Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Security Confirmation Bubble

I know, I know, that sounds like the title of an episode of "The Big Bang Theory".

To better understand what I mean by this you first have to understand what a confirmation bubble is. When you have a certain view on a topic, you lean to only accept information that confirms this view. A logical fallacy that can be made worse with the selection of like minded social circles or even more so with Googles search algorithms that tailor search results to ones preferences.

So it's basically a problem securing that you develop blind spots to important information.

With my recent outreach to use more minority operating systems demonstrated to me a very dangerous one. The obliviousness of Apple and Linux users to threads to their systems security, usually combined with scapegoating Windows as the sole problem child. This arrogance pretty much leads to evangelists outright praising their respective systems for how it is not necessary to even think about security - and making their systems a feast for hacks.

You see, obviously people often think of security problems only as viruses and adware. Things that make their presence known pretty fast, and you won't find that many on either Mac OS X and Linux. But while those are pretty nasty for the desktop users, trojans that hijack your system to add part of their computing power to botnets, and part of that combined power is used to automatically hack the next system are IMHO worse.

Actually I lived pretty secure with my windows desktop, always being aware of security risks, but as soon as I had a Linux server directly connected to the internet, it was hacked. Two times actually. The first time a bot found a weakness in a badly configured Samba Server that was accidentally open to the internet, the second time a friendly hacker manipulated my system finding a security whole in a well known Open Source PHP solution. He only changed the starting page and left his contact. And these are the ones I knew about. Actually I stopped to use that machine to use it for anything other than using it as a firewall, and started using a Windows Server for any service I needed.

Sure, each time the problems were not directly related to the operating system, but it didn't automatically secure the system either. The Samba problem was so common that it was one of those selfhacking bots I mentioned, and we quickly found out about it, because it was so active that it used up the full bandwidth and I later learned that my machine hacked others by reviewing the protocols. That thing was badly constructed, while it nailed the hacking part it failed to keep its presence hidden.

Can you see why this Security Confirmation Bubble is so dangerous? It makes people of oblivious to the fact that, while the systems can be very secure, you always need to keep an eye on security, just using a certain operating system doesn't give you a "get out of that hell" card. Espacially Linux, while not so common on the desktop, runs most webservers. Rarely watched closely. Very yummie for hacks, like the Windows Desktop attracts spambots. If you get lazy because everyone tells you how secure your operating systems are and maybe even belittle windows users, in fact, you're not only contributing to your own insecurity, but to those of others as well, open up your system to criminal misuse.

Don't fall for it only because it is so uplifting and comforting. Just don't!


To be able to create iOS and OS X ports I needed a Mac, so I searched for the cheapest one that can still run a current OS X Version and ended up with the mini. Then Gamemaker integrated support for Linux and espacially for Ubuntus shop. And every try to install a virtual computing software on my Windows 8 system failed. My Core2 doesn't support Hyper V for witch windows abandoned the loved Virtual PC, VMWare somehow didn't run and Oracles Virtual Box even produced BSODs (nice touch, on Windows 8 the come with a sad smiley). So I had to create a physical Ubuntu System too. The thought of using it for all kind of servers for development purposes came pretty quick, but when my main system failed I found it to be even well suited for my social activities and office.

So when I planned my triple boot machine I not only did plan the infrastructure on that computer, but a new one involving the whole network. And the more I think of it, now that the triple boot system is ready, the more use I find for the two systems (Ubuntu AND the Mac Mini) that at first seemed so useless and only there for compiling and testing sofware.

The Ubuntu system will work as fileserver (SMB and GIT), Printerserver and Webserver, but the Mac Mini will also attend the party by providing the network access to all cloud-fileservers. Contrary to Linux there are clients available for all that I use (Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft Sky Drive, Ubuntu One) and it is really not neccessary to have each of the five operating systems replicate them on their own.

But the biggest change is not in the background, and for me personally, its kind of a revolution: I will seperate Work and social media and run the later on the Ubuntu system. That will help me to stay focused while sitting on the one workplace and using the Ubuntu desktop, that I so started to like for this tasks. So, beside games, I now prefer a Linux system for everything fun and see the Windows station only as workhorse. That's quite a change for me :-)

Having the windows system free of all that background workload does effect it immense, as I could see yesterday evening, when I logged in to Second Life, and experienced no frameratedrop under the magic 24 FPS, even when I had more than ten avatars in my view.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I did it...

... I built a triple boot Hackintosh (, Windows 8 and Ubuntu 12.04) installation on my workhorse. Does it make sense? Yes, for frontend development, no for pretty much everything else. And so my pride that I managed it is mixed with mourning for a "wasted" workweek. This project was hellish and straining. First of all the Hackintosh installation was neigh impossible until I found out that with this special combination of board and gpu I had to active the onboard VGA graphics to be able to install it. I accidently found out about it when I was ready to give up. Up to that point I tried various bootmedia variants, including one that got me kicked from a very important forum when I mentioned it, and dis - and reassembled the GPU several times. At least, after I finally got it, I knew what two post installation tasks got the system stable and I could go on.

Next was the Windows installation. I bought the Update for about 40 USD last November, and while you could download a complete ISO, I was in for a bad surprise after making a clean install. A clean install didn't accept the update key, you had to install a Windows 7 before. Thankfully I found a small registry hack online the must be done directly after installation, and that came back to bite me, because I had to reinstall it so often. And I was pretty angry about the "Honest Customer paradoxon" here (meaning: As honest customer you get treated like a criminal with a lot of unneccessary, complicated copyprotection, while the pirate gets an easy to use version without all that hassle)

In that order, the final system is Ubuntu, and yes, that one isn't that complicated, but you have to be very carefull with some installation option, and I wasn't the first time, got it wrong the second time, and after reaching my third installation I had to reinstall the others several times, espacially Windows, as that registry hack only worked about half the time.

After the Linux installation you have to repair what seems to be an unholy mess of different partitioning types, but that did go surprisingly well. But there was the last step (or so I thought) of setting the OS X installation the active partition, because there would be a bootloader for all three systems. At first I tried it by the book with Windows. Didn't work, the options were grayed out, even after I activated the Administrator account to do it from there. So I tried Linux again, that system being the swiss army knife of OSes should easily do this task - but it didn't. Well it might be that there is the perfect commandline tool out there to do it, but fdisk warned my that it might mess up that aforemented unholy partitioning table thing. And I tried a desktop - discmanagement software, but that showed no information where it should, so I didn't trust it. Fdisk actually recommended one of the old GNU commandline tools, but its "man"-page was a reminder of the bad old days and did not tell how I could activate a partition, only that it could be done.

But I found a description on how I could make it from... no not the OS X installation, but its installation media, which boots to a configuration desktop that allows you to use a commandline, and there was an fdisk that could handle that complicated matter.

I needed two tries though, because OS-X has a small boot partition and my first try was to activate that, but its really the main partition that you have to activate.

I thought I was finished, but I didn't allow myself to feel too happy, because the whole process had tought me that it ain't over till its over...

... and I found out that I had no bootloader installed. So I installed one, but that one, like the OS-X installation itself, only worked with enabled onboardvga, which I had to decativate for the two other systems, so that too, needed another try (switching from Chameleon to Chimera was what worked out).

And than the final test. I booted to Mac OS X, Ubuntu, no problems, than to Windows 8 - and my PS/2 connected mouse and keyboard where missing (USB did work). Not my precious Windows installation! Again a few restarts to assure myself that I didn't just accidently deactivated something in the bios or destroyd it somehow with that shiny new bootloader but the others worked perfect, and there wasn't even an option in the BIOS that could affect the PS/2 connectors.

So I loaded the chipset drivers and installed them. And then, finally, everything seemed to work out.

But at least I have a very fine system now, and I do not only mean my machine, but the others too. I will configure the standalone Ubuntu as (partially versioning) fileserver, mediaserver and as my permanent access to all that social media. I won't install those on windows this time, hopefully helping me not to get distracted too easily.

Friday, July 12, 2013


The fact that GameMaker wasn't running really put me off, I actually have pretty much used up my will to spent the time learning and administrating instead of being productive, none of which will earn me a living. I found out, that the installation was still on the file system and tried to start it directly, but Windows itself said the software is not for Windows 8 8o. It seemed like the problem was somehow related with the mild changes that lead to a needed reactivation and I thought about completely reinstalling the system. After all, I upgraded a Windows 7 installation which was older now, too, and my "c:" was always running full, because it initially was given only 100 GB and all the reinstallation of software on another drive didn't help there anymore. Doing some research I also found out that my Hardware was Max OS X compatible, so the idea of making a triple boot system (Max OS X Mountain Lion, Ubuntu 12.04 and Windows 8) came up and I actually prepared myself by backing up my data and tried to create a working installation medium. But it didn't work out till evening, when I was too exhausted to make another try, so my Installation was still intact and about 26 hours after my request, Steam finally answered. And their advice worked. I got my GameMaker back. So again I changed my plans, planning on using today to work on the game... only to find that a new feature was missing, and that was one I could use at the core of the game, yet I simply did not have an actual version of GameMaker. I start to hate the fact that I bought GameMaker on Steam. It's not that I cannot really work now, but I still feel challenged and the break in that reinstallation fest was somehow confusing - so I'm really tempted to go through with it first.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Some higher power doesn't want me to make games

Having back my Windows System and swallawing down the anger about the need to reactivate Windows 8 over the phone I thought I could finally go on with the development of a game I have in mind.

No. I cannot.

Hardware Blues

You remember the summer of '13? Ok, Ok, it's still summer technically but this year was unusually cold. Which is, I read, actually a good thing as the wide spread of mobile computing reduced the demand of paper, thus for the first time in at least a century giving the worldwide forests a much needed regrow pause, but also affects the already disturbed climate and thus lead to a very cold year. But suddenly there were a few days in between where the temperature jumped about 15° to 20° (Celsius / Kelvin) and this was, when I learned, that it was a bad idea, when I had a cooler failure last year, to quickly buy a cheap cooler to replace it. The new and cheap cooler couldn't handle the higher temperature, and I used the Mini Mac at the time because the main computer always froze. This lead to many things I wrote about in the last post, like putting the off time to good use and building the Ubuntu PC.

When the heat wave was over, I felt secure again, even doing some stress tests, one of which is entering Second Life. It worked, but I still experienced occasional freezing, and I started to watch the core temperatures. It couldn't be worse, given the least bit of load the temperatures idled around 100°C only a tick more and the system made an emergency stop and froze. So I decided to invest on a new cooler. And this time a really good one please. I broke my headset, too and needed replacement, so I paid my local dealer a visit and nearly my last money.

I decided to take the Skythe Mugen 3.

It had some of the best tests and the architecture made it easy to clean, a feature that couldn't hurt. Yet I had to nearly completely disassemble it to have full access to the mainboard from all sides to install the cooler. So I did it. Now I could see, why I got cooling problems after the heatwave:

Astonishing enough, the CPU was unharmed.

And killed my mainboard. This is actually a first, I never managed to kill a mainboard, even the one that is now in the open computer survived its unassembled state and several moves. Maybe that made me a tad bit too careless. However, that meant I had to order a new board which would take several days to arrive. Pretty handy that I now had two systems at hand that I could use alternatively, even if I couldn't do a lot of things, like development with GameMaker or Visual Studio or simply gaming. Well, I could access Second Life on the Ubuntu system that had my old GeForce 9800 GT in it, and actually the Second Life client worked about as well on my AMD 3800+ at 2Ghz with 2GB as it did on my 2.83Ghz Core2 Quad system with 4GB before I started upgrading that. I was honestly impressed. And the 'feeling' of the Ubuntu desktop was great, responsive, intuitive unlike anything that I had experienced with Linux after about 15 years using various Linux computers as workhorse. I did wet my toes and tried desktop variants, but that never really worked out, even early Ubuntu variants. Now its on a stage I would give an Ubuntu system to a non nerd. And what may be the greatest surprise, it was even better than the Max OS X Lion on the Mac Mini (which is a Core 2 Duo at 2 Ghz with 4GB, but only onboard graphics). I added the 560 GTX OC and a Full HD display from the defunct main system, but at least Second Life wise, it didn't make that much of a difference, there is a point when adding better GPUs doesn't do much more and the 9800 GT seems to be a good fit for that system. Actually, all in all it was so good, that in all those days I had to wait for the mainboard, I didn't switch once to work with the Mac Mini, despite that one having all the commercial software, like Adobe Products and Microsoft Office. But I prefered the use of Open Source software for a long time now, and am used to Libre Office and the Gimp, which run perfectly fine on all three system (which really is a plus for each of them) and used the time to train myself more on Blender, anyway.

Another thing I recognized was that the combination of a 5:4 1280x1024 display on the left with a Full HD display worked better than two Full HD displays. The 5:4 format is ideal for books or websites, wheras I use the right full hd display for the real work. When the "information screen" is to big combined with my workstyle of having a lot of programs open at the same time it gets too crowded, wide (thus away from my main field of view) and distracting.

So after using each system for a while, I can make my final verdict:


  • 1. Windows 7
  • 2. Ubuntu
  • 3. Windows 8 (Microsoft gets worse instead of better :-( )
  • 4. Mac Os X

Software availability

  • 1. Windows (any version)
  • 2. Max Os X
  • 3. Linux
Sadly, this second chart is why I'll never be able to switch completely and might still have qualms about recommending Ubuntu to average Joe, and I don't think this will change anytime soon. Not only is the most software that started out on Linux easily portable and free of political constraints to have it done by the community, even some projects that started out on Linux are now focused on the other two. I'm looking at you, Xamarin!
What I can and will do, is installing an Ubuntu on my main system as a second bootable os. I'm very curious how that will turn out.

It's alive again... and pretty crowded.

Back at my main System. Despite the fact that nearly no part of my main system is still what I once bought as a complete system 5 years ago, with one of the noteable exceptions being the CPU, and it being at least twice as fast now, (a lot more even when it comes to the GPU) and I had no problems with games thus far I begin to feel how its outdated. Well cooled it now runs better than ever, yet e.g. when it runs the Second Life client, its framerate drops significantly sometimes, depending on what visible and how much CPU pre processing is needed. Not stable enough to make Machinimas, a hobby that I actually experimented with and liked, but ultimatly stopped because I couldn get stable 24FPS (espacially with FRAPS running, too).

I plan on purchasing an i5 3770k and a fitting mainboard and ram, and to overclock it, in about two to three months, as my budget has to recover first... or should I go for the Oculus Rift first? Second Life will support it at the end of the 'official' Summer.

Oculus Rift
When I said I'd like an Oculus Rift for Second Life I didn't mean it this way ;-)