December 8, 2016 brianradio2016

You’ve been tasked with helping your company stay competitive by modernizing your IT organization’s delivery of developed applications. Your company has already embraced virtualization and perhaps dabbled in the public cloud. Containers look like the next big thing for you, so you’re considering how to bring container technology to your organization. Some thing needs to create containers on compute resources and network them together. On the drawing board, you’re considering these general components:

diy components 2Apcera

You start doing the research. You soon discover that cloud management platforms, PaaS, and container management platforms are all readily available as prepackaged software and services. Even the individual components that make up those packages are available in Open Source Land. “Hmm,” you think, “Why pay anyone for a platform when the parts are there to do this myself?”

For a brief moment, you’re taken all the way back to kindergarten. The teacher starts crafting class and opens the drawer to an array of fun-looking parts. Pastel paper, glitter, and bows! You’re ready to craft that masterpiece. All you need is a bottle of glue!

After a blink, you’re back to the IT drawing board, laying out the parts for your future container management platform in greater detail:

December 7, 2016 brianradio2016

Since October, millions of internet users have been exposed to malicious code served from the pixels in tainted banner ads meant to install Trojans and spyware, according to security firm ESET.

The attack campaign, called Stegano, has been spreading from malicious ads in a “number of reputable news websites,” ESET said in a Tuesday blog post. It’s been preying on Internet Explorer users by scanning for vulnerabilities in Adobe Flash and then exploiting them.

The attack is designed to infect victims with malware that can steal email password credentials through its keylogging and screenshot grabbing features, among others.

The attack is also hard to detect. To infect their victims, the hackers were essentially poisoning the pixels used in the tainted banner ads, ESET said in a separate post.

December 6, 2016 brianradio2016

Cloud storage is a wonderful thing. It gives IT a central place to manage, secure, and back up company files. It lets users work on their files anywhere, from practically any authorized device, so the days of having to keep multiple copies of files synced across devices (work computer, home computer, mobile devices) are over.

But there’s a potential security gap in cloud storage that means you’re not getting the data security you expect, or you’re forcing users to walk through hoops to get their jobs done. And there’s no elegant solution to the problem today.

Here’s the scenario: IT encourages or requires users to store all work documents in their corporate OneDrive, Dropbox, Box, or Google Drive. Basically, to use it instead of the My Documents folder in Windows or Documents folder in MacOS. To do that effectively, and to maintain usability with users’ computer software, users are running the local virtual disk client for OneDrive, Dropbox, Box, or Google Drive. No more need for thumb drives, emailing of documents to themselves, and the other practices users invented to get their work done wherever, whenever.

Here’s the risk: A Windows PC or Mac running the virtual drive software is stolen or accessed by an unauthorized person. Even if IT cuts off access to the cloud storage service, and to any cloud-subscribed apps like Microsoft’s Office 365 or Google’s G Suite, those virtual drive apps have made local copies of the user’s documents on that computer. So, a data thief could get those local copies of the nominally cloud-stored corporate documents.

December 5, 2016 brianradio2016

Here's how to switch on a hidden shortcut menu on your iPhone or iPad

AssistiveTouch can make navigating around iOS and accessing often-used features much quicker and easier.

I use my iPhone more than any other bit of kit I own. Every day that thing gets a good 16+ hour workout, but there are times when I feel that certain features that I use regularly are buried from view or require finger acrobatics on the buttons to achieve.

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But there’s a hidden shortcut menu bar built into every iOS device that allows you quick and easy access to features that you might need access to the most often.

The feature is called AssistiveTouch, and what it does is float a small menu on your display (which you can move about on the screen to wherever suits you) that allows you to carry out gestures such as pinching or multi-finger swipes with a single finger, offers quick access to a variety of functions, and even allows you to activate Siri without pressing the Home button.

One feature I use a lot is screenshot. It’s much easier and quicker to have a single button do it than have to simultaneously press the Home button and the Power button.

Also, if you have a case with a deep bezel, being able to access the Control Center from a button press rather than a swipe from the bottom is much easier.

There are three ways to activate AssistiveTouch:

  • Tap Settings > General > Accessibility > AssistiveTouch, then switch on AssistiveTouch
  • Tap Settings > General > Accessibility > Accessibility Shortcut and then activate AssistiveTouch
  • Ask Siri: “Turn on AssistiveTouch”

The Siri method is very quick and convenient.

Many of the features AssistiveTouch gives access to are functions that otherwise involve button presses, such as the Home button. As such, it’s a handy stop-gap feature for people who have a broken or temperamental Home button.

I’ll be honest and say that using AssistiveTouch does take some getting used to. Initially, my brain — and fingers — kept going back to the Home button or the old ways of doing things, but if you stick with it for a few days, you will reap the rewards of having easy on-screen access to useful features.

See also:

December 5, 2016 brianradio2016


Say goodbye to my little friend.

I wanted to tell you how gorgeous the 15-inch display was. I wanted to tell you how astonishingly fast the PCIe-based SSD storage was. I wanted to tell you how I’d grudgingly come to accept the shallower keyboard, the Touch Bar, and the four USB-C connectors.

For months now, I’ve been looking forward to getting a new fully-equipped, top-of-the-line 15-inch MacBook Pro. For weeks, ever since I placed my order, I’ve been looking forward to telling you about it once it arrived.


2016 Holiday Buyer's Guide

2016 Holiday Buyer’s Guide

Check out CNET’s 2016 holiday gift guide for expert advice, reviews, and recommendations for you and your family.

Now, that won’t happen.

I just cancelled my order. First, I’ll explain the technical reasons for my decision. Then I’ll discuss some factors you may wish to consider for any professional purchases you might want to make.

The tech

There is a fundamental architectural difference between the new 13-inch MacBook Pro and the new 15-inch MacBook Pro. The 15-inch model comes with a dual GPU (graphics processing unit) configuration. The 13-inch model only comes with one graphics processor, built into the CPU.

CNET: New MacBook Pro: Should you upgrade?

It’s pretty interesting how the dual GPU architecture is supposed to work. Part of the time, the lower power, but also lower-performing, on-chip Intel HD 530 graphics processor is used. When crunch time comes, the Radeon Pro 460 with 4 GB of video RAM kicks in and pounds pixels onto the screen.

I’ve used this dual GPU architecture before. About four years ago, I bought the most powerful Windows laptop I could find, a beast of a Sager. It had a dGPU configuration.

When it worked, it was breathtakingly fast. When it worked.

Over the 18 months or so that machine was my main machine, I had constant driver problems. The GeForce GTX 670M didn’t always run properly. The on-chip Intel video driver wouldn’t properly change settings. System hangs and freezes attributable to driver conflicts were a regular occurrence. It was maddening.

When I moved off that laptop as my daily work system, I swore I would never buy another dual GPU machine.

Apple’s Mac future resides in the cloud | MacBook Pro Touch Bar review in one word: Meh | Five reasons why Apple’s new MacBook Pro makes me want to switch back to Windows | The MacBook Pro is not the root of all evil | Is that a PC on your desk? Windows hybrids, Macs and iPads struggle for share

The MacBook Pro is actually not a replacement for that Sager. I replaced that with the super-powered iMac I use as my daily work machine. This new MacBook Pro is destined for work in the studio for webcasts and interviews.

I’m getting a Mac because that job requires some Mac only software. Yes, there are wonderful Windows machines out there. But in my case, for the studio, I need a MacOS machine.

I had been holding off on purchasing a new Mac for about half a year, biding my time, knowing that the beefiest possible mobile Mac would soon be within my grasp. When the new MacBook Pros were announced in October, my waiting was rewarded with a slightly queasy feeling, because the most obviously powerful one was a 15-inch machine with dual GPU.

That nauseous feeling I had when placing that order wasn’t just because of the $3,000(!) price tag. The dGPU architecture gave me pause because of my previous experience. But, hey, this is Apple, right? They have to have figured this out. After all, this is far from their first dual GPU MacBook Pro.

I went against the promise I had made to myself, and placed my order.

The problem

Apparently, some new 15-inch MacBook Pros are experiencing failure conditions. I first became aware of the problem in a MacRumors article a few days ago. Users are reporting glitches and crashes, along with weird screen artifacts. This behavior is apparently most prevalent on the higher-end machines, with the Radeon Pro 460 GPU, which is the model I ordered.

I spent a few hours reading through forum posts, which made it clear to me that this wasn’t an isolated incident. Quite a few people were reporting serious problems – problems that necessitated returns back to Apple for system repair or replacement.

So what exactly is the problem? That’s not clear. It seems to be centered around the dual GPU, but whether it’s a software glitch fixable in an OS update, or a hardware issue that requires mobo replacement, isn’t yet clear.

Since many of the reports described the problem occurring while doing high-intensity activities, it could be a heat related problem. That’s not known yet, and there’s been no official statement from Apple.

I cancelled my order

This is not a decision I would advise everyone to make. In fact, it goes to a theme we discuss often: you need to make your tech decisions based on your own usage needs.

Let me tell you about my usage needs. The 15-inch MacBook Pro I ordered was slated to replace the Mac mini in my studio. It was to allow me to do live recording and broadcast in the studio, and then pick it up, dock it at my desk in my study, and work on post production there.

All that seems fine, except for one detail. This machine absolutely cannot be allowed to fail. I do real-time webcasts, with hundreds to thousands of live participants, often across multiple continents. Large teams from huge organizations spend months putting these special events together.

The success of these events is very much due to a team effort. However, if my computer fails in the middle of a webcast, failure could be directly and solely attributable to me. I must not allow that to happen.

I also do video interviews. Sometimes, I’m the guest on a major network during a live feed. Sometimes, I’m interviewing someone who is a major “get” and this is our one chance to talk. Once again, failure is not an option.

I need something rock-solid reliable. My aging Mac mini has not failed me. Not once. Not a single crash. Not a single live broadcast failure even remotely attributable to it. It can be counted on. The only reason I’m moving off my very trusty old Mac mini is that it’s old, and it just doesn’t have the performance I need to run modern versions of the production software.

Based on the reports of 15-inch MacBook Pro failures, I can’t take the chance. It might, in fact, be a wonderful machine. It might be fine. Then again, it might not. How can I ever trust that it won’t break at the worst possible time?

I’m not saying you should not buy this machine. For me, though, it’s a non-starter. Your mileage may vary. If you have a work environment that has built in tolerance for downtime and crashes, and you don’t mind dealing with growing pains, or gambling with the possibility of having your machine spend time in the shop for repairs, this may turn out to be a great purchase for you.

By the way, I have to give Apple credit for making it easy to get out of the deal. Cancelling was a simple, one-button press affair. Compare that to the four-day grief fest our cable company put us through when we decided to drop cable TV service after the election. Points to Apple for making the cancellation process hassle-free.

What will I do instead?

Well, my original plan was to take back my sweet little 2015 i5-based MacBook Pro from my wife, and replace it with a spare Mac mini. It would be a bit underpowered, but I figured I could make do.

However, she quickly disabused me from that approach. Verbally, she said, “I guess that’s okay, although I actually finally have it working now,” but her eyes said “Take it and I’ll kill you where you stand.”

Instead, I’m ordering another new MacBook Pro, but I’m going for a 13-inch model that doesn’t have the second GPU. Yes, I’ll definitely be sacrificing graphics performance, but it’s a good trade-off given the mission-critical nature of the work this machine will be doing.

I don’t mind the smaller form factor, because there’s very limited surface space in the studio. The drop in screen size shouldn’t be too great a loss. While the 13-inch’s i7 processor only has two cores, it does have hyper threading, which can be helpful. It’s not quite the beast I’d like, but at least it won’t turn into a monster at the worst possible time. I’ll max out the very fast storage. It should make a fine little workhorse.

Sadly, these machines aren’t available now, so it will be sometime in January before I’ll get to set my thumb on the new Touch ID sensor.

You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at, on Instagram at, and on YouTube at

December 2, 2016 brianradio2016

I like the Start app, not only because it’s an easy-to-use alarm, timer, and stopwatch app, but also because it can be used to trigger certain apps (which include Facebook, Fantastical, Instagram, Music, Pandora, Path, Reeder, Rdio, Safari, Sparrow, Spotify, and Tweetbot) when the timer reaches zero.

December 1, 2016 brianradio2016

Like a man eager to show off his new watch, Google is encouraging anyone running IT operations to ask it for the time.

The company will let anyone use its NTP (Network Time Protocol) servers, a move to help IT shops cope with the next “leap second,” which will be tacked onto 2016 just after midnight on Dec. 31.

Leap seconds help to keep clocks aligned with Earth’s rotation, which can vary due to geologic and even weather conditions. But an extra second can wreak havoc with applications and services that depend on systems being tightly synchronized.

Most Internet-connected devices get their time through NTP, an open-source technology that’s used all over the world. NTP has its own problems, mainly around funding, but it’s long been the standard. Google runs its own NTP servers and uses them to ease its systems through leap seconds, according to Michael Shields, technical lead on the company’s Time Team, in a blog post on Wednesday.

December 1, 2016 brianradio2016

It’s no secret that devops and IT security, like oil and water, are hard to mix. After all, devops is all about going fast, while security is all about proceeding carefully. However, both devops and security serve a higher authority—the business—and the business will be served only if devops and security learn to get along.

Security can (and should) be baked into the devops process, resulting in what is often referred to as devsecops. IT security teams are obliged to understand how applications and data move from development and testing to staging and production, and to address weaknesses along the way. At the same time, devops teams must understand that security is at least partly their responsibility, not merely slapped onto the application at the very end. Done right, security and devops go hand in hand.

Because half of this equation is about making devops more security-aware, I’ve put together a primer on some basic security principles and described their applicability in devops environments. Of course, this list is only a start. Feel free to comment and suggest other terms and examples.

Vulnerabilities vs. exploits

A vulnerability is a weakness that may allow an attacker to compromise a system. Vulnerabilities usually happen due to bad code, design errors, or programming errors. They are basically bugs, albeit bugs that may not interfere with normal operations of the application, except to open a door to a would-be intruder. For a recent example, look at Dirty Cow.

November 29, 2016 brianradio2016

games-newsroomcover.pngSource: Facebook

Get ready to either fall more in love with Facebook Messenger, or start to dislike Facebook game invites on the social platform even more than you already do. Games are now built into Messenger.

Facebook on Tuesday announced an update to its Messenger platform, adding a new service called Instant Games.

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Instead of hiding games — such as basketball or soccer — behind secret emojis as the company has done in the past, Facebook is making games a central part of Messenger. Meaning with just a few taps you can invite a friend in a private conversation, or several friends in a group chat to compete at Pac-Man or Space Invaders.

According to the announcement, Instant Games are available in 30 countries on Android and iOS devices starting today. However, I have yet to see the game controller icon that’s needed to start a gaming session, and don’t seem to have any available updates to the Messenger app.

Facebook posted a video showing users how to invite friends to a game here.

Currently there are 17 titles available:

  • Pac-Man
  • Galaga
  • Arkanoid
  • Space Invaders
  • Track & Field 100M
  • Shuffle Cats Mini
  • Words with Friends: Frenzy
  • Hex
  • Everwing
  • Endless Lake
  • Templar 2048
  • The Tribez: Puzzle Rush
  • 2020 Connect
  • Puzzle Bubble
  • Zookeeper
  • Brick Pop
  • Wordalot Express