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Ask Slashdot: Advice On Building a Firewall With VPN Capabilities?

Fencepost Re:Mikrotik (238 comments)

We've started putting Mikrotik routers in some small offices as replacements for older Linksys/Cisco VPN routers, and while they're powerful I'd definitely dispute the "easy to use" for anyone not a networking pro.

Some of the issue is that there are so many things you can change, unless you're very knowledgeable you're not going to know what to do (or refrain from doing) in a bunch of areas. You can go down the path of "I have a recipe and I will follow it exactly!" and basically copy/paste commands while changing passwords, but there are how-to articles that go back 6+ years and multiple versions, and many of them no longer apply. Setting up remote user VPN connections is also kind of a pain, in that you have to go to a half dozen different areas to configure different bits and pieces. Much of that setup is one-time even if you're setting up a bunch of remote users, but if you're only setting up one, then you still have to do all of it.

For someone wanting a home router that he can OpenVPN into (for road warrior use from coffee shops), I'd recommend getting something you can run OpenWRT on and just using that (get plenty of flash); I'm sure Tomato and DD-WRT are also decent choices, I just moved away from DD-WRT because I felt like there was a little too much "magic" going into it. I don't want to have to worry about whether I'm running the Brainslayer or EKO branch or whether I'm running build 12345 or have to roll back to 12332 because it's more stable/doesn't brick routers/whatever any more than I want to water-cool a Celeron and put a fart-can tailpipe on it.

about a week ago
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U.S. Threatened Massive Fine To Force Yahoo To Release Data

Fencepost SEC filing: "Millions lost. No Details. Ask NSA." (223 comments)

I wonder how charges like that could be reported on legally-required documents for publicly traded companies.

"USA Federal gov't fines: $10M*

* Details not available. Ask the NSA, maybe they'll tell you."

about a week ago
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How many devices are connected to your home Wi-Fi?

Fencepost 10, more than I expected (260 comments)

But not all of them are connected at the same time.

2 phones
2 tablets
2 Chumbies (yes, still)
1 desktop PC
3 ThinkPads, one in daily use, one being prepped to ship off to my father, one currently only occasional use. I'll get another back from my dad after he switches over to the new one - he's using a loaner from me right now.

Also connected are a second desktop PC, a Linux desktop/backup server, and a printer/multifunction.

Christ, no wonder the local power utility tells me my electricity usage is 25% higher than the average for the neighborhood.

about three weeks ago
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Kolab.org Groupware 3.3 Release Adds Tags, Notes, and Dozens of Other Features

Fencepost For those not familiar with it.... (26 comments)

Kolab is a "groupware" server bundle, including an IMAP based mail system, calendaring, etc. The UI is Roundcube, a browser-based mail client (PHP on backend, lots of AJAX in the browser). Some of what you're seeing here is enhancements and extensions to Roundcube to bring it closer to the capabilities of a "fat" mail/groupware client.

If you need in-house email/groupware on a budget, it's not a bad choice - it's actively developed and hasn't had some of the drama and ownership shuffles of similar products such as Zimbra and Scalix. My (possibly incorrect) understanding is that Kolab is an open source project/product with a supported enterprise version available rather than an enterprise product with a "community" open source version available.

about a month ago
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Ask Slashdot: Should You Invest In Documentation, Or UX?

Fencepost Training videos? (199 comments)

If writing (or getting people to write) user documentation is hard, perhaps you can put together good video tutorials on how to use many/most/all of the features in each module. You can even get developers to actually do the video demonstrations, because it gives them a chance to show off their cool new accomplishments. You can probably get people to do replacement narration as well, both for developers who don't do a good job narrating (language issues, accents, mush-mouth mumblers, etc.) and for alternative languages.

Put those videos up on Youtube or Vimeo, perhaps even annotate them with links to the official docs (such as they may be), with notes about features not demonstrated in that video, or with links to related training videos.

Then you can point to those videos not just for training materials, but as marketing/demo items.

about a month ago
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Brookings Study Calls Solar, Wind Power the Most Expensive Fossil Alternatives

Fencepost Re:I believe solar thermal does benefit from scale (409 comments)

Good god, is the delta-T why my coffee keeps getting cold?!? I thought it was ice gremlins peeing in it!

I have no particular knowledge of or attachment to any particular energy storage method. Heck, if you want to use Scotsmen and inflatable sheep and can make it work, go for it. I'm very sorry I didn't mention flywheels as well, though I have to admit they always make me think of an article I read once on "spin testing to destruction" and the subsequent launching of a spin test chamber lid through multiple floors of a building and out to a parking lot. As a result of that, I'd like to add in materials fatigue as a factor you should be keeping in mind for your infinite charge cycles. I'd also be curious about the energy storage density per cubic meter of the containment vessel.

I couldn't begin to give you numbers for construction of any of these, though I imagine that air- or vacuum-insulated containment vessels for molten materials probably wouldn't be that different in cost from containment vessels for very heavy flywheels spinning at thousands of RPMs in vacuum. The details and costs of the storage medium in either case would likely be dwarfed by all of the other costs associated with building an energy generation or storage facility of any sort.

Is thermal storage inefficient? Absolutely! Are there ways to reduce that inefficiency? Absolutely! Are there possible synergies (e.g. can you combine thermal with building-size molten salt batteries)? Maybe!

If I had all the answers to what was the best energy storage option, would I be dinking around on Slashdot on Sunday afternoon?

about a month ago
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Brookings Study Calls Solar, Wind Power the Most Expensive Fossil Alternatives

Fencepost Re:I believe solar thermal does benefit from scale (409 comments)

Straight conversion efficiency isn't the only factor that matters by a long shot, and might not even be the most important factor. Maximum charge cycles / lifespan strikes me as important. Cost of materials. Safety. Regulatory complications. A 10% loss in efficiency is probably worth it to go from 3,000 charge cycles to 10000.

about a month ago
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Brookings Study Calls Solar, Wind Power the Most Expensive Fossil Alternatives

Fencepost Bulk fixed-site energy storage (409 comments)

There's a lot of research going on, but I'm not sure what's current. Some of the things I've seen mentioned include compressed air (pumped underground - old oil or natural gas wells I think), molten-salt batteries of various types, simple molten salt (similar to what's used for solar thermal) and later steam generation, pumped water (gravity storage), etc. Any of these could be appropriate depending on location, geography, etc.

about a month ago
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Brookings Study Calls Solar, Wind Power the Most Expensive Fossil Alternatives

Fencepost I believe solar thermal does benefit from scale (409 comments)

PV (photovoltaic) won't benefit much from scale, but some of the solar thermal options that use mirrors for heat that's then used for steam generation certainly do.

about a month ago
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Ask Slashdot: Datacenter HDD Wipe Policy?

Fencepost Re:Physical destruction (116 comments)

Well, my customers have traditionally used servers until they're mostly beyond being repurposed, and the same with desktop PCs. The only ones with anything in datacenters are ones using hosted solutions, and we and they don't have any access to the vendor's setups. That said, for retired SATA drives they'll likely get scrubbed and shelved as possible future spares - an old enterprise 250GB SATA drive will work just fine for reimaging a local PC.

For desktop machines, we don't image or wipe them before replacement, and we let them sit in a storeroom for a couple weeks just in case we need to retrieve something, but after that we're not hooking them back up just to wipe, we just yank the drive and send the machine out for recycling. This year they've tended to be old Pentium 4 boxes that were running XP acting as remote desktop terminals. It's very unlikely that there's anybody's medical data on any of the drives, but it's not a chance that we want to take and physical destruction of the drive is the quickest and therefore cheapest way to do it that I'll trust.

One special situation here is that I'm part of a small enough group that we don't really have low-paid PFYs or interns to do this - if I had someone available being paid $10-15/hour for basic technical tasks it might change things, but right now any time spent wiping drives on obsolete PCs for donation could be much better spent on billable tasks.

about a month and a half ago
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Ask Slashdot: Datacenter HDD Wipe Policy?

Fencepost Re:Physical destruction (116 comments)

It's not worth my time to hook up old PCs or removed drives so I can wipe someone's 40/80/120/160 GB IDE drives for reuse. A nail punch in a few places makes it not feasible for someone to try to recover potential legally protected from possible temp files saved on an old desktop system. My concern is generally that I'm not sending used drives from medical offices out to end up "recycled" to Africa where someone might actually try to recover data from them.

about a month and a half ago
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Justin.tv Shuts Down Amid Reports Google Is Acquiring Twitch

Fencepost Hasn't this been planned for months? (56 comments)

I was never a user of justin.tv (and don't use Twitch either), but the impression I've gotten was that this has been coming for a long time - basically anything with more than 10 views was archived off elsewhere, and they killed a bunch of background stuff back in June I think.

Shouldn't this be titled "Justin.tv completes its scheduled shutdown on schedule"?

about a month and a half ago
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The High-Tech Warfare Behind the Israel - Hamas Conflict

Fencepost Wow, sensors in the tunnels (402 comments)

Some of the offices in the building I work in have "high-tech sensors" that tell them when the door opens inward by ringing a little bell. They're dangling pieces of metal that hit a momentary switch tied to a doorbell ringer. Are those the "high-tech" devices described in such detail in the article?

about a month and a half ago
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Ask Slashdot: Is Running Mission-Critical Servers Without a Firewall Common?

Fencepost Re:Vendors do stupid things. (348 comments)

Given the cost (as an annual subscription no less!) and the fact that I found <b>nothing</b> about compatibility with 2008R2, 2012R2 or Remote Desktop Services, I'm probably better off spending half the money one time, to get another 2012R2 Standard license good for 2 VMs, then using the RemoteApp functionality in 2008R2 and 2012R2.

about a month and a half ago
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Ask Slashdot: Is Running Mission-Critical Servers Without a Firewall Common?

Fencepost Re:Vendors do stupid things. (348 comments)

Agreed that Citrix doesn't guarantee anything about security, but they've been the forefront of sharing only specific applications on Windows for some time. If FroggyMed requires that users be on IE8 with Flash 10.2 and Java 1.4.2 I can put that in place and lock things down so that terminal server cannot access anything not on the specific provider's ip blocks.

A lot of hospitals have started doing that for their physician portals - they don't have to worry about client VPNs, which version of Java is installed on PCs, those weird Mac-using doctors who want to review charts from the couch every evening, etc. Their portal works on every platform for which there's a current Citrix client.

about a month and a half ago
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Ask Slashdot: Is Running Mission-Critical Servers Without a Firewall Common?

Fencepost Vendors do stupid things. (348 comments)

The most recent one I'm dealing with is an IE-specific browser-based EMR (electronic medical records) package that apparently has some issues with newer Flash versions, and by "newer" I mean "released within the past 3 years." They want us to roll back to some version of Flash 10.x (the product mostly works with newer, but has some very annoying delays).

My basic take on this is to go to the practice manager and say "According to the EMR vendor, their requirements are that we run an incredibly insecure configuration. I can do that, but my recommendation is that if we do so, no computer should be able to use both the EMR and other parts of the Internet." It makes me wish we were a Citrix shop; I'd set up a terminal server/app server running that insecure configuration, then just share direct app access via desktop icons for the end users.

about a month and a half ago
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Do Apple and Google Sabotage Older Phones? What the Graphs Don't Show

Fencepost Android updates vs Google Play Services updates (281 comments)

Hasn't Google been moving more things under the umbrella of their much more restrictively licensed Google Play Services? Basically building much of the face of Android on things no longer/never part of AOSP?

about 2 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: How Do You Ensure Creative Commons Compliance At Your Company?

Fencepost Same tracking expenses either way (64 comments)

Your comparison seems to assume that just because you've bought a commercially licensed image that you don't have to track it the same way you would a CC-licensed one. You actually probably have to track it more stringently for the commercial one than for the CC-licensed one, because you KNOW that someone's expecting to get paid for the commercial one.

"Hey, you know that background image we've been using for 5 years for the X site? Where'd we get that? iStockphoto? Can you track down the purchase info along with proof that the $3 was for *that* photo? I think that was a few years before Getty bought them, and I think we were still Y Corporation at the time. Man, I sure hope Jimmy didn't just do that on his own account for convenience. Any idea where he is these days?"

Heck, I was at someone's office today where they couldn't find the paperwork for an out-of-warranty laptop repair from March, much less something years old.

about 3 months ago
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Scott Adams's Plan For Building Giant Energy-Generating Pyramids

Fencepost Arcologies (107 comments)

The concept is nothing new, and in fact there are active and semi - active attempts at building some or at least exploring some elements of them. Notable (per Wikipedia) are Masdar City near Abu Dhabi, many Las Vegas hotels, and Arcosanti in Arizona.

about 4 months ago
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Surface Pro 3 Has 12" Screen, Intel Inside

Fencepost Re:Resolution (316 comments)

ThinkPad T440, $859 starting price, upgrade to 1600x900 for an extra $50. Going to 1920x1080 takes it up another $200 beyond that.

Also a couple of less business-oriented systems from Lenovo (based on their on-site search looking at 1600x900 and higher on screens of 13 or 14 inches): Their Flex2 14, this week's "deal" at $699 with a 4th-generation i7 and 1920x1080, which makes me go "wow". I'm going to include the link because that's pretty impressive: http://shop.lenovo.com/us/en/laptops/lenovo/flex-series/flex-2-14/?sb=:000001C9:00011EDA:

They also have one of their Yoga 2 systems, 13" also 1920x1080 with 4th-gen i5 for $900.

And of course you can get higher resolution even cheaper if you're looking at giant 17" screens.

about 4 months ago

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