You Do Not Have To Take My Word. Seriously.

From the very first days of your life, you knew that is how life works. You trust people to interact with your life in ways that might break it, and they hopefully don’t break it. The doctor that pulls you out of warmth and comfort to the cold uncertainty, and the nurse that doesn’t drop you, and then your parents with absolutely everything. But you don’t really have a choice in that, do you? Then the story goes on: your early school friends with your secrets, your siblings with your [top] secrets, your lover with your heart (Spoiler: they will break it!), your boss with not screwing you up (but he will!), and your children with your name, reputation, and wallet :D and your leaders with your big issues. And they all do the same to you. There’s nothing you can do to stop any of them screwing you up, yet the common human decency prevents that and frowns upon those who do. This is how we act, this is how we are wired to be like, and this is how we design things…

And here comes the early days of web. People having all that things they wanna share. Mr. Lee puts up a way to do so, and it’s on like it was never before in the human history.. At some point, people decides it would become handy if there’s a way to share some secrets without others knowing, and mathematicians come forward with some tricks and a cool name to call it: cryptography! In theory, that was a great solution, but here practicality kicked in pretty awfully. People responsible for making a practical way for that came up with a pretty good model (read: protocol) that addressed the crypto part of it well, but when it comes to authentication, they really, really sucked!

To clear it up a bit, let me go more about the last part. Let’s say I want to tell you a secret, over the web (seriously, I do!). If I just tell you what I want to tell you, people may hear it on the way to you, people may stop it, and aggressive people may change it. I can use the crypto trick: I put my secrets into the box (=algorithm) and lock it with a key, and send it to you. Now nobody knows what’s in the box, nobody can change some of it, and nobody can filter it based on contents (because he cannot see its contents!). The new problem is: how can the other party open that box? He needs the key! If I send him the key, they key itself could be intercepted and the box can now be opened. Put the key in another box? C’mon, you’re smarter than that! The new new key needs to be exchanged as well.. Now that’s a stall! We have to exchange keys in another secure (or at least separate) channel, where no intercepting party can get it.. That would be acceptable when talking about handing a USB thumb to my friend next door with the key inside, but scaling up and contacting a totally stranger in the other side of the world with no available channel than the internet is totally … what’s the word? insane! (let’s face it: if we had another channel of communications with strangers in the other side of the world, we wouldn’t have invented the internet!)…

So the magicians came up with another crypto trick: PKI. The same box, only with two keys. If closed with key 1, it cannot be opened except with key 2, and vice versa. So now, keep one key to yourself (let’s name it Private Key) and publish the other (let’s call it Public Key). Now anyone wanna say something private to you can place it in a box and lock it with your public key, and he’ll rest assured that nobody else can see it but you. You can reply to him and he’ll know that’s you because if he could open it with his public key that means it must’ve been locked with the private key that nobody has but you (supposedly). Combine your keys and his, lock a box encrypted with your private key into a box with his public key and you now have a private channel! Now that’s perfect right? Really?!

Think of that: How to publish your public key? Anyone can tell you: Here, that’s your friend public key, and you cannot prove him right or wrong. Remember the key exchange problem in the third paragraph? Let’s call it the Trust problem, and here you are, my friend, falling for it again. You cannot get the meta data about the secure connection securely without a secure connection. Now people from Netscape faced that problem when designing SSL, and their solution was a lousy one: let’s ship the apps that wanna speak in private with the public keys! But you cannot have all public keys in the world, so they chose to create another billion dollar business in the world: let’s trust some businessmen, have their keys shipped with apps, and let them sell keys to people verified by them. Now when speaking to your friend, your friend gives you a key that he claims his, that key must be signed with another key that is a private key of a company that their public key is shipped with your browser. This sentence is designed to confuse you, and if it didn’t, that’s because I didn’t try so hard, the protocol is messed up like that! Let’s now put some naming in place: Public keys are replaced with Certificates ( = public key and some more info), the billion dollar companies are Certificate Authorities (CAs), and the app is the app (a browser is a common example). Now the design flow results in the following: Whoever claims to be ABC must present a certificate of ABC signed by a CA, and whoever presents a CA signed certificate for ABC is ABC. We completely trust the CAs that our browsers comes with, and not just browsers, all apps and operating systems. We trust them to verify that ABC is ABC, and that they will never lie or sell us. We trust them not to be jerks, and we trust them to know what they’re doing. And as with all huge trust relationships, they do prove they are worthless…

DigiNotar, Comodo, even VeriSign screwed up. CNNIC sold us, and modern OSes and browsers stacked them CAs up with endless chains that made it impossible to revoke the trust of any cert or CA. Hong Kong Post Office is a trusted CA, for God’s sake! This thing is messed up.

It might be forgiven for those who designed the protocol, they were working in a famously stressful workplace, but it is obvious that there are many who benefit from the way things are and they would kill to keep it that way: CAs whose business is going to dust if things changed, security companies invested in that, and most of all: intelligence and governmental facilities whose work got much easier this way: any legit CA cert from any (already shipped) CA and they can easily intercept the hell out of conversations (I’m looking at you, MCS Holdings and CNNIC!). Things like the Basic Constraint bug tells you that they don’t wanna know. They don’t wanna hear how messed up this whole thing up, cuz they like it so…

There is that thing, whenever you argue with someone who’s really really befitting from something ugly, he breaks the lines of: what’s the alternative? CAs are deeply embedded in our life and the way we do things now. How can we change that? That’s a legit question indeed! And that’s another topic!

You don’t trust me? you have Google, and a million resources in the wild west and tamed east.. As my man Bruno tells ya: Don’t believe me just watch!

Five Years!

Of all places I kid my self that I know, I know this place better..

I have more beloved ones here than any other place..

I know all the exits..

It feels more like home.

Five years ago, the same place, the very same time.. The same spot, no more no less.. It was a red sun, white coffin, and a hard rock that love could dig into a grave. We never thought we could ever dig that rock, and yet, it was where you are meant to lay down. They loved you, oh so much did they, and it was a natural sight to see them destroying that hard rock to spare you your place, next to your beloved mother.. You belonged there, not in the dirty little hole we are left into. I remember your last night. I was hiding from you, for not completing a task you assigned to me. I pretended to be asleep and turned off the light. Oh, since when do I turn the light off?! You said nothing, and in the morning I never saw you.. I never saw you afterwards, and never gonna do again. I was sick that day, spending time at home far away from where you were. I got to you late, when you are already gone. That was it, you went when I was hiding in shame, and you went far when I was late. Shame and lateness are all what I gave you ever since… I am sorry…

I prepared many defenses ever since, for what I’m gonna say. Too much was expected of me, too much that no one could ever get that high this way. I was not completely understood, and I was always late for a reason. I make no excuses now, and just wish to pass this burden to no other person. I will defend whom I love from these great expectations, and no one has to be anything more or less..

A young boy left us today. He had the same name, and the sorrow was near. I wish him God’s merci. I had to go through the same process, in a closer place, where people are burying a person whom was never expected to be in here. The same person saying the prayers, the same hitting the rock, the same old men with all the wisdom in the world, saying the same shit they say endlessly.. When is your turn Goddammit? And the same friends stood by me that day…

I met a young boy. His name was Ahmed, just like me.. He is in fifth grade, and knows no other place to call home. He insisted that he knew nothing else before they came here. “My mom knows all”, he said. I had a little chat with him, and I swear I saw your face moving next to me.. I couldn’t catch you, or was I late as always?!

Father, forgive me.. It’s too heavy that I cannot carry by my own. It’s too hot that it burns me to the bone, and it is so watched that I cannot have a space for wisdom.

I’ve tried so hard to tell myself that you’re gone
But though you’re still with me
I’ve been alone all along

Would I write a six years post? Would I still keep on on this failed life yet another whole year? Oh God, never again…

Say A Little Prayer For You

In couple of hours, we’re having an addition to our family.. A baby girl to brighten our days.. I have some little prayers, O ALLAH please grant them…

• For my beloved sister, my boo, my love, I pray you a safe easy operation. May ALLAH give you the strength.. And may your angle lighten your life and bring you happiness.. Amen.
• For the beloved angle, I wish you a happy landing.. It’s a terrible world, I can assure you. We’ll try to walk you through some dark nights, but the rest is yours to fight. I wish you a great life, great goals, and a great mystries broken roads that lead to happiness.. Uncle loves you hun :-)
• For my beloved mom, I wish you tension free d

Google Faulty Sync

Google sync services were blocked in Sudan a couple of weeks ago! [read some discussion]

At the same timing, my Android phone had a system update, to Android 4.4.4 (that’s why I went with the Nexus!). After the update I had some problems regarding contacts sync: I couldn’t add new contacts! I mean, I could but after a minute or some, I lose that contact! I’ve found a couple of articles about intermittent problems alike and really didn’t bother myself much. I don’t get new contacts often and since the problem I only had to add two, and they were not important (sorry :\).

Yesterday I came across some tweet accidentally (so accidentally that I cannot find anymore!). It was someone asking whether there was a new sanction on Google sync services in Sudan. We’re already under sanction in various other services, and overcoming the sanctions has many ways: some use different Android Market, some use various VPN or anonimity network configurations, and some just transfer apk files and don’t use it anyway.. I used to use all those before, and quite familiar with many other censorship circumvention methods (hell, I’m kinda expert!). But this now is a game changer!

Back in the old days, the problem was how to reach some service that you need right now, you need to access some service (Google Play Apps, to download an app for example), you hop in to your favorite censorship circumvention tool, download the app, et voila!, you’ve got what you wanted. You want to update? same process. You want to access Google Code? Apple’s App Store? Oracle? same same. You see why now the game changed? No? Then bare with me..

Now imagine the following scenario with me: you are on the go, walking in the streets with mind full of joy and heart full of happiness. You meet an old old friend, that whom you haven’t met in ages. You start picking up from where you left many years ago, ask him about his school sweetheart. Oh you broke up? I’m so sorry. He asks you about your long time friend that he thinks you [still baring with me? LOL] are still in touch with him. You are not? Oh! And the shamarat are unlimited, but unfortunately time is. So you split up, promising to meet again very soon, and exchange your [new, current] phone numbers. So here comes the catch: you save the contact as you’ve always do: John Doe, 09xxxxxxxx, and you smile and shake hands and move away. You are a smart guy, and you do appreciate the use of the cloud, and you sync your contacts with your Google account (logical cloud choice: you’re in AndroidLand). The phone after some time (less than a minute usually) starts to sync your contacts (a modification? let’s sync that up) and if you’re [still] baring with me, here comes the catch: the expected behavior was to add the new number to the list, but what actually happens is that your phone tries to sync, fails (because you’re Sudanese thus you’re a terrorist), and then reverts back and DELETES THE NEW CONTACT! I have no idea (of course) who signed off this deletion step but hey, screw you. I hope your wife finds out you’re cheating on her, your parents tell you that you were adopted, and your children tell you they never really loved you. Why on earth you chose to delete it?!

So, in this catch resides the new game changer: the timing. Before we chose the timing, we hopped in to our special arrangements when we wanted to look like we’re outside of Sudan, and then we continued our lives smoothly. Now the other process, the sync process, happens in the background. We do not control (mostly) when it happens, and Android developers seem to be trying to give most of the control to the app developers and less control to the end users. Now unless you’re 24/7 on some anonymity/VPN configuration, this is not working anymore…

Couple of solutions I’m considering regarding this situation:

  • Stopping contact sync altogether (and any other sync that causes problems).

pros: no sync errors if you’re not in sync! cons: must.do.backups! Changing phones will be a pain..

  • Sync to another vendor.

pros: staying in sync, always backed up. cons: they may be next in the list of vendors doing the sanctions.

  • Sync to a local account (e.g. Outlook sync)

pros: staying in sync, never worry about vendors going crazy. cons: not a real sync, plus your laptop becomes very critical.

  • Leaving AndroidLand altogether, and snapping back to iOSVille.

pros: staying in sync, more lovely platform. cons: the same as #2. plus why I switched platform at the first place?!

  • Staying in the VPN configuration 24/7.

pros: G sync will be as normal. cons: our internet is already crappy, and Google doesn’t like Tor users more than Sudanese people!

  • Suing Google, American Foreign Affairs Secretary, Sudanese government, and all affiliated in that matter. [a little too much]

pros: you may change the world.

cons: you’ll lose money, effort, get treated as crazy, and NISS will take care of you in a not-very-cool way.

 

Maybe snapping back to the old school of papers and pens will do. I don’t do phone calls very well already, why can’t I communicate using only emails?!

New Old Tools

Ubuntu One is shutting down! I’ve been advocating this service to all my family and friends so I’ve got kinda ashamed when they decided to shut down because they couldn’t be as competent as other services. I know this isn’t personal, but I kinda feel I betrayed those whom I promised that they’ll find it more satisfying than others. Damn you Canonical! You should’ve hired me to run it for you instead of just running away…

Taking this chance to rethink my whole soft/hard tool-gear, I think there might be some other tools I’m using that I may consider changing, or letting go anyway:

  • I use Ubuntu One for my files storage, the lighter ones (up to 2 GiB). As I already said, I need [have] to change it, because by the end of this month, they are in total blackout. While I’m writing these lines I’ve signed up to Dropbox, because apparently I can’t remember any other name of a storage-in-the-cloud vendor off my head now, and I have some books I need to read back home today! That may change by tomorrow, but right now, we’ll stick to Dropbox!
  • I use trello to ‘Organize Everything’. It’s quite working for me till now, but two things I can add more with it: learn how to use it like a pro, and move my company to use it instead of our self-hosted tracking system crap that proved useless over and over. #2 ain’t gonna happen (yeah, that’s the spirit!).
  • I used to use MS Outlook calender for scheduling. It sucks. Being in the corporate world forces you for things like this but not anymore. Since no one actually use it properly, and we end up manually editing all scheduling requests, I recently started using Google Calender and actually merged my business calender with my personal calender (hey, I’m one person. Why should I check two calenders?!). My personal calender was in iCloud, and since I moved (again) to Androidland from iOSVille, I just started to dump everything to Google. They seem to work well for both so if I moved back (again) I’m kinda safe…
  • My contacts are already synced with Google. A lesson learned long time ago, though KitKat is making me reconsider :\
  • I use GMail as my personal and personal-professional email. My work email is self hosted (kinda), but I use it as little as I can, because it sucks by design! I can’t get those who still use Hotmail (or live, or Outlook, or whatever new brand they try to hide their suckie product behind), and I totally hope the NSA get all those Yahoo! users. Why are you using ymail? It sucked since day one !!!
  • Instead of using the official Twitter apps, I started using TweetDeck. This thing is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. I can’t even describe my first impression when I used it the very first time. Not only you can see other users’ mentions, but you can even see the timeline from their perspective! You can impersonate any user, and aside from protected accounts and DMs, you can totally be them! Stalking, the new school ;)
  • More professional tools, I started trying Toad for Oracle. I didn’t like it, so I’m probably sticking to PL/SQL Developer. Sometimes what you learn first sticks forever…
  • Chrome is my natural browser choice. Thanks (again) to the corporate world, I have to keep IE installed (the thanking also goes to Windows engineers whose integration of IE into the core system was astonishing!). And get this: Some idiots restrict their web apps to IE only FOR SECURITY REASONS. And I thought I’m the biggest loser in the world!
  • My fav editor stays the same: Notepad++. Although I don’t like the fact that it is Windows-only, but I spend most of time on Windows anyway, and NP++ makes the experience less sufferable..
  • OnTopReplica is an awesome tool you can use to make a specific window Always-On-Top. Think all those boring readings and writing or work hours, and how much you’d appreciate being able to actually watch a movie at the very same time. It changes the way you do boring stuff…
  • For antivirus program, I’m sticking with the one and only Kaspersky. These people offer more than just PC protection, they offer a security culture which is, for a geek like me, a thing worth sticking with. The Pure is a bit expensive so I’m on the Internet Security option…
  • I’m using her words as my on-earth heaven, my escape from all people, their crappy presence, their inadequacy, my inadequacy, and me. These words may not be for me, but I bet they touch no one as they do to me. Thank you, whatever of your names you like more :)
  • I have an obsession of cool gadgets. I use my laptop as for all work stuff, movies and TV shows (with the lovely projector and my new wireless headset), I use my old iPhone as 1) a backup phone, and 2) an iPod. iPhones really really do well as iPods with all this capacity and software stability, and the fact that Android music players suck (Google Play Music is the suckiest)! I use my iPad Air for pretty much anything on the go: non-work related professional issues, social networks, books and reading on general, and sometimes a movie would be a perfectly good experience on the retina display :) My primary phone is my new toy: the Nexus 5. It makes a good case for using Android, but still not as necessary.. More on that later…
  • My idea generator, my idiots-explainer, and my big ideas simplifier: My white board. That reminds me I have to get new pens for this babe the soonest. Couple of months ago I managed to get another one for the office, and its best use there is to insult each other.. Not a bad use actually in such an environment.
  • The missing stuff: I have to get me a good printer for home. We currently use some hp color all-in-one garbage that consumes ink like there’s no tomorrow. I gotta make that stop and get a proper one, even a black and white would do…
  • I make intensive use of her smile as a suicidal ideas removal tool. It can also function, among other uses, as a stress release tool, a happiness provider, and a light generator. God bless…

A gentle reminder..

This is your real life..

This is not a trial run.

It is the real thing..

You failed it

You failed the real thing..

 

You’re welcome…

Song Of The Time

Reviving this thought from a very dark time of my life. Third grade final exams. I was helpless, in the middle exams that I wasn’t prepared, and fighting another lost battle in my life. I told myself: hold that thought, and oh boy what a long hold it was…

Everybody seem to have this thing, when song is cycling your mind, going over and over. It’s, as described in the famous song: like my iPod is stuck on replay. Internally in my mind I associate places, times, decisions I made, events happened to me, and nearly everything else with two distinct things: a smell, and a song.

Midsummer collage time, mind full of knowledge and heart full of life. We were young, maybe. Naive, damn sure, but we had the world in the palm of our hand. World was our oyster egg, Oh little did we know. Whispers in her ears, roses in her hands, fancy flowery words in her everywhere, and all the happiness of mankind she gave me. World then was a scent of a fresh white flower, and a voice of Ashlee Simpson shouting and freshening up all the pieces, pieces, pieces of me

Late 2010, all my life was falling  apart. A responsibility that I’m too irresponsible to take, a failed academic life that didn’t seem recoverable, and a very close encounter of the death master. The smell of wet sand, and Sean and Ziggy’s three little birds insisting that every little thing is gonna be alright! How hard I wanted to shoot these birds dead! It hadn’t gone alright, screw you!

A year after collage. The bad times when your colleagues starting up their successful careers and moving away. You finished the national service, they convinced you that your success or failure in life is measured by your career. And here you went, applied in a thousand job, got in a million interviews. “You’re good, son. Only we needed someone good at X”. Oh, “you’re a very good X’er, but we actually need more of Y”. And the alphabet soup is all dumped in there and all in a pact to screw you up. The smell is your cheap cologne you wear with your fancy pants to all those clueless recruiters, the future is bleak , and the voice is a lost art chanting that I’m “trapped in a maze therefore I am A-mazing…”.. Yeah, put that in your resume…

Flashback many years ago. I’m out of country, couple of weeks and I come back to be whispered in the ear: your brother’s gone missing! All the long nights, crying alone in my bedroom so no one would know what’s going on, all the memories, shared secrets and bad jokes, the promise that we get each other’s back, and the pain that I was helpless as a slaughtered sheep. The word came with the wind, and turned out that the old boatman have long sailed his soul. The scent was of a fiery blood, the voice was his lovely voice chanting our best shared secret poem, and no full happiness could slip into my heart ever after…

Fall 09. The skies are heavy with clouds, and earth doors are wide open. Something about me just can’t imagine that day actually happened, and no possible combination of letters in any language of mortals can fill up these gaps.. It was never, and never again, that my heart fully felt anything, my eyes fully saw anything, my hands ever sensed anything. No scent existed that day, and no possible voice would supersede the way you call me. A sudden death would make it impossible for a heart to ever reassure anything, promise anything, or expect anything.. I miss you daddy…

Oh ALLAH, in this blessed night, grant him entrance to your higher paradise. He was a man of honor. I lay before you all his secrets he kept with you, all his loving, caring, and blessing. I lay all my sins, and lay down my heart. May your mercy be beyond what I can ever imagine…

Amen.