Conditioning

Just last week, our air conditioner failed. In many parts of the country and this time of year, that wouldn’t be such a big deal. I live in the Southeast. It doesn’t get cold here for long and the temps during this time of year can easily reach 30°C or higher. Thus, AC is an important component of a properly functioning household.

Fortunately for us, this week has been pretty temperate. Typically we’ve had temps around 25-27°C, which is almost perfect. Couple that with ceiling fans and a house that doesn’t really get much direct sunlight (except the mornings), things were relatively okay.

Today, I’m working from home as these two fine gentlemen rip out the old air-handler and the outside unit, plus replace the thermostat with one that the manufacturer recommends (in this case, a Nest). I’ve gotten to thinking about a home savings account. I know there are insurance plans for this sort of thing, but I’d rather have a savings account where money goes into without my interaction and when stuff like appliances fail, or we need a new AC unit, we can dip into that fund.

Since I’m not really versed in finance, and I tend to spend money rather freely, I think this is pretty sage advice. Saving is not a new concept, but saving for these kinds of issues seems like one of those things that no one ever told me about in school. That also makes me wonder, are there any other types of personal financial tips or tricks that are simple in theory, but unless you stumble into it you wouldn’t know about them?

Web Development

I’ve been out of the game for a long time. I used to eat, sleep, breathe and talk web development. Drupal, mainly, but I was dealing with JavaScript in the form of a nascent Node.js and the initial notions that maybe we didn’t need all that jQuery for simple page interactions. The landscape was at least understandable and everything was contained in it’s own playing field.

Since then, JavaScript has exploded into basically everything, templates, UI components, threading and more. Node grew up and became a bloated mess that we require for everything, including desktop apps via Electron. And holy crap the framework and library world might as well be written in an entirely different language.

I’m not going to lie. I wish I could keep up. Just learning something new, like CSS grids is enough to soak up an afternoon. React, Vue and Angular don’t even seem like tools for websites, as much as they seem like replacements for them. Why bother with spicing up HTML when you could just let the language build the whole damn thing for you? I mean, other than requiring your users to bear the burden for generating and rendering the page. Oh, and we can run JavaScript on the server now, so yay for that?

Ugh. It feels like the world has passed me by. I guess I don’t mind, much of the stuff is not so much conceptually new as it is built in new ways using new language features or new methods of doing things. That’s not a bad thing. The state of the art has left me behind and I’m just reminiscing like the old man I am.

Ok.

I really have no reason to post this, but OPM is too good not to post.

I’m Going Through Changes

Ah, the iOS app change logs. “Bug fixes and performance improvements”. How… descriptive. I know it’s not really something that Apple users are looking for in their updates, but as someone who has done development, I appreciate seeing them. Some developers, like 1Password, WordPress and a handful of others do a great job of outlining the things that were fixed from version to version. Most, however, are like the screenshot above.

Compare this with a typical change log on a Linux system (not all distros do this — RPM-based ones have it available).

A picture of a terminal emulator showing the output of "rpm -q --changelog shadow"
The RPM change log for the ‘shadow’ package.

I know it takes effort. Microsoft and Flickr should know better, though. They have scores of people who are able to add this kind of information to the app store change log.

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.

You get a virtual desktop, YOU get a virtual desktop — EVERY. BODY. GETS. A. VIRTUAL. DESKTOP!!!!!111one

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.

Pay to play video games, but not the ones you already have…

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.