Linux and Microsoft

Windows 8.1 is still being supported, and they say will be until  January 9th, 2018. Windows 7 has, according to their site, been cut off though. A terrible decision, in my opinion, given the huge success of that OS. A lot of people have jumped ship because of Windows 10, and I don’t blame them.

Linux has a bit over 3% of the market share, according to Wiki’s graphs. Linux has been gaining ground for many years, while interest in various Windows iterations is dropping. Fewer people are using Windows as time goes by.

I use Linux (PeppermintOS 7, built on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS) more than ever now; it’s my primary OS and I rarely go near Windows. Thanks to privacy and glaring security concerns, I don’t think I’ll ever feel safe using Windows anymore, despite having used and loved them since Windows 3.1 at primary school. Linux has opened my eyes to a new way, ‘though it wasn’t an easy journey.

I don’t like the way Microsoft conducts their business and I don’t think they care about the customers at all, only money. I find them deceptive, manipulative, and underhanded.

Linux, however, is open source; it’s all about sharing, creativity, and freedom. There’s even a Hannah Montana distribution; ridiculous? Sure, but wonderful that someone was able to create that and freely share it. At least if you don’t like a developer of your chosen distribution, you can jump to another; it’s not like you’re short of options.

That said, I am, or at least was a gamer. I still dabble. I’d need Windows for gaming. Linux does support games, and I do have Steam on it, but the graphical performance in many games seems terrible or lackluster in comparison, at least in my experience.

I have a feeling I’ll eventually just let go of the many Windows-only games on my Steam account and stick with Linux indefinitely. I barely game anymore anyway.

With Linux gradually gaining ground and Windows steadfastly losing it, that leaves Linux an opportunity to really step up. I think it needs some serious work in both gaming performance and a more approachable UI for those uninterested in the command line interface (Terminal) before it’ll have a shot at some day besting Windows.

I’m all for choice though, so if Microsoft is offering what you want, that’s fine. There’s a lot of Linux fans that generally make it all really personal against users of Windows and probably Mac too, but that’s not where I’m coming from here — not at all.

My issue is with Microsoft.

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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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My Virgin Media Login over Firefox – Connection Unsecure

I’ve seen this issue around the interwebs. You set to log in to your favorite website for ordering various bits or bobs, or perhaps fancy doing some online banking—BOOM—Firefox tells you that you’re insecure! Granted, I have some personal issues, but telling me I’m insecure is a bit rude.

Today, this issue appeared with the login page for My Virgin Media, Britain’s number one Internet Service Provider offering fantastic speeds over a solid fibre optic cable—no phone line necessary. For £28.50 a month, and a £49.50 installation fee, I’m getting approximately 6.9MBps download speed, rated 50Mbps; that’s six point nine megabytes per second. Sadly, like many ISPs, I’m not offered a very good upload speed, but roughly 390KBps is just enough for some acceptable streaming over Twitch, and for some decent online gaming. But what good is such a fantastic service if we want to log in and are then told our connection isn’t secure?

Oddly, this problem only seems apparent for us Firefox users, a browser which, according to Wiki, has, as of July 2015, “between 12% and 19% of worldwide usage of users,” with Chrome, for some reason, being the top dog for the majority of the users across the globe. I’m not sure what changed to make Chrome so popular, because previously, it was all about Firefox!

I’ve just spoken with a Virgin Media techie, by the name of Ian, and he claimed that he’s “unaware” of such an issue with My Virgin Media or Firefox, but oddly, later goes on to say that he can “definitely remember” a few occasions in which Firefox has “flagged something as a false security concern,” and that he has already “had chats and calls in the past” with others claiming that “our website doesn’t use the best security protocols.” So which is it? I now wonder.

Ian continues: “I’m afraid I’m not qualified enough to confirm this but what I will say is that if this was a real security concern our Website wouldn’t be allowed to remain open. If the protocols need to be updated then I’m sure our IT department are looking into this.”

Ian then provides me a link to a thread on the Virgin Media forums, and a link to a workaround from September, this year. I suspect any workaround of this nature will merely trick Firefox into thinking it’s secure, but that still leaves a dirty thought in my mind: what if it’s actually not secure? Being paranoid about security can make browsing a challenge at times.

Thankfully, Ian understood my security concern, stating that you “can’t be too careful these days especially over the Internet.” Well said, Ian.

Taking a look at the suggested thread which discusses this issue, a commenter by the name of Sololobo reminds us that this is our ISP, on which we “depend” to “help ensure” our “online security.” Too bloody right. If we can’t even trust our ISPs then what hope in hell do we have of being at all secure online? At the bottom of the thread is a post by site admin, James_W, who tells us “this information has been passed on to our security team for analysis.” That was, however, over half a year ago.

Annoyingly, I’ve actually had this issue with PayPal in the past, and even my bank’s website, but I seemed to have resolved that by tweaking Kaspersky Internet Security. It appeared that Safe Money was somehow interfering with Firefox’s certificate checking system.

Imagine walking into your local bank only to have a member of staff tell you that you should “probably know” that “this bank isn’t secure.” Sure, that’ll make me really comfortable.

Being insecure sucks.

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