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Fwd: Neutrino - Top-of-the-line-support for luna+1
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Raphael Isemann <teemperor@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Fri, Oct 19, 2012 at 9:32 AM
Subject: Neutrino - Top-of-the-line-support for luna+1
To: Cody Garver <cody@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Hi folks :)
let me start with a littlebit of background story (if you don't want to
read it, go the the TL;DR)
So, i'm hanging around in the irc-support-channel of elementary since a
while and also tried to help people with their problems (and i think i
helped the most of them with their problems). And i made some thoughts on
The things i learned (not in that few days, but in my whole time helping
people with pc-problems over irc etc.)
1. "USABILITY": It's quite surprising, but helping people with
tech-problems is fun. The problem is often, that be on the user-side of the
support is horrible. Some strange guy is asking you to type some things in
a strange black-white window everyone just knows from a hollywood-films and
that mostly without extra-information. What does this or that command do?
There is no time to explain everything, often you just want to have the
information of specific files etc. and the users feels very unsecure.
=> the usual user doesn't like the terminal. The terminal seems like an
alien in a DE full with simple GUI-Applications, it feels uncomfortable for
the user, and it's therefore not suitable as a base for the support-part of
2. "SECURITY": The support of many open-source projects which are not
leaded by bigger companies consists of anonymous volunteers. This isn't a
bad thing, but it could be a problem. In an support-irc, you can just tell
a user to run that command to solve his problem. The user maybe don't know
that the guy is not 100 % trust able, runs it and in the best case the
script is just making some destructive stuff.
Also other people in the irc can't easily check script-commands due to the
variety of programs and commands.
The problem is not that big, because we don't have a big userbase yet, and
the people who do bad things, are just too rare at the moment, but
eventually it happens.
What makes this point even worse: Most users don't think anymore about
typing their password for sudo("Oh, update=>password, USC=>password, ...")
and it make people even easier to execute them scripts with expanded
------------- TL;DR --------------------
My proposal is to improve our support to a better level with some little
extra tool in luna+1.
In very short some kind of definition:
"The application is a simple interpreter/data-aggregator/et**c. what the
supports needs to help the user with a focus on security and usability. It
should make the elemenary-support to a top-of-the-line-experience as the
rest of the elementary project. It's meant to be used by a group of
supporters who doesn't need to be to recognize themselves to help others
and stays therefore in the spirit of open-source-support anonymous. All
communication goes over irc, so both parts doesn't interact directly with
each other despite the irc-channel."
For all those who want it better explained:
(I don't have a name, i thought on something like "Neutrino" => lightweight
and fast, or "First Aid", "Roboto" or what our design-team thinks sounds
the best, so i just will call it Neutrino in the following):
I think it will be described in best with an example:
1. The user has an problem with elementaryOS, just say this bug:
**. Let's assume he found the irc-channel (or better, the user uses "help"
in slingshot and will be directed to Neutrino (with a description/Name like
"Live Support", which directs him to the irc).
2. The user tries so explain his problem: "I can't install anything!"
(Well, it seems that this bug caused this)
3. The Supporter A writes to the user that he read his problem and that he
should wait a moment.
4. Supporter A assume that this bug affect this user and types a simple
script for "Neutrino" which solves the problem which looks like that:
if ["http://de.archive.ubuntu.**com/ubuntu/ luna main
replace "luna"->"precise" in "etc/apt/sources.list";
SUCCESS "replace failed";
report list "/etc/apt/"
(Sample-syntax, just an idea)
5. (The next step can be changed, to the most suitable form of
transmitting) Supporter A uploads the script to pastebin-service and the
link into the irc/Posts the short-script directly into the chat.
6. The Supporter tells the user to copy the link with Control+C and then
open the Application "Neutrino".
7. Neutrino opens up and is automatic fetching the Script from the link (or
the user is copying the script directly into the clipboard and Neutrino is
reading from there).
8. Neutrino analyse the script and rates every command with a security
9. Neutrino shows up a simple GUI which represents the script in an
understandable form for the most users (as an extra-information):
| Neutrino is executing a support-ticket in your Clipboard:
1 | Neutrino checks if the phrase "http://de.archive.**ubuntu.com/ubuntu/
luna main restricted"<http://de.archive.ubuntu.com/ubuntu/lunamainrestricted>
be found in the file "/etc/apt/sources.list".
| If yes:
2 | Neutrino replaces the changes the phrase "luna" to
"precise" in "/etc/apt/sources.list".
3 | Neutrino updates the application informations
| if no:
4 | Neutrino adds a list of files in the directory "/etc/apt"
10. Neutrino directly starts with the execution of the script. The
if-statement command (1) will be instantly executed because it's just a
read operation and doesn't cause any changes and no security-vulnerables to
11. Neutrino has found the string in the file, and therefore command 2 has
to be executed. The problem is, that this operation requires a sudo before
the command can start. Neutrino now explicitly prompts to the user, that
the specific command "Neutrino replaces the changes the phrase "luna" to
"precise" in "/etc/apt/sources.list" wants to change a system-intern file
and that the user needs to enter his password (gksudo or sth. for that).
Also Neutrino makes silent a Backup of the file in the home-directory as a
12. Command 3 will be executed without a prompt because the user still has
root-privileges and the command just causes to "apt-get update" itself. If
the user is installing sth. at the moment, it will wait for that and inform
13. Neutrino will now prompt: "Neutrino has executed your support-ticket!
Check if you problem still exists and and talk back to your supporter and
tell him that Neutrino ended with "replace failed" !". (caused by
the command SUCCESS "replace failed");
14. Script ends
Summarized the user made not the following things after contacting support
till solution despite reading:
-Copy the link and click on the Neutrino-Icon.
-Enter his password.
Somethings that needs to be explained:
To point 10: Neutrino's checking algorithm which commands are "safe" (=
directly executed) is only possible because the "scripting-language" is
based on just simple commands. It can cover possiblies all by using a
whitelist for them.
The other types of commands are commands which read
in the home-directory, which first need to be allowed by the user in a
simple prompt. Also specific "dangerous" directories where sensisible data
is stored often can be blocked.
The last type is program which needs
To point 9: The GUI shouldn't be covered by the prompts and a indicator
should show the current execution status. Also in the GUI every command is
also indicated with a simple icon, how
safe it is ( green tick, a lock, warning symbol);
Advantages of the System:
- Users don't get confronted with the terminal unnecessary.
- Users get translated informations to the command easily due to the
possibility to make translations from launchpad
- The system can be used directly as a base for the live support (if
there's no Script in the clipboard, i can show a icon which leads to the
- Supporters can help faster, because they don't need to explain
everything to the user.
- Supporters can collect faster the required informations (see
Simulation B below) and help the user.
- "Bad Guys/Girls" don't have an easy life anymore
- Supporters can easily take a look at the scripts of someone else,
because the simple commands doesn't allow complicated structures despite
Simulation B: The Failure
Let's continue the example below at point 10, just that now the
if-statement evaluates to false.
Now the command number 4 will be executed.
The report command is a sample for fast data-aggregation. At the end of
the script, all "report ..." results will be concatenated to a single
report which will be presented to the user in a copyable format and/or
uploaded to a pastebin.
This allows the supporter with multiple report ... commands to get all
the informations he need from the user without letting the user open a
dozen of text-files or sth.
Ok, i think that were the most important parts :)
It would be nice if some developers and the design team etc. would respond,
if they want such an application. If yes, i would take my time to write it
(in vala) if i get design support a littlebit from the design team to make
it compilant to the elementary HIG.
Also any changes and improvements are welcome, this should just present my
PS: Beside i'm talking a lot about "Bad Guys" at the irc, i haven't met
anyone at elementary-channel yet, i hope i haven't offended anyone, you're
all very nice guys :D!