Why I run a Tor Relay.

Everyone has the right to freedom
of opinion and expression; this right
includes freedom to hold opinions
without interference and to seek,
receive and impart information and
ideas through any media and
regardless of frontiers.

– Article 19, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

 
I make no secret of the fact that I use Tor, and that I run a Tor Relay. Admittedly  I don’t use Tor as often as I perhaps should – but a lot of my browsing is on websites where I have an account that’s already associated with ‘real-world’ me, thus negating the purpose of Tor. Given the recent headlines, I figured now would be a good time to explain what Tor is, and why I encourage its use.

What is Tor?

Tor is software developed by the Tor Project that aims to ensure that your ISP and middle-men cannot correlate who you are with what you’re doing on the internet. The idea is that you download the Tor Browser Bundle – a one-click package of everything you need. Then when you browse the internet using the provided browser (a modified Firefox) you are routed through 3 volunteer relays in a way that guarantees forward secrecy, before the last node actually sends your request to the website in question. The way the encryption is set up means that when using Tor the ISPs, and anyone listening before your data reaches the first Tor node knows only that you’re running Tor, but not what you’re doing. The 3rd ‘exit’ node, and anyone listening to the connection between them and the destination website can only see your data, but not the original source. As far as the website is concerned your IP is that of the exit node. When you combine this with HTTPS connections secured with SSL even the exit node can only see the site you’re visiting, without seeing any of the data being passed back and forth. The EFF has a nice diagram summarising this.
Thanks to this it provides a way to secretly access websites that you may not be able to. In Turkey for example, it can bypass their web firewall so users can read news about what is really happening. Tor’s usage skyrocketed during the height of the recent Egyptian revolution.
A second feature of Tor are its ‘Hidden Sites’ these are websites who accept connections directly from Tor without having traffic go back over the ‘clear net’. This way there is no ‘exit’ node to spy on your data or site. Your connection is fully encrypted.  There are Wikileaks mirrors for those wishing to view that data. There’s an e-mail service so you can send and receive emails (even interacting with clear web email addresses) entirely anonymously. The New Yorker has an anonymous document submission/communication platform as a Hidden Service (the second link won’t work unless you are using Tor).

What’s a Relay?

A Tor Relay is a computer with the Tor Software installed that has volunteered to be one of the middle-men in other peoples Tor connections. They provide the bandwidth that can make the Tor experience faster and more stable. An ‘Exit Node’ is a special kind of Tor Relay that has additionally volunteered to be the last Tor node before a connection jumps out onto the clear net. By running a normal relay I can help ensure that whistleblowers and dissidents can access the information they need to do their job.

Any downsides?

Like anything, it’s not perfect. There are known attack models – if all three of the relays you route through are run (or have traffic logged) by the same organisation, they could in theory perform timing analysis to work out which data stream is yours. There’s also the fact that it is significantly slower – streaming data is out of the question (even more so because Tor is TCP and doesn’t innately support UDP). And naturally like all privacy preserving tools, it can be used by the bad guys as well – Tor semi-often hits the headlines because of the Silk Road – a drug marketplace that operates as a Tor Hidden Service. But humanity is mostly good. Some people can do terrible things, but in the grand scheme of things I believe that the good it enables, and that humanity uses it for, greatly outweighs the possible negatives.

So who the heck is funding this?

One last point. The Tor Project makes no secret of the fact that they were originally founded and are funded by the US Navy. But as you can see, there is now a wide diversity of funding coming in. And if that isn’t enough, Tor’s Projects are entirely Open Source (including the core Tor code) – you can download the code, submit patches (please do that!), and check there are no back doors.

Did I see mention of a free T-Shirt?!

Yes. Yes you did. I have my free t-shirt. Get yours for running a 500KB/s relay for two months. Or a 100 KB/s exit that allows Port 80 (HTTP) traffic. (I do the former).
—–
Privacy is important. Especially for those whose governments are actively stopping their own people from being well-informed.  You can make a difference. ^_^
 
Update: I finally found a link I was looking for, but couldn’t find. I’ve added it to the Hidden Sites discussion.

Jury Nullification

I saw this post on Tumblr today about Jury Nullification

An image promoting Jury Nullification
An image promoting Jury Nullification

The image had had some text added by a tumblr user as a comment

This is something that more people should be aware of, if only because (in many states, at least) defense attorneys are actually prohibited from mentioning it to jurors. The law allows a jury to return a “not guilty” verdict contrary to the facts of the case, but not for the defense to inform them of that power or to argue for its application in the current trial.

And I decided it would be a good idea to cross-post my response here, as legal issues are something I’m passionate about myself.

My Response

Jury Nullification is….. yeah.
I mean, I know it’s a thing, and it does, on the face of it, seem like an important thing. But the entire principle of the Jury is that they are Finders of Fact. That is, their entire role is to determine only whether a law has been broken. Don’t misunderstand me – it’s a vital and very important role – 12(ish) random men and women drawn from amongst the general population. To judge whether a particular fact has occurred.
The issue with Jury Nullification (for me) is that, although it sounds like it’s an amazing thing, and it brings to mind all kinds of nice images of “giving it to the man”, it’s not that simple.
There are the scenarios presented where for instance 12 jurors return not guilty for someone who is in court for light cannabis use – to pick a US example. Or copyright infringement.
But this ignores other potential situations. 12 is a tiny number. It could be easy to get 12 people who think “an eye for an eye” is perfectly fine, and so will vote Not Guilty for some crime done in retribution. Or 12 people who are racist and thus vote not guilty simply because the victim was black.
And of course, there’s the other side – where the Jury vote Guilty even when the evidence is slip-shoddy, because the defendant was black, or (and this is a serious actual problem) they believe anyone who the police have arrested must be guilty.
The reason why Jury Nullification is awkward is because these are 12 individual people, answerable to no-one (In the UK speaking about Jury Deliberations can lead to a charge of Contempt of Court for the Juror), whilst the law-makers who actually make the law are elected by the entire population, answerable to them, and thus (in theory) create laws based on the overall will of the people. Therefore Jury Nullification is (in theory) the minority overriding the majority. (Which, while not always bad, is definitely a warning sign in any justice system claiming to be by the people)
Jury Nullification isn’t as awesome as it’s made out to be – it is very problematic due to the reasons outlined above. It’s not even really an actual thing. There’s no law that states “Juries may return a verdict of Not Guilty if their conscience disagrees with the law” – technically Juries don’t even create the punishment; sentencing is purely in the judges domain. Instead Jury Nullification is an unpreventable thing arising from the fact that Jury Verdicts are meant to be simple findings of fact, with no moral judgements made by the Jury. It is an innate part of a justice system where the defendants peers are responsible for deciding whether a law has been broken.
So it exists, but it is also a dangerous thing, as it undermines the entire principle of Juries being simple Finders of Fact – hence why in some jurisdictions it is not allowed to be mentioned to jurors.
—–
As something I’ll add just to this blog entry, I’d say that Jury Nullification is a simple principle that can lead to a whole mess of chaos – especially for the uncertainty it can create should either side appeal the verdict. In certain, limited cases it can prove useful, and is potentially a last line of defence against unjust laws. The problem is that different people have vastly different opinions about whether a law is just or unjust – and this is why it is such a dangerous thing to publicise directly to jurors.

Migrating Email from Google Apps to Office365

So, as you might have gathered from the title, I’ve switched away from Google for my E-Mail, along with Calendar and contacts, I figure a post on how I went about it is in order.
Firstly, my setup, and thus how I picked Office365 to replace Google Apps for Domains.
I have a Mac, and use Mail.app, Contacts.app and Calendar.app on there. I have an iPod Touch and an iPad, where again I use the default apps. My Phone is a Blackberry (OS 7, not 10 – this becomes important later). When using Google to house Email, Contacts and Calendar everything worked, and I linked my Facebook Account on the Blackberry to my Contacts application so my contacts had display pictures and additional contact information.
I only require one account, with a custom domain name. I may add further domain names in future.
The vast majority of my contacts are simply a name and email address. Others are a name and phone number. A scant few have both email and phone – unless they are linked up with Facebook.

Evaluation of Options

I wanted, as I stated before, a hosted solution. A friend recommended Intermedia to me, however they now require a minimum of 3 accounts which makes the initial cost of an account for me at about £18 per month. I also considered running my own contacts and calendar software, and going with a less full featured email service such as FastMail. Software I looked at included OwnCloud and Baikal. However none of the software for Calendar seemed particularly well designed – the web UIs were often lacking or non existant.
Looking, as I mentioned into Microsofts’s own solution. At £5.60/month I get unlimited storage, and a full email, calendar, contacts house. An additional bonus – important for me, is that it includes complimentary access to Blackberry’s Business Cloud Service. BCS is kind of a slightly scaled down version of Blackberry Enterprise Server, that Blackberry host themselves, and is directly integrated in to Office365 if you choose to enable it. This is vital as adding the Office365 account to your Blackberry Internet Service only synchs the Email, and not the calendar or contacts. Both of which are pretty essential for my phone to achieve its purpose.

The Migration

Having selected Office 365’s Hosted Exchange plan, I signed up and paid my first £5.60. The signup was quick and smooth, as was the account creation. When you sign up you initially get to choose a subdomain underneath onmicrosoft.com for your account. You cannot remove or change this subdomain, but it’s free to add your own domains to the solution, and assign users to the correct domain name. Once the account was set up I setup access to the default subdomain account on my devices, and sent an email to check everything could work. This necessitated enabling, and setting up my Blackberry Cloud Services account.

Blackberry Cloud Services

This is the only negative experience I’ve had. This was the first time I got an error – when it tried to load their administration panel. It fixed itself on a refresh, but still. In addition, unlike Office365 it is not a sleek UI. It is very much a business/corporate designed UI. It reminds me very strongly in fact of this comic image. Every navigation element leads to a giant search form with many options. Naturally, in my use case, with only one account and one Blackberry, I’d prefer just to see my user details straight away. That said, my use case is obviously not the primary target for this tool.
Once I’d searched for my user and selected myself from the search result list, I checked through the options given for configuring a Users Profile. On a Blackberry, this profile can control every little thing that the device and users can do. It allows specifications of device passwords, remote wiping, separation of work and personal apps (to the extent of disabling copy-paste between the two domains). Naturally, this web tool only provides a fraction of the power, and the default options were fine in my case. Thus I used the option to send an email with an activation password to my email. On the Blackberry I had to download the ‘Enterprise Activation’ app, and use the password provided to associate my blackberry.
All the testing emails worked fine. So I set about doing the actual migration

Doing the Migration

The first thing was adding my domain to the Office365 account. This was incredibly simple, and contained helpful instructions on updating the DNS to verify ownership, and enable specific services, for a variety of domain name service providers. Having verified my domain, and activated it for my Exchange account I reassigned my user to use my own domain instead of the onmicrosoft.com subdomain. That done I removed Googles Records from my DNS. I then set up the email migration. Again, Office365 had an excellent Wizard that catered for a variety of Exchange-Exchange migration situations, and a generic IMAP importer for other situations. I went with the IMAP route naturally. After providing the domain and IMAP server, I uploaded a CSV containing the details of the accounts to migrate (one in my case), and set the import going. With 27,000 odd messages it took a few hours for my account to fill up – so many messages due to the way GMail handles its tags system over IMAP. Each tag is its own folder, and messages are duplicated across the ‘folders’.
I then used my own Google Account to export my Contacts into a .csv file which I then imported directly into my own account, again without any issue.
The Calendar app however  as far as I can see has no built in import function. Trying to use Calendar.app to export my Google Calendar, and reimport it into my Exchange Calendar with its own import function caused an error. As I don’t actually have any future appointments scheduled at the moment, this is bearable. My history is currently only viewable on my Mac as I imported it into a local Calendar. For those with future appointments though that could well be a stumbling block, or possibly a deal breaker). You may be able to use Google Calendar to ‘share’ the calendar to the Exchange one, but I didn’t investigate that option as the loss is minor.
Having imported everything I updated all my sync settings to point to the new domain, and everything was pulled down fine. I ended up with Duplicate Contacts in some instances, but Merging them when they showed up on a device was sufficient. My Blackberry I had to remove the syncs entirely as it was still trying to sync to my old account as well. After wiping out all the contacts locally and re-enabling sync to my new account everything seems to work.
I went to re-enable Facebook-Blackberry integration, only to discover that this option is disabled by Blackberry Business Cloud Service. It’s configurable in the full BES package, but it is one of the things they removed in this not-quite-BES-in-the-cloud version. For now I have simply enabled Facebook integration on my Mac and iPod/iPad. The information added by these isn’t synched up into Office365, so my Phone contacts aren’t Facebook integrated at the moment. Microsoft however do have US only facebook integration directly in Office 365. Hopefully that will come through soon. Either way, Facebook contact integration on the phone is only a nice to have and didn’t really benefit me aside from the display pictures.
I did however enable LinkedIn integration in Office365, which pulled in additional contacts into my contact list.

Summary

Everything went better than expected. Office365’s Exchange component is fast, sleek and very nice to use. The only things that went wrong are a lack of Calendar import; and the Blackberry which had by far the most issues in all aspects of the migration. Something that can be laid firmly at Blackberry’s feet. That said, BBOS10 doesn’t have BES, but instead integrates with Email, Calendar et al over standard protocols (hopefully reducing those issues?).

University is over.

So on Wednesday I had my last University exam.
It’s the end of my formal education (barring going for a Masters at some point in the future). Having been in formal education since the age of 4/5, this is quite something. Yes, I had a placement year last year, but for some reason I don’t really count that – I was still a student really. Still getting e-mails from my University. But that stage of my life is at an end now.
*flumps in to a seat*
So what have I done since the end of that exam? First I went into Bath’s centre and kind of wandered in a stupor for a while before going home and reading a book. I’ve played some games, tidied my room up after the garbage that collected during the revision-snacks phase. Watched the movie Night Watch (The subtitles on Disc 2 are excellent), and I have the last book in the series the film is a loose adaption of on my bookshelf waiting to be read. Rewatched the movie Adams Family Values. Looked in to alternative email/contact/calendar software. Email is one thing I don’t want to have to host myself – dealing with blacklists, spam and security is not something I want to do just to keep my email working. I’m thinking of perhaps using Microsofts Hosted Exchange offering. It’s cheap, but still paid (thus I’m the customer, and not the data). It’s Exchange, so it’s feature rich. And being Microsoft and Enterprisey it doesn’t go through upheavals with social media integration. Sure, they might work just as much with Law Enforcement as Google do – but at least they don’t have my search history as well.
A final thing I’m going to do over the summer is code myself up a private journal software. Yes, I have WordPress. And I could use that, but it doesn’t quite do what I want. Given my quality skills with UI design, I’m sure that this will look all modern and that </sarcasm>. Anyway, here’s a thumb sketch of my requirements:

  • Web access
  • One entry per day. You can extend, but after say a week you can’t edit them anymore.
  • With specific sections for
  • Interesting Links browsed / found
  • Interesting stories read
  • A way to pull in specific Tweets/Facebook/Tumblr posts.

So the way I’m kind of imagining it is a kind of digitally integrated private snapshot of my life day by day. It’ll be interesting to do this. Maybe I can use it as a chance to finally learn JQuery and AJAX and all the web 2.0 goodness? I don’t know. I’ve wanted to get around to learning how to AJAX and JQuery and that, but I’ve never found a tutorial that actually made it click. But anyway, this might be my project over the summer. 4 months of a clear diary is somewhat daunting. Although it will likely be the last time I have this amount of time free.
Well, this turned out to be somewhat rambly. Ooops.

Some ramblings on data silos and online identity

I have a problem with Google.
Google know far too much about me, and they also hold far too much of my data. Their policy of ‘don’t be evil’ isn’t comforting, especially with their recent increased product-cull rate and their lack of support among other things. All it would take is their login process to be compromised and anyone could have access to my data. If you think that’s unlikely, you should read about how their two-factor authentication lead to full account access without the second factor, nor the accounts master password.
There’s also the issue of US law enforcement having essentially carte-blanche access to the data Google owns. As someone who takes privacy seriously this sort of thing worries me.
So, what services do I use that belong to Google?

  • Email
  • Calendar
  • Contacts
  • Browsing History, Chrome extensions, bookmarks etc. (through Chrome Sync)
  • Search History
  • YouTube History
  • Old Blogger accounts
  • Google+ account
  • RSS feeds that I followed back when Google Reader was a thing.
  • Old Google Wave postings
  • Purchases through Google Checkout
  • Documents/Files in Google Docs (including University work)
  • Location information – through Google Maps searches, journey planning etc.
  • Information about websites I own through Google Analytics – even this blog.

Given Google’s lack of support for anything (even their paid Google Apps accounts aren’t much better), if I should loose access to my Google account overnight, the effect would be immediate and devastating. I’d loose access to my email until I could get a mail server online (or a different provider) and redirect the DNS. I’d have to hope that my IMAP backups worked. My Calendar and Contacts would become unsynced – Calendar is something I use quite a lot, often updating it on different devices relatively frequently. Loss of other information wouldn’t be quite as devastating, although Google Docs/Drive access would inconvenience me a lot.
My other worry, given my privacy, is how complete a picture could be drawn up should someone go through all this. They’d be able to find me on multiple services through sign-up/notification emails. They’d find all my blog postings from previous blogs.
All of this has been percolating inside me for a long time. As someone who really doesn’t like this kind of data correlation to be easy, or to be going on without me knowing, it bugs me. I’m a paid supporter of the ORG (it’s the UK’s version of the EFF); I use, advocate and run a relay for Tor. I take my privacy seriously. It’s somewhat ironic given how public I can be on sites like Twitter, and Tumblr. Notice how I didn’t link to my Tumblr? That’s because I don’t want to publicly link the content there to here, or to my real life identity.
It’s kind of funny in a way. I have posted links to my Tumblr on my Facebook and Twitter before, but despite that I still like to think that it’s semi-private. It’s not linked via a common username like some of my other accounts are. This (unintentionally) brings me nicely to the second half of this post. My online identities.
I use so many servies, and social networking sites. I have a Twitter, a Facebook, a Tumblr, a reddit account, a LibraryThing, a YouTube account, a HackerNews account, a Dragonmount account. I even have a DeviantArt account (which I occasionally log in to), a MySpace account and a Bebo account – both of which were receiving my Twitter updates last time I looked several years ago. For someone who is determined to find all of my accounts, and is nifty with Google it wouldn’t be that hard. And yet, that also has me conflicted. I often claim that I don’t filter my Twitter feed as if someone is interested in me personally then they get me personally, not a filtered me. If someone isn’t interested in the law and legal process, but they are interested in Wheel of Time then they can either get their Wheel of Time fix elsewhere, or follow all of me and get to know me better. In other words, I want people to follow me because they’re interested in me, not because they’re interested in a small subset of my interests.
And yet, there are some things I’m not comfortable with both groups knowing. For instance, I ‘came out’ on reddit before I posted on my Facebook or even my tumblr. And now I’m feeling that I want to ‘re-invent’ myself online. It’s too easy to link my profiles to me, there’s also too much content going too far back. The picture someone could construct of me if they had the time and motivation to do so is something that creeps me out – not in a bad way, but in a “this sort of thing shouldn’t be possible” way. It’s a thing with our generation, that we seem to live more and more of our lives online and in public. And yet I want the pseudonymity  that a more.. disconnected set of online profiles would provide.
I guess what I’m saying is that I want to start fresh. A total disconnect would be impractical and likely impossible. And certain things, such as HackerNews, and Facebook I want tied to my real identity. But other identities such as my reddit profile, or my various forum accounts don’t need to be. And I feel like I should embrace that they don’t.
Someday soon I shall break up my online identities, in every sense of the phrase. InnerLambada shall die. In my place shall rise….. well now, that would be telling, wouldn’t it? 😉

Redux: How I actually migrated my hard-drive

As a follow up to my previous post, I’m briefly outlining what things went wrong. This shall be a much briefer entry, and isn’t menat to be a full guide.
My guide was good until Step 11.
Firstly I did everything I needed to with standard tools – An OSX installation USB, OSX Disk Utility, Windows Installer. I used OSX Disk Utility to clone across my OSX Partition, and attempted my Windows partition, which seemed to clone fine, but another issue cropped up with Windows…..
It turns out that Windows can be funny about moving HDs and locations on HDs. I got the infamously generic blinking cursor, and none of the standard suggestions seemed to work (if someone is looking for some SuperUser rep, just post a plausible answer that could have solved the issue). Eventually I just used BootCamp assistant to remove, and then recreate the partition, proceeding with the standard installer. I then just pulled the files I needed (mostly game installers) off my old hard drive.
Everything else works fine, and the system is much speedier now.
One word of earning for Microsoft Office for Mac users. Apparently it uses some kind of hard-drive based identifier when you register it, and now that’s changed so it wants my licence key again. Which is stuck back in Norfolk. *grumble*

Migrating Hard Drives on a Mac with RecoveryHD, Filevault and Bootcamp

Please read the follow up post to this post after reading this one. Windows didn’t like the move, but the rest of my plan worked fine.
I’m shortly going to be replacing my spinning-rust hard-drive with a shiny new (fast) SSD. One hitch is that my SSD is smaller than my existing drive – but I’ve checked the sizes, and everything should fit.
Due to my slight obsession with ensuring nothing goes wrong, I’ve been googling how best to make sure nothing goes wrong. Although I’ve found various guides on how to Migrate OSX and Windows and how to recreate RecoveryHD (The accepted answer doesn’t actually answer the question, so I’ve linked directly to the answer), I haven’t found an all encompassing guide yet. So I’m going to write one as a plan.
Some software (CarbonCopyCloner and WinClone) seem to be the standard software most tutorials use for cloning. CCC claims it can handle Recovery Partitions now, but no tutorial I’ve found mentions using that feature, or deals with migrating (as opposed to recreating) RecoveryHD.
Naturally, as a plan, this is untested. And knowing my luck I may have forgotten some crucial step, so if you follow this guide then it’s at your own risk.
For reference: I’m using an Early 2011 MacBook Pro. Mountain Lion (10.8.3) with FileVault 2, Windows 7.
Things I still should check up on:
Enabling Filevault 2 or creating Bootcamp first? – I don’t imagine it will make any difference, but as both mess with the Partition layout (as I understand it), I want to be sure.
Update: As far as I can tell it, it makes no difference. All the problem reports I’ve seen refer to cases when FV was enabled with Bootcamp, but only the 3.2 Bootcamp drivers were installed – this would cause a BSoD in Windows as it choked on trying to mount an encrypted HFS+ partition. So I’ll stick with the order outlined below.
Step 0: Disable FileVault 2, to eliminate any risks it may create. Do this first as it can take a while, and it doesn’t actually make a difference for a while.
As I’m going to create a new recovery partition, I don’t want to restore an encrypted OSX, only for the recovery partition (which is used to bootup and ask for the password) to not have the method to unlock it.
UPDATE: Apparently OSX doesn’t like resizing CoreStorage (i.e. FileVault 2 volumes), so this is necessary for me as I need to resize my OSX partition.
Step 1: Check you have a full backup of everything.
My plan here is to use my normal Time Machine backup for OSX, and take an image of my Windows Partition, which shall be stored on my NAS.
Step 2: Download the Mountain Lion installer from the App Store. Use Lion DiskMaker to create a bootable USB with the Mountain Lion installer. Altnertively: Extract the installer and create a bootable USB by hand :/
(My Mac doesn’t have Internet Recovery independent from the Recovery Partition IIRC, so I need to have the OS installer around for when I switch the discs.
Step 3: Delete the ML Installer you downloaded – it’s 4GB!
Step 4: Check Filevault has fully decrypted. Double check. Triple check.
Step 5: Shrink your partitions on your source disc so they’ll fit on your new disc. For me it will mostly be OSX I shrink as that’s where a lot of my free space is…..
Step 6: Take a new TM backup and a new Windows Image. – The new Windows Image is especially if you touched the sizes of their partitions – as you want to ensure your images will fit onto the new disc.
Step 6: Swap the discs. Keep your old disc disconnected.
Step 7: Use the USB installer you created to install Mountain Lion. You should now have a recovery partition on your new disc. Along with a virgin OSX install. Install all OSX updates available – incase they update the Recovery Partition (you don’t want an out of date recovery partition).
Step 8: Clone your Mac Partition across. You should now have a working OSX install with all your OSX data.
Step 9: Disconnect your old disc. You’re done with that now (in theory).
Step 10: USe Bootcamp Assistant to create the Windows Partition. Don’t install it.
Step 11: Use the image of your Windows partition 1 to put Windows back onto that partition.
Step 12: Boot into windows and deal with anything that throws your way if Windows decides it’s not license or whatever. And we now have a working Windows install
Step 13: Re-enable Filevault 2 in OSX. Let it encrypt itself in the background.
Step 14: Take a new set of backups.
Step 15: Dance a merry jig.
Step 16: Realise you’ve forgotten something crucial and give up on this and head back to your old disc with your tail between your legs.

2012 in Review

An unimaginative title, I know, but it’s that time when we celebrate the Earth moving past an arbitrary point in its orbit around the Sun.
So, what have I done, and what has happened over the last twelve months?
In no particular order…

  • I finished my placement with IBM. From July 2011, through June 2012 I was on placement. Overall a very enjoyable time. It had stress, but compared to second year of University it was very very enjoyable. I met people who really knew their stuff, and gained several friends. To go from earning £15,000 over those twelve months, back down to living off student loans and parents was not a pleasant experience.
  • I’ve read quite a few books – no real surprise there. I’ve picked up a taste for Dystopian Fiction it seems – several of the series I’ve started have revolved around that theme. Although There’s my normal mix of books in there as well.
  • My dog, who I’ve had for over half my life died on 27th December 2012. He’d been with me for 14 and a half years. The house feels empty without him now.
  • I accepted who I am, and came out to friends. It’s helped to make the first semester of Final Year so much more enjoyable. I’m still not out to my family however.
  • I shifted my website from an unmanaged VPS to a Dedicated Server. And promptly managed to break its networking entirely. IPv6 is still dodgy for some reason.
  • I took part in Stripes Capture the Flag challenge. Over the summer, I spent a few days feverishly trying to break various web applications and APIs. I managed to be the 295th person to finish it – in a hair over 4 days. Half of which was spent on the last challenge.
  • Started my final year of Uni. Module wise it’s going much better than second year was. I put that down to being able to actually choose my options this year. So I’m finding the content interesting, and most of the modules are fairly well taught.
  • Got a job offer. Assuming I get a 2:1 I’ll be back at IBM Hursley in September. No idea what I’ll be working on yet.
  • I got a tumblr. March 9th was my first post. Since then I’ve racked up almost 1,500 posts. It has some great people on there, and some not-so-great sides, Like any community. I’m still not sure whether I love it or hate it. Either way, it’s somewhat addictive. Luckily my dashboard is manageable, and I rarely venture into tags.

There may be more, but I honestly can’t remember them, so they can’t have been that important.
 
What do I hope for 2013? I really don’t know. I think at the moment I just want to get a 2:1 and start working.

This is the hardest thing I've ever had to post

This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to post, and if you’re reading this I consider you a friend; so it’s time to be honest with you. My only request is that you don’t share this with my family. They don’t know, and they’ll need their own explanation in time, in person.
I’ve been running and hiding. For so long I’ve denied who I am, but I know that you stuck with me through my ups and downs. Some of you may have suspected part of this, for others it will be totally out of left field. Either way if you have any questions feel free to comment, or message me, or ask me in person.
The short version is that I’m gender-queer. This means that I don’t happily fit in as either a male or female. I’m happy presenting as male most of the time, But sometimes I want to be more feminine. When I have to I can go for months at a time being male and relatively happy, but I feel much more comfortable when I don’t confine myself to presenting as male. So occasionally I may wear something feminine. Currently it’s most likely to be shoes, but in the future, it could be more comprehensive. I hope to one day be able to present as entirely female, or at least androgynous when I choose. In the mean time I will look like a guy wearing some female stuff. And I’m fine with that. It’s how I am. and I hope you will be fine with that too.
I’ve known something wasn’t right for a long time. Definitely since I was about 11 or 12, although possibly earlier. I had occasional forays into exploring my gender, but I only started actually questioning myself properly in my first year of university. And now after 3 years of questioning and learning, I’ve accepted who I am. I’m not always a male. I’m not always a female. I am who I am. I’m happy with the name Sam(uel). I’m happy with being biologically male. But I’m also happy with presenting as female, or androgynous. I’m happy with male, female and gender-neutral pronouns. I am happy with wearing whatever clothes I feel like. I am happy with me.
If you’ve made it through that, thank you. Again, if you have any questions, you are more than welcome to ask.
Maybe now the super-happy-times can begin? ^_^