We are pleased to present you the third Tails bimonthly report. This report sums up the work that was done on Tails in May and June 2011.

New releases

The new Tails 0.7.2 bugfix and security release was out on June 13th. See its announce for details.

Documentation

All main pages of Tails website have been vastly improved. Content is now better structured and easier to read; it also looks a lot nicer.

Many efforts have been put in the download page that now provides a much improved step by step explanation of how to get, verify, install and use Tails. Screenshots, Windows and Mac OS X instructions are included for even more awesomeness, along with dozens of other tiny little layout and design improvements.

The walkthrough that was initially imported from Incognito is still outdated, but sections that need to be reworked have been clearly labeled as such.

More work on the documentation is happening in the public doc-rework Git branch. Tails developers are not that skilled in documentation writing, so help is needed and much welcome!

Our public email address was renamed to tails@boum.org; its OpenPGP key was updated accordingly. We also have documented how to get to trust our OpenPGP keys.

GSoC

As announced in the previous report, the Tails project is participating in the Google Summer of Code. One student committed to work on the ?tails-greeter, which will enable us to implement many features that depend on a better boot menu. His progress can be followed on the ?project's development blog. The code can be seen in the tails-greeter Git repository and in a feature branch in the main Tails Git repository.

With this new boot menu in mind, a solution was implemented to offer a ?safer handling of administrative privileges within Tails. It will be enabled as soon as tails-greeter is ready for prime-time.

And now?

Upcoming release

Unless bad security issues are detected, the next Tails version will be a major one, dubbed as 0.8. It should contain a few new features:

  • To make Tails users harder to single out from other Tor users, Pidgin nickname generation process was improved.
  • An easily reachable immediate shutdown button was added to the top panel; moreover, the computer is now shutdown when any power-related button is pressed (power, sleep, lid close).
  • Accessibility: install a screen magnifier and a screen reader.
  • The current on-screen keyboard shipped in Tails (namely: onBoard) never made it into Debian. We have been carrying the burden of forward-porting our patches for more than one year. Florence, a new, nicer and more featureful on-screen keyboard entered Debian a few weeks ago and ?should be shipped in Tails by the next release.
  • The PiTIVi video editor is now installed in Tails.

It should also include several minor fixes and improvements:

  • The handling of hardware clocks that are skewed enough to prevent initial connection to Tor was fixed.
  • The firewall was tightened a bit more.
  • Tails build system now uses more elegant and robust ways to disable swapoff and hide items from the GNOME menu.
  • Frequent disconnections while using Gobby were fixed by adding its port to Tor's LongLivedPorts list.
  • VirtualBox 4.x guest packages are now installed. We have prepared the backports that were pushed to the Debian Backports archive.
  • The arm terminal status monitor for Tor is now installed.

This new major release will introduce several changes that might be tricky to get totally right at first. Enthusiasts, your help will be very welcome to test preview images once they are published. Stay tuned!

Installing and upgrading Tails onto a USB stick

As announced in the previous report, a few of us have started working on a tool for ?easy install and upgrade of Tails onto USB sticks, with support for an encrypted persistent volume in mind.

Research has also been made on how to reduce download size (and times) of minor releases. A solution to this problem was thought through and its working was confirmed by preliminary testing.

Upcoming features

As an alternative to ?supporting Flash, we are considering ?shipping a HTML5-compliant web browser. We have been investigating shipping ?Iceweasel 5.x and conducted some initial tests. Doing so would additionally allow us to ?stop using polipo in iceweasel... and the ?problems it causes.

We have acknowledged Claws Mail usability shortcomings, especially when using slow connections. After ?some more research, it looks like Icedove (Debian's rebranded version of Mozilla Thunderbird) could be a proper candidate to replace Claws Mail; a few tweaks and verifications are needed before this happens, though.

Compressing the Tails SquashFS using ?XZ (formerly known as LZMA) compression will lower the generated images' size by about 100MB! XZ has been supported in the mainlaine Linux kernel since 2.6.38, and has since made its way into kernels shipped by Debian. Hence, Tails is likely to use this feature soon.

Patches to mute the system's sound levels at boot time were contributed. However, they need more polishing before we can merge them.

The lack of support of arbitrary DNS queries being annoying for some Tails (power-)users, we have ?made some progress towards a resolution of this issue; the implementation of a proper solution was blocked by bug #3369 on Tor Project's Trac; therefore, we contributed a tiny patch to fix it. This issue will be solved once Tor 0.2.2.x is stabilized and shipped in Tails.

We have also worked towards Tails-compatible support of bridges in Tor and Vidalia.

With respect to ?VoIP support, we have refreshed our VoIP software round-up and got in touch with some of their developers to get a better idea of which one we will include in Tails.

To end with, the Tails core developers have recently discussed nearly every pending task whose implementation was blocked by the lack of a clear decision. As a consequence, our roadmap was updated. This makes it possible for us, and any other contributor, to move forward on many topics.