Reset The Net Day

This post is orginal to simpfinity.wordpress.com, if you see it elsewhere it has been copied without permission!

So, today on the 1 year anniversary of the first Snowden Disclosures, we see this initiative – Reset the Net. Which asks you to take one part of the net that you deal with and make it a little more secure, whether you are a developer, a user, a company etc… I’m all for this. I don’t believe that what is being done in the wholesale collection of American Citizen records by the government is legal, or ethical. I believe quite strongly that it violates the US Constitution.

Today’s anniversary, whether you believe what Mr. Snowden did was right or wrong, is an important one. It marks the beginning of a large crack in the secrecy surrounding what our government does in the name of “protecting us” from whatever they think they are protecting us from. I don’t think anyone will remark that what has been released so far is even the tip of the iceberg of secrets that this government has been doing.

I’m also not going to hang this entirely on the current Administration although they’ve been especially untruthful and deceptive and quite frankly lied about what they are doing to the American People. All administrations leading up to this one over the last 20 years (or more) have had a hand in tightening the grip of the government around the very people that they are supposed to be protecting from that.

It is especially disingenious for our elected and appointed officials to stand up and condemn other world leaders for their tyranny when they themselves are integral to what has been happening here.

And it all stems from greed and the desire to protect at any cost what they have. The enormous sums of money, the power they feel they have, their innate feeling that they are better than everyone else in the country because of their birth, position or exeriences. They have a vision of this country that they want and

That’s a topic for another post, but I’m sure you see where I’m going… Back on topic…

Today, I have made it a point to install apps on my new android phone, to help try to secure it. I have moved from Chrome to Firefox again as my default browser and installed a number of extensions/add-ons to do my best to protect the little things I can.

I use Https Everywhere, Lastpass, Disconnect, Disconnect Search, gpg4Win, gnupg, APG, Truecrypt (not shown to be broken yet ver 7.1), RedPhone, ChatSecure, k-9 mail, and more apps, extensions and the like to try to keep myself secure.

I request that when you contact me that you use my pgp key. It’s out there on the net. Little things like that will help. It may not ever make it completely secure, but we do what we must, because we can…

Google Webdesign, AUR and other arch items

So, finally a PKGBUILD is available in the AUR for Google’s Web Designer. Although it may not be the best thing to be using, I was interested in just trying it out to see what it could do. It does seem to be more set up for creating ads, which is not something that I do a whole lot of right now.

As a program it appears to be okay. It does have settings for creating your own HTML/CSS/Javascript/XML pages, and I’m sure it can be used well by people (these observations are based on the Windows beta). I just don’t think it is something I will do too much with. When I want to create ads, I typically go into Inkscape or the Gimp and do them from there.

My thought as I started this post was wanting to say something about the AUR. I really like Arch, and sometimes I get frustrated by the way it does things, but then I get back to the better way of thinking about it. If you have to go to a PKGBUILD to get a piece of software, you have to understand that there are probably a lot fewer people using the software than normal packages. The AUR is for items that people want, but may not be simple to do, or don’t fit in with the core system.

The Google web Designer AUR package, requires you to go get 2 other pkgs and build them, one of which turns out is just creating a symlink to a different module that is not what the program is looking for but has a newer ABI to it. I think this is not the way things should be done. If a package requires a certain module that has already been deprecated by a newer one, then maybe it should wait until the package gets updated as well.

Understand these are the thoughts of an admitted Arch newbie (by newbie I mean I don’t run it on a dedicated system everyday and use it as my ultimate desktop system). I know a lot of people would just take the symlinked package and just go with it if it works, but I want to maintain a stable pristine system for my Arch VM, and except for very few occurences, I don’t want to load the system up with PKGBUILDS if I can avoid it.

Happy thoughts for today!

Back to ArchLinux

I have a virtual machine running the latest version of Arch Linux. It’s gotten me back to wanting to redo my laptop again. I had removed Arch to put Mint 15 on it and while that has been working and I don’t see too many issues with it, Arch is where I want to be. I want to be on the edge and I want to run the most up to date software. It’s honestly just faster to me and it will take a while for me to get it back on my system, but that’s the end goal.

For instance, I’m relearning how to use pacman again after using apt for so long. I’ve also gotten a lot more comfortable using PKGBUILDs from the AUR. Sometimes you just have to dig into things to get them to work. I’ll say one thing about the AUR, read the information. the steps are simple, but YOU have to make sure the dependecies are resolved. makepkg -s is not going to do it for you if the package depends on another AUR build. I ran into a lot of that in trying to get Freecad installed. It had about 6 AUR dependencies that I had to pull the pkgbuilds for and compile. It wasn’t a difficult thing to do, but it was not like using a Debian based distro.

Arch is something else. It’s a whole different way of thinking about Linux to me. It’s a lot more hands on, and the fact that I have to keep up with things and read the update notes before doing something that might break my system makes me adhere to good practices. I think about what is going to happen when I make the upgrades vs. just letting others choose the upgrades and letting them test things out for me.

Maybe it’s the whole returning to school, learning more and trying to figure out what I’m doing thing, but Arch just seems to me to be the way I want to go. My VM is currently updating to KDE 4.13 and I just saw it come out a day or so ago. That’s great to me because I bet it takes Mint a while to get it into a release or update.

I don’t really have anything against Mint, but I just feel like it’s time to move on.

Relearning

This semester, I have been taking 2 classes. The first one was is an Algebra class, that in retrospect, I should have tried to test out of again. My school uses Accuplacer for those of us who don’t have recent ACT/SAT scores, and by recent, they mean 5 years old. My scores were from the late 80′s so, that’s out. I studied a little bit on the test prep that Accuplacer had on their site, and did okay, considering that it has been so many years since I was in school.

I tested 3 points below getting into this class on the first try, and after talking with the instructor and a dean, they decided to let me take the exam again. This time I tested 3 points below the class above this one, which would be College Algebra. I was given the option of taking it yet a third time, but declined, figuring that I did need to take the Intermediate Algebra class as it had been so long. Now I’m sitting here and it’s about 3 weeks before the end of term and I have a 97 in this class. Not bad for 20+ years from having taken any college level math. It has been a review though. I don’t seem to have any problems with the coursework, and I just have to reacquaint myself with the material. The next class should be a little more work for me, but hopefully it won’t be too much. I’m only doing 1-3 hrs for this class in prep work each week, so that’s way under what it should be for most 3 credit classes.

In transcribing my notes, I’ve learned a lot about the various ways to get math formulas into a word processing program, and I think I have to say I’m torn. I use linux as my OS and there are many options, but I’m really starting to lean away from LibreOffice and towards TeX as the best way to do this. I use LyX as my document processor, although I’m starting to look at TeXmaker as well. I hope to show some results from this soon when I finish compiling all my notes. I still have a take home test to finish for this unit and then they are giving us a part take home, part in class final exam. That should be interesting.

I hope from this to start writing again more and that I’ll get a new interest in blogging again. It just seems that I always have something else to do to spend my time away from the writing. There’s also a big disincentive for me to be writing anything about work as well. I have to keep all that stuff separate and since that’s where a lot of my time is spent right now, it’s hard to write about things I do.

That’s where I hope to let this return to school help me. I also am taking a Python class (basically the intro to computer science class). I didn’t get to take the critical thinking class yet, but it hasn’t seemed to matter. I think I’m doing pretty good, with extra credit I have over 103% in the class right now. I’m hoping to put some of my code up here, but I need to wait a bit until the class is over. Don’t think the instructor would like it if I had it up while the class was going on. I won’t be putting up full code anyway, just snippets to illustrate the ideas.

So that is probably the direction I am going to take, so, hopefully this will become a fully realized blog again in the near future. Thanks for sticking around!

Future Thoughts

I have returned to school after a hiatus of 22 years. I’m working towards a degree in software development/networking and of course, that could change, but for now is pretty solid. I can only take a couple of courses each semester.

I hope to provide some examples of the python I’m learning, but it’s very basic. The best part of the class is the fact that I’m learning software development and not just the language. I can pick oup the language syntax just about anywhere. The development techniques, however, are something that I’ve lacked in the past.

Our current item is a simple slot machine, but we’ve moved from the basics, to using lists and functions to make it more streamlined and better.

I’ll post sections of it later.

Offline Blogging Tools? Bueller? Bueller?

I wonder if anyone can point me toward a portable preferably cross platform offline blogging program. I’ve tried a lot of different ones and none are even close to what I want.

This is currently being written in Zoundry Raven. I am hoping it will be the last one I try today and that it will do the things I need it to do for my blog. I would like to get back to this again and start pushing out new content, maybe related to the classes I am going through. I will say that I am having a problem with editing posts after they are published with it, so that might be a big mark against it. I’ll have to see if that’s just a misconfiguration error or something wrong in the parsing when it gets the post back. I keep getting a tag error and it won’t let you edit then. That forces me to end up back here at wordpress.com to edit my posts. Sigh.

A thought for a new day

Today, I sit and think about all the recent revelations related to the NSA spying scandal and I see that a couple of email providers, Lavabit and SilentCircle, have decided to shut themselves down. This is a shame. They have provided a necessary service to the world community. Lavabit’s statement that they had hit the wall legally and were unable to express their very real frustration with the issue is taken to mean that they’ve been served with an NSL.

SilentCircle’s statement that they saw the “writing on the wall” and thought it would be better to shut down now is disheartening. I do however understand their reasoning. No one wants to go up against the national government apparatus. It’s expensive and there’s always the risk of unending, unlawful detention.

The USA that I live in is not the USA that I grew up in. We were never terrorized by our own government, by over greedy corporations, and by the never ending 24/7 news media that can’t seem to understand the difference between sensationalism and news.

I’m sincerely sad, upset and truly pissed off. I don’t know what to do anymore. I’ve tried to vote for people that I think are going to change things, but they seem to fall prey to the same influences as the rest. It’s not possible to actually get someone in office that seems to be able to stand up and refuse to accept the money from various companies and organizations that are trying their best to subvert the original laws of the land.

What should we do now?

Here’s my suggestion. I’m going to make it my mission to teach my parents, sister and all the family how to secure their email. I’m going to show them gpg4win, install it on their machines and set them up with a pass-phrase. That’s the only thing I can do. Maybe you need to do it as well. If you have the ability to show people how to do something, then you should do it.

I’m also going to start making it more of a point with my friends and colleagues to request and insist upon using secure email. It’s not just for home use. Businesses should be more than happy to start teaching their employees about how to secure the email they send. Although I know a number of businesses that would cringe at giving their employees the power to send email that they can’t read.

I’ll get you started. Go find gpg4win, and be smart, download the light version. kleopatra is a pain in the ass to deal with. then go download Thunderbird. then go get enigmail, as a Thunderbird add-on. It’s pretty self explanatory, but I will go over this in a future post. hopefully very soon.

Start protecting yourself now. The more people do it, the less it will make it seem like you have something to hide when someone tries to find out the “secrets” you’re emailing. I’ve used the analogy before, but encryption is just putting an envelope around your email, and everyone in the USPS reads postcards. Trust me. I used to work for them, and I know they do, no matter how much they deny it.

In the end will this help? Will it change the way things are now? I honestly don’t know. It’s a start. Maybe we can turn this beast around or behead it in a future election. It’s sad that we have to look at our own government, the one that used to be a shining beacon to the rest of the world, with jaded eyes.

Time will tell if the apathy that pervades the country will allow this to continue or if they will once more begin to take part in the governance of themselves, instead of relying on everyone else to do the job because it’s too much effort. I’m going to do what I can, but in the end it’s up to you to try and do the same.

I invite constructive commentary and dissenting opinions, but ranting, ad hominem attacks (if you don’t know what that is, don’t bother commenting.) and party line politics have no place in this discussion.