Behdad Esfahbod's daily notes on GNOME, Pango, Fedora, Persian Computing, Bob Dylan, and Dan Bern!

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McEs, A Hacker Life
Saturday, May 28, 2005
 In the blogs

Thanks to Miguel I found Ulrich Drepper's blog too. Found the long paper in this post of him about how to write shared libraries useful. If you want to get an in depth tour on how shared libraries are implemented in ELF, that's for you.

In another post, Ulrich talks about how many people do not know about what a firewall is, or that their computer can be remotely controlled by an attacker, and other security (or lack thereof) stuff. Which reminded me that I had a similar yet different problem: Installed Fedora Core 3 on a friend's laptop few months ago. She's a graduate student in Computer Science too, and coming from a Windows background. I updated the FC3 after installation, turned off unneeded services, and tuned up for multimedia. After a few days, she had a question: What is the security features of her system? I didn't really know what to answer, something like: Well, it's secure as long as you keep it updated and don't do silly things. She followed up with questions about how to install the firewall, what about the antivirus, ad blocker, blah blah. I explained to her that there's not much of a virus for Linux, and although firewalls exist and heavily used, it's not quite necessary when you only have the ssh port open, and that she's already behind the firewall that is the router, etc. Being a freaked Windows user before, she insisted on me setting up a firewall for her AND to check that her machine is not already compromised. Set up iptables easily thanks to Fedora Security Level tool, but had no idea how to persuade her that she's all clean. Almost told her that there's almost no way to ensure 100% that you are not compromised. She couldn't see that, just wanted to make sure. So to make her happy, I found a way to make her feel better by asking rpm to verify all the installed files (fortunately prelink was not run yet and all binaries passed verification). Now that was something to her, 'cause it took a long time with huge disk activity, and looked quite like what antivirus software does: Slowing down your machine for a while. In the meantime she inquired about what does this rpm -V do, and then on how to make sure the installed packages are the right ones? I answered with the GPG signature on packages, which led us to the fact that gpgcheck is off in her yum.conf (and keys are not installed). Holy sh*t, all my trick was in the water now. So she claimed everybody in the world could have been altering packages she downloaded. I answering no, only the Rogers and AT&T and other guys providing the route between Red Hat and you could, and that you should trust me that they are busier than altering your RPM packages and just yours. It came to the point that she was saying "hacking is easy, every teenager can do that, just because you are saying my machine is clean, doesn't mean it's clean.", which IIRC, I simply replied "Go grab your old Windows if you like, I ain't install the whole thing again." :( She's been using the Fedora 24/7 since then, with no real problem. :)

Another social problem I have had with Windows users: I'm sharing an apartment with a friend, Amir. We share a Rogers cable high-speed. He does P2P and has set a limit on bandwidth, so I don't have any problem with that. Once I found that I cannot download above 4kb/s from kernel.org, where I usually used to do at 70kb/s for the least. Turned out Amir has reinstalled Windows again, and have installed Gozilla to speed up downloading lots of applications he's got to install one more time. It took quite a while to make him understand how Gozilla is not going to make more bandwidth out of our cable, but simply eating my lunch by opening 20 connections instead of one. And the damn router doesn't have any traffic shaping capabilities. :( It's amazing how living without Windows makes words like "download accelerator", "spyware", "shareware", "antivirus", ... meaningless and unimportant.

Richard Stallman writes in the FSF blog about his recent visit to Alhambra, Spain. Man, if you like that, you gotta visit the Persian gardens in Isfahan, Shiraz, and a few other cities. Traveling to Iran is a lot easier now (see here) Isfahan the Movie is an stunning short modeling of a mosque in Isfahan, in case you've not seen it before. I like the way RMS writes about his girlfriend too. That's what I like about RMS in general, he's always as young as he was in 1982.

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