Ruminations on the Digital Realm

Jan Stedehouder

Archive for the month “August, 2008”

Ubuntu 8.04 W2L final released

The Ubuntu 8.04 W2L edition has been build to accompany the second edition of Probleemloos overstappen op Linux, a Dutch book about migrating to Linux. The Ubuntu DVD aims at providing a panoramic overview of what Ubuntu has to offer as to desktop environments and a wide range of applications for audio, video, graphics, office, networking, software development, security and some games to waste time. As such it isn’t a new version of Ubuntu, but simply a fattened version of the original cd. Thus, it is also an easy install for software gluttons ;-).

Using Reconstructor the vanilla Ubuntu 8.04.1 disk has been extended with:

1. Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Edubuntu and UbuntuStudio (though without the rt kernel),
2. the software repositories of Medibuntu, Google, PlayOnLinux and Remastersys, and
3. the following list of packages (a straightforward sudo apt-get install):

ubuntu-restricted-extras sun-java6-jre sun-java6-plugin non-free-codecs mozilla-plugin-vlc mozilla-mplayer gnochm deskscribe easycrypt emacs gdesklets isomaster kiso kitchensync kmobiletools kpilot krusader multisync putty qemulator qink rar rsibreak spamassassin unison qemu-launcher zim celestia childsplay earth3d littlewizard stellarium dfo flickrfs gpsdrive kflickr pdfedit rawstudio ufraw xpdf googleearth prism-google-calendar prism-google-docs prism-google-groups prism-google-mail prism-google-reader prism-google-talk amaya amsn amule aria azureus blam gnome-blog blogtk linuxdcpp drivel emesene etherape prism-facebook prism-twitter prismstumbler filezilla firestarter gtwitter gwget idjc kmess knode logjam nzb pan seamonkey straw ttb xchat fbreader eqonomize glom gnucash gramps grisbi homebank koffice labyrinth openclipart semantik taskjuggler wine gnome-art gshare gtweakui workrave anjuta bluefish eclipse jedit kdevelop netbeans quanta freemind scite acidrip banshee bmpx easytag exaile vlc streamtuner noatun miro lastfm kstreamripper juk compizconfig-settings-manager compiz-kde dosemu gparted hubackup inkblot qgrubeditor kgrubeditor qtemu sbackup pysdm virtualbox-ose virtualbox-ose-modules-generic criawips istanbul yakuake p7zip seamonkey-chatzilla xaralx gtk-recordmydesktop krecordmydesktop recordmydesktop pitivi amarok likewise-open likewise-open-gui b43-fwcutter bcm43xx-fwcutter sun-java6-plugin wink kompozer vim-common vim-doc kmymoney2 remastersys avscan clamav clamav-freshclam clamtk klamav encfs cryptkeeper easycrypt rkhunter chkrootkit tripwire nmap nessus nessus-plugins nessusd zenmap playonlinux abiword-plugins displayconfig-gtk acroread acroread-escript acroread-plugins mozilla-acroread celestia-gnome celestia-kde language-pack-nl language-pack-nl-base language-pack-gnome-nl language-pack-gnome-nl-base language-support-nl language-support-translations-nl language-pack-kde-nl language-pack-kde-nl-base koffice-i18n-nl mozilla-firefox-locale-nl-nl thunderbird opera skype 3dchess adonthell adonthell-data boson boson-data circuslinux circuslinux-data extremetuxracer extremetuxracer-data frozen-bubble frozen-bubble-data hedgewars hedgewars-data lincity-ng lincity-ng-data planetpenguin-racer planetpenguin-racer-data planetpenguin-racer-extras supertux supertux-data supertux-data-stable supertuxkart-data torcs torcs-data torcs-data-cars torcs-data-tracks warzone2100 warzone2100-data wesnoth wesnoth-all gbrainy gnudoq neverball pingus warsow warsow-data warsow-server alien-arena alien-arena-data alien-arena-server sauerbraten sauerbraten-data sauerbraten-server

The book will go to market in the first week of October 2008. This is the disk that will accompany the book. It can be downloaded via bittorrent from LinuxTracker.

Google fools around with iGoogle

Between one refresh and the next Google decided to alter my iGoogle page. Fortunately it came with some explanation. The tabs on the top have been replaced by a navigation bar on the right. According to the information page, reading the news and chatting with your friends had a visual makeover as well. Some newsfeeds now contain the first few lines of the article.

On the next refresh

Ubuntu 8.04 W2L edition RC released

The Ubuntu 8.04 W2L edition has been build to accompany the second edition of Probleemloos overstappen op Linux, a Dutch book about migrating to Linux. The Ubuntu DVD aims at providing a panoramic overview of what Ubuntu has to offer as to desktop environments and a wide range of applications for audio, video, graphics, office, networking, software development and security. As such it isn’t a new version of Ubuntu, but simply a fattened version of the original cd. Thus, it is also an easy install for software gluttons.

Using Reconstructor the vanilla Ubuntu 8.04.1 disk has been extended with:

  1. Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Edubuntu and UbuntuStudio (though without the rt kernel),
  2. the software repositories of Medibuntu, Google, PlayOnLinux and Remastersys, and
  3. the following list of packages:

ubuntu-restricted-extras sun-java6-jre sun-java6-plugin non-free-codecs mozilla-plugin-vlc mozilla-mplayer gnochm deskscribe easycrypt emacs gdesklets isomaster kiso kitchensync kmobiletools kpilot krusader multisync putty qemulator qink rar rsibreak spamassassin unison qemu-launcher zim celestia childsplay earth3d littlewizard stellarium dfo flickrfs gpsdrive kflickr pdfedit rawstudio ufraw xpdf googleearth prism-google-calendar prism-google-docs prism-google-groups prism-google-mail prism-google-reader prism-google-talk amaya amsn amule aria azureus blam gnome-blog blogtk linuxdcpp drivel emesene etherape prism-facebook prism-twitter prismstumbler filezilla firestarter gtwitter gwget idjc kmess knode logjam nzb pan seamonkey straw ttb xchat fbreader eqonomize glom gnucash gramps grisbi homebank koffice labyrinth openclipart semantik taskjuggler wine gnome-art gshare gtweakui workrave anjuta bluefish eclipse jedit kdevelop netbeans quanta freemind scite acidrip banshee bmpx easytag exaile vlc streamtuner noatun miro lastfm kstreamripper juk compizconfig-settings-manager compiz-kde dosemu gparted hubackup inkblot qgrubeditor kgrubeditor qtemu sbackup pysdm virtualbox-ose virtualbox-ose-modules-generic criawips istanbul yakuake p7zip seamonkey-chatzilla xaralx gtk-recordmydesktop krecordmydesktop recordmydesktop amarok likewise-open likewise-open-gui b43-fwcutter bcm43xx-fwcutter sun-java6-plugin wink kompozer vim-common vim-doc kmymoney2 remastersys avscan clamav clamav-freshclam clamtk klamav encfs cryptkeeper easycrypt rkhunter chkrootkit tripwire nmap nessus nessus-plugins nessusd zenmap playonlinux abiword-plugins displayconfig-gtk acroread acroread-escript acroread-plugins mozilla-acroread celestia-gnome celestia-kde language-pack-nl language-pack-nl-base language-pack-gnome-nl language-pack-gnome-nl-base language-support-nl language-support-translations-nl language-pack-kde-nl language-pack-kde-nl-base koffice-i18n-nl mozilla-firefox-locale-nl-nl thunderbird opera

The book will go to market in the first week of October 2008. The DVD can be dowloaded from LinuxTracker, for which I am grateful. This is a final test candidate before the master disk is send to the publisher.

Missed the HOPE convention? Listen to the audio recordings

From July 18th till 20th 2008 the seventh Hackers of Planet Earth conference was held in New York City. These conferences are sponsored by 2600 The hacker Quarterly. For those who missed the conference, or couldn’t attend it, the audiorecordings of the talks are online, all in MP3 format, both in 16 kpbs and 64 kbps.

Now, maybe you are not a hacker and have no plans of becoming one. Why would you be interested in this material? For one, it is simply interesting to listen to guys like Kevin Mitnick or Adam Savage (Mythbusters). Mostly these talks open your eyes for security and privacy issues relating technology or your lifestyle. Are you worried about RFID, the search of your laptop by the US Customs or the consequences of the Freedom of Information Act? Do you want to know more about the (ab)use of VoIP? Well, it’s there in one of the 100 talks that are available.

Have fun listening!

EU sells out civil rights to USA?

Apparently the war on terror is all the excuse a government needs to put the civil rights of it’s citizens out with the trash. The Guardian reports about a secret EU security draft that contains:

  • the sharing of vast amounts of intelligence and informations on EU citizens with the USA
  • pool intelligence on terrorism, develop joint video-surveillance and unmanned drone aircraft
  • start networks of anti-terrorism centres
  • boost the role and powers of an intelligence-coordinating body in Brussels
  • to create an expeditionary corps of armed gendarmerie for paramilitary intervention overseas

The report is drafted -according to the article- by interior and justice ministers from six EU member states: Germany, France, Sweden, Portugal, Slovenia and the Czech Republic. It says Europe should make up it’s mind:

The EU should make up its mind with regard to the political objective of achieving a Euro-Atlantic area of cooperation with the United States in the field of freedom, security and justice

One ‘problem’ is the current differences in privacy law and data protection regimes, but no doubt that will prove to be a minor hurdle to satisfy the information blood lust. The Guardian is less than optimistic:

The US is already demanding that EU countries sign up for a battery of security measures on transatlantic flights and the supply of personal information on passengers if they are to enjoy visa-free travel to the US. Under one such accord struck in March between Washington and Berlin, the Germans are to make DNA and biometric information on travellers available.

The European Commission and the US homeland security department are also trying to iron out discrepancies in privacy laws to allow the wholesale exchange of data. The aim is to reach a binding international agreement this year or next.

Last month the American Civil Liberties Union wrote to MEPs pressing Brussels to reject US pressure because the US is “a country that, in privacy terms, is all but lawless … US privacy laws are weak. They offer little protection to citizens and virtually none to non-citizens.”

Well, one other reason to make some haste with my research on digital security and privacy.

"Knowledge is power. Hide it well"

One of my favorite games is Warhammer 40.000. I prefer it over Command & Conquer since Warhammer forces you to think about the units you build up and puts a cap on the amount of units you can build. And a gung-ho attack usually doesn’t work. Anyway, the saying: “Knowledge is power. Hide it well” is often repeated by one of the commanders and it seemed a fitting opening for a new series on security awareness.

The decision to move this weblog into a new direction has been liberating for me. I have some ideas on how to proceed from here. The first order of business is to read up on issues like security, digital rights, the technology that threatens both and the technology that is available to counter the threats. It gives me a good excuse to return back to an older interest, hack radio. The blogroll now contains links to Hacker Public Radio and Hackermedia. I’ve been looking into anonymous e-mail services, into anonymous proxy services like TOR and JAP, the pros and cons of these security measures. Encryption and steganography are on the list.

In the coming time I want to write articles for the less tech-savvy users on how to implement these measures and others like them, using open source tools and public information source to put limits on your ‘information leaks’. Apart from this I am gathering newsfeeds from various newssources dealing with security, digital rights, freedom on the internet etcetera. It’s an interesting world out there and it provides new insights and ideas.

Back to Basics

One derives many benefits from a holiday. A simple true-ism, of course, and not really the greatest of insights. I use my holidays not only to relax and spend some quality time with Agnes, but also to stand back from the day-to-day developments and activities. For one, I started reading about non-IT related, non-open source, non-Linux topics. One book was about the women who joined and supported the extreme rightwing party in the 1930s in the Netherlands. Before that, I finished Naomi Klein‘s The Shock Doctrine. Currently, David Rothkopf‘s Superclass: The Global Power Elite and the world they are making is providing an alternative viewpoint to Klein’s. The world is more than Linux and open source, with issues of far greater importance and much wider consequences than for instance the petty attitudes of some in the realm of open source. It made me wonder how to continue with Ruminations on the Digital Realm?

One of the corner stones of this weblog was to provide an honest critique of developments in the realm of Linux and open source software from an end-user perspective, the viewpoint of W2L migrators. The key thought was that end-users should provide feedback in order to exert influence on the next generation of Linux distributions. I still believe there is a need to provide that feedback, but how useful is a weblog to achieve that? The most active and best read articles in recent months were a completely bogus review about OpenSUSE and the discussion about the Xubuntu rip off PC/OS.

Taking a somewhat broader perspective and looking further back in time I can not escape the conclusion that perhaps the world of Linux and open source isn’t as open to peer review by other stakeholders (other than fellow developers) as it proclaims to be. If you do not support the ‘pet project of the month’ or write hallellujah reviews of ‘yet another new GUI thingy’ you are accused to spreading FUD, having no knowledge whatsoever about the subject under discussion and/or having mental issues. Personal attacks seem to be a favorite and strange enough some can harbour resentment long after the rest of the world moved on. I don’t shy back from a strong debate, especially not when I caused it in the first place 😉 . But, is it what I want to continue doing with Ruminations on the Digital Realm?

The answer is no. I started writing about Linux and open source software some years ago, because it was fun playing with it. Installing new distributions, trying out tons of new programs and writing about the fun of doing that. Nothing high-minded, nothing political, but writing for fellow hobbyists. Like what I am doing now with Mandriva 2009.0, for no other purpose than my own curiosity. Not because I like Mandriva better than any other distribution, but because it is possible and fascinating to observe first-hand the maturing of a new distribution.

Or like the two series about DesktopBSD and PC-BSD, which resulted in a nice article in the first issue of BSD Magazine and another coming later this year. The BSD crowd was refreshingly mature and they took my criticism like adults. They understood that feedback and the debate contributes to better products. I am sad to say that such maturity is far too rare in the world of Linux.

For me it is time to go back to basics, to the original purpose of writing. The Ultumix’s and PC/OS’s of Linux can take heart for the time being. I will write about the fun things, the good developments and more important issues that are larger than Linux and open source.

Not all issues I will write about stem from pursuing fun. I concur with those who see a growing threat to our civil liberties in the digital realm. Perhaps some regulation of the Wild Wild West was needed, but things are moving way beyond that. My digital privacy and digital rights are more and more violated. What is happening and what can we do about it? What open source tools are available for those who have nothing to hide, but prefer to keep things private nonetheless? It will take some time and research to digg into this, but I am sure it will be highly interesting.

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