in Open Source, Technology

Pi-hole – Blocking Ads at Home

Pi-hole

Pi-hole is a DNS sinkhole that protects your devices from unwanted content, without installing any client-side software. The best part of Pi-hole is that it can work off cheap hardware such as a Raspberry Pi.

Last month, I bought a Raspberry Pi 3-MODB-1GB and a 16GB MicroSDHC (MicroSD) Memory Card. That was enough to run an Ad Blocker Service for the whole home.

Raspberry Pi-4

Raspberry Pi

  1. First, we need to set up a Raspberry Pi.
  2. Get a microSD card with a capacity of at least 8 GB. I suggest getting a 16GB one for some extra room, just in case. The price difference isn’t worth saving. Plug the microSD card to a desktop computer and follow the steps to Setup the microSD card and thus unzipping the Raspbian operating system content to the drive. Install the Raspbian operating system via NOOBS.
  3. Plug in the microSD Card, monitor, keyboard, and a mouse. That’s it. Power it up.
  4. Follow the on-screen instructions to finish setting up the Raspbian operating system. Restart and the Raspberry Pi is ready to setup Pi-hole.

Pi-hole

Pi-Hole

  1. There are three ways to install Pi-hole. Follow the one that works for you – Install Pi-Hole.
  2. Follow the on-screen instructions. You’ll just be pressing the RETURN key a lot.
  3. Pick your choices of options along the way. Do not forget to pause at the last screen and record the admin password and other details.
  4. The final step is to point your Internet Router’s DNS (just one, delete the others) to the Pi-hole IP (remember the screen from the earlier step).

Pi-hole have a really nice web-enabled Admin dashboard which can be accessed inside your Network via http://pi.hole/admin or //[Raspberry Pi’s IP address]/admin/ or http://raspberrypi.local/admin/.

Pi-Hole Dashboard

Pi-hole works pretty well without much fanfare that you might be left with a feeling that you’re missing something. I’ve been running Pi-hole as the Ad-Blocker for my home and seems to be working good so far.

Go, have fun.

Libra – Cryptocurrency by Facebook, an Infographic

Libra is a cryptocurrency designed using blockchain technology. It is built by the most popular social media giant Facebook. The main motive behind developing Libra is to emancipate millions of underbanked and unbanked people by offering them similar financial opportunities.

Libra will give their users the best transaction experience with unimaginable speed on minimal or no charges. Users can transfer money from their home to any part of the world. Libra is compatible with mobile and all you need is a basic data connection.

Blockchain technology is a decentralized programmable database that helps in backing the more constant currency and has the capability to act as a medium for transacting money to millions of people all over the world.

Libra is a self-reliant association formed to control and regulate the flow of Libra, it is an organization aiming to offer basic financial infrastructure and to introduce a universal currency to empower millions of people. Libra Association is a compilation of validator nodes, such as academic entities, international corporations, and social impact partners.

An allocated system of the Libra blockchain looks after the transactions and ownership of Libra. While transacting Libra, there is a slight chance of attacks on the system and here Blockchain helps in defending this kind of attack using LibraBFT.

A secured and well-written software will help you in protecting the Libra Blockchain. Move a new programming language that is used in developing Libra. It is a safe and responsive programming language for Libra Blockchain. It is an applied bytecode language used to implement smart transactions and contracts.

People have different views on cryptocurrencies, but Libra can be trusted easily as it is backed by a reserve that includes stable liquid assets, which helps in keeping the value of Libra stable.

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BITS Conquest 2019 Finale

Bits Conquest Finale 2019

Eleven Startups pitched at the BITS Conquest 2019 Finale.

Unfortunately, a jarring meme that I saw was that the Slides were very similar and have very similar presentation style. They even had the dreaded “competitor slides” where everything right was ticked for the Startups while the competitors were not.

Here are a few details about the Startups without any of my biased opinions.

Scout my Trip

ScoutMyTrip is a technology-led platform that helps its users plan their trips better. It uses techniques such as predictive analysis, and through its trained network of “scouts”, helps you enjoy your journey.

InvestoAsia

InvestoAsia is a system that enables investment into emerging markets by digitizing their securities using blockchain technology into tokenized assets and further trade them on a private platform.

FarmSurge

FarmSurge is a digital platform addressing the last mile connectivity issues of small farmers by providing on-demand booking solutions for farm inputs, farm services, and farm produce market linking.

HRBot

HRBot is an AI-based full stack recruitment marketplace for mid and entry level hiring capable of screening candidates at large scale remotely, with 10x faster TAT irrespective to the geography.

Xplorazzi

Xplorazzi is an Automated CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods) merchandising execution and Audit tool using AI and computer vision to analyze in-store product display from shelf images for faster sales-related decision-making with a smartphone application.

4MirrorTech

4MirrorTech is an IoT clean-tech Startup focused on facility monitoring services, building solutions such as washroom, trashcan, seat occupancy, and employee monitoring.

SecondHandKart

SecondHandKart delivers quality checked premium used products such as iPhones, Macs, Xbox, etc with after-sales-service and warranty. They additionally provide up to 12 months repair warranty, 12 months buyback guarantee, check on delivery on every product they sell.

VenueMonk

VenueMonk is a booking platform which helps people book venues quickly, effortlessly and at the lowest possible price.

LetsEndorse

LetsEndorse is a marketplace for matching proven social innovations with nuanced local challenges and development capital, to eradicate social issues at scale. Supported by the Tata Trusts, it comprises of 500 social innovations from 40 countries globally. 1,500+ grass-roots implementations partners/NGOs, responsible corporations, Government and individual contributors.

Aayush

An innovative, cost-effective ingestible battery-less electronic Health Pill using a unique micro-sensor technology aided by AI and Cloud computing, for analyzing, identifying and predicting Heart Attacks and SCA 9-11 minutes before they strike a person, by sending emergency alerts.

Nimble Vision

Nimble Vision provides an IoT solution for water level controller and meter. This solution brings massive data analytics on water availability, consumption, leakage and quality, helping people to conserve water up to 50%.

30+ Cryptocurrencies in Four Words or Less

The word “crypto” in the cryptocurrency is referred to as complicated cryptography which allows for a particular digital token to be generated or stored, and to transact securely, also typically and anonymously. Other than this important “crypto” feature of the currencies, it is a common commitment to the decentralization. The cryptocurrencies are typically developed as a code by teams, which has built-in mechanisms for its issuance which is often, maybe not always through a process called “mining” and few other controls.

Litecoin

Litecoin is based on the open source global payment network which is not controlled by any of the central authority and it uses “scrypt” as the proof of work, which can be decoded with the help of the CPUs of the consumer grade. Although Litecoin is similar to Bitcoin in many ways, it has faster block generation rate and therefore offers a faster transaction confirmation. Other than the developers, there are many growing numbers of merchants who accept the Litecoin. As of today, Litecoin had a market cap of around $2.63 billion and per token value of about $43.

Ethereum

The applications of the Ethereum run on its own platform-specific cryptographic token called Ether. Ether acts as a vehicle for moving around the Ethereum platform, and it is sought by the mostly developers who are looking to develop and run the applications inside Ethereum, or now by the investors who are looking to make purchases of other digital currencies using the ether.

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Meeting Startups at Conquest, 2019

I’m one of the mentors at the Conquest, 2019. I met up with some of the Startups.

Aayush

Aayush built a cost-effective ingestible battery-less electronic Health Pill that transmits data via a patch that can be easily applied on the body. That patch communicates with a Smartphone App and helps in the prediction and prevention of Heart attacks and Sudden Cardiac Arrests.

The Health Pill uses MicroSensor Technology that can be swallowed by a person. The pill enters the Gastro-Intestinal Tract in the stomach and becomes electrically activated when it reacts with the digestive acids present in the stomach, thus generating a natural electric current. The embedded Bio-Medical sensors once activated, record specific physiological Health metrics from the body. These health data are transmitted to an app via a Wearable Transmission Patch that can easily stick to the body.

These data are stored in the cloud which is can be accessed by family members, friends, caretakers, and doctors who have access to the data. The app monitors health data round the clock and simultaneously identifies, analyzes, and can warn about 9-11 minutes prior to a Heart Attack or Sudden Cardiac Arrest. Emergency Alerts are sent to the victim, predefined members, and to the nearest Hospital along with the current GPS location of the victim.

Aayush built a unique microsensor technology, which is cost-effective, smart private healthcare technology that can be used without the need of doctor’s assistance. Aayush plans to license their product and technology to various hospitals, once their patent is granted.

Xplorazzi

Xplorazzi is building an automated tool which will take retail shop shelf images and CCTV video feed to create Planograms.

Planograms are a crucial part of today’s retail stores. It can be done manually to comply with audit requirements or use software that is an additional cost to the retailers.

Xplorazzi uses imaging technology, deep learning, and sales data to build a smartphone app that will aid retail stores to do items assessment. This will create a consistent visual record to automate the process and use the details for Audit, Assortment Analysis, Stock Management, Shelf-Space availability, and Dynamic Analysis Reports.

Untangled Cloud

Untangled Cloud makes it easy to work across multiple Cloud providers such as Amazon’s AWS, Google Cloud, and Microsoft’s Azure.

Untangled Cloud provides analytics and tools to help Startups and SMEs make better decisions while choosing the right cloud service providers. They help in upskilling teams to learn more about the services of various cloud providers. They also plan to build tools to help migrate from one cloud provider to the other easily and seamlessly.

Pigeon

Pigeon is “Zapier for Notifications.”

Pigeon has built an easy to use system that helps businesses manage user notifications & preferences across multiple channels — emails, apps, instant messaging apps, and text messages in one place.

Pigeon targets 3 distinct areas;

  1. Content Management System (CMS) for Notifications: Normally, notification messages are coded in by the developers. With Pigeon’s online Email, Push & SMS editors, marketing & sales teams are empowered to make changes themselves, resulting in faster iterations and can avoid wasted dev cycles.
  2. User Preferences Manager: Users are used to applications like Facebook that provide a high degree of control over notifications. With Pigeon, your users can choose which devices they would like to receive notifications, the time and even control the types of notifications. Pigeon handles all the processing for you. Developers don’t need to re-create this and can focus on their core business logic.
  3. Event-Driven Notification System: With our unique event-based model, Pigeon empowers marketing & sales teams to control the logic of the notifications online. Developers simply hook various events through the app.

Loka

Loka is a hyper-local vernacular QnA app for consumers & local businesses.

Loka’s hypothesis is that about 90% of Indians do not speak English and would rather use a vernacular language that they are comfortable in. They want to bank on that fact and build a community of local businesses and consumers that communicate in vernacular Indian languages.

Loka wants to be the growth-hack platform for local businesses and consumers to ask questions and get answers from their neighborhoods in their local languages.

PROI

PROI is developing a hardware-based POS system for retailers that aims to build a data-driven analytics solution.

There are 10-15 million retail stores in India. But the retail sector is very traditional and unorganized. There is no Inventory and Supply Chain Management system, no data-driven In-Store Management and Forecasting and no large scale retail data provision for the hyperlocal market. In order to organize this industry, PROI will be collecting the data and setting the path for future collaborators. They plan to connect the entire Supply Chain – Retailers, Manufacturers, and Hyper-Local Markets.

PROI aims to help SMEs to compete at the same level as the big players in the industry by providing them the capability to make data-driven decisions and optimize their supply chain. They follow a bottom-up approach while approaching the Hyperlocal market environment.

5 Tips for Paranoid People on the Internet

Internet Security

Do you remember that old quote, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you?” It seems like it is becoming more and more relevant every day. Almost weekly, a new scandal emerges from Big Tech, detailing the wholesale trading and theft of our personal information. But aside from all the headline-grabbing, one-off incidents, the much bigger concern is the day to day invasions of our privacy that are just standard policy for many of these companies.

In fact, it’s how they make most of their money.

Add to this the ever increasing and complex systems of government surveillance and tracking (most of which we’ll probably never really learn about), and you can be forgiven for feeling like you’re being watched every second you’re online.

Fortunately, there are plenty of people who feel the same. Many are finding ways and creating tools to help all of us stay safe and maintain our privacy while using the internet. The quick, simple steps that follow will block you from the most invasive spying and tracking on the internet, boost your privacy, and keep you safe.

1. Purge your Facebook

There may be no other organization that has become more notorious with invasions of privacy as quickly as Facebook. In just a couple of years, Mark Zuckerberg and his company seem to have completely fallen from grace in the eyes of many politicians, security experts and, indeed, users. They have been (justifiably?) blamed for stoking genocide in Myanmar, Brexit, numerous mental health crises, and even destroying the foundations of human society.

These examples may seem extreme, but there is no denying that Facebook has capitalized on the monetization and manipulation of their customers’ personal data like no other company operating today. The most simple step you can take to avoid Facebook’s reach is to delete your account (Instagram too, which Facebook own). If this isn’t possible, there are few ways to reduce its impact on your internet browsing. Here are a few browser extensions that will quickly limit many of the platform’s tools for tracking your activity and boost your privacy.

  1. Disconnect Facebook
  2. uBlock and
  3. Newsfeed Eradicator

2. Use Tor Browser

While Google claims that incognito mode will keep your browsing activity and identity private, it is still part of the Google ecosystem – so you can never be completely sure. You might want to try alternatives to Google Chrome, Safari, and their competitors by using the Tor Browser. Tor is a web browser dedicated to maximum online privacy. Using 3 layers of encryption, Tor completely masks your identity by anonymizing your location, browser, and activity and batching it all together with every other Tor user. So essentially, you become lost in the virtual crowd. This also means that the more popular Tor grows, the more effective it is at hiding you.

Tor is one of the most popular tools amongst online activists, journalists, political dissidents in repressive governments, and security experts. Follow their lead and start using it today.

For ultimate online privacy, combine Tor with a VPN.

3. Use a VPN based outside of the 14 eyes

Installing a VPN (Virtual Private Network) on your devices is by far the easiest and most effective step to take if you want to increase your online privacy. You can’t be spied on if they can’t find you – and that’s where a VPN comes in handy. A VPN uses military grade encryption, IP masking and other tools to hide your online activity while on both private and public networks. This helps keep your location hidden, your data safe from leaking or theft, and your browsing activity secret from corporate and governmental tracking.

To go a step further, make sure that your VPN provider is outside the jurisdictions of the 14 Eyes surveillance alliance.

4. Try to avoid using Smart Home Products

It’s actually quite surprising that the recent story about 1,000s of Amazon employees listening to customers through their Alexa devices didn’t receive greater news coverage. Maybe it just shows how desensitized we’ve all become to such stories. It also shouldn’t be too surprising to anybody concerned with online privacy. Since the earliest days of smart home devices, security experts have been warning us about the ease with which they can be hacked and used to spy on households. Companies like Amazon may only be listening in for marketing purposes, but plenty of criminals are using them to track your routines and steal your identity.

The most effective way to be sure nobody is spying on you in your own home, through your smart devices, is to avoid using them altogether.

5. Start using Cryptocurrency for Payments

If you can ignore all the hype and noise around Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies’ rollercoaster prices, and focus instead on its core principles and uses, you’ll understand how it is a great tool for online financial privacy. Aside from companies tracking your online purchases and using this to manipulate you into buying more stuff, online financial fraud is one of the biggest, ever-present aspects of using the internet. From the very first online transactions, conmen, fraudsters, and thieves have been finding ways to extract money from your bank accounts and credit cards.

One way to shield yourself from this happening is to separate your online transactions from your bank accounts. This is one of the many uses of Cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin. Despite what many people will tell you, Bitcoin is not 100% anonymous. However, by using a Bitcoin address to pay for online goods and services, and taking extra measures like shuffling your purchases amongst multiple bitcoin addresses, you can add a layer of privacy to your online transactions not possible with traditional banks and credit cards.

It can sometimes feel like maintaining privacy while using the internet is a crazy, unrealistic dream. This doesn’t have to be the case, however. By taking the simple, quick steps outlined here, you can easily boost not just your online privacy, but also safety from hacks, data leaks, and other forms of cybercrime. Using the internet will feel a lot less like you’re under siege from advertisers, governments and other shady figures, and free to browse in complete anonymity.

The Dangers of Public WiFi

Woman looking at Security Cameras

WiFi is a miraculous invention that allows for simple and effective public internet usage over a wireless connection. With so many public establishments offering free wifi, it has become very easy to simply log in while you’re sitting at your local coffee shop and browse away.

Of course, there are some dangers that every user should be aware of while using the internet, especially if they are using public wifi. Although many public wifi providers employ stringent security measures to help curb illicit activity over their services, the use of public wifi still poses a very real danger to those who browse on it unawares.

So what kind of things should we be aware of when we’re using public wifi? What kinds of risks are we taking when we log on to public wifi hotspots unprotected? And what are some of the ways we can protect ourselves? The solutions can range from simple habit changes to finding the best VPN services out there to help protect your connection.

What are the risks?

The most obvious risk that goes along with unprotected wifi usage is identity theft. Hackers and other malicious actors are very proficient at scraping identifying information from little slip-ups in public and are ready to use that information to access your bank accounts and other secure services.

Another thing that you’re at risk of is the loss of privacy. People may be able to gain access to your private emails, documents, pictures, and video without your knowledge. Certain types of attacks can even give hackers access to your webcam and microphone long after you’ve logged off of the hotspot you were using!

These types of things can be very scary and unwanted, so it’s definitely important to try and curb these risks whenever you use public wifi. The first step to protecting yourself here is to stay informed. Knowing is half the battle, so you’ll want to know exactly how these hackers and no-goodniks plan on stealing your data.

How does this happen?

There are a number of crafty ways that hackers have of getting into your stuff and stealing what they want. Being aware of these strategies is going to be your main weapon against unsafe wifi usage. Keeping these sorts of malicious strategies in mind whenever you use risky wifi hotspots will cause you to act more cautiously as you connect and browse.

  • Malware and spyware. This is malicious software that actors will try and illicitly install on your machine. With stuff like this, the possibilities are endless. The malware may just brick your computer, or it could hijack part of its processor for international espionage. Spyware is bad too and allows the attacker to mine data from your machine and potentially access sensitive information.
  • Man-in-the-middle attacks are an attempt by a hacker or other entity to place their access in the middle of a connection that their victim believes is secure. The best way to think of this is to consider it similar to eavesdropping. The methods behind this can range from brutish to ingenious, but the end result is typically a loss of sensitive information.
  • Malicious hotspots are wifi hotspots set up by hackers or other no-goodniks with special hidden settings that give them access to traffic moving through the hotspot, and potentially even the devices that connect to it. This one can be especially insidious because any hotspot you connect to in public can potentially be compromised. One thing to look out for is hotspots with names that don’t look right, or that are simple misspellings of trusted establishments.
  • Snooping and Sniffing is similar to malicious hotspot usage but doesn’t require a compromised hotspot in order to work. Basically, hackers use special software kits designed to allow them to spy on wifi signals. Using this method, attackers can potentially gain access to everything you do online, so it’s important to always be vigilant.

There are a few easy steps you can take to make your connection more secure right off the bat;

  • Disable any file sharing settings on your device. This will stop your computer from automatically sending and receiving files, which obviously makes it that much harder for malicious people to access them.
  • Only use websites with “HTTPS” next to the URL. These websites employ encryption for security purposes and are safer to log into over public wifi channels.
  • Always remember to turn off your wifi and Bluetooth when you’re done using them. This will prevent your computer from automatically connecting to illicit hotspots and compromised devices.
  • Use a VPN. A virtual private network, or VPN, allows you to tunnel your connection through a private secure server. This lets you keep your identity safe while browsing and can also have other perks like unblocking region-locked content. The best VPN services also have malware protection features.

The Books of 2018

Books by Oinam (2018)

I have a fascination with the novel by Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things. It is that one novel which I remember while starting to read serious fiction. Of course, I went through the usual teen-romance, teen-detectives, et al before I outgrew them soon enough in my early days. This year, I decided to re-read her book and it took me a really long time to finish it.

For quite a while, I’ve been practicing minimalism. Sometime last year, I decided to experiment with the idea of “essentialism” instead of just plain minimalism — stick to the essentials but pick the best possibilities in it. I like to consider minimalism as one of many ways to essentialism. I re-read Joshua Becker’s book – Simplify. If you’re into minimalism and want to explore more, you should also watch, Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things.

My target for 2018 was to read about 50 books but ended up short at about 40. Some were re-reads and it was a good decision. Going forward, instead of trying to read more, I’ll experiment with re-reading good ones and going deep into them — less but more quality time with each book.

I also continued with the habit of including physical versions of the books that I read. That is one way to make my daughters learn and practice “reading books”. Reading on a Kindle makes them feel like I’m just looking at another screen.

I have lined quite a list of interesting books for this year.

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What the Crypto: The Availability of Cryptocurrency

Over the past several years, cryptocurrencies have suddenly become quite popular. People from all parts of the world trade and invest in it, and some even make millions. The market value of each cryptocurrency also bolsters the fact that they are not going anywhere soon.

There are more than 2,000 cryptocurrencies available in the crypto market, set at different prices. You can get familiar with the top 25 by taking a look at the infographic provided below.

The prices are determined by how popular the cryptocurrency is and how many people are trading with it. The more people that trade, the higher the value.

The most popular and oldest cryptocurrency is Bitcoin. It was created in 2009 by a pseudonymous cryptographer. It has the best value because one Bitcoin sells at over $6,500, making it the most expensive cryptocurrency. At some point in 2017, one Bitcoin sold for as much as $19,000. However, it seems to have stabilized at the current price.

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Technology for the Elderly

The population is aging more rapidly than at any point in history. Healthcare improvements along with a better understanding of good nutrition and healthy habits allow us to advance to older ages with greater health than ever before. 

However, even with the best care aging can present problems. Thankfully, technology has been keeping up with the evolving needs of an aging population and the latest advancements have the potential to make our retirement years far more enjoyable than you may have imagined possible only a few decades ago. 

Aging in Place

Aging in place was often impossible. As people age their mobility becomes more limited and walking up and down a flight of stairs repeatedly simply becomes impossible. Because of this, many elderly homeowners would sell their home and move to a single-story residence or transition into a retirement community. Even if this wasn’t what they necessarily wanted, it was frequently the only logical option. 

Fortunately, technology has made elevators and lifts for elderly homeowners a possibility for an increasing number of individuals. Originally, this technology was cost prohibitive for the average person but it has been refined extensively over the past decades and is now an affordable option for many more retirees.  

Another innovation which has made aging in place a more viable solution for homeowners is the ability to work from home. In the past, many retirees would find their decreased income made it impossible to remain in the larger home they had once easily afforded. Working outside of the home in lower paying jobs was an option, but not as enjoyable or rewarding in many ways as their previous careers. The internet has made it possible for retirees, and anyone else, to create a business they love from the comfort of their own home which can provide the needed financial resources to age in place while continuing to do meaningful work.

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