[tor-dev] Tor meets real users

Robert Ransom rransom.8774 at gmail.com
Sun May 15 22:23:40 UTC 2011

On Fri, 13 May 2011 18:09:04 -0400
katmagic <the.magical.kat at gmail.com> wrote:

> On Thu, 2011-05-12 at 10:59 -0400, Andrew Lewman wrote:
> > A short while ago, I did a training for some activists from a country
> > that is hostile to the Internet.  These people were some of the more
> > technical people from their community.  There was a mix of Windows and
> > OS X laptops in the session.  English was their third language, for
> > added fun.
> > 
> > I walked them through finding tor browser bundle, downloading it,
> > verifying it, unzipping it, and starting it.  Here was the first
> > problem.  They couldn't find tbb on the download page.  Their comments
> > were that all these files and releases on the page were confusing.
> > They wanted just one thing to look at, pick their operating system, and
> > go.  And they wanted the one thing to automatically detect their
> > language preferences for tbb.
> As Torbutton has taught us, browsers send quite a bit of information
> with them. It seems like it would be helpful to automatically detect the
> user's language and operating system, via the User-Agent and
> Accept-Language headers.

That would require either using JavaScript on www.torproject.org or
running a script on the web server.  The latter would make mirroring
the website much harder, so we're stuck with JavaScript if we take that

This would break for people who already use Torbutton, but at least we
can detect Torbutton's User-Agent string, time zone, and other
characteristics when it is enabled.

> > I ended up pointing them at tpo/torbrowser, which they also thought was
> > confusing.  The aforementioned desires weren't satisfied on this page,
> > but at least they could find their preferred language.  They all
> > commented that back home, a 24MB file was too big, and can't they get
> > it via bittorrent or some other piecemeal way?  A 24mb file would take
> > hours to download.
> Torrents are already auto-generated somewhere, though I can't seem to
> find the link at the moment.

Moritz Bartl generates them and hosts them somewhere on
torservers.net.  Unfortunately, the script currently puts each
package's GPG signature in a separate torrent from the package it signs.

> > Once they finally downloaded it, they all double clicked on their
> > resulting zip file.  In fact, all of the mac people ended up
> > downloading the windows tbb and unzipped it correctly.  In all cases,
> > their operating system handled the zip file correctly. After fixing the
> > mac people with mac tbb, we moved on to the next step.
> > 
> > None of them had pgp installed, and therefore no way to verify the .asc
> > and zip file.
> GPG4Win[1] somewhat usable, though it's still not as easy as Seahorse
> and such on Linux. Doesn't Microsoft have a built-in way to digitally
> sign binaries?

GPA (the main GUI tool shipped in GPG4Win) doesn't provide a way to
check detached signatures, and GPGEx (the shell extension shipped in
GPG4Win) isn't compiled for 64-bit Windows.  (I don't know whether
GPGEx provides a way to check detached signatures on 32-bit Windows

Windows does provide a way to check signatures on .exe files, but it
uses the SSL trust model (i.e. any member of the ‘Authenticode’
equivalent of the ‘SSL mafia’ can issue a code-signing certificate with
any signer name).  It is possible to verify the fingerprint of the
certificate for the key which actually signed the program file, but
users are unlikely to do that.

> > Most of them figured out to click inside the resulting folder and start
> > the 'start tor browser' program.  For all of the macs, the tbb didn't
> > start.  The people had to restart the system and then clicking on
> > 'start tor browser' worked as expected.  
> > 
> > As tbb was starting up, nearly all of them clicked on 'start tor
> > browser' one to three times more, because they didn't see anything
> > starting up.  In fact, it was starting, it just wasn't instantaneous.
> > I worry about forcing a splash screen that announces "I'm using Tor!"
> > on the screen, but at the same time, it would let users know that tbb
> > is starting.
> This is a problem among many users, though one that is rather unrelated
> to anything Tor-specific. The solution to this is probably better
> startup notification systems, but that's very much out of scope for Tor.

We can't fix design flaws in the host operating system or desktop
environment from within Tor Browser Bundle.  But we can display a small
splash screen the first time a user starts TBB, and allow the user to
select a more discreet startup indicator or none at all for future use.

Robert Ransom
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