A Sanguine Neurastheniac

Entries from January 2013

Hacking The Gender Gap this Thursday

January 29, 2013 · Leave a Comment

Hacking the Gender Gap” is a hands-on workshop for understanding and defeating the gender gap in tech.  I helped develop it last March for the Women In Tech Summit with my good friend and Hacktory powerhouse, Georgia Guthrie.  Amy Guthrie (no relation, another awesome Hacktory organizer) and I will be facilitating it this Thursday evening at our new space at 3711 Market St. for Girl Geek Dinners.  We’ve done it at Adacamp, HOPE9, and HacDC, and if you’ve heard of it, it might have been as “that timeline thing.”  In a nutshell, participants share their experiences with technology–both positive and negative–on a physical timeline; identify patterns in the assembled experiences; and discuss ways to make tech communities more inclusive, and ways that awesome people already have.  (Many thanks to Katie Bechtold who, I think, wrote that description for HacDC.)

Check out the Meetup link for details and to sign up.  There are only a few seats left!  This event is open only to people who identify themselves as women, but my understanding is that most GGDs are open to non-women if they are guests of a woman in tech.

Also, if you’re interested in being a facilitator in the future, keep an eye on The Hacktory‘s website.  We’ll be holding trainings throughout the year.

Categories: Gender and tech
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Un-Borked

January 28, 2013 · Leave a Comment

Erm. So, WordPress had replaced the widgets in my right sidebar with my penultimate post, but only on the front page. If I clicked a post to view it on its own page, the sidebar worked correctly. But it persisted even if I deleted a post or changed my theme.

I managed to fix it, but I’m not sure how. I do know that my web host upgraded WordPress a few days ago and that I only noticed the issue yesterday. Yesterday I did notice that the html editor was adding a lot of div tags that it wasn’t using before. I went through my last few posts and replaced them with the good ol’ P (paragraph) tag. The front page works again. I’m not 100% convinced it’s because of the deleted div tags, but the sidebar in my theme is indeed differentiated with div tags, so maybe???

Categories: Administration
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Tor basics in plain English

January 28, 2013 · Leave a Comment

Here’s a cheat sheet that I wrote up for myself about two weeks ago after I’d gotten my bearings with the basics of Tor.  I actually wrote it as an informal status update to my mentor and realized that if it was helpful to me, it might be helpful to someone else.  If you see any errors, don’t be shy about setting me back on the right path!

First, though, please bask in the glory of this super awesome clickable graphic that demonstrates what network traffic is and isn’t obscured by Tor and HTTPS (encrypted HTTP).  This snippet below is just a teaser.  Click it to go to a page where you can click buttons for Tor and HTTPS and see how they work.

Tor and HTTP

Tor and HTTPS

After a visit to the OTI offices and an overview of Commotion with my project mentor Will Hawkins, I felt like the fog had parted a bit on the Commotion side so I moved over to get the same level of clarity with Tor.  That’s most of what I did that week.  The Tor IRC channel has been unexpectedly not-unpleasant and I have a basic grasp of the vocabulary and principles.I learned that all Tor-enabled machines use the same code, and they are differentiated by changes to the config file.  All Tor network participants (machines running Tor) are either clients or relays. Clients just connect to a stable entry, or “guard” node, and get on their merry way.

As for the rest, all relays are entry relays; some entry relays are guards (once they are proven to be stable via analysis of a descriptor that is pushed from the node once an hour); some entry relays are unlisted (therefore not publicly known) and they are called bridges; and finally only a relative few Tor nodes are configured as exit nodes.  Exits have specific policies that allow and disallow traffic to various places, allowing exit node operators to be choosy about what kind of activity they allow on their node.  Relevant ports on *nix machines include 9001 (data) and 9030 (directory).

         Tor
        /   \ 
  Client     Relay (Entry)
            /      |      \
        Guard    Bridge    Exit
   (if stable)  (unlisted)  (configurable rules)

I learned about verifying that your Tor relay is working correctly.  The easy way is to go to check.torproject.org and see if it says that you are routing through the Tor network.  But all it does is check whether you arrived at that page from one of the published exit nodes.  You can find the code in SVN here, and the code for a newer TorCheck utility is on Github.  Digging a little deeper, you should see Tor running if you do a ps -ef, and your Tor log file should have something to say about whether it is running properly or not.  More on logging and *nix behavior in a later post.

I looked at a list of ISPs that are Tor-friendly and Tor-unfriendly.  I found that mine probably is friendly, i.e., it was before it was acquired (twice).  But in talking to folks on IRC I was reasonably well assured that for the purposes of testing, especially if I’m running a bridge, I should be fine.

Before I came to that conclusion I kind of spun off into a swirl of what-ifs, wondering how safe it was to test Tor on my home IP.  I thought through scenarios where I might test on a hosted server, on a new and separate Internet connection to my house, and internally on a fake network of physical or virtual machines in my house.  I may revisit those options once I’m really moving with testing, depending on how informative I think my testbed seems to be, and for what use cases.

Categories: Geekery
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Week three is the new Tuesday

January 28, 2013 · Leave a Comment

Last week I was chatting with one of the GNOME internship program mentors who asked how the internship was going for me. I said that I felt pretty good, but that I was in a little bit of a lull. I’d learned about all I needed to know to get my feet wet with the technical end of my project, and now I needed to get better clarity on the question I am asking/problem I am solving to be able to really dig my heels in. I was floundering a little, but also having open-ended conversations with people who might be interested in the work. I didn’t know at that moment that those conversations would lead to a significant breakthrough the next day, resulting in a much clearer goal for my internship term.

It was nice to hear, then, that apparently a bunch of the interns in my cohort were at just about the same point. And so, if this internship were a week, last week would have been Tuesday!

Categories: Geekery
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Deepest Condolences

January 14, 2013 · Leave a Comment

Aaron Swartz at Boston Wikipedia Meetup, 2009. Photo by Sage Ross.

I’m taking a moment to offer my sympathies to the friends and family of Aaron Swartz, who died on Friday.  I didn’t know him, but he was a friend to at least one of my friends and his passing is a blow to many, many people.  He was a dynamic, passionate, and creative defender of information freedom, and he will be missed.  Here are remembrances from people around the Internet:

Cory Doctorow

Peter Eckersly of the Electronic Frontier Foundation

Quinn Norton

Wikipedia

New York Times

 

Categories: Uncategorized

OPW Internship: Organizing My Thoughts

January 11, 2013 · Leave a Comment

As I wrote previously, I started a work-from-home internship with the Open Technology Institute last Wednesday. The project I was placed with has me working on boosting privacy and anonymity in wireless mesh networks. I spent some time orienting myself with the task and organizing my thoughts.

The stated goal of the project is to integrate Tor with Commotion. More specifically:

Tor Integration:

Commotion mesh nodes are capable of being configured to enter directly into the Tor network. We need an intern to configure, package, and document the process of making a tor-entry node. If the intern completes this task within the time frame they will have the opportunity to tackle custom configurations that will allow for Tor exit nodes on the mesh that allow small bandwidth Tor traffic from elsewhere to be run over the network to further obfuscate it.

Great! So….what does that mean? This was a good exercise in self-management and breaking a project apart into achievable bits. I started with some clarifying questions.

  • What is Commotion and what does it do? For whom?
  • What is Tor and what does it do? For whom?
  • What is the advantage of combining them and who would be interested in using such a tool?

(more…)

Categories: Appropriate Tech · Geekery
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