I haven’t used a desktop Linux distribution since a frustrating experience with Ubuntu some time in 2004 or 2005. My lasting memory was of having to load a terminal window not long after installation and fiddle about with various configuration files. Even then things didn’t work too well for me and I was (and still would be) a contended user of Windows XP for my day-to-day computing needs. My working life was firmly focussed on all things Microsoft and Linux was forgotten.
This week, after my long avoidance of desktop Linux, I installed the most recent Ubuntu Desktop LTS edition on a test machine in the office and was very pleasantly surprised. So I decided to give 11.04 at home on a computer that was in need of a XP reinstall.
It installed quickly, runs very responsively and handled all of the hardware right away. Even the wireless networking. Most impressive.
I then took the plunge and installed it on my laptop. Because a reasonable processor and 3GB of RAM doesn’t seem to be enough for Vista. All was going well until I tried to connect to a wireless network and a sense of deja vu kicked in.
Cue Google. Cue the Terminal window. In the end it wasn’t a big deal in the scheme of things. The fourth or fifth possible solution worked. Ubuntu didn’t keel over. I only had to remove some packages, install one new application, download an obsolete driver, install it, protect it from updates and reboot. I’ll put it down as a lucky escape. For Ubuntu that is. I was this close |<–>| to getting rid of it, buying Windows 7 and waiting another six or seven years before I tried again.
I’ve been using my Google account to store increasing amounts of information. It started with Gmail and moved on to Docs and Calendar. It’s very handy to have access to my email and documents, especially research notes and other useful information, from any computer with an Internet connection.
But the more I stored on Google the more I worried about the safety of my information. Admittedly I am paranoid when it comes to security but it troubled me that I was storing so much potentially sensitive information on publicly accessible servers, signing in on a number of computers and protecting it all with a keyloggable username and password.
Then I read this article and configured two-factor authentication on my Google account. In a nutshell you sign in with your Google username and password and it then sends you a SMS message (or phones you using an automated voice system) with a six digit number which you have to enter before you can access your account. You can configure several phone numbers including landlines.
There are issues if you need to use your Google account details somewhere other than the Google web interface. This article goes into more detail but with the two-factor authentication in place I lost access to Gmail through the mobile app and my home email client. Google will generate passwords for anything like this but they are complex and you can only view them once in order to enter them where required. After this a password must be revoked and a new one generated if you need to re-enter it. This will be a problem if an application is not able to store this view-once password.
For me personally the benefits, or at least my perception of improved security, far outweigh the niggle of occasionally generating a new password when my mobile’s Gmail app loses my account details.