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Comment: Re:Why? Is it really necessary? (Score 1) 186

by gdshaw (#46675919) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: User-Friendly Firewall For a Brand-New Linux User?

In any event, this only protects against internal incompetence rather than external malice, so is not a necessary part of running a secure system.

You forgot to mention internal malice.

Let's put my comment back into context. I was talking about forgetting to bind a private network service to the loopback interface. That would normally be done by an administrator. If an administrator is acting maliciously then you have fairly serious problems with or without a local firewall. In fact, this is a pretty good demonstration of my point that if you are going to use a firewall to protect against that kind of threat then the firewall wants to be on a different box (eg. a router or dedicated firewall), not the one that you are expecting to be compromised.

To be clear: I'm not saying that firewalls should never be used on Linux-based hosts (that would be ridiculous), only that they are not a necessary part of running Linux securely in the way that they are for Windows.

Comment: Re:Why? Is it really necessary? (Score 1) 186

by gdshaw (#46674709) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: User-Friendly Firewall For a Brand-New Linux User?

That's fine as long as you are sure there are no bugs in the services you run and the TCP/IP stack, and you keep them all up to date, and you don't mind kiddies hammering on your door 24/7 trying to guess your passwords.

If you need a service to be publicly accessible then you will need to configure the firewall accordingly, in which case it typically provides no protection if the service is exploitable.

If the service doesn't need to be publicly accessible then either turn it off or bind it to the loopback interface. Why add extra software to protect against a vulnerability that you could have avoided creating in the first place? Note that operating systems that take security seriously do not install public-facing network services unless you ask them to.

Firewalls certainly have their uses, but they aren't a necessity on non-Windows machines in the way that they are for Windows.

Comment: Re:Why? Is it really necessary? (Score 1) 186

by gdshaw (#46674663) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: User-Friendly Firewall For a Brand-New Linux User?

Firewalls are about keeping things in as well as out. One of the reasons that there are so many problems on corporate networks is that there's often times no firewalls once you get to the LAN. I remember when I was in college the set up in the dorms was dire. People would be sharing things read and write and you'd wind up will all sorts of nasty things on the network, and then there was the malware.

Yes, but I presume you are talking about Windows machines which run an SMB/CIFS server out of the box. Most GNU/Linux distributions rightly don't do that. Typically if you want to run Samba, or an FTP server, or an HTTP server on the default port then you need to be root to do that. Once you are root then you can also poke a hole in the firewall.

Granted you can run servers on high-numbered ports, but within a LAN all that does is allow two machines that had already been compromised to communicate with each other. For communication with the outside world I prefer to detect and/or block that at the boundary router (otherwise all it takes is a local root exploit to disable the firewall).

The same applies to outbound connections, although in a world where so many programs need network access that is arguably a lost cause for general-purpose workstations. In any event, a firewall isn't the right tool for controlling the capabilities of individual programs: you really need something like SELinux or AppArmor to do that effectively.

Comment: Re:Why? Is it really necessary? (Score 1, Insightful) 186

by gdshaw (#46671911) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: User-Friendly Firewall For a Brand-New Linux User?

1997 called and wants its comment back...

For machines which are not routers the comment is just as valid now as it was then. If you use a GNU/Linux distribution that takes security seriously then it will not install any externally-visible network services by default. The attack surface in that condition is small enough that installing a firewall won't help much, and might even make matters worse. If you deliberately install any public-facing network services then you need to add matching firewall rules, so again no benefit.

A firewall does help if you install a private network service and forget to bind it to the loopback interface (unless you have one of those systems which automatically install a firewall rule alongside the network service, which totally defeats the purpose of having a firewall). In any event, this only protects against internal incompetence rather than external malice, so is not a necessary part of running a secure system.

Firewalls are useful on routers, and on servers where you want very specific control of what can be accessed from where (such as a DBMS that is only accessible from a single client machine), but for typical Linux-based hosts they add little.

Comment: Re:How does advanced CS have any tie to culture? (Score 1) 612

by gdshaw (#45765001) Attached to: Is Computer Science Education Racist and Sexist?

In other words, it's just the way people are. It affects all aspects of society including CS. If there's one black mark I'd give CS about this, it's that it tends to have a greater percentage of socially mal-adjusted people, and so tends to hang on to this sense of superiority more than other cultural blocks. Most regular people eventually figure out that it's not really important whether the football team is better than the basketball team, or whether you bought a Toyota or a Ford. But people in CS tend to defend and promote their preferred systems with almost religious fervor well into adulthood. This can be very off-putting to regular people thinking of getting into CS.

When they become adults, regular people often move on to zealous advocacy of their preferred political system, nationality, or religious denomination. This often descends into violence, sometimes over seemingly trivial differences between the two parties. Personally I find that very off-putting: give me Debian vs. Ubuntu any day.

Comment: Re:Externalizing the cost of maintenance (Score 1) 296

by gdshaw (#45673145) Attached to: Six Electric Cars Can Power an Office Building

This isn't a zero sum exercise: by flattening the peak you are lowering the underlying cost of generating the electricity -- because you can use more efficient methods -- which in a competetive market should reduce the average price.

(Obviously in an uncompetetive market all bets are off.)

Comment: Re:Control... (Score 1) 926

by gdshaw (#45385013) Attached to: Where Does America's Fear Come From?

Both July and August are named after gods

Minor correction - they were named after Roman emperors, not quite gods. Still not great role models, so point taken.

That's a matter of perspective: followers of the Roman Imperial cult would have considered them to be gods, followers of most other religions obviously wouldn't. Since their elevation to godhood would have been formalised by the senate, and since we have firm evidence that both individuals existed, you could argue that as deities go their claims are stronger than most.

(Granted I'm not sure which came first, month naming or apotheosis - quite possibly the former.)

Comment: Re:Control... (Score 1) 926

by gdshaw (#45384637) Attached to: Where Does America's Fear Come From?

My problem is that once you cross the line from a policy of keeping religion out of the calendar system to one of keeping Christianity out, you are entering questionable territory that I for one would be reluctant to endorse in any way. Even if you frame it as polytheism in, monotheism out, I think that destroys any case that CE/BCE should be adopted on the grounds of avoiding religious bias.

Besides, if it is acceptable to retcon the epoch to avoid disruption, surely it would be logical to retcon AD to mean something else so that you don't need to change anything?

Comment: Re:Control... (Score 5, Interesting) 926

by gdshaw (#45383847) Attached to: Where Does America's Fear Come From?

AD = CE. CE expands as Common Era, and is generally more accepted in a global context, because it doesn't reference a god you may not believe in or adhere to. More than half the world's population does not follow an Abrahamic religion. The dates are exactly the same, just a different name.

You did know that AD means "Anno Domini", right? In English, that's "the year of our Lord". If you want to claim adherence to the Christain God, that's fine. You have that right. But don't expect me to pay lip service to a God that, to me, comes off as a petty, cliquish and vindictive sort, according to your own holy books.

Not my god either, but I see two objections to trying to replace AD with CE:

Firstly, it doesn't achieve your stated aim of avoiding reference to Christianity, because it continues to use what was (probably incorrectly) thought to be the year of Christ's birth as its epoch. Any pretence that the one is not derived from the other is frankly ridiculous.

Secondly, I can't comment about yourself, but most CE proponents are quite happy to use a calendar system that is replete with reference to other deities such as Thursday after Thor, January after Janus and so on. Both July and August are named after gods who we know from our history books were not exactly role models for ethical behaviour. In this context it is hard to believe that aversion to the term AD is driven by a purely secular motivation.

Comment: Re:Which company bought this 'new' rule? (Score 1) 1143

by gdshaw (#45381013) Attached to: EPA Makes Most Wood Stoves Illegal

The irony is: The particles in the burning are what are keeping the effects of green house gasses at bay.

They do indeed, but that is not necessarily a good thing because the effects are short-term whereas CO2 accumulates over the long term. This pushes back the day of reckoning, which would be all well and good if we used that respite to do something about emissions, but the reality is that obscuring the short term effects makes it more difficult to convince people that there really is a long-term problem. When we eventually reach the point where the effects are obvious and we are forced to cut back, the consequences are likely to be significantly worse than they would have been otherwise.

Comment: Re:Very limited practicality (Score 1) 282

by gdshaw (#45378237) Attached to: Germany Finances Major Push Into Home Battery Storage For Solar

Germany would have to store at least gigawatt-hours of power.

First of all, while Gigawatt-hours are indeed the right unit, that's a unit for Energy. With 41 Million households in Germany, and 4kWh of storage capacity planned for the average installation, Gigawatt hours are reached when less than 1% of the households run one of those home battery storage devices. Since there are already around 1 million photovoltaic installations connected to the public grid, I'd say that this a a goal that should be easy to achieve within 5-10 years.

1% sounds far too low, because when you average that across all households you have 1% of 4kWh which is only 40Wh. That would be respectable enough if renewables were only supplying 1% of the power, but at 40%+ it isn't very much. (To put this in perspective, the battery in an iPad 3 holds 42.5W.)

On a more positive note, they have at least identified that storage is a problem that needs to be solved if renewable capacity is to expand much more than it has done already in Germany, and are prepared to spend real money to do something about it. I am sceptical as to what can realistically be achieved, but it would be great if they were able to drive down the cost of energy storage even by a modest amount because that would expand the range of circumstances where renewables are viable. If they fail then at least we know what doesn't work, which will help to settle the question of whether or not other sources such as nuclear power are needed. (I'm not greatly bothered what the answer is, we just need to know for sure one way or the other.)

Comment: Re:Get Real (Score 5, Insightful) 282

by gdshaw (#45377265) Attached to: Germany Finances Major Push Into Home Battery Storage For Solar

Somehow nobody noticed that temperatures have not gone up in 16 years while CO2 levels climbed. So much for this new pagan religion.

Some people understand the importance of not drawing conclusions about long-term trends from short-term measurements in the presence of noise, and avoid cherry-picking the start date for their trend lines.

The more cordial the buyer's secretary, the greater the odds that the competition already has the order.

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