Development Notes #3 – How easy it is to fall into the “oh, this will be easy” pitfall.

Photo by Trung Le

Actually I never fell for that when I started. Sorry to disappoint you! (Jokes on you though, things can be seemingly easy, sadly, they will still consume a rather large portion of your personal time).

Truth is after doing this for so long you get ideas of how long things will take. Some will require a lot of time, and some will require more than time, it will require a will and motivation to burn through.

Truth is, it’s really, really easy to fall into hype and excitement of things that you are doing. You’ll start to notice that 2-3 weeks later things are still being worked on, and that in truth that idea you had didn’t account for a dozen of things that site owners may require and you have to refactor a lot of code to accommodate to that.

This, to me is the biggest challenge in software development. Starting a product by yourself is not really a joke. It requires a lot of determination, will, if you may, to power through a lot of the things.

And the same goes for theme development has become insanely complicated with an array of devices with different resolutions they have to re-adjust and re-test their things over and over.

There has been a lot of progress regarding development of the plug-in I’ve been working on. I don’t want to say I’ve had to rework the things I’ve been working on. Rather I’ve had to refactor a lot of the code to accommodate future code so that it’s easier to extend. That itself is rather different than reworking because reworking would be something along: “I had to rework X feature because not only it didn’t work as expected or the implementation didn’t work out.”

So, there’s been a lot of architectural changes, if you want to call them that. When it comes to organization PHP is a bit messy. For me, this time I just decided to keep things as simple as possible. I don’t want to get overly crafty. I just want to get things done. Less classes, less overhead, less useless organization.

If in the future I think of reorganizing it I’ll just work on that but I’m not gonna focus on that.

My mindset is about getting things done. Getting to where I want. No more Mr. Fancy. I love being organized, but I also waste a lot of time on said organization because when it comes down to it maybe the architecture you did for it wasn’t quite well-thought out and you see yourself wasting even more time to have a fancy structure.

My mistakes with pizza dough

Initially I thought making pizza dough was a bit tedious…. and it is if you are trying to open a business and want to get a good savory crust out there.

Here are some of my really stupid yet it could probably happen to you(tm) mistakes I’ve done with the dough.

  • Not letting the yeast activate and thrive within the environment. Believe me when I say if you don’t see ANY foam after 10 minutes in your mix(warm water(110-115F)/yeast/a pinch of sugar) then it’s time to throw out the mix and start over. Or maybe the active dry yeast you bought is past its time and expired (died) or you got a bad jar.
  • Kneading the dough harshly at the start when you are scrapping off the bowl and mixing the water and flour together. Don’t just put all your force into it. Treat it gently let it mix and when you see it’s springing back from the force then apply force and keep folding and kneading for 5-8mins. I’ve done the mistake that because it was too sticky I thought the dough needed more flour so I added more until I ran into a hydration issue…. at the end it was becoming a sticky mess because I applied too much force into the dough to the point it just got all over the counter.
  • Not salt enough. This isn’t a huge issue itself, but not having enough salt will make the dough taste……. bland, like nothing. However…
  • Not having a good quality olive oil for a complex flavor that adds up as the yeast does its job.
  • The elasticity of the dough depends on various factors. Could be it isn’t generating enough gluten because you decided to throw in the yeast at 150F water which will kill most of yeast if not all the yeast. You could have ran into a hydration problem where your dough is so dry it cannot do its job properly. Anyway, elasticity is still something I’m working on… and I’ve found it’s all about having a good healthy yeast that is active and foaming happily.

So…. those have been my stupid mistakes so far. I used to have such a good olive oil and I like my dough to bit a tiny bit more sour/yeasty taste on the side.. not chewy I don’t think I’ve ever liked a chewy pizza.

In search of passive income

I believe I got the answer to this one… anyone that is a developer knows that at times we consider freelancing or creating some sort of software. Sometimes the idea becomes creating your own software to sustain yourself and your family.

Me? I’ve thought about a few things. None of the ideas are easy or even profitable. The thing about profitability though is that you just don’t know if it’s actually profitable. If you don’t do a decent execution on it then you’ll see yourself in a very bad spot.

Freelancing is tiring. I don’t want to go back into it. The mere thought that I’d have to sit down and build a client list is maddening. It’s just a solid no.

Creating software and selling it might be my route. Sadly, it’s a time consuming one if you don’t have all the pieces come together. I’ve always followed a strict guideline of always plan and always keep it as simple as possible and honestly that has helped me not implement unwanted features.

For now I’m just searching for passive income that I can compliment my current one. It’ll be a tough search.

I don’t think Apple’s thinness obsession is far off…

Over the time I have spent with my Macbook Pro I’ve learned to accept a lot of its cons such as a extremely shallow keyboard. Of course, my acceptance has a limit thus I will never accept the infamous touchbar.

I’ve been in disgust with my Dell gaming laptop, a Dell Inspiron i7559-5012GRY. It’s not a bad laptop. It has given me the joy of playing games with it with a really good IPS display that’s sometimes too bright and a not so bad GTX 960M that can tackle a lot of many things and better than this MacBook when it comes to gaming.

There’s a problem… I hate its bulky design. It’s unnecessarily huge, its weight is unacceptable. The Macbook Pro and Macbook Air has the right amount of weight without inconveniencing the user. This is something that I give the kudos to Apple. I’m the type of person that moves from spot to spot in a house and carrying my Macbook Pro around hasn’t been a hassle at all.

I also think there’s a huge problem with my line of thought. I want a dedicated gaming laptop and a general purpose laptop whose battery can last at least 10 hours. When the market baseline price is starting at MSRP of $2,300… then I don’t think at all that asking for a more sophisticated system is far off.

I think the Surface Book 2 in terms of design has achieved a middle ground… and this is the same idea that if put in perspective we could compare it to the Switch. Except, it’s not a gaming console. The Surface Book 2 is a giant yet elegantly designed tablet with a premium keyboard and GPU slapped in. Now, lets think for a second here.

The normal design of a laptop is that you would have all the components of a computer in the keyboard layer below. The CPU and GPU would be at best 11″ inches away from each other and at worst case scenario they would be near each other… punishing themselves with the heat generated by both.

Whether that’s a design to save money or not when it comes to the manufacturing process… it doesn’t change the fact that laptops cooling systems are behind… leagues behind.

There is one company that managed to click with me in term of design and my demands. A company that I was almost willing to throw my money the second they released the product. Razer’s Razer Blade.

The Razer Blade literally had all the things I wanted in a gaming laptop. An elegant yet incredibly powerful design. A thin form factor, and just the right amount of goodness in it. There’s a huge problem though and that is that Razer quality control is god awful. From all the reviews and experiences I read Razer products seems to last at best a year. because they all happen to die fast. If Razer doesn’t fix this… and apparently it has been an ongoing thing over the years… then I guess simply said they won’t get my money at all.

But maybe, just maybe I’m asking too much.

Perhaps I’ve fancied myself too much over the years. I don’t think going through a lot of life situations I would ever buy an Apple product… at all but here we are.

MacBook Pro (2017) Aftermath

It’s been eight months since I purchased my MacBook. I’ve come to accept the little annoyances it comes with and still grief the greater annoyance like the touch bar, because to be honest it’s still one of Apple biggest mistake yet everyone seems to be buying it even though I doubt anyone uses it. 

I updated OSX to Mojave like a month ago. It was a rough upgrade as even the Location Services wasn’t working, and thus the Maps application was giving me a lot of problems for the occasional search. Overall… the dark mode feels half-assed, not like Windows 10 dark mode is any better. I’ve seen better dark themes and I feel both operative systems are failing to deliver a good dark mode experience. 

I think my biggest problem with it right now remains to be the touch bar. It’s simply one of the most horrible ideas ever put in practice. Removing the function keys from the MacBook keyboard sure made me feel hopeless… because games like Guild Wars 2, and any MMORPG that uses function keys are rendered useless on the new MacBook Pro models. 

The keyboard still feels shallow as ever. 

All in all… it’s not the worst thing ever. I can do 99.9% of the things I’m set to do and have yet to come across any barriers. Needless to say, I would happily trade my MacBook Pro for a Surface Book 2.

Stealing back what anxiety has taken

I think it’s time for a little talk. I wouldn’t know where to begin. I just know that if I don’t talk about it, eventually, my anxiety will keep stealing things from me. 

I go by many names and so do many when it comes to the internet. I’ve sailed the interwebs, and have interacted with many people around it. Yet, I’ve never, ever made contact with any of the people I’ve met in real life. It breaks me as a person, because I’ve found a lot of amazing people out there. It sinks me to despair, but it’s all a mental fluff that… well, thing about mental stuff is that it keeps you down, on a short leash for many, many years. 

I never bothered to treat my condition, whatever it is, because I can’t self-diagnose myself and say I have “social anxiety”. The more I read though, it feels like it is what I have. Yet, I’m no professional. 

So I do suffer, and perhaps I’ve given my back to people I didn’t want to do that to. Sometimes the amount of anxiety breaks me, but once I take control as I have done this year, I push back and talk myself out of it. 

And you know, thinking about it… I was never good with people. Sometimes I wondered why they were getting so riled up about. It felt a tad… silly that they would get mad about things. But… I do get mad about things and chalk it up to just… human things. I think, not having that emotional development thwarted any possible growth. Then again, I wasn’t good with conflict either. Most of the time it was just easy to not deal with the emotion, and remain stoic as possible and say you don’t care. 

Not caring is the go-to action for many. Sometimes, deservedly so. You don’t want any extra baggage to process, and perhaps the person gone through a lot already. There’s always a why on the not caring subject no matter if the person says there’s no reason behind it. At least that’s what I believe.

People talking about issues usually begins with a source of grief. Sadly, I’ve forgotten mine. There’s only anxiety, it was the only thing that ever was in my life, became an extension of me. I’d like to get rid of that extension… live life in a healthier manner than desperately scanning a whole area of strangers and calculating possible routes to avoid them. Such a metal gear thing to do. 

I’d like to believe that everyone goes through a personal hell. I’ve learned to never compare my issues to someone whether the person is on the deep end, or faring better than me. It doesn’t take me joy saying, “that’s your issue? worrying about [x] thing? pfft I’ve had it harder”, it always came off as a prick thing to say, undermining the person and the issue with little to no respect to the individual going through it. So, whenever someone comes to me with their issues I just lend an ear, and toss in a few guidances if I can… but usually I can’t, because the person becomes tied to what I say then and relies on the next directions, until the person finds an impossible situation and blames me for all the pointers. So, I’ll just lend an ear, perhaps an advice… but everything else has to be you. 

As for the people that spout that attitude I mentioned above. I’d rather steer clear and find positive people that isn’t on a sadistic path. I feel they’ll take you down as soon as they get bored. Instant gratification sort of thing.

Anyway, I felt like writing a post about this because it was long overdue. There are very, very few individuals that knows about this. After I click publish, so will the world and that’s okay. This is mostly for me than for them. 

I feel like I could go on writing many pages but… long-winded rambling isn’t my thing. 

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.