Category Archives: 6 Information and Communication Technology

“You might want to stay off the internet for a while”

Mmmmmmmm.

That doesn’t sound good.  Especially since its from a credible source whose enterprise is entirely concerned with privacy and anonymity on the internet.  From the Tor website:

OpenSSL bug CVE-2014-0160  Posted April 7th, 2014

A new OpenSSL vulnerability on 1.0.1 through 1.0.1f is out today, which can be used to reveal memory to a connected client or server.

If you’re using an older OpenSSL version, you’re safe.

Read on…

 The BBC put out the word:

A bug in software used by millions of web servers could have exposed anyone visiting sites they hosted to spying and eavesdropping, say researchers.

The bug is in a software library used in servers, operating systems and email and instant messaging systems.

Called OpenSSL the software is supposed to protect sensitive data as it travels back and forth.

It is not clear how widespread exploitation of the bug has been because attacks leave no trace.

Read more …

Because we’ve an addict in the house (he keeps it under control), I happened to notice the report that Minecraft went offline while servers were patched.

Update; BBC: Heartbleed Bug: Tech firms urge password reset

BloombergBusinessWeek: Why Heartbleed, the Latest Cybersecurity Scare, Matters

A guide to operating system users.

What’s your operating system?  See the pie-chart below for insight.  Humour from GraphJam.com.

Operating-systems

Anyway, what is an operating system?  It’s the boss.

from The Full Wiki:

Most ordinary computer users take their operating system for granted. The easiest way to understand what an operating system does is to take a close look at what computers were like before operating systems were invented.

The earliest electronic computers did not have any operating system. If the user wanted to change what the computer was doing, the user had to open the back panel on the (then very large) computer, and change how the wires were connected. Changing what the computer did was very time consuming and required an expert.

Later, computer scientists decided to have the wires stay as they were, and feed instructions to the computer with punch cards (cards with holes that represented instructions) or magnetic tape. The computer would store the instructions in some kind of memory. This way of operating a computer is called the von Neumann architecture.

Still, computers of the time generally only had enough memory to “remember” one program at a time. If the user wanted the computer to run a different program, the user had to wipe out the first program from memory and then load another program into memory.

Computer operators and computer scientists grew tired of carrying around large stacks of punch cards. They also wanted computers to run more than one program at a time. As years of work changed or replaced computers to have more memory, computer operators and computer scientists decided that some computers could hold several programs in its memory. The computer user could then simply choose which program the user wanted to run. Running a computer this way requires a “boss” program that controls all the other programs, and asks the user what program the user wants to run. Such a boss program is called an operating system.

Having several programs in memory that can be run at any time makes some new problems. The operating system itself has to remember where the programs are at in memory. The operating system also has to prevent two programs from fighting over which one gets to use the processor.

Modern desktop computers need an operating system. Operating systems generally start up automatically when the user turns on the computer.

Mozilla, the power behind Firefox, launches a $25 smartphone.

Mozilla’s smartphone operating system, Firefox OS, is being installed on mobile phones made by its partners, like Alcatel, Huawei, LG and ZTE, which will retail for $25 and be targeting fast growing emerging markets where users are unwilling or unable to be tied in to long term contracts.  Their Firefox OS phones will give multimedia capabilities on a pay as you go account.

As for Firefox OS, I like the idea of being able to operate a mobile device without Android, i.e. without Google knowing everything I do.  It looks like Firefox OS will capture market share as quickly as Firefox browser did, as the FOS captured 7% of developer mindshare in just six months.

Firefox OS phones will be on sale this year.

Mozilla: Firefox OS Expands to Higher-Performance Devices and Pushes the Boundaries of Entry-Level Smartphones

Mozilla: Firefox OS Unleashes the Future of Mobile

Mozilla: New Developer Hardware and Tools Show Firefox OS Ecosystem Momentum

 

Anonimity on the internet.

spieslikeusdavidparkinsaftermcescherIt’s not that you want to be a spy, it’s not that you want to hide under a rock, it’s just that you feel threatened by the invasiveness of data tracking by Big Co (eg Google, Microsoft, Facebook etc) and Big Brother (the government and banks know more about you than you know about yourself).

So Bloomberg’s report: The Inside Story of Tor, the Best Internet Anonymity Tool the Government Ever Built led to option of installing a browser which behaves as a browser used to: It lets you look at the internet, without the internet looking at you.

Check out Tor  here.  In any case, you should use an anonymous search engine, like DuckDuckGo or IXquick, which are excellent.

Printer problems … fixed.

After cleaning print head and deep cleaning print heads and still not getting a decent print out, I came across this site PrinterKnowledge, started by Rob Ludlow’s nifty-stuff.com, which helped understand the nature of the problem.  (Anatomy of a Canon print head helped a lot – see photo below.)

It was the print head, but it needed more careful attention.  And it was clogged, but asking the printer to clean the print head didn’t resolve the problem because it can not actually dissolve the clogged ink in the print head.  Fortunately there was some solvent left on the shelf from JetTec.  Patiently cleaning the head with solvent, q-tips and paper towels for half and hour, then letting it dry did the job.  (By the way, if necessary you might need to inject solvent through the print head or soak overnight, but you decide!)

Checkout PrinterKnowledge if you’re having trouble.  It could save you time and money.

Yahoo, Bing, Scroogle, Scraper, and anonymous search

How embarrassing!  I knew it, but forgot it.  But luckily was reminded yesterday that Yahoo doesn’t offer search any more.

In mid-2009 Yahoo gave up on search and contracted with Bing to supply teh service.  I was reminded when I saw the confession at the bottom of a Yahoo search page.  Further investigation reminded me that Microsoft now runs Yahoo search.  Yahoo keeps 88% of the revenue on ads that appear on Yahoo sites, but Microsoft gets the data on computer users’ online search and buying habits.  Microsoft lost its morality long ago so there’s no doubt that the data acquisition is as insidious as Google’s.

So immediately the Yahoo search box was removed from our site and replaced with a private search engine IxQuick, and also replaced the default search engine in my browsers.  Fortunately there’s and add-on for Firefox and Seamonkey to do that.

You could also put a scraper on your browser like scroogle, which removes personal info from searches.

Users have been persuaded that if the search engine knows your history it will deliver better results, but that is unlikely.  If you are searching for something teh terms you use and teh popularity of sites in aggregate are more important that you personal preferences, especially for more unusual searches.   For example, if you usually browse entertainment sites, but then do a search on construction technology, you want results for construction technology, not results that are biaised by entertainment preferences.  Google, Bing and others want your search history to sell you stuff which you are not even looking for (since that was not the purpose of your search).

Don’t get scroogled, just search.  Go to another engine like ixquick.com, search.com, dogpile.com, webcrawler.com, duckduckgo.com or put a scraper on your browser.

OpenSuse 13.1 – Initial review good: 9 out of 10

As a user of OpenSuse for a decade or so, I’m obviously a fan.  The recent release received a good review from Muktware: An OS for Grownups.

The Breakdown


Usability/User Friendliness 9
Design 9
App Ecosystem  8
Personalization 9
Security/Privacy 9.9

It’s a good choice for office productivity, although we also do video editing etc with it.  Download your copy here.  You can get a Live version to run off a USB, or get the full distro on a DVD version.

Apple is opening up to free software.

It has always seemed unfair that when you spend loads of money on a new PC it won’t do anything until its loaded with basic software to do basic things, from turning the desktop on with an operating system to typing a letter in a word processor or surfing the web in a browser.  That was a persuasive reason to switch to Linux and use open-source software which is not proprietary and is very good value for money.

Apple users have had to suffer as much as anyone because software is more proprietary and more expensive, but their tune is changing, as noted by in Bloomberg Businessweek:

Apple has acknowledged something that’s been true in the industry for years: Software is a means to sell hardware. Sure, there are some specialized applications that can command a hefty profit margin, but bread-and-butter applications used in the mainstream are not things you sell. They are things people get when they turn on that shiny new object they just shelled out for.

Read: Why Apple Wants Its Software to Be Free

Facebook, Google and other data grabbers really know you. Really.

Let’s just skip to the meat:

Digital records of behavior, Facebook Likes, can be used to automatically and accurately predict a range of highly sensitive personal attributes including:
sexual orientation,
ethnicity,
religious and political views,
personality traits,
intelligence,
happiness,
use of addictive substances,
parental separation,
age, and
gender.

That’s just scary, especially when you think about the rich, connected, political animals behaind these huge companies.  Now I know why I don’t use Facebook or Google and I hate giving up data and emails to see webpages etc.  I don’t mind if the computer knows a bit and helps me shop in an on-line store I frequent, but when it’s used to funnel ads and promotions at me it starts to get worrying.

And you know the government can not be far behind in trying to get inside your wallet and home.  (They already send around “confidential” census forms with your name and address at the top!

 

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Private traits and attributes are predictable from digital records of human behavior

BBC: Facebook ‘likes’ predict personality

BigBrotherWatch.org.uk