Friday, 26 September 2008

Anonymous browsing with Tor and Privoxy

The Onion Router which is most commonly known as Tor, is a wonderful tool for anonymizing your online activity. Tor consists of public proxies setup by trusted members of the Tor community, who allow other users to make use of their proxies to browse the web. In a typical Tor session, there are at least 3 proxies involved, making it very difficult to trace back any online activity to a single user. Furthermore, the communication between the client and the proxies are tunnelled in layers, providing protection against casual snooping as well.

Setting up Tor on Linux was surprisingly easy. Tor binaries are available in the Fedora repositories, so just simply type
sudo yum install tor

Once installed, invoke Tor by typing

The Tor client will start up and attempt to establish a proxy chain. Once this is complete, it will start a SOCKS proxy on port 9050. To Torrify any application, you simply have to configure it to use the proxy server created by Tor at

If you want to completely anonymize your browsing, there's an additional step involved. Usually applications such as web browsers do not use the SOCKS proxy to tunnel DNS queries. This can lead to information leakage because anyone listening in can see by the DNS query that you're attempting to visit that certain site. Therefore even if your data is secure, your browsing history is not.

The simplest solution is to use a HTTP proxy such as Privoxy and configure it to use Tor. This way you can achieve quite a good level of anonymity online without any hassle.

Privoxy is also available in the repositories, so installation is a breeze.
sudo yum install privoxy
Afterwards, you need to configure it to forward requests through Tor.
sudo echo "forward-socks4a / ." >> /etc/privoxy/config
Start the Privoxy daemon by typing
sudo privoxy /etc/privoxy/config

Configure your browser to use an HTTP proxy at and restart it. If everything went smoothly, you're now browsing anonymously. The best way to see this in action is to open up Depending on the location of the Tor exit node, you will be served with a Google page for that specific region. For example, when I tried it, I was served the Google Denmark page because my Tor exit node was in Denmark. You can also use tools like to see how your IP has changed completely due to Tor.

The internet is a wild place. If you are worried about privacy, give Tor a spin. It's definitely a good tool to have handy.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Happy Birthday Fedora !

Cheers! to 5 great years of Fedora infinity and freedom !!

Thursday, 18 September 2008

CrossOver Chromium - Run Chrome on Linux and Mac

Google's Chrome browser ( got a lot of attention when it was initially released, and deservingly so. I personally like most of the features implemented in Chrome, but unfortunately the lack of a Linux port makes it harder to test it out. I tried running Chrome with Wine, but there were few configurations that needed to be done that I didn't have time for. Therefore, my Chrome experiments had to be shelved for a later time.

Now thanks to Codeweavers, the company behind the CrossOver Office product, the open source version of Chrome is available as CrossOver Chromium ( for both Linux and Mac users to try out using Wine. This is a wonderful effort by Codeweavers that goes to show how mature Wine has become and how easily adaptable it is.

Installing CrossOver Chromium is a breeze. Just grab the setup from the Codeweavers website and run it. The installer will automatically take care of the rest.


CrossOver Chromium is quite stable and responsive in my Fedora 9 box. Ofcourse, HTTPS connections will not work because the libraries are not yet fully implemented on Wine. Although Flash is installed using winetricks, Crossover Chromium doesn't seem to recognize it. So Flash animations are out of order at the moment as well.

As clearly mentioned in the Codeweavers site, CrossOver Chromium is not intended as a full software distribution. It is just a proof-of-concept that any sufficiently complex Windows program can be ported to Wine with minimal effort. I think Codeweavers have managed to prove this point splendidly and in the process have enabled us Linux users to experience Chrome without having to boot Windows. Kudos to the team at Codeweavers for the effort.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Spice up the command line with BashStyle-NG

What I like most about Linux is its powerful command line. Many people find it intimidating, but with a little practice, the command line is the most natural way of interacting with a computer. Things can be done with the command line in less time than it takes to just launch the equivalent GUI utility.

The term "command line" naturally doesn't invoke a very pleasant image because we have come to associate it with a bland, colourless screen filled with text. But in reality, things can't be more further from the truth. X based terminal utilities allow a variety of customizations to tweak the appearance to fit the user's needs. It's well worth the effort to spend some time tweaking the terminal to fit your taste, because sooner or later, you are sure to come across a task that is more easily accomplished using the command line than the GUI.

BashStyle-NG ( is a GUI utility that allows the user to customize the command line in more innovative ways. Some of the options provided include:
  • The ability to tweak the prompt in interesting ways to display important information in various colours.
  • Colourizing output from tools like grep and man for easy readability
  • Creating aliases
  • Tweak command history, auto completion and internal variables such as the default editor
  • Change behaviour of editors such as vim and nano
  • Manage user profiles

Installing BashStyle-NG is quite easy. Grab the source tarball from and configure, make and make install !

BashStyle uses the python-psyco compiler to speed up execution times. It's a good idea to install it before beginning the actual installation.

sudo yum install python-psyco
tar xvf BashStyle-7.1.tar.bz2
cd bashstyle
make && sudo make install

On my machine, BashStyle-NG got installed with root as the owner. This prevented some of the customizations from working correctly when run as a normal user. To fix this, change the permissions of the BashStyle-NG script.

sudo chmod 0777 /usr/share/bashstyle-ng/system/nx-rc

Now all that's left is to invoke BashStyle and start customizing !