KW1501 – 10 Geeky Projects for 2020

Welcome to 2020!
This week Knightwise takes us through a list of projects to help stretch our geek muscles and maybe try out some new ways to use or think about technology as we slide into the new decade. We’ve got, things to learn, ways to protect your privacy and your data, projects to try and services you might want to support.

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Connect with the Community

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KW1108 Protecting your Privacy at Work

With all the news lately about the risks to your online privacy and personal information knowing how to look after your data has become an essential skill. It’s not too difficult to do this at home where you have full control of your environment, but what do you do when you’re at work?

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Music

  • Борисов Евгений– Trance [Jamendo]

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Column : Why I still run my own servers.

IT is changing, dramatically so. With the advent of total ubiquity on smartphones and tablets among the general population, the rise of the connected fridge and the smart scale that loves to tweet how fat you are .. the “classic computer paradigm” is slowly changing. Our devices are becoming dumber and dumber and both our data and our services are slowly but surely evaporating into the cloud.

 And still I insist on running some of those servers and services myself. “Why ? “ you ask with raised eyebrows as you randomly upload a selfie to an unknown service from an unknown company. As the file travels towards its mistic location where it will be stored forever, it sheds unwanted complication like “your intellectual property” and any notion of privacy. It’s a cloud service … so it should always work for free, always .. So why run your own server ?

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 Because its FUN.

For one : Tinkering with computers and running your own servers and services is FUN. It stems from the day that computers were built to tinker with and where a combination of a piece of software, a network connection, a spare computer and 3 pots of dark coffee would get you your very first self-hosted webserver. Tinkering around with software and systems and making that very first “connection” to your very own server .. is just plain FUN.

 The chance to learn and understand WHY things work.

The beauty about setting up and running your own servers is that you get a very enlightening insight into how and why things work. It is something you probably never think about when you “check in’ as mayor of the porta-potty around the corder where you work. What data is envolved, how does it get there, who keeps track of it, how does it show up on my mobile device .. what magic oomph loom pa’s need to hold hands and sing koomba-yah in order for all of it to work. You can rest assured that the wonders of trail and error when setting up your own service will teach you a great many deal about why things work. (By showing you over and over how things DON”T work.)

The notion of control.

Every single time Facebook changes its UI, the internet moans under the weight of millions voicing their complaints on how they want “The old Facebook” back. What many people continue to forget is that, when it comes to “free cloud services” .. you aren’t their client , you are their product. They make money by bouncing adds of your screen or selling your personal information and interactions to some very very clever marketeers. If the “free cloud service” is no longer profitable they can either start to charge you money or go out of business altogether. When they decide its time to bring in a feature that would make Bonzi Buddy* appear as your best friend (* check your internet cultural history you noobies) , you have ZERO control.

The right to privacy.

Privacy is a buzzword these days so lets not pretend that the files you store on dropbox contain the secret plans for an orbital death ray satellite. I’m not worried about government snoops sniffing my files, as long as they have due cause to do so. I’m more worried about these so-called ‘free services” selling my data (and my content) to whoever they want to. It might be in their “EULA’s”, but nobody reads those anyway.

 So I love to run my self hosted version of Dropbox using the Bittorrent protocol. Its fun to set up, there are no data limits, nobody is snooping my files (that I know of) and I am in total and complete control of what is going on.

 Ok , I have to admit, if the tech goes POOP .. it goes POOP and I am the one to fix it. There is not tech support , there is no hotline to call ( Well , there is , but since you will be calling yourself you will get a busy tone) It does mean that you might have to spend many an hour repairing an unforeseen issue. But think of it this way .. every sigh of frustration is a pebble on the road of knowledge (mostly knowledge on how NOT to do things).

Thus I embrace the possibility of running my own servers; not because i HAVE to.. but because I still can.

 

 

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Server week : Trust no-one with Owncloud.

Dropbox changed its terms of service so they can give you data to the Feds if they just ask for it, Ubuntu shuts down the online fileservice “Ubuntu One” : Who can you  trust these days ? The great thing with cloud solutions is that they are on a server far far away, most of them are free and you never have to maintain them. The downside is that they are on a server far far away, they are free and you cannot maintain them. We give up a certain level of control for the convenience of the cloud. It would be of course far nicer if you had a service that offered you all the luxury of the products mentioned above .. but gave you full control, absolute privacy and a completely controlled solution. (and free ! It has to be free).

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Do not fear : Owncloud is here.

Owncloud is a self hosted cloud solution that gives you the luxury of the cloud in the privacy of your own home (or on your own hosted environment). Its a cross platform webservice that gives you the ability to store files in the “cloud” and access them from anywhere, Sync those files with your desktop (like Dropbox) You can share your files with friends and access them using mobile clients on Android and IOS devices or a simple browser window.

Don’t trust the cloud with your Calendar and contacts ? Owncloud takes care of that too. Manage your contacts and calendars straight from Owncloud or sync them up with your mobile devices using open standards like .vcard and caldav. 

Tired of the tracks on Groovebox or spotify ? Would you like to stream your music (and movies) from your own hard drive at home ? Owncloud even has an answer for that. The built in media player lets you access your library from anywhere as long as you sport at least a browser (AND some underwear .. Owncloud is classy like that).

Want to tie all of your different cloud services together ? Owncloud supports connecting external storage to the service (like network and usb drives) but can also connect to Dropbox and Google Docs, offering ALL those files up in one simple interface.

So what does it take ? 

Installing Owncloud is pretty simple. All you need is a linux server and you can choose to install Owncloud either from the repositories (if you are using Ubuntu or Debian) or you can go and download version 6 straight from their website. 

Owncloud is based on a web based server so you can access everything from port 80 and add some security by choosing to go for https to do your authentication (highly recommended).  You can run it on your server at home OR on a webspace you rented somewhere (or if you are really lucking on your own hosted server in some datacenter). You don’t need a lot of power, but Owncloud does need some ram and some cpu power if it is going to manage and index thousands of files for you.

So how do I do it.

Find out more.

In all , Owncloud is a very powerful solution when it comes to hosting stuff yourself. It has come a long way since version 6 and I have been a big fan of the convenience, the cross platform compatible-ness (is that a word ?) and the sheer power of integrating multiple storage locations (usb drives, network drives, cloud storage) to ONE single web interface. Try it .. you’ll be on cloud 9.

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kw802 : Storytime.

Its storytime again on the Knightwise.com podcast. We bring together some awesome tunes and two great stories from the blog. Sit back, relax and enjoy our two columns ” I’m not a Gamer ” and ” Privacy is a statement” 

Shownotes.
– Privacy is a statement (original article : http://knightwise.com/column-privacy-is-a-statement/)
– I’m not a gamer (original article : http://knightwise.com/column-im-not-a-gamer-im-just-retro/)

Music.
Aural Planet : Hydropoetry Cathedral.
Puff Dragon: Chinese_Radio.

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Privacy week : Be careful what you share.

 We close up privacy week with this little awareness video. We talked about how the bad guys can sniff and snoop, and how you can protect your traffic by using our tips and tricks. There is however ONE factor we cannot do anything about .. and that is about YOUR behaviour. Privacy is not only about what you keep a secret .. its also about what you choose to share. Below is a little Belgian social media awareness video (I’m pretty proud about the Belgian Part) that will make you see how “trivial” information can be “correlated” into something quite .. Scary …. Beware of what you share ! 

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Column : Privacy is a statement.

“Privacy is dead” It’s one of those boilerplate expressions you hear whenever there is a discussion about the NSA sniffing bits along some transatlantic cable, or a scandal about a flash light application that shares all your contacts with a Chinese scammer. Perhaps people are right. Keeping your data to yourself is becoming harder and harder to do. Marketeers, Governments, applications, devices, .. they all seem to be out to track and trace our every move and share whatever we do with the world.

 Google knows all about my emails, Facebook knows everything about my life. My Cellphone is playing little snitch to some Canadian marketing agency in their plan to help push targeted advertising my way. Why should I bother with privacy ?

 “Why should we bother” Well : you can ask yourself that question. The only way to remain untraced these days is to crawl into a cave  in the centre of the woods and never come out.  

 But when I look at most people around me … they seem to be doing the opposite. Not only don’t they have a problem with their privacy being invaded .. they seem to rationalize the very invasion of their privacy into something trivial.

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 “ They can watch me , I have nothing to hide” .

If that were to be true .. why bother wearing clothes to work in the morning. Let’s rip off the curtains in the bedroom so everybody can see your “lateral aerobics” on Sunday afternoon.

Lets take away all the doors of the restrooms so we can poop and talk face to face at the same time .. You said you don’t have anything to hide .. right ?

 You see, that is where the “nothing to hide’ statement” breaks down. Our personal privacy makes us who we are. Whether you are pooping out the longest turd in history OR shooting heroine up your arm .. you will close the door of the toilet stall nevertheless.

 You don’t have intimate conversations with your wife from opposite sides of the football-pitch… You don’t scratch your lady parts in front of your boss  when they are itchy ?

How about shouting out what you make a year  to your co-workers ? No ? See .. you DO have things to hide. Personal things. And that personal privacy defines you as a person, as an individual .. and not a member of a mindless herd.

 ‘I’m not doing anything wrong’ is another slippery slope. Because “Right” or “Wrong” are relative to whatever situation you are in. Take the family that googled “Fertiliser” and “pressure cooker” on a Sunday afternoon.  They had a swat team break down their door and arrest them on suspicion of trying to blow stuff up. Did they do anything wrong ?

Try doing a paper on Fundamentalism, cancel your life insurance and book a one way plane ticket to the US. You will end up with a lot of questions to answer at best OR a cavity search before you leave the airport. Why ? You’re not doing anything wrong.  But the lubed up glove of the border patrol officer sure makes you wonder if something might be ‘up’.

 “What can they do with that info anyway”  You would be amazed how you can puzzle the most trivial of data together into one giant revealing blob of information about your interests, your habits, your life.  And if you are lucky , the picture they paint will be correct. What they DO with that picture is completely out of your hands .. But suppose they get it WRONG ? What if taking that information out of perspective, or crunching the data wrong will depict you as somebody chronically addicted to gambling. What if your future boss thinks you are an unreliable alcoholic because he saw those 5 public pictures of you at this embarrassing party. If the information they collect gets misrepresented, distorted or manipulated it can mean a whole lot of trouble. And the more information that’s out there , the higher the odds of that happening.

 “I don’t care if they are watching”. Maybe you don’t. But that depends on WHO is watching ? You might not have a problem having your internet traffic logged by the government who want to “keep you safe”. But what about that dingy kid in the corner of the internet café who is sniffing the local wifi network for dirty pics and juicy urls ? What about that stalky sys-administrator at work who is going through your logs to find out what flowers you like. ( It’s Valentines day soon , creeps need to get laid too) Are you sure you want to be this “open” with them ? Are you sure you don’t want to keep some stuff away from nosy snoopers ?

 So take care of your privacy. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that it is JUST the government that is trying to watch you. For every NSA agent looking at your personal data … there are 10 marketeers trying to analyse your habits and e 20 more script kiddies, hackers, key loggers and mallware bots trying to get their hands on your information. You might want to disclose everything to the authorities .. But that doesn’t mean you have to do it to everybody else.

 So lets make privacy a statement. I protect my information, my communications and my data NOT because I’m doing anything wrong .. but because I’m NOT doing anything wrong. I’m exercising my basic right of being my own private free individual. I’m not a felon, not a convict. My bedroom does not get searched every two weeks by guards . I’m not in jail. I am free , free to choose NOT to disclose my personal information to ANYONE who queries it.  

So protect your right to your privacy as a basic right of being a free individual. Wear your encryption skills like a medal of your techno-skills.  Be smart and challenge every request for your personal data. Go tell Runkeeper to sod off when it wants to see all your friend info on Facebook. Ditch applications/websites that needlessly want to log or track you. Share what YOU want to share. Your personal privacy is not only a basic part of your personal freedom .. its a statement : The statement that YOU are FREE.

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Privacy Week : Surf anonymously on your phone with Hotspot Shield.

Who do you trust ! That is of course the main question in most of the topics of this weeks “Privacy Week” on our blog. When you connect to the internet on your tablet or mobile phone, you have a choice between different networks and carriers.  You can go directly via your mobile phone’s dataplan (if you have one) or connect via Wifi. In both cases “somebody” is going to connect you to your internet. For your cell connection that will be your Telco, for your Wifi connection that will be your ISP or the kind person/company who set up the wifi hotspot you are using. The question is : Do you trust them ?  As we told you in our first post : Sniffing unencrypted traffic is very very easy on a network. So when it comes to those open networks in a coffee shop, you never know who is watching. So why not “tunnel” your mobile traffic too. 

Hotspot Shield VPN is my FREE application of choice. It allows you to tunnel all your traffic through their VPN tunnel and lets it emerge somewhere in the US. So anyone who wants to sniff you (either your telco, your local ISP or the dingy kid in the corner with his laptop running Wireshark) won’t be able to make out what you are doing. But because you “exit” to the internet on AnchorFree’s network (they make the app) , THEY will. 

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Hotspot shield VPN is free and easy to use. Its not always fast and it comes with adds. Opinions about this service might be mixed, but I regularly use it when I take my IOS or Android mobile device onto an open wifi network that I do not trust. Hotspot Shield also comes with a paid plan with “Monthly and Annual subscriptions available for faster connection, better cost savings and enhanced security. All subscriptions provide unlimited VPN bandwidth and NO ADS” So you can even pay if you want to. Keep stuff safe in a simple way, but remember that every connection (no matter if its through your ISP, the hotspot or these guys) requires ‘trust’ in whoever is carrying your data.

Get Hotspotshield VPN for : ANDROID and IOS

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