Monthly Archives: April 2014

The cloud dilemma…

(I started this back a couple days.)

Ever since I set up my own server, I’ve been debating abandoning all cloud services that I can.  I’ve already stopped using Facebook (because it’s Facebook more than because it’s a cloud service).  But I’ve also considered switching from Gmail to a personal email server.  It’s scary how important my email account is.  But of course, I’m also nervous about the security of the server itself.  (Of course, the recent heart bleed vulnerability affected almost everyone, and I probably patched my server faster than the majority of the internet.)  (At least once I knew about it—thanks xkcd!)

Where do you draw the line?  When does it become more important to own your data, to own your email address?  Because whoever owns your email address also owns most of your other accounts across the internet.  I mean, if Google said tomorrow, “The data center with our Gmail servers exploded yesterday.  We don’t have any backups, and we’ve decided to simply drop the service and all support.  It’s in the terms.  Have a nice day,” what would we do?  Ok, I know that this is unlikely, but who says it can’t happen?  I mean, Google decides to stop supporting services all the time.

This is something I think about every once and a while.  And yet I keep using Gmail.

It’s been a couple days, and I thought of a very good reason for me to use Gmail, as well as anyone else who’s able to setup their own personal email server: credibility.  My thought is that if I were to attempt to use an email message that is stored only on computers under my control (other than possibly the sender, who may have lost/destroyed any trace of sending the message, or may be simply withholding it) as evidence of some kind, it could be easily argued that I could have created a fake email on the server, since I have root access.  The same cannot be said of Gmail, as I do not work for Google, nor do I know anyone personally who does.  So a message sent to me from a bank or online payment system confirming payment (for example) must be authentic, and could be used as proof of payment.

That was a long thought, but that’s what it comes down to: the fact that I do not own the server storing my email gives the messages credibility.  (At least I hope it does, since I am not a lawyer, and I don’t care enough to research this—I would rather go to bed.)

Dear Adobe…

Last night, I was using Adobe Acrobat 9 on my wife’s MacBook.  Doing a little OCR on a scanned PDF.  And it was awesome.  But my computer is about 5x faster, so I thought, “Hey, I’d really like this on my computer.”

And so I searched Amazon.com for “adobe acrobat” (obvs).  Then I thought, “HOLY CRAP!”  I debated whether I could get past the student verification, and when I realized that was a negative, I thought, “Better not get rid of this Mac—it’s got a lot of expensive software on it!”

In case you’re wondering, there are 5 useful features of Adobe Acrobat:

  1. You can rotate pages (and save the file).
  2. You can make a PDF into a form.
  3. You can reorder and renumber pages.
  4. You can reduce the size of your PDF by compressing images and reducing the fonts saved in the file.
  5. You can OCR a scanned PDF, which makes the text selectable (and a cool feature, ClearScan, actually makes fonts based on the image figures to reduce the file size and make it more readable).

Everything else it can do?  Just fluff.  Ok, signing a document is handy if you actually need to do that.  And changing the properties is also useful.  So we’ll make it 8 useful features.  5 + 2 + 1 extra for something someone else might use.

You don’t need Acrobat to create PDFs, just edit them.  And it’s not worth $300.  $50?  Definitely.  Heck, don’t tell Sav, but I probably would have bought it if it had been $50.  All I wanted to do was reorder and rotate some pages in our HOA’s CC&Rs, then do that fancy OCR stuff (OCR isn’t new, but it’s handy).  But if it came to it, to save $300 bucks, I would go down to the courthouse and scan them myself, or even type the whole things up myself.  And then I could print my own PDF.  Heck, I’d do it in \LaTeX and would be able to create awesome PDFs.

My point is, what’s the point of selling $300 software if you could sell 10x more by reducing the price to $50?  Heck, I’m sure they’d sell more than twice as much if it was just half the price.  Could have made $50 last night, but instead I’m going to learn how to do everything Adobe Acrobat can do with open source software, and then I won’t ever have to buy Acrobat.  $50 now is better than $300 never.

Currently listening to “Wing Cap Theme” by Nintendo (from Super Mario 64)

The joys of home ownership…

My least favorite joy of home ownership is easily the lawn.  I hate my lawn.  Actually, I very much like that we have a lawn.  What I do not like is that there is a creek very near the lawn that provides it with fresh weeds, spiders, and gophers every year (or more often).  I’m constantly at war with this axis of evil.

This year started with gopher holes popping up in the middle of our backyard.  Luckily I saw them probably hours after the first one appeared, and I quickly started my favorite tactic: Gopher Gassers.  In fact, my first attack, I taped three gassers together and threw them down the large fresh hole that had appeared literally overnight.  That kept them at bay for about a week, then a couple more holes.  A gasser (or two) in each of those holes, and we had a few weeks of peace.  I even bought a new solar-powered vibrating stake to ward them off (they had worked well the first year, but moisture (winter) had killed them).  I thought we were free, but then another hole popped up one morning.  Unfortunately for the gopher, it was a weekend, and I again gassed them.  That was a few weeks ago (I believe).  Victory.

This weekend though, we waged war on the weeds.  Actually, this was more like the rebuilding of the lawn after the end of last year’s war.  No matter how much weed killer with crabgrass control I sprayed on the crabgrass last year, the crabgrass would not be controlled.  So I got desperate and mixed up some full-blown weed and grass killer, and I went to town.  Apparently I underestimated the grass in “weed and grass killer” and also might have mixed it a little strong.  I did kill the crabgrass, but I also killed large patches of grass around the crabgrass.  So while the houses across the previously mentioned creek started having beautifully green lawns as spring sprung, we did not.

This weekend was mow, dethatch, and reseed.  Mowing alone made the poor lawn look better.  The reseeding went well, and while I watered, I decided to also preemptively strike at the third member of the axis of evil.  Using the new hose in the newly installed hose reel, I sprayed the lawn for bugs while I watered the new seed (can’t spray weed killer on new grass, so I couldn’t do that).  I highly recommend the Ortho Dial ‘n Spray that attaches right onto the concentrate bottles.  I have a tank sprayer that I’ve used before, and the hose sprayers are 1000x easier, plus you can spray your whole lawn instead of just spot treating.  (For bugs/weeds.)  Plus, I found these handy quick connect hose accessories, and they’re super handy.  They’ll be very handy for watering the lawn every evening since the irrigation available quite yet.

Sav would like a nice lawn for the kids to be able to play in, and I’m trying hard to make that a reality.  It’s definitely going to take some TLC this year.  Instead of weird guys trying to sell me lawn services coming to my house, I wish someone would tell me that I could get my whole lawn replaced with astro turf on the cheap.  A man can wish…

I do have one comfort with all this lawn drama.  A single coworker of mine recently bought a house.  I hope that he finds out just how fun maintaining a house is.

Websites, servers, and blogs, oh my!…

A funny thing happened over the past few months.  When we moved, we had the pleasure of becoming members of an HOA.  I’m not a fan of HOAs in general, but it seems to be how things are done here.  Personally, I think it’s a way for the local city government to get out of installing and maintaining things like street lights.  Nonetheless, it wasn’t like we had a choice.

Well, after we’d been here almost a year, the HOA got turned over from the developer to the members.  At the first meeting we had as a new HOA with the board to discuss things like higher dues, I asked if they had thought of having a website for the HOA.  I thought they would jump at the opportunity to have someone take on this project (for free!).  What’s more, I had already registered the perfect domain name (a .org domain, because I do things right), and I offered to host it free of charge.  So I had offered the HOA free site development, maintenance, and hosting.  But they didn’t take me up on the offer.

So when it came time to renew the domain, I let it expire.  Around that time, we got a new HOA board (and thus, new HOA president).  Well, the secretary sends out and email asking if anyone would be willing to assist them in the creation of a new HOA website (and if anyone had the knowledge and ability).  After banging my head against the table a couple times, I quickly emailed them back saying, “Funny you ask…”

I got in touch with the HOA president, which wasn’t easy for me because I’m very bad at remembering non-work stuff while at work (I guess I enter “work mode” or something.)  The best part is by that time, the domain had passed the grace period and was now in “redemption status”.  Meaning that I either had to pay $200+, or wait a month or so until it again became available to anyone.  That has the risk of jerks like GoDaddy or NetSolutions buying your domain as soon as it’s available and asking a “premium” price.  I was very careful not to visit the site, so that it wouldn’t look attractive, and only checked its availability at my original registrar (which is the best: NameCheap.com).

But fortunately it became available this week, and I snagged it again.  Auto-renew this time (for all my domains–you know that’s right).  Now begins the adventure of training a bunch of retired people and middle-aged housewives how to use WordPress.  I figure WordPress is perfect — they want a couple of static pages with CC&Rs, forms, and stuff like irrigation information, plus the ability to post news or announce upcoming events.  The design, look, and feel is going to fall on me, and that might be a pain, but I think I can make it work.

That’s one of most exciting things happening to me this week, outside of my confidential work stuff.  It’s very hush-hush.  Well, it’s way too late for this idiot to be blogging.  Good night.

Currently listening to “Piano Sonata No. 2 in E-Flat Major, Op. 45: Andante sostenuto” by Artur Pizarro (performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra)