Category Archives: internet

cure cancer with leftover azure credits

An azure window grid, reflecting clouds. Perfect fit isn't it?Maybe you have some Azure credits lying from a Visual Studio subscription you have from work, waiting to be spent on cool and nifty experiments, but don’t end up actually using them.
How about spending some of those dollars on cancer research? Or help find a cure against Zika? Fighting AIDS maybe?

Enter the World Community Grid, a vast grid computing network running on the Open Source BOINC client software, started as a philanthropic initiative by IBM.
Sounds good right?

All you need to do is create a WCG account, spin up a Linux machine on Azure, install the BOINC headless client on it and link it to your account. In about half an hour you’ll be computing cancer markers, folding genes or fighting some horrible disease. Well, the software will be doing that really, which is even better.

Here we go, step by step.

1. Setup your Azure Linux machine, I chose an Ubuntu 16 LTS machine. I pick the classic VM because its way easier to setup.
Depending on the type of machine you’ll have more compute power and thus turning out more results. Try a few out and see how you can maximize your Azure credits.

2. Once provisioned, log in using PUTTY or your favorite SSH client. Now it’s time to update the Linux packages and then install the BOINC client:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install boinc-client

3. Setup auto startup of the BOINC client, so if your machine reboots, you don’t have to go in and start it up yourself (automate all the things remember):

sudo /etc/init.d/boinc-client restart

4. Get your BOINC authentication key so you can hook up the client to your account:

boinccmd --lookup_account https://www.worldcommunitygrid.org

5. Now use the key to attach your selected projects from WCG:

boinccmd --project_attach https://www.worldcommunitygrid.org

Of course you want to check what’s going on, so you can check the BOINC client’s state like this:

boinccmd --get_state

This should give you a list of the tasks and their state. It might take a while before they start kicking in, but you’ll see results coming in after a day or so on the WGC website under your contribution history.

That’s about it. Your client is all set up. All you need to do is keep those VM’s running in the cloud, which normally takes non effort at all. Neat.

There are more boinccmd command line switches in the documentation if you’d need to troubleshoot or find out more.

What’s next? Well, you can set up more than 1 machine if you like, or a heavier one and see what gives you more bang for your buck.  You can also join my World Computing Grid team called “Team Azure” and see how many cloud bucks we can burn. It’ll be effortless fun, I promise! ;)

Credit goes to Joel Christian’s headless Ubuntu installation guide. His guide made my quest to setup BOINC on an Azure Ubuntu box a lot easier.

Photo by Dan, cc-licensed.

disable flash and silverlight for safer surfing

Flash, Silverlight and (*gasp*) QuickTime plugins in your browser with the modern web are about as necessary as a horse whip is on a Tesla. Well I might be exaggerating a bit. There are still some useful sites out there that actually use these things. Intranet sites that run on IE only for example, or flaky game sites. But any self-respecting web developer has long ditched them in favor of fancy new HTML5 features.

So why would you still run these things in your favorite browser (Firefox right?) where they only take up extra memory and have a bunch of security problems that might end up causing you trouble. There have been enough exploits for the Flash plugin out there to be sure to actually update those plugins every time they ask for it. Which is about every week if I recall correctly.

Anyway, it’s better to turns those damn things off completely and only turn them on when you hit one of those web sites maintained by a dinosaur. That way you’re stopping that evil hacker from taking over your machine with his Flash exploit and you’re gaining some free performance along the way.

In Firefox you can turn those plugins off in your Tools menu, under Add-ons. Just select “Never activate” and you’ll be fine.
Switch it back to “Ask to Activate” if you’d need them again. That way they’ll never activate by accident either, if you forget to turn it back off.
On Chrome it’s a bit more elaborate, but the option “Let me choose when to run plugin content” sounds like a safe bet instead of having plugin code be ran willy-nilly.
IE? Ha! Who cares right?! For anything else, a properly aimed search query should find you the answer in no time.

Oh, and don’t forget to tweak your Flash security settings if you decide to keep it on after all.

The Firefox add-in screen with all plugins disabled. Just like it should be.

join the EFF summer security reboot and get some cool dice

DSC01217The Electronic Frontier Foundation is on the fore-front when it comes to defending our digital rights. Even as a European I think they are doing important work even though they are mostly US centric. This because whatever happens in the US ripples over the pond and affects Europe and the rest of the world anyway. That means that next to larger fast-food portions increased digital surveillance is on its way to the EU as well.
Next to protecting our digital rights they are the author of a number of awesome security plugins and tools like the HTTPS Everywhere and Privacy Badger browser plugins and a driving force behind the Let’s Encrypt free web site certificate tool set.

Next to a lot of security tools and tips (see the site & newsletter) they now have a Summer Security Reboot fund drive where you can get a cool geeky secure-password generating dice set for a mere $20 membership until the 20th of July.

So if you like what they are doing for a secure and free internet in the future, go check them out and get yourself some cool dice in the process.

If you feel more like donating to a EU centric counterpart of EFF, you can check out EDRI.org instead (no dice there though).

Photo by Violet Blue, cc-licensed.

disable javascript in firefox without plugins

This is one for the “it’s easy once you know” category.
In recent versions of Firefox the option to turn off JavaScript had apparently disappeared from the options. Recently I found out where those sneaky Mozilla devs have hidden this handy feature.

In the Firefox menu, go to Tools > Web Developer > Toggle Tools, or use the CTRL-I shortcut key to activate the developer tools side-panel. Once active you see one of those typical cog-wheel icons in the upper right corner showing the settings when you click it.
In those settings, scroll down to the Advanced Settings and flick the “Disable Javascript” check-box. Voila. JS is now disabled for your debugging purposes.

The “Disable Cache” option right above it is also a handy one if you are working on a page. It beats having to hit CTRL-F5 all the time anyway.

The disable JavaScript option in the developer tools settings.

If you want an easier way to control this, store settings per site and things like that, you’re better off installing the NoScript plugin. There’s a reason this option is hidden in the developer tools after all.

reset the net

On´n´Off - Going into standby mode

It’s on!

If you want to kick some NSA buttocks and claim your privacy then get yourself this reset the net pack and install some super-duper encryption for your PC, Mac and phone(s).

There ain’t that much on there really, but if you scroll down to the Other Resources section there’s links there like the Prism Break one I mentioned before, which contain tons of (more techy) tools and software for all your stealthy encryption needs.

Photo by Sven Seiler, cc-licensed.

what drains your battery faster? 3G or WIFI?

So what drains your smartphone’s battery more you think? Using a local WIFI network or the 3G cell network to download stuff from the internet? I Googled it but I didn’t find any solid hardcore scientifically based evidence. Time for a small home-grown scientific experiment then!

So here it is *drumroll*, the WIFI vs 3G battery drainage challenge!

I fired up the Grooveshark html5 app (which is quite nice actually) to non-stop stream music for 20 minutes and checked the battery usage when repeating this for both types of networks. In the meanwhile I was keeping anything else down to a minimum (like activating the screen which is also a juice sucker). Checking the battery usage means simply writing down the percentage displayed in the top Android menu bar before and after the test, so it’s not that precise, but it’ll do.

The results after 20 minutes of non-stop music streaming where:

  • WIFI battery usage : 2% drained
  • 3G battery usage : 5% drained

WIFI beats 3G with more than half of the battery usage in this (not so inaccurate) test. But still, it gives a pretty clear idea of the winner here. So roughly speaking, on 3G you have about 6 hours of music to go and a whopping 16 hours on WIFI before your battery is dead, if you have a Sony Xperia. Taking mobile data costs into account, WIFI certainly seems to be the preferred option to stream anything over.

Heck, I’ll even trow in some pixelarty kinda infographic, to make all the numbers just look a bit more pleasing.

wifi vs 3g battery usage duke-out infographic (sort of)

time to change some passwords

Untitled

So you’ve probably heard of that nasty heartbleed bug this week. If you’re still using the same password all over the place you can now see why that’s a bad idea. If you don’t want to get your accounts hacked, now is a good time to start using KeePass and have random hard to hack passwords for your non-essential accounts, and hard to crack ones for the ones you need access to without any additional software.

Also, two factor authentication baby. Use it.

Picture by Baie, cc-licensed.