Google

Locked out? Good luck

Let’s build and configure a minimal SSH bastion host (jump box) from scratch, using Ubuntu 20.04 LTS.

Source: DIY SSH Bastion Host

This is all well and good except for the bit where the author is clearly invested in using the cloud (i.e. other people’s computers) to run your own infrastructure.

What happens when google locks you out? Or when amazon decides to do the same. Same concern goes for Azure, or any other cloud provider.

Good luck fixing any of that without having to tear down a lot of your own work just to be able to be useful again. I get it, from a developer point of view setting it like this means it’s easy to plug into projects, but from a sysadmin point of view it means you’re going to shoot yourself in the foot sooner rather than later, specially if you missed a little onfiguration detail that lets your server wide open for takeover.

Thinking Tools: July 2020

It’s been a long while since that last post I did and my setup has changed a lot:

Web services

  • This site, which I’m trying to update more often with links and blog posts I find interesting. It’s going much better after I installed the WP Editor.md plugin to enhance the plain editor. The gutenberg editor sucks ass.
  • Nextcloud. I’m running my own instance to replace Dropbox, which I didn’t like the last time. Got the desktop client installed and it’s working quite nicely.
  • Twitter is still my social media network of choice. I’m using tweetdeck on the desktop
  • Feedly is still my RSS reader of choice but I’m looking around for a replacement that works across all my devices and it’s pretty to look at. Now that people are starting to move away from centralized social networks again there should be some movement in this space.
  • I’m running my own wiki using Wiki.js, which I’ve blogged about. This will probably merit another couple blog posts of their own specially now that I found vimwiki which could potentially run inside my Nextcloud instance.

Actual applications installed on my desktops and laptops

  • For messaging I’m now using Ferdi, a fork of Franz, to run most of my instant messaging needs. The great exceptions are Slack, Discord, and Signal; I discovered I work better when they have their own app instances running but when Signal offers a web interface I’ll probably fold it into Franz.
  • Spotify. Thinking of replacing it with a self-hosted option. I miss my graded playlists.
  • KeePass is still my password manager of choice.
  • Firefox. Mozilla keeps trying its best to kill all low-level functionality. This is easily the program I fuck around with the most, going from extensions to custom userChrome files.
  • Windows Subsystem for Linux. Much less of a pain in the ass than running a VirtualBox VM depending on what you’re doing. Using wsltty as its terminal.

There are some single-purpose utilities I’ve discovered in the interim that are extremely useful for working in Windows 10.

Mobile applications (Android)

  • The usual instant messaging slash social networking suspects minus TikTok, which is spyware.
  • Firefox mobile. Firefox needs to do better at syncing preferences into it.
  • Fenix twitter client. Twitter Co keeps fucking around with their API and preventing third party clients from achieving the excellence they used to have years ago.
  • Nextcloud mobile client for my Nextcloud instance. Needs a lot of work to compare with Dropbox, but it does its job well.
  • Moon+ Reader for ebooks. This one took me a long while to find, most ebook readers have utterly crazy skeuomorphic defaults.
  • Photoshop Express. This one was annoying but you’d be surprised how many image editors are missing features you’d consider basic (like cropping and image resizing), opting instead to overload with photo filters you’ll never use. This one has all the filters but at least lets you crop and resize. It replaced Snapseed. I’ve still to wade through open source editors but my hopes are dim on that front.

There are some things that underpin all of these applications but I think I’ll leave it as-is. It’s pretty fun to see how my workflow changes over time.

Oh Google

I guess Google’s reputation is going down the drain.

Today there was this: Google employee’s anti-diversity manifesto goes “internally viral” at the company . The twitter comments for that Motherboard post on twitter are quite something.

I won’t link to any reddit posts. They’re always a toxic dumpster as it is.

Then today browsing my RSS feeds I found this: Google Introduces “Invisible” Gmail Messages!. I’ve noticed this myself.

So now in addition to being misogynists, they’re ableists (I hate using this term, but it’s true) and if a white male developer in his 20s thinks it’s not worth his time to fix these things… they’ll never be fixed.

The new corporate overreach normal

Today I have four stories that are the start of a trend that is quite worrisome.

First we have the story of a composer who says Apple Music destroyed his music collection. This is a case of a company messing around with your livelihood.

Then we have the story of Amazon disabling internet access for Kindle devices. This is a case of a company messing with your entertainment.

Next up is Google Nest disabling the Revolv smart hub because the company doesn’t consider it worth updating anymore. This is a case of a company messing with your convenience for its own profit.

At the last we have this new story of Microsoft disallowing Administrators from disabling the Windows Store in Windows systems. This is a case of a company messing with your ability to do work.

If it had been only one company, that specific product might have been shunned and the company could have corrected its course. But now here we have four of the biggest companies around deciding unilaterally what they think is best for you. Doesn’t matter if you don’t use the specific product talked about. This applies to the entirety of the company.

This is quite on purpose. They want to set the social precedent that it is okay to do this. A legal precedent might not be set since their EULAs usually include arbitration agreements; contracted and paid for by these same companies to make sure customers always lose and prevent the justice system from being able to intervene.

The government is quite unconcerned itself since most of these companies proclaim to support encryption, yet all of them are jumping on the Internet of Things bandwagon. The power of IoT is on its ability to eavesdrop and surveil your life ostensibly for your benefit as an user. The data gets sent to the companies… but must travel through connections that have always been monitored. So the government doesn’t care as long as they can do surveillance.

I’ll only mention Facebook in that their way of functioning precludes them from disabling access to products. Otherwise how can they obtain more information on what you do and who you are?

As it is, Open Source can provide a viable alternative only if we find a way to make sure that the developers of the software we depend on are rewarded for their efforts (remember OpenSSL having no money?) otherwise things like Heartbleed will happen again and again. Companies will provide funds only for things that will directly benefit them and/or their bottom line; never for useful software that competes with theirs.

For myself I know I won’t really use Apple products at this point. I do use Windows but I know I’ll switch back to Linux eventually. I use Google Apps but will brush up on keeping my own mailservers. I like Amazon Prime but I won’t buy a Kindle or an Echo device.

These are conscious decisions about how I interact with the business giants of our age. We all need to do that, lest we risk being stepped on.

For each city…

Mexico City has it good. Most pressing concern is its population.
Mexico City google search

Minneapolis has is good too. People do love to bitch about the weather
Minneapolis google search

Saint Paul has baseball on its mind
Saint Paul google search

Tijuana is all over. Weather, the mythical donkey show, the cartel
Tijuana google search

Cuernavaca needs to get its shit together. Safety and crime at the top.
Cuernavaca google search

Fun thing is that weather is always in the suggestions, no matter what the city is.

This is how it all starts

I’m personally affected by the shutdown of Reader and will keep an eye out for a replacement. Perhaps someone should tell the RSSOwl developers to work with Dropbox on a solution?

I feel Google is trying to build a wall around its garden, much like Apple has done since its very beginning. Google stormed ahead by using open protocols, open source software and generally clamoring they’re “open” in their enterprises. I feel they’re now turning their back on these things and saying they can do better. They might… for a while.

The fact is Apple built its wall first, then planted its garden. Google planted the garden, invited everyone to play, and now they’re trying to wall it up. Google is trying to play Apple’s game. They will lose and when they do they will lose it all.

Oh, Google (again)

So I’m trying to get Picasa 3.9 to run on WINE. I’ll just pop over to the picasa site and download the program…

Picasa homepage

There is no download link to get the Windows version. Anywhere.

Poked around the rest of the subdomain… nothing. Nothing at all. Not a listing of previous versions and/or versions for other operating systems.  From what I could see, the only place for me to get Picasa is to go to some other website and download the software from there.

How about using it’s own search? All results point you right back to that same page pictured up there.

Hell, not even Microsoft does stuff like this.

The smarter Google gets, the stupider it becomes.

Google Drive

It was just released to the wild, and yet I’ve already found cause to question the integrity of the product:

image

When looking at the list of installed apps, it’s asking me to update the app, when I know for a fact it hasn’t even been installed to my phone. I’m used a rooted phone and a custom ROM, so it’s not like T-Mobile just put it there without my knowledge.

That sort of behavior is disingenuous as best, and evil at worst. Can there now be any doubt Google has just become another company like the rest?

Search suggestions obtained with Iceweasel in Private Browsing mode and turning off Instant Search.