Category Archives: Computer

Which VPN Providers Really Take Anonymity Seriously?

Last month it became apparent that not all VPN providers live up to their marketing after an alleged member of Lulzsec was tracked down after using a supposedly anonymous service from HideMyAss. We wanted to know which VPN providers take privacy extremely seriously so we asked many of the leading providers two very straightforward questions. Their responses will be of interest to anyone concerned with anonymity issues.

via TorrentFreak.

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Photo Gallery: Retired World of Warcraft Server – HotHardware

“Blizzard Entertainment is offering a series of special charity auctions featuring server hardware originally used during World of Warcraft’s early days. We’ve since upgraded the game’s infrastructure with the latest technology to offer an even better player experience, but these ‘honorably discharged’ server blades are now unique collectors’ pieces. The net proceeds from the auction will go to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.”

via Photo Gallery: Retired World of Warcraft Server – HotHardware.

I wish I would have heard about this auction. I’ve never played World of Warcraft, but would have really liked to have this little chunk of history.

Doesn’t Matter

The problem with diagnostic monitoring, though, is that phone companies don’t say how they do it. What kind of information can they collect from your phone? How often? What do they do to ensure that the data isn’t personally identifiable? Over the last few weeks we got some answers to these questions. They’re not pretty.

via Slate Magazine.

This story has been peculating for a couple of weeks on the Android development forums before Slate picked it up. Mr. Eckhart has done a valuable service to everyone by uncovering Carrier IQ. But it isn’t because he discovered this one program. It is because it brings to everyone’s attention what should be obvious but apparently isn’t. The makers of your phone, the carrier, and ultimately the .gov (sometimes by warrant and sometimes not), either know or can find out everything that your phone does. Discovering Carrier IQ, and even uninstalling it won’t fix that. They own the hardware and the software that goes on it, they can do and hide anything in it to trap any data they want. If you use a cellphone, nothing you do while it is on is private.

I use only Android phones that can be rooted and have community supported ROMs installed. This means that instead of the phone company or even Google providing the software, a group of developers who I don’t know provide the software. That sounds insane when I type it. But those developers publish their source code, other developers not affiliated with them review it. And if I like, and I have, I can get the source and compile it all up myself. So there is little chance of carrier or Google spyware making it onto my phone. However, the carrier provided the hardware in the first place. They can have the hardware programmed to do anything they want. In addition, there is the radio firmware (just software that gets put on the device) and we still don’t get to have that source. Although I make an effort for my phone to be as secure as possible; I’m still boned.

Most likely your life, like mine, is so boring that no one will care about what is on your phone. But that doesn’t make spying right or acceptable. However, right and acceptable are not a possible goal here. You have the phone, expect the carrier, the software vendor (Google, Apple, RIM), and ultimately the police to have access to anything that is on it.

The only way to keep that from happening is to turn it off, remove the battery, and leave it at home. Preferably in small pieces from a authoritative hammering and all melted together in the fire.

Fail

Your Photo Op Sucks

  1. See that little lip there? That is where the web of your hand goes; its what it was made for.
  2. Crossing your thumbs doesn’t make your shooting extra lucky, it just makes it harder to manipulate the controls and robs the gun of stability on the left side.
  3. All of your shots will be going to the right; possibly into the next target. Just the tip of your finger is all we need.
  4. I’m old and it is getting harder and harder to keep both eyes open and focus properly. But when possible, keep both eyes open; sometimes bad guys pop up on the left side too.
  5. You’ll go blind that way.
  6. You’re not going to listen anyway, so I guess it doesn’t matter if you can hear after today.
  7. Tactical scrunchies are either black or camo and cost $80.

This is obviously a staged photo-op with no one shooting anything. But this is why I can hardly watch TV any more. I know too much. (nobody at no time ever can hack the Defense Department‘s encryption in 60 seconds from a borrowed laptop in a nightclub!!!)

Let me tell you something about your skills.

Just trying to learn some web programming stuff here.. specifically RESTful programming and I come across this framework that says this helpful bit:

web2py includes a Database Abstraction Layer (DAL) that writes SQL3 dynamically so that you, the developer, don’t have to. 

My translation:

Instead of the SQL you know and have been using for years, you will have to learn our completely new, and unique to us, API.

And while I’m on about RESTful… I imagine somewhere this conversation took place:

Programmer A:  hey about all that XML-RPC, SOAP crap…

Programmer B:  yeah, that was stupid…. hey.. why don’t we just use HTTP GET and POST because you know they look like ways to send data to servers and get responses.

Programmer A: Oh that is so, like, totally cool.. we could totally do that, its what they were for anyway!

Programmer B: Dude, we will get totally lynched if we just go tell everyone to stop all that complicated crap we’ve been pushing for years and use a 16 year old protocol.

Programmer A: We’re totally boned.

Programmer B: No wait! I have an idea… this will be easier than all that other stuff… we won’t spend as much time on it…

Programmer A: .. yeah.. we’ll have more free time to…

Together: REST!

Anyway, that’s how I figured it happened. Guess I’ll have to buy the white album again.

Busybox, xoom is a busybox

Just spent a couple of hours on Google Talk with the guy who packages up Busybox for Android platforms. Using QuickSSHD and a little port forwarding on my router, he was able to login to my Xoom and see what was going on with the app and provide fixes for me to try on the spot. A couple of hours later and it is working. He is going to put a new version in the app market tomorrow.

He doesn’t even have a Xoom, but now his app installs on Xooms. How cool is that?

Prototyping

I hate designing User Interfaces, but frankly I was much better at it in the days of Visual Basic. Then I could whip up a UI, add just a tiny morsel of linkage code and see how it all worked with a press of the F5 button. I am not sure why things aren’t that simple any more, especially in the Android development department. Anyway, while trying to come up with the UI design for an app I’m writing I was just stumped. Now to save the day is Pencil, a GUI prototyping tool that runs within the Firefox browser!

You can use Pencil to design all sorts of UIs. If you want to use it with Android, you can download some Android specific shape collections here. Make sure you grab the latest version of Pencil from their website. The version in the Firefox add-on market is old and doesn’t work with the Android shape collections.

I am just getting started trying it out. But it seems very cool. And free. Unlike Microsoft’s Viso which is cool but the opposite of free.

Now I wonder if there is any tool that will take my UI prototype and generate Android layouts from it?

Windows Networking (SMB) on Xoom

It is funny to me that the primary reason I root all of my Android devices is to add functionality that should have been there in the first place. Android is based on a Linux kernel and Linux supports a lot of cool stuff.

So anyway, today I compiled up the the Linux CIFS module for the Xoom. This allows you to mount Windows file shares on the Android file system (/mnt/cifs by default). With this module (and CIFS Manager from the market) you can access Windows shares like they were part of the Android file system and therefore stream files like movies. Without it, if you wanted to watch a movie on your Windows server, you’d have to download it from the server first, then watch it.

You can get the cifs.ko module (for both koush’s rooted kernel and coolbho3000’s overclocked one) here.

UPDATE: The Tiamat kernel now includes the tunnel (tun.ko) and cifs (cifs.ko) modules. So I have stopped compiling up for every new kernel that comes out.

More xoom,xoom fun!

I know none of you non-geek heathens will care, but I totally violated my Motorola XOOM and made it do things it’s daddy wouldn’t like. It involved compiling linux kernels, making loadable modules and messing around with the guts. I only say all this, knowing you won’t understand, because it took me all day and was really hard.

It isn’t easy, but if you have rooted your XOOM then you can get Openvpn running. You’ll need a tun.ko file and nerves of steel. You can find the tun.ko file here and instructions on setting it up. Nerves of steel you’ll need to bring to the party.

Ad Free since about 10 minutes ago

Here is what you do with a rooted Android device like the Xoom; write a script to block ads from being loaded by any of the other apps (like the browser). To do it you’ll need busybox and Scripter.

Busybox

On most devices Busybox can be installed via this app in the market. On my Xoom when I tried it, the installer claimed not to work, but in fact it did work with everything needed installed in /system/xbin.

Scripter

Just install Scripter from the market. Works good. Hasn’t been updated for tablets, so the screen is tiny.

  1. Run Scripter and click the “Create Script” button.
  2. Give it a name like “Ad Block”
  3. Enter these commands in the “Commands” window:cd /mnt/sdcard
    rm hosts.txt
    wget -O hosts.txt http://www.mvps.org/winhelp2002/hosts.txt 2> /dev/null
    dos2unix hosts.txt
    mount -w -o remount /system
    cat hosts.txt /system/etc/hosts
    mount -r -o remount /system
  4. Click the “Save” button.
  5. Click your script and ‘poof’ ads should be blocked. You may have to reboot the device to clear the DNS cache, but I didn’t.

On my Xoom the wget line didn’t work. For some reason wget (which is part of busybox) won’t resolve the domain name. This is probably an issue between busybox and Honeycomb. The current busybox for Android wasn’t designed with Honeycomb in mind. So for Xoom, replace the wget line with this:

wget -O hosts.txt http://209.68.48.119/winhelp2002/hosts.txt 2> /dev/null

If they change the IP address of the server, you’ll have to manually update it.

Also the busybox cp command doesn’t work, so you can use cat instead.

Sure there are Ad blocking apps in the market, but what is the fun in that? Besides the one I tried blocks stats from the WordPress app. Replace the cat command with a grep -v “stats.wordpress.com” > /system/etc/hosts and you can filter that out.