FIX: Get Skype to Work on 64-Bit Ubuntu 13.04 Raring Ringtail

Screenshot of Skype 4.2 for Linux on Ubuntu 13.04 Raring Ringtail

Proof is in the Pudding.

Problem: I needed to install Skype on a Linux Live USB distro with persistence (so it remembers the settings & saves files) so I could video chat with my fiancée while on a business trip. On a 64-bit machine with Ubuntu 13.04, Skype is nowhere to be found in the Ubuntu Software Center. If you go to the Skype website, the last working copy of Skype is for 12.04 (which currently has long-term support on the Ubuntu web site), and it’s 32-bit.

I spent hours on this problem, because a library called ia32-lib and ia32-lib-architecture are deprecated in the last few versions of Ubuntu, and multi-architecture (the ability to do 32-bit and 64-bit applications) is included but disabled by default. I give credit to Noobslab for this solution (it’s the one listed under “alternative method” and it worked for me).

Open a terminal window (CTRL+ALT+T or go to the Unity menu and type “Terminal” and select it from there) and then run the following 3 commands:

sudo add-apt-repository "deb http://archive.canonical.com $(lsb_release -sc) partner"
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install skype && sudo apt-get -f install

That will automatically determine your current release and add the proper repository and then grab the correct version of Skype for your computer. After I ran that, I had a few dependencies that needed to be automatically downloaded and installed, so it took a few minutes. Afterwards though, I was able to go to the Unity menu, type in “Skype” and it found the application right away. I went ahead and locked it to my launcher so I could find it easier next time.

I launched “Skype” and set up my audio and video devices and did a test chat with my fiancée in the other room and it works brilliantly. I hope this saved you a few hours of searching and headache, I only wish I’d found the Noobslab article sooner.

Should I Care About My Privacy?

Verizon Obama Meme

Can You Hear Me Now, NSA?

Verizon has sent your phone records to the NSA. Google recently announced that it would be curtailing any facial recognition apps for its new Google Glass endeavor, citing privacy concerns. Facebook’s “mutual friends” feature reveals connections others may not want shown. If you’re not a “private person,”  you “don’t have anything to hide,” or you “just don’t post anything I don’t want anyone to find online,”  you might be wondering – is it worth worrying about your privacy? Let’s look at some privacy myths popular today:

Myth #1: Privacy Is For Criminals and the Morally Bankrupt

I live in the United States, and furthermore I chose to live in the town I live in for its slower, quieter pace. I enjoy a lot of freedoms, and I was brought up with a great deal of nationalism. And to that end, I enjoy a lot of privilege for being American, for being white, and for being a cisgender male. The problem with privilege is that you don’t have to know you’re privileged to be privileged, and you might not realize it until you’ve experienced a form of discrimination or been made aware of the discrimination of others.

So in a country like mine, privacy is something that is often taken for granted, because so much of what we do or say is under our own control. I can type (almost) whatever I want on this blog site, and I don’t have to fear (mostly) that horrible things will happen to me or my family as a result. Other countries may have more restrictions. Even in this “free country,” we continue to have our privacy invaded more and more in the name of either government control or corporate profit, and mostly we apathetically concede we are no longer in control of who knows what about us.

The site Texts From Last Night is a great example of our apathy: it provokes young people to send in their raucous, racy, drunken, and unfortunate texts about their previous night out and sexual or chemical conquests for all to read, omitting telephone numbers but including area codes.

Harrison Ford in The Fugitive

My Facebook account was hacked; I swear I didn’t post “Whelp, off to kill my wife, BRB, lulz.”

Facebook is probably the biggest trap for catching casual people off-guard about their privacy. The site is notoriously connected to government agencies who collect data about Facebook users at DHS fusion centers around the globe, in the name of anti-terrorism, and users seem to think that changing their privacy settings is enough to make sure their content is really theirs and really private from prying eyes.

So you’re not hiding anything, right? Well, let’s say the government decides to track your flight and vacation trips, your Facebook statuses, and a few of those anti-Obama meme pictures you posted, and when your trip happens to coincide at an airport in the same state the President is visiting that day, you wind up on a no-fly list with TSA wrist-deep in what you had for dinner last night? Do you think your privacy matters to you then? Or perhaps if you’d had your privacy, they wouldn’t have used your personal data to generate probable cause.

We live in a country where being able to dissent from the way our country is being run is supposed to be a fundamentally protected right. Without the right to privacy, you may never be able to speak publicly or over the phone or on the internet to exercise your right to free speech again. Your privacy matters, even if you’re not up to anything worth hiding.

Myth #2: Criminals Don’t Want Me

So if you’re not worried about the government (and you should be), you should still be concerned about identity theft. Here’s a few versions of the same basic excuse:

  • I’m no one important: I have no real authority or power or special access to anything. 
  • I have no money: I’m pretty much living paycheck-to-paycheck, there’s nothing to steal.
  • I have a low credit rating: good luck getting any credit cards in my name.

Nicolas Cage Laughing Not having yourself in mind as a valuable target is a great way to fall victim to identify theft. With technology and software, all it takes is a few thousand of you to make up a big score. Or worse, with the right details about your life, someone can commit even bigger crimes and fraud and leave the tail pinned to you, Donkey.

Myth #3: My Spouse / Loved One / Friend Knows I’m Trustworthy

You’re one of those cutesy couples that shares an email account, Facebook page, Twitter account, and you even still have a landline phone so that you can have a shared answering machine greeting. Communication simply doesn’t reach you without them knowing about it because they’re always in your business.

Overly Attached Girlfriend Asks About Phone Battery

Can’t a guy text his Dungeon Master without getting the third degree?

They *know* you’re trustworthy because they’re in all of your communications, but still they don’t trust you. That’s insecurity. If you said “I’d like some privacy, maybe my own facebook account, etc.” they’d probably flip their shit and accuse you of cheating on them. They’d give you the b.s. lines I mentioned earlier about how “if you’re not doing anything wrong, why do you need more privacy?” You need to break up with this person – I feel like most people would agree with me on that.

So why then do we put up with the same thing from our government? Our government is a needy, possessive, overprotective, insecure partner that wants to be in all of our business so that they can feel secure about their place in power, and assure their corporate sponsors we aren’t up to anything not in their best interests. Your privacy is important; it’s a very real need. It’s up there with food, safety, love, and happiness. Without privacy, you have no way to express yourself completely freely, or have a reasonable expectation of anonymity when needed. Without privacy, there is no freedom – whether you “deserve” monitoring or not.

Hugh Laurie Thumbs Up

Why Your Small Business Sucks at Social Media

Stanley’s Chargrill diner, centrally located downtown beside the Wal-mart across from the courthouse, makes one of the most fantastic burgers on the planet. Their fries are crispy, their wait staff is impeccable. The decor of the restaurant is pleasing to the eye. It’s literally one of the best meals you could have in your city. They have no website, no Facebook page, no Twitter account. The owners don’t even have internet at home.

Across town, though, Fred’s Funeral Parlor has a website, Facebook page with obits as status updates, a Twitter account, and a blog where Funeral Home Director / Owner Fred Jenkins posts informative articles relevant to the funeral service industry. His business is dying. I dodge your incoming tomato in response to that pun.

What’s going on here? Stanley’s business is booming with no technology boost. Fred’s is at a stand still while doing all the right things, according to the social media marketing gurus. He took business courses, developed a business plan, a charter, contracts, and provides valuable information to the trade industry. What the hell is he doing wrong?

Comic of Hobo Explaining His Social Media Guru Experience

The Social Media Guru Plight

Two years ago, I would have told you Social Media Marketing is the next wave of advertising genius. And you would have looked at me puzzled, because you weren’t even sure what the hell “Social Media” is, much less someone who was a guru at it. As soon as Facebook became popular, and shortly after that when Twitter and others followed, companies were salivating. They didn’t understand that folks spent time on sites like Facebook rather than visiting a plethora of websites. It’s the same phenomena really that shopping malls and strip malls capitalize on – one-stop shopping. Folks are already going to the mall to shop, so businesses want to setup shop at the mall too in order to take advantage of folks that have to walk by their stores to get where they’re headed. (This is also why I avoid the mall.) So companies setup Facebook profiles and offered contests and incentives to get folks to “like” their pages – how many of you reading this are guilty?

Companies with older management saw that younger, fresher companies were hiring “Social Media Marketing Directors” – essentially interns to run their social media campaigns, and hired their own. In a very short time, enterprising folks were able to leverage social media to market themselves and find employment. And their payoff? They got to spend all day on Facebook and Twitter representing their brand. Some folks developed Powerpoints, eBooks, conferences and seminars on brand identity and leveraging social media.

It’s not all snake oil, but consider this proposition: in just a few short years, “Social Media Marketing Guru” has become the new “Used Car Salesman.” Social Media Gurus offer you advice that you need services that they just happen to provide. They make assumptions about you and your business without actually asking you or your customers what they need. They sell you a solution they think you want to a problem they’re not even sure you have. All they know is, if you buy into it, you’ll need their help for a long, long time.

The Truth

Every Business Is Different

Not just every type of business. Every. Single. Business. The chargrill burger joint from earlier may be totally successful in this location in this town at this point in history due to a lot of different factors. But it’s certainly different than Fred’s Funeral Home across town. Fred listened to the Social Media Guru he hired to help him prop up his business. That guru did what gurus do: apply a hammer to everything, whether it looks like a nail or not.  The real solution to Fred’s business’ problems lies deeper than how he uses Twitter effectively.

Finance Dog Meme suggests buying tennis balls

The Pieces Have to Fit Together

Running a successful business could be explained in volumes by the world’s experts, but the most successful of those experts wouldn’t waste volumes telling you those secrets. The secret is that you have to be involved and dedicated in every piece of your business. You can’t be passionate about your advertising and provide lackluster service. You can’t make amazing food and never post the sporadic hours you’re open anywhere. You can’t create the most beautiful art and then use text-only advertising in the newspaper. The pieces have to fit with one another, or nothing will work at all. It’s no different with social media, it’s just another piece of your business that must flow with the other pieces.

It’s Not Just What You Do, It’s Who You Know, and Who Knows You

I’m not talking about name-dropping that you served a delicious burger to the mayor and he said it’s his favorite. I’m talking about Stanley being an icon in the community because he gets to know his customers. He lets the Girl Scouts sell cookies outside on the sidewalk. He’s known for being open from 11am – 11pm, seven days a week except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The smell of delicious food wafts through the air as patrons leave nearby stores, and their mouths water and that turns into sales. He’s been open since 1987 and the food quality and service haven’t changed, and that’s made it easy for repeat customers to tell their friends who are new in town about their favorite burger joint.  You already want to eat there, just based on what I’ve told you about Stanley’s.

So What Are You Doing Wrong?

Getting customers is about getting attention. Keeping customers is about relationships. It’s not a gimmick, and it’s not a lazy person’s job. What Stanley is doing can easily translate to businesses that need customers from the internet to survive. Social Media is not a waste of time, as long as you aren’t wasting the time you invest using it.

People use social media to:

  • Keep up with family and friends
  • Follow entertainment and news updates
  • Find relevant or amusing links
  • Look for helpful tips / ask questions / crowd-source information

Businesses use social media to:

  • Get their business in front of customers
  • Spread the word about promotions / contests / campaigns
  • Desperately increase their followers / “likes” in a misguided thought that number of followers equals cash.

SMART businesses use social media to:

  • Interact directly with their clients.
  • Make themselves more approachable.
  • Update clients with important information / outages / sudden closures / changes that affect customer service experience.
  • Obtain valuable feedback from their customer base.
  • Build relationships by using down-to-earth, approachable language and honesty. Communities form when you act like you’re part of a community, not running an artificial one.

Word of mouth advertising works as organically on the internet as it does face-to-face. You cannot induce this phenomenon artificially, as much as companies seem to think making a really goofy video and then putting it up on YouTube will automatically make it go “viral.” (I’m looking at you, Old Spice.) Years and years ago, when a little company with a plain old search engine with no extra cruft on the homepage was barely known, its users championed it to their friends until one day we were all using “Google” as a verb.

You can’t train on building relationships. You can’t run a seminar to teach your hired Social Media Guru how to make friends with people on Twitter. If you want to be heard above the squalor of the crowded stage of the Internet, you have to speak truthfully and be ready to listen. Keep your promises. Be reliable and consistent. Over time, you will become relevant and when you speak people will listen. When your competition slings mud your way, the folks you built relationships with will stick up for you as long as you’re in the right and your response, if any, is humble and kind.

Practical Matters

A few items, a checklist if you will, on practical issues:

  • Stay connected – if you don’t update, eventually no one will be looking for your updates, and your relationships will fade – like that awkward conversation you have with your 10-years-ago best friend that you fell out of touch with but run into unexpectedly. Don’t expect to have a genuine conversation again until you’ve caught up and established regular contact again.
  • Keep your listings accurate – if your hours change, make sure your Facebook profile says so. If you move, you damn well better update your address. This information is what connects customers to your physical location.
  • Be friendly, but professional – every contact on the internet is a potential customer, not necessarily just some kid out to waste your time and bug you or prank you (though they’re out there).
  • Be genuine – contests and promotions are fine, but make sure you don’t become one of those businesses where every genuine-looking post is actually a hard-sell trojan horse in a rush bid to convert clicks to cash.
  • Don’t get caught up in followers / likes / reach.  Measure the value of your social media time investment in terms of relationship building. You aren’t Coke or Pepsi or Microsoft. You’re Fred Jenkins.

Finally, social media can’t help you if your business already sucks. It’s not a magical steroid that will improve your conversion rate and boost profits while shrinking your overhead to a tiny size. Take a good luck at all the areas of your business and if something is severely lacking, fix that first. Social media can make a good business better and a bad business more well-known for being bad.

Crazy Amy from Amy's Bakery episode of Kitchen Nightmares

The Last 4 Months With a Pebble Smartwatch

Photo of 3 Pebble Smartwatches

Pebble Smartwatch from the Kickstarter page.

Let’s rewind all the way back in time to April 11th, 2012. I was online on my desktop computer while I was at my day job, and my friend Jay sent me a link to this Kickstarter page about a smart watch called Pebble. “That’s neat,” I thought. But then I shrugged it off as just another dumb gimmicky toy. Besides, who wears a watch anymore besides prominent business people? I just like to tell time on my cell phone when I need to know the time. The smart watch Kickstarter page boasted an extended battery life (rechargeable of course), an e-Paper display like the older and simpler models of ebook readers, bluetooth connectivity to an Android or iPhone smartphone, and the ability to use custom watch faces.

It was a careful and wary decision, but I decided to back this piece of technology and hopefully have the first watch I’d own in years be an advanced one. I plugged in my credit card number and on May 18th, 2012 funding completed and little did I realize their Kickstarter campaign raised 10 million dollars, one of the biggest of Kickstarter record. I’d rather not bore you with the details, but the short version is they had to retool their production timeline to compensate for the massive response. A little less than a year later, late January actually, my Pebble watch arrived at my door. It’s been 4 months, and I think now I’ve gotten to use it long enough to give you an honest review. Thank goodness I ordered the jet black one, because they were the first ones off the line after the hacker pack prototypes.

A quick word on packaging and contents: I didn’t snap a photo of the box it came in before I threw it away. It was pretty snazzy and small enough to fit in my mailbox. Inside were pretty much instructions to get my ass online and read the setup instructions on the website, a charging cable, and the Pebble. I started the Pebble charging right away, though realistically it came with almost a full charge anyhow. I paired it with my smartphone, typed in my info to get G-Mail, Google Voice, and Facebook notifications. We were off to the races after a quick firmware update. You can use the interface to download a bunch of watchfaces to your phone, then upload them to the watch over the bluetooth interface.

Here’s a few I installed from both the Watchapp Store, and a few from unofficial sources (open on your phone):

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There were more watchfaces, but most of what I found wasn’t to my particular tastes, but your mileage may vary.

Since the watch is both waterproof up to 5 atmospheres AND can control the music on my phone via bluetooth, I can change tracks while I’m in the shower or washing dishes. (I’ve really done both). It’s supposed to also be waterproof enough to wear while swimming. The pool for our community doesn’t open until this weekend for the summer, so I haven’t had a chance to test it, but plenty of others have.

Battery life – it’s pretty spectacular. I went a full 5-6 days without charging it. Unfortunately, if you use a watchface with a second-hand or other animation or changing number that updates each second, the battery drains faster because it has to poll that function to draw on the screen every second of operation. I usually leave mine set on Text Watch. The downside is there is no battery life indicator unless the Pebble is charging. Which means you can either charge it on a regular interval (on every Thursday, for example) or just use it til it dies and then plug it up and charge it (which is what I do).

The build material feels very sturdy, and the glass is scratch resistant so I’m not worried about banging it up as I clumsily skulk around my dungeon. The strap also doesn’t feel cheap or plastic, it’s a very sturdy silicone-feeling strap.

My big complaint about the Pebble is that the app on my phone doesn’t always update on it’s own and I have to uninstall / reinstall it to get the latest version with the latest firmware. The Pebble developers work very hard and push out frequent updates to either fix bugs or provide new features though.

My second, miniscule, first-world problem complaint is that I only have one charging cable, and it has a proprietary connector on it, so I can’t just use my existing micro-USB cables and chargers. It does have a magnetic bit to hold it on though, because due to the waterproofing the charging cable can’t actually plug into the watch, it has to sort of rest against it. It has a small plastic “male” bit that goes into a similarly shaped “female” bit on the watch body that is solely for helping keep the connector on, and mine broke very easily the first time I traveled with it. It still charges fine, I just have to be careful nothing is putting much strain on the charging cable while it charges so it’ll stay on there with the magnets.

There are plenty of use cases for the Pebble, like getting my phone notifications while I’m up and about and my phone is charging. Or being able to go do something that keeps me from actively looking at my phone, and still getting my texts. I can’t reply to them from the watch, but it’s a step in the right direction. One man on Twitter said he was outside grilling and his girlfriend texted him and he got it on his Pebble, she wanted him to know she wanted hers medium rare. You can change tracks on your phone in the car while driving by just pressing the next button on your watch quickly, without looking away from the road. You could even mount the watch on your steering wheel for that purpose.

In short, I’m not addicted to my Pebble, but it’s an exciting (and ultimately useful) gadget. And since I’m getting back into the habit of wearing it, I don’t have to ask for the time or fumble for my phone and power button to see the time. I also can pay more attention to who I am sitting with but still see if a text is something urgent or not. Oh, and did I mention that I get caller ID sent to my watch and can ignore or answer a call from it as well? Again, no microphone, but you can tell the phone to pickup from your watch (useful on the car dock on speakerphone). If you’re trying to decide if you should buy one, I would say it’s worth the price point if you’re excited about the technology. It’s definitely useful, and definitely stylish.

Update (5/26/2013 1:37PM): I was able to test the Pebble smartwatch in the community pool yesterday. It held up just fine at the bottom of the pool at 12 feet deep, although most of the time it was just at waist depth. I did push all the buttons while the watch was underwater. Also, from arm’s length, I could view the Pebble’s screen clearly with it submerged in pool water without the backlight active. Still no problems with it today, functions just fine. 

Where’ve You Been?

Every damn time. I get riled up to post a bunch and swear I’ll post more often… and then I don’t. Blogging regularly just isn’t for me I fear. I used to be really good and disciplined when it was for profit. Oh well. This site is free, and there’s no ads, so at least I didn’t let anyone down but me.

New Activities & Personal Updates

OccupyWNC

So I finally decided to get up off the couch and get involved. The world is in a big ol’ mess. Corporations own our government, and they’re going to bleed you, me, and anyone else with a wallet dry. The government is working to take away freedom after freedom. I’m sick of it. So I found our local Occupy group and went to a meeting. And then another one. Next thing you know I was directing a skit for one of our local festival events. I’m also one of the Facebook page admins, working on the website with another guy, and generally doing what I can to help.

Community College

I went back to school in January to start my associate’s degree in Web Technologies. Work is going to reimburse me for it, which is pretty sweet. Now that the semester is over, I have a 4.0 GPA and about 49 hours (including transfer credits). I had enough transfer credit to avoid this summer’s semester, so that resumes in the Fall.

Libertarian Party

I have done diddly squat with this, and I need to get under way now that the semester is over. But I am the county coordinator for my county, and I also applied with the party chair to be on my county’s Board of Elections.

Work

The Sharepoint site launch was a complete success. My support system I setup works great, and we’ve actually moved into starting a Sharepoint Users Group, which met last week for the first time. I’m finally doing other projects besides Sharepoint, which has been a nerve-wracking process, but as I get more familiar with what we’re doing I’m gaining confidence. It’s nice to say I’m a project manager and to know we’re actually doing project management in the traditional sense of the word. It’s not just a title now.

Engaged!

On April 1st, 2013, I sat down with Amanda and showed her a PowerPoint. I typically do this after I finish one for school, because I like showing them off to her. So she probably thought I was doing that. Instead, what played was the story of us, how we met and quickly fell in love. At the end it asked how the story would go next, and then told her to look at me. When she did, I got down on one knee and brought out her ring and asked her to marry me. She said yes! The date will come after we finalize our ideal guest list, and then figure out how much that wedding will cost so we can save up for it.

Healthy Food

We’ve been trying some healthy food lately. I bought a bunch of produce at the store that I normally don’t eat, and was determined to try all of it in a way that I liked. What I learned is that I dislike radishes. I like beets, most leafy greens, and we’re having more produce more often. I’ve tried some new recipes that have been good, even meatless dishes. Between veggies and Tofurky sausages, meatless meatballs, MorningStar veggie burgers (we like the spicy california black bean burger and original flavors), tofu (yeah I know, but it can be good), and other meatless alternatives, I think we’ve cut our meat consumption down by half. Which means lower cholesterol and lower fat intake. We decided in April to sign up for the local CSA (community supported agriculture) weekly produce box. So from this Friday until late November, we’re going to get a weekly 3/4 bushel box of produce that is geared to feed a family of 4 for a week.