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We've had a solid month for Software Updates, with a huge refactor underway for HRCloud2 that could carry over into HRConvert2. The refactor aims to reduce the overall amount of code going through the interpreter and condense long-winded stretches of code. We're also getting ready to release a new application for self-hosted virus scanning in next month or so, so keep your eyes peeled for that.

We also ran into some trouble recently with extracting/creating/converting archive formats on our HRCloud2 installation, the HonestRepair Cloud. We are currently investigating and hope to have a fix implemented within the coming days.

Whats New?

HRCloud2 (Github) - This month we made a ton of progress optimizing the code that gets run through the PHP interpreter. We also consolidated the stylesheet generators into commonCore.php and added a few handy variables for controlling which stylesheets get loaded by which apps. 

We also updated almost all of the apps included in the HRCloud2-App-Pack with to take advantage of the latest changes. This means that Bookmars, Notes, Contacts get the full stylesheet treatment that the main Cloud Drive window gets.

PHP-AV was updated so heavily that it deserves it's own paragraph! The latest round of updates bring scan logging to the application as well as an interactive console that updates with near real-time scanning data. Users can now select what their refresh rate should be for the console, and when they click "Scan" the console will appear and refresh the scan log data at the specified intervals. We also fixed targettted scanning, but keep in mind that the server's user is the one checking files. Pointing PHP-AV at your desktop will probably result in lots and lots of permission denied errors, because the "www-data" user won't have permission to scan the files.

HRConvert2 (Github) - We've tweaked a lot of the code that cleans old files and sync's data between locations. These changes should reduce disk IO and improve performance. We also weeded out some bugs when processing files with spaces in the filename.

Atoner (first-person shooter game) - Nothing to report from last time. 

HonestRepair Network - Steadily plugging along! We've launched a Help Desk and Knowledgebase based off the open-source HESK platform that will allow us to serve clients all over the world. We also are rolling out Per-Ticket Pricing and Service Contracts for the new platform, so users can get support from HonestRepair in an affordable way. You can learn more about it on our Help Desk page.

Other Stuff - HTA's are fun! I've been experimenting with an HTA wrapper for some of my Windows automation scripts and it's actually quite fun. VBS is such a cryptic language, but it's actually quite easy to prototype and fool around with. Yes, I've heard of PS... and I still don't care.

In The News

Google (they prefer to go by Alphabet now) got hit with a $5bn fine in the European Union this week after it was determined that the company had engaged in anti-competetive practices related to the licensing of their Android operating system. Google CEO Sundar Pichai responded to the fine in a blog post by slinging veiled threats at their own Google Play development community, which kinda sounds to me like cutting off your nose to spite your face, but hey; whatever works!   Source: https://techcrunch.com/2018/07/18/google-gets-slapped-5bn-by-eu-for-android-antitrust-abuse/

Microsoft wasn't the only one eyeballing the open-source community Github, according to a recent Bloomberg article. Appearantly, Github had been in talks with both Microsoft and Google about possible acquisition, but decided to proceed with Microsoft citing a close personal relationship with CEO Satya Naranyana Nadella. Neither of the two conglomorates would have been my first choice but they definately went with the lesser of two evils in this case.  Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-06-28/google-exec-says-microsoft-beat-search-giant-to-buy-github

Un-Google Your Life - Part I

The major social networks of our time have been getting a lot of attention in the media recently for their privacy practices. We are forward thinkers here at HonestRepair and we wanted to share with our readers some clever ways to stay one-step ahead of the data mills and keep your personal data... well, personal. 

To do that isn't easy. Google has gone to great lengths to try and wedge itself between every single one of us and their personal data. From your phone, to your internet browser, to the place you store your passwords, contacts, email, and photos. Google knows more about you than your closest friend. The scariest part is; it's all information that you've given them... "freely." 

To start our quest we need to stop the bleeding. We're going to fire up Chrome one last time to download our new browser of choice... Firefox. Or Opera. Or Hell even Midori! While we're at it lets go ahead and install a few plugins. I like to use "HTTPS Everywhere," "Privacy Badger," and "Ad-Block Plus." Don't forget to review the settings for each extension once it's installed!

Believe it or not just by installing these plugins we will be keeping Google's prying eyes at bay. Google is a major player in the digital advertising industry, but it will be hard pressed to get it's spam past your new anti-malvertising arsenal. 

After that we're going to spend a little money. Don't worry, it's well worth it. We need to buy a Raspberry Pi 3 and a plastic case. We're going to be making a Pi-Hole take care of the DNS for our network. 

A "Pi-Hole" is a DNS server that you can run on just about any computer (but it goes well with Pi) that will block queries to known spammy domains. So instead of loading a bunch of spammy content just to have Ad-Block Plus scrub it out again, we won't even load it in the first place! I've done this at home and after just a couple hours several Google owned domains had already popped up in my Pi-Hole Dashboard as my most blocked URL's.

Brand new RPI3 and a black plastic case.

The best part is, the crew over at Pi-Hole have made installing this beast super easy. Just fire up your favorite Debian linux distro and type this one-liner into a console...

curl -sSL https://install.pi-hole.net | bash

And answer the questions when prompted. That's the easy part, though. Next you're going to want to follow your routers instructions for making configuration changes and disable DHCP server built into it, then enable the one built into Pi-Hole. You may have to tweak some things to get your other self-hosted stuff back online, but coming from someone who self-hosts an unlimited Cloud platform in-house it really wasn't difficult. 

The next thing you're going to want to do is replace your default search provider in your web browser and on your mobile devices. I've been using DuckDuckGo, as it offers unparalelled privacy as far as search engines go. The process for changing default search provider looks a bit different depending on which browser or device you're using, but if you're still reading this you can probably figure it out.

If you want to go all-out in your quest to scrub yourself clean from Google you're gonna have to ditch the Android phone. If you're willing to go that route check out Librem 5 for. It's still being developed but they've raised more than enough funding and seem to be making strides. If you're looking for more options, Eelo is another open-source mobile OS that looks promising but it's budget is far lower than Librem.

If waiting isn't an option and you want something a Google-less device to hold you over in the meantime you download and play around with Tizen right now! Or you could always make your own phone from scratch using an RPI Zero (I would rock this thing until my dying day). 

For now that's a good start, but it certainly doesn't cover all our bases. We still have to do something about Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Apps, and tie up any loose ends. We'll get there in "Un-Google Your Life - Part II" next month!

In The Next Issue...

We continue setting up self-hosted apps on our local network to reduce our dependency on Google services. I wanted to go a lot further in this issue but there's a lot going on and I just didn't have time. It's for the best, though, as I don't like to rush on these Newsletters.


Justin Grimes (@zelon88)

Rowley MA, USA
All work licensed under GPLv3.
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