Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Is Ultrasurf safe to use ?

After the Peerblock case, I've heard a lot about Ultrasurf recently. They claim to be an anti-censorship, pro-freedom software which allow you to protect your online privacy.
Mostly, they claim to hide your IP address. Huh-uh. Interesting.

With a single-hop proxy, and they log all your requests. And a centralized server...Oops. What a recipe for disaster. I suggest you read this Tor blog post which does a good job of explaining things simply, along with their numerous comments.

Ultrasurf has confirmed they were logging user requests and providing them to law enforcement if necessary, but also that the listed vulnerabilities were very real.

This could be all a funny joke if Ultrasurf wasn't used by millions to circumvent, let's say, China's censorship.

To the many who use UltraSurf, please stop. You're trusting people who does not understand anonymity services. If your freedom could be threatened, use Tor.

PS: torrenting over UltraSurf won't protect you

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Easy Raspberry pi 2 setup with XBMC/Raspbian and wifi dongle

Do I still need to introduce the Raspberry Pi microcomputer ? With its second version, it's now faster than ever and still at the same price. But if you want the easiest possible setup, it's only three steps away:
  1. Get this amazing Raspberry B+ starter kit. It has all the basic components you need and is by far the best bang for the buck. If you buy the cheapest parts on Amazon, you'd need the pi board, a power supply, a fast-enough microSD card, an HDMI cable, a case and a wifi dongle. Total cost: around $61 versus $49,99. Moreover, the kit's SD card is preloaded with the NOOBS software so you don't even need to flash your SD card yourself ! (if you use the brand new Pi 2, you will need to flash the latest version of noobs)
  2. Plug all the things and wires ! (the power supply last)
  3. If you want to watch movies right now, boot it under XBMC and plug in an external hard drive choked with tv shows and movies.

Now for the best part : you can forget about the process of downloading torrents, finding subs, moving 'em to the hard drive, start the pi, browse to the content and play it. Heck, you can even forget about automatic torrent downloads, even on the Pi itself. That's old school. Now you can mix the power of the raspberry Pi and BitTorrent to use it as a streaming tv station!

Note:  there are no such kits for the Raspberry Pi 2 yet, but this is basically the same board as the B+, only the processors and memory chips have changed.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Alternatives to cloud storage, part II : a personal cloud you can host and hack

I already told it, if you're not a business, you probably don't really need cloud solutions, especially for storage. Well, I think I finally found a solution tailored to my needs : .

Cozy people describe themselves as developers of a  "personal cloud you can host, hack and delete". They intend to compete on the Google app engine by offering a whole range of basic self-hosted applications (calendar, contacts, files, emails...).

Now the best thing about it is that it's completely open-source, even if the company (a start-up, I presume) was to die, you could still use their products.

A growing community build even more apps around it and the long-term goal is to enjoy the flexibility of a complex app ecosystem without the data-business and privacy issues we're accustomed to.

Sounds great0 Oh, they have a demo. I'm gonna hack around with their product and maybe I'll do a full technical review someday !

Friday, September 6, 2013

Are smart watches worth it or useless? The Samsung galaxy gear example

It seems like every single news website want me to buy a smart watch these days. Apparently, it'd be great having a device that just extends your smartphone on your wrist all the time.

Presentation of the trendy samsung galaxy gear
They're trying to convince us a 1.63 inches screen can provide outstanding user interaction...

So what are the three main features of a "smart" watch such as, say, the Samsung galaxy gear? First of all, let's remind once again it's not even independant. You need to pair it with a Samsung phone/tablet/whatever. Here are the three features of this smartwatch:

  1. Preview (or read) emails. Oh yeah right, instead of starring at a smartphone and be rude to everyone, I'd rather prefer starring at a smaller screen and be rude to everyone.
  2. Provide hand-free call management. Yeah awesome, $299 + waste of natural resources for a problem that has been solved by $30 hand-free/bluetooth device.
  3. A camera to shoot pics. Of course, we need more stuff to take pics! We also need more pics-sharing apps, right?

A woman taking a call with a smartwatch
People will now walk in the street talking to their wrists. Revolution, seriously!

I believe technology must disappear in the long run, and by that I mean become non-pervasive. I also believe in technology, don't get me wrong - for instance I think 3D printers are the next revolution in tech.

But today, when I see the crowd's behaviour at Le Louvre museum in Paris I can't help but think but all this is just a transition. They're almost all fighting to take the same pic of La Joconde, not appreciating the art in the process and all posting it on some social media thing for friends who don't really care. A friend of mine believe this is a process of social recognition/validation (I've been there, I've done that : here is my proof).

Moreover, I've always considered watches as a single-function thing from the past, or as an unnecessary display of wealth. I know most of my young relatives think so too. About so-called smartwatches, I made my point : they don't really solve any problem that hasn't been solved nor provide some innovative functionnality, do they?

I can't believe we're wasting tons of natural resources/ lithium batteries on this crap. Worse, you actually have to charge this thing like everyday. I hope consumers won't consume it, and that it will disappear as quickly as it became trendy. I wish makers would stop dictate what "we need" through the consumer market and provide some real problem-solving devices instead.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

What alternatives to cloud storage?

In these times of surveillance, you're probably looking for an alternative to cloud storage. Heck, if you're a regular user you're probably just looking for an alternative to Dropbox. Services like Dropbox were designed to be easy to use - and they are : synchronization between multiple devices is seamless, and you can access all your files from a web browser. Basically, it was an efficient way to solve the problem of sharing data between multiple devices without a network.

But it wasn't designed for privacy : files on the cloud are not encrypted, it's your job to encrypt it for most cloud storage services. It's time-consuming. You have to chose what to encrypt, how to encrypt it, just feel paranoid because "you didn't do anything wrong" and all that. Maybe you're even an idiot who thinks PRISM is fine.

But what if cloud storage wasn't the solution anymore? Sure, you can build your own NAS server at home and such, but everyone isn't gonna be able to do so. It takes time to build and to maintain. Or you could buy one.

There is a start-up idea on Kickstarter which approached the problem from the ground up, and I think I prefer their solution.

They designed a small plug, Lima, that makes all your devices have the exact same memory. Without cloud storage.

But you could just buy a NAS instead, right? It makes one big folder available to all your devices. Here's the developers answer :

This hard drive or folder is yet-another-memory, a separate place where you have to copy, move, your files into. So at the end of the day, if you use these solutions you still have to constantly manage and figure out where is your data.
The main innovation in Lima is that it manages all of your data for you. Not only the contents of a specific folder.
The Lima app replaces the entire file system of your computers. It handles everything: from the pictures in your "My Pictures" folder, to the files on your Desktop. So it really does feel like all your devices have the same memory: you can download something on your Mac, and open it on your PC.

The Lima device is a Linux-based plug, designed to be always kept on.

Its job is to download and upload your files in the background when you need it, to secure the communications and to attract all the content that you create on your devices so it can be backed up on your hard drives. 

It's supposed to be up to 60x faster in file synchronization at home. It's also supposed to be "harder to hack than your computer". Well, at least it's cross-platform, even if their marketing is focused on Apple products (can't blame them- it's the trend).

At least their branding is clear.

What I like is the decentralization of your data. Even if their start-up die, this thing will run forever (or until the Lima dongle dies) :

What’s good with Lima is that it’s entirely private and decentralized. So Lima can work independently from any servers, and continue managing your data even if our start-up dies (disclosure: we don’t plan anything like that).
Well, that's it. Alternatives are decentralized solutions.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Is Cryptocat secure ?

I was talking about Cryptocat in the beginning of 2013, an open-source browser plugin which allows to chat privately with off-the-record technology.

This one is NSA's mascot for kids. Funny, huh?

It turns out a lot of vulnerabilities were found in the source code, and we should consider that almost everything until today was compromised. On his website, programmer Steve Thomas explains how he found a lot of worrying bugs but according to him, Cryptocat is safe as of today if you use at least version 2.1.12 ...

As Cryptocat's developers remind, "Cryptocat is not a magic bullet, it's still a work in progress. You should never trust any piece of software with your life, and Cryptocat is no exception."

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Back for more : PRISM, dystopia and the secret formula for success

I'm back for some blogging after more than four months of travelling, from Australia's wallabies to New-Zealand breathtaking lakes and mountains, but also through all the damp jungle of South-East Asia - mostly in Thailand, Laos and Viet Nam.

A sunset I shot in Tasmania
I have yet to process all my pictures, but a lot happened while I was gamboling out there!

On the internet/privacy front, whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed what we all feared actually exists - the monstrous PRISM is collecting almost all you do on the Internet, and is probably just a tiny part of the American surveillance program. You should consider protect yourself, for instance with encryption. It's not always user-friendly, but I think it's necessary.

Meanwhile, whistleblower Bradley Edward Manning, who supposedly had passed classified material to WikiLeaks had just been found guilty the 30th of July of 20 counts out of 21, including five violations of the Espionage Act for a sentence up to 130 years of prison. I'm pretty sure this guy will be one day remembered for his action towards more transparency, and perhaps more democracy.

To stay in the mood of the year, I'm preparing an article about a few dystopian novels who tried to predict what would happen today and the comparison with our real present, and I think it's not very hard to guess who'll be the list.

Also, I was really annoyed that Google Reader was ended. I couldn't import my feeds in time while traveling. Humph!

Apparently, a cat delivers yet another secret formula of success.

Let's end on a funnier tone.
Do you also feel like all blockbusters and movies follow the same story-line these days? Well yeah, and apparently it's all because of a book secret formula...