Don’t Be Afraid, This is Just a PDF. We won’t ask for your email.

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I was reading Drift somewhat uninteresting report on SaaS companies marketing practice when I came across this:

And I found myself laughing. I don’t know why, but it’s kind of sad/funny how content marketing has reached this stage where a legitimate company like Drift now has to write in very clear terms that they’re not asking their valuable users for any private information to simply get a PDF.

You know, like this one:

Or this one. Want a PDF? Give us your phone number, dude. It’s required.

Unfortunately, like any other perceived as “shady” or “bad” marketing practice on the internet, the truth of the matter is these tactics does work.

Especially for the majority of people who want to have a PDF (for whatever reason) copies of what they read online. They didn’t mind sharing their emails, their phone numbers, or even address. How do I know this? Because it is everywhere.

So props to Drift, I guess.

And by the way, just a reminder that your email list building campaign won’t be complete without a passive aggressive question in a huge box covering all your content:

Maersk Lost 300 Million Dollars Thanks to NotPetya

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English / Writing

From LA Times:

A June cyberattack that snarled shipping terminal operations worldwide — and briefly shut down the Port of Los Angeles’ largest cargo terminal — has cost the Danish shipping giant A.P. Moller-Maersk $200 million to $300 million, the company said this week.

Now that there’s real dollar sign attached to a cyber attack, we’re gonna see more of this in the future, aren’t we?

More Chrome Extensions Getting Compromised

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English / Writing

I feel like this is gonna be a new trend. From Threatpost:

The number of compromised Chrome browser extensions is growing beyond the initial Aug. 1 hijacking of the OCR add-on called Copyfish. Added to list are seven additional legitimate Chrome Extensions that attackers took over and used to manipulate internet traffic and web-based ads, according to researchers at Proofpoint.

I first realized that Chrome extensions are a legit vector for Malware after watching my father installing an extension that asks for “Access to all the website that you visit” without even thinking about it. It’s similar to early Android, in which permissions are wide open.

Chrome revolutionized the way browser handles web by introducing the concept of sandboxing. Unfortunately extensions permission-based security, with the majority of users unaware or simply doesn’t care, break all of this. Time for Google to act.

Equilibrium

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English / Writing

At one point in my life, i was an undergraduate international relation student. It’s a pretty interesting topic, and i learnt a lot. Mostly, like all social sciences, it’s the kind of subject where people goes, “well, that’s obvious, isn’t it?” but there’s always more to everything, and all that seem obvious are usually the ones that are not.

But I wouldn’t say the topic is an exciting one. When dealing with an identity and organisation as big as a nation-state, things tend to move at a glacial pace. But still, if there’s one thing that i really anjoy about IR as a subject is how it tries to adapt (exhaustedly, i should say) to a world that’s changing at a very rapid rate.

You can see human nature there. Those that are afraid, finds peace in the theories of classic realist, where everything is simply about power. Those that just wants to be an academia and not offend anyone finds their place in the economic side of things, while the guy who simply wants to explain to you that we can make this all better, finds their place in the liberalist camp.

But one concept that really stuck in my mind was balance of power, since that one concept proves to be a reliable predictor of where the world is going, no matter who or what held the stick of truth. It’s also one of the first concept that i really learn about, and so i still remember when i was reading about it and got to thinking, “so this is why the world gone to shit since 2000, and it’ll probably get worse”.

And indeed it seems to be, getting worse. The world, that is. But I was born in 1990. So i don’t have the rights to say the world has gone to shit when i have never experienced world war, or a proper dictatorship. Still, in my mind it’s pretty clear what the world lack currently: equilibrium.

equilibrium
ˌiːkwɪˈlɪbrɪəm,ˌɛkwɪˈlɪbrɪəm
noun
a state in which opposing forces or influences are balanced.
“the task is the maintenance of social equilibrium”
synonyms: balance, symmetry, equipoise, parity, equality, evenness;

Equilibrium, as the dictionary states above, is the state in which forces are balanced. And we see it everyday right now, the state of imbalance. It’s everywhere. When a teenager doesn’t want to follow their parents direction, contemporary parents tries every single thing but telling the kid that he or she (or they) should probably follow their parents direction until they are adult. The forces of teenage angst is not balanced. In the media landscape, we’re seeing a stage where the bias of the journalist took center-stage, whether it is left or right.

Asks any modern journalist about their bias and they’ll freely admit that they have one. But the issue is they then follow that with, “so what?”. While the old guards would probably at least try and keep the appearances of being fair.

And yes, the fact that any media, whatever their leanings are, can open their own shop and start talking these days can be said as an act of balancing between agents, it is still not enough as the power of truth is contained within their own little boxes of people and their twitter followings. We’re all getting boxed deeper and deeper until our bodies are crushed and our mind trapped into thinking that since it is what we like, it must be the truth.

Truthfully, i’d be scared if what i like to hear is constantly being reaffirmed by everybody that surrounds me as the truth. That means I’m surrounded by the wrong people.

After the events at Charlottesville recently, I have decided to stop reading the news. That’s it. No matter the source, i just stop. This is gonna end in tears, as our hatred of each other is fueled by our unwitting thirst for being right. At some point we must realize that it isn’t about being right, but about living together.

Imagine a brother and a sister who fights constantly when they’re little. Usually they grew up alright, with a little bit of issues towards one another but they understand they’re families. Now imagine that from age 3 they have their own group of journalist constantly following them informing how right they are and how wrong their sisters and brothers are.

If there’s one thing that i’d like right now, is for an individual or organisation with a voice to be a middle ground. That’s it. But it seems that any balancing agent is gone, probably for good.

Shutting Down

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English / Writing

Shutting down, and letting electronics “have a rest” is such a human concept. It was born out of our own needs to shut down our brain every single day since we were born until we finally have a permanent rest.

I still remember my dad shutting down my computer without my knowledge when I was asleep. I was downloading some large files in the days of dial up, and of course, I got mad about it.

Computers or electronics don’t need rest. In fact, the hardest part in the life of an electronic is when it starts up. At least, that’s what I’ve heard.

So in the middle of all the noise about a manifesto that a certain engineer wrote, and other ‘seems to be’ really pressing issues in our lives, I think it’s good to remember that we’re all human, and not a computer.

We don’t have the answer to everything. We can’t. We’re programmed to live for a certain time period that is set by our environment, our culture and our lifestyle. It’s not that long. 60, 70, maybe 80 years if you’re lucky.

I understand the issue is upsetting. And that’s one of the reasons why I’m writing this post. It’s hard to gauge whether an outrage is really felt through the lens of social media, but I know that there’s a lot of people who just want to be good, and helpful.

But I really felt that we’re now debating across a huge fire that is fueled by outrage. We’re all gonna get burned in the end.

If you want a change to happen, then stop the outrage and do real action. Speak, start a dialogue with real people, offline if possible. By speaking out, I don’t mean us using the platform that we stand proudly on to let our opinions out. That’s good, but that’s not what’s gonna solve the issue. Talk with the opposing sides. Don’t block them out. Again, offline if possible.

You might disagree, you might get emotionally hurt, but from the dialogue, you can at least admit that the person sitting to you is a human being, and unless the guy or the girl really is the incarnation of the devil himself, he should also admit that himself.

And when you’re done with the dialogue, shut down. Don’t directly post on Twitter. Process it. Really think of the question why. Because we’re human beings. We’re not supposed to be on Twitter 24/7, participating in a huge botnet of human brains that woke up every day just to react to the news.

Be good, be helpful. But be patient, too. It took 8 hours for a brain to get fully rested and be able to process everything healthily. We’re all in the fire together. We’re all gonna get burned together anyway, so rather than discussing who’s gonna get the worse burn, let’s shut down for a bit, and try to find a way to make the fire at least not as hot.

Novel Review: The Phoenix Project: A Novel about IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr and George Spafford

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English / Review / Writing

Are you a developer? Do you like buzzwords? Do you want higher wage? Learn some automation tools and Linux server administration skills, call yourself DevOps expert. You’re welcome.

Jokes aside, DevOps (again, I’m still not sure what that means) is a pretty popular term to throw out these days. As far as I (and Wikipedia) know, the term itself doesn’t refer to a job title, or a description, but it refers to a practice of collaboration and effective communication between IT and software developers.

Being a term that’s very enterprisey, I honestly have zero clue about it. But you know, admitting you’re stupid is the beginning of being smart, so I started my attempt to find out more about it.

How? Well, like all things these days, all questions lead to either Quora or StackOverflow, so my search of “What is the best book to learn about DevOps?” lead to this Quora thread, that recommends a novel, out of all things, to learn the basic of DevOps.

The novel, is called The Phoenix Project. It has a pretty awesome cover, and looks easy enough to read, so I decided to get it and start reading.

To be frank, The Phoenix Project might just be one of the worst piece of fiction that I’ve ever read. There’s simply no care given to the storytelling at all. All the characters in this book exist in the world to simply function as a container of enterprise buzzwords and best business practice, and to do some Q & A between each other in order for the reader to understand what the book is trying to teach you.

That being said, I do appreciate that this book, and the way it’s written, although very close to failing, have successfully avoided becoming just a bad infomercial product like AOL trying to teach kids how to use the internet in the 90s. There’s still attempt to build the character’s personality and background, and drama and suspense are written in a competent manner.

In fact, being a guy who deals with these kinds of crisis and use a kanban board to deal with them every day myself, the drama and problems being faced by these characters in the book, are pretty much the only thing that makes this interesting. Unfortunately, i’m not sure if average joe feels the same way.

Devops, being more of a philosophy (like agile –please read this the way Marco Arment said the word “brand”), I’m not sure reviewing it is wise, for me. I’m just simply not in a level to say any smart things about it. Maybe later.

But the book. Well. Isn’t it funny that every single important person in the book have some kind of military background? And if there’s such a thing in fiction as a magical negro, this book introduce me to a new concept in fiction called a magical startup guru, his unique characteristics being speaking in riddles, respected by everybody in the world, rich as fuck but dresses like a hobo, and calls everybody the wrong name until he deemed them worthy of his respect.

I’m not in itself opposite to DevOps, again, I don’t have enough competency to have any opinion about it, but to me, the most interesting thing about this book is the question it raises in my mind. Is solving a problem in the enterprise as easy as this?

Now don’t get me wrong, this book does illustrate pretty well how bad communications and distrust between separate elements in a company can wreck things. But the book fails to highlight why DevOps is a unique and the best solution in solving this. In one short scene, this book does mention ITIL, which is apparently an old set of practices for IT in a business settings, but it doesn’t say or have any opinions about it.

Plus reading this I can’t stop and think that all the issues that the company face is just a failure of the CEO, which I honestly forgot the name of. It’s good that he apparently realized his mistakes, but the way this book deals with his leadership issue is similar to the way it deals with all of the issues. It just hides them under the rug, things just suddenly change for the better. Because of what? Devops?

And that infosec guy. Holy shit, does his personality, and his physical looks change suddenly right at the end of the book. Convenient.

Anyway, if you’re curious about DevOps, read this book, maybe? I don’t know. I’m still not sure why the quora thread recommended this book, probably say more about an IT person’s taste in fiction than anything else.

Slow Apocalypse by John Varley Review

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English / Review / Writing

Here’s the odd thing about the apocalypse: it’s the one scenario that hasn’t happened yet, and might not happen in our lifetime, and yet we human race have a very deep obsession with it. Throughout the history, every generation of tribes with their own system of belief have their own picture or imagination of what the apocalypse will entail. For a long time, the imagination is maybe a mystical deity, in the form of an evil monster, will appear, and then later followed by the figure of savior.

For millennials, the apocalypse seems to mean a world without electricity.

And this exact scenario has been in fiction so many times, I don’t even know if it’s truly possible to bring something new to the table. In fact, it’s been so played out that in television history there’s this tv series with the exact same plot, you know, a world without fuckin Twitter, what would we do, and it failed harder than a pet food startup in the dotcom boom.

And Slow Apocalypse, a novel about the exact same scenario playing out, except the disappearance of electricity is more of a side effect of a world without fossil fuel, is the book that I intend to review today.

I say intend, because to be honest, I’m not much of a reader but if there’s one novel that I’ve read in all my life that’s so well written, so detailed, and so lush with geographical details of a city I have never visit, and yet it’s the exact definition of the sentence, “nothing to write home about”, it’d be this novel.

And I’m not sure, really, what the problem is. I’ve never read Varley’s work before. In fact, looking at this book, oddly enough made me want to read his other works, just to make sure that my assumption is correct. That this one is the exception. That this might just be an old man getting pissed off at the price of gas skyrocketing at one point in history and decided to write a preachy version of a Los Angeles map description with some characters to fill in the blanks. Maybe it’s just an anomaly.

Anyway, Slow Apocalypse. The main character is this screenwriter named Dave who is worried a lot. He’s worried about the fact that he’s a rich fucking man living in Los Angeles but his wealth is dwindling. The problem is the genre where he’s operating, Sitcom, is a genre of the youth, and he’s getting old. In fact, Varley has this one character, named Bob, that is a pretty good projection of what will happen to Dave in the future. An old man who used to write comedy but has lost all of his sense of humor, and just turned into Gandalf, the wise old man who advise the groups on everything. Except Bob has an eyepatch. And a cane. Oh wait Gandalf has a cane too. I think.

Anyway, the problem with Dave is that in the middle of his success, his wife turned into this caricature of a Hollywood wife who doesn’t care about anything or anyone. Oh no wait she does care about hungry children, she just solves the issue with excessive shopping habits. But really, before all this, her wife is amazing. She can outmaneuvered an Arabian rug dealer, she can cook, she was basically a perfect caricature of a housewife.

Now Dave, who is busy trying to find the next big story, finds himself thrown into a huge government conspiracy in which an ex-military man got shot in his apartment for showing him a satellite image of oil fields around the world getting blown up by a mysterious bacteria.

The bacteria is killing all the oil fields, turning them into a huge ball of fire, and is airborne. Soon, all the oil and natural gas fields around the world would be useless, and before the guy got shot and thrown out the window, the military man, who is a drunk, of course, advised Dave to take care of his family.

At first, Dave is thinking exactly like a character in a book usually thinks about conspiracy. He thinks the guy’s a crank, of course. But the fact that the man got killed, made him believe the accuracy of his story, that the world is indeed, coming to an end.

So dave did follow the man’s advice. He prepared. He bought scooters, bicycles, toilet papers, canned food, and all the things that you need in an apocalyptic world where there’s no electricity. And his daughter found out, his friends found out, they all believe him.

Except for the wife. But no worries. Once the world finally comes to an end, she believed him, and they all realized, once again, how important family is. And so it begins. The journey of Dave and his family against the world. By the way, the wife by now has turned into a caricature of a post-apocalyptic housewife. And the kid, well the kid is nothing interesting either. She just cared about her horse a lot. Still, all these apocalyptic settings, his background as a screenwriter that’s not supposed to know anything about survival, should make all this interesting, right?

Unfortunately, it’s not. As a reader, I see glimpses of drama here and there, but the pacing of the plot got ruined by the very specific details of Los Angeles landscape. I’m sorry, but I don’t care what road is beside which intersection closed to which areas of interest when the main character is literally driving in a Vespa holding a shotgun looking for baddies to pop up. The thrill of that should be highlighted more than anything else.

Yes, we get it, the fact that Los Angeles got ruined is a pretty big deal. Collapsing building, skyscrapers at that, is a fucking big, scary deal that in itself can be the main plot of a story, but this creates an imbalance in the novel itself. Is it the story of Los Angeles, and how the citizens of it deal with the aftermath of an apocalypse, or a story about Dave, the ex-sitcom screenwriter and his way of dealing with the apocalypse?

And the fact that his experience writing sitcom is being used as kind of this Chekov’s gun that helped resolve the ending, is infuriating. Not once in the middle of the novel has the sitcom been described in a meaningful way or used as one of the instruments that helps Dave deal with the apocalypse, but then in the ending suddenly it matters. The way those people who’re trying to judge whether or not Bob & Dave’s Group of Apocalypse Survivors can live in the lake described the plots of some episodes of the Sitcom that Dave wrote is…cringeworthy at the very best.

I know that I’m describing this novel in a very abstract way, but I’ve just finished the book, and really this is an impromptu review. I spend two days non-stop reading it hoping that maybe something would happen. Something exhilarating, something that’s not predictable, something that’s worthy of the setting. But it’s not. What I got is more explanations of what kind of building is on Rodeo Drive and how awful they look now that the world’s gone to shit.

But still, are there any good points about the book? Well, as I’ve said before, it is well written. And by that, i don’t mean the structure, because the structure is typical in its three act nature, and the pacing’s awful, but the way it’s written, I don’t know. It’s indeed a page turner. Varley knows how to build suspense, and keeps your head filled with big expectations of what would happen next.

Unfortunately it just never delivered.

When I first found this book and started reading it, I wonder at the significance of the title. Slow apocalypse. What does that mean, really? An apocalypse is a sudden jerk of unfortunate occurrence that pulls you in its tail. It is surprising, it is non-stop. Until you either die or survive. And by all of that quality, the apocalypse described in this book filled that role perfectly.

But it turns out the slow in Slow Apocalypse doesn’t describe the apocalypse itself. Instead, it described nothing. Yes, I know you expect a grand revelation from me, something smart to conclude this review. But no. Like this book, there’s no grand revelation here, only the message that you should not start a novel when you’re angry and just came home from a Greenpeace meeting.

Privatized ‘Shuttle’ Mass Transport Sucks. Just Don’t Do It.

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English / Writing

So Lyft is in the news, they’re trying out a ‘shuttle’ service that’s basically a private version of mass public transport in some cities in the US. Fixed schedule, fixed routes and fixed fares. They’re doing it with a regular car, so it’s not exactly efficient. It’s glorified carpool.

Now, here’s the funny thing. In Indonesia, these ‘micro’ transport service in which a regular car, typically SUV, is used to carry passengers across a fixed routes with fixed fares, is already in place for years, and years already. It’s called Angkot, short for Angkutan Kota (City Transport). And you know what? They suck. They suck really, really hard.

In fact, they suck so bad that this paragraph from The Verge choked me pretty hard with laughter:

If Uber and Lyft continue to convince more people to share rides and use fixed routes, and the companies’ automatic routing systems grow >more precise, it’s easy to imagine a future where a fleet of minivans or charter buses use Uber and Lyft’s platforms and transport herds of >commuters to and from work every day, alongside subways, buses, dollar vans, and other modes of transportation.

Yeah.

While trying things out are cool, privatized mass transport, especially in a very small scale, just creates waste and worsen traffic jam. In fact, i’ll go out on a limb and declare that the existence of privatized mass public transport is a sign of either failing economy or a failed government.

I honestly pray everyday for us in Indonesia to eliminate these kinds of transportations and just burn all these cars to the ground.

Self-Managed VPN as an Alternative to Paid VPN

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Blurb / English

Ben Brooks wrote:

The only way to now truly maintain internet privacy (once 45 signs this into law) — even at home — is to use a VPN…
That said, there’s only two VPNs I recommend: Cloak, or Private Internet Access (PIA).

If i’m to add something to his list of VPN to use, i’d recommend another approach entirely: self-managed VPN. The way it works is you buy a cheap Virtual Private Server (VPS), or a cloud instance like from Digital Ocean, Vultr or Linode, and install a VPN software like OpenVPN in it, yourself.

There’s some script that makes this process super easy, such as Nyr‘s or Angristan‘s, and you’ll have a VPN up and ready in no time.

There’s some advantage of doing this, and of course, some disadvantage. First advantage is you’ll have even more control of your data. You can make sure you secure your VPS properly, eliminate as much log activity as possible to ensure your data won’t get leaked and sold somehow, and you can get faster connection.

Wait, faster? Yes, faster. Primarily because VPN provider usually buys bandwidth in bulk, but still if it’s popular enough, they might run out of it still in some region. If you use VPS or cloud instance, they typically have better fair-share bandwidth available. Plus you can utilized tools such as MTR or the providers own Looking Glass to make sure that you get the best routing and speed coming down and up from the provider.

Main disadvantage of using a VPN this way is you lose obscurity. VPS gives you a dedicated IPv4 that associates any activity by that IP address to you, while a paid VPN usually shares the IP with a bunch of other users. But if you’re not doing anything criminal, this can actually be an advantage because your IP Address is cleaner.

In my experience, for example, using PIA will ensure you have to fill so many captcha when you access a certain sites, because Cloudflare flagged their IP blocks somehow and for whatever reason. Same case with many sites that have overly aggresive admin, which blocks these known VPN IPs.

Another disadvantage is you won’t be able to get the same user experience of just buying, installing and then get the VPN running in no time. But in my experience the hurdles will only be hard the first time you try to do it all yourself. After that, it’s a much, much better experience overall.

No-Nonsense Guide to SEO Optimization

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Blurb / English

Tania Rascia wrote:

If a website’s aim is to create as many pages as possible with click-bait titles in order to gain ad revenue, it may see some initial relative >success. However, people leaving the site right away (high bounce rate), a lack of people linking to the site (low referrals) and few people >directly visiting the site (low directs) will ultimately negatively factor into search ranking.

Really well-written and sensible approach to SEO is hard to find, in my opinion, because the sector is rife with so called SEO-expert trying to one up each other with bad, outdated practice.

If i see another person trying to get 20 dedicated IPv4 because “i need to build a private blog network and they need to be on their own IP”, i’d shoot myself. Tania has written a very clear and concise guide, and i can attest to the effectiveness of her SEO approach, because it works. I found her blog through a simple google for a very competitive keywords and she appears first.