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Thread: Obscure automatic connections guide

  1. #1
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    Obscure automatic connections guide

    I put together a list of obscure automatic remote connections that Ubuntu makes and a guide how to stop them.

    The purpose of this thread:
    1. Educational - provide information to people who would like to know/control what connections their computer makes. Of course, beside bugs, these connections are made for a reason, so the point of this thread is to explain why they are made, and let user decide/justify for himself the need/use for them.
    2. To make Ubuntu better (by exposing bugs - maybe they will get fixed sooner) and more transparent (no surprises in the logs).

    Some reasons to stop these connections may be:
    1. Privacy/security concerns about computer connecting to the internet without any obvious user action/consent (automatic updates being well-known exclusion) - either because user don't want remote server/internet provider to be aware of their online "presence" or for some other reason.
    2. Bandwidth/traffic limited connection - when every byte counts.

    Some of these connections are known bugs, so everyone is welcome to log-in/register in Launchpad and set "Yes, it affects me" status, spread the word and fix them. I think that in order to increase transparency and user trust, Canonical should publish these info in Privacy policy or Documentation (with Mozilla being great example, see (8)).

    If there is any demand, I can try to make a wiki article based on this information - so feedback, suggestions, corrections are welcome.

    List of obscure automatic remote connections that Ubuntu makes (with "Include Online Search Results" switch set to "Off" in Privacy panel of System Settings):

    1). Ubuntu GeoIP services. It is currently used to determine if your timezone has changed. It connects to geoip.ubuntu.com on every boot (or when internet connection is established). There is currently no way to remove the geoclue-ubuntu-geoip package without also removing indicator-datetime.

    To disable this connection:
    1. Launch dconf-editor (type dconf in the dash)
    2. Navigate to com/ubuntu/geoip
    3. Set the value of geoip-url to nothing ""
    (Note: Ubuntu will lose ability to determine if your timezone has changed)

    Relevant bugs:
    Add an option to disable geoip check
    https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+s...e/+bug/1120350
    Reduce the dependency on the geoclue-ubuntu-geoip packages to a recommends
    https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+s...e/+bug/1120358

    Sources/more info:
    http://askubuntu.com/questions/13560...or-and-how-can
    http://askubuntu.com/questions/10691...ry-time-i-boot
    http://askubuntu.com/questions/14258...d-for-tracking

    2). Time update/synchronization - connects to ntp.ubuntu.com on every boot.
    To disable, open System Settings -> Time & Date -> select "Manually" in "Set the time:"
    (Note: disabling ntp can break things that rely on an accurate time stamp and an accurate clock, also if your bios battery has problems you may have to set time manually every now and then to keep clock precise)

    3). Remote videos scope. This scope adds a remote video search engine to the Video lens.
    Due to bug, it makes empty queries to videosearch.ubuntu.com every few minutes, even when "Include Online Search Results" set to "Off" in Privacy panel of System Settings.

    To disable these connections, you can remove unity-scope-video-remote package:
    Open Ubuntu Software Center, search for unity-scope-video-remote, select/open it, click Remove.
    (Note: videos lens will lose ability to search for online videos)

    Relevant bug:
    Empty queries being sent to videosearch
    https://bugs.launchpad.net/unity-len...o/+bug/1079699

    4). Apps Available for Download. Connection being made when you type something in Dash search bar with applications lens selected, despite "Include Online Search Results" switch set to "Off" in Privacy panel of System Settings.

    To disable this connection:
    1. Launch dconf-editor (type dconf in the dash)
    2. Navigate to desktop/unity/lenses/applications
    3. Uncheck the display-available-apps box
    (Note: applications lens will lose ability to search for "Apps Available For Download")

    Relevant bug:
    "Apps Available For Download" are displayed despite "Include Online Search Results" switch set to "Off"
    https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+s...s/+bug/1179179

    Source:
    http://askubuntu.com/questions/37747...lications-lens

    5). Remote Login Service. Service to track the remote servers to use. (Ubuntu 12.10 and later)
    On every boot, when LightDM starts, it pings uccs.landscape.canonical.com to make sure the service exists and is usable before prompting the user to interact with it.

    To disable this connection, you can remove remote-login-service package:
    Open Ubuntu Software Center, search for remote-login-service, select/open it, click Remove.
    (Note: you will lose ability to use remote login from the login screen via RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol))

    Source/more info:
    https://help.ubuntu.com/13.04/ubuntu-help/sharing-remote-login.html
    http://askubuntu.com/questions/135602/i-have-permanent-connections-to-canonical-servers-what-are-they-for-and-how-can


    6). Ubuntu error tracker submission. This program submits crash reports back to an Ubuntu server.
    Due to bug, it makes DNS queries for daisy.ubuntu.com every few minutes.

    To disable them, you can remove whoopsie package:
    Open Ubuntu Software Center, search for whoopsie, select/open it, click Remove.
    (Note: Ubuntu will lose ability to automatically report bugs)

    Revelant bug:
    Constant dns traffic for daisy.ubuntu.com
    https://bugs.launchpad.net/whoopsie/+bug/991481

    7). Rhythmbox fetching album cover from remote sources if no local one is found.
    To disable, launch rhythmbox, click on "Edit" menu -> "Plugins" -> uncheck "Cover art search".
    (Note: Rhythmbox will lose ability to search/discover local album covers. Those already cached will stay in place.)

    Revelant bug:
    Add option to disable fetching content from remote sources
    https://bugzilla.gnome.org/show_bug.cgi?id=700083

    8). Firefox

    How to stop Firefox from automatically making connections without my permission
    https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb...ng-connections

    Mozilla Firefox Privacy Policy
    https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/legal/...y/firefox.html


    P.S.
    Revelant thread:
    Disabling privacy-invasive Zeitgeist, Geoclue, Whoopsie (and NTPD)
    http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=2000108
    Last edited by F27; May 13th, 2013 at 03:21 AM.

  2. #2
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    Re: Obscure automatic connections guide

    I think that in order to increase transparency, user trust, privacy and security, Canonical or community should publish these info in Documentation/Wiki/Privacy policy (with Mozilla being great example, see (8)).
    Go ahead and write it then, that's what the community wiki is for.

    I'd assume you'll make sure the wiki is complete with pro's and con's for each thing you've detailed and not just a list - that'll help no-one.
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  3. #3
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    Re: Obscure automatic connections guide

    Disabling ntp can break things that rely on an accurate time stamp and an accurate clock.

    Removing whoopsie will break automatic bug reporting, helping to make this community driven distribution that bit more unstable.

    I would address your other points but I'm only really interested in the ones that may break peoples systems, now or in the long run.
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  4. #4
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    Re: Obscure automatic connections guide

    It sounds to me like you would be better off using a different distribution, if you object to the way Ubuntu works.

    Instead of uninstalling packages, and maybe breaking something, you can disable remote connections using lightdm.conf, have a look at this blog
    Last edited by cariboo907; May 12th, 2013 at 07:03 PM.

  5. #5
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    Re: Obscure automatic connections guide

    Quote Originally Posted by cariboo907 View Post
    Instead of uninstalling packages....
    Agreed !!

    If you really feel the need to ensure your computer does not connect to these services then at least do it by blocking DNS resolution to the IP address.

    Edit your /etc/hosts file and get the domain names to point to 127.0.0.1.

    Code:
    127.0.0.1 domain.to.block.com
    Make sure that host is queried before dns in /etc/nsswitch.conf

    Code:
    hosts:          files mdns4_minimal [NOTFOUND=return] dns mdns4
    Actually, i need to check the above changes will work still now that dnsmasq points to localhost so i may very well edit this post.

    EDIT:

    Just tested this on 13.04 and the technique of disabling DNS resolution using the hosts file still works. You may have to clear any DNS caches you have.

    However, i still think that disabling key functionality is not the most sensible things to do.
    Last edited by matt_symes; May 13th, 2013 at 12:57 PM.
    Join us on irc at #ubuntuforums. For web chat see here

    If you believe everything you read, you better not read. ~ Japanese Proverb

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  6. #6
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    Re: Obscure automatic connections guide

    I edited the guide: added the purpose of the thread, reasons to stop these connections, notes about consequences of disabling them.

  7. #7
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    Re: Obscure automatic connections guide

    It sounds to me like you would be better off using a different distribution, if you object to the way Ubuntu works.
    Hmm, thats an easy one, I don't like those statements keeping members away from ubuntu just being critical, and privacy concerned.
    On the other hand, the op goes far in his/her concerns. As said by Mark S. 'we are already root'.
    Serious, I would not remove geo-ip. It breaks the syn server. If you care about Ubuntu, I should not remove whoopsy, because the service improves the distro via bug reports.

  8. #8
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    Re: Obscure automatic connections guide

    Quote Originally Posted by cariboo907 View Post
    It sounds to me like you would be better off using a different distribution, if you object to the way Ubuntu works.

    Instead of uninstalling packages, and maybe breaking something, you can disable remote connections using lightdm.conf, have a look at this blog
    I like Ubuntu, and don't object to the way it works (I object the bugs) - I just prefer to be in control of my computer.

    Why should something break after removing packages? Linux is not Windows. That's what packages dependencies system and package descriptions for - you just have to do a research and be careful (Obviously, you will lose uninstalled package functionality). I remove large ammount of packages I don't need from my system, and only see faster boot time, more responsive experience and more free disk space.

    Quote Originally Posted by Soul-Sing View Post
    Hmm, thats an easy one, I don't like those statements keeping members away from ubuntu just being critical, and privacy concerned.
    On the other hand, the op goes far in his/her concerns. As said by Mark S. 'we are already root'.
    Serious, I would not remove geo-ip. It breaks the syn server. If you care about Ubuntu, I should not remove whoopsy, because the service improves the distro via bug reports.
    As I wrote, my main intention is to make this information open, easy accessible - i.e. in privacy policy (like Mozilla does).
    I don't encourage users to remove anything, just point out how to control your experience.

    I did not suggested to remove geo-ip: "There is currently no way to remove the geoclue-ubuntu-geoip package without also removing indicator-datetime."
    What is syn server? I would not even mentioned whoopsie, if it's not for the bug.
    Last edited by F27; May 13th, 2013 at 10:08 AM.

  9. #9
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    Re: Obscure automatic connections guide

    As I wrote, my main intention is to make this information open, easy accessible - i.e. in privacy policy (like Mozilla does).
    I don't encourage users to remove anything, just point out how to control your experience.

    I did not suggested to remove geo-ip: "There is currently no way to remove the geoclue-ubuntu-geoip package without also removing indicator-datetime."
    What is syn server? I would not even mentioned whoopsie, if it's not for the bug.
    yeah, your information is correct, and good to hear you do not encourage removing things perse.

  10. #10
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    Re: Obscure automatic connections guide


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