How much traffic does a Slackware review get in 2016

It has been 90 days since the release of Slackware 14.2 so I figured this might be a good time to quickly review some numbers from my server logs and take a peak in the Google Search Console. This server and Google Search Console both provide 90 days of data.

A short disclaimer: This is an informal survey and I make no claims to the extent that my numbers reflect the current public interest in the Slackware Linux distribution. Slackware has dedicated user and developer community and claims to the opposite should be laid to rest with the 14.2 release.

Google search - Is Slackware dead

Whenever I try a Google search prediction with the phrase “Is Slackware…” Google’s autocomplete function always seems to believe the appropriate suggestion to be “dead”.
With that chilling effect in mind, lets have a look at the actual numbers.

Google Search Console

If you’re not familiar with Google Search Console please note that “search analytics” only gives you data associated with your own site. That means you’ll only see clicks or impressions for queries where your site appeared in search results. In short, these numbers wont necessarily reflect any interest in Slackware beyond this limited scope.

Slackware 14.2 - Search Analytics
Queries containing “Slackware 14.2” for the period Jul 2 – Sep 29

As shown on the image above, the query “slackware 14.2 review” resulted in my site being listed 1156 times (impressions) and collected 519 clicks. I also received some traffic from other Slackware 14.2 related searches giving me a total of 801 clicks.

The traffic is modest to put it politely, but I do suspect the low numbers are a result of people relaying on Youtube for their GNU/Linux reviews. I’ve seen some good coverage on Slackware on Youtube so lets stick with that theory.

Analyzing server logs

I don’t use any analytics service on this site, so I’ll only have limited coverage parsed directly from my server logs. The server uses the NCSA extended/combined log format:

"%h %l %u %t \"%r\" %>s %b \"%{Referer}i\" \"%{User-agent}i\""

Having the referer and user-agent fields permits me to identify which external site (if any) the traffic originated from, and the user-agent permits me to identify bots. I keep traffic data for three months before the logs are automatically purged. To analyse relevant traffic I’ll be importing the server logs (while excluding bots) into a local Piwik installation as it’s to much of a hassle to write regexes to give me the information I want. Since I don’t have any client-side visitor data, I’ll focus on pageviews and referrers for the Slackware 14.2 review page.

Slackware 14.2 review - Pageviews for the period Jul 2 – Sep 29
The Slackware 14.2 review received 6030 pageviews during the period Jul 2 – Sep 29

Compared to the results from Google Search Console, it paints a more nuanced picture regarding the interest in the review. Organic search only accounts for 20% while website traffic makes up for 60% of the pageviews. As shown on the image above, a lot of traffic originates from Distrowatch which referred a total of 2071 visitors (and counting).

Happy slacking!

Is Google Analytics tracking you through your favorite open source application

OpenShot
OpenShot v. 2.1.0

I was playing around with an open source video editor named OpenShot when I suddenly felt a familiar shiver going down my spine. I felt the unmistakable presence of evil, and it was coming from inside my own computer. ‘You will know me as the Google Analytics measurement protocol’ the beast answered upon detection.

By having a closer look at the data OpenShot was trying to deliver, it’s clear that the software is only collecting usage metrics and even instructs Google to anonymize our IP address (aip=1). Refer to the protocol parameter reference for an explanation of the additional parameters. The data below is captured by mapping google-analytics.com to localhost.

"GET /collect?cd4=5.5.1&av=2.1.0&aid=org.openshot.openshot-qt&an=OpenShot+Video+Editor&cd1=0.1.2&t=screenview&cd2=3.5.2&cd=initial-launch-screen&cd5=unknown-gnu-linux&v=1&cd3=5.5.1&ua=Mozilla&tid=UA-4381101-5&aip=1&ul=en&cid=ae4g11 HTTP/1.1" 404 456 "-" "

Unfortunately Google only masks the last octet of an IPv4 address so you’ll achieve the same level of anonymity by sticking your head in the sand. Neither will there be any anonymity concerning the actual connection you’ll establish with the Analytics server. In short, “anonymity” is only related to the metrics data stored on Google’s service, you know, the data they’ll make their profit off.

OpenShot Metrics
OpenShot metrics screen

The main issue I have with OpenShot is not the use of Google Analytics but the fact that the software collects metrics and ships it off to Google without offering any notice or a way to opt-out. You may disable the metrics collection if you are able to track down the right setting from within the application, but what makes it problematic is being enabled by default.

The developer should also make sure to adhere with Google’s stated policy:

You will give your end users proper notice about the implementations and features of Google Analytics you use. You will either get consent from your end users, or provide them with the opportunity to opt-out from the implementations and features you use.

I don’t believe I’ll be spending any more time with this particular piece of software.

Sihost.exe – System Warning: Unknown Hard Error on Windows 10

On my Windows 10 computers I always work with a standard account and keep a separate administrator account. This provides some additional security as any operation needing administrative privileges will require an administrator’s approval.

This week however, providing my administrative password only resulted in a message stating: “Windows cannot find ‘C:\WINDOWS\..’ Make sure you’ve typed the name correctly and try again”. When I tried to log on to the system with the administrator account in question, I got handed the sihost.exe system warning message and Windows simply froze.

Unfortunately fixing a Windows system without having administrative access is impossible, so I had to do something about that. Rebooting the system in safe mode and logging in with the presumed broken administrator account returned the sihost.exe error, but after waiting it out, Windows did provide me with a desktop. Nothing worked but I was able to start the ‘Task Manager’ which provided me with access to the command prompt.

Windows 10 - Shell Infrastructure Host
Windows 10 – Shell Infrastructure Host error in Safe Mode

I then activated the (disabled) default Windows administrator account and rebooted, expecting to again have full access to the system. I should mention that this was after running both SFC and DISM in an effort to repair the system. DISM did claim to be successful, but it was probably referring to the restoration of all the Windows applications and services I had previously removed with PowerShell (thank you Microsoft).

User profile service failed the logon User profile cannot be loaded
User profile service failed the sign-in

While logging into the system with the now enabled default Windows administrator account, I got another error telling me that the user profile service failed the sign-in. After some google-fu, I concluded that I was probably suffering from a corrupt default profile in addition to a broken administrator account. I rebooted back into safe mode and used the command prompt again, this time to add my working regular account to the administrators group.

After logging in with my new administrative powers, I backed up the default profile (hidden folder under %SystemDrive%\Users\) and replaced it with a Windows 10 default profile from another system. I then proceeded to delete the broken administrator account, disabled the default Windows administrator account, and finally created a new local administrator account. And with all that, my troubles (and what was left of daylight) had faded away.

The commands used for working with user accounts are net user and net localgroup. Please refer to technet or help files for usage.