Tails – The Amnesic Incognito Tor-Configured Linux Live System (Archive)
(Editor’s note: Tails is way past version 0.13, so this post is useless for practical purpose. Another one for posterity.)
I stumbled across Tails a few weeks ago while searching for stuff for getting around network blocks. Long story short, I found the Tor project website and noticed a link for “Tails – A Live CD/USB distribution configured to use Tor safely.” I liked the sound of that, so when I got the chance I clicked on the link and began to read through the documentation. It turned out that Tails was still in version 0.13 and that the documentation looked pretty complicated. Also, to burn Tails to a thumb drive like I wanted to do, you had to have a version of Tails already burned and booted because the official thumb drive installer program is part of Tails. I was bummed over this as I didn’t want to burn a CD, so I checked around and realized that Lili (Linux Live) USB Creator, a program that I already had, can burn a live version of Tails to a thumb drive. The only catch was that it didn’t allow for persistence files, but that didn’t matter for the way I wanted to use Tails.
Anyway, I got thumb drive set up and booted from it. Tails loaded to the login screen (see images) at an acceptable rate of speed, which was when I noticed some reasons that Tails isn’t version 1.0 yet.
Tails seemed to work okay; the custom browser Iceweasel opened when I logged on and said that I was using the Tor network. Oddly enough, however, the clock wouldn’t synchronize. Though a pop-up said that Tails was setting the time, the clock displayed completely incorrect times on multiple boots on various computers.
One cool feature that Tails provides is Windows XP Camouflage mode (see image). This is under “Advanced Options” at the login screen and loads a custom desktop/window manager that changes the wallpaper, windows, and toolbar to Windows XP style. The effect is fairly convincing though the Start button and fonts don’t look completely right upon close inspection, and from a few feet back someone not extremely familiar with XP would probably mistake Tails for the 2001 version of Windows.
The drawback with this feature is that, well, it’s Windows XP. The reason you would need the camouflage feature would be to fool people around you into thinking that you’re using the computer’s original operating system. However, many computer nowadays run Windows 7 – and now Windows 8 – so an XP camouflage isn’t all that useful.
In the end, it’s clear that Tails is still under development. However, I think it has the potential to become a very powerful tool. This touches on my vision that someday everyone will carry around small, portable, bootable drives that have their own operating system and security systems.
If Tails gains a Windows 7 camouflage mode and undergoes some more refinements, I think it just might hit the spot. In any case, I’ll be watching for new versions.