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Archive for the ‘Common’ Category

Moscow cryptoparty (2013-11-03)

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

There was rather big cryptoparty in Moscow several days ago. As for me: it went rather good, because there were people satisfied with software they used (not convinced before) (proven enough TrueCrypt, GnuPG and Pidgin’s OTR plugin) and with newly installed proven enough dm-crypt/TrueCrypt, GnuPG and Pidgin’s OTR pluging privacy saving software. Not only privacy related issues were talked about, but cryptoanarchism related too. Some kind of theoretical lecture, software installation workshop lasted for nearly four hours. After that there was rave music afterparty. Many kudos to organizers (perfect but good enough for the first time for so big audience) and people interested in their own privacy and anonymity issues. Hope most of them enjoyed it and will visit the future ones.

Photograph from cryptoparty

Here is my more descriptive opinion and answers to some critique, unfortunately on russian.

Хотел бы высказать своё субъективное мнение о том как недавно прошла криптовечеринка в Москве (хотя я конечно не нейтральная сторона, но подготовкой занимался в меньшей степени нежели чем другие). В сторонних блогах в основном негативные отзывы типа “хуже некуда”, “полный fail” и тому подобное. И я скорее полностью не согласен с этим. Возможно люди просто преувеличивали, или слишком многого и невозможного хотели в противном случае.

Какие же назывались провалы:

  • вступительные речи с “мы сами будем искать и наказывать преступников”. Да, это безусловно цензура, это проявление чего-то авторитарного, против чего как-раз таки шифропанки и борются. Однако даже я (а я умею придираться) решил плюнуть на это, ведь понятно что хотели передать факт того что шифропанки всё своё делают не для того чтобы покрывать преступников, им тоже всякие гады противны, но любая технология будет всегда нести как добро, так и зло. Злоумышленники (которые хотят лишить нас приватности) всегда будут показывать только плохую сторону.
  • вступительная речь с “facebook, email уже более не безопасны” тоже конечно призывает вопрос “а когда они были и кто считал что они когда-то такими были?”, но, опять же, лично я решил не придираться и вполне поверю что большинство не технарей серьёзно были уверены в обратном и Сноуден их наверное шокировал, хотя он просто подтвердил факт что да — никаких предположений, за вами следят и прослушивают
  • гораздо более серьёзно это то что демонстрировалось проприетарное закрытое ПО (Microsoft Windows, Adobe Reader) и использовались сервисы абсолютно неуважающие приватность (Google+) для видеотрансляции и организация проводилась в Facebook. Это бесспорно неправильно, но Михаил не раз отметил для пришедших что надо использовать только и только открытое и свободное ПО по возможности. Сразу спрыгнуть со своих MacOsX и iOS на FreeBSD или GNU/Linux не каждый может. Лично я попросил прощения за демонстрацию с Adobe-ом, но она не нарушала ничью приватность и чтобы людей не задерживать ещё больше и мне не заниматься доставанием своего правильного свободного компьютера — решили сэкономить время. Хотя позволить себе создавать презентацию вне LaTeX/beamer я не мог. Но делалось же это всё в попыхах и впервые и чтобы уж наверняка: решили немного отойти от правильного шифропанковского ПО и сервисов на первый раз
  • не отрепетированное вступление. Ну да, было такое. Было даже забавно. Первый блин комом, намотали на ус. Это всего лишь пять минут попытки вклинить нечто что привлечёт больше людей, нежели чем только технарей пришедших пообсуждать BitCoin-ы

Во-первых у нас не Германия, где люди реально на полном серьёзе обеспокоены своей приватность. У них, как говорят, реально наказывают за нелегальное использование BitTorrent-а. У нас даже сложно представить как это и у нас люди особо то и разницы между свободным и свободнораспространяемым ПО не знают. То есть у нас не знают цену приватности (так как её ещё не теряли в таком объёме) и менее образованы. Устроить в зале массированное обсуждение за и против сервиса Cryptocat у нас ещё банально рано.

Во-вторых организаторы очень правильно и не раз подчеркнули что целевая аудитория это, грубо говоря, домохозяйки с Интернетом, которым и надо показать возникающие опасности и как их можно побороть на пальцах. Михаил во время workshop-а, как мне показалось, правильные давал рекомендации, показывал разносторонний софт (почему OTR лучше других и какие у него недостатки, альтернативы проприетарным облакам), демонстрировал воочию на практике работу SMP, призывал кооперировать друг с другом. Ко мне подходили люди и интересовались силой, актуальностью, приемлимостью TrueCrypt, PGP и GNUnet софта. Устроить массовое цокание по клавиатурам технически было невозможно, так как меньшинство пришло со своими компьютерами и целью посещения криптопати было явно не обустроить свои инструменты и средства связи шифропанковским софтом.

В-третьих организаторы решили устроить нечто большее чем загнать людей в помещение с проектором и микрофоном и изнасиловать их технику чтобы АНБ/ФСБ не добралась до неё. Вместо темы только шифропанков затронута и криптоанархия, в общем-то не упоминающейся в других странах. Создана атмосфера, музыкальное сопровождение, попытка представления. Устроили afterparty rave, но не могу его оценить так как поклонник куда более тяжёлой и экстремальной музыки.

Без них не было бы ничего, особо бы никто не почесался. Первый блин комом, но все учли ошибки. Как и первый сексуальный опыт — он может показаться не совсем тем что ожидалось. Но самое то главное: оттуда вышли люди с установленным софтом, вышли люди понимающие необходимость протоколов социалистов миллионеров, вышли люди переживавшие за юзабельность TrueCrypt и реализаций PGP? Значит бесследно или впустую не прошло. Можно (и нужно) лучше, но для первого раза более чем отлично.

Why I am switching back to *BSD

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

I was FreeBSD user for six years and worked with it’s versions from 5.0 to 7.0. There appeared to much work with GNU/Linux related subsystems exclusively and it was easier for me to switch yet another UNIX-like operating system temporarily.

I tried several distributions but stayed exactly on Debian. My requirements were:

  • mature, stable and reliable system without any bleeding edge software. I do not worry that there is no latest version of Firefox for example. Included in stable Debian’s distribution one fully satisfies me. Maybe it is not so fast as can be, but it is mature and working.
  • less or more permanent distributions overall architecture without any sudden surprises after yet another packages upgrade. Of course sometimes it can not be skipped, but serious changes are always must be in a major software/distribution version that is rather seldom event.
  • big collection and wide availability of various software. Debian has one of the biggest packages collection. And all of their binary compiled versions can be easily installed using single command. Of course you must trust it’s maintainers. I trust and rely on them.
  • it’s basic installation should not have anything that I am going to remove as a first step. Just minimal bunch of tools and daemons. Ubuntu for example does not provide that: I have to remove huge piles of GNOME-related things and only then install my preferred ones.

Debian even now is the single distribution that can fit in those requirements. But several weeks ago I was very disappointed hearing that most part of it’s developers support integration with systemd.

You see, modern GNU/Linux-es are not a UNIX-like OS with UNIX-way hackerish concepts anymore. UNIX-es in my opinion always were very beautiful and smart programmers creations with really very elegant tasks solving. Most GNU/Linux-es lost that property.

Several decades there were quite few interprocess communication choices. Most time it is either plain text or, unfortunately, binary data floating between conveyors, pipes, domain or network sockets. Each daemon representing any subsystem can be less or more uniquely determined by socket path of pair of network address and port. In nearly all cases it can satisfy anybody.

Even at the very early days of UNIX systems hackers preferred plain text and similar driven protocols and file formats. Though rather relatively big SMTP responses are not as good as binary ones could be, exceptionally on that time slow links, hackers preferred human readable choices anyway, because they are simple, easy to debug, easy to maintain and easy to use.

But GNU/Linux does not like idea of beauty clever decisions and long time proven software. It’s developers (I can not call them hackers in most cases anymore) have to invent the wheel again and create yet another incompatible solution like several IPCs before and DBus itself. It requires heavy dependencies, it does not use well known socket-like paths and addresses, it uses unreadable binary protocol, it is slow and does neither guarantee any delivery nor has any buffering queue.

Access to various low level hardware devices used simple device node filesystem-like access. Of course many of them dictate standards existence and audio has one: Open Sound System, represented by entries inside /dev. Easy to use, easy to implement proven and mature system. If you want to stream audio data other the network you can easily use UNIX power to connect it for example with either pipe or network socket.

GNU/Linux folks do not understand that elegant solution and invent ALSA, aRts, ESD, NAS and PulseAudio at last. So many reinvented creations for rather simple thing. Of course OSS is not the right solution if you have to mix various sound inputs and outputs of both hardware and software modules. But JACK does this job pretty well. GNU/Linux developers do not think so again.

What about operating system’s initialization part? You have various daemons that should be started and controlled. You have to do various file system related steps, manage process execution somehow. All that tasks are done for a long time using shell interpreter, intended to solve them. As a fact each daemon has small shell script used to control server’s behaviour. Hackers need to glue those daemons together. For me, it seems to be very elegant solution to include trivial plain-text metainformation as script’s comments and to create symbolic links dependent on that metainfo with number included to force sorting done right, as in System V.

UNIX-way is to have many small tools, where each of them does single job, but does it well. Simple separate initialization system, simple separate logging system, simple separate shell interpreters, simple IPC socket-oriented libraries, simple daemons, cron, inetd and so on. Looks simple, clear and nice.

You are wrong! Modern GNU/Linux-es can not accept that, because they are missing written on compiled language (does not depend on already existing software for controlling process flows (shells)) program, with own IPC dependency, with own declarative language bloated combine of initialization, logging, cron/at-ing, inetd-ing and DBus/socket listening systems at once. Wait, systemd is pretty modular: several dozens of separate executable. Hackerish SysV is just a shell interpreter with several shell-scripts. Thirty years ago logs have been written on rather small hard drives in plain text, but today seems that hard drives became much smaller and more expensive and systemd decided to write human unreadable and unprocessable with any kind of sed/awk/shell/perl tools binary logs.

I still do not understand why GNOME and derivative distributions (I am sure that udev, systemd, dbus and GNOME are single aggregate) does not use very simple mailcap-files to decide what to do with various kinds of data. mailcap contains plain text lines with data content type and shell script code saying what program you need to run and apply to data. Just find the line by it’s content type and execute related command line. This can be done with single sed call. Just simple plain text file to rule all user’s software preferences. GNOME has to prerun software that will register itself on DBus (should be already running), then another software must create proper message, send it over DBus hoping that someone with catch it doing probably what user wants. It is awful.

And at last I see in Debian maillists that they are going to remove local sendmail server. I see what is happening: when systems are created by very clever hackers — they are very cool for educated technicians and other hackers. When ordinary labour crowd is falling in this world: it will be ruined. Usenet was destroyed like that. Email etiquette has mostly disappeared and replaced by top-posted huge quoted HTML messages, after user-friendly email clients born.

Security is not compatible with user-friendliness. Simple clever hacks are not compatible with classical user’s world of view. Developers never speaks users on the same language. There is always separation of developer-friendly and user-friendly. They can not coexists together, as like servers are pretty different from desktops.

Current Debian is very developer and server friendly system, while Ubuntu is aimed to be user-friendly. Systemd is great for desktop requirements, so let’s integrate it to desktop system. Why one is going to replace cron/at, SysV/rc, inetd, sockets, syslog, devnodes with single all-in-one bloated monolithic combine and remove sendmail? What will stay from UNIX itself? Arch Linux is going to mess /bin and /sbin with /usr/bin. So I won’t even find /bin/sh in that OS. It is not UNIX-like system anymore. It is yet another unmaintainable crap of compiled monolithic POSIX-compatible (hope so) code.

Of course there are really true hackerish UNIX-like GNU/Linux distributions, but all known ones require much manual work with them. Free software *BSD does not, as it has cool port collections and well maintained high quality overall system’s design (not a pile of absolutely different software pieces).

Zsh killer features

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

At last I realized that zsh shell is really much more useful and better to use than either tcsh or far much than bash. Many shells provide different very cool features, that looks like a killing feature, but in most cases, for me, all of them are in seldom use. tcsh has plenty history substitution options, as bash has large quantity of parameter expansion techniques. But I hardly use even a small piece of them. Of course they can greatly reduce overall character input count, but are too bloated to remember.

One of the most often mentioned zsh‘s feature is it’s commands completion. It is convenient possibility to use fancy menus to either select process you are going to kill, or git’s subcommand to execute. Or maybe just to choose corresponding directory or filename. Well, sometimes, in my opinion, this can be pretty useful, but character count during those menus exploration in most cases, visual analyzing of all those entries leads to too high interaction (human with computer) delay and I will enter two more characters of filename and complete it with Tab faster. Entering filename’s part and hitting Tab is one context, but looking for necessary entry is uncomparable another one. Context switching is an expensive operation.

Moreover all those completions can be very relaxating: you will forget your files hierarchy, forget what options does command have, forget what targets exist in your Makefile, forget how to easily automate PID saving and killing by it, forget how to either make cool shell aliases or write yet another extra useful small Perl-script. Of course there is no distinct border of those unskilled relaxation: if there is file “foo” and “bar”, then obviously there is no need to force hacker typing it’s fullname. Remote SSH directories transparent observation and completion is another undoubtedly useful feature. But all of those completions exist in other shells except zsh.

Anyway there are some killer features that made me zsh hard fan and currently no word about switching back to either tcsh or bash. Here they are:

  • multiline editing capabilities are extremely useful without creating many temporary one-time separate shell-scripts. And of course you can easily edit them inside external text editor.
  • **/*-like various path expansion that saved me from huge quantity of find occurrences and together with *(.)-like things your will forget about it in most cases at all. I had several aliases and external shell-scripts, all calling find, but now throw them out.
  • command spellchecking — tcsh already had this feature, but bash did not. With high speed typing, error rate is pretty high too and this feature can save much time and nerves.
  • autopushd possibility — each cd to directory acts like pushd and you can easily travel back like in your browser. This feature is particularly useful together with Z plugin.
  • autocd option is also presented in bash. It is under a big questions of usefulness, as ambiguity may appear too often with it. With this option you can suppress cd before directory name and shell automatically understands that you are going to change it.
  • filename extension related aliases that saves a lot of time from entering zathura to view PDF files, sxiv for images and so on.
  • it is much faster than bash. Without turned off unused extensions it starts faster, runs faster, completes faster. Each dozen of milliseconds are nice to spend not awaiting for many-bogomips powerful computer.

And there is separate killer must have plugin that I met firstly when using bash (it also works with zsh of course): Z directory jumper. It tracks each time you change directory and offers quick jumping to previously visited place identified by regular expression and directory visiting frequencies. And it works perfectly with autocd and autopushd.

zmv feature looks very promising and seems that it will replace another bunch of Perl/shell-scripts from my computer. However it requires some learning curve of course.

Why Gmail webmail totally sucks

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

There are plenty of reasons why I still do not understand why people like Gmail’s webmail so much and are ready to replace powerful desktop email clients.

Critical issues

No threaded conversation view

There is no threaded conversation view. What a hell!? Even simple mailx under every modern GNU/Linux distribution can display messages in threaded view. Email nature itself, it’s In-Reply-To, References and similar fields assume that any conversation can be a graph like, not linear. Of course you can create really linear thread, where every next message is In-Reply-To the very first threaded starting. But Gmail does not do that and In-Replying-To the message you are really currently answering.

I think that root of that “problem” lies only within huge quantity of cyberspace newcomers, that are not capable of serious long-term discussion with many new questions arising during it and that have to be separated from the main thread. Those people mostly have never met situation where technical discussion may lead to completely different and more important various subjects. Most of them tend to mix unrelated discussion subjects in single letter.

It is just simple lack of discussion experience. Of course either instant messaging or IRC chatrooms have nothing similar and they offer just a raw one huge heap of short messages. It is chatting, nothing more and that behaviour is acceptable there. But email was born as a powerful tool of convenient conversation without big piles of weakly referenced messages with low total overall signal-to-noise ratio. For over several dozens of years this email nature have never been seriously changed, because it is really cleaver and fine. So many hackers can not be wrong.

Google turned it to yet another instant messaging system. It does not use specific protocols like XMPP for that, but SMTP one. It destroys all graph-like structures by their linearization. Newcomers just can not learn how to deal with real serious discussions (like hackers do), because they do not have an instruments for that.

Ignoring of In-Reply-To header fields

Gmail does not look for In-Reply-To messages fields to determine if it is starting of a new thread. If you change message’s subject (just to clarification for example), then it will be recognized as a new thread, however you clearly tell in In-Reply-To field that this is reply to exactly that message of the same thread, not another one. Long-term discussion thread with several branches is divided to unrelated isolated linear conversations, however headers did not allow this behaviour.

Lack of headers control

Moreover you can not control your own message headers. You can not forcefully split thread (removing In-Reply-To and keeping subject same). You can not join mistakenly dismembered thread. You can not use some mailing list management software that is controlled through message headers fields. You can not add just simple informational fields, for example just to mention your your PGP public key’s availability.

Lack of any maillist related functionality

As mentioned above, there are no “thread split” and “threads join” actions. Also there is no “reply to list” buttons. Just only trivial “reply” and “reply to all”. This is the reason why people send messages twice to one recipient so often (duplicating it through already including maillist and by CCing him simultaneously). Gmail have no ability to show either are you subscribed to a maillist and there is no need in separate reply message intended for you, or you are not subscribed and should be CCed. It does not support Mail-Followup-To header. You can not add it, because you are not allowed to edit headers. You can not take it in action non manually, because there is no “list reply” functionality, again.

No scoring

There is no such powerful thing as message scoring. But many desktop email clients lack this feature too. You can specify various rules that alter message score. You could sort all correspondence by this score, leaving trivial notifications at the bottom and moving to thrash after reading. You could easily wipe unneeded messages, could easily find important things. Gmail’s mailboxes are just a huge heaps of equally scored letters.

Supporting obsolete RFC standards

Gmail encodes attachment’s filenames in obsolete RFC2047, instead of modern and everywhere supported RFC2231. I said everywhere? Of course with exceptions: Microsoft Outlook products will never be on a technologies bleeding edge. Gmail seems to be on the same way.

Attachments censorship

Gmail does not allow you to send Windows executable binaries of any kind in any form even when using it without webmail interface. Even if you will change attachment’s Content-Type, filename’s extension, put it in archive, compress that archive. They say that this is because of security. Why are they making decisions of that will be secure for me? Who the hell they are? It is my choice, my problems and my responsibility to send my own compiled binaries to someone awaiting for them.

Annoying things

  • Unability to forward message as valid correct RFC822 email attachment, keeping all headers and attachments as is.
  • You do not know how spam-filtering works and you can not adjust and control that blackbox.
  • No regular expressions support or complex search queries (comparing for example with Mutt). But I agree that this is seldom actions for most of us.
  • No way to either specify or override attachment’s MIME type.
  • You can not send just single file/attachment. It always will consist of an empty text part and an attachment itself.
  • No possibility to turn of line wrapping, for example either to insert patch/preformatted text contents as is or draw ASCII schemes.

And of course an obvious lack of PGP de-facto standard for privacy greatly reduces all potential usage possibilities of that webmail.

Free software in real business

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

Preamble

There are many “theoretical” talks about how free software can be used commercially, that it can greatly stimulate business activity and so on. There are very few real life examples of that. And most of them, as I can see, firstly had just common classical proprietary model of software development and only later some of them either freed their products or at least opened. As I can understand, only after fear of competition had gone they tried to made timid steps to open-source (as nearly none of them really understand difference between open-source and free software (as most of users too)) just to seem good and king in society’s eyes.

Now I want to tell you some kind of so-called success story of one company (where I work nowadays): company that chose freedom path as a base for software development. Actually it does not specialize itself on software, but on high-performance server solutions and storage systems manufacturing.

The first step that is troublesome

In all innocence first time we met need to develop own software — it was as common classical proprietary non-free closed-source product. It was some kind of firmware for brandmauer/router based on free software project — m0n0wall, licenced under 2-clause BSD. This licence allows (being not copyleft) one to make proprietary derivate works — that was crucial for us.

There were many features added to it (good thing there weren’t either serious security issues or bugs), but because of our fear to “shine” with it we decided not to communicate with foreign developers anyhow. Also there were licence’s ambiguities with remaining different included software.

And what is the result? Of course we gained some money from selling it, but not because of users willing to buy exactly it, rather because there was not any acceptable choice for them: cheap server meant to be brandmauer with plenty of useful abilities is sold only including our proprietary software.

Freedom run

During high quality granted server’s manufacturing we have to test all hardware components separately and all of them together in the whole system. Besides there must be firmware upgrade process (motherboard BIOS’es, BMC’s, hardware RAID-controller’s firmware, etc) and operating system installation automatization. All of these is needed to remove human factor as much as we can and to complete orders in time.

So we needed very complicated all-time progressing hardware testing system. There appeared Inquisitor software project, actually with roots going much deeper in time. Decision about it’s freeness was taken without a peep.

What benefits we got? Let’s look:

  • There was no need to pass over copylefted software used in it, to think much about “defending” from ones eyes it’s source code and so on. Only about licence compatibility, but that is another question.
  • We actively collaborated with different foreign free software projects related to our system. All community benefits. Willing or not we were software testers also, as many software provided needed features only in non-stable versions.
  • Our subproject — Einarc was helped much by totally independent from us people. You know, no one can have great quantity of different RAID-controllers and enough time to “play” with them.
  • We avoided possible unethical situations when someone will steal source code to use in own creations. Copyleft protects our freedom and possible losing courts.
  • Money? We did not loose anything even if the project will be closed. In most cases one will hire our team to configure and install this complex system to fit employer’s requirements. Someone can say, that raw source code is useless without corresponding team.

What disadvantages has Inquisitor being free software? None!

Crisis-driven development

But as we all know there appeared world economic crisis. There, in Russia, it should be destructive for high technology fields, as as a rule they cost too much to afford. Actually it was so of course.

That time we thought about how can we lower our expenses. As software developers, we decided to throw out proprietary very expensive network attached storage’s (NAS) software and to replace it with cheaper or priceless (freeware) one.

Moreover, there were other disadvantages in those proprietary NAS products:

  • We had our hands tired to be able to modify these software to better fit with our servers. To make it’s performance higher at least.
  • User can only use those features that already were built-in — there was no way to advance them, remove or add another ones.

We can not sell NAS-related storage server without that software and no user will buy it, but both of us have to pay for it very high price. We tried to find replacement for it: there were enough very different free and open-source software solutions, but none of them satisfied us (only technical reasons). We decided to write own one and of course release it as free software.

We have got what we wanted and even more:

  • We do not pay for each copy (or even terabyte, quantity of connections or users, and so on, as proprietary men do) or of NAS software.
  • We achieved wider range of hardware RAID-controllers support using already known Einarc utility.
  • We can lower expenses more by replacing these proprietary incompatible hardware RAID-controller by well-known proven and mature software RAID solutions.
  • We greatly helped (actually driven by ourselves too) Einarc project and as a result Inquisitor platform too.

User has got also several benefits from all of this:

  • Lowered cost on storage servers.
  • User is independent from RAID-controller vendor by using software based arrays.
  • We can modify NAS software as user wants.
  • Possible beginning of this shared software usage by other companies will lead to increasing competition on this field for cheaper and higher quality solutions.

We are satisfied, consumers satisfied — can it be true that everything is fine? Of course no: those proprietary software producing company, that do not care about user’s freedom, concealing everything it can, forcing everyone do what it orders without sidesteps, willing only to retrieve everything from others pockets, is not satisfied at all. It is unethical and immoral to be like these companies and one
can not consider them as an alternative.

Conclusion

As I tried to show you, free software really and successfully can be used in commercial. Of course it is not so easy, but whole humanity benefits from it except money-willing individuals. And even during economic crisis it can help to survive on the market.


Sergey Matveev (software developer at ETegro Technologies)

Thoughts about ISPs, privacy and GNUnet

Saturday, September 5th, 2009

Preamble

Nearly a week ago I discovered that all BitTorrent downloads from PirateBay did not work. Everything seemed fine – PirateBay website worked perfectly, torrents can be downloaded without any problems. But pings to PirateBay’s tracker did not work at all. DNS gave correct results, but packets were dropped. Using traceroute I understood that my ISP was dropping them – packets did not try to exit even to M-IX (biggest Moscow Internet Exchange).

From co-workers I discovered that European “big” and “important” men were going to punish every european ISP that will provide access to PirateBay (tracker). I checked half a dozen of other Moscow ISPs and they were dropping everything going to PirateBay’s tracker too.

I thought – “What a hell are they doing?”. I feeled myself like poor sheep among wolves. I pay them (not a low price) for real Internet access – not for a pack of services they like and decide to make available.

Guys from PirateBay are clever: one of them opened a simple pure BitTorrent tracker (OpenBitTorrent) and they added it to all torrents as an alternative. I switched it in my BitTorrent client and everything began to work fine again.

Thoughts

But that forced me to think about what will be if someone “important” (of course this “important” and “big” men are nothing more than a simple moneylovers) will found “enough” arguments to close even legally clean (IMHO) OpenBitTorrent. Of course there will appear yet another tracker, and another and so on – but it is completely unnormal: rich men dictate us, what we can use, download, watch and so on.

Is there anything that can protect us, protect our privacy, give freedom at least in Internet? I know about Tor onion routing existence – I run router all days long giving away all available bandwidth. But it can not help protecting torrent-index sites (such as PirateBay), can not protect Tor’s exit nodes. There are powerful lawyers group that are ready to protect exit nodes’es rights and so on – but I am not sure if they can do something in countries like Russia or anything else with their rotten law structure. And even if all of them will lead to successful courts – it will take really much time for a single judge process. Time is expensive. And except it: many people related to law will work with a lame, foolish, totally dependent on money things – unneeded society layer of people, waste of time and money, junk.

I thought that a possible solution can be: running BitTorrent tracker, torrent-indexing website as a Tor’s hidden service and forcing all clients to use SSL. That will fully hide BitTorrent server-side and will make inability to understand what each client is doing.

GNUnet

But… is there any more beautiful solution. And solution that can prevent the single known real possible attack on Tor’s network – traffic and network analysis. If we have got one hundred computers and no traffic among them at all, and several minutes later we discovered new Hollywood blockbuster torrent on a hidden torrent-index website, then we can understand possible server’s location through heavy network analysis. Or maybe possible leechers of course. It will gave only a prediction of target to police to check user computer’s contents. I think that it is not enough to activate police forces, but it is possible, because all of them love money and will do any dirty job for them.

After some searching, I discovered several network systems such as Freenet, Mixminion and GNUnet. From technical, privacy and anonymity point of view – GNUnet is the best choice between them. It protects content-uploaders (anonymity), content-retrievers, searches, search results and even network activity (permanent traffic load with an encryption) and makes strong protection from spying (inclusion of “bad”, “rich men”‘s nodes into network).

Do not understand me incorrectly: it is not an advertisement or some kind of it of GNUnet, but rather mine wish to share excitements and feelings about it.

Building of latest source code on my MIPS-based notebook finished without any problems. Configuration for single daemon is very simple. GNUnet has classical true UNIX-way command line utilities to work with: one for searching – simply just enter search keywords, one for downloading – just enter an ECRS path, one for publishing content – it is rather simple too. Of course it is not full list, but it is basic tools for fully anonymous, without any censorship, saving your privacy sharing.

GNUnet can use not only ordinary UDP and TCP transport protocols, but also HTTP (with ability of proxying) and even SMTP one.

I read a lot about GNUnet and disappointments about it: searching goes too long, downloading too. I decided to share several gigabytes of content and to try my friend search it and download. I expected much more lower download rates and bigger search time, but everything was too fine: only a half a minute or maybe a minute for searching and about 10-20 KiB/sec download speed after the very beginning of it. Possibility to “thread” downloading (opposite to Tor – only single TCP connection) from several resources and swarming after that. So, theoretically it can be as fast as BitTorrent.

I want to show people that ISPs are too dependent on “big” rich men dictating all rules of their behavior. We are suffering from it, but we can prevent it. The already made solution for file sharing with full anonymity, privacy and without damned censorship exists. GNUnet is more than a file sharing system it can be base for many other services: SMTP, HTTP, IRC, VPN (AFAIK) already can be run on it. Also, there is a Tor system, but sometimes it is not enough.

We can stand against rich men and we can save out freedom. All the tools needed for it exists and they are working: not theoretically, but practically. The main problem with GNUnet is only a too small number of people using it – so let’s share!

Studying at the institute

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

Studying at Moscow Aviation Institute I meet with different lecturers, different sciences and of course different software. As most of lecturers are quite an old men, some of them do not know computers and computer’s software and some of them know only that, what were introduced in Russia in the middle of 90s. Where PCs became accessible for people. Of course nearly all of this computers run Microsoft’s operating systems, such as Windows or DOS. Of course people did not know anything about free software, “alternative” OSes and even Windowses quite good. And of course nearly everything was stolen, was free (priceless). The bigger part of engineering and scientific programs in our institutes was created on that PCs with illegal Windowses.

Today, great quantity of works, tasks, etc for students are in need of computer and in need of those old programs. Many of them are lecturer’s property – their own creations. And everything of this can cause many problems for a man trying to use, support only free software. Some lecturers give their programs with all corresponding source code (as a rule it is Fortran programming language). The other part of them gives only binary/object code and deny giving it’s source code, as, as they say, it is very hard to understand and is very important and expensive intellectual property. And the other one uses scripts for MatLab, MathCad and force to use this products. Also, many of them demand to use Microsoft Office Word’s format for all reports, Excel for building graphs and AutoCAD for drawings.

It is very hard to study in such environment. Most works I can complete using free GNU Octave instead of MatLab, Maxima or SAGE instead of MathCad, Gnuplot for building graphs and QCad instead of AutoCAD and assure teachers that there is no need in proprietary, expensive, unreliable software and I can successfully use the free one instead. I can say that I have got no money to purchase most of this software. They can give it to me, but nearly all of it requires Microsoft Windows to work. Problems can appear even when teachers give task itself… again in closed proprietary Word or MathCad format. They can refuse to talk with me, because I deny using of proprietary software on my computers, I can not afford it, I do not trust it and in best case I forced to run it in virtual machine or separate computers, because I have got valuable documents and information on my PC. And currently I am not talking about the ethical and social aspect of such doings: only about price, safety of my information, compatibility with other software, legal use of it (I do not want to be offender).

Instead of learning, much deeper diving in science, I have to listen how to do something in expensive non-free software and simultaneously learn the free alternative of it at home (actually I like it, but it takes much time). And then, I must prove that work’s results are correct and full. And, by the way, I have to take notebook and show my work on it (if paper printings are not enough) – as teachers will deny installing the free software, they do not know and do not want to know. And they can not accept that student can use the really hard and serious programs (OpenFOAM for example for aerohydrodynamics computing). And in other case I have got big problems with the teacher and have to show my work to the other one.

But hopefully something becomes good after all this stories. People, seeing those rejections, hard positions, begin to think about the cause, they begin to answer why are you doing so, what is the problem. They discover the free software existence and it’s benefits. People begin to think, think about their future. They are not calculation mechanisms anymore, they are thinking creations – people – from the lecturer’s view. And after several years of studying I see progress – recommendations and offers (by teachers) to use OpenOffice, Maxima and LaTeX for example.

PS: Today I discovered DreamSpark project of Microsoft. It’s aim is to freely give different software (including Windows OS itself) to students. It is terrible. They are openly forcing students (and future workers, users of proprietary software) anyhow to use their products. Also they force students to register in their Windows Live service. On their site I saw many student’s competitions. I (as a student) was very interested in that, interested in competition’s reports. But… everything is available only in OpenXML-based Office formats. Looking on other links I found student’s “success” stories. There and there (in russian). I can not believe in such delirium, I can not believe are there really exist people who can believe in them? Are Microsoft Office’s users/student are so silly? I was shocked.

Thoughts about mass media

Saturday, March 21st, 2009

There was an article in “Komsomol’skaya pravda” (“Komsomol’s truth” – popular newspaper in Russia) about cyberterrorists. There are several interviews with different people about what “hackers” can do, and are they really so dangerous and can they destroy nearly the whole world’s infrastructure and so on. This article was one of the silliest thing I have ever read. I think it was really exciting for people uncommon with computers. I wanted to close this dull newspaper, but noticed small frame with Richard Stallman‘s photo. It said that movie’s computer “hacker” has a real-life prototype and it is RMS. At the beginning of 90′s RMS declared a war against Microsoft, cracked different software-related sites and distribute it for free. I was shocked! I know history of free software movement, about GNU and RMS not so badly. I have never heard such lie, especially about him. I decided to search for something similar. Where did they find information like this? Without success. When I saw that people can leave comments on an Internet site about this article. To my surprise – already there were several dozens of comments not about a whole article, but about Richard Stallman-related remark. They asked authors of this article to explain what a hell are they writing? I left comment too of course. Several days later they disappeared. I and many others left another ones again – they were all deleted too. We promised not to take this newspaper anymore and to advise others to do so. Author – usual worker of this company, usual company producing shitty papers with a huge quantity of lies. Either they are too stupid to write something more clever than such creations, or they are too smart and understand that most people will never know the truth. Most people will be afraid of “hackers” (I use doublequote to show that, of course, I know who the hackers are; in the article’s context they must be changed to crackers), will be afraid of potential security risk for everything and will listen to “proven” safe giant corporations like Microsoft or Apple. Today everyone in Russia know that nearly all public, popular newspaper lied in nearly everything serious in Soviet Union. As I can see – nothing is greatly changed.

Simultaneously with discussion about that lies, I will mention about the meaning of word “hacker”. At the beginning, it meant something like “A person who enjoys exploring the details of programmable systems and how to stretch their capabilities, as opposed to most users, who prefer to learn only the minimum necessary.” (taken from Jargon File). But, as I remember by reading many related things, some journalist used this term for one security breaker. And other ones (journalists) began to apply this word for them too. And, today nearly all people know them as “hackers”, instead of “cracker”. And who done that? Who destroyed the normal original meaning of this word and link it with the bad guys? Again those stupid damned journalists and article writers of mass media newspapers.

Once, I with my friend took a place in a competition to create some Internet project. Many journalists and a TV were there. After the short ceremony they took a little interview from us. They were asking questions, on which I was giving descriptive understandable answers. I was looking after what did they write in their notepads. Nothing! They just shaked their heads and made thoughtful faces. They began to write something after my friend started to use beautiful, but without any meaning and explanation, words such as “oriented for a big public”, “easy to use by everyone”, “simple, reliable and fast”, and so on. Only those words without anything like “wiki engine” (it will say much about the project), “standards-complaint” and so on. Journalists simply do not know those words, so why did they came to this meeting? To get their poor salary.

Russian’s cellular network “Mobile Tele Systems” also has similar stupid phrases on their advertisements. “Operator of reliability”, “Operator of new ideas”. What a hell are those “new ideas”. Do they invent GSM or SMS? Or what are they talking about? Actually they are not so bad in quality of service, but one day I had to stop using it, because they forced people to use proprietary software to see monthly statistics (RARed PDF file).

Their job is to create sensations, to force people to discuss nonexisting problems. I won’t forget many years discussing subject about USA on the Moon. That there was no any Moon-landing of USA spacemen. Honestly, some time ago I hope that is was true, but I understand that I was too silly. There are many well-known, reputable and very clever people in space field in Russia. As I live in a city where the Soviet Union’s cosmonautics was born, and study to create spacecrafts I met many of them – all of them are sure about landing on the Moon. Sure, that it definitely was.

Several days ago there was a TV program describing some ultimate innovative liquid. You can sink any metal to this liquid for several minutes and it will be protected from corrosion for ages. Half and hour and no describing how can that be. It is total physical delirium. People do not know anything about wetting and corrosion processes. But several thousand people already believed in that and run to purchase this wonderful liquid.

Large Hadron Collider was nearly finished. Press begin to print hundreads (thousands?) articles about the future catastrophe, that we are all going to die, about black holes and so on. Everywhere people talked only about it. Bought tones of paper to read more opinions of different “scientists”. Yet another food for journalist, people that can not do anything else, except talking about junk, lies, stupidness, lies again.

Where is really important news, for example about Pirate Bay’s trial? About who will win: fat, dirty, moneywilling entertainment industry that bought nearly everything or justice, battle for freedom, clear mind, progress? It regards to everyone – it is hope for bright right future with freedom and independence from guys with exploding money bags.

And everything won’t be so bad, if… if people will listen to someone else, instead of those journalists. You can try to explain that journalist’s “hacker” is cracker and RMS was not breaking sites to steal software. Nearly all of them will shake head and escape from you as fast as he can, or will say something like “I think that you do not know history good enough”, “You are wrong. Look – the newspaper is telling…”, “Everyone thinks that it is so, and only you are not accepting that.”, and so on. Nobody listen to well-known spacemen (Grechko for example), engineers who build spacecrafts.

Sadly…

Defendant Internet, get up!

Friday, February 20th, 2009

The judicial proceeding is going in Stockholm above the Pirate Bay,
the biggest filesharing service in Internet.

It is not judging of Pirate Bay, it is judging of the whole Internet.
It does not suit the entertainment industry’s (EI) world, because Internet
is too wide, so is too independent. It does not fit in their tables of
debit and credit and also in a whole world’s picture existing in their
tight heads.

It is judging of modern advanced technology, above which EI can not get
on. Torrent-tracker provides ability of instant worldwide file sharing,
but EI is still in separated world of grannys and grandpas, where the
bottle of kerosene was locked in sched. Everyone who uses, for example,
Transmission or Azurerus know what a great abilities this programs
give. They can recieve huge quantity of files, they can share them
(moreover, this two processes is associated together, so you can not take
without returning back). Everything in this complex technological segment
is very harmful, from the EI’s view, as it does not provide profit for
them. They want to roll back the wheel of time, to find themselves in
happy 50s, where noone, like Internet, can not interrupt their routine
clicking of arithmometers, making money on music and movies selling.

Pirate Bay baffled them. They do not know what to do. 25 millions of
people share files, and EI dazedly look on it, embarrassedly murmur
in a court: because of Pirate Bay, we can not provide legal content
distribution using torrents for money, because of them doing this for
free. And what? Tomorrow I will go outside and begin to give everyone
my purchased books. So do I have to be in prison, because I am mining
bookselling? If there will appear a millionier with free benzine, so
does he has to be in prison too, because of mining others, that takes
triple price for it?

Two models of world meet face to face on that proceeding: paid and
free (gratis). Paid one judges free one, underdeveloped and advanced.
Cash desk judges double core processor with three levels of cache
memory. Guys in limos judges three young men with notebooks and brief
cases. Bookkeepers judges Internet, because it is not a trading counter.

Thus, what is happening in Stockholm is a proceeding between capitalism
and futurism, between masters of Earth and Internet’s community. It
is nothing for that masters that they ruined Earth, turning it to
dump on graveyard, that they created town’s industry of destroying the
nature. Now, they climbing to Internet to make a money making machine from
it. They carry an old junk, inheritance of Adam Smit: rate of profit,
income ratio, gross domestic income, tax and so on. Trade barbarians
crashes into thin world of digital communications with a club of
copyright, hoping to drive in naughty in trade ghetto.

No way! Internet is a gingerbread man, that escaped from granny of
capitalism and grandpa of totalitarism. Internet is not capitalism or
communism, it is not an american elective democracy or russian’s vertical
of power, it is totally something different. It is an environment,
where engine consists of free communication and tollfree sharing. Let
the poor EI tries to set up customs in the sky and to bottle oceans with
beautiful labels. Internet will survive this process, EI, and even the
state, that one pretty day, driven by progress, will move to virtual
world and disappear there.

Author:
Alexey Polikovsky (original is written in russian)
Translated by:
Sergey Matveev (aka stargrave)