Linux

10 Gbyte Win10 Spyware “upgrade” now forced on users

Sunday, September 27, 2015 

Microsoft has, historically, done some amazingly boneheaded things like clippy, Vista, Win 8, and Win 10.  They have one really good product: Excel, otherwise everything they’ve done has succeeded only through illegal exploitation of an aggressively defended monopoly. OK, maybe the Xbox is competitive, but I’m not much of a gamer.

Sadly for the world, the model of selling users for profit to advertisers and spies has gained ground to the point where Microsoft was starting to look like the least evil major entity in closed-source computing.  Poor microsoft.  To lose the evil crown must be at least as humiliating as their waning revenue and abject failures in the mobile space (so strange… try to enter a space where they don’t have a monopoly to force users to accept their mediocre crap and they fail, who’da thunk it?)

“There is a difference between policy and practice. We don’t read customers mail. We don’t read customer documents. We don’t triangulate YouTube views and searches. We don’t use the content of your Hotmail to target ads in Bing,”

Frank Shaw, Corporate Vice President of Corporate Communications for Microsoft

Well, never fear: Windows 10 is here and they’re radically one-upping the data theft economy by p0wning not just the data you idiotically entrust to someone else’s server for free without ever considering why they’re giving you that useful service for “free” or what they, or whoever buys their ultimately failed business, might do with your data, but also the data you consider too sensitive for the Google or the Apple.  Windows 10 exfiltrates all your data to Microsoft for their use and profit without your information.  Don’t believe it? Read their Privacy Statement.

Finally, we will access, disclose and preserve personal data, including your content (such as the content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders), when we have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary.

And it is free (as in beer but not as in speech).  What could possiblay go wrong?

Well, people weren’t updating fast enough so Microsoft is now pushing that update on you involuntarily.  Do you have a data cap that a 10G download might break and cost you money?  So what!  Your loss!  Don’t have enough space on your drive for a 10G hidden folder of crapware foisted off on you without your permission?  Tough crap, Microsoft don’t care.

To be clear, Windows 10 is spyware.  If this was coming from a teenage hacker somewhere, they’d be facing jail time.  It is absolutely, unequivocally malware that will create a liability for you if you use it.  If you have any confidentiality requirement, you must not install windows 10.  Ever. Not even on your home machine.  Just don’t.

The only way to prevent this is really annoying and a little risky: disable automatic downloads.  One of the problems with Microsoft’s operating systems is the unbelievably crappy spaghetti code that results in a constant flow of cracks, a week’s worth are patched every Tuesday.  About 1 serious vulnerability every fortnight these days (note this is about the same as Ubuntu and about 1/4 the rate of OSX or iOS, why people think Apple products are “secure” is beyond me – live in that fantasy walled garden!  But nice logo you paid a 50% premium for on your shiny device). Not patching increases the risk that some hacker somewhere will steal your datas, but patching guarantees that Microsoft will steal your datas.  Keep your anti-virus up to date and live a little dangerously by keeping Microsoft out.

Here’s an interesting article: how-to-clean-the-windows-10-crapware-off-your-windows-7-or-81-pc

And a tool referenced in that article: GWX control panel (that can help remove the windows 10 infection if you got it).

And a list of patches I found that are related to Win10 malware that you can remove if you haven’t installed it yet (Windows 10 eliminates the ability to choose or selectively remove patches, once you’re in for the ride, you’re chained in: all or nothing.)

Basic advice:

  • Disable automatic updates and automatic downloads of updates.
  • Review each update Microsoft offers.  This is tedious, my win 7 install reports 384 updates, 5-10 a week, but other than security patches, you probably don’t really need them.  Only install a patch if there’s a reason.  Sorry, that sucks, but there’s always Linux Mint: free like beer AND free like speech.
  • If you’re still on Win 7/8, uninstall the spyware Microsoft has probably already installed.  If you’re on Windows 8, you probably want to upgrade to Windows 7 if at all possible.
  • If you succumbed to the pressure and became a Microsoft Product by installing Windows 10, uninstall it.
  • If uninstall doesn’t work, switch to Mint or reinstall 7.

Most importantly, if you develop software for servers or for end users, stop developing for Microsoft (and Apple too).  Respect the privacy of your customers by not exposing them to exploitation by desperate operating system vendors.  In many classes of applications, your customers buy their computers to run your software: they don’t care what operating system it requires – that should be transparent and painless.  Microsoft is no longer an even remotely acceptable choice.  Server applications should run under FreeBSD or OpenBSD and desktop applications should run under Linux.  You can charge more and generate more profit because the total net cost for your customers will be lower.  Split the difference and give them a more reliable, more secure, and lower cost environment and make more money doing so.

Posted at 08:07:54 UTC

Category: FreeBSDHowToLinuxSecuritytechnology

Successful connect to WPA2 with Linux Mint 17

Saturday, September 26, 2015 

I found myself having odd problems connecting to WPA2 encrypted wireless networks with a new laptop.  There must be more elegant solutions to this problem, but this worked for me.  The problem was that I couldn’t connect to a nearby hotspot secured with WPA2 whether I used the default config tool for mint, Wicd Network Manager, or the command line.  Errors were either “bad password” or the more detailed errors below.

As with any system variation mileage may vary, my errors look like:

wlan0: CTRL-EVENT-SCAN-STARTED 
wlan0: SME: Trying to authenticate with 68:72:51:00:26:26 (SSID='WA-bullet' freq=2462 MHz)
wlan0: Trying to associate with 68:72:51:00:26:26 (SSID='WA-bullet' freq=2462 MHz)
wlan0: Associated with 68:72:51:00:26:26
wlan0: CTRL-EVENT-DISCONNECTED bssid=68:72:51:00:26:26 reason=3 locally_generated=1

and my system config is reported as:

# lspci -vv |grep -i wireless
3e:00.0 Network controller: Intel Corporation Wireless 7260 (rev 6b)
 Subsystem: Intel Corporation Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260
# uname -a
Linux dgzb 3.16.0-38-generic #52~14.04.1-Ubuntu SMP Fri May 8 09:43:57 UTC 2015 x86_64 x86_64 x86_64 GNU/Linux

I found useful commands for manually setting up a wpa_supplicant.conf file here, and for disabling 802.11n here. The combination was needed to get things working.

The following successfully connects to a WPA2-secured network:

$ sudo su
$ iw dev
 ... Interface [interfacename] (typically wlan0, assumed below)
$ iw wlan0 scan
 ... SSID: [ssid]
 ... RSN: (if present means the network is secured with WPA2)
$ wpa_passphrase [ssid] >> /etc/wpa_supplicant.conf 
...type in the passphrase for network [ssid] and hit enter...
$ sh -c 'modprobe -r iwlwifi && modprobe iwlwifi 11n_disable=1'
$ wpa_supplicant -i wlan0 -c /etc/wpa_supplicant.conf

(should show CTRL-EVENT-CONNECTED)
(open a new terminal leaving the connection open, ending the command disconnects)

$ sudo su
$ dhclient wlan0

(should be connected now)

Posted at 10:16:28 UTC

Category: HowToLinuxtechnology

A Solution for Mosh Scrollback

Wednesday, July 22, 2015 

Mosh is a pretty good tool, almost indispensable when working in places with crappy internet. While it is designed to help with situations like “LTE on the beach,” it actually works very well in places where internet connectivity is genuinely bad: 1500msec RT, latency, 30% packet loss, and frequent drops in connectivity that last seconds to hours, otherwise known as most of the world. On a good day I lose an SSH connection randomly about every 3-6 hours but I’ve only ever lost a Mosh session when my system went down.

It does a lot of things, but two are key for my use: it syncs user input in the background while local echoing what you type so you can finish your command (and correct a typo) without waiting 1500msec for the remote echo to update; and it creates persistent connections that survive drop off of almost any type except killing the terminal application on one end or the other (anything between can die and when it recovers, you catch up). This means compiles finish and you actually get the output warnings…

…well…

…some of them. Because Mosh’s one giant, glaring, painful, almost debilitating weakness is that it doesn’t support scrollback. So compared to tmux or something else that you can reconnect to after your SSH session drops, you really lose screen content, which is a PITA when ls-ing a directory. I mean, it isn’t that much of an efficiency gain to have to type “ls | less” instead of just “ls” every time you want to see a directory.

I found a solution that works for me. I also use Tmux with Mosh because Tmux will survive a dead client and working with Windows client reboots are a fact of life (I know, sad, but there are some tools I still need on windows, hopefully not for much longer).

Tmux has a facility for creating a local log file, which I then “tail -f” using a separate SSH window. If the SSH client disconnects, no loss, I can pick up the log anytime. It is just mirroring everything that the mosh terminal is doing and the scroll bar scroll back works fine. And it is a raw text file, so you can pipe the output through grep to limit what’s displayed to something of interest and review the log asynchronously as, say, a build is progressing.

Although there are some nice advantages to this, when/if Mosh supports scrollback, it’ll be far more convenient having it in the same window, but for now this is the easiest solution I could come up with.

FreeBSD:

# portmaster sysutils/tmux
# portmaster net/mosh
# ee ~/.tmux.conf
-> bind-key H pipe-pane -o "exec cat >>$HOME/'#W-tmux.log'" \; display-message 'Logging enabled to $HOME/#W-tmux.log'
-> set -g history-limit 30000
Start a Mosh session (for example with Mobaxterm on windows)
# tmux
# [CTRL]-b H
start SSH session (Mobaxterm or Putty on windows)
# tail -f csh-tmux.log
("csh" will be the name of the mosh window - so really "(MoshWindowName)-tmux.log"

You can tmux the ssh session too and still have scrollback and then just reconnect into the same tail command, which preserves the whole scrollback. If you’re on a connection like I’m on, your scrollback logfile will drop off a couple of times a day, but you won’t lose your Mosh session, and it’ll be waiting for you when you’re reminded that you need to see those security warnings from the compile that just scrolled off the Mosh screen forever.

Posted at 00:57:12 UTC

Category: FreeBSDHowToLinuxtechnology

What’s Right About PGP

Thursday, August 14, 2014 

Occasionally you find the crankypants commentary about the “problems” with PGP. These commentaries are invariably written by people who fail to recognize the use modality that PGP is meant to address.

PGP is a cryptographic tool that is, genuinely, annoying to use in most current implementations (though I find the APG extension to the K9 mail app on the android as easy or easier to use than the current Enigmail implementation for Thunderbird.)  The purpose of PGP is to encrypt the contents of mail messages sent between correspondents.  Characteristics of these messages are that they have more than ephemeral value (you might need to reference them again in the future) and that the correspondents are not attempting to hide the fact that they correspond.

It is intrinsic to the capabilities of the tool that it does not serve to hide with whom you are communicating (there are tools for doing this, but they involve additional complexity) and all messages encrypted with a single key can be decrypted with that key. As such keys are typically protected by a password the user must remember. It is a sufficiently accurate simplification of the process to consider the messages themselves protected by a password that the owner of the messages must remember and might possibly be forced to divulge as the fundamental limit on the security of the messages so protected. There are different tools for different purposes that exchange ephemeral keys that the user doesn’t ever know, aren’t protected by a mnemonic password, and therefore can never be forced to divulge).

These rants against PGP annoy me because PGP is an excellent tool that is marred by minor usability problems. Energy expended on ignorantly dismissing the tool is energy that could be better spent improving it.  By far the most important use cases for the vast majority of users that have any real reason to consider cryptography are only addressed by PGP.  I make such a claim based on the following:

  • Most business and important correspondence is conducted by email and despite the hyperventilation of some ignorant children, will remain so for the foreseeable future.
  • Important correspondence, more or less by definition, has a useful shelf life of more than one read and generally serves as a durable (and legally admissible) record.
  • There are people who have legitimate reasons to obfuscate their correspondents: email, even PGP encrypted email, is not a suitable tool for this task.
  • There are people who have legitimate reason to communicate messages that must not be permanently recorded and for which either the value of the communication is ephemeral or the risk is so great that destroying the archive is a reasonable trade-off: email, even with PGP, is not a suitable tool for this task.
  • There’s some noise in the rant about not being sufficient to protect against NSA targeted intercept or thwarting NSA data archiving, which makes an implicit claim that the author has some solution that might provide such protection to end users. I consider such claims tantamount to homicide.  If someone is targeted by state-level surveillance, they can’t use a Turing-complete device (any digital device) to communicate information that puts them at risk; any suggestion to the contrary is dangerous misinformation.

Current implementations of PGP have flaws:

  • For some reason, mail clients still don’t prompt for the import or generation of PGP keys whenever a new account is set up.  That’s somewhat pathetic.
  • For some reason, address books integrated into mail clients don’t have a field for the public key of the associate.  This is a bizarre omission that necessitates add-on key management plug-ins that just make the process more complicated.
  • It is somewhat complicated by IMAP, but no client stores encrypted messages locally in unencrypted form, which makes them difficult to search and reduces their value as an archival record.  This has trivial security value: your storage device is, of course, encrypted or exposing your email should your device be lost is likely to be the least of your problems.

PGP is, despite these shortcomings, one of the most important cryptographic tools available.

Awesome properties of PGP keys no other cryptographic system can touch

PGP keys are (like all cryptographic keys in use by any system) long strings of seemingly random data.  The more seemingly random, the better.  They are, by that very nature, nonmnemonic.  Public key cryptosystems, like PGP, have an awesome, incredibly useful characteristic that you can publish your public key (a long, random string of numbers) and someone you’ve never met can encrypt a message using that public key and only your private key can decrypt it.

Conversely, you can “sign” data with your “private key” and anyone can verify that you signed it by decrypting it with your public key (or more precisely a short mathematical summary of your message).  This is so secure, it is a federally accepted signature mechanism.

There’s a hypothesized attack called a Man In The Middle attack (often abbreviated “MITM”) that exploits the fact these keys aren’t really human readable (you can, but they’re so long you won’t) whereby an attacker (traditionally the much maligned Eve) intercepts messages between two parties (traditionally the secretive Alice and Bob), pretending to be Bob whilst communicating with Alice and pretending to be Alice whilst communicating with Bob.  By substituting her keys for Alice’s and Bob’s, both Bob and Alice inadvertently send messages that Eve can decrypt and she “simply” forwards Bob’s to Alice using Alice’s public key and vice versa so they decrypt as expected, despite coming from the evil Eve.

Eve must, however, be able to intercept all of Alice and Bob’s communication or her attack may be discovered when the keys change, which is not practical in the real world on an ongoing basis (but, ironically, is easier with ephemeral keys). Pretending to be someone famous is easier and could be more valuable as people you don’t know might send you unsolicited private correspondence intended for the famous person: the cure is widely disseminating key “fingerprints” to make the discovery of false keys very hard to prevent.  And if you expect people to blindly send you high-priority information with your public key, you have an obligation to mitigate the risk of a false recipient.

Occasionally it is hypothesized that this attack compromises the utility of PGP; it is a shortcoming of all cryptographic systems that the keys are not human readable if they are even marginally secure.  It is intrinsic to a public key infrastructure that the public keys must be exchanged.  It is therefore axiomatic that a PKI-based cryptographic system will be predicated on mechanisms to exchange nonmnemonic key information. And hidden key exchange, as implemented by OTR or other ephemeral key systems makes MITM attacks harder to detect.

While it is true that elliptic curve PKI algorithms achieve equivalent security with shorter keys, they are still far too long to be mnemonic.  One might nominally equivalence a 4k RSA key with a 0.5k elliptic curve key, a non-trivial factor of 8 reduction with some significance to algorithmic efficiency, but no practical difference in human readability.  Migrating to elliptic curves is on the roadmap for PGP (with GPG 2.1, now in beta) and should be expedited.

PGP Key management is a little annoying

Actually, it  isn’t so much PGP that makes this true, but rather the fact that mail clients haven’t integrated PGP into the client.  That Gmail and Yahoo mail will soon be integrating PGP into their mail clients is a huge step in the right direction even if integrating encryption into a webmail client is kind of pointless since the user is already clearly utterly unconcerned with privacy at all if they’re gifting Google or Yahoo their correspondence.  Why people who should know better still use Gmail is a mystery to me.  When people who care about data security use a gmail address it is like passing the temperance preacher passed out drunk in the gutter.  With every single message sent.  Even so, this is a step in the right direction by some good people at Google.

It is tragic that Mozilla has back-burnered Thunderbird, but on the plus side they don’t screw up the interface with pointless changes to justify otherwise irrelevant UX designers as does every idiotic change in Firefox with each release.  Hopefully the remaining community will rally around full integration of PGP following the astonishingly ironic lead of the privacy exploiting industry.

If keys were integrated into address books in every client and every corporate LDAP server, it would go a long way toward solving the valid annoyances with PGP key management; however, in my experience key management is never the sticking point, it is either key generation or the hassle of trying to deal with data rendered opaque and nearly useless by residual encryption of the data once it has reached me.

Forward Secrecy has a place.  It isn’t email.

A complaint levied against PGP that proves beyond any doubt that the complainant doesn’t understand the use case of PGP is that it doesn’t incorporate forward secrecy.  Forward secrecy is a consequence of a cryptosystem that negotiates a new key for each message thread which is not shared with the users and which the system doesn’t store.  By doing this, the correspondents cannot be forced to reveal the keys to decrypt the contents of stored or captured messages since they don’t know them.  Which also means they can’t access the contents of their stored messages because they’re encrypted with keys they don’t know.  You can’t read your own messages.  There are messaging modalities where such a “feature” isn’t crippling, but email isn’t one of them; sexting perhaps, but not email.

Indeed, the biggest, most annoying, most discouraging problem with PGP is that clients do not insert the unencrypted message into the local message store after decrypting it.  This forces the user to decrypt the message again each time they need to reference it, if they can ever find it again.  One of the problems with this is you can’t search encrypted messages without decrypting them.  No open source client I’m aware of has faced this debilitating failure of use awareness, though Symantec’s PGP desktop does (so it is solvable).  Being naive about message use wouldn’t have been surprising for the first few months of GPG’s general use, but that this failure persists after decades is somewhat shocking and frustrating.  It is my belief that the geekiness of most PGP interfaces has so limited use that most people (myself included) aren’t crippled by not being able to find PGP encrypted mail because we get so little of it.  If even a small percentage of our mail was encrypted, not ever being able to find it again would be a disaster and we’d stop using encryption.

This is really annoying because messages have the frequently intolerable drawbacks of being ephemeral without the cryptographic value of forward secrecy.

Email is normally used as a messaging modality of record.  It is the way in which we exchange contemplative comments and data that exceeds a sentence or so.  This capability remains important to almost all collaborative efforts.  The record thus created has archival value and is a fundamental requirement in many environments.  Maximizing the availability, searchability, and ease of recall of this archive is essential.  Indeed, even short form communication (“chat” in various forms), which is typically amenable to forward secrecy because of the generally low content value thus communicated, should have the option of PGP encryption instead of just OTR in order to create a secure but archival communications channel.

A modest proposal

I’ve been using PGP since the mid 1990s.  I have a key from early correspondence on PGP from 1997 and mine is from 1998.  Yet while I have about 2,967 contacts in my address book I have only 139 keys in my GPG keyring.  An adoption rate of 4.7% for encrypted email isn’t exactly a wild success.  I don’t think the problems are challenging and while I very much appreciate the emergence of cryptographically secure communications modalities such as OTR for chat and ZRTP for voice, I’ve been waiting for decades for easy-to-use secure email.  And yet, when people ask me to help them set up encrypted email, I generally tell them it is complicated, I’m willing to help them out, but they probably won’t end up using it.  Over the years, a few relatively easy to fix issues have retarded even my own use:

  • The fact that users have to find and install a somewhat complex plugin to handle encryption is daunting to the vast majority of users.  Enigmail is complicated enough that it is unusable without in-person walk-through support for most users.  Even phone support doesn’t get most people through setup. Basic GPG key generation and management should be built into the mail client.  Every time one sets up a new account, you should have to opt out of setting up a public key and there’s no reason for any options by default other than entering a password to protect the private key.
  • Key fields should be built into the address book of every mail client by default.  Any mail client that doesn’t support a public key field should be shamed and ridiculed.  That’s all of them until Gmail releases end-to-end as a default feature, though that may never happen as that breaks Google’s advertising model.  Remember, Google pays all their developers and buys them all lunch solely by selling your private data to advertisers.  That is their entire business model. They do not consider this “evil,” but you might.
  • I have no idea why my received encrypted mail is stored encrypted on my encrypted hard disk along with hundreds of thousands of unencrypted messages and tens of thousands of unencrypted documents.  Like any sensible person who takes a digital device out of the house (or leaves it unprotected in the house), I encrypt my local storage to protect those messages and documents from theft and exploitation.  My encrypted email messages are merely data cruft I can’t make much use of since I can’t search for them.  That’s idiotic and cripples the most important use modality of email: the persistent record. Any mail client should permanently decrypt the local message store unless the user specifically requests a message be stored encrypted, an option that should be the same for a message that arrived encrypted or unencrypted.
  • Once we solve the client storage failure and make encrypted email useful for something other than sending attachments (which you can save, ZOMG, in unencrypted form) and feeling clever for having gotten the magic decoder ring to work, then it would make sense to modify mail servers to encrypt all unencrypted incoming mail with the user’s public key, which mitigates a huge risk in having a mail server accessible on the internet: that the historical store of data there contained is remotely compromised.  This protects data at rest (data which is often, but not assuredly, already protected in transit by encrypted transport protocols.)  End-to-End encryption using shared public keys is still optimal, but leaving the mail store unencrypted at rest is an easily solved security failure and in protection in transit is largely solved (and would be quickly if gmail bounced any SMTP connection not protected by TLS 1.2+.)

Fixing the obvious usability flaws in encrypted email are fairly easy.  Public key cryptography in the form of PGP/GPG is an incredibly powerful and tremendously useful tool that has been hindered in uptake by limitations of perception and by overly stringent use cases that have created onerous limitations.  Adjusting the use model to match requirements would make PGP far more useful and far easier to convince people to use.

Phil Zimmerman’s essay “why I wrote PGP” applies today as much as it did in 1991:

What if everyone believed that law-abiding citizens should use postcards for their mail? If a nonconformist tried to assert his privacy by using an envelope for his mail, it would draw suspicion. Perhaps the authorities would open his mail to see what he’s hiding.

It has been almost 25 years and never has the need for universally encrypted mail been more obvious.  It is time to integrate PGP into all mail clients.

 

Posted at 14:39:09 UTC

Category: FreeBSDLinuxtechnology

TLS 1.0 Hatin’ the Game

Wednesday, June 1, 2011 

After much reading and interpreting, it became clear there was no more advice for configuration variations to get client cert login working. It seemed Chrome was doing it right, IE not even trying, and Firefox failing. No advice as to why and setting LogLevel to debug didn’t add much in the way of useful hints.

TLS_bad.JPG

Jared Davenport, for reasons that would never have occurred to me, tried turning off TLS 1.0 in firefox as an allowed protocol. PCI compliance requires turning off a bunch of weaker/compromised protocols and ciphers anyway, so I already had:

SSLProtocol -ALL +SSLv3 +TLSv1

A quick test of

SSLProtocol -ALL +SSLv3

solved the problem with firefox. IE still refuses to talk to SSL, but IE is a stupidhead anyway. OK, it annoys me as the same client cert works on CACert.org’s site so something there is working right that isn’t on my box, but as I never use IE, I think I can let it go

no_tls_good.JPG
Posted at 01:21:25 UTC

Category: FreeBSDLinux

How to Disable CTL-Return in Thunderbird

Thursday, September 23, 2010 

One of the stupidest keyboard shortcuts I’ve run into is Thunderbirds CTRL-Return automatic send function. Maybe I type sloppy, but I frequently CTRL-V to paste a link into a message and hit return just a little too fast to continue typing and, damn it, the embarrassing, incomplete message is gone.

It turns out I’m not the only one. I found this great link
http://blogs.sun.com/LetTheSunShineIn/entry/changing_thunderbird_keyboard_shortcut

which has, itself, a link to a pretty cool plugin that lets you remap the keyboard shortcuts.
http://mozilla.dorando.at/keyconfig.xpi

But it does not (at least with Thunderbird 3.1.4 on window) list the dreaded ctrl-enter stupidkey. Now windows 7 search is astonishingly stupid (how come windows, 20 years on, still can’t give a marginal search function when back in 1990 OnLocation could return every file on my Mac, including searching by content, in a few milliseconds? Progress my ass) but I found the right “prefs.js” (eventually) at C:\Users\dgessel\AppData\Roaming\Thunderbird\Profiles\mwwkrsno.default.

As I’d modified a few keyboard commands with keyconfig already, prefs.js had a nice friendly indicator of where I should insert my own guerrilla modification (about the middle of the file) and there I pasted in
user_pref(“keyconfig.main.key_send”, “!][][“);
and when I launched Thunderbird, ctrl-enter was disabled. YAY!

(The following message was a “note to self” – I typed ctrl-enter and…)

Yep. Message still here… doesn’t work.

(…noted that the message was not sent thus ctrl-enter no longer works.  The fix, therefore, does work.)

If you want to customize your experience, there’s a nice command reference here
http://kb.mozillazine.org/Keyconfig_extension:_Thunderbird

I added CTL-ALT-RETURN as “send later” which I don’t think I’ll hit accidentally.

Posted at 23:33:40 UTC

Category: Linuxtechnology

IBM BoMC on the Fritz

Sunday, September 19, 2010 

I was updating the firmware of our servers with IBM’s Bootable Media Creator – it is usually a great tool: it builds a bootable linux disk with all the latest firmware patches for your system – or all IBM systems if you want with a small utility that fetches all the latest updates for you and assembles them into an .iso.

Attached Message Part

The current version is ibm_utl_bomc_2.10_windows_i386.exe, but when you run it, it fails when it gets to uncompressing ibm_utl_boot_tools-130_anyos_x86-64-mid.zip (probably ibm_utl_boot_tools-130_anyos_x86-64-full.zip too, if you need that for your system instead). I finally noticed v130 was only 4mb and my old V110 was 65MB.

The util only downloads about 500k of each binary patch each time it is run. Fortunately, the efforts are cumulative. Unfortunately any driver bigger than about 1MB is effected and will not download completely the first time. Or the first 2x(size in mb) times. If you run ibm_utl_bomc_2.10_windows_i386.exe -m 8863 -l C:\temp from the command line (as an example, assuming your machine type is 8863) TWICE and the second time you don’t see something like:
(1 of 8) Acquiring ibm_fw_diag_zuyt38a_linux_i386...
Already downloaded.

for any driver, then it isn’t fully downloaded. Keep repeating. I wrote a script to automate the process and put about 100 repetitions of the command in the batch and went out to dinner. When I got back, all the drivers were reporting “already downloaded.”

@echo off
SET LOOP=0
ibm_utl_bomc_2.10_windows_i386.exe -m 8863 -l C:\temp
[copy and paste this or use a do loop to repeat 100x]
:END

Posted at 21:23:22 UTC

Category: Linuxtechnology

Working Toward Workable Time Zones

Sunday, August 22, 2010 

PIMs (Personal Information Managers, what we used to call things like Outlook, or Sunbird, or Lightning, or Zimbra before they were integrated with email) haven’t progressed much in the last 20 or so years.  Actually, neither have email clients.   Perhaps the most essential of our daily tools, these classes of products have failed to progress much at all over the decades.

Sure, email has styled text now and you can compose a message in Outlook using Word, but these wizzy tricks distract from the function of email–communicating the written word.  There’s rarely any reason to style text in email and HTML mail has only been a boon for spammers and a distraction for users.  One of the few useful enhancements is inline images which I do find useful.

The best email clients ever, Eudora and  Mulberry (the BAT might qualify too, though I haven’t used it) have failed to keep up in OS level support. Thunderbird is OK, and pimped out with extensions to enable proper formatting, forwarding, text wrapping, etc. it is usable, though it still doesn’t handle frequent IMAP disconnections all that gracefully (it pains me to admit it, but only Outlook does this really well).

PIM functionality has actually gone backwards as the years have gone by. Calendar programs have always handled reminders and notifications and scheduled events fairly well.  DateBook was great in 1990 and there’s very little useful that has been added since .  In the mid-90’s Motorola shipped a great little PIM along with their TimePort phones called TrueSync Desktop.  You could create an event in a time zone other than the one you were in.  Wow.  Amazing.  The developers actually considered the possibility that you, the user, might have some business in a time zone other than the one you’re in.  At the time, some people pointed to Outlook’s then “dual time zone” functionality as the be-all end-all.  True, two time zones are better than one, but hardly a solution suitable for the whole of the US, let alone the world and the pixel heavy dual time zone stripe precluded anything more comprehensive.   At the time, the official M$ work-around was to change your computer’s time zone to the time zone you wanted to create the event in, create the event, then change the time zone back.  Brilliant.

Lightning (for Thunderbird) and Sunbird (stand alone) Calendar programs have finally incorporated some timezone functionality, you can at least set the starting and ending time zone of an event independently and differently from the time zone you’re in:

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It is a start, but the time zone picker is still pretty much unusable:

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This is a huge enhancement though, one I’ve been pushing for a long time:

https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=224905

https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=364750

https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=364751

https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=364751

The right answer is a simple pop-up menu with my favorite time zones in it.  I can use the semi-infinite list of seemingly random city names as a geography quiz along with Wikipedia to figure out what my favorite time zones are as long as I don’t have to spend 10 minutes scrolling through them every time I’m trying to find America/New York for ET or America/Los Angeles for PT (or America/Dawson Creek for MST, no DST).

Oddly, Lightning actually has a half-decent map view that shows you the time zone you’ve selected, but you can’t click on it to pick the time zone you want (!?):

moz-screenshot-66.png

I really like worldtimezone‘s view as a graphical picker:

moz-screenshot-67.png

Something like this, plus a search tool into a database of time zones for cities would be just perfect for creating my list of favorite time zones.  Even the most worldly traveler is unlikely to need more than a dozen time zones in their favorites list and thus a popup would make selecting the start and end time zones very straight-forward.  Way back at the start of 2007 I proposed something like:

moz-screenshot-68.png

Which is pretty much a copy of  Starfish’s TrueSync Desktop (though TSD didn’t support different starting and ending time zones).  Someday… maybe someday I’ll have a calendar program as advanced as they were in 1993.

Posted at 15:58:40 UTC

Category: Linuxtechnology

Time Zones, how do they work?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010 

Time Zones are a peeve of mine I’ve been trying to get sorted out for years. I’m not alone either, at least one rant has been cross-posted. The gist of the problem is embodied in the following:

You are in California on the phone with someone in Boston planning a phone conference from 10:00-11:30 am for next week at which time you’ll be in London. What time should you set the conference for? Can you do the math? How about if you’re in Phoenix in April? There are 31 time zones and almost all contain some regions that observe and some that do not observe DST. This is the sort of irritating arithmetic my computer should do.

Time zones are actually very easy to handle – and it is also easy to give reminders to people as to what time zone they are in all in one simple modification to the “new appointment” and “new task” dialogs: just add a start and end time zone for each that defaults to the current time zone the computer is in. Why both start and end? Because when you get on a plane you very frequently start in one time zone and end in another and airlines give you takeoff and landing times in the local time zones.

We’re using Zimbra ZCS these days, a pretty nice program, but they handle time zones worse than any modern program I’ve used. Hopefully they’ll fix it to something like this:

zimbra_time_zones.png
Posted at 12:23:43 UTC

Category: Linuxtechnology

26c3 Berlin

Thursday, December 31, 2009 

26c3 was a blast, as was Berlin. It’s a good conference in the olde school hacker style: mostly younger people, mostly wearing black. There weren’t a lot of women, but Carolyn, Isabella, and Meredith tried to even out the ratio a bit.

Some of the best lectures included one by some German engineers working on the lunar x-prize. They had their prototype rover with them and gave a great talk about the various challenges.

Another great one was Dan Kaminski’s talk on PKI. I don’t agree with the premise that SSL should be a reliable method for identifying the owners of websites as people just can’t tell the difference between bankofamerica.com and bancomerica.com and so it doesn’t make anyone safer if the bankofamerica site is super green if bancomerica.com is also super green, and so the complexities of getting an accepted certificate simply reduce the use of secure connections and the overall security of the internet. But he had some pretty great attacks on the security of SSL that causes problems no matter what.

We enjoyed fuzzing the phone as well. It was a very entertaining talk on attacking phones with crafted SMSes. The method of creating the attacks was very clever – rooting the phone, redirecting the radio to a wifi link to a CPU so they could try zillions of SMS and see what would happen. In the process they discovered they could remotely root the communications manager (which runs as root). And %n to specific windows phones and they’ll crash and fail to reboot until the SMS is cleared out of the inbox.

Berlin is a great city and it was fun working in the shadow of the TV tower.

We made reservations for lunch but we could tell it wasn’t going to be a great day. In the end it was a very intimate lunch with pretty clouds pressing against the glass.

The fog lifted but was replaced by snow, which is a lot of fun in a city when you don’t have to drive.

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Posted at 11:42:34 UTC

Category: cell phonesEventsFreeBSDLinuxphotoplacestechnologytravelweather