Software

WiFi

WiFi Woes

After all the buzz in the news lately, are you now finally planning on patching your WiFi router, buying a new one, or just saying the hell with it and going back to Cat 5e Ethernet?

“Krack” WiFi exploit news got you bummed out, or are you just now learning about Re-using a “Nonce” to fake out your trusty old router with a “key re-installation attack”……that you always thought was secure using WPA2?

How often have you even heard of or used the word “nonce” in a sentence?

You don’t want someone decrypting your packets and/or forging new ones to basically hijack your connection. Maybe you don’t care and like to surf the web on public WiFi at your favorite coffee shop. That’s up to you.

It’s been a very odd year for cyber security issues.

If privacy isn’t your main concern, then maybe avoiding someone or something trashing your laptop with malware is. Either way bad things seems to appear to be accelerating, or maybe it just feels that way because such reports are more readily available online than a few years ago. (More information = more awareness……and often stress)

 

Latest Headache:

For a very rudimentary, somewhat sketchy and brief explanation let’s say that in a WiFi 4 way handshake there is the possible retransmission of the 3rd message because a potential loss of the final message. (the other end for whatever reason never sees it)

– Apparently this creates a potential exploit against the “client” because of the odd rule set or way in which the WiFi router fumbles the ball with encryption. This all happens because of a possible “PERSON in the MIDDLE” attack,

 

Is a VPN or Cellular link a better alternative?

– hmm, possibly.

Actually, I do think WiFi will be around as a consumer LAN for a while. So, you’ll just have to keep current with all the available security parameters……forever?

 

What can the average user actually do?

 

-Well, let’s first make sure your “clients” are all patched and up to date. Your laptop, TV, refrigerator, security cameras and anything else connected to your local network

-If you have access and permissions, check to see if you can disable your router’s ability to act as a client (maybe you use your router as a repeater or access point) and see if your equipment’s vendor has or will have a patch soon.

-Running a relatively modern operating system and keeping your patches up to date is always a good idea.

-A decent firewall policy and a trusted Anti Virus program make sense for most user’s  systems.

-Having a backup procedure or scheme could be very handy also.

-Using strong password protection policies and in some cases encryption for your computer drives are all common sense now.

Nothing really new, just a reminder, but unfortunately replacing your WiFi router each time a new vulnerability is publicized could get a little expensive especially if that’s the only fix available.

As a general recommendation I’d say update your client equipment’s software/firmware if you can soon.

Relax, you’ll be fine…..Probably.

 

Do you depend on venders and your local Internet providers to patch there “rental” equipment or do you add your own newly updated super cool WiFi router ? (Probably both would be nice)

Ubuntu Studio 16.04.3 LTS

Halloween will soon be here, so I figured I’d get with the spirit of the season and do something scary!

Yes, that’s right, venture out of my comfort zone and take the long and twisted path through the spooky digital dark woods of lonely Linux distributions.

In a world where Mac OS and Windows dominate the DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) world, Linux offers some impressive potential. That said, it’s time I put a little effort into actually doing something with all that potential.

My favorite DAW has been Logic Pro X on a MacBook Pro. I’ve even used it on a Mac Air with some success. I’ve never been too impressed with using a standard Windows laptop for a portable DAW, but let’s see what I can do with a somewhat low powered laptop and Linux.

To build this “Frankenstein” I chose Ubuntu Studio 16.04.3 LTS.

(Xenial Xerus) 64-bit. I’m using an old Thinkpad (Intel N2940 @ 1.83 GHz) with 4 gigs of ram. This is not a powerhouse by any means, but it might be closer to what some Linux users have available if they are on a budget.

“It’s Alive!” Well, it’s running. I installed the Distro, ran apt update & apt upgrade – then went right into LMMS 1.1.3.  For a basic DAW LMMS is pretty straightforward. The built-in samples are solid, and the Beat+Baseline Editor is easy to use with the Piano-Roll. Audacity 2.1.2 is a very good sound recorder/editor. This is probably the most useful software for what I would use. There are a lot of audio utilities and effects. As far as a software studio, Ubuntu Studio packs a lot in the audio production selection. Add these tools to the provided Graphic Design and Video production selections and you have a lot of tools to leverage with some creativity.

I’m going to try to explore as much of this Distro as I can in the coming weeks and see what I can do with all these tools. Maybe I’ll learn a few new tricks along the way. I might even treat myself to some play time on some of these software synths.

Check out our blog post on Music Production with a home studio!

 

High Sierra

macOS High Sierra Update

High Sierra

Released September 2017

The latest operating system released by Apple is High Sierra. Even though it’s technically a new OS, it’s more of just an upgrade on top of Sierra. Sierra was a very clean system that ran quite smooth so it will be interesting what this new software will bring to the table (the good or the bad).

New Features

A new file system

New video compression standard — (HEVC)

Next-gen graphics processor — (Metal 2)

Updated applications — (Safari, Photos, Mail)

 

Apple File System:

“Your data is under new management”

Apple has decided to change the way their computers store your files. Utilizing flash technology to create a more advanced file system. Available to every Mac with all-flash internal storage.

Benefits:

  • Future proof  using a new 64-bit architecture to be able to utilize the flash technology now while being ready for the next innovation
  • Responsive – Able to speed through tasks at record time
  • Security – Ability to use the built-in encryption, crash-safe protections, and simpler data backups.

 

HEVC

“The new industry standard HEVC (High-Efficiency Video Coding)”

“Up to 40% better compression than the current standard”

Metal 2

 

This new software allows apps to take full advantage of a systems GPU. Adding new capabilities not thought of for Mac-like, virtual reality, machine learning, and even external GPU support.

 

Is your Mac Compatible?

The following models can run the latest OS version.

MacBook Pro: 2010 and later

MacBook Air: 2010 and later

MacBook: late 2009 and later

iMac: late 2009 and later

Mac Pro: 2010 and later

Mac Mini: 2010 and later

 

 

 

Linux

Linux Rolling Releases

Linux Rolling Releases

I have come to appreciate Linux rolling releases. Particularly Arch based or related distributions. The one issue I have run into on occasion has been stability after an update/upgrade. I haven’t experienced any show stoppers lately as my current favorite Manjaro XFCE has been very solid, but why take chances. My initial approach years ago would have been to dual boot Windows 10 with Manjaro. I never really thought I was gaining anything, other than to have the ability to run Windows-only software. If you don’t, then what’s the point. I’m not going to keep Windows around just for a security blanket

Yes, I’ve done the Win/Linux dual boot in the past more for convenience than practicality. Sure I could have gone the Virtual Box route, but that seems to have more drawbacks depending on your hardware than a dual boot.  Why divide up resources on a machine that’s already limited? Why go backwards? If I have to rebuild a laptop, so what? It’s good practice and a fresh start is sometimes a good thing.

Simple Solution

A simple solution for my backup laptop setup has been to load Ubuntu Mate on a laptop first (16.04.3 LTS (Xenial) Recommended for stability and mission-critical systems. Supported until April 2019), then install Manjaro and let Calameres partition the drive and add Manjaro alongside the now reduced in occupied drive space Ubuntu OS. (MANJARO 17.0.4  “X”)

I find this sequence works better for booting into either of the Systems. The reverse install order tends to leave me with a slower boot selection. To me, this type of dual-boot “potential” daily driver could be much preferred and I have found that it works well. That is the goal. I don’t have Windows available on this laptop, and I don’t feel that I need it. If I find that I really truly need a Windows machine, I’ll just run it on a separate laptop. In fact I sometimes do, but regrettably so. I might have to actually do a new install, but that’s not such a big deal, it’s just the update times I’m not a big fan of. The basic install is usually pretty quick – not as quick as installing a lightweight Linux distro, but not too horrible.

I do like some things about Windows 10, but the point is that I don’t want to be a “Windows User” if I don’t need to be because I like working with Linux a lot more. I know I have more control over my system, but with Windows, I’m never quite sure who’s actually controlling who. Anything “*nix”ish including OSX I enjoy working with. I’ll give MS credit for developing Powershell into a decent tool, but I already have decent shells to work on both Linux and OSX.

I could use this older Lenovo dual-boot laptop for my daily driver, but I prefer to rely on my very inexpensive, lightweight IdeaPad.Using Manjaro on that laptop — half the ram, and a third the memory – perfect!  I can experiment with the backup. You might question why I don’t use Ubuntu-Mate LTS on the daily driver. The answer is – there isn’t enough space for a dual boot — but I actually sometimes do run Ubuntu-Mate only but at the moment I’m happy with what I’m using now “Manjaro 17.0.4”. If I have a problem I know I have a usable backup. There is some comfort in that. If I feel the need to do some Distro hopping – I can use either laptop to try a new build. I have Manjaro on both, so I’m set there.

The fun is in learning and trying new Linux software and operating systems. A rolling release keeps me interested in what has been improved or changed. The LTS is simply just dependable – not overly inspiring, but dependable. You have the best of both.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is as always — does your system work for you, and are you getting the most out of what you have? You may be getting all this done with Windows 10. In some ways, Windows 10 also acts like a rolling release with some of the large updates that have enhanced and added some new functions. When it comes down to having something I can depend on and know works, I prefer Linux, but I do see Windows getting better and Linux-like in some respects. Whatever you prefer – one operating system, or multiple operating systems, if it works for you – great. If you really like a system, you’ll most likely get more use out of it.

Luckily there are a variety of systems to choose from. Try them all if you can.

Chains breaking

Breaking the Chains

Lately I have become less enchanted with Windows 10 per each update. It might be the weird mood in the air this summer. Updating an Arch based spin always feels like an improvement rather than a “HotFix” for something that needs “fixing”.

I know Linux updates are intertwined with numerous fixes, but there’s something enlightening and less mysterious about updating from a repository with “Paceman“. I sense something about Windows that feels like I have less control over my computer than I do with Linux. Aside from all the privacy and system reporting tweaks when installing Windows you are allowed to do. There are still some veiled baked in settings that you get hard coded just for you. It’s like the system is telling you what is good for you “We know what’s best for you…just check yes for every question we present you Ah ha ha”. (Overly dramatic) Windows is a good operating system, I have no doubt about that since I’ve had to learn to work with it. Of course I’ve gotten some things accomplished with Windows because that is what I was “given” to work with.

I’ve duel-booted Windows and Linux out of convenience, but lately that seems unnecessary.

Windows 10 doesn’t feel anywhere near as streamlined or respond as quickly as an Arch based Linux Distro. Windows 10 is still a big improvement over 8,7, Vista, and dare I say the “Legendary” XP that some Microsoft users tend to frequently reminisce about.

On the other hand Ubuntu, and Fedora based Distros also feel a bit soggy and often somewhat lethargic. (This is just my opinion of course) I know a lot of people who love both of those Distros and won’t stop talking about them. It’s almost as bad as Mac users who stare me down and wonder why I spend so much time working on my system instead of just using it. (I would think Mac users must eventually get bored having their systems continuously work all the time.)

A lot is also dependent on the hardware you’re using, but running the same systems on the same machine duel booted and single OS boot over time is very useful if only for an eye opener.

Don’t remind me that I could run virtual machines with different operating systems instead regular drive installs.

I’m not a fan of Virtual Box

Mostly because of the resource limitations of your memory and processors. I guess if I were to use a much more powerful machine as a daily driver I would have a slightly more tempered opinion, but I use what I have, and usually it’s adequate for what I need. I just prefer to get the most out of my OS as do many other Linux users. I’ve worked with Unix, and Mac OSX. Both very stable and solid operating systems, but neither fit well as a daily driver.

I just have a hard time totally eliminating my reliance on Windows. It’s like a habit that’s hard to give up. Every time I think I can totally eliminate Windows from my life, something inevitably comes up and once again I’m drawn back into the Microsoft universe. A little voice in the back of my head whispers: “buy yourself a fully loaded new computer and maybe you’ll appreciate Windows 10 more” but I already have a nice wimpy under powered computer that works fine with Linux. I don’t want to buy a new computer every year. I just want to get stuff done.

why don’t you use your Mac?

That’s a Good question. I don’t know, no wait a minute, I know; it was very expensive and I don’t want to drop it and break it. Is that a good answer? No, it’s because I live to fix things and there’s not much to fix on the Mac. I’m probably just procrastinating from actually doing anything productive by continuously changing operating systems.

I think it would be much easier for me to go 100% Linux if I could convince the rest of the world to run Linux, but that isn’t going to happen. Let’s face it, Windows runs the world. I’m just so tired of being told not shut off my computer because Windows is updating…, and updating….. and updating.

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