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.

Cr-48: Win, Mac, Lin and CrOS

Google’s new notebook, called Cr-48, is now capable of running any major operating system of your choice!

News came out last month that Cr-48 was able to run not just Googles new Chrome OS, but also Ubuntu!

Now, you can apparently also run Windows 7 or Mac OS X!

Windicators

Just a quick thought about windicators that were proposed by Mark Shuttleworth back in May 2010 and similarities to Mac OS X.

It seems that nearly everyone agrees that Windicators in Ubuntu is a bad idea. Not only will they add a little confusion to the Ubuntu learning curve, but they will also just add clutter to the title bar. That being said, I for one would like to see them implemented as long as there is an option to enable/disable them freely.

Over the past year or so, Ubuntu has received a great deal of criticism regarding the placement of the window controls for close, minimize and maximize. If you’ve not kept up with this, basically the controls moved from the right side of the title bar (like in Windows) to the left side of the title bar (like in Mac OS X). I still see complaints about this every other day (even though there are ways to change this already posted throughout the net).

With many people accusing Ubuntu of simply trying to look like Mac OS X, I wasn’t as quick to point fingers and agree. I like to hold judgment on products at least until they are completed or deemed “stable”. Lately, however, its beginning to be a chore to deny this “OS X”-like transition with the changes that are coming in Ubuntu 11.04.

Two major changes in Ubuntu 11.04 include:

  • a new panel that seems more like a hybrid between the new Windows 7 taskbar and the Mac OS X Dock.
  • application menus and application titles in the top panel.

These new changes, paired with the window controls on the left and indicator style menus in the top panel give Ubuntu 11.04 an eerily similar appearance to OS X. Not to mention the windicators (as this post started out talking about)..

If you visit a secure web address in Safari, a lock icon appears in the upper right corner of the title bar to indicate a secure page. I’d not noticed this before, being an Opera fanatic and all, so I’m unable to tell who was first: the idea of Windicators or this feature in Safari.

Safari seems to pull this off well and the icon isn’t in my way at all. This is one reason why I would like to see them appear in Ubuntu eventually, but only if they can easily be disabled and they are implemented correctly.

Last that I heard, Windicators were put on the back burner to let more important features reach the public first (as they should be). Lets just hope that if Ubuntu continues to follow a close path to Mac OS X that they follow a better path. 😀

What do you think about the similarities? Too similar? Not similar enough? Not similar at all? Or you don’t care? 😀

Interesting Unity Mockup

As usual, when Ubuntu starts the developmental process on the next best ‘buntu I’m quick to begin testing and eagerly lurking in the forums and launchpad bugs.

The next version of Ubuntu is currently, as you may already know, undergoing some fairly drastic interface changes. Ubuntu will be abandoning the use of the traditional GNOME panels and instead use an improved version of their Unity interface.

Lurking through several bugs on launchpad, I stumbled across an interesting one with one interesting mockup in particular.

While its just a suggestion mockup, I think it actually looks rather slick. I’m not saying its the best approach, but certainly one worth noting! According to a follow-up comment, this design is similar to what Gnome Shell is doing, but I’ve not yet looked into Gnome Shell so I can’t confirm this. Either way, its a smooth approach.

Currently Unity doesn’t have a method of letting you know which application’s menu its showing in the top panel. There is an indicator icon in the side dock/panel, but as best I can tell they are planning to add the app name to the top panel similar to the way Mac OS X handles this. Maybe it will be in some Unity updates tomorrow!

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!

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, Part 3

I’ve finally gotten around to contacting the Macbuntu maintainer about some of my changes and modifications and have now been granted administrative access to the project!

Most of the changes I’m making are in the details, as most of the features are already available. I’ve contributed plenty of code and images to make Docky appear nearly identical to the Dock in OS X and even made the Docky bar image in Inkscape myself. 😀

I’ve contributed an Opera skin, that I mentioned in my last post, but it is still very unfinished. Over all it looks well, but there are several areas that need to be corrected and the skin itself needs to be slimmed down a bit.

The Docky icons zoom by default, though its not an OS X default setting to the best of my knowledge. It can very easily be toggled on or off from the Docky settings window.

I’ve removed the Docky settings icon that was seen in previous screenshots so that the Nautilus application launcher (Finder icon) is the first item in Docky as it is in OS X. You can still access Docky settings by right-clicking the separator on Docky between the Trash icon and the others.

I’ve also written a very very simple application that toggles the Widget layer, which is powered by Compiz, on and is handily disguised by the Dashboard icon…meaning it reveals the widgets. As of writing this, there are no default widgets installed.

Eventually I plan to work in Screenlets and preinstall a few default ones as you would find in OS X, but I’m still waiting to make sure that my tiny tool works pre-compiled on other computers (is 32/64 bit versions). 😉

A lot of people are impressed with Compiz’s ability to render your workspaces in a Cube, Sphere or Cylinder. I’m pretty impressed with this feature myself, but having used it for a long time in the past I’ve found that I usually end up just switching workspaces with the keyboard and not paying much attention to the fancy cube in all of its transparent glory.

Honestly, this is one thing that should appeal to even OS X users as it looks cool and can give you a good quick visual of your windows. However, in Mac OS X 10.7 there will be a feature for Mac users that gives them a quick look at all of their activities and may possibly pass this Cube design right on by. Who knows? 😛

One feature that you couldn’t see in the first Cube screenshot was the 3D window aspects and stacking. This is a neat feature and helps make the Cube look a little less boring. Especially when you can see how busy, or possibly bored, you are!

As always, proof that this is indeed Ubuntu Linux. 😉

Several other changes that I’ve contributed to this project include:

  • New transparency for the Top Gnome-Panel and all Menus
  • Alpha blurring for Docky
  • Added folders to Docky for the Applications, Documents, Downloads and Dropbox folders (where relavent)
  • Added detection for other applications and add them to Docky upon installation
  • Re-arranged several Docky launchers
  • Brand new Docky theme — Macbuntu
  • Reset the default wallpaper to the Snow Leopard  wallpaper (was the Leopard wallpaper)
  • Changed the clock format the match OS X’s clock (with tips from OMG! Ubuntu)
  • Added setting to ensure that people with multiple monitors see the workspace cube as One big cube instead of each screen rotating separately.
  • Default the screensaver to blank in case its already set to something like Gnome Feet, but it would be neat to have an elegant OS X screensaver!
  • Various other bug fixes, minor details and cleanups.

Its great to see a project come together, but its even nicer to have the ability to speed it up. 😀

A few ideas that I’ve got include pre-installing Gloobus for a feature that mimics “Quick Look,” but until I find a good way to install this and until I can work out the bugs with this tool myself, it won’t be getting any prime time in Macbuntu.

The Docky Stacks feature that was covered at OMG! Ubuntu is also on the map, but is currently far too unstable to be included. I’ve been testing it out for a few days, but it consistently crashes Docky and ceases to function. When I come across a stable ppa for this tool, it will be adding to Macbuntu in a hurry!

Obviously there are several areas that I/we won’t be able to mimic thoroughly. Mac OS X is a great operating system and has a great deal of “simplicity” worked into it by design, somethings that just aren’t possible by “skinning” Ubuntu Linux.

If you have any suggests that are actually feasible, I’d love to here them! The biggest area that I’d like to work on is the GTK theme and get the theme’s quality up tremendously. I’ve had no part in the GTK theme (originally known as GTK Leopard) thus far, and its actually a great piece of work, but it still has a long way to go before being smooth and finished.

One last thing thats interesting is the fact that someone has already began a spin of Macbuntu, dubbing it Macbuntu-iso, and it is available for download in 32 and 64-bit!

Macbuntu, Part 2

After spending a little time working in Inkscape, I realized how terrible I am with vector graphics, lol, but I did manage to create a slightly more accurate Docky theme that incoorporates the wavy design and dark tool tips and menus.

You’ll also find that the menu is not working correctly in the top Gnome Panel and that I’ve now created a pretty accurate OSX/Macbuntu skin for Opera!

You may also notice that the background image has changed. The latest OS X default wallpaper appears to be included with the setup, but is not used for some reason. I guess its a matter of opinion, but I prefer the setup to be as default as possible to the latest OS X design.

Hopefully I can contribute a few things to this project such as an improved Docky theme for Macbuntu, Opera Macbuntu skin, updated icons for those that are missing

I’ve re-arranged the Dock icons into a semi-accurate order, but some applications are in need of replacement icons.

Shotwell, for instance, could make use of the iPhoto icon and be added by default, making it appear that much more authentic.

Another awesome feature thats not included, but makes this transformations much more accurate is the plugin for an implementation of Stacks!

Unfortunately, the applications stack isn’t near as clean and even has duplicates of some applications, but it is a very good start and the stack plugin itself works fantastically!

I’m hoping that I will be able to get all of my tweaks and hacks so far worked into Macbuntu to automate what I’ve done, but since I’m still tweaking and fine tuning a lot of aspects, I haven’t had time to contact the developer(s).

That being said, I’m going to refrain from posting how-to’s and files for the changes I’ve made for now, but if you’re interested in the Opera skin I’m working on just let me know and I’ll send you what I’ve got so far. 😉

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!

But ours go to eleven…Opera 11

Opera 11 has been making a lot of buzz across the Internet today now that an alpha version has been released.

New in Opera 11 is support for the very much requested extensions! While there is currently a very limited selection of extensions available, I suspect this will quickly change. 😉

If you’re using Opera 11 already and you’re also using Ubuntu 10.10 with the Ambiance or Radiance themes, do forget to update you skin with my Ambiance and Radiance skins for Opera.

For those who are curious, you can find brief changelogs in the comments with the latest one being here.

If you’re not using Opera 11 yet and would like to, go get it!