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Here’s a quick write-up from my presentation on The Amnesic Incognito Live System (TAILS) at the August 2014 CIALUG meeting.

The main TAILS Web site:

TAILS is intended to make it easy for non-technical end users to boot into a live, Linux-based OS which automatically routes its traffic over The Onion Router (TOR) network. The intention is to provide anonymity, privacy, and plausible deniability for dissidents, whistle-blowers, or anyone who feels the need to conduct searches or communicate securely while leaving little to no trace of those activities on the host system.

While TAILS does succeed at providing a bootable system that defaults to a TOR-routed connection, non-technical or even non-Linux end users will need some training from a more savvy user to make the best use of this system. Keep the following points in mind:

  • TAILS is still susceptible to any issues which effect the TOR network. Know and understand how to limit your behaviors when using TOR and apply those to your use of TAILS.
  • Out of the box, the current version (as of this writing, 1.1 released July 2014) of TAILS had 34 packages which were out of date, and TOR itself was one of those pending updates. Installing updates before each use should be top priority, but more on that later.
  • It does NOT appear that TAILS uses the TOR Browser Bundle. This makes it more important to apply updates before each use as Firefox, Vidalia and the TOR Button may need to be updated (no updates were pending for these in version 1.1 as of this writing).

As mentioned above, the very first thing which should be done after successfully booting to TAILS and connecting to the Internet and TOR network is to apply updates. This is accomplished by logging in to a terminal, elevating to root, and running ‘apt-get update’ followed by ‘apt-get upgrade’. Note that I ran in to the following issues when updating version 1.1 of TAILS in this manner:

  • Updating was slow. This is actually a good thing because the updates are grabbed via the TOR network.
  • When the TOR package gets updated, it prompts whether or not to replace the configuration. I recommend keeping the existing configuration (the default choice).
  • When the TOR package gets updated, it stops the TOR service but doesn’t restart it. Later in the update process, some other packages need to download firmware. Because the TOR service is stopped, that process fails. I had to start the TOR service again, then re-run ‘apt-get upgrade’ to successfully update those packages.
  • When the TOR package gets updated, it breaks the running Vidalia process. I simply closed it. TOR continued to work without that process running.

While this isn’t a complete summary of my presentation, I hope it is helpful. Please share this post if you found it so. Thanks!

Below is a link to the presentation I gave at the September 18th, 2013 CIALUG meeting.

Tor and the Tor Browser Bundle: Hints, Tips, and Tricks for Effective Use

  • Meeting topic was “graphics”, but we pretty much had a free-for-all discussion.
  • Last night I complied this list of graphics-related links. We really didn’t talk about this list all that much.
  • Dave Weis from Internet Solver had swag to hand out (spiffy tees) in celebration of being recognized in the Business Record as a Best Of
  • I brought some miscellaneous electronics and books to give away.
  • We met at Raccoon River Brewery around 7 PM.
  • The Iowa State Fair Parade was going on, so traffic was pretty bad getting in to downtown.
  • Microsoft Server 2008 with Hyper-V R2 is coming out soon. Sounds like there are going to be some Hyper-V improvements.
  • Debated security vs. business models for low-rate Web hosting. Many Web hosts do not pro-actively scan for security issues, adopting a strictly reactionary strategy. While economical, this can result in widespread outages if a vulnerability lands large numbers of hosts or entire subnets on black lists.
  • Several members are busy gearing up for VMWorld 2009

CHDK – Firmware hack for Canon point-and-shoot cameras

  • TJ reviewed the installation procedure and discussed some of the extra functionality to be gained.
  • Installs to a CF card (must be under 4 GB).
  • Booting to it does not replace anything on your camera, so camera’s firmware remains un-touched (read: you won’t void your warranty).
  • CHDK Wiki

Linux-y stuff

  • It does help to connect an antenna to your internal wireless card.
  • What happens when you send /dev/null to /dev/null? How do you get it back?

Social Media

  • Origins: USENET and IRC. MUDs, MUSHes and MOOs.
  • Photo sharing sites such as SmugMug, Picasa, Flickr, Shutterbug, PhotoBucket, etc.
  • OpenID use with sites.
  • Facebook, MySpace, etc.

After-meeting at Raccoon River Brewery


Group organization

  • Discussed various ideas for how to organize.
  • Competitions?
  • Teaming w/ local educational orgs?
  • Start with the basics and work up? Arduino, Parallax, MindStorms?
  • Age groups? Any age is welcome.

Skills inventory

  • Lots of programmers/developers.
  • Not too many mechanical/electrical engineers.
  • No venture capitalists.


  • Build something for a competition?
  • Build a CNC machine which can be used for future projects? There seemed to be a lot of support for this idea. Agreed to continue discussion on the mailing list (
  • Bring your own and share/seek assistance?

Matthew Nuzzum demo’d his VEX r/c platform wheeled robot.

  • Controller from
  • Aluminum body with two drive motors and 4 wheels.
  • Uses tank-style steering.

Gentleman from the Twin Cities Robotics Club (sorry, arrived late and didn’t catch his name) brought his ~70 pound robot

  • About 30 pounds of the weight is battery.
  • Has a sonar array and Web cam for sensors.
  • Plans to put an on-board Linux computer.

Some links to Web sites brought up during the meeting:

Theron Conrey demo’d Nexenta Systems, an enterprise storage solution built on top of an OpenSolaris kernel with ZFS, an Ubuntu user space and some proprietary elements for managing the storage. Check out Theron’s take on this storage solution.

Theron built a Nexenta storage array within a VM on his laptop — probably the first time such a feat has been performed at Raccoon River Brewery.

Also held a long discussion about Virtual Desktops, SunRays and their adoption by businesses of various sizes. We pondered why this cool technology isn’t getting adopted as quickly as it should and where the ROI “cut off” is in terms of business size.

We are working on lining up Impromptu Studio for next month’s meeting. Stay tuned to The VUG for details.

I didn’t take any notes during the meeting itself, so these are the high points as my memory serves:

The focus of this meeting was Security, and we didn’t stray too far off that core topic.

InfraGard is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the private sector.

Some of the interesting security tools or concepts discussed at this meeting:

  • netcat is literally THE Swiss Army Knife of IP tools.
  • port knocking and webknocking involves sending patterns of traffic to a server to trigger it opening ports and services to your IP address.
  • MetaSploit Framework automates the exploitation of the latest vulnerabilities.

After the meeting, a large group of us walked over to Raccoon River Brewery for dinner, drinks and discussion.

We had six show up for last night’s meeting (6/10/09) at Granite City in Clive, IA. It was mostly a social occasion, so there wasn’t a lot of Virtualization content to record. Here are a few points which stood out in my mind:

  • SuperMicro now offers blade servers which integrate a miniature SAS SAN on the back plane. Sounded pretty cool.
  • Josh More discussed some basic security concepts around Internet-accessible servers — Virtual or otherwise.
  • Had an impromptu “Name That Tune” competition between an iPhone and a G1. The iPhone won. This time. . .
  • Laserdisc video is analog, as I pointed out to some peoples’ dismay.

The conversation was, as usual, quite random so there were many, many more topics discussed than I’ve presented here. I guess you’ll just have to attend the next meeting so you don’t miss out!

This meeting’s theme: Programming

Eclipse IDE presented by Dan Juliano

  • UI layer runs on top of SWT libraries, so it should be more responsive.
  • Engineered differently than most other IDEs
  • Fairly memory-intensive. Just launched, it took 135 MB of RAM on Dan’s demo system (an Intel Mac).
  • IBM has put a lot of support behind this project.
  • Primarily supports Java development, but there are versions and plugins for other languages.
  • Aptana is an online web dev environment that fits nicely with Eclipse.
  • Good code validation plugin which will validate various languages.
  • Standard IDE stuff like syntax highlighting.
  • Has a large undo feature that remembers every change made since you started the session and can revert to any point. That causes a lot of the memory usage.

Several random discussions took place at this point in the meeting.

Hudson ( presented by Dan Juliano

  • Billed as an “Extensible continuous integration engine”
  • Tons of plugins.
  • Dan exploring using this for automated scheduled jobs as a replacement for doing the same with cron.

Several members of the group adjourned to Hessen Haus for food and beverages.