /dev/sda < sda.txt


This procedure may come in handy if you, like me, manage to screw up the partition table and find yourself at the (initramfs) prompt when you restart your Linux machine. You will (obviously) need to save the dump file (sda.txt above) in a location other than your computer. Using this method, it’s often possible to recover your partition table from a rescue boot (be it on CD, DVD or a flash drive).

I happened to have a previous terminal session window open with the above information, so I hand-typed it from one window to another, where I was running the remote recovery console.

There are a lot more complex partition setups than the above, and sfdisk may not work in those cases or for certain RAID and LVM setups. But it it’s a good procedure in applicable situations.

Show which process/program is listening to what port using netstat and lsof

lsof -Pnl +M -i4
lsof -Pnl +M -i6


netstat -tulpn
netstat -npl

There are obviously a number of ways to accomplish this, but these variations will cover a lot of ground. You can also combine this with grep to filter out things you don’t need to see, or to only include specific processes and/or ports.

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Using MTR to create a text file report

mtr --report --report-cycles 20 www.instagram.com > ignetrpt.txt

The above should be entered on one line. Using MTR this way makes it easy to simply send a trace report via e-mail. It can also be used in an automated way to generate a report e-mail when a system monitor fails.

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