In my previous entry, I expressed some difficulties I was having with the Microsoft ecosystem. Since then, a lot has changed. In case you've been living under a rock or are a time traveller, there is strong evidence from multiple sources that the NSA has backdoors or compromises into most commercial software and Internet security products. Man-In-The-Middle attacks are being run against major Internet services. And in relevance to my previous entry, there's strong evidence that Microsoft actively helps the US government with early disclosure of security flaws, encryption backdoors, and quite possibly a backdoor into Windows itself.
A lot of this isn't terribly new information. The NSAKEY variable was discovered in 1999, after all. Previously, however, all we had were rumors, suspicions and conspiracy theories. Now we have confirmation and as close to hard proof as we're likely to get in the near future.
So, I did some thinking and some staring at the vast horde of technology laying around my apartment. (I'm more than a little bit of a hoarder when it comes to kit. I rarely throw kit away because I almost always find a use for it eventually.)
The end result is that I've decomm'd the Surface and taken it to work for work-related Windows stuff. No personal data goes there. I've ripped Win8 off my Dell XPS 12 and reimaged it with Ubuntu 13, with a LUKS encrypted drive and ecryptfs encrypted home tree. (I'll have a post about this soon. Getting Linux onto the XPS 12 has some tricks I've not found documented elsewhere.)
On the data side, I've taken everything down from cloud providers, moved to git-annex and a hosted bare-metal server in Europe. None of my data remains in the cloud and there now exists no unencrypted copy of my data.
I've always had a personal VPN hosted in Europe but I'm using it a lot more these days.
My phone is now an HTC One running Cyanogenmod. It does not sync data to the cloud and I sync data to/from it using USB.
My email is still currently in the hands of a US provider but that's mainly because setting up SMTP and IMAP is a pain in the ass. It's pretty much last on my list to self-host. I have, however, switched back to mutt+gpg.
At home, I've replaced my commercial firewall kit with a handrolled Linux based firewall/server. DNS is routed out via Europe given Verizon's cooperation with the NSA on so-called "metadata" surveillance. I'm also heavily using TOR, particularly when not at home.
I don't need a comments section to hear you ask "What the shit do you have that's interesting enough to warrant all this?"
As Aaron Schwartz and others have discovered, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is old and vague enough that us geeks probably commit multiple felonies a day and don't even know it. Ever keep a copy of a former employer's code after you left? BAM! Ever give your HBO GO password to a relative? BAM! Ever evade an IRC channel ban by changing your IP? BAM! A single indictment would not only likely ruin my career but it would give the government complete access to my data and gear.
I'm not particularly worried about being a target though and I'm not worried that men in black are going to bust down my door. But it's the principle of the matter. I don't want random people, government or no, to have access to my data and systems without my express permission for each use. And if The Man does decide that I'm interesting, they'll have a high barrier of entry to my life. (Yes, I am ignoring Rubber Hose decryption.)
It's also a matter of hygiene. You bathe, brush your teeth, wash your hair not as a response to a specific problem or incident. You do these things to prevent specific problems or incidents. You lock the doors of your house not because you see thieves waiting outside but because there might be.
I'm locking the doors of my data and software not because the men in black are lurking outside my door. I'm locking the doors of my data and software because I know they are lurking in my ISP, in US cloud services. I know they are dumping my data for offline processing by supercomputers. I know that some Booz-Allen contractor is running queries against databases containing my Google search history.
I know they are watching and I choose to at least make their lives more difficult.
In my previous entry, I ranted a bit about Windows 8. Since then, I've been using a Surface Pro, obtained the weekend they came out. Combined with my Nokia 920 phone, I've been rocking Windows 8 in some flavor for seven or eight months.
I generally, as noted previously, really enjoy the experience.
Ignoring the sparse app ecosystem, I adore my 920 and the consistency of Windows Phone 8. It's lacking in some important ways, like VPN support and a sane notification system, but a lot of that is slated to get fixed in the next rev.
I'm also a heavy Xbox 360 user. The implementation of tiles on the recent builds is an atrocity but the game library is sizable and the controls are excellent. And let's face it; when done right, the kinect voice commands are spiffy.
But there's a problem which I can sum up in one word: Ads.
I fucking hate ads. I don't watch TV channels with ads. I'd rather spend the extra money to buy the ad-free versions from Amazon. I pay for Spotify, Pandora, and di.fm to get rid of ads.
When I pay for something, particularly something physical, I expect it to come ad-free. The Surface Pro runs $1k-ish. The new Xbox will run over $600. This is not some heavily discounted product line.
Yet, I'm seeing articles like these:
- Bing-powered Windows 8.1 heralds a better, smarter Microsoft
- Microsoft To Add Bing Ads To Windodws 8.1 Search
- Microsoft: Xbox One advertising will integrate with Kinect
So the plan is for me to spend a significant amount of money to get a device that is still swarming with ads? For already expensive devices like my existing Surface Pro to become filled with ads that I can't turn off? For the Xbox, which I already pay a monthly fee to fully use, to mostly be an ad generation device?
This leaves me in a quandry. I've built a significant and shiny work environment out of the Surface. It's quite literally the center of my digital universe.
Most of my personal stuff could be moved back to Linux without a big fuss. My development work is already based on a VPS, for personal stuff, and a standalone Linux box, for day-job stuff, all tied together by OpenVPN.
My work environment, however, can't be moved to Linux. Office isn't a big problem thanks to their web apps but our conferencing software and other infrastructure bits are Windows-only. They also don't run well under virtualization.
So I can't just dump Ubuntu on the Surface and move on with life. Dual-booting is an option. I've been pondering a usb flash drive based solution where the whole Linux setup would live on a bootable stick, leaving the Windows partitions alone.
Being on vacation this week, I picked up a Samsung Chromebook and have built it into a network-required dumb terminal. This will be the subject of another post but I've got it configured to be on my personal vpn and derive most of its services from there. I'm thinking maybe of moving to a 2 machine system where the Surface is work and Windows-only grit-my-teeth-at-all-the-ads stuff while the Chromebook is everything else.
So, I don't know. I really like my Windows 8 centric environment but I just can't tolerate constant ads. I suppose whatever I figure out will show up in future posts.
Also, do I bail out on the Xbox and plan to be PS4-only?
[ I told you future posts would bear things out. Didn't have to wait long, didya? ]
I'm a console kid. My perfect dev environment is tmux on a linux framebuffer tty. (These days, it's E16 or wmii since I have to have a goddamn web browser open to do web development.)
I do stop hacking code from time to time. While a lot of my extra-coding activities can be done in a Chrome instance, Linux still lacks in a lot of areas as a casual desktop environment. Most geeks seem to turn to OS X. "It's a GUI built on top of Unix!" Yeah, one of the shittiest 'unix' environments on earth. Call me back when library randomization is done at run-time and not install-time.
Then there's Windows.
Windows XP, Windows ME, Windows Vista, all garbage. Windows 7 gained stability but that UI is still death.
Windows 8 though… I know the post title covered this already but let's deal with it again. I, sungo, really like Windows 8, especially the UI-formerly-known-as-Metro. You, the hater, can fuck off and die.
One of the biggest complaints about Windows 8 is "it's different". Yup. It totally destroyed the desktop metaphor you're brainwashed to love. (Win8 obviously has a desktop mode but that's not what smashes you in the face when you login.) I'm a Linux lover, a command line person. I rejected your idea of a "desktop" a very long time ago.
Let's face it folks. Most of you love your desktop because you haven't learned that there's another directory on your hard drive. (This goes for you Mac people too.) How many icons are on your desktop? If it's more than, say, 5 non-temporary icons, you're using your computer wrong.
What if, instead of a sea of overlapping word document icons, your main screen displayed information about your social networks, calendar, email, flight status, your weight loss goals? What if your system was immediately useful from the moment the screen powered on? That's Windows 8. I think of my Win8 desktop as a status dashboard for my life.
So, while you'll still see me with my Funtoo-based Sony VAIO Z laptop, you'll just as often see me with a Dell XPS 12 running Win8. Oh yeah, and a Nokia 920 running Windows Phone 8.
So, here we are again. It's been a few years. I've been babbling on Twitter but I've not spewed longform into the ether in a long time. I don't know that I'll have much meaningful to say but I'll give it a shot again.
Physically, I'm living at the western edge of The Sprawl, in Herndon VA. Suburban hellhole. When folks talk about the horrors of suburban life, they're talking about Northern Virginia. American Beauty blown up to county size with over a million people crammed into it. But, I have essentially no commute as I live a few miles from the office. I can spend that time overworking instead.
All in all, life's pretty good these days. Don't worry, though. I'm still angry, profanity spewing and bald. I'm sure future posts will bear that out.
So, we've been in Afghanistan for, what, like 100 years now looking for Al Qaeda. It's not working so well, it seems. So I got to thinking.
It seems to me now that we could do what you do when a kid goes missing in the woods. Everyone stands arm width apart and walks. If you find something you yell out. In this case, if you find Al Qaeda, you shoot it.
If my math's right… you put soldiers at 5 feet apart. Quadruple the number of troops in Afghanistan to 400,000. That gets you a line of soldiers about 378 miles long. Afghanistan is roughly 350 miles by 770 miles. Normal foot speed on unbroken ground is 4 miles an hour. Let's figure 2 miles an hour for a bad ass American soldier in Afghanistan. That means, it should take about 16 solid days to walk across the country. Figure a month, what with the sleeping and eating and what not.
If sungo is president, we can search Afghanistan and find anything you want in a month.
So what's taking so long?