Cloud, IT & IT Professionals, My Rants, Operating Systems and Software, UX-LX-FreeBSD, Windows

#Linux, #Unix, #Windows, #Apple

Read my last post to see my frustration with where our malevolent computing dictators are taking us.

So is it time to switch from Windows, to Linux or Unix, or Apple?

I do want an alternative to Windows 10;  I want my Xerox PARC graphics interface back;  anyone who want to use the ever changing ribbon, may do so, but give me back my original metaphor.  And they can keep the rented, cloud apps.

#Apple still has the original metaphor they used from PARC.  It has not changed much, but since they are using more homogeneous apps, they are bringing cloud apps to the MAC’s.

#Unix, (the BSD’s) appear to have totally given up on a desktop;  too bad because I feel the FreeBSD line is a better OS, and the driver/application metaphor still conforms to the original Unix ideal of Keep It Simple Stupid.  (KISS is relative, and with today’s command lines, and complex applications, this is not for the faint hearted).  That is why I regret they have not gone after  the desktop.  They are the only follower of the Public Domain model (FreeBSD) model of software.  Anyone can take software from anyone, and create a new free software app, or a commercial app.

#Linux has forgotten their Unix roots. No more KISS principle for them, no sireee.  But they are still the champion of Open Source Software, in that you can take a free piece of software (source), develop it in to a new piece of software, as long as it is free.  (there are exceptions, but I’m not sure how they get around the licensing).

#Microsoft is the behemoth of the lot, and they think, and do as they please.  Customers are there to skin for profits.  Soon Windows will be a cloud desktop only;  don’t believe them when they tell you it will not.

So which way forward for the independent minded person?

The MS model is going Azzure, no doubt.  Even development tools are headed that way.  You want you kids to learn computing?  Sure, they’ll learn the framework way;  they will be the legions of the Azzure gods, not able to use an off-network computer, because, it won’t be connected.

Unix, unfortunately is still foundering and trying to decide what they want to be when they grow up.  I’ve tried volunteering to help, but each time I brought up an idea, I was viciously attacked for suggesting…  …anything.

Apple is too expensive.  I use iPhones and iPads, but I do not want a pre-configured, proprietary hardware to run my desktop on, even if it still is PARC compliant.

Linux seems to be the best alternative.  I’ve played with may versions of Linux, from the red fedora, perhaps now it will be a blue fedora and others.  I still found SuSE to be the best for a Windows replacement.  It is still terse to configure, however the YAST configuration tool gives me a menu or GUI driven way to configure most user level constructs.  It offers every Desktop you may want, my preference is #MateDesktop, with the original Novell-like menu.  It maintains a traditional START metaphor.
But it is still missing software that should be mainstream, and there are so many Desktops to make your head spin.  (Use #MATE).

Well, that’s it for now.  Talk to you hopefully sooner than a year from now.

Cloud, My Rants, Operating Systems and Software, Windows

Is it the end of the Desktop, maybe…

Followers, it has been a while since my last post, although I have not sinned.

I’ve been a Windows devotee, since #Windows 2.11, don’t ask how long that was.  You’ve heard of the old adage that sometimes, we must drag users kicking and screaming in to the future and a better place.  #Windows10 with its Universal whats’am-a call it, UWP, and its trashing of the #PARC metaphor is not it.

What I see is that the new apps are spreading Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) in users minds about the (1) ole’ desktop.  New applications have their own menus, most context sensitive, and NO PARC metaphor.  Go ahead, try to find File or Edit on the top menu bar;  oh, there is no menu bar.  The same is true of application data;  you can’t get to it, you can’t read it outside of the app, and you can’t back it up;  wait, I mis-spoke, you can back it up but you can’t restore it, because DRM render’s it unusable.

(2)nd direction they seem to be guiding us to, is to the cloud.  And I don’t mean storing our data there, but running applications on the cloud via a souped up browser interface, and storing the data on the cloud.  And what do you think MS, Google and the like our doing as they are parsing the data prior to saving it to the ubiquitous cloud?  Yes, they parse it;  I’ve had many experiences, when not five minutes after posting a document, I get SPAM about a service applicable to something mentioned in my document.  Yes, I know, the malevolent dictator would never have any-one read my documents directly;  Just like they wouldn’t listen in on our Alexa / Siri conversations;  Wait that was yesterday’s news, we’ve all gotten over that one, haven’t we.  Who cares if they listen in?  Well don’t complain if the read your documents either.

(3) Additionally, our new malevolent desktop dictator / MS, is moving away from GUI tools, to esoteric and convoluted command lines which very few people can use.  The constant upgrades have rendered many of my Windows10 systems broken or unusable.  I’ve paid MS a couple of times, early on to be told to to a clean install;  what?  Are they serious?

I’ve found answers after reading countless posts via search, but most of them involve complicated commands (yes CLI) that are not documented, and which I have no hope or yearning to learn;  they’ve repaired my systems.  In some cases I’ve repaired by re-installing Windows and keeping applications and data.

Desktops in 2019, should not be this difficult.

Now, to be fair, MS is not the only malevolent dictator (yes I stole that from Python).  So is Google, Amazon, and every other big concern which can comb through our data for profit.  I leave it to you to decide, but I’m afraid you already have.  (and so have I, I use cloud file services like the next person).  But I refuse to rent software.  So, #Microsoft, #Adobe, and others, take heed:  If you can’t give me a permanent license, then I’ll look elsewhere.


Digital Magazines, eBooks and Audiobooks, My Rants, Standards and Automation

DRM or copy protection

(DRM) Copy Protection History

In the olden days, copy protection was exactly that;  copy protection of a piece of software, which prevented the owner from making a backup, unless the copy protection included a mechanism to allow for it. Copy protection came in a cypher key, or in a physical lock key, such as a USB device (serial or parallel).  Your data was not affected, unless of course you lost your lock key, which prevented you from using your program, and as a result rendered your data useless, because it was forever gone.  Because of the horrendous nature of the processes involved, and the not insignificant overhead it added to the software, most companies have done away with such foolishness.   Microsoft(R) did the most to get rid of the copy protection, by putting out competitive products (Office(R)) without it, and by introducing Xerox(R) PARC GUI interface, but that is another story.  Their far and away, biggest competitor at the time, Lotus(R), quickly fell behind, and was eventually bought by IBM(R) to die a slow death.

The present day agreement by boredom

Back to the present;  today, we have gone way beyond copy protection.  The marketing powers, figured that since software copy protection was so bad, and the public rebelled against it, we should rightly not use it.  But we could protect data the public bought in the form of books, magazines, audio and video media.

All they had to do, is simply to provide us with a two hundred page EULA, in legalese of course, that the average law student would not want to read;  oh, and if there was a quick bypass clause that rendered the end-users’ agreement to the EULA, well that is it.  Lock, stock and barrel.

And it worked;  our legislators, have all succumbed to the lobbies, agreeing that fair rights copyrights are a good thing for the masses, just as in previous generations, if you weren’t born in the privileged class, you didn’t belong there.  What has got me perturbed is that even Europe has fallen in step.

Fair Rights Management

Do I disagree with “fair rights”?  ” N O ”

I am not opposed to an author protecting they’re work and reaping the benefits of their toils, physical, or mental;  both are toils, and deserve to be rewarded, especially if that is how a person is earning their living.

However, there is a difference in public fair use copyright, and in no-rights.  Because that is what today’s Digital Rights Management has become.  The publisher of the works, not the author, makes certain assumptions:

  • They alone have the inaliable right to protect the author
  • They alone will guard the fair use copyrights
  • They at any time render your media collection in to garbage, by the simple virtue of software upgrades
  • Their fair use algorithms and cyphers should render the published work, unusable in the event of their demise

Wait, Tas, no, that can’t be their intent.  I am sure it is the same as classical media;  we’ll always have it.  Books and scrolls have been around since the birth of time, well, almost.  Unless you were educated, and were sequestered in a monastery for life copying a scroll, you couldn’t copy it;  come to think of it you couldn’t read it if you weren’t in the priveleged class, but I digress.  But if I was a king or queen and purchased a scroll or a book, that was mine.  Let’s see:

  1. I could not copy it, no copiers, and even had I access to a mechanical copier, it would be difficult to cut the spine off and re-attach it in order to run the pages through a copier.  And how would I make a presentable book.  No, just send it to the monastery and pay the fees to have hand copied.
  2. But I could have it around forever, within my lifetime, and could then bequeath it to my descendants, who could have it around within their lifetimes, and the bequeath it to their descendants, and so on and so forth. Hmm!  Let think on that for a moment.
  3. When audio came around, in the form of records or tapes, well, I couldn’t copy it, but I could still bequeath it to my descendants and so on.  Oh, I know, tapes…  the industry gave us tape recording technology so we could create our own playlists.  (That’s because they we selling us one good title for the price of twelve, but again, I digress).
  4. By the time video came around, an argument could be made about limiting copying of audio and video tapes.  However, it wasn’t the public that was doing most of the copying, it was pirates who were turning around and selling the copies.  A point can be made, of course, that the public was supporting the pirates by buying the bootleg copies.
  5. By the time of digital media, it became evident some sort of copy protection was required, because computers and DVD copiers had the ability to make perfect copies non-stop.  (See, I knew there was a salient truth in copyrights;  it just took me a while to get to it).  But again, it isn’t the general public who makes the copies, it is the pirates, and the digital kiddies, who then distribute them.
  6. The point is that if I were to go to Wally’s place and buy a bunch of DVD’s, I would have no clue which of those may be bootleg or not.  (And neither does Wally).

Fair Rights Use

So what do we do?  I think we need to devise a system which adheres to the following principles in Fair Rights Use and DRM:

While the distribution company is in business:

It must provide for the identity management of the copyrighted works’ buyer, that’s only fair

It must provide for a number of views the buyer can have;  for example I now read my books on my iPad, my iPhone, or my Windows or Unix computer.  As long as I am the owner of those devices, I should be allowed to download and access the content, within say ten devices.  If I upgrade a device, the identity management should allow for either automatically upgrading keys, or it should allow me as a user to delete one device and add another.

The distribution company must not use a proprietary encoding scheme, simply for taking user’s right to fair use, away;  I don’t care if they use an encoded or signed PDF, or AAC or MP4/M4V, as long as I can use that in a dire circumstance by bypassing the identity management system

Dire Circumstances

And here we are speaking of the distribution company going out of business, dropping the old file scheme, or even deciding they don’t care about protecting older media;  at worst it may mean global thermonuclear war or Armageddon.

Users should be able to access their media without an identity authentication server;  This means that once I’ve downloaded the media to a device, my iPhone for instance, the identity authentication system should give me a Ticket Granting Ticket (TGT) to that media publication, based on the device’s and the user’s identity.  Just so we understand, this is mostly how it works today, with the exception of some Intel Video Cable DRM.  If I download a movie, I get the ticket and I can play it offline.  If I download an ebook or emagazine, I can play it on the device for as long as I like.

The problems start during Dire Circumstances;  if my iPhone’s OS is upgraded and there is no longer any support for the proprietary media player, I, as user would be in trouble;  I would no longer, be able to read/play/watch/listen to the work I’ve purchased.

And here is another issue;  these companies would like to tell us we are not purchasing a copy of a work, we are renting it, as long as ‘they’ allow us to;  I am sorry that is a bunch of crock.  When I pay for a legitimate copy of a work, it is mine.  Just like a book or an album, I should be able to give it away, sell it or bequeath it.

These articles concern mostly publishers of eprint and evideo works, but could be applied to audio and other electronic distributions

The solution

Fair Rights Certificate underwriters, you get what I am saying, I hope.  An underwriter, hopefully global in nature, that will maintain the Identity Manager’s Root Certificate, for a specific line of distribution schema for a number of years, what ever applicable copyright laws allow for, in whichever country you live in.

This underwriter will certify the code in the distribution media’s keys, will release the restrictions on the media, if the root certificate is, no I don’t mean not found, but annulled.  The only way for an annulment to work, would be by the publisher notifying the underwriter that the particular root certificate can be annulled.  And of course, the onus will be on the publisher to renew the certificate each year.  A second way for the annulment would be if the publisher does not renew the certificate, because the are no longer in business.  I would then submit that the underwriter would annul the root certificate, so all media sold under that cert can become non-DRM’ed.

And finally, there must be a guarantee by the underwriter, that the media contains code to de-DRM if a key authority cannot be found in a certain amount of time.  And no, I do not mean in 80 years subject to renewal by a lobbied legislative body.

An identity transfer mechanism must also be available, so if I want to sell a copy of a work to someone in Tasmania, I as Tas can do so.  Of course, I will no longer have rights to that work, the same as if I’d sold a physical book or an album.

Easy, peazy?

No.  Definitely not easy or peazy.  But it must be done, because I want my purchases protected.

My case

I have been buying emags and ebooks since the beginning.  I’ve been through several generations of software, in which the publisher has been kind enough to re-format and allow me access to all of my old emags.  However, there is another publisher who does not appear to care about my purchases either way.  They’ve both told me I have access to the publications because of their generosity and benevolence.  And they both keep updating and changing their encryption schemes every few years.

Which only servers to make me angrier;  I’ve paid the same for that emedia as I would any other physical media.  Where are my representatives in government now?  Obviously not listening to me, but to the publishers.

I think it is time top change that.

My Rants

The best ergonomic keyboard for typing

This is a continuation of my previous post, The best mechanical  keyboard  for typing.

Unfortunately, most  keyboard companies regard mechanical switches for gaming play only.  I am not really sure, what they mean, because the lump  all mechanical  switches in to the same category.  What’s worse is the reviewers, who tell us about all of the benefits of mechanical  switch keyboards, while from their review it is obvious they have not typed on a mechanical keyboard.

I will just say, I like the linear switches, and I prefer the Cherry MX Black  switches to all others.  The reason is  that my fingers tend to  hover right over the key tops,  and in the case of all but the Black  switches, which  have a 65 cN, my fingers tend to inadvertantly activate the keys.  In use,  I tend to bang the keys, and I like the sound of the bottoming and topping of each key.  And by the way, don’t buy the reviewers who claim MX Brown have a 55 cN activation pressure, they are the same as the Blues at 45 cN.

So I was thrilled when I ordered a Perixx Periboard ergonomic for about $60 US. It felt wonderful, a nice curvature, a comfortable split which kept my wrists straight, and a highly adjustable wrist rest, which relieved my carpal tunnel  pain.  It was also full size, meaning it was like the original  MS Natural, with  the Page and Home/End keys in two  horizontal rows, unlike the newer models which compress the keys in a two vertical columns to save space. (Woo-hoo, 4mm’s saved).  This keyboard behaved almost like a mechanical MX Black, except for the bottoming and topping sound of the keys, which is a little more dull and hollow.

As I stated in my previous post, the keyboard has some problems, chief of which is the right space bar’s refusal to activate at the left end;  lest you think this was a one off, there are a lot of users of these keyboards, complaining of the same problem. Now, I have been able to get around the issue, somewhat, by using a graphite lubricant. I pop’ed the right space bar and used a small flat bladed screw-driver to stretch the left stabilization pole on the right side.  It seemed logical that since the left side of  the key was affected, that would be where I had to find a fix.  Then I used a #2 pencil and just rubbed it back and forth around the stabilization poles.

It has helped, but not entirely.  Unfortunately I am more  frustrated by missing space strokes than anything else.  Once I start writing, I do not want to lose my train of thought.  Anything which hinders the typing process, hinders my train of thought.

Another issue I seem to be running up against is multi-key roll over.  I can out-type the electronics of the keyboard, and I only type about 60wpm.  Eventually, it appears to catch up and the keyboard locks up.  I can reset it by unplugging  the USB cable and re-seating it, but  obviously that is not an answer.

Then I tried to get another keyboard like it, thinking it have have been a fluke.  Perixx no longer makes large ergo keyboards, backlit, and in white.  They make them in black, with no backlighting, which is useless for me.  They do show a model 512II on the web site, in white, but even though it is shown as a new item, it is not available for purchase anywhere.

I wrote the company, and sent them a link to my blog;  the response was my keyboard was not in warranty, (glad they told me) and I could buy a black keyboard without backlighting.  No word about the problems I and others have encountered, especially about the right space bar key on the ergonomic keyboards.

Conclusion, forget I mentioned @Perixx or the #Periboard 312 or 512II (MS Natural) clones.  I do have two of the Periboard (MS Natural Elite) clones at work, they are the ones with the compressed Home/End keys, and slightly smaller in key size and ergonomic curvature.  They are the Periboard 512 (MS Natural Elite) clones, and they work fine in that scenario.  But they are a little dull of sound, and key travel seems a mite shorter.

So I took out my Corsair K70 RGB, the one with the MX Red switches at 45 cN of activation pressure, and no  ergonomics.  Ergonomically it is all-right, as long as I have enough space on the table in front of me to  move they K70 away, far enough so my wrists remain straight.

I still prefer an ergonomic keyboard, of the original MS Natural type.

And BTW, I did own the MS-4000, MS-7000 and other variants.  MS put sound deadened mechanisms in them, (they are membrane switches, not mechanical).  When I type, it feels as if I’m bottoming the key on a rubber tire.  It actually makes my finger tips hurt after a while and the sound, well there is very little haptic or audio feedback.

I’ll follow up on my keyboard adventures in future posts.  I’d like to also thank Howard, who arranged to place a picture of the original WySE PC keyboard in a comment.

Note, all spacing errors, courtesy of #Perixx.

My Rants

The best mechanical keyboard… for typing

The best mechanical keyboard for typing, was the WYSE PC keyboard. It used RJ-11 connectors, and Black Cherry (linear) switches in at PC-AT style layout.  The reasons it was best (for me, that is) are as follows:

  1. No click
  2. No dampener
  3. A solid hollow bottom at the end of key travel
  4. Enough pressure on the key-caps that I did not accidentally end up pressing any of them while my hands rested on them

The problem is/was, that WYSE stopped making PC’s.  The were also eventually bought by Dell.  They replaced the mechanical keyboards with cheap membrane keyboards, which did not sustain the activation pressure of the original Cherry blacks, and use dampened membranes.  So from that point forward, the keyboards were quiet, but M U S H ! ! !

Cherry was also sold to a German concern, and while they have maintained their switches, the force on the blacks appears to have been reduced, to what they claim is 60cn at full travel.

In the meantime, I developed tendonitis in my arms, elbows, wrists and fingers;  I believe it is also referred to as carpal tunnel syndrome.  Using the soft keyboards became painful, and I was always inadvertently pressing keys simply  by the fact that I was wresting my fingers on top of the keycaps.

I found relief in the original Microsoft Natural keyboard.  It was a membrane for sure, but acted, felt and sounded like the WYSE Cherry Blacks.  And in combination with replacing my mice with MS Trackballs, gave me relief from tendonitis.  If you would like to learn more about how that works, search for “ergonomic keyboard” and trackball  benefits on the web.

Unfortunately, MS got out of the hardware business.  Now they ergonomic keyboards the make, except for the older Bluetooth ergo version, are M U S H ! ! !  And they stopped the trackballs.

There are trackballs alternatives, mainly the M5xx series from Logitech , which unfortunately is wireless. All right for home but not work.  Use your imagination, I cannot use any wireless products at work.  I was able to scour Amazon, and a trackball made for the Japanese market is wired via  USB.

Now begins the saga of the keyboards:

  • I tried the Logitech minimal force semi-linear Browns.  It was okay, but at < 40cn’s was totally unusable.  (By the way, Logitech now uses their own switches as a way to cut costs).
  • I then tried the Corsair linear Reds.  Honestly, I can’t tell the difference between the Browns and the Reds, except that there not enough pressure.
  • I bought another one, if I remember correctly – Ajax, with linear Cherry MX-Blacks.  There just isn’t enough pressure, and did not feel like the WYSEs’.  And yes, I did make sure the dampeners were not installed.

Of  course, non  of the above are ergonomic keyboards. Over time, I’ve found how to use a standard QUERTY straight keyboard, with minimal discomfort.  It requires enough deskspace so the keboard can be placed far enough away from your body, so you wrists are wresting in a straight posture;  additionally, it helps to raise the back (wrest side) of the keyboard, not the front, to again, allow your wrists and fingers a straight, non-curved line from the elbows to the the second finger joints, (closest to you) so the typing action involves a straight down hammer-action to strike the keys; again, minimal arm, elbow and wrist  involvement.

The only remaining problem is the lack of  key pressure at 60cn’s of the new Cherry Blacks.  The fact that I had to hold my finger-tips up consciously, rather than rest them on top of the keys was bad.

Not a solution, but close:

I  read some posts about an ergonomic keyboard maker called Perixx. They are a German company, manufacturing keyboards, where else, but China. I ordered my first Perixx-board, a white, non-backlit, imitation of  the MS Natural keyboard. Not bad at all for a membrane keyboard, but not quite enough pressure, or audible hollow bottom. Italso lacked a sufficiently large enough wrist wrest, but it was better than everything else I’d tried and a one third the cost.  I ordered another,  I require two keyboards at work, and they are working well. The lack of desk space means the keyboard wrest is  at the edge of the table top, so a larger wrist wrest would not help.

Since I’m also an Amazon junky, I recently  saw the Perixx Periboard 312, a white back-lit device.  I ordered one,  but let  it sit in the corner of my den a few  months while I tried some other tricks and finsihed remodeling the house.  (What dust)!!!

I finally replaced the Ajax with the 312.  I can  tell you  the back-lights, are  visible if you  are looking straight down at the keyboard. The biggest issue with the 312,  appears to be  over-runs, or is it under-runs?  I think  I type at about 60 words per  minute, but the 312 misses a lot of keystrokes, especially  from right spacebar.  Now to be honest, I just pulled the old keyboard, and replaced it with this one.  I did  not remove the Corsair, Logitech or Ajax drivers, nor did I reboot.  I  will and we will see what it effect it has on  the overruns.

But let me tell you, I am almost in Utopia;  This keyboard, feels solid, has a solid hollow bottom at the end of key travel, and enough key pressure that I  do not accidentally press any keys.  It also has a larger wrist wrest, and it comes with a rubber/silicon stick on, to raise the wrist wrest up to higher angle,there-by straightening out my wrists.  Nirvana, almost.  Now let’s see what happens when I remove the drivers of the previous devices and re-scan this one.


IT & IT Professionals, My Rants, Standards and Automation

Naming Standards

Here I’ll be discussing CI naming standards for different server and server like devices.  I’ve been to many a-place with standards, which simply means that the name of the device starts with alphabetacorp-windows-999.  Similar scenarios involve naming devices after a data center, or the OS flavor it is running.

Unfortunately, these are not very descriptive, and do not give anyone a good picture about the devices’ location, OS, classification, or application.  From my perspective, a naming standard should be do the following:

  1. Be brief, as in Unix, so it can be type quickly over and over as required
  2. It should identify the following device meta-data in two to three characters:
    1. physical or virtual data center device is located in
    2. device role classification, such as production, qa, or developmental (I’ve used “p/q/d”)
    3. OS running on the device, such as u/nix, w/indows, n/nas storage
    4. Application role, such as w/eb server, s/ql server, s/harepoint, a/sap, etc
    5. Application sub-role if required, such as application server, indexer, etc.
    6. A two or three digit number, identifying the server farm, and/or unique sequence number of the device
  3. The name should become the CI name in the CMDB and the device, physical or virtual should always be referred by this naming standard.

Let’s take a look at some scenarios:

  1. d4 – may denote, data building delta, data center 4
    tow – may denote the Towson, MD data center, or
    zto – may denote the virtual data center in Towson
  2. p/q/d is what I use
  3. OS, again, u/w/n and others (I’ve also used an abbreviation for a cluster pool)
  4. w/q/s/f, web, sql, sharepoint, file-service
  5. with sharepoint, I’ve used app/ind, etc…
  6. 99

So using the above, if I had a virtual server in the Towson data center, running a production task under Windows Server, as the Sharepoint DB, I may have called it:

zto p w s db 01

Again you may say it is very complex;  and you’d be correct.  However, imagine, a typical Sharepoint installation, with one DB, four App/Web servers, two Indexers, a CMS, and a BLOB device.  That is only eight devices, out of thousands in a typical large scale installation.  How would you manage?


IT & IT Professionals, My Rants, Standards and Automation

Standards, Automation and ITIL

Standards, Standard Operating Procedures, ITIL rules…

You may think to yourself that these functions, are either an evil imposed on some organizations by management which has nothing else to do, or that they are a necessary drudgery, to ensure compliance, a pre-defined cookie cutter approach to creating systems, documentation, and of course vocalization of change management to affected parties.

So, which side are you on?  We’ll discuss this further in coming posts.