Un-friending Facebook

On Saturday morning a took a big step when after more than 5 years of continual use, I de-activated my Facebook account for the first time. Very likely not for the last time unfortunately but it is the end of the beginning of the end for me and Facebook.

This action was the latest step in my phased disconnection plan that I initiated a couple of weeks ago when I made the decision to leave. To summarise my reasoning it was on privacy grounds and the issues here are obvious and well covered elsewhere, just search the Internet for Facebook and privacy and you’ll dig up a lot of reasons, which I’m all on-board with.

To avoid social drama from my sudden disappearance, I posted my intentions on my wall so my friends wouldn’t assume it was anything personal, particularly because my security settings should make my disappearance fairly indistinguishable from an un-friending. There seemed to be a bit of support for the idea, hopefully not because they’re happy to see the back of me, but perhaps I will lead others to make similar choices in the near future.

The next steps were removing the app from my Android Smartphone, this was not possible because it came pre-installed so cannot be removed, but it can be disabled which has the same effect. After this I continued using the mobile site for some time, which gave me a better sense of privacy because contained within a browser there is only so much they can do compared with an installed app that demands a lot of direct permissions from the phone, how true this is is debatable but that’s inconsequential now, it was only ever temporary.

I attempted to download my data a few times, this failed on every occasion which really speaks volumes about their commitment to data portability, or lack of it. I managed to get my photos out via Trovebox however and frankly I don’t care too much about the rest.

Finally I came to the test disconnect so I de-activated my account to see what would happen…and so far it’s not much, although it has highlighted a few issues, which is the purpose of the test. The main one so far being that my address book is woefully out-of-date. I cannot trust that most of my contact details are correct for quite a few people who I want to keep in touch with, and the same goes for birthdays, punctuated when I was oblivious to a colleague’s birthday this week while everyone else clearly knew through Facebook. So I started building a new address book on my Owncloud, if I know you don’t be surprised if I ask for contact details at some point!

Once these issues are all behind me I will delete my account permanently and I won’t look back. The experience has been an eye-opener on how dependent we have become on Facebook for so many important things, I only hope that others will choose to see for themselves, it really is a red-pill moment that every one should have to understand why they need to leave Facebook and use the Internet properly how it was designed to be: decentralised, distributed and free.

Although I made my own plan, there are resources available online to help, if you know any other good sites, leave a comment and I’ll add them to this list:

Installing SpiderOak client on a headless 64bit Ubuntu server

SpiderOak is a fine example of secure cloud backup done right, I’ve been a happy paying customer for 3 years and run their client on all my computers but when I came to install it on a new headless server however I ran into problems. For the uninitiated, “headless” means there is no screen, I’m connected via a terminal which cannot handle graphics. Normally the SpiderOak client is a graphical application but it will also run from a terminal, which is a bit of a nasty bodge but at least it works!

When I first installed the Debian package using dpkg, then ran the application for the first time I got this error:

ImportError: libkrb5.so.3: cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory

This should be simple enough to resolve installing libkrb.5-3 from the Ubuntu repositories, but it’s not that simple because although SpiderOak supplies both 32bit and 64bit packages, the software in both packages is 32bit, so you need to install the 32bit version of libkrb5-3, like this:

sudo apt-get install libkrb5-3:i386

Once complete you can continue the SpiderOak setup. Be warned though, running the application without the –setup parameter however will error due to other missing libs, but these are only necessary for running the GUI version of the application.

GTK theming QT apps

It’s becoming more common to run a mixture of apps using the QT toolkit (as seen in the KDE desktop) and the GTK toolkit (as seen in GNOME desktop). When using a GTK-based desktop, QT apps may appear out of place by not following the GTK theme settings, this can be fixed using ‘qtconfig’ as follows:

From a console run:

qtconfig qt4

From the graphical menu pull down the “Select GUI style” option and select “GTK+”. Click ‘file’ then ‘save’ and any running QT apps should instantly re-theme and look a lot better!

If ‘qtconfig’ is not installed, it can be installed on apt-based systems by entering:

sudo apt-get install qt4-qtconfig

Owncloud: csync failed to create a lock file

I use the Owncloud client to synchronise important files between my laptop and desktop computers. Recently the client failed immediately on start-up with the error “csync failed to create a lock file”. To resolve this issue, locate and remove the lock file.

On version 1.2.x the lock file can be found in the following locations, depending on which OS you are using.

Linux:

~/.local/share/data/ownCloud/lock

Mac OSX

~/Library/Application Support/ownCloud/lock

Windows:

TBC

Take heed: Left-over “stale” lock files are usually safe to remove, however if multiple instances of the same program are running, such as in a separate user session, removing the lock file can cause write-conflicts and corrupt your data, so be warned! Only remove the file if you’re sure it’s not being used by another running instance of the Owncloud app.

Update

Thanks to Markus for providing the Mac OSX location