Hello, ProtonMail

After reading this blog post about how Google was able to influence traffic to the secure email provider Proton Mail, I’ve been pushed past the tipping point with regard to Google.  Here’s a short excerpt:

The short summary is that for nearly a year, Google was hiding ProtonMail from search results for queries such as ‘secure email’ and ‘encrypted email’. This was highly suspicious because ProtonMail has long been the world’s largest encrypted email provider.

My response? I canceled my paid Google email account and opened a ProtonMail account and am happily paying for it. Not hard, and costs roughly the same. Yes, there is a free version.

Qubes may be the perfect OS for the Linux newbie

Qubes OS is thought of as a unique OS which emphasizes security, in this case security by compartmentalization, and this is why people like Edward Snowden and Micah F Lee have said positive things about it (see the Qubes home page).  But could it also be a great OS for someone trying to learn Linux?  Let me explain why I think the answer is YES.

I’ve installed Ubuntu linux multiple times on older Macs (and Canonical has done a fantastic job of making it easy to install on a wide variety of hardware).  Just like when they were running OS X, these old Macs booted into Ubuntu on startup and I could practice using the GUI programs and even a little command line interface (CLI).  The file system was written to the physical disk.  This worked great…..until I broke something. I would either spend hours trying to figure out how to fix it or (more likely) just re-install Ubuntu Linux and start again. This became quite frustrating and time consuming.

In Qubes, each operating system installed is running in its’ own virtual machine (VM), something that’s made possible by the Xen hypervisor.  (This also means you can install a variety of operating systems, even Windows.)  Put another way, the bare metal of the computer, instead of just running one operating system for one user, can run multiple operating systems for multiple users with multiple roles and levels of trust.  The key here is that a virtual machine can be easily duplicated (and erased).  And that is why it’s great for beginners.  Install Qubes (my installation of Qubes OS 3.1 came with VMs for Fedora 23, Debian 8, and whonix), duplicate one of these VM’s, then tinker away on the copy. Screw it up? No problem! Shut down the VM, delete it, duplicate yourself a new one from the template and start from scratch…..in minutes.

The VM Manager in Qubes OS
The VM Manager in Qubes OS

Qubes OS on my System76 Lemur. Working out the kinks.

Although I apparently successfully installed Qubes OS 3.1 on the Lemur (got a screen with VM Manager open), I had no network connection. Some reading and help on the Qubes users Google Group helped me figure out how to get around the problem (though not solve it).  There was an issue between my ethernet card and SD card reader such that I couldn’t even see that the laptop had a wireless card.  I won’t try to describe my understanding of it because I’m sure it will be superficial and probably incorrect, strictly speaking.

Continue reading “Qubes OS on my System76 Lemur. Working out the kinks.”

QubesOS on a System 76 Lemur

lemurI’ve been fascinated by the security-by-compartmentalization model used in Qubes OS, a Linux-based operating system.  I even managed to get it running as a virtual machine in VMWare Fusion on OS X, but wanted  to get dedicated hardware to run it on.  Failing on several older macs I had around the house, I decided to ante up for a Linux laptop.  With some encouragement from Micah  F. Lee via Twitter, I decided to order a System76 Lemur  14″ laptop for my experiment.  The Lemur arrived today and it looks like I have successfully installed Qubes 3.1!  I’m happy to say the hardest part was figuring out how to get a boot menu (F7 after powering on in System76 computers).

My plan is to post about my experience as I go along.

Speeding up Ethereum-Wallet initial sync on MacOS X

After experimenting with the Ethereum Wallet client on a linux machine I decided to install on my MacPro with OS X 10.11.5.  I installed the latest Ethereum-Wallet 0.8.1 app from github and launched the app.  I soon noticed that the sync would appear to freeze at various points and never achieved a full sync. This despite multiple force quits and restarts.

Close, but never closer!

After some poking around I found a nice summary of the problem and a workaround I wanted to share.

Continue reading “Speeding up Ethereum-Wallet initial sync on MacOS X”


That reminds me: dump Java.

I was just reading a post at MalwareBytes Labs titled Cross-platform Malware Adwind Infects Mac by Thomas Reed about the Adwind Remore Access Tool (RAT) which reminded me I had wanted to remove JAVA from my Mac as it represents a security risk.  A quick DuckDuckGo search led me to How to uninstall Java in Mac OS X at dotTech which offered concise instructions for how to remove both the runtime and the jdk.

Go ahead. Do it. You’ll feel smart after using the Terminal.

Crazy (teen) driving makes THEM safer

I’m spending this weekend with my teenage son at the BWM Teen Driving School in South Carolina. The course is geared specifically for teen drivers and spends time on driving safety and theory, but mainly lets them do seemingly crazy things in powerful BMWs under the watchful eye of race car driver instructors (all the instructors here this weekend have won at least one championship).  But why would I, as a parent, want my son to do crazy things in (someone else’s) German sports car?  Let me explain.

BMW Teen Driving

We spend a lot of money on cars. We try to make sure they are safe, reliable, easy to drive, and that they have the latest safety technology.  What parent would put their child into a car without air bags and antilock brakes at the very least–be they a toddler or a teen? If financially possible, none of us would.  But how much do we spend on helping them become a better driver? And even if we do sign them up for a drivers’ safety program, its always safe and controlled and never approaches the limits of car control.  In teaching my son to drive I never encouraged him to “punch it,” or to brake as hard as possible at 45 miles per hour and steer around an obstacle, or drive faster and faster on a circle of wet road just to see what it feels like when the tires start to slip and how to regain control.

Car Lineup

When bad things happen during the course of normal day-to-day driving we are often thrust into situations where that is exactly where the car and driver find themselves–at the limits of car control. I don’t want that to be the time he discovers that the car will go where his eyes are focussed, so best be looking at where you want to go (escape) rather than where you don’t want to go (tree). Or that the brake pedal will chatter when breaking hard and that’s what’s supposed to happen (so don’t let up). Or that you can still steer the car when braking hard due to vehicle stability control. Or that if you run a wheel off the road, don’t panic and turn the wheel hard left to get back on.

Considering how expensive it is to buy that car, insure it, pay deductibles in accidents, and possibly have to be carried away from one, this is the best investment I’ve made in a long, long time.

Downtown Greenville, SC

10% Happier: Mindfulness Meditation Courses with Dan Harris and Joseph Goldstein

When I expressed an interest in Mindfulness meditation last Christmas, a family member suggested I read “10% Happier” by Dan Harris.  I did, and the book (which is subtitled ‘Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics’) made a real impression on this fidgety, skeptical, anesthesiologist.

After the book, I found the 10% Happier iPhone app to be incredibly helpful in continuing to try to establish my practice.  What sets this app apart from others, in my view, is the short video interview segments Dan does with Joseph Goldstein and others to educate the user about meditation, the challenges that may arise, and how to continue through them.

Here’s a list of topics for just the first few weeks:

  • Behind the waterfall
  • How do I know I’m being mindful?
  • Dealing with discomfort, sleepiness, and restlessness
  • Respond, Don’t React
  • How not to be yanked around by your emotions
  • The difference between ‘Present’ and ‘Mindful’
  • Non-attachment to results

All of these are practical, practicable, and even entertaining.

Source: 10% Happier: Mindfulness Meditation Courses with Dan Harris and Joseph Goldstein