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© Rakhesh Sasidharan

Elsewhere

[Aside] Pocket Casts (web) Player

I use (and luuuuuv!) the excellent Pocket Casts podcasts app. I discovered it when I switched to the OnePlus One and it’s probably my number 1 used app on the phone. I have discovered so many new podcasts thanks to it (because it has a good discovery tab and also because I listen to more podcasts now so I try and discover new stuff).

I wouldn’t be too far from the truth in saying that one major reason why I am still with the OnePlus One rather than going back to my iPhone 5S is Pocket Casts. Not coz Pocket Casts isn’t available for iOS, but because the OnePlus One with its 64GB of storage lets me download tons of podcasts while my iPhone 5S is a measly 16GB and so I can’t download much stuff for offline use. Sure, the OnePlus One’s larger screen is good for reading, but I don’t do much reading on that nowadays. The OnePlus One has the advantage of 64GB storage and the ability to just copy movies and music to it via MTP, while the iPhone 5S has the disadvantage of low storage (in my case) and the inability to just copy stuff over it without iTunes. The iPhone 5S keyboard is way better though (I hate typing on the OnePlus One, even with custom keyboards like Flesky) and its camera is miles ahead of the OnePlus One too. 

Anyways, I digress …

Pocket Casts is an amazing podcasts and you must check it out if you are into podcasts. Apart from a ton of great features, it also has sync. This means all my subscriptions on the OnePlus One will easily be in sync on the iPhone 5S too. More importantly, not just the subscriptions, but also my progress with each podcast. Isn’t that cool! 

As if that wasn’t cool enough though, I discovered via the latest episode of All About Android (where one of the Pocket Casts developer was a guest) that they now have a web player version. W00t! You can view it at https://play.pocketcasts.com/ – as with the Android/ iOS apps it’s not free, there’s a one time purchase, but that’s fine in my opinion. Free doesn’t have a long term future so I am happy paying for apps & services as long as they are good and meet my needs. (Apparently the web player was released on their blog in October itself). The web player too syncs with the mobile apps.

A note about the sync: unlike Kindle syncing for books (which is what I am used to) the app/ web player does not prompt you that you are currently on a further location with another device. If you already have the podcast open and you click “play” it will continue from where you are. But if you re-open the episode it will continue from where you are on the other device. 

Update: Some blog posts from Russell Ivanovic (one of the creators of Pocket Casts; he was the guest in the All About Android podcast). The first post was mentioned on the podcast so I checked out his blog:

p.s. I began using the iOS version of Pocket Casts the other day, and boy, is the Android version much better designed! Wow. This is the first app where I feel the Android version is much better designed than iOS. Most other apps have it the other way around. In the podcast Russell too mentioned something similar – that they are giving priority to Android over iOS nowadays. 

[Aside] Elsewhere on the Web

  • GeekTyper – go to the site, click one of the themes shown, and just start typing away random stuff on your keyboard. You may type gibberish but the screen will appear as though you are typing something important – be it in a Word doc, or as if you were to hack into a website like in movies. Impressive stuff. (via)
  • Why aren’t we using SSH for everything? – good question! The author created an SSH based chat room. I haven’t tried it but I liked the post and the details it goes into. (via)
  • Al Weiwei is Living in Our Future – a good read on privacy and surveillance. Starts off with Chinese artist Al Weiwei who is under permanent surveillance (initially in prison but now house arrest) but soon moves on to how Governments and Corporations now use technology to keep us under ubiquitous surveillance. Creepy. Gotta read two books I came across from this post:

Switching to Route 53

Started using Amazon’s Route 53 (cool name!) today to serve DNS queries for this domain (rakhesh.com). Previously I was using DNS services from my excellent email provider FastMail but I thought I must try other options just to know what else is there. I was testing another domain of mine with Route 53 this past month, today I switched this main domain over. 

For my simple DNS requirements the two things that attracted me to Route 53 were the cost-effective pricing and the fact that it uses Anycast (see this CloudFlare post for an intro to Anycast).  It also has two other features that I am interested in exploring – Health Checks and the fact that it has an API. Need to explore these when I get some time. 

A cool thing about the AWS documentation is that it lets you download as a PDF or send to Kindle. Wish the TechNet/ MSDN documentation had a similar feature. Currently it’s a hit and miss when I send pages from TechNet/ MSDN to Kindle (via the Chrome extension). Sometimes bits and pieces are missed out, which I only realize later when reading the article. InstaPaper never manages to get any of the text, while Pocket is generally good at getting it (but I don’t use Pocket as it doesn’t have highlights, while both Kindle and InstaPaper have that). 

[Aside] Couple of GPO notes

Figured something that had been bugging me for long. Got a couple of Win 8.1 machines in my test lab and startup scripts would take a while to launch on them. Initially I thought it must be security related or something, then I noticed that the Win 7 machines in the lab don’t have an issue. This got my checking for any Win 8.1 changes with startup scripts, and found this blog post. Turns out with Win 8.1 startup scripts are delayed for 5 mins! Good news is this setting can be turned off via a GPO – Computer Configuration\Policies\Administrative Templates\System\Group Policy\Configure Logon Script Delay.

Another thing I learnt today was regarding applying language settings via GPO preferences. By default they don’t get applied until you press the F5/F6 key to mark it as enabled. 

Lastly, just as a reminder to myself – to change the default Start Menu power button from Shutdown to anything else, use this GPO setting

Windows Server 2012 licensing

I have been catching up on a lot of MVA courses lately and one of them mentioned a short course on Server 2012 licensing so I checked that out yesterday.

The first half of the course made sense to me but the second half didn’t. Mainly coz I haven’t worked with Server & Cloud Enrollment (SCE) and the course assumes you are aware of it, so it only talks about the improvements with Server 2012 R2. From the first half here are some salient points:

  • Server 2012 R2 has four editions. Two of these are for small business (less than 25 & 15 users). Two of these are for private clouds.
    • The private cloud editions are Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter and Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard. 
    • The small business editions are Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials and Windows Server 2012 R2 Foundation.
  • Unlike Server 2008 where the three private cloud editions – Standard, Enterprise, and Datacenter – had differing features, now Standard and Datacenter have the same features. They only differ in terms of virtual instance licenses (i.e. the number of times you can use the license as a virtual server).
    • Standard has two virtual instance licenses.
      • Worth noting that these virtual licenses can be stacked. That is if you attach two licenses to a server then you get 2+2 = 4 virtual licenses. 
      • If you have multiple licenses, when you step up from Standard to Datacenter via the Software Assurance program you can only exchange one Standard license for a Datacenter license. Meaning, you can’t step up two Standard licenses for one Datacenter licenses. It’s a one-t0-one upgrade. 
    • Datacenter has unlimited virtual instance licenses. (This explains why all the Microsoft training centers use Datacenter! No need to worry about guest OS licensing then.)
  • Also, in Server 2008 Datacenter was licensed per processor, while Enterprise and Standard were licensed per server. But in Server 2012 R2 both Standard and Datacenter are licensed per processor.
    • A single license covers up to two processors on a single server. 
  • In contrast Server 2012 R2 Foundation and Essentials are licensed per server. 
    • Essentials is licensed per server for a maximum of two processors.
    • Foundation is licensed per server for a maximum of one processor. 
  • Unlike Server 2008, both versions of Server 2012 – Data Center and Standard – have the same features. Only difference is in terms of virtualization. The Data Center edition supports unlimited virtual guests, the Standard edition only supports two.
  • In addition to the licensing above, you also need device or user Client Access Licenses (CALs).