Obscure News Archive

This is an archive of news items relating to Obscure. Current news items are available on the main home page.

Archived News Items

Service Interruption due to Derecho Storm

(posted July 5th, 2012)

From approximately midnight on Saturday, June 30th to midnight on Tuesday, June 3rd, obscure.org was down due to a power outage in the wake of a massive derecho storm that left the DC area bruised. Most mail should get delivered and things should be back to normal within 24 hours. I found and fixed several problems with DNS redundancy during the outage. If you don't measure it, it's not science, and if you don't monitor it, it's not production-ready.

We may need to spend some money on a generator to avoid such a long outage in the future. Please consider donating to Obscure if you can.

Richard Bullington-McGuire
President of The Obscure Organization

System Compromise: Password Reset / Software Reconfig Needed

(posted October 5th, 2009)

On Friday, October 2nd, I discovered that Obscure had suffered a serious system compromise. The intruder gained root access and installed an SSH trojan that recorded several dozen passwords. They appear to have had access to the system since at least September 17, 2009, a little more than two weeks.

Because of this, I have locked all user accounts and you need to call either me (Richard Bullington-McGuire) at +1 571 236 0938 or contact Faisal Jawdat if you have his contact information in order to receive a new password.

Since this compromise is related to account passwords, I have also locked down insecure network services, including:

I have completed backup and system audit procedures and have a reasonable level of confidence that we have mitigated the intrusion. However, the intruder potentially had access to every file stored on the machine, so if you have stored sensitive data like account passwords in your Obscure account, please take stock of what your exposure might be and take appropriate steps to safeguard your information.

We may still need to spend some more money on backup hardware and incident response. Please consider donating to Obscure if you can.

If you run a system that shares users with Obscure, you should double-check your SSH and SSHD binaries for signs of tampering, and look for the path /usr/local/share/0wn on your system:

strings /usr/bin/ssh /usr/bin/sshd | grep 0wn

Outbound Mail trouble

(posted July 25th, 2009)

You may have trouble sending outbound mail for a couple days, but we are working on the problem.

Verizon changed our IP addresses on Friday, and our new reverse DNS entries are for Verizon's pool of dynamic addresses, so anti-spam blacklists are blocking mail coming from us.

We have a request open with Verizon to fix the problem, and get us good reverse DNS entries again.

IP address change

(posted July 25th, 2009)

If you have DNS records pointing to obscure.org, please change the IP address to 173.79.175.36.

Obscure Hardware Trouble

(posted October 23th, 2008)

Obscure's main server suffered its second major disk array failure in one month, requiring a restore from last night's backup onto borrowed hardware. The system was down from 7 AM - 11 AM, and we lost data from 1 AM to 7 AM. We are going to evaluate our options for replacing the current setup with other arrangements.

Scratch Lesson Plans Published under GFDL and CC BY-SA licenses

(posted July 15th, 2008)

We are pleased to announce that we are releasing the Creative Computer Exploration with Scratch lesson plans under two free content licenses: the GNU Free Documentation License and the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported licenses. As part of this publication, we have also opened up our wiki to the public.

Third Scratch Seminar Announced

(posted May 8th, 2008)

We are proud to announce the third session of our newest program, to be held at Campbell Elementary in Arlington, Virginia, from May 7th to June 4th, 2008. This session is an intermediate class, following on the two beginner classes we held earlier this school year, again using Scratch to teach kids about design, programming, animation, and math.

Intermediate Scratch: Creative Computer Exploration (3rd-5th grade)

In this class, students will build on the skills they learned in the "Introduction to Scratch" class to design and implement larger and more complex computer games, animations, stories, and art. We will work on strategies for collaboration and add sounds and photos we record to our projects.

Obscure support for the One Laptop Per Child project

(posted April 28th, 2008)

We are pleased to announce that we are providing operational support to the OLPC Learning Club D.C., by running a Jabber server. This should help foster communication among XO laptop users and developers in the Washington, D.C. area.

If you have an XO laptop, and you are in the Washington, D.C. area, you can connect to our chat server by issuing this command in the Terminal activity, and restarting your XO:

sugar-control-panel -s jabber dc.olpc.obscure.org

For more information on this service, please see the OLPC wiki entry on this topic.

New Server Migration In Progress

(posted April 20th, 2008)

We have just switched to our new server hardware, and migrated all user accounts, web sites, and programs to the new machine. Right now we are still configuring the server software, so things might still be a bit broken. Please send mail to Richard Bullington-McGuire if you notice problems.

Second Scratch Seminar Announced

(posted Feb 3rd, 2008)

We are proud to announce the second session of our newest program, to be held at Campbell Elementary in Arlington, Virginia, from February 20th to March 26th, 2008. We are using Scratch to teach kids about design, programming, animation, and math. Here is the announcement that will go out to parents soon:

Introduction to Scratch: Creative Computer Exploration (3rd-5th grade)

In this class, students will explore how to create games, animations, stories, and art using Scratch, a computer learning tool that teaches programming and design skills. Students will draw pictures, add sound and movement, and share their projects with the class. Admissions preference will be given to students who have not taken this class before. We are planning an Intermediate Scratch class in the Spring term for students who have taken the Introductory course.

Obscure account holders can help help plan the class on our private Wiki and review our progress notes from our first session.

We are interested in finding volunteers who would like to propagate this program to other schools and settings. Please contact Richard Bullington-McGuire if you have questions about this program.

Richard Bullington-McGuire
President of The Obscure Organization

New Obscure Officers for 2008 Selected

(posted Feb 3rd, 2008)

At the first meeting of the new board, on January 13th, 2008, we chose new officers for 2008:

2005 Obscure Organization Officers

Richard Bullington-McGuire
President of The Obscure Organization

Obscure Annual Meeting for 2007: Saturday, Dec 8th, 3 PM

(posted Dec 2nd, 2007)

Obscure will be holding its 2007 annual membership meeting on December 8th at 3:00 PM at Obscure headquarters (and the home of current Obscure President Richard Bullington-McGuire) -- 300 S. Jackson St., Arlington, Virginia. The main issue on the agenda will be the election of a new board of directors.

Three of the directors currently serving are running for re-election: Richard Bullington-McGuire, Shawn Ferry, and Jean Stoner. We have identified two new candidates for the board: Karen Hoofnagle and Christopher Masters. You can help the future direction of the organization by electing directors who will help move the organization forward. Nominations can also be made at the member meeting, and write-in candidates are also allowed. Candidate statements for board nominees are available online .

At the meeting, we will discuss our accomplishments since the last meeting and our goals for the coming year. We are pleased to announce a new program, a seminar that teaches elementary school students to create art, music, stories, and computer games using a computer program called Scratch. See the Obscure Wiki for more information on this project. A valid Obscure user name and password are currently required to view this page. We will have a presentation on this new program, including a short video that introduces the software and the sorts of creative projects it enables.

We will also solicit input from the members on how the organization is meeting its goals. Finally, we will review the financials for 2005, 2006, and 2007 and the budget for 2008.

If you plan on attending in person and need directions, see this map or call 703-979-4380.

We've just sent all members for whom we have street addresses a paper version of this message in the mail. That version includes a ballot and a pre-addressed return envelope. If you have moved recently and haven't informed us of your new address, you might not get the mailing. If you think that may happen, and you won't be attending the meeting in person, please download the ballot, print it, and return it to us.

Thank you for your support!

Richard Bullington-McGuire
President of The Obscure Organization

Obscure is seeking new board members

(posted Mar 14th, 2007)

The Obscure Organization is seeking new board members to serve in 2007. Three of five of the five current board members (Richard Bullington-McGuire, Shawn Ferry, and Jean Stoner) will be running for re-election, but we need at least two more Obscure members to have a full slate. Any dues-paying member of Obscure is eligible to run for the board. Please send email to our Secretary if you are interested.

Accidental domain registration lapse

(posted March 14th, 2007)

At 2:00 AM today, obscure.org's domain name registration accidentally lapsed. We paid the bill within three hours, but some people may have trouble reaching Obscure today, and some mail may have bounced. Also, some of the domains hosted on Obscure may experience a similar temporary outage due to this oversight.

New antispam measures

(posted May 27th, 2006)

We have just started using some new anti-spam blacklists to block delivery of mail coming from open relays, open proxies, known spammers, and other spam sources. If you experience difficulty with your mail client, please call Richard at 703-979-4380. As a workaround, you can use the webmail client while we resolve your issues.

Obscure is seeking new board members

(posted Jan 29th, 2006)

The Obscure Organization is seeking new board members to serve in 2006. Three of five of the five current board members (Richard Bullington-McGuire, Sean Ferry, and Jean Stoner) will be running for re-election, but we need at least two more Obscure members to have a full slate. Any dues-paying member of Obscure is eligible to run for the board. Please send email to our Secretary if you are interested.

Warning! Beware spoofed messages claiming to be about Obscure accounts

(posted May 3rd, 2005)

Today we've seen an onslaught of fake trojan horse messages purporting either to be from info@obscure.org, or referencing www.obscure.org, that have some sort of worm attached. Be on the alert for these. If you received a message looking similar to the one below, please don't open the attachment. Obscure only ever sends out account and password information in PGP encrypted email, not in some random zip file.

Date: Tue, 03 May 2005 12:42:12 GMT
From: info@superdada.com
To: rbulling@obscure.org
Subject: Your Password
Parts/Attachments:
   1 Shown     8 lines  Text
   2          55 KB     Application
----------------------------------------

Account and Password Information are attached!

Visit: http://www.superdada.com



*** Server-AntiVirus: No Virus (Clean)
*** "OBSCURE" Anti-Virus
*** http://www.obscure.org
    [ Part 2, Application/OCTET-STREAM (Name: "account_info-text.zip")  73KB. ]
    [ Cannot display this part. Press "V" then "S" to save in a file. ]

New Obscure officers selected

(posted May 3rd, 2005)

At the first meeting of the new board, we welcomed newly elected directors Jean Stoner and Shawn Ferry. The board chose new officers and set a meeting schedule for the rest of the year.

2005 Obscure Organization Officers

2005 Board Meeting Schedule

All meetings will be at Obscure Headquarters, at 300 South Jackson Street, in Arlington, Virginia

Annual Meeting scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 30th, 2004

(posted December 18th, 2004)

Obscure will be holding its second annual member meeting on Thursday December 30th, 2004 at 8:00 pm at Obscure headquarters (and the home of current Obscure President Richard Bullington-McGuire), 300 South Jackson Street, Arlington, Virginia. The main issue on the agenda will be the election of a new board of directors. Of the five directors currently serving, three are running for re-election (Richard Bullington-McGuire, Faisal Jawdat and Colin MacDonald). Two current directors will not be running again. This gives you the opportunity to help guide the future direction of the organization by picking directors who will help move the organization forward. Two Obscure members have been nominated for the board, Shawn Ferry and Jean Stoner. Nominations can also be made at the member meeting, and write-in candidates are also allowed. Candidate statements for board nominees can be viewed online.

At the meeting, we will also solicit input from the members on how the organization is meeting its goals. We will recruit volunteers for existing member committees to help run the organization and suggest future directions. Finally, we will review the financials for 2004 and the budget for 2005.

If you plan on attending in person and need directions, see this map or call 703-979-4380.

Faster connection is here

(posted November 23rd, 2004)

Obscure is now sitting at the end of a new 6.0Mbps downstream / 768Kbps upstream ADSL connection. The company donating the Internet connectivity to Obscure did an upgrade to their Internet service. This connection is twice as fast upstream and four times as fast downstream as the previous connection. Just think—nine years ago, Obscure got by with internet access provided by a single 28.8Kbps modem running full-time SLIP.

New server active!

(posted April 14th, 2004)

The new server we've been configuring for most of the last year is now online! Please bear with us while we work out the kinks over the next few days. This new machine should bear up under the load of increased spam and traffic.

Buried under Spam

(posted February 22nd, 2004)

We're currently doing emergency mail system maintenance to fix a SpamAssassin problem that has slowed everything down to molasses-like speeds. The system has been partially accessible all day, but we hope to have things up again by midnight. Once the smoke clears, we should have SpamAssassin 2.55 running instead of 2.44 (a big improvement).

Membership Meeting Results

(posted December 28th, 2003)

The December 20th membership meeting was a big success. Nine people attended in person, and we recorded 22 valid votes for the board of directors, including votes by mail. We gathered feedback from Obscure members on possible future programs, and formed new committees to help Obscure operations going forward.

Obscure member meeting attendees
Photo: Obscure member meeting attendees
© 2004 Dan Brown. Used with permission.

The 2004 Board of Directors will be:

Membership Meeting time set:
2 PM on Dec. 20th

(posted December 16th, 2003)

The meeting time for the December 20th membership meeting has been set for 2 PM at the Common Grounds coffeehouse in Clarendon. Note that this time was incorrectly reported as Noon on the web site earlier. Sorry about the confusion!

Membership Meeting on Dec. 20th

(posted December 8th, 2003)

Obscure will be holding its first annual membership meeting on December 20th, 2003, at 2 PM at the Common Grounds coffeehouse in Clarendon , at 211 Wilson Blvd. in Arlington, Virginia (2 blocks from the Clarendon Metro stop). The main issue on the agenda will be the election of a new board of directors. Of the five directors currently serving, only two are running again (Richard and Patricia Bullington-McGuire). This gives you the opportunity to help guide the future direction of the organization by picking directors who will help move the organization forward.

At the meeting, we will also solicit input from the members on how the organization is meeting its goals. We will form member committees to help run the organization and suggest future directions. Finally, we will review the financials for 2002 & 2003 and the budget for 2004.

Candidate Statements are available for all of those running for the board. Ballots have been mailed to all members with current addresses on file.

Obscure Benefit
Saturday, Dec. 13th @ chiarOscuro

(posted November 15th, 2003)

We are currently gearing up for a fundraiser and membership drive in December and we need volunteers! The fundraiser is scheduled for the night of Saturday, December 13th at the chiarOscuro event at The Edge nightclub in Washington, D.C.

Full details on the event are avaliable on our fundraising page.

We need:

  1. People to organize and help out during the event.

    This includes setting up for the event, coordinating with the event location, manning stalls, etc. We are looking for all sorts of people and ideas.

  2. Creative works by Obscure users and members.

    If you are an artist or have used Obscure to do some technological work, we are interested in showing you off at this event.

Let us know if you are interested in helping out (even if you can't make the meeting)!

Good News on Tax-Exemption, Fundraising, Equipment

(posted June 9th, 2003)

We have reached several new milestones recently:

The IRS confirmation of our tax exempt status gives us more freedom to solicit donations, since we can now assure our donors that their membership dues and contribututions are tax-deductible to the fullest extent that the law allows.

The new hardware and software will give Obscure a solid foundation on which to build its technical programs. We will be purchasing the operating system software and installing it on the hardware in the next few weeks. We had to switch servers partly because the operating system that we were using reached the end of its support lifetime. The new operating system has a five-year support window, so we won't run into the same issue for a long time (and there will almost certainly be an easy upgrade path this time around).

March 14th, 2003

Our fundraising campaign to raise money for a new server is going well; we've raised over $500 since February 23rd. Two generous members have offered to match the first $5 of the first 30 contributions to Obscure made between March 12th and April 15th, 2003. Please consider sending a donation now, as your money will go farther than it would have otherwise.

March 3rd, 2003

The Obscure Organization is proud to announce that it now hosts a mirror of the USENET Physics FAQ. This list of frequently asked questions about physics helps support research and education in the public interest.

February 23rd, 2003

Obscure needs a new server! The current server, a Digital Personal Workstation 500a (an Alpha-processor computer running Red Hat 6.2), is balking at accepting an operating system upgrade to Red Hat 7.2. Support for this platform is waning, and future upgrades will be much more expensive and difficult if we stick with the Alpha architecture. Therefore, Obscure is hoping to purchase a new server. However, we need your help to raise enough money (around $2000) to buy a big enough server to handle our present and future needs.

January 25th, 2003

Our new FAQ should help answer some of your questions about this transition.

December 15th, 2002

We are now accepting membership contributions from current and new users of the service. Obscure is now seeking IRS 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status -- this means that donations to Obscure will have the same tax-deductible properties as donations to other publicly supported charities.

Richard Bullington-McGuire
President of The Obscure Organization