Digital rights Law & Freedom GNU/Linux Free Software & Open Source personal

Depending on web services

What would happen if your access to most of your online services were to be disabled? What would you loose?

I’ve been in situations where we have to decide either to run certain applications on our server, like E-mail, scheduling, project management, etc. Or use the ubiquitous, given-for-granted web services from huge companies with huge servers, like Google.

Most of the time, the decision is in favor of thrid party providers for such services, since the comodity of being just a few clicks away is huge. Also, it gives a good sensation of reliability. Except for Twitter, most web services are available 99.999% of the time.

Mako Hill and others at the Free Software Foundation have been warning about the posibility of depending so much on 3rd party services (information at that you can be left out without data if the provider ceased to exist, killed the service or kick you out. They even have a wiki with a list of free software alternatives you can set up on your own machines to replace such services.

Well, the idea of finding Gmail or any other 3rd party software service unavailable is pretty much inconcievable. But what about your account being disabled without notice or reason?

That exact thing happened to me this past Friday.

I was using my Gmail as usual in the morning, I went for lunch, came back and tried to log in. I got a message saying: Sorry, your account has been disabled. I filled out the contact form for support and only got an auto reply message and no help at all. The whole weekend passed and the situation was the same.

My account being disabled, meant that I had no longer access to my emails, my calendars, my rss feeds, my news, my homepage with its widgets and tools, my documents, notes, videos, website traffic statistics and finally my adsense account.

All these things I used to rely on Google, for the reasons stated at the begginning of this post. Bad idea.

What saved me

Fortunately for me, I had backups. I was recently testing a desktop rss feed reader aKgregator, and exported all my rss feeds from google reader to my computer. Since I’ve always hated web interfaces to interact with my email, I always checked my emails through Thunderbird via POP3.

I only lost access to my calendar appointments, my startup page widgets and some unimportant documents at Google apps, since I always use OpenOffice for all my documents. My videos that were uploaded are on my backup files and I don’t use Picasa for my photo album,though I do use Flickr, but all my pictures are perfectly safe on my backup files too.

Getting it back

So the whole weekend passed without any notice from Google support team. On monday, I started writing this post and looking for somone else that had a similar experience.

I came across this post with the story of Nick Saber. Same situation where his google account was disabled without any notice, warning or reason. On the comments I found that Google did replied to his emails and sent him this link. I followed the link and filled in the form with the questions. Minutes later I had an email saying that my account was enabled again. No explanations, nothing.

So if I never came across this blog post and this link, I would’ve never gotten my google services account back.

Lessons learned

Even though I have my account back, my relationship with Google will never be the same. Gmail will never be my primary email address ever again. I’ll always check it though POP3 as it turned out to be great for me. I’ll only use the rest of the google services a a nice to have online access, but not as my primary source of these services.

I’ll be running my own services using free software on a machine I own from now on as much as its possible. I can never again rely on someone else’s computer services. Its not going to be as nice and comfortable, but it will be reliable and completely mine.

You should consider being in a situation like mine and not be left out in the cold when you get kicked out of a service without notice or reason, and without your data.

Not like the others… photo is creative commons by greenapplegrenade
GNU/Linux Free Software & Open Source Programming & Web Development Tutorials & Tips

How to install latest Git on Ubuntu

Git Logo

Git is a distributed version control system. I won’t go into much details of what Git is or why use Git instead of other VC systems. There’s plenty other sites where to check that information.

I love Git, but there’s a slight problem with Ubuntu’s repositories (feisty, gutsy): its an old version.

Git’s version on the repositories is Its an old version and it lacks many of the new cool features like git stash and git citool and many others. So to get the latest version with all the cool features, you have to compile from source.

To do that, you will need the following packages:

First install the all the basic tools for compiling source:

sudo aptitude build-essential

sudo aptitude install libc6 libcurl3-gnutls libexpat1 zlib1g perl-modules liberror-perl libdigest-sha1-perl cpio openssh patch
gettext curl tk8.4 tcl8.4

Download the tarball from and uncompress it.

$ tar xvzf git*.tar.gz

Then, run the compilation steps and install:

$ ./configure
$ make
$ sudo make install

And there it is! Run the following to check your version.

$ git --version

The only thing that I still don’t know how to get is git command autocomplete on bash. If you install from repositories, then install from source, you’ll have it all.

Digital rights Law & Freedom personal

Free format victory case

I’ve been fighting a battle (one of many) about the use of free format files on private/public organizations. And I think I finally won this one.

The Casino Tampiqueño is a social club in my hometown Tampico. So they organize balls and carnivals and multiple events. Recently, they “discovered” email. So they started sending “spam” to all their members about their notices and future events.

The bad thing was not the “spam”. It was that they decided to attach all event or notice details on a file. And guess what file was that? OOXML .docx format. Not only I couldn’t open the file, but also every other Microsoft Office user that hasn’t updated (legally or not) to the most recent version. And for what I’ve seen, there’s a lot of people that haven’t.

So with every email I got, I sent two emails explaining that the file they sent couldn’t be opened by everyone and suggested the use of PDF or JPEG files (yes, I know jpegs of documents are not nice, but its a file extension everyone knows….and mp3s are not suitable).

Then I finally saw the problem affect a non free software or Linux user: my mom. She got one of those emails and tried to open it. Since she couldn’t see it she called me up to fix the problem. Then I explained what the issue was about using proprietary formats on files (without detailing the OOXML vs ODF politics) just the essential stuff, and then told her to write back to the club explaining what I just told her. So she did.

And I haven’t confirmed if our emails did any change. But this past two weeks I’ve been getting new “spam” from the club with PDF and JPEG file attachments. Yay!

Well…its still spam, but now its spam I can view or throw away, without swearing and shouting about proprietary file formats.