Fighting the good fight

Years ago, when I got into Linux, I somehow managed to persuade my father that he should run Linux too. I was surprised, but I shouldn't have been; he had a better Internet connection than I did for many years, we'd talk about which 286 system we'd buy (WordPerfect 4eva!), and he had a Blackberry long before I had anything remotely comparable.

Yesterday, I helped him get Tor going. He downloaded the browser bundle (64-bit Linux, natch), and I talked him through unpacking it, starting it up, and setting up a menu launcher for it. It was all done over the phone, which took me back to my days on the help desk: anticipating what the other person will see, telling them what to do and remembering to be explicit at all times. Three's so much you can skip over when you're familiar with the process; there's so much you realize is entrusted to muscle memory, never actually rising to consciousness anymore.

But it worked -- he got connected, he got a feel for how slow things can be, he logged into Facebook (and knew not to click on the "Enable Flash plugin" button), he logged into his bank (!) and even GMail. We discussed what Tor would bring (increased privacy) and wouldn't bring (security). (Complicated; my feeling is that, although NoScript and not having Flash does a lot, it's not their primary concern. If security was my main focus, I'd probably start looking at SELinux or Qubes.) And we talked about what using Tor would do for others: provide cover, camouflage, for some who really need it.

Of course, he's probably the only Tor user within a 50km radius. (No, really -- he lives outside a small town.) So he sticks out like a sore thumb now. We joked about a pixel lighting up on a map in Maryland, analysts scratching their heads and wondering "Is that in the US?" But still: little, tiny, worthwhile things.