1N73RNET log for technology, projects, and other things Tue, 29 Dec 2015 00:44:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.2 10 Minute Monitor Backlight /2015/01/31/10-minute-monitor-backlight/ /2015/01/31/10-minute-monitor-backlight/#respond Sun, 01 Feb 2015 04:00:55 +0000 /?p=2366 Ever wanted a back light for your monitor? It helps with eye strain and glare from overhead lights. This is a simple back light you can install in 10 minutes and should cost less than $20. There are other (more expensive) LED shelf lights you can get from IKEA but I had an old one lying around I wasn’t doing anything with.

First step is to take the shield off the light so it’s more even.

lamp lamp2

Get some key hooks and hang them on the back of your monitor.

hooks hooks2

Hang the lamp on the back
backlight1

Turn it on. Done.

backlight3

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2015 Predictions /2015/01/01/2015-predictions/ /2015/01/01/2015-predictions/#comments Thu, 01 Jan 2015 07:01:56 +0000 /?p=2361 banner

That’s right, I took “technology” out of the title. Why, because I didn’t want to limit myself. As before, check out my previous years predictions (they were especially bad for 2014). But never-the-less I will try again for 2015.

Computers and Mobile

  1. Security will hopefully become a major focus. Not to say it didn’t get its own scrutiny in 2014, but maybe 2015 will see some real work to clean up underlying secure libraries and tools (SSL, email, SMS, etc.). I really hope more companies like Google designate resources to fix and maintain fundamental internet technology.
  2. Huge phone will continue to eat into tablet markets and will also eat into laptop and TV sales. Phones won’t get any smaller and 5-6″ will be normal by years end (with 8-9″ phones available). I have a feeling most mini tablets will cease to exist by 2017. Sadly, no one will converge their phone/laptop/desktop like I hoped they would in 2014.
  3. It will be a very boring year for computers as single purpose computing devices get a big boost. Those devices will be wearables, set top boxes, and Chrome Books. They come with less maintenance and offer people all they need.

Software and Web

  1. Browsers are already the new OS. 2015 will prove that even more as more native software move to work in the browser and Internet Explorer will continue its downward spiral into oblivion. Firefox sadly will also take a nose dive as it still requires web developers to develop for two platforms (webkit and geko). I really wouldn’t mind if Firefox moved to webkit. It seems like it could simplify a lot of things.
  2. I don’t know what’s going to happen to Microsoft. They sucked so bad in 2014 I can’t even see how they will pull themselves out of their hole and fix their desktop, gaming, and mobile platforms to make them something people want again (I don’t mind if they fail at what they’re currently doing). I really hope with all of the security concerns as of late that companies will take a good look at Linux on the desktop but I doubt it’ll happen.
  3. Twitter will have a falling out. It is becoming as hated as Facebook. Not that people won’t still use both. But as soon as something new comes along with the same functionality (real time broadcast updates) it has potential to gain a lot of subscribers. I really hope that “something” is in the form of a distributed social network (Bittorrent Maelstrom?) so that no single company owns it and can’t cram ads down our throats or mess it up like all the others have.

Games

What the hell do I know about games, I didn’t play a single game in 2014. I think the same things as last year about Apple coming to the market and virtual reality having a hard time finding a foothold, even though I really like it. VR will probably start expanding to other markets even more. Movies and TV especially.

Other

  1. More hacks! If you thought 2014 was bad 2015 will keep it coming. Companies are hard to change and security is difficult to get right. Security engineers will become premium jobs at a lot of companies and white hat hackers will be sought out by huge companies.
  2. Tesla will continue to disrupt and cheap hybrids will come from Chinese brands. I doubt any alternate fuel cars will make production but here’s to hoping Google gets a production self driving car out by 2016.
  3. Movie theaters will see a drop and same day home streaming will be available for movies released in the theater. It’ll be expensive ($40-50 for 1 time rental), but when companies realize they can cut out the theaters and still make their money it’ll be a great boost. Most people I know don’t really like going to the theaters anymore anyway.
  4. I’ll finally give up on the Oxford comma. Probably not.
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Interviewing for DevOps/SRE/SysAdmin Positions /2014/05/26/interviewing-for-devopssresysadmin-positions/ /2014/05/26/interviewing-for-devopssresysadmin-positions/#comments Mon, 26 May 2014 20:17:26 +0000 /?p=2330 Over the past year I have had great opportunities to interview for positions at companies I respect, and some I didn’t. I wanted to share my experiences to help others looking to go down this job path and some general interviewing tips.

For starters, here is a list of some, but not all, of the companies I talked to

  • Google
  • Twitter
  • GitHub
  • Oculus VR
  • Disney Animation Studios
  • Beats by Dre
  • Tinder
  • Digital Ocean
  • DiviantArt
  • Bass Pro

Each company was different in their approach to interviewing candidates. Most of the companies I didn’t make it past the screening call, others I got job offers. Not every position was for a DevOps/Site Reliability Engineer (SRE) position but most of them were and the interview process was similar enough to be relevant. Some companies sought me out, some I applied for, and some were through recruiters I had previously applied through who kept in touch with new opportunities. The companies that found me usually were via LinkedIn or GitHub.

Getting in the Door

This is usually the hardest part, I can’t say what works every time but here are some tips I have figured out.

  • Make sure you have profiles on GitHub and LinkedIn. Other profiles at job seeking sites would help (Dice, TrueAbility, Indeed, Glassdoor, etc.) but may not be necessary. Keep your profiles updated. Nothing says “you’re not interested” more than a profile that hasn’t been updated in 1+ years.
  • Get certifications to get noticed, get experience to get interviews. Certifications only prove you can pass a test, experience shows you like the work and are passionate about it. If you don’t have money for certifications, just get experience. You might have to try harder to get noticed, but you will make a bigger impression if you know your stuff.
  • Don’t be afraid to reach out to contacts within the company to ask for an interview. In one case I went as far as looking up new hires via a company blog, finding someone that was hired in the past year for the position I was applying for, and chatting with them on twitter to see if they could let me know the hiring manager so I could send a personal note with my resume. This got me in the door within two days when I had applied three weeks before with no response.
  • Make an resume that stands out. If you do nothing else, make an eye catching resume. If you don’t know how, hire someone. Don’t use a Word template. Make a generically worded resume that a recruiter can hand out, and for jobs you are really interested in, personalize it for the company and position you are applying for. Here’s my resume and don’t be afraid to steal someone’s format with permission. Also, make it 1 page. If you can’t trim it down, add links or QR codes like I did. Most people won’t be reading a physical copy so the links will still work, and if they’re really interested in you, short URLs are customizable and easy to type. At both companies I got job offers for, they both told me they liked my resume in the interview.

For positions I was really interested in, I would actively peruse a role for 1-2 weeks at a time. If it didn’t pan out or I got no response, I moved on. It was also helpful to know that if no one is calling you back it may just be a hiring downtime. I noticed most callbacks and emails at the beginning of January, and at the end of each quarter.

Screening Calls

Almost every company starts with someone calling you, usually an internal recruiter, to give you an idea about the position, the interview process, and to weed out people who are under qualified and not interested. In some cases companies don’t have internal recruiters and work with outside companies. I can’t say whether internal or external recruiters are better because every one is different. I had some great experiences and bad experiences with both.

At first, this was the scariest part. That is probably to do with the fact that my very first call was with Google who is notorious for their difficult interview process. As time went on, I got more comfortable with screening calls because I was able to relax more and be myself. Some of the big companies are going to have tests for you that you’ll have to pass to make it to the next round, others are just looking to see that you’re passionate and ask what type of work you’ve been doing now and want to do in the future. Some tips for screening calls

  • Have paper and pencil ready. There will be things you’ll want to write down to reference later.
  • Don’t be at your computer. You will probably end up distracted and you won’t be allowed to use it for screening questions.
  • Research the company and person you will be talking to before hand. I found it very helpful to go through the LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. pages before the call and find one question I want to ask the recruiter about the position and one question about the company. It helps break the ice and allows you to not do all the talking.
  • If you are having a screening test, make sure you are familiar with the following areas: networking (including subnet sizing and packet structure), Linux troubleshooting commands, storage terminology, infrastructure planning and sizing. Only a few of the larger companies had screening tests, but I bombed all of them by not being prepared and being too nervous.
  • Be prepared to rate yourself on how experienced you are in multiple areas. Scales and aptitudes differ but I was not expecting to have to give myself a rating on my Python programming skills, or Linux knowledge. The screening question difficulties are based off your self rating scores.
  • Have an example ready of a project you worked on that you are proud of. Make sure it is publicly available so the recruiter can find it and send it to the hiring team.
  • If you are interviewing at other places, let the recruiter or manager know during the call. It will help speed things up.

Most of the screening calls did not involve tests, but the ones that did were nerve racking and I did not do well. It’s important to note that the people doing the calls are often looking for how you process problem solving, if you know what they consider to be the basics, and if you have a good personality fit.

To get a better feel for the interview process at a particular company I recommend looking at Glassdoor before your call so you can read about more interviews and peoples experiences. Also, to get more comfortable with screening calls it helps to do a lot of them. I didn’t turn down any screening calls even if I wasn’t interested in the company. It not only helped me get comfortable on the phone, but it allowed me to ask questions and see what companies were working on to better gauge the industry.

Practical Exams

Some companies forgo the screening call and just send a practicum. This will be a test to show off your skills instead of talking about them. These range widely depending on the company/position and for me took anywhere from 6-30 hours of work to complete. I’m sure for others they would not take as long, but there was often one or two questions I was unfamiliar with that I would research until I was satisfied. Here are a few examples of tasks I was given.

  • Given the following VM credentials (AWS VM), figure out why the web server isn’t working and fix it.
  • Provided a VM, write an API (language of your choice) that returns statistics calculated from log data.
  • Write a ruby script that backs up a webserver and database to a tar.gz.
  • Build a 2-tier, load balanced, automatically scaling application in AWS. You can use an existing application or write one from scratch.

The questions above were one task on a list of tasks (3-12 total tasks per practicum). Not all tasks were as hard, but many of the tasks could only be completed from experience. It is very hard to research and provide an adequate response without taking a long time if you’re not familiar with the problem. I’m not sure what the typical turn around is, but I returned my tests on the short side of 4 days, and long side of 3 weeks. That’s probably why I never had follow up from companies where I completed a practicum.

My advice to get past the practicums is to either get as much experience through work/hobbies as you can. If you don’t have the motivation/time/resources then I suggest you create an account at TrueAbility and work through their tests. They are surprisingly challenging and give you a lot of well rounded skills. They also are timed so it helps you think under pressure.

In Person Interviews

I was called in to interview at a handful of companies. Some of the companies were remote so “in person” was via Google Hangouts. For some of the companies I would spend anywhere from 3-4 hours interviewing with different people. It usually started by talking to the manager of the team and then to different team members. In one case I was asked to prepare a 20 minute presentation for the team before we split off into individual interviews. While every company is different, here are some tips you might find helpful.

  • Know your audience. If you can, get the name of each person you will be interviewing with, know their role in the company (will they be your manager?) and research them beforehand. You probably can talk to them about past work experience or interesting hobbies from their social networks.
  • Don’t over/under dress. If you are really unsure about the company dress code, ask! Many internal recruiters will be happy to let you know company dress code so you can plan accordingly. It is very telling that you don’t fit in if you wear a suit and tie to a no dress code company.
  • At the end of the interview, ask them if there is anything else they need from you to make a decision. It shouldn’t matter if the decision is yes or no, just so long as they don’t have any outstanding questions for you.
  • Brush up on generic interview questions, there are plenty of resources online. For DevOps/SRE positions, be prepared to do a bit of scripting to prove you know your stuff.

There are lots and lots and lots or interviewing resources available online. Seek them out and study them in advance. Two of the best questions one of the recruiters I worked with told me to ask are

  1. Where have people in this position fallen short in the past and where have they excelled?
  2. What would be expected of me in this role in 90 days? 1 year?

Job Offer

Hopefully you end up with an offer. Again, there are tips online about making sure you get the right offer. For one position I played these tactics to a T. I never said a number (current or expected) until it was time for them to make an offer. At another company, I was open about current and expected pay. Both were completely different approaches and I expected to see the former a much higher offer than the later. I was wrong.

Tactics are great, but they don’t change how much a company values you, it only changes what they are willing to pay within their limits. Value and willingness are different things. You should always try to find a company that values you and your role rather than just one that is willing to pay you more because you negotiated well for it.

If a company is interested in you and say they are going to send an offer, make sure you are honest with them about your turn around time to make a decision. I got one offer and waited almost a week for the second offer to come in. Even though I had mostly made up my mind, it’s good to still compare all your options side by side. You also need to make sure you take into account all of the benefits at each company. Look into 401K, health, education, overtime, and other benefits. If you can, put a dollar amount to each benefit and compare the total offer and not just your base salary. You should also figure out if there are extra things you will need to pay for that you may not need to pay for now. My old job paid for my cell phone and home internet because I was on call 24/7. My new job does not have that responsibility nor does it have that reimbursement. It’s not excessive, but it’s an extra $2000/yr that I now have to spend.

In any case, make sure you love the culture and the work. It’s too hard to get to know the people in such a short period of time and people come and go. If the culture is a good fit, then new people will probably fit into that culture too and you should get along with them just as well as previous employees. Obviously, if you love the work, you shouldn’t have to go through too many interviews in the future.

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Nexus 5 or Moto X? Review and Comparisons from a Past iPhone User /2014/01/15/nexus-5-or-moto-x-review-and-comparisons-from-a-past-iphone-user/ /2014/01/15/nexus-5-or-moto-x-review-and-comparisons-from-a-past-iphone-user/#respond Wed, 15 Jan 2014 15:24:01 +0000 /?p=2304 iphone-motox-nexus5

TL;DR – I was using an iPhone 4s for two years, an iPhone 5c for a few months, I really liked how fast and small they both were. I bought a Nexus 5, used it for a couple weeks, but didn’t like the size and poor camera performance. I bought a Motorola Moto X. It’s not as good as an iPhone, but it’s the best Android phone I could find.

First here is just a little bit of background about my phone priorities because my priorities are probably not yours.

  1. The phone must have a good camera. And by good I mean being able to take pictures of constantly moving objects (kids) in low light (indoors).
  2. The phone battery has to last at least 1 day without charging. At work I am not always at my desk and need something that I can use throughout the day without being unreachable by the end.
  3. It needs to be a reasonable size. None of this Galaxy Note crap. I like smaller phones. If someone updated the specs on the HP Veer and it ran Android, I’d probably use that.
  4. Usable in 2 years. I would like OS updates for at least 18 months and the phone should not feel like it’s falling apart and too slow to run apps in 24 months.
  5. The phone must integrate with Google services, or have good compatible apps. This rules out Windows Phone for me.
  6. Wireless charging is a huge plus. I find it convenient and love the option.

And just to be thorough, here are a few things I really don’t care about in a phone

  1. Unlocking bootloaders and custom ROMs, I don’t have the time to search for and flash my phone repeatedly. Any customization I am going to make needs to be small and easy. I’m too busy to do that anymore.
  2. NFC, I won’t use it, I don’t care.

With all that said, I’ve had a lot of smartphones in the past. In 2011, after webOS’ demise, I settled on the iPhone 4s as a good smartphone for my needs. It was small, fast (for its time), and had the best cell phone camera on the market. Even after two years of using it and iOS 7 update I didn’t feel the need to buy a new phone immediately. It still fulfilled my needs with Google’s apps loaded on the phone and jailbreak tweaks that let me set default apps. I bought and used a 5c for a few months and really enjoyed the slightly larger screen, better camera, and insane battery life. Under normal usage the phone lasted a full 48 hours before it was dead.

Nexus 5 Review

I bought the Nexus 5 within minutes of it being announced which is very unusual for me. I didn’t read a single review (there were none) but felt the $350 off contract price was a reasonable risk for me to take. If I didn’t like the phone I would sell it for full price or maybe lose $20-40 which was acceptable. Because I got the phone only a week after it came out that also means I was on Android 4.4 without any updates. Keep that in mind with this review because some of my complaints have been fixed via updates.

The Nexus 5 had everything I was looking for on paper. I knew the screen would be a little big but I was hoping the phone felt smaller in the hand like the Moto X did. The Nexus 5 didn’t. I had multiple issues with activating the phone but that was mostly an Android problem and not the Nexus 5. After activating I had problems with apps not installing until I rebooted the phone each time and various other weird issues but as far as I know, they were all problems with Android 4.4 and not the Nexus 5. I didn’t hear of a single other person having these problems.

The hardware looks great. The black one is completely black soft touch without any faux textures or needless embellishments that drive me crazy on phones. The edges have a slight taper which felt really good when holding the phone. The soft touch was also extra grippy, similar to the old IBM Thinkpads which was great. If you bought the white one, I’m sorry, it looks pretty bad and it’s glossy plastic.

The screen was stunning, it almost looked fake. Not only is it 1080p but the IPS LCD made the image look hyper realistic. The touch screen was so responsive it removed some of the feeling of interacting with a phone. The screen was too big to comfortably use with one hand so I always resorted to using two. It wasn’t terrible but got annoying coming from an iPhone 5c. The screen looked great while reading documents and watching videos but the traditional LCD backlight got a bit annoying when trying to use the phone at night. I typically like to read light text on a dark background, but that really only works well for OLED screens which don’t have traditional CCFL backlights. I had the same complaint with the iPhone but because the Nexus 5 had an inch bigger screen it felt like looking into a flashlight while trying to read.

The power and volume buttons had a good feel and placement on the phone and the speakers were louder than the iPhone. The earphone hole was really small though. I often found that I missed it when holding the phone to my ear and had to slide the phone to the right spot to be able to hear a call.

The micro USB on the bottom was “upside down” which was annoying and the camera lens protruded slightly from the back which made me always a little nervous I would crack it. The official cases fix the lens problem by adding some extra thickness to the back. I really like the colors of the cases but dislike cases enough that it wasn’t something I considered.

The battery wouldn’t last quite a full day. I consistently take my phone off the charger at 0600 and return home from work at 1800. By that time the phone would have about 10% battery under normal usage. I never trusted that because if I had a day of heavy usage I’m sure it would not have lasted through the work day.

The camera was, for my uses, unusable. Everything was a blurry mess. The shutter was so delayed there was no chance I was ever going to get a decent picture of a moving target. Here are just two samples to show you what I’m talking about.

tuscan_grill

This was the best of three pictures I took. And it still does not look very good with over exposed light and blurry cars.

I haven’t used the Nexus 5 since the 4.4.1 update came out and fixed some of the camera problems, but it was such a bad first impression that I gave up.

Just to wrap up the Nexus 5 review

Pros

  • Great screen
  • Good Soft touch texture
  • Really fast

Cons

  • Crap camera
  • Poor battery life
  • Too big

Moto X Review

I toyed with the idea of getting a Moto X before getting the Nexus 5 but the lackluster camera tests I saw made me hold off and if I were going to get one I really wanted it with a wood back. They also seemed too expensive initially at $200 on contract. After realizing I wasn’t happy with the Nexus 5 though I was able to get a promo code through Motorola’s black Friday sale which made a customized Moto X $350 off contract (same as the Nexus 5). I sold the Nexus 5 and got the Moto X even though the wood backs were not yet available. I got it because I found out you could get a soft touch back instead of the hard plastic that the in store Moto X came with from the carrier. I’ll admit The Verge staff also convinced me a little bit after hearing a lot of the editors on the Vergecast and Mobile Vergecast say they use the Moto X.

Setting up the device wasn’t nearly as painful as the Nexus 5 because the Moto X used a micro SIM card which I already had in my iPhone. I switched the SIM and logged into my Google account as usual and then it started syncing apps and accounts. The problem was the phone was REALLY slow while syncing. So slow that I just set the phone down and let it sit for about an hour. I didn’t have that problem with the Nexus 5 nor with either iPhones.

The Moto Maker option with soft-touch backs are pretty limited in color options so I ended up with an all black phone with orange accents. Disappointing, considering the cool yellows, reds, and blues they have but I also like the murdered look which is probably why I like how the Nexus 5 looks so much. The soft-touch isn’t as grippy as the Nexus 5 but was good enough to feel like a more solid device in my hand. The Motorola logo on the back has a slight dimple and for some reason I really like it. The phone is smaller than the Nexus 5 with a screen of 4.7″ and with the curved back feels really nice in the hand. The front half of the phone doesn’t have the soft-touch grip to it which looks a little odd but it’s not the worst thing in the world. The Moto X is closer to the iPhone 5 size than it is to the Nexus 5.

The power and volume buttons are both on the right side (poor lefties) which I’m not a fan of because it makes the volume rocker pretty small and hard to activate sometimes. There isn’t enough leverage to make sure I’m hitting the right button when it’s in my pocket. The power button also seems to be mounted a bit low for a “smaller” phone. The speaker is mounted on the back of the phone which, thanks to the curved back, works great when sitting on a table. But if you try to watch a video or listen to audio you’ll end up cupping your hand and not be able to hear anything still. Everything else, hardware wise, is fine and the micro USB port is even installed the way I like (not upside down).

The battery will last, just barely, a full day for me. At the end of the work day I usually have about 40% battery left (0600 until 1800) and I often can last until midnight with 5-10% left. It’s a big downgrade from the iPhone but enough I can live with. I wish the Moto X had wireless charging built in which would help getting through a day, but because it charges with micro USB I just make sure to charge it at lunch to make sure it will last.

I have never had a phone with an AMOLED display before, and although I’ve used them in the past on friends phones I never realized how nice it is for night reading and clock displays. I haven’t had any problems seeing it in the sunlight, which is a typical complaint of AMOLED, but I find myself manually adjusting the brightness more than I would on the iPhone. I think that’s an Android problem because I have done that on all my previous Android phones too.

The camera was my biggest worry with the Moto X. I had gone to the store prior to buying the phone and tested the camera just to see how Motorola’s customized software worked. I like the rapid picture mode, although it doesn’t work as well as the iPhone 5c, but I’m not sold on the tap anywhere to take a picture aspect. Overall the camera takes faster and better pictures outside than the Nexus 5 did and it doesn’t have the same shutter lag. The pictures inside are inconsistent with their color accuracy and macro shots are near impossible. Video works well and I like that it includes a slow motion video option. One thing I didn’t think I’d use was the camera gesture (two wrist flicks) but it works 80% of the time with is enough for me to try it first before using the lock screen shortcut. It gives a quick vibrate feedback and then opens the camera.

motox_macro_charger

This shot took me about 10 tries before the charger was in focus and not yellow tinted from my lights

motox_zebra

An outdoor shot that any camera should be able to take but it still turned out nice.

The rest of the Motorola add-on software is nice but sometimes a bit buggy. Here’s just some quick pointers on what they added.

  • Active Notifications – Everybody loves this but I don’t find it as easy or functional as the iPhone lock screen notifications. It works alright but it’s sometimes weird to have a notification screen before your lock screen. It also sucks that you can only see info from the most recent notification.
  • Assist – It does a really good job of figuring out your driving and reading you messages. The meetings mode is annoying though because it won’t see if I’m set to busy or free during the meeting. I often schedule things on my calendar that I’m willing to be interrupted for but it doesn’t take that into account.
  • Trusted devices – This is probably my favorite feature by simply disabling your lock screen when connected to a bluetooth device you specify in the settings. I have it set for my car stereo and am debating getting a BT headset or smartwatch just to use this more often. It was much easier than tasker and was built into the phone.
  • Motorola Help – This is a chat portal for Motorola’s support. It works really well and even gives info about your phone (SN, IMEI, etc.). I chatted with them about a problem I was having and was able to get it resolved in about 10 minutes. It doesn’t notify the support person that you’re chatting from your phone though because they recommended I reboot my phone which I wouldn’t be able to do while chatting.
  • Motorola Connect – This is a way under reviewed feature which allows you to send SMS from Chrome on your computer. It also shows call logs and battery status. It has completely replaced the Google Voice plugin for me and works a lot better.
  • Touchless control – allows you to say “OK Google Now” at any time to get a voice prompt. It works maybe 60% of the time and it’s annoying that it keeps jumping back and forth between Google Now and it’s interface. All the app switching makes it really slow too so I typically don’t use it. Although it is more useful than the Nexus 5s “OK Google” to search, it is no where near as good as Siri for speed, voice recognition, and functionality.

To sum it all up

Pros

  • Smaller size
  • Good battery life
  • Add-on software that is actually useful

Cons

  • Slow performance
  • Bad speaker placement
  • Camera not great
  • Wood backs cost $100 extra

Overall I’m happy with the Moto X over the Nexus 5 but I have a feeling that in a year I will want something else. The phone will probably be too slow and because the battery will probably only last 1/2 a day. If I really wanted something I know I would be happy with in two years I probably should have stayed with an iPhone. I think most of my complaints with the Moto X are Android related and not actually problems with the Moto X hardware. Now it’s just a waiting game to see how long the Moto X will receive Android updates.

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2014 Technology Predictions /2014/01/01/2014-technology-predictions/ /2014/01/01/2014-technology-predictions/#respond Wed, 01 Jan 2014 17:01:56 +0000 /?p=2286 2014-banner

A new year is here so I’ll take another swing at how technology will change in the year 2014. This will be my sixth year doing a predictions post. If you haven’t read them before you should check out my 2013 post and then take a look at some of the older predictions I’ve made. I especially like my prediction from 2009 that Google would make a social network and twitter would be the next big social network. Anyway, here are some crazy, and not so crazy, predictions for 2014.

Computers and Mobile

1. Converging devices will finally become main stream. I know there have been devices in the past that attempted to solve the “one device to rule them all” problem. (e.g. Motorola Atrix, Asus Padfone) They have never taken off for three reasons, 1) they weren’t inter-operable, 2) they were slow, 3) they were expensive. I also know that many people already have “one device” because they have a keyboard dock on their iPad. In reality though, they just bought the cheapest Apple laptop they could. I think there will be a big name company (it won’t be Apple, see below) to offer their phones/tablets to be a true laptop/desktop replacement via a docking station that changes the user interface depending on what the device is plugged into. People have been trying to accomplish some of this functionality for a while with things like Ubuntu for Android, but the solution needs to come by default with the device for it to really take off.

2. Speaking of converged devices, Apple will have a larger iPad (12″) that can be used like a desktop and is designed for professionals. It will be more powerful than the existing iPad and will be Apple’s attempt at a “cheap” laptop. It won’t be as successful as the existing iPad though because for the general consumer they already have this functionality in their existing iPad/keyboard combo. It also won’t change the user interface when docked and just use super high resolution apps.

3. The year of the wearable computer! 2013 saw a lot of buzz in the wearable computer arena with the Pebble, Fitbit, Jawbone up, Samsung gear, etc. This year it will really take off because Google (via Motorola) and Apple will get behind the movement with wearables. I think most of the main stream adoption won’t happen until fall though because Google won’t announce anything until summer and Apple will wait for Fall. CES will be littered with crappy wearables coming out in early summer to beat the big name products.

4. Blackberry will die. I have predicted this with friends but realized I never put it on one of these predictions. Blackberry will transition to a completely software company and will fail to generate revenue. They will be gone by Q2 of 2015.

5. HP and Dell will get back into the mobile business. They probably realize by now they have to sell mobile devices if they want to keep revenue up. My guess is HP will make Android devices (they’ll suck) and Dell will make Windows Phone devices (they’ll suck even more). Samsung will spin off their own version of Android and LG will release a tablet with webOS.

Software and Web

1. Windows has been in a downward spiral since Windows 8 was announced (and even before Windows Phone 7 Series Phone). This year Windows will lose significant market share to OS X, Chrome OS, iOS, and Android. Microsoft has been scrambling to make Windows 8 better for consumers by adding features they removed. Although I don’t think consumers care about spying and the NSA, I do think that businesses care and this year businesses will actually start adopting the alternate operating systems for their employees. I think in many cases Windows will still be the work horse of the enterprise, via VDI, but Microsoft will be scrambling to find new markets in hardware, software subscriptions, and giving away stuff for free (and charging for premium features). They will also shift to a consumer company.

2. Web standardization is going to get a boost in 2014 for three reasons. 1) Security can be better when there is a good standard 2) user experience is better when everyone is on a level playing field 3) the least common denominator has been, and will continue to be, mobile. If companies want to reach the widest audience, they will have to design for slow devices, with small screens, and HTML browsers.

3. There will be a new great website in 2014. This one is a little bit obvious but I think the thing that is going to be neat is the fact that it will do something we haven’t dreamed of yet. In years past there have been some sites that changed how people interact with the internet IFTTT/Pinterest (2010), imgur (2009), and reddit (2005) are all examples of this and I think the pace of innovation is getting faster. This year a new site, one that was probably started in 2013, will become a huge success and will eventually get bought by Google or Facebook. Oh and one of the previously mentioned sites will be purchase by a big name company.

4. NSA backlash will cause big US companies to lose market share in other countries. Now that most of the spying secrets are out, many foreign companies will be looking for alternatives to the software they have been relying on for so long. Linux and open source software will be the big winner in most cases and Microsoft will be hurt the most. More and more countries will put efforts forth to build their own operating systems by customizing distributions of Linux to suit their needs.

Games

1. Virtual reality will be awesome, and niche. I wish I could say it would take off and I’m very excited for the Oculus Rift, but I don’t see many people outside of hardcore, single player gamers adopting it. Real adoption will happen in 2015-2016 when it’s wireless, cheaper, and works with consoles. I look forward to the future of virtual reality not only for games though, I also think it’s a great way to watch a movie assuming the headphones will support surround sound.

2. I predicted in 2012 that Nintendo would struggle and I still think that’ll be the case. This year I also think that Sony will have a hard time shifting from a hardware provider to a software and services company. In order to make the PS4 great and lasting they need to provide solid services and I don’t think they have the development abilities to do so.

3. Apple will get into games in a big way with a new Apple TV, first party gaming hardware, and better game center integration. Apples efforts will make everything Google has done look completely worthless, if it hasn’t already, and Google will scramble to create a better gaming platform. In reality though, Google doesn’t care and will just leave the gaming to third parties which will all suck.

Other

1. Self driving cars will hit a wall. While this is mostly figuratively speaking, although I do predict there will be the first accident involving a self driving car while the car is driving this year, I think the real “wall” autonomous vehicles will hit is legislation. Even though some states have already approved the use of the cars, there is still a long way to go before someone can buy one. There are other hurdles like re-writing laws, adapting insurance, and building better/smarter streets. Google will probably try to build their own cars but I think China will make a big move to make their own self driving cars probably by ripping off other companies technology.

2. I think 2014 will make it harder for non-skilled workers to find a job. There will probably be two or three big companies making 99% automated factories. The factories will need maintenance workers for the machines but won’t need the hundreds of assembly workers they once needed. Think how much you already interact with non-humans day to day. When was the last time you interacted with a person to fill up your gas tank? How many times have you used self checkout at the store? When was the last time you talked to a person when calling a support number? All of these things are unskilled work that have now been replaced with machines. 2014 will expand that to many new areas and make it hard for people who don’t have experience, to get experience.

3. Payment reform will begin but won’t be mainstream yet. It seems like everyone I talk to is waiting for mobile payments. It won’t happen with NFC, sorry Android fans, and geofencing is too inaccurate. Apple won’t get into the mobile payment business until 2015 (with iBeacon 2) so this year will be another year of mixed products like Google Wallet, Coin, Bitcoin, and Square. No one will win and consumers who adopt one will lose because the standard will eventually be Apple’s solution. They will release it in 2015 and allow compatible devices (a.k.a. Android) to use it. I don’t want it to be true, but that’s what I think will happen.

That’s all my predictions for 2014, do you have any you’d like to make? Leave a note in the comments if you think I’m right or wrong.

Thanks to David Hepworth for the banner picture.

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How To Be Successful with a Standing Desk /2013/12/30/successful-standing-desk/ /2013/12/30/successful-standing-desk/#comments Mon, 30 Dec 2013 17:30:09 +0000 /?p=2278 In January 2014 I will have been using a standing desk as my main desk for three years. Here are three tips I’ve learned along the way to make your endeavors with a standing desk a success.

  • Get a padded mat or soft shoe inserts
  • Don’t force yourself to stand 100% of the time
  • Always start your day standing

I currently use a padded mat and have soft shoe inserts (cheap ones from Target). For my first 8 months at a standing desk I wore Converse on a concrete floor. My feet and knees hurt so bad by Thursday I often had to sit down. I have since moved to a carpeted office, bought a mat, and have softer shoe inserts. I no longer have that pain in my feet at the end of the week/day.

Some people think that because you have a standing desk you can’t sit down. You should make sure your desk has the ability to adjust for sitting or your chair can raise high enough to comfortably let you sit. I had back problems going into year three and had to sit for about a month to recover. Week to week I probably sit 10-20% of the time just to change my position. It’s OK to sit down if you want to. Making standing a requirement, for me, made my brain reluctant to do it. Having the option to sit made me want to stand all the more.

Finally, this is the most important piece of advice. Always start your day standing. If you start off sitting your day will be over before you remember to stand up. The best way I have found to start my day standing is to move my desk/chair into standing position before I leave work at the end of the day. That way, in the morning I don’t have to move anything out of the way to stand and it would take me extra effort if I wanted to sit. By simply starting your day standing you will easily go 1/2 the day without even realizing you wanted to sit down.

Good luck with those New Year’s resolutions and leave a comment if you have any other tips for being successful at a standing desk. If you don’t yet have a standing desk you should check out my old articles on how to buy or build a standing desk and how to modify your existing desk into a standing desk.

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30 /2013/09/27/30/ /2013/09/27/30/#comments Fri, 27 Sep 2013 07:00:26 +0000 /?p=2101 I just turned 30. I wanted to share 30 things I’ve learned in the past 30 years. Or at least the things I wrote down over the past 8 months.

Don’t rely on school to give you an education.

Always write things down, and always carry something to do so.

You get what you pay for, especially when it’s free.

Showing respect for someone is the easiest way to show you love them.

Love should not expect recognition.

Find a way to track what you do and stick to it.

It’s not that the grass is greener; it’s just that the weeds are less visible.

For the first 30 years of your life, you make your habits. For the last 30 years, your habits make you. (Still waiting to see if this is true)

Being physically prepared is not enough for what lies ahead.

Needlessly endangering lives speaks volumes for how much you care.

Always return something in better condition than when you borrowed it.

Figuring out what you love is the easy part. Discovering where and for whom to do it are often compromises.

Words cannot open another’s mind. – Mumon’s poem about the koan

If you don’t have time to do it right the first time, when are you going to have time to do it again?

Worrying is the biggest waste of time.

Where your look, you will go.

It is better to make money than save money.

Don’t expect other people to understand how you feel. Even when you tell them.

Do not be wise in your own eyes. – Prov 3:7

If you want to spend more time in something, then make more time for something. – source

Knowledge should be sought not ‘for superiority [over] others, or for profit, or fame, or power…but for the benefit and use of life’ – Francis Bacon

People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it – source

“We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself.”—Lloyd Alexander

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

Don’t sulk over unfinished business.

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What is Pulp, Candlepin, Foreman, and Katello /2013/09/20/what-is-pulp-candlepin-foreman-and-katello/ /2013/09/20/what-is-pulp-candlepin-foreman-and-katello/#respond Fri, 20 Sep 2013 20:54:38 +0000 /?p=2231 I have been working with some of the above products at work for the past couple of weeks and I just came across the most succinct and straightforward answer to what each product is and what it is used for so I wanted to share.

This all comes from Mike McCune who explained this so nicely in the #Pulp channel of irc.freenode.net

First, I did not realize that all of the products are Red Hat products. They are open source projects, but RH is the biggest contributor in each case.

Second, all of the products are designed to replace/succeed Spacewalk. Spacewalk is the upstream application to RH Satellite which basically lets you inventory and manage your systems. It has features for pushing updates, packaging rpms, and creating kickstart files for provisioning. While Spacewalk still works, new features/development is focusing on the new individual products.

So what does each product do?

Foreman: Provisioning and Configuration Management

PulpPatch and Content Management

CandlepinSubscription and Entitlement Management

Katello: Unified workflow and webUI for content (Pulp) and subscriptions (Candlepin).

Katello does integrate with Foreman, but from what I can tell that is only for patch and content deployments and not provisioning/config management.

I hope this helps anyone else trying to manage Linux servers.

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Version Number 0: A New Way to Do Software Versions /2013/08/08/version-number-0/ /2013/08/08/version-number-0/#comments Thu, 08 Aug 2013 17:00:22 +0000 /?p=2203 I had this idea while driving into work with a friend and, like a lot of my ideas, I just wanted to throw it out there to discuss how, why, and what’s wrong with the idea. Please feel free to leave a comment to discuss.

Disclaimer, I’m not a software developer so I really have no say into how this actually works.

version-0-banner

How Version Numbers Should Work

Version numbers are a unique name or number assigned to a specific version of the software. There can be public and internal versions but they typically increment from 0 -> ∞ or a – z. Often times there are also “code names” for releases which sometimes become more popular than the actual names themselves (see Ubuntu releases).
Incrementing version numbers usually are the form major.minor.fixes (e.g. 1.3.0 is major release 1, minor release 3, with 0 bugfixes). Incrementing versions can also have letters to help designate (pre)release state (e.g. 2.0.0b2 is the second beta release for version 2.0). Some systems also use odd numbers for development and even numbers for production (see the Linux kernel).

How Version Numbers Actually Work

In many cases the above systems work. But lately I am not sure version numbers make sense, nor are they used in a way that helps customers. Software versions in a lot of situations are either a reference to the year the software was released (or supposed to be released) or are just a pissing contest to make sure the number is bigger than the competition (see Firefox. Version .01 -> 3.6 in 10 years; version 3.6 -> 23.0 in 17 months).

Oh and don’t forget the global assumption that anything <1 is complete crap so you had better change your version number from 0.25 to 2.6 (thanks Puppet).

How Version Numbers Could Work

So what if there was another way. What if, for the sake of the end user, current software was always just version 0 (naught). It doesn’t matter how many iterations or releases you’re on, the release you are shipping is 0. In other words, the current version of Firefox would always just be called Firefox.

If this were the case, your support model will be to support versions -2 through 0. As new releases come out the older versions are known as negative releases or, depending on your release cycle, yearly releases. The version that is one major release old (and came out six months ago as of writing this) would be Firefox -1 (2013.02). People can easily look at this number an know when their software came out and also how current they are with the shipping version. Bugfix and minor releases would be handled in a similar manner by decrementing the version number of out of date software rather than incrementing newer software. Once you are up to date you are back to 0.

Likewise, beta versions would be 1 and alpha would be 2. I’m not sure there would be many public versions above 1 and 2 but maybe development would be 3-4 and not ever released to the public.

When I thought about it more, this is the way websites work. Not because it was designed this way, but because customers don’t have a choice in using an old version. They are always on the version that is available. Similarly, other things in the physical world (such as cars) often work this way. They sometimes append the year for identification purposes, and because they release most cars yearly, but a Corolla is always a Corolla. It is only made old by the fact that a new version has come out. Luckily for the customer, they don’t have to know what mark  (a.k.a. version) the car is on, they just have to know they want the current one (FYI the Corolla is currently on MKXI or version E160).

I know this idea doesn’t work well with version control, tags, blah, blah, blah. But it seems like something that works in the physical world, is highly consumer friendly, and because it gets version numbers out of the way, could be a very good thing.

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Make Domain Users Part of Local Admin Group in OS X /2013/07/10/make-domain-users-part-of-local-admin-group-in-os-x/ /2013/07/10/make-domain-users-part-of-local-admin-group-in-os-x/#respond Wed, 10 Jul 2013 23:06:26 +0000 /?p=2198 I came across this and thought it may be helpful for someone.

OS X only uses the traditional /etc/passwd and /etc/group files when running in single user mode so they are no help. Instead we need to do everything with dscl.
If you want to make a domain user part of the local admin group in OS X without needing them to login first you can use the following command.

sudo /usr/sbin/dseditgroup -o edit -a "DOMAIN\Domain Users" -t group admin

You can also set individual users as part of the admin group with

sudo /usr/sbin/dseditgroup -o edit -a "DOMAIN\user" -t user admin

Two important things to note is you need to use the full path to dseditgroup and the domain needs to be capitalized.

You can also view what users are part of a group with

sudo dscl . -read /Groups/admin GroupMembership

and you can list all group names with

dscl . -readall /Groups | grep RecordName

Let me know if this helps you in the comments.

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