The Day We Fight Back Against Mass Surveillance

headerOn February 11th 2014, many activist groups, companies, and online platforms will hold a worldwide day of activism in opposition to the NSA’s mass spying regime. Thousands of websites are protesting online but they’re also going to be on the streets. Events are planned in cities worldwide, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Toronto, Chicago, Copenhagen, Stockholm and more.

800px-AaronSwartzPIPA

Swartz protesting against SOPA
(2012 – Photo by D. Sieradski)

“The Day We Fight Back” was announced on the anniversary of the tragic passing of well-known Internet activist Aaron Swartz. He was a computer programmer, writer, and political organizer involved in the development of RSS, the organization of Creative Commons, web.py, Reddit, and his own company, Infogami. In 2011, he was arrest by MIT police after systemically downloading academic journals stolen from JSTOR. After JSTOR and MIT decided NOT to take the case to court, or hold him responsible, US Federal prosecutors took action, charging him with two counts of wire fraud and 11 violations of the US Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). This resulted in $1 million in fines plus 35 years in prison. After being denied a plea bargain two years later, Swartz was found in his New York apartment, where he took his own life. Continue reading

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How to Find the Best Internet Service Provider

[Guest Post by Carmen]

Taking the time to choose a good internet provider can often save you a lot of time and frustration in your internet travels. Many providers take steps to appear as the best option to potential customers, such as aggressive marketing, “one time” offers that are often too good to be true, and social engineering. Knowing the common terminology and spending time going over potential options can help you make a much more informed decision before signing up with an ISP (internet service provider).

Before I can go into the details of negotiating tips and telltale signs of questionable practices, going over the types of Internet connections (the technology that your internet provider uses to deliver service to your house) is vital. In most countries, three prominent technologies are usually used by providers to deliver an internet connection to your home or office.

A digital subscriber line (DSL) is one of the most common types of connection worldwide.  DSL is usually offered by the same company which offers landline telephone service in your area; however, other secondary companies may offer DSL service as well. Under the right conditions, DSL can reach fairly high speeds (50 Mbps+); however, speeds may vary depending on distance from the provider’s node (where the internet is converted to a signal that is capable of reaching your home).  DSL providers often advertise speeds higher than what you are capable of actually receiving. The best way to know if you are truly able to get the maximum speeds would be to ask neighbours.

Cable internet comes in at a close second to DSL, in terms of availability. Cable internet is usually offered by your local cable television company and ran over the same infrastructure as cable TV. This type of connection can reach very high speeds (100+ Mbps); however, the speeds offered by cable internet providers can vary based on the standard used (DOCSIS 3 is the latest cable internet standard, offering theoretical speeds of 300+ Mbps) or back end network capacity. With cable internet, reaching the maximum speeds is usually possible at least at some points in the day. Unlike DSL, network congestion can be a problem with cable. As providers upgrade their networks to meet the demand, this is less of a problem.

Fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) is another viable option and alternative to the two other major options. FTTH uses light over a glass wire to transmit internet. Once reaching the home, there is equipment to convert that fiber signal in something that your devices can understand. With current technology, fiber can reach the highest speeds of all the major methods listed above (1000+ Mbps). Fiber internet can often be expensive however, this is not always the case.

These are the three major technologies currently used for internet service worldwide however there are many other technologies available such as Satellite and Antenna (3G) internet that are in use as well.
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Downgrading From OS X Mavericks to Mountain Lion

Apple.com/osx

Apple released OS X Mavericks in October 2013, the tenth major release of “The world’s most advanced operating system”. Hours after the release, I quickly upgraded the OS on my primary system, a late-2012 27″ iMac.

OS X 10.9 introduced several new features but, as expected, it also introduced several major bugs and removed features without good reason. After being frustrated with Mavericks, as many have, I decided to downgrade to 10.8.5 (OS X Mountain Lion).

A brief and condensed list of bugs and issues I found in OS X Mavericks:

  • There are a few incompatible applications that users were accustomed to using in Mountain Lion which no longer functioned, or caused some instability. RoaringApps.com is a trustworthy crowdsourced website for checking OS compatibility.
  • You lose control of scrolling with a Magic Trackpad, at random times through the day. A full system restart is required. Many users reported this on the Apple Support forum, and it’s still not resolved.
  • I love the new Multi-monitor features advertised in Mavericks and this was one of the reasons I upgraded so quickly. My main workstation is composed of 3 displays so it’s extremely important Apple handles this with care. Once again, they failed.
  • Shared network drives, screen sharing with other Macs on your network, AirDrop? Forget it. Not going to work if you’re using Mountain Lion on any of your other networked Macs. Theoretically it will … but implementation was subpar and obviously rushed.

I left Mountain Lion installed on a small 150GB partition before upgrading to Mavericks. The idea was that I could launch Mountain Lion at any time, just in case I didn’t find the new OS to work for my needs. Unfortunately, that caused more trouble than it was worth. With only 6GB left on the Mountain Lion partition, it quickly filled up and I needed more space. I tried deleting the Mavericks partition and allocating the free space to Mountain Lion, but it’s not that easy. (even while running Disk Utility from an external drive). Long story short, I ended up formatting the entire SSD (including the Mountain Lion recovery partition, yikes!)

Of course I kept a backup of all my data, thanks to Apple’s Time Machine (Which I no longer recommend using, by the way). This was not the concern. The next real challenge was finding, and installing, Mountain Lion. Why does Apple make this so complicated? And why do these bugs even exist? Short answer – OS X developers at Apple don’t support or think in the mind of the minority; most users would never notice the bugs and complications in Mavericks that we geeks (ahem, power users) do.

A persistent banner ad seen in the Mac App Store. Apple is encouraging all users to upgrade to Mavericks as soon as possible.

A persistent banner ad seen in the Mac App Store. Apple is encouraging all users to upgrade to Mavericks as soon as possible.

Rushing to download and install Mavericks back in October, I copied the installer onto the same SD card that Mountain Lion was on, replacing and deleting 10.8 forever. Installing via SD card was out of the question.  :-(

No problem, I can just download Mountain Lion from the App Store like I did last year? Wrong again – it’s not longer available in the Mac App Store and shows an error when attempting to download. At this point, I’m quite frustrated.

After a vast amount of searching, I found a clean copy of Mountain Lion on a popular torrent website. 1.5 hours and 4.5 gigabytes later, I inspected the installer package to notice it was completely mangled so I don’t recommend trying this. I ended up purchasing an Apple Mac Developer account, solely for the purpose of downloading an old OS. Apple provides many past versions of OS X and iOS to developers who want to test their app for previous generation products. Continue reading

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Preview: Apple iPad Mini 2

As the expected release date for the iPad Mini 2 approaches, leaked photos continue to surface that show the new device in many new colors. These include silver, gold, and space gray – similar to the newly unveiled iPhone 5S.

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Apple iPad Mini 2 – Silver – WiFi / 3G

Many reports suggest the iPad Mini 2 will not feature a Retina display, nor a new form factor. It’s likely that we could see Apple Touch ID implemented, with the new Apple A7 processing chip.

At first, you may not be able to see the difference between the original iPad Mini, and iPad Mini 2 and that’s because the outer shells are quite similar. It features a few small design tweaks, such as the reflective Apple logo that has been pressed into the aluminum, rather than engraved on top. The internal components, currently available, suggest an identical microphone and speaker, with minor camera improvements.

Because the form-factor of both iPad Mini and iPad Mini 2 are nearly identical, you will be able to continue using your favourite iPad Mini case or Smart Cover. It’s expected that Apple will announce new cases, potentially similar to those found on the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C.

Thanks to some OEM factories, such as Hon Hai / Foxconn, I was able to get my hands on various parts for the new iPad Mini 2. Although I don’t have all available parts, a “space gray” iPad Mini 2 has also been confirmed in the supply chain.

 

Expected Announcement Date: October 22nd 2013

Expected Release Date: November 2013

Click to view the photos:

iPad Mini 2

[Photos – TechZany.com]

Media Contact: http://techzany.com/contact/

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Live Streaming Video using AVConv and the Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi is a credit-card sized $35 computer that can be used to accomplish many tasks similar to what a desktop PC can do. This includes spreadsheets, word-processing, games, and even…live video broadcasting! By connecting a powered USB Hub and webcam to your Raspberry Pi, you can broadcast live video to an unlimited audience for free. I’ll show you how this is possible.

Please be patient and read through the entire tutorial before attempting.

What You NeedCredit: Wikipedia.org

Getting started requires a few peripherals. To start up your Raspberry Pi and do initial configuration, you will need an HDMI cable, USB keyboard, and USB mouse. In addition:

Recommendations

  • Use the raspberry pi “headless”. Do not run the desktop version of Rasbian on your Pi (xwindows). It uses an excess amount of RAM and precious CPU power that you need to reserve for your live video compression and streaming. Instead, use the command line interface or access via Secure Shell from another computer. (optional)

  • Assign a static local IP to the Raspberry Pi. (Configuration can be found in: /etc/network/interfaces). This is useful when accessing the Pi remotely. (optional)

  • Don’t use a Raspberry Pi enclosure that limits heat transfer and airflow.

Preparation

Update your software repository to the latest version by running the following commands:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

Plug in your devices.  Webcam –> Powered USB Hub –> Raspberry Pi

Install Screen (optional):

apt-get install screen

Restart your Pi device:

reboot


Installation

To transcode and broadcast the video, you will need to use a Linux application called AVConv (similar to FFmpeg). It is a command line program for transcoding multimedia files using the Libav Multimedia Framework. FFmpeg will give you the same result, but I personally prefer AVConv for ease-of-use.

To Install AVConv, run the following command:

sudo apt-get install avconv

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Photoshop Alternative: Pixelmator for Mac

I’ve been using Photoshop for years. I began using it on the PC and then purchased Adobe Photoshop Elements when I started to use Mac OS X. Recently, during the time I began designing websites and taking more photographs, I realized Photoshop Elements (Version 6) just wasn’t providing the tools and simplicity I needed. I wanted to edit photos and design basic web elements with ease.

Three months ago, a friend recommend PixelMator, an easy-to-use, powerful image editing application for Mac OS X. I decided to check it out that day and have been using it ever since. PixelMator provides everything I need from basic photo editing to graphic design.  

Pixelmator uses Core Image and OpenGL technologies that use the Mac’s video card for image processing. By doing a bit of research, I found out that Pixelmator graphic editing software was actually built upon a combination of open source and Mac OS X technologies such as ImageMagick, Automator, Cairo, and Sparkle.

PixelMator has many great features, here are a few:

  • Supports Photoshop images with layers and over 100 other file types
  • 16 colour correction tools
  • More then 50 filters
  • Over 20 tools for painting, cropping, typing, etc
  • Quick file conversions and exports
  • Supports Mac OS X ColorSync and profiles
  • Support for OS X Lion features such as versions, auto save, full screen mode, etc

The full version of PixelMator costs just $29.99, a great price for such an amazing app. PixelMator allows you to do most things that you could do in Photoshop.  With the Mac App Store’s “buy once, install on all Macs” system, purchasing this application is a no brainer. I encourage you to download the trial (or full version) today!

Try the newest version of PixelMator free for 30 days: http://www.pixelmator.com/try/
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