tech

Anything technological (soft or hardware). This includes all topics open source: Apache web-serving, Drupal, Ubuntu.

Tor, what is it good for?

Tor! (homepage)

 

What is it good for?

 

A whistleblower, journalist, or blogger in a hostile environment, a hostage or victim of human trafficking; those dominated, vulnerable, marginalized, propagandized, and all those generally in need of a way to speak out or seek out, to cry out maybe for the sake of their very lives... all of these folks need the same critical thing: a voice. They all need a way to have a voice that is safe, secure and discrete, trusted and confidential. They need a way to reach out and speak out that leaves no trace, and reveals no characteristic.

On the internet everything that you do is ticked and tucked away, targeted for tracking and ongoing identification for the surface purpose of such benign ideals as targeted advertisement in the name of robust and free trade practices. However these tracking practices, together with the digital footprints that we leave behind, can be used for nefarious purposes as well. Hostile governments can hack, track, silence and censor their citizenry, cyber-criminals may track and then hack your identity and resources; vital information such as science or current events may be kept from you, keeping you a prisoner of ignorance and propaganda; or maybe you just get yourself and all of your friends and families targeted by aggressive spammers.

It is easy to see that there are many ways that we need discretion in our online lives. We need a cryptographic security to protect our freedoms and privileges of free speech, open research, access to research, free exchange of information, and choice. Meet Tor A nice shallot... The onion router, which provides a one stop solution for all of those needs. Tor liberates online communication, for good or ill, and equips us to lead a more confident and, for all of Tor's discretion, open online lives. A champion against censorship and overbearing authority, Tor is a champion of free speech.

This post explores what Tor is, takes a brief look at how it works, and explains how to get connected to it.

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Passwords no more: Client Side SSL authentication the easy way

 

Passwords, difficult to remember, difficult to remember to change, so much so that companies like Google, Mozilla, and Last Pass are always devising ways to help us keep track of them. Always subject to being hacked due to password weakness, insecure connections, or data breaches, they represent as much a security failure as they do a safeguard system. 

Fortunately, we have ssomething available to put in place to bolster up our data security: SSL, or more specifically Client Side SSL. This system involves installing a trusted, secure certificate on the client computer that is used to authenticate a user. A much better alternative than a simple password, and much more transparent of a user experience in the end.

Setting up client side SSL is a lot easier than it might seem at first glance, and provides a great way to authenticate our users' identities. Passwords no more...

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Let's Encrypt The Web: Safeguarding internet privacy with free, trusted SSL

 

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It's not uncommon for modern computer users to run a home server, or for hobbyists or enthusiasts to purchase an affordable VPS and run apps for a Personal Cloud. With great apps like the Ampache media server, and platforms like Own Cloud, this is easier than ever, and an ever more attractive an option. If this is you, or if you run a blog, a small bushiness or non-profit website where you collect sensitive information, you might want to consider encrypting and securing that traffic from prying eyes, especially if any personal or sensitive data is within it. 

The way to do this is through the use of globally trusted and signed certificates, commonly referred to as SSL. You know when a site is using this technology if the beginning of the URL starts with a nice, green "https" instead of just "http". These trusted certificates are often very expensive, and the most of us have limited funds to address this costly and critical issue. This is where Let's Encrypt comes into the picture. Their mission is to provide quality, free certificates to anybody that wants them. They envision a web that is 100% encrypted, and appear to be well on their way. 

This post will show you how to obtain and configure your own free certificates from Let's Encrypt to ensure trusted and secure experience for your users.

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Ubuntu Dreams of Electric Sheep...

About 4 years ago Ubuntu, a very popular Linux desktop operating system, decided to strike the beautiful Electric Sheep screen saver program from it's repositories (think app store). For those of us that love using screensavers as a way to bring a little artwork to our office or media server, this was a harsh blow, as the Electric Sheep program was elegant and beautiful, and there was no simple path to bringing it back. Now, thanks to the ever vibrant open source community, there is finally a simple solution to bring life back to our sleeping screens...

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Damn the internet blockades! Run your own Private Proxy server with Seamless Authentication

 

Paying attention to the news, and to certain types of legislation that are constantly being passed around, it becomes more and more obvious that we people might want to secure our internet usage form prying eyes, or find ways to keep access to the sites that we have come to rely on. I am a big proponent of the principle of freedom of information, privacy, and security, or of just people keeping their nose out of other people's business, especially mine. Fortunately, despite the looming climate of Orwellian anti-privacy and anti-free-information measures that are constantly being tossed about, there are things that we can do to secure our privacy and therefore peace of mind.

Over the last few weeks I posted some simple instructions on how to secure your internet traffic, and how to add a layer of security to your home server (every household should have a home server). This post is going to add to our security knowledge base and show how to set up a simple, anonymizing, caching, http/htttps (web) proxy server, with seamless authentication, meaning no need to log in. This server will be able to get around internet blockades, and will not be open to the public, but you won't ever have to enter in your user name or password. Again, I am opting for the added security of running my own proxy, instead of subscribing to a service, because I can set the security, manage the data retention (or lack of retention), and I just get free of having to pass my data through anyone else's hands.

So, check out how to install your own personal web Proxy, which can also be used to filter out ads or pesky "bad" web sites.

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Fancy 403: Ban them All!

Lot's of tech savvy computer users these days have figured out how to set up a home server to act as a file server, a streaming media server, a legitimate web-site server, a proxy server, and any number of other case sues. Surely, having access to your home computer, akin to your own personal "cloud", while away from home is not only a luxury, but in the professional or academic world, this can be a ral life saver.

But, along side that convenience, the problem of security arises when we connect our home computers to the internet and register a domain to our dynamic IP address. Suddenly, there are potential prying eyes that we may not want paying attention to us. There are, of course, several ways to mitigate this problem, here is one more...

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SOCKS5 Proxy in Ubuntu 14.04: mystery no more!

Secure Your Internet Traffic on Ubuntu 14.04 with a SOCKS proxy

(it's easier than you think!)

 

 

In this day and age, we use our computers for everything from banking and bills to searching for love, trolling our friends on social media sites, and even telling our deepest secrets to our most trusted allies. We trust our computers to handle all our most sensitive information, and so it is more important than ever that we do everything that we can to ensure the safety and security of our information and our connections. 

This step-by-step instructional will show you how to easily set up a SOCKS4 or SOCKS5 proxy server, which will harden your internet connection and provide you with the peace of mind in knowing that your identity, finances, and private life, are all that much more safe and secure.  

Just follow along, I did the homework so that you don't have to.

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Tricking out Rhythmbox... or "How to share even more trivial minutia of your life with the world"

I have written before about some cool things you can do with Rhythmbox Music Player in linux, and it's no secret that I love to find ways to make my desktop experience merge with my server/online presence. So I was particularly happy when I found a great third party plugin for Rhythmbox that can post the now playing info to just about anywhere you want it to.

Ever wanted to trick out a forum signature, or a profile on a website you frequent? Or are you (like me) just looking for neat ways to make your personal website a bit more snazzy? In walks the rhythmtoweb plugin and this "need" is filled. Fret not, it's pretty straightforward to set up.

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How to clean up your Music library mess...aka: I just joined "Play Ogg"!

What do you do when your entire music library is infested with wma files, incorrectly tagged and renamed, sorted all wrong and just one big mess? You admit it was your own fault for not sticking to one single standard for naming and organizing, for letting Windows Media Player try to do the work for you, and not trying first to understand formats and codecs and licenses. Then you get rid of your wma files (DELETED) and re-rip, re-download, re-tag and re-encode until your entire library is ogg, uniformly named, sorted and tagged correctly. This is the 17000 file mess I am cleaning up right now, and I decided I should join the PlayOgg movement for some inner support. Henceforth, I will be displaying this or similar on my site. Ogg is a great multimedia format that is simply the one solution that will work for everything I need as a format, and as a piece of nicely licensed and supported free and open source goodness. It's widespread implementation would be just an awesome thing. The only reason I have not moved on this yet, is the knowledge that doing so would force me to do so much tedious work on my music library...well, I'm over it (Trying hard not to slam wma to compare it to ogg) and I am now taking the correct steps. Read below the break for some useful tips to get the job done.

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Twitter tricks with Ubuntu...How to serve your own personal Twitpic and Twitterfeed using Jaunty

A little while back I had a mind to set up a Twitpic account, so that I could post photos from my Centro directly to the microblogging service of kings, Identi.ca. But for some reason, either my mobile provider, or mobile platform didn't want to play well with Twitpic, so I set out to find a different solution, thinking how nice it would be to self host this solution.

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I have no name!

About a week ago I had a sort of system crash on my Intrepid server. After performing some rote maintenance, and deploying a vanity Drupal site for my daughter I was getting the "permission denied" error from Apache on all of my domains and sub-domains. To top this off, no users I host mail for on that machine (my daughter, a bot, and myself) were capable of receiving any mail. Great.

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XMPP notices: a workaround for Drupal 5 (and how to install Openfire 3.6.3 in Ubuntu 8.10)

Since I got my self-hosted Ubuntu lamp server up and running some while back, I have made it my personal mission to find out exactly what she can do. "Why in the world would you want to run a home server?" is the question I sought to answer for myself, and sought to do so in such a way that any novice could benefit from what nifty things I did find. In this, I tinker with new (new to me) technologies, and see if any inherent level of novelty outweighs any technical level of brain hurt. The first thing I installed was Drupal, which you can do with apt or synaptic, and it has become the bedrock and center of everything I do on this server. I love to find new ways to interact with my site, new ways to get the site to perform and interact with users, and generally any neat trick I can come up with that has functionality. Every time I discover a new technology, I see if there is a way to integrate it into my Drupal setup, integration is a wonderful thing.

  • I can publish to Drupal from my Ubuntu desktop using drivel.
  • I can further integrate my Ubuntu desktop with Drupal using Evolution and the excellent calendar module.
  • My Tweets and/or Dents go to my Drupal installation via a custom block I got from Twitter
    • And my Drupal installation can talk to my identi.ca account when I post new content via a small rewrite of the twitter module for drupal.
  • I aggregate interesting news feeds I discover from my Tiny Tiny RSS installation with the core module "aggregator".
  • I integrate my Gallery2 online picture gallery with drupal using a great module for the job, and I can publish pictures into that Gallery from my Ubuntu desktop using the excellent F-Spot photo manager
    • I can take a picture, plug in my camera to my Ubuntu desktop, and that picture goes right into my Drupal, via Gallery, via F-spot...one click!

Pidgin Jabber/XMPP server, and see if I could get Drupal and Jabber to play nice together, showing up on my Ubuntu desktop via Openfire, and between separate services I run on my Ubuntu server and Drupal. I am, in my way, attempting to make a nice transparent portal from my Ubuntu desktop to the internet via Drupal, and vise-versa. So, in this ongoing effort to self-host and experiment with different technologies I recently decided to install and run with the I am a geek for integrations between Drupal and my Ubuntu desktopGet the picture?

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Open Source and Copyleft in a Copyright, Closed Source World.

What does online community mean to you?

Jono Bacon, the Ubuntu community organizer, is working on a new project The Art of Community. This new project revolves around the creation of, and discussion of a book, which Jono is releasing under that same title, and licensing with a Creative Commons Liscence. The main marketing strategy seems to be a "get the word out" campaign, utilizing the already thriving Ubuntu community, and other online networks. Creating a community around projects in order to attract a fan-base, especially a project about community, is a particularly novel concept, and just seems to make sense. Mr. Bacon has a history of standing up to make a buzz about free software, and copy-left, his recently released Severed Fifth album is a great example of this. His implementation of "Street Teams", composed of music enthusiasts, and supporters of the work in general, is a great example of how community can replace traditional marketing. Here we have a relatively high profile individual, capable of attracting a certain level of attention, releasing work created with open source software under a Creative Commons license, and hopefully inspiring other people to do the same.

It's not just that getting the word out about F/OSS is difficult in a closed source economy, but combating the negative attention from stories like this one is an ongoing uphill battle. In light of this, to show people that it is possible, easy, and rewarding to embark on the path of open source publishing is a great thing in my world. People would benefit to grasp the energizing fact that the open source world is a very ENABLING reality, it creates opportunity to function simply by the virtue of its own existence.

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Awesome Music server = Your existing Ubuntu 8.10 Desktop + Ampache + Rhythmbox, Oh My!

One of the problems we were running into in our home was the distribution of media files, specifically music. My desktop has a nice 300+ Gigs of hdd space on it, so it's fairly easy for me to host all of the music on separate partitions (pretty useful when the smaller systems in the house need to update, or fresh install), but the transferring of files over the lan got tiresome, and my wife likes quite a bit of my music collection, and is really out of room on her laptop. Likewise, my daughter's desktop is in serious need of hdd space, and she has a growing musical "habit". Also, I want my music in places other than the room my desktop is in, other than the apartment my computer is in, and I don't have an mp3 player large enough for all of my files.

The solution was to find a way to host all of the files on my desktop, and to allow access to them in a nice streaming sort of way. I didn't want to just open up lan access to my partitions, I only share out one small folder for samba, and like to keep it that way. So I went out and found me some Ampache! And it was good...Ampache is a PHP based music server that uses a MySql database to store its information. It allows users to browse online music collections, build playlists, stream content to a desktop music player, or even download the tracks. There is quite a bit of flexibility with Ampache, it's theme-able, providing a nice user interface, has album art support and all the bells and whistles you could want. You can add users through the web interface and set access levels, so security is a no-brainer. There's a working demo here to get a feel for how it plays.

I simply installed the "AMP" portion of the LAMP stack on top of my existing Ubuntu desktop installation (this is easily done using the tasksel command from the terminal), installed and told Ampache to catalog all of the files in my music partition, and ran it from there. Then the hits kept on coming, I found a nice plugin for Rhythmbox that connects to the Ampache backend and loads your Ampache catalog right in your music browser! Happy, if you like Rhythmbox. Also, in Amarok2 there is built in support for subscribing to Ampache servers. Neat. So, after enabling the plugin on all of the client computers, all they have to do is fire up Rhythmbox, and they all have seamless access to my entire music collection. They get thier music fix, I look like a wizard!

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