Sunday, November 23, 2014

More Lessons from the Cloud

There seems to be a recurring theme in my posts about outages in cloud services. While not trying to beat that dead horse there are certainly some lessons to be learned here.

Recently there was an 11 hour outage of Microsoft's Azure storage services.

Again users were hard pressed to get details on the outage as "the Service Health Dashboard and Azure Management Portal both rely on Azure."

I commend Microsoft for owning up to the root problem quickly and succinctly.
"Unfortunately the issue was widespread, since the update was made across most regions in a short period of time due to operational error, instead of following the standard protocol of applying production changes in incremental batches."
     http://azure.microsoft.com/blog/2014/11/19/update-on-azure-storage-service-interruption/
One of the comments summed it up best:
Overdependence.

So much tied into itself that there is no dependency tree - it is a pure network - thus issuing bad changes take down the entire net.

It can be a spectacular update process - minimum to no outage... but only if the updates work.

It also shows a major vulnerability. That central update can take down the entire company if it gets penetrated.

jessepollard
20 November, 2014 12:46
So, lessons...
  1. Diversify - Don't build your notification tool on top of what you're monitoring.
  2. Manage change - Don't let operational error bite you in the a**. Your execution has to be perfect. Users are unforgiving.
These don't apply just to cloud solutions. They apply just as much to your internal solutions.

My previous posts on this topic:

Storm Clouds
When Clouds Go Bump
When Clouds Go Thump
Lessons from the Cloud
When Clouds Go Bump Revisited
To Be Fair
To Be Fair, Again
To Be Fair, Again and Again


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Chrome Memory

Recently I noticed my laptop running slowly. Processor utilization was nil so I fired up Task Manager to see what the memory usage was.

OMG!


Chrome was using over 4GB of RAM just from the processes on the first screen.

Here's what Chrome's Task manager showed.


I was running Chrome 38.0.2125.111 m (64-bit).

That just ain't right.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

CryptoWhatever

One of our clients recently was impacted by CryptoWall. It's nasty.
Security researchers at Proofpoint warn that a new variant of CryptoWall recently spread through malicious banner ads. Surfers ran a risk of being faced with ransomware purely by visiting one of the impacted sites, which included various properties in the Yahoo!, Match.com, and AOL domains, among others. 
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/10/23/cryptowall_malvertising_outbreak/
This comment makes a good point that the ad networks should be called out for their participation.

This "drive-by" risk is very difficult to protect against. I believe that an ad-blocker will help mitigate this risk. I use Adblock Plus.

Lifehacker had a good article on all the things you can do with Adblock Plus. I also found that Adblock Plus has a page that will let you extend it.

Here're my options:


Adblock Plus is not without controversy. Read about it here.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

X-ACR

So you block third-party cookies?

CHECK

And you opt-in to Do Not Track?

CHECK

And you run Facebook in an incognito/private window?

CHECK

And you block ads with Adblock Plus?

CHECK

So you think your privacy is protected?

WRONG

AT&T and Verizon are selling you out on your mobile device.
Verizon and AT&T (are) rolling this out: they’re tagging their customers with unique codes that are visible to third parties
Oh, and they're charging the third parties for YOUR information.

You can see what they're doing by following this link on your mobile device.

Here's what my headers look like.


If you're on AT&T you can go here and opt-out. Good luck though. It didn't do anything for me.

A detailed explanation of how it works is here.

The Electronic Freedom Foundation has this to say:
ISPs are trusted connectors of users and they shouldn't be modifying our traffic on its way to the Internet...
Amen.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Home Videos

With a granddaughter, I shoot a lot of home videos and share them to the family.

I upload all my video directly to YouTube. Then I use the YouTube editor to edit and consolidate my videos into a single video. I don't do any transitions or captions but you can do that there too.

Then I use ClipConverter to export the edited video from YouTube to my PC's desktop. I always download in the highest resolution available. Sometimes it takes YouTube hours to present the HD version so be patient.

Next I take the downloaded file and UPLOAD it to Google+. In my case I put it in the same Google+ album with the photos from a given event so that I have a single repository of an event.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Backup, Restore, Test

Do you backup? I sure hope you do.

Do you test your restore? What? No, you say?

My daily driver ThinkPad X201 only came with a 160GB drive. I picked up a 1TB Toshiba for $55 and started looking for a way to clone to it.

Then I thought that I use Windows 7's Windows Backup to make a system image every month. So why not use one of these to "clone" to the new drive?

I ran my system image backup as usual to an external USB drive. Normally when the system image is complete I rename the WindowsImageBackup folder to append the date and system name.

To "test" my restore, I renamed the folder that I wanted to restore back to WindowsImageBackup.

Then I shutdown the X201 and swapped the 160GB drive for the 1TB drive. I plugged in a USB version of Windows 7 64-bit System Repair Disk. I didn't plug in my backup drive yet.

I booted from the System Repair Disk and chose "System Image Recovery." Then I plugged in my backup drive. I had to click on "Retry" and then it found the image I had just made.

I just clicked on through and the restore started. It ran for a couple of hours and automatically booted back into Windows.

Just for giggles I ran SpinRite on the new 1TB drive.

That was really easy and now I'm confident that my system image backups work.

The restore only created a 160GB partition so I used Windows 7's Disk Management to resize.

There's a good tutorial on this process here.




Sunday, October 12, 2014

Let's Hangout

Google's Hangouts (Chrome for Windows) is changing almost daily.

Google has been integrating SMS and Google Voice and now they've moved Hangouts to a floating window. The Chrome for Windows app also adds a Chrome App Launcher to the desktop and taskbar.


Not only does it launch Hangouts but also the other apps you have installed in Chrome.


Here's the list of what's new just in the latest version:
What’s new in the Hangouts Chrome app:
-- Native app experience. Hangouts runs in the background and notifies you of new messages and incoming calls with animated notifications. Launch Hangouts from the Start menu, have it pinned on your taskbar and switch apps using Alt+Tab.
-- Always-on-top avatars. Your friends’ avatars animate on your screen and stay on top so you never miss an important message.
-- Auto-minimizing chat windows. Chat windows auto minimize when you’re inactive to avoid cluttering your screen.
-- Message previews. Hover over any avatar to get a peek at the most recent message.
-- Drag and drop. Position the app anywhere on your screen, including multi-monitor configurations. You can also pop out important conversations and pin them to your desktop.
-- Keyboard Shortcuts. Navigate between chats quickly using your favorite Chrome shortcuts.
-- Google Voice support. Connect your Google Voice account to make calls, send and receive SMS, and access your voicemail.
Very interesting.