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After taking it easy for a little bit I've managed to pump out a decent amount of significant work this month. I even managed to accomplish my goal of bringing another server online, on-time and within budget!
HRCloud2 - Lots of activity lately. For starters, the instructions became a little simpler and HRAI got the ability to scan files for viruses on-demand. The included dependencies getid3 and WordPress were updated to the latest versions. Several bugs were fixed including saving of A/V settings on the settings page, and a ton in the HRStreamer integrated app. Some of the tweaks include allowing more safe characters through sanitization, adding support for m4a and m4v files (kinda premature but worth-a-go), moving the icons for Shared and Favorited files to the left from the right, adding a "New Window" button and some alt text to the Drive page, and adding a visualizer to HRStreamer. Two new apps were added, including "JSPaint" by 1j01 for creating, editing, and saving image files and "RSS" for managing separate feeds of multiple RSS sources each. Lastly the refactor that was started several months ago is finally drawing to a close, with only very minor low-hanging fruit left to be taken care of. Compat core could still be made a lot smaller with loops but considering the code is for occasional maintenance and out of the way of most use cases it's not a priority right now.
HRScan2 - Fixed a bug with auto file cleanup.
HRConvert2 - Support was added for m4a and m4v files using a lot of the same code that went into the latest round of HRCloud2 updates. It's kinda touchy and I'm hoping I can improve it. M4p files should work in theory.
Atoner - Working on concept art, concept audio, and character concepts. Intro scene is almost done. Very slow progress but this project is a lot of fun and an incredible learning experience.
HonestRepair Network - The new server "Athena" is complete and online! It's still being integrated into the network which is taking a little longer than I was hoping. At the moment it seems that "Athena" will probably take another month of configuring/fine-tuning before I can move on to concentrate on her sister server; "Pandora". The original plan was to bring "Athena" online in October and "Pandora" online in November, but realistically there's no rush and I want to do this right the first time. Plus Pandora is going to need RAM before launch and it's just not in the budget right now.
In The News
Bloomberg, SuperMicro, Amazon, & Apple all find themselves making headlines this month after Bloomberg published an explosive story that has appearantly been years in the making. The respected news outlet continues to stand by it's word even after several government agencies from the US and UK back up rebuttals from Apple and Amazon denying nearly every aspect of the story. The article, titled "The Big Hack", is drawing skeptisicm and conspiracy theories from all sides as the IT world struggles for answers. Some are convinced that the 37 year old newspaper was purposely fed misinformation for a plethora of reasons ranging from insider trading to covert missions to undermine journalists, to foreign interference, to scapegoating/framing China. On the other side of the fence some are convinced that Apple and Amazon are under gag orders, or must be complicit in a massive government cover-up or double-espionage operation that Bloomberg compromised. It's a total mess and we may never know any more than we do right now.
Google managed to disclose a data breach, shut down their failed Google+ social network, and announce new security features all in one blog post. While the bad news was glossed over in the official Google post, IT professionals were quick to notice, and point out, the glaring dissonance of Google's crammed announcements. The official post can be found here and highlights Google's desire to avoid attention to the fact that they're primary market is largely un-regulated as their competitors like Facebook begin attracting the attention of lawmakers for breach disclosures of their own.
DarkPulsar, an alleged NSA backdoor-ing tool partially released by the ShadowBroker hacking group in 2017, was found installed on infrastructure and industrial targets in Egypt, Iran, and Russia. The discovery was made by Kapersky Labs and marks the first time a security team has had the chance to research both the administration side of the malware along with it's payload. Until the discovery researchers only had access to the administrative framework and module. The team used hard-coded information found in the source code of the administrative module to hone in on infected machines in the wild to get their hands on the missing piece of the puzzle: the malware's payload.
Linux creator Linus Torvalds took some time away from his open-source O/S to focus on his people skills last month. He retured on Tuesday, October 23 after just barely missing the release of version 4.19 of the Linux kernel. In Torvald's absence, the email announcing the latest kernel release was notably sent by senior Kernel maintainer Greg Kroah-Hartman. Greg has been heavily involved in Linux development since 2013.
Reusing Old Hardware
Everybody has one. At least one. Collecting dust in a closet somewhere; waiting to be thrown away. It's not a time capsule per-se, but if you looked at it now it would probably show you a snapshot of a life you lived not that long ago. It was once a source of pride, entertainment, accomplishment or perhaps comfort. Maybe it was a status symbol. Now you would call it useless, worthless, junk.
We're not talking about the photo album from your dormroom party days, although it might still contain a copy. We're talking about your old PC, laptop, netbook, or computer. That thing you spent hundreds or thousands of dollars on to sit in front of for hours doing whatever it is that you do. Maybe it helped you get a degree, or maybe it was your primary source of income. Doesn't matter now anyway. Your smart-toaster does more MIPS and FLOPS with half the power! There's no value in an old computer, right?
Wrong! If the commoditization of computing hardware and the steady marching of Moore's law has done anything to old computers it has been to breathe new life into them. How, you ask?
Make Everything Obsolete. Constantly.
That might seem contrary to common-sense, but if you think of every new high-end piece of hardware it has the effect of reducing the price of whatever hardware preceeded it. That doesn't mean the preceeding hardware becomes less capable. It means it becomes more cost effective to acquire.
On the consumer side performance is a luxury. The simple reason for that is that desktop applications typically don't use even a fraction of the resources available to them. Having a faster computer these days (for most daily tasks) doesn't mean that your tasks get done faster; it means that you can do more tasks at once.
Before you call me crazy, because I know what you're thinking, let's loop back to the part where obsoleting hardware drops the value of the hardware that preceeded it.
If the advantage of having newer hardware is that you can do more concurrently, you can offset that performance gain with lower throughput hardware. You just need MORE hardware to make up the difference.
For example, a new-in-box 2017 Intel Xeon E3 1320 V6 costs about $200 at the moment. On the other hand you can get a 2007 Intel Xeon E5620 for under $10. From a performance perspective, the 11 year old CPU has the same memory bandwidth, more L3 cache, more bus throughput, triple channel memory, and the same 80W TDP. That means brand new servers are rolling out of factories right now that have the same performance characteristics as servers made 10 years ago.
Despite what the benchmark gurus and marketing experts want you to believe, hardware has greatly outpaced software requirements to a laughable extent. So much so that the Cloud has made the execution of code a commodity. With competition like that the question isn't how hard does your existing technology work, but how smart does it work. Is it being fully utilized and can it's duties be optimized to accomplish more in spite of having less.
Brush Away The Cobwebs
This is where your cringy old computer comes into play. Some things I look for in old machines include...
That's pretty wide-open, but realistic considering how forgiving many of the Linux based OS's are these days. I reccomend Lubuntu and an inexpensive solid-state boot drive. If that blows your budget and you still need more IO performance you can try using an SD card slot or USB port for a flash storage swap partition to give things a boost.
So Now What?
A good place to start would be to look at an online feature that you take for granted on a regular basis and try to internalize it. There's a list of self-hosted applications for just this purpose on Github called Awesome-SelfHosted that's, well... Awesome.
If you listen to Pandora, try installing Audio Streamer and have free access to your entire library of music wherever you go. If you use a ton of email requirements perhaps give Mail-In-A-Box a shot. If downloading a lot of torrents is your thing you can automate and organize the entire process with Sonarr and Radarr. If you've got a home theatre you can use a Kodi server/client setup as an HTPC. If you've got some graphics power to play with consider using Steam in "Big Picture" mode to get some casual gaming going on your TV. Or if you're the security-minded type you can setup a home firewall or intrusion detection device using pfSense by adding an extra 1000mbps ethernet card for around $10.
My favorite option, of course, is to install Our Entire Suite of open-source home server apps onto your PC, giving you total control over your own Cloud platform complete with virus scaning, file conversions, apps and app launcher, and personal assistant just to name a few.
Give It Another 15 Minutes Of Fame
I'm always impressed with how resiliant old technology can be, especially after it's lost it's luster. If you've got a jalopy computer, crazy homelab, or a really good use of spare computing power that you'd like to show off I'd love to see it.
Rowley MA, USA
All work licensed under GPLv3.
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