Perhaps you are aware of this ongoing stupidity from the government. There’s no real debate, of course, just government figures ignoring the obvious. The motives may vary among themselves, but not a single one of them honestly serves your interest.
At any rate, the US government for one has been pushing for backdoors to encryption systems and software so that they can snoop at will. What they aren’t telling you is that it’s not just about snooping, but the authority to plant malware at their whim. Techies might tell you there is a difference between breaking encryption and breaking other kinds of security, but I assure you it’s all one package. The government admits to wanting a secret key that allows them to break encryption. They don’t admit to demanding the authority to plant malware, but they do it frequently enough for folks to notice and report on it. Keep your eye on encryption but never forget that the government is using this merely as a starting point for having complete access to monitor all computer activity.
But while this stupid government kvetching carries on, getting particularly loud when anything “bad” happens anywhere in the world (like the mass murders Paris), you have to know that the major private industries are complying without telling you. That is, they are going along with the government demands in secret. All this noise about resisting and trying to come up with systems to protect their customers is just noise — they are lying through their teeth. Not all of them in quite the same way at exactly the same time, but you can bet they want to keep their foot in the door on big government contracts, so they will find ways to give the government what it wants.
There is a network protocol most users don’t know about that has to do with issuing certificate numbers to certain players on the Internet. Those certificates are collected and cataloged and placed in computer operating systems and in browser packages so that when you visit a certain website, it can offer a certificate that your browser or operating system can recognize as valid. Then you can negotiate for a temporarily encrypted connected that excludes eavesdropping. That way you can do your banking, log into various other kinds of services, and feel comfortable that it will be safe and secure.
Awhile back, Lenovo caught hell from technicians because they were selling laptops with a certificate that went into the operating system itself, and it was issued by Lenovo on behalf of third party advertisers so that they could slip their ads into your browser even when it was supposed to be an encrypted connection. That’s because the ad certificate overrode the safeguards. This was darned near a criminal act.
Just recently, Dell was caught doing something equally stupid. No, it was even stupider. It took advantage of a weakness Google intentionally built into the ultimate standard of certificate security, and Google adamantly refuses to fix it. And while Dell is fixing their part of this stupid mistake, it comes with a second similar certificate blunder that Dell refuses to even talk about.
Granted, this Dell crap only works if you are running Windows, but the huge freaking doorway Google put into the certificate process itself touches everybody online. In effect, Google has created a permanent weakness so that anyone with the ability to plant a certificate on your computer can gain access to all your connected, encrypted or otherwise.
That includes every connection you might use to download stuff, like maybe even computer updates. Granted, most Open Source operating systems use a different system for protecting their updating process that doesn’t require using encryption certificates. And most Linux distributions are always discussing ways to make it even more secure, but I have zero confidence in the way Windows gets its updates. That’s where the government malware comes in. And if a frequently bumbling incompetent government agency can do it, what’s to keep other agencies from using that system?
It just keeps getting crazier.
I won’t use the terminology of the giants on whose shoulders I stand; they encouraged me to find my own voice from merging myself into the message. So if I had to pick one thing to talk about as the singular core of my existence, the drive to keep functioning daily in this human form in our Fallen Realm it’s this:
Discover the unique mind and logic of your heart. If you need scientific background, go here for my summary on that. In a follow-up chapter I describe how it works for religious believers. However, you can toss aside as much of that as you please, so long as you grasp the notion that your heart has its own separate faculty for knowing and deciding things, and that its proper operation requires your intellect play the servant, not the ruler. Once you get that working in any way at all — your heart feeding guidance down to your mind — everything else takes care of itself.
That’s what drives me. If you need to hear something about my interest in such things, let me assure you: If more people operated under the guidance of their heart-minds, my life would be far, far better than it is now. It might be hard to explain in mere words how that works, but I’m utterly convinced it is so. If I can get you sensing and deciding from your heart, I can afford to let you run off on your own path far, far away from me and my ideas and my plans. Find your heart and forget about me, because my own heart tells me nothing can possibly do me as much good as you learning to live by your heart.
So perhaps you’ll be a little less surprised or annoyed when I make so much noise about how computers and the Internet are a big part of what I do. It’s probably just a little easier to understand that I am not driven to sell my favorite brand of Linux or BSD for personal gain or some kind of religious satisfaction. Use what you find effective in your heart-led operations, but if more people use some kind of Linux, the Internet will work far, far better than it does now. It would vastly simplify my mission. So long as things stay like they are, I spend the vast majority of my time working on fixing all the problems that naturally arise from that. Not just time spent fixing other people’s computers, but dealing with all the resulting hassles of a virtual world running on dumb-assed crazy lies about what matters in computer networking.
My technology concerns are shaped by my moral concerns with heart-led living. It’s not about Linux; come up with something viable that does the same job better and I’ll support it. (That’s the same thing I say about the modern State of Israel: Come up with a state that actually follows God’s Laws and I’ll be first in line to support them, even immigrate there.) How much time I have to mess with it is a consideration, but if what you have is genuinely better for my mission, I’ll jump right on it.
So here I come to the point of this post: The reason I make so much noise about survival in terms of technology and cyberwarfare is because that’s the basis for what comes after our little taste of Armageddon. Yes, we are going to experience some drastic changes in the system that makes life possible right now. We might not have anything so well defined as to call it a “war” in classical terms, but there will be lots of destruction and death. If you think we’ve got too much of that now, just wait; it will spread like wildfire all too soon. I am quite convinced there is no single human source that understands it well enough to describe what’s coming, and what it will look like, or what you will experience on the way. I am utterly convinced that we will pass through some really crazy shit.
But I am equally certain that, while the Internet will see some drastic changes, it won’t go away. If anything, a form of global networking will become even more functional and more central to continuing human existence. So I’m doing my best to prepare for that unseen future with measures I sense in my heart are highly likely to remain viable through this mess and out the other side — whatever that might mean in real terms.
Some of you surely understand Windows, for example, well enough to keep it viable for the time being. Great; God bless you and keep up the good work. Learn how to share your blessing in such things, because we are all called to play shepherd one way or another. That’s the fundamental nature of God’s call on people who can hear His voice: Feed the sheep and keep them alive and growing. People need shepherding for their computer networking, too. All the more so because the coming civilization will stand on that foundation. But in my case, the best I can do is steer folks away from Windows because I’m convinced it will be less hassle and less time wasted if you can shift your habits over to the Linux world. If computers matter to your calling and daily life, I believe you’ll have less hassle once you get over the initial hump of learning a different OS. To me, this seems a far shorter path for folks who have better things to do.
Just use my blather as some kind of example of driving hard after God, of knowing beyond all doubt what He wants you to do for His glory.
I’m not mocking Microsoft, just declaring things end-user need to know.
There’s a post on Infoworld that seems to describe three big flaws in the most recent updates to Win10 (AKA “threshold 2”).
1. If you have any SD cards inserted into the device, it tends to freeze at the 44% mark and never finishes.
2. It uninstalls a bunch of very popular system monitoring applications, including some protective stuff like SpyBot. You can reinstall them, but you have to wonder what kind if incompetence or meanness this is.
3. If you haven’t been using Win10 at least 31 days, you don’t get this update at all. Seems it has something to do with whether you can roll back to your previous version of Windows (7 or 8.x).
I’ve also seen mentioned that anything you’ve done to modify system settings away from the defaults is subject to reset without notice. That is, MS will undo some or all of the changes you’ve made in your system settings, like turning off some of the telemetry snooping.
On a vaguely related note: Some of you are aware of the UK’s new “Snooper’s Charter” that all encryption services and software must have a backdoor for the government. Most Open Source systems won’t/can’t accommodate such a demand. So if you are running Linux in the UK, and you use encryption on your stuff in any way, you will likely be in violation of the law. So far, I’ve not heard of any UK Linux users being harassed about it, but it does seem to be where things are headed. Suddenly, a whole segment of the population is declared illegal for something they’ve done most of their lives?
This has nothing to do with whether you should run Windows on your PC or other device. I’m sharing these two items so that you’ll be aware and take appropriate action to maintain control over your computer, instead of letting someone else make all the important decisions for you.
1. Win10 Upgrade Becomes “Recommended Update” Next Year — In essence, you will have to fight to avoid an automated upgrade from Win7/8 to Win10. What happens is that MS moves the upgrade to the list of “Recommended Updates.” Virtually everyone I know has their computer set to automatically accept this class of update. If you don’t, you’ll get lots of complaints from Windows about reduced security and all that jazz. This crosses a thin line because they know this means the vast majority of folks running some other version of Windows can be hoodwinked into taking the upgrade. They claim you’ll have to choose to continue once the process starts, but I have to wonder if it will be obvious to most users, having been long conditioned to go along with everything that pops up like that.
At any rate, the remedy is to examine the settings for system updates in your Control Panel. For Win7, here is a good run-down. Please note the second image where you see a checkmark in the box “Give me recommended updates the same way I receive important updates” and uncheck that box. Now be ready every Patch Tuesday to have to pick through the recommended updates. (See what I mean about making it hard to say “No”?)
2. Win10 Abuses Your Bandwidth — It’s pretty cool when, on your office or corporate LAN, only one system has to download the updates from MS for your Win10 computers. The first one to get them will share those updates with all the others. I suppose that was the excuse, but what happens is that MS is using your bandwidth on the Internet itself, not on just your local network. Literally: Your Win10 computer is being used to save MS money by a default setting that makes your computer join a sort of torrent network and upload your updates to other computers randomly scattered around your region of the world. The link tells you how to fix this.
This would normally be private reverie, but I want to make sure my parishioners have a clue what’s happening here.
I’m writing this more for my own sense of moral focus than anything else. Something is absorbing a lot of my attention right now. I see before me a calling to extend the computer support ministry, in that I need to be ready for bigger things. I still sense that it means I’ll be hired by someone who will sponsor the work for whatever reason. I have a strong sense that it will start out slow and small, and blossom into something I cannot predict. This is the path I tread.
An important task along this path was trying to discern what I would want to offer, to focus on just a few Linux products so I could do a better job for the client. So while I still recommend CentOS for the corporate desktop, I recommend some version of Ubuntu/Kubuntu for just about everyone else except the hard-core computer geeks. I still prefer Debian for myself, but I know that most users rely on less DIY. Please note: The difference between the two *buntus is that the flagship product Ubuntu is much easier to use for younger folks or those who need it really, really simple. It’s quite different from Windows, but a whole lot simpler. Kubuntu would appear somewhat more like Windows to most people. It is more for computer users who have an expectation of gaining a moderate measure of expertise, people who willingly take the time to learn about the system.
I have to keep a focus on the mission, not the methods and means. That means I can’t push my personal preferences, but offer something that is actually tested and known to work for the average computer user. Nothing is perfect; there will never be a computing Nirvana. This means I’ll have to steel myself against wishes for what cannot be. I’ve also made my Kubuntu book free. I believe it was a mistake to charge for it and I should have stuck to my instincts on that. I will also update it for more recent versions.
Behind all this I’m dealing with a potent anticipation based on guesses about how this expanded mission will become viable in the sense of a demand for services. I’m not going to sell this thing like some aggressive entrepreneur. My nature is to respond to a cry for help, and if folks don’t cry, I have little to offer. So it seems painfully obvious to me that something has to change in the world at large, something that will make Windows a major problem for folks who now use it. I refuse to manufacture a crisis; if folks don’t feel the need, there’s no use pushing this. That’s how faith works, and this must rest first and foremost on my faith.
While I can guess what might bring about such a demand, I know that I can’t yet foresee what it will be. A part of me currently expects some kind of technical glitch that can’t be fixed, or some utterly stupid move by MS that would drive people away. Or maybe MS simply collapses in some way and can’t support the product. It’s also possible that there could be some compromise from which MS cannot break away, where it is revealed that MS has become captive to some other force in the world. However, aside from some shockingly egregious change that attacks their sense of security, most people tend to ignore privacy threats. Thus, I lean toward the idea this will more likely be something that simply makes Windows impossible to use for some portion of current users. This is just conjecture on my part; I really don’t know what to expect.
And it would take only a small percentage of market shift. If so much as one percent of computer owners/users decide Linux is a better option, that’s all it would take to put me in business, so to speak. For now, I’m just waiting to see what comes next. Something of which I am more certain is that much of what humans value and use in this world will be more completely tied to the Internet and networking in general. More and more resources will be invested in cyber space and it will matter what tools we use for it. We still have a lot of other crap to face, but this is the focus of my calling.
I’ll let you decide if I’m chasing a delusion, but I’m all in on this one.
For your sakes, I’m a little worried about something regarding Windows.
First, let me remind you of the terminology: “telemetry” is the word for what your Windows computer sends to Microsoft for analysis. On the one hand, Windows collects a lot of specific details about your hardware, the software you add or remove, all the files you create and save or delete, how you use the software, and in particular they way you interact with the Internet with all the places you visit. But if your computer sent all of that detail to Microsoft, their servers would be overwhelmed. Rather, Windows reduces that stuff to statistical data. They say it’s anonymized — that it can’t be traced to you individually — but I’ll let you decide if that’s true.
Notice something: Encryption does not protect your privacy on this stuff. The analysis is based on your keystrokes, where you move your mouse and everything that comes and goes on the clipboard. So long as Windows is actually running, even your virtual machines are subject to this detailed analysis. It’s recorded somewhere on your system, though probably not in raw form, because that’s just too much stuff. Your hard drive space would disappear in a couple of months of normal use if it were raw data. Either way, practical reality prevents Windows sending too much detail because Microsoft has no way to process more than a certain limited amount. That limited amount is the telemetry data.
I am skeptical, not only of their assertion that it is anonymized, but also skeptical that they would work very hard to guard this telemtry data. You might be aware that Microsoft is currently fighting the US Department of Justice over a demand that MS provide emails stored on servers in Ireland. Can a warrant served to a US based company apply to data housed under another jurisdiction? The implications are beyond guessing. Despite the rhetoric about protecting customer privacy, the real issue is that if the DOJ wins this case, Microsoft will lose billions of dollars in business. Nobody will trust them even in the typical superficial sense. This alone could also generate a general move away from Windows itself as an operating system.
Naturally, I would say that’s a good idea, but for a different reason. The telemetry data is all stored on servers in the US; it’s already understood to be within reach of the US government. How hard is it to imagine that some kind of algorithm could identify key items of interest to a legal system that has already shown a penchant for persecuting folks over perfectly legitimate and innocent behavior? Innocence is no defense against the most unconscionable harassment; I know this from personal experience. The question is more a matter of whether any government agent decides to take an interest in what you are doing for any reason at all. Some things you might do are obviously a cop-caller, but there is a broad area of activity that seems to garner only capricious enforcement interest. Prosecution is demonstrably uneven and unfair, and largely opaque to our analysis.
So we are in a pernicious police state, but the state so far is a little short of the resources to make life entirely dreary for everyone. That Windows telemetry stuff is a new threat vector for the crazy oppression, but it’s also an open door to non-government threats. How could anyone imagine MS can protect this telemetry system against criminal hackers? Microsoft is notorious for inserting backdoors intentionally for their own convenience, and in virtual space, only time and effort keeps those doors hidden from others. You can be sure the NSA knows about them already, and their alleged wizardry stands against some very obvious bungling.
Oh, and the telemetry has been inserted into both Win7 and Win8 for those who decline the upgrade to Win10. I’ve already posted links to ways you can remove the current “updates” by which this was done, but who’s to say MS won’t find a way to slip them in again? All they have to do is bundle those changes with some essential security fix. They’ve done that before. Win10 already forces you to accept whatever updates MS pleases to send you, and I am waiting for that policy to be applied to Win7 and Win8.
Am I the only one who predicts this will all turn out a disaster for the billions of Windows users in the world? By the way, I’m predicting the DOJ will win some part of their case against Microsoft. Even if they don’t, you should be aware that virtual space recognizes no political boundaries. Get used to thinking that way, because human efforts to constrain the Internet under national laws is a silly joke.