Moar Privacy

Thursday, December 9, 2010 

I’m using an Ubuntu VM for private browsing, and like many people, I’m stuck using a mainstream OS for much of my work (Win7) due to software availability constraints. But some software works much better in a linux environment and Ubuntu is as pretty as OSX, free, and installs easily on generic x86 hardware.

It is also pretty straightforward to install an isolated and secure browsing instance using VirtualBox. It takes about 20G of hard disk and will use up at least 512K (better 1G) of your system RAM. If you want to run this sort of config, your laptop should have more than enough disk space and RAM to support the extra load without bogging, but it is a very solid solution.

Installing Ubuntu is easy – even easier with an application like VirtualBox – just install virtualbox, download the latest ubuntu ISO, and install from there. If you’re on bare metal, the easiest thing to do is burn a CD and install off that.

Ubuntu desktop comes with Firefox in the tool bar. Customizing for private browsing is a bit more involved.

My first steps are to install:

NoScript is an easy win. It is a bit of a pain to set up at first, but soon you add exceptions for all your favorite sites and while that isn’t great security practice, it is essential for sane browsing. NoScript is particularly helpful when browsing the wacky parts of the net and not getting exotic browsing diseases: it is your default dental dam. Be careful of allowing domains you don’t recognize – Google them first and make sure you understand why they need to run a script on your computer and that it is safe. A lot of sites use partners for things like video feeds, so if some function seems broken, you probably need to allow that particular domain. On the other hand, most of the off-site scripts are tracking or stats and you really don’t need to play along with them.

BetterPrivacy is a new one for me. I am very impressed that it found approximately 1.3 zillion (OK 266) different company flash cookies AFTER I had installed TACO and noscript etc. You bastards. I’m sure I can enjoy hulu without making my play history shared-available to every flash site I might visit. Always Sunny in Philadelphia marks me as a miscreant. I flush the flash cookies on starting silently (preferences).

TACO is a bit intrusive, but it seems to work to selectively block tracking and advertising cookies. At least the pop up is comforting. For private browsing, I’d set it to reject all classes of tracking cookies (change the preferences from default).

User Agent Switcher is useful when you’re deviating from the mainstream. Running Ubuntu pretty much flags you as a trouble maker or at least a dissident. Firefox maybe a bit less so, but you are indicating to advertisers that you don’t respect the expertise of those people far smarter than you who pre-installed IE (or Safari) to make your life easier. Set your user agent to IE 8 because the nail that sticks up gets pounded down.

Torbutton needs Tor to work. Tor provides really good privacy, but is a bit involved. The Tor Button Plugin for firefox makes it seem easier than it really is: you install it and click “use tor” and it looks like it is working but the first site you visit you get an proxy error because Tor isn’t actually running (DOH!).

To get Tor to work, you will have to open a terminal and do some command line fu before it will actually let you browse. Tor is also easier to install on Ubuntu than on Windows (at least for me, but as my browser history indicates I’m a bit of a miscreant dissident, so your mileage may vary).

Starting with these fine instructions.

sudu gedit /etc/apt/sources.list
deb lucid main
deb-src lucid main

Then run
gpg --keyserver --recv 886DDD89
gpg --export A3C4F0F979CAA22CDBA8F512EE8CBC9E886DDD89 | sudo apt-key add -
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install tor tor-geoipdb

Install vidalia with the graphical ubuntu software center or with
sudo apt-get install vidalia

Tor expects Polipo. And vidalia makes launching and checking on Tor easier, so remove the startup scripts. (If Tor is running and you try to start it from vidalia, you get an uninformative error, vidalia has a “launch at startup” option, so let it run things.) Vidalia appears under the Applications->Network.

sudo update-rc.d -f tor remove

Polipo was installed with Tor, so configure it:
sudo gedit /etc/polipo/config

Clear the file (ctrl-a, delete)
paste in the contents of this file:

UPDATE: paste in the contents of this file:

(if the link above fails, search for “polipo.conf” to find the latest version)

I added the binary for polipo in Vidalia’s control panel, but that may be redundant (it lives in /usr/bin/polipo).

I had to reboot to get everything started.

And for private chats, consider OTR!

Posted at 17:45:45 GMT-0700

Category: politicstechnology

OMG kitten Mittons are real!

Saturday, September 11, 2010 

Not just an Always Sunny in Philadelphia joke anymore!

Media CardBlackBerrypicturesIMG00534-20100911-1345.jpg
Posted at 13:47:36 GMT-0700

Category: funnyoddphoto


Friday, November 7, 2008 

Carolyn and I were in Canada for the election. We saw it from the safety of a Russian themed bar called Pravda in Toronto, one of our favorites (the Chicken Kiev is amazing and Andrea the bartender is the best).

We watched on a projection screen as the results came in and the initial McCain victories were soon overwhelmed by a tide of… well… for once not being a land of morons.

We left once the electoral victory was inevitable and heard the results on the radio between Toronto and Guelph. We were happy but not surprised. We listened to people describing how happy they were, Canadian commentators speaking about how “The States” was now not a joke and might perhaps once again participate in the world’s stage as something other than belligerent idiots. It was good.

Now I have to admit a bit of wistfulness at the results. Not that I didn’t want Obama to win… but I’m sorry to see Palin go the way of Kathleen Harris. Palin is such a caricature of extreme white trash, of all that is idiotic and embarrassing in America: the Tonya Harding of Politics but with a body double for her sex tape. I’m sad that tonight Jon Stewart will be boring. That for the next eight (please) years the most ridiculous news will come from somewhere other than the white house. We could have had Palin there and every day would have been a delight of absurdity. I’d trade good leadership for comedy, but it is not an unmitigated win.

Today, on the way out of Canada, I saw something that demonstrated in a small way how monumental this moment of history really is. I followed a black American man through security screening. It was obvious he was used to being given a hard time for his color, for his culture. He expected it, reacted to the scan and the follow up as if it were part of the normal sweat inducing stress he had to live through every day. What broke his stride was when he collected his things after passing the secondary mass spectrograph screening and the Indian screener said to him as he turned away “Yay Obama!”
Across boarders, across centuries, across races this is a moment that renders irrelevant such trivialities as a global depression or wars.

It turned out the guy grew up about 20 blocks from me in Philadelphia. The world is interconnected and small and overnight the good people have a reason to be optimistic. Finally.

Posted at 01:00:09 GMT-0700

Category: politics

Philadelphia Pricing

Tuesday, January 8, 2008 

Philadelphia’s paper is the most explicit I’ve ever seen. Prices range from $90-$100 for a 30 minute blowjob or handjob (I’d think the former a better deal) or $150 for sex. Looks like a mid-day bargain is available for $125 for sex. Why isn’t every city like this?

Posted at 03:00:21 GMT-0700

Category: funnyoddphotoplacestravel


Friday, January 4, 2008 

Over the holidays I visited the blacksmith I was apprenticed to as a child (roughly 1978-1986, though we couldn’t quite figure out the exact years). This is the welder I learned to TIG weld on and the smaller anvil was what I learned to forge steel against.

Greg Leavitt was a great inspiration to me and set me on the path of making things from an early age. It was also a great lesson in the value of hard work swinging a hammer all day in front of a coal forge. In August. In Philadelphia. 100% humidity, 95 degrees outside, 120-140 in front of the forge. Black boogers.

I have my own anvil and TIG now. Just because you can’t ever really get the coal dust out of your nose.


Posted at 02:52:19 GMT-0700

Category: photouncategorized