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Strengthening your passwords

Password security is more important than ever before. Yet, remembering complicated passwords is a hassle. I found this neat application: Password Tipper. It converts a simple string (or a phrase you can remember) using the MD5 or SHA-1 encryption. It then substr the result to show 6-12 character variants.
Here is what it results it. I tested it in conjunction with password meter to see the improvement in the password security.
Now, let's consider a typical password people use:
john567, this password results in a 37% score. It is 7 characters long and includes letters and numbers, thus it satisfies most website password requirements.
Here is john567 put through password tipper:
26fc0aa  results in a 42% score with a 7 character long version, the same score comes up for the 6 character version as well. That's not much of an improvement.

Let's try something even simpler.
Let's try the word "hello9".
hello9 gets a 20% rating. Again, it satisfies all requirements. 6 characters long, letters and numbers. "hello9" will result in 1c52d3 which gets a 50% rating. 
How about "fuckyou1", another common one, gets a 25% rating. it is 8 characters long, letters and numbers, satisfies all requirements. Through the SHA1 hash on Password Tipper, it becomes 42849ade, which results in a 57% score.

As you can see, sometimes, it's a hit and miss, and sometimes it works perfectly. And if you need to create several passwords, it's easier to remember your name, your favorite food etc. and then put it through password tipper rather than use some kind of crazy method of adding numbers everywhere. :) TRY IT!
It's available for Android as well, meaning that you can take it on the go.

The "SIDE" potential of objects

Lately, I've been sitting behind my computer, keeping my phone plugged in. Restarting, rebooting every five seconds to keep everything up to date. I've found myself keeping the terminal pinned to my task bar.
After days of messing with everything I possibly could, I came to the conclusion that not only is it fun, but it contributes to the value of technology. We take everything as it is, most of us do anyways, and we don't consider the SIDE potential of many devices, literature, furniture, and basically everything else in our society. We look straight at a table and we say "that's a dining table, it's used for dining", not "that's a table, I can use it for dining, as a workspace area, the beginning of a strange looking book shelf".

Potential Example
The things we buy today have SO much potential but it's rarely ever used. I've seen people buy expensive phones (my current obsession), ones with the potential to get your computer online while traveling, control your computer from anywhere, use it as a media device for music, movies, anything else. These devices can view powerpoint slideshows, read RSS feeds, run VNC, stream videos from computers, run flash, and everything flash related online, and tons of other things. Yet, that is the potential.

The reality is that people use these powerful devices with up to 512mb of RAM, a 1gHz strong processor, running linux (Android), for simply taking phone calls, sending text messages, and getting a pretty background. Now, there is nothing wrong with that (though, you don't need a $600 device for that) but it's quite interesting what happens when these functions I listed above become "one-click" options and popularized by the media. All of a sudden, everyone is taken aback by the usefulness and the "newness" of the device.

What happened in the past
A few years ago (about five), I bought a PDA, Dell Axim x30. I used to have an X5 before that and Palm Zire 31 even earlier. These three devices were on the low end but amazingly, to some they seemed "futuristic". This was before the iTouch came out and during the era of the early iPods. What's amazing is that I used the Axim x30 as a GPS navigator, one superior to the ones on the market that cost hundreds of dollars. Here are a few functions:
  • GPS with a bluetooth GPS accessory
  • Bluetooth connection to the computer and other devices
  • Remote control your computer with bluetooth (turn on music, touchpad, computer explorer, etc.)
  • get on the internet using Wifi
  • Play music
  • Play movies
  • keep an address book
  • send e-mails when connected to the internet
  • read books, comics, and anything else
  • RSS readers
  • Touch screen
  • Messengers
  • A plethora of applications
And much more. Many of these functions are what people went crazy for in the iTouch : Wifi, Music, Touch Screen, Movies, Applications, Messengers, Internet. Same stuff, except that it cost me $100, it could get a GPS accessory, battery lasted longer, and most applications were free. The device was roughly the same size. The only shortcomings at the time were the display screen, and that it was not multi touch. However, several hundred dollars do not justify for those two features.
The devices were mainly ignored. And this is what i'm talking about. The device was not popularized yet it featured such power years before iTouch came out, at roughly the same cost (in 2001).

I could cite the same examples when it comes to the iPad, to application stores (Palm had one before Apple), etc.

Here's the deal
I may have strayed off the topic a bit because there was no "side potential" to Axim x30, it had the same usefulness of new devices that people were astonished to see (and amazed by their power, their looks, and their functionality) but x30 had it years before. 
There are tons more things like that in the world. New tech that people don't bother with but are surprised when it goes mainstream (touch screen phone? NO WAY (yeah, way, it's old news)). 
With my phone and the tinkering, I've been able to get features on it available only in the newer releases of the firmware. People were once again completely surprised to see Wifi tethering (which had been available for rooted phones for a while).


Now, I'm not saying that it's wrong in any way to view the world this way but it's simply astonishing to me, the tinkerer.  

Wikileaks, government, and transparency

 Over the past few years, I have noticed a certain "shift" in people and they way people see the world. One thing that struck me as very transformative was the WikiLeaks scandal (still going on). The site itself, and many of its consecutive iterations had been either deleted or taken off the grid. Many companies did not wish to provide service from fear but also in compliance with several governments including Sweden, Britain, and the US (the US original being the first one to be taken down).
The site had been DDoS attacked, standing for Deliberate Denial of Service, in wishes to stop people from being able to access the site. However, WikiLeaks outsmarted governments, and whomever proposed and executed the attack by spreading the information far and wide. Thousands of people have a copy of the leaked documents and those that do not, can access the files and the site through many official mirrors, as well as many unofficial ones (There used to be tons more when the whole scandal took place in the beginning).
I, myself, have considered placing a mirror on my server; however, I never got around to it. If you cannot find the files, message me and I will upload them somewhere to download them, I have several copies.

The Scandal
The Scandal involved a large amount of US confidential data leaked through the internet. The "data" were "cables" or short messages/reports (from my understanding) about issues ranging from a crashed helicopter in Iraq to confidential diplomatic actions taken. The cables collected dated in the mid-2000's. They created a lot of problems for the United States because of all the information that they, obviously, did not want anyone to see. 
You can read about the information on the scandal in more detail, just google "WikiLeaks" or "WikiLeaks updates" and you'll find more than enough sites discussing the subject.

The World's Response
The world responded in two main ways. There were the supporters (Anonymous, general Internet population, etc.) and then there were the governments (US, Sweden etc.). The first group responded by dispersing the material even further. They created an app for Android that allowed one to look through the WikiLeaks. They even created an online game that encouraged people to summarize the leaked Cables in hopes of finding and categorizing the information as best as possible. With the amount of data the leaks consisted of (over 200 000 cables), it's quite the challenge.

This group, also, defended the WikiLeaks and Julian Assange (the head of WikiLeaks/founder), and attacked several websites/institutions online. The Anonymous used the LOIC (Low Orbit Ion Canon) application which repeatedly "pings" a server (asks it something). When there are too many requests, the server will slow down and may eventually crash. Some of the sites attacked include MasterCard (that was also hacked into and whose credit card information was published on Twitter), PayPal (that gave in and unfroze donation accounts for WikiLeaks) and others. What this symbolized to me, was that people finally got together and did all they could to support their beliefs. What could we have done ten years ago? Go out into the streets to riot? Maybe, but most of us are too lazy and too afraid of being exposed to do that, and with dial-up, we wouldn't have had the access to WikiLeaks. Perhaps we would have created a website as well, but the impact wouldn't be as prominent over the internet as it had been. 

The second group, the governments, responded by shutting down the website, forcing (or rather simply requesting) the data deleted off Amazons S3 server cloud, and then arresting Assange (for "rape" charges in sweden, assange was arrested in Britain). Assange struck a auto-biography deal from the whole fiasco which paid (or at least will pay) for his legal fees in Britain.

What Changed
The fiasco changed us as people. We saw that the apparent government transparency was an utter lie. We saw that what happened in Iraq had really been a mystery (even to the soldiers) to everyone. We saw that the people who leak information (which was completely legal in the US since the information leaked had not been "stolen" by WikiLeaks but rather by a US soldier meaning that the confidential documents had every right to be published) will be pursued and persecuted.
We also saw people rise up to defend that same man, but not only that, but also spread the attained information farther. The internet community became a single organism that made the data "un retainable" meaning that the data could never again be contained. They created a game out of it.

We also saw the power of the government, in some ways, and its weaknesses. Assange was on the run for at least a month before he turned himself in. The data is up, and still available to many even in the form of mobile applications. Yet, the government recently issued a subpoena to twitter to collect information on Wikileaks twitter account and other related accounts which includes the IP addresses from whence the accounts were accessed and much much more.

My Question
My questions are,
  • Was the government right to hide all this information from us?
  • Did YOU personally do anything to further the WikiLeaks effort?
  • Would government transparency (even in the matters of diplomacy and war) really be such a bad thing?

Back to writing

 It has been years since I wrote my last article and I thought I'd share my thoughts with you once again through the elaborate writings on LiveJournal (I may even export this into a dedicated-domain blog!).
I've been writing blogs for years now, from spirituality, to psychology, to terrorism, hydrocortisone shots, and much more (poetry, fun etc). However, in all that time, I have not yet started writing a blog akin to this one. Sure, I wrote for Dave PC Guy for about a year and wrote some great stuff that helped me learn programming and jump start my interest in the inner workings of internet, and sure, I explored the "user" side of Linux (instead of just installing a bunch of distros) but none was like this where I spoke of freedom, and where I spoke of hacking and tinkering. 
I'd like to write about my new findings and what I've been doing, I have advanced by far, a great deal with my knowledge of technology and with the depth of "tinkering" I've been doing.
First let me update you technologically on what I've been doing::::
  • I still have the same computer as before, an Inspiron 1501 2Ghz Amd processor (single core), 2gb rams (2x1gb), the same ATI graphics card (256mb), but I've upgraded to a 500gb WD HDD. Currently, half of my monitor is not working. I dropped my computer a few months ago and it's been getting worse and worse. Also, the powerjack is not working either. Solution? Fix power jack and new monitor. :) I shall definitely post articles on that. 
  • Running OS: Window 7 ultimate, XP SP3, Ubuntu 10.10 triple boot
  • Other devices: I have gone through a PSP, a blackberry, and now I am on a Samsung Galaxy S Vibrant
  • what's been done: currently, my vibrant has been rooted, and has a custom rom installed with custom bootup animation (for fun :)), and a ton of apps that speed it up/make it more functional, i've been trying to dual-boot Ubuntu with it but problems got in the way (I'm sure, however, that it's just permission rights that I can mount through a shell)
  • Programming language knowledge: PHP, Javascript, Ajax, and Java

I'd like to point out, as well, that today marks the 4th birthday of my laptop since I've gotten it! :) :)

Also, I am no longer an "activist" but rather a "passivist" (not to confuse with pacifist), because I've realized that no matter how much the outside may be cruel, and debilitating, and how constricted we may be within this world, it is an experience, and our freedom comes from within.

Yep, strange updates :) I'll definitely get back to you guys later!
Oh and anybody interested in the WikiLeak documents, but unable to retrieve them, message me and we can arrange something. I've been meaning to put up a mirror of it on one of my sites but unfortunately, they're all expiring.

Awareness, Knowledge, and Action II

Sorry about that, I mistakenly posted the last post and it's a bitch to change things on LiveJournal especially if you're running under Tor.

Where was I?

Awareness:
I sat in at a Literature class in a local college recently and found out something rather interesting. The students are actually AWARE of what is happening. The class was reading the Climate Crisis speech by Al Gore and a couple of other related articles by Faulkner, Hemmingway, and others. The students were asked to come up in front of the class and argue what was more of an issue today: the Climate Crisis or warfare (as described by Faulkner). Most, if not all, student agreed that it was the Climate Crisis and cited numerous examples as to why.
First of all, people were more likely to commit a "suicide" through this matter and kill the planet to keep their comforts rather than kill each other. Sure we have Hydrogen Bombs, Atom Bombs, and all kinds of nuclear weaponry but the use of such weaponry is not beneficial to anyone. It destroys the soil, it kills people, and it will cause a public outrage. Not to mention when one country uses the weapon, all will follow and the results would be devastating. Treaties are being formed to limit such weaponry. I'm sure it will always pose a problem but that's not the point.
People, as the students mentioned, are more likely to exhaust their natural resources, cut down trees, release vast amounts of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere to have what they want. One student mentioned that we are slaves to the corporations and government and cited today's trends as an example. Everyone wants an iPod, right? Everyone wants a cellphone, everyone wants to eat McDonald's food, or whatever else the commercials today tell us. And they want it cheaply. The commercials, even though they may not sway us to buy the product, will make us aware of it and thus more likely to buy that product or a similar one. And THAT was the point. We are killing our planet to have a few nice toys that we don't even know how to use nor will ever use.
So we are aware we are killing our planet, destroying our resources, and we know where it stems from. Our production, our comforts (such as car usage), and our greed (the want for cheaper prices). The Greed translates to the whole problem with money in the first place.

Knowledge:
We know exactly what we're doing and how we're doing it. More people today know that carbon dioxide and miscellaneous other emissions from cars harm the environment. They also know that the use of chemicals such as pesticides, steroids and such are killing our plants and animals. Most people know that cutting down the Amazon is a big mistake.
Look at today's world. People KNOW these things. We KNOW what's happening. And we KNOW we need to stop it.

Action:
Here's where the action comes in. There is none. People know that cars are harming the atmosphere, yet they still drive them even more than before now that gas has dropped substantially. We know electric cars are more environmentally safe, yet no one wants them yet. We've had the technology for decades, but no one uses it. We know that eating cheap chemical-filled food is not only harmful to us but its demand causes its production. Simple economics. We know that building Wind and Solar energy plants will save us a ton of money and will help us out, but no one will do that.


Students today are aware of the problem, they know the cause of the problem and the solution (the simple and hardest one), but no one takes action.
To be honest, not even I take action. I eat organic food, sure, but I use my car when I could walk. 

Awareness, Knowledge, and Action

Ah, I haven't posted a single post in a while, have I? It's simply because I lack inspiration and INFORMATION!

 

So, first of all, my dear readers, how are you liking the Obama Administration in the US? How about the Iran protests?
Well, I'd like to point all of you to the Why We Protest website, a haven to the Anonymous movement that is still, unfortunately, focusing on the Scientologists. Why do I say "unfortunately"? Well, because I am getting tired of this. Scientology is not the root problem of all the wrong things in this world, it is a symptom. Or rather, it is just another group of people that add to the problem. I have gotten to know a Scientologist personally in the past few days, and realized something interesting, they are not that different from other religions. They are the same as the evangelicals, the same as the catholics. They want power, just like any other church, and they have their own means to attain it. They also have their own unique believes through which they shape their world.
Catholics used indulgences, and the fear excommunication possed (eternity in hell) to persuade others to join their cause, or to keep people where they are. Scientologist simply made that into a contract.
I'm getting off topic.

Go visit the Why We Protest website, once in a while, just like in the case of the whole Iran fiasco, they support a worthy cause. They set up a Tor network and a forum readily accessible from Iran. People posted various images and videos from the protests as well as the names of people who died. I think that is REAL progress. But beware, there are conspiracist rumors that Anonymous was secretly created by the CIA. Well, let me tell you one thing. Due to it being an anonymous organization, if you do not like the cause or dislike the topic, you are more than welcome to speak out against the disorganized organization or leave.
 


Crashed System


It happens to the best of us. For the first time, in two and a half years, my computer completely crashed to oblivion.

So, I contracted the Conficker v, I think at least. It started messing up my system, sending me to wrong sites, and my anti-virus program did not seem to work properly either. Internet outages were becoming TOO common. So how did I get it? Well, you know me, I go on 4chan and if someone posts a challenging link, I click on it because of my horrible arrogance and self-confidence. I believed my nod32 2.7 built anti-virus from ESET could protect me from everything, it seems that is not so.
Here's what happened. I scanned the computer numerous times, with the in-depth scanner and found nothing. I downloaded a new version of the ESET Nod32 control center but then I could not update it. I downloaded AVG, I couldn't update that either. The virus terminated any kind of a link I tried to make with a security-related website.

I used my old Hiren's Boot CD to boot up an anti-virus WITHOUT mounting the drivers and running the Windows OS. That did not help either, all the drives were unmountable and inaccessible. That pissed me off -.-
I tried to run Checkdisk from Windows and off Hiren's but neither worked. I deleted my Ubuntu partition in hope that I could, perhaps, load another windows on it and run an anti-virus from there. This, unfortunately, screwed up my whole partition table. Actually, you know, what? I don't even know why I deleted the Ubuntu partition. Oh wait, here's what happened. I tried to manually fix the boot record so that I could mount my NTFS partitions off Hiren's. THAT screwed up my partition table and my computer would not boot up. I proceeded to delete the windows on my computer since it was useless now anyways. I could not boot up anything, and my partition table was still screwed up.

I installed Windows XP ICE, the italians told me it's a great modified XP SP3, unfortunately, this system sucks more than anything you could imagine. I honestly did not think it would have Italian as a default language. It also came un-activated. So, here I am stuck with a very nice-looking Win XP that's completely in Italian, running  as a trial version. My sound driver does not work on here either, so I'm stuck without my precious music. Anyways, why did I install a new system? Easy, I plan to download all of my data, left on another partition, on a clean external disc, then I will wipe my whole HDD and install a brand-new Windows with deep-freeze. What's Deep-Freeze? www.faronics.com/html/Deepfreeze.asp << <<< that's deep-freeze. It freezes the image of your system and whenever you restart your computer, the whole system will revert to it. I plan to install a range of anti-virus and anti-spyware programs, in a succession of reboots, and make sure my external HDD is not infected.

Problem arises though. XP ICE cannot open Vista-encrypted files. Nor can it copy the files elsewhere for storage. My first thought was to boot Linux and copy the files this way since Linux, at least Ubuntu to my knowledge, tends to ignore any Windows encryptions and password protections. So I booted up my trusty Kubuntu 8.10 (9.04 is not out yet, unfortunately :() and copied some files on the partition, but not to an external HDD but rather to the same partition, hoping the password protections would not stay with the copy.

Another Problem: Kubuntu crashed on me in mid of copying. I decided to install the system, I might as well since I'll use it to transfer my data to the external HDD anyway. Unfortunately, not even the Kubuntu installer can make sense of my partition table -.- I'm fucked


PROTIP: when you're on a new Windows system that you won't be keeping for a while, get your Ubuntu CD out and install it into Windows as a program. You'll have all your favorite programs readily available without troubling installs and downloads. Especially if you want an MP3 player, a word processor, and a DVD burner.

FUTURE PLANS:
I've downloaded Amit Talkin's new Vista distros that I plan to try out, as well as Windows XP SP3 Ultra. I'll be booting up Windows Vista Ultimate Ultra Lite by Amit pretty soon to move the data from my HDD partition to an External HDD. I'll give you news about what the system looks like soon enough. Then, I plan to go with my scan&destroy plan where I will scan my External HDD and wipe my internal HDD. I'll probably boot up XP SP3 Ultra for gaming and Vista Extreme Edition for Photoshop soon. Also, I want to try out the new Ubuntu that comes out in seven days.


MORE NEWS LATER :D

Problems with gOS!

I'm having problems with gOS. Just so you know, the system is absolutely beautiful and ingenious. It's fast, and VERY easy to navigate. I'm contemplating on actually installing it on my computer.
So, what's the downside? It's an 8.04 Ubuntu-based distro. I've found that 8.04s have a HUGE problem with casper (casper-rw is the persistence file) therefore, it cannot stay persistent on my usb drive -.- Lame, huh? Yes, yes it is lame.
When I booted the system the first time, I could not select the "default" option from the UNetbootin "grub" because that would load me to a terminal. And not just any terminal, the original Linux kernel terminal with which I have no idea how to work (ie it does not have "sudo" and stuff). So, i tried the "live" version (without any changes saved) and somehow, the changes stuck. I restarted the computer a few times, and I was loaded back into the environment I previously set up.
Then, when I turned on my computer this morning, it was gone, again. :/ the command "persistent" at the end of the "append" line in the sysconfig (or whatever it's called) makes the system unbootable.

I'm going to try some more distros, making sure that if it's Ubuntu-based, it's 8.10

Right now, I'm trying the Portable Linux program to try and make gOS work. We'll see. (also, this program works only under Linux)

more news later!

Crunchbang OS verdict

#! OS is really cool. I love the OpenBox desktop environment, and it's just amazing. It's simple, and it works. There is a conky pre-installed with default values that you can edit however you want. And it works.
My conky on my Super Ubuntu 8.10 does not even load (for different reasons perhaps).
Anyways, it comes pre-installed with all the essential programs, and works the same way as Ubuntu. ie, it has the same repositories. It works exactly the same way with drivers as well. Which is all good.
I could play AVI, and MP4 movies when I first booted the OS, which is a definite plus.
The persistence file and the live USB worked just as I hoped, all of my settings were saved when I rebooted my computer, and I could use the extra space on the drive to save whatever files I needed. You'll notice on the screenshot (if LJ allows me to post this full-view) the "disk usage" which is the persistence file. 


Unfortunately,
I could not get my ethernet running, therefore I could not get on the internet. Since I could not get on the internet, I could not download the restricted drivers for the wi-fi nor anything else. I could not update the system either, meaning, I am stuck with the same old kernel and that might be the reason why it's not working in the first place.
Anyways, I don't feel like figuring it out, the forums said that my ethernet and wi-fi cards are problematic, and I know they are and have been in the past, so I'm letting it go :)

Next up gOS!

screenshot description: Firefox is on the fore-front. Conky is on the right. Abi word is open, right click menu is pulled up (similar to the start menu), the terminal is open all the way in the back, and AVC media player is opened as well. (I was watching a short movie)



Feb. 10th, 2009

What a funny name :)
Look it up, CrunchBang Linux
It's all on Wikipedia.
Anyways, the UNetbootin works great. I booted the OS within seconds, literally, it's the fastest booting OS I have ever seen.
As for the OS itself, -.- the dark colours are largely depressing. I don't know yet how to change them but I'll figure it out. It uses OpenBox GUI, so it's a bit confusing to me. There is no "start" button nor its equivalent. but if you right-click on the desktop, you get the usual menu that includes all the programs, the frequent places, and such.
On the right, the default desktop shows short-cuts to many of the programs. I was able to access my NTFS partitions with ease and no trouble at all.
Btw, I did not spend too much time on it so I'm not sure if my linux partitions are available as well, but I think they are. It has playback for many formats including Mp4, which I incidentally tried. but rmvb does not work, (it does not work well for me under Super Ubuntu 8.10 either). Out of the box, most of the stuff worked, my wi-fi card didn't, of course, but the rest did.

All in all, a great, lightweight OS, that boots quickly and contains all the programs an average person needs. The GUI is a little iffy, and the colours could make me commit a suicide after frequent use >.> but I'll figure it out soon.

Next up, gOS