Debian… oy.

This weekend I installed Debian on an old computer. Most of the install was just blindly pressing return but I ran into a problem getting X to start. It turned out that in the configuration they suggested uses a frame buffer setting that doesn't work on my machine but it took me an hour or two to figure this out. I am still setting Debian up with features I was able to trivially get on Windows. For example, I have a utility called Tardis on windows that uses NTP to set my clock. Of course I could get the NTP client for Debian. It was just a matter of doing a quick package search and then using apt-get. But I then had to go find a list of suitable NTP sites and type them in manually. Tardis came pre-configured. Tardis also shows me that it is working but I can't be sure the NTP deamon is running (I haven't checked) and even if it is I'm not 100% sure that the KDE clock is listening to it. I'm sure everything works just fine but there is no pro-active indication of this. (BTW, I like KDE a lot more than Gnome) No, none of its a big deal, it's just that everything is a little harder on Debian. Still, with crossover I'm hoping to become Windows free within the next few weeks. I need the crossover plugin to get things like Quicktime and Crossover office to get access to Quicken. I'm happy to pay the software fees required to get Crossover. Other then that there seem to be reasonable alternatives for everything else. I will keep y'all informed.

Darik's Boot and Nuke & Mandrake 9.1

I have an old computer I finally want to get rid of and I need to destroy all the data on the drives before sending it to be recycled. There is a simple GPL solution called Darik's Boot and Nuke which does the trick. But the directions on the Website don't quite work for Mandrake 9.1. Here were the changes I had to make:

To copy the image to a floppy I had to use dd if=dban-*.img of=/dev/fd0. [1] I had trouble with /dev/random generating enough bits. The easiest workaround is to substitute /dev/urandom for /dev/random. But there is a more paranoid choice. [2]

[1] In most system apparently /dev/floppy points to the floppy device but in Mandrake 9.1 it points to a directory with the floppy's contents. /dev/fd0 is what Mandrake uses to point at the actual floppy image, it's a link to /dev/floppy/0.

[2] /dev/urandom uses a crypto grade hash to extend the amount of random data collected by /dev/random. This should be fine but I'm really paranoid so instead what I do is first run dd if=/dev/random of=MySeedFile bs=512 count=20. This will give me more than the 512 bytes required by DBAN. You will have to play with the mouse a bit to generate enough random data to fill the request. Once the dd returns then I execute dd if=MySeedFile of=MySeedFile2 bs=512 count=1 and then delete MySeedFile.

Palladium and What You Use Security

A good article explaining Microsoft's Palladium initiative. What interesting about Palladium is that it provides a mechanism to not just authenticate who you are but also what software you are using. For the purposes of this article I will refer to this as What You Use (WYU) security. In reading this article please keep in mind that I know nothing about Palladium so the following comments only apply to WYU style security systems in general and in no way reflects Palladium's past, present or future plans.

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