Can I delete my Skype account?

No, or at least not easily. They’d rather you just obfuscated your account details. If you actually want your handle removed, you must contact customer services. From Skype’s FAQ:

Remove any personal details you provided. You can replace your details in the fields with random characters such as “qwerty” or “xxx” because empty fields cannot be saved.

You sure, guys? Rather than simply deleting a few database records, you’d rather that we fill them with garbage? I feel sorry for whoever’s tasked with the next annoyingly global cross-service user account merge.

I suppose this could be Microsoft nobly sacrificing its database’s integrity to thwart its transformation into another privacy-invasion-for-cash scheme, but since changing my account’s name to Marmington Fortespube and signing in after a cookie-wipe, Skype welcomed me by my real name. Perhaps they’re simultaneously running what-you-think-we-have and what-we-actually-have databases after all.

O2 Broadband vs Sky Broadband since the switchover

One of the many perks of running your own router (using pfSense if you’re wondering) is RRD graphs. Since Sky have chosen not to force the O2 Broadband customers they bought recently to use their own router, I’ve been able to monitor the service I’m receiving as Sky has switched us over. I’m now enjoying a substantial rise in my average ping, along with a steady increase in packet loss (now sitting at around 30%), all since Sky presumably removed O2′s equipment from the local exchange and moved me to their own (that’s the solid red blob of 100% packet loss on the second day of Week 30).

o2broadband_sky_switchover

Installing a Netgear WNCE2001

The WNCE2001 is a wireless bridging device. If you don’t have equipment that supports WPS, you will need to manually configure it. The device’s function is very handy – it can be used to link ethernet-only devices to your wireless network, such as a certain games console that’s official wireless adapter is sold at an extortionate price. For a similar price to a single wireless adapter that functions for one client, you can attach the WNCE2001 to a switch and share the bridge with several clients. In my case, it was simply to attach an ethernet-only printer to the wireless network.

The default IP for the device is 192.168.1.251. This can be changed later. Be warned that the device initially broadcasts a DHCP signal, so you may wish to at first plug the device into a NIC on a disconnected machine, instead of the network. You can safely ignore the DHCP signal if you wish, and manually configure an address for your NIC and access the device’s IP. It will then automatically redirect you to the host ‘www.mywifiext.com’ via Javascript.

If you opted to have the DHCP server on the device configure your machine, it will have attempted to configure its current IP as the single DNS nameserver for your machine. This is presumably so it can bind the host mentioned earlier with the correct IP address (its own). However, the host is still bound to that IP without configuring the device as a nameserver. I’m guessing this is due to DNS requests being hijacked by the device’s routing layer.

If you plug the device into an existing network anyway, it does have DHCP client enabled, which should configure itself pending instruction from your DHCP server. I’m guessing that since the default IP under these circumstances could change, the DNS was introduced to make this process easier for the end-user.

Despite this array of ‘features’, if you have plugged the device into your network, and are trying to access its IP, you’ll find that the host it redirects to is not bound (the device’s DNS request hijacking won’t work if your DNS requests aren’t actually going through it), and you therefore cannot actually use the web interface. A workaround is to either manually (and temporarily) configure the device’s IP as your nameserver, or bind the IP and host using your hosts file (/etc/hosts on UNIX machines, for anything else Google it).

After all that, you should have gotten yourself to the web interface for configuring – at which stage you should manage with Netgear’s guidance. After changing the IP of the device, I found that accessing it directly didn’t result in a redirect to that .com host. It’s worth noting also that the device has a DHCP client too, so you can get it to pull info straight from your router.

Ultimately the device works a treat, and I recommend it. Though despite attempting to cover a multitude of installation scenarios, none of the routines seem to actually be flawless. After trying to rationalise what was actually going on, this thing took me 20 minutes to get set up. I’m all for advancing installation procedures by adapting them for different scenarios, but the routines need to be tested and bug-free before implementation – or they achieve the exact opposite of their original goal.

Ubuntu Update Manager: “Could not download release notes”

If you’re one of the many looking to download a new version of Ubuntu the moment it’s released (Natty Narwhal at the time of writing), you’ll receive the “Could not download release notes” error from the Ubuntu Update Manager if you’re using the main Ubuntu servers (or even your country’s main server).

This can easily be fixed by selecting an alternative server source (permanently or temporarily – it’s up to you if you want to change the source back again later). Click ‘Settings’ at the bottom left of the Update Manager, then the ‘Ubuntu Software’ tab. The ‘Download from:’ option area will list the main server and the main server for your country, but if you click ‘Other…’ you should be presented with a greater list of options. Try one of them (even one in a nearby country if you’re short on alternatives), and you should find you can start your upgrade to the latest Ubuntu version successfully.

Hopefully in future versions update-manager will have a slightly more informative error message, or maybe even suggest automatically switching to a different server if failures or slow speeds are experienced. I’m surprised this isn’t already encouraged considering the benefits of load balancing.

Revert google.com/ncr (No Country Redirect)

If you’ve clicked the “Go to Google.com” link at the bottom of your local Google Search page, you may have found that all subsequent visits to google.com won’t redirect you to your local equivalent anymore. If you find this irritating (eg. you like to access your local Google by typing google in the address bar and hitting Ctrl+Enter), the popular consensus around the internet is to delete your cookies. This works, but in case you don’t want to delete all your Google-related cookies, the specific cookie you need to remove is named ‘PREF’ and is specific to the ‘google.com’ domain (without the www subdomain).

Windows exe icons under GNOME

This post explains how to configure GNOME and a file browser that supports thumbnailers (such as Nautilus) to generate icons embedded inside Windows executables.

Dependencies: icoutils (can be found in most repositories).

This guide will allow your file browser (Nautilus is used in this guide, but with some amendments other browsers supporting external thumbnailers should work) to automatically extract and generate GNOME-compatible icons for Windows executables.

We’ll use a combination of wrestool and icotool, provided by icoutils. First we will create a bash script to utilise these two binaries, since GNOME will only execute simple commands as thumbnailers, but not bash script or similar.

As root, create an empty file in /usr/bin named ‘msiconailer’ (or whatever you want to call your thumbnailer) then copy and paste this code into the contents of the file using a text editor:

#!/bin/bash
export size=$3
lines=$(wrestool -x -t 14 "$1" | icotool -l - | sed 's/--width=//g' - | sed 's/--height=//g' - | sed 's/--bit-depth=//g' - | sort -nrk 3 -k 5 | sed 's/--icon --index=[0-9]* //' | sed 's/ .*//')
for line in $lines; do
if [ $line -le $size ]; then
size=$line
break
fi
done
wrestool -x -t 14 "$1" | icotool -x --width=$size -o "$2" -

This code first extracts a list of icon sizes from the exe specified by the first argument  passed to the script ($1), and matches the icon closest in size to that which is requested by the thumbnailer (the third argument $3). These binaries can include multiple cursors/icons in different sizes, so we need to use wrestool to make sure we get the one we want. We then use wrestool to actually extract the icon. The data for this icon will be passed to stdout by wrestool, which we then pipe into icotool, which converts this data into a PNG format image and writes it to disk in the location specified as the second argument ($2). Here’s an example use of our script:

msiconailer /path/to/windows.exe /path/to/exportedicon.png 64

Once you’ve saved the script (and don’t forget to make it executable), we can configure our thumbnailer in GNOME.

The thumbnailers are configured inside gconf-editor (you can access this via the Applications menu or just enter gconf-editor into a terminal). The specific path to the thumbnailers is /desktop/gnome/thumbnailers – but to add new keys here we must use the terminal. Execute these two commands in the terminal:

gconftool-2 --type=bool --set "/desktop/gnome/thumbnailers/application@x-ms-dos-executable/enable" true
gconftool-2 --type=string --set "/desktop/gnome/thumbnailers/application@x-ms-dos-executable/command" "/usr/bin/msiconailer %i %o %s"

Your thumbnailer has been added – browse to a Windows executable using Nautilus to see icons generated.

If your exe icons don’t appear, don’t forget to empty the .thumbnails/fail folder in your home directory, and make sure things are configured correctly in Nautilus preferences (such as abandoning thumbnail-generation for files over a certain size or residing in a remote location).