How to setup and use Tor Anonymity in Ubuntu

Just before the new year, I saw a news article by Wired that highlighted flaws found in the Tor Anonymity Network. I had never used Tor, but I knew what it was, the benefits it could provide, and a bit about how it worked.

With a little free time on my hands I decided to set it up and see what all the fuss was about. At the time I was installing the Tor components in OS X, but I was curious about installing it in Ubuntu and the resources and instructions that I came across were not as straight forward as they could have been. That is where this post comes it, to provide a simple step by step guide with no fuss.

What is Tor?

This is how Wikipedia explains Tor:

Tor is a system intended to enable online anonymity, composed of client software and a network of servers which can hide information about users’ locations and other factors which might identify them. Use of this system makes it more difficult to trace internet traffic to the user, including visits to Web sites, online posts, instant messages, and other communication forms. It is intended to protect users’ personal freedom, privacy, and ability to conduct confidential business, by keeping their internet activities from being monitored.

What does it look like?

Tor itself doesn’t have a graphical user interface (GUI), but there is an application known as Vidalia which provides a nice and simple user interface for controlling all of your Tor needs.

When installing Tor in Ubuntu, you will need to install 3 components: Tor, Polipo, and Vidalia. Tor and Vidalia should now be obvious to you (since I’ve explained that Vidalia provides a GUI to Tor).

Again, according to Wikipedia here is what Polipo is:

Polipo is a fast and lightweight, forwarding and caching proxy server, SOCKS proxy and computer software daemon.

Install Tor in Ubuntu

This is really quite simple and I could easily provide a simple bash script to automate all of this for you, but that would mean that I would have to maintain it and that you wouldn’t learn anything. 😉

For simplicity, I will write this guide assuming you are using Ubuntu 10.10, aka Maverick. If you’re using a different version, make sure you change the necessary bits below.

  1. Open “Software Sources,” select the “Other Software” tab, click the “Add” button at the bottom and paste the following:deb http://deb.torproject.org/torproject.org maverick mainClick “Add Source,” then click Close. When it asks if you want to Reload, click yes and ignore any errors for now.
  2. Open a Terminal and add the Tor Repository keys and update Apt:gpg –keyserver keys.gnupg.net –recv 886DDD89
    gpg –export A3C4F0F979CAA22CDBA8F512EE8CBC9E886DDD89 | sudo apt-key add –
    sudo apt-get update
  3. Install Tor, Polipo, and Vidalia:sudo apt-get install tor tor-geoipdb polipo vidalia -yWhen prompted during the installation of Vidalia, select the option to permanently replace (or however it is worded).
  4. Download a pre-made config file for Polipo:wget https://gitweb.torproject.org/torbrowser.git/blob_plain/HEAD:/build-scripts/config/polipo.conf
    sudo mv /etc/polipo/config /etc/polipo/config.bak
    sudo mv polipo.conf /etc/polipo/config
  5. Now Stop and Restart both Tor and Polipo for safe measure:sudo /etc/init.d/tor stop
    sudo /etc/init.d/polipo stop
    sudo /etc/init.d/polipo start
    Open the application Vidalia when you would like to connect to the Tor network. If you want it on by default, you can always set Vidalia to autostart with your computer.
  6. All thats left is to configure your Applications to use the Tor proxies! If you don’t adjust the network settings of your applications to use the Tor proxy settings then you’re not using Tor at all. You can confirm that Tor is indeed working by visiting the Tor detector page.

If you run into issues for any reason, check back through the steps listed above. If that still doesn’t fix them, you might check the Community Ubuntu Documentation on Tor page or the official Tor for Linux/BSD/Unix page.

Configuring applications to use the Tor proxies

There are 2 types of configurations for Tor:

  1. HTTP or HTTPS – Typically used for web browsers such as Opera, Firefox, Safari, Google Chrome, etc.Host: 127.0.0.1
    Port: 8118
  2. Sockets – Typcially used for instant messaging applications such as Trillian, Digsby, MSN, AOL, Empathy, Pidgin, etc.Host: 127.0.0.1
    Port: 9050

Nearly any application that allows you to adjust network settings by using proxies can make use of the Tor Anonymity Network. Configuring your application of choice is a matter of selection to use HTTP or Sockets.

If you’re unsure, use trial and error. 😉

A great note that I came across on the Community Ubuntu Documentation page for Tor that I think everyone should read carefully before using Tor is as follows:

What’s the use of having Tor and Privoxy setup without enabling your new anonymous proxy in your common web applications? At this time Tor only supports HTTP and HTTPS traffic, but still recommends using Tor in your browser’s proxy settings for all protocols as a hidden image link can give away your IP address if linked to an image on an FTP site.

Conclusion

Hopefully by this point you’ve successfully configured Tor for all of your anonymity needs. Will Tor works great, it only works great if you’ve configured it correctly.

Some Tor connections may be slower than others. If you’re experiencing a connection that is simply too slow for your needs or if you need a new ip address so you can get that file from RapidShare without having to wait for an hour, simply open Vidalia Control Panel and click “Use a New Identity.”

Remember that Tor can be used for Windows and Mac, and is more straightforward to install for them as well.

While there have been a few flaws exposed, as mentioned before, I would tend to think the risk of being identified over Tor is very low since the attacks would have to occur on the same network that you’re connected to. I typically only use Tor at public internet access points (which is where these attacks would be most likely to occur), but it can be very handy in many situations and will likely continue to be on the list of my apps to install for a long long time.

UbuntuForums.org Site Makeover via UserJS

A while back there was a neat little styling script being passed around that tuned the Ubuntu Forums to match the new official designs a little more closely. While its not official and no where near a perfect solution, it does dramatically improve the appearance of the forums overall.

Before

After

To use this, all you have to do is download and install the Stylesheet or UserJS file and configure it in your browser! I’m using the UserJS version, but you may prefer the other. Either way, enjoy!

Get Steam Specials via RSS Feed

This is just a little hack I’ve used so I can subscribe to the “Specials” that are periodically released and published on the Steam website.

If you’re interested in letting your Feed client simplify your life by bringing the Steam updates directly to you then I suggest you subscribe to the feed that I’ve setup (via a great free service call Feed For Free).

The Steam News – Specials feed:

http://feed43.com/4758788726706067.xml

The Steam News – Announcements feed:

http://feed43.com/7724635415454743.xml

When I searched for a feed for these Specials I came across one forum post after another asking the same thing. We all know how annoying that can be, so to remedy the situation I decided to post a solution myself. 😉

As you can see below, these pages don’t have feeds of their own, but the very awesome Feed For Free site will let you pull the updates straight into your feed reader with ease. See my Google Reader pictured below.

Rhythmbox 0.13.2

For those of you who use Rhythmbox, you’ll be happy to hear to v0.13.2 brings some great improvements. I subscribe to the mailing list and try to help when possible, but when I saw the news of Rhythmbox 0.13.2 code being released I instantly starred it!

Well, it took me over a month to get around to looking into the update, but ironically there is a backport posted at WebUpd8 that makes installing this in Ubuntu 10.10 as easy as copy-n-pasting three commands into the terminal!

The Last.fm updates (thanks to Jamie Nicol’s GSoC project) have finally been added and I was obsessively tracking the code commits each day to watch the progress while it was going on. Now that I get to test out the changes, I’ve glad to say that the Last.fm improvements are grand!

The new support for DACP, which allows you to use your iPhone/iPod touch/iPad as a remote for iTunes,  now allows you to remotely change the tunes playing in Rhythmbox!

Unfortunately, this feature doesn’t seem to currently support sending cover art embedded in the media files’ metadata to the remote. I’ve seen discussions about this recently in the mailing list, so this will likely change before too long!

One last improvement that I have to mention is the “Various fixes for iPod support” as this is one area that I’ve felt is constantly in need of improvement with each new release of iOS and each new model. There are also a great deal of other improvements which I’ll list below directly from the mailing list (via Jonathan Matthew)!

Rhythmbox 0.13.2 (“Dagger”) is now available from
http://download.gnome.org/sources/rhythmbox/0.13/

f422e47d7e238ebe862650efbcb83672bca704df0a37c3391ad0e386c20b19e3
rhythmbox-0.13.2.tar.bz2
4ad881cfbe19abcbe21abcfb37f753476b928141cea662c732867c9f4363aacb
rhythmbox-0.13.2.tar.gz

Highlights:
* Much improved Last.fm (and Libre.fm) plugin (Jamie Nicol’s GSoC project)
* Support for DACP (iTunes remote) (Alexandre Rosenfeld’s GSoC project)
* Zeitgeist plugin (developed by Markus Korn, Laszlo Pandy and Michal Hruby)
* New podcast sub-sources showing newly posted and recently downloaded episodes
* Slightly improved integration with the GNOME Shell message tray
* Various fixes for iPod support (Christophe Fergeau, Ben Walsh)

Bugs fixed:
341462 – Make current podcast downloads more visible
345957 – View last.fm profile
381679 – Add “record to profile” toggle to the last.fm plugin
589886 – Crash when selecting multiple podcast feeds
591841 – Crash processing playlist files from command line
592428 – Allow the user to select Libre.fm as their audioscrobbler service
601152 – can’t really create playlists on iPod
604170 – Unable to change the order of files in an iPOD playlist
612156 – crash when stopping radio stream before playlist parsing has finished
618619 – Crash while getting properties from ipod shuffle
623200 – Add previous and play actions to notifications, and use id’s
that correspond to named icons
625030 – Use XSPF format for the default iRadio playlist
625054 – Rhythmbox transfers music to my generic MP3 player without
file extensions
625214 – DACP Support in Rhythmbox
628254 – metadata helper crashes when tagging MP3 files that don’t
already have tags
628791 – crash showing ipod properties if the ipod database can’t be read
628794 – Rhythmbox can not share to iTunes 10 using DAAP
629038 – coherence plugin breakage
630689 – drop GtkObject use
631008 – Zeitgeist plugin
631191 – GStreamer MTP source element stopped working
631218 – don’t open (some) iframes in podcast descriptions in new
browser windows
631355 – Typo in string: “Listended”
631698 – Rhythmbox stars (ratings) not updated properly when scrolling
up in the playlist
631817 – rhythmbox hangs when starting playing next audio cd track
632119 – Add WSUM 91.7FM (University of Wisconsin) to iRadio-Initial.pls
632475 – ipod “Remove from playlist” was completely removing from iPod
632655 – URL updates for Internet Radio stations
633531 – Rhythmbox can’t load Cover-Art from musicbrainz

Translation updates:
– bg, courtesy of Krasimir Chonov
– ca@valencia, courtesy of Joan Duran
– cs, courtesy of Marek Černocký
– da, courtesy of Ask Hjorth Larsen
– de, courtesy of Christian Kirbach
– el, courtesy of Michael Kotsarinis
– es, courtesy of Jorge González
– et, courtesy of Mattias Põldaru
– gl, courtesy of Fran Diéguez
– hu, courtesy of Gabor Kelemen
– it, courtesy of Luca Ferretti
– ja, courtesy of Hiroyuki Sekihara
– ja, courtesy of Takayuki KUSANO
– lt, courtesy of Žygimantas Beručka
– nb, courtesy of Kjartan Maraas
– nl, courtesy of Redmar
– pa, courtesy of A S Alam
– pl, courtesy of Piotr Drąg
– pt_BR, courtesy of Djavan Fagundes
– ru, courtesy of Yuri Myasoedov
– sl, courtesy of Andrej Žnidaršič
– sv, courtesy of Daniel Nylander

Macbuntu: The Mac OS X Transformation Pack for Ubuntu

Since I recently slipped over into the dark side and bought a MacBook, I’ve been spending a whole lot more time in OS X than I ever have before.

I wouldn’t consider myself a Mac fanatic (yet), but its difficult to not fall in love with the great amount of attention to detail.

Out of curiosity, I decided to look into macifying Ubuntu again (as I’ve looked into in the past and had decent results) only this time I came across Macbuntu. Macbuntu is an all-in-one package to transform your Ubuntu desktop (fresh dual screen account pictured below) from this:

Before

To something that resembles the infamous Mac OS X a little more closely, like this:

After

For an Mac purist, this transformation pack would be no where near acceptable with small differences and quirks here and there. The good news, however, is that the transformation pack appears to be maintained and updated regularly so it may not be much longer before your Linux box is indistinguishable from an original Mac…at least on the inside. 😉

The Macbuntu installation is extremely easy. If you’re interested in installing this, but afraid of messing anything up, keep in mind that there is an uninstall option that is extremely painless and it restores all of your original settings!

Install

  1. Download the transformation package from SourceForge or GNOME-Look.org if you prefer (but they are both hosted from SourceForge) and save it to your Desktop.
  2. Extract the package to your Desktop. You can do this by right clicking and selecting “Extract Here” from the menu.
  3. Open a terminal and type “cd Desktop/Macbuntu-10.10/” (without the quotes) and press enter.
  4. Now type “./install.sh” (without quotes) and press enter.
  5. Follow the directions and answer a few questions and it does all of the rest! …and you’re done!

Uninstall

  1. If you’ve deleted the original files that your extracted before, re-download them and extract them using the same steps as before.
  2. Open a terminal and type “cd Desktop/Macbuntu-10.10/” (without the quotes) and press enter.
  3. Now type “./uninstall.sh” (without quotes) and press enter.
  4. Follow any directions or quick questions and before you know it, things will be back to the way they were before!

While I was impressed with the degree of success after I installed this transformation pack, I quickly uninstalled it. Part of this was due to pure testing, but the other part was simply because I want to spend more time tweaking it to perfection later and don’t have the time right now.

Amazingly, I was able to take a stock Ubuntu 10.10 desktop and morph it into a decent OS X lookalike and back again all in a matter of 15 minutes, and that includes a short amount of time spent looking around. 😀

My Notes & Ramblings (probably boring)

One thing I’d really like to do is to create a Mac OS X skin for Opera to be included with this package since the one for Opera for Mac isn’t compatible with other platforms (afaik). I’d also like to figure out how to get the full menu bar removed and placed into the top panel properly, where it was only partially added in the screenshots.

A lot of the dock details are accurate, but then again a lot of them are just flat wrong. Empathy needs an icon replacement to Adium or iChat. The dock itself is angled slightly higher and the gloss detail is completely different (lacking the wavy design). The separator is also incorrect and needs to be updated.

One thing that I think would go far with adding a genuine feel is to organize the Dock icons properly as the default dock icons are in a specific order already and the order from this install seems to be somewhat random in some cases.

Stacks would be great, however, I recall hearing not long ago that this or a similar feature is on the way already possible, just not included yet (maybe I’ll send them an email soon 😀 ).

A white drop-shadow for text and icons in the top panel would be great for perfection. It also wouldn’t hurt to add the default slight transparency to the top panel so the background and shine through a little.

The actual theme being used appears to be very outdated, with buttons using old icons such as the back and forward buttons in Nautilus. The breadcrumbs are also very outdated visually and need to be updated. The author(s) of the transformation pack probably have nothing to do with the development of the theme that’s packaged with it, but this is the most important element and is in dire need of some TLC.

Conclusion

Macbuntu is a great and quick solution, but its not pixel perfect or even close to pixel perfect. If you’ve got any suggestions or know of better options such as themes or tweaks, I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Eliminate Opera’s Address Bar Like IE9

If you’re a fan of minimizing toolbar space and maximizing browser space, you might be interested in this short guide that explains how to make your Opera look just a little more like this (arrangement-wise).

While this isn’t a perfect solution, it will show you how you can customize your Opera browser to be arranged a tad bit more like the upcoming Internet Explorer 9 web browser. While you’re at it, you might consider installing an Internet Explorer themed skin as well. I’m only kidding. 😛

Step 1

Hide the address bar. To do this, you simply need to right click on the address bar and select “Customize -> Appearance..” from the menu.

In the window that appears, uncheck Address Bar and leave the Appearance window open for the next step.

Step 2

Add the address box and preferred navigation buttons. To do this, using the Appearance window that you opened in Step 1, click on the Buttons tab and make sure that the category item “Browser” is selected.

In this window you will find back, forward, refresh, log in and home buttons (as well as several others). Click on a button that you want to add such as the back/forward combo button and drag it up to the right of the Opera menu button until you see arrows to drop it.

If you dropped the buttons just right then they should now be resting to the right of the Opera menu button. If they didn’t appear, try again or is they are placed incorrectly you can move them around or remove them via right clicking the button and selecting “Customize -> Remove From Toolbar”.

Step 3

Now the last thing you probably want to add is the address box. You can find this in the buttons category labeled “Browser view”. Drag and drop this widget where you want it as you did with the buttons before.

Feel free to experiment with other buttons and widgets. After you’ve finished customizing your browser’s layout, click OK to close the Appearance window. You are not finished!

Conclusion

As I said before, this isn’t a perfect solution and there are several problems present that I encountered while rearranging various parts of the browser.

The biggest problem I have with this at the moment is the lack of ability to control the width of the address box. The address box drop down is also very narrow which makes it more difficult to use. than before.

Most buttons, when dropped into this toolbar are sized much larger than the back/forward combo button which makes it difficult to create a clean interface. This is the reason you only see this combo button and the address box in the screenshot above. 😉

Its great to see that Opera is still the king of browser layout customizations, but there are still problems that need to be fixed before this can be used as a true method of mimicking IE9.

If you’ve got tips, post ’em in the comments! I love getting feedback and suggestions!

Solaris International/Deep Blue Radio Show Podcast

A few years ago, while I was up late working and listening to what was then known as Virgin Radio at the time (and now as Absolute Radio), I happened to catch an episode of the “Deep Blue Radio Show.” Since then, it appears to have been renamed to “Solaris International.”

If you’re unfamiliar with this show, its simply a two hour mix of electronica and trance tunes by Solaris International with Solarstone. You can listen to their previous airings straight from their website, but I’ve finally come across their podcast in iTunes and found that it works perfectly in Linux as well with Rhythmbox!

Their site doesn’t seem to be as intuitive as it could be, which is why it took me so long to stumble across their podcast link. If you’re interested in subscribing, the link is posted immediately below. Copy and past it into your media player. If you’re unsure how, take a look at this excellent guide from GoingLinux.com.

Podcast Link to copy and paste:
http://www.solarstone.co.uk/listenAgain/deepblueradishow-podcast.xml

At the moment, there are over 220 previous podcast episodes available to download, so if you’ve got the time then they’ve got the tunes. 😉

I’m usually not a fan of podcasts, but I have a select few that I frequent. This will easily become my favorite.

If you’re not a fan of electronica or trance music then you can kindly disregard this post or use this as a reminder to search for podcasts featuring music you yourself may enjoy! 😀

If you have podcast recommendations, I would love to hear about them in the comments!

Ubuntu 10.10 Banner

Recently I was looking through the Ubuntu 10.10 banners and really liked the simplistic design of one by Anthony Scarth.

Curious about adding it to my blog (as you should now see in the right column), I fired him an email. Unfortunately he didn’t have a script prepared, but still offered up the images!

Taking a little time, I grabbed the old script for an Ubuntu 10.04 Banner, made a few modifications (and corrections) and got the banner up and ticking in no time!

If you’re interested in using one of these two banners on your site then you’ll be happy to know I’m posting easily linkable scripts to these two right here!

Orange
<script type='text/javascript' src='https://fun.kyleabaker.com/ubuntu1010banner/orange.js'></script>

Purple
<script type='text/javascript' src='https://fun.kyleabaker.com/ubuntu1010banner/purple.js'></script>

Copy and paste the style that you’d like to use into your blog or web site. If you have any problems just let me know.

Be sure to give Anthony a shout out and thanks if you like his design as well! You can find his email listed on the Ubuntu banners page linked above.

Making Calls From Gmail

If you’ve somehow managed to miss this one in the news then you must be hiding in one deep dark hole. 😛

Here are some pictures for your entertainment. If you’d like to use this, you need to install the Google Voice plugin first and then restart you web browser.

Keep in mind that you need the plugin to do this (and obviously a microphone) and that you’ll be calling friends or family using a number provided to you by Google Voice (so they may not recognize it at first).

The best thing going for Google’s new calling feature (if you ask me) is that its completely free for me to call any phone in the USA. While this pricing may not be permanent, it should at least last through the course of this year (my source for that is linked somewhere up above 😛 ).

Netflix Now For iPhone & iPod touch!

Being an iPod touch owner myself, I’ve been highly anticipating the release of this app all summer (thanks to the early rumors and annoucements).

I checked the app store last night just before going to bed for this app and there was no sign of it in sight, so I had decided to write a post along the lines of “Where is the promised (summer) Netflix iPhone/iPod touch App?”. Little did I know that I would wake up to the release headlines (that was much better)!

Without further ado, I bring you a brief gallery of what you can expect to find in this little app..

That’s a rundown of the Sign-in page, Home, Genre, Search, Instant Queue and player screens!

In case you missed these details, hiding the keyboard in the Search screen expands the movie covers into view where there was previously too little room to show them.

In the player screen with controls, you should note the progress bar at the top with a “zoom” button to the right which zooms in just enough to fill the wasted space above and below the video (not pictured zoomed). There is also the play/pause button at the bottom which is accompanied by the 30 second backtrack button and the volume bar.

This design is nearly (if not exactly) identical to the Netflix app design for the iPad which has been released to the public for some time now.

If you’re a Netflix member and own an iPhone or iPod touch then I highly recommend you head straight to the App Store and download this free app for yourself! Enjoy!

Rhythmbox Indicator Menu Finally Dropped

Though I haven’t looked through the official changelogs, it seems that the Rhythmbox indicator menu has finally been laid to rest. That is, unless I’ve mistakenly removed it myself. 😉

One less menu, yet more control..fantastic!

This is a welcome update for me as it reduces redundancy among the menus and gives the sound indicator menu a little more purpose. Looking through the Rhythmbox Plugins, I’ve also stumbled across the ReplayGain plugin (some how avoiding looking right at it and missing it though I look through the plugins regularly).

This elusive feature is highly valuable!

While this isn’t a new feature to Rhythmbox, or many other media players for that matter, if you’ve never used it then I highly suggest you enable it! If you’ve ever noticed that some of your audio files are just way too loud compared to others and you’re constantly adjusting your speakers then you should look into ReplayGain. I’ve been watching the a couple of Rhythmbox features that I’m highly anticipating as they’ve been progressing thanks to Google Summer of Code. If you’ve not been keeping up with the mailing lists, you’ve been missing out on “DACP in Rhythmbox” by Alexandre Rosenfeld and “Improved Last.fm Plugin” by Jamie Nicol.

Connecting a remote device to Rhythmbox.

The code for both of these is available on Gitorious if you’re looking for a sneak peak. I’m not sure how long it will take before they are packaged with Rhythmbox by default, but I think its fairly safe to say that they won’t make it in time for Ubuntu 10.10. Let’s hope I’m wrong. 😉