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Ask Slashdot: Open Communications Set-Up For Small Office?

djkitsch Are you choosing open source for the right reason? (224 comments)

Whilst it's a noble thing to want to go open source and take it all on yourself, you can save yourself a major headache by going SaaS instead. I originally setup a XenServer running VMs for Endian Firewall for routing, Zimbra for groupware and Asterisk / Trixbox for the phones. It was, to say the least, a pain in the ass to support, and there's no place to hide when you're the sole admin for a system you setup yourself.

About 8 months ago I got sick of the distraction it was causing from my main role, and now we're running Google Apps for Organisations, a hardware router and a Sipgate Business account for fully hosted VoIP. We use Cisco SPA-921 SIP phones, which are about £55 (roughly $90), and the whole setup causes zero headaches. Our old setup appealed to us on principle (we're all software engineers!) but that was all it was - in the end, it cost us time and thus money.

It helps that we've got a great, rock-solid broadband net connection (check out Fluidata if you're in the UK and looking for good business connections!), but the combination of virtually zero critical equipment on-site and hosted services is such a good economical decision.

Yes, I know I'm preaching to an OSS-biased community here - OSS stacks can be great, and we probably will end up going with some combination of in-house and SaaS in the future, but only when we have dedicated people to run it. In the meantime, get the technology out of the way so you can concentrate on whatever it is your business does!

about 2 years ago
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Ask Slashdot: Wrist Watch For the Tech Minded

djkitsch Re:pebble? (466 comments)

They reckon it'll be 7 days - I can live with that!

more than 2 years ago
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Ask Slashdot: Wrist Watch For the Tech Minded

djkitsch Seconded (466 comments)

The Pebble was my first thought too - I've ordered one myself for the same reasons as the OP. Hackable, supports push notifications, customs apps, looks good etc. Plus it gives me a push to properly get back into C programming :-)

more than 2 years ago
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SCADA Problems Too Big To Call 'Bugs,' Says DHS

djkitsch Some background - 747s and online SCADA systems (92 comments)

Some extra info popped up online just a few days ago - a SCADA consultant posted this a few days ago. It's slightly terrifying, though someone with more SCADA experience than me would have to verify its accuracy:

For those who do not know, 747's are big flying Unix hosts. At the time, the engine management system on this particular airline was Solaris based. The patching was well behind and they used telnet as SSH broke the menus and the budget did not extend to fixing this. The engineers could actually access the engine management system of a 747 in route. If issues are noted, they can re-tune the engine in air.

The issue here is that all that separated the engine control systems and the open network was NAT based filters. There were (and as far as I know this is true today), no extrusion controls. They filter incoming traffic, but all outgoing traffic is allowed. For those who engage in Pen Testing and know what a shoveled shell is... I need not say more.

More here: https://www.infosecisland.com/blogview/16696-FACT-CHECK-SCADA-Systems-Are-Online-Now.html

more than 2 years ago
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UK's NHS Will Drop Delayed E-Records Project

djkitsch This one's even better! (86 comments)

From the Wikipedia article:

"Granger's credentials were questioned by his own mother, a campaigner for the preservation of local health services in her area, who expressed her amazement at his appointment, criticising the whole scheme as 'a gross waste of money'".

If there wasn't so much evidence, Wikipedia's editors would likely delete that article for being so implausible. If I weren't a UK tax-payer, it'd almost be funny...

more than 2 years ago
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Was .NET All a Mistake?

djkitsch Tools for the job (688 comments)

Well, if you want to write an OS, a critical real-time system, or a high-performance scientific data analysis suite, then no, .NET is probably not for you (although .NET 4.0 and its parallel processing additions certainly improve matters there). But if you want to rapidly develop enterprise business applications (or indeed webapps - everyone here appears to have overlooked the massively popular ASP.NET), then .NET's pretty damn good.

The strength isn't really in the idea of the CLR or whatever - that's an implementation detail. It's the huge framework of ready-made classes that accelerate development. Sure, there are plenty of PHP frameworks and so on, but with .NET, and C# in particular, you've got a massive library ready, tightly integration tested, and virtually guaranteed to run on anything from Windows XP up... oh, and I've rarely found a .NET app compiled for Windows which wouldn't run without modification under Mono.

As I suggested in the subject line, it's a matter of tools for the job. I regularly do C#, Obj-C, C, JavaScript, Perl and the odd bit of PHP and Java, and C#'s my favourite for headache-free development. It's not perfect for *every* job, but for the ones where it works, it works very well indeed.

more than 2 years ago
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Is Science Just a Matter of Faith?

djkitsch Really, Slashdot, really? (1486 comments)

I am quite startled that this made it to the front page of ./ - you'd have thought we'd have worked past basic misunderstandings of the scientific method on this site, of all places.

more than 3 years ago
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Stallman Worried About Chrome OS

djkitsch So don't. (393 comments)

It's a choice - that's market economics for you. The models exist, and thrive, because demand is there, or at least there are enough people who are willing to sacrifice conventional ownership to play the game or use the software.

Welcome to the modern world: you don't like the product, don't buy it! Buy something else, something which does suit your needs. Or, if that doesn't exist, build it yourself, or help start an OSS project to do it instead. And, if all of that is impractical or impossible to finance, then you've probably found the reason why no-one else is doing it that way.

Of course, there is market momentum, the incumbent's advantage, monopolistic misbehaving etc, but that's what regulators are for (when they're left to do their job properly). However, "the cloud", downloadable content and subscription-based RPGs exist because there's a gap in the market. Think you can do better? Fill it yourself!

Rant over...

more than 3 years ago
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Stallman Worried About Chrome OS

djkitsch Frankly... (393 comments)

...if Stallman is worried about it, it's probably worth using. Chicken Little indeed. One supposes that there might come a day when RMS realises that nobody gives a flying fuck.

As Bruce Schneier is fond of saying, security is a trade-off. Software and information licensing is a trade-off, too, and cloud users are clearly happy with that trade-off. Having worked in web technologies for some time, I've had many "but someone else will have our data!" conversations; people are not stupid, and if they choose to keep their data elsewhere, it's because they consider it worth the up-sides. Duh.

more than 3 years ago
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Microsoft Patents "Fonts With Feelings"

djkitsch Prior fuzzy art! (150 comments)

I'm pretty sure Sesame Street's been doing this for quite some years!

more than 4 years ago
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In EU, Google Accused of YouTube "Free Ride"

djkitsch Dumb pipes, and the media lobby all over (449 comments)

  1. As other commenters have said, they are dumb pipes - that's how they pitched themselves (when they were getting established) and that's how consumers see them. Now they're trying to renegotiate the tacit contract on which the "Internet age" was established. I call bullshit.
  2. 2) This is the media lobby, with its broken business model all over again. Whilst it's understandable that execs are panicking over their capacity problems, that's the point: it's their capacity problem. Short-sightedness on the part of the network planners - one supposes - left them vastly underestimating the amount of data they'd need to carry, and they're trying to get the content providers to cover the costs of their mistakes. It's something akin to power companies demanding a cut of TV ad revenue, since if it wasn't for them, there'd be no TV at all!

It's the combination of these two points which makes it so noxious. We (as consumers) have been encouraged to treat broadband providers as another passive utility company, as fundamental to modern life as electricity and gas. Now they're trying to have it both ways, and suggest that at the same time, they're an active participant in content consumption and should be compensated at both ends.

So, which is it? Passive utility, to be taken for granted and paid monthly without a thought, or active content platform due recognition but with responsibility for quality of service? Something tells me that either way, consumers will not be the winners here.

more than 4 years ago
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Students Failing Because of Poor Grammar

djkitsch This does not surprise me. (1343 comments)

I previously worked for about 8 years for a medium-sized marketing and design agency, as the lead web developer. On almost every project that passed across my desk, I seemed to be the only one spotting spelling errors, grammatical mistakes and punctuation problems before copy went to the web and to print. This was in a company of 30-ish young, university educated professionals in London.

When the programmers are copy-editing your marketing material, that should be a sign you've got literacy problems!

The weird thing was that when I sent the copy back, corrected, everyone told me I was being anal - apparently not bothered about bad copy to billboards and magazines nationwide.

I agree with a commenter above, though - I think coding does encourage attention to detail when a stray semicolon becomes important.

more than 4 years ago
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Geek Travel To London From the US — Tips?

djkitsch Sorry to disappoint... (1095 comments)

...but the Planetarium closed down a few years ago. It was turned into a "celebrity cinema" bit of Madame Tussauds, showing showbiz movies. Philistines.

However, the Greenwich Observatory has their own, new planetarium - it's brand new, and right by the Greenwich Meridian:

http://www.nmm.ac.uk/visit/planetarium-shows/

more than 4 years ago
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Simple, Cost-Effective, Multiroom Audio?

djkitsch Squeezebox or AirTunes (438 comments)

I've got two systems setup (home and work):

Home:
A Mac Pro (could just as well use a Windows PC, but this is my home server) running iTunes. AirPort Express with AirTunes units in my bedroom, office and kitchen, with powered speakers attached to each. AppleTV (ehem - "enhanced", of course - http://wiki.awkwardtv.org/wiki/) in my lounge, hooked up to the TV and hi-fi. I use an iPhone or iPod Touch with the Remote app to control it, and it works great. You could get more functionality with a Sonos setup, but I already had the server and AppleTV, so it only cost me about $70 with eBay AirTunes units.

Office:
A VM running on our office server with Squeezebox Server, serving the tunes. A mixture of Squeezebox devices and PCs running the software player throughout the office. A whole load of apps and web interfaces to control the server, and the multiple streams coming out of it. With the exception of the Squeezebox hardware, it was free to setup, and you don't even really need those if you're happy to use spare PCs.

By and large, both arrangements work well - the aim was to have systems that we could just setup and forget about, and save the odd server reboot, that's what we've got.

more than 4 years ago
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How Do You Manage Dev/Test/Production Environments?

djkitsch SVN etc. (244 comments)

My company (for upwards of 10 years) has been using:

  • An SVN (Subversion) server on our dev box
  • Developer or group specific subdomains in IIS / Apache on the dev server, to which working copies are checked-out
  • Deployment to live servers via SVN checkout when the time comes
  • Global variables to check which server the app's running on, and to switch between DB connection strings etc.

Still not figured out an efficient way to version MSSQL and MySQL databases using OSS, though. Open to suggestions!

more than 4 years ago
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Banking Via Twitter?

djkitsch Funnily enough... (193 comments)

The same marketing people I can hear saying the above in my head did, honestly, suggest we "should be getting into Second Life" some years ago, but they were reluctantly dissuaded. A narrow escape for my development team, I think.

more than 4 years ago
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Banking Via Twitter?

djkitsch "Hey, I know what'd be great!" (193 comments)

"This Twitter thing, yeah, it's all, like, Web Two Point Oh, and customer synergy interaction right, and then people can, like, interact with their data and it'll be all like, in the Cloud! Yeah!"

I can guarantee something very much like the above took place in their marketing department shortly before this was built. I've spent 10 years listening to this from marketing geeks - nothing more dangerous than a new technology half-understood.

more than 4 years ago
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Google Buys reCAPTCHA For Better Book Scanning

djkitsch Er... no. Read the reCAPTCHA info (138 comments)

The interface uses two words: one which is verified and one which isn't. Assuming the first one is typed in correctly, they present the second to a bunch of people until they get a consensus (three the same, I think) and then it goes in the "verified" pile. Thus, even if the second word's not verified yet, a spammer will still get caught out by the other one.

more than 4 years ago

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