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Microsoft – What it is Good For

Microsoft has gone through a lot, and I've been with them for quite a long time, on and off. I became a MCSE in 1998, with a focus on Web, SQL and Exchange server. At the time we were in the battle for the backoffice, which was vs. Novell and Oracle, mainly, but also Linux in general. The competition was sanctimonious and off-putting, not to mention insulting. Microsoft for us was a way to get control over powerful computing that gave value to organizations and those of us who needed to get work done.

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So Good They Can’t Ignore You – Review

This book is badly in need of an editor. That is not surprising as it appears to be a collection of blog posts, but the redundancies and useless repetition truly get in the way of the important points. Also, stylistically the first person voice is also a bit pedantic. Agreed, the author points out that the book is in manifesto form, but there are fine manifestos without such glaring flaws (The Communist Manifesto being a good example).

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Syncthing = Dropbox & GDrive Alternative

Syncthing

Google Drive (GDrive) and other cloud storage alternatives such as Dropbox and Microsoft Ondrive all have the serious drawback of keeping one's information in a third party cloud repository. Privacy and security are generally compromised this way, even when paying for storage (as opposed to having an advertising model, which is worse in many ways).

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Pandoc, Markdown, XeLaTeX, EPUB

EPUB documents are essentially a kind of html document as a collection of files which are zipped, and include html, css, images, and some XML pages. There are several ways of organizing these, but the most straightforward is one html document for each chapter (or section), a set of images organized in a subfolder, and a few metadata files regarding the collection. An epub document can be even simpler, and consist of a single html file, no images, and a few metadata files.

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Image / Scaling / Compression

Size matters, and the smaller the better, when it comes to generation, modification, transmission, and storage of information. The vast amount of unoptimized documents and images on my very own local storage, much less what we send and receive all the time, is astounding. The idea that we need 100gb or 1tb of storage (thank you Dropbox, not) is sheer waste and sloth. I've addressed these issues a bit in the past, but it is time to take a bigger picture approach.

Note that this refers not only to images but essentially collections of images, namely pdf documents and video.

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DNS Records and Services

First, there are two kinds of DNS records: those for client look, and those for a server.

Client Lookup - DNS Resolvers

I don't trust Google DNS, though for a while it was the go to DNS, and easy to remember at 4.4.8.8 8.8.4.4 and 8.8.8.8.

For privacy, for me, there are two options, with the first being just better:

If one wants some security (as a service), then Quad9 is worth a look.

It is possible to run one's own resolver, though it takes a bit of configuring and resolvers are seen as an attack vector for various bad actors.

DNS Services

There are several DNS services to choose from. Dyn and related companies is the worst. Free DNS services such as afraid.org and he.net are unreliable, or simply not reliably fast. It makes the most sense to go with a top-rated DNS service (highly available and fast resolve times), and pay for this service (though less is more when it comes to expenses).

As with resolvers, basic DNS services can be run on one's own server, not including the Registrar functionality of placing the nameservers in the root domain servers of the Internet. Again, it takes a bit of configuring so that one has functionality, privacy, security, and is not seen as a target.

DNS Records

NS Records

There are several records to worry about. The first are nameservers, which are put into the registrar database. This can be as few as two or as many as six (possibly more).

A Records

Depending on the DNS Server, these can have wildcards or not. Generally there are at least three A records to have:

  • Root domain
  • www subdomain
  • * wildcard

For certain services, it is required to have a www. and also people mistype this, so it is best to have it as a domain, to have it on the SSL certificate, and to have a reroute from www. to the root domain.

CNAME Records

Usually only Bing Webmaster Tools requires a CNAME record. Otherwise these are generally worthless.

MX Records

These are for the mailserver. Usually a few are needed, one plus two backups. Gsuite has five records, but that is overkill. The top three make the most sense. Also, there are priority numbers, e.g, 1, 5, 10 to govern the round robbin-style resolving.

  • 1, aspmx.l.google.com.
  • 5, alt1.aspmx.l.google.com.
  • 5, alt2.aspmx.l.google.com.

TXT Records

TXT records are the go to place for every third party to put their info. Several examples of TXT Records include:

  • Yandex Webmaster Tools validation
  • Google Webmaster Tools/Analytics/GSuite/etc. validation
  • _acme-challenge records for DNS-based authentication for LetsEncrypt

PTR Records

PTR records are essentially a reverse so that an IP address is associated with a host.domain.tld. This is key for sending email.

DKIM, SPF, DMARC

These are all records for email security, at various levels. DKIM and DMARC are TXT records, and SPF can be TXT or specific SPF records, depending on the DNS service provider.

SPF Records

SPF looks like:

host.domain.com / "v=spf1 include:_spf.google.com ~all"

SPF are one of the earliest and easiest email records to set up for security, and specifically states which hosts can send email for the domain.

CAA Records

These records help tell SSL Cert providers which of those providers can generate a cert for the domain records. Each host needs two records:

  • Name (host), Type: iodef, Value: "mailto:address@domain.com"
  • Name (host), Type: issue, Value: "letsencrypt.org"
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Open Source Cloud

The day has come when I have confidence it is possible to move off of all third party clouds, with the only exception being social media and social network sites. That is, the wonderful world of email, file sharing and synchronization, and even online document collaboration, can all be supported independent of third party services.

Desktop Applications - Open Source Replacements

Around 2005 I decided to move off of all possible proprietary third-party applications. This has been largely successful, though there are a few smaller tools I do pay for. In those days the two monsters were (and still are) Microsoft and Adobe.

There are many additional tools which have been overcome by their Open Source rivals, especially with the trend toward lightweight.

Cloud Applications - Open Source Replacements

In terms of the cloud, the heavyweights are Google Docs/Google Drive and Dropbox. Of course there are other tools out there which are equivalent (essentially, web-based document editing/sharing and file synchronization and sharing tools). And not to forget, the venerable mail and calendar tools.

So what we need are:

  • An email, calendar, contacts application with webmail functionality (and underlying email transport) -- iRedmail has become an attractive platform since it integrates other well-known tools.
  • For file synchronization, Syncthing works well.

For some kind of shared document collaboration in the cloud, there are options but the big problem comes down to security/privacy (for third-party services) and functionality/maintenance (for self-hosted solutions).

For third parties there is Cryptpad, and self-hosted versions available from their Cryptpad Github repository.

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How to Ditch Google Email

This is really about how to get off of Gmail/Google Email for Domains/Gsuite. It is not difficult to get off of Google Drive, and Google Photos, as well as Google Docs and Google Sheets, and the like. But there are certain advatages of Gmail/Google Mail, and the free version of GSuite, which I've been using for ten years or so.

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Metric vs. Imperialism

If there ever will be a world government, one which speaks for and works on behalf of humanity for the entire planet, or most of it, that system will not use miles, pounds, ounces, inches, and yards. That system will be a rational measurement system that 99.5% of the earth already uses.

This is how America denies the future, and therefore denies itself a part of that future.

My real nitpick today is with most weather websites which insist on using fahrenheit, and require setting change (on every, single, visit) to that of celcius. You suck. Assume that traffic from anywhere but the USA wants the metric system, and allow for a preference override. OBVIOUS.

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Ten Million Years

When one wants to understand what the most sigificant digits are regarding courses of action, it is vital to have the appropriate time-scale. What can be done in 1 day is a much more constrained problem than one can be done in 1 year, 10 years, 1,000 years, etc. Ten million years is sufficiently large to rethink pretty much everything. As Peter Brannan writes in The Anthropocene is a Joke:

Unless we fast learn how to endure on this planet, and on a scale far beyond anything we’ve yet proved ourselves capable of, the detritus of civilization will be quickly devoured by the maw of deep time.

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