Linus Torvalds rages against Microsoft, with a side-order of splash damage

It’s no secret that I’m a Linux guy. I love open source software. I’m not the greatest coder in the world, but I get by. I’m not the greatest scripter in the world, but I get by. Computers are my bread and butter, and considering my livelihood and my freedom to choose what software to use is threatened by this, I’ll be damned if I stand idly by while Microsoft engages in their latest and possibly greatest power-play ever — controlling what operating systems are digitally signed and allowed to run on your computer in the UEFI boot standard they’ve created and are demanding hardware manufacturers support.

The move is ostensibly intended to prevent rootkits that aren’t signed by a signing authority from running on your computer, but its real effect is that every operating system that isn’t Microsoft-made will have to come grovelling before Microsoft to have their operating systems signed just so that your computer will run them. It is, in effect, leveraging a virtual monopoly into a true one — while their marketshare was slipping, suddenly if your computer will only run a Microsoft-approved OS, you’re at MS’ whims.

I’ve already butted up against this issue once, after buying my current laptop and failing miserably to install Ubuntu until I discovered that UEFI was the new spanner thrown into the works. I had to disable that — being told by my computer how vulnerable I was leaving myself to hackers, and being informed by various websites how fortunate I was that ASUS, my laptop’s manufacturer, deigned fit to ALLOW me to disable UEFI booting — before I could install the operating system of my choice.

Others may not be so lucky, it seems. So Red Hat has decided to try to have Microsoft sign their distribution of Linux. And Linus Torvalds, Linux’s creator and godfather, was hopping mad. On the Linux Kernel Mailing List, he scolded Michael Garrett of Red Hat:

On Thu, Feb 21, 2013 at 8:42 AM, Matthew Garrett wrote:
>
> There’s only one signing authority, and they only sign PE binaries.

Guys, this is not a dick-sucking contest.

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Linux+ Certified!

CompTIA Linux+ logo

Hooray! I passed my CompTIA Linux+ certification today. Sorry I’ve been neglecting you folks over the last little bit, but see, I’ve been studying from an old exam study guide from 2010, stolen from an acquaintance, and it’s basically eaten all my concentration since I hatched this hare-brained scheme of mine.

Last Wednesday, at about the same time as I got it in my head to finally rectify my Bachelor of Arts situation, I also bought exam vouchers for the two tests necessary to become Linux+ certified. I scheduled the tests for the soonest I could get them, then I cracked the books. And today, after melting my brainpan for a week, I am now finally a man of letters and papers and shit. I now, finally, have certifications and degrees and paperwork proving I know what I do. Well, some of it anyway. There isn’t a certification for knowing the location of every extra life in Super Mario Bros 1, sadly, or I’d be going for that next.

To celebrate my achievement, I drew a dancing turtle.

Sketch of dancing turtle - animated gif. Drawn with a Wacom tablet by a freshly-certified computer dork.

He has a top hat and a diamond tipped cane, because he gots just that much swag.

(There’s a story behind this turtle, though it’s short and kinda silly. You might hear it one day.)

Anonymous hacks USSC.gov over Aaron Swartz’s death

Don’t get me wrong — I don’t advocate black-hat actions pretty much ever, even simple defacement. But the government’s pursuit of Aaron Swartz is one of those undeniably disproportionate responses to an internet activist for the crime of downloading too many PDFs at the same time. WITH AUTHORIZATION, no less.

What happened here, Anonymous hacking the USSC website to express their outrage at that travesty of justice — I’m fairly sympathetic to that cause. While it had already raised a public outcry, it certainly didn’t get enough of an outcry for the severity of the injustice perpetrated.

The Anonymous video, with text-to-speech of the USSC hack:

The most fascinating part of this is the “warhead” they included in the hack — links to an AES256 encrypted set of files with the names of the Chief Justices of the US as the filename. The files are intended to be spliced together — and Anonymous gave the command to do it, but also included “delete everything on your hard drive” at the end of the command in case you’re one of those types to blindly copy/paste commands into your command line.

The “warhead” will be “set off” by Anonymous releasing the decryption key for the encrypted file. Speculation abounds at what is in them, but Anonymous’ hack says:

The contents are various and we won’t ruin the speculation by revealing them. Suffice it to say, everyone has secrets, and some things are not meant to be public. At a regular interval commencing today, we will choose one media outlet and supply them with heavily redacted partial contents of the file. Any media outlets wishing to be eligible for this program must include within their reporting a means of secure communications.

Of course they won’t want to ruin speculation. That’s how things like this go viral.

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Hawking and other scientists petition for Turing’s posthumous pardon

Stephen Hawking and a number of other notable scientists and humanitarians in the UK are petitioning David Cameron to pardon Alan Turing, one of computing’s forefathers, for the crime of being gay.

Now, several of the nation’s top scientists, including Stephen Hawking, and other leaders have penned a letter to the Telegraph, throwing their support behind the bill.

They write:

SIR – We write in support of a posthumous pardon for Alan Turing, one of the most brilliant mathematicians of the modern era. He lead the team of Enigma codebreakers at Bletchley Park, which most historians agree shortened the Second World War. Yet successive governments seem incapable of forgiving his conviction for the then crime of being a homosexual, which led to his suicide, aged 41.

We urge the Prime Minister formally to forgive this British hero, to whom we owe so much as a nation, and whose pioneering contribution to computer sciences remains relevant even today. To those who seek to block attempts to secure a pardon with the argument that this would set a precedent, we would answer that Turing’s achievements are sui generis. It is time his reputation was unblemished.

Lord Currie of Marylebone
Lord Grade of Yarmouth
Lord Faulkner or Worcester
Lord Rees of Ludlow

Astronomer Royal
Lord Sharkey
Lord Smith of Finsbury
Baroness Trumpington

Sir Timothy Gowers
Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics, Cambridge University
Dr Douglas Gurr
Chairman, Science Museum Group
Professor Stephen Hawking
Sir Paul Nurse
President, the Royal Society

I absolutely agree that Turing should be pardoned — with one reservation.
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Hackbright Academy trains women to be pro developers in ten weeks

This is, frankly, a shocking pace — taking you from complete newbie to a capable professional programmer in just ten weeks is nothing short of breakneck. And the best part about this initiative? It’s for women, to give them a place to learn without stereotype threat or brogrammer culture stifling them.

Amidst all the arguments about “brogrammer” culture and the presence of women in Silicon Valley, here’s a company that’s actively working to change things, albeit on a small scale (for now) — Hackbright Academy, which describes itself as “a 10 week training program designed to help women become awesome programmers.”

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Using Netflix on Linux through WINE

Apparently some Linux devs managed to get Silverlight working under WINE, then went on to make a dead-simple install that configures a separate Firefox install to run the app. It’s very slightly lower framerate than running it natively under Windows, but if it weren’t for that damned Silverlight dependency (for the DRM, naturally), we’d have had Netflix working on Linux a long time ago.

The commands, via Nixie Pixel:

To install on Ubuntu / Mint –
Start terminal

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:ehoover/compholio
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install netflix-desktop

——

For Fedora (only 32 bit systems)
You need wget first:

su -c ‘yum -y install wget’

Installing Netflix:

wget -c http://sourceforge.net/projects/postinstaller/files/data/Netflixplayer.tar.gz

tar -xvzf Netflixplayer.tar.gz

su -c ‘sh Netflixplayer.sh’

Running Netflix from cmd line:

sh /usr/bin/Netflix.sh

Ohio’s election results will be suspect, thanks to an untested last-second voting machine patch — UPDATED, TABULATION MACHINES ARE APPARENTLY ISOLATED

UPDATE:
Evidently, there are some fundamental errors made by the original reporter that change the timbre of this story altogether. This report has Joseph Lorenzo Hall of the Centre for Democracy and Technology in DC, asserting very strongly that the tabulation machines are “air-gapped” — the tabulation results from the original voting system are in actuality walked over manually (via a data export to, say, a thumb drive or flash card) to the tabulation machines. Apparently, no code run on those machines can access the primary system because they’re isolated. So what the code has write access to, then, is apparently the export of the database, not the originals in any way.

It still means that processes should be followed to ensure the integrity of the data, to ensure that the exported data matches the CSV conversion. But I suspect these folks are more “with it” than I’d originally thought.

See below the fold for my original story.

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Hard drive recovery 301

Let’s say you have a hard drive whose media is failing but whose controller card is still functional. Let’s further say you have a desire to pull a partition off that drive and see what’s still salvageable. And let’s further say you have a computer you’re okay with leaving on for a month or so to do it. All of these things were true about a hard drive that Glendon Mellow, The Flying Trilobite, sent along to me to try to recover — there were some family photos and tax returns that he hadn’t had backed up anyplace when the drive started failing. Being the samaritan that I am, I took the project on as a way to hone my own skills. I also had a feeling I could write a blog post afterward so others might benefit.

This isn’t a 101 level course. Hell, it’s not even a 201, as it assumes you know enough to use Linux’s terminal (no GUIs in this post!), and how to connect your hard drive through a USB adapter or directly. It also assumes the hard drive is in a specific state that it might still be readable even if Windows itself can’t get at the data. This last one is a fairly big assumption, and I trust you’re going to be able to identify when that’s the case.
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Another girl that committed suicide is posthumously bullied for teh lulz

Another fifteen year old girl named Amanda — this time not Todd, but Cummings — killed herself after bullying, depression and a bad break-up. And people claiming to be from 4chan and 9gag (the most odious among 4chan’s numbers often use them as a scapegoat) are, again, swarming to make her family’s life post-suicide miserable, according to Jezebel.

According to the Staten Island Advance, Amanda was bullied in life as well as in death. Her parents say that her classmates and peers taunted her, and that she’d recently broken up with her boyfriend before she stepped in the path of a city bus. She spent 6 days after that in a hospital before succumbing to her injuries.

From every possible angle you look at it, that story is a rainbow of awful— for the girl who felt driven to suicide, for her family and loved ones, and for a community in general. Hell, I’m sure the driver of the bus feels like shit as well. For 4chan, though, this was the perfect opportunity to unite around the common cause of digitally harassing Amanda’s surviving family.

I don’t even understand how this is funny. Sure, maybe losing yourself into a mob mentality is fun — I don’t know, I’ve never tried it, though I’ve certainly seen a lot of self-righteousness amongst the folks who witch-hunt and swarm FtBloggers just for being FtBloggers, never mind for actually holding people to account for their actions. But how much reprogramming do you have to endure before you consider it fun, noble, laudable, and hilarious, to hurt someone’s family? How much reprogramming before empathy for grieving relatives is completely subsumed by the pursuit for your personal lulz? Why can’t you do something productive, like making fun of the real monsters who gain political power to ruin your lives, or people who bully children until they kill themselves?

I know some among you within the loose-knit group Anonymous have done exactly this, attacking oppressive political regimes, hunting down people who abuse small animals, even trying to find Amanda Todd’s bullies and “dox” them. So I know you’re not a uniform collective of shitheels. But it boggles me that there are so many shitheels among you. How — and WHY — did intentionally breaking your sense of empathy, the only thing that makes us truly human, become so commonplace? And why is it so uniformly young kids with every privilege for whom this intentional empathy-dectomy is such sport?