Category Archives: Internet

Live Music Streaming Via Periscope 

I’ve been using the Periscope app on my Android phone to stream live music from Fort Lauderdale. Music genres include solo guitar, rock, reggae, and Cuban. 

South Florida has always been blessed with hordes of great musicians. These “scopes” contain some of them.

You can browse through my “scopes” by clicking www.pscp.tv/therussbellew.

What’s Periscope?
Periscope is a live streaming video app. There are both IOS (Apple iPhone) and Android versions, which can both broadcast and view video streams. Since Periscope is owned by Twitter, you may use your Twitter account to begin broadcasting your own scopes. Also, Periscope streams may be viewed within any web browser by going to www.periscope.tv.

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Tweets As Prose Haiku

I like simple English. Long words and complex sentences only obscure meaning. Our goal should be to express ourselves in as few words as possible.

Have you ever tried to write a Haiku? It’s a Japanese poem form which contains seventeen syllables in three lines. Its brevity imposes discipline. Try writing a Haiku. It’s not easy. 

Twitter imposes a 140 character limit on tweets. It’s sufficient to express one or two thoughts — but only if you distill your idea into a few simple but powerful words. It reminds me of writing Haiku — but without rhyme. (Reason only.)

(Haiku and illustration credit Kelly R Fineman)

Stop annoying pop ups on your phone’s web browser(s)

When using my Android phone, I’ve become reluctant to click on links to unknown webpages because many — maybe most — of them contain obnoxious pop ups. I’ve stopped this by disabling Javascript in my phone’s web browsers(s). Each browser is different, but in general go to the Settings for your web browser and turn off Javascript. This will work on both Android and IOS (Apple iPhone) phones. 

Most browsers will allow exceptions to this Javascript off rule. Your webmail hosting service, bank, etc. probably require Javascript. Add these sites to your browser’s list of sites on which Javascript may execute.

I know — it’s inconvenient to configure, but you’ll be glad that you did, when you’re no longer bothered by those awful pop-ups.

 

Speed Up Twitter On Android 

I’ve been using Twitter on my Android phone and noticed that over a period of days or weeks it slows to a crawl. A simple way to kick Twitter back into high gear is to exit Twitter and just delete all of its data, and then restart Twitter.

On my Android 5 phone, I go to Settings, Applications, Application Manager, and scroll down to Twitter, then press the Clear Data button. You’ll be asked to confirm. Click CLEAR – you do wish to clear all data.

Exit Settings and Restart Twitter. It should find your profile(s) and download your tweets. Now it should be faster.

Try this at your own risk. It works for me, but your mileage may vary.

Who and what visits government websites?

Have a look at analytics.usa.gov. You’ll see statistics for the aggregate of most federal government websites: Number of Visits, Top Pages and Domains, Visitor Locations, Top Downloads, Devices, Browsers, and Operating Systems.

Thanks to Steve Gibson of grc.com.

WordPress adds encryption

letsencrypt-logo-horizontalI notice that this blog now by default provides its content to visitors in encrypted form, using the HTTPS [Hyper Text Transfer Protocol over SSL (Secure Sockets Layer)] protocol. This is great news. I congratulate WordPress.com. They’ve used the new Let’s Encrypt Certificate Authority, which removes the relatively high cost barrier of encrypting websites.

A big “thank you” to both WordPress.com and Let’s Encrypt.

Hillary’s I.T. guy

 

Bryan Pagliano, the I.T. specialist who apparently was paid by Hillary Clinton to set up her email server, has been granted immunity from prosecution by the Department of Justice. A lawyer friend tells me that this means that a grand jury is reviewing evidence and that Mr. Pagliano will be testifying as the Department of Justice prosecutes someone. Is that Hillary Clinton? Probably. Maybe others.

imageit seems that the DOJ had a strong case against Mr. Pagliano for multiple counts of conspiracy to violate federal records preservation regulations and the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act), as well as restrictions on “moonlighting” while employed by the State Department. To avoid prosecution, he struck a deal. Now he’s the DOJ’s witness against whomever.

I don’t yet know the details of either Hillary’s private mail server or that of the State Department, but it seems likely that Hillary may have given Mr. Pagliano her login credentials. My guess is that this is a serious violation of State Department regulations.

Reportedly the FBI has two teams of investigators looking into Mrs. Clinton’s private mail server and the Clinton Foundation’s quid pro quo arrangements with Mrs. Clinton while she was Secretary of State. It’s rumored that the FBI will recommend that criminal charges of violating the Espionage Act be brought against her.

In view of the number of disappearances of witnesses in the Clintons’ past, I hope that Mr. Pagliano has a full-time bodyguard. I want to hear his story.

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org

When I first investigated WordPress, I was confused by the differences and similarities between WordPress.com and WordPress.org.  If you’re in the same boat, Sanj Sahayam’s article, 4 Reasons You Should Never Use WordPress.com (And 4 Reasons You Should) clearly explains the tradeoffs between the two platforms.

By the way, this blog is currently hosted by WordPress.com.  I also host some clients’ websites using WordPress on Linux servers.  WordPress is remarkably versatile.

Make VoIP work on your LAN

I have a client with a local area network with about forty client PCs. A few months ago, a third-party phone vendor added an Elastix “PBX” phone server, as well as a new workgroup router. Elastix provides a graphic administrator interface to its underlying Asterix telephone private branch exchange (PBX). Elastix and Asterix run on a Linux server.

The client has complained that phone callers’ voices have been randomly distorting, incoming calls randomly terminating, and after ringing, desktop phones’ handsets randomly die. The phone vendor assured my client that the new router (an Asus RT-N66U) was not at fault, and suspected that the problems were caused by cabling problems or configuration problems with the Elastix server.

After months of frustration, the client asked me to have a look. I began with the workgroup router. I noticed that it was configured to use cut-through switching. (Asus calls this “NAT Acceleration”, which sounds like a good thing, doesn’t it?  NAT is Network Address Translation. The router apparently defaults to cut-through switching mode.) VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) uses UDP (User Datagram Protocol), rather than TCP/IP. UDP is used for streaming real time audio and video because of its low overhead and potentially reduced latency. It does, though, require that its underlying transport mechanism be rock solid.

Cut-through switching does NOT provide a rock solid transport mechanism! Cut-through switching is fast, but it can damage frames and forward previously damaged frames. The more conservative store and forward method ensures that all frames that traverse a switch remain undamaged. It also will not forward damaged frames. Result?  A cleaner network.

Onion layer 1

Troubleshooting system problems is like peeling an onion. You remove one layer at a time and look for changes.

For our first layer, I reconfigured the workgroup router so that it employed store and forward, rather than cut-through switching. Then I waited for user reports. Users reported that we’d fixed the distortion problem, but calls occasionally dropped and/or weren’t initiated.

Onion layer 2

Next, I activated the workgroup router’s QOS (Quality Of Service) feature. I assigned highest priority to all traffic in and out of all active ports on the Elastix server. Then I waited. Users reported that all phones now work as they should.

Problem solved.

Think before adding boxes

Adding boxes to networks often works with little tweaking. Eventually, though, services begin to fail and users complain of slow response, as traffic jams the network’s pipes. Eventually, someone must reduce unnecessary traffic, and assign priorities to different classes of network traffic. I recommend doing this before problems occur — not after.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Which countries host Internet bad guys?

I’m impressed by the effort to take down Internet bad guys at Project Honey Pot.  Website owners can use Project Honey Pot’s tools to redirect spammers and other misbehaving visitors who appear on a blacklist to a “honey pot” page.  There, continued bad behavior is logged and the naughty visitor receives more demerits that bury him or her deeper in the Project Honey Pot blacklist.

Website owners may choose how many days of good behavior a blacklisted IP address must exhibit before he or she is allowed to use the owner’s website. This allows dynamically assigned IP addresses who behave, to eventually be removed from the blacklist.

Here’s a summary of bad guys who have been trapped by Project Honey Pot, by country (as of 7 November, 2015):

Bad guys, by country
Bad guys, by country, as of 7 Nov, 2015
from Project Honey Pot

If you have a self-hosted WordPress website or blog, you can implement Project Honey Pot by using the http:BL WordPress Plugin plugin for WordPress. It’s easy to install, and works fine with WordPress v 4.3.1, even though it’s guaranteed to work through only v 3.3.2.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

A tale of two e-commerce platforms

I’ve been developing a few websites with storefronts.  I used Nopcommerce three years ago, and it was impressive in many ways, but its poorly-defined technical support steered me elsewhere.

Two attractive e-commerce offerings with better-defined tech support are Volusion and SquareSpace.  Both offer mobile-responsive templates, and both products include hosting with tech support.

Volusion logoVolusion is more mature, potentially more flexible, and able to handle large volume needs. If you use it out of the box for online sales only, you may not need to write any code. If you need a physical store, you will need at least some HTML, CSS, and Javascript programming skills.  If your pages contain more than just simple paragraphs of text, you’ll need to write mobile-responsive code.  Volusion provides many options for every aspect of a business’s storefront, and its 24/7 telephone tech support is excellent.

Squarespace logoThe “drag and drop” SquareSpace templates allow a developer to quickly place a rudimentary SquareSpace site into production, but I don’t recommend it for sites of more than about twenty pages or a business with complex product inventory or special payment processing needs.  One could quickly roll-out a good-looking modest SquareSpace e-commerce site without writing one line of code.  Just don’t expect to easily expand this simple site into a large complex site, and your payment processing options are limited.  Unlike Volusion, SquareSpace does not seem to offer 24/7 tech support via telephone — only via email.

One beauty of both Volusion and SquareSpace is that you don’t need to host them.  Just pay a modest monthly hosting fee and let them keep your site on-line.  An attractive alternative to both is BigCommerce, but I have no personal experience with it.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Defend your WordPress site

WordPress can be a terrific website platform. However, its popularity and its open source nature make it a favorite target for attackers. Two real-time defenses:
WordPress logo

  • WordPress Simple Firewall plugin: detects bad behaviors by comment spammers, blacklisted clients. and brute force password crack attempts
  • http:BL WordPress plugin: redirects visitors who are on a public dynamic blacklist to a honeypot page, which is seeded with unique email addresses that can give away spammers.

One plugin that logs malicious activity:

  • SEO Redirection plugin: logs 404 (page not found) errors. Reviewing the log file allows an administrator to block future access of IP addresses that attempted to discover cracks in his or her firewall or execute administrative PHP scripts.Caveat: Use care to ensure that you don’t mistakenly block search engines’ spiders and other legitimate robots. (I’d erroneously blocked three IP addresses that are used by the GoogleBot spiders. That explains why the website suddenly disappeared from Google’s search results.  D’oh!)

I use and recommend all three of these WordPress plugins on self-hosted WordPress installations. They work. I’m amazed by the persistence of attackers on my WordPress sites. (Most attacks originate from Russia, Ukraine, China, Netherlands, Germany.)

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

One gbps: $105 per month

Smaller American municipalities are attracting businesses by offering economical broadband service. In 2010, Salisbury, North Carolina began offering broadband service to its residents and business customers. The city created a wholly owned utility named Fibrant. Fibrant’s FAQ page explains:

Q: How did Fibrant get started?
A: The City Council of Salisbury, NC was unhappy with the lack of broadband service provided by incumbent networks. They invested in building Fibrant as a municipal utility to encourage economic development, increase competitive opportunities for our existing businesses and to provide citizens globally competitive access to the world.

Salisbury, North Carolina served by Fibrant broadband

Fibrant’s latest pricing is enticing:

  • Ten gbps (gigabits per second) symmetrical service: $410 per month for business and residential customers
  • One gbps symmetrical service: $105 per month for business and residential customers
  • 50 Mbps (Megabits per second) symmetrical service for $45 per month

These are fantastic prices for smokin’ fast broadband service. The incumbent Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have lobbied some state legislatures to prevent municipalities from undertaking broadband service provision. Salisbury residents are lucky. This article describes North Carolina’s ill-advised municipal broadband restrictions:

Those clamoring for fiber broadband speeds under the state’s anti-community broadband law will have to move to one of a handful of grandfathered communities in North Carolina where forward-thinking leaders actually built the fiber networks private companies are still only talking about.

I congratulate Salisbury’s city council. Fast broadband attracts business. Watch Salisbury grow. This Salisbury Post article mentions business opportunities.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695