The development release of Dyne:Bolic 3.0 was made available a few weeks ago, and is the first version of the distro in a few years. It couldn’t have come at a better time, given all the talk about cybersecurity, ‘cyberwars’, Anonymous, censorship, people getting lifted for online ‘incitement’, lobbying by the media industry, etc. and the uncertainty over what that’s going to mean for the rest of us in the coming years.
Back in 2007, I was using the last version (2.4) a lot. Although it’s primarily a live CD, it makes a pretty good desktop installation, and it also worked nicely on 99% of other computers/laptops I was fixing at the time. The installation of the OS and extra application modules was a simple matter of copying files over.
While I can’t remember all its features, Dyne basically had two selling points. The first was it provided all the software – media creation, edting and broadcasting – to run a studio and Internet TV/radio station from anywhere, using just a live CD that could run on any computer. Apparently, some activists found this useful in setting up dissenting/independent news agencies in oppressive countries and places of conflict. That was the main concept behind Dyne:Bolic. Bypassing more advanced censorship still required some skill.
The other selling point was the encryption, which enabled the secure storage and communication of data, with a little planning. Users were able to create something called a ‘nest’, which is a large encrypted (AES256/GPG) file containing the home directory along with the user’s session data and files. This is automatically detected whenever Dyne is loaded, and can be encrypted and decrypted on any computer if the user has a Dyne CD and a USB drive with the nest. Both could be carried on portable media and easily discarded if required. Again, this should leave all computers forensically clean provided nothing was saved to hard drives. IP logs aren’t totally reliable methods of identifying people, so plausible deniability still works as long as nothing’s recovered locally. The nest system might be replaced in version 3.0 with the Tomb, which is a similar tried and tested system.
Dyne:Bolic 3.0 is different, as it’s built from scratch using mainly Debian code. It will also include version 2 of the Gnome desktop. While those new to Linux will find Gnome the most comfortable interface (apart from LXDE), it does add a lot of overhead, both in terms of ISO size and CPU/memory resources. This accounted for the difference in ISO size between Beatrix Linux (250MB) and Damn Small Linux (47MB), although both were designed for the same thing.
The development release is over 1.6GB, which rules out older computers that can’t boot from USB or a DVD, unless enough proprietary code is scrapped to reduce the ISO size to around 700MB. One possibility here is a method of making Dyne more easily installable to USB, and tailor the distribution to activists using cheap netbooks.