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© Rakhesh Sasidharan

Elsewhere

[Aside] Improving your PuTTY connections

Wish I had come across this during my PuTTY days!

The TL;DR summary is that by default PuTTY uses an ASCII encoding while most Linux and other OSes uses UTF-8 encoding. It’s because of this mismatch that manpages and such sometimes appear with â characters. Change the PuTTY encoding and find happiness! 

[Aside] What doesn’t seem like work?

From this essay by Paul Graham:

If something that seems like work to other people doesn’t seem like work to you, that’s something you’re well suited for.

That essay links to another longer essay about work and doing what you love. Have added it to my Instapaper queue.

[Aside] Some quotes

On passion

I think it’s not exactly true to say that if you do something you are passionate about, the money will come. But, if you do almost anything really diligently then the money will come. And it takes passion to have that kind of diligence. And … if you almost anything really diligently you will figure out what parts of it like and what you don’t and that will help inform your choices (when it comes to choosing a job or doing another thing). 

– Isaac Schlueter (from this podcast)

On money

Money is not the root of all evil. The love for money is the root of all evil. 

– Apparently this is the original version but somewhere along the line became misquoted. I came across this via another podcast (I think Jonathan Strickland said the correct version on the podcast)  

[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:

[Aside] Everything you need to know about cryptography in 1 hour – Colin Percival

Good talk about crypto by Colin Percival. The talk is slightly less than 2 hours long (but that could be due to questions at the end – I don’t know, I am only 50 mins into it so far). 

A good talk. With a lot of humor in between. Only reason I decided to watch this video is because I follow Colin’s blog (or rather I try to follow – there’s a lot of crypto stuff in there that goes over my head). He was the FreeBSD Security officer when I was into FreeBSD and that’s how I started following his blog and became aware of him.  Am glad I am watching it though, it clarifies a lot of things I was vaguely aware of without going into too much details. I don’t think I’ll ever be doing programming that involves crypto, but it’s good to know and is an area of interest. 

[Aside] Multiple domain forests

Was reading about multiple domains/ child domains in a forest and came across these interesting posts. They talk pretty much the same stuff. 

Key points are:

  • In the past a domain was considered to be the security boundary. But since Windows 2000 a domain is no longer considered a security boundary, a forest is.
  • Domain Admins from child domain can gain access to control the forest. The posts don’t explain how but allude that it is possible and widely known.
  • Another reason for multiple domains was password policies. In Windows Server 2000 and 2003 password policies were per domain. But since Windows Server 2008 it is possible to define Fine-Grain Password Policies (FGPPs) that can override the default domain password policy. 
  • Multiple domains were also used when security was a concern. Maybe a remote location had poor security and IT Admins weren’t comfortable with having all the domain usernames and password replicating to DCs in such locations. Solution was the create a separate domain with just the users of that domain. But since Windows Server 2008 we have Read-Only Domain Controllers (RODCs) that do not store any password and can be set to cache passwords of only specified users.
  • Yet another reason for multiple domains was DNS replication. In Windows Server 2000 AD integrated DNS zones replicated to all DCs of the domain – that is, even DCs not holding the DNS role. To avoid such replication traffic multiple domains were created so the DNS replication was limited to only DCs of those domains. Again, starting Windows Server 2003 we have Application Partitions which can be set to replicate to specific DCs. In fact, Server 2003 introduced two Application Partitions specifically for DNS – a Forest DNS Zone partition, and a Domain DNS Zone partition (per domain). These replicate to all DCs that are also DNS servers in the forest and domain respectively, thus reducing DNS replication traffic. 
  • Something I wasn’t aware of until I read these articles was the Linked Value Replication (LVR). In Server 2000 whenever an attribute changed the entire attribute was replicated – for example, if a user is added to a group, the list of all group members is replicated – obviously too much traffic, and yet another reason for multiple domains (to contain the replication traffic). But since Server 2003 we have LVR which only replicates the change – thus, if a user is added to the group, only the addition is replicated. 

One recommendation (itself a matter of debate and recommended against in the above two posts) is to have two domains in the forest with one of them being a placeholder:

  1. A root domain, which will be the forest root domain and will contain the forest FSMO roles as well as Schema Admins and Enterprise Admins; and 
  2. A child domain, which will be the regular domain and will contain everything else (all the OUs, users, Domain Admins)

The root domain will not contain any objects except the Enterprise & Schema admins and the DCs. Check out this article for a nice picture and more details on this model. It’s worth pointing out that such a model is only recommended for medium to large domains, not small domains (because of overhead of maintaining two domains with the additional DCs).

Also check out this post on domain models in general. It is a great post and mentions the “placeholder forest root domain” model of above and how it is often used. From the comments I learnt why it’s better to create child domains rather than peer domains in case of the placeholder forest root domain model. If you create peers there’s no way to indicate a specific domain is the forest root – from the name they all appear the same – while if you create child domains you can easily identify who the forest root is. Also, with child domains you know that the parent forest root domain is important because you can’t remove that domain (without realizing its role) because the child domain namespace depends on it. Note that creating a domain as child to another does not give Domain Admins of the latter administrative rights to it (except of course if these Domain Admins are also Enterprise Admins). The domain is a child only in that its namespace is a child. The two domains have a two way trust relationship – be it peers or parent/ child – so users can logon to each domain using credentials from their domain, but they have no other rights unless explicitly granted. 

The authors of the “Active Directory (5th ed.)” book (a great book!) recommend keeping things simple and avoiding placeholder forest root domains.

[Aside] Systems, Science and FreeBSD

Interesting talk by George Neville-Neil on FreeBSD and research. At Microsoft Cambridge, of all the places! 

I am listening to two BSD podcasts nowadays – bsdtalk and BSD Now – and it’s been both great (coz I just love BSD!) and sad (coz I just love BSD and wish I were using them as actively as I was many years ago … sigh!). Came across the above talk via BSD Now, I listened to the audio version (you don’t really need the video version as it’s mostly talking and the slides are a separate download anyway and you can skip those). Earlier this week I listened to the bsdtalk interview with Mathew Dillon, founder of DragonFlyBSD. That was a great interview. I admire Matthew Dillon a lot and have listened to his previous interview (interviews?) on bsdtalk and elsewhere. Takes passion and vision and knowledge to stand by what you feel and fork an OS such as FreeBSD and actually get it going this far – I totally admire that! Sadly, DragonFlyBSD is the one I have least used – except briefly to check out HAMMER.

Anyways, thought I’d post links to these …

[Aside] AdBlock Plus

Came across this report yesterday. Turns out AdBlock Plus (ABP) increases memory usage due to the way it works. Check out this post by a Mozilla developer for more info. The latter post also includes responses from the ABP developer. 

I disabled ABP on my browsers. Not because of these reports, but because I had been thinking of disabling it for a while but never got around to it. (I know it’s just a right click and disable away, but I never got around to it! :) Mainly coz I use the excellent Ghostery and Privacy Badger extensions, and these block most of the trackers and widgets I am interested in blocking, so I have never used ABP much. I had installed it a long time ago and it gets installed automatically on all my new Chrome/ Firefox installs thanks to sync, but I never configure or bother with it (except to whitelist a site if I feel ABP could be causing issues with it). Yesterday’s report seemed to be a good excuse to finally remove it. 

This Hacker News post is also worth a read. There are some alternatives like µBlock (seems to be Chrome only) (github link). It is based on HTTP Switchboard and is by the same developer. I have used HTTP Switchboard briefly in the past. Came across it as I was looking for a NoScript equivalent for Chrome and this was recommended. I didn’t use it much though as there was too much configuring and white-listing to do. (For that matter I stopped using NoScript too. It’s still installed but disabled except for its XSS features). Like I said, my favorites now are Ghostery and Privacy Badger – the latter is especially smart in that automatically starts blocking websites based on your browsing patterns (in fact Privacy Badger is based on ABP). 

[Aside] A brief history of Time …

Came across this post on the Windows time service. Thought I’d link to it here as a reference to myself. Good post. 

Some useful switches to keep in mind – (1) to get the current time configuration:

And (2) to get who the source is:

And (3) to get the status of time syncs and delays:

 

All commands work for remote computers to via the /computer: switch. I mentioned these and more switches previously in an AD post …

[Aside] Quotes from Jeff Bezos interview

Jeff Bezos is one of those CEOs I admire. He is different. Has a long term vision. So it’s always fun to read an interview of him. Here are some quotes from a recent interview of his. Stuff I believe in and agree with but put way better by him.

On Experiments

… one of my jobs is to encourage people to be bold. It’s incredibly hard.  Experiments are, by their very nature, prone to failure. A few big successes compensate for dozens and dozens of things that didn’t work.

What really matters is, companies that don’t continue to experiment, companies that don’t embrace failure, they eventually get in a desperate position where the only thing they can do is a Hail Mary bet at the very end of their corporate existence. … Whereas companies that are making bets all along, even big bets, but not bet-the-company bets, prevail. I don’t believe in bet-the-company bets. That’s when you’re desperate. That’s the last thing you can do.

My main job today: I work hard at helping to maintain the culture. A culture of high standards of operational excellence, of inventiveness, of willingness to fail, willingness to make bold experiments. I’m the counterbalance to the institutional “no” who can say “yes.”

On Time

Where you are going to spend your time and your energy is one of the most important decisions you get to make in life. We all have a limited amount of time, and where you spend it and how you spend it is just an incredibly levered way to think about the world.

On Passion

Probably my favourite quote of all. Because I am big on passions. And my biggest passion is computers, which I don’t know why is the case but it is.

… you don’t get to choose your passions. Your passions choose you.

[Aside] Hyper-V R2 replicas

Saw this post in the Technet newsletter. Good stuff. I won’t be using it now (wish I were managing a Hyper-V environment in the first place! setting up replicas is a far away dream L:)) but thought I should point to it anyways. Maybe some day I’ll need to use Hyper-V replicas and I’ll search my blog and come across this … maybe maybe! :)

From my ESXi training I know VMware has something similar (vSphere Replication). The latter is a paid additional feature while Hyper-V replicas are free. Also, here’s a comparison by Aidan Finn.

[Aside] Understanding SSD performance

Was reading up on SSD performance degradation and came across this (old) article from AnandTech. Good one! Explains why SSD performance degrades over time and what TRIM sorta does to improve things. The unfortunate truth seems to be that SSD performance will slowly degrade over time and the only way to restore performance then is to do a secure erase (see this PCWorld article too). 

Update: I don’t want to make a new post just to mention this so I’ll update this older post of mine. Here’s a post from Scott Hanselman on why Windows defrags your SSD drives and how that’s not such a bad idea. Upshot of the matter is this: fragmentation affects SSDs too, though not as much as HDDs (because SSDs have no performance hit unlike HDDs). With SSDs fragmentation affects performance in that (1) there’s a limit to the number of fragments a file can have, and once that limit is reached it can cause errors when writing/ updating; (2) more fragments means more time spent putting these fragments together when a file is read. To avoid these performance issues Windows automatically defrags SSDs once every month.

[Aside] Quote (from Chef)

In the movie “Chef” Jon Favreau is a chef who loves cooking and quits (or was he fired?) from his restaurant due to creative differences with the owner. His ex-wife suggests he start a food truck so he has creative freedom to cook the way he wants to and connect with his customers. Replace cooking/ food with computers and this is more or less the story of my life! Of course I haven’t resigned to follow my passion, but that’s the matter for another post …

Jon’s movie son joins him in the truck. And there’s this scene where he cooks something that’s slightly burnt. Jon tells him to throw it away but the son is like why not just serve it to the customers? They won’t know the difference, so no harm done. Jon replies with the following:

I may not do everything great in my life, but I’m good at this. I manage to touch people’s lives with what I do and I want to share this with you.

I think there was a bit more to the actual dialogue but this is all I could find to copy-paste easily from the Internet. What I loved about this quote is how he knows he hasn’t been a good father, a good husband, maybe even a good person due to his single minded passion for cooking but he isn’t apologetic about it. He knows he hasn’t been good, but that’s how he is, and on this one thing that he is indeed good at he want’s to give his very best and share his pleasure with his customers and son. I found the dialogue and the feeling behind it very powerful, especially coz I feel the same way a lot of times. I am a lousy father and husband coz I am more focused on computers and gadgets than a family life, but like Jon’s character I take my work with computers and gadgets very seriously and try to do my best with it. It’s something I am proud of (or try to be proud of at least).

[Aside] Quote (on God)

I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the kind that we experience in ourselves. Neither can I nor would I want to conceive of an individual that survives his physical death; let feeble souls, from fear or absurd egoism, cherish such thoughts. I am satisfied with the mystery of the eternity of life and with the awareness and a glimpse of the marvelous structure of the existing world, together with the devoted striving to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny, of the Reason that manifests itself in nature.

– Albert Einstein, from “The World as I See It”

Came across the above in a book I am reading (“Ganesha on the Dashboard” by V. Raghunathan & M.A. Eswaran). The book attributes this quote to Bertrand Russell, but the Internet attributes this to Albert Einsten. I’ll go with the Internet.

Reading this quote blew my mind. That’s exactly the argument I too have about God! Each time my wife or parents insist I visit a temple or pray that’s exactly what I go through in my mind. The God I can conceive of does not punish me for my “mistakes” nor is capable of rewarding me for “good deeds” or “prayers”. A “God” who does all these is simply not a God for me. Such an entity might be a demigod or some other force, but definitely not God.

God (or Tao or the force or whatever) made us and everything around us. If we behave a certain way the onus of those decisions are on us. God gave us a brain and thought processes. Right and Wrong are relative and while there are many things that are Wrong for everyone, it is up to each one of us to discover and feel this for ourselves. Simply classifying something as Wrong and/ or not doing Wrong deeds even though we may not agree, but going along with it just coz God said so, is not the right way to do it in my opinion.

All that aside, the last line of the quote is another thing that resonates so well with me. The world is something. WE are something. There’s a beauty in it all, a mystery. The journey is the thing, not the destination. Putting up a God and chasing after what He/ She says isn’t the end goal for me; the end goal is the discovery. Of discovering the world around me and also the world within me. The “growing” I do – of my values, frames of reference, what I find to be right and wrong – that is the important thing.

Of course Einstein conveys all this much better than I do an in fewer words! Amazing!