the_simple_computer

A Resource for InfoSocial Awareness

Baselines for Environment Hardening

April 16, 2015

Wow, well it's taken much longer to get this out than I expected but my free time lately is in the negatives. Baselines is a small reference guide intended to be a starting point of minimal environment hardening. While it's not a quick read and will never be 100% complete, you're gonna want to check this one out.



A Gift to Renew All Ages

December 11, 2014

Spread some love this holiday season. Instead of feeding the materialistic frenzy that has come to define the end of each calendar year, why not use your knowledge and skills to provide something that nearly everyone lacks? Even better? Providing said something is not bound to any specific day—you can play this card for whatever event you choose. Homemade is the new Hallmark, so get ready to get creative.



tSc's Inventory for Debian Family Hardening

October 15, 2014

Over the years I have accumulated many pages of changes, fixes and improvements to choose from when installing new Debian and Ubuntu systems. Eventually came the thought of organizing it all for public use and long story short, here it finally is. Let us celebrate this tribute to all things su(do). Updated.



A Report on Hard Drive Reliability in a Production Environment

September 27, 2014

Backblaze has published an update to their in-house hard drive reliability study. The results are universally useful, interesting in many ways and perhaps surprising in others. Here's a brief summary. Updated.



Turn Ubuntu into a Web Developing Workstation

September 21, 2014

If you want to set up a website, a working offline version contained entirely on your computer is an exceedingly handy development tool. Even in the easy Linux distros, this can be confusing to get going so here's a short howto for local Drupal and WordPress installs in Ubuntu. Updated.



Guide to Full Disk Encryption with Ubuntu

September 12, 2014

Here is a complete guide to full disk encryption using Cryptsetup, dm_crypt and LUKS, allowing you to tailor the encryption settings to your specification. The title says Ubuntu and the walkthrough is in Mint but the instructions should apply to any distro which gives you either a live session or a shell where you can get root access to Cryptsetup. Updated.



AppArmor tSc Style

July 13, 2014

Recently I've been putting together some AppArmor profiles for Ubuntu based distros and had the thought to add them here. Nothing too special, just some default and common internet facing programs. They're completely custom made though, a 95% finished product and you just need to fill in some blanks for personalization and to shape them to your system. Updated.



Ode to Those Unsung Heroes of Surge Protection

June 6, 2014

Here's an especially mythical but useful topic. I want to dive deep into surge protection and how to best apply the concept to shelter your building's tender electronic insides. My thesis: Surge protectors at your building's service entry point for electrical, signal and data is—without question—the most cost-effective solution and will provide the highest level of surge protection. But that probably doesn't mean what you think... Updated.



tSc's Windows XP Survival Toolkit

April 15, 2014

Did you know that many people and businesses have no intention of changing their systems from Windows XP any time soon? The bloggers, security companies and tech news sites have all warned of biblical doom awaiting those who persist with their old ways of XP, but I'm not buying the fear and hype. Choice and practicality don't always coincide with software release cycles. I'm not saying you should indefinitely use Windows XP, but what's written here will at least buy you some more time as you form a decision for yourself. Updated.



It's Good to be Back! (again, sort of...)

April 4, 2014

They say good things come in threes, or is it bad things? No matter, because today marks the third time tSc has been completely remodeled. This renovation reverses the move from version 1 to version WordPress so tSc is now pure & lovely HTML 5 and CSS 3 with a touch of non-essential JavaScript.


The site is now lighter, faster, free of the rendering inconsistencies between browsers, entirely self-contained and eliminates an entire backend framework, minimizing security risk. I am pleased. However, one thing it does not do—nor is it intended—is work correctly in Internet Explorer below version 10.



1 Month with the Midori Web Browser

January 2, 2014

I installed Midori on a computer running Ubuntu 13.10 with the goal of displacing as much of my web browsing to there as possible for the next 4 weeks. Midori only needed 2 days to knock me into shock and awe. Sure, there were hiccups along the way but the overall browsing experience was impressively glorious. Updated.



Oh /dev/sda! How Have I Displeased Thee?

October 22, 2013

/etc/fstab is home to one of several files which tell a Linux box what partitions, drives and devices to mount, and at which places in the filesystem to do so. What I attempt in this installation of tSc goodness is to condense the fstab experience into something palatable for new(ish) users. I have for you a range of settings to choose from and I’ve done some light benchmarks for some of those settings. Updated.



Encrypt Your Linux Home Folder: 2 Ways and 10 Steps

September 28, 2013

Here’s a quick & dirty guide to encrypting your /home partition for Debian and Ubuntu based distributions. Updated.



Opt Out of PRISM—You're Probably Doing it Wrong

July 4, 2013

I’ve always tried to distinguish between protecting yourself from advertisers & malicious internet users and government threats. The American NSA's PRISM program is the latter, and you can’t shake off a world superpower nearly as easily as a marketing company. The internet right now in a frenzy of presenting prism-break.org as a cure-all for government surveillance.


All respect to those behind Prism Break. It is a great resource of free, open-source and (generally) trusted software & services, but I want to caution that is not the magic pill that the absurdly irresponsible and deficient media are presenting it as.



It's Good to be Back!

June 28, 2013

the_simple_computer has received a facelift and returned from its hiatus of hosting problems. The past 2 weeks have been a reminder of how the internet is awesome, except for the times when it sucks. Apologies for the downtime and if you tried to contact tSc lately, I likely didn’t receive your message so please resend.



Choosing a Linux Music Player

May 19, 2013

In Userland, managing your music library is much more important than kernels, ASLR, access control or any of that lame stuff. Thus I see no wrong in going full OCD and Synaptic shopping for a music player you’d want to get all snuggly with. I invite you to grab your favorite pair of headphones and partake in the snuggliness. Updated.



Adventures in Linux TCP Tuning

March 19, 2013

Recently I looked deep into adjusting Ubuntu’s TCP stack to squeeze out any extra performance. When the dust settled, it proved a worthwhile effort. I gained an increase in download speed on my home internet connection but there’s a lot more to the story than that. Updated.



10 Exceptional Reader Questions

February 20, 2013

I thought it a good idea to hunt down the best questions I’ve been asked by readers over the past year. Here they are, with (somewhat) fully elaborated answers.



Bitcasa, Google Drive and Phantom File Downloads

December 19, 2012

Bitcasa and Google Drive can be two attractive choices for cloud storage. However, I found that both services preserve shared links when the linked file is deleted from the account. Simply put, the result is that you’re still sharing files when you thought you were not. Updated.



Behind the Curtains of Encrypted Cloud Storage

December 2, 2012

This round of tSc spectacle is a list of 22 different cloud storage providers which I'll judge by their cryptography and account authentication for both the client software and browser login. And a spectacle this surely is.



Tough Love: A Review of CryptoHeaven Secure Email

October 2, 2012

Recently I was contacted by CryptoHeaven and asked to take a look at their secure email service and write up a review. Their open source desktop client manages your CryptoHeaven account which includes email, chat and cloud storage—all over true end-to-end encryption.


Yet this is not merely a review of CryptoHeaven, this is a chronicle of my experience with the software, the service and everything in between. I predict atmospheric highs and desperate lows both lie ahead, but I’ve already written a paragraph so I’m committed to seeing this through.



Free Webmail for Better Privacy

August 10, 2012

In the wake of 2013′s Summer of Surveillance, demand for so-called "private" email services has skyrocketed. New providers have popped into existence as a result of the Snowden leaks while some well-established options have disappeared. Reasonable privacy and security are possible with email, but it requires thought and work. Here is a list of email providers whose free services are a practical starting point. Updated.



A Very Close Look at Comodo Dragon

July 15, 2012

Comodo Dragon stepped onto the web browser scene in November of 2009 and billed itself as a privacy-friendly alternative to Google Chrome. We'll see about that... Updated.



Fingerprinting, CDI & How to Deal With It

June 10, 2012

To set the tone, I’m just going to come right out and say it: You can’t spoof your way out of this one. The idea of fingerprinting is that an attacker can use many individual properties available from your system (ex. screen size, browser, plugins, fonts, etc.) to reliably identify it. This means you just went from being 'the blonde' to 'the blonde in the red dress near the window with an espresso'. Get it? Updated.



Google Chrome Allows Unauthorized Cookies

February 28, 2012

UPDATE: This has been fixed. Current versions of Google Chrome, Chromium and Chromium-based browsers save cookies from certain domains even when the browser is told not to accept any cookies whatsoever. Unless the browser is set to delete cookies on exit, users who have disabled local storage are actually still accruing cookies and being tracked when they are explicitly under the impression that this is not happening. See my bug report to track the issue further.



A List of DNS Service Providers

January 24, 2012

Changing your DNS provider is usually one of the smaller layers to an overall security setup. It can benefit browsing security and would certainly be necessary from a privacy perspective under a few circumstances. If you care about neither of those things, there are still several situations when you’d want to use an alternative and even a few when you wouldn't. Updated.



Search Engines for (almost) Everyone

January 1, 2012

It's hard to top the convenience of web searches through the address bar. Modern browsers can store multiple search engines to be summoned by keyword or letter of your choosing, but just because there isn't an add-on or plugin to search your favorite website doesn't mean you're doomed. It just means you have to take matters into your own hands. Updated.



The Private Life of Chromium Browsers

December 30, 2011

There is little argument that Chromium-based web browsers are currently the most secure available but when it comes to Google and user privacy, the company has a controversial and unassuring history. Nonetheless, it is entirely possible to use a Chromium based browser with all the security benefits and no data mining downsides. Updated.



tSc's Firefox Tweak Guide

November 21, 2011

Since the beginning of time there have been websites dedicated to about:config switches with hopes of squeezing that last drop of performance out of Mozilla Firefox. However, that magic formula is always changing as some config options become obsolete while others are added or implemented as default. The purpose of this page is to maintain configuration references for getting the most out of Firefox. Updated.



The Site has Launched; Go Forth and Multiply

October 28, 2011


So it begins