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Secret Back Doors in Android

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Just talk

I am everything but a Google basher and I spent a lot of my life descending deep into research of Google foes, Google smear campaigns, lawsuits by proxy, and antitrust actions by proxy. I also advocate Android, but in recent years I have been increasingly concerned about the direction it is taking. I wish to share my latest concern. It relates to what the media characterises as "anti-theft" but is actually a facility to kill phones in a protest or convert them into hostile listening devices. Technology impacts human rights and those who control technology can be tempted to control humans.

Google habitually updates my tablet. It is a Nexus 7 tablet which Google invites itself to update remotely (shame on me for not installing Replicant, but this device does not support it yet). It is not a 3G tablet and it does not have two operation systems (unlike mobile phones) or even a carrier tracking its location all the time. It's a purely Android device with no network tying. It is network-agnostic. I only bought it because in order to replace my PDA (for over a decade) I wanted a device that is not a tracking device. Phones were out of the question.

Networks don't track the tablet. Google, however, is always out there, fully able to identify the connected user (latched onto a Gmail address because of Play), modifying the software without even the user's consent (the user is sometimes prompted to boot, without being able to opt out of the core update itself).

The update in itself is not a problem. What's problematic is its effect.

Following the latest Google update (which I was given no option to reject) I noticed that Google had added a remote kill switch as an opition. It was enabed by default. "Allow remote lock and erase" is what Google calls it and it is essentially working like a back door. Google and its partners in government are gaining a lot of power not over a smartphone but over a tablet.

The significance of this is that not only phones should be assumed to be remotely accessible for modification, including for example additional back doors. What's more, some devices that were sold without this functionality silently have it added. According to the corporate press, the FBI remotely turns Android devices into listening devices and it is getting simpler to see how.

NSA and PRISM destroy our computing. We definitely need to demand Free software, but we should go further by asking for audits, rejecting user-hostile 'features' like DRM, 'secure' boot, and kill switches. I gradually lose any remaining trust that I had in Google and even Free software such as Android.

Manchester and Computing

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Manchester's role in the history of computing is not widely recognised. I spent several years working in Manchester Computing and I studied where the first programmable computer was built (by Kilburn, whom the building was later named after). One of my colleagues at Manchester Computing (MCC) was the person who was first to build and distribute a GNU/Linux distribution (combining both GNU and Linux) and yesterday I met and spoke to one of the earlier PC distributors from across the road (supplier for Manchester Computing). Right here at the centre of Manchester a lot of the early milestones of computing took place (Turing also), but Manchester became better known for the splitting of atoms, the football teams, famous bands like Oasis, and the industrial revolution. A few days ago Rianne and I visited the local museum which demonstrates the industrial revolution (photo above from this album); what we really need here, however, are more museums documenting Manchester's role in modern computing. This city deserves more credit.

Nokia

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It is now the talk of the town. Nokia will be making their own smartphone based on Android. It seems like they no longer want to be in the shadow, under Windows Phone. I would like to think this might be the comeback of Nokia phones after a decade or so. I liked Nokia as a gadget way before this so-called "smart phones" trend started. I remember when SMS became the most convenient tool for communication, like a telegraph type. Nokia phones were once a gadgets giant; only then, when Microsoft bought Nokia, the once cellphone giant was kept and never to be found. I mean, not literally, but I can hardly see Nokia out in the Market along with those cellphone giants like Mac/iOS , Blueberry and Samsung. Nokia's merging into Microsoft has never been good; their tandem strategy never created any new innovation that makes them different from the other competitors. In fact, there were no success stories for Nokia when it was based on Windows Phone.

I expect Nokia to have lots to offer in the next expo. Improvements in software using Android OS, distinct design in hardware which can compete in comparables among the others. The price might be a little less than the existing smartphones to attract potential costumers. Lastly, I wish Nokia well for bravely taking such a huge change. In this road it has many challenges, but it's worth taking.

My Valentine

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Rianne Schestowitz

Yesterday was a rainy day. Our plans to go dining and bowling were more or less ruined by that. Manchester has had stormy weather as of late and there is not much one can do to avoid it.

Almost every couple went out to celebrate valentines. In my case, as I am working regular hours at day (and sometimes at night), I don't have much time for planning or thinking of ways to celebrate valentines day.

My dear husband, who had a day off yesterday (after he had worked at night), surprised me in many ways. He prepared a bubble bath for me with glasses of wine and candles lit. Pizza was inside the oven and table setting was quite ready, with many special beverages to mark the special day.

Everything was organised and prepared by him. While we were having our dinner we watched Tom and Jerry (a favourite from my childhood) and we were both enjoying it. Later he wanted to prepare the new mattress he bought to make sure we would have a good night's sleep.

Our own way of celebrating valentines -- so simple but passionately expressed with pure love and tenderness.

Justice

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Justice

I was born in a quiet and beautiful town in the Far East together with my cousins. As far as I can remember, we enjoyed watching the sunrise and sunset, bathing and fishing in the river along with other children. My childhood years bring back good memories: Playing hide and seek, flying kites, throwing yo-yo, jumping on Chinese garter and so much more. Life was full of fun and so simple back then. There were times I ate meals in our neighbours' house, treated like family. Sometimes we exchanged food. This you will never experience in an highly urbanised city, as there is nothing like this in the Western world. It's a small town where you almost know every other person. Everybody is like your family. That is how I remember the place that I left 24 years ago. This year my husband and I were planning to visit my beloved town. But I have second thoughts. It's a bit scary to visit a place where people are killing other people like animals.

Windows 8.1 "The Worst Ever"

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I've taught High School Computer Science for 25 years--Computer Programming, Web Page Design, Word Processing, Database Processing, and Spreadsheet processing. I have Linux on all my home computers with a dual boot into MS Windows 7 on my main computer. I don't use Windows 7 very often--but, I can find my way around in Windows 7. Since I have no experience with Win 8, I've thought all the recent hoopla about Microsoft's Windows 8 and 8.1 was just inexperienced grousing.

Why is Security not Turned on by Default?

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This isn't a Windows thing, Linux as well should be more secure than the assumption that the OS with elevated privileges is secure enough, there is so much more Desktop Linux could be doing to make the users experience more secure.

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Sometimes the Tech pres just gets it wrong..

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While I know this is a Linux site, i feel that Windows RT is getting the same bad rap Linux gets from the Tech press in many areas. A lack of true understanding of just what they are dealing with or just a huge need to present some form of being part of the crowd. I'm not sure just what it is however it needs to change. It's the same thing that happens when some people review Ubuntu PHone for example and claim it's not a viable platform.. and it annoys me..

Why Everything you've read in the tech press about Windows RT is WRONG!!

Head to head the best of class, the Lumia 920 and the Nexus 4

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With the tenuous link of Linux/android I take a look at just how googles flagship device stands up against the top WP8 phone

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Why is PRISM so shocking? Everyone is reading our data

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With prism being the story of the week, I'm just asking a simple question

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via DMT/Linux Blog

today's leftovers

  • FLOSS Weekly 417: OpenHMD
    Fredrik Hultin is the Co-founder of the OpenHMD project (together with Jakob Bornecrantz). OpenHMD aims to provide a Free and Open Source API and drivers for immersive technology, such as head-mounted displays with built-in head tracking. The project's aim is to implement support for as many devices as possible in a portable, cross-platform package.
  • My next EP will be released as a corrupted GPT image
    Endless OS is distributed as a compressed disk image, so you just write it to disk to install it. On first boot, it resizes itself to fill the whole disk. So, to “install” it to a file we decompress the image file, then extend it to the desired length. When booting, in principle we want to loopback-mount the image file and treat that as the root device. But there’s a problem: NTFS-3G, the most mature NTFS implementation for Linux, runs in userspace using FUSE. There are some practical problems arranging for the userspace processes to survive the transition out of the initramfs, but the bigger problem is that accessing a loopback-mounted image on an NTFS partition is slow, presumably because every disk access has an extra round-trip to userspace and back. Is there some way we can avoid this performance penalty?
  • This week in GTK+ – 31
    In this last week, the master branch of GTK+ has seen 52 commits, with 10254 lines added and 9466 lines removed.
  • Digest of Fedora 25 Reviews
    Fedora 25 has been out for 2 months and it seems like a very solid release, maybe the best in the history of the distro. And feedback from the press and users has also been very positive.
  • Monday's security updates
  • What does security and USB-C have in common?
    I've decided to create yet another security analogy! You can’t tell, but I’m very excited to do this. One of my long standing complaints about security is there are basically no good analogies that make sense. We always try to talk about auto safety, or food safety, or maybe building security, how about pollution. There’s always some sort of existing real world scenario we try warp and twist in a way so we can tell a security story that makes sense. So far they’ve all failed. The analogy always starts out strong, then something happens that makes everything fall apart. I imagine a big part of this is because security is really new, but it’s also really hard to understand. It’s just not something humans are good at understanding. [...] The TL;DR is essentially the world of USB-C cables is sort of a modern day wild west. There’s no way to really tell which ones are good and which ones are bad, so there are some people who test the cables. It’s nothing official, they’re basically volunteers doing this in their free time. Their feedback is literally the only real way to decide which cables are good and which are bad. That’s sort of crazy if you think about it.
  • NuTyX 8.2.93 released
  • Linux Top 3: Parted Magic, Quirky and Ultimate Edition
    Parted Magic is a very niche Linux distribution that many users first discover when they're trying to either re-partition a drive or recover data from an older system. The new Parted Magic 2017_01_08 release is an incremental update that follows the very large 2016_10_18 update that provided 800 updates.
  • How To Use Google Translate From Commandline In Linux
  • How to debug C programs in Linux using gdb
  • Use Docker remotely on Atomic Host
  • Ubuntu isn’t the only version of Linux that can run on Windows 10
  • OpenSUSE Linux lands on Windows 10
  • How to run openSUSE Leap 42.2 or SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 12 on Windows 10

Leftovers: Software and Games