KW1105 60 Minutes of Common Sense

Aug 09

The knightwise.com podcast is back this week with a splash of cold water and a dose of plain old common sense. This week we talk about some strategies to keep you, your devices and your data out of nefarious hands. Vigilance, my friends.

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Music

Credits

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Building a simple Offsite backup server with an EEEpc and Bittorrent Sync.

Jan 04

Some gadgets are just hard to throw out. Perhaps you keep hanging on to them because you have this plan of “using them someday” for “some project”. Perhaps you keep hanging on to them because of nostalgia. Whatever reason you might choose, those geeky gadgets that keep occupying that box in your office aren’t getting any younger. Why not put them to good use ?

Lets take 2 items in MY junk-box as an example. An aging Asus EEE 701 Netbook PC that I have been hanging onto because of sentimental reasons. (I smuggled it in from the US way before these babies were available in Belgium) Its keyboard is broken and its low specs when it comes to storage, memory and cpu power aren’t helping it in finding something useful to do these days. The second item is my first 1tb external hard drive. I haven’t thrown this one out because its on my ‘for-some-project-some-day’ list. Its been on the list for 2 years now … So lets smash them together and turn them into a Remote backup solution using open source software and Bittorrent technology.

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Step 1 : Turn the EEEpc into a headless server.

I downloaded the Image for Ubuntu’s ‘minimal installer’ off the net and have had it kicking around on an old USB stick for a while now. Because of its small footprint its ideal to do ‘light’ installations of Ubuntu because you can choose which components you want to install. I chose the ‘minimal Ubuntu server’ and the SSH server component. When the installation was complete I rebooted the laptop and hooked up the external USB drive (that I had formatted in one big FAT32 partition)

Step 2 : Install Webmin and mount the drive.

Because I was going to use my external hard drive to store my remote backups on (the EEEpc doesn’t have enough storage) I needed to be sure it was always mounted correctly if my little laptop should have to reboot. So instead of messing around with stuff like FStab config files I installed Webmin. (a Web-based interface to your Linux server). Using the ‘Disk and network file system’ menu I mounted the external drive into a folder called ‘backup drive’ that I had created in my home directory. This way I was sure that the external drive was always mounted correctly in the same folder.

Links : Howto install Webmin.

Step 3 : Install Bittorrent Sync.
Next up I installed a copy of Bittorrent Sync both on my local server and on the old eeePc. Following THIS tutorial lets you install Bittorrent Sync and configure the Web interface to be accessible from all over your network. (So make sure you choose a very secure administrator password). When installing Bittorrent sync this way, you are also sure the service always starts up when your computer reboots.

Links : Howto install Bittorrent sync. 

After the installation was complete I surfed to the Bittorrent web interface of my home server (source system) in one tab, and to that of my EEEpc (remote destination system) on another one.

Step 4 : Share a folder on your Source system.

Now it was pretty smooth sailing. On the Bittorrent web interface of my SOURCE machine I made a bittorrent share of each folder I wanted to backup remotely. I right clicked “properties” once the folder was created and copied the ‘READ ONLY’ secret.

Step 5 : Enter the key for the shared folder on your remote destination system.

Next up I went to the tab of my ‘remote destination system’ and entered the READ ONLY key. I selected a folder on my external drive where the files needed to be synced towards. (in my /home/backupdrive/ directory)

Step 6 : Do the initial copy

After repeating the process above for all the folders I wanted to ‘sync remotely’ I just had to wait for the initial copy to complete. After that it was time to pickup the EEEpc and the External drive and bring them to their new (remote) home. I hooked the EEEpc up to the network, started up the machine and … that was that … headless remote backup solution done.

Epilogue.

Because Bittorrent sync doesn’t care about open ports or anything I didn’t have to mess with the router on the remote end of my backup solution. There were no ports to forward and even a static IP was not required for the remote machine. Just connect it , fire it up and .. boom. Using the ‘read only’ secret is an insurance that changes to my files are only synced one way : From the source to the remote system (and never the other way around).

You can expand this setup (and increase the security at the remote end) by syncing over encrypted ZIP files. That way people can’t access the data should your system be compromised.

In the end its a great simple way to use an old system (you can even use an old laptop with a broken screen for this) and give it a new lease on life. The setup is simple, the interfaces are web based and the whole setup is perfect for a remote backup destination at your parents or in laws.

So secure your data and put those old clunkers back in action !

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kw905 : Life on a Chromebook.

Jan 01


We deep dive into the world of Chromebooks and find an answer to the question : Can you survive on a Chromebook. We walk you through the possibilities and limitations of the Chromebook. We enlighten you  on how to use it for work, connect back to your home network and how to use your Chromebook to entertain you. If thats not enough we go beyond the design specifications and sideload Linux on your Chromebook turning into a low budget sliders dream machine. All of that and more .. in Kw905 : Life on a Chromebook. Catch the live recording of this podcast in the Youtube video below and see if you can catch Sulu the dog as our Podcast assistant.

Shownotes.

  • The Acer C730
  • First impressions
  • Hardware – Software
  • Taking the Chromebook to work (Article)
  • Using the Chromebook to entertain you (Article)
  • Connecting back to your home network via a Socks5 proxy over SSH (Article)
  • Dual Booting your Chromebook with Linux (Distroshare.com)
  • Sideloading your Chromebook with Crouton (Youtube instruction video)
  • Epilogue

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Connect your Chromebook to your home network over SSH.

Dec 28

This week i’m testing out my new Acer A730 to see just what it can do and how far we can take it. One of the frustrations I bumped in earlier this week was that there were limited options when it came to “Phoning home”. Setting up encrypted tunnels to your home network over the internet using VPN or Proxy connections is something we should consider when using public Wifi hotspots.

With the Chromebook relying completely on some wifi connection on a (perhaps foreign) network I was disappointed to find that the only protocols that were supported were L2TP and OpenVpn. Not a bad set to choose from but not something that I had setup on my home network.

Previously I used an SSH server and the SSHuttle app to tunnel my internet, dns and even network traffic over a Socks5 proxy to my home network. I wondered if this would be possible with the Chromebook. Turns out it is ! Let’s start cooking.

To get this little piece of magic working you need 3 things. A : One SSH server (A linux machine) on your home network that has at least one port open to the internet. B : The Secure Shell app from the Chrome store. C : The Switchy-Sharp extension.

Setting it up is quite easy. Lets say we opened up port 8800 of our SSH server to the internet. Setup Secure Shell to connect to the your home SSH server with the additional option to create a port forwarding tunnel on lets say port 8800 with the option -D 8800

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Next we setup Switchy Sharp as to use the SSH connection (and port 8800) as a socks 5 proxy.
switchy

All you need to do next is Connect to your home SSH server and use the Switchy Sharp extention in your browser to use the connection. The Chromebook will tunnel all http and https requests AND the DNS queries through the tunnel. That way 95% of your Chromebooks traffic (we aren”t a 100 percent sure about what protocols any other apps you have might use) are piped through a secure tunnel. You don’t only get to connect to your home network (to open up any web-interface to any device or server you have) but also you get to do it all ‘in private’

Links.

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Chrome Week : Our favourite Chrome apps (Part 2)

Apr 14

 We already told you about some of our favourite Chrome apps in the first post of this series, So this time its time to dive a little deeper into applications/extensions that will actually help you to do things for which you otherwise would need an application. We have broken them down into some easy categories for you to follow.

Entertainment.

I think the days we actually stored music on our devices and played back those files are as obsolete as shouting “Put the needle on the Record” at some teen playing a DJ gig with his laptop. Since we are talking about Chrome extensions here, I can only assume that you have a connection to the internet all the time.  With so many free audio streaming services available the only thing that is keeping you from playing the latest Shakira album over and over (and over) is your bandwidth cap.  Some of the Chrome extensions we love here are  Spotify and Soundcloud. Sure you get some commercials when you use the free service, but that’s just like real actual radio. If you should be in the business of running your own PLEX server at home and would like to stream your (audio and video) content on your Chromebook ? Try the Plex app. (But do make sure that you open up the right ports on your router if you want to access your server from the outside).

Production.

But what about when listening to music is not enough ? There are a couple of great apps out there that will actually help you MAKE some music. From simple voice recording with “Voice Recorder” to rather complex audio mixing with Audiotool. Want to annoy your friends by badly mixing 2 tracks together using an online DJ mixer ? Try Until AM.

Connecting to other machines.

But what if your Chromebook isn’t enough and you need to connect to other systems and devices ? When you need an SSH session to your Linux machine (or your mac) at home “Secure Shell” is without a shadow of a doubt one of our favourite applications. It reminds us of the popular Windows terminal client PUTTY only 4983 times better. It remembers sessions you have saved to your servers across multiple sessions of Chrome, so you always have your connections at your fingertips. If you need to go a step further and dive into the graphical side of things, you might want to try “Chrome RDP” to connect to your  machines running the Remote Desktop Protocol. 

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Productivity.

Ok, The only reason you bought a Chromebook (or use Chrome) is so you can spend hours on 9gag and Reddit. So its a good thing we even dug up some productivity apps. Outlook.com might be a little bit of blasphemy in this Gmail centered environment, but the Chrome app DOES get you to your mailbox environment even though its not controlled by the “Big Bad G”. Another pretty simple Chrome app we found is called Workflow. Workflow lets you organise your tasks into lists and sub-lists. It’s more like a text based mindmap but it does give you a pretty good overview of what you are working on and what subtasks are involved. Speaking of “simple” and “text based” we found “Writer” to be a very nice distraction free text editor for writing up text without being distracted. We love the “black and green” terminal like interface, especially if you run the Chrome app fullscreen. Writer lets you download your writings to different formats or saves them to the cloud so you can continue editing them in another chrome browser.

And finally

With all the commotion about the Heartbleed exploit .. Install the Lastpass Chrome app and sort out your passwords once and for all.

 

 

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