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Is Email Really Insecure?

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11 min read | 3072 words | 0 views | 0 comments

We've all been instilled with the old adage that email is insecure, but is it really? After all, most websites that use encryption (HTTPS) aren't considered insecure, and most of us are perfectly content to do things banking and filing taxes online. So, why is email different? Given that email has evolved in many of the same ways that other Internet technologies have over the years, I think this statement is worth picking apart in greater detail.

Everyone "knows" that email is insecure, and while this is certainly a heuristic, it's not necessarily a bad one. I'm guilty of indulging in it myself; whenever I've been consulted on IT policy regarding data transmission, I've also vehemently insisted against sending confidential data or documents by email, and using secure file transf… — Read full post

Debugging Mystery File Descriptor Leaks

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16 min read | 4530 words | 0 views | 0 comments

A couple weeks ago, I discovered that one of my Asterisk servers was occasionally getting into a state where no new channels could be created, due to having used all available file descriptors (1024, which is a lot). It was pretty clear that we were looking at a file descriptor leak here.

Normally, this wouldn't be a hard issue to debug, as Asterisk comes with a DEBUG_FD_LEAKS compiler option that will let you see all open file descriptors, supposedly, by running core show fd from the CLI. This is to allow developers to easily debug possible file descriptor leaks.

Well, that didn't help much this time. The file descriptors in question didn't show up in the output of core show fd at all. However, if I checked /proc/PID/fd… — Read full post

Debugging Mystery Emails: The 5 Whys at Work

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26 min read | 7508 words | 0 views | 0 comments

You may have heard of "The Five Whys" before. The concept is commonly used to illustrate the importance of not settling for a surface-level answer when something has gone wrong and instead digging deeper to get to the root cause.

IT professionals are likely to be as familiar with this concept as anybody. When troubleshooting something broken or unusual, troubleshooting problems back to the root cause can involve working back through several problems, not all of which initially seemed related. As a very concrete example, take a stack trace in a core dump file. Stack traces are important since they allow a programmer to see how a program got to the point of failure.

Unfortunately, not all problems come with a stack trace (and even those that do are not always trivial to debu… — Read full post

Nullish Coalescing and Optional Chaining

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9 min read | 2554 words | 0 views | 0 comments

Unless you're a front-end web developer, "nullish coalescing" and "optional chaining" probably don't mean much to you. If you're like me though, you cringe inwardly every time you read them. So, what's the big deal with them, and why are they bad?

Actually, bad is an understatement: these are simply downright evil. Nullish coalescing and optional chaining (hereafter N.C. and O.C. for short) are special operators in JavaScript that attempt to simplify traditional JavaScript syntax. To understand why they were introduc… — Read full post

When the World Wide Web goes on strike, how do you fight back?

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6 min read | 1745 words | 0 views | 0 comments

As some people may know, my primary browser of choice is SRWare Iron 70. Iron is a Chromium-based browser that's very similar to Chrome, without the phoning home to Google (although some people allege there are other concerns). How much better than Chrome it is exactly is up for debate, but it essentially looks and feels exactly like Chrome. I'll use both Chromium and Chrome throughout this post to reflect the fact that Chrome is just a specific Chromium-based browser, and I haven't been a regular Chrome user in years now, so using Chromium is more encompassing.

I don't use the latest version of … — Read full post

Death To Box Tops: Creative or Cover-up?

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7 min read | 1830 words | 0 views | 0 comments

In the past 25 years, General Mills' Box Tops For Education program has raised nearly $1 billion for schools. For better or worse, that era has come to an end. General Mills planned to phase Box Tops out completely by December 2019, so if you haven't seen any on boxes for quite a while, now you know why.

Of course, General Mills is pretending that it hasn't actually killed off Box Tops… they're just "going digital", but they're no longer Box Tops, theoretically or practically.

For over 20 years, Box Tops for Education has given families an easy way to earn cash for their school, with products they already buy.
Now you can simply scan your store receipt with the Box Tops mobile app to identify participating products and instantly a
… — Read full post

SameSite, Sessions, and Single Sign-On

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12 min read | 3533 words | 0 views | 0 comments

Web developers in the past year may have been caught off-guard by the effects of Google's new stance on SameSite cookies, or rather, cookies without an explicit SameSite attribute. Or, perhaps a website you use regularly has been acting erratically of late. For those unfamiliar, Google has a good introductory overview of what SameSite cookies are all about, but we'll rehash the basics here.

Cookies, of course, are key-value pairs stored by the client, which are sent as part of the request headers when requesting a webpage. Originally, cookies were used to allow shoppers in the 1990s to save items to their shopping cart. This is rarely done anymore - instead, the server keeps tr… — Read full post

Optimize Your Music

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10 min read | 2790 words | 0 views | 0 comments

While some audiophiles might swear by vinyl, most music consumption today is digital. As awesome as records and as convenient as cassettes are, digital music can be consumed infinitely and endlessly without degrading, and it can be organized and consumed in ways that analog music simply can't be. Although PCM-encoded "CD quality" WAV is the gold standard, MP3s are also popular thanks to the proliferation and convenience of MP3 players over the past two decades. Throw in yet other formats - WMA, AAC, M4A, and FLAC, to name a few, and it's easy to get confused. What format is best? Which formats sound the best? Which format is right for me?

In the past, the question was often portrayed as either a tradeoff or as a Hobson's choice. The tradeoff was between quality and size - the bet… — Read full post

Actually, Windows Encodes New Lines Correctly

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2 min read | 532 words | 0 views | 0 comments

Ever open a text file somebody sent you in Notepad and wondered why it looked all wonky? As in, why everything is all run together on one line? The reason this happens has to do with line control characters, and dates to the days when teletypewriters still ran the world. The two control characters in question related to the carriage return (CR or \r) and the line feed (LF or \n), also known as new line. A carriage return, a manual process on a regular typewriter, returned the typewriter head to the beginning of the line. In contrast, line feed (LF) advances to the next line. Typically (but not always), these operations occur together.

When computers arrived on the scene, not all operating systems agreed on the control characters to use. MS-DOS, and subsequently Windows, adopted t… — Read full post

The Future of Passwords

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9 min read | 2543 words | 0 views | 0 comments

Based on the title of this post, you might be expecting some futuristic revelations about passwords and how quickly they'll be going away. If that's what you're looking for, look at the technical blogs of high-tech companies with futuristic visions that generally fall flat. The conversation about passwords that has been ongoing in industry is an interesting one we've been watching from the sidelines but not publicly commented on until now. Now that the idea of potentially going password-less has gained some prominence among average users, some good common sense insight into this issue is warranted.

Phasing out passwords has been the wet dream of many in the tech industry for some time now. A Microsoft white paper from 2016, titled … — Read full post

Happy Birthday, Windows 2000!

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5 min read | 1452 words | 0 views | 0 comments

Windows 2000 turns 20

On December 15th, 1999, Microsoft released Windows 2000 to the public. Today, with fewer than twenty days remaining until 2020, we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the release of this venerable operating system.

Windows 2000 was special for Microsoft and continues to be special today. It lives perpetually in the shadow of its slightly younger brother, Windows XP, never quite getting the credit it truly deserves, largely because Microsoft considered W2K a stepping stone to Windows XP, which was released less than two years afterwards, and thus quickly downplayed the awesomeness of Windows 2000 as soon as XP became available. Windows 2000 was one of Microsoft's most revolutionary releases of all time, and is considered by many modern and retro… — Read full post

Stop Buying Microsoft Office (and Windows, too)

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9 min read | 2401 words | 0 views | 0 comments

Yes, we're coming right out and saying it. No reservations. The days of paying for Office are past. If you're still upgrading your copy of Office every few years (or worse, shelling out money to Microsoft each month for a subscription), you should really consider closing your wallet to Microsoft and spending that money elsewhere.

Why prompts us to say this? How dare we insinuate that the era of Microsoft dominance is over, and that other office suites and operating systems are now sufficient?

To be clear, we're not endorsing either of these viewpoints because, quite frankly, neither of them is true. Office still runs circles around all the other office suites out there, which are quite pathetic in comparison. It may seem like Office is just unnecessarily powerful, b… — Read full post

Experience the WOPR for Yourself — Relive WarGames as David Lightman

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2 min read | 412 words | 0 views | 0 comments

If you've ever clicked on the metadata at the top of each of my blog posts, among other things, you'll see a list of my favorite movies, and among them the 1983 movie WarGames. If everyone had a list like this, chances are you'd fine this title on a lot of them. It was extremely popular when it came out, and it continues to have a powerful hold on numerous people. References from the movie continue to permeate the fabric of society — both online and offline.

One of the most captivating parts of the 1983 film is the WOPR (War Operation Plan Response), an intelligent computer system that NORAD uses to help plan Cold War strategy, including determining how to best initiate or retaliate in nuclear war. David Lightman, the movie's protagonist, is a high school junior who skim… — Read full post

An Open Letter to Microsoft: Why Windows 10 Sucks

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25 min read | 7419 words | 0 views | 0 comments

You shamelessly advertise it as the "latest and greatest Windows ever", when, in actuality, most people either love it or hate it. I'm talking, of course, about Windows 10. As of today, the homepage of informs us that "the best Windows keeps getting better", when, in fact, it would be more accurate to reword it "the worst Windows keeps getting worse". On the surface, you promise a slew of never-ending better and better enhancements to your posterchild operating system. Yet, you have consistently failed to deliver. Windows 10 launched on July 29, 2015, and few of what you've promised in the years before and since has materialized. Sure, specific one-liners in the update KBs have, but not the overall promised experience.

Nearly four years after you launched Windows 10 s… — Read full post

Why Ridesharing Is Evil

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6 min read | 1694 words | 0 views | 0 comments

In an appropriate followup to yesterday's post on the evils of mobile apps, we thought it would be appropriate to take a closer look at a relatively new technology based completely around mobile apps: ridesharing.

Ridesharing is all the rage these days. People are increasingly ditching taxis for Ubers, Lyfts, and many other ridesharing services. The idea itself is a new take on a somewhat old idea. Indeed, people have been ridesharing since there were automobiles, though not necessarily with strangers. Certainly, modern technology has allowed this to escalate to a whole new level.

Don't get us wrong — "pure" ridesharing — carpooling, in other words — is great. Why take two vehicles out on the road when you can just take one? Carpooling not only reduces your personal … — Read full post

Why Apps Are Evil

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7 min read | 1865 words | 0 views | 0 comments

Here at InterLinked, we maintain a firm opposition to mobile apps, and we're not the only ones. Considering that we feel the modern "mobile culture" to be beneath us, why sink to that level of mediocrity?

Such feelings aside, however, mobile apps have had important ramifications for society, whether intended or not. Although many consumers feel that apps are all the rage these days, apps are truly one of the (many) modern evils in society.

To understand why apps are evil, let's go back to the beginning of the Internet. Actually, no need to even go back that far. Let's go back to the beginning of the World Wide Web. It may be hard to believe it now, but the "web" was only conceived by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989, and the first webs… — Read full post

Digital Music is Killing the Planet

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1 min read | 254 words | 0 views | 0 comments

Okay, maybe that's a slight overstatement, but downloading and now streaming of music has only contributed to, rather than mitigated, the effects of the digital consumer world on the environment.

Most people think that going paperless and sticking with electronics means "going green", and most people are wrong. E-waste has exploded exponentially in recent years and the energy required to power all the servers and clients connected to the Internet is stupendously enormous. "Going digital" means exchanging an often one-time environmental cost (the production or duplication of a song) for a continuous burden on the environment that never ceases.

Researchers in Scotland and Norway found that "while we spend less on physical music these days, we're using more energy to listen t… — Read full post

Whom should autonomous vehicles kill in a collision?

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5 min read | 1350 words | 0 views | 0 comments

Autonomous vehicles are seemingly all the rage in many of today's tech lines. Tech companies like Tesla and Google just won't give up, will they?

For what it's worth, the likelihood of so-called "self-driving" cars taking off is slim. Sure, tech moguls say it's the next big thing, just like 5G, the Internet of Things, "smart meters", and the multitude of other tech disasters that are sprouting up across the country, mostly financed using misappropriated public funds. But why should you believe them? Given that autonomous vehicles would most likely necessitate V2V, or "vehicle to vehicle" communications, using high-frequency millimeter waves, it's safe to say that if too many of these ever get out on the road, it will be anything but safe.

The only real thing autonom… — Read full post

The Truth About the Digital Divide

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1 min read | 292 words | 0 views | 0 comments

The digital divide has taken on a new meaning. Previously, it referred to the areas of the country that relies beyond the reach of high-speed broadband Internet. We referred to them as being unfortunate enough to be "on the wrong side" of the digital divide. All of America still does not have high-speed broadband Internet, one reason why millions of Americans continue to use dial-up Internet today. But now the digital divide has taken on a new meaning, as technology becomes so heavily integrated into schools that the whole idea of the digital divide has gotten flipped on its head.

Back in October, the New York Times ran an article … — Read full post

The Power of PowerShell

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4 min read | 1137 words | 0 views | 0 comments

PowerShell isn't by any means new. Designed by Jeffrey Snover and initially released in 2006, PowerShell is now on its 6th stable release and has infiltrated workplaces everywhere. While it hasn't entirely displaced the Command Prompt, which itself came about in 1999 to emulate MS-DOS, it certainly allows administrators to spend less time at the black shell and more time at the blue one. While there are many cases where the regular Command Prompt is sufficient (mainly because the PowerShell prompt takes noticably longer to load), network admins everywhere are using PowerShell, so here's a gentle nudge to see what PowerShell can unlock for you if you haven't delved deeper into it yet.

A great place to start is the MVA series … — Read full post

The Truth About Fiber-Optics

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23 min read | 6647 words | 0 views | 0 comments

Fiber-optic cables aren't exactly new. Part of the reason for the 2001 recession was a tech crash caused by excessive buildout of fiber, most of which remained "dark" for years. Fiber has been used for Internet backbones as well as long-distance trunks in the PSTN, but only recently has the idea of extending fiber directly to the home become pervasive. I won't give an overview of fiber here, so for some history and details about how fiber-optic communications works, you can check out Broadband Now.

Until recently, I'd been fairly ambivalent about fiber-optics. Fiber is much faster than cable or DSL Internet, but it's much more expensive. The cost of fiber-optic cable and connectors is exorbitant: which is why computers … — Read full post

The Biggest Drug Crisis The World Has Ever Faced

Posted by Contributor

5 min read | 1415 words | 0 views | 0 comments

The world is facing a drug crisis — an unprecedented one. No, I'm not referring to crack, dope, meth, weed, marijuana, heroin, pot, or anything edible for that matter. I'm talking about a hunk of metal and plastic about the size of a cassette tape that most people nowadays can't live without.

That's right: "smartphones".

Although they've been around for basically a decade, they've already become highly integrated into most people's lives. Most people who have smartphones are addicted to them. Chronically. Many people under the age of 25 or 30 can't fathom live without them. Many people can't even recite more than a few phone numbers. Good luck if you get booked one day.

No invention is more troubling and more problematic than the "smartphone" or "mobile" as it is … — Read full post

Local School District disregards health in stunning move

Posted by Contributor

2 min read | 408 words | 0 views | 0 comments

Article as it ran in The Waukesha Freeman (page 5A)

West High School administration announced this year that the district's cellphone policy, No. 5136, had been relaxed to allow students to use cellphones during lunch and in between classes. While the district says it aims to provide "safe and secure" Internet access and Policy 7540 promises safeguards inhibiting negative side effects, its IT department has been fiercely deploying wireless technology in all K-12 learning environments, despite studies confirming too much technology leads to drops in test scores and retention. Two classes unanimously said they didn't like using tablets for education, although some admitted they enticed gaming.

Policy 7434 says "the negative health effects of tobacco are we… — Read full post

21st Century Learning — NO Technology In The Classroom

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3 min read | 685 words | 0 views | 0 comments

Scientific American released an article about a month ago that reported students are supposedly better off without technology in the classroom.

Wait, what? Isn't technology the whole point of "21st Century Learning"?

Yes, and that's the point.

21st Century Learning is a movement being pushed by the technology and wireless industries in order to increase bulk purchases from schools and educational institutes. While they usually floor superintendents when they boast of "increased workforce preparation" and "real-world applications", these phrases are just buzzwords thrown around to make them look like they know what they're talking about. The reality is that technology is drastically overused in the classroom and has little, if any, role in it.

Now, wh… — Read full post

Smartphones: The Undoing Of Humanity?

Posted by Contributor

10 min read | 3000 words | 0 views | 0 comments

I'm a baby boomer. At least as far as most people would care to be concerned, I am. Whether it's a wintry Monday or a summer Sunday, I'm usually up before the sun. I'm a diehard user of rotary telephones and desktop computers. I write letters to family friends I haven't seen in a while, in cursive, and conclude by licking the stamp. In all regards to habitual characteristics that define an individual, I should be receiving my first social security check soon. But, I'm not even eligible to vote yet!

Typically, a person born into a generation grows up differently than those who grew up in other generations. And usually, a person can easily identify with his generation. For me, not so much. I may be very much part of Generation Z physically, but I live with the baby boomer mentality… — Read full post

AM/FM Radio Numbering — What's The Deal?

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  health telecom

2 min read | 317 words | 448 views | 0 comments

Millions of people regularly listen to terrestrial radio. AM (amplitude modulation) is an older standard than FM (frequency modulation) and is easier to implement. AM signals can travel between 100 and 300 miles while FM signals are limited by the curvature of the Earth, giving them a maximum distance of about 50 or 60 miles. While AM signals fade with distance, FM is consistent within the receiving area, making AM ideal for news broadcasting and FM ideal for music.

All FM radio stations end in an odd number (88.3, 96.1, etc.), though this is purely conventional and regulated by the FCC. AM frequencies are measured in kilohertz, while FM frequencies are measured in megahertz. AM stations range from 520 kHz to 1710 kHZ, with stations spaced 10 kHz apart, while FM stations range fr… — Read full post

A Couple Videos Guaranteed to Get You Laughing…

Posted by Contributor

  environment health policy

1 min read | 132 words | 449 views | 0 comments

Someone once said that laughter is the best medicine. Even if you're not sick right now — I'm sure we could all use a little laugh right now. Well, I wanted to take a minute and share out some videos I've seen in the past that are guaranteed to get you laughing. If they don't well, let me know and we'll chat. This first video addresses the notion that desktop computers are stationary and stay in one place — all the time. Well, in this video, some students have decided to attend a lecture and they bring their desktops with them, computers, keyboards, monitors, dial-up modems, and all. In this second video, you'll witness what happens when… — Read full post

When Technology Does More Harm Than Good

Posted by Contributor

  society tech telecom

11 min read | 3127 words | 604 views | 0 comments

We've all seen that person — perhaps he or she is waiting at a bus stop or perhaps in line at the drycleaners to pick up a beaver-pelt coat. Yet, there he or she is, looking down at a minuscule little screen, fingers tauntingly trained to remain invisible with motion to make life as a recluse complete. How did we get here? Has technology gone too far? How much technology is too much, and how do we know when and where to draw the line? If for some reason, you are not already subjectively guilty to the nature depicted beforehand, then I congratulate thee for remaining rooted in discipline, a humble member of society serving in and of itself. Unfortunately, the number is fewer and fewer with each passing moment, a warning to those who are adamant in social interaction and the traditional… — Read full post

What Wi-Fi Really Is (And What It Isn't)

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14 min read | 3980 words | 1134 views | 0 comments

Hint: It has absolutely nothing to do with Internet connectivity.

Today, I'd like to acknowledge the fact that despite the vast number of Internet users in the world, a good majority of them are quite dumb. Not dumb in general, but not especially smart in the way they approach technology terminology. For those of us who were around in the 80s and 90s, confusing computer networking technology would be a disgrace, but for the unlucky generation born after 2000, not much can be said for them. Let's look at a few ways that young people today, especially teenagers and college students, manage to screw things up.

First off, let me talk about the most common misconception. The Internet and the World Wide Web are not the same thing. The World Wide Web is … — Read full post

Are there SMART-Boards in your school?

Posted by Contributor

  health tech

5 min read | 1290 words | 826 views | 0 comments

Are there SMART-Boards or other interactive whiteboards at your school? If so, let me ask you a question? Do you use them? Does anyone use them? How often are they used? Do teachers actually use the SMART-Board in their room, or do they just use it as a white canvas for their projector? These are some of the questions that I have been forced to ask myself as changing practices at many schools in the district have started to render these little marvels fruitless. Once the center of attention and the focal point of the room, many don't even realize that these SMART-Boards are more than just a blank canvas and an interactive whiteboard — if they're not being used, they're a extremely large wasted asset.

Now our district is not known for its ability to allocate a budget properly. S… — Read full post