Safely Insecure

There’s something special about filling two monitors with terminal windows on Linux, then smashing the keyboard until you fill each black space with jargon. I digress, before I’ve even started!

Today, I focused on accessing Android devices (3 mobile phones) via the USB Debugging feature within the Developer Options found or unlocked on most Android phones. I was even able to rescue all the files off an SD Card I previously deemed non-functional. Once I’d used and reused the CLI program adb – freely available on Linux, Windows, and Mac – I then focused my energies on trying to get my PC to communicate with my laptop.

Side note: I’ve truly come to appreciate just how open Linux is, but with that, also the risks involved.

Did you know that your router very probably has something called Mac Filtering, which’ll let you strictly set which devices can connect to your network? Your ISP likely gave you information, perhaps on a little card, that has your router’s local IP address; use this in the URL field on your browse of choice, then supply the login credentials your ISP gave you, in order to change these settings. Fair warning though, some settings on routers can seriously mess with your Internet connection and may end up costing you time and cash to remedy the screw-up. Proceed with caution.

Setting a longer password, with uppercase, lowercase, numbers, and symbols really does affect the security of that password. They don’t say it for funsies; it really does make it more time-consuming to crack. The longer and more obnoxious your wifi password is, the less likely anyone will sit outside your house for years in order to get access. You should be using the best encryption method your router allows for your wifi connection as well. While it helps to hide your SSID, it’s possible to see right past that with little effort, so I wouldn’t rely on it.

By the way, if you see an unsecure wireless network and think you might just log in to browse the interwebs for some much needed tweets and status updates, think again! These can be a very nasty trap. Commercially available networks can be different, but I’d still not trust a great deal to the offered free wifi of, say, McDonald’s.

“Get some work done, check your email or connect with friends. With free Wi-Fi at more than 11,500 participating restaurants, customers can access the Internet using their laptops or mobile devices at no charge. So grab a McCafé® Latte and log on. The Wi-Fi is on us!” – McDonald’s official website; link.

Notice the zero mention of security? This would suggest it’s really not that important to them, or perhaps they just don’t think it’s important to the majority of us. Either way, I’m concerned.

Ultimately, for the best security, use Ethernet cables and be done with wireless! Safe in the knowledge that the only way someone will get your data, is if they physically break into your home, which isn’t all that likely, unless you stick up a big billboard next to your home which reads, “Government secrets stored on servers inside this building.”

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Discovering Linux Commands

I’m reminded of the early stages of language learning; like when I was learning words the likes of die Katze and der Hund in German. It’s quite exciting. Of course, instead of German, it’s computer jargon!

I’ve been quite busy again today, trying to shovel more commands into my brain; really exercising that wonderful hippocampus. My focus for a large part of the day was both security and seeing what Mint 18 with the XFCE desktop environment is like. I wasn’t disappointed.

I now have a much firmer grasp of WAN security. Not in a super-scientific way, but an in-depth look into wifi security without crunching numbers and eating computer science books.

I again looked into Kali Linux (an OS used to test systems and their security) and learned about the little CLI program called wifite which, it turns out, can be installed from the default Mint 18 repositories, and I assume also the PeppermintOS 7 ones.

As for now, I discovered a document online (the link to which I’ve sadly lost) which shows rather a lot of Linux commands, however outdated they may now be. I’m able to tote the incredibly intelligent cal and date commands. However, something occurred to me: would it be possible to insert two commands at once? As it turns out, the answer is yes.

If you type > between commands, you can output the data into a file. If you type | between commands, you can “pipe” the command into another command (such as less) which is very handy for commands that have a rather large output.

Armed with this knowledge, it occurred to me that another similar symbol would suffice for typing in multiple commands. It wasn’t long before I stumbled onto the semi-colon. If you type, for example, cal ; time into the Terminal, it’ll indeed run both commands at the same time. Bonus! Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to work for 3 or more commands at once.

The oft used sudo apt-get install, sudo apt-get remove, sudo apt-get autoremove, and sudo add-apt-repository ppa:[name] commands are mostly seared onto my head now, thankfully. I remember hating the need to ever type in all that when installing and uninstalling a program; it doesn’t really bother me now.

As I understand it, when you want to install a program that isn’t in your repository, the process is as follows:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:[name]
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install [name]

Usually at this point, it’ll be done and dusted, but in some cases you may need or want to update the program you downloaded, if for some reason it doesn’t come  updated. As for uninstalling, this is my usual method of choice, although I’d like to incorporate the –purge bit at some point:

sudo apt-get-remove [name]
sudo apt-get autoremove
sudo add-apt-repository -r ppa:[name]

Of course, if there was no need to add a special repository for the program, you can just ignore the add-apt-repository part. This is what works for me, but I’m lead to believe –purge goes above and beyond the call of duty to clean your system of a program.

You can just skip all the sudo-ing and start the commanding with sudo su, to permanently log in as Root (at least in that session) with an exit command to leave, but I’m advised against doing so as it can apparently be dangerous.

I’m getting tired typing all this out, so I’ll continue this in the next entry! I’m looking forward to some day reading all this again, then laughing at my relative Noob status.

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Linux fails me yet again!

When will I learn?

Sorry Linux fans, I know you’re probably sniggering behind your screens, trying not to have a hernia at my expense, but every single time I delve into the Linux world, it ends up in weird freezes, crashes, choppy sound, random bugs, and even the OS flat-out refusing to boot. It’s disappointing, really it is, because there’s a lot I like about Linux, and I’m gathering a little interest in the Terminal.

Last night, after watching videos and learning more about the Terminal, I installed the 64-bit version of Linux Mint 17.2, codenamed Rafaela, with KDE onto my spare 500GB HDD, and even disconnected my SSD with Windows 8.1 on it. I was enjoying the idea of leaving Windows 8.1 behind, or at least partly.

Because it had been a long time since I installed Linux, I made the newbie mistake of installing the bootloader to the wrong place, although you can thank an incorrect guide for that. I got it right the 3rd time. Unfortunately, even after that hiccup, which, I should add, is not at all “simple” or “easy” as so many of the exclusive Linux users like to say, and if you get it wrong, you risk screwing something up that takes yet more knowhow to fix.

In Windows, you don’t have to worry about where to install the Bootloader and you don’t have to create several NTFS partitions; granted, you don’t in Linux, but I don’t see the point in not doing it. Of course, once you know what to do, and more importantly, what not to do, it’s all fine and dandy, but for a beginner, or, hell, even an old amateur Linux user coming back after a while, it’s hardly straight-forward.

I want to enjoy Linux as a whole, but there are so many things wrong with it and even some of the Linux users seem to acknowledge that, at least to some extent.

Linux has so many distributions, known as distros, which makes things difficult for new users because they probably haven’t a clue which one to use! Fair enough, I get that it encourages creativity, thanks to Linux being open source, allowing people to try different things without the restriction of, say, a version of Windows or Mac.

The Terminal is a big annoyance to me, despite my general interest in it. I honestly feel many Linux users are blinded by loyalty to the point at which they seem to think it’s totally not counter-intuitive to have to use the Terminal so much. By default, for setting up your Linux firewall within, let’s say, the edition of Linux I tried last night, you have to install separate software in order to get just the GUI for the Firewall, which, by the way, is, for some asinine reason, completely and utterly disabled by default! Sure, that’s safe. Nice way to welcome new users, eh?

Linux seems fantastic if you’re already an experienced Linux user and somehow manage to get past the bugs, freezes, crashes, boot fails, and whatever else.

“I never have any of these issues.” – I expect most Linux fanatics say this, and I expect it’s a right load of CL4P-TP, unless you have the perfect hardware for Linux and are otherwise very lucky.

I have to ask myself how Linux users even manage to use Linux, especially for their work! Given how temperamental the Linux versions I’ve tried are, I’d be scared to do any work in-case one simple setting implodes the system. I once changed to a theme readily available from within the installation and Linux crashed then refused to boot again! How the buggery farts is that stable and welcoming for new users? I’m terrified of changing anything in Linux because it’s practically a ticking time bomb.

I have a feeling the standard server-style of Linux with just the command line interface would probably be more stable, but unless you’re running a server or something, I can’t imagine much use in it.

I want to like Linux, I really do, but it doesn’t want me to like it.

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