Using PrivatVPN on Ubuntu Linux

After the Hide My Ass fallout and niggling doubts about AceVPNs logging policies, I’m trying out some recommended VPN services I found via TorrentFreak. The great thing about VPN providers is most of them allow you to purchase a limited time from 1-12 months, I decided to try out PrivatVPN who state apart from username and password, they don’t log anything.

PrivatVPN appears to be a small outfit operating out of Sweden offering servers in Sweden, US, UK, Switzerland and the Netherlands. I can’t tell if they are owned by anyone or just hosted by iLandsgruppen however their service is very barebones, with a small control panel, software download and instructions. The service is relatively cheap to – about £4 for 30 days.

They technically don’t have a Linux client, only configuration files to download, which seem to be outdated. Unlike that ‘other’ OS – where they offer a full client and countries to connect to, Linux only contains the address of their Swedish server and the wrong port number (21003). I found this out after the OpenVPN connection not working on Ubuntu so instead fired up my Windows VM just to see if it worked and it did. A quick gander at connection logs showed me the different port.

I notified their tech support, but for anyone who had problems like me with the following error,

read UDPv4 [ECONNREFUSED]: Connection refused (code=111)

Here are the correct IP address and Port numbers to connect to PrivatVPN servers. Let’s hope they update their documentation and config files:

Sweden: 80.67.10.138:21001
US: 108.59.1.216:21000
UK: 83.170.109.247:21000
Switzerland: 31.7.62.130:21000
Netherlands: 85.17.122.222:21000

PrivatVPN provide instructions for starting from the CLI, however if you prefer the GUI (I do purely for the networking icon to remind me I’m connected with a tiny lock) simply follow these steps:

  • Go to Network Manager, VPN Connections, Configure VPN…
  • Click on Import
  • Navigate to “/etc/openvpn” and select “privatevpn.conf”.
  • Then add your username and password
  • Check the IP address is the same as the one above and the port no. (under “Advanced” option)
  • You may want to configure multiple vpns so change the name too, to something like “PrivatVPN Sweden/US/UK…”
That’s it, you’re done. Enjoy your anonymity and freedom!

The Psychology of Ownership

It must be worth something?!Recently I got a new work laptop with Windows 7 and Microsoft Office Professional 2010 installed. Along with the laptop I got a Product Key Card for MS Office Professional 2010 to activate the license.

I am old enough to remember the days MS Office was sold in larger boxes on CDs and DVDs. What happened? I slid out the plastic inner case and opened it to find a card with the product key printed on it. I entered this into the setup screen on my new laptop and MS Office (already pre-installed) was activated right away.

Then I noticed that inside the cover of the slightly slimmer box, Microsoft has taken liberty to print some waffle about the environment – perhaps to infer this is the reason for no longer supplying a disc and using less packaging.

“Of course! What a great idea to reduce packaging! What’s your problem?” I hear you cry.

Well, simply this… why have such bulky unecessary packaging at all? One product key, 25 numbers – and this requires a pamphlet size card inside a plastic box, inside a cardboard box?! Surely, if they were concerned about the environment they could just ship these keys on credit cards? They’d also save a fortune in shipping fees. In fact, why bother shipping credit cards at all – why not just have customers log into your website, make a payment and download the software direct?

Microsoft Office Professional Edition 2010 costs ~$300, that’s ~£300 when you convert the dollar amount (US products are on a 1:1 currency conversion with the UK – think I’m joking – google it).

OpenOffice.org, or it’s successor LibreOffice, on the other hand is free. You just go to the website and download it for free. So are a number of other office productivity suites such as Lotus Symphony and Google Docs.

Imagine if you could simply log into an app store and download Office and had to pay a whopping £300 for it? Maybe some would pay, many would pirate as they do now, and maybe some would go to one of the free alternatives. After a while, the free alternatives would probably become a lot more attractive and popular.

But this is not the case with MS Office, or rather it is the case because when you pay £300 for MS Office, you get a case. Not a credit card, not a piece of paper with 25 numbers on it, not web access to download an app – a case. It’s a pretty case too, it looks nice and expensive. It reminds you how expensive it is with the aid of some nice graphics on the back. It makes you feel like you actually bought and own something – not that you downloaded it – even though you did (unless they were nice enough to pre-install).

How much do you think Microsoft Office, the app suite, is really worth? £150? £100? £50?… £20? Subtract that from £300 and you have the price you paid to own a pretty box.

And if you think I’m talking rubbish, just consider you’d pay upwards of £15 for CD with just 10 songs (only 2 of which you liked) only 10 years ago. Ditching CD boxes, separating tracks and online distribution changed all this.

Bookshelf: The Pirate’s Dilemma

The Pirates Dilemma
The logo is free to remix

I recently finished reading The Pirate’s Dilemma: How Hackers, Punk Capitalists, Graffiti Millionaires and Other Youth Movements are Remixing Our Culture and Changing Our World by Matt Mason.

I posted a link to Amazon to buy the book but it’s free to download (you choose the price) from the Official website.

I’ll start by saying that this is a great well-researched book for anyone who is (a) a pirate (b) a creator (c) a media exec or (d) wanting to look at the history and origins of piracy in context.

Mason starts off from the odd perspective of introducing us to the punk revolution. The entire first chapter is devoted to punk capitalism. Whilst I think this has it’s place in the history of piracy, I didn’t think it was necessary to devote a whole chapter. I did at one point wonder if I was about to settle into a book which was using piracy as a subterfuge for writing about the history of the music industry, but by chapter 2 we dive right into the heart of the matter, with pirate radio and patent trolling. Nice to see the Principality of Sealand get a mention too. So we can thank Mason for the brief history of punk and forgive him for confusingly making it the premise of the subject of the book.

The other niggle I have is the use of the apostrophe in the title. Surely it’s not a pirate’s dilemma at all, but a pirates dilemma – since the dilemma is with the media industry?

There is a lot of references to history and the use of copyright, which made informative and educational reading. I had heard before of how early America basically stole works from Europe but I was not informed of the whole story, or of the origins of the contemptuous nickname ‘yankee’! In summary, America was historically a nation of pirates, Hollywood in particular founded on piracy – They were the original Pirate Bay of the 19th century. Don’t take my word for it – read the book!

The book pretty much covers all the topics around copyright and piracy, and answers many questions that the less informed may have. Mason frames the act of piracy in terms of culture and history very well – making a compelling argument for not only why we should allow piracy, but support it. The subjects range from graffiti art and other counter-culture movements to the foundation of hip hop and the invention of the iPod.

Mason sticks to his music reporter roots throughout and provides insight into his own background in pirate radio and the discovery of Grime. However, despite my issue with the way the book started, he actually does a good job of making the connections of the roots of music with the remix culture, cultural revolution and of course, what is now termed piracy.

It’s not all a one-sided argument either. Of course, given Masons background he could be considered biased toward piracy but he actually offers up both the good with the bad – drug dealing and happy slapping are just a couple of examples. With regards to happy slapping, Mason considers this a kind of ‘last resort’ for a younger generation. A generation desperate to get away from a media and marketing culture that ‘pounces’ on any grass roots youth culture movement before it has a chance to become established. Mason references parkour as a strong example of this. Though I don’t think something like happy slapping can be so easily excused, it has given me a new perspective and I’m finding myself agreeing with this view.

The Pirate’s Dilemma is not a roadmap to a better future, in fact the logic would seem to indicate we are in a constant war between creative freedom on one side and powerful corporate interests on the other. However perhaps if enough of the right people were to read it – politicians, media execs, content creators, then perhaps there is hope for a more open future society.

Already Spain is showing itself to be a much more progressive country in this respect. Could this truth spread to the rest of the Western world some day? I hope so.

Netbabble Podcast Episode #6: The Digital Economy Bill #debill (12/04/10)

Our latest Netbabble podcast is available over at netbabble.com. In this one we discuss the controversial Digital Economy Bill recently passed into UK law.

There’s a lot I didn’t get to say about this one, but I hope I made my feelings clear. It’s a bad law, and it’s already ineffective since not only is it possible to cover your tracks almost completely whilst file-sharing, pirates are already working on new technology – just as BitTorrent rose out of the ashes of Napster.

The sooner big media dies or gets a new business model the better. I look forward to the future where non-commercial sharing is legal and treated the same as the sneakernet.

The Biggest Pirates of All: Stealing from the Public Domain

I was reading a topic on Slashdot the other day about the public disclosure of Google’s internal emails in its court battle with Viacom, that seem to take the shine off Google’s “Do No Evil” image.

I’m not particularly invested in this news itself, but what cause me to stop and think was this comment from user drDugan (emphasis mine):

What’s more evil?

You know what’s evil? Copyright term of “70 years + life of the author”.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_term [wikipedia.org]

Almost every single thing creative that someone creates today will *never* enter the public domain within our lifetime. Nothing. The owner of the copyright must explicitly grant it to the public domain, or license it for other’s use, distribution, sharing, mashing, basically anything more than fair use… Copyright is no longer about promotion of creativity, its a legal exclusivity and an effectively permanent lock on all creative output by business interests. Add WIPO and ACTA and soon within 10 years or so, it will be a global exclusive lock, again driven by business interests.

The current copyright laws are simply a denial of any sense of balance or social good in intellectual property.

I had to read that twice… Almost every single thing creative that someone creates today will *never* enter the public domain within our lifetime.

This sentence alone pretty much explains the tragic state of affairs when it comes to the entertainment industries view towards intellectual property and piracy. In essence, to me, it pretty much morally justifies piracy for non-commercial use.

Ever heard of The Grimm Fairy Tales, Mary Shelley, Hans Christian Anderson, Jane Austin, Orson Welles, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allen Poe or HG Wells (to name just a few)? The likelihood is you have heard of these names and read their books or watched film adaptions. The reason you have heard these names, and studied their works in educational establishments is because their most famous works are all public domain.

The equal likelihood is, if big media corporations of today had existed when these artists were around and writing these works – you would never have heard of them. In fact it could be argued that English Literature as a school subject would not even exist.

Next time Disney or Pixar release a new movie based on one of these old public domain works.. remember it’s large media companies like Disney that are not only benefiting from public domain works, they are lobbying to make sure that the works they create – even these derivatives – never enter public domain.

They’re not just stealing from the past, their stealing from the future, our future and future generations. We will never be able to use the works without copyright permissions, future generations will have to keep studying works produced before the advent of the 20th Century.

This is why it’s vital that political parties, like the UK Pirate Party, exist and are supported. I’d also go as far as saying piracy itself is a vital service in changing the culture and nature of intellectual property. If it wasn’t for Napster, you’d never have iTunes or iPods – we’d still be listening to CD and Cassette players on our way to work.

Cinemoose has an excellent list of famous writers and books that are in the public domain.
Readprint is an online resource for free and public domain books.
Public Domain Works.net is an open registry with searchable database.