Sunday, 24 April 2016

Some thoughts about Xenial development, an annoying bug and Yakkety Yak

Xenial development

Having recently relieved myself of various Ubuntu related commitments I've now become somewhat of a "floating contributor." Over the last few months I've spent a lot of time submitting and commenting on bug reports, testing ISOs and generally keeping abreast of what has been happening amongst various Ubuntu flavours especially Xubuntu. I continue to be very impressed by the hard work and enthusiasm of the "flavour" development teams who are of course all  unpaid volunteers.

Xubuntu 16.04 LTS
Xubuntu 16.04 LTS
During the latter stages of the Xenial development cycle I tried to bring certain bugs to the attention of the developers and also provided the Xubuntu team with feedback about bugs specific to their flavour. I wish I could have done a lot more but I do have other interests and commitments especially at weekends when the sun is shining and I decide I'd rather be outdoors.

An annoying Ubuntu bug

Back in May 2015, Charles Profitt wrote a blog post entitled "Ubuntu Trash Bug", in which he stated that he would not upgrade to Ubuntu 15.04 because a bug bothered him so much.

I recently remembered reading his post and thought that after working with the development version of Ubuntu 16.04 LTS for several months I've also seen a number of trivial bugs that have also bothered me greatly. They've been reported on Launchpad, added to the ISO Tracker numerous times yet Xenial Xerus has been released with a number of these bugs still very evident.

For me, the most annoying bug in Ubuntu Xenial Xerus is bug #1521302 where gnome terminal windows that have been maximised in a Unity session cannot be restored to their original size. As a keen user of the command line I really hope that this bug, which of course is affecting many more users now that 16.04 has been released, will be fixed by the time of the first point release later in the year. Sadly the bug report is starting to attract adverse comments from users who just wish to express their opinion about the general usability, as they see it, of the latest release.

My recommended alternative for now is terminator which isn't affected by this bug.

Yakkety Yak

I'm sure that I was not alone in thinking that that next release of Ubuntu might be called Yakkety Yak but then thought that there's no way that Mark Shuttleworth would ever chose such an obvious codename. Of course I was wrong.

However, Yakkety Yak, or however you might want to spell it, will always remind me of this:

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Problems with domain privacy

Over the last couple of months several of my unused domains have been due for either renewal or deletion which reminds me that about a year ago a domain that I used to receive important email was suspended. I discovered that this was due to the registrar creating fictitious contact details in order to offer domain privacy. So I moved all my domains from one registrar, based in the UK, to another but based elsewhere.

The move went well but a after making a change to my contact details I received an email from the new registrar asking for proof of my identity as Nominet, the UK domain registry, required me confirm my name and address as their checks had proved unsuccessful. They informed me that if I didn't comply with the request then my domain would be suspended after 30 days.

For the next week I frantically tried to convince the registrar that I was who I said I was but they refused to accept most of the evidence that I offered them as they insisted on having sight of an national identity card, a passport or a driving licence, none of which I currently hold. I was eventually told that my domain would be suspended and that there was nothing that they could do to help as they were merely carrying out Nominet's request.

So I contacted Nominet by telephone and asked them why they couldn't verify my name against an address that I have been living at for more than 20 years. They explained that as I had requested domain privacy from a registrar they didn't actually hold my address as it had been replaced in their database by the address of the registrar. I immediately realised that the cause of the the problem was yet again domain privacy and that providing the registrar with proof of my identity was a manual workaround to updating Nominet's database correctly. It was suggested that I logged into an account that the registrar had created but that I never knew existed, changed the contact address to reflect my own and then wait up to 24 hours for my details to be automatically checked by their systems. In just a few hours I found that my identity had been verified and the threat of the domain being suspended had been removed.

For domain privacy to work on .uk domains for registrant type "UK Individual", the registrar doesn't need to replace their customer's address with their own as address details can be suppressed by changing a flag in Nominet's database. In this way, Nominet are still aware of the registrant's real address and can still make any verification checks that they feel that they need to do. WHOIS queries then show: "The registrant is a non-trading individual who has opted to have their address omitted from the WHOIS service."

By writing this post I'm warning or at least reminding others that if a domain registry has special procedures that need to followed then the registrar not only needs to be aware of those procedures but have the appropriate systems in place. It shouldn't have been necessary for me to contact Nominet by telephone, something that may not have been practical or possible if the registry had been based overseas or only spoke in a language other than English.

A quick look at the domain privacy page on Wikipedia shows that there are several other country based registries that might also have their own peculiarities relating to what options might be available regarding the display of a domain registrant's contact details.

As a result of this very frustrating experience I moved my .uk domains to another UK based registrar which naturally understood Nominet's domain privacy procedures.