Category Archives: Tips

en_IL: English locale for Israel

Update: The new locale was committed to glibc and should be part of glibc-2.24.

Most Israelis are literate in English, and for a large percentage of them, English is also the preferred language when it comes to computers. They prefer English, as it solves right-to-left issues and general inconsistencies (it might be annoying when some programs are translated ands some not). The downside is, that currently, the existing English locales are not suitable for Israel, as there are cultural differences:

  • American English spelling is more common in Israel.
  • The metric system is used, along with the relevant paper sizes (“A4” instead of Letter).
  • Dates are written in dd/mm/YYYY format, unlike in the USA.
  • The first day of week, and also the first workday is Sunday.
  • The currency used is ILS (₪).

So, up until now users had to choose locales such as en_US or en_GB and compromise on some stuff. To solve this issue, and create a truly suitable English locale for Israel, I wrote a localedef file for the en_IL locale.

To install the new locale, copy the en_IL file from the gist below and place under /usr/share/i18n/locales/en_IL (no extension). Next

# echo "en_IL.UTF-8 UTF-8" >> /usr/local/share/i18n/SUPPORTED

Now, complete the installation by running dpkg-reconfigure locales and enable en_IL.UTF-8 from the list, and set it as the default locale.

nginx and SNI

Server name indication (SNI) allows you serve multiple sites with different TLS/SSL certificates using a single IP address. Nginx has support for SNI for quite some time and actually setting it up is easy, simply add server entries for the corresponding sites. There is one caveat, the server_name entry must come before the server_certificate in order for SNI to be activated:

server {
    listen          443 ssl;
    server_name     www.example.com;
    ssl_certificate www.example.com.crt;
    ...
}

server {
    listen          443 ssl;
    server_name     www.example.org;
    ssl_certificate www.example.org.crt;
    ...
}

is good, but

server {
    listen          443 ssl;
    ssl_certificate www.example.com.crt;
    server_name     www.example.com;
    ...
}

server {
    listen          443 ssl;
    ssl_certificate www.example.org.crt;
    server_name     www.example.org;
    ...
}

will serve the wrong certificate for www.example.org.

WordPress.com Login Loop

Sometimes, when I try to use certain functions on wordpress.com, I get redirected to a login page. After I sign-in, I get redirect again to the same login page. This repeats in an endless loop. It usually doesn’t bother me, as I self-host my blog, but for some things, like the yearly annual report that came in about two weeks ago, it does bother. I looked up into the matter, and the issue turned up to be due to blocking third-party cookies. To resolve the endless login loop, you need to add https://wordpress.com (note the https) to the exception list of accepted third-party cookies (In Firefox it’s under Preferences -> Privacy -> Exceptions).

Skip Updates When Using the Let’s Encrypt `letsencrypt-auto` Client

To use Let’s Encrypt CA to issue free certificates, you need to use their client. The recommended method to install it is to use letsencrypt-auto, a script that automatically fetches and installs all the required dependencies. There is no doubt, that the letsencrypt-auto is the fastest and simplest way to get a Let’s Encrypted client up and running. I’ve used it myself, when I wrote a guide to get Let’s Encrypt up and running easily.

Automatically updating required dependencies, has its downside. As letsencrypt-auto does it every time you run it, it quickly gets annoying. Running a simple ./letsencrypt-auto --help takes a whopping 15 seconds, just figuring out that there are no updates available. Supposing that you know that no update are available, and you wish to save some time, you can run the letsencrypt executable directly, skipping the updating process of lestencrypt-auto:

~/.local/share/letsencrypt/bin/letsencrypt

Most of the actions require you to be root, so you might need to run it with sudo.

You can expect this issue to be resolved in the future. There is already an open issue for it and an active work that will resolve it.

Installing Debian Unstable’s source Packages in Debian Jessie

Sometimes a package that you need is not available for Debian Jessie, but you can find it for Sid (unstable). You may be tempted to try to install it manually, by downloading the binary deb package, but it will most likely fail due to binary incompatibilities with different libraries’ versions you have. The better method will be to get the source package used to build the binary package, and build it yourself. Most of the time the process is not as hard as it sounds.

First, a short preliminary setup is needed Add the following lines to /etc/apt/sources.list:

deb http://http.debian.net/debian jessie-backports main
deb-src http://httpredir.debian.org/debian unstable main contrib

You can replace unstable with testing if you prefer to use packages from testing. Update the lists of packages

sudo apt-get update

Next you need, to get the build dependencies for your package. The example below uses the package lyx:

sudo apt-get build-dep lyx/unstable

Now you are ready to fetch and build the source package:

sudo apt-get source -b lyx/unstable

Finally, you will see in the current directory the resulting DEBs. Simply install them:

sudo gdebi lyx-common_2.1.4-2_all.deb
sudo gdebi lyx_2.1.4-2_amd64.deb

You can later mark the dependecies that you manually installed as automatic:

sudo apt-mark auto lyx-common

Installing the latest version of Iceweasel (Firefox) on Debian Jessie

The jessie-backports repository does not have the latest Iceweasel builds. However, the Debian Mozilla team releases its own backports. To use their backports follow the steps below:

# apt-get install pkg-mozilla-archive-keyring
# echo "deb http://mozilla.debian.net/ jessie-backports iceweasel-release" >> /etc/apt/sources.list
# apt-get install -t jessie-backports iceweasel

At the time of writing this post, the Mozilla team’s repository provides Iceweasel 42, compared with 38.4 with the regular Jessie repository.

Gnome `Alt+Shift` and `Alt+Shift+Tab`

After installing Debian Jessie with Gnome 3.14, I noticed an annoying bug: When I tried to switch windows using Alt+Tab it worked as it should, but when I tried to switch in reverse order, using Alt+shit+Tab it did not work. I quickly figured out that the problem lies in the frequently used shortcut, Alt+Shift for switching keyboard layouts. Indeed, when I tried cycling through windows, I switched keyboard layouts instead.

The gist of the solution was found after some searching in Stack Exchange albeit it needs some adjustment for newer version of Gnome: Start the Gnome’s Tweak Tool and select Typing from the Tweaks menu. Under “Miscellaneous compatibility options” select “Shift cancels Caps Lock”.

alt-shift

This fixed the issue for me, without any side-effects. I don’t need to use Shift-Alt instead of Alt-Shift as suggested in the original solution and neither the Shift key cancels the Caps Lock as may be suggested by this option.

Creating Menu Entries for Calibre

I recently installed Calibre using their binary installer for linux, and found out that it doesn’t come with .desktop files, so Calibre doesn’t appear in the GNOME menu. To remedy this I installed the following desktop files in ~/.local/share/applications/ (modified from the Debian Sid package):

[Desktop Entry]
Type=Application
Name=E-Book Viewer
Comment=E-Book Viewer
TryExec=/home/user/.local/calibre/ebook-viewer
Exec=/home/user/.local/calibre/ebook-viewer %F
Icon=/home/user/.local/calibre/resources/images/viewer.png
MimeType=application/x-mobipocket-ebook;application/epub+zip;
Categories=Office;Graphics;Viewer;

and

[Desktop Entry]
Type=Application
Name=Calibre
GenericName=E-book library management
GenericName[de]=E-Book Bibliotheksverwaltung
Comment=E-book library management
Comment[es]=aplicación para la gestión de libros electrónicos
Comment[de]=E-Book Bibliotheksverwaltung
TryExec=/home/user/.local/calibre/calibre
Exec=/home/user/.local/calibre/calibre %f
Icon=/home/user/.local/calibre/resources/images/lt.png
Categories=Office;Database;FileTools;Viewer;Qt;
MimeType=x-content/ebook-reader;

You may need to adjust the paths for TryExec, Exec and Icon to match where you installed Calibre.

RTL Tiddlers in TiddlyWiki 5

Few years ago I wrote about how to create RTL (right-to-left) tiddlers in TiddlyWiki. Creating RTL tiddlers is almost a necessity if you want to create tiddlers in a right-to-left language such as Hebrew or Arabic. TiddlyWiki5, the new version of TiddlyWiki, broke the old solution, but a similar one is can be made. In order to be able to add RTL tiddlers to your TiddlyWiki follow these steps:
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Kindle Paperwhite “Unable to Open Item”

Recently, I tried transfering some new ebook to my Kindle Paperwhite (first generation), the books were listed properly. However, when I tried to open them I got
“Unable to Open Item” error, suggesting I re-download the books from Amazon. I tried transferring the files again and again, but it didnt’ help. Some of the books were mobi files while others were “AZW` (which I got from אינדיבוק) and all of them opened fine on my computer.

Finally, I followed an advice from a comment in the KindledFans blog, and converted the files to AZW3 (the original comment suggested mobi but AZW3 works better with Hebrew). After converting, I moved the files to my Kindle and they opened just fine.