SenseCam: Is it sensible?

Recently, I came across the SenseCam Research Project by Microsoft. Although it looks cool, it surely looks like another way to invade your privacy.

Microsoft defines SenseCam as a wearable digital camera that is designed to take photographs passively, without user intervention, while it is being worn.

The next logical question is where to store these photographs in real time? Obviously a handful of corporations will want this piece. So a 3rd party server in a cloud will be an ideal choice. For someone who stores every single life event in Facebook or Twitter it is a cool idea. In reality, it is the ultimate way to encroach the privacy of not only the user but also the people surrounding the user without their knowledge or consent.

Microsoft has outlined some noble ideas where SenseCam can be used such as monitoring food intake, an automatic diary/journal etc.

But this does seem like a slippery slope…

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Create samba user shares in TonidoPlug (NAS)

TonidoPlug can act as NAS device.

When an external USB harddisk is connected to TonidoPlug, it automatically mounts the USB HDD and makes it available for other computers on the network.  So for example, to connect to this share from windows, open an explorer window and type \\<TonidoPlug IP>\MediaDisk and you get full access to the USB HDD.

Since TonidoPlug is not configured to provide user based access to samba shares by default here is a guide to create user based access .
By doing this setup, users can access their home directories by authenticating themselves with their login and password. They cannot view or access other user shares without knowing their login credentials.

By default when an user is created in the Linux OS, it is not available as a samba user automatically. This usually is done as a separate step. In our setup we also try to automate this process.

Setup

1. Install libpam-smbpass package. This package provides necessary tools to synchronize linux OS user/passwords with samba repository.

# apt-get install libpam-smbpass

2. Open /etc/samba/smb.conf with a text editor and make the following changes.

3. By default TonidoPlug allows full access to everybody. Disable this default behavior. Look for the following lines and comment them.

# What naming service and in what order should we use to resolve host names
# to IP addresses

;   name resolve order = lmhosts host wins bcast
;   force user = root
;   force group = root

;   guest ok = yes
;   browseable = yes
;   public = yes
;   writable = yes

The above lines shows the commented configuration lines.

4. By default TonidoPlug allows share level access. Change this to user level access.
Look for line “security = share” and change it as follows

# “security = user” is always a good idea. This will require a Unix account
# in this server for every user accessing the server. See
# /usr/share/doc/samba-doc/htmldocs/Samba3-HOWTO/ServerType.html
# in the samba-doc package for details.

security = user

5. Enable automatic synchronization of user and password information from linux OS to samba.

# This boolean parameter controls whether Samba attempts to sync the Unix
# password with the SMB password when the encrypted SMB password in the
# passdb is changed.
unix password sync = yes

6. We need to users to access their home directories when they login with userid and password. Samba configuration should be enabled to expose user home directories.

# Un-comment the following (and tweak the other settings below to suit)
# to enable the default home directory shares.  This will share each
# user’s home directory as \server\username
[homes]
comment = Home Directories
browseable = yes

# By default, the home directories are exported read-only. Change the
# next parameter to ‘no’ if you want to be able to write to them.
read only = no

# File creation mask is set to 0700 for security reasons. If you want to
# create files with group=rw permissions, set next parameter to 0775.
;   create mask = 0700

# Directory creation mask is set to 0700 for security reasons. If you want to
# create dirs. with group=rw permissions, set next parameter to 0775.
;   directory mask = 0700

# By default, \server\username shares can be connected to by anyone
# with access to the samba server.  Un-comment the following parameter
# to make sure that only “username” can connect to \server\username
# This might need tweaking when using external authentication schemes
valid users = %S

7. Save the smb.conf file and restart samba daemon.

# /etc/init.d/samba restart


Share Test

For testing, we will create a user on the TonidoPlug and try to access the user’s home directory as a samba share.

1. Create a user on TonidoPlug. You can do this by doing SSH to TonidoPlug as root user.

# useradd -m -k /etc/skel demouser

2. Set a password for the demouser.

# passwd demouser

3. Important: Open another SSH session to TonidoPlug and login as the new user. This is only trigger I could find to synchronize the OS user details with samba.
You can close the SSH session as soon as login is successful.

4. For the other SSH session (as root user) verify if the new linux user is synchronized with samba.

# pdbedit -w -L
nobody:65534:XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX:XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX:[U          ]:LCT-00000000:
root:0:XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX:0708DD6BC4B608A64FC970497CC6F7AD:[U          ]:LCT-4A09E411:
demouser:1001:XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX:A827E65ED0E8EA4B14721624A19DE519:[U          ]:LCT-4A9E8E33:

You should see ‘demouser’ as an entry in the output.

5. Now from the windows machine, open an explorer window and type the \\<Tonido_Plug_IP>\demouser. It should prompt for username and password. Enter ‘demouser’ and its password. Once you click ‘Ok’ it should show the demouser’s home directory with full access only to his home directory.

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Announcing Tonido OpenID – Truly Decentralized Identity Management

openid_logo

We at CodeLathe are big proponents of empowering people and following that principle, we are happy to announce Tonido OpenID.

Tonido OpenID is a new Tonido application that allows you use your Tonido URL as an OpenID. If you don’t know it already, OpenID allows you to use an existing identity to sign in to multiple websites, without needing to create new passwords.

OpenID is rapidly gaining adoption on the web, with over one billion OpenID enabled user accounts and over 50,000 websites accepting OpenID for logins.  And several large organizations either issue or accept OpenIDs, including Google, Facebook, Yahoo!, Microsoft, AOL, MySpace, Sears, Universal Music Group, France Telecom, Novell, Sun, Telecom Italia, and many more (Source: OpenID.net).  Now joining those ranks is Tonido’s OpenID implementation.

Among existing OpenID providers out there, Tonido OpenID is unique in the sense that it is a truly a decentralized and private OpenID provider. What it means is that Tonido OpenID does not use any third party server to manage your identity.

You provide your own identity.

Now you can use your ID without any central authority knowing which websites you frequent or which blogs you comment upon etc. This can only be a GOOD THING.

Tonido OpenID allows you to:

Gain Greater Control Over Your Online Identity

OpenID is a portable identity that can be used everywhere without having to reveal personal details like your email address. This allows privacy and greater freedom without giving websites the ability to track and monitor your activities.

Accelerate Sign Up Process at Your Favorite Websites

Cut down on the laborious sign up process to use a website or service. Sign up quickly and painlessly using your OpenID.

Reduce Frustration Associated with Maintaining Multiple Usernames and Passwords

Using too many IDs on too many websites leads to problems remembering all those user names or passwords.  Tonido OpenID requires to remember only your URL and your Tonido Profile login password.

Minimize Password Security Risks

With too many passwords, it is likely that users will reuse the same password on multiple sites. If there is a security compromise on one, it can lead to vulnerabilities on other sites where the same password was used. Mitigate that by using a single strong password which cannot be compromised because of a security issue in one website.

Here are a few screens of Tonido OpenID in action:

openid_main

openid_approve

Tonido OpenID is available now on Tonido Desktop (Windows, Linux, Mac) via the Apps->Install Tab. You might need to upgrade to the latest Tonido version.

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TonidoPlug now on sale

tonido_plug_hw1

We are proud to announce the immediate availability of TonidoPlug for ordering from our on-line store at https://store.tonido.com. Currently, TonidoPlug is available for ordering for US based customers for $99 + Shipping and Handling. We will start shipping to other countries shortly.

TonidoPlug Press Release:

Dallas, TX (PRWEB) August 12, 2009 –CodeLathe today announced TonidoPlug, a device based on the SheevaPlug™, powered by Marvell® Sheeva™ CPU technology. TonidoPlug is a tiny, low power, low cost home server that allows people to access their applications, files, photos, music, and media from anywhere. The TonidoPlug comes pre-installed with powerful Tonido applications — Torrent, Jukebox, Webshare, Workspace, Thots, Explorer, Photos, and Search. Additionally, the TonidoPlug can be extended by installing new applications from the Tonido application store, available at www.tonidoplug.com.

“Keeping true to Tonido’s mission — to empower customers in a connected world, TonidoPlug offers universal access to users’ favorite applications, files, music, photos, and media from anywhere without sacrificing privacy and ownership of their data,” said Madhan Kanagavel, Codelathe Chief Executive Officer. “As a result of our collaboration with Marvell, we are pleased to offer the TonidoPlug, which is a compelling alternative to cloud storage services and distributes inexpensive computing power to every home.”

The Marvell SheevaPlug is designed to enable high-performance, always on, always connected, and environmentally friendly computing that is readily available for developers and end-users. A Plug Computer is designed to draw so little power that it can be left on all of the time. Unlike other embedded devices in the home, it contains a gigahertz class processor designed to offer PC class performance. Plug Computing has been quickly expanding, bringing users new devices, services, and value-added applications, as well as delivering advanced avenues for network connectivity.

“We are delighted to work with CodeLathe to develop the TonidoPlug,” said Dr. Simon Milner, Vice President and General Manager of the Enterprise Business Unit, Consumer and Communications Business Group at Marvell Semiconductor. “The SheevaPlug is intended to offer a compelling solution to easily and rapidly implement software services targeted to consumers. In an era when people are more mobile than ever before, Plug Computing delivers a new level of connectivity that their lifestyle demands.”

For more information about the TonidoPlug, please visit the official Tonido Web Site: www.tonidoplug.com. The TonidoPlug will be available online for purchase in the U.S. and Canada in August 2009.

About CodeLathe

CodeLathe is a privately-held software startup based out of Dallas, Texas. The Company was founded in February, 2008 by a team of experienced software developers with expertise in cross-platform development, distributed systems, network security, massive-multiplayer game server development and more. CodeLathe strongly believes in open source and open platforms with a number of contributions and products released under such terms.

CodeLathe products and services include: Money Manager Ex – open source, cross platform personal finance manager available in 25 languages which has been downloaded more than a million times and Tonido — a peer-to-peer, personal web platform (available under open source and commercial license), custom software development based on open source technologies.

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WebsharePro – A Quick Look

websharepro_header

WebsharePro comes with more new features but remains true to Webshare’s core theme of simplicity.

Upload Files Support

websharepro_unlimited

Many of you had requested an enhancement that will allow your users to upload files into your shared folder. With WebsharePro, you can select users who will have upload access and these users will see an upload box in their page.

Users can upload any number of files into your shared folder. You can also set size limit for the shared folder so that you can limit how much users can upload.

Download As Zip Support

WebsharePro Download as Zip

“Download As Zip” is a new feature which will let your users to download the entire shared folder as a zip file. To avoid any performance bottlenecks, maximum size limit for the zipfile is currently set to 10MB.

View Active Downloads

With WebsharePro, you can view all currently active downloads. “Active Downloads” will list of users who are currently downloading and details of the files that they are downloading.

PhotoGallery Options

Photo Gallery gets more new options such as thumbnail size and view size. You can select the size of thumbnails for your gallery. You have three options (small/medium/large) to choose from. You can also set size of the picture that users will see when they click on a thumbnail. WebsharePro gives you two options regular size 800×600 and a larger version 1024×768.

websharepro_gallery_options2

Finally, error pages in WebsharePro got a facelift and we have improved error page UI so that error messages are clearer. WebsharePro is currently available in TonidoPlug. Hope you enjoy the new features.

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TonidoPlug: Software Applications in Initial Release

So TonidoPlug is almost here, and what is new?

Here’s the full list of applications shipping with TonidoPlug.

tonidoplug_appsMany of these apps should be familiar already to Tonido users, (Jukebox, Photos, Search, Thots, Workspace).

But there are some new ones that are being released the first time. They include WebsharePro, Torrent, Explorer and Plug Admin.

Here’s a quick summary of these applications. More detailed information on these new apps will be coming soon.

  1. WebsharePro: All the power of Tonido Webshare, plus the ability to upload, setting upload quotas for users, zip downloads, viewing currently downloading lists, change thumbnail and photo slide show image size
  2. Torrent: Download Torrent files to your plug and control torrents via your web browser from anywhere
  3. Explorer: Web based File manager and browser that allows common file operations like rename, delete, copy files and folders and even uploads
  4. Plug Admin: Manage your TonidoPlug hardware, recover Tonido Profile passwords, Manage attached USB drives, Share USB drives over the network for access, Monitor CPU loads etc

We believe that these applications round out Tonido’s existing application set and make it even more flexible and powerful especially on the Plug computer. And of course, we aim to release brand new applications over time, so this is just a tiny fraction of the functionality possible with your Plug. With Tonido’s one-click application installation and update procedures, keeping your TonidoPlug up to date with the latest Tonido releases should be a breeze.

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TonidoPlug ready to roll…

You might have been wondering why we had been so quiet these last few months, and the big reason if you hadn’t heard by now is the TonidoPlug. We had been working night and day to get everything ship shape and polished (till it shone and we could see our faces in it).

And finally, we are proud to say that the TonidoPlug is ready to go. We will be taking orders starting next week and the plugs will be shipping either the same day or next day of your order.

So folks, thanks for all the support and feedback and the patience! We know a lot of you are looking forward to getting it, so just a few more days.

Meanwhile here’s a sneak peek of what you can find in the box.

TonidoPlug: What is in the Box

TonidoPlug: What is in the Box

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Is computing at inflection point similar to weapons technology and cars?

Summary: At an inflection point, need for efficiency will overtake need for power. In the past, industries eg. weapons and auto have reached such an inflection point. Computing is approaching such an inflection point. Once we hit such an inflection point, light devices such net books, cell phones and light devices will be more popular than heavy weight desktops. Increase in user data, popularity of light devices and increase in bandwidth will lead to a central data repository. Current trend is to go to cloud services to host such a repository. Tonido and Tonidplug offer better alternative than cloud.

When arms race began in early part of 20th century, countries where building weapons that could pack as many TNT as possible in a missile/bomb. All through the world war, only thing that mattered was “how much TNT of power can be packed per cubic inch or per gram”. However, after years of building weapons, countries had nuclear bombs and other weapons that can pack tons of TNT. Power wasn’t constraint anymore.

Post world war-II, weapon builders shifted their focus from power to precision. What mattered now was precision, how accurate a weapon can hit a target and how precise can be the damage. Another such example is car industry. Automakers were on an arms race to build higher HP cars. Focus was on “how much horse power you can pack in a car”. However, when energy crisis began, focus shifted to efficiency. Everyone knows that the supply of oil is not unlimited, hence future of cars will be on efficiency not horsepower.

In computing, as defined by Moore’s law, power of the processor increased and size decreased, our appetite for bigger and more powerful machine grew. We use 64 bit processors in desktops. Question is will arms race to pack more power will continue or will it turn towards efficient and low maintenance devices?

Already enterprise servers are moving towards efficiency as cooling and energy costs become big part of data center costs. Soon, efficiency will be the key in running desktop and personal devices since users want their system run for long time for streaming media, or downloading TV programming, torrents, files, videos and music.

Constraint in with these light weight devices will be size and weight. By design, these devices should have limited (<100GB?) storage if not, these devices aren’t designed optimally taking advantage of bandwidth. With the current rate of growth in user data and growth in bandwidth, central remote data repositories are viable.

Such remote repositories can be hosted by cloud service vendors (Dropbox, Google etc) or you can use personal devices (TonidoPlug, PogoPlug) to host and maintain your repository. At CodeLathe, we believe your remote repository should be in a personal device which guarantees absolute privacy and prevents from any vendor lock-ins.

CodeLathe’s TonidoPlug is a small energy efficient device that would help you host files, data and applications at fraction of the cost that you have to pay for cloud services. Free cloud service today doesn’t always mean free forever, soon cloud companies will have to charge fee to be sustainable.

TonidoPlug can offer more than just remote drive or repository. You can access music, video/photos and manage calendars, contacts, Tonido applications. TonidoPlug will relieve you from running you power consuming desktop from running 24×7 to download torrents or running your home server to stream music or video in your home.

TonidoPlug will save you money in initial cost as well as in operating costs. Learn more at www.tonidoplug.com.

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Microsoft Yahoo Deal: Why it is a good deal for Microsoft and Yahoo?

What a difference a year makes. Last year, Microsoft offered $40+ Billion to get access to Yahoo!’s search traffic but yesterday, Microsoft announced a deal where it got Yahoo’s traffic almost at no premium. Of course, if I were Yahoo shareholder I would be very unhappy about Yang’s decision of not accepting the offer last year.

Why it is important for Microsoft? Search is a business of scale, more people search, your product and algorithm gets better. More searchers will attract more advertisers and generates higher revenue from advertisers. With this deal, instantaneously, Microsoft can scale three times its current size, can fast forward its product development and receive higher price for its ad inventory.

Analyst estimates put Microsoft’s search division to make $600-$700M and prices for ads in Bing.com is almost half (1/2 ~ 1/3) the price of Google’s. With this deal, if Microsoft catches with Google in terms of ad pricing, revenue for Bing will double with no additional cost. A value of ~$500- 600M per year for shareholders. $500M * multiple of 10 = $5Billion in value.

With help of the deal, if the product improves and Bing.com brand presence improves, and Bing.com captures another 4% share to grow from current 8% to 12% market share, revenue will double with disproportionately small incremental increase in investment, creating another $500-$600M (at a higher monetization from the deal) in revenue. Potentially, another $5B in value for Microsoft.

What does Yahoo get? Yahoo clearly understands if it wants to be in Search it has to fight with two 500 pound gorillas – Google and Microsoft. These two giants have almost endless source of cash to invest. Yahoo can either compete and invest tons of money in Search or it save its investment and can concentrate on its other products Yahoo portal, yahoo mail etc.

From yahoo’s point of view, Search is getting commoditized and why to invest and still fall behind? hence outsource the search to a specialist. According to Yahoo CEO the deal could “add $500 million annually to Yahoo’s operating income” and will ease Yahoo’s Capex. Over $5-7B in value for Yahoo from these savings.

Why wait till launch of Bing.com? it was clearly a bet from both sides. Microsoft kept its bet that Bing.com will be a hit. On the other hand, Yahoo was hoping that Bing.com will fall flat. In reality, Bing.com did well and helped Microsoft share to increase to 8.4%. This gave Microsoft an upper hand. If Bing.com continues to gain share, Yahoo will continue to lose its negotiating power. Hence Yahoo had to close the deal as soon as possible. If Bing.com would have been flop and have received bad reviews, the story would have been different.

Overall, Microsoft shareholders are the winners who got something for free when they were ready to pay $44B for it a year before.

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GeoCities is shutting down..

GeoCities holds a special place in my heart. I first created my first web page at GeoCities back in 1997 (remnants if which still exist today), existing for about 12 years.

…12 years is an eternity in Internet time.

I still remember how cool GeoCities used to be with all the different neighborhoods and the graphics and user site directory for each section of the neighborhood. And of course, my site was in the SiliconValley neighborhood; the cool place to be. It was all quite exciting. (In fact URLs had funky numbers in them, mine had something like /siliconvalley/9567 or something like that)

Of course, since those heady days, it went steadily downhill. The annoying JS bar in the bottom, ads in the right etc. It almost seemed like Yahoo gave up on GeoCities the product, just coasting along while people left it in droves for the new fangled blogs. Why GeoCities never added blogging support remains a mystery to me.

Nevertheless, shutting it down is an end of an era. It is a piece of Internet History that passes into Legend and will be forever remembered by many including myself.

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