[tor-dev] Tor Browser Launcher

Micah Lee micahflee at riseup.net
Mon Feb 18 21:39:21 UTC 2013

On 02/18/2013 12:29 PM, Jacob Appelbaum wrote:
>> I was assuming that making the launcher depend on a system Tor would be
>> troublesome. However now that I'm looking at
>> https://www.torproject.org/docs/debian again, it seems like it could
>> totally work. What about for Ubuntu users?
> For normal Debian GNU/Linux users, I believe it will work. For recent
> versions of Ubuntu, I also believe it will work. I would also say that
> the launcher could prompt them to actually *add* the Tor repositories
> that fix the problems Ubuntu users may or may not face in the future.

True. I'll start with just a normal Tor dependency, and if only add the
deb.torproject.org repo if it becomes necessary.

>> My workaround plan was to download TBB not over Tor the first time.
>> After extracting it, copy a Firefox extension into the TBB profile, and
>> then run it. From that point on, the extension would be in charge of
>> checking for updates, downloading new updates, and telling the user when
>> they should restart their browser.
> I'm not sure I follow? You want to extend TBB to check for updates
> itself? In the long term, I think that is a fine plan - though in the
> short term, I think a simple script can be safer, easier and generally
> better. Imagine for a moment that there was a system wide cache of TBB
> downloads? One TBB to rule them all, or something. Such a thing wouldn't
> be easy inside of Firefox.

My plan was to make the Firefox extension, and then after extracting the
TBB tarball copying the extension into
~/.torbrowser/tbb/x86_64/tor-browser_en-US/Data/profile/extensions and
doing whatever you need to do to enable it that profile. However, since
I'm going to make Tor a dependency, it's moot.

>> What do you think the report button should do? What information should
>> it send back to us, and how should it send it? If there is a real attack
>> and the user can't successfully download TBB, how can we make sure they
>> can successfully report the attack? You can post comments on the bug.
> I'll add comments to the bug.


>>> Do you pin SSL certs? Or fetch from known mirrors? Or...? :)
>> No. I assumed that if someone successfully did a MITM attack on the
>> https connection to torproject.org, they wouldn't get their malicious
>> software installed because of the signature verification. Also, I didn't
>> realize urllib2 doesn't check certs automatically. It's a good idea to
>> implement anyway. Thanks for opening the bug about it.
>> https://github.com/micahflee/torbrowser-launcher/issues/1
> Sure - I find it hard to believe that Python's development community
> actually settled on that as the default behavior. It bites nearly everyone.

Python's development community also doesn't verifying anything
downloaded by pip:

Hopefully it will get better soon.

>> I'd thought about this, but I wasn't sure if this is a reliable way to
>> know which version to download. For example, when I go to
>> https://www.torproject.org/dist/torbrowser/linux/?C=M;O=D now, the first
>> file is:
>> tor-browser-gnu-linux-x86_64-2.4.10-alpha-1-dev-en-US.tar.gz.asc
>> But when I go to the TBB download page, the version I'm presented with
>> is 2.3.25-2, not 2.4.10-alpha-1. Maybe TBB's built-in version check will
>> shed some light onto the best way to know what the latest stable version is.
> Well, which should your users be using? From my perspective, I think you
> should give them the alpha and help them report bugs! :-)

Interesting idea. Anyone else have opinions on this? I think I'd be fine
giving people the alpha, but I also don't want to annoy people with too
many bugs.

Right now it would be easiest to just make it get the alpha.

Or, alternatively, I could download
https://www.torproject.org/download/download.html.en and parse it for
the current version. However, this will break as soon as torproject.org
updates it's web design.

> I pushed a code audit first pass to the git repo, did you see the
> branches that I added?

Yup. I merged in your doc-formatting, gpg-keys, and image-fixups
branches into my develop branch.


And I opened issues for most of things you brought up in the code review
branch: https://github.com/micahflee/torbrowser-launcher/issues

For the things I didn't open issues on, here are my thoughts:


I think it's safe to overwrite whatever is in the version file here,
since TBB isn't installed yet. Unless someone messed with their
~/.torbrowser/ folder, it shouldn't exist yet. The version file is
supposed to represent the currently installed version, but I think I
might refactor this stuff anyway since I'm going to make it check for
updates rather than hard-coding the latest version.


I'm not sure if arch is portable. I could easily switch it to uname -m,
if that's more portable.


If HOME isn't set, what should happen? Should tbb_data be set to
/tmp/tbb-USER or something?


Yeah, we should depend on tar I think.

Originally I wasn't thinking of releasing this for OS X, since I was
thinking it would know about updated versions of TBB when
torbrowser-launcher gets updated from the deb repositories. But now it
seems plausible to make this cross-platform. However, Windows TBB
releases are .exe, which wouldn't work with this.

Maybe this should be GNU/Linux only at first, and future releases could
be for OS X and Windows.

Micah Lee

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