OpenSource Privacy

I’ve blogged a bit about OpenSource, and Linux – I’ve even convinced numerous friends and family members to join me. CentOS and Debian are my distros of choice, but for many of them, moving over from the Windows world; simpler is better. So I’ve set them up mainly with Ubuntu (shudder) and Mint. My own children use Xubuntu. I get asked a lot – “How do you get anything done since (insert overpriced product here) doesn’t run on Linux? Well, I’ve blogged about that too, HERE. But in the wake of US Programmes for spying on the American public, such as PRISM, just using OpenSource and expecting the lack of anything Microsoft to protect you isn’t enough. I’ve touched on configuring TOR, using Off the Record plugins for Pidgeon and other similar privacy enhancements HERE. But I’d like to take a moment to post on a basic level for beginners, about the very bare essentials in protecting their privacy. Simple changes that they can make without having to do any real major configuration to their system.

For this, you need to be a bit more clever, doing things such as changing your search engine, what browser you use, how you email and how you generally make use of any web based products. Read more about giving the NSA the finger HERE, and opting out of global data surveillance HERE.

The “Opting out of Global Data Surveillance” link should pretty much cover what you need, and for Linux users like myself, this specific LINK in the Opt Out information is particularly useful. But at the very basic level, even if you don’t feel a need to install, configure and make use of TOR, at the very minimal, use Firefox and make either https://duckduckgo.com or https://www.startpage.com your go-to for your searches each and every time you search. StartPage has the obvious advantage as it provides Google search results (let’s face it, we call searching “Googling” for a reason) but strips out your personal information so that Google never receives your IP or has a chance to laden your machine with cookies. That’s not to say that DuckDuckGo isn’t useful, but you will note a HUGE difference in the quality of search results.

As to email, while it does not have anywhere near the bells and whistles of Google/Gmail, I highly recommend Autistici-Inventati. Their service does provide all of the following, free, and naturally they accept donations to keep these services available. Find them HERE. The webmail is plain and uses Roundcube, but it’s free, private and secure. Couple it with Thunderbird or Earlybird (HERE‘s how you secure them), and it’s a win! Also, you can use K-9 on your Android phone for the secure email feature.

There are other email alternatives, of course, aside from even those mentioned in the Opt Out link. A friend of mine on Mastodon (more on this in a bit) recommends ProtonMail. I haven’t tried it to date, and as such, cannot comment on it positively or negatively. I do, however; respect his opinion and assume that if he recommends it, it’s worthy of said recommendation. You can read about his move to Linux HERE. You can also read his writeup on online privacy (in which he touches on ProtonMail) HERE.

Anyway, these are the surface level important bits gleaned from the Opt Out information. You can read more details and customize more of your desktop environment with apps and web services as you desire based on their guide. These presented here are just the absolute BASICS for preserving a shred of privacy in an ever increasingly watched, regulated and data mined digital world.

The last subject I’d like to touch on, is… well… a touchy one. Social networking. I know… you’re old and stuck in your ways. Facebook is just familiar and easy. Twitter is comfortable and doesn’t require any configuration. Well – that may be true, but they’re also undoing EVERYTHING that we are trying to accomplish in the entire preceding portion of this blog post. Facebook caches every single search. Whether for people or for products. Every page you like. Every status you like. Every news story that you read from their web app. Twitter does the same. Everything that you do on either site is monitored, collected, and placed into a nice little package that allows them to serve all of those ads that you see all over in the side bars, and in between posts. Your email… your birthday… all of your relationships. This data is all theirs. You gave it to them. And they USE IT.

There are two different options for Social Networking that I highly recommend. The first is older (if you don’t count OpenSource predecessors) and it is called Diaspora. It’s pretty much got all of the functionality of Facebook, but without the clutter, without the ads, and without fear of all of your data being mined and sold to any and all bidders. I’m personally on https://diasp.org username theophilus79@diasp.org, but they have a large pool of “pods” to choose from, and you can join any of them. They allow you to follow people from other “pods”, but they aren’t ruled by a centralized, authoritarian data miner. I know, it’s a pain getting your family and friends to switch, but persistence does pay off! The second is Mastodon I’m personally on https://mastodon.technology username theophilus@mastodon.technology – as my main account. It’s essentially a fuller featured Twitter, which allows more character input as well. Like Diaspora, it’s broken into “instances” and not all housed in a central server somewhere. You can join any instance that you like, and like Diaspora, follow people from other Instances. Again, no centralized authoritarian data miner granting you the right to use a website in exchange for all of your digital data. Both Diaspora and Mastodon have mobile apps that you can use. Both are well worth a try, and both will help you protect / control your own data. That isn’t to say that either is foolproof, but both by far outweigh the negative aspects of Facebook and Twitter.

Linux Commands Post You’ll Want To Bookmark

Here’s an amazingly useful post for Linux Terminal Commands regarding your hardware, finding drives, mounting drives etc. You’ll want to bookmark this one for sure!

 

Attempting Minecraft on PocketC.H.I.P.

My first attempt at installing and running Minecraft on the PocketC.H.I.P. – Fairly successful, but not quite workable yet.

Related links of interest:

How to use Aptitude package tool on Debian, Ubuntu and Mint linux

How to Install JAVA 8 (JDK/JRE 8u77) on Debian 8 & 7 via PPA

 

PocketC.H.I.P. – First Impressions

PocketC.H.I.P.
The new PocketC.H.I.P. by “Next Thing Co.”

FEATURES

  • 4.3″ Resistive touch screen.
  • Full QWERTY keyboard.
  • Removable enclosure and bezel.
  • 3.7-volt LiPo Battery.
  • GPIO Access.
  • WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity.

APPLICATIONS

  • PICO-8 – Play games, change games, and make games with PICO-8!
  • SunVox – The SunVox tracker is a fully featured music production studio.
  • Linux Terminal – A place to type commands directly to the computer for execution and evaluation by the operating system.
  • Write – Write is a minimalist text editor.
  • File Browser – The File Browser provides a visual representation of the files on your PocketC.H.I.P. using icons.
  • Help – A copy of the documentation from the GetChip Website

I received my backer PocketC.H.I.P. today. My apologies, I was much too excited about it after having used my C.H.I.P. received late last year, to bother with any video of unboxing. Those of you that need unboxing therapy, look elsewhere.

It arrived in a beautifully illustrated cardboard box, shrinkwrapped with my VDA and HDMI adapters, as well as a spare battery. As you can see above, the final version is much nicer than beta versions (change not included, placement to illustrate scale only). As expected, it was running an ARM version of Debian. So naturally, I did the apt-get update & upgrade & dist-upgrade. Then I set about to playing with it.

It shipped with only six programmes (noticeable programmes, that is), and after being briefly entertained by them, I set out to creating the server remote that I intended it to be. I installed putty, filezilla and a few other select monitoring programmes for remoting in to my various servers for Who Inc. so that I could pretend that I had a necessary, real world application for this baby.

To be honest, it’s a bit clunkier than I would like. Though the website has various illustrations of the machine in use, nothing really prepares you for its size, or for its weight. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, mind you, it just is unexpected. It’s a kind of hybrid between a phone and a tablet, but with the benefit of being a full Linux operating system. All of the commands that you have come to know and love function. If you’re used to Debian, Ubuntu, Mint etc. you’ll feel right at home with one of these. One of the biggest downers is size of available space, but again, as this is full Linux, that’s a simple matter of sticking a low profile thumb drive into the available USB and creating /home2.

To do this:

  • /sbin/fdisk -l  This tells you your available storage devices with detailed info so you can determine which drive is which by /dev
  • sbin/fdisk /dev/sda This allows you to create a partition on /dev/sda (most likely the secondary thumb device as the primary drive appears to be hidden by the system) after which you will enter the following at the prompt: “n” for new partion, “p” for primary partition, “1” for the first partition (it may tell you that 1 is not available, and give you options beginning with 2), “Enter” for the first AND last cylinders (to make this partition use the entire disk) and finally “w” to save your changes. That has created and saved new partition and it will be called /dev/sda1 (first partition on /dev/sda). The next step is to format it.
  • ext4/4 /dev/sda1 – Choose either ext3 or ext4 – this does the basic format of your thumb drive.
  • Finally, to make it an extension of your /home that came installed on the C.H.I.P., mkdir /home2 followed by mount /dev/sda1 /home2. To make sure that this device will auto mount when you start up your PocketC.H.I.P., use mount -a.

Now that this step is complete, you are able to save files as large as your external storage can handle, as well as install a great deal more programmes, which for me, was an absolute necessity.

My biggest complaint about the PocketC.H.I.P. was not the large size or unexpected weight however; as they did a great job with the contour and counterbalance with the shape of the casing… no, my biggest complaint is the keyboard. I am operating, of course, with the understanding that this is essentially a baseline keyboard which is provided as a bonus for what is essentially a builder computer like the Raspberry Pi. But the keyboard, while nicely configured and familiar, lacked responsiveness. I found myself going back several times to press harder to get a letter to take, or backspacing for a letter that received multiple input though only pressed once. If you can live with that, and I can, then this will be an amazing and useful piece of tech for you to have.

Regardless of its size, it still fits comfortably into a standard back pocket. Its extra features such as a touch screen make it much more enjoyable to use. The screen is sharp and bright. All in all, I’m extremely satisfied with the outcome, and both happy and proud to have backed this fantastic innovation.

P.S. – If you do get one, it does NOT come with a web browser. This is simple to remedy. If you like text browsers, use sudo apt-get install lynx. If you prefer a modern browser, use sudo apt-get install iceweasel. Neither Firefox nor Chrome have a release that will install on this unit out of the box, and Chromium gives the “no release candidate available” reply. Iceweasel is clunky on this device to say the least, and you absolutely MUST use a stylus to get anything done with it. But for the power of a full Linux in the pocket, I’m not complaining. I also highly recommend installing aptitude (sudo apt-get install aptitude) and using it in place of apt-get for automatic resolution of dependencies when installing software.

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