Category Archives: Internet

When using Register.com for domain registrations.

I have registered one of my domains at register.com.

Usually that’s nothing special, but there is something peculiar about their system that keeps annoying me. Even though I’ve switched “Auto-Renew” on since forever, their mailing system keeps bombing me with mails about the domain being close to deactivation because the expiration date of the registration comes closer.

That’s not needed of course, because auto-renew is on.

The past few weeks I got those mails again. Yes, I know the domain renewal is coming up. Yes, I know it will renew itself. Today I was sick of yet another one.

Note: Register.com isn’t cheap with their domain registrations if you don’t know some ropes. A .com registration will set you back $37.50, which is pretty steep.

Last year I requested a transfer code to move the domain name somewhere else, and a support person offered me a discount for renewal: $17.50. Now that is nice as most places charge at least $20.

Today I went about moving the domain name again. Lo and behold: there was no support person involved. Instead I got a message that I could renew the domain for a year for $10!! All I had to do was enter a promo code at check-out, and indeed, the domain is renewed for a year, for $10. Instead of $37.50.

So that is an even bigger saving than last year.

Politeness and the Internet

Something surprising happened to me a few days ago.

It started with what looked like a spam mail that somehow had made it through the entanglements of the filtering.

It was from “Bernie Jones” (name altered for privacy reasons) who had a question.

I thought I had something of an answer so I wrote back to him, starting my reply with “Dear Mr Jones…”

There we had it. Mr Jones, a.k.a. Bernie, took a LONG time to respond.

When finally he did, his first words were:

Hi Paul. Why did you write ‘Dear Mr Jones’?

For me, that was quite obvious. Bernie is a man’s name, Jones is his last name according to his own mail, so why wouldn’t I?

Apparently, it’s not very common on the internet to be polite. (Proof was already clear because he started with ‘hi Paul’.)

Am I the only one who notices this?

Creating the impatient consumer

I’m sure you’ve all noticed how people want to have things faster and faster.

You go on the Internet, hit your favourite outlet website, you click buy, and by the time the confirmation mail has reached you, you want it in your hand.

Companies are catering to that. Amazon, for instance, is using drones to get stuff to the eager customer as soon as possible. After couriers for same day delivery, they now aim for same hour delivery.

I think this what (in part) is to blame for the increasing impatience of people: “I want it all and I want it now.” Especially the ‘now’.

The weird thing is that opportunities to ‘have it now’ still exist. Fewer and fewer, I know, as they are remnants of the pre-Internet era. They are called brick-and-mortar shops. You go there, pick from a shelf what you want, you pay for it, and… whoa… you have it. Now.

That’s probably a wild idea, because this isn’t in line with the ease of the Internet, where people don’t have to get up and go somewhere. Which is perhaps part of the obesity problem the ‘civilised’ world faces in many places. Why move if you can go online and order a pill that helps you get thinner.

Which you want now, of course.

Keeping your passwords safe in a safe safe.

Passwords.

Keepass logo

I’m a huge fan of Keepass. Keepass is a free program that will remember your passwords for you.

It is very easy to use and it features ‘auto-type’ so you don’t even have to copy your usernames and passwords, Keepass handles that for you.

Lastpass logo

A little while ago I heard of Lastpass. It basically does the same thing and nicely integrates with your browser, Android and IOS devices. I installed it, imported the Keepass data (which works quite well but not 100% accurately) and I used it. It’s good. It does what you should expect of it.

Then however I started wondering where Lastpass stores its data. With Keepass you have an encrypted file on your computer that holds your passwords. You can synchronise that to all your other devices by sticking it in Dropbox, Google Drive or any other file sharing system you prefer. Not so with Lastpass. I couldn’t find where that file is stored so I went looking.

It turns out that your password file is stored on the Internet, on the Lastpass servers. Each time you connect to the Internet, Lastpass will synchronise the file on the device you’re currently using.

Cloud.

Internet Cloud

So here’s the deal. You use Lastpass and you’re a happy camper. Understand that your passwords are not only on your system (in a spot that’s hard to locate; I tried and didn’t find it) but it’s also on a machine that’s outside your control. I can imagine that’s fine for vacation pictures and your collection of recipes for lasagna and hot tamales, but I didn’t feel very good about that. It’s my collection of usernames and passwords. Of course, you may argue that I’m paranoid, that Lastpass will treat your file with care and loving attention, but…

How many loving, caring systems that contain your files have been hacked lately? Yahoo for instance has a great track record of being hacked. Imagine that a hacker gets access to the file that contains your passwords, slaps some ransomware over it and next time you sync your Lastpass – kazaam, there you are with nothing left to show except a kind note from a hacker to hand over a lot of money for your files. Okay, okay, hackers can also do that to Google Drive and Dropbox (which is why I don’t keep those files there).

Control.

I like to keep things that are mine in my own hands. I’m one of the lucky people with a Synology NAS which gives me my personal cloud system (google ‘Synology Cloud Station‘). There are other ways to set up your personal cloud, I’m sure. Worst case you can always e-mail the file to yourself and download it to your device.

The potential security issue I just described made me go back to Keepass. Because I like my passwords in a safe place, one that I can decide on.

Control freak? Perhaps. But for my entire collection of credentials for online access I am happy with that title.

Android and its ROMs

Yes, ROMs. Not Romulans, as this is not Star Trek. Alas.

A while ago I got an Android update on my smartphone. It was for Android 4.4.2. I installed it and I was not a happy camper: suddenly only Google’s own apps could manipulate the SD card! The trick would be to ROOT the phone (breaking it open, in a way, to give me all the permissions again). It was quite an experience.

How to root your phone: first you need a Recovery Rom. Best known are CWM (ClockWork Mod) and TWRP (no idea, I didn’t use this one).

I used Philz Touch CWM rom. Note: find the version that works for your phone. Mine was N7100. Make sure you pick the right one. Please use Google or Bing or so to locate this file, there are many versions. Search for “Philz Touch recovery tar md5“. You will also need a Windows-program called Odin. This is what you need to put the recovery rom on your phone. The last one I know of is Odin3 3.09.

Online you can find information how to do this, but the quick rundown is: run Odin. Point the ‘AP‘ location to the tar.md5 file with Philz Touch Recover. Put your phone in DOWNLOAD mode. Connect USB cable. Wait for Odin to recognise the phone. Press start. Wait until Odin reports Success.

Once you did that you can locate a ROM you want to put on the phone. The one I finally had success with was the TigraRom v4. This one runs Android 4.3, is rooted and gave me back read/write access to the SD card. This is the one I’m currently running. To install a new ROM, first backup your stuff. Then make sure you’ve backed up your stuff. Find the ROM that works for your phone. Really, read that again. Download it and put the ZIPfile on your phone or on the SD Card. Boot your phone into Recovery mode (usually Volume-up and Power, but my phone also needed the Home button pressed so look that up for your phone). You’ll be put into Philz Touch Recovery.

Start sweating: select Wipe Data/Factory reset and confirm you want to do this. return to this menu (is easy). Select ADVANCED and select Wipe Dalvik Cache. Confirm.

Then select ‘Install Zip’.  Locate the zipfile on your device and make it so. This is where the magic happens: the new ROM is loaded onto your phone. After that: reboot system now. That’s all there is to it. After that it’s up to you to find if the ROM works for you. I found Tigra to work after 8 or 9 disappointments. Flashing a ROM gets easy after a while, trust me. 😉

I have no clue about Linux so I have to stick with Windows.

 

 

Tux. The Linux mascotte.

 

I saw this a while ago:

“I have no clue about Linux so I have to stick with Windows.”

No, you don’t. Why not? The short version: get a clue about Linux. Of course, this is very short. Allow me to dispel a few myths about Linux.

Linux is difficult. You have to be a tech geek who can type in all those things like “ls -1 | grep *#@) | awk -F\ ‘{print $5}’ > /dev/null” and understand what it means.

Yes, absolutely true some 15 years ago. Back then you needed something like that. Today however you pop a CD or DVD in your computer (or a bootable USB stick), boot from it and you’re presented with something like:

(You can click the image for a larger version.) For ease of use I keep referring to Ubuntu as that is what I use, but the same thing happens for Fedora, Mint and a lot of other versions of Linux.

Yes, you can actually “Try” the system. Click Try Ubuntu (yes, really, just click, not type in some complicated command!) and a complete Linux system will load. And the best part: it won’t affect anything on your computer. Of course it will be slower than from a hard disk – it runs from CD/DVD.

After booting the disc, you can see something like this:

Can?” Yes. Linux offers you several interfaces, you can use whichever you like best. Up here is the new GNOME interface showing some of the applications that are installed. Have we typed in anything like “ls -1 | grep *#@) | awk -F\ ‘{print $5}’ > /dev/null” yet?

But nothing runs in Linux! I need my almost-official version of MS Office 2012 that someone else bought, and Firefox, and MS-outlook!

There is a HOST of software available for Linux. If you like Firefox, you can run Firefox in Linux. Or Google Chrome, or a few others. If you insist on Internet explorer… tough. That won’t run in Linux. But then, we already determined that nothing runs in Linux.

For MS Office, you can go to LibreOffice (also runs in Windows and on Mac OS). It’s free and works pretty well with MS Office documents. The same goes for OpenOffice. Or the AbiWord word processor and the Gnumeric spreadsheet.

To compete with Outlook we have Evolution, Kmail, Balsa, Aethera, Claws Mail or Sylpheed. And a bunch of others, but I won’t bore you with endless lists of software. Especially Evolution will feel a lot like your home on the Outlook range. On LINUXRSP you can find an extensive list of software with Linux equivalents for Microsoft products.

There are no games for Linux. Well, not everything for windows exists in Linux, indeed. But there is http://store.steampowered.com/browse/linux/ and the Linux Game DataBase, to start with.

But my anti virus software won’t run in Linux. True. I have to disappoint you there. The sad fact remains that for every 10,000 virusses in Windows there probably is 1 for Linux. I admit that Linux still has a long way to go here.

Here is another screenshot from a Linux machine. Still no ls, grep, awk or other gobbledigook in sight. Sorry.

If you want to know more about the core of Linux, have a look at http://www.linux.org. Otherwise you can just grab one of the many free CD- or DVD-images, boot from it and play around with it a little without (or before) installing it.

Linux Trojan

ZDnet reported about a sort of successful Linux Trojan. It looks like a real threat, even Engadget mentioned it. It’s not a trojan that needs you to go into immediate lock-down; before it works you will need to click a link so a malicious website can do its job, but still the Linux Desktop must be gaining popularity when someone goes through the trouble to actually do this.

As ZDNet reports:

This appears to be a variation on a very common theme in contemporary Windows malware: A banking Trojan.

Here the name of the game is to grab your personal login and password data with a “Form grabber” as you enter it into your bank or other online system. This information consists of your stolen credentials, the timestamp of when you visited a site, which Web sites you visited, and possibly your Web browser’s cookies. Finally, all this is then passed on over the Internet to a command-and control server. From there the crooks can get to work selling your information to people who will start running up your credit-card bills.

So take care, people. This is real. Only click links that you can verify. Go to your banking system through your bookmarks and you should be safe.

Keeping your data safe in the cloud the cheap way – part 2

Note: This page was updated on 2016-12-03. Truecrypt is no longer in use as it contained errors. If you want to find some alternatives for your system, have a look here.

A while ago I posted about a cheap way to keep your data safe in “the cloud”. Most people know Dropbox, Skydrive and Google drive, and that none of these systems are encrypted on your end. Because of that I installed Truecrypt and did some experiments.

Let’s set this as a case. You have 5MB of data you want to keep in the cloud. Dropbox gives you 2GB for free, 5MB fits in there easily. But your MBs are only encrypted by Dropbox, any CIA/FBI/NSA/TSA John Doodle can walk in and look at them. Dropbox will hand them the encryption key. Be one step ahead.

Truecrypt interface

Set up Truecrypt and create a 10MB container. (See the previous post on the how-to and such.) Set up the container outside Dropbox is my advice. Stick your 5MB worth of data inside the new drive (which is the truecrypt container) and happily use it. Once in a while copy the 10MB container to Dropbox so it gets saved to the cloud, encrypted by truecrypt. Do NOT copy the files from the container to Dropbox, then Truecrypt will decrypt them first. So if you set up the container in c:\mycrypt\container which you linked to drive T:, copy c:\mycrypt\container to Dropbox, not everything in T:.

Why not create the container directly in a Dropbox folder? Dropbox will the continuously update the entire 10MB to the cloud, which might affect the rest of your internet access. If you’re okay with that, go ahead and put the container directly inside a Dropbox folder.

And why 10MB for 5MB of data? That’s to have some space for when your amount of data grows. You can make it 6MB, but when you get to 6.1MB of data, you’ll need to create a new container in truecrypt and copy things over. It’s just some planning ahead.

Hope this helps someone.

Dutch Government: Number of Internet Taps Has Quintupled In One Year

Via /. :

“A Dutch newspaper has a digital version of the letter Mr. Opstelten, Secretary of Justice and Security, sent to Dutch Parliament (PDF in Dutch), in which he quietly admits to 56,825 phone taps (a 3% rise in one year) and to 16,676 internet taps in 2012, a 400% rise, or a fivefold increase, in one year. An older report already exposed the Netherlands as one of the biggest wiretappers in the western world. Slate also knew, back in 2006, that Europeans actually love wiretapping and internet tapping. In the Netherlands, a country with a population of only 16 million, the practice has risen to the level of a staggering 1 in 1,000 phones being tapped.”

Beat that, America!

(Read the original on Slashdot.)