OpenVPN over UDP is broken. I get a connection, but rarely pass traffic, and never make an https connection. When I switch to TCP port 443 on my server, everything works.
December 28, 2016
July 1, 2016
I got a deal ($125) on an Acer ES1-111M laptop. This class of laptop is intended to be a Windows-running equivalent to Google’s Chromebook. It came with 8GB of RAM and an embedded 32GB eMMC drive. I gave it to my daughter, until the shoddy trackpad made it too frustrating for her and I got her a newer and better laptop. I upgraded the onboard RAM to 8GB. I’ve run Windows 10 and Ubuntu on it, but I don’t really need another personal laptop. Considering the RAM, the light weight, the low temperature and power usage, along with onboard Gigabit Ethernet and a USB 3.0 port, I figured it might make a decent VPN gateway.
I first set it up as a router, which led to the discovery that the existing router in my house, a Buffalo WZR-HP-G300NH, was holding me back. I had a USB 3.0 Gigabit Ethernet dongle as the second interface for the laptop, and when I set up simple IP Masquerading on Ubuntu and pointed a computer at it, I found that my download speeds jumped from ~70Mb/s to ~170Mbs. That led me to look for a wife-friendly (i.e., free) way to improve things. My first choice was my favorite firewall software, OpenWRT. There is an x86 version which is developed alongside the embedded device versions I am so accustomed to using. I grabbed the ISO, then discovered the issue I’ve seen with other Linux distributions, it would not see the storage. Eventually, I installed it to a USB key, which was fine. Along the way, I upgraded to the trunk build and discovered that the OpenWRT which was running could now see the (unused) MMC storage. Perhaps it would now work.
Initially, I wrote an image to the eMMC storage, and booted, but it froze during the boot process. After a bit of tinkering, I found out that if you edit the grub entry so that root=/dev/mmcblk0p2 rather than UUID=-2, it would boot correctly. After booting, just mount /dev/mmcblk0p1 to /mnt, then edit /mnt/boot/grub/grub.cfg to change the UUID entry to /dev/mmcblk0p2, and everything works correctly. You will need to install kmod-usb-net-asix-ax88179 to use the USB Ethernet adaptor. From there, it’s a very normal OpenVPN setup.
March 18, 2016
When I was younger, I often heard people debating whether the state should attempt to ensure equality of opportunity for people or equality of outcome. This has generally focused on areas associated with race or gender. Libertarians have consistently maintained that equality of opportunity is all that the government should properly enforce. The most progressive people push for equality of outcome in some situations, though many will say that historical biases are being overcome, so it is meaningful equality of opportunity that they seek. It strikes me however, that the recent public confrontation between Apple and the FBI provides us with similar arguments being made.
The state has long had the recognized authority to seize property and search it with a warrant. Many of the discussions surrounding the iPhone in question mention that the government can issue orders to look through private property and that the iPhone in question is no different. I’ve seen comparisons, for example to breaking into a home and taking papers for examination.
This is where I think the parallels to civil rights situations can come into play. If the police take your papers, do they have the right to the intelligibility of those papers and effects, or simply to the effects themselves. That is, if the papers are in some language or code that they do not know, do they have the right to force someone to translate it or to teach them the language? In the cases of both plain English papers and the iPhone, they have the same opportunity to examine, but the lack of knowledge (of the pass code, password, or encryption key) may make the outcomes very different.
Another analogy I have seen is that of a safe. Imagine a safe with a completely impregnable lock. What does the state do? Well, there are ways to get into safes without using the lock. You could cut your way in, or blow it up. However, it is at least possible that these other methods may destroy something of value within the safe. Does the government have the right to force the to come up with a method for opening the lock? Further, do they have the right to force to only make locks which can be opened without the owner’s consent? In the case of the confiscated iPhone, there may well be ways to “open” the data without the owner’s consent, but those methods may destroy the information which is sought.
It is entirely possible that this case may have effects which reach outside of the world of technology. The most fundamental of notions being examined are whether the state is entitled to a process or a product? The process is the issuing of warrants and the collection of property. The seizure of property is no guarantee of specific uses of that property. And it is the specific uses that the state demands. Is it appropriate for the state to insist on a specific outcome for a policy or is it appropriate that an agreed upon process be followed? In the justice system, I have heard many times over the years that the purpose is to follow the process. Justice is the ideal outcome, but a particular outcome is not what the state promises citizens. It promises them a process. Yet, it appears as though the state is not satisfied to have the same situation in cases involving itself: it demands an outcome. As we move forward and various technologies are developed, this guarantee of outcome will necessarily create greater and greater burdens on hardware and software developers. It may be effectively illegal for a small independent developer to create an encrypted product, for example, because the day may come where each instance of a product will require some sort of individualized method for accessing whatever data is held within it. That implies a substantial data handling infrastructure which companies, and individuals, may soon be required to maintain.
January 19, 2016
I just had a thought while chatting with some friends. What if Apple buys Tesla, and leverages the IP, along with moving iOS and even Mac production stateside? There has been plenty of speculation about them building cars or buying Tesla, and Donald Trump was recently reported to have said that he would make them move production back stateside. This might actually be something which would benefit Apple’s bottom line. I think they have enough IP protection to pull all of that off. And they’d have PR coups over even the American car manufacturers, which would place pressure on them to move more production back stateside. I really think, the more that I think about it, that Trump winning could make Apple more money than its ever made over a Presidential term. It could be absolutely massive. With IP, you can afford union wages, as the restricted competition means greatly increased profit margins. Considering the nationalist fervor which would accompany a Trump win, this might be a win for Apple as well.
April 6, 2015
I wanted to have a SOCKS proxy on my home network, but I didn’t want to have to install new software. Fortunately, autossh can be used for that purpose without much trouble. Just add to your /etc/rc.local:
autossh -M 0 -N -C -g -l root -D :1080 localhost
after setting up ssh keys to allow root to log in as itself via localhost with no password. This will cause your server to listen on port 1080, and any SOCKS client on your home network can just point to it. After that, you can force all outbound traffic through that proxy if you wish, and limit the direct access to the Internet for internal machines.
January 27, 2015
Driverless vehicles are all the rage all over the Internet. In October, Tesla announced an autopilot feature which, in addition to providing some useful driver assistance features, will also allow the car to park itself when on private property. Mercedes has had similar driver assistance features for some time. Of course, Google is famous for experimenting with fully autonomous cars for years and have been improving the technology steadily. I have every confidence in the engineering. The capability to make a reliable autonomous vehicle is nearly upon us and is a very reachable goal. However, that is not the determining factor in them becoming commonplace on the roads.
The proponents for autonomous cars largely come from the technologically sophisticated left. There are some significant potential efficiency and safety gains to be had from self-driving vehicles. The driver is the most unreliable part of a car. Driver behavior has a large impact on energy usage as well. Up to this point, there has not been much in the way of vocal opposition to driverless cars. There are concerns, yes. Perhaps they will make traffic worse. There are potential ethical dilemmas. But these are not serious impediments to adoption. The serious impediment to the adoption of autonomous cars is the state.
Some of the things being touted as benefits of autonomous cars are threats to some parties. Let’s look at safety. Assume an autonomous car obeys all traffic laws. What does that do to various governments who depend on ticketing revenue? Driving irregularities are a leading reason for traffic stops which allow for the detection of drug trafficking, which is another major source of revenue for local police departments. Will police departments and municipalities be onboard for technology which will potentially eliminate the majority of their revenues? I think not.
Assuming the limited testing of computer controlled cars is promising, what are likely reactions from governments? If a driverless car is really safer and more efficient, how long before anything else is banned? Look at technologies such as airbags and backup cameras. These things went from high-end features to mandatory ones within 3 car generations. How long before something which could save considerably more lives would be similarly mandated? And that would spark outrage among both car enthusiasts and the automakers who cater to those enthusiasts. Those are moneyed interests whose influence should not be underestimated.
I do not expect these reasons to be the explicit cases for banning or at least slowing the adoption of autonomous vehicles. They are too cynical to be digested by the public. There will be other reasons given. I’m sure many factions are chomping at the bit for the first fatality which is caused or at least exacerbated by some sort of failure or design flaw in an autonomous car. When that happens, it will be put to maximum use by political interests who have had to largely remain silent due to their somewhat unsavory motivations. I expect us to have autonomous vehicles. But not without a fight, and not when the technology is ready. Perhaps a generation after the technology is readily available, the political climate will have sufficiently changed to allow them to become commonplace, but I don’t expect them to be common on American roads for at least 20 years after we have fully operational, reliable, cost-effective prototypes. The state will probably not allow it to happen any sooner than that.
August 21, 2013
Windows 8 Pro (which is the version I have. I cannot comment on other versions) appears to have an issue with a normal OpenVPN tunnel. When using UDP, my VPN does not pass traffic. It does pass that traffic when I use TCP. Additionally, a Cisco SSL VPN (also UDP based) I use does not work. After browsing about a bit, I found that the UDP encapsulation settings have an effect on this. The registry setting which needs to be changed is:
After rebooting, both of my VPNs worked, fixing an issue which nearly made me abandon Windows 8.
February 22, 2011
November 6, 2010
I log into a Zimbra server for email. I may be logged in on the local network, from outside, over the Internet, or across a VPN. The hostname is always the same. I found that I would have to actually quit Firefox in order to log back into Zimbra if I initiated a session over the Internet, and later made a VPN connection. I would see a white screen with a link in the upper left corner which said [Sign Out]. Clicking it did nothing. I actually had to restart Firefox. I discovered that this happened because of Noscript’s ABE protection. I did not wish to disable this, as it is a useful security feature. The solution is to go into the NoScript options, under ABE, and edit the SYSTEM settings. It normally says
# Prevent Internet sites from requesting LAN resources.
Accept from LOCAL
I added this line after the Accept lin:
Accept ALL from *.<mydomainname>
That fixed the issue. It might be advisable for people who use Noscript in a corporate environment with VPN access to add this to their ABE settings in order to prevent web application failures.
July 19, 2010
I have a dual boot system with Windows 7 and Ubuntu 10.04. In order to secure the system, I have system encryption with Truecrypt and encrypted LVM in Ubuntu. I need to access my Windows files from within Ubuntu. After a bit of searching around the Internet, I pieced together this command line, which I put in /etc/rc.local. Since my system is fully encrypted and used by only me, I’m not concerned about the password being in /etc/rc.local. I installed the Truecrypt console version.
I added the following line to /etc/rc.local:
echo “MyTruecryptPassPhrase” | /usr/local/bin/truecrypt -t -m system -k “” -p ”” –protect-hidden=no –fs-options=rw,noatime,umask=000 –filesystem=ntfs-3g /dev/<windows partition> /<local mount point>
By echoing the passphrase and piping it to the Truecrypt command, we avoid having it show up in the ‘ps -ef’ command. The filesystem will be mounted with 0777 permissions.
I have found that it is even possible to mount outer partitions (with hidden partitions inside) using this method, and protecting the hidden partition. The command is as follows:
echo “HiddenPartitionPassphrase\n\nOuterPartitionPassphrase” | /usr/bin/truecrypt -t -k “” -p “” –protect-hidden=yes –fs-options=rw,noatime,umask=000 /dev/sda2 /windows
By using the hidden OS feature in Truecrypt, it is possible to triple boot your computer, with all data on the drive except for the /boot partition in Linux being encrypted. Since no secret information is stored in /boot, this is not a problem.