Tag: free software

Green Comet Has Gone SSL

credit Alvesgaspar – CC-BY-SA

We’re joining the big leagues. No longer will the big guys look down their noses at our unsecured website. Now you’ll see that reassuring lock up there by the location bar along with that fully modern “https.” Don’t you feel safe now?

I was just waiting until it was free and easy to do. Let’s Encrypt went a long way toward that by creating a “free, automated, and open certificate authority.” Now you can get a certificate for your website without paying a for-profit certificate authority. That makes it easy for your web host to provide encryption for your site without having to charge you for it. Then it was a simple matter of calling up my host and asking them to install Let’s Encrypt on my site.

Well, not quite. The server I was on wouldn’t support it so they had to move Green Comet to another server. That meant it had a new address and the internet name servers had to propagate it, so we were in limbo for a while. You might have noticed we were hard to reach, but now we’re in business.

Almost. Now all the calls for http://greencomet.org have to be changed to https://greencomet.org. My head reeled! But this is computers and what are computers for if not to automate things? I found out I could edit a file on the site called htaccess that gives visiting computers special instructions when they arrive. Now if someone comes in looking for the old URL, it’s automatically changed to the new one. So now we’re good. I think.

Free but not so easy.

rjb

Windows Ten is an Advertising Platform

I don’t use Windows, so I don’t know if this is true. Has Microsoft actually inserted ads into its operating system? Although I’ve used some of their OSes occasionally, I’ve never had Windows as the working OS on my computer, so while I’ve heard plenty of stories about their questionable practises, I’ve never had any meaningful experience with them. I’ve become accustomed to advertising on the internet, but I don’t understand how people would put up with it on their personal computers. Do they? If so, why? And is there anything they can do about it, without actually changing operating systems?

Some quotes from a betanews article, which has about 500 comments at this point, mostly irate from what I can see.

Don’t believe what Microsoft tells you — Windows 10 is not an operating system. Oh, sure, it has many features that make it look like an operating system, but in reality it is nothing more than a vehicle for advertisements.

But if we’re honest, the company is doing nothing more than abusing its position, using Windows 10 to promote its own tools and services, or those with which it has marketing arrangements. Does Microsoft think we’re stupid?

Many of the various forms of advertising that can be found in Windows 10 can be disabled, but don’t expect this to be easy, particularly if you’re not completely au fait with the world of technology.

So, it looks as if it’s really happening, but I can’t confirm it myself. It looks as if people are putting up with it. It looks as if they could do something about it, although it might be too hard for most people. Please help me, dear readers. Has it really come to this?

via Microsoft is disgustingly sneaky: Windows 10 isn’t an operating system, it’s an advertising platform

rjb

I ♥ Free Software – Valentine’s Day 2017


Source: I ♥ Free Software – Valentine’s Day 2017 – FSFE

I Love Free Software Day has rolled around again. It’s easy to remember since it falls on Valentine’s Day every year.

Free Software drives a huge number of devices in our everyday life. It ensures our freedom, our security, civil rights, and privacy. It enables everyone to participate in a fair society. But as with people, everybody has different reasons to love Free Software. Let’s show this variety to the world!

Since I use Free Software to run this website, as well as to write my books, I am more than happy to give a shout out to all the world’s free software developers. Thank you, and please continue.

It doesn’t matter who and where you are and what you do – everyone can participate at the “I love Free Software” day in many different ways:

Thank contributors to the free and open source ecosystem personally.

Do it on social media, using this hashtag: #ilovefs

Do it on your blog. Link this blog, or link the original.

Happy I love Free Software day everyone!

And happy Valentine’s Day, too.

rjb

You Can Alter Your Car’s Software Now

Waring Abbott/Getty Images

Waring Abbott/Getty Images

This is an update on previous posts on Green Comet, one on the John Deere debacle, and one on the champions of fixing our own stuff, iFixit. This one is about a change to the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) that allows car owners to make modifications to their cars without breaking the law.

The DMCA exemptions were announced in 2015, but they took a whole year to go into effect.

Source: Modders, rejoice: It’s legal to tweak your car’s software now – Roadshow

Fix on!

rjb

Electronic Election Fraud

Public Domain

Public Domain

In 2004 I published this article in my local newspaper. At that time, not very many people were thinking about the problems that would come with electronic voting. Now the stories are popping up all over the place. Some people are saying that it has already resulted in election fraud, while others are predicting that it will happen in the future. Whatever the truth is, I think that the points I raised then — flaws in the software, security vulnerabilities, lack of independent auditing, fraud — are still important today.

Electronic Voting

In the futile campaign to save paperwork, many political jurisdictions have experimented with electronic voting systems. The attempt to use computers to create a paperless bureaucracy has proven to be futile because computers just make it easier to produce more printed documents than ever. However, voting is one place where it might work. Just think of all the paper boxes full of paper ballots that won’t have to be manufactured for every election.

Unfortunately there are security and accuracy concerns, which are especially important in democratic voting. That will probably mean that the electronic voting machine will be printing paper ballots to confirm voters’ electronic choices. Paper-based confirmation for a paper-free system. What will they think of next?

Public Domain

Public Domain

Wikipedia, the free internet encyclopedia, defines electronic voting as, “. . . any of several means of determining people’s collective intent electronically.” Okay, it means collecting votes through electronic devices such as kiosks, telephones or the internet. Its use in political elections started with lever-operated punch card systems in the 1960s. Those ancient systems are due to be replaced by more modern devices, and none too soon. Experiments have shown up to a 25% failure rate with punch card technology. But not everyone is comfortable with the new systems either.

The new voting machines have the big advantage of making it easier for more people to vote. People with disabilities, for example. But they are also open to malfunctions and fraud. Analyses have shown that these computer systems have many of the same glitches found in other computers. They have flaws in their software that can lead to inaccurate results. Worse, their security vulnerabilities leave them open to corruption.

One common concern is that the makers of the machines refuse to say how they work. They won’t open up the software for independent review. That means voters just have to put their faith in the skill and honesty of the vendors. How confident can they be that their vote will be properly counted while remaining secret?

There are solutions to the problems. Paper ballots can be verified by the voter and then stored in a locked box. The software can be opened up to ensure transparency and confidentiality in the voting procedure. The problems aren’t too big to handle.

Done right, electronic voting will be an improvement despite the potential pitfalls. And even with the backup paper ballots, it should end up saving paper.

Perhaps the most important thing in a democracy is the vote. That is where we get to make our wishes known, and where whatever power we have is exercised. It needs to be free and fair and immune to coercion and corruption. Electronic voting has the potential to help ensure that, but it also has the potential to destroy it. As always, unblinking vigilance is required.

rjb

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