Virtual Machine Is A Very Beautiful Thing

Virtual machine is a very beautiful thing, but the majority computer users might be ignorant of it.  How beautiful virtual machine is?  Let me just say this right off the bat, virtual machine is there to piss off evil doers!  It’s so beautiful that you can basically download computer viruses onto a virtual machine without the fear of these nasty things go around and infect a physical machine.  Of course, with just about anything, if one is so inept in computer things, one might be able to allow the computer viruses and what not to infect the whole Intranet (LAN) network even one is using a virtual machine.  Nonetheless, one has to be very inept to do so.  For an example, allowing virtual machine to be on the same subnet with a physical machine without its own protection measures (i.e., antivirus, firewall and what not) — thus, showing just another door to the evil doers.  The evil doers can use a compromised active virtual machine as a gateway for their Intranet (LAN) hacking activities.  The beautiful thing is that if one is smart enough to secure a virtual machine, one basically has a hardened sandbox which can easily be used as a platform for browsing the dangerous web at will.  Perhaps, even downloading computer viruses and what not for testing purposes such as testing to see the effectiveness of an antivirus program.  Professional antivirus software reviewers are mostly using a hardened virtual machine to test to see how effective an antivirus program can be.

Virtual machine is so beautiful that it is very perverted.  How?  I’ve heard how many people have seen their computers got infected with computer viruses, worms, trojans, and what not just because they have been browsing dangerous pornographic websites.  What’s worse is that these folks do not use readily available simple measures such as Javascript blocker software/plugins (e.g., ScriptSafe, Noscript, etc…).  For an example, I’d talked to one person who complained that he would format his computer often, because he caught too many computer viruses.  This very person would like to say that he’s an advance computer user.  Nonetheless, he’d told me that he befuddled how his Windows machine kept on catching a flu (i.e., sarcasm for computer viruses).  Furthermore, he told me that it was too easy for his computer to catch a flu whenever he got perverted.  Obviously, it meant that he browsed pornographic websites and his computer caught a flu.  In the end, he told me his assumption that there’s no way a PC can be OK if one is browsing a pornographic website.  I told him flat out that he’s dead wrong.  The simplest answer I could give to him at that point was that just make sure his physical machine is clean (i.e., not being infected with any computer virus) and then install a virtual machine.

Virtual machine is beautiful since it’s allowing us to have a secure sandbox to play around.  Of course, it’s a bit more complicated than just a secure sandbox, because a virtual machine can run just about all major operating systems.  Furthermore, a virtual machine can be a quick testing ground for security software and what not.  If a virtual machine user doesn’t like what he or she sees, he or she can simply go through few clicks to delete a virtual machine and make a new one.  My suggestion for whoever that does browse the web dangerously is to install a virtual machine on a clean physical machine, install Linux such as Ubuntu, install firewall and ClamAV onto Ubuntu, harden up Ubuntu (virtual machine) as if it’s running on a real machine, and then browse the dangerous web.

Virtual machine is a strange beast, because it can do certain things exceptionally well and efficient, but it can be totally useless at times.  For an example, playing games on a virtual machine is a no no.  First of all, a virtual machine does not use a dedicated graphic card, because it’s emulating one.  Even if a virtual machine environment allows a physical computer to share dedicated graphic resources, I doubt a virtual machine could really share dedicated graphic resources efficiently.  Playing intensive graphic resource demanding games would be almost impossible.  Nonetheless, if one uses a virtual machine for applications such as virtualizing a NAS (i.e., Network Attached Storage server), it can become very interesting.  Imagining this further, how interesting it is for one to be able to clone a virtualized NAS easily, right?  Virtual machine platforms such as VirtualBox is certainly carrying the option of allowing a computer user to clone a virtual machine through few clicks of a mouse.

In summary, virtual machine is very beautiful, but the degrees of beautifulness are scaling accordingly according to whoever is using it.  One can simply use a virtual machine to test out how effective an antivirus software can be, but one can also use it to run a virtualized NAS.  If one is horny, one can simply browse the dangerous pornographic websites with a virtual machine.  Basically, virtual machine is quite useful and secure if one knows how to use it as a sandbox.


There’s Time To Be Nice, But Digital One Isn’t So

Should you be a nice guy when it comes to Internet etiquette?  The answer isn’t so simple since it’s all depending on the context of things.  For an example, a friend sent you an email for whatever purpose, important or not, you might have to reply to him or her.  Down to earth Internet etiquette cannot be so disconnected from physical world, otherwise we are not who we are, as in being human with complex emotions.  Thus, our strong human traits such as politeness can also be our weaknesses.  This is why social engineering is useful for some bad actors who have intension to hack into your digital life.

Without going to rant much on elusive Internet/digital philosophy, let me get to the point.  I’d recently received many online bank surveys through my email inbox.  The politeness of online etiquette wanted me to click on the survey request link in the email so I could start a survey, because being polite is good, whether that would be on the web or off the web.  Unfortunately, in the back of my head, my impolite part of the brain told me to not being so nice and polite, because the survey itself might not be sent from the bank.  I think there are ways to fake emails that look like they’re from the legitimate party.

My eventual action was usually a quick delete of such email.  Why?  Although I’m a nobody and poor, thus my bank account would be a waste of time for whoever wants to hack into it.  Thus, I’m not supposed to be all that protective toward my online bank account.  Regardless, I don’t really like being hack, because it feels very invasive.  Imagine a stranger just walks into your life and does whatever to you, how do you feel?  This is the feeling of being hack, because you don’t know the hacker or hackers!  So, it was a quick and simple decision, I rather not being polite and willy nilly clicking on a bank account survey link.  I don’t care if the email is legitimate or not, I just won’t subject myself to downloading malware or virus or trojan onto my computer just so I could have a nice digital etiquette.

In summary, I think we need to be very cautious about the stuffs that go through our emails.  Especially, survey invitations and what not might not be so innocent.  I’m writing this post is to remind my future self and whoever else to be more cautious about Internet security in regarding to email.  Furthermore, I like to remind my future self and whoever else that if a hacker has your email account, he or she can basically try to reset your passwords from your bank accounts, social website accounts, and what not.  If hackers are successful at resetting your online accounts’ passwords, then they’re basically taking control of your digital life.  Simply put, do you want a stranger to take over your life, albeit it’s an Internet one?

World Conflicts Are Not That Simple!

In this day and age, 21st Century to be exact, conflicts around the world are never going to be simple.  Heck, even in the ancient time, the conflicts then were not so simple.  Now, we have so many countries that are doing overlapping business, because there is so called a chain of supply this and that.  For an example, United States imports from China most, China relies on neighbors and far West for technology and raw materials to produce stuffs for United States, and countries such as Australia love to sell energy products to China to support the supply chains in China.  Obviously, the example I mentioned is to be simplistic, because China is not only exporting goods to United States, but China is exporting to the whole world at large.  United States is obviously not only importing from China, but United States is importing from the whole world at large.  Still, the whole world is importing from China most!  The last sentence does implicit a weakness of globalization.  It begs the question what if China’s supply chains are in trouble, what will the implications be for the world’s economics at large.  It’s not so simple to just say that my country will become self sufficient immediately.  Any country can’t just magically wave a wand in the air, and then the technology and infrastructure and various vocations of expertise — that take decades to build — suddenly and magically materialize for whatever production purposes.  The complexity of the world nowadays begs the question that even small conflict can put any country which depends on the world’s economics in a very uncomfortable position, especially in economics sense.

I think one thing people fail to realize is that nuclear factor is even more important as a war deterrent for world peace than ever before.  Although some of us probably have wished that humankind should have never been able to figure out the nuclear technology, thus nuclear would never have existed.  Nonetheless, such wish is rather foolish since nuclear age has been here for a while already.  This is why nuclear weapons have been employed by various countries for deterrent purposes.  Nuclear weapons are not a figment of the imagination for a long time already!!!  Countries that have nuclear weapons know this, thus these countries use nuclear weapons as war deterrent strategic maneuver.  It’s a very effective war deterrent strategy indeed!  With this knowledge, we can see that United States, China, India, Pakistan, Russia, UK, France, Israel, and North Korea cannot be invaded outright.  The big three countries that for sure cannot be invaded outright are United States, China, and Russia.  Why these three countries have the power to fully destabilize the world or prolong the world peace?  Simply put, their military, economic, and world influence mights ensure their power to dictate world order!  Smaller countries, with nuclear technology or not, cannot compete or go head to head with United States, China, and Russia.  Of course, there is always something that is not on people’s mind and yet will be the exception of whatever rigid order.  In today’s world balance, for United States, China, and Russia to go to war against one another, the exceptional culprit behind this global catastrophe would be a psychopath with powerful positions that can manipulate a country’s foreign policy.

Although the big three in the world will not wage war against one another outright, but they can definitely use their smaller allies to wage proxy wars.  This is why we, people with brain, know that small conflicts around the world might not be so simple.  I can safely assume that all conflicts nowadays are a sort of game for the big three to push and pull against one another, and so in the end of the day the winners will always be the big three!  In short term though, the players who gain something in whatever conflict that the big three are manipulating can also be said that they’re the winners, too.  Nonetheless, in the end of the day, they might not be the ultimate winners!  This is why, I think we, the people of the world, should be more informed, open minded, and less judgmental, and only in this way we can see the events that break out around the world with clearer sense.

In conclusion, United States, China, and Russia know they will not benefit in an all out war, but they’re more profitable in term of controlling the events of the world.  This is why I think the ongoing chaos in East and South China seas, Ukraine, and the Middle East are small events that will dictate the world influence of the big three!  In these events, the big three cannot claim their innocent!  Nonetheless, the big three are acting in their own interest, because the big three after all have to lookout for their own people.  It’s just unfortunate that the smaller players in the world stage have to be manipulated by the big three!  Of course, nobody knows how the world map will look like in the future, thus we can never say that the big three we have now will be the big three of 300 years later.  Remember Roman Empire?  Remember how big they were in ancient time?  If I’m not wrong, they’re no longer here since AD 476.  That’s a long time ago.  Let just say that, the big three are not invulnerable, but at the moment and years to come, these are the players that make the world spins.  At the moment, Ukraine crisis is just another event that the big three are positioning themselves for their own future!  Unfortunately, the West and Ukraine itself will have to be manipulated by the big three!  Russia is looking to gain the most in Ukraine crisis, and Russia does have the popular vote as Crimea’s people are voting for Russia.  China is not yet making a hard stand for Ukraine crisis since it’s playing a waiting game.  Meanwhile, United States is anxiously preventing Russia from annexing Crimea.  Who’s right?  Who’s wrong?  It’s hard to tell, because the big three are never innocent!  Nonetheless, I hope after Ukraine crisis, the world will be more peaceful, however Ukraine crisis will turn out to be!  Let’s not see someone is so stupid enough to push for World War III, OK?  As Albert Einstein had said something along this line, he knew we will have to use nuclear weapons in World War III, but he suggested that we might fight with sticks and stones in World War IV.  It’s a long conclusion, I know!

How Paranoid Should You Be For Backing Up Your Data?

Backup Backup Backup - And Test Restores

Backup Backup Backup – And Test Restores (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you ask me what is the best way to backup your data, I will probably direct your concern to more than one way.  I like to think of not placing all of your eggs in one basket kind of scenario.  What’s the point of backing up data in the first place?  It’s to hope that when things go crazy such as a computer’s data corruption might occur, you can then access your most valuable backup data.  If you only rely on one preferable backup method, then what if in a critical moment that even the backup data isn’t accessible through your preferable only backup method, what will you do then?  Even a perfect storm is a possible scenario for spreading eggs in more than one basket, therefore I think being paranoid about safekeeping your data with more than one preferable backup method is the best way to go about doing the backups for your valuable data.

For us normal folks, the regular Joe(s), who have data that we want to safeguard, it’s a must for us to spread our data in more than one basket.  It must not be that you have to be a company to take this approach.  Furthermore, nowadays regular Joe(s) do have plenty of ways to go about doing backups for their data.  Let me list few of them:

  • Google Drive
  • Pogoplug
  • Dropbox
  • Amazon Simple Storage Service
  • CrashPlan
  • External hard drives
  • Network attach storage solution such as QNAP NAS servers
  • Do it yourself FreeNAS server solution
  • rsync to a renting server with affordable monthly fee

And the list can go on a lot longer as third party cloud services are now in amble supply.  I think the problem isn’t about finding a backup solution or solutions for the regular Joe(s), but it’s about the affordability, speed, security, and conveniency aspects.  Let say, if a regular Joe wants to spread his backup data in more than one basket, how affordable can this be?  So on and so on…

I think affordability should not be as big of an issue as before the time when there were no third party cloud service and competitive (affordable) computer hardware pricing.  If you don’t intend to harbor 100 of Gigabytes worth of data for streaming purpose or whatever extreme configuration, backing up few Gigabytes worth of data should not cost you much at all.  Perhaps, you can do it at no cost too.  One example, I think Google Drive gives you around 10 Gigabytes worth of free data space or a little bit more than this, and just with this service alone you know you don’t have to spend a dime to backup your data as long you are not going over the free space limitation that Google Drive allows.  Don’t like third party cloud services for whatever reasons?  Computer hardware such as external hard drives nowadays are no longer pricing at outrageous prices, therefore it’s easier for regular Joe(s) to go this route for doing their data backups.  How about coupling Linux with a spare, dusty computer to form a local backup storage server at zero cost in term of money, but you have to spend time on putting things together such as installing Linux and deploying Linux’s network attached storage services to have a more complete backup server solution.

I can see that the many third party cloud services as good solutions for doing backups.  How come?  Let say you’re paranoid about the safety of your data to a point that you consider the scenario where local backup data can all be corrupted at the same time for whatever reasons such as a virus/hack attack (or by even a more nefarious scenario), therefore you think third party cloud services are the additional safety reservoirs for your backup data.  If you are this paranoid, I think you’re doing it right.  Although third party cloud services are good measures against local data corruption, there are problems with this whole approach in general.  Let me list a few:

  • Broadband’s upload speed (Internet connection) isn’t fast enough to do a major backup (i.e., backing up huge amount of data in Gigabytes worth)
  • Security issue… how do we know our data can be securely safeguarded and stored on the remote servers?
  • Trust issue… such as how do we know our data privacy and our privacy won’t be breached on the remote servers?

I sneakily snuck in the speed and security concerns about backing up data remotely through third party cloud services, but we should not take the security issue lightly since many people may not want their privately backup data to be made known to the whole world.  Security done right in term of backing up data locally and remotely, this will also address the privacy issue/concern too.  I think employing good network and computer security measures locally will enhance the security protection level for the backup data.  Such measures should be about employing hardware and software firewall, antivirus, and so on.  Don’t forget to update the software and firmware, because through updating these things that you can be assured of weeding out security bugs.  You can never be too sure about the security of your data when you’re backing up your data remotely, therefore you should employing encryption for your backup data before you upload your backup data to the remote servers.  One good encryption measure I know of is TrueCrypt software which can be downloaded and used freely.

I don’t think we should sacrifice our data security for conveniency, because data security is definitely more important than otherwise.  Still, conveniency should be considered in the calculation of our data backup challenge too.  It’s just that we have to make sure we don’t have to sacrifice data security for conveniency.  Let say, you want to backup your data to a third party cloud service, but you don’t like the idea of doing a local encryption for your data first… this means you are sacrificing your data security for conveniency and this is truly bad for you as the owner of the backup data (i.e., privacy concern).

In summary, I think if you’re paranoid enough about the health of your data, then you should devise many backup plans for your data.  You should try to backup your data both locally and remotely, but you should employ encryption for your data when you do backup your data remotely.  Backing up huge amount of data remotely can be very inconvenient at this point in time since so many regular Joe(s) do not have access to fast upload broadband speed.  Let hope this will change soon, and I know things will be moving in this direction since data streaming and data sharing and data backup are in much more demand than ever before.  One example would be Google fiber Internet service.  Google is driving the Internet Service Provider competition forward as Google deploys its Gigabit Internet connection service for many households in various lucky cities and towns.  With Google pushing for more competition in the area of broadband speed, I think the future — having great Internet connection for uploading our backups — is definitely bright.  As time is moving on, the costs of computer backup hardware and backup services can be even more competitive, we can expect the cost of deploying backup measures for our data can only get cheaper and easier.  I like the idea of having a NAS locally, and using one or two third party cloud services for my data backups.

(How paranoid should you be for backing up your data?  In my opinion, the answer should be, the more the merrier.)

Very Awesome “How To Play Piano” Video Tutorials From Andrew Furmanczyk

Bechstein Firmenschriftzug

Bechstein Firmenschriftzug (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Caught a music bug like mine?  Why not try to pick up some basic piano lessons for free from Andrew Furmanczyk by watching his “How to play piano” video tutorials.  For your convenience, I created a playlist for all of his “How to play piano” video tutorials, and you can watch them all right after the break.  Enjoy!!!