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  • Secure your cPanel WHM with a PPTP VPN

    So as a lot of you know that I’ve done a lot of hosting in my time. With that comes the territory that is a cPanel server. cPanel is a fantastic and well-thought-out product. That being said, any cPanel server that’s been kicking around on the net for longer than a couple of months is likely constantly being attacked by Chinese botnets trying to gain access to cPanel boxes for use with their “aggressive marketing” scanning your ports looking for anything listening on 2087 and get all excited when they find a WHM cPanel alive and well.


    The son of a dead cocoa merchant needs my help retrieving a locked box containing $21.3 million USD. Give me your PayPal password.

    cPanel comes with cPHulk installed and enabled by default. This is actually a really great bit of kit and I recommend everyone use it as it will watch over all kinds of services not just the WHM panel (The owner’s control panel not your customers for those playing the home game.)

    BROTIP: This guide is only to secure the 2087 root site and SSH behind a VPN. Your cPanel customers/users will still be able to access all resources from the outside like normal including their cPanel (port 2083).

    I had my cPHulk setup to notify me when there was an attempt at a brute force attack thinking naively when I started out that this would be a few and far between thing. I really wasn’t worried about it as my root passwords are ridiculously long and complex… But it’s annoying. Manually adding attack subnets using my iPhone was tiresome and monotonous.

    So I figured, there has to be a way…

    There is. In my Google searching I found that you can use the WHM built-in Host Access Control panel which is a spiffy GUI front end for hosts.allow and hosts.deny. (but it puts deny statements in hosts.allow.) I was like cool, I can just block the internet on a per service basis. But then I realized that I have a dynamic IP at home (though it hasn’t changed in over a year, it could change at any moment.) And what if I want to access WHM on my iPhone over my carrier’s network? Clearly, I’m going to have zero idea what my IP address would be and I’d have to leave a large swath of IP range owned by my ISP and mobile carrier open to WHM access. I then had the thought… Why not just hide all of the “admin” services behind a VPN?

    My first thought of course was using an IPSec VPN from my home network to my hosting servers. But then I thought, “Has IPSec ever gone smoothly when Windows is involved?”

    The next thought was PPTP, it’s simple to install and configure in Linux and it actually doesn’t suck duck nuts on Windows. So here’s how you setup your cPanel server to hide services behind a PPTP VPN.

    First thing we need to install PPTPd on your Linux box.

    1. CentOS 6/RHEL6
      1. yum install ppp (but it’ll likely already be installed)
      2. cd usr/local/src
      3. wget http://poptop.sourceforge.net/yum/stable/packages/pptpd-1.3.4-2.el6.x86_64.rpm (if you’re on 32 bit linux, stop reading now and go fix your box.)
      4. rpm –Uhv pptpd-1.3.4-2.el6.x86_64.rpm
    2. CentOS 5/RHEL5
      1. See above except the file name is different: pptpd-1.3.4-2.rhel5.x86_64.rpm
    3. Ubuntu (who runs cPanel on Ubuntu?)
      1. apt-get install pptpd
      2. ??????
      3. PROFIT


    Because this shit doesn’t write itself, people.

    Next, we need to add some IP settings.

    Head over /etc/

    vi /etc/pptpd.conf

    Scroll to the bottom and uncomment the first set of IPs.

    Here’s the deal with this. There’s not a lot of documentation on this. I highly recommend that you make the local IP and the remote IPs different than any private network you may be connecting from and of course make it a private network (172.16.x.x, 10.x.x.x, 192.168.x.x) so as not to interfere with any production environments.

    localip 192.168.33.1
    remoteip 192.168.33.100-200 (you can specify a single IP or a range here.)

    Next we need some creds. Edit the chap-secrets file which should look something like this.

    vi /etc/ppp/chap-secrets

    # client        server    secret            IP addresses
    Username * Password *

    Here we’re putting in the username which works on any server (*) with the password specified from any IP address (*) with tabs in between. Resist the urge to get cute and start trying to filter source/destination IP. You’ll just end up crying yourself to sleep.

    BROTIP: Do NOT use the same password as your root password. Think about it. IF someone were to get this password, one of your customers somehow read chap-secrets, the farthest they’d get into your system is where you were before all of this. Besides, if someone can read your chap-secrets file, you’ve got bigger problems. But alas, you don’t want to hand them your root password. Don’t do it. I warned you. If you do it, your shit will turn black and fall off. For cereals….

    There are other options we can add to PPTP none of which apply here because we’re not doing PPTP for connectivity we’re doing it for security. Move along.

    Let’s bust out some iptables.

    BROTIP: replace eth0 (green) with your device name, it may be different if you’re using a physical host with multiple NICs.

    iptables -A INPUT -i eth0 -p tcp –dport 1723 -j ACCEPT
    iptables -A INPUT -i eth0 -p gre -j ACCEPT
    iptables -t nat -A POSTROUTING -o eth0 -j MASQUERADE
    iptables -A FORWARD -i ppp+ -o eth0 -j ACCEPT
    iptables -A FORWARD -i eth0 -o ppp+ -j ACCEPT
    service iptables save
    service iptables restart

    Boom!

    Start PPTPd:

    service pptpd restart

    Tada!

    BROTIP: depending upon your hardware, you may not have autocreated the /dev/ppp device and you’ll fail at connecting to the VPN. TEST YOUR VPN NOW!!!! If you secure your server and you’re not sure if you’re VPN works first, you will be hosed unless you have physical access.

    Create the device with:        mknod /dev/ppp c 108 0

     

    Next, we’re going to lock ourselves out of our servers… Well not really, but you’ll see. There are two ways to do this. First, if you’re a sissy, log into WHM as root and head to the GUI or do it man-style through the cli since if you’re following this guide, you should already be there.

    Edit /etc/hosts.allow

    vi /etc/hosts.allow

    This file has a really simple format. It’s 3 simple fields but the order of the lines is important for not locking yourself out of your server. Additionally, the two main services we’re going to focus on here is whostmgrd (WHM cPanel) and SSHd (your SSH access). Which reminds me, if you’re running telnet on your cPanel server, just go ahead and post your IP and root password in the comments below and I’m sure one of our many talented readers will fix that for you.

    whostmgrd : 192.168.33.0/255.255.255.0 : allow
    sshd : 192.168.33.0/255.255.255.0 : allow
    whostmgrd : ALL : deny
    sshd : ALL : deny

    Ok, so look closely here, people. My allow statements are ABOVE my deny statements. The file is read from the top down and STOPS once a matching statement is found. So you want your allows to be above your denies almost always. If you hose this up, I hope you have physical access to the box.

    So as soon as you save that file it’s going to take effect. You should probably proof read that bad boy, then have your wife look at it and maybe your cat before saving because you will lose normal internet access to it on those ports.

    If all goes well when you try to login to your server on the WHM port you get politely told to fuck off.


    lol nope!

    So now when all the bot nets are porting around trying to find your WHM server, they’re going to find the port open yes, but they’re not going to even be given the opportunity to load on your system by attempting to log in.

    Now in order to log in as root on your box either through SSH or WHM, you need to connect to the box with a PPTP VPN accessing the site using the internal IP you configured in pptpd.conf (e.g. 192.168.33.1.) Damn nifty, eh? How to do that is a bit beyond the scope of this guide. Maybe I should have put this bit at the beginning. Fuck it, I’ll link you.

     

     

     

     


  • iPhone 5 Review -=- Sort Of

    Hey everyone,

    Yes, I’m finally getting around to doing a proper write up on the iPhone 5.  That being said, if you came here looking for ultra-cool high res photos or video clips of usage, go Google the phone.  This is not that kind of review.  If you want to know whether or not to just buy the damn thing, CLICK HERE.

    iPhone: The Experience

    If you’re an iPhone user and lover, you’ve probably already got one in your hand or pocket or within arm’s reach and you already know what I’m going to say.  You also probably will read it anyway for affirmation of your purchasing decision as well as your own opinions on style and function.

    It’s absolutely amazing.  It is precisely the device that Steve Jobs always envisioned the iPhone to be.  It is nirvana for iPhone fans.  As I said in my previous article, iPhones tend not to look like much on paper.  Especially considering the slew of legitimately great Android and Windows 8 devices that have rolled out in 2012.

    On paper, the iPhone looks to be a loser in comparison.  In your hand though, it tells a much different story.

    I Know That Feel, Bro

    The first impression I had once I unboxed it was that it felt like toy.  It was so incredibly light!  Now having used it everyday since launch day, whenever I pickup an old iPhone 4, it feels bulky and heavy.  It’s strange however, as I used to enjoy the solidity that that weight brought to the experience.  Made of harder, denser materials gave it a sense of luxury.

    The iPhone 5′s uni-body construction makes for a very different experience but still pleasing in much of the same ways.  You can go on YouTube and see Jon Ive wax passionately for a good 5 minutes about his designs and the standards to which they’ve chosen to manufacture the device.  No other mobile device to date has been constructed with such design tolerances.  I mean, this is something you put in your pocket.  It’s not an artificial heart or a hyperhoophenator valve for the space shuttle.  But the attention to detail is astoundingly good.

    Holding an iPhone 5 is a tremendous experience.  But only really at first.  You get used to it quickly and only notice the dimensions when you pick up another phone.

    The one thing you’re going to notice within the first few minutes of using it and every moment after that is how fast and smooth everything is on the device.  You wait for nothing.  Nothing lags at all.  LTE (in my area at least) rivals most people’s home internet both in bandwidth and latency.  Battery life is the best that it’s ever been on an iPhone.  It’s so good you almost think it’s lying to you.  However…

    Late To The Ballgame

    In my large circle of techy and not so techy friends, I’ve noticed a trend since the iPhone 5 has launched.  Many people still holding onto their iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S are tired of Apple’s shit… They’re tired of Siri, they’re tired of bloated iOS updates that wasn’t ever meant for their hardware, tired of shitty internet speed, dropped calls, cracked screens, etc. They’re just tired. The irony of it is that these same people would absolutely love the iPhone 5.  But it’s these same people that are now conditioned to expect more of the same from the iPhone 5 that jump ship and grab themselves a relatively inexpensive (but not cheap) Galaxy S III.

    It feels to me that Apple got their shit together with the iPhone, one iteration too late, and now their own loyal followers are jumping ship.  A friend of mine had been an iPhone user for 5 years… Since the beginning.  But she just got herself a GS3 and probably didn’t give the iPhone 5 a second look because of some of the nagging issues with the iOS platform.

    Up until now, there has always been that “one more thing” that has stopped the iPhone from being a perfect device.  At launch it was the lack of apps and 3rd party integration.  With the iPhone 3G it was the continuing lack of Adobe Flash and cracking plastic chassis.  The 3GS was a slight pacification of those issues but not a resolution.  The iPhone 4 was fresh and beautiful but you couldn’t make a fucking phone call on it if your life depended on it.  It was that sad.  That was due to the new and relatively untested external antenna design.  The iPhone 4S was a good increment, it addressed the antenna-gate issues and by this time nobody cared about flash anymore since most of the internet had adapted itself for HTML5/CSS3 over flash.  Mobile photography was getting better at this point as well both with the iPhone 4S and another phones emerging in the Android and Windows Phone ecosystems.  Gone where the days of snappy photos that could have turned out better if you took the pic with a potato.

    Still there were issues, still it was not perfect.  Siri was introduced after not spending enough time in the pod.  It’s the first time that Apple had made the extremely stupid mistake of releasing a beta product to the general populous– a general populous that had become accustomed to everything having a certain level of fit and finish and were intolerant of gunshy bullshit.  Fortunately, because Siri runs predominately on the back end, it was easier to fix than some other issues that could have come forth.  Siri gradually got better and more accurate and gradually people stopped using it because nobody fucking cared really beyond asking it where you can bury some bodies.  The whole idea of Siri was to be hands and eyes-free.  But after about 1000 attempts to tell my wife that I was going to be late from work while I was driving via Siri–not getting it right at all, that little tart, it would get so enraged that I wanted to put the phone in the back window of the car in front of me.  Then again, it could just be me.  I get infuriated when technology fails me when it comes to communication.  Then iOS 6 came out along side the iPhone 5 and everything was great.  Except for the fact that the pissing contest between Apple and Google had gotten so teenage drama insane that they stripped out Google Maps and YouTube apps from the iOS image.  At the time, there wasn’t a Google Maps app to speak of.  There was Apple Maps.  And while it is incredibly beautiful and its integration into iOS and Siri is breathtaking, it will kill you if you use it.  The data is incredibly bad, so bad in fact that it still thinks there’s a Best Buy where there hasn’t been one for fucking years.  So here’s Scott Forstall, the Senior VP of Software Development at Apple releasing yet another unfinished product to the masses, severely disappointing the public at large and tarnishing both the iPhone 5′s otherwise perfect image and Apple as a company that has become known for not half-assing things.

    So they sacked that lazy shit and installed Jon Ive in his place instead.  Good idea to fire that guy, but I’m not sure about Ive running that division as well as his own design shop.

    As I’d said previously, the iPhone 5 was Steve Jobs’ legacy before his passing.  It’s the last thing he had direct influence on and will likely be the last great product Apple ever puts to market.  There is no drive left in that company.  Look at the iPad release cycle, it’s all gone to shit.  They release a 3rd generation iPad, then a 4th months later.  And that stupid iPad mini which is simply a mild attempt at entering a market Apple has no business being in (7″ tablet market.)  The company is done.  And so is the iPhone.

    This is likely why I see all over Facebook people asking for advice between choosing Android or Win8 handsets.  I chime in like most people do.  But I have really nothing but nice things to say about all of the major players.  I’m not a fanboi.  I tell it like it is.  I absolutely love my iPhone 5 and you’ll have to pry it from my dead cold hands to get it away from me but I got love for everyone that does great things.

    Shit Mobile Phone Users Say

    This is the shit that kills me.  Where the fuck does all the hate come from?  It’s about 100 times worse than the Mac vs. PC bullshit argument.  Go on any article on Gizmodo or Engadget about any mobile device and there’ll be nothing but trolls in the comments bashing the other guy when I’d say the vast majority of them have never owned their chosen rival’s handset.

    I have not actually owned an Android device.  I have, however worked a lot with them, predominately in a testing and review capacity.  So I know my way around them as much as most general users.  I can even root them and load custom ROMs on them.

    Up until 2012, they just haven’t been anything special.  It took years before some company other than Apple realized that have a smooth and lagless UI was sort of an important thing to have in today’s day and age.  With every Android release I’d test it and it’d still be laggy, sometimes dismayingly so.

    But the loyalty that these people feel for these devices really trounces iPhone fanbois in my opinion.  These people aren’t just loyal to their devices they actually hate the other guys’ stuff and those that use them.  It boggles the mind how comments like “Well at least it’s not an iPhone,” make any sense at all in their heads.  It sadly speaks to the ignorance of these supposedly technologically in-touch people that they would go that far.  iPhone users do the same exact shit which again, boggles the mind.

    Knock it the fuck off.

    The thing about mobile devices especially when you talk data speeds or call quality is it’s not about the device or the carrier.  It’s about the relationship of that device and the carrier.  I love when people go off about how <insert carrier here> sucks and data is so slow and drops calls all the time, blah blah blah.  Because they really don’t have any clue how the technology works.  The relationship between the device and the carrier’s specific technologies are what provide the good or the bad customer experience.  A great example was the Samsung Blackjack that I owned back in 2007.  What a heap of shit.  Couldn’t hang onto a phone call for more than few minutes at a time.  I even RMA’d the little fucker and the replacement still did the same shit.  So it’s easy to blame the carrier for such things.  I ended up replacing it with an HTC Kaiser or what AT&T called the Tilt.  Calls were fantastic on that little guy and to date it’s still one of my favorite phones.

    But you find these people who will be unnaturally loyal to the carrier with which they’re stuck in a long contract with, which I find hilarious.  It’s like camaraderie out of hardship.

    The politics of mobile devices and carriers is amazing complex and convoluted.

    Well, Do I Buy It or Not?

    In short, yes.

    Once you can get past all the other shit about owning a smartphone, buying the iPhone 5 is a solid long-term purchase.  Since it’s speed is something that won’t be as easily negated by OS complexity as previous models of the iPhone you can expect a longer longevity in terms of feature relevance.  Additionally, the unibody construction coupled with the reduced weight make for a more drop-resistant device.  Less weight means less kinetic energy in the device when it hits the floor.  This means there’s less energy all around to rattle up the glass front.

    It’s finally a fantastic device to make phone calls one.  I’ve not had a single dropped call on it since I’ve owned it and I’m quite happy for that.  It uses G.711 codec over LTE (if you’re in an LTE zone) which is 8 times more bandwidth both frequency and data than the GSM codec.  Calls are super clear and the real tell-tale is when you get put on hold and you can clearly hear the hold music.  GSM destroys music.  G.711 is hard-line quality.

    The screen is absolutely astounding.  Nearly 100% gamut which means it can display almost every color accurately, the colors seem to pop but don’t appear over-saturated like on Android devices.  White balance is a major improvement over any LCD to date and probably is more accurate in reproduction than my workstation monitors.

    Sound is much better both through the on-board speaker and the headphones thanks to an all new sound processor and larger yet more power efficient opamp for the headphones.  The iPhone 5 can adequately drive my Sennheiser 380 Pro studio cans.  The new “earpods” are good finally.  They don’t suck, but they’re not going to do much better than a $20 set of Skullcandy buds.

    Fit and finish is the best it has ever been.  If you’re a nudist like me, you’ll find the white iPhone to be much prettier and more pleasing to look at than the black.  I’ve never really cared for the white iPhone until now.  If you’ve ever been vacillating on whether or not to get the white iPhone, now’s definitely the time to do it.

    Reasons to buy

    1. If you’re already well embedded into the Apple ecosystem, i.e. iCloud, iTunes Match or you have multiple devices using the same iTunes account as I do, it would be shooting yourself in the foot to move to another platform.  You’d have to buy everything over again or pirate it.
    2. If you want a well-designed phone that has some technological longevity in it and will remain relevant for more than previous iPhones.
    3. If you want a phone that just works.
    4. If you’ve been thinking about moving to iOS but aren’t sure whether or not to buy a cheaper iPhone 4 or 4S or the 5.
    5. If you’re looking to get lucky with the ladies.

    Reasons NOT to buy

    1. If you’re heavily invested in the Android or Windows Phone platforms (see point 1 above.)  This is less likely the case since there are several stores from which you can purchase from and not all of them will allow you to infinitely redownload and reinstall without worry.
    2. If you’re looking to become heavily entrenched in Apple’s ecosystem in the long term.  This may be a risky move but my prediction is that Apple won’t make anything this good again.  If you get heavily into the ecosystem  you may find yourself stuck.  This is something to consider looking forward.
    3. Freedom of choice.  One of the big things the other platforms have going for them is choice.  Different sources for music, different sources for apps.  Additionally, Android devices tend not to be as restrictive in terms of software features.  You’ll find some apps on the Android marketplace are able to do things that apps on iOS simply can’t due to Apple archaic monolithic policies.
    4. To get back at your shit-talking Android user friends.  You will not earn their respect.

    Lastly, be sure to have a look at my really old post that I wrote shortly following the launch of the original iPhone. You’ll see just how wrong I was about some things and how right I was about other things.

     


  • iPhone 5 Announcement A sticky political discharge…

    Here’s something that I’m getting increasingly annoyed with: people who don’t get it.

    Let me preface this article with saying that I am an iPhone user and have been since the iPhone 3G was released.  My whole family uses iDevices though we own no Macs, only PCs and it’s likely going to stay that way.  My kids have iPhones, my wife has an iPhone and we have 2 iPads and an ATV2

    Ok so yes, yesterday was yet another new iPhone day.  Yippee.  It’s become old hat now  I’ve gotten quite used to feeling extremely compelled to buy the latest and greatest on launch day.  I even have two contracts with my carrier to allow me to do so with impunity.  I’m one of those that you might say “gets it.”

    If anyone knows me and knows what I do, they should also know that as an industrial designer, I’m highly inspired by Jon Ive’s designs and Steve Jobs’ vision.

    Yes, I’m a fan of Steve Jobs.  Not of many of the things that he’s done to his family, employees and to himself.  But the man was a visionary that was able to see what most of us couldn’t.  Yes he was a tyrant and an asshole.  Those are the portions of his personality that I can’t subscribe to.  But what made him great was that he could inspire other great people to do great things.  His philosophy with building a great product with integrity in workmanship is second to none.  It’s something that really lit a fire inside me as a new CEO.  I have the luxury of hind sight in that I don’t have to take every page out of his book, just the ones that are good or my company and employees and not the other garbage.

    The iPhone 5 is likely to be the last truly beautiful product ever to be produced by Apple.  Yes, Jon Ive is still there, but without the pressure and unwavering demand for perfection by Steve Jobs, Apple is going to slack and begin blending in with the rest of the field.  According to Walter Isaacson, the iPhone 5 was Steve Jobs’ legacy, the last project and product that he directly had his hands in.

    Most likely, this will be the last iPhone I ever buy.

    iOS Stagnation

    iOS 6 is just another incremental update and blatant crutching on other companies technologies if not a blatant ripoff of some of the jailbreak communities addons and feature designs.  A big example would be sync over wifi in iOS5.

    I get it though.  And not many people do.  What they don’t understand was that iOS was so inherently designed for touch as an interface that it is still one of the most efficient ways to do fingery business on a touch screen.  It doesn’t tend to have the radical updates that Android undergoes because it’s a closed ecosystem.  Also because they don’t have to.  It is still a UI system that “just works” and everything that it’s supposed to do, email, sms, browsing, calls, music and video and it does all of that brilliantly without a whole lot of flash (pun intended.)  There really is no real NEED to update or change it, it was THAT far ahead of it’s time when it launched back in 2007.  But then Android comes along and changes their UI like every 6 months.  So that becomes the expectation.  When Apple doesn’t change, it’s considered old and stagnant.  It’s all about perception.

    Walled Garden Fresh Salad

    Here’s the thing about a closed ecosystem.  The biggest reason why the iPhone is a closed system is to maintain the fit and finish of the end-to-end solution that Apple originally designed.  It’s beyond me that people can’t see this.  Android is a great example of what an open system ecology is like.  You get about 100 different flavors of UI design, all of which are mostly crap because those companies go out to do something different and something that is definitely not iOS-like at all for a couple of reasons.  First they try to set themselves apart from Apple’s designs from a cultural and aesthetic standpoint, but secondly and most recently and unfortunately, Apple sues the shit out of anyone that appears that they may sometime, somehow, approach something similar to one of their designs.

    So the UI designs of all of those alternate faces of Android are fresh and new but they’re all mostly garbage and the real design gems get lost in the mess that is the every-man-for-himself mentality with Android.  One can’t even expect one Android device to perform as well as another or have the same features as another.  This makes for a highly stratified ecosystem where nobody really stands out on their own in terms of design and feature set.  It’s a mess and I want nothing to do with it.

    I want a device that does what I need it to from a daily perspective.  It’s the single piece of electronics that I have with me all the time and almost everywhere.  It has to “just work.”

    I’ve said it in a vlog before, but when I was a WinMo developer back in the early 2000′s I used to struggle with my stock phone being able to answer when a call came in.  Or it’d be frozen or hung or something when I needed it to do something right now.

    Being able to “just work” is extremely important.  Being able to just work and be aesthetically pleasing is a nice bonus.  I know my phone will work every time I pick it up.

    This is the beauty of the closed system.  It allows the designers to deliver the experience that was originally envisioned to maintain that best-case scenario and not have iOS running on anemic hardware or have some branded garbage UI filled with bugs and memory leaks clogging up the system.  It just works.  It does what it is designed to do and in some cases, no more, but that’s not the point.

    It was never ever marketed to tinkerers and hackers or theme designers or what have you.  It’s designed, built and marketed to users.

    Devil’s Advocate

    And all of that is complete bullshit on a stick.  The cat and mouse game hackers play with Apple in finding exploits both in the firmware and software has become more and more difficult.  The upside of that is that relative to the root scene with Android we tend to get much more talented developers.  It’s tiring.  There should be an option, like with Windows Phone where you pay a small fee and your phone’s bootrom is unlocked.  Apple, we void warranties on purpose, fools!  We live for this shit.  Let us break our handsets if we want to.  Don’t make it easy to get to but don’t hinder us either.  You certainly don’t need regular users dicking around with their phones, but the rest of us would like a nice official path to go down.  Shit make it cost $100/year, I don’t care.  Just at least acknowledge that demand.  Please?

    On Paper vs In Your Hand

    Here’s the thing that most folks, especially people who’ve never owned an iDevice: it almost always looks like shit on paper and is amazing in your hand.

    Original iPhone aside which was mindblowingly good for 2007 tech, the best example of this is the Apple MacBook Air, the original one.

    What?  A laptop with no optical drive, no Ethernet port?  No removable battery?  Dafuq did I just read?

    On paper, the Macbook Air looked like a complete waste of time and material.  But here’s where the vision comes in.  What do you actually do with a small lightweight laptop?  You’re not plopping it on a desktop and plugging fuckall into it.  You’re not mastering discs or loading tons of software on it from DVD.  The caveat is that you might be watching a DVD movie on something like that.

    But on paper it looked like utter garbage, in your hand it was a whole new way to view the internet and be free of wires and bulk.  It was something we didn’t even know we needed and single-handedly gave birth to the shitty netbook crazy and the better and developed ultra-book movement.  Don’t get even started on netborks…  They’re just small shitty laptops that don’t do anything well.

    The iPad was another great example of a technology pushed out that we didn’t even know we needed and was the birth of the tablet market.  Once it was out and as soon as you put one in your hands you were instantly hooked and you didn’t just want one you NEEDED one.  It was that good.

    You can see how quickly I changed my tune after I “got it.”

    The iPhone, save for the original, has always been this way as well.  The processor and ram upgrades have not been the big selling points; the hardware specs have never been the focus of the device.  So on paper, especially when comparing to the latest Android devices appear old hat and not very inspiring.  But damn if you don’t put one in your hand and you feel the premium luxury feel of the build quality and the solidity of the device that you immediate have to have one.

    THAT’s what is behind the iPhone.  That’s what it’s about.  It’s about what ACTUALLY happens in your hand and not what’s on some sterilized spec sheet.

     


  • Back on it.

    Hello readers,

    I know it has been some time since I took the time to post an article of my own creation.  I’m here to tell you that those times are soon to be here again.  In addition to writing for Dev-Toast in the spirit that I originally had I’m also going to be writing for Ars Technica on a case-by-case basis.  I’m very excited by this news as I feel it will be a fantastic catalyst to get back into tech writing and blogging about the tech world at large.  I hope you all are well and I’ll write again soon.  -Joe


  • Trying to keep up!!

    Dear friends, my humble apologies for not keeping up with the blog!  I am very busy with other business ventures as of late and haven’t had a chance to do any product reviews or any articles…  I just wanted to let you all know that I’m not letting this blog project get away and I’m going to be picking it back up and keep better track of everything.  Stay tuned!!!


  • Plica Concepted hailed as iphone killer?

    Plica Concept Threatens iPhone With Two Touchscreens

    Posted on 02 August 2008

    Plica

    I know that probably most of you are enjoying your iPhone 3G and you are very satisfied with it, but when you will see this concept you might want to reconsider your thoughts. The cellphone is called Plica which means folding of a body part.

    Plica

    Plica consists of two touchscreens and it looks exactly like a regular cellphone. When the phone is folded in two screens, you will use one as a keyboard and on the other you will be able to see whatever you want to. Also, you can view the images on both screens which means twice the resolution. Plica is very functional kind of like a mini-laptop and it features USB and headphone jacks.

    Plica

    This could really be the iPhone killer as the double touchscreen is really great, the only problem is that this is only a concept. Plica was developed by designer James Piatt and I can’t wait to see this on the market.

    Plica

    My thoughts:

    That’s an interesting concept but one of the things that it will fail at with regards to the iphone is the fact that it sports moving parts. Yes, you can operate it with one hand and one screen, but can you imagine juggling your venti mocha, your laptop bag, your light rail pass, and a headphone cord while trying to open that thing? No, you might not NEED to open it but folks will try none-the-less.

    It’s also not as much of a “fashion” item as the iPhone is. But if the functionality is up to par(i.e. running android, remaining open source with a closed source carrier specific package so that phone service always remains consistent) then this would be the iPhone killer for those of us who have been hacking them to get them to do what they want.

    Folks who bought the iPhone and use them the way Lord Steve deemed appropriate for all his iChildren… will never buy this.  -Joe


  • Laid off? The one thing you absolutely need to do on the first day

    Thursday, May 08, 2008

    Laid off? The one thing you absolutely need to do on the first day

    You’re in IT, right? So chances are you’ve been laid off at least once from some crappy company and it’s going to happen again. Here is my one piece of advice to you. The single most important thing to do as soon as you make it back to your house with that box full of stuff:

    Book a flight

    Seriously. Do it now, before the initial shock wears off and that logical side of your brain starts coming up with lame excuses. You will never have a better chance to get out and see the world than right now. You have a pile of saving and a severance package. You’ve got 6 months to a year before your skills start getting rusty. There is absolutely no reason to start looking for work immediately, and every reason to take that round-the-world trip you’ve always dreamed about. Right. Now.

    Trust me, your career will be just fine.

    Where to go

    This is the easiest question to answer: Bangkok. Seriously, the mere fact that you had to ask the question indicates that you’re probably not a seasoned traveler and therefore should be going to Thailand first. I know you always wanted to do Europe, but it’s crazy expensive and frankly, it’s just not relaxed enough for you right now. You’re going to need some serious chilling to recover from a layoff. Southeast Asia has that in Spades.

    Make your way to Ko San Road, find a room, grab a Beer Chiang and talk to a few other travelers. Your trip will plan itself from there.

    Where to go if it’s May

    Ok, one modification to the above. Thailand is thoroughly uninhabitable for a few months between May and July. In that case, you’re going to Africa. Book a flight to Cape Town instead. Follow this itinerary up through Zambia, Malawi and Tanzania. Everybody there speaks English and you can get a room for $0.75. You’ll do fine.

    How long to go for

    You’re going to want to stay gone for 6-9 months. Less than that and it you’ll be kicking yourself for not leaving enough time, and you’ll be rushing through entire countries just to keep up with your itinerary. I know that this seems silly now, but somewhere along the way somebody will ask how long you’ve been in Vietnam for and you’ll answer “Only one month.” Timescales work differently on the road.

    In my experience (did I mention that I take about 9 months vacation a year and spend most of that traveling in the developing world?), I tend to start missing work after about 6 months away. By 9 months, I’m pretty much ready to commit to a real job in a real office just so that I can start using my brain again. Talking to other software guys on the road, it seems that this pretty common. You’re going to want to come back eventually, so be sure to keep a few good contacts back home.

    Regardless of how long you plan to be gone, try to book your flight one-way. It will give you unlimited flexibility with your travel plans and let you pick your return date later when you know what you actually want to do. As a last resort, pick the return date furthest in the future, since it’s a lot easier to move it forward than to push it back.

    How much will it cost?

    I budget about $1,000 a month when I’m traveling in Southeast Asia, Central America, Africa or the Middle East. I seldom go through that much if I’m sticking to ground transport, but over the course of a year if you consider flights into the calculations, $1,000 a month is about right. Stay away from the developed world at all costs though, or you’ll quickly triple that figure!

    How do I get another job when I get back?

    The nice thing about a 6 month timeframe is that it gives all of your ex-coworkers time to entrench themselves in other hopeless software companies. Email them and notice how everything around them seems to be on fire. They need you to start tomorrow. Line up a good offer based on one of their recommendations and book a flight home.

    Three Lame Excuses and why they’re not valid:
    But I don’t have any money saved…

    You can’t possibly be serious. Are you saying that you’ve been working in IT for all these years and haven’t put away a lousy ten grand??? Shame on you. Get a book on life skills and open a bank account fer cryin’ out loud.

    But nobody will hire me after six months away…

    Not true. Nobody will hire you if you’re bad at what you do and have terrible interviewing skills. Those things won’t change over the course of six months, but you might possibly wind up more relaxed (and with some good stories to tell) and that’s actually a benefit when it comes to interviewing.

    Regardless of what you may have heard, skilled developers are very hard to find. If you fit that category, there’s very little that you can do to poison your resume. Certainly, heading off on your once-in-a-lifetime trip won’t leave you unemployable.

    But I’m married with a family and a house…

    Ok, you win. You’re screwed, but that’s the life you chose for yourself so you’re going to have to live it. It’s worth noting, however, that most Europeans wouldn’t consider that a reason not to travel. Right this second, there is a German couple pushing a stroller down a remote beach in Thailand, and they’re not going home for another month. What’s your excuse again?

    Why you’re not actually going to do it

    When you get right down to it, you’ll probably find a way to talk yourself out of taking that dream trip. You’ll come up with some pretty believable excuses, but really it will come down to the fact that you’re scared.

    That’s cool. Travel is pretty scary when you look at it from the outside. But here’s the thing. It stops being scary the moment your feet hit the pavement on Ko San Road in Bangkok. You’re going to get blasted by 100 degree heat, power-wafted by smells of the most amazing street food one minute and an open sewer the next, assaulted with music from a thousand bars, and crammed into a tiny room overlooking it all with a fan that doesn’t work. And you won’t be able to wipe the silly grin off your face.

    Book the flight today, because every day you delay it is one more day wasted on the couch, and one more day to come up with lame excuses for why you shouldn’t go.

    It is all good here. Get your ass on a plane.


  • Dev-Hack.Com rises from the dead once again

    Though I know the front page is stale as all hell, the forums have completely been redone(this includes losing all of the posts that were previously there. Not to worry there wasn’t much there anyway. I will eventually have a support forum for any of the articles that I post here so that we may better assist each other with issues and the like. My hopes is that through mutual contribution Dev-Hack will turn into a hub for information that is driving by the scenes themselves instead of my wish to aggregate information from all of the scenes. So head over to the Dev-Hack forums now and sign up. Be sure to hit the intro thread to introduce yourself and share your ideas for what you’d like to see on the site.

    Dev-Hack Forums