Bitwarden a Secure Password Manager on openSUSE

Bitwarden Logo

Password managers are all the rage these days, I guess… I haven’t ever been compelled to try as the password manager I have been using, my shoddy memory, has been working alright for me. The reality is, I have a lot more passwords to remember now and for those passwords I don’t use as frequently, I have to guess at it a few times before I get it… and that is just not a good look.

I have heard rave reviews about several different password manager solutions, waited until I heard more about them and was scared off but recently the rumble of Bitwarden, an open source, free but with a premium paid option came to my awareness. The option to roll your own is a huge deal for me, even if I don’t actually ever roll my own server,

Installation

Bitwarden has several options for installation. I selected to download the AppImage. It should be noted that Your organization my vary but I have a designated AppImage folder for all my AppImages. Once you download it, make sure it is executable. Using Dolphin or your favorite file manager, access the properties and make it executable.

It should be noted that you can download Bitwarden for Windows and Mac OS as well. Not that those mater as much. There is are Deb, RPM and Snap options as well, if you so choose but it should be noted that Deb and RPM don’t have the ability to auto update.

I installed the Firefox Extension so that I could use Bitwarden in a more “seemless” fashion. If I could install Bitwarden on Falkon, I would but at this time, I am not sure how that would be accomplished. Supposedly there is some QML thing in the works but at this time, it is not obvious to me.

It should be noted that Firefox gives you a couple ways to use it. There is a side bar and a drop-down tool. I prefer the drop-down tool as the sidebar tool isn’t as easily turned on and off.

Features

The most commonly used method of using a password manager is automatically through a plugin on a browser. From the different sites I tested it out, it works well. I have tried it on a few sites and when I had input the password I was asked if I wanted Bitwarden to store the login information. Upon returning to that site it did indeed work as expected.

Bitwarden-02-Firefox Plugin.png

An interesting bonus is that you can add any number of notes to a saved password. You could perhaps put the other related notes about your password, or maybe not even have your password at all but a series of hints about your password if you are so paranoid.

Manual Password entry since I often use Falkon instead of Firefox or Chrome and there is not a Bitwarden browser extension available, I will use the Bitwarden in the stand alone mode and do a manual copy and paste into the browser. Although this takes a bit longer to use it’s better than nothing.

An interesting feature built into Bitwarden is a Password Generator. This allows you to generate a random password based on a few factors you set. I am not sure that I would use this feature as it would be me dependent on Bitwarden or some kind of index of passwords to keep things straight.

Bitwarden-02-Password Generator

An interesting feature I think I just may consider using is Identity Entry. I often have to go chasing around for my License or passport number for something but I could potentially put all this information here instead of just some text file on my drive.

Bitwarden-04-Identity.png

You can use Bitwarden for a a place to store all your credit card information. I suppose this could be a better way to store your credit card information as opposed to individual sites. You will have to ask yourself what you trust more, merchant’s web site or an encrypted vault. I think I know which one I trust more.

Another interesting feature in Bitwarden is Secure Notes. I am not exactly sure the intended purpose but I thought I would play around with it anyway. I don’t know if I would use it for my grocery list… not anything real secret about buying ground beef

Bitwarden-05-Secret Note.png

The last area I wanted to look at was not a feature but how much memory does the application use. I believe that the stand alone application is an electron based application and after a few tests of running it and shutting it down, the memory usage varied between 282 MiB and 334 MiB. Depending on how much you value your security will dictate if that amount of overhead is worth it to you. Personally, I think it is worth it on my primary system to have at the ready.

What I Like

The user interface is intuitive, you don’t have to spend any time going through manuals or researching how to instructions on utilizing Bitwarden. It is truly modern and straight forward.

It has a dark theme that integrates very nicely into my desktop’s Breeze Dark theme. It’s not exact, but close enough to not annoy me. It would be nice to have it match exactly but I am not going to be too picky.

A feature I didn’t know I would need but am glad is there is the ability to make folders for your different passwords or notes. The idea here is, you could keep a folder of all your financial passwords, your work password and different hobbies. A nice separation and it keeps things tidy.

Another great feature that I didn’t know I wanted is the ability to put notes with the password information. I can see me using this as such that there are some institutions I log into has additional bits of information outside of your password like your hobbies, your first car, etc. Those answers could very easily be added below in a notes section. This is a pretty fantastic feature, really as you can add all kinds of useful bits of information about the site in a convenient, “secure” container.

Updates seem to be automatic with the AppImage, I was surprised as can be about it too. First time I’ve ever seen an AppImage update itself.

What I Don’t Like

I don’t have a way to integrate Bitwarden into my primary browser of choice, but I really didn’t expect it. It does mean that if I am going to use Bitwarded, integrated into a browser, I will have to use Firefox or possibly Chrome / Chromium.

The memory usage does seem a bit on the high side but it is not a “strain” on my main system, it does make me think twice about using it on low specification systems.

Final Thoughts

After using this application for some time, I have decided that I am going to use this for managing my passwords. It is easy enough to use and the features I require are not that complex. I am also signing up for the Premium version, not because I need the premium features but because I want to support the project and feel good about using it.

Bitwarden works very well within openSUSE using the AppImage. That AppImage will also auto update which was a surprise to me. There is an RPM download for openSUSE from Bitwarden but does not have an Auto update ability… which does seem puzzling but whatever. It is also available for the other operating systems I don’t really care about.

There are many opinions about what is the best security practice, a mix of alphabetic characters with numbers and symbols or using a string of nonsensical words strung together with a smattering of numbers and symbols. Regardless of what your assessment is of “best practice” using Bitwarden is certainly a widely accepted method of storing and maintaining passwords and identities that has increased security yet remains accessible.

Further Reading

https://bitwarden.com/

http://bigdaddylinux.com/

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CrossOver Linux Use and Review on openSUSE

CrossOver Logo

CrossOver Linux recently released version 18.0.0 (2018) which was another fine release with no regressions. I have been using CrossOver Linux (at the time CrossOver Office) since 2005. At the time, I imagined that within a few years would Linux be as ubiquitous on the desktop as Windows or Mac. After all, I bought a boxed copy of Mandrake Linux in the store which sat right next to SUSE Linux. There seemed to be a lot of momentum behind it. Now, in 2018, Linux has seemingly infiltrated every other use case, servers, phones, Internet of Things but doesn’t seem to be have as much traction on the Desktop.

This may come as a surprise but there are still 3rd party applications of which I require that I cannot run in Linux. Although, I think there are fewer now than there used to be, I still find I need a Windows compatibility layer. I can do much of in with Wine, but CodeWeavers makes it so much easier to manage.

Installation

There isn’t a repository that you can add (as far as I know), so you will have to download the RPM directly from CodeWeavers. That can be done here:

https://www.codeweavers.com/products/crossover-linux/download

I like to neatly tuck them into an rpms subfolder in my Downloads directory.

sudo zypper install ~/Downloads/rpms/crossover-18.0.0-1.rpm

Your version may vary, of course as updates and improvements are ongoing.

The fantastic feature of Crossover is that every application can be installed in it’s own bottle, the first exposure to “containers” I have ever had on Linux or any system for that matter. It is a great way to test applications without the risk of interfering with other installed applications.

CrossOver Linux-01-Main Window.png

The process to Install Windows Software is easy, intuitive and requires little explanation. If the application is supported by CodeWeavers or a Advocate, it is no more difficult than searching for the application. Selecting the name of it and Continue.

CrossOver Linux-02-StarTrek_Starfleet_Academy

If the application is not supported by CodeWeavers or an Advocate, it’s still not difficult to install; as long as you have a decent knowledge of your Windows application. Keep in mind, it may or may not work at that point.

CrossOver Linux Usage

I use CrossOver almost daily, which is in contrast to using it daily some few years ago. I tend to use LibreOffice more now than Microsoft Office but I also don’t really use office products as much as it once had. The application I use most is Rosetta Stone. I have been using it on and off for several years, now I am using it to help with home educating my kids. It’s easy for any of us to use and somehow enjoyable enough to keep us consistently using it.

I tend to use Microsoft Office, mostly for Excel. As much as I like the LibreOffice Equivalent, there are just some usability features that I appreciate more in the proprietary product. I also keep it around for when I am forced to use SharePoint. As far as versions go, I much prefer Microsoft Office 2007 over 2013. The look and interface changes on 2013 feels counterintuitive, specifically when dealing with files. I’m sure it makes perfect sense for someone but just not for me.

Screenshot_20181109_081742

Games

The games I have played using CrossOver Linux, at least semi-frequently has been Descent 3 and Warcraft II Tides of Darkness. Warcraft II takes some tweaking to use as it requires the CD-ROM or at least a mounted ISO for it to load as a form of copy protection but works quite nicely. The game that I am probably most excited about is Star Trek: Starfleet Academy

StarTrek_Starfleet_Academy-01

It runs so incredibly smooth; far better than how I remember it running on that Pentium in the late 90s. And no… I don’t play it in windowed mode pictured above. When playing it again for the first time, it brought a smile to my face when the cut scenes played and provided a kind of choose-your-own-adventure element. Since it has been so long since I have played this, plus other things, it is almost like I am playing it again for the first time!

The next game I am excited to be able to play is Freespace 2. I didn’t purchase it when it came out in 1999 as I kind of fell off the video game train at that time. I did enjoy the previous incarnation, Descent: Freespace. They mostly got me because of “Descent” in the title. Well played, Interplay, well played.

CrossOver Linux-03-Freespace2

I only just started playing this game and I already feel like I am all thumbs trying to remember all the keyboard commands. Regardless, it is as much fun as I remember the first being and I look forward to the time I will be able to unwind playing this.

Overall Reliability

Since the beginning of my time using CrossOver Linux, it has been a fantastic tool for giving me the freedom to run the applications I want on the operating system I want. It hasn’t been without its bumps but the tools they provide help very much to dig in and find out what is missing to get applications working. The supported applications seem to work as well or better than described. Interestingly, when Office 2007 was the current office suite offering from Microsoft. I found that ran better through CrossOver on Linux than it did naively in Windows. Granted, I was and still am a bit biased.

These days, it seems like most of the bumps have been ironed out for many of the applications. At least, the applications I want to run. The only application that seems to provide some difficulty is Microsoft Office 2013, the last version I purchased or ever plan to purchase. It seems to either be a little slow at times or the updater gets stuck. Since I don’t like how it looks or works, I tend to just use the 2007 version instead.

The only application just out of reach each year, forcing me to fire up a VM, is TurboTax. I try it again come tax season. It didn’t work last year or the year before… close but not quite. Maybe this year will be different.

My Involvement in the Project

In 2010 or so, my need for Windows applications increased for job reasons. Initially, I was back and forth between Wine and CrossOver Linux as my solution. It quickly became imperative, for the sake of my productivity that I needed to get and keep specific Windows applications running with high reliability. I became more and more familiar with how CrossOver handled Windows Libraries so I started to learn what was needed and kept notes on the additional software requirements needed by some applications. By 2013, I was all in, now learning how to make CrossTies for applications that were important to me and submitting them for the benefit of other users, rating applications and starting to do Beta reports on newer versions. I learned how to do Beta testing, rate applications and so forth. It is just good fun, really.

What is fun, is that you do enough for them and they give you things and make a big deal out of it.

Final Thoughts

CrossOver Linux is a tool I use regularly. I don’t use it as much as I once did so the original goal set out by the company to be a stopgap has been incredibly successful, from my point of view. I don’t see me stopping my usage of CrossOver anytime soon. If nothing else, for the gaming. It just works better than standard Wine. I am glad I have invested into this company and I am glad they continue to contribute towards Linux and the open source.

If you have any interest in this, I do highly recommend you check it out. CodeWeavers does a fantastic job and has great customer support. It is a finely polished product that makes easy work out of installing Windows applications in Linux (as well as Mac and ChromeOS). It’s certainly worth kicking the tires with a free 14 day trial. At the very worst, you won’t use it but are likely have a good experience in trying it.

External References

CodeWeaver’s Blog Version 18 Release

CodeWeavers.com Compatibility Rosetta Stone 2

CrossOver Linux Download

GoG.com Freespace 2

GoG.com Star Trek: Starfleet Academy

Windows 7 Registry Cleanup

ICanFixIt

I don’t often do any tech support on Windows computers. In fact, I do my best to avoid it as much as possible but there are these seemingly unavoidable moments when I have to work on a Windows machine. In many ways, I think it’s good for me as it keeps me appreciative of the Linux technology of which I have become accustomed. It also helps me realize that those little nitnoid annoyances in Linux are nowhere near the annoyances of using Windows.

In my opinion, since its inception, the registry on a Windows computer has seemingly been the Achilles Heel or weak point, often prone to corruption. Since my days on Windows 98, I would have issues with the registry and I became a pro with using Norton tools to maintain my Windows system. It would also get me increasingly annoyed with the system which eventually brought me to using Linux.

Back to my Windows problem… When trying to install some software for testing on a particular Windows machine, it would just refuse to install. Not only would it refuse to install but it would also delete the installer file, so I wasn’t able to try it again until I transferred this rather large file back to the computer. I found this very bizarre. The “expert” I consulted was no help, there was no error report, at least, nothing that would be helpful. I could not find a way to get some sort of verbose output on the failed installation. My lack of expert help and impatience to do research coupled with my “fond memories” about my past experiences with Norton lead me to first try a registry cleanup.

Boy-howdy is there a lot of shady looking “fix-your-computer” free software out there. It seems like you are out swinging in the breeze, navigating through a sea of unknown to find something good and not make things worse from the myriad of utterly dangerous-to-install software. After some searching, I found a piece of software that didn’t look shady but rather really quite legit, called CCleaner

https://www.ccleaner.com/

ccleaner-logo.pngIt was like a bastion of hope in a sea of dodgy, advertisement-riddled promises of making your computer 500% faster. CCleaner was very clear about what it did and how they made money. I didn’t need their premium product, just something to patch this system well enough to conduct the software tests.

Not a very big download, thankfully, and it installed without any issue and no enticement for anything other than its own offerings. Upon launching CCleaner, the controls are very straight forward, I just had to “Scan for Issues” than “Fix selected Issues…” It even gave me the option to save a backup registry, in case the whole thing blew up, but the reality was, this was my last ditch effort before wiping the whole system.

CCleaner-00-Registry

The cleaning process was MUCH quicker than I expected and once it was done, I thought I would give the machine a quick reboot, of which was successful. I once again transferred this software that I still needed to test and tried the installation once again.

Success!

I was able to test the software, take my notes and make the recommendations. Unfortunately, not long after the test, the Windows machine started acting up again and I had to wipe it and have Windows reinstalled anyway but CCleaner gave me the few extra days necessary to complete this necessary task.

Final Thoughts

Wow, am I glad I don’t pay for Windows! I am truly amazed people are okay with using it. I guess if you are okay with shelling out cash for software to maintain the machine or “experts” to administer it, it is fine but that is not acceptable arrangement for me. This experience reinforces why I really believe in owning your technology and your technology not keeping secrets and telling you what it is doing. This further bolsters my reasons for using Linux. I appreciate how it tells you what it is doing and makes it easy to get into the nuts and bolts of it when necessary.

After this experience, I am even more grateful for openSUSE Linux. If I could only install openSUSE on that rather beefy hardware… one can dream.

Resources

ccleaner.com

openSUSE.org

Windows 95 on openSUSE Linux

As I was watching my oldest son play Minecraft, I was rather amused by the buttons and widgets for the interface, they were very Windows 95. Although I was more of an Amiga user at that time, we did have a Windows 95 machine in the house to do… Windowsy things like that whole Microsoft Office thing. Something my Dad needed for work or his community, local government involvement. Regardless, fond memories of the mid to late 90s and computers.

I told my boy, rather excitedly about Windows 95 and to my surprise, there is an electron app I can install into Linux, Windows or Mac OS.

Installation

I downloaded the RPM from here:

https://github.com/felixrieseberg/windows95

and installed it,

sudo zypper in ~/Downloads/rpms/windows95-linux-1.3.0.x86_64.rpm

Upon running it, I was greeted with a start screen. For the purposes of my level of usage, the big center button “Start Windows 95” is all I need, for now.

Win95-01

Once it is booted up… or rather the state is restored there is a nice message from the developer and a round of Solitaire ready to go.

Win95-03.png

For nostalgia sake, I played a game of FreeCell, and won.

Win95-04.png

As far as FreeCell games go, the Windows 95 version is still my favorite… for reasons I don’t exactly know. The version on the Amiga or KDE Plasma’s KPatience are absolutely better but something about this version always leaves me with a smile.

It is also somewhat noteworthy that the idea of the Control Panel is still in use on KDE Plasma. Not sure if we can thank Microsoft for this or not as I do recall a “Preferences Folder” on the Amiga Workbench.

Win95-05.png

After enthusiastically showing my boy a Windows 95 computer, he looked at it, paused and just said, “cool.” and went back to playing Minecraft.

Final Thoughts

He was right, it is cool and there is a lot you can do with this. At this time, I was not able to get network access to do any meaningful and with only 53 MB free on the C: Drive, there isn’t much I can install. BUT, if I rebuild the image… there are several old games I would like to see if I can get running in it, although, not the most efficient way to do so, it would be fun, just because.

References

Windows 95 on GitHub

Six Steps to a Simple Samba Setup on openSUSE

openSUSE Samba

openSUSE is a very polished, commercial-feeling distribution of Linux. The architects of the distribution have a much larger scope in mind of its usage than what I generally do. One such area is Samba, SMB or often referred to as Windows Network File and Printer Sharing Protocol. I only use this for one device on my network, my All-in-One, Printer-Scanner-Copier, The HP OfficeJet 8600. It is a fine machine that does what I need it to do very well, but for scanning to a network folder, I must use Samba.

This process used to be much simpler, many years ago, before the discovery of security issues within Samba. She short story of why there is the separation was some sort of vulnerability in the underlying system. I am sure there is a fairly simple or straight forward way to make it all work but my intent was to successfully set up Samba with as little effort as possible.

I had a resource out on the web someplace that told me how to do this simply but I couldn’t find the bookmark nor was there a link in my digital notebook so I took a few sites, what I know about openSUSE and created an easy step-by-step guide for getting Samba file sharing up and running. I have broken down the process into six easy to follow steps for a minimal setup. I use this to quickly and easily set up and use Samba with openSUSE Linux.

Six Steps to a Simple Samba Setup on openSUSE

Package Installation

Minimum number of packages required to install the Samba Server

Service Activation

System Services that need to be activated and installed

Firewall Configuration

Allow access to the server through the firewall

YaST Samba Setup

Basic configuration using openSUSE’s system configuration tool.

Adding Samba Users

Through the terminal, setting the username and password

Testing it all out

Making sure it actually works.

Final Thoughts

Samba is pretty easy to set up for a minimal usage. For something more involved and complex, there are certainly better ways of accomplishing it. Finally, if HP decided to put SFTP on their future All-in-One devices, this entire write up, to me, would be useless but until then, this is what is required.

Further Reading

Six Steps to a Simple Samba Setup on openSUSE

Samba on openSUSE Wiki

Samba.org

Data Back Up | Better to Prevent than to Regret

Backup-02Backing up data is extremely important. That is, assuming you value your data. Many of us have pictures, videos and documents on our computer. The reality is, all machines will fail, everything gets old and stops working, eventually. Most notably, the Hard Disk Drives and Solid State Drives have a limited lifespan before they cease functioning.

Here is some advice to avoid that white-hot sweaty feeling from a black screen when you turn on your computer.

Back up your data!

Beyond hardware failure, there have been a series of recent ransomware attacks against individuals, businesses and government organizations. One particular bit of ransomware is called WannaCry. Presumably because if you are affected you “wanna cry.” It essentially encrypts all your data and leaves a message that tells you you can have your data back if you pay a ransom. This can be avoided entirely by doing regular offline backups.

Backing up your data is something that you will hear frequently but what do you use to back up your data? Drag and drop the contents of your home directory onto an external drive? That will fill up a drive pretty quick, and isn’t sustainable for the long term. You can pay for storage and sync your data up to “the cloud”, but that can get expensive if you have a lot of data. It also runs the risk of being compromised as well as it just replicates the contents of your data. I have been doing an Rsync command in the terminal but unless if I know that I have been compromised, it could overwrite my good data with bad data.

You Only Need Two Things

1st Item | External Hard Drive

WD.png
Seriously, under $60 will get you started.

The tools I recommend to get you started is some sort of high capacity external mass storage drive. Something like 1 TB or better. They are not expensive, especially if you compare the cost of a new drive to the cost of data recovery. Then you need to get the software. There are lots of great tools out there but rather than search forever for the best tool possible, start here and see if it works for you. Move on if needed and try something else but complete that first backup. Whatever drive you choose to use, ensure that is ALL that drive does. You plug it in, do your backup, unplug it and safely store it.

2nd Item | Software

I am not targeting Windows or Mac users but the fact of the matter is, most of the people I know are NOT on Linux (because they haven’t seen the light, yet). So I wanted to just highlight some FREE offline backup utility options to get you down the right path. This is free as in you don’t have to shell out any cash but feel free to contribute voluntarily to the projects.

Linux

Back In Time

This is what I use on my machine. It has worked very reliably for months now. I haven’t yet had to make any backups but when upgrading my Dell Latitude E6440 with the mSATA drive and growing the 2.5″ SSHD Home partition, I backed up the home drive prior to just in case I messed things up. Fortunately the process went well so no “recovery” was required. I continue to take weekly snapshots of my home directory.

Back In Time

Back In Time openSUSE Install

Documentation for using Back In Time

Deja Dup

Easy to use, very friendly and can be set up for automated online or offline backups. This bit of software actually had more features to play with if you want to do snapshots to a networked service like Nextcloud, Google or a network share.

Deja Dup

Deja Dup openSUSE Install

Using Deja-Dup

Windows

Shadow Copy

Shadow Copy has been included in Windows since Windows XP Service Pack 2 and is pretty basic but easy to use. I have the misfortune of using Windows daily because of a certain bit of required proprietary software. My work machine is still using Windows 7, good bad or otherwise and I also use Windows 7 in VM, therefore I am currently most familiar with that version.

To set up backups is very straight forward and since it is included in Windows, there is really no excuse to not back up your data… at all.

Shadow Copy-1

Here is a guide on using it in Windows 10

Mac OS

Time Machine

included in MacOS since Leopard (2007). I don’t have a Mac nor do I plan to purchase one. Since this is included with your operating system, there is no excuse to not using this utility. When you are done working or playing on your “fruit box”. Plug in that $50 external drive and create that snapshot.

Here is a guide to set it up.

https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201250

Final Thoughts

Back up your data. Really, just take the time, do it and be done with it. Make it a point to keep your data backed up once a week or every other week… even once a month would be great. There are many, many backup solutions out there, some are free, some are paid services and many may even be better for you. I highly, highly, recommend you make your offline backups and store them safely.

External Links

Back In Time openSUSE Install

Documentation for using Back In Time

Deja Dup openSUSE Install

Using Deja-Dup

Here is a guide on using it in Windows 10

Apple Support for Time Machine