Tag Archives: Linux

Safer Online Banking

I’ve been following the Washington Post Security Fix blog for the past year or so. Recently, Brian Krebs has been writing a series of post about businesses are having with thieves stealing their banking credentials, and then the subsequent financial problems since businesses don’t have the same protections as consumers.
One place where I do disagree with the author is the idea of the Macintosh as a safe-haven. In some of his other columns, he’s mentioned that Apple is actually less secure than Windows, but because Windows has more marketshare, that’s what thieves will mostly target. I agree with that much, but the logical leap of “therefore Macintosh is safe”…. I’m just not a big fan of “security through obscurity.”
Three recent articles dealt with the idea (including a How-To) of using a Linux Live CD for online banking.

Just to be clear: I don’t think Linux is any more of a panacea than Mac, it’s just a bit more obscure. What I like about this particular solution is that you’re booting from a read-only copy of the operating system. In effect, every time you boot the computer, it’s brand new. Once you’re done with the banking stuff, turn off the computer (you don’t even need to go through the normal shutdown!) and next time you fire it up from the CD, it’s back to the exact same state as when you started it the last time. Even if something does get on to the computer, it can’t save itself to that read-only OS.
I currently do my banking from a virtual machine which I use for absolutely nothing but banking. But I’m definitely digging this as an alternative.

Installing Ubuntu

I don’t really know why I waited until so late in the day – or early in the morning – to do it (at least in part it was because I was meeting a friend for late dinner at 8:00), but about a year after installing Xandros on an old Compaq box and never getting back to it, I decided to dump Xandros and install Ubuntu in it’s place.
Getting the WET54G wireless bridge set up last weekend was a three-hour process, and also a subject for another day. For now, the most important tip is that the machine you’re using to set it up needs to be set to an address on the network. If you want to set the bridge up by hand instead of using the “Quick Setup” disk, you need to use your browser to connect to UserId and Password are both “Admin” (they’re CaSe seNsitIVe by the way).
I don’t have any great amount of experience with any Linux distribution (or with Linux at all really), but I’ve been wanting to add Linux to my pool of knowledge for a while. There wasn’t any one powerful reason to switch distributions, except that a year ago I couldn’t get an updated version of Firefox to install on Xandros (in fact, I even managed to wipe out the old version) and when I used the Xandros management software to do an update this evening, the most recent version was 1.5. (Current version for Windows is
For all I know, installing the most recent of Xandros would have given me the current Firefox and maybe the ability to run SETI@Home too, but Ubuntu’s been getting a lot of buzz recently and since I’m a newbie, I’m going to want to be find help easily. If I’m going to install a new distribution, I may as well go with the crowd for now. (Please don’t leave me a zillion comments saying, “Oh, you should have used distro-X instead, it’s much easier. I’m sure each distribution has its own particular charms. I’m happy enough for now.)
My first ever boot from a live CD was an interesting experience. I’d already set the machine to boot from CD, so after switching it on, all I had to do was reboot and let it go. My CD drive is a bit noisy and for a while it sounded like there was a cow mooing in the spare bedroom.
Once the system came up, I was presented with about seven different menu choices. After a few dubious experiments with the memory test and such, I finally chose the default Setup/Install option and let it fly.
When the system stopped mooing again (I may need to rename that machine to “Bossy”; too bad it’s not a Gateway. 🙂 ) my screen was divided into vertical sections divided by flashing/jumping/irritating lines. After playing with the menu bar at the top of the page, I found the “Resolution” tool under preferences and dropped both the resolution and the refresh rate by one notch each, this made the CRT much happier and no doubt saved me from a migraine.
The screen I was presented with turned out to be a functional Linux desktop. A working email client, Firefox 2.0.something, Open Office, and even a few games. (It has Suduko — Dad will enjoy discovering that.) Along with the menu at the top (all the basic system utilities), there were two icons on the desktop. I’m not really sure what to make of the “Examples” folder, though the musical clips were nice enough. After poking around for a bit, I double-clicked the “Install” icon.
The installation program seems simple enough. Seven prompts for things like your time zone, how much of the hard drive to use for Linux, and information for the main user account and then the system starts whirring away, writing stuff to the hard drive so it will run faster. (The Live CD is a nice idea, but aside from the mooing, it’s slow.)
The install is still running, probably due to the age of the hardware as much as anything else (PIII with 256 MB of RAM and a 120 GB drive) so I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to find out how it all went. I’m a little concerned that the main user account created during the install is going to turn out to be running with administrative privileges, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it (At least I know enough to be concerned about that sort of stuff).
In the meantime, I’m going to let Bossy keep mooing while I go and get some sleep.