Net Neutrality is dying – but not in the way you might think

Net Neutrality is defined as “the principle that Internet service providers and governments regulating the Internet should treat all data on the Internet the same, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, website, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication”. While many attacks have been made on Net Neutrality by large corporations, including trying to create a two tier internet & ISP’s slowing the traffic of competing streaming services, on the whole the basic definition of Net Neutrality has remained unscathed. However the definition of net neutrality may just be out of date.

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Whatsapp end to end encryption

End to End encryption – The reasons we can’t just outlaw encryption for all.

Over the past few days in the UK there has been a renewed sense of urgency within government to address & ban/circumvent end to end encryption in communications apps. On Wednesday of last week in the UK an attack was launched on Westminster. During the subsequent investigation it has come to light that the attacker used the WhatsApp messaging app to message a friend or accomplice minutes before the attack. The government’s response to this, perhaps with the best of intentions, is to outlaw or circumvent encryption for the purposes of law enforcement. The reasoning, to stop criminals using platforms to co-ordinate is commendable, however it is totally unworkable. encryption’s raison d’etre is to make interception by a third-party as difficult as possible, if not impossible.

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openPGP decrypted email

PGP encrypted emails on Mac OS X/Sierra using GPGtools GPGsuite

As part of my cybersecurity posts I’ve decided to write briefly about PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) encryption of email. We will use GPG which stands for GNU Privacy Guard and is a compatible free software equivalent of Symantec’s proprietary encryption algorithm. Both PGP and GPG are interchangeable so you can use either protocol. These keys use a high level of encryption. I Use RSA 4096 for my keys which is possibly a little overkill, but I like to future proof when learning.

GPG is important for emails as it means that an email remains encrypted between the sender & the receiver. It works on the principle of key pairs. Each user generates a pair of keys, one private key remains secret and on the user’s computer, the other, known as a public key is free to distribute on the internet and allows you to pass it on to those you wish to communicate with.

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Insulation Tape over webcam

Apple Cybersecurity basics – Securing your hardware

I’ve been planning on writing a series of posts on cybersecurity for a while now. I’ve been interested in computer security for decades & have always tried to secure my machines, data & online profiles. In the modern computing landscape, many aspects of basic cybersecurity have been lost. When I started out online, perhaps in the early 90’s, there was a strong culture of using online handles as opposed to your own personal details. We had an awareness that the internet was a public sphere which is universally accessible.

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Stop speakers buzzing, hissing and popping in OS sierra on iMac

OS Sierra external speaker pop & hissing/buzzing/humming noise fix

Since upgrading to OS Sierra on my iMac, I had noticed a horrible buzzing noise coming from my external desktop speakers. The pop would occur after a short timeout and seemed to indicate that sierra had put the audio driver to sleep, leaving no output to the external speakers. The initial switching off of the speakers would cause the pop and then the speakers would buzz until a system sound woke up the audio driver & played a sound.

This hissing & buzzing of the external iMac speakers was driving me mad. A few years ago I remember a fix called Antipop which was a small Daemon which would play a system narration consisting of no actual sound, but enough to keep the sound driver from sleeping.

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2016 Macbook Pro

Apple just released new MacBook Pro’s – So I went a bought a 2012 model.

On October 27th Apple held one of their new product unveiling conferences & I was instantly disappointed. I was sat in a coffee shop in central Manchester watching the stream & almost shouting at Apple in public. Apple hardware has been iOS focused for a long while now & any real innovation in the computing hardware side of things has been seriously lacking. I bought a 24″ top of the line iMac back in 2009 & I’ve used it daily ever since. The new hardware just doesn’t warrant the outlay & the performance gains are negligible in my opinion for the price.

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Apple iPhone 7 Plus missing the 3.5mm headphone jack

iPhone 7 & 7 Plus ditching the 3.5mm audio headphone jack – I’m not convinced

This week Apple unveiled its latest & greatest flagship device, the iPhone 7 & 7 Plus. This is the first Apple conference which I haven’t attended or streamed live from home. For me, the magic of Apple is starting to fade. Don’t get me wrong, their hardware is exquisite, but their decision-making & rush of new hardware & software to market is getting a little tedious. Especially on the software side, nothing is quite as polished & flawless. Everything feels buggy & clunky.

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Anker Power Core 20100 charging ports

Anker PowerCore 20100 4.8 amp Mobile Power Bank

Modern smart phones aren’t great when it comes to battery life. This can be blamed on the user as much as the device itself. We tend to use smart phones for everything nowadays. From MP3 playback to calls, texts, social media & maps. The usage is endless. Unfortunately the power life is not.

I often find myself in cities & on trips without access to an outlet & I can be down to 50% before 10AM. I use my iPhone to conduct my business, manage my life, listen to music & take photos. I use it to pay for coffee, to organise meeting friends & reply to business emails on the go. I use it a lot. I don’t tend to kill time with the iPhone, I’m not a Facebook user and tend to limit my social media usage, but I still struggle to maintain battery life.

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Let's Encrypt free TLS/SSL for HTTPS

Using Let’s Encrypt to enable HTTPS for your website

For a long time I’ve been meaning to sort out SSL certificates for my domains & secure traffic to them. Last year HTTPS became a google ranking factor & since then site wide HTTPS adoption has been on the increase. The problem with HTTPS is that up until recently it required buying an SSL certificate from a vendor & installing it on your hosting.

SSL certificates are not cheap & need renewing on a regular basis. It isn’t just a one-off cost. Furthermore, if you have multiple websites hosted on shared hosting, you need to sort out & purchase a separate certificate for each domain, or buy a wildcard certificate to cover your domains. Not cool.

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Configuring LibreELEC

Migrating from OpenELEC to LibreELEC kodi

I’ve been using OpenELEC for a few years now, having it installed on an older Apple TV 1 (ATV1) and more recently on my Raspberry Pi 2 for use as a media centre. OpenELEC drastically simplified a kodi installation on any supported hardware & by aiming OpenELEC at being an appliance they managed to make a lightweight & rock solid kodi OS.

It would seem over the past 6 months or so, development of OpenELEC and support for OpenELEC has wound down. Maybe the developers have other projects to focus on, but I found that it wasn’t being updated as often as I would like. I then spotted LibreELEC which is operated by a small board of developers focused on creating a system with just enough OS for Kodi. This is excellent news for anyone running Kodi on a Raspberry Pi as the filesystem requirements are small & only enough processes & services run in order to support Kodi, meaning precious resources are freed up on slower hardware.

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Lenovo Thinkpad X200 laptop battery woes

Regular readers will know that I now use a Lenovo X200 for most of my computing needs. It has Libreboot installed and I run Trisquel 7 GNU linux on the laptop. This laptop is perfect for linux, all of the hardware including the updated Atheros wifi adaptor have open source & free drivers available & the machine is truly 100% my own.

The laptop itself is still fairly powerful for an older laptop with an Intel® Core™2 Duo CPU P8600 @ 2.40GHz dual core processor and upgraded ram to 4GB it really is a good mobile workhorse. I only paid £50 for the laptop in September & I installed 4GB of ram I had in my desk drawer from an old Macbook upgrade. I also updated the Intel wifi board to an Atheros to allow me to run Trisquel.

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Front veiw on my 5th Generation iPod U2 edition & original packaging

iPod 5th Generation SSD Upgrade with iFlash and Sandisk SD cards

I love my old school technology. While I love all the new developments in tech, I’m still one of these people who wont replace something which is perfectly good just to upgrade to the latest model. My 5th Generation iPod is no exception. I bought this iPod in 2006 from the Apple store in San Francisco. It was my first new Apple device & I opted for the special U2 edition, not because I particularly like U2, but because I loved the black with red click wheel.

This iPod has seen heavy usage since the day I bought it. It has travelled with me around the world, still in its original Belkin hard case & it has never EVER failed me.

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Turn Off iCloud Music Library

iPhone storage full when using iCloud music *fix*

I’ve been having major issues with my iPhone 6 running out of storage capacity. I have a modest amount of apps installed on the iPhone & I have the 16GB version of the iPhone 6. I was constantly receiving the storage almost full banner on my iPhone and even when looking at the storage & iCloud usage in settings I couldn’t figure out what was taking up all the space. This tutorial will also apply to iPad as it’s an iOS issue and not an iPhone specific issue. Works well if you keep receiving the message “iphone storage full” and you use iTunes match or iCloud Music Library

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Firefox ends support for OSX 10.7

Can’t update Firefox on OSX 10.7 Mountain Lion – Mozilla ends Firefox support

This evening I was greeted with a message from my trusty firefox installation that OSX 10.7 (Mountain Lion) is no longer supported and as such won’t receive any future updates. This contradicts the message over on the Firefox support site which states that support will continue to August 2016. I, like many people still run an old iMac. This machine is fast (faster than my brother in laws brand new iMac running OSX El Capitan) in real life even though the hardware is in no way a match.

I’ve tried all new versions of OSX on this machine and the last fast version to work is OSX Mountain Lion. I cannot replace a machine due to bloaty software and I in particular hate it when an OS gets bloaty. OS’s should be light & fast and allow each user to customise the system with software based on their needs. I don’t like all the new & faddy features to be baked into the OS. It’s harder to tweak and generally performs badly.

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