Ubuntu 9.10 “Karmic Koala” released yesterday

October 30, 2009

The latest release of Ubuntu (9.10, aka “Karmic Koala” came out yesterday, Thursday 29 October 2009. I’m a big Ubuntu fan, and although I haven’t tried Karmic yet, I can still predict it’s great, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who longs to be free of Microsoft shackles and is thinking of migrating to Linux. Take the plunge! You can find links to download Karmic here. I suggest that you get the .iso over bittorrent, to avoid the inevitable congestion at the Ubuntu servers (they’re always very busy just after a new release) – click here to find links to the torrents.

Once you’ve installed Karmic, there are a few more things you need to do if you want to play mp3s, movie DVDs etc. There’s an excellent guide on this kind of stuff here. It’s all pretty easy and guide describes it all very clearly.

Ubuntu is a great alternative to Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac OSX. You really ought to try it out; and the live CD image let’s you run it in RAM without needing to install to your hard drive, which means it’s easy to check it all out before installing. So go on! What have you got to lose*?

[*] Nothing.

Dept. Homeland Security blocking “illegal” websites?

October 19, 2009

Have you seen this craziness? For those who’ve never heard of DigZine: it’s a “hacker” zine similar to Phrack. This is what puzzles me. Phrack.org hasn’t been closed down. So why DigZine?

This ought to be a freedom of speech/free press issue. 2600 Hacker Quarterly has survived as long as it has largely because it’s a printed magazine – the printed press is afforded protection by the Constitution. But the US authorities are comfortable about persecuting webzines. It’s clear to me that this is wrong. There’s no real difference between a regular, printed-on-paper magazine and a webzine. So they should both be protected from over-zealous cops. Unfortunately, that isn’t how the world works. And if a website is on servers located in the USA, that website has virtually no protection from the evil morons in power.

Incidentally, if you scroll down to the bottom of that web page, you’ll see your ip address and some rubbish about how the Dept Homeland Security will log your ip and investigate you. Then, at the end it says:

Be aware that disguising or concealing IP information shall be considered a criminal violation of section 814 of the USA PATRIOT Act. Should you suspect that your IP address and host have been improperly recorded, contact a DHS representative immediately.

This is a blatant violation of the right to privacy. Using an anonymous proxy or some other anonymiser to protect your privacy is illegal? The US government has got right into the role of Big Brother. You don’t need a tin foil hat to realiize this.

But what tips this over into absurdity is the fact that any idiot with a web browser can view Digizine.com and its archive of seditious literature. All you need to do is go to the Wayback Machine. This is an archive of the internet: snapshots of what the internet used to look like. You go to the Wayback page and type in the URL of the site you’re interested in – say, Digizine.com – then click the button marked “Take Me Back!” This brings you to a list of dates when snapshots of the site in question were taken. In the case of Digizine.com, you can see that snapshots were taken most recently in 2007. So, you choose a date from the list and click it. In this case 8 Jan 2007. And this takes you to an archived copy of the website on that date.

So, we can visit this evil site despite the DHS’s best efforts to censor it. We can view the archive of the DigiZine e-zine and read all that treacherous content that the US govt wants to protect us from! (There’s a link to the magazine archive here.)

But if you take the time to view the e-zine, you’re gonna wonder why in hell the DHS wants to block this site! The last issue was released in 2006. And the content is, on the whole, a lot tamer than what you can find elsewhere. This censorship makes no sense. Then again, when do any of the DHS’s actions make any sense?

Thing is, the content of Digizine.com is irrelevant. The point is, just about any website that the DHS want to “protect” us from can be accessed via the Wayback Machine. The US govt wants to keep us ignorant? No sweat, information always finds a way out of bondage. The internet is based on the idea that information wants to be free. And archive.org is a shining example of that freedom!

Digizine.com censored by Dept Homeland Security

Digizine.com censored by Dept Homeland Security

Mobile Broadband on Linux

October 11, 2009

Note: There’s more info on this subject here. So take a look if this post doesn’t do it for you.

Be aware that all my experience of this subject is based on Ubuntu. If you use another Linux distro, YMMV. If you’re using Windows or OSX… you’ll probably be better off looking elsewhere.

Some time ago I bought a new phone – Sony Ericsson K800i. It’s a 3G phone, so I was pretty stoked: at last I’d be able to get a decent connection speed when linking my PC to the internet through this baby. And I was right: I get between 40 and 100 Kps (320-800 Kbps). Maybe those of you with wired broadband connections think this is dead slow. It probably is, to you. But to someone who’s previously had to depend on a sluggish GPRS connection, my new phone is like amphetamine on crack.

And it is so much easier to connect via this phone than it was through my previous handsets. All I need to do with my K800i is:

1. Press Menu > Settings > Connectivity > USB > USB Internet;

2. Select USB Internet On;

3. Connect phone to PC with USB datacable (the K800i also has bluetooth and infrared, but my computer is not equipped for such things);

4. Select Phone Mode;

and that’s it! The Ubuntu network manager detects the phone and automagically sets up the connection. Sweet or what! (Remember, this is with the Sony Ericsson K800i. Other phones will be different.

Unfortunately, it isn’t always like that. I don’t know if it’s just my phone or what, but connection is very unreliable. It cuts out erratically, and I haven’t found a fix yet. So on bad days I find I have to use wvdial to connect. I’ve described this in detail before – I’m not going to go into it again. Click here to go to the wvdial tutorial.

Thing is, mobile phone service providers have got something against their customers using their cellphones this way. It’s called “tethering”, and it is generally banned in the Terms and Conditions they make you agree to when you get your phone. And some providers actively block tethering. My provider obviously doesn’t block it. But that might change any day.

Why do they dislike tethering? Because they want you to buy a Mobile Broadband USB modem, and pay an inflated rate for mobile internet connection. Rip-off merchants!

Because I wanted another way to connect to the internet other than my phone, I bought one of these USB modems – a Vodafone K3565, aka the Huawei E160X. To connect via this device, Vodafone (UK) charge me £15 per GB of data transferred. This is shockingly expensive compared to what I pay for connection through my cellphone (£2.50 for 5 days’ “unlimited” browsing). But it is a better connection much of the time, when I get Vodafone’s HSDPA signal. Transfer speeds over HSDPA can get as highh as 160 Kps (1280 Kbps). But if I’m in an area with no HSDPA or 3G signal, I get snail’s rate GPRS. Which hurts when you’re paying the con men so much.

It’s also extremely easy to connect an Ubuntu PC to the internet via a Huawei dongle. Similar to the phone: plug it in, wait a short while, and the network manager detects the device and connects. The first time you connect the dongle to the computer, network manager throws up a mobile broadband wizard, which asks you a few questions about your service provider etc. And that’s it. Well, usually that’s it. Sometimes you have to manually edit the settings before it’ll work. But that will depend on whose service you’re using.

Also, I understand that although Huawei devices play nice with Ubuntu, some other manufacturers’ models don’t. If that’s the case for you, wvdial is probably the answer. Again, click here to find out how to use wvdial.

There’s another solution, if you’re having problems: an app called Vodafone Mobile Connect. Don’t let the word “Vodafone” in the name put you off – it actually works with devices on any provider’s networks. I used it for a while very successfully. I can’t give you any real advice about it, as it’s in constant “beta” development. But the only reason I stopped using it was the fact that Ubuntu’s network manager does the job just fine. It’s certainly worth checking out if you’re having problems. There are binaries available for many Linux distros.

Well, I think that’s about it. So, let me just wish you the best of luck in connecting to the internet with your device. And I’ll bid you farewell!

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