Sinking into paranoia with hosting services

Now, this post is more rambling and observations. There’s a new trend I’ve been noticing. I use LowEndBox from time to time because well, the offers are the site suggests are low end and I don’t need a 32-cores server as much as I’d love to have that power at my disposal. 

This trend is about the new hosting service providers that have been spawning out from LowEndBox. How they buy, rebrand, and offer the same servers when things go down. It’s business, right? A crappy service provider will give you subpar services. With LowEndBox, it’s usually a person, or two, or three running the hosting business. 

Then it hit me… who doesn’t like getting 16 cores (mind you, not dedicated cores, but vcores running at a really low gigahertz) tremendously cheap? It’s perfect… perhaps too good. You sell cheap services… people buy in, they get fed up after six months and leave. Now, what happens to the data? How do you know they haven’t been taking snapshots of your virtual machine? Even if you were to delete your data how are you trusting your data with in the first place?

At the very core a client leaves, and a normal hosting service will just wipe out the data. But, most of those who promotes themselves over LowEndBox are not your standard businesses. They probably create the business overnight, and say they have been in the business since 2011 but in truth they just acquired the domain in 2018 and Archive.org shows proof that between 2011 to 2017 there wasn’t anything in there. 

So, what I’m suggesting. Or just, simply rambling about because like I said. This is rambling. I am not accusing anyone or any entity. Most of these new hosting providers, behind them, are Chinese, or Koreans. Simply put, they are unreachable to face any real consequence if things go south. 

Now, imagine all the data waiting to be harvested. It’s just sitting there, waiting to be harvested. It’s the real deal here, because if you go with the wrong hosting services I can think of a thing or two that could go down. 

  • Client area logging password when you log-in, you don’t know what’s under the hood of a login area, usually nobody but the creators do. Password re-use becoming a real threat to users who participate in this activity. 
  • Risking all your users data and be held liable for choosing a hosting service that incurs in this practice of harvesting your data. 
  • All users could become targets in brute forcing, credential stuffing, have their mailing address and phone exposed. 
  • Some service providers ask for driver licenses. I would say under no circumstance you should consider ever handing your social security number if asked. 

In conclusion, it’s really scary when you sit and think about choosing a hosting service provider. You don’t know what’s behind each company. I don’t think many people ever sit down and think about this stuff, at least not big businesses or medium companies. But small business owners or entrepreneurs who don’t want to spend much and need that exposure for their service fast. 

As for me, I live on the edge on this one. You can see me promoting some cheap services like ArubaCloud. I don’t have anything of importance nor do I have client data so to be honest all I have is this blog. But, were I to load data from a client, it wouldn’t be service offers from LowEndBox or ArubaCloud. It would be with a reputable hosting service provider. The problem is, how do we identify a hosting provider with integrity? You simply cannot. You are paying someone to rent those servers because you don’t want to deal with all the administration behind it. These days you can simply save a snapshot of a virtual machine, redeploy, and call it a day. 

I don’t think anyone in the industry would ever be ready to accept major players like Amazon, Microsoft, Google scanning and perhaps mining the data being stored in their servers.

Iterative stagnation

I wasn’t sure how to open this blog post tonight. It’s a subject that has been on my mind for a long while and I’ll do my best to explain it. There’s probably a better term or word for this. 

Apple is a trendsetter. I think at this point we shouldn’t question that. Even if Apple isn’t innovating they are still doing iterations of their product every year. As long as there are diehard loyalists Apple will be fine. 

I’m not here to question what Apple has become or what it will become. Rather, observing a certain trend on the latest smartphone flagships.

Over one thousand reasons to say no

These days new flagships are not only having the courage the drop the headphone jack, for no legit reason whatsoever, but are becoming a luxury with the new prices. $1,000+ for a phone. What an insane price! 

Let me toss you an idea. It’s a very silly one, and I’ll probably sound like a conspiracy theorist at best… but what if we have reached the stage of stagnation where upgrading doesn’t make sense? 

If you buy the flagship from 2017 or this year, you are set for the next two or three years because it has gotten to the point that the hardware is just good enough. It’s not becoming that disposable device that needed to be kept replaced every year because the CPU was still crap back then. But from 2017 and on, I’m finding very little reason to upgrade. 

Have you seen the performance on a Pixel XL 2? Sure, it doesn’t beat the benchmark of a Galaxy Note 9 or a iPhone X…. but it’s incredibly smooth. It’s a phone I feel like can last for me until 2020, maybe 2021 until I start feeling that CPU degradation, or battery degradation.

So what’s in the price? I don’t think we are paying $1,000 because the technology behind it is the cutting edge. We are paying $1,000 because you are basically paying the two years you will skip upgrading because your new 2018 phone is powerful enough to last for a couple of years. That’s not good for business in any way. I think the new prices are future-proofing the losses of people not upgrading. 

I high doubt that Apple, or Samsung are paying $500 bucks to make those phones. At best they are probably paying $200-$300 per unit. Sadly, I don’t think there will be ever proof of what I just said so… I’ll take my tin foil hat off and let you folks be. 

Until next time.

Bowers & Wilkins PX 🎧 makes me kokoro feel alive

I always saw myself only ever using Sennheiser products. I had a nice pair of MOMENTUM 2.0 which I ended up selling for the Bowers and Wilkins pair. There’s a very simple reasonable reason on why I ended up buying into a new brand. 

Sennheiser MOMENTUM 2.0 with the earpads off

It all started with the ears hurting every time I used the MOMENTUM 2.0.

I was getting dead tired of dealing with the same problem. After a session of 3-4 hours my ears would hurt in two different ways. The first reason is that my ears were too big and the cans couldn’t help but to clamp hard on me poor ears. It was painful to the point I ended up giving hours of music because if I kept wearing them the pain would increase and I don’t think I signed up for that. 

The second reason is harder to decipher. Sometimes when I listened for longer times and stopped momentarily for a few minutes my ears would be too overly sensitive. I couldn’t bare any sound without feeling disgusted or in pain. I had to stop as even listening to my coworkers was becoming a challenge.

So I set forth on looking for a new pair of cans thus, after hours of researching and hard work I found the Bowers and Wilkins PX.

If you thought of MOMENTUM as a dark and bassy headphone the Bowers and Wilkins has a slight more treble into it (not too much) and not overwhelmingly too light. It doesn’t shy out on the bass either but it’s obviously not a basshead’s go to for bassy headphones. (I wouldn’t know either, I don’t consider myself to be a bass or treble guy. I prefer a more well-balanced “jack of all trades” headphone)

I think what really surprised me about the headphones is how comfortable it is to wear. The build quality is great, sturdy even. I think they cheaped out on the buttons but it’s all forgiven at least from me… because for a product that’s ranged at $400 bucks at least they don’t have the audacity to sell you plastic like Sony or Bose does. 

I find the pair to be well balanced. I read reviews that the sound was muddy or that the product felt low quality… and after using them I was having a hard time believing it. The thing about the “sound sounding muddy” is that if it’s a low quality audio it’s truly going to sound like crap. And I’ve experienced that myself with a few remastered songs, I don’t think all types of genres shines with the B&W PX.

I think the first song that I was just baffled on how amazing it sounded was this track below: 

Listening to Lucid Dreams by Juice WRLD in Google Music (highest quality possible) made me realize that perhaps these were the headphones for me. I enjoyed listening to music so much to the point I would repeat tracks just to enjoy how they sounded and to this date I haven’t stopped doing that.

And it’s not just that genre. Anything acoustic sounds great on these cans. Electronic/Dance music is not inherently bad but I feel like other types of headphones may be more suitable. I just feel like anything electronic may not be best suited for the B&W PX. 

Sennheiser still has my heart with the HD6XX series, but my soul belongs to Bowers and Wilkins.

All that said, give the Bowers and Wilkins a try. This is by no means a throughout review nor do I consider myself knowledgeable in audio. I think after hearing the differences in Sennheiser, AKG, and now Bowers and Wilkins I can only hope to have a modicum of experience when it comes to audio. 

In conclusion, I am a very happy B&W user. My only complain is the sound leakage, it’s a bit of a problem in an office environment which is where I drive the cans. It’s not a deal breaker as I keep the volume around 60-70% but it also means I can’t fully blast it through at least in the office environment. But what I really gained back with the Bowers & Wilkins wasn’t just a good pair of cans I could go rock with everyday, it was restoring my desire to pursue different brands in audio and get to know them. 

I was giving up. After my experience with AKG I just felt it was a letdown altogether. Sennheiser wasn’t providing anything new to the table when you started comparing MOMENTUM and some of the headphones in the HD series. AKG felt more like a downgrade to Sennheiser, but in terms of design I would choose AKG in a heartbeat because I dig their designs. 

Then there’s Bowers and Wilkins which rocks in both design and audio. But don’t listen to me. If you have the opportunity, go try them out.

Two weeks with password managers (LastPass and 1Password)

As a rather “casual” paranoid person security is always something I obsess about to the point I have to take a break from obsessing about it because it just eats me alive. I feel like once you start focusing about security there are so many rabbit holes left open that you never stop closing them.

Whether that’s good or bad, it’s not really a healthy obsession.

I spent two (maybe three) weeks with LastPass and 1Password. Troy Hunt, a security-minded individual I follow and the owner and creator of HaveIBeenPwned has said it best: A secure password is the best you can’t remember. At first I had some real issues with that thinking, I’m used to memorizing long, unique passwords, and I also realized that there were issues with what I was doing. Password entropy being an important subject on all of this, and sadly still a subject that it’s hard to explain to people outside the field. I think xkdc explains it best

 

Another issue is password reuse, something I ended up doing because when you have accounts on over 40+ sites it’s impossible to remember all the unique passwords. I’m guilty, but at the same time I never reused a password on important sites (banks, paypal, etc).

 

Whether the comics comes off as arrogant or presumptuous it doesn’t eliminate the fact that having a good bits of entropy and avoiding password reuse are one of the most important issues. Password managers like 1Password gives you the ability to just “set it and forget it”. You’ll have a secret key and a master password, when combined it will derive a key to unlock your vault.

I started my journey with LastPass and it was an incredibly rough one to the point I was blatantly ignored when asking for a refund.

LastPass is great if your only focus is to just generate passwords and save them in your vault. Where LastPass falls, besides being plagued with security issues (you can make time for yourself to read their wikipedia entry), is that it immensely sucks in the storage area. I couldn’t for the life of me store a simple document of 2MB. It was nigh impossible, you just kept getting “Sorry, request taking longer than normal” to the point of needing to upload again.

I got fed up. I wanted to store my important documents in case I needed them “on demand”. I contacted support, requesting a refund and they proceeded to ignore my request to troubleshoot the issue. I actually played along because I didn’t have anything to lose but time… turns out uninstalling and installing the client doesn’t fix the issue. So I placed the request of refund AGAIN to be asked to record a video on how I’m doing the things. I refused to do so because I’m not comfortable of doing so.

In the end, I told them they can keep the money and shared that I had a very bad experience with them.

1Password by AgileBits, Inc

In waves of frustrations I discovered 1Password. I learned that 1Password had a very strong commitment to security and they were sponsoring Troy Hunt (which is how I discovered it).

The first things I noticed of using 1Password were the following:

  • The user interface is fast unlike LastPass
  • I could upload any big file with no timeouts or problems
  • The integration with OSX is lovely
  • iPad and Android support is superb
  • Had an additional secret key it generated per vault + your master password

Using 1Password has been a delight. I redid all my reused passwords from different sites that weren’t of importance, maintaining a healthy level of entropy in each generation.

1Password also features Watchtower which is an additional service that you aren’t forced to use. It checks how many times you have reused a password, match your password against Troy Hunt’s HaveIBeenPwned, match your email against Troy Hunt’s service. I think my favorite is matching your password against HaveIBeenPwned because THEN you know if your password has been truly been leaked and brute forced/cracked. 

Between HaveIBeenPwned and 1Password? Honestly, I feel secure and confident that my accounts aren’t going to be compromised. But, the thing with security is that you never have that certainty that you are secure. It’s a process of continuous improvement and continuous monitoring.

Beyond 1Password? I have been using multi-factor authentication as an additional layer and I’m currently researching Yubikeys to leverage an additional security layer on top of the services I use.

If you have any questions let me know, the comment section is below and if you want to contact me directly check my Contact page.

 

 

TheHumble.ninja now with SSL

I’ve made some changes to thehumble.ninja as I plan to restructure to site and start purging content here and there. There’s an article I’ve been wanting to write about and it’s about saving costs with Azure, the cons and pro of using cloud services, and how scary it can get if you decide to use cloud services like Azure, Google Cloud, etc.

With that in mind I’d like to emphasize that I do like Microsoft Azure and would love to use it without the constant fear of overage charges, but that’s another subject that won’t be discussed here at all. Now, going back to Azure I’ve read two articles from Scott Hanselman where he goes over demonstrating how to use Azure and deploy cheap containers.

In an ideal world, I would have supported every word he said. Using containers is amazing, wonderful, and just plainly awesome. It gives you that control of isolating services (mysql, httpd, mail, etc) into separate containers and you can cram as many, MANY, applications in your app service plan.

But I can’t simply support it and it’s honestly for a very silly yet incredibly harmful reason that I can’t agree that Azure is cheap. It’s harmful for anyone that wants to run a personal project, site. If you have disposable cash and have never in your life budgeted for a single thing then Azure is for you.

Bandwidth is my biggest concern. Not just for Azure, but for any cloud service. I think Azure VMs are decently priced and competitive, heck I even thought of paying a reserved instance myself for this site (well, many sites hosted in it). As of today, 1TB is $88.65 USD. If that’s not expensive for you then sir, by all means go for Azure as I won’t stop you. But an average joe with an average job like me who just wants to write, and deploy personal projects to the web? 88 bucks is too much + all calculated prices on top of it.

My suggestion to Azure team? Include bandwidth packages in App Service Plans, offer reserved instances to containers/app service plan and I’ll be more than happy to subscribe for the years to come (as long as the prices are reasonable). And it doesn’t have to be 1TB exactly. I think we all need that safety net most service providers offer with VPS and we don’t have that in Azure.

Why? Imagine an scenario that an individual is targeted. See, if the person gets DDoSed Azure has basic protection and I’m sure it can withstand any attack. More so if you have Cloudflare as your front and you keep a good chunk of malicious individuals out. But, hey, the malicious individual just found out that for some reason you are using cloud services to host your site and decide to download 1 million time a 100 megabytes zip archive you offer. That’s 100 TB bandwidth down the drain alone, and I doubt that Azure will throw the towel and say “it’s ok we understand you were targeted and attacked. So we will invalidate the bandwidth usage”.

And maybe my example is overly exaggerated, but my point is even if you aren’t attacked, and you have a medium sized site with 1TB bandwidth usage I highly doubt anyone would pay $88.65 when Digital Ocean, OVH, even Amazon with Lightsail gives you that bandwidth cap at a lesser monthly price. I get it. They are overselling bandwidth. Any service provider will probably monitor your VM and try to assess if it’s getting abused or that’s just the normal bandwidth usage of the server. If it is? Great, carry on, there’s no abuse involved. Most service providers won’t care in the long run because they have so many customers that use at the very least 3-4GB of bandwidth and it’s expected they will never reach 400GB bandwidth as it’s just a bunch of personal sites, etc. Now, if all their customers used 1TB exactly I guess they’d be running at a deficit. I honestly don’t know much of the deals involved with data centers and network usage and there are better people specialized in this sort of stuff than me.

In conclusion, because I never meant to write a post this long. As you can see, I want to use Azure, but Azure is a big threat to my wallet when it comes to bandwidth. Do keep in mind that my thoughts on Azure are going to be a larger post than this, but this is one of the issues that I really needed to throw out there to the public.

As for the site. It’s temporarily hosted in a Azure instance until I decide whether to stay or not. I highly doubt I would stay considering the bandwidth concern. I don’t use much bandwidth but I know sometimes it’s a good 10GB that is used, that doesn’t eliminate the concern though.

 

The Apple experience so far with the MacBook Pro (2017)…

 


I guess sooner or later I had to write about my experiences now that I’ve joined the Apple family. I don’t think I have to make any introduction about who or what Apple is so I’ll try to get straight to the point regarding where I see myself with the products I’ve purchased and give my honest thoughts. Today I’ll be reviewing the 15-inch MacBook Pro, which comes with:

  • 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display packed with:
    • 512GB PCI-Express SSD drive
    • 16gb RAM
    • and a Radeon Pro 570 4GB

Let’s start with a little background about me, the user. I’m a software developer who has worked mostly on web applications, “traditional applications” aka using winforms/WPF, mobility projects, etc. Most of my experience has gone into web development in general and being a developer, in a way, means sitting in front of a computer for countless hours providing solutions to your assigned client, or company. This means you need a reliable machine to do all the heavy lifting I would need to provide a solution. A solution could range from using tools that would squeeze the “life”, meaning it would be CPU-heavy or memory-heavy.

What does all this means to you, or me? Well, for starters you want a portable machine where you can do all that and doesn’t hold you back. You could argue that I can simply do this on a desktop and call it a day in which you are correct. I could do this from a desktop, sadly sometimes things are too fast paced and we don’t have the time to be transferring things from a desktop to laptop and be prone to missing files, missing presentations, missing important visuals. And no, you don’t need a MacBook on all the points I mentioned. There are artists, engineers, scientists, doctors, and all sort of professionals who uses Apple products, not just development. What I mean by this is that as the user you can decide for yourself whether or not all of this hardware is necessary depending on your particular circumstances and needs.

Over the past few days I’ve been using my MacBook Pro. It’s thin, fast, and beautiful. Being all that however, doesn’t exactly justify dropping the amount of money it requires just to acquire it. If you want to start development you can simply buy a i5 powered laptop with a solid state drive and you’d be on your way to producing code.

So let me categorize my thoughts: the good, the bad, and the worst aspects of the MacBook Pro (2017).

The good

The MacBook Pro (2017) is a solidly built beautiful machine. In terms of the build quality I have no beef with itwhatsoever. Everything is and feels premium. It doesn’t have any part that feels cheap, or perhaps I haven’t discovered it yet.

The battery life of the MacBook Pro is incredible. I easily get 8-9 hours out of this while using the web browser, talking in WhatsApp, basically doing casual things. While I haven’t experienced what would it be like doing development on battery life, I’d say I still would have a good 6-7 hours to accomplish many tasks; and development doesn’t necessarily mean you’d just be compiling sources 24/7 either. I could simply decide to just work on new UI mockups, or simply write/refactor lines of code.

The operative system, OS X, isn’t half bad. At times it feels polished, yet out dated. I can’t describe this feeling of unconformity to be honest. I have for weeks been trying to find the best way to describe how I feel using OS X. I’ll do my best to break it down into terms we can discuss. Remember, I’ll be listing the good things I’ve found about the system first.

  • The file manager (Finder) feels outdated. As someone who has used Linux and Windows for years and seeing the evolution of what they could provide Finder feels like it has stayed true to itself for all the Mac users out there. There is a sense of flow when using Finder, one that I haven’t quite mastered yet; as a Windows/Linux user for many years I barely know all the shortcuts and gestures to use with most of mac applications.
  • The App Store is a great start to find applications that can enhance your productivity or simply entertainment (games!).
  • Configuring anything system related is easy with the provided user interface.
  • Multiple Desktops feature is always welcome to anyone who likes to organize themselves per context. A context could be development, anything art related (drawing), or even just simply having a browser in a separate desktop. In my case I always like to maintain my development tools in a separate desktop.
  • An amazing trackpad. Yet a little too big.
  • The main Mac applications OS X with ships satisfy all basic and perhaps intermediate purposes.
  • It probably packs one of the best speakers I’ve heard from a laptop. It’s loud and proud.
  • One big plus is not being forced to use iCloud and still being able to have a separate “normal account” versus using an iCloud account. This is great if you are a paranoid user, or simply a user that doesn’t want too much clutter and wants to enjoy a good ol’ Unix system.
  • Beautiful text rendering.
  • Amazing out of the box printer support. I’m amazed on how effortless it is to set up a printer by just being connected on the same network.
  • The weight is strangely quite a big plus compared to my Dell Inspiron i7559-5012GRY 15.6″ UHD. It’s so lightweight I fear for it sometimes.

The bad

  • Let me begin by saying what a disappointment iTunes is. For the price you pay you’d expect all main applications of OS X to be polished. iTunes is not polished, it’s slow and slightly broken. If you are scratching your head on what I just mentioned let’s being with the green flashes/flickering you get when watching videos in the MacBook Pro. It doesn’t matter how many times you reinstall the applications and what not, it’s purely Apple’s developer fault that while it’s using the integrated card it doesn’t behave well. But, if I choose to use fully dedicated card it performs as you would expect. I don’t really know if this is normal on MacBook Pro machines with just integrated card. If it works for you, awesome! Sadly, it won’t make my problem go away.
  • On the same line as iTunes. The Mail application needs a real user interface revamp. Like I mentioned above, for the price you pay you’d expect the main applications to be fully polished.
  • Gaming on the Macbook Pro is the biggest joke to the point they should just forget about having Nvidia or AMD GPUs in it. Developers just don’t care about optimizing the games for mac and they always end up just hiring a company that just wraps up the game with a heavily modified version of WINE.

The worst

  • The touch bar is probably one of the most useless additions in the MacBook Pro (2017). It’s not practical, it’s not innovative, and it certainly does not resolve any real world problem. It’s completely useless.
  • The ports. The dongle hell is real and I want no part of it.
  • The keyboard feels like it was an afterthought for Apple. It’s shallow feedback kills it for me.

 

There are some points I want to bring up as I wrap up this review. The first days using the MacBook Pro for the first time in my life has led me to a series of disappointments with it and maybe, just maybe I’m not seeing what everyone else sees in Apple products. I honestly don’t think Tim Cook is leading Apple to the right direction while Microsoft with Sadya Nadella at the helm is catching up while elevating the Windows 10 experience each year.

You may think whatever you want of Windows or Microsoft in general, it doesn’t change the fact that they have put so much work into improving their products to the point that Windows 10 has left a better impression on me than using OS X. And before you call me biased if you notice my old post you can see I adore GNU/Linux and have written quite a few posts on the subject targeted to help Linux users. If that doesn’t dissuade your thinking then I don’t know what else will change it.

Going back to MacBook Pro. There are a few things that I’ve been noticing starting with the headphone jack; followed by the keyboard, trackpad, and the god awful touch bar.

“Just give it a chance, you’ll get used to it. Pinky promise!”

Sure, the same can be said to anything. May I remind you that you are sinking over two thousand dollars over a machine? If you have the disposable income that’s okay with me; do whatever you want with your money. To tell people “you get used to it”, to obvious flaws or faults that should be acknowledged by Apple is just preventing Apple learning from its mistake. I get that you love Apple, but it’s time to realize that they want your money more than your love because they are a business (yes, I’m wearing my Captain Obvious cape) and by trying to downplay people’s experience using the MacBook, or whatever Apple product they’ll keep pulling this type of crap and call it innovation.

If you are a score guy I would give this a solid

7.5 out of 10

In conclusion

Don’t drink the koolaid Apple users are giving. The sales pitch of how Apple is innovating everything, sit and think about what have they really innovated recently and look at other competitors in comparison. You may get sucked in with the eye candy snazzy interface and retina display (high density displays). What Apple really has going for them is the ecosystem between iOS and OS X. It’s tight, and it’s perfect for many that don’t want to spend too much time dealing with configurations, backups, file transfers, etc.

Go to a Apple store, use it, try it out and if you like it go for it. I think, for the money Apple asks it’s not worth it and in the long run I’ll probably sell this MacBook for a Surface Book 2.

 

DRM in my ink cartridges?

I’m disgusted at the fact that there’s actually DRM chips in my ink cartridges. I don’t know who began implementing this draconian chip on new printers, but whoever did it really deserves to have all the hell for it. I’m sad to say that in 2016 is where I began to deal with this sort of problem. I’m not the type who sets out to buy a new printer every year as I read everything on PC/Laptop or whatever device with the capability of reading PDF/images files.

Where do I even begin?

I buy a printer, right? Whatever third-party ink I choose to buy for it is up to me. This whole “counterfeiting” ink cartridges is a new level of stupid, it’s the most anti-consumer system I’ve seen implemented these days. Shame on you Canon, shame on you HP, and whoever manufactures printers for the sake of locking in consumers to one provider. The printer industry was never meant to be to be “big”. A family buys a printer and expects it to last at least 3-4 years. Now you want to tie said family to a cartridge sold at a really high price point.

Whatever your marketing team says about the ink “quality” you provide I’m not buying it. The price on ink is too damn high for legit cartridges. I really refuse to support any manufacturer that does this and would like to welcome anyone to suggest any manufacturer that does not do this.

Do you share my feelings? Do you know any manufacturer that doesn’t do this? Shoot a comment or private message me, or get my public e-mail allenskd [at] thehumble [dot] ninja. (Do write a reference to this thread in the title)

“Taking a break”, I wish!

There’s a lot I want to talk about over this month. I think I have enough time to do so, but today I want to talk about letting go projects. Or rather, focusing on delivering. I was supposed to deliver my first app a month ago. I couldn’t due to a lot of complications with Qt/QML in general. TextAreas with images would go up to 200-300mb in memory.

It was insane nonetheless.

I applied workarounds that were quite fragile… in the sense that “I’m doing something I know I shouldn’t because this technology should support it”. I mean, who would have thought parsing and traversing the DOM in C++ would be a giant PITA? I didn’t. A lot of setbacks were because I kept pushing on with the pretense that it was all well worth it since it was C++. I mean, yes, there was a certain leverage using a low-level language. However, does it even matter? I mean, with QML you can easily reach 60-80mb without doing anything.

On the bright side, I never gave up trying to deliver the app.

The last few days I have been researching on Universal Windows Platform (UWP), UWP JavaScript bindings, WinRT Components, integration with Windows Phones. I must say that I am extremely impressed with Microsoft’s work. I’ve read plenty of developers mixed feelings about UWP, heck, even I found the whole thing confusing. UWP, WinRT, metro, whatever buzz name they’d come up.

2016-07-04 (2)

2016-07-04 (1)

As you see in the images. I’ve been cooking up something, something that I really hope to release eventually. When I jumped to C++ I didn’t know anything about it. I didn’t know much about C++, or about Qt for that matter. With UWP, a lot of things comes “naturally”. The permissive nature of UWP with JavaScript bindings is insane. I thought, “wow, QML is awesome!” without ever batting an eye to UWP. When I used UWP JS engine, it was of course a browser. I think at best I used like 20mb of memory. It even ran embedded flash…. something that QML is quite incapable at the moment.

UWP reference (mostly WinRT API reference) feels pretty solid so far. There are times where an implementation won’t work, for example, grabbing my profile picture from the OS. But, in a way this is why WinRT components exists. You can create components in VB, C++, or C#; these components are the bridge for anything that requires intensive processing. Let’s say, “video processing” or “audio processing”.

After spending a whole day poking UWP I feel like this is the right direction. The only thing is that I won’t be able to target Android, sadly. I could fix that with Apache Cordova… but, for now I’m just gonna target Windows devices.

Toying with VS Emulator, Hyper-V + Linux, Apache Cordova, and Windows 10 Virtual Desktops

You know this weekend I took my time to explore a few things in Windows 10 and Visual Studio 2015. For starters, every time I installed Windows, being a Windows Pro version owner I never bothered checking the features it offered, such as BitLocker.

Hyper-V

So, the thing about Hyper-V is that it’s something really, really abstract to the Windows user. Unless you poke the bear you won’t really know what’s in there. Hyper-V is a solution similar to Virtual Box, VMWare, it provides virtualization capabilities to your Windows. Now, why I mention Hyper-V is because it was almost a routine for me to always install Virtual Box after installing Windows, then it occurs to me that we already had Hyper-V to begin with.

I loaded up OpenSUSE Leap ISO and to my surprise everything worked flawlessly.

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You still need to configure the network through the Virtual Switch Manager in Hyper-V else the network won’t work, it only takes a couple of clicks.

Virtual Desktops

I’m a big fan of virtual desktops, every time I winded up using Windows part of me wanted to use virtual desktops because it was a way for me to organize my applications through tasks. Windows 10 finally, after many years, went ahead and added virtual desktops to the mix.

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Apache Cordova

In my internship I worked with Angular JS extensively to the point that I became interested in making mobile applications using HTML/JavaScript. I know of the existence of Cordova, however I’ve never used it mostly due to no interest in it. Curiosity took the best of me, I launched Visual Studio 2015, installed the required components and within an hour I started my little adventure on playing with Cordova.

I have mixed feelings about it. At first sight it feels like the application structure will crumble apart in any moment. It’s not the same having a set of widgets to work with, as in there’s: ListView, WebView, TableView, Layout controls, Buttons, Combo Boxes, and so much more available programmatically through an API. With Cordova you have HTML5/JavaScript and pretty much 9000000 javascript scripts available. Does it mean it’s “stable”? If you stick to jQuery, AngularJS, etc then sure.

Either way, Cordova is new to me and things like debugging, poking around seems too loose at the moment.

Visual Studio Emulator

I have a beef with this emulator… I can’t deploy Qt applications with it as the shader program is not linked. I want to deploy Qt applications because else I would have to disable Hyper-V and I don’t want to do that because it requires me to reboot every time.

Overall my experience with VSE has been nice, it’s straightforward, I just wish it played with Qt nicely. The best part? Qt Creator can automatically detect VS Emulator emulators running so you don’t have to do any extra work.

I hate reformatting.

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I messed up my Windows 10 installation a month ago. Basically, the booting time was 2-3x times slower because Windows 10 decided to

  • Installing the boot loader in HDD 2
  • Installing/Configuring the BCD files in HDD 3
  • All so it can load SSD 1

It feels like it doesn’t make sense at first but it does. I tried to fix it myself but the task was pretty much daunting. I don’t know how it ended up like that.

So today, mostly because I could no longer turn an eye at it I decided to fix the issue. I went ahead backed up my three storage devices because I was also planning to use Bitlocker. Basically, once I backed up the files I unplugged the HDD cables and made the installation on the SSD.

Boot loading time has now been fixed!~

Onto Bitlocker

Now, plenty of you will probably scoff at the idea of using Bitlocker. Bitlocker works, obviously, the present problem is a trust issue with Microsoft itself. I analyzed the situation, and my conclusion was pretty much this:

It doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t, really. First of all I’m no Edward Snowden, I don’t do any questionable activity that requires me to hide my data (that doesn’t mean I don’t want to keep my privacy & protect files versus keeping questionable data). I simply don’t have that type of thing going on for me. Rather, I’m just a normal person wanting better security for my devices. Bitlocker solves that and it has ongoing support with Microsoft.

I have bigger threats to worry about. Social engineering, computer or storage drives stolen, and the list goes on. These things are a major threat that we ignore in exchange for giving in to paranoia.

If someone stoles a USB Flash drive and I have it protected by Bitlocker or any encryption software; I know I won’t worry because I was responsible enough to put a lengthy, complex password. It makes sense.

NSA, and whatever sort of evil is out there is keeping tabs on… people that are threats. I’m pretty sure that a guy that watches anime, tv series, does a lot of gaming, etc isn’t a major threat. The people around me, however, will always be a major threat as you never know if they have ulterior motives.

So yea, my reasoning may not be the greatest thing ever. I WILL keep my files encrypted and protected. I just wish that Microsoft had more guts; but also, their business would be hurt badly if they piss off Big Bro.

So do yourself a favor, evaluate your encryption options. If you have a Windows device with Pro edition, check out Bitlocker. If you want something else, there’s Veracrypt.