edward snowden

When NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden first emailed Glenn Greenwald, he insisted on using email encryption software called PGP for all communications. But this month, we learned that Snowden used another technology to keep his communications out of the NSA’s prying eyes. It’s called Tails. And naturally, nobody knows exactly who created it.

Tails is a kind of computer-in-a-box. You install it on a DVD or USB drive, boot up the computer from the drive and, voila, you’re pretty close to anonymous on the internet. At its heart, Tails is a version of the Linux operating system optimized for anonymity. It comes with several privacy and encryption tools, most notably Tor, an application that anonymizes a user’s internet traffic by routing it through a network of computers run by volunteers around the world.

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Together with John Steele, Paul Hansmeier and Paul Duffy, attorneys at Prenda Law (formerly known, among other things, as Steele Hansmeier, PLLC), he made life fairly miserable for thousands of potential defendants. Prenda sought out web users that allegedly downloaded porn illegally. The firm then filed copyright infringement lawsuits against the users, threatening a lawsuit that would rat the users out for downloading porn and also subject them to a substantial statutory penalty for copyright infringement. Prenda promised that it could make all of that go away for a few thousand dollars (you can read more about the scheme here). Reportedly, the firm raked in millions as a result.

Gibbs wasn’t actually a member of the firm; he was “Of Counsel” – first to Steele & Hansmeier and then to Prenda. “Of Counsel” is sort of the equivalent of an independent contractor in the legal field: you have an affiliation but you’re not a bona fide employee of the firm.

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For many years, I've worked as a technical editor and writer. As a result, I've had the privilege of proofreading the work of some truly brilliant, highly educated people. I've also had to write highly technical material that was then reviewed by experts. The review process is usually cordial and intellectually stimulating. Educated people are generally grateful when you fix their typos and their dangling participles.

They tend to be tough but fair when criticizing your writing. They generally stick to a rational discussion of facts. So I was unprepared for the kind of comments I got from the general public after I started blogging. Occasionally, someone would say something like, "Wow, that's interesting." But most of the comments are nothing more than poison pen letters: abusive nonsense intended to serve no other purpose than to provoke an emotional response. In short, I often get attacked by Internet trolls.

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Every now and then I have an application that is subject to a secrecy order by the government that restricts disclosure of the invention and prevents the publishing or granting of a patent. I noticed that a current application being held up really doesn’t seem to contain sensitive information but the application may have triggered the order itself by making a reference in the description that one of its many uses could be by the military. It would be analogous to an invention for an improved water bottle that you might describe as being beneficial to the military (a group that often needs bottled water in far away places) but that really is ordinary, everyday technology.

If you don’t know, the Invention Secrecy Act of 1951 requires the government to impose secrecy orders on certain patent applications that contain sensitive information, thereby restricting disclosure of the invention and withholding the grant of a patent. This requirement can be imposed even when the application is wholly created and owned by a private individual or company without government sponsorship or support.

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phishing scams

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that as many as 9.9 million Americans become victims of identity theft each year. These crimes involve personally identifying information (PII):

  • Name and address
  • Social Security number
  • Credit card numbers
  • Email or other passwords

Many people associate such crimes with online scams like phishing emails. However, most identities are stolen using low-tech methods. There are many ways thieves obtain your personal information:

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These days, Debian seems to be enjoying a modest comeback among experienced users. Hardly a week goes by when I don't hear on social networking sites of two or three people giving Debian another look.

This renewed interest may reflect a growing disillusionment with Ubuntu, the Debian derivative that has partly replaced Debian in popularity among Linux users. Almost certainly, it reflects a growing willingness to experiment with distros after the last two years of user revolts against GNOME 3 and Ubuntu's Unity. As one of the oldest distributions—and one specifically focused on user choice—Debian looks reliable in the middle of such uncertainty.

Still, many users hesitate to switch to Debian. The distribution is surrounded by myths, many of them adding to an impression that it is an expert's choice and almost as difficult to use as Gentoo or Linux from Scratch.


programming language

The plumber comes to your home and asks: “What tool do you want me to use?”.

What will be your reply? “I don’t care! Fix the damn problem”.

That’s right. Everybody wants to get their work done, and get their problems fixed. They don’t care what tools you use. As a developer your job is to solve problems your costumers have in the most effective manner. This in turn means that you cannot use the same tool for every type of problem. Can you use an electric driller to fix a small leak in the pipes? No. You may want to use the duct tape for that.

Which language should I learn is a wrong question to begin with. Languages are tools in the bag of a software engineer. Before deciding upon the programing languages you want to learn, you should decide what type of problems you would like to work on. Would you like to work on web technologies? Would you like to work in the Linux ecosystem? Would you like to work in the mobile platforms? There are a million different niches in programming world and you have to ask yourself all those rhetorical questions that comes to your mind and then decide which language suites your choice.

This does not matter that the tools are not important. They are; but they are not more important than the problem at hand.

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