A lot of us hear the word ping used a lot in gaming and when we are having network issues, but what exactly is ping?
ping is a command line tool that is used to measure the round-trip time for messages sent from one computer to another. This is often used to test if there is a connection between your computer and a website.
Ping the specified host until stopped. To see statistics and continue – type Control-Break; To stop – type Control-C.
Resolve addresses to hostnames.
Number of echo requests to send.
Send buffer size.
Set Don’t Fragment flag in packet (IPv4-only).
Time to Live.
Record route for count hops (IPv4-only)
Timestamp for count hops (IPv4-only).
Loose source route along host-list (IPv4-only).
Strict source route along host-list (IPv4-only).
Timeout in milliseconds to wait for each reply.
Source address to use.
Routing compartment identifier.
Ping a Hyper-V Network Virtualization provider address.
Force using IPv4.
Force using IPv6.
Adaptive ping. Interpacket interval adapts to round-trip time, so that effectively not more than one (or more, if preload is set) unanswered probes present in the network. Minimal interval is 200msec for not super-user. On networks with low rtt this mode is essentially equivalent to flood mode.
Allow pinging a broadcast address.
Do not allow ping to change source address of probes. The address is bound to one selected when ping starts.
Stop after sending count ECHO_REQUEST packets. With deadline option, ping waits for count ECHO_REPLY packets, until the timeout expires.
Set the SO_DEBUG option on the socket being used. Essentially, this socket option is not used by Linux kernel.
-F flow label
Allocate and set 20 bit flow label on echo request packets. (Only ping6). If value is zero, kernel allocates random flow label.
Flood ping. For every ECHO_REQUEST sent a period ”.” is printed, while for ever ECHO_REPLY received a backspace is printed. This provides a rapid display of how many packets are being dropped. If interval is not given, it sets interval to zero and outputs packets as fast as they come back or one hundred times per second, whichever is more. Only the super-user may use this option with zero interval.
Wait interval seconds between sending each packet. The default is to wait for one second between each packet normally, or not to wait in flood mode. Only super-user may set interval to values less 0.2 seconds.
-I interface address
Set source address to specified interface address. Argument may be numeric IP address or name of device. When pinging IPv6 link-local address this option is required.
If preload is specified, ping sends that many packets not waiting for reply. Only the super-user may select preload more than 3.
Suppress loopback of multicast packets. This flag only applies if the ping destination is a multicast address.
Numeric output only. No attempt will be made to lookup symbolic names for host addresses.
Set Quality of Service -related bits in ICMP datagrams. tos can be either decimal or hex number. Traditionally (RFC1349), these have been interpreted as: 0 for reserved (currently being redefined as congestion control), 1-4 for Type of Service and 5-7 for Precedence. Possible settings for Type of Service are: minimal cost: 0x02, reliability: 0x04, throughput: 0x08, low delay: 0x10. Multiple TOS bits should not be set simultaneously. Possible settings for special Precedence range from priority (0x20) to net control (0xe0). You must be root (CAP_NET_ADMIN capability) to use Critical or higher precedence value. You cannot set bit 0x01 (reserved) unless ECN has been enabled in the kernel. In RFC2474, these fields has been redefined as 8-bit Differentiated Services (DS), consisting of: bits 0-1 of separate data (ECN will be used, here), and bits 2-7 of Differentiated Services Codepoint (DSCP).
Quiet output. Nothing is displayed except the summary lines at startup time and when finished.
Record route. Includes the RECORD_ROUTE option in the ECHO_REQUEST packet and displays the route buffer on returned packets. Note that the IP header is only large enough for nine such routes. Many hosts ignore or discard this option.
Bypass the normal routing tables and send directly to a host on an attached interface. If the host is not on a directly-attached network, an error is returned. This option can be used to ping a local host through an interface that has no route through it provided the option -I is also used.
Specifies the number of data bytes to be sent. The default is 56, which translates into 64 ICMP data bytes when combined with the 8 bytes of ICMP header data.
Set socket sndbuf. If not specified, it is selected to buffer not more than one packet.
Set the IP Time to Live.
-T timestamp option
Set special IP timestamp options. timestamp option may be either tsonly (only timestamps), tsandaddr (timestamps and addresses) or tsprespec host1 [host2 [host3 [host4]]] (timestamp prespecified hops).
Select Path MTU Discovery strategy. hint may be either do (prohibit fragmentation, even local one), want (do PMTU discovery, fragment locally when packet size is large), or dont (do not set DF flag).
Print full user-to-user latency (the old behaviour). Normally ping prints network round trip time, which can be different f.e. due to DNS failures.
Show version and exit.
Specify a timeout, in seconds, before ping exits regardless of how many packets have been sent or received. In this case ping does not stop after count packet are sent, it waits either for deadline expire or until count probes are answered or for some error notification from network.
Time to wait for a response, in seconds. The option affects only timeout in absense of any responses, otherwise ping waits for two RTTs.
Note: Linux uses ping and ping6 to distinuish between IPv4 and IPv6
If you are having issues connecting to the internet many will try to test the issue by sending a ping request to a known working website. We will use google.com in this example.
If we run the command ping google.com we should get the following output:
Pinging google.com [126.96.36.199] with 32 bytes of data:
Reply from 188.8.131.52: bytes=32 time=22ms TTL=53
Reply from 184.108.40.206: bytes=32 time=26ms TTL=53
Reply from 220.127.116.11: bytes=32 time=23ms TTL=53
Reply from 18.104.22.168: bytes=32 time=68ms TTL=53
Ping statistics for 22.214.171.124:
Packets: Sent = 4, Received = 4, Lost = 0 (0% loss),
Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:
Minimum = 22ms, Maximum = 68ms, Average = 34ms
If all our packets get replies then we have a good connection. If some of them are lost it could mean that there is some network interference preventing a stable connection. If all of them are lost then we are looking at three different possible issues:
The website is down.
You are not connected to the internet.
You are having DNS problems.
We can test number 3 by typing in the IP Address of the website you wish to ping. If you get no packets then the issue is not likely a DNS issue. If you receive your packets then we may be able to fix the issue by flushing our DNS Resolver Catch with ipconfig /flushdns. To learn more about ipconfig look at our article here.
With the introduction of Firefox Quantum, Mozilla removed support for legacy XUL extensions in favor of Web Extensions. This naturally made a lot of people angry. XUL extensions had full control over the browser and could change everything from how downloads where handled to the user interface. This powerful framework gave Firefox what many seen as a competitive edge. Extensions this powerful came with some shortcomings, however, and this lead to the adoption of Web Extensions in Firefox.
The Problems with XUL Extensions
We already established that XUL is powerful. Many of the most popular extensions, Classic Theme Restorer for example, are written in XUL. They are able to change most aspects of the browser, make complex themes, and essentially rewrite parts of the browser. This comes with some inherent risks:
Extensions are single processor.
Updates can brake extensions.
Extensions can break browser functions.
Extensions are not sandboxed.
XUL Extensions are powerful, but are unstable. If Mozilla wanted to add a new feature or change a function in Firefox, they would risk breaking popular extensions. This held Firefox back and kept Firefox from developing much needed features such as multi-processor support and tab sandboxing. Imagine a tab crashing and your whole browser crashing in the process, not very fun. Powerful extensions that could change every aspect of the browser are not secure, break things, and keep the browser in the past.
Very few extensions actually needed XUL to function and the technology was putting Firefox behind other browsers.
Extensions are more secure.
Extensions are unlikely to brake.
They can run in their own process.
Web languages are more accessible to developers than XUL
Extensions are cross-platform
Web Extensions cannot change core browser features. This is a mixed blessing. They cannot add a sidebar or give you a debug console for example, but by the same token they are not able to hijack core functions of the browser and are unlikely to change something that will get updated. That said malicious extensions do exist and they could break with an API update. Firefox can now develop much more rapidly without breaking things.
These extensions come with a new Firefox built to handle the modern web. The browser can now handle multiple processes. Tabs no longer bring down the rest of the browser with them and run in their own sandbox. Undoubtedly Quantum is a faster browser. Firefox would have continued to lose its market share without these improvements. How can the “Browser with a mission” complete that mission without users, funding, or developers?
The Future of Firefox
Web Extensions are likely the future. They may not be nearly as powerful as legacy extensions, but the benefits outweigh the downfalls. Most other web browsers use web extensions, implementing the API allows for cross-platform extensions, greatly expanding Firefox’s plugin library. Chrome, Opera, Vivaldi, and others all use the same underlining technology.
Mozilla has not just been copying other browsers. They know that web extensions lack functionality and have enhanced Web Extensions. Extensions in Firefox are far more powerful than in their competitors. The move away from extensions has also prompted the idea of making the browser more powerful out of the box. New ideas and built in features will come with time.
Firefox is one of the few major open source browsers with power to shape the web. Firefox is still one of the most customizable browsers online, even without the power of XUL extensions. The commitment to privacy is commendable, but now Mozilla has something to back up their ideals.
Will I still be using Firefox? Perhaps in the future, but for now I will be using Vivaldi as Firefox matures. Firefox’s sidebar is half-backed; the UI is customizable, but limited; and the built in features do not compare to Vivaldi’s. Firefox is a good browser, Mozilla is improving, and they have a future. Bad marketing decisions and deals aside, Firefox is an open source browser that respects your privacy.
The less time you use the mouse the faster you can navigate a computer. That said, sometimes keyboard shortcuts are not enough. When you need to launch programs or search for a file quickly for example. Enter in Launchy, the open source application launcher.
Launchy: What is it and how it works
Launchy is a program that lets you open programs and files on your computer. All you have to do is press the keyboard shortcut (Default is alt+space) and start typing the name of the program or file. You can add new files to the program’s search database, but any program that adds items to the start menu or desktop should automatically be added.
You can download Launchy form its website. After installing let the program build a database. The time this takes will depend on how many programs you have installed.
The first thing you will want to do after installing is go through the settings. To do so, press alt+space on your keyboard. This will open up the search window. Before typing anything click the gear icon in the topmost right hand corner.
In the general settings you will find the ability to edit the user interface, setup internet proxy settings, control how many options appear in the suggestion list, and some general options for how the program behaves.
These settings are explanatory for the most part.
The next tab is the skin settings, you can customize the way the program looks here. You can find new skins on Devientart. Just place the skin’s folder in the program’s skin folder (Default: C:\Program Files (x86)\Launchy\skins).
The catalog is where things get interesting. This is Launchy’s heart.
Launchy will scan the files in the directories you chose. If the file matches the file types set in the list to the right, it will appear when you type. Press the plus (+) sign to add new paths and file types and minus (-) sign to remove them. Including executables will allow you to directly launch a program, but I recommend that you use shortcuts to do such work. Directories will let you search the directories and launch an explorer window to them. I recommend that you keep this unchecked as well.
The last tab is for Plugins. These extend Launchy’s abilities beyond what it can do be default. This includes Calcy for performing math calculations and Weby for searching the web directly from Launchy. As there is too much variation with plugins, they will not be covered here. You can toggle them on and off with the check boxes in the left window.
Now you can launch any program on your computer from the keyboard. You will save time, improve your typing speed, and not have to deal with the start menu.
Earlier we mentioned how to customize Firefox. Personas are like wallpaper for Firefox and give some basic customization, but what if you wanted to make your own instead of using the ones provided by others?
Fortunately you can with some photo editing and a Firefox addon named Personas Plus. This little addon will give you the ability to create your own personas.
Creating the Persona Images
My attempt at making a persona.
To start you will need some images to use as the Firefox Header and Footer. The header is the image that is displayed at the top of your browser, behind the toolbars and tabs. The footer is the image used for the addonbar at the bottom of Firefox. These two images should be simple as to not interfere with text.
The files have specific requirements:
Header: 3000px x 200px, PNG or JPG format, 300 KB maximum file size.
Footer: 3000px x 100px, PNG or JPG format, 300 KB maximum file size.
You can use your favorite image editing program to crop larger images to size if you wish or make your own.
Persona Plus Settings
Now that you have your images, you will need to install Personas Plus. You should find an icon for the addon on your toolbar. When you click on the icon a menu should appear with the option to edit a custom persona. This will give you a menu where you can chose your header, footer, text color, and accent color. Make sure that your colors do not conflict with the persona you made as this will be the text color for the toolbar.
Now you you can have a unique theme for your browser. There are more complicated ways to make and edit Firefox themes, but that would require some css. Perhaps we will touch on it in the future.
The reason we chose Firefox as our web browser in the Introduction to Computers series is due to its great customization features. By using Extensions and Personas we can make Firefox our own. Make sure that you have the program installed before continuing.
Personas: Firefox’s Skin
The easiest way to customize Firefox is with a Persona. These are similar to wallpaper on your desktop, but cover the browser toolbars. You can find them on Mozilla’s Firefox addons site under themes. To apply a Persona just click the “+ Add” button. You can also test a theme without installing it by hovering over it with your cursor. In the past Firefox had a much more powerful theme system that could change the whole layout of the browser. Due to some unfortunate design decisions they have simplified the system and made it more difficult to achieve system wide changes.
If you would like to know how to make your own persona you can, we will go over how to do so in a future tutorial as it will require some image editing.
Extensions: Make Firefox Better
Firefox is rather powerful on its own, but some things that should be default are not and some things need to be fixed. This is where extensions come in. These are bits of code that add functionality to the browser. All of the extensions that are peer and Mozilla reviewed, if something is bad it will not stay for long if it ever gets approved in the first place. You should not install addons/extensions from untrusted sources.
We will go over some of the most useful and fun extensions in this article.
Most websites make money using ads, without them we could not afford to keep in business. There comes a time, however, when ads are obnoxious or even harmful. Video ads, animated ads, scams, etc. Ads slow down your browsing experience. These two extensions are the most known and respected ad blockers around. Either one will work, but Adblock Plus has had some shady deals with advertisers and has some issues with high CPU usage.
If you chose to install Adblock Plus, disable “Allow some non-intrusive advertising” option in the options.
Also consider adding us to your browser white list by clicking on the extensions button and clicking “disable on this domain”
You can add either one by simply clicking the “+ Add to Firefox” button.
I have already gone over this extension in the past. Remember how I said that Firefox use to be more customizable? This plugin gives some of that customization back. You can change the style of tabs, the menus, and more importantly the search box. One of the biggest issues with the design direction in the newer Firefox is the search box functionality. The decision prevents you from quickly switching between search engines in favor for one click searching. In the Classic Theme Restorer options you can set the behavior back to a more useful state.
Keeping with the theme of Customization, Stylish allows you to to theme websites with custom CSS. Basically personas for websites. If you find that a website is too light or has a bad color scheme, you can change it yourself or in most cases find a theme that someone has already made for you. Though it is mostly cosmetic, it is useful to have and will surprise your friends when Google looks different.
VimFx brings Vim-style keyboard shortcuts to Firefox. It is a bit complicated to go over in this article, but keyboard shortcuts make everything faster. With VimFx, pressing “x” will close a tab, “t” will open a new tab, “o” will activate the search bar, and “i” will disable the shortcuts. The extension is not perfect, you cannot exit insert mode when on YouTube as it has its own shortcuts for example, but VimFx provides great shortcuts that will save anyone time.
Firebug allows you to make live changes to a website’s source code. This may sound a bit complicated to a normal user, but it is very useful. Some website will have full page ads that block content and do not go away even with ad blockers for example. You can disable the ad by erasing the line in the source code or adding a new CSS rule. It is also useful for web developers and designers when mocking up website changes.
Most websites track you. Ads track you, Facebook, Amazon, even my website has some trackers. Sometimes they are harmless, just to keep you logged into your account. Often they are malicious. Amazon and Facebook do not need to know that you are looking into buying a computer and that random Chinese advertising agency does not need to know that you are talking to your grandma on Facebook. To help prevent these issues Disconnect blocks the invisible tracking elements on websites. This will often speed up website load times as an added benefit. Remember, you should never need to sacrifice privacy.
Have you ever been on a website or custom search engine and wanted to search with it directly from the search bar? Unfortunately very few web browsers have a way to easily customize your search engines. Fortunately this extension gives you the ability to add any search box to your search engine list. If you are a student you can finally add that search database that your school uses to Firefox.
We hope that you have found this article helpful. What web browsers do you use?
Microsoft did not include Solitaire or MineSweeper in Windows 10, instead you can get Microsoft Solitaire Collection. This is Microsoft’s attempt at making solitaire into a service that you will pay for. You will either pay a fee to get an ad-free experience or get bombarded with obtrusive advertising. To top it all off you need a Microsoft Account to use it. Who would have ever thought that you would have to pay to play something computer users have enjoyed for free for so long. Microsoft Solitaire Collection is a bad joke.
PySol is an open-source version of Solitaire written in Python. Sadly development has stopped and it has not aged well.
Look at all of them.
Fortunately it works on Windows 10 and has more than a thousand solitaire games, including Mahjong Solitaire. The interface is intuitive and the games work.
Disclaimer: I do not play Solitaire and am not qualified to review PySol’s quality in regard to game-play.
PySol is under the GPL and can be modified and improved. If you know a little bit of Python and love Solitaire I encourage you to bring the project back to life as no one wishes to give Microsoft any more than they must.
Firefox has experienced a major update with built in chat and a new search box. Some of you may find the new search box inconvenient if you use multiple search engines regularly, fortunately there is an easy fix to the problem.
To use the old search box in Firefox in version 34 or higher you will need to edit the configuration settings.
Type about:config in the URL bar to see Firefox’s settings. Hit “I agree” If prompted.
There should be a search box on the top of the page type this into the box:
Set the setting to false by double clicking it or right clicking and hitting Toggle.
After resetting Firefox the search bar should act like it did in earlier versions of Firefox.
BitTorrent has been around for many years now, since 2001, yet there are many who still do not know what it is or how to use it. Today we will lock at the basics of what BitTorrent is and how to use it.
What is BitTorrent?
To put it simply, BitTorrent is a way to download large files quickly and efficiently. BitTorrent itself is a protocol that handles the transferring of files across the internet. The major difference between BitTorrent and standard direct downloads is that when downloading through BitTorrent downloads from many sources at once whereas direct downloads come from one server.
Using this “swarm” of computers allows for faster download speed as you get little pieces of the file from many users who already have that file. The only server involved is a Torrent Tracker that keeps track of the file. All other actions are performed peer-to-peer (P2P) within the swarm. BitTorrent uses a system where you receive data from the “swarm” in exchange you become a member of that swarm to help send files that you have to others. This is known as Seeding.
You open a Web page and click on a link for the file you want.
BitTorrent client software communicates with a tracker to find other computers running BitTorrent that have the complete file (seed computers) and those with a portion of the file (peers that are usually in the process of downloading the file).
The tracker identifies the swarm, which is the connected computers that have all of or a portion of the file and are in the process of sending or receiving it.
The tracker helps the client software trade pieces of the file you want with other computers in the swarm. Your computer receives multiple pieces of the file simultaneously.
If you continue to run the BitTorrent client software after your download is complete, others can receive .torrent files from your computer; your future download rates improve because you are ranked higher in the “tit-for-tat” system.”
BitTorrent is only the protocol used to download the files, you will need specialized software to actually download the file, this is known as a BitTorrent client. The client handles all download operations on your computer. There are many client programs available for free, but for this example we will be using Deluge as it is open-source, cross-platform, and easy to use. If you are on a Linux system your distribution probably already comes with Transmission or Ktorrent which are both grate options)
Once it is done downloading and installing start it up. You should see something like this:
It may look different on your desktop as I am using a KDE theme.
As you can see it is a fairly straightforward interface. You have a traditional menu at the top as well as a tool bar that allows to add, delineate, pause, start, move up and down torrents in the queue, and open up the Preferences panel. The left most panel gives an overview of all torrent and tracker activity. On the right there is a panel that shoes all torrents and allows you to click on them to view more information in the bottom panel. On the bottom is all of the data about the selected torrent. Here you can see how much of the torrent you have, what files you have downloaded, how many peers are connected and how much of the file they have, and options that are specific to the individual torrent. We will go through each of these in depth later, but first we will need a Torrent file to download.
You can use any torrent file you wish, but for this example we will be downloading the Debian live CD. For this example we will be using the amd64 CD release. Debian is a Linux Distribution that is completely legal to download. You can get it here.
This screen gives you an overview of what you are downloading and some basic options.
You should be able to open the file in Deluge right from the browser so there is no reason to save the file. This file is information that Deluge needs to download the Debian ISO image, not the ISO itself. Once it opens in Deluge you should see a screen similar to the image on the right.
This screen gives a general overview of the torrent file including its name and the files that are included in this file. Under the options tab you can select the location you wish to download the file and set bandwidth limits(we will go over this later), but for now we can just select the add button to start the torrent.
We will go over the basic options and panels in depth in the next post.
Carmack, Carmen. “How BitTorrent Works” 26 March 2005. HowStuffWorks.com. <http://computer.howstuffworks.com/bittorrent.htm> 08 November 2014.
Many value a computer mouse over a keyboard nowadays. There is less to remember and the use of menus give us easy access to everything we need. We even have touch screens now that can save us seconds of time now that we do not need to drag the mouse across the mouse pad. With all of this innovation many do not even see the value of a keyboard, with the exception of typing and the few shortcuts that they know. The truth is that keyboard shortcuts are not only for computer geeks and they increase ones speed more than any touch screen could ever dream.
Many who will read this will know their fair share of keyboard shortcuts, however many people only know few, if any, shortcuts.
In my brief experience with the Vim text editor I learned to love my keyboard. Shortcuts allow you to get things done much faster with just a few keystrokes. A control+c here saves two clicks and a shift+control+directional key will allow you to select a few words without you needing to leave the keyboard. The speed took some time to master, keyboard shortcuts are many and require some time to learn, but the results well made up for the time.
I have talked about the application launcher Launchy before (If you are on a Linux system with KDE you can use Krunner), it allows you to launch programs without leaving the keyboard. Application launchers paired up with a working knowledge of shortcuts can lead you to a place where you do not need to reach for the mouse so often. Knowing your shortcuts can greatly increase your productivity in work, school, and even in play.
If you are anything like me, you probably do not like the new look Mozilla created for Firefox 29. Fortunately there is a way to change it back. All that you will need is a simple add-on and a two line CSS edit.
Once you install it you should go to the Add-ons Manager and find the add-on. Under its preferences menu you are given many options. Some of the basic options I recommend selecting are: Star-button in urlbar, movable status-bar panel, combine stop & reload buttons, and Hide add-on bars close button. There are many more opions available and I recommend that you try them all out.
The next thing to do is move your icons where you want them. Once you have customized everything to your liking you can right click the customization button and remove it from the screen.
Something that you may have noticed was that the Classic Theme Restorer does not give you the option to edit the height of tabs, only the width. The size of the tabs in Firefox 29 are a bit large for small screens, especially if you use toolbars. To fix this we will use a little CSS.
The first thing we want to do is find our Profile folder. The location of the profile folder depends on your Operating System. You can read this page to find out where it is on your OS.
Mine is located at: /home/mlamont/.mozilla/firefox/o5meaoc7.default/
Once you find your profile folder we need to make a new folder named chrome. Within that folder we are going to make a new text document and name it userChrome.css. If you are using Linux, remember that Linux is case-sensitive. Now open the new file with the text editor of you choice. We are going to type the following: