Posts Tagged 'privacy'

Guest Post by Beloved: The Tech of Talking to Loved Ones (II)

 
Here is the second half of  Beloved's guest post on how to videocall your loved ones without 
compromising your privacy. This is the practical part. If you would like to read some of the 
considerations behind his choice of software, visit part 1. 

Getting Down to Business
I did all my talking in the previous half of this post, now let's set something up.  There are 
two steps to setting yourself up for private phone calls.  The first is getting a free SIP account 
and the second is installing Jitsi and logging in.

Getting a Free SIP Account
SIP users have addresses that look like email addresses.  Your SIP account is independent 
of the software you use to talk SIP, in much the same way your phone is independent from 
your phone number.  I like the free service offered by iptel.org so we'll be using that one.
1)  Visit www.iptel.org with your favorite web browser.
2)  Click on the "Subscribe!" button in the top right of the page.
3)  Fill in your relevant information and be sure to lie for the 'first name', 'last name, and 
'phone' fields.  They don't need to know your name or your phone number - it's none of 
their business!  You'll need to tell the truth for the rest of the fields including email.  
Pick a username, password, and click 'I accept' on their nonsense terms of service like you 
actually read it and care.  Don't use a password you use anywhere else since they're going 
to mail it to you in unencrypted text for some stupid reason. Just write it down next to your 
computer if you don't want to remember it.(a)
4)  When you're done click 'Register'.
5)  Check your email for a message from iptel.org.  Click on the link to activate your account 
and you're done.

Installing and Setting up Jitsi
1)  Visit www.jitsi.org with your favorite web browser.
2)  Click on "Download Jitsi".
3)  Pick the right Jitsi download for your operating system from the stable category.
4)  Download and install the thing.  For more help see the additional resources near 
the end of this post.
5)  Start Jitsi.  Windows users may get a warning from a firewall program at this time.  
If you do, please allow Jitsi access to the network.
6) After starting for the first time you should see a screen for adding accounts.  Add your 
SIP user information into the SIP section of the add account screen.  If the username you 
chose on iptel.org was "bob" you would enter "bob@iptel.org" as your username in Jitsi.  
Your password is the same password you wrote down from iptel.org.(b)
7) Click "Sign In".

Communications software is pretty boring if you have no one to talk to.  So you'll want to 
add a contact after adding an account.
1)  Find someone you want to talk with.  Preferably this person will also want to talk with 
you, however this is not required.
2)  Show said person this blogpost for proper SIP/ZRTP/Jitsi indoctrination and ask them 
for their account name.
3)  Under "File" click on "Add contact…"
4)  In the "ID or Number Field" enter their contact information.  If they registered at iptel.org 
with "jane" you would input "jane@iptel.org".
5) Click on "Add".
6)  They're now in your friends list and when you click on them you can choose to 
communicate with them via text, voice SIP call or video SIP call.  When they're online and 
available for a call the circle next to their name will turn green.
7)  Click on their name and then click on the icon below their name to make a secure 
video call.  If you see a green lock icon the call is secure.
8)  After a secure call connects, you might see some text and numbers below the video 
window.  If, for some reason, you and the person you're calling do not see the same text 
and numbers below your screens then there is a high chance someone is messing 
with your call.  Speak the text and numbers to the person you're calling and have them 
verify that they see the same numbers.
8) If you have no friends, or if your friends are slow and you really want to see this thing 
work, you can add the test user "music@iptel.org".  Calling this user causes plays music 
back to you.  You can't call this user securely so don't worry if you don't get the green lock 
icon.

Additional resources:
Installing Jitsi on Windows(guide)
https://jitsi.org/Documentation/InstallAndSetupOnWindows

Installing Jitsi on Windows(Video)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BhmOg0G-Frw

Placing a ZRTP call with Jitsi(Video)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=udBBDHT-_UA

ZRTP and SRTP FAQ
https://jitsi.org/Documentation/ZrtpFAQ

(a) I am not advocating that you always write down passwords next to your computer for 
every service you use online, just this one.  Proper operational password security is 
outside the scope of this post.

(b) If for some reason you don't get prompted to create an account the first time you start 
Jitsi, you can add your account by clicking on the "Add new account…" option under the 
"File" dropdown.  "File -->  Add new account…

The Smitten Entrepreneur

Picture by pumpkincat210 under a Creative Commons License.

By which I mean to say: I am now self-employed. Sole proprietor of my business. Embracing the American spirit of small business ownership and all that. Pioneering. Frontier mentality. *cough* Sorry 😛

Sure, it doesn’t fully solve the immediate lack of forty hours of revenue generating activities per week, but it makes me flexible, allowing me to jump on Craigslist gigs, work with my old employer and do it all within the letter of the law. Also: tax deductions. Useful in case I end up making money. Which I already did, a little, with the freelance work I talked about in earlier posts, but I needed a way to justify those funds to Uncle Sam’s tax folks. So here we are…

I built myself a website, had business cards printed and obtained a ‘home occupation permit’ (to allow me working from home) and a business license. Uhuh! I’m the real deal. Even snagged a signature from a big, burly fireman to certify that there are smoke detectors and a fire extinguisher. I’ve been networking with folks and am hoping to reel in some more assignments soon.

But Smitten Immigrant, what is it you actually do? 

Right.. I should probably mention that. The job title I invented for myself is ‘language professional’. Which means I offer services as an editor, proofreader, translator (between my native language and English) and (copy) writer. Stuff like doing linguistic quality assurance for software translations, translating user interface text, but also more traditional red pen circling of errant commas, missing capitals and ambiguous phrasing.  Possibly telling you to tone down the enthusiastic superlative language of your marketing pitch because in the ‘Old Country’  your exuberance just gives cause for cynicism.

Hey, hey can we see? Show us!

Err.. no. Well. Not on here. I have considered connecting this blog to my website, since it is a large collection of my personal language wrangling that people may like to see, but I have decided against it. This is my personal blog, where I do not want to proofread what I write. I don’t want to think about the commercial viability of my posts, nor wonder about whether things may be too personal for possible clients to read.

I’m not under the illusion that a dedicated sleuther would be unable to find both my website and this blog and connect the dots. It’s not a matter of deep importance that the two never be connected. But I don’t want to make this little corner of the web a marketing instrument, which is what would almost inevitably happen if I added it to my portfolio. I’m not interested in the ‘brand’  Smitten Immigrant. I don’t plan to become a marketing guru or even a professional blogger on a personal title (although I am not averse to writing blog posts for payment).

The big thing that looking at a wide variety of language jobs has taught me, is that I want to write your text for you, or my text for me, but not the other way around. I don’t know if that makes sense to people whose field of work is not closely related to the realms of marketing and or social media, but it makes sense to me. I’m a language professional, not an internet personality. I love my work because a good writer (and even more so a good editor and most so a good translator) is invisible. It’s not me you should want, it’s the words I stick together.

Imagine you would ask me to write something. A job application for instance, which needs a good mix of personal showcasing and high quality writing. As your hired wordsmith, I need to write you. Because they need to hire you (not me). And so I need to ‘be’ you, adding nothing but the linguistic quality that makes those HR people sigh with relief because that letter is such an effortless read.

Are you averse to accepting work form people who have found this blog?

Not at all. If you see me play with words  (which is really what I do here, at The Smitten Immigrant) and you like it, superfluous commas and all, then feel free to hit me up and ask me for my professional details. I’ll happily share. I just don’t want to encourage the process the other way around.

A guest post by Beloved: The Tech of Talking to Loved Ones

Let’s take a break from our irregularly scheduled programming to spend some time talking about technology. Specifically, let’s talk about calling your friends and family if you’re half a world away and what software you can use for this purpose. You see, the first thing people think of, when they love you and you move far way is: “Can we Skype?” And you’d like to say yes, of course. But you’re married to someone who has forgotten more about communication technology than your entire family together knows, so there is no quick answer. 

Here is Beloved, with part 1 of The Tech of Talking to Loved Ones

The purpose of this post is to explain how to communicate securely over the internet with voice and video for a non-technical audience. This post has been in the planning since well before the name Edward Snowden became famous, but it is even more poignant today. The original impetus that set me down to write was requests from family members and friends who were hoping to talk to SmittenImmigrant and me over Skype after we moved to the Unites States. Now I am someone who has been involved with VoIP(Voice over Internet Protocol) since 1999 and I’m not going to use Skype. I remember when Skype came out and I remember disliking them for not choosing an open protocol like SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) for their communications. The fact that we now know that Microsoft spies on Skype IMs just strengthened my resolve to find an alternative. [Note from Smitten Immigrant: there may or may not have been veiled threats from Beloved’s father-in-law  as well].

You , reader, may have a variety of reasons for wanting to communicate securely over the internet. Maybe you’re worried about the NSA or maybe you don’t like your personal information being used for marketing. For me, as a life long initiate in the geek faring religion of openness, I simply do not want to use a closed proprietary technology when an open alternative exists. As a bonus, I also like the idea of the NSA having to store every VoIP call I make (which they do, since it’s encrypted and they save encrypted data). I want to make their job more difficult, so I promote encryption at every opportunity.

Choosing VoIP Software

I’m going to leave out much of the technical mumbo-jumbo in this article since I don’t want to bore you. But I do want to mention why I chose Jitsi as my VoIP client. There are dozens of VoIP clients that support SIP these days. So why did I choose Jitsi?

I started by listing my requirements.

– The software had to be easy to use. Most of the people who would be calling us are not geeks like me or even power users like SmittenImmigrant.

– The software had to be open. I wanted code that had been peer reviewed and that anyone could look at. Anything short of that in encryption software is essentially useless.

– The software also had to be free as in beer and free as in freedom. I didn’t want to pay for it and I wanted changes made to it contributed back to public domain.

– The software had to run on multiple platforms. I use Apple computers as well as Linux, but most of the people who want to talk with us use Microsoft Windows.

– The software had to be actively maintained and could not be abandonware. A large problem with open source projects is that, since the developers are all volunteers, projects have a tendency to languish unfinished or broken for extended periods. I wanted software that was being updated regularly by a core group of people.

– The software had to support SIP and ZRTP for encryption. I’m going to leave out the reasons why I believe SIP has a much better future for internet based VoIP calls compared to H.323 because I promised no technical mumbo-jumbo. So you’ll just have to trust me. I will get into ZRTP in the next section.

Jitsi meets all the above requirements and then some. It’s also rather old (Jitsi started in 2003) which in the world of software is almost always a good thing. New software is always buggier than old software.

An extremely short introduction to Encryption

Encryption is the stuff of hidden messages. It’s been around longer than Christianity and we have records of the Romans and Chinese using to secret codes to communicate. Since the development of digital computers encryption has increasingly become about creating ever more difficult math problems for computers to solve. Luckily we don’t have to care about math or solve and math problems. That’s all been figured out for us by people much smarter than we are. We only need to know one acronym and understand what it does for us. This acronym is ZRTP (Zimmerman Real-Time Transport Protocol).

ZRTP is a key agreement protocol developed and championed by Phil Zimmerman (an excellent example of a super smart human who figures out stuff so we don’t have to) to be used with real time streaming applications, such as VoIP calls. A key agreement protocol allows the calling parties to exchange encryption keys in a secure manner so that no one other than the communicating parties can listen to the conversation. Encryption keys are what the software uses to encrypt and decrypt our call data. Without the key you cannot open the lock, so to speak, and ZRTP is responsible for making sure that only the people who are calling each other have the key. With regards to Jitsi it means that Jitsi running on computer A will generate a key and use ZRTP to exchange that key with computer B which also generated its own key. Once computer A and B have each other’s keys the conversation can begin securely and no one but computer A and computer B can listen to the conversation.

To be continued…