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Monthly Archives: July 2009
Tor is a tool that can be used to proxy your online communications between multiple, randomly selected, global providers effectively anonymizing your Internet traffic. Tor is a free anonymizing service, but doesn’t also encrypt your traffic.
Privoxy is a non-caching proxy that also has a certain amount of filtering built into it. Many may use privoxy to do adware removal. But it can also be used to filter information for Tor. Installers are available at http://sourceforge.net/projects/ijbswa/files. Once you have installed privoxy you can access the configuration page at http://www.privoxy.org/config/. Because privoxy is a command line tool, you can also access the help page for that using the following command (using privoxy as your working directory):
By default privoxy will install the following files on your system:
But you don’t have to install any of that. Or use it manually – you can, but you don’t have to. You can download the Vidalia Tor installer bundle, which will install privoxy, Vidalia, Tor and the Torbutton extension for Firefox. The installer package can be run choosing all of the defaults and then will need a reboot. Once complete, open Firefox (the first time it will install the extension, quit Firefox and then reopen it to activate it) and you’ll see Tor Disabled in the lower right hand corner of Firefox. You’ll then be able to click on it to switch over to using Tor from within Firefox. Click on it again and it will disable Tor again.
Overall, this is a nice and sleek design for obtaining anonymous web communications. Obviously, if you use it to log into your Twitter account, that’s not anonymous. But browsing and posting to sites does not link back to your IP address, which is one key aspect of Tor. You’re also still connecting over standard protocols. Again, Tor does nothing to encrypt data – it is a service dedicated to anonymity.
I published an article up on AFP548 on how directory services plug-ins work. If you’re curious about directory services plug-ins or just unable to sleep and need something to knock you out, this should be an interesting read.
Using Safari is like going to In-n-Out for a burger – it’s all about ordering off the menu. But instead of a “4 by 4 animal style” I’m going to order a browser that attempts to open every link I click in a new tab, even if it tries to open in a new window. Even realizing that if I click on it using the command-click it will open a new tab anyway. To do so, we’re going to use the TargetedClicksCreateTabs key in the com.apple.Safari.plist file by using the following command:
defaults write com.apple.Safari TargetedClicksCreateTabs -bool true
I have an opposite day situation. I also need to completely disable the command-click feature for a kiosk computer’s NetBoot image – the environment uses Open Directory users so I can use a managed preference. To do so, I’m going to open Workgroup Manager and then click on the single user for all of the kiosks. Next, I’ll click on Preferences and then click on the Details tab. Then I’ll, click on the + icon and choose Safari. From here, I’ll double-click on the com.apple.Safari entry. If I scroll down, I’ll see Command-Click Makes Tabs. If I click on the true value beside it then it will disable this feature. Clicking save would then commit the changes to the account and I could login as the user again to test.
In the en file located in the ~/Library/Spelling directory you’ll find any custom entries into the Mac OS X dictionary. Each will be followed by a ^@ and there will be a final one with no characters at the end. You can remove entries by removing the word followed by the ^@. You can also add items into the custom dictionary by adding the word at the end of the en file along with a trailing ^@. Each item is stored in the order that it was added and so you can also gain a little insight into when each word was added.
So, if you push out a custom dictionary file as part of your image as I did recently and a wrong spelling of the word science, you can then push out the en file or a script to just remove the offending entry (along with the trailing ^@) from the en file. You can also build custom files with commonly used words for your environment and push it out, either to default profiles or to a users ~/Library/Spelling/en.
IcyDock makes a 4 port chassis for SATA drives that allows you to build your own RAID out of large and inexpensive drives. The resultant JBOD can then be formatted into RAID0 or RAID1 (software RAID) and presented to backup applications (ie – Retrospect) as offline storage. Amazon sells an IcyDock, populated with 1.5TB drives for a total of 6TB, which is how I’m now snapshotting my VMs in my lab. I’m also using it as the backup destination for my home Kerio server. Works nicely so far.
You can also buy the IcyDock with no drives and likely populate them with 2TB drives, although I haven’t tested this yet (aka – requires confirmation). The IcyDock connects to Mac, Windows and Linux machines over eSATA and the drive hot swappable modules are eSATA. If you don’t already have an eSATA card for your Mac then then you can get one of those at Amazon as well. If you would rather roll with the 2TB drives then you can get those at Amazon too!
OK, OK, you’re right – if I’m going to cover customizing the loginwindow of Mac OS X then the least I can do is cover Windows as well. Because the registry is basically a bigger, more monolithic version of the defaults domains, we’re going to do pretty much the same stuff at the login screen for Windows. First, open the registry editor (regedit) and browse to HKEY USERS\ .DEFAULT\Control Panel\Desktop
Google’s Android is a very small Linux distribution. Recently I needed to test some applications that were developed by a couple of friends of mine. Rather than run out to T-Mobile I figured I’d just install the new LiveAndroid disk and thought I would write up how to get setup using VMware Fusion and then go about doing some tasks with Android. To get started make sure you’re running the latest Fusion (or Parallels or Q or VirtualBox). Then download two ISO files from http://code.google.com/p/live-android/
liveandroidv0.2.iso.001 and liveandroidv0.2.iso.002.
Once you have downloaded the two ISO files we’re going to need to join them. To do so
cat liveandroidv0.2.iso.001 liveandroidv0.2.iso.002 > liveandroidv0.2.iso
That will take a few seconds to complete. When it’s done, open up VMware and then click on the New button in the lower left corner of the Virtual Machine Library screen. At the New Virtual Machine Assistant, first click on Continue Without Disk and then choose the Use Operating System Installation Disk Image File: option, selecting the ISO file from the browse screen. Once selected, click Choose in the Browse dialog box and then back at the New Virtual Machine Assistant Screen click on Continue.
At the Choose Operating System screen, leave the Operating System and Version fields set to Other and then click on Continue. The Default memory and disk capacity should be fine (256MB of memory and 8GB of disk). The default Shared networking (NAT) option will also have the Android instance able to boot with the network interfaces functional (unlike in my VirtualBox testing), so leave that as-is as well. Click Finish and then the Android virtual machine will start.
Once started you’re going to get an error about the battery. This is not a big deal, click on OK to suppress it. If you can’t find your cursor then look for the faint grey arrow. You can then click on the default home screen applications (Messaging, Dialer, Contacts or Browser) or on the slider to the right of the screen for the rest of the applications (such as the Gallery or the Camera). If you use the space bar you’ll open the dialer (not that you can dial out or anything) and if you use the the Escape key you’ll back out of an application, back to the home screen.
To get to the command line you can use the fn-alt-F1 (the F1, when pressing the fn key is immediately to the right of the Escape key whereas the alt is the same as the option on Mac in that scenario). The fn-alt-F7 combination will switch back from the command line to the home screen.
When you’re at the command line you’ll have a number of options. Because LiveAndroid .2 supports DHCP there’s usually no need for configuration of the network stack, although I did have to configure it manually in VirtualBox. To do so I started with ifconfig, which works similarly in Mac OS X.
ifconfig eth0 192.168.210.30 netmask 255.255.255.0
Then I setup a gateway with the route command:
route add default gw 192.168.210.1 dev eth0
You can also use setprop to define your DNS servers. For example, to set 126.96.36.199 as a DNS server you would use the following:
setprop net.eth0.dns1 188.8.131.52
I also use a proxy so I had to configure that in order to be browsing the old interweb. After a bit of noodling around I realized that Android stores a number of settings in a sqlite database stored in /dat/data/com.android.providers.settings/databases/settings.db. If you remember, I did an article on using sqlite3 with Address Book on Mac OS X awhile back – this is all very similar to that, as sqlite doesn’t really change much (if any) from platform to platform. To open the database in sqlite3, use the following command:
Then type .tables and you should see one called system. We’re going to insert the proxy data into it, in this case inserting proxy.krypted.com:8080 using the command:
insert into system values(99,’http_proxy’,'proxy.krypted.com:8080′);
At this point I’m off to the races with the web browser. Next I have a couple of applications friends have developed that I’d like to install. From the command line this is pretty easy. They put them up on their websites and then I go to /system/app using the following command:
Next, I use wget to pull down the app (which is in the form of an apk file), assuming that the name of the server is my.server.org and the name of the app is myapp.apk:
Once I’ve downloaded the app I’m going to go ahead and create a shortcut key just for that application by adding a line to /etc/bookmarks.xml that reads as follows (which would use the z key to open the app):
Next, I’m going to flip through all of the tables looking for any other settings back in the settings.db that I’d like to change. To look at the options for each table use ‘select * from’ followed by the table name. So if I wanted to look at the SYSTEM table I could use the following command from within the sqlite3 interactive mode for settings.db:
select * from SYSTEM
You can then find a value and edit it as we did earlier but with update instead of insert.
Many of the common commands and tasks that you might be used to are exposed in android. For example, you can edit the /etc/hosts file to force address resolution. Also, while I’m testing my friends applications I’m also monitoring statistics within my Android instance. This is fairly straight forward in some cases as I can simply cat many of the files located in the /proc directory, such as cpuinfo and loadavg.
Looking at these files through VMware while launching an application exposes some of the underlying security framework. Much like the iPhone, processing for a given application is halted when another application is launched. In Android though, each application is written in Java and each runs both as its own Java virtual machine and with its own UID. This isn’t to say that Android applications are sandboxed from one another as in the iPhone when the Activity (screen) is not in the foreground. Instead, there is a framework for background processing with a service. Many of the built in aspects of Android can run as services, although none of the third party applications I was looking at leveraged this component of the Binder (borrowed from BeOS). Any information shared between different applications works via a Content Provider service. If you look at the path for the sqlite3 database, it’s using providers in the path. This isn’t meant to reference cell phone providers but instead the internal’s content providers.
Each application can be considered a risk to install. Therefore, each application has a corresponding AndroidManifest.xml file which provides the rules that the application has to follow along, permissions and a listing of all of the components of the application (binaries, libraries, scripts, etc). Each application can therefore have a component of itself exposed to other applications (typically used for example if you have a chain of applications with permissions between them), with an additional permission of having an application that publicly makes its data available to others. I could see uses for something like this with photo sharing applications but overall it leaves exposure for the manifest to open communications between applications if compromised. I have not been able to thoroughly test whether input validation is available here, but it’s theoretically possible for an application to either obtain elevated privileges from another or to influence the data in another. Granularity of these permissions is possible but must be configured by the developer. I was able to use one of the applications I was testing to access the contacts on the machine, a bit of a concern, but common. Overall, it’s hard to conceive installing any application without a prior thorough review of the manifest if I were working on a production device.
Android is just a trimmed down Linux. I would expect a Chrome OS to be very similar. I don’t even expect it to have much more or much less (although I would assume it will run gears and all of the dependencies of gears). If you replace the Dialer application in Android with Google Voice and add support for an LDAP client then you would have much of what I might expect out of a NetBook OS. If Android is to be tailored to be a NetBook OS I’d like to see Full Disk Encryption for Android as well, even if most data is stored in the cloud. But then, I’d like to see that for all devices… If Android does offer a snapshot into what Google Chrome will look like then it seems like applications written in Java, whether for Blackberry, Palm Pre or Android would likely fairly easily be ported into the platform and therefore be a sandbox worth pursuing assuming that is the case; because while people seem to love the idea of the cloud at the end of the day they seem to also be hooked on their fat clients.