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.
So, PHP and MySQL, two slightly suboptimal technologies run a fairly large chunk of the internet in the form of WordPress. You have the idea for a blog or maybe want to knock up a quick corporate web site. What’s your first step?
Choose a WordPress theme. There are loads out there, some free some paid for. My site of choice for finding themes free or otherwise is Themeforest. A fair number of the themes are free, and you can choose 2 or 3 column, responsive and so on.
I thought I’d put my thoughts down as to what I’m looking for in a job.
First up, contract or permanent? That’s easy. I’ve been contracting for 18 years and I don’t see that changing UNLESS you have a really juicy CTO role on offer. More of that later. I think it’s just largely temperament. I like to have an independent, outside view, trying not to get absorbed in the local cargo cult. So there are two things I do.
Senior Perl developer.
My career can be best described as “careering from one thing to another”. If I’d had any sense, or career direction, or a mentor, I’d have stayed much more firmly in the CTO field. I’ve flirted with many startups over the years, but none have actually stuck. So what am I looking for in a perl gig? Here goes:
A modern framework. Give me Catalyst preferably, a framework standing on the shoulders of giants. Dancer or Mojolicious would work as well. Template Toolkit is the ideal templater.
A sane database schema. One that MySQL Workbench can reverse engineer into a pretty diagram. An ORM. There’s little point these days hard-coding SQL. That’s so passé. Give me DBIx::Class.
A well-run Agile process. I got my Scrum master certification and now “doing agile” as opposed to “being agile” brings me out in a rash. One purpose of agile is to get better and unless you do that, you’re not agile. Just standups and sprint planning don’t cut it.
Don’t talk to me about web servers. Not my problem any more.
I want support infrastructure that’ been there since the beginning. That means Perl::Critic and perltidy. Pretty, clean code please.
Please let me please talk to REST APIs, none of that SOAP rubbish.
I’ve been a CTO. And interim a few times. Obviously I’d do it all completely differently this time, knowing what I know now.
Let me grow the team. I’ve had amazing luck in the past picking great teams. Indeed, a team that largely didn’t know perl and then became experts. I’ve also been involved in a firing. We’re still friends.
Let’s have all the tools we need: Atlassian (or equivalent) stack or integrated equivalent.
I want to buy in a good Agile coach for a few months to get us on the right track.
I want to manage upwards well. Demo the important stuff to the other directors and management at the end of every sprint. Respond to the business.
If you’re good, you can work from home. This is the 21st Century. Being forced to turn up to an office is one of my bugbears. You don’t need my physical presence. Skype and Slack will do the job.
Give me something exciting to lead. Not sure I could cope with another publisher web site.
Let me speak at conferences. Yes, I know I’m a straight, white male. It’s a burden. But I AM left handed! I’m a minority! It’s good for the company visibility.
And probably stacks more.
As an aside, any good personal projects worth chipping in to right now?
Looking back over my LinkedIn, I have had the following gripes about recruiters and recruitment. As a contractor, I do the interview round two or three times a year, so this stuff is becoming second nature.
Diction. I’ve had calls from English people who either mumble incoherently, have incoherent regional accents or are Indian with the same. Really guys, listen to Radio 4 and copy their accent.
Please don’t call me from a speakerphone in a room full of echos. Also, your phone system may well be crackly, out of date junk. Please get a modern system where I can hear what you’re saying.
I’m not Gordon.
If you call and I don’t pick up, LEAVE a succinct, clear message.
Have caller ID so if you fail at leaving a message, I can call you back.
If you do leave me a message, leave words. I really don’t want five minutes of your office background noise and you flirting with a co-worker.
If I contact you via LinkedIn or even by phone, PLEASE RESPOND. I’m trying to make money for you.
If you call me and the line drops, CALL ME BACK. Don’t just wander off and make out with a fellow recruiter.
LinkedIn, I *hate* being stalked by anonymous recruiters. Why do you allow this? Why are recruiters afraid to reveal themselves?
Recruiters, and job sites too. Why do you send me Java, Scala or Go jobs? I don’t do that. You’re wasting your time.
Please write literate adverts. I’m not a “principle” developer. Writing advertisement littered with spelling or grammar errors is doing you no favours.
Please make sure that the salary mentioned in the job headline matches what’s mentioned in the body. Come to that, mentioning a salary or day rate in the advertisement is a Good Thing.
Really research your client. Even yesterday I spoke to a recruiter who barely knew the client, didn’t know what their vertical sector was, and had a really sketchy job spec. At the very least, check out their profile on Glassdoor.
It’s REALLY nice to know where in the UK the job/contract is. Come to that, knowing where in LONDON the contract is would be nice. Docklands and Shepherd’s Bush are worlds apart.
Just because my CV isn’t littered with Jenkins, JIRA, Confluence and Git, doesn’t mean I don’t use them every day! They’re fundamental.
Recruiters, keep *your* web site jobs listings up to date. Get a job in, put it on your site. Fill a job, take it down. Otherwise, you’re wasting my time and yours.
Don’t spam me on my work email address. Straight to the trash, this one.
Don’t email me with barely a spec. I’ve just had two. What’s the point? “Must be good with computers.” Well, *duh*.
Don’t demand references up front. You’re just trawling for business.
Don’t demand ridiculous documentation like passport copies, A-level certificates, utility bills up front. That all comes AFTER the offer. I’ve worked for banks where that process took a day when I was being “onboarded”.
Don’t expect me to fill in a long, convoluted web form that replicates pretty much everything that’s in my CV. At least that’s optional with Jobserve.
And now, the big one. Back in the day, when I was CTO, I was hiring for a team of Linux, Perl developers. Not one of the people I hired had all of the things I was looking for. Some people were Java or PHP. One guy was a Windows dude. I hired them because they were GOOD PEOPLE and as it turned out, we built a great team, of expert Linux/Perl people.
Asking for 10 years of Python is essentially meaningless. These days we have Google and Stackoverflow. I’ve done Python and Ruby on this basis. It’s not hard. Anything can be learned. Unlike twenty years ago, there’s barely a question that hasn’t been asked, answered and blogged. I want the right PEOPLE, not your in-depth Node.js skills. Asking for particular knowledge is essentially meaningless.
So there you have it. The entire recruitment industry is based on a false premise and staffed by a proportion of cowboys and dodgy companies. Where have we heard that before?