Ubuntu 20.04 LTS Version

UbuntuBack in April (the 23rd, in fact) Ubuntu released version 20.04 LTS. And, I have finished updating all my Ubuntu Linux servers (I have three) to the latest version. So, I have five years of “Long Term Support” (that’s what LTS stands for) ahead of me. I upgraded one from version 18, and two from version 19 to the latest version. It was pretty simple and easy. No hiccups! So, what’s new, you ask? Well some of this does not apply to me, because I am running the non-GUI server version, but here are just some of the highlights:

  • Faster boot times
  • Some GUI improvements
  • Easier method to go to a “dark mode” on the GUI (one button flip)
  • Fully Snap’ped Software Center (Bad if you read the earlier articles, I know), but there are 6,000 applications in the Snapcraft Linux App Store
  • Uses the Linux 5.4 kernel version
  • Includes Secure Boot to protect against low level attacks and rootkits
  • WireGuard® is a new, simplified VPN with modern cryptography defaults
  • Disappointing point, you still can’t drop files from the file manager to the desktop, oh well.

Linux Mint 20 Will Drop the Ubuntu Snap Store!

Linux MintRemember, I said that Linux folk don’t care for Snap? Well, Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu Linux, BUT they are stripping all of Snap out of the new Linux Mint version 20. The beta release is out now. And, they are “protecting you” from Snap! To be fair, they are responding to the user base!

Do you want to remove Snap from your already installed system? Do this:

First check if you have any snaps installed. If you do you should write them down and try installing them with apt.

snap list
No snaps are installed yet. Try ‘snap install hello-world’.

Now, you’re ready to remove snapd

sudo apt remove –purge snapd gnome-software-plugin-snap

Once it’s removed you can block it from being reinstalled via apt:

sudo cat << EOF > /etc/apt/preferences.d/snapd
Package: snapd
Pin: origin *
Pin-Priority: -1
EOF

You are now safe from being a Snap user! Too strong? OK, maybe so!

StarLink Internet Update!

StarLink Satellite CloudElon Musk’s StarLink “Internet Provider from Space” program is rolling out big time! So far, there are 538 operational satellites in the sky ready to provide Internet connectivity from orbit! Low orbit, to speed up latency, but orbit, nonetheless! 238 of those satellite went up last week, with 60 more to be added next week!

Regulatory information that was filed by StarLink on its system indicates that the servie will provide 100 meg down and 40 meg up Internet service to it’s customers, with and expected latency of less than 30 ms. However, it will not be for “dense” population areas, like cities. This is intended to provide service to people that are out in the “boonies,” away from “standard” Internet service options.

But, I am excited about the potential! They have even put up a “sign-up” page to start taking names and addresses to be “early adopters!” If you live in the aforementioned “boonies,” I’d say, go for it!

Why Linux Purists Hate Snap!

Curse You, Snap!Snap, if you did not know, is Ubuntu’s attempt at a “unified standard app store” in Linux. There you go! Enough to hate on it already! Linux users are classically renegades that want to do everything the hard way, on their own! After all, how can I get true geek cred if one just goes to an “app store” and have the whatever-I-wanted-software installed by a common system? Yeeesh!

Now, that is not to say that there isn’t some real, solid reasons NOT to like snap. When you install something “from scratch” everything is placed where it should be in Linux (at least according to the original development team for the app.) Snap puts a lot of it’s install files under a “snap” directory. What?! This means it isn’t where the original software designers said it would be installed. Bummer, man! To be clear, when you install an run a Snap version of a program it incorporates the application and its libraries into a single package. It’s then installed and mounted on a SquashFS virtual file system. So, when you run a Snap, you’re running it inside a secured container of its own. Good? Yes, in some ways…. but bad in others, like speed.

Also, there is a lot of discussion that “snap-installed” apps are slower and klugy-er than the “installed from scratch” versions of the same software. Trade off for the easy install, you say? Hummmm… I don’t know.

Then there is the concern that it is proprietary to Ubuntu. True Linux folk just don’t DO proprietary. HOWEVER, one of the arguments FOR snap is that it tries to standardize a mess of different methods of installs, satisfy dependencies automatically, and keep thing up to date. All worthy goals. But, can be at the expense of speed, can be buggy (at least right now, getting better) and again, does NOT appeal to the Linux “bit wrangler” persona.

So, do YOU hate snap? If so, you are not alone, it seems!

iVCam Software Turns Your Phone Into a WebCam!

iVCam SoftwareYou can buy the full price version for $9.99 to “unlock” and remove the watermark in the upper left hand corner of the screen. Or, use it free if you don’t mind advertising for them a bit. Simply go to your phone’s Appstore, locate iVCam and install it. That part is totally free. THEN, download and install the Windows software side, and be sure that your phone, and your PC are on the same wireless network. iVCam appears as a “regular” webcam in your streaming app, or other application (like OBS for streaming, or Skype for phone use, or maybe Zoom, or Jitsi for conferencing.)

“Why buy a webcam since you already have a Mobile Phone or iPad?

iVCam turns your Phone/iPad into an HD webcam for Windows PC, which has a much better quality than most webcams and is compatible with all webcam-enabled applications. Replace your USB webcam, or integrated webcam, now with your Phone/iPad! It’s also a perfect baby monitor, spy-cam, security camera and pet-cam.

iVCam Software

FEATURES

  • High-quality, real-time video with low latency and fast speed
  • Automatic connection via Wi-Fi or USB and easy to use
  • Multi-instance support, connecting multiple phones on one PC
  • Supports common video sizes such as 360p, 480p, 540p, 720p, 1080p and 4K
  • Configurable for video frame rate, video quality and audio quality
  • Landscape and Portrait mode supported
  • Supports front, rear camera and real-time switching
  • Supports face beautify, flash, manual focus and video flip/mirror
  • Audio supported, use your phone as a wireless microphone for PC
  • Completely replaces USB webcam or integrated webcam, compatible with most applications using webcam
  • Preview video, take pictures and record video files with our Windows client software
  • Supports most software which use webcam, including Apps in Microsoft Store such as Windows Camera App

USAGE

  • Use iVCam in Skype
  • Use iVCam for video conferencing in Zoom
  • Multi-language support for iVCam
  • iVCam Features Description
  • Connect via USB
  • Multiple instances of iVCam
  • Broadcasting with iVCam
  • Use iVCam in OBS Studio
  • Use Mobile Phone as a PC Microphone”

Jitsi: An Open Source Alternative to Zoom!

Zoom Conferencing has taken a lot of hits for security issues of late. And, rightly so! There is a great Open Source alternative called Jitsi, that you should look into!

Jitsi Open Source Conferencing

Multi-platform Open-Source Video conferencing

At Jitsi, we believe every video chat should look and sound amazing, between two people or 200. Whether you want to build your own massively multi-user video conference client, or use ours, all our tools are 100% free, open source, and WebRTC compatible.

Go ahead, video chat with the whole team. In fact, invite everyone you know. Jitsi Meet is a fully encrypted, 100% open source video conferencing solution that you can use all day, every day, for free — with no account needed.

Jitsi ConferencingWhat else can you do with Jitsi Meet?

  • Share your desktop, presentations, and more
  • Invite users to a conference via a simple, custom URL
  • Edit documents together using Etherpad
  • Pick fun meeting URLs for every meeting
  • Trade messages and emojis while you video conference, with integrated chat.

Microsoft is Throttling Some 365 Services Due to High Demand

Office 365YouTube isn’t the only service that is trying to cut their use of Internet bandwidth to maintain their service levels. Microsoft Office 365 is being throttled as well. I expect that the strain of so many people working from home, and trying to keep up with the news is causing many services to adjust to the increased usage.

Slashdot – “Microsoft Throttles Some Office 365 Services To Continue To Meet Demand

In response to high demand as a result of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Microsoft has started taking action to preserve overall performance by throttling some services. ZDNet reports:

On March 16, Microsoft posted to Microsoft 365/Office 365 admin dashboards a warning about ‘temporary feature adjustments’ that it might take. That warning told customers that Microsoft was ‘making temporary adjustments to select non-essential capabilities.’ Officials said they did not expect these changes to have significant impact on users’ experiences. Among the examples of the types of changes Microsoft might take would be things like how often its services check for presence; intervals in which other parties typing are displayed; and video resolution. Today, March 24, Microsoft started cautioning Microsoft 365/Office 365 commercial users of some other ‘temporary changes’ they should expect. The list:

OneNote:
– OneNote in Teams will be read-only for commercial tenants, excluding EDU. Users can go to OneNote for the web for editing.
– Download size and sync frequency of file attachments has been changed.
– You can find details on these and other OneNote related updates at http://aka.ms/notesupdates.

SharePoint:
– We are rescheduling specific backend operations to regional evening and weekend business hours. Impacted capabilities include migration, DLP and delays in file management after uploading a new file, video or image.
– Reduced video resolution for playback videos

Stream:
– People timeline has been disabled for newly uploaded videos. Pre-existing videos will not be impacted.”

Rise in Zoom Conferencing Opens Up Security Issues

Zoom ConferencingDue to working from home, a LOT of folks are using Zoom for conferencing, as well as “FreeConferenceCall”… there are security issues you need to be aware of! One really embarrassing issue is called “Zoom Bombing.” This is a take on “Photo Bombing.” Since attendees can show any video from their computer, people have taken to acquiring conference keys, connecting, and then showing porn during a conference. Since everyone in the conference then sees it, it usually “takes down” the whole conference! This happened to Chick-Fil-A recently!

Using Zoom? Here are the privacy issues you need to be aware of

Protonmail – By: Richie Koch – “Zoom has seen a flood of new users as the COVID-19 outbreak forces more and more employees to transition to working from home. Zoom’s big selling point is its near-frictionless video calls.

However, new users should be aware of the company’s privacy practices. By looking through its privacy policy and some of its support documents, you quickly discover that Zoom allows your boss to track your attention during calls, shares the copious amounts of data it collects with third parties, and has already had a major security vulnerability.

We believe it’s important for our community who may be switching to Zoom in their workplace during the coronavirus outbreak to be aware of these issues, and this post looks at each of them in detail. At the end, we’ll offer some suggestions for what you can do to protect yourself while using Zoom.

Zoom knows if you are paying attention to the call

Whenever you host a call, you have the option to activate Zoom’s attendee attention tracking feature. This feature alerts the call’s host anytime someone on the call ‘does not have Zoom Desktop Client or Mobile App in focus for more than 30 seconds.’ In other words, if you are on a Zoom call and you click away from Zoom, the host of the call will be notified after 30 seconds, regardless of whether you minimized Zoom to take notes, check your email, or respond to a question on another app.

This feature only works if someone on the call is sharing their screen. It is unclear whether the attendees of a call are notified if attention tracking is being used on a call. When we tested it, the attendees did not receive any indication that their attention was being tracked.

Of course, just because you are not viewing the Zoom screen does not mean you are not paying attention or doing work. Furthermore, this feature cannot always reliably gauge if you have clicked away from the call. It only works on version 4.0 or later of Zoom apps and is not as reliable if you attend a Zoom call through your web browser rather than an app.

You should also be aware that if a host decides to record the call so it can be played later, Zoom saves a TXT file of the chat messages from the meeting and shares it with your boss. According to its support page on the subject, ‘the saved chat will only include messages from the host and panelists to all participants.’ However, it does not clarify what will happen to direct messages between attendees.

Zoom not only tracks your attention, it tracks you.

According to the company’s privacy policy, Zoom collects reams of data on you, including your name, physical address, email address, phone number, job title, employer. Even if you don’t make an account with Zoom, it will collect and keep data on what type of device you are using, and your IP address. It also collects information from your Facebook profile (if you use Facebook to sign in) and any ‘information you upload, provide, or create while using the service.’

Some of this data you enter yourself when you are signing in (for example, to join a call online, you must give your email) but much of it is collected automatically by the Zoom app.

In its privacy policy, under the entry ‘Does Zoom sell Personal Data?’ the policy says, ‘Depends what you mean by ‘sell.” To summarize Zoom’s policy, they say they don’t sell personal data for money to third parties, but it does share personal data with third parties for those companies’ ‘business purposes.’ And that may include passing your personal information to Google.

The camera hacking bug

Last year, security consultant Johnathan Leitschuch discovered that Zoom set up a local web server on a user’s Mac device that allowed Zoom to bypass security features in Safari 12. This web server was not mentioned in any of Zoom’s official documentation. It was used to bypass a pop-up window that Safari 12 would show before it turned on your device’s camera.

However, this remote web server was also not adequately secured. Pretty much any website could interact with it. The result was that Zoom allowed malicious websites to take over your Mac’s camera without ever alerting you.

This led Electronic Privacy Information Center to file an FTC complaint against Zoom, alleging that Zoom ‘intentionally designed its web conferencing service to bypass browser security settings and remotely enable a user’s web camera without the knowledge or consent of the user.’

While Zoom has since removed these remote web servers, its cavalier approach to getting user permission and its disregard for security and privacy concerns in the pursuit of convenience raise serious questions about trust.

How you can protect your data

As Zoom becomes the standard video conferencing tool, there are some steps you can take to keep your data safe.

  • Use two devices during Zoom calls: If you are attending a Zoom call on your computer, use your phone to check your email or chat with other call attendees. This way you will not trigger the attention tracking alert.
  • Do not use Facebook to sign in: It might save time, but it is a poor security practice and dramatically increases the amount of personal data Zoom has access to.
  • Keep your Zoom app updated: Zoom removed the remote web server from the latest versions of its apps. If you recently downloaded Zoom, there’s no need to be concerned about this specific vulnerability.

We recognize that working from home is going to require a reconfiguring of how companies, offices, and employees work. However, workers’ personal privacy should not be sacrificed in this transition.

Now that offices are closed, it is more important than ever that workers remember security guidelines. We have resources that can help you stay safe. Our IT security ebook, with its email security and IT security best practices lists, can help employees maintain their security and privacy while working from home.”

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