Categories
Computers Rants

The Rental Economy

It’s coming! Microsoft has finally started transitioning people into a purely rental system. Coming soon, you’ll be able to subscribe to Microsoft’s Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) and run a full-scale Windows machine in the cloud. This has been a rather overt goal since Windows 8, with it’s insistence on having your Microsoft.com account tied to your local login account.

The technical component of this seems neat. You can run this Windows box in Azure and connect to it using just about any tech you’d like. Phone, Linux, Mac, whatever. That means you can get your desktop anywhere you have Internet. This is not unlike Google’s upcoming Stadia, which takes the same idea to gaming. Seems like data centers are the new hotness. Study up, kids.

That all being said. I hate it.

I mean, I’m not opposed to “Cloud Computing”. There are real benefits to being able to access vast arrays of computing or storage resources for cheap. I, myself, have used these kinds of resources for my own needs. It’s great to be able to spin up a machine or two to get something done quickly. Many companies rely on this very resource as part of their core business. I even utilize it for backups, caching and image processing.

Cloud Computing allows for the normalization of the idea that you no longer own your system, and therefore your data. You can now rent your operating system, storage, emai/groupware, office programs, invoicing, website, user directory, etc. Soon, I wouldn’t bee surprised if Microsoft started pushing into Google’s Chromebook territory by offering lightweight systems that just connect to their Azure Virtual Desktop. This is especially dangerous, because they already have a majority of mind share in the consumer desktop market.

These sorts of services are dangerous. You can be cut off at any time, for any number of reasons. Stuff as benign as “bank failed to authorize payment” all the way up to the very serious, Executive Order preventing you from accessing services. Once you’re out that’s it. You don’t have any recourse. All your data is gone. You don’t own any part of the chain, after all. You’re just renting.

This has been a long time coming. Microsoft tested the waters with Office 365, to great success. People balked, at first, at renting Office, but now if you’re not using Office 365 or one of it’s competitors, you’re basically wasting money on licensing, and IT operations time. Now we’re getting virtual desktops. VMWare tried this with some limited success in Horizon, but I think Microsoft is going to sell this well enough that we see companies start to move to it to save money and hassle. Time will tell, though.

Categories
Politics Rants

Break Encryption … For the Children!

“W-whut about the children?!

That old chestnut. This was brought up a while ago, and I’m pretty sure I covered it — though it’s been lost to the ether (or rather, a zipped up Git repo somewhere). The Government super double pinkie swears that it will never let their backdoor key to encryption be used for nefarious purposes and that military and banking solutions won’t be affected.

Yeah. That sounds awesome. If you live in a fantasy. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need encryption at all, because no one would poke into shit that isn’t theirs. Unfortunately we live in a world where world leaders act like teenagers and the rest of the adult population is scarcely above that. The idea that the government would have a double-plus good backdoor key that could never be used by anyone except them, and only for lawful purposes is so laughable, I’m not even sure how it became a talking point.

This, you need to remember, is using it’s allies to spy on it’s own citizens. Hoovers up as much data as it can (especially encrypted data) and stores it on scales scarcely seen before. That information could never be used to bully someone or even creep on women. I’m sure the secret FISA court, that doesn’t have any public records, has the public’s best interests at heart. Well, we’ll just have to trust them, because it’s all top secret.

So, no, I don’t think that the government can be trusted with a secret backdoor that unlocks all my communications, no matter how benign. No one should. You need only to look at Saudi Arabia, China or Russia and even the UK for regimes who routinely abuse their power to bully and influence people with information gathered by massive dragnet systems.

I am, however, afraid that this might already be too late. We’re already willing enough to hand this information over to private corporations, who only have a duty to their shareholders. We see breach after breech happen, spilling all of our personal and private information across the Internet — all to an apathetic public. Maybe I’m just part of the last generation going through the throes of rejection before privacy is fully eradicated.

Update: Can’t forget about them just bypassing normal law to request information from companies. Wouldn’t want that pesky legal process to get in the way of their investigations.

Categories
Computers Rants

Executive Bullshit

I feel a bit smug right now. I know I shouldn’t, because lots of people have been unduly affected by this ridiculous order, but I still feel some level of satisfaction that Adobe has, again, a big pile of egg on their face.

Essentially, under the above order, no companies are allowed to do pretty much any business with persons, companies or governmental organizations in Venezuela. Including Adobe. To the point that anyone in that country will not only loose access to their software, creations and services — but have them deleted outright. No recourse, no refunds, no support, nothing. It goes to show you just how fragile the SaaS model is.

Despite that, these Executive Orders are comically overreaching the Executive Branch’s intended scope. Seriously, just being able to carte blanche embargo a whole country without the Senate or the House (you know, our Legislative branch, who are supposed to enact laws) weighing in on the issue. It’s not just this latest order, it’s all of the Executive Orders being able to be able to bypass the law-making process as being tremendously worrisome.

I know little of the situation in Venezuela, except that things are kind of all over the place. I don’t really have much connection to the area, which makes it hard for me to involve myself. Especially when I have plenty of crap here to consider and worry about.

Open source is the answer, as it is with many other restrictive actions taken against free people. It’s protected (currently) under free speech, because code is speech. It’s difficult to curtail and allows people to create and improve without restriction. Hell, it’s not even sold most of the time, making this very restriction moot.

Bah, fuck this whole travesty. Why do people have to be such assholes?

Categories
Computers Rants

VPN for All the Wrong Reasons

I’m not a political dissident. Moreover, I’m pretty uninteresting. SSL-secured websites are more than encrypted enough for my purposes. So why would I want to start looking at VPN? Website filtering. I connect to some of my self-hosted solutions, which seem to be blocked or, at the very least, poorly peered on the WiFi at the locations I frequent.

Ideally, I’d like to use the “built-in” (at least, to NetworkManager) OpenVPN solution to make it easier. I do have a pfSense firewall that I could hook into, but it’s sitting on a Comcast/Xfinity consumer service. I guess I’ll have to do some investigation as to port usage.

There are lots of different VPN services out there. With the rise in the privacy awareness (the awareness of the lack of privacy online), there are really good and cheap options. Even the OpenVPN folks seem to have their own service, called PrivateTunnel, which is interesting and cheap. I’ve also been looking at NordVPN, because of their ties with the SomethingAwful forums, great ratings and decent popularity.

I guess I’m spoiled for choice. Any ideas for service? I’d like to not spend a huge amount on services. Month-to-month would be better than yearly pre-paid. Leave a comment below.

Categories
Education Rants

FSCJ Incompetence

I am an FCSJ Alumni. A proud one, at that. I graduated in 2017 with an Associates in Networking Systems, and I have since started a Bachelor’s degree program to further my education. Until today, I haven’t had any major problems worth mentioning.

This year was much different. I was sure I had done everything in my power to enroll correctly, as I had no items blocking and I had done things early. The problems, however, started shortly after I did my FASFA.

The first red flag that popped up was that my FASFA award took two months to process. I actually had to submit a help ticket to get it processed properly, despite their protestations that it would only take “9-10 business days”. After that, I was able to accept my award and choose the amount that I would need for classes and books. One hurdle cleared.

I then was able to successfully register for classes. I chose the two that I needed and registered without a hitch. It even showed the cost of my classes and that there was an award amount that would more than cover the cost. After that, I was golden. I didn’t have any items left on hold or in my “to do” list in the student portal.

Monday of this week, I even attended my first class of the semester, Florida History, with no problems. I even had access to the class in Canvas, the LMS. The school season was beginning again and I was well on my way.

That is until last night. I logged in and was presented with a new “to do” item. FSCJ, an organization that has not only given me a degree, a certification and hundreds of hours of class time both online and in-person, suddenly didn’t have my high school transcript.

Let me just take a moment to make something explicitly clear: I haven’t been in high school for 18 years. I graduated, did my time in the corporate world, decided to go to college to further my career and had no problems getting my transcript sent in. Not only that, but I’ve spent almost a decade attending FSCJ in my off-hours while working to do so. The fact that they suddenly need my High School transcript in the middle of my Bachelors degree program is… suspicious.

So, I did what I was supposed to do. I entered a ticket. I didn’t hear anything back, so I called them. I was told that I was dropped due to non-payment of classes (despite having financial aid award money). To top it all off. Not only do I have to get my transcript submitted, but I also have to, effectively, beg the department heads to reinstate my classes because I was dropped due to their incompetence.

What. The. Actual. Fuck.

So, I’m a good little soldier. I’m resubmitting all the paperwork. However, I’ll be letting them know how unbelievably mad I am at this incredible incompetence. Honestly, they should comp my classes at this point. I shouldn’t have to beg to get back into the classes I was already signed up for, just because some one fucked up.