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Thomas Pfeiffer
Attended Technische Universität Darmstadt
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"In war, truth is the first casualty."
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Thomas Pfeiffer

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In all the turmoil about Linux Journal allegedly being called an "extremist forum" by the NSA, I really feel I have to clear something up.

Disclaimer: I do not aim to defend the NSA. I am very very concerned about their dragnet spying and find that a lot of what they do is unconstitutional, breaking international treaties and generally immoral. That said, as a scientist I am a big fan of basing opinions on facts.
That's why I find it sad that the Panorama article which everyone cites (http://daserste.ndr.de/panorama/aktuell/nsa230_page-1.html) clearly - we don't know whether willfully or out of ignorance - misread the XKeyScore rules they link to. You can find these rules here:

http://daserste.ndr.de/panorama/xkeyscorerules100.txt

Now, there is only one place that mentions Linux Journal, and it's this rule:
/ START_DEFINITION
/*
These variables define terms and websites relating to the TAILs (The Amnesic
Incognito Live System) software program, a comsec mechanism advocated by
extremists on extremist forums.
*/
$TAILS_terms=word('tails' or 'Amnesiac Incognito Live System') and word('linux'
or ' USB ' or ' CD ' or 'secure desktop' or ' IRC ' or 'truecrypt' or ' tor ');
$TAILS_websites=('tails.boum.org/') or ('linuxjournal.com/content/linux...
// END_DEFINITION
Okay, what have we got here? First of all, about the "extremist forum": Panorama says
"It also records details about visits to a popular internet journal for
Linux operating system users called "the Linux Journal - the Original
Magazine of the Linux Community", and calls it an "extremist forum"."
The rule which Panorama bases their statement on says
"These variables define terms and websites relating to the TAILs (The Amnesic Incognito Live System) software program, a comsec mechanism advocated by extremists on extremist forums."

It clearly states that TAILS is advocated by extremists on extremist forums.
This may very well be true, since of course it makes sense for extremists to use anonymization tools to cover their tracks (just as it makes sense for innocent people to use them to enhance their privacy, of course!).
So, to repeat: That first comment in the rule does not say that all sites included in the rules are extremist forums, only that they talk about software that in turn is advocated in extermist forums. Clear difference.
Yes, treating all of linuxjournal.com/content/linux... as "websites relating to TAILs" is wrong and actually incredibly stupid. XKeyScore is a tool to identify - presumably - useful targets in the mass of data they get, so such a broad filter definition simply makes the whole thing less useful. If they want to target TAILS users (regardless of whether that's justified or not), they should have only included articles relating to the program on Linux Journal.
I really assume it's simply that an idiot wrote that rule.

So please, everyone, focus your criticism on that overly broad rule which makes no sense and stop repeating the nonsense written by Panorama that the NSA considers Linux Journal an extremist forum. It doesn't. Period.
Thank you.
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Thomas Pfeiffer's profile photoPHIL FORBAN's profile photoKen Vermette's profile photoDavid Wright's profile photo
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+David Wright
 Well they have comments in them, so it doesn't seem completely automatic to me. The actual paremeters may of course have been machine-generated, of course.
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Dear circlers, could you help me answer the following question?
Does Skype pose a bigger risk to privacy and/or security than Google Hangouts?

The situation is that someone plans to hold regular multi-party voice chat sessions with some friends and they're currently deciding which technology to use.
All of her friends already have Skype installed, most (but not all) have Hangouts installed as well.
Since they're not planning to use video chat, I naturally recommended using Mumble since it's open source, but her friends don't want to use an application which is new to all of them.

The person who asked me for advice is quite privacy- and security-ware, so I warned her that since Skype is proprietary and very secretive about what it does, it may send all kinds of private data somewhere she wouldn't want it to be sent without her knowledge.
However, since Hangouts uses a proprietary plugin as well, does it pose the same privacy and security risks as Skype, or are they lower for a browser plugin than for a standalone application?

It's not about the privacy of their conversation, but about potential leaking of other sensitive data on her computer.

Skype always appeared to me as more risky (which is why I use Hangouts but have recently deleted my Skype account), but I lack the in-depth knowledge to give her good arguments for choosing Hangouts over Skype.

It would be awesome if someone with more technical knowledge could provide an opinion together with some arguments.
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Emil Ivov's profile photoThomas Pfeiffer's profile photoWolfgang Romey's profile photoDave Cridland's profile photo
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Thanks for the kind words Thomas :-). FWIW, .deb-s will be coming later this month! 
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Brilliantly done video. A "ted-style" talk where the speaker gets zero applause at the end, and for a good reason.
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+Bob Scott Trick labels?
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Awesome short movie film (cheers to +David Edmundson)  . I had to laugh out loud at several comments.
 
Ein "Hör nicht auf die Stimmen" Western:
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OK, seriously, too funny. Neighbours now think I'm a lunatic for the last 10 minutes :P
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If you want to convince someone that Spongebob can be scary, play this to them and they'll agree.

Oh and if I'll ever make a horror game (and get the permission to use it), this is what I'll use as the background music.
 
Q: Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?

A: In his house in R'leyh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.
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If I hand out candy this year for Halloween, this might be pretty good on loop (we usually use those old scary sounds records).
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Thomas Pfeiffer

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Greenpeace makes such great "anti-ads", it's... well... awesome?
 
Everything is NOT awesome in LEGOland right now.
WATCH this stirring video to find out what's going down.
#lego   #video  
LEGO: Everything is NOT awesome.
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Thomas Pfeiffer

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I'm wondering why I get >30 +1s on a post, mostly from people I've never met. How did that post get into people's streams?
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David Edmundson's profile photoThomas Pfeiffer's profile photoPaul Kretek's profile photoBhushan Shah's profile photo
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+David Edmundson
 I would have if it had been an original post, but just sharing a video and adding one introductory sentence to it isn't really something I'm proud of.
I was genuinely puzzled by why people who certainly don't have me in their circles +^my post, until Paul explained it to me.
Damn, and now I just once again wrote a serious answer to a troll comment. You got me again, David ;)
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This band can't be promoted enough: They play their music on an acoustic guitar and a Gameboy, have totally nerdy lyrics and they release their music under CC-BY-NC-SA!
The ironic part is that they are from the city where I work but I have never seen them live...
If you like the song below, head over to their website and download the album (for free since it's CC, of course)
http://pornophonique.de/music.php
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Jos Poortvliet's profile photoEdoardo Maria Elidoro's profile photo
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Real nice music indeed!
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Thomas Pfeiffer

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I've blogged about this idea in February (http://sessellift.wordpress.com/2014/02/06/leveraging-the-power-of-choice/), now it turns into an actual feature! Yay +Marco Martin !
 
A sneak peek at a Plasma 5.1 feature which development just started: an easy way to chose between alternatives of plasmoids that offer a similar feature.
Like, what start menu do you prefer? what task manager? what clock? and so on.
Will be possible to switch with few mouse clicks, rather than going in the widget explorer, search what you want, create a new one, remove the old one.
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This makes me actually happy.
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Thomas Pfeiffer

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Wow, what an awesome concept: A hack & slay / action adventure game which is played only with gestures and sound, no visuals involved at all!

Foremost it's finally a game which blind / heavily visually impaired people can fully enjoy, but for normal-sighted people it must be a very interesting experience as well!

I only wish it would be open source, but even as a proprietary game, the concept deserves our attention (and backing)!

This concept would work very well on the Wii U, too, especially if attached to a surround sound system!
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Thomas Pfeiffer

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Die Pirtanpartei ist halt doch nach wie vor eine Geek-Partei :)
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#abpt

Chr Chr Chr 
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Have him in circles
310 people
Kevin Bonham's profile photo
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Researcher, User Experience Consultant / Designer for Free Software
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Supporting the good people who make the world a better place
Bragging rights
My colleagues call me "the pope of statistics"
Education
  • Technische Universität Darmstadt
    Psychology, 2003 - 2008
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