The day after the vote when the result was revealed, my reaction was incandescent and aghast. How could 52% of the people who voted be so daft? Turns out it’s a common delusion. My acceptance speech as leader of an independent political party:
“My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are now in the privileged position of having got rid of the Tories and their austerity agenda and are now in a position to move this country forward again. BTW, The word Tory derives from the Middle Irish word tóraidhe; modern Irish tóraí; modern Scottish Gaelic Tòraidh: outlaw, robber or brigand, from the Irish word tóir, meaning “pursuit”, since outlaws were “pursued men”.
David Cameron’s ill-advised referendum to save the Tory party disenfranchised 48% of the population, and in the subsequent years and we have since been fed a steady stream of lies by leaver politicians and press.
Unlike the squirrels in leavers heads, I treasure the pillars of being in the EU. I like having free trade with 27 other countries. I like that the Good Friday agreement, which ended what was, in other words, a civil war, is enshrined in an open border. Northern Ireland has come on in leaps and bounds. My neighbour will probably go back to Switzerland or Germany if the university research funding dries up.
The bullshit about the “unelected beaureaucrats” is exactly that. We elect MPs to the European parliament and we get a veto over any legislation. We have rejected remarkably little.
I like the fact my human rights are enshrined by law. The Tories in their Brexit panic threatened to do away with it.
I waited in vain for the £350 million a week for the NHS. The Tory promises of more police or more money for the NHS doesn’t even make a dent in the damage done by ten years of austerity. Turkey was never going to join the EU, more’s the pity.
If you Google “leaver lies” you’ll find plenty of collated lists. If an unworkable Brexit had gone through, I’d have been off to Asia.
So anyhow, here’s to a future of being part of one of the largest free trade areas in the world, Schengen and the Euro.”
Homeoepathy is one of the banes of my life on Quora. There’s a fair chunk of people, mostly in India but not limited to, who think that sugar pills or water cure diseases or cancer. So much wrong. Let’s examine the evidence. I’ve also blogge about it before.
From Wikipedia: Homeopathy or homœopathy is a system of alternative medicine created in 1796 by Samuel Hahnemann, based on his doctrine of like cures like (similia similibuscurentur), a claim that a substance that causes the symptoms of a disease in healthy people would cure similar symptoms in sick people. Once you’ve diluted it so there’s nothing of the original left and bashed it against a leather-bound book on each dilution of course.
So this is all about getting started with AWS. I’ve been using AWS tangentially for about five years, almost always EC2 instances, so not really pushing the envelope. I’d really like to get my head round serverless and lambdas but I’m having a bit of a conceptual problem trying to work out a use case to do at home.
I have done the Udemy “AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner Practice Exam” which was quite frankly brutal, demanding 90% for three papers. First time through each I got 70-80% which I thought wasn’t too shabby but obviously not good enough for their arbitrary cutoff. The second time through I got >90% which was nice.
The biggest takeaway I have is once you’ve created a root account, create a user account and only give it only the privileges it needs. Security you know!
This is the list of white papers I’ve ingested to far. I hope it proves useful.
This is the motherlode. If you want an overview of all available services on AWS, this is the place to start. For us in the perl world, that’ll be git, CI/CD pipelines and EC2/Fargate. If you’re jiggy, docker too. At this point for most of that, I like Gitlab, especially since M$ took over github.
AWS Well Architected Framework
This takes the overview one step further. Apparently as you partition your app vertically, VPSs are the trick. Security again.
In a good chunk of the contracts I’ve done, the developers have been good boys and written tests, but there was no way of automatically running them. Jenkins fixes this. Better still using the Perl TAP output formatter we can get a nice graph of the number of tests increasing. If you like, you can run Bamboo or GoCD but I’ve not had happy experiences with either of these.
Practising Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery on AWS
Taking Jenkins one step further. In an ideal world code gets committed to master and then gets made live. Your process may vary. Oh, and database versioning is Hard. I’m reliably informed squitch is the one for this.
A common whinge I’ve heard is that unless you’re careful and out of the free first year tier, is that suddenly your AWS usage blooms into thousand of pounds a month. Having been charged £15 a month for static IP I can well believe it.
So that’s what I have so far. I think most of the time, we’ll go EC2 and then RDS. I’d put Cloudflare on the front unless I particularly needed a Route53 feature. Serverless is still in the land of dragons and Perl isn’t spectacularly well supported. I’d like to see a world where the code pipeline is under Amazon as well as horizontal scaling with the load balancers.
This would be hilarious if it weren’t so serious. About 50,000 people got their printers hacked and had promotional printouts for YouTube Vlogger “PewDiePie” printed out. This raises the question: HOW? In the real world we should all be behind firewalls, all our computers should have anti-malware software on. This should not be an issue. Printers should not be connected to the internet!
More seriously, it’s possible to destroy computers from afar by repeatedly writing to their firmware. This is not a desirable outcome.
Please folks, if you want to talk about security, there are people like me out there who are more than capable of doing a quick audit and vulnerability scan.
You’ve installed WordPress. It’s free. That’s amazing, and you get to stand on the shoulders of giants with all those great plugins. BUT! Developers need to get paid and a lot of the plugins have paid versions with the full range of features. So what can a fully fedged WordPress installation cost? This is the unspoken secret of WordPress.
These are the plugins I’m using:
Hosting. Not really a plugin. It’s easy to get free/cheap hosting but with a WordPress site taking multiple seconds to load, especially if you have plugins enabled. As a benchmark, the personal purchase on wordpress.com is $39 (£30) per year, but doesn’t really give you that much.
Akismet anti-spam adds better statistics and support for £44 per year.
Cloudflare. You are running this, right? For free it gives you SSL, translation of http to https, DDoS protection, CDN caching (for the speed!), for $20 (£15) you get more as well as firewalling.
With Jetpack you get a load more content stuff and lazy image loading for $9 (£7) per month.
WP-Smush, one of my favrourites which crushes images, for really useful enhancements will set you back $49 (£38) per month.
Updraft plus, the dedicated backup solution, for many, many more features and support will cost you £54 in total.
WP Total Cache with more, possibly useless, caching features will be $99 (£77) per year.
Wordfence security, which bugs me nearly daily to upgrade plugins and also does much more, is $99 (£77) per license.
Yoast SEO which has certainly enhanced my writing for the web, is £79 per license.
And finally something not WP related but which I think is REALLY useful is Grammarly which has also knocked some corners of my writing style. This is £108 per year, and if I were a professional writer, it would be totally worth it.
The AliExpress plugin is worth it if you want a drop shipping store, and who doesn’t? This is $14 (£11) per month.
Therefore in total, we’re looking at £1156 for the first year! Not insignificant, but developers have to eat!
As a contractor, phone interviews are a fact of life. We have to do them to let people know how awesome we are, plus it saves a trip into their office until we’re sure they want us and we want them. After consulting with my posse on LinkedIn and looking at lists on the internet, this is the list of phone interview tips I came up with:
Be prepared! Put the date and time into your computer/phone calendar and set the alert.
Try to avoid speakerphones. I had one last week and I reckon I got 75% of the conversation. I mentioned it to him and he said that was the only phone in a quiet place he had access to. So do your best. I am going to the next stage so it couldn’t have been that bad.
Stand up. This might not seem obvious but in terms of posture and sounding good, it makes sense. On the same note, smile. It makes you sound better.
Dress up. A proportion of interviews will take place over Skype but even if they don’t, a shirt and a pair of trousers make a difference.
Have your resume to hand. This is good advice. I have done so many gigs, they start blurring into one and it help tell the story.
Have a notepad to hand. It’s good to keep notes, what questions to ask and what to go back to.
Be yourself. I’d rather be Chris Hemsworth, but beggars can’t be choosers. Equally, if your personality is a bit rubbish, best gloss over it. Sound enthusiastic and avoid a monotone.
Block out time and a place to have the interview. Make sure the place is quiet and you’ll be undisturbed.
A bit underhand, but suggest you’re already a long way down the line with someone else. I’m not sure this one is entirely ethical.
Prefer landline over mobile. My mobile tethers over wifi and isn’t 100% reliable. Be in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Turn off your mobile.
This is a general interview tip, but do your research on the company. I always try to find out what their real problem is, not the bland list of requirements in the job ad. Try to form relevant questions. Prepare some questions and answers.
Try to get an email address so you can follow up afterwards, with the notes you made. You made notes, right?
Salary expectations. This one is hard. On my hippy side of the fence, they should pay you what you’re worth. Some of my most productive contracts have been when the interviewer has winced slightly at my price. Equally, I think talking money at this stage is a bit presumptuous.
This one is for Americans: don’t chew gum. And don’t smoke. You can smell it down the phone line.
Have a glass of water handy. A dry throat is no help.
Don’t interrupt and take your time. Pauses are shorter than you think.
Quite a large proportion of us run blogs, typically WordPress if we want a degree of control or growth, whether for techie stuff or political agitation.
Whenever I work anywhere, I try to make sure the top priority is security. There’s no point doing anything unless you’re secure. The recent Typeform breach shows anyone is liable and their breach exposed data from Monzo bank. In the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t the end of the world: no passwords were leaked.
If you’re running WordPress and therefore relying on somebody else’s software, these are the things you need to do to stay secure:
Install a security plugin. Yes, it’s a pain in the neck getting daily emails to update your site as themes and plugins update but given (1) above, it’s useful. I use Wordfence.
Make sure you use SSL. As well as Google encouraging us to use SSL and gain SEO advantage, being secure is just generally a Good Thing. Worried about SSL certificates? Don’t be. Just hand your DNS management over to Cloudflare and gain SSL, DDoS protection and much more for FREE. My favourite price.
Use strong passwords. Better still use something like Lastpass to generate secure passwords and store them for you safely.
Use two-factor authentication. Make it one step harder to get into your site. Now they won’t get in unless they have your phone. There’s a plugin for that. We use the Google Authenticator.
Keep up to date. 54% of WordPress vulnerabilities belonged to out of date WordPress. You should also keep themes up to date, things like cross-site-scripting exist, and plugins also.
When installing plugins go for the widely used ones, ones with 4*-5* ratings and thousands of satisfied users. Make sure if you go down, LOADS of people go down with you too!
Remove unused plugins and themes. I did that with my personal site and sped it up hugely. Same goes for browser plugins but for different reasons.
Do backups. Second to security. It won’t prevent hacks but it’ll let you get back in the saddle quickly if something awful happens. I use Jetpack which does loads of other stuff too. Make sure you test restoring a backup! Write-only backups are so 90s.
Change the “admin” name”. Trivial but will prevent 99% of brute force attacks.
Limit the number of login attempts. Again, trying to foil brute force.
Don’t let people get at your wp-config file. Put this in your .htaccess file:
order allow, deny
deny from all
And don’t forget, if you find a security hole, report it! That’s how stuff gets better. Finally, make sure you’ll keep the government happy and please don’t provoke GDPR emails.
So this was an hilarious case of reference counting.
There I was, developing my Perl Catalyst app. I migrate to gitlab like all the other cool kids. I move the original development directory to .bak like a good boy.
But, my plackup is still running and because reference counting, the open files are all still there so I was still happily running. I check out the gitlab version, make changes and NOTHING HAPPENS. Until finally the penny drops, I quit the original, now renamed directory and re-enter the correct one.
I fight a constant battle on Quora against homeopathy. It’s mostly Indians who seem confused between medicine proven by science and water.
“A legal challenge brought by the British Homeopathic Association against NHS England’s decision to remove homeopathic treatments from routine primary care has been dismissed on all points by the High Court.”
Sometimes the news is good. Now we can get on with important stuff like curing cancer.
Recently I had a contract which required me to immerse myself in AWS configuration for a LAMP stack, which led me to Terraform, amongst other things. I thought I’d publish here the list of resources that helped me. It’s a lot of links!
One tip I found was to use Jenkins to do automatic validation of your Terraform scripts. I think that’s a good tip.