A Sanguine Neurastheniac

Entries tagged as ‘fossopw’

Trans Technology Symposium at Rutgers next Tuesday, 3/5

February 27, 2013 · Leave a Comment

trans_textonly2

My friend Christina Dunbar-Hester and her colleague Bryce Renninger are guest curators of a pretty eclectic and awesome exhibit of gender-subversive art and artifacts which runs through June 3, 2013 at Rutgers University Institute for Women and Art in the Douglass Library.  In their words, “Trans Technology focuses on technological art and artifacts that engage in trans, queer and feminist projects that help to trans (to use the word as a verb: spanning; interrogating; crossing; fusing) conceptions of the heterosexual matrix in technology.” A bunch of the featured creators will be at a symposium this Tuesday, March 5, 2013.

I was asked to contribute a jokey tee shirt with a series of (fallopian) tubes (Senator Stevens, don’t tie our tubes!) that I made back in 2006.  Click here for the back story.  My friend and frequent collaborator, Georgia Guthrie, is showing a piece that she knit from network cable and a computer keyboard.  She and I will also be participating throughout the day on a hacking demonstration in the morning and a panel in the afternoon.

silver-on-pink-cropped

It’s not a big truck!

It’s exciting and humbling to be featured alongside Micha Cárdenas, who recently has been working on a wearable electronics art-activist project that would allow people to alert each other of danger or harm with the push of a button by connecting the wearables wirelessly.  It’s also amazing to be on a bill with the Barbie Liberation Organization, famous for swapping the voice boxes in talking Barbie and G. I. Joe dolls.  Artists featured in the exhibit include: Shana Agid, Stephanie Alarcón, Zach Blas, Micha Cárdenas, Heather Cassils, Zackary Drucker, Georgia Guthrie, Jacolby Satterwhite, and Sandy Stone; including two artist/activist groups- Genderchangers and the Barbie Liberation Organization (BLO)

With those teasers, I’ll leave you to explore the other artists and participants on your own.  Here’s the schedule for the day, and if you can’t make it on Tuesday, consider checking out the exhibit during its run until June 3.

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SYMPOSIUM / March 5, 2013

This event is free and open to the public

DOUGLASS LIBRARY
Mabel Smith Douglass Room

Hacking Workshop/Demonstration  11 AM – 12:15 PM
Artists: Georgia Guthrie, Stephanie Alarcon, and Micha Cardenas

 

Lunch 12:15 -1:15 PM
(Click here to RSVP)

ALEXANDER LIBRARY
Teleconference Lecture Hall, 4th Floor

Interventions in Tech Industry and STEM  2 – 3:30 PM
Panelists: Stephanie Alarcon (artist), Zach Blas (artist), Georgia Guthrie (artist), and Jessa Lingel (Rutgers PhD Candidate, LIS)
Moderator: Katie McCollough (Rutgers PhD Candidate, Media Studies)

 

Utopian Technics  4 – 5:30 PM
Panelists: Micha Cardenas (artist), Heather Cassils (artist), Jacolby Satterwhite (artist), and Leah Devus (Associate Professor, Rutgers History Department)
Moderator: Aren Aizura (Rutgers Institute for Research on Women, Post-Doctoral Researcher)

On View: Trans Technology
Circuits of Culture, Self, Belonging

January 22 – June 3, 2013
Mary H. Dana Women Artists Series, Douglass Library
Gallery Hours: 9 AM – 4:30 PM; Weekends by appointment
Press Release

 

Categories: Gender and tech
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Overclocking, wire tripping, and further adventures with Tor

February 27, 2013 · Leave a Comment

Tools of the Trade

Tools of the Trade

Yesterday I was at the OTI offices again for a workday. For a chunk of the day I worked with Dan Staples on reviewing some things I’d learned about network settings in Commotion, and testing a Tor-enabled Commotion build. (More on that in a separate post.)

A couple of funny things happened on the way to the Internet. First, running Tor on a Ubiquiti PicoStation wireless node caused the little machine to overheat and reboot within 30 seconds of the process starting! Ha! We niced the process and managed to get it to stay up long enough to properly start up. I’ll do some more troubleshooting to figure out why it’s running so hard and see if there’s a way to (literally) cool it down. But I thought that was a pretty awesome problem.

At the same time, I successfully connected to the Internet through a Buffalo Air Station router that was elegantly modified by Access Labs to be a Tor transparent proxy. A couple of funny things happened as a result. First, since I had Thunderbird open and set to check my email every 5 minutes or so, my Gmail accounts freaked out. I got notices of suspicious activity for 3 different accounts because all my network traffic was running over Tor, meaning that my mail requests were hitting the Gmail servers from several different Tor exit nodes around the world. This caused Gmail to assume that malicious users were trying to access my account from a bunch of different places. It was a minor hassle to convince Gmail to stop panicking, but it was kind of neat to trip that wire.

Most adorable of all, however, came from your favorite activist tech collective and mine, Riseup Labs. One of the IPs in the suspicious activity notices was listed this way:

Tuesday, February 26, 2013 9:04:31 PM UTC
IP Address: 77.109.139.87 (load-me-in-a-browser-if-this-tor-node-is-causing-you-grief.riseup.net.)
Location: Cham, Switzerland

So that’s a little message from the Riseup operators of that Tor exit node. If you do indeed load it in a browser, you’ll see that it’s a very wry RTFM.

Categories: Geekery
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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
Tagged:

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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Doing It Right: The GNOME Foundation Outreach Program for Women

December 12, 2012 · 1 Comment

opw-poster-USLetter-2013-littleYesterday I got news that I was accepted into a super cool internship program. For the first quarter of 2013, I’ll be working with the Open Technology Institute to help them integrate Tor with their mesh networking platform called Commotion.

The internship is part of the GNOME Foundation‘s Outreach Program for WomenGNOME is an open source desktop environment, and my preferred desktop on Linux.  In 2006 they ran an internship program whose goal was to get more women contributing to Free and Open Source Software (FOSS).  People loved it and in 2010 they revived the effort and started running it twice a year.

For this iteration, they’ve partnered with a slew of FOSS projects to offer some pretty diverse opportunities in cloud computing, security, and tools for privacy and fighting censorship.  The internships are set up as full-time work from home, making them accessible for women of many geographic areas and income levels.

The application process was a little unusual. When I first read through it, it sounded awfully onerous. But the more I thought about it and stepped through it, the more I was convinced that it was cleverly designed to have several positive “unintended” consequences that would result in women engaging with FOSS projects regardless of whether they were selected.

Applicants were asked to look through the available programs, dig into the ones that looked most interesting, get in touch with people working on the project, take on a small assignment (typically a bug fix), submit it for feedback and make any requested fixes, THEN fill out an application. So even before you apply, you can say you’re a contributor to a FOSS project. That’s pretty neat.

All of that had to happen in less than three weeks. Applications opened on Nov. 14 and were due on Dec. 3, making the application period feel more like a sprint than a waiting game. I’m one of those always-busy people so I assumed I wouldn’t be able to get to it, but the compressed schedule actually made me work more efficiently.  I didn’t have time to get stressed out or expand the scope of my contribution, and in fact I had to focus on paring it down to something very doable. It was nice to have this out of the way well before the holidays, and I suspect the organizers felt similarly.

Where this application process really shines, though, is in the human contact that it requires. Each organization has a few ways for applicants to jump into the community, like IRC, mailing lists, and individual mentors. Additionally, there is an IRC channel and mailing list specifically for the program where applicants can ask questions or even coach and encourage each other. I was fortunate that Dan Staples, the coordinator for the project I had my eye on, was very responsive both by email and on IRC. I did see some people in IRC who were frustrated that their emails went unanswered or they had other communication issues that hurt their applications. But I think the idea was to put candidates and projects in touch with each other in ways that might persist beyond the application. Several surveys have indicated that people often feel like open source projects have a high barrier to entry. Simply being invited to jump in and say hello was really helpful to me. Now I feel like I have a way to connect with a range of awesome projects and make myself useful.

Why was this so much more effective for me than simply finding a contact email address on a project’s website?  Well, for one, because it spoke to me, personally.  In fact, the person who spoke to me, personally, was Marina Zhurakhinskaya, one of the organizers.  I had some questions about whether the program was a good fit for my skills and goals, and she explained what the program was going for and how to make a strong application.  That was super useful and friendly. Further, reading a page that says, we are looking for PEOPLE LIKE YOU to help us with this specific thing, and here’s the helpful person who can get you going, breaks through the awkwardness of emailing a project cold with little sense of what they need or if they are able to get people up to speed. For me it opened up a wormhole into an organization that I’d been sort of quietly checking out for a while. Three weeks later I’ve tripled the number of contacts I have at OTI and gotten a feel for their collective sense of humor. Without this invitation, I don’t know if I would have done that.

So, kudos go out to the people behind this program for their work, clever design, time spent getting new folks up to speed, and friendliness throughout a very tight timeline. Can’t wait to dig in and send some packets through the air!

Categories: Gender and tech
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