Installing Snap under Debian

The traditional way of installing software under Linux, specifically under Debian, has been, to use a package manager which accesses global repositories of software, and sometimes, to use a graphical front-end to the same package manager.

Thus, under Debian the package-manager command-line to install <somepackage> would be:

apt-get install <somepackage>

But, if we have “Synaptic” installed, that is a graphical front-end for the same set of commands, that I’ve come to like and trust. If we do not have Synaptic installed but wish to, then the way to install it from the command-line would be:

apt-get install synaptic

But what has happened in the Linux world is that this method of installing packages has become ‘boring’. There exists software which is not listed in the package repositories, and which Synaptic will therefore also not find in response to explicit searches, but which users will want to install, simply due to the evolution of software. One reason for which this software is not listed could be, that it would be tedious for package maintainers to compile, but another could be, the fact that some software is proprietary in nature, or at least partially so, so that to include it in the open-source repositories may in some cases be illegal.

And so, even Linux users will sometimes seek other ways of installing specific software, which they already know exists. And another way to do so has traditionally been, to compile this additional software from source code. But, sometimes the out-of-tree software we wish to install needs to come in the form of binaries. A recent development in this field has been, the emergence of a software-management system called “Snapcraft“. It’s based on the ‘Snappy’ package manager, that was developed by Canonical.

I’m going to assume for the moment that the reader already understands the existence of security implications, in installing binaries from anywhere except the package manager, together with the official repositories, even when those binaries are to be sandboxed. And I’m not going to explain those in this posting.

One reason for which Snappy exists, is the fact that some of the more-traditional installation scripts, for out-of-tree binaries, needed to make arbitrary assumptions about the organization of the Linux computer, and there are many different versions of Linux, which eventually lead to incompatibilities with the binary software. Their developers have had to make assumptions about how the customer’s computer was configured, and those assumptions will eventually be wrong for some versions of Linux. Snappy can circumvent this limitation, or so its developers claim. Whether it truly can or not remains to be seen, as Snappy is still in its infancy as I’m writing this. It could be that I just jumped in with a fashion trend, which may turn out just to have been a fad, as seen several years or decades in the future.

But this posting will continue on the assumption that the reader has a Debian Linux computer, but that he wishes to install Snappy anyway. Snappy was designed more with Ubuntu in mind, but is also available for Debian Linux.

(Updated 6/15/2019, 14h20 … )

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Browsing Android Files using Bluetooth

One of the casual uses of Bluetooth under Android, is just to pair devices with our Android (host) device, so that specific apps can use the paired (slave) device. This includes BT-headphones, and many other devices.

But then a slightly more advanced use for BT under Android could be, that we actually send files to a paired Android device. It’s casually possible to take two Android tablets, or a tablet and a phone, and to pair those with each other. After that, the way to ‘push’ a file to the paired device, from the originating device, is to open whichever app displays files – such as for example, the Gallery app, if users still have that installed, or a suitable file-manager app – and to tap on ‘Share’, and then select ‘Bluetooth’ as what to share the file to. Doing this should open a list of paired devices, one of which should be suitable to receive a pushed file in this way.

But then, some people would like to take Bluetooth file-sharing up another level. We can pair our Android device – such as our phone – with a Bluetooth-equipped, Linux computer, which may be a bit tricky in itself, because the GUI we usually use for that assumes some legacy form of pairing. But eventually, we can set up a pairing as described. What I need to do is select the option in my Linux-BT-pairing GUI, which requires me to enter the pass-code into the Linux-GUI, which my Android device next displays…

And then, a question which many users find asking themselves is, ‘Why can’t I obtain FTP-like browsing capability, from my Linux-computer, over the files on the phone? Am I not giving the correct commands, from my Linux-computer?’

Chances are high, that any user who wishes to do this, is already giving the correct commands from his or her Linux-computer…

(Updated 06/03/2018, 20h45 … )

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An important detail, about how to use ‘fusermount’, which I only learned recently.

It’s old wisdom under Linux, that system administrators do not allow just any user to mount file-systems. The reason is the fact that, with any sophisticated file-system, each file can have ‘root’ ownership, as well as having the ‘setuid’ flag set, which means that if a malicious user was next to execute a program with those bits set, he would have given himself root privileges.

The fact that with most Linux desktop managers, auto-mounting is handled in the background, by a daemon, only serves to verify this concern.

But ways exist to mount a file-system, so that all the files and directories within it, just arbitrarily have one current user as their owner. Only a regular user with access to the ‘mount’ command, cannot be trusted to use such options.

BUT, There exists a utility on modern Linux systems – if it’s installed – which is called ‘fusermount’. This is a command, for mounting file-systems in user-space. Its main purpose is, to give regular users the ability to mount a file-system, but only to have its files and directories belong to them – safely.

In the past, I had a hard time using this command, because every time I tried, I just got the error-message that I did not have permissions to do so, as a regular user. What I did at first, was to use ‘visudo’, in order to give myself the privilege to use ‘mount’ with ‘sudo’.

But as it turns out, there is a detail to using ‘fusermount’ properly, which I only learned about recently.

Continue reading An important detail, about how to use ‘fusermount’, which I only learned recently.