NSA: Please Turn off the Lights When You Leave. Nothing to See Here.

Linux Advocate Dietrich Schmitz shows how the general public can take action to truly protect their privacy using GnuPG with Evolution email. Read the details.

Mailvelope for Chrome: PGP Encrypted Email Made Easy

Linux Advocate Dietrich Schmitz officially endorses what he deems is a truly secure, easy to use PGP email encryption program. Read the details.

Step off Microsoft's License Treadmill to FOSS Linux

Linux Advocate Dietrich Schmitz reminds CIOs that XP Desktops destined for MS end of life support can be reprovisioned with FOSS Linux to run like brand new. Read how.

Bitcoin is NOT Money -- it's a Commodity

Linux Advocate shares news that the U.S. Treasury will treat Bitcoin as a Commodity 'Investment'. Read the details.

Google Drive Gets a Failing Grade on Privacy Protection

Linux Advocate Dietrich Schmitz puts out a public service privacy warning. Google Drive gets a failing grade on protecting your privacy.

Email: A Fundamentally Broken System

Email needs an overhaul. Privacy must be integrated.

Opinion

Cookie Cutter Distros Don't Cut It

Opinion

The 'Linux Inside' Stigma - It's real and it's a problem.

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Turn a Deaf Ear

Linux Advocate Dietrich Schmitz reminds readers of a long ago failed petition by Mathematician Prof. Donald Knuth for stopping issuance of Software Patents.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Advocating for Security through Transparency

by Dietrich Schmitz




That's a screen shot (below) of the BitBucket repository for commits to ongoing development of dwb (dynamic web browser).

Oh, that's nice.  What's my point?

dwb is 100% pure Gnu Public Licensed code. That means, you, anyone, developers, users, the world, can see it, change it, for free. That has always been the basis for GPLv2 and the primary reason for why I opt to use dwb. Want to know what's going on with their code? Help yourself -- look around. Only, don't forget to turn the lights out when you leave. ;)


dwb (dynamic web browser) BitBucket repository commits page

You don't get that with Google's Chrome. Nope. Sorry. They won't let you see their code base. Of course, they are within their legal rights to do so, but, that doesn't mean I have to use their browser if I cannot know what it is doing, do I?

Ask yourself this question: Notice lately how Google Plus will periodically 'freeze' with the cpu utilization at 100%? 


What are they doing exactly?  (Shrugs)

That's Chrome doing whatever it does. :/ Whatever has a big question mark hanging over it for me.  My confidence in Google to 'Do No Evil' has fallen dramatically in the past 9 months since the Edward Snowden NSA Prism and other revelations.

You see, 'proprietary code' (not open source) often leads to some level of exploitation for commercial or 'other' purposes. Because Chrome is 'closed source', we cannot know for certain 'if' Google cooperates in some capacity with governmental information collection and sharing. That's because there is no public access for review of their code base, unlike dwb.

Taking the overt step to use dwb is my personal choice.  Yours may be different, but, if you truly believe in the power we (Humanity) hold over the "n'er-do-wells" of the world by embracing Open Source, then I urge you to make it your policy to not use proprietary software.  Take a stand and fight back. Set an example for others to follow and use open source applications only such as dwb, Mozilla Firefox, for the sake of security through transparency.

-- Dietrich
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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

dwb - A Webkit Browser, Highly Understated, Lightweight and FAST

by Dietrich Schmitz



I've been looking for browser alternatives to Chrome and Firefox.

Both are relatively bulky -- replete with features -- which is to be expected.

Chrome does things I don't like and I simply cannot account for why. At times it will remain quiet and at other times it will do whatever it decides to do and throttle up even pegging the cpu. My netbook strains to cooperate when that happens.

To a lesser extent that happens with Firefox, but really not nearly as often. I know from personal experience that opening a google plus tab will elicit periods of frenetic cpu activity which I watch in my LXDE cpu graph. Seconds can pass even minutes before Chrome settles down.  That annoys me.

So, I know Google Chrome is not 100% open source like Chromium. What are they doing exactly with my bandwidth? There is no way to know for sure and there certainly isn't any transparency given one cannot see Google's Chrome source code. That is 'off limits'.

This goes against the grain with me. I hold in reverence open source standards; Gnu Public License v2 in particular ensures public oversight to any single piece of code used.

This is what transparency is all about. It's hard to create 'rogue' code in the open source world, when 'many eyes' can see what is or isn't being coded and if something is 'amiss', corrective action can be taken appropriately.

Still, one wonders, if Linux was not open source, how long would such exploits thrive before being noticed? That is an important question and a major distinction for readers to consider -- especially those who currently depend on proprietary and closed source Microsoft Legacy (x86) Windows. Transparency is not a given in the Windows world.

Alright, you get the point. So, I began looking for something which is more lightweight and open source and, as important, would run reasonably well on my Netbook without pegging the cpu like Chrome does. Luckily, after a few days of searching around with Google and testing various browsers, I came upon one obscure Lightweight browser called dwb (dynamic webkit browser). It struck me at how minimal the developer's web page appeared to be. That minimalist mindset fit with my programming philosophy and was just what I was looking for.

With that, initially, I installed a revision of dwb found in the Fedora 20 repo. It worked, but, for some unknown reason it was not recognizing the presence of Adobe's Flash plugin. And, even after I reinstalled the newest 11.2.202 update, the error still persisted on youtube's website.

So, I uninstalled dwb with yum and then dispatched directly to the BitBucket dwb project site which supports git, downloaded a copy of the project, manually compiled and installed the newest version of dwb. That fixed the flash problem. That was yesterday and I've been puttering around using dwb exclusively ever since.

This is day two and I am here posting up my experience with dwb after several hours of use under my belt.

What a hoot. That's right. dwb is making me smile and I really think it is funny how straight up I was able to quickly adapt to using a 'keyboard-centric' minimalist browser and it got me to thinking about the general public.

People tend to be lazy and are reluctant to change habits.

But using dwb was not a radical change either.

In fact after a few minutes of googling dwb, I located some documentation at the BitBucket git project where dwb is developed and also some good material on the Arch wiki. (Is there ever anything but 'good' material on the Arch wiki?)

So, I admit being a computer geek does help getting up to speed. But I would bet some of the curious readers might be wondering if they should try dwb.

I say: "Why not?"

You stumble. You fall. You then pick yourself up, dust off and try again. It's like your first experience with a bicycle and training wheels as a child. After a while (hours) you start building up confidence as navigation becomes easier. Reading the Arch Wiki on dwb helped immensely and I don't think I have read for more than a half hour to find the keyboard shortcuts I use most often.

It's not that you can't use your mouse. Quite the opposite. A judicious amount of mouse use in combination with the keyboard will result in gained efficiency as you begin recalling which key does what.

I began to chuckle at how fast I was able to perform the same tasks on dwb verses Google Chrome. And I would add that I have yet to see an open tab to Google Plus peg the cpu -- not once has it happened. So, that makes me wonder even more -- what the heck is Chrome doing with my bandwidth? 


As I continued using dwb, the thought occurred to me, it's not just that dwb is small, compact and arguably the fastest browser -- it's that the keyboard still provides major advantages when included in the design of any software. As the dwb home page says:

"dwb is a lightweight web browser based on the webkit web browser engine and the gtk toolkit. dwb is highly customizable and can be easily configured through a web interface. It intends to be mostly keyboard driven, inspired by firefox's vimperator plugin."

And that is the point:  Keyboard optimization.  The icing on the cake is, if you should happen to know how to use the vi editor, all the better, as many of dwb's shortcuts parallel with vi.


Features


  • vi-like shortcuts
  • Link following via keyboard hints
  • Bookmarks
  • Quickmarks
  • Cookie support, whitelisting of cookies
  • Proxy support
  • Userscript support
  • Tab completion for history, bookmarks, userscripts
  • Custom stylesheets
  • Javascript blocker with whitelisting support
  • Flash plugin blocker with whitelisting support
  • Adblocking with filterlists
  • Webinterface for keyboard and settings configuration
  • Custom commands, binding command sequences to shortcuts
  • Extendable via extensions/scripts
  • Extension manager



So, are you feeling adventurous today? Give dwb a try.

dwb should be found in your Distro's repo, otherwise, the above link reaches the git repo.

Reach me with questions. -- Dietrich

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Monday, April 7, 2014

Get in the Game. Fedora is Linux Done Right

by Dietrich Schmitz

Join Fedora's growing community backed by a multi-billion dollar sales commercial Distribution, Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL).

Consolidated development on one Distribution with continual refinement and focus. Don't waste time with non-standard cookie cutter, me too Distros which, most likely, won't be here in five years.

The next Fedora Desktop Linux is taking shape, continually evolving.  Being the first to include new advanced technologies like systemd, Fedora leads the way to the future of Linux.

That's right.  Fedora is a 'test bed' for future RHEL feature enhancements. Most importantly, work done on Fedora is 100% Linux Standard Base (LSB) ISO compliant.

How important is Linux Standard Base?

One need only look to the pure number of Distros that exist today for examples of variation to understand the problems inherent in added complexity introduced by ignoring standards like LSB.

So, download Fedora today.

And, Get in the Game. Fedora is Linux Done Right.

-- Dietrich

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

NSA: Please Turn the Lights off When You Leave. Nothing to See Here.

by Dietrich Schmitz


It's all out in the open now. The NSA can 'cherry pick' your private and personal Internet meta data whenever they wish. Right?

Wrong. They cannot.

That is, of course, provided you, the general public, place obstacles in their way which will impede, or, better yet, stop them entirely from peering into your private affairs.

Yes, that's right. You have tools at your disposal which will most assuredly put the kibosh on the NSA. Stop them cold in their tracks. They'll come, discover they can't see anything, and leave.

What is it that will stop them from seeing your private data?:

Gnu Privacy Guard (GnuPG) or, just GPG for short.


Free and Gnu Public Licensed GnuPG is a form of strong encryption which has been deemed by experts, including whistle blower Edward Snowden, as effective in keeping your data from being snooped upon.

I recommend to Linux users free Gnu Public Licensed Evolution email for both personal and business needs. (Image left, Edward Snowden, credit: Flickr user DonkeyHotey)






Evolution email running on my Fedora 20 LXDE Desktop


Evolution is feature-complete, mature (that means stable), and supports GnuPG (OpenPGP) encryption formatted email.

Use it once or twice and I am confident you'll get the hang of it.  It will even use your existing Gmail or other email account with secure TLS POP3/IMAP connectivity.

And, for those eager to install Evolution, here is a good tutorial to get you up to speed quickly.

Need to wrap your mind around GPG? Read more about it here.


Just to give you a visual of what an Evolution created gpg-encrypted gmail looks like 'after the fact' from Gmail's web view -- there's truly nothing to see -- this is what the Google staff and NSA would find:

Evolution GPG-protected email stored on Gmail.  Nothing to see.


And, as always, if you have questions or need help, do not hesitate to contact me.

So, NSA? Please turn off the lights when you leave. Nothing to see here.  Thanks!

-- Dietrich

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Friday, March 28, 2014

Boycott Mozilla: CEO Brendan Eich Reveals Gay Bias

By Dietrich Schmitz

[Edit 4/3/2014 17:00 GMT-5: Brendan Eich steps down as Mozilla CEO ]

 

It never ceases to amaze me how narrow-minded and judgmental people can be.  Scary even.

I have worked with many people from different walks of life and can tell you that first-hand experience tells me that 'intolerance' is a form of hatred and leads to extremism.  The world is filled with extremists who unfortunately seek to further their own agendas at the expense of others, and who have created misery and death. (Image right: Brendan Eich)

So, that makes me what?  Anti-Extremist?  I hope so.  And I really don't like to see when a cross-section of 'Human Beings' is simply marginalized as though they should not be conferred equal rights.

It's time to take a stand against recently appointed Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich who has taken sides on Proposition 8 in favor of restricting the right to marry to heterosexuals only.

Gay people who want to marry, should, I believe, have as much a right to do so as any other sexually-oriented group.  Their love for one another is just as strong as yours and mine.  They feel the same things we do, share the same life hopes and desires, and deserve like treatment.  That should be obvious.  Sadly, it is not.

With that, I am making a statement:


If Brendan Eich does not step down from Mozilla, I will no longer use any Mozilla product whatsoever.


It is wrong in my judgment and Mozilla need a CEO who is 'fair and balanced' with respect not only to technical acumen but also with how they relate to others in real-world terms.

Thus, Dear Reader, I ask you to join me in boycotting Mozilla as well.

Collectively, we can influence Mozilla Governance to reconsider appointing a qualified replacement CEO candidate having unbiased, even-handed thinking.

-- Dietrich

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Mailvelope for Chrome: PGP Encrypted Email Truly Made Easy

by Dietrich Schmitz



I've spent considerable time researching the question: Is there an easy to use software that will let you email using PGP encryption?

The answer after several days looking, I am happy to report is 'YES'!

The software is an extension for Google Chrome called Mailvelope.

Watch the below video to help you to configure and use Mailvelope.




I am endorsing Mailvelope as the 'easiest' software, 'to date', and can assure you that if you create your PGP with a minimum of 2048-bit key length, the NSA will never be able to read your email. NEVER.

Please take control of your email privacy with Mailvelope.

Questions, concerns, do not hesitate to contact me.

Be well. Be safe. -- Dietrich


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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Step off Microsoft's Cost-Prohibitive License Treadmill to FOSS Linux

by Dietrich Schmitz


Step off Microsoft's Cost-Prohibitive License Treadmill to FOSS Linux.  Linux Advocate Dietrich Schmitz explains why.
These are critical times when many CIOs are budget planning and need to make across the Enterprise costly hardware refreshes -- especially now, given that Microsoft is officially ending support for the aged Windows XP on April 8, 2014.

Naturally, Microsoft licensing doesn't allow license transfer to new hardware. That's too bad. Because, it means, if your concern insists on staying with proprietary Microsoft Windows (x86 Legacy), it must be in full compliance with their licensing terms and so, not buying new hardware with ancillary licensing for software application upgrades is unavoidable.

It's good for Microsoft -- they recoup dollars on the operating system upgrade, and they also garner additional revenue for any Microsoft software applications your concern may need on each Desktop.  But that adds up quickly in terms of multiple machines across the Enterprise and puts pressure to bear on already tight IT budgets.  Now the remainder of those 'hold outs' XP Desktops must be dealt with.  Yet another round of costly refreshes to avoid the April 8, 2014 end of support deadline.  Ughhhh.

That refresh scenario has been a given for many years and Microsoft naturally while providing a service reaps the benefits of making the licensee pay for what I prefer to call 'recycled bits' of software.  Much of it is the same bits recompiled with a new face, or gui.  Sure there are software feature enhancements but I would submit that most offices won't use more than 20% of Office's features.

CIOs are effectively 'married' to Microsoft and being 'coerced' to refresh their hardware when they logically know full well that Windows XP would have been 'good enough' easily for another five years.


Forego the deadline?  Nope.  Can't risk it.  Enterprise systems must be available 24x7 and your job is on the line.  You have no choice.  Or, do you?

Step off Microsoft's cost-prohibitive License treadmill today. That XP Desktop system may be ten years old, but it still remains a 'fact' that it is a perfectly viable piece of hardware.



Fedora 20 LXDE Linux running LibreOffice 4.2.2


It can be 'repurposed' and given a 'new lease' on life by simply installing Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) Linux (Fedora is my recommendation) along with a vast repository of free software and support.

It's a 'no brainer' really. 


So, how many XP Desktops did you say are ready for the dumpster in your organization? The CFO should be happy to learn that you are effectively zeroeing out thousands of dollars of additional expense by switching to Linux.

Please.  Don't throw that XP Desktop away.  Be frugal.  Most of all, be smart. Reprovision it with FOSS Linux.  It will run like new.

-- Dietrich

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Antergos

 by +Max Wachtel 


Antergos is an arch-based distro that aims to be user-friendly. It is fairly new and the installer that I am using is the testing version which has come a long way. They recommend using either the suse usb maker or dd (I went with dd). My computer, a HP/Compaq 6510b laptop, booted into Gnome with the wireless working which is needed because the installer downloads fresh. The sound works and this laptop has touch controls for sound and wireless which are working. The installer (cnchi) came up automagically.


                                   I chose the graphical installer


                          Then cnchi checks internet and disk space


                                            and set the language


                                                  and location


                                              now set keyboard


                                         next, choose Desktop


                        and then you choose what software you want


                  next, you choose where you want to insall Antergos.



                                                then click GO!



      the install took about 15 min, then rebooted into my new system



                         the package mgr for Antergos is pacmanXG


                                   and there is a lot it can do


     but it is based on arch so you can do it all with the command line



Over the past few weeks I've tried the gnome version of ubuntu, fedora, openSUSE and debian and none of them was as responsive as Antergos. I must say though, I don't mind using the terminal but having a graphical interface makes looking for programs eaiser. Between the offical arch repo and the arch user repo, I found all the programs I use in other distros. As I've always heard good things about arch but taking the better part of a day just to get to a usable desktop is a bit much for me. Antergos gives me what I want without the hassle! And if you get stuck, they have a very frendly and helpful forum.


On the inside it comes with chromium, music/video players and as I chose to include proprietary software, all media played without fuss. I like Clementine for audio and VLC for video and using pacmanXG is fast and easier than some of the 'others' that seem to take forever to finish. LibreOffice software is included but I removed it and installed Kingsoft along with abiword and gnumeric. I use Google Chrome instead of chromium and getting it, Dropbox and SpiderOak installed was fast and they were up and running in no time. I have a small home network and the arch wiki was very helpful in getting samba going.


All in all, I am very impressed with this distro and will be sharing it with all my friends. It's ease of installation is a big plus in my book and using arch as a base, they have a large selection of software for their users.  -- Max
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