the itjerk

my adventures with technology

america

It’s not often – ever? – that I get political as the itjerk, but here we go:

As the events of 2017 unfold each and every day, I find myself shaking my head with each gaffe the Donald makes, waiting only for the smoke to clear and find another nefarious raping of a public “good.”

What’s wrong with America?

1. Ignorance. There was a great meme that highlighted the “blue” vs “red” of America, labeling most of the latter (basically white people in less-concentrated population areas) as Dumbfuckistan. America seriously has an ignorance issue folks, perhaps best epitomized, sadly enough, in the line “I’m not a terrorist, I’m a patriot.” All the hot topics – abortion, illegals, gay marriage, the flag, Jesus, libertarianism, guns, support for the military, etc – it’s all smoke. Bullshit social issues that #oldwhitemen get the dumbasses all worked up about so they vote accordingly. In the meantime, the #oldwhitemen are a) widening the divide between the country and b) dismantling all the public good our country has to offer. Public Education, healthcare, social security, even welfare; just like diversity, these are not signs of weakness. They are America’s strength.

2. #oldwhitemen. Why anyone is voting for people over the age of 55 is beyond me. Get rid of the old, entrenched, archaic politicians that have been bought by lobbyists many times over. They live in another era, one that believes in the industrial military complex, and that “communism” and “socialism” are evil. Wake up: die Mauer fell almost 20 years ago, and the places with the highest standard of living are in Northern Europe, countries that have – wait for it – social democracies. Admittedly, Swedes, Finns, Norwegians, etc are pretty homogeneous societies and they probably agree on most things: “Yes, we like good roads. Yes, we need healthcare for all.” But it boils down to racism: #oldwhitemen are greedy bastards.”I’m not giving my money to THOSE people.” So don’t vote for #oldwhitemen, the women that love them, and younger guys that you know will grow up to be them. Okay? We need new thinking, a new generation, and new ideas. America’s a pretty smart place. We invented the internet, computers, rock-n-roll, all sorts of groovy things; how do we make public service worthy of our best and brightest?

3. Capitalism. I wish I could go back to college and get a PhD in Economics so I could rewrite the text books on present-day capitalism. Greatest economic system or not, guess what: just as the founding fathers wanted to keep religion out of government, we must now keep corporations out of government. It’s THE major failure in America over the past 30 years. Government must be there to protect people from unfettered capitalism. Citizens United is wrong. Now, look at the change in wealth distribution over the past 30 years. While #oldwhitemen drug the rest of us with consumerism, they’ve grabbed all the money. They’ve vilified taxes led us to believe that “social programs” – the largest part of our federal budget – is a bad thing Versus what, military spending? Net neutrality is another example. Who gives a flip about Comcast, AT&T, T-Mobile, etc. It’s there job to figure out streaming and unlimited data and all that. We’re supposed to enjoy better, faster and more because of the competition the ISPs have with each other, right? Yet instead, they lobby and pay off the politicians, and install their lackeys in the FCC. Two decades later, we pay more for an internet connection than ever (which btw ranks 17th or so in the world). This is not capitalism. It’s rigged capitalism.

So let’s sum it up:
1. Don’t be stupid. Don’t vote with your so-called heart. It’s probably in the wrong place, especially if you live in Indiana.
2. Stop voting for #oldwhitemen. Just stop. Even Bernie. Where’s our Justin Trudeau?
3a. Our government was supposed to be “by the people, for the people.” Not “for the corporations.”
3b. Taxes are not evil, they pay for all the stuff a society needs: nice roads; schools and universities; social security for grandma and grandpa; birth control, so less idiots are born; the internet – well, it could if we stood up for it!

Once every couple of years, each of us have the opportunity to change all this by voting. So please, get your head out of Snapchat, Amazon and internet porn, for a few hours anyway, and vote. It’s a little bit of work, but the look at the stakes: #ignorance #oldwhitemen #capitalism.

Let’s make America smart again.

ssl grade a

Editing my /etc/apache2/mods-available/ssl.conf to use the following SSLCipherSuite changed my grade from SSLabs from B to A!

SSLProtocol ALL -SSLv2 -SSLv3 -TLSv1
SSLHonorCipherOrder on
SSLCipherSuite ECDH+AESGCM:DH+AESGCM:ECDH+AES256:DH+AES256:ECDH+AES128:DH+AES:ECDH+3DES:DH+3DES:RSA+AESGCM:RSA+AES:RSA+3DES:!aNULL:!MD5:!DSS

Check it out:
https://www.ssllabs.com/ssltest/analyze.html?d=strawberrybricks.com

ssl 24/7

While I’ve had ssl on my website for sometime (for anything login related), I had never enabled it by default. First, I had to install the patch the Video Filter module to work with https connections to Youtube. Then, using the developers tools built into Chrome, I found I had a http link to a Facebook logo (I have no idea why it isn’t local). That had to be fixed in the site’s theme. Finally, I found I had the remnants of ShareThis in a block. Although I deleted the module eons ago, I forgot about the block (which is how it appears on a page). Thankfully, those developer tools in Chrome made it plain as day. Now that all that was fixed, I edited the .htaccess file for the site, and entered the following to force https connections. (Remember to restart Apache after you edit .htaccess.)

RewriteCond %{SERVER_PORT} 80
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ https://mywebsite.com/$1 [R,L]

With a free certificate from Let’s Encrypt, why not enable ssl. Oddly enough, only Chrome, Firefox and Microsoft browsers make it obvious when your connection to a website is secure. What’s up with that Apple?

the book is finished

I finished writing my book: 632 pages. All text. No pictures. Yep, lots of words. It’s a record guide, so non-fiction, but lots of facts. And my audience (mostly old white men) are very picky about getting facts correct, like “It was ‘THE Fountain of Salmacis,’ not ‘Fountain of Salmacis.'” Anyway, I’ve spent the last few months proof reading and fact-checking those 632 pages. Boring, tedious, but being who I am, I just had to get it done. Letting go — knowing when to stop checking-as well as stop writing — was even more difficult.

Anyway, the book is self-published (more below), which means, despite a few kind souls that helped with fact-checking, and a younger soul that I paid to edit my non-final text, and my wife, bless her soul, it was really down to ME to get everything correct. I wonder if a “traditional” publisher could have offered more?

The first edition was published in 2007. Hard to think it was a decade ago, my kids were just babies then. Social media was too! Now, I have soo many options now to market the book, it’s exciting. Foremost, the book doesn’t suck (to borrow a Cubs’s manager Joe Maddon phrase), in fact, for the topic, it’s pretty darn good. And with all the fact checking, those few nasty Amazon reviewers will have NOTHING to bark about. Heck, maybe some adventurous young white men may even want to read it!

I sold 3,000 copies of my first book via Lulu.com. One day, after the book had been in print for a couple of years, sales stopped. That normal November, December surge of 40 books fell to zero. So, rather than argue “what happened to the sales,” I withdrew it from print. As the next edition was readying for sale, I looked at alternatives to Lulu. I found CreateSpace.com, an Amazon company. The process of approving a title is a little more clunky (CreateSpace must do something manually because it takes 24 hours once you submit files), but here’s the slam dunk for CreateSpace:

I’m going to retail the book for $34.95. For direct print sales — someone clicking on my link to buy the book at Lulu.com — my royalty is almost 30%, which is great. But the sales through Amazon — so-called retail print-where 99% of people will buy my book — I just can’t accept $2.67 per copy. And if I were to lower the price of the book, say discount it to $29.95, that rate drops to $0.67!

Enter CreateSpace: Perhaps(?) because it’s an Amazon company, I can earn that 30% on those retail print Amazon sales, which also includes the UK and the EU. The print book isn’t as high quality as Lulu, but each copy costs me $5.00 less to buy outright and I make more money on each sale. Well, not that much worse quality then!

It’s not like I wrote 632 pages for anything but the love of music. But I’ve easily shelled out $2000 for editor, images, art, transcriptions, press, promo copies, postage, etc — let alone the money I’ve spent buying the music that the book covers. And after recouping those expenses, I’d like a little slush fund to buy a few “holy grails” for my collection …at least until I get an IRS form 1099 from CreateSpace to file with my income taxes next year. Ugh.

Buy your copy here: The Strawberry Bricks Guide to Progressive Rock

hide xml from browsers

I publish a daily rss feed, an “Album Of The Day” type thing, that feeds various social media pages as well. It works automatically, so I don’t really have to do anything, other than make sure dlvr.it is working correctly (sometimes one needs to renew app permissions). Down side, is that there’s a huge xml file out there that is easily accessible from any web browsers. It’s not that big of a deal, because, after all, I am publishing bits each day. But two lines of codes hides it from honest people:

First, create a css stylesheet. To hide everything, make sure the css applies to the root element of your xml file, which in my case is “albums”. Then you only need one line of code in your css file.

albums {visibility: hidden;}

Next, in the xml file, reference your stylesheet:

<?xml-stylesheet href=”rss.css” media=”screen” type=”text/css”?>

Ptoof! Empty page!

Of course, if you really want to hide that xml source, you’ll need to move it to a directory that’s not visible like /var/.

bracket: dropbox vs google drive

If using a Browser, Google Drive wins. If on a local computer, draw.

raspberry pi 3, a02082 (Sony, UK)

Yes, back at it. I got an Logitech Wireless Touch keyboard for Xmas and just got around to setting it up with my Raspberry Pi 3. I have the rPi connected to my TV via HDMI and all that mess of keyboard and mouse wires was just too much. So given that the rPi 3 – I have the one made in the UK – now has built-in bluetooth and wireless, connecting the keyboard was a snap.

I re-flashed the SD card with the latest NOOBS 2.11 and reinstalled Raspbian Jessie (8) with Pixel. Pixel is the new desktop environment for the rPi. It now has Chromium browser preinstalled (which does not crash!) and after using it, I can say that the Raspberry Pi has finally arrived: It’s a usable operating system, perfect for connecting to my giant TV.

wireless-touch-keyboard-k400r-glamour-lg-jpg

 

 

happy new year

Since the last post, I’ve been working on the Revised and Updated version of my Strawberry Bricks Guide to Progressive Rock, using Adobe InDesign under Windows 10. Love Windows 10, and InDesign is a great program for book layout. The Index and Table of Contents features are a lifesaver, too. I will also be switching to CreateSpace.com for publishing, at least on Amazon.com. Back to work!

google home

Yeah, I’m a sucker for IoT things like this. Amazon’s Alexa found a new home via eBay in Rockford, and I have to admit, we felt a little empty with the gap she left. “Alexa, what’s the weather” mostly.

So I jumped on board when Google announced their own voice-activated assistant, Google Home. I preordered directly from Google for $129 sometime in October, and it arrived just this week. Setup required me to download the “Google Home” app on my android phone, and I was then prompted to enter my Google account info. A simple process, it did some updates, knew somehow it was in my kitchen, and connected to my home wifi network.

Firstly, there is no privacy with these devices. Google knows who I am, where I live, and can listen to all the conversation maybe even in the entire house. That near-field technology is quite good, and even when laying down in an adjacent room Google Home could hear my commands, all given with the obligatory “Okay Google” salutation.

Unlike Alexa, Google Home, or rather the Google Assitant is quite smart, rattling off answers to questions like “Who just won the World Series” and whatever else we could think of. The biggest surprise was when I asked her to play some music. I have precious little in Google Play, but based on one album I bothered to upload sometime ago (The Blossom Toes’ Ever So Clean), she offered a quite satisfying playlist of late 60s psychedelia I could imagine. Bravo.

So here she will sit, ever listening and patiently awaiting our commands, until we too get bored with her!

raid, finally

I’ve always kept my media on a second drive in my linux box and backed it up to a remote NAS. While a perfectly acceptable setup, what I always wanted was two mirrored drives with all my data. The computer already a WD Red 1TB drive so I thrilled when I found another of the exact same drive for $67. Always a best practice to use the same model when building a mirrored RAID1.

I bought a Syba 2-port SATA RAID controller card that plugged into the empty PCI-e slot on the motherboard. It was only $25, but honestly if I had a motherboard with more features, I wouldn’t have needed it. Nonetheless, after moving the drives around in the case so the power connectors would match up to all the drives, I booted the computer and used CTRL-R immediately to get to the card’s BIOS to setup the RAID. It didn’t initially recognize all the drives, so I booted into Ubuntu and used the program Disks to format the new drive. (I also edited /etc/fstab and took out the reference to the old single drive). Rebooting again, the card recognized both drives, and then setup them up as a RAID1 using the card’s BIOS utility.

Continuing into Ubuntu, I again ran Disks and formatted the new single drive. I then edited /etc/fstab with the new mount point (which I had to create), and then ran a sudo mount -all to access it.

Now it’s time to copy everything back to my new mirrored data drive. Remember, when it comes to data, you must have two copies of everything you’d ever expect to keep. But two drives mirrored are really only one copy (think accidental erase), so I’ll still need to keep a backup of files I want to keep forever.