Looking at Linux

linux penguinSo early last week i was looking at my blog site, just generally trying to figure what i want to do with this; its not the first time i have contemplated making changes – the fact is i have plenty to say but i like to keep things a bit separate – the kind of stuff i want to say to family doesn’t really apply to friends, and the stuff i want to say to close friends is different again, and then theres a whole level of stuff i want to journal just for myself. I have still been keeping a journal but it hasn’t been practical – i like to keep things together wherever i can.

My first thought was to go for SharePoint or O365 to do exactly what i want –  but it doesn’t really work out to be too cheap, and already at the beginning of the week i was considering moving things again. This is a hosted wordpress.com site – and i originally toyed with the idea of going back to the customised wordpress.org site i had and implementing the security model i had in mind with a little custom php.

Then i was talking to a good friend on Friday which kind of took me a little bit backwards in time, remembering when i tried out XOOPS and Drupal.  To cut a long story short i figured that its probably about time i reassessed those technologies – back when i looked at them in the past everything was a bit clunky.

This weekend i started looking at various Linux distributions again and it felt a bit like coming home after a long trip. Sure they all seem to have gone through significant improvements since the last time i looked at them but still the cores seem to remain the same.

I haven’t made my mind up exactly what i am going to do with all this just yet, For now, i am just seeing whats out there. It will probably be a few weeks before i make any decisions on how/if to start writing custom code again.

Removing audio hum

I have a Logitech H390 Headset and was suffering from really bad audio hum. This video very quickly demonstrates both the problem and the solution. Enjoy.

Introducing virtualisation

Heres a very quick introduction to virtualisation for people that have never seen it before. I had developers in mind when i prepped it – it amazes me that some people still develop on their native OS.

Security

When a company provides you with a shines new gadget they should really focus a little more on security, today I recieved a shines new cable modem from comhem – a net gear GC3100. First thing I wanted to do was configure up my ssh tunnels and dynamic dns; the getting started document didn't so much as even mention this box had an admin interface, which is pretty important. I was too lazy to download the manual so I took a guess. Sure enough when I navigated to 192.168.0.1 I had a password box pop up. I tried username admin – password password – and I was in, needless to say I changed the password immediately. Now it's true that's an internal address and you would have to be connected to the network to reconfigure it but still it's pretty bad. As comhem had gone to the trouble of changing the SSID and WPA2 details on this modem, you would think they would secure the admin password. Apparently not!

Macs are also pretty insecure out of the box as well. By default miniroot isn't password protected which means you can start up the machine without a password and get elevated privs – enough to make breaking into these systems easy.

On PCs people rarely encrypt their disks and secure the BIOS – which means you can bypass security literally in under 5 mins.

People miss the importance of security until things are too late.

 

Mac madness

I really like my Mac – it's an awesome piece of technology but sometimes I can't help but be a bit annoyed at how many little adapters and cables I have to carry – macs have different connectors from PCs, and for good reason.

Here's what I had to carry in my laptop bag:

  • Starting with the charger – my latest Mac has a different charger from the previous ones – it has a MagSafe 2 connector
  • Thundetbolt connector for Ethernet.
  • Thunderbolt connector for VGA
  • USB keyboard – because some of the keys I use under my virtual machines such as the backslash just aren't on the Mac keyboard. Sure there's a key press combination and way around these things but its not worth the hassle
  • Mouse
  • External 2 TB drive
  • External speakers
  • Pair of iPhone earphones

Non related I also carry

 

  • Packed lunch
  • iPad
  • iPhone 5
  • Samsung Galaxy SII
  • Sunglasses (I am an optimist)
  • Whiteboard marked (in black and white)
  • A 5m network cable
  • 3 different types of USB cable
  • iPhone and iPad charger
  • Galaxy charger

 

I actually own two models of MacBook Pro – the 15 inch retina version and the 13 inch non retina laptop. The non retina laptop has a standard Ethernet connector and a Kensington security point which sadly isn't available on the new retina machine – I guess it's the price you have to pay for something so slim and sexy. Sometimes it's tough to be a Mac owner.

 

A call from Microsoft Support

This morning i had a call on my mobile from a number in new york – i picked up because i thought it was a friend who was calling. I was quite surprised to hear an indian woman on the other side of the phone. The conversation went along these lines.

Caller: Hello I am from Microsoft technical support. I am calling because i understand you have a problem wih your computer – it contain viruses and is running slow.

Me: oh gosh, no viruses? what do i do….

Caller: Go to your pc and switch it on. Find the Ctrl key… and press Ctrl + R and tell me what comes up on the screen.

…at this point i hung up. i would have played along a little further but i couldn’t be assed to actually boot up a pc, no matter how interested i was in what she was trying to get me to do. I wasn’t about to let her know i was running on a mac either. Its the first time anyone has actually phoned me trying to give me information to allow them go gain access to my PC.

I say this now to my less techy friends – Microsoft doesn’t just call you up to offer you technical support out of the blue and its a bad idea to do anything on your computer that a random caller asks for. I am shocked by this behaviour but really do not know what to do  – Ive no idea where they got my phone number from, or who i would report such things to.  I am sure there are people out there that do get caught out by this kind of con – it makes me fairly angry, and want to do something about it, actually knowing that theres a person out there – a seemingly harmless indian woman who is willing to help someone hack me – it makes it personal, and offensive – that someone i don’t know wants to cause me harm. Social engineering – actually doing what someone tells you is probably the easiest pay off for a hacker – rather than try to compromise your systems they actually manipulate you into giving key information – be it an actual password or tricking you into installing “diagnostics” software.

There are bastards out there. Be careful!

Siri… What are you wearing ?

Ok, I admit I find myself actually using Siri – it's accurate. I've compared it's functionality to a couple of similar apps available on android and nothing comes close to the accuracy of Siri or the range of things I can do with it. There's a world of difference between British English and US English when it comes to Siri understanding me. Some of the types of things I get Siri to do most often are

  • Set an alarm for 630
  • Set a reminder for 930…eat something
  • What is 75% of 140?
  • What is 50 dollars in Swedish crowns?
  • Where is rhona mitra?
  • What's the temperature?
  • Will it rain tomorrow?
  • FaceTime Lloyd Richardson
  • Send a text message to Cecilia B – are you going in tomorrow?

.. I know they are not complex tasks but Siri makes me do them quicker and easier. I also saw there is a Siri button on the keyboard which means voice recognition for all apps. Cool! I thought Siri would be a fun gimmick that would wear off after a little use. It's not.

Appohollic!

I am a bit of an appohollic and I admit it – it's cool to browse the AppStore on the iPad and to buy new stuff even if sometimes I already have an app to do a job. 7kr to keep me out of trouble is a small price to pay. And most of what I get there does cost 7kr. I don't like buying apps over 50kr, and my average spend per month is 70kr. It's not a habit that is out of control.

Apple did well with the AppStore and with iTunes – making it so easy for people to find music and apps has definately paid off for them. I don't really use iTunes for buying paid music though – I originally kept my old mp3s in my iTunes library but now it is empty on my iPhone because surprisingly I really like spotify. I say surprisingly becuase you only rent your music there and I have never been a fan of renting anything. Spotify is cool yet I am thinking of maybe dusting off the iTunes library a bit – why?

…Becuase of Siri – Siri knows about iTunes and can play music from it – Siri can't play music from spotify. I am hoping that the Siri API is,made available and used by dev, because Siri is starting to change how I work. It can set reminders really quickly.

My only gripe is the British version of Siri only had a guys voice, silly I know. I can switch to American English but its amazing how that impaired its ability to function. I do like apple still, even though I don't agree with everything they do. But Australians out there (you know who you are) – you won't annoy me by saying your android phones are better, becuase I will say the same thing as I have been saying about this kind of tech rivalry since I was 10 (BBC vs Spectrum) – they are both good in their own right, each have their own pros and cons, so deciding what is best comes down to what your taste is, and what you want to do. It's a personal thing, I love android too, but am not such a fan of Windows phone – not because the tech is bad but in my case I don't like the Microsoft look and feel. So don't try to wind me up :) it won't work!

My iPhone 5 observations

Ok I have had an iPhone 5 now since Monday. I resisted the temptation to blog about it because I just wanted to try it out a few days, so my first thoughts

  • Yes it is pretty, sturdy, and noticeably lighter than the iPhone 4.
  • Yes, I feel the extra speed.
  • Siri is fairly impressive, and a lot of fun, and I can see myself actually using it a bit (last night I got it to set my morning alarm!) talking to it was easier than finding the app.
  • Having the 64gb version definitely made the biggest difference of all. I was having issues cramming things into 32 gb,
  • Some apps don’t make full use of the screen and have black borders. They said in the keynote you hardly notice that they are there but you do. It almost feels claustrophobic.
  • The extra space on the screen is cool!

Beyond that – it’s an iPhone – iOS 6 is fairly cool, and the thing I like most is shared photo streams – When I upload a photo it flashes up a message on my parents iPad.

Three Squares at Four Squared

Four square for those who don't know enables you to check in at different places, sometimes you get discounts at stores (rarely) and it gives you points for check ins and allows you to see how many points your friends have and it ranks you and allows you to share your checkins on Facebook

Well it seems my friends are a bit competitive…! My friend (we will call him “Bruce”) was winning and just for fun I checked into a load of places that I didn't actually go to (eg from work I can check in to the pizza place next door!). Of course that led to a shaken fist and a “damn you!”

From there we were checking in everywhere we went; on the train to work we would pretty much check in at every station, but we wouldn't check in just anywhere.Enter Geoff, another friend who also checks in on four squared – and to be honest beat us both on points hands down by checking in everywhere !

Somewhere along the way because there were points involved we all lost track of the purpose of the app – to share with your friends where you are, rather to spam everyone. When checking in becomes a chore and you spend your entire trip to work looking for new places to check into you know you have gone too far!

Time to deinstall it – until I feel social again!

 

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