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Since we’re all suspects, anyhow (part 2)

Yesterday I installed the Firefox (and Chrome) extension, HTTPS Everywhere. This free add-on from the Electronic Frontier Foundation automatically forces a secure HTTPS connection in place of a regular HTTP connection, when HTTPS is available.

Just now I belatedly downloaded the TOR Browser Bundle. Been meaning to do that for a long time.

Although they each got to work quickly and without fuss, in both cases, I found myself plunged into a world of geekery and confusion. (Do you want to “use the SSL Observatory?” Shall we “check certificates even if TOR isn’t available?” No installation needed; just extract! “… only advanced users should need to modify their torrc file directly.”)

Now, although I’m by no means a geek, I do have longstanding credentials as a paranoid privacy nut. When I originally wrote this, I listed all the privacy protections already on this system, then I had to take the list out because it got insanely long-winded.

Besides all those add-ons & such, I’m also pretty fearless about just punching buttons and seeing what happens. (“Hey, what’s the worst it could do? Cause my computer to turn inside out and explode into a time warp?”) So you’d think I’d find this stuff at least a little bit easy. Nope! It’s still way over my head!


Online privacy protections suffer four big problems:

1. They’re time-consuming and confusing. Even the ones that install and work effortlessly will bombard you with questions about which you have no clue and ask you to set settings you can’t possibly understand.

2. You have to trust that they’re doing what they say (even if they’re open source, because how many of us can actually read source code?) and the whole point of this exercise is that you shouldn’t be so trustful. Alternatively, with some of them, like NoScript, you can clearly see what they’re doing — and occasionally what they do is make it impossible to do what you want to do on your computer.

3. There are some things you can’t adequately protect against (e.g. the infamous “metadata.”)

4. What’s protected today could be compromised tomorrow and it would be a while before we knew. (We also have to use the privacy protectors properly to avoid compromising ourselves, but that’s another issue.)


Oh, and there’s a fifth problem, hinted at in my deleted list of Stuff I’ve Already Done: there are so many possibilities for privacy-protection add-ons and methods that … how the heck do you even begin to choose which five or 10 or 15 you should use?


Post-Snowden, good folks have made marvelous attempts at boiling down and clarifying the best available privacy protections.

I already linked to the lovely Prism-Break site — which gives about as good and clear an outline as you could wish: proprietary baddies on the left, open-source (or at least free) alternatives on the right. Just what you need in any category (operating systems, browsers, chat, VOIP, etc.).

Borepatch has also been doing a terrific series on keeping data private (complete with cute pix to reduce the anxiety of it all). Part 1. Part II. Part III.


And in a related post, Borepatch points to an equally terrific and nicely simplified free Sovereign Man black paper that’s also a great effort.

The above are all really helpful and, as far as possible in the confusing world of e-data security, brilliantly organized and spelled out. I recommend them. You won’t go wrong by following most of their recommendations.

When you have a free week or so, that is. And assuming you’re either significantly computer literate or as idiotic fearless as I sometimes am about “just punching the button to see what happens.”


Again, as with yesterday’s screed, I’m not saying, “Oh, this is too hard or too dangerous; we should all just give up.”

On the contrary. I just think there’s a huge need for some of this stuff to be presented in small, non-geeky bites. I’d like to propose we here at the Living Freedom blog try this:

Let’s pick five very useful programs and have a “Privacy Protection of the Week” feature, each week featuring a different browser extension or program.

Then, everybody who can will go ahead and install that protector. Right then. Without putting it on the “to do sometime before the heat-death of the universe” list.

Let’s stay away from the ones most people would stumble over (“You really MUST install Linux, then encrypt everything with GPG!”) But one-by-one let’s feature a useful privacy protector, explain what it does and why it’s a good idea to have it, tell where to get it and how to use it, then maybe some of you geekier members of the Commentariat could answer questions from people who are still uncertain or confused.

Even this could get a little tricky. Obviously some things work only on Firefox and IE users are just stuck, or some things install completely differently on Windows than Mac or Linux. Some things are strictly for smartphones (and I know nada about smartphones), others more old-fashioned.

But I’m asking. If you don’t have a lot of privacy protection on your computer and the whole business seems overwhelming, what kind of EZ protection would you like to have? And you guys who are already privacy gods, which EZ programs or extensions do you think we could walk through in a “Privacy Protection of the Week”?


  1. David
    David June 26, 2013 3:27 pm

    Hmm. And then we need to disable Tor to browse this site. πŸ™‚

    Actually this sounds like fun. I’ll be watching to see what people come up with. If it helps, some basic/simple ideas:

    1) Install a VPN that terminates in another country. I like, which is cheap and lets you switch between countries as you feel the urge. This has the advantage of (at least weakly but potentially strongly) encrypting all your traffic so your ISP would have real trouble spying on you.

    2) You know, the easiest email protection is simply deleting old stuff so it doesn’t sit around waiting to be read. It’s far from foolproof, but it ain’t bad either. If you use something like Thunderbird it’s easy to store stuff you want to keep in local folders. Which you can keep safe with something like…

    3) SpiderOak does good encrypted backups “in the cloud.” They don’t have the password to decrypt, so they can’t (easily) snoop. It’s free up to 2GB I think.

    4) I like LastPass. A lot. I have one ridiculously long password for it that’s a combination of phrases & characters I find easy to remember. And I don’t know any of my other passwords at all. Works on all the devices I use too.

    This seems like a really simple approach that would help a lot. Doesn’t address a lot of issues, but–is it the kind of thing you were looking for?

  2. David
    David June 26, 2013 3:29 pm

    Oh, the VPN also obscures your physical location. Which is nice. So does Tor, but that comes with a higher hassle-overhead.

  3. Claire
    Claire June 26, 2013 3:43 pm

    Yes, yes, David! Those are exactly the types of suggestions I was hoping for.

    Some of the things you mention would never have occurred to me (e.g. because I don’t use the cloud and have never trusted any password-management system other than my own brain). Which is good.

    I’d like to find five diverse privacy protectors, starting with one really simple, useful one (like installing a browser add-on), then move to slightly greater (but still not great) complexity.

  4. David
    David June 26, 2013 5:29 pm

    Well, LastPass is pretty simple. Works in Firefox and Chrome that I know of. And there’s an iPhone app.

  5. David Gross
    David Gross June 26, 2013 10:38 pm

    I’m fond of the browser plug-ins “DoNotTrackMe” and “Abine TACO” — they disable and/or confuse the tracking systems that a variety of advertising and Google/Facebook/etc. meganet companies use to track us as we go from site to site and build portfolios on who we are and what kind of advertising we might be vulnerable to. I think they may do more or less the same thing, but I have them both installed and they don’t seem to interfere with each other. You might do fine with just one or the other.

    “AdBlock” is another excellent browser extension, but less from a privacy/security point of view than a get-rid-of-insults-to-the-intelligence point of view.

  6. RickB
    RickB June 27, 2013 1:49 am

    I have a minor privacy protection that I installed by accident. I chose Clear as my ISP–it’s wireless via cell. I’ve noticed that web sites (Google, pop-up ads) have no idea of my physical location.
    My reported location changes randomly–and it is never closer than fifteen miles away!

  7. Benjamin
    Benjamin June 27, 2013 4:43 am

    Tor always worried me since it was developed by the US Navy, can’t help but think they have a backdoor into it.

  8. ILTim
    ILTim June 27, 2013 5:47 am

    I have really come to love TrueCrypt. In the simplest form, its used to just create a file (10mb or 1gb or whatever)… you then use this file as-if it was a usb flash drive.

    Obviously, instead of plugging it into a usb port, your going to open the file with truecrypt instead. Otherwise the usage analogy is pretty accurate and to me, simplifies understanding the process – and its usefulness.

    Make a few encrypted ‘drives’ and mount these files only for the brief periods that you need them. One for financial data, one for cookie recipes….

    These files can be copied around, backed up in the cloud, whatever. They’re pretty resilient to prying – generally quite a bit more resistant that a TRTL60X6 jewel safe.

  9. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty June 27, 2013 7:02 am

    I have ghostery and ad/script block software, though most websites won’t open/play properly unless you allow at least some scripts. I use PGP encryption for email with willing correspondents (not too many). I tried encrypting my hard drive years ago… and was soon unable to even read it – and no, I didn’t lose the password. The machine decided it didn’t LIKE that one, and that was that. All that data was completely safe from everyone, including ME. I won’t try that again. πŸ™‚

    I also immediately save to file any email information I wish to keep (seldom the whole email, actually), delete things as I answer, research them, and dump ALL email in the Thunderbird folders regularly. That’s more so I don’t lose track of things than anything else. I despise all web based email and won’t use it.

    I keep my address book trimmed down to those I actually am apt to send a message to and have turned off the automatic adding of addresses.

    I don’t post on line or in email anything I don’t want others to read. That’s entirely subjective, of course, but I do fairly well at it I think.

    But for the most part, I suspect it’s about 50 years too late for me to attempt any sort of hiding. I’ve been saying the same things, for the same reasons, all these years – and on line since the mid 1990s – and that’s not going to change. If I were to suddenly vanish on line, I imagine that would set off a few red flags, even though they know perfectly well where I am – and I’m not going anywhere.

    Anyone who wants to know what I think and plan to do can find it on line now, or in the “wayback machine.” Or they can come to the back door and ask me. I’ll be glad to tell them to their faces.

  10. Woody
    Woody June 27, 2013 7:08 am

    For those who like to β€œjust punch the button to see what happens.” I recommend Sandboxie. To me surfing in a sandbox is mandatory. Sometimes what happens when you punch the button is nasty shit sneaks into your machine. A sandbox prevents that. Sandboxie is not real geeky and comes in a free version and a paid version. I started with the free one and eventually bought a license because I thought the extra features were worth the money. It works with Firefox and IE and possibly other browsers. Anyone with average computer skills should be able to figure it out.

  11. Claire
    Claire June 27, 2013 7:14 am

    Sandboxie — Possibly a good thing for Windows users who like to “just punch the buttons.”

    I can get away with a little more on Linux. πŸ™‚

  12. Claire
    Claire June 27, 2013 7:18 am

    ML — Kindred spirits. πŸ™‚

    The one thing I don’t do that you do is dump all my email. Prolly a good idea; I just don’t (though I would if it were being kept on somebody’s servers). Oh, and I tried Ghostery, but it slowed my browser down to a crawwwwwwl.

    For Firefox, I consider NoScript, AdBlockPlus, and Better Privacy to be essential — though as you note, NoScript can cause fits for people who don’t know how to use it and on some sites, even for those who do. I keep an alternate, less secure, browser for when that happens.

  13. Paul Bonneau
    Paul Bonneau June 27, 2013 7:27 am

    I like Truecrypt too. However it is better to encrypt your entire hard drive including the operating system.

    Claire I’d like to comment on the mindset here. Unless you are a spy selling cruise missile plans, there is no need to have perfect, bulletproof privacy. The need is simply to add difficulty to the snoops’ job – including protecting against ID theft. So, one should not get overwhelmed with this stuff. Just keep playing with it and adding a layer here and there as you go along. I like the VPN step because it adds tremendous difficulty to the snoops, at little cost. ISP’s can’t get anything from you except that you are communicating with a VPN server. If that server is in, say, Russia, how much access does NSA have to it? Probably not a lot. I use, cheap and good service.

    Also I think you need to rethink your OS stance, as Windows is such a huge security risk. To me there are two possible paths.

    1) If you work with just one computer, start playing with Puppy Linux. Puppy allows you to boot your computer into Windows as usual, but alternatively boot into Puppy simply by inserting a CD or flash drive or external hard drive. Then in Puppy you can access your windows files with similar applications. The Windows is still there if you need to run an application installed only there, but for email and browsing the internet, why not use Puppy? Firefox works, Thunderbird works. If you think about it, most of what we do is browse and email.

    Nice thing about Puppy is you can use it to get your feet wet with Linux, at no risk to your current Windows setup (of course it is always a good idea to back up your system before doing anything unusual!). The downside is that it takes a reboot to switch between Puppy and Windows.

    2) Even easier is to get another computer for linux. Many linuxes such as Puppy or the nerdish Arch Linux are so sparing on resources that you can dumpster-dive to get it and the Operating System still runs fast. Use that computer for email and browsing, and your Windows box for everything else. You can even get a KVM switch like this one to avoid having to get multiple keyboards and monitors:
    It’s probably best to just use a full-featured linux like Mint or Mageia on this second computer. Go to to find it.

    As to the other tools, I use (actually my own adaptation of it) for generating my main password. I use a hosts file to eliminate ad content something like this one (but I don’t recall where I got the one I’m using):

    I think noscript is a good browser add-on for security but for some reason I always end up disabling it!

    In linux one may encrypt the entire hard drive with the exception of the small /boot partition and the hard drive master boot record. To protect those also, I use this little item:

  14. Claire
    Claire June 27, 2013 7:39 am


    “Claire I’d like to comment on the mindset here. Unless you are a spy selling cruise missile plans, there is no need to have perfect, bulletproof privacy.”

    Totally agreed. And I expect that most people who are already using some privacy protections understand and agree with that.

    “Also I think you need to rethink your OS stance, as Windows is such a huge security risk.”

    My OS stance is that W****s is a horrible product for a multitude of reasons and that people who care about online security should avoid it. However, I know from experience that it’s no use telling people who aren’t already super-security conscious, “You really need to give up this familiar OS that comes pre-installed and does everything automatically and all by your little self install this geek system, which really has become far less geeky than you think.” It may be true. But it’s useless.

    Far better, when talking to those who are still lost and confused about privacy protection to say, “Hey, download this free browser, then add this free, easy little plugin to it.” Maybe when they see how easy those first steps can be they’ll be less daunted by, “Install one of the zillion types of Linuxes, then learn GPG.”

  15. Paul Bonneau
    Paul Bonneau June 27, 2013 7:48 am

    Oh, one other comment about using an alternative computer for linux. Instead of dumpster diving I just bought an Intel D510MO motherboard cheap (it has an Atom processor) and stuck it in an old tower chassis I had laying around. Using an Atom with Windows would be a joke but it runs Arch linux just fine. The whole system is fanless and uses about 15 watts IIRC so it is entirely quiet. You don’t need to put up with some old noisy Pentium box throwing out a lot of heat!

  16. Woody
    Woody June 27, 2013 7:58 am

    Yeah, I’m one of those people still using (the W-word). I’m a reasonably competent PC user. I have tried several times to get Linux running on different machines and also via a live CD. Mint was the latest fiasco. I have always reached the limit of my frustration before getting a successful install. Communications was the usual roadblock. When someone releases a distro that doesn’t require constant use of the command line it may start to catch on a little better. I sometimes lurk on conversations between linux fans and just shake my head at the arcane nature of an operating system whose proponents insist is easy to instal and use. I will now hang my head in shame and shuffle off to stand in the corner while my more intelligent friends discuss the finer points of command line computing. πŸ˜‰

  17. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty June 27, 2013 8:42 am

    Woody, Woody… Command line? I’ve installed the last two linus operating systems on my machines, and never have touched the terminal. I am no geek, of course, just an opinionated old lady who can type….

    I do agree that linux developers need to make their products more non-geek user friendly, though they’ve done a lot of that in the last five years. The downside is that those programs are becoming too much like the memory hog “windows” stuff they replaced. The newest Ubuntu upgrade has far too much crap running in the background, and I’m going to dump it and go back to the leaner version I started with. And yes, I can do that all by myself. πŸ™‚

    Puppy was great for a long time, but just too limited in function unless all you want to do is email and surf the net.

  18. Claire
    Claire June 27, 2013 9:05 am

    Yeah, I was going to ask about that “command line” comment, too. Mint? Command line? I think I’ve used the command line a couple of times in the last few years, but that was for apps I added, not for anything Mint required. Can you elucidate, Woody?

    I use both Mint and Mandriva & as long as they stay away from trying to add W******s-like “conveniences,” I find ’em very user friendly.

    I know installation problems still happen, alas …

  19. Woody
    Woody June 27, 2013 9:39 am

    My last attempt with Mint was over a year ago. Nothing I could do would get it to recognize my DSL modem or home network. All of the “solutions” I found on the web involved command line use, and none of them worked. I remember trying to download and install a device driver which had me tearing my hair out.

    I remember eavesdropping on a conversation (here, I think) a while ago between several people discussing upgrading to the latest version of some flavor of linux. The conversation described many problems the issue was causing for the participants and there seemed to be quite a few. The exchange made me wonder “Why do people go through all this trouble?” . I snidely refer to it as amassing geek points but I really do understand why people do it. I’m just not up to it anymore.

    Regarding (the W-word), yeah it’s trash, insecure, and bloated, but ordinary people use it because it (mostly) works. Those of us who are conversant with its faults are able to compensate with open source extensions, sandboxes, proxies, VPNs, etc. If I decide to do anything I really, really, really need to hide from the NSA I will have to come up with something other than what I’m doing. For now there doesn’t seem to be a flavor of linux that works out of the box, for me. At this late stage of my life I have other things I’d rather do than arm wrestle with an unfamiliar operating system.

  20. Claire
    Claire June 27, 2013 9:50 am

    Ack, Woody, I’m sorry you had that experience. Yep, guess it still happens. Not as often as it used to five or ten years ago, but that doesn’t matter if it happens to YOU. πŸ™

  21. Ken Hagler
    Ken Hagler June 27, 2013 10:22 am

    There’s a Linux distribution called Tails, available from, that aims to provide everything you need for communication and web browsing. The idea is for people to download the image, burn it to a DVD (or put it on a USB key), then start up a common Windows machine from the DVD.

  22. David
    David June 27, 2013 10:50 am

    Ha! I was just going to mention Tails. It’s a good way to enhance security, but it makes doing stuff like watching videos kinda hard. You end up having to learn.

    OTOH a whole lot of Linux distros can run from a CD/DVD or USB stick these days. Linux Mint is very user-friendly and has most of the stuff you need for media pre-configured. Nice that even if your OS is compromised it only lasts until your next reboot…and it helps to avoid fingerprinting yourself too.

    But I figured this stuff was more on the too-complex-for-starting-out side.

    Though, personally? I run Tails & Mint both from a dongle via grub 2, and choose the one I want when I boot. Plus I store the hash for each, and check it from time to time. And I check the hashes on the Web too, just to be sure nobody’s modified the dongle. Goofy, I know.

  23. David
    David June 27, 2013 10:51 am

    Plus, the Tails guys work really hard to include only the stuff they think is safe…once you start installing new software on it you’re essentially voiding the warranty.

  24. Pat
    Pat June 27, 2013 11:07 am

    I’ve had multiple problems with Linux distros over the past few years, much as Woody has, and have always gone back to Windows. In the past year I’ve taken the bull by the horns and put out good money to have a very good computer guy partition my hard drive. I now have Ubuntu (with its own problems!) on Linux, and Windows for some offline work. (I need Publisher, and even Word works great when it’s away from MicroS**t updates and spying attempts.)

    I’m waiting for StartMail to come on board, and am also interested in TrueCrypt for both partitions.

  25. Coyote Hubbard
    Coyote Hubbard June 27, 2013 11:11 am

    I got a shock yesterday when I signed up for a UPS account so I could get better tracking results for packages. That part was fine, but to get enhanced service, like being able to delay or change delivery (I have a brand new upper for an AR-15 on the way so I waned to be able to have it held as an “On Call” if i am not here to sign for it). Anyway, I went to enable the service, and it had a series of security questions mutiple choice style. These were:
    1) Mothers (and it had it in her name) birth month with 5 months listed
    2) A place that I lived with various cities
    3) A college I attended

    All of them had a CORRECT selection.

    It freaks me out because im in the PNW, and all they have is my name and mailing address and pulled this info up. All that stuff is related to where I grew up back in Virginia.

    I think once your info is out there, its all over as far as privacy/detectability is concerned, and its UPS, not even the NSA that can do this.

  26. David
    David June 27, 2013 11:14 am

    Hi Pat-

    TrueCrypt won’t work for a Linux boot partition (though it’s fine for files and external devices). But you can encrypt the partition when you install Ubuntu fairly easily…there’s a “Encrypt the new Ubuntu installation for security” option as of 12.10. Before that you had to use an alternate installer that was slightly more complex. Though not much.

    I actually have full-disk encryption working with Linux Mint 14 too. Instructions–which are really only workable for geeks–are here:

  27. Claire
    Claire June 27, 2013 11:22 am

    Coyote — Totally scary. I’ve also run into those sorts of questions and heard reports of other people also getting them. I believe they come from an identity-verification “service” provided to big corps and government by Experian, the worst of the three big credit bureaus.

    You’d think anybody with a brain would find this to be a complete violation of every possible standard of confidentiality. But hey, Experian makes money off it and crony capitalists and their pards benefit. So who are you to complain, uppity peasant?

    But yeah. Freaking frightening. Especially when they’re down to details like your mother’s birth month.

    The only “good” thing about this is that allegedly UPS, the Social Security Administration, and others who buy the Experian “service” don’t actually have the data. Only Experian does.

    Yeah … and with that and $5 you can get a complete NSA profile and a police state ….

  28. David
    David June 27, 2013 11:22 am

    Coyote Hubbard-

    And if they -can’t- pull it up, you -can’t- get the account. Western Union is the same way. Fun, huh?

  29. Coyote Hubbard
    Coyote Hubbard June 27, 2013 12:20 pm

    Claire – At that point I almost just cancelled the request for enhanced service, but at that point it was already pulled and I figured the cat was out of the bag already.

    David – I cannot help to think its all going to be a sort of “mark of the beast” not as a physical hand / forehead thing, but the same thing electronically, like chips for your pets.

  30. Pat
    Pat June 27, 2013 12:36 pm

    David – Thanks for that info. Maybe I should use TrueCrypt for my flash drive.

  31. akaGaGa
    akaGaGa June 27, 2013 2:46 pm

    I installed HTTPS Everywhere quite a while ago. Glad to hear you did, too, Claire.

    It would be even better if you convinced those at Backwoods Home to implement it right here. πŸ™‚

  32. rustynail
    rustynail June 27, 2013 4:16 pm

    I started using Ixquick for searches a few months ago (yes, I know I was lazy and slow … should have done it a long time sooner). It comes well recommended by Katherine Albrecht at Caspian. I like it, but also found that if you use the search results without using the proxy, Google is able to get/put cookies and follow up with targeted ads. I tried using Startpage, but couldn’t get Opera to recognized it as the default search engine, so I went back to Ixquick until I have time to learn what is wrong in my registry. I too am anxiously waiting for Startmail.

  33. Claire
    Claire June 27, 2013 6:38 pm

    rustynail — Well, that’s weird. Have you tried setting your browser to block cookies from Google? Is Opera your regular browser? Any interest in using Firefox, where you could use AdBlockPlus?

  34. Claire
    Claire June 27, 2013 6:40 pm

    akaGaGa — I dearly love the folks at BHM, but they’re pretty adamant about sticking with the way they do things. Perhaps some reader emails to Webmaster Oliver ….?

  35. Woody
    Woody June 28, 2013 7:44 am

    Hello, Joe Btfsplk here. I decided to take the advice of ya’al and try Tails. Holy cow, 864mb! So it took all night to download but in the morning there it was. Burned it to a DVD and booted it. Wow, it actually booted on the first try! This is hot stuff. Well maybe not. The touchpad was acting funny. I could move the pointer but the tap to click didn’t work. I discovered after a few minutes that if I moved the pointer to the icon then right clicked the menu would drop down. Then I could move the pointer to the option I wanted an press Enter on the keyboard. Tabs took a while longer to figure out that the arrow keys would allow me to select a tab, usually, but not always. Oh yeah, I discovered that while I was trying to get connected to my home wireless network, unsuccessfully, I might add. My laptop is an Acer Aspire.

    So why would I go through all of these shenanigans to use Tails? This experience if fairly typical of all my encounters with linux. I am sure they can all be overcome, by someone, but I just can’t muster the energy.

    Some questions for the list linix users,

    Was your first installation done for you by someone else or did you have a geek available to get you over the rough spots?

    Did your first installation go on without any device driver issues or config problems and did linux recognize your network hardware immediately without any issues?

    I keep hearing that this or that distro is great for n00bs because you just install it and everything you need is included. Except in my case communications/networking never works and hardware glitches always make using it a pain. I’m beginning to get a complex over it.

  36. David
    David June 28, 2013 9:29 am


    Tails may be the least newbie-friendly Linux distro. That’s not what it’s for. Mint is pretty good, though.

  37. Claire
    Claire June 28, 2013 10:11 am

    Unfortunately, Mint is one poor Woody already had fits with.

    Woody, hats off to you for trying even after all you’ve been through. To answer your question, my very first Linux distro was installed by somebody else — but that was back in the mid-1990s when Linux was still strictly geek territory. I went back to W******s for a few years after that. But since … geez, I dunno when … I’ve done all my own Linux installs. Not all have gone perfectly, but for me (and I hope for most people) the days of devices refusing to get configured properly are in the past.

    Sorry …

  38. David
    David June 28, 2013 10:36 am

    Claire & Woody-

    Oh yeah! Sorry; I’d actually read that. Need more caffeine I guess.

  39. David
    David June 28, 2013 10:41 am

    Actually I re-installed Windows 7 for a family member a while back, then spent hours finding & installing drivers for ethernet, wireless, video card & sound card. Wasn’t easy. At first I had to download stuff on another computer & transfer via CD, because the thing wouldn’t read DVDs either.

    I don’t think it’s a Linux vs. Windows question anymore. Some devices are just moderately uncommon, and their manufacturers aren’t trying very hard to help once you try to get rid of the original OS whatever it may be. (Though to be fair, Microsoft charges $$ to make it easy for them, and on the Linux side they’d have to invest time & effort. Or pay somebody.)

  40. David
    David June 28, 2013 10:49 am

    Come to think of it, on that same computer I later installed Mint (it was basically used for media, and I couldn’t talk her out of Windows until I could show Netflix running well under Linux). And the Mint installation went fine, with no extra work required.

    Luck of the draw, I guess.

  41. Paul Bonneau
    Paul Bonneau June 28, 2013 10:59 am

    Tails is a special purpose distro. Massive usability compromises are made for one end: security. Definitely not for newbs! I tried it but sure didn’t stay with it. But, it’s not a bad thing to have stashed away on a flash drive, for that rainy day when you need secure internet access…

    People have to realize a thing when trying Linux. ALL hardware and firmware is designed with Window in mind, and almost all of it is tested only on Windows. This leave Linux sucking the hind tit where drivers are concerned. The developers have to reverse-engineer a lot of Windows code to get something going. Consequently the hardware support is somewhat limited. The consequences are that if you have a problem with one piece of hardware, toss it out and get another! And do try to look at compatibility lists (even though at the rate new stuff comes out, such are pretty limited).

    Fortunately linux runs on older (cheap) hardware well. You need to cultivate some hardware flexibility with linux. Also desktop hardware has fewer problems than laptops. Some few machines (Dell I think) were sold with Linux installed and should be good.

    You can also switch distros. Some distros cover some hardware better than others.

    That’s just the way it is. Once you get over any install problems though, it’s quite a bit nicer. Every now and then I have to do some work on a windows box and I find myself getting frustrated with all the crap that is thankfully missing in the linux world, like viruses and spyware. I haven’t run a resource-gobbling virus checker for years.

    Speaking of which, if you are stuck with Windows, look at ESET for your virus checker. Very fast and small, compared to those bloated hogs McAfee and Norton.

    Oh, I agree startpage/ixquick is a good security upgrade over google although when comparing the two results I thing google comes up with more results. Now and then when I’m having no luck I let google have a shot at my search and it sometimes connects.

  42. Paul Bonneau
    Paul Bonneau June 28, 2013 11:13 am

    [Was your first installation done for you by someone else or did you have a geek available to get you over the rough spots?]

    Well I’ve been working on computers (including Unix installs) since 1969 so I guess I am the geek. πŸ™‚ Many distros have very good forums that take care of newbs. Puppy is one of the best. Stay away from Arch and the BSDs…

    [Did your first installation go on without any device driver issues or config problems and did linux recognize your network hardware immediately without any issues?]

    Can’t remember that far back. I do know that it’s always a crap shoot, even for just updates. Sometimes it goes smooth, other times a snag with this or that which a little forum research clears up, and sometimes I just give up and stick with what I have, or try another distro. Patience is a virtue. πŸ™‚

    Consider using a wired (ethernet) internet connection. That’s what I use, it’s just more problem-free and I think it is faster too. If you don’t haul a laptop all over the house it shouldn’t be that much of a drawback. It’s easy to punch a hole in sheetrock, heh.

  43. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty June 28, 2013 12:24 pm

    My first linux OS installation was done by a “geek.” He actually redesigned “Puppy” a lot, trying to make it as user friendly as possible. That was in ’06, or thereabouts. Since then, I’ve done my own installs, trying several different linux “flavors,” with only a few temporary problems with peripheral hardware. So far, I like Ubuntu the best.

    And then, made a big mistake – allowed an “update” for Ubuntu a little while ago, and I just hate it. Did weird things to a number of my utility programs and it is slow. I will do a major backup of my files and reinstall the original Ubuntu from the disk I have.

    Wish me luck. πŸ™‚

  44. Pat
    Pat June 28, 2013 1:57 pm

    Good luck, ML!

    Maybe this will help. When I had my computer partitioned, the β€˜geek’ (personally, I never liked the word) gave me LTS (Long-Term Support) – for bugs,etc. See if you can’t find it for your Ubuntu version.

  45. winston
    winston June 29, 2013 1:53 am

    While I definitely support it, my stance on encryption and whatnot has always been something along the lines of ‘Aint nobody got time fo that!’, but lately I’m thinking I should make time.

    I’ve messed with it before…I’ve used hushmail…that whole thing it used to do where you’re account basically self destructs if you let it go unused for awhile? Really annoying when you travel and stuff. Right now I just have a free VPN plugin on my computer but that’s about it.

  46. Woody
    Woody June 29, 2013 8:05 am

    Hello, Joe Btfsplk here again.

    Since I haven’t got the good sense dog gave a goose I decided to try Puppy Linux. Although it was much nicer than Tails the touch pad still didn’t work properly and connecting to the internet was a bad dream.

    I have decided that I am overlooking something very obvious, something an experienced user would probably spot in a heartbeat. I have never been able to connect to the internet with any distro on any machine I’ve tried it on, therefore I am most likely the problem, not Linux. Maybe someday I will run into a Linux guru in the wild and bribe her/him into setting me on the path to enlightenment. Until then I’ll just shuffle back into the corner.

  47. Woody
    Woody June 30, 2013 9:09 am

    Eureka! Lord Dog Almighty it works! Just booted Ububtu 12.40 froma live CD. It immediately recognized my network and the touch pad works like it should. Maybe all those other failures weren’t due to my stoopidity. Time to play.

  48. David
    David June 30, 2013 2:36 pm


    Cool! A little weird, given that Mint is built on top of Ubuntu. But the drivers for your hardware wouldn’t be the only thing they left out of the default Mint (like built-in full-disk encryption).

    Speaking of which, for Ubuntu 12.04 if you want FDE you need to use the “alternate” installer instead of the live-disk version. If you don’t care about that, you’re golden.

  49. Paul Bonneau
    Paul Bonneau July 1, 2013 6:50 pm

    Oooh, just found a juicy website for this topic: “Prism break”

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