Darknet part 2: the Silk Road


Alex Winter, director of “The Deep Web”, with co-star from the Bill & Ted movies Keanu Reeves

Welcome to part 2 of my mini-series of content related to the Darknet.  This time I want to share with you the documentary film “The Deep Web” directed by Alex Winter.  Its subject is the Silk Road and it poses some important questions about who did what and why.  It’s an interesting and entertaining film.  It questions some of the so-called “facts” we have taken for granted about the hidden marketplace.  And we wonder: who really was “Dread Pirate Roberts”, the shadowy “leader” of the Silk Road?

Coming soon: Darknet users who were caught, and what they did wrong


Darknet Part 1: What is the darknet and why should I care?



Welcome to Part 1 of my guide to the Darknet.  Well, I say “mine” but it’s actually by many people.  And, just so you all know I’m not trying to pass off this guide as my own words, I’m going to show the words actually coming out of their true creators’ mouths, thanks to the miracle of video streaming over the internet! Thanks be to Youtube,eh!!

Okay, part 1 of this series is a primer on the Deep Web and the Darknet.  It’s a TEDx talk by Alex Winter (of Bill & Ted fame), entitled “The Darknet isn’t what you think”.  There are some misconception about what illegal services were available through the Silk Road website.  For instance child pornography was banned.  Stolen goods weren’t allowed.  Ads for contract killers weren’t allowed.

Anyway, check out the vid.  Enjoy!

Next time: A film about the rise and fall of the Silk Road


How to get a bash shell on Windows 7 & 8


Windows 10 has a built-in bash shell. I use Windows 7 and 8.1 so I was dead jealous. But I’m also an inveterate  googler, so I googled “bash windows” and found two different ways to run a bash shell on the versions of  Windows that I use: git-bash and MSYS2.

Git-bash is part of Git for Windows (“We bring the awesome Git SCM to  Windows”); MSYS2 is “a software distro and building platform for Windows” based  on Cygwin but because it is just providing a CLI (no X-server, no GUI) it is fast enough and not so buggy. Both use the MinGW  terminal, and both provide a pretty full bash environment. They were made so developers can work on Windows apps but retain the *nix-like environment.


git-bash MINGW64 terminal

MSYS2 uses the pacman package manager, and has software repos so users can install extra packages (eg  openssh). Git-bash doesn’t provide extra installation as such: but as it runs Windows .exe apps, it is  possible to install .exes and, by placing them strategically you can run them in the terminal window – I  have so far been able to install nmap and wget to run on the command line. To get wget on git-bash, I  downloaded the standalone wget executable and placed it on the $PATH. To get nmap to work, I edited $PATH  so it included /c/Program Files (x86)/Nmap.


The MSYS2 terminal

I haven’t decided which one I prefer – I’m currently running them side-by-side. One bugbear with git-bash  is that to run python the user has to prefix it with “winpty”. Winpty is “a Windows software package providing an interface similar to a  Unix pty-Master for communicating with Windows console programs”. Interestingly it is described as a tool  for Cygwin and MSYS2, but it is not needed for MSYS2 to run python; just git-bash (well, for python anyway – maybe I just haven’t yet come across a need for it in MSYS2).

Has anyone else here tried these? Any other ways to run a *nix shell on Windows?  Let us know what you think!


Less than a day to save the internet


On 20 June 2018, less than 24 hours from now, the European Parliament votes on whether to adopt the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market – a $60 million filter to automate takedown of copyrighted material from Youtube.  This is a compromise measure that no one really wants:

Big rightsholders say that it still lets crucial materials slip through the cracks. Indie rightsholders say that it lets big corporations falsely claim copyright over their works and take them down. Google hates Content ID because they spent $60,000,000 developing a system that makes everyone miserable, and YouTubers and their viewers hate it because it overblocks so much legit content.

But all of this has escaped the EU’s notice. Under Article 13 (which will be voted up or down in a key committee on June 20), every EU platform will be obliged to filter everything users post — not just videos, but stills, audio, code, games, text, everything.

No filter exists that can even approximate this, and the closest equivalents are mostly run by American companies, meaning that US Big Tech is going to get to spy on everything Europeans post and decide what gets censored and what doesn’t.

But we can stop it, by contacting the members of the committee and telling them what a mistake it would be to vote for the Directive.  You can tweet and email the committee members using this online tool.

So if you want to automate internet censorship and destroy the creative media, do nothing.  But if you’re not a colossal idiot, contact the MEPs and tell them to vote against Article 13.


Learn more about Article 13

Contact the MEPs


Thanks for all the goati!


Goati makes me smile.  It is, says Wikipedia,  “a creative respelling of the word fish, used to illustrate irregularities in English pronunciation and spelling.”  It is often attributed to George Bernard Shaw, a supporter of the cause for English spelling reform, but does not appear in any of his known writing.  It is pronounced like so:

gh as in enough or rough,
o as in women,
ti as in nation or motion
So, is pronounced fish.

But there’s another work that plays with English’s eccentric pronunciation and spelling – a poem titled “The Chaos”, by Dutch writer, traveller and teacher Gerard Nolst Trenité.

Dearest creature in Creation,
Studying English pronunciation,
⁠I will teach you in my verse
⁠Sounds like corpsecorpshorse and worse.
It will keep you, Susybusy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy;
Tear in eye your dress you’ll tear.
⁠So shall I! Oh, hear my prayer,
Pray, console your loving poet,
Make my coat look new, dear, sew it?
⁠Just compare heartbeard and heard,
Dies and dietlord and word,
Sword and swardretain and Britain,
(Mind the latter, how it’s written!)
Made has not the sound of bade,
⁠Say—said, pay—paidlaid, but plaid.
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as vague and ague,
⁠But be careful how you speak,
⁠Say breaksteak, but bleak and streak,
Pipesniperecipe and choir,
Clovenovenhow and low;
Hear me say, devoid of trickery:
Daughterlaughter and Terpsichore,
Scholarvicar and cigar,
Solarmicawar and far.
From “desire”: desirableadmirable from “admire”;
Lumberplumberbier but brier;
Chathambroughamrenown but known,
Knowledgedone, but gone and tone,
GertrudeGermanwind and mind;
⁠This phonetic labyrinth
⁠Gives mossgrossbrookbroochninthplinth.
Billet does not end like ballet;
Blood and flood are not like food,
⁠Nor is mould like should and would.
Banquet is not nearly parquet,
Which is said to rime with “darky”.
Viscousviscountload and broad;
Toward, to forward, to reward,
And your pronunciation’s O.K.
When you say correctly croquet;
Roundedwoundedgrieve and sieve;
Friend and fiendalive and live;
Libertylibraryheave and heaven;
⁠We say hallowed, but allowed;
Peopleleopardtowed, but vowed
Mark the difference, moreover,
Between moverploverDover,
Chalice but police and lice.
Petalpenal and canal;
Rime with “shirk it” and “beyond it”,
⁠But it is not hard to tell,
⁠Why it’s pallmall, but Pall Mall.
Worm and stormchaisechaoschair;
And enamour rime with “hammer.”
Pussyhussy and possess.
Desert, but dessertaddress.
Hoist, in lieu of flags, left pennants.
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rime with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Soul, but foul and gaunt, but aunt;
Shoesgoesdoes.[1]) Now first say: finger,
And then: singergingerlinger.
Realzealmauvegauze and gauge;
Query does not rime with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dostlostpost and dothclothloth;
Though the difference seems little,
We say actual, but victual,
Putnutgranite, but unite.
Reefer does not rime with “deafer,”
Feoffer does, and zephyrheifer.
Hintpintsenate, but sedate;
Tour, but our, and succourfour;
Gasalas and Arkansas!
PsalmMaria, but malaria;
Youthsouthsoutherncleanse and clean;
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion with battalion,
Sally with allyyeaye,
Say aver, but everfever,
⁠Never guess—it is not safe;
⁠We say calvesvalveshalf, but Ralf!
Crevice, and device, and eyrie;
Face but preface, but efface,
Large, but targetgingiveverging;
Oughtoutjoust and scour, but scourging;
Ear, but earn; and wear and tear
⁠Do not rime with “here”, but “ere”.
Seven is right, but so is even;
Monkeydonkeyclerk and jerk;
Aspgraspwasp; and cork and work.
Pronunciation—think of psyche!—
Is a paling, stout and spikey;
⁠Won’t it make you lose your wits,
⁠Writing “groats” and saying groats?
It’s a dark abyss or tunnel,
Strewn with stones, like rowlockgunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewifeverdict and indict!
Don’t you think so, reader, rather,
Saying latherbatherfather?
⁠Finally: which rimes with “enough,”
Thoughthroughploughcoughhough, or tough?
Hiccough has the sound of “cup”……
My advice is—give it up!

So… English.  I don’t know if it has the desired effect of helping students to learn English pronunciation/spelling (or even if that is a true reason for its existence) but it certainly helps me to smile.

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McCormack Tesla bursts into flames on Twitter


Actor Mary McCormack posted this video footage on Twitter of her husband’s Tesla electric car bursting into flames.  Flames shot out from underneath the vehicle as it sat in traffic on the streets of West Hollywood.  Mary McCormack tweeted that the fire was not as a result of an accident, which suggests to me that this “just happened.”  I’m wondering if this means it is a “feature” of Teslas rather than a bug?

Actually, to be fair to Tesla, McCormack did say that the incident “came out of the blue”, which does rather suggest that the incident is something of a one-off.  However, when you take into consideration the rather deadly nature of Tesla-related incidents lately, one really does need to wonder if it is the most sensible electric car make to buy at the moment.  Tesla called the incident “an extraordinarily unusual occurrence” and said it was investigating.

In no way do I mean to suggest that Tesla electric cars are more dangerous than their competitors.  As far as I know, all electric cars are death-traps!  Or perhaps none of them are – other than the ones I’ve reported on recently, of course!!  😉


Apple closes security loophole in iPhones and other iOS devices


Today Apple is closing a security loophole in iPhones and other iOS devices that enabled law enforcement to hack into criminals’ devices, inculding one of the San Bernadino killers.

They have introduced “Restricted USB Mode”, which will stop hackers from extracting data through an iPhone’s lightning port an hour after being locked.  It is believed that this is how the FBI were able to read data from the iPhone belonging to a gunman involved in the shootings in San Bernadino.

Apple says this is part of their usual security reviews, and is not aimed at thwarting law enforcement but is to protect users from criminals.


The GreyKey device that hacks into locked iPhones via its Lightning port

This will protect iPhones from the iPhone hacking tool GreyKey.

The new default settings will have a feature Apple call a “USB restricted mode” which has been present in developer betas for both iOS 12 and iOS 11.4.1. With this feature, all communication through a Lightning port to USB connection will be blocked on unlocked and dormant devices.

US law enforcement uses a tool called a GrayKey, which is a small box with two Lightning cables that can unlock password encryptions on iPhones and extract data from  iPhones.  The Restricted USB Mode will cut off the GreyKey’s access.


The GreyKey device reveals a locked iPhone’s passcode in as little as 30 seconds

Of course the cops believe this is aimed firmly at law enforcement, and will result in criminals and terrorists getting away with serious crimes.

“I think that privacy protections are on a collision course with responsible law enforcement actions to conduct legitimate investigations,” said Ronald Hosko, a former assistant director of the FBI who is now president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund, which raises money to defend officers accused of misconduct. “Terrorists or other criminal organizations will do something that’s heinous, in a way that is blocked from lawful law enforcement view. They will to some extent get away with it. We will lose lives, we will lose infrastructure in a big way, and then we will be having a different conversation.”


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