Today’s Tech Tips!

Using Windows 7 or Windows 8 or Windows 10 or OS X and a bit frustrated? If not and completely satisfied, then ignore this post. However if not…

Give Linux a try.

At work I support Windows and Mac machines.

At home I use exclusively Linux for the last decade or so, and it has only gotten exponentially better in that period, till today Microsoft is incorporating Linux pieces into their newest versions of Windows, including giving away Windows 10 for free and collusion with hardware vendors in an attempt to make using Linux more difficult.

And despite all that… Linux Distros just keep getting better.

It’s fun. It’s loaded with apps and utilities and the ability to download same for free.

There are tons of tutorials to help you every step of the way.

And did I mention it was fun. πŸ™‚

Now the biggest thing about Linux on the laptop/desktop is which version do you choose.

Distrowatch which has just celebrated its 15th anniversary, is the best place to learn about and find new Linux Distributions.

Two good ones they have recently covered are:

Gentoo Linux’s new LIVE DVD is a great place to start (The livedvd-x86-amd64-32ul-20160514 ISO which will work on 32-bit x86 or 64-bit x86_64 systems)
http://distrowatch.com/?newsid=09415

and

Debian
http://distrowatch.com/table.php?distribution=debian

Use the links to try them!

Now, I do think it is a shame that hardware vendors are releasing new laptops, that while they give us a slimmer size, do so at the expense of DVD/CD players and more importantly longevity and stability. I’ve had the chance to support these newer laptops that are coming out and they are almost across the board, ready to fail in the first year.

It’s close to criminal.

In a future update I’ll review some newer laptops that are still worth your money, but honestly get yourself an older generation Dell Latitude 6430 ATG series, wipe it and put Linux on it, and you have yourself a tank in the form of a computer that will last you years. Like a tank it’s not slim and it’s not the lightest, but hey that’s what your tablet is for. However for getting down to work, it is a reliable desktop replacement (particularly when using Linux) in a portable size.

Now that we have the basic of what you should be using, here are today’s tweaks!

Firefox version 46.0.1 is out and I probably do not have to sell anyone on using this browser.

However two features that do not come activated out of the gate that you may find useful are:

1/ The DO NOT TRACK ME feature

https://www.bestvpn.com/blog/8499/make-firefox-secure-using-aboutconfig/

and

2/ Block Tracking Attempts

Mozilla launches Tracking Protection feature in Firefox Nightly

And beyond those helpful tips, the biggest tip I can give you for security while surfing the web, keep Javascript disabled for all but trusted sites.

Your webmail, bank, paypal, school site, vendors you buy from. Firefox has an exception list you can use to just give Javascript access to those sites you trust, and the rest you let eat cake. Makes a huge difference in your browser’s vulnerability, by closing down the default attack vendor of giving everyone javascript/programming control of your browser.

If you have found this post helpful, pay it forward by supporting the Electronic Freedom Frontier and becoming a card carrying member.

https://www.eff.org/

If you use the internet, whether via desktop, laptop, tablet, or your refrigerator, these are the guys and gals fighting to keep your digital and therefore physical world, just a little more free.

I’ve been supporting them for three years now, and it’s every year some of the best money I donate. These people are Daniel’s fighting in numerous Lion’s Dens. They are doing noble work.

You can view and support them here:

https://www.eff.org/

Well that’s all for today’s Tech Tips!

Website of the Day: https://www.whatismybrowser.com/

Try it both with and without Javascript turned on and you will see a drastic difference.

Thanks for reading and safe computing!

Two Chills


I saw two things yesterday that gave me chills.

One happened early in the day when I was traveling through the east coast of the United States. I was driving and I looked up and I saw it, and it undoubtedly saw me.

How could it not? That is what it is designed to do.

It was the stuff of fiction, of dream, and perhaps more truly… nightmare, made real, made concrete… made manifest.

In fiction you would have called it perhaps the Eye of Sauron, if Tolkien’s lore holds sway, or perhaps Big Brother, if Orwellian references are not lost on a world moving dangerously sideways. But in fact it was more amazing and horrific than both those references.

We sometimes do not realize we live in the future, are the future that endured, of a bloody and brutal 20th century, and while that is not the future yet, of flying cars and jet packs and conversing with aliens, the future we are living,… of cloning, and test tube babies, and sexual reassignment, and genetic modifications, and decision making machines designed to kill men, and engineered diseases, and ethnic cleansings, and endless wars, and information super-highway, and super social media, and entertainment systems in most homes that are one code-write away from being constant surveillance and data gathering/marketing tools, this future is as miraculous and as horrifying as any scifi tale of invasion.

It is more terrifying. Because the future we live in is plagued with countless terrors, we are not so lucky as to have a single bogeyman. No… our corporate-beholden governments create countless destroyers of man’s liberties and mankind’s lives, not just one.

I was driving and I saw something that should never float above an American city, or any city, floating there. I saw the Eye of Sauron, I say again, because it sounds romantic, but more… because it feels most true.

I saw this:

FIRST LOOK

And it is a sight that I fear that all of us will be seeing, if we do not with all oppose it. For all the talk of not abusing the rights of the people, the fact is, that is what the blimp is designed to do, its very existence over American cities is an affront to the idea of a government of the people. What I saw in the sky yesterday was Ferguson and Palestine writ large, it is a show of force, it is the act of an occupying army.

Too much to make of it? I fear its existence is proof that we have made too little of our liberties. And time is running out to make more.

And what was the 2nd thing that gave me chills? That night I watched Lawrence Olivier and Gregory Peck give blistering performances in a movie that in 1978, almost 40 years ago, was the height of fantasy, but today feels as close as the next news cycle. I’m talking about THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL.

Between facts that feel like fictions and fictions that feel like facts, the ground feels precarious, and the watchful skies… deserving of being watched.

Perhaps we should watch… together.

News You Can Use

Here are a couple articles that caught my eye:

NSA Surveillance Scandal: Snowden In Moscow, Asks Ecuador for Asylum

What occurs to me is Snowden is not the name we should be concentrating on, or the one that should be on the run. It’s the NSA names that signed off on the illegal spying that should be the names of the hour. Names to admonish and remember.

and lest the NSA have all the fun…

Confirmed: The FBI is Spying on the US with Drones

The interesting thing about drone technology is, quite like science fiction stories of yesteryear(fact being forged out of fiction), they are no longer restricted to the size of small robot controlled planes high in the sky. Increasingly they are the size and contour of innocuous things like insects.

Seriously. I would not joke you. Look it up, I’ll wait.

Hmm-hm-hmmmm-hmm …. duh-da-da da … Ah, you’re back. So looked it up have you? All proven? Good.

So, Take a close look at that next dragonfly buzzing around, it may just be time to say… cheese. :).

Civil Liberties? Human Rights? Privacy? Where or where have they gone. :).

Maybe there is a simple answer to the preservation of these endangered concepts like liberty … fighting for them. Every way we can… fighting for them. They must be preserved by seeing a wrong, acknowledging it as such, and acting against it.

Snowden, whatever his believed goals, did more right than wrong, in putting morality before money, and conscience before corporations and the corporate stranglehold on American policy. And before any of this gets better(this being our steep slide to totalitarianism and slavery) we must… all of us… make judgments about what we allow to be done in our name, by a largely hidden minority, who hide behind letters like… US.

United States.

Who the hell are they to hunt and kill and torture under that cloak? Under that mask, under that lie, of the United States. I am the United States as long as I pay taxes to the fiefdom. And I see the spying programs as illegal at best, and Snowden as a necessary byproduct of a culture of lies. As a man who sees the truth, and has the temerity… to believe the governed have a right to the reality of the machinations that govern them.

We must all of us judge what is done in our name, and if found wrong… resist it.

And whether that wrong be called Schutzstaffel or its progeny of the NSA, Darpa, Homeland Security, our response to it must be the same…

Resist it.

FTC: Software used by rent-to-own stores spied on customers?!!!

FTC: Software used by rent-to-own stores spied on customers!

The stores used software to capture screen-shots, log keystrokes and take webcam pictures, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

IDG News Service – The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has reached proposed settlements with a software vendor and seven rent-to-own stores after the agency accused them of installing spy-ware on rented computers that captured screen-shots of personal information, logged keystrokes and, in some cases, took web-cam pictures of people in their homes.

Read the entire story here!


People thought I was mad (which I am, but that doesn’t stop me from being right :)) when I did a post telling people to cover up/place a sticker over their laptop’s camera when not in use. There is software out there that can enable your webcam without your knowledge (stuff that doesn’t have to be pre-installed by scummy rental companies, but can be pushed to you by a devious web page or online game), so my advice was cover those cams when not in use.

And quite frankly, most people don’t use their laptops built in webcam, so just put a sticker over the sucker. Or not. Your call.

Oh, and how does the FTC punish these companies for this criminal level of invasion of privacy (what would be considered espionage if done against a business, and you would end up doing prison time for)… basically they don’t punish them They say please don’t do it again… and that’s it.

Can anyone say corruption and bribes. πŸ™‚ Our government at work.

On Kinect, Face Recognition, Gaming, the war on Privacy and Tomorrow’s Tech Today!

So there is typically method to my madness.

Not always, but typically.

All laptops and tablets come with handy dandy cameras, pointed at your face. With Flash and Javascript and now the new html5 turned on, there are sites you can browse to, that without user intervention can turn on your camera and start snapping pics.

Any number of sites you can go to and see fools, without the good sense to cover their camera when not in use, undressing in sight of the laptop or webcam or hear their conversations when they are off camera, and they think the computer is asleep.

If that just scared you, even a little, it shows only… that you are still sane.

What I have just described, that’s the technology of yesterday. Not only have hackers been using it for years but so have ‘legitimate’ companies, that sell software that does just that, turn on the cameras and mics of a laptop remotely, without the user being aware. Ostensibly the idea for most companies is to use this in laptop retrieval, should the laptop be stolen. But any technology is more often used in salacious ways before constructive.

Example being, the first widespread use of pictures and video on the Internet was the female form.


Denise Milani pic courtesy of Tlcoldiesbutgoodies

For obvious reasons. Sex as they say… sells.

And all new forms of communication, to achieve widespread adoption… use sex to sell themselves to an un-trusting population. Whether it’s men in the wilds of Wyoming, being able to pick up this new fangled device called a phone, and hear a woman’s voice, an operator, speak to them for the first time, or the still common practice of draping a beautiful woman across a new car or motorcycle… it’s the allure of that oldest of motivations that drives new things.

So while the purpose of such technology may have been theft retrieval, by taking pictures of the person in possession of the laptop, then using a combination of GPS and IP address to determine their location, then notifying law enforcement; the truth is… that technology is in more widespread use, to invade privacy.

And as I said, that… is yesterday’s technology.

It’s got nothing on the technology of today, and tomorrow.

Ah, the joys of always on technology.

You know we have a whole generation raised on the idea of giving everything to the Internet, and not questioning or requesting safe-guards on individual liberties.

There’s a reason why we have (had much stronger) wiretapping laws, because there is the assumption that privacy is a central right of man. But what happens, generally through entertainment, through ease of use, is we give away rights, we relinquish the assumption that men have rights.

Take CANDID CAMERA, a show which began in syndication in 1948, before its most popular CBS run from 1960 to 1966… made it a national sensation. The show,virtually single-handedly shaped consent-less video recording as something harmless.

This show, funny, watched by everyone, often not in the best taste, but still had America laughing, was a show about video-taping people when they were not aware of it, and had more than anything to do with defining that as something innocuous. And suddenly in the pursuit of entertainment, a right you had with audio recordings, namely ‘a recording without your knowledge is against the law’, became lost with video recordings.


“Most audio recordings without consent of one or all parties are illegal…. Most video recordings are legal with or without consent.” — UVU

Yes, after the fact they still have to get you to sign a waiver to broadcast the video, but as far as taking the video of you without your permission (through a TV show, through pursuit of ‘fun’ and ‘social media’) that has became a defacto standard.

By not questioning the rights and boundaries being overstepped, those rights became lost. and that’s why we have the surveillance heavy society we have today, because in the pursuit of ease of use, and fun, and jokes, the masses gave up a fundamental expectation of privacy. And things like Face-book and You-tube and reality television are the 21st century extensions of the axiom: ease of use = deterioration of rights.

So we have a whole generation growing up with a pretty invasive technology in, of, and around them at all times. And what begins as entertainment today, that you have a choice in: Kinect, Siri, Face recognition; becomes obtrusive corporate policies and laws of the land tomorrow, that you don’t have rights to dispute, to adjudicate, to deny.

If you don’t care about your computer potentially having the mic and camera turned on remotely, without your knowledge or intervention, than this post isn’t for you.

But it is for those of us who want to have the right to disseminate our information, data, video, audio; when and to whom we choose. Or to have the right to not disseminate that info if we so choose.

But here’s the thing, increasingly pursuit of social media and ease of use and gaming is, by the very nature of the technology being used, incompatible with concepts such as privacy.

So a young generation, going by the mandate ‘I don’t have nothing to hide! I want my fun!’ is going for the immediate pleasure, seeing any technology infiltration as harmless. Here’s the thing it’s not about ‘having nothing to hide’ it’s about ‘having the right to choose who you share with, and where your boundaries begin, and where they end’.

That is a part of socialization that is being lost in this mad rush of always on technology, and ‘trusted’ computing and ‘cloud’ computing, and strangers as ‘friends’.

Who we are as people, who we become, is a lot about developing for ourselves our boundaries, and more importantly the people we let into and out of those boundaries. It’s about developing judgment and values and trust. And what is happening in a post Face-book, You-tube, Kinect world is a society where, like the 1950s audience for CANDID CAMERA, you have relinquished the right to boundaries… even in your home.

The Microsoft Kinect Device controller, is not just about motion detection, the underlying principles of it, which have not yet been scratched; is more than a face recognition machine, dressed as a game sitting in your living room recording your family.

It is a head to toe biometric unit, that is capable of mapping you, and identifying you from your brother or sister or father. It’s a wonderfully advanced whole body scanner… and database.

That’s the part that’s lost on people… Database. It’s a database with a map of your family that can phone home, and store detailed data about you and yours on remote servers. And call Microsoft what you will, but short-sighted and stupid is not among their sins. Kinect is an experiment, taking place in the consumers home, that has so many more profitable applications, beyond gaming.

So it’s more than a controller to create more accurate avatars to interact in 3D games. Its potential is to create a biometric representation of you, as unique as a fingerprint.

Why? Because it’s the holy grail of a new age of on-line transactions and commerce.

Think of the potential of Kinect, really think of it. A society that is becoming increasingly wired, and increasingly house bound, can shop virtually in immersive 3D environments. Banking done like you are playing the most stunning 3D game ever, but done with a unique, and for the purposes of commerce and law, legally binding avatar. An avatar that in terms of how your body moves and how it reacts (eventually incorporating heat ranges, and electromagnetic patterns), can tell potential advertisers more about you then you can tell about yourself.

I can see a day when Kinect biometric pattens are sold to advertisers just like home addresses and email addresses are sold today. So advertisers can tailor directly to you based on the things the pattern tells them, whether you’re balding or having menstruation issues or skin issues or an unhealed limp. Or how about Kinect used in the future to do on-line job applications, and submit a bio-metric pattern, like a signature with your application. Or perhaps even used as a rudimentary polygraph test.

You open the door for motion detection, body mapping, facial recognition, probability analysis in the comfort of your home, for the benefit of ‘entertainment’ and ‘ease of use’ and like that CANDID CAMERA audience of the 50s, you’ve relinquished the assumption that privacy in your home, or of your person, is in any way… a right of man. But you haven’t just relinquished it for yourselves, you’ve relinquished it for future generations, and that may be a path… worth pausing on.

So am I telling you not to buy Kinect, or to surf without Javascript and Flash and with HTML5 disabled? And to put a sponge bob sticky on that camera when not in use? Or to be wary of the technologies you bring into your home?

Nope, I’m not telling you any of that.

I’m only telling you there are no rights of man, without the effort of men to preserve those rights.

Every man, every woman, every child, the rights they would ensure, must be jealously, fanatically even, guarded… from even the seemingly most innocuous intrusion or, they will, in the fullness of time, be taken from you. They must be guarded even from yourself and such easy answers as ‘entertainment’ and ‘ease of use’.

I’m saying Nero fiddled while Rome burned, and I would hate to think a whole generation was playing games on Kinect while, things far more valuable… burned away.

For more on conect, both pro and con, see the following links:

123Kinect
Popsi

Those are just parts of the argument, research it for yourself… and decide.

As far as checking out your camera:

Here’s a pretty simple, and straightforward way to see how accessible your camera is (it is NOT one of the hacking sites I was mentioning earlier. At, least I don’t think it is :)) without your express permission.

Once on the site, on a less secure system, you may see your face if you click the button (on some really insecure systems you’ll see your face whether you click on the button or not). I’m not responsible for any pop-ups or hacking or viruses that may invade your system. or anything that occurs should you visit the site.

It appears to be an innocuous site, but I don’t own it, and am not affiliated with it, so I can’t vouch for it; beyond saying my system, which is pretty secure, was unaffected by the site. Your mileage however, may vary. Responsibility for your security, like anything on the Internet… is yours.

As it should be.

If anything you see on that site disturbs you, like your face staring back at you, look again at the paragraph where I mention javascript, flash, html5, and a sponge-bob sticker. πŸ™‚

Daily Booth

I hope you’ve found this article of help. If you have, please toss some likes and comments this way; as well as using the button on your left to purchase the snazzy pdf/epub article I have for sale. Also go to the WEDNESDAY WORDS column and purchase nifty books, using the showcased links. Thanks!

THE SEARCH ENGINE WARS!? Google vs. Scroogle!??

“There above the dead man’s torn body, man fought with demon under the pale light of the rising moon, with all the advantages with the demon, save one. And that one was enough to overcome all the others. For if abstract hate may bring into material substance a ghostly thing, may not courage, equally abstract, form a concrete weapon to combat that ghost”

—from SKULLS IN THE STARS by Robert E. Howard

One of the best search engines, and my search engine of choice Scroogle.org, and the one I’ve been recommending to people for years, has finally closed up shop.

Scroogle News Story

Owned by privacy advocate Daniel Brandt, Scroogle offered search results gleaned from Google, but minus that site’s cookies and tracking features. So Scroogle more correctly was a search engine plug-in or cleaner; acting as a buffer between Google and the end user. Almost like a proxy.

Google was never happy with Scroogle. And almost from the first the non-profit Scroogle was subject to a variety of questionable harrasment style incidents. From someone buying up Scroogle.com and turning it into a porno site, so heaven help the unwary person looking for the Scroogle search engine, and forgetting to add the Org.

Of late the cold war between Google and Scroogle has escalated into a hot dispute, with Google actively barring traffic for extended periods of time to any of Brandt’s Scroogle servers. Necessitating frequent messages to users that ‘search results are not available and try again in 10 minutes’.

However the final straw came with concentrated, and very proficient denial of service attacks effectively shutting down Brandts Scroogle.org site. After days of fighting Brandt has officially announced he is closing down Scroogle.org and all his related sites and servers.

It’s a devastating blow to privacy advocates everywhere, as Brandt was also responsible for other sites such as Wikipedia Watch.

And the first argument I oft here from the uninitiated is “it’s Google’s info, they should be able to block who they want”. But that’s the rub, the info does not belong to Google, much like Scroogle they are middlemen redistributing other peoples’ site links and info. Scroogle had as much right to re-disseminate that info, as did Google.

But the larger question I have is why would hackers, an anti-big business, pro personal-privacy, bunch… attack the non-profit Scroogle. The simple answer is… they wouldn’t, they would attack Google rather than Scroogle… unless (like the speculated reasons behind Linux open-source attacks) they were hired to attack Scroogle.

Do I think someone paid to setup the pornographic domain Scroogle.com to scare people away from adopting or visiting Scroogle.org? Let’s put it this way, now that Brandt’s Scroogle.org has closed up shop, the pornographic Scroogle.com has also closed up shop.

Do I think someone hired hackers, to commit a crime by performing a DDOS (Distributed Denial Of Service) attack on Scroogle? In effect attacking and shutting down a non-profit company.

Well it happened, so yes I do think it was paid for and premeditated.

And who do I think was behind driving Brandt’s Scroogle.org out of business? The same people you think.

It sends a troubling message across the board and one that will have to be addressed by all of us sooner rather than later. These bullies can’t keep taking our collective lunch money. πŸ™‚ .

In the interim here are a couple quick search engine alternatives to the now departed Scroogle.org. The best way I can see to honor Scroogle’s passing is by having even more people avoid using Google.

Scroogle.org may be dead, but its message seems to have spread to many Google alternatives.

The search engines are:

DUCK DUCK GO– Award winning search engine, it’s quick and easy to use but its results aren’t as accurate as Google’s results. Takes a bit more searching, but I personally don’t mind. Plus that Duck is just sooo CUTE! (Did I say that out loud? Doh!)

YIPPY– My backup search engine is Yippy.com, formerly called Clusty.com. Works great and is as accurate as Google.

A few others are:

IXQUICK

STARTPAGE

Both of the above are owned by the same Dutch company and I’m still testing them, so the jury is out, but so far so good.

Pages helpful in researching this article were the following:

Scroogle demise News Story written by Kelly Fiveash

and

Search engine alternatives by Chetan Pinto

Well that's all for now folks. Come back tomorrow for more news you can use! πŸ™‚ .


“Kane fought with his arms and his feet and his hands, and he was aware at last that the ghost began to give back before him, that the fearful laughter changed to screams of baffled fury. For man’s only weapon is courage that flinches not from the Gates of Hell itself, and against such not even the legions of Hell can stand.”
—from SKULLS IN THE STARS by Robert E. Howard