Categories
Android Hacking Hardware Linux Science and Technology

How My Love Affair with Google Ended When I Decided to Stop Being their Unpaid Beta Tester

(This blog post was originally started back in 2016 when I decided to give up on Android for good. I never got around to posting it, even though it’s basically finished, and I still agree with it today! You can pretty much just replace any mention of “Nexus phones” in your head with “Pixel phones” and the argument still works.

With Google seemingly losing interest with Pixel phones in mid-2020, the post is just as relevant today as it was nearly five years ago.)

Logo for Android Version 4.4

The Passion of the Android

Spend a little while on any site that focuses on anything Android, whether it’s phones or apps, and you’ll quickly realize that the Nexus phones produced by Google are held in esteem above all others.

Their specs are lauded.  Their problems glossed over.  Their ability to “always have the latest OS version” (an ability iPhone owners take for granted) unlike phones you get directly from cell phone companies (think AT&T and Verizon), is held in the highest regard, especially.

To the visitors and commenters on these sites, the ability of a Nexus phone bought from Google, to have the newest version of Android before all other phones in the massive Android universe is more important than anything else, be it a sacrifice of 1) speed (because of the higher memory usage of newer software versions), 2) reliability (because of the presence of hidden bugs inherent in all new software), or 3) compatibility (because of app makers not always being able to get new versions of apps release in time to support new versions of Android, if something has broken the app).

All sorts of reasons are brought up for why this is best.  “The phone companies don’t want to upgrade the Android versions on their phones in a timely fashion because they’re lazy and don’t care.”  “The phone makers (also called OEM’s) don’t want to upgrade the Android versions on their phones in a timely fashion because they want you to buy a new phone.

Since version 2.3 of Android, the version of Android running on your phone has been far less important because of Google Play Services

While there are very important reasons that upgraded software on your phone is important (like security fixes, patches, etc), the insane concern for the version number on your phone always being the latest defies all understanding.  Since back in the Android 2.3 days, the Android team at Google even moved most of the important parts of Android (the fun parts that get updated) into a standalone app called “Google Play Services” a few years ago to combat the problem of OEM’s and cell phone companies not updating the Android versions of their phones.

If you have an Android phone, you can go into the full list of apps installed in your settings and see “Google Play Services” there — you can’t stop it from updating, and no one, including the cell phone companies and OEM’s, can stop it either.  This way, even older phones running older versions of Android can still have compatibility and quite a bit of neat new features that newer versions of Android get (like the Android Device Manager, Android’s answer to the iPhone’s “Find My Phone” feature).  The changes to this hidden service layer are subtle, well tested, and ensured to not cause any problems in the massive universe of different Android phone types.

Getting a fully new version of Android is less important in this way, but still offers some benefits here and there (like encryption being a default setting in Android 6.0).  Still, cell phone companies and OEM’s only release full new versions of Android for their phones after months, sometimes a year or more, of testing.  Why is this important?

Yo, do you even test, dude

When you’re a company like HTC (my favorite Android phone maker), or a cell phone company like Sprint, you live and die by your core product. If you work at HTC and your phones suck when it comes to reliability or user experience (or UX), you’re toast.  If you work at Sprint and your service is slow and the phones people buy from your stores don’t work (even though you don’t make them), people stop buying your phones and recommending your service to their friends.

The iPhone/iOS team at Apple does this behind the scenes for months with their products, both phones and operating systems.  Car companies do it for their car software.  Your microwave uses software that was tested for years to make sure the buttons always worked when you pressed them, and to ensure that it didn’t set your food on fire.

Why I bring this up is because I’m reasonably certain, after years of using Nexus phones, that the Nexus team at Google either doesn’t do this type of UX testing, or does it very, very little.

And why would they?

Google doesn’t make money selling phones.  It’s a B2B (business-to-business) company that makes 90% of its profits selling ad space to commercial entities (I went through the work of looking through its investor documents, found here (page 32): https://abc.xyz/investor/pdf/20160331_alphabet_10Q.pdf)  Everything else Google does is minor, and whatever minuscule amount of profit it makes from selling Nexus phones is an even smaller part of that.

Google doesn’t make money selling phones.  It’s a B2B (business-to-business) company that makes 90% of its profits selling ad space to commercial entities

…and there’s nothing wrong with that.  The employees of Google are very good at what they do.  They should focus on their core business, and put the bulk of their resources into effectively selling ads.



		
Categories
Programming Server Ubuntu

Getting PHP 7.2 to work with NGINX (UBUNTU)

This took a while. I’m much, much more familiar with running apache. I really like how fast and light nginx is, though, and was going to start using it, no matter what.

In the end, it was a combination of all of these things:

  • When I upgrade to nginx 1.17, there is a new “include” line in the nginx.conf file, and suddenly nginx was looking for site config files in this directory (/etc/nginx/conf.d/) instead of the usual one (/etc/nginx/sites-enabled). Had to change that first thing.
  • The nginx process was trying to run under the “nginx” user, instead of “www-data”. Basically, the “user” config in both your php conf files and your nginx conf files must match, or the php-fpm process ignores the requests from nginx.
  • Most tutorials I’ve found on the internet want you to insert specific php-related config into your nginx site config that points php to a certain port, like this:
    • "fastcgi_pass 127.0.0.1:9000;:".
  • However, my php-fpm was configured to run under a unix socket only (you find this via the “listen” param in your php config). So, I had to add the following line to my nginx site config instead in the php section:
    • "fastcgi_pass unix:/var/run/php/php7.2-fpm.sock;"
  • I had to include the following line in my php-specific config in my site conf file for nginx. Even the nginx example conf file is not explicit about this:
    • include snippets/fastcgi-php.conf;
Categories
Programming Science and Technology

Converting ghost cms output to csv for wordpress import

If you’re just coming here for the solution, and don’t want to read the backstory about how I came up with the solution, I understand. :)

Click here to skip to the solution.

The Problem

Recently I helped convert someone’s main blog from Ghost, back to WordPress.

While WordPress makes it easy to export in any format (so that you can easily import your entries into another blog engine), Ghost… does not.

While Ghost certainly does have an “export” tool, it exports in JSON format. JSON format is definitely preferable to XML, but no matter what, I could not find a way to import these entries into WordPress.

I searched through the plugin library–nothing was devoted to allowing an import through Ghost.

I furiously Googled–weirdly enough, any entries I could find about converting Ghost’s output to something that WordPress could import were all years old (and thus none of the solutions presented worked anymore, because I imagine Ghost’s export format had slightly changed.)

So, I decided to make my own.

The Solution

The solution is on Gitlab — just download the Powershell script (the .ps1 file) and run it on the command-line, passing one parameter of “jsonFile”, which is the path to the Ghost export.

Then, you’ll need a plugin to import the new CSV file to WordPress — I used the “WP All-Import” plugin. It seemed to be well maintained, and unlike many other plugins, it didn’t require you to pay for it.

That’s it! I built it in Powershell, because A) I can make quick scripts very quickly in Powershell, and I was frustrated by this point, B) Powershell has very good native CSV and file format conversion abilities, and C) Powershell can now run on any platform (Linux and MacOS included).

If you’re running this script on Windows, you already have Powershell installed, but if you’re running it on any other system, the link to install Powershell will also be below.

Future Enhancements

I only had posts with single tags to test against, so my script is only designed to get one tag for each post for the new CSV-formatted entries.

Ghost’s JSON format for tags was… bad. I don’t know why it was the way that it was. With every other type of metadata you’d need associated with a post, their JSON has that data in the “post” object, but with tags, they’re in a completely different other place, and only associated to posts through a series of IDs. It’s weird.

Either way, if you come up with a solution to that, feel free to fork the project! (Or just suggest a pull request.)

Also, I’d like to eventually re-code this into Python, just because more computers probably use it by now!

Sources

Categories
Computing Linux Science and Technology Ubuntu

rsync to AWS using .PEM key

Took me a little while to figure this out, but it’s a pretty standard implementation of the rsync command — you use the “-e” command and then specify an entire ssh command to use, like below:

function amazonrsync {
rsync -rave “ssh -i ~/.ssh/AWS_key.pem” $1 $2
}

That’s an entire shell function, by the way, that makes the whole thing easier to use.  Feel free to put it in your shell alias file.

Source: Rsync to AWS EC2 Using .PEM key – AnthonyChambers.co.uk Blog

Categories
Computing Hacking Internet Linux Programming Science and Technology Ubuntu

OpenVPN One-Command Server Install Script

I have been looking for a script like this for about a year now:

https://github.com/Nyr/openvpn-install

For some reason that I never understood, installing and setting up an OpenVPN has always been a pain in the ass.  I’ve had one I’ve been using for about a year, but it’s on Amazon’s AWS as was installed through an appliance install, and I really wanted to learn how it worked myself.

Every tutorial I saw either didn’t make sense, or the steps didn’t work.  I set about to try and create a one-script install myself, and then thought, “No — somebody has to have done this before.”

And lo and behold — that’s where I found the above github repo.  It’s amazing, and it works.  I’m going to donate to this person, because they saved me a good bit of work.

 

Categories
Internet Linux Programming Science and Technology Ubuntu

mysql_connect() breaking with an upgrade to PHP7?

mysql_connect() has been finally removed from PHP7 (it was deprecated for some time), and now you have to use mysqli_connect();   The same goes for any other mysql_ commmand.  (I simply did a find/replace for “mysql_” and changed it to “mysqli_” in my php code.

Also, if you’re running your own server, you probably need to install the “php-mysql” after upgrading to PHP7 — it doesn’t seem to be installed along by default anymore.

Categories
Android Enterprise Computing Hardware Science and Technology

Unified Internal Storage for Android 6.0+

Thinking about using Unified Internal Storage on Android 6.0+ to expand your phone’s measly internal storage?  Don’t even think about using it with anything other than a UHS-II SD card — even if your phone will let you use a slower card, don’t do it — your performance will be terrible.

It seems like it has to be UHS-II, for some reason (maybe it’s random r/w speeds?). I tried with even a very, very fast UHS-I, that benchmarked nearly the same, but Android wasn’t satisfied with it, giving the “This SD card is slow” warning.

The best priced one I could find out there (that you’d want to use) was a 32GB one:

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1211505-REG

Categories
Automotive Gaming Reviews Science and Technology

Review: Gran Turismo 5

(Editor’s Note: I originally started this draft about a year after Gran Turismo 5 came out.  Most of it still applies; some of the gripes were corrected in Gran Turismo’s most excellent next release, Gran Turismo 6.)

What can I say about Gran Turismo 5, a game that was in development for five years; a game that charged $39.99 for its demo download three years ago?

Seriously.

GT5 EU Box ArtIs it cool?  Yes, it’s cool.  But then again, I grew up playing Gran Turismo — I probably racked up 100’s and 100’s of hours on Gran Turismo and Gran Turismo II alone (Gran Turismo III and IV, I never played much, and I regret that — III was apparently one of the best games ever released on the PS2 during the 2000’s).  GT5 could be nothing more than a port of Gran Turismo IV for the PS3, and I’d still love it.  I’m probably not the best person to judge whether or not GT5 is cool.

Does it look good?  Yes, it looks great.

Does it have lots of badass cars?  Check.

By this point, with all the hype that’s been built-up about this game over the years; all the stories of just how maniacal the creator, Kazunori Yamauchi, was in making sure that GT5 was going to absolutely perfect; all the stories of how imaging each car for GT5 was taking 10 times as long as it took to image a car for GT4 (which itself took 10 times as long to image for as it did GT2)…

With all this hype, how could GT5 possibly make anyone happy?

The Bad

The loading times are horrendous. (Try about a minute of waiting, every time you start a race.)

The selection of cars is limited, and the “full resolution” cars, new for GT5, is maybe 10-15% of the total cars.  The rest are all ports of the GT4 cars, and the much poorer graphic quality of the cars can show.

The Good

All right, but it’s not all bad.  Most of the graphics look amazing on the PS3.  And finally, finally, FINALLY, there’s a multiplayer network option!

Yes, the dreams you had when you were younger of playing Gran Turismo verses races from all around the world is true, and it’s great.

Not only that, but you can play with your close friends and family on the Playstation Network, and can gift cars to them (great for giving your fiends a leg-up when they first start playing).

Final Word

Is it worth it?

If you want to play Gran Turismo on the PS3, it’s the only way to do it (unless you’re going to pop in an old copy of Gran Turismo 1 from the PS days).

Was it worth the wait, though?

No — no game should take five years to come out, past the point of the first demo.  No game should ever charge for a demo (and nearly a full price charge, too).

Ugh.  Just ugh.

Categories
Hacking Linux Programming Science and Technology Ubuntu

Using Dreamhost’s VPS as a MySQL Server

[Editor’s Note: Dreamhost no longer allows sudo access on their VPS servers, so the below is no longer possible. If you’re reading this, you might want to check out Amazon’s AWS. Nowhere near as user friendly as Dreamhost, but MUCH more powerful.]

I’ve been a happy customer of DreamHost for many years now — for $9.95 a month, I was able to get loads of diskspace and unlimited bandwidth, all from a great company that was staffed by great people who were very technically competent.

It is “shared hosting,” however — that means you’re getting it that cheap because you’re sharing server CPU power, available RAM, etc, with many other people who are also getting a great deal. You’ll notice this in any WordPress sites you may run on Dreamhost’s shared hosting — there’s about a 7-10 second delay between when you navigate to your site and when your page actually loads, mostly because your server processes are waiting in line behind everyone else’s.

So, Dreamhost does offer a “VPS” service — with this, you’re getting an absolute amount of RAM, CPU power, etc, that will only be used for your sites. It’s a tiny bit more expensive, at $14.95 or so a month, but it’s worth every penny.

If you’ve run WordPress installations on a Dreamhost site, though, you know that your mysql databases are on a seperate server entirely, and that may slow things down as well. Even if you move your WordPress installs to a VPS, your mysql databases will still be on shared hosting. DreamHost offers a “MySQL VPS,” but it costs another $15 a month (minimum), and you have no control over it at all.

A better solution would be to run your own MySQL server on DreamHost’s main VPS, since they give you root command-line access. There are a few hiccups in this process (some put there by DreamHost itself), but otherwise you should be able to do it.

  1. First, create an admin user for your VPS that has sudo abilities, and log into your VPS with that through ssh.
  2. Second, you have to tweak apt so you can even install the mysql-server package. It appears as if part of installing packages through apt involves temporarily storing files in /tmp and then running them from there.Unfortunately, the /tmp directory is mounted on DreamHost’s VPS servers with the noexec option, which means that you can’t run files that are present in that directory. That basically prevents you from installing the mysql-server package until you tweak apt to temporarily stage files in /var/tmp instead. Do this by:Creating a file called apt.conf in the /etc/apt/ directory, and edit it so the contents are the following:
    APT::ExtractTemplates::TempDir "/var/tmp";
  3. Then, install the mysql-server package:
    sudo apt-get install mysql-server;
    

    (When it asks to set a root password, make sure and set one.)

  4. Now, edit the file /etc/mysql/my.cnf and set the following options:
    bind-address=psXXXXX.dreamhostps.com

    (Replace psXXXXX with the name of your dreamhost VPS.)

  5. Restart your mysql service:
    sudo service mysql restart

At this point, you should be able to log in to your new mysql server:

mysql -u root -p

and then perform what SQL functions you need to.

A great thing to do is to install phpmyadmin using the tutorial here: http://wiki.phpmyadmin.net/pma/Quick_Install

First you’ll want to create a user (that isn’t your root user) to log into phpmyadmin:

mysql> CREATE USER ‘newusr’@’%’ IDENTIFIED BY ‘your_password';
mysql> GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON *.* TO ‘newusr’@’%’ WITH GRANT OPTION;

At this point, you can sync your old databases to your new mysql server using the built-in sync tool that’s in DreamHost’s installations of phpmyadmin.  Then, just edit the wp-config.php file in the folder of your WordPress installations, and change the line that says the following to your DreamHost VPS:

define('DB_HOST', 'psXXXXXX.dreamhostps.com');

Sources:

Installing mysqld on Dreamhost VPS

https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/debconf/+bug/90085

http://serverfault.com/questions/72356/how-useful-is-mounting-tmp-noexec

 

 

Categories
Automotive Science and Technology

EV Market Tepid, Except for All the Cars Being Sold

Seen on an otherwise kinda interesting article from Forbes about how Volt sales didn’t match what GM expected, and how the company is choosing to direct its advertising in another direction for the revamped Volt:

And while overall sales of plug-in hybrids and full EVs remain tepid except for Teslas, and U.S. oil supplies look more secure than ever, the future of propulsion always has a way of surprising us. Note, Bunkley wrote, how most people wrote off the future of large SUVs several years ago — and now sales are going back through the roof.

“Tepid” except for Teslas?  Look, I know the author is kinda going for “Oh, ho hum, EV’s, they’re certainly just a flash in the pan technology soon to go away”, but still…

Chart showing sales of Leaf's nearly triple that of Teslas
[Source: http://cleantechnica.com/2014/08/05/nissan-leaf-still-king-ford-fusion-energi-sales-jump-201/]
And that’s not just for the month of July — that’s the trend for the entire year.

I expect this kinda thing from BusinessInsider.com — I don’t expect it from Forbes.