Column : Why I still run my own servers.

Apr 04

IT is changing, dramatically so. With the advent of total ubiquity on smartphones and tablets among the general population, the rise of the connected fridge and the smart scale that loves to tweet how fat you are .. the “classic computer paradigm” is slowly changing. Our devices are becoming dumber and dumber and both our data and our services are slowly but surely evaporating into the cloud.

 And still I insist on running some of those servers and services myself. “Why ? “ you ask with raised eyebrows as you randomly upload a selfie to an unknown service from an unknown company. As the file travels towards its mistic location where it will be stored forever, it sheds unwanted complication like “your intellectual property” and any notion of privacy. It’s a cloud service … so it should always work for free, always .. So why run your own server ?

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 Because its FUN.

For one : Tinkering with computers and running your own servers and services is FUN. It stems from the day that computers were built to tinker with and where a combination of a piece of software, a network connection, a spare computer and 3 pots of dark coffee would get you your very first self-hosted webserver. Tinkering around with software and systems and making that very first “connection” to your very own server .. is just plain FUN.

 The chance to learn and understand WHY things work.

The beauty about setting up and running your own servers is that you get a very enlightening insight into how and why things work. It is something you probably never think about when you “check in’ as mayor of the porta-potty around the corder where you work. What data is envolved, how does it get there, who keeps track of it, how does it show up on my mobile device .. what magic oomph loom pa’s need to hold hands and sing koomba-yah in order for all of it to work. You can rest assured that the wonders of trail and error when setting up your own service will teach you a great many deal about why things work. (By showing you over and over how things DON”T work.)

The notion of control.

Every single time Facebook changes its UI, the internet moans under the weight of millions voicing their complaints on how they want “The old Facebook” back. What many people continue to forget is that, when it comes to “free cloud services” .. you aren’t their client , you are their product. They make money by bouncing adds of your screen or selling your personal information and interactions to some very very clever marketeers. If the “free cloud service” is no longer profitable they can either start to charge you money or go out of business altogether. When they decide its time to bring in a feature that would make Bonzi Buddy* appear as your best friend (* check your internet cultural history you noobies) , you have ZERO control.

The right to privacy.

Privacy is a buzzword these days so lets not pretend that the files you store on dropbox contain the secret plans for an orbital death ray satellite. I’m not worried about government snoops sniffing my files, as long as they have due cause to do so. I’m more worried about these so-called ‘free services” selling my data (and my content) to whoever they want to. It might be in their “EULA’s”, but nobody reads those anyway.

 So I love to run my self hosted version of Dropbox using the Bittorrent protocol. Its fun to set up, there are no data limits, nobody is snooping my files (that I know of) and I am in total and complete control of what is going on.

 Ok , I have to admit, if the tech goes POOP .. it goes POOP and I am the one to fix it. There is not tech support , there is no hotline to call ( Well , there is , but since you will be calling yourself you will get a busy tone) It does mean that you might have to spend many an hour repairing an unforeseen issue. But think of it this way .. every sigh of frustration is a pebble on the road of knowledge (mostly knowledge on how NOT to do things).

Thus I embrace the possibility of running my own servers; not because i HAVE to.. but because I still can.

 

 

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Server week : Trust no-one with Owncloud.

Apr 03

Dropbox changed its terms of service so they can give you data to the Feds if they just ask for it, Ubuntu shuts down the online fileservice “Ubuntu One” : Who can you  trust these days ? The great thing with cloud solutions is that they are on a server far far away, most of them are free and you never have to maintain them. The downside is that they are on a server far far away, they are free and you cannot maintain them. We give up a certain level of control for the convenience of the cloud. It would be of course far nicer if you had a service that offered you all the luxury of the products mentioned above .. but gave you full control, absolute privacy and a completely controlled solution. (and free ! It has to be free).

oc5files

Do not fear : Owncloud is here.

Owncloud is a self hosted cloud solution that gives you the luxury of the cloud in the privacy of your own home (or on your own hosted environment). Its a cross platform webservice that gives you the ability to store files in the “cloud” and access them from anywhere, Sync those files with your desktop (like Dropbox) You can share your files with friends and access them using mobile clients on Android and IOS devices or a simple browser window.

Don’t trust the cloud with your Calendar and contacts ? Owncloud takes care of that too. Manage your contacts and calendars straight from Owncloud or sync them up with your mobile devices using open standards like .vcard and caldav. 

Tired of the tracks on Groovebox or spotify ? Would you like to stream your music (and movies) from your own hard drive at home ? Owncloud even has an answer for that. The built in media player lets you access your library from anywhere as long as you sport at least a browser (AND some underwear .. Owncloud is classy like that).

Want to tie all of your different cloud services together ? Owncloud supports connecting external storage to the service (like network and usb drives) but can also connect to Dropbox and Google Docs, offering ALL those files up in one simple interface.

So what does it take ? 

Installing Owncloud is pretty simple. All you need is a linux server and you can choose to install Owncloud either from the repositories (if you are using Ubuntu or Debian) or you can go and download version 6 straight from their website. 

Owncloud is based on a web based server so you can access everything from port 80 and add some security by choosing to go for https to do your authentication (highly recommended).  You can run it on your server at home OR on a webspace you rented somewhere (or if you are really lucking on your own hosted server in some datacenter). You don’t need a lot of power, but Owncloud does need some ram and some cpu power if it is going to manage and index thousands of files for you.

So how do I do it.

Find out more.

In all , Owncloud is a very powerful solution when it comes to hosting stuff yourself. It has come a long way since version 6 and I have been a big fan of the convenience, the cross platform compatible-ness (is that a word ?) and the sheer power of integrating multiple storage locations (usb drives, network drives, cloud storage) to ONE single web interface. Try it .. you’ll be on cloud 9.

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Server Week: What is OSX Server and Why Would a Home User Need One ?

Apr 02

*By guestblogger Todd Oldhoff *

As someone who teaches about using OS X Server I get a lot of questions from home users about why they would even need a server in the first place. Most people perceive that servers are for big business operations. They are huge machines that sit in a dedicated room and are monitored by IT professionals who make sure everything is running smoothly and fix things when they break down. The whole process seems overwhelming and most feel they lack the expertise and spare room to even consider running a server. So why would a home user need to run it in the first place?

I want to start by saying this is a great question to ask and one that we should ask not only as it relates to servers but all of the software we use. If you don’t have a real need for an application you should just avoid it as it will only clutter up your hard drive and cost you money to purchase. Also, if at the end of this post you still don’t see the need for running a server than don’t do it. This article is designed to help you see what a server could do for you so you can truly determine whether the features fit any of your needs. So let’s get started with why you might want to run a server by looking at the hardware requirements.

One of the myths most people have about servers is they are huge machines that need dedicated rooms to run. The beauty of our current place in history is that servers can be run on very small hardware that won’t take up more than the size of a shoe box on your shelf depending on your needs. You can run OS X Server on a Mac Mini and have plenty of power for your home environment. In fact I would recommend using a Mini for home use because of the power benefits and it’s small size. I would however recommend getting at least 8GB of RAM and, if you can swing it, 16GB. With that you should be in great shape to run OS X Server. But server can also run on any Mac you have in the house so don’t feel like you have to purchase a new Mac to run server (unless of course your Mac is too old to run Mavericks). As long as you plan on leaving your server on and not move it around, you could even use a laptop.

Now that we have the hardware issue out of the way, let’s look at some of the benefits of running a server in a home environment. Each of these things should give you a good idea if Server is for you:

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 Wireless Time Machine Back Ups

If you don’t happen to have a Time Capsule or would rather have your storage space outside your router, you are out of luck when it comes to wireless Time Machine backups. Yes you could do some things to try to get it to work with an Airport Extreme Base Station with an attached drive but things could get corrupted and its not supported by Apple. With OS X Server you can designate any drive connected to your Mac Server to serve as a back up disk for Time Machine and the best part is that it is supported by Apple.

 Your Own VPN Service

With most of us spending a lot of time on unsecured public networks, fear of data being stolen over the air is a real concern. VPN creates an encrypted connection to the internet and protects what is sent and received over the air. OS X Server has a built in VPN service that you can use on all of your devices to make your remote web access secure.

Network Accounts

With most of us having multiple computers at home with multiple users wanting to access their stuff on those computers having the ability for any user to log into any computer on your network to access their files and desktop is a much needed service. With OS X Server you can create your own network accounts and host your user’s home folders on the server so they can access their own desktop and files on any Mac in the house. This really saves arguments over who gets what computer in the house. If you have kids you know what I mean!

 File Server

One of the first things most people think about when it comes to a server is gaining access to files when they are away from their main Mac and outside their network. With a server, you can designate any folders or drives as accessible outside your network and set who can access what files and folders.

 Manage Multiple Devices

Most homes have become mini corporate environments with multiple Macs and iOS devices. Managing all of those devices can be tedious and difficult to set up and maintain. With OS X Server you can manage all of your Macs and iOS Devices from a simple web interface and push changes over the air to your devices as groups or individual device profiles making managing devices a lot easier.

 Personal iCloud Service

For some people the idea of having all of their personal information online in the cloud somewhere makes them uneasy. What happens if a security breach happens with the service you are using? Instead of having those things on a hosted service, they may want to manage their own calendar, contact, iMessage and Mail Server. For those with kids this is a great way to help them get their feet wet in some of these services while you control what they can can’t see or do. Built into OS X Server are services to that allow you to manage these things and then sync your settings to all of your Apple devices.

 Personal Web Server

Built into OS X Server is a web server complete with a built in Wiki website that you can customize. You can also host your own websites with OS X Server though there are some challenges for home users depending on your ISP service and how they feel about home users hosting websites. But even with that limitation you could host an in-house only website that your family uses on your home network only to share things. Another great way to get the kids used to using a website and publishing to it in a safe environment.

 As you can see there are a lot of different uses for OS X Server for home users. If you saw anything in there that you could take advantage of, then OS X Server is for you. You don’t have to use every service to run server but can pick and choose what works best for you. For those of you that like step by step instructions on how to set all of this up, I have a Youtube Channel where I do just that. You can check out more information on my website or on my Youtube Channel. If you choose to get started and get stuck along the way feel free to send me an email or leave a comment.

 About Todd.

Todd Olthoff is a Mac enthusiast who loves to pass on what he has learned to others. He regularly produces screencast tutorials on his website and on his Youtube Channel. He is also a regular contributing screencaster for ScreenCastsOnline and for MacStadium a Mac colocation company.

 Links.

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Server week : The essential SSH Server.

Mar 18

This week in “Server week” we are going to set up a variety of servers that allow you to do a variety of things. One of the most basic and versatile server you can set up must be the SSH Server. Long time fans probably know that the SSH server is the base ingredient for a lot of fun stuff you can do. For example.

  • Transfer files over the internet.
  • Work with command line applications from a remote computer.
  • Tunnel your browser traffic through your own server to stop nosy network admins.
  • Connect to your home network with a VPN connection.

These are just a couple of things you can do, but before you can do that, you will need the basic ingredient : Let’s set up an SSH Server.

MOTD_TAIL

Required ingredients.

  • Debian based Linux distribution : ( you can do it with a redhat based one too, but we use a debian based one for the tutorial)
  • Static ip for your Linux distribution.
  • Connection to the internet.
  • If you don’t have a static IP : A dynamic DNS service like opendns or Dyndns.
  • An open port on your router forwarded to your linux machine.

Let’s get cooking.

  • Open up a terminal on your linux machine and type : sudo apt-get install openssh-server
  • After the server is installed, connect to it from a remote machine using a terminal application like Putty (for Windows) Secure Shell (for the Chromebooks) or from the terminal on other Mac and Linux machines.
  • Connect to your Linux server with the command : ssh yourusername@theipofyourserver

And starting out that is ALL you need to do. If you want to do this from the internet you need to forward the correct port (The standard port is Port 22) from your router to your linux machine so you can make it accessible from the internet.

Lets make it pretty.

Lets make it secure.

  • SSH servers run standard on port 22, so a lot of scriptkiddies will go around the internet and “knock” on your port 22 to see if there is a server there. We are going to “obscure” the location of your SSH server a little by changing the default portnumber (Remember you also need to adjust this on your server) Follow THIS tutorial to get you started.
  • Next time you connect remember to connect with ssh -p portnumberyouchose yourusername@theipofyourserver
  • If you want to get rid of entering your password when you connect you can log in using secure SSH keys. Its a little bit on the advanced geeky side but it DOES keep your machine extremely secure : Only a machine with a unique digital fingerprint can connect using this method : Here is a good tutorial.

Lets start using it.

The SSH server offers you a variety of functionalities we talked about in previous blogposts. We will line up the best uses for SSH here.

These are just a couple of examples of what you can do over this very powerful little SSH connection. Remember always to use strong passwords and keep your server up to date.  Have fun ! 

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Server week : Why not “roll your own private little cloud”.

Mar 10

Cloud services. We love them ! All you need to do is hand over your email address, use the same password you have everywhere and sito presto : Before you know it you are using yet another free service that does whatever you require. From handling your email, to storing your documents, from chatting with your friends to keeping track of all the Care-Bear stuff you track on line .. there is a cloud service for everything.

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We are not always the customer, sometimes we are the product.

What most of us forget is that, unless you are paying for said service, you are not a customer, but a product. If your free cloud service has any plans about staying in business and paying that giant hosting bill for that ‘free storage’, it’ll better have a business plan. Most cloud services make money by selling you adds that you click on. The people who PLACE the adds are the actual customers of the service ..  YOU .. are the product. This might not be true with a paid service ( Another way of working for a cloud service might be to get you hooked with a free account and then make you UPGRADE into a subscription plan). So if you are using that favourite cloud service of yours, ask yourself : Am I ok with being “The Product” ?

Just “Who IS” the cloud ?

Behind every fancy logo or snazzy name is a company. That company can be  a multi brazillian dollar company who buys up instant messaging clients for sixteen billion the way you buy new socks. It might also be two crummy guys sitting in their moms basement remote controlling their servers somewhere else. You  only see the flashy logo,  you never read the terms of service (just click agree-agree-agree) and have no idea of who might be looking at your data. Who knows you may have signed over the creative rights of your summer snapshots to the cloud company that turns it into a “Free online picture-slideshow”.. because you never read the terms of service.  And for the sake of argument : What if there is a problem you can’t fix ? Who are you gonna call … Chances are you will probably get to talk to the REAL Ghostbusters before you get a living person on the other end of the line at your “free cloud service”.  So are you safe ? Is the data yours ? What happens if the bubble bursts and the service goes away  ? 

So what if you rolled your own ?

If you make it really simple you can say that cloud services are just servers running on applications. ( But they are actually spread out on servers all over the world and are optimised for coping with a LOT of simultaneous users). But what if you don’t need that ? What if its just you and your dog using them ? Then you could basically run them yourself right ?  The answer is : YES. It takes some tinkering and having at least one machine that is online for most of the time to make sure your “private cloud” is accessible but aside from a little patience, a spare machine and an internet connection, its about ALL you need.

I don’t trust cloudy skies.

This week we boldly choose to chose “DISAGREE” on the terms of service of the cloud providers, we decide NOT to trust their free business model and we venture out on our own little geeky adventure : Rolling our own private cloud. The luxury of a cloud service, but being run on your own hardware, in your own home (or on YOUR webspace) with YOU in control. We will try to show you some great examples of just how much fun you can have while being your personal cloud provider. Most if not all services we will setup can be hosted on a Linux virtual machine and are accessible from any operating system (or device) that is capable of connecting to the internet.

Enjoy.

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Google Hacking Week : Grab juicy info with the right search query.

Feb 28

So we showed you how powerful a good Google search could be this week. Time to turn to the dark side and give you some examples of how hackers can use these skills to get to some pretty scary things. To create a dangerous situation where the wrong information can fall into the wrong hands, you need 2 ingredients. Somebody who is stupid enough to put it online, and somebody who is clever enough to find it. Below are some pretty creepy examples of how some Google dorks spill some information that was supposed to be private.

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Some juicy searches.

Some people write down their domain registration information in a .doc file .. and then put it on the internet. Whoever can put two and two together .. can steal their domain.

  • filetype:docx Domain Registrar $user $pass

How about finding product licence files for the Avast antivirus program ? Some of them are just up for grabs.

  •  

    filetype:avastlic

How about we go searching for a randomly published list of phonenumbers.

  • allinurl:phonenumbers filetype:xls

Search for random resume’s that candidates (or their employees) put online.

  • inurl:Curriculum Vitae filetype:pdf

How about some “Confidential Salary” documents that people put online. (we stood in awe at the first hit )

  • ext:(doc | pdf | xls | txt | ps | rtf | odt | sxw | psw | ppt | pps | xml) (intext:confidential salary | intext:”budget approved”) inurl:confidential

Or take a peek at people’s random downloaded hotmail emails. 

  • inurl:getmsg.html intitle:hotmail

Its a little bit of history .. but how about a random netscape browser history file. (we giggled at THIS one)

  • inurl:netscape.hst

And when combining this generic search query for root directories of certain FTP servers with a certain domain .. you can find out a lot. If you use it as listed below .. its just an interesting way to browse random file directories.

  • intitle:”FTP root at”

Msn messenger does not exist anymore, but there are plenty of contact lists well stocked with juicy email addresses up for grabs.

  • filetype:ctt “msn”

And the list goes on and on and on. Now, standing by themselves the Google searches above are quite harmless. They are too generic to do any harm and are only good for a chuckle. The dangerous part begins when these queries are targeted at a certain person, site our domain. Armed with ONLY their browser and an internet connection, the wrong people can find out all the right things they need to know to make you / your company / your website have a really bad day. Knowledge is power and it is also ambivalent. It can be used for good and for evil… So are you SURE that there is not digital flotsam with your username/passwords floating around on the internet ? Because once Google indexes it .. anybody with the right skills can find it.

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Google Hacking Week : Find webcams, mediacenters and more with Inurl

Feb 27

Today on our Google Hacking week, we continue to use the Google search engine as a source for interesting information. In our  previous posts we talked about finding and downloading certain kinds of files but today we are on the lookout for “juicy devices”. 

The theory is quite simple : Most appliances like webcams, routers, copiers and more have web interfaces. A lot of different applications and services can also be controlled by a web interface. It’s easy and convenient when you can use the browser on your computer to configure and watch your webcam or change settings on your router while on your local lan. But what if those devices are hooked up directly to the internet ? 

Any device that gets connected directly to the internet is at some point scanned and indexed by Google and if you enter the right search term you will be able to find it. The way we are looking for those devices and services today is by using the INURL option. Some web interfaces (to your router or webcam) have a very specific way their URL looks. By searching for those specific url types with the INURL option.. you can find some very cool stuff. If people have done their homework most of these services will be blocked by a unique login or password. But some people just use the default password … or even none at all.

Let us take you an a walk through the net with some very specific INURL Google Dorks.

  • inurl:ViewerFrame?Mode= 
    • This one will get you some interesting webcams (some you can even control with your mouse). Look around and see if you can find the Giraffe Cam.
  • inurl:view/view.shtml
    • More network camera’s here. This one is in some dorm/college. You can control the zoom and the direction of the camera.
  • inurl:”:10000″ intext:”webmin”
    • Remember we talked about WEBMIN ? This will give you a list of all webmin servers connected directly to the internet. most of them are protected by a password (we hope) .. but common usernames like ROOT and some generic passwords might get you in. 
  • inurl:”32400/web/index.html#!/dashboard”
    • This will get you a list of PLEX media servers where people can store music and movies to watch on any device (even across the internet). Most of them are locked down with a login/password. Some of them … are not. Happy streaming.

webvammies

So you see : there are quite a few webservices out there that are inadvertently open to the indexing power of Google. Some clever searching and you can find them.

We close off by going by to our camera in the student dorm. Where is this ?  A simple ping of the url gives us the following IP :  138.25.6.37 and by going to Whereisthisip.net we find out that its Sydney Australia. Its THAT simple.

Puzzling information together.

This might all look like fun and games, but badly secured devices are dangerous. Whether you have weirdo’s peeking through your accidentally-publicly-connected Ip camera, or random people printing out documents on your www-connected printer.. its never good. Using the Domain name, the IP and the registration information of the domain people can quickly find out where and even WHO you are. If you skip good security and don’t use passwords (or default passwords) .. it does not bode well for you. Hackers even use the INURL search to find specific webservers/services with vulnerabilities. All they then need to do is run some code to take advantage of the exploit .. and they are in. Hackers don’t NEED to search for your open Webmin server with the buggy (and vulnerable) version of the http code .. Google did it for them.

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Google Hacking week : Plunder a site’s MP3′s, PDF’s and more.

Feb 26

In day two of our Google Hacking Week we are going to combine an interesting Google search query (or Google Dork) with a command line command to find AND download any file type you want.

Find the storage room in the back of the store.

Websites on the net consist of more then just webpages with information. They also links to files and folders containting interesting information like PDF’s MP3′s and more. Most of the time these files aren’t ‘visible’ when you visit a specific site but our little friends, the Google Search Bots, DO index them. All you need is the right string to find them.

  • intitle: “index of” <filetypehere> <title/genre/artist>

This search query will tell Google to go look for pages with the title “index of”. These pages usually don’t contain a lot of text, but instead contain links to folders and files.   Since you are looking for a specific type of file (like for example mp3′s, Pdf’s or something else) you also can add this to the query. Finally you might be looking for mp3′s of Hanna Montana or Tango’s (I don’t know what you like) : That can also be added to the search string. In the end it will look something like this.

  • intitle: “index of” mp3 acdc
  • intitle: “index of” pdf bookkeeping
  • intitle: “index of” epub scott sigler

So using these queries you might find a real treasure-trove of files and info to download. Some of them might even be behind a login/password page (or even a pay wall) but when the web masters don’t do their homework right .. you can find the ‘good stuff’ this way. 

Download

So download them one by one ? 

If you are just looking for one specific file you can use your browser to find and download it. If you want to download the ENTIRE collection of files on that page .. you need the power of a command line tool called WGET. 

Wget can be found on the command line of both Linux, Mac and even Windows machines. Not all the advanced ‘switches’ we give you in this command below might work on Windows, but you can give it a try. The command is

  • wget -r -l1 -H -t1 -nd -N -np -A.<.filetype> -erobots=off <url of website>

Replace <filetype> with the type of file you want to download ( .mp3, .pdf, .epub) and <url of website> with the website’s url you found using the Google search. Completed the command might look something like this.

  • wget -r -l1 -H -t1 -nd -N -np -A.<.mp3> -erobots=off http://tiobiloute59.free.fr/tiesto/

The download is RECURSIVE, so it “deep dives” into all the folders. Beware : This can get you a LOT of data. So make sure you have the bandwidth and the storage capacity before you start sucking down the internet. Good Luck ! 

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Google hacking week : Using Google to “Hack” stuff.

Feb 24

This week it’s ‘Google hacking week’ on Knightwise.com where we are going to show you some fun and interesting things you can do with Google. We sometimes forget that Google’s main mission is to “index the information of the world” and this means that the Google “bots” (little search and index programs) constantly crawl the internet in their never ending quest to gather information and index it in the massive Google database.

google_hack1

The end result is that if you type stuff into Google’s search bar like ” My Little Pownie ” it will cross reference your search with its massive database and bring back some results you can click on. Although searches like these make up 99% of what Google needs to do all day long .. its only the tip of the iceberg of what Google can REALLY do.

If you play your cards right and ask Google the right questions you can find out a whole lot more. And sometimes you will even find stuff that was not meant to be found. You would be amazed at what people throw online (and forget about). Google quietly indexes it all and you have just one thing to do … ask the right questions. 

This weeks articles have nothing to do with “Hacking Google” (good luck with that if you want to try) It’s more about realising the power of the biggest search engine in the world … and the blatant disregard for security that people can have when they put stuff online that was never supposed to be found. Stand by as we teach you some interesting Google Search ‘operators’ as they are called. 

We are going to kick you off with a nice examples of how you can use a modified Google search string to find some interesting stuff. Later on in the week we will explain the different google “operators” and how you can combine them to find cool stuff. 

Here is a very simple one to get you started : Copy and past the search query below into the google search box … and browse random peoples lives by peeking at their iPhone backups. This is not a hack. This is an indexation of information put online BY USERS, indexed by Google .. and found by you.

intitle:”index of” inurl:”iphone”

 

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Column : To the fanboys : Be free.

Feb 23

So here’s to the fanboys.
At the end of switch week, where we gave you a series of articles on how to “move out” of the Apple walled garden and onto a more open and cross platform plain, its time for a good old fashion rant against all brand fanboys. Knightwise.com is a website whose core belief is in a cross platform technology world. We are geared towards those who do not acknowledge the word ‘OR’ when it comes to the choice between one technological solution versus the other. As a result our audience consists of smart people who centre their technological lifestyle around their own needs and believe that multiple brands, operating systems, devices and technological solutions can make up their techno-space. Thus I have the privilege of interacting with a broad scope communities spread out over a wide range of operating systems, platforms and brands. Needless to say : Not all members of those community have the same broad-minded approach to a cross platform lifestyle. To each his own I say .. but next time you encounter one of those people, you might want to steal a couple of random thoughts that I have in my head when I encounter .. the fanboys.

original

To those who have one option on their multiple choice shopping list. (The Mono-Choosers)

Dear Apple/Samsung/Hp/Lenovo/Linux/… enthusiast who ONLY buys one specific brand or vouches to buy/use NOTHING ELSE in the future.
First of all : I applaud you. For your loyalty, your consistency and your ability to see into the future. As I patiently hear you wax nostalgically about the first time you bought a product from brand X it reminds me of people who have just encountered a near death experience. Whatever happened at the checkout counter of that store when you purchased your first product of brand X, must have clearly overshadowed all other milestones in your life. Forget the miraculous birth of your first born on the hard shoulder of the snowed in free way, never mind the day you met the love of your life and lets not start about the day you got married. They all pale in comparison to that life changing moment where an everlasting bond was forged between you and your favourite brand. Ever since you have answered every possible technological question with a product from your favourite brand. Never mind if it would actually do what you wanted it to do or required 15 workarounds : You chose your brand for there is nothing better ! I admire your skill of doing a broad market analyses of all competing products and (seemingly at the speed of light) reach the conclusion that they all suck donkey balls in comparison to ‘your precious’. But not only am I bedazzled by your loyalty (you buy EVERYTHING product X produces whether or not you use/need it) and your ability to declare product/brand X victorious over everything else in a flash .. there is more : You appear to be a visionary who can clearly see into a fast moving industries future as you prophesize that you ” Will never need buy anything else ” then product/brand X because it is and will always be superior. I kneel down before you in pure admiration and point you towards the high spires of wall street .. for your vision of the market is the one true vision and should inspire all stockbrokers to buy all the stocks of your product X. Since your unwavering devotion in purchasing it, your assessment of its superiority and your visions of its ever ruling victory .. shall lead them all to infinite wealth.

To those who who post crap about any other operating system/brand/product aside from their own. (The Rediculators)

To those who think that a wallpaper of a Penguin peeing on a Windows logo is cool. For those of you who love to compare unfounded arguments about the vulnerability of operating system X with equally unfounded arguments about total and complete stability/security of your system of choice. To those who still feel the urge to snicker like 10 year olds when saying “Winblows” and to the others equally juvenile. I wish I could call you Trolls. Trolls troll the internet (that’s why we call them trolls) with one purpose : To piss people off for the sheer joy of it. With you it is different. Your attempts at brand/product/system propaganda remind us of our days in kindergarten where witty wordplay like ‘Knightwise – Sheitwise’ was still considered the absolute pinnacle in classroom politics. I resist the urge to ask you if you ever CONSIDERED using/investigating the ‘competition’. I am afraid you will make funny posters of me being sodomised by your favourite brands avatar.

To those who turn it into a religion. (The Flock)

I resist the urge to vomit when I hear that you have spent a whole day of your holiday overseas to visit the “store” of your favourite brand in city XYZ. I’m puzzled what you would actually DO there since you have already purchased every possible item of brand X a long time ago. Clearly a sceptical visit to the store with the intention of possibly buying or comparing a product was not on your agenda. To me it seemed like it was more of a religious experience. As you dribble enthusiastically  about brand/platform X, I classify your as a “mono-chooser” (see rant above) and forgo the urge to argue. Your enthusiasm however does not end there. Mere (distorted) reality is just a stepping stone for your next enthusiastic rant about the near divinity of your products creator. History always agrees with the victors but your view on the past history of your favourite brand seems to be very very much tainted in its favour. While your face starts to flush red, your tirade seems to become that of a TV-preacher on a Sunday morning. The drops of your spittle lash out as you condemn all non-consumers of your beloved brand to digital purgatory. You scare me as you  swing your devoted product around in your right hand like some kind of holy scripture. Desperate not to see you have a cardiac arrest halfway through your sermon, I raise my finger and try to point out that “It’s a store : not a church. Its a product, not a religion”‘. Your eyes narrow and I can clearly smell that fire and brimstone is upon me. The last words I can comprehend are “Blasphemy” and “Non-believer” before I escape into the digital atheism called ‘freedom of choice’.

To those who think technology is fashion. (The Cattle)

Remember the 90′s ? When you walked around in those cool buffalo shoes with the platform soles ? Yes : You looked like a total idiot and nearly broke your neck while rushing downstairs to open the front door .. but you were cool .. right ? Its good to see you have not changed and still run along happily with the herd. Now you clutch your phone/laptop/tablet from brand X to your chest not as a result of an informed decision but rather because “all the cool kids have them”. Aside from playing Flappy bird your expensive smartphone has no specific purpose aside from sending text messages. You still have your default out-of-the-box ringtones and the option to turn of keyboard sounds appears to elude you. In short : You are not in touch with the technology you own for you see it only as a fashion accessory. The 1500 dollar Facebook machine you call a laptop has not even spiked above 10% cpu usage but it DOES gets you in line with all the cool kids at Starbucks. Fashion is however fickle and pretty soon the cool crowd will move to another brand/product/platform and then the geeks will have their sweet revenge. I predict you will need to  offload your overpowered machine onto craigslist and get a ridiculously low offer. I also know that you will take it :  Because the followers of fashion don’t know anything about the technology they are using.. even if their life depended on it. Fools and their money must be parted.

To those who don’t have a clue. (The Clueless)

My heart bleeds as I see you browse the shelves of the local department store. Your eyes glazed over as you look upon rows and rows of boxes of all the different brands and products that make up the world of consumer technology today. You are out shopping for your first smartphone because you accidentally dropped your Nokia 3220 on the sidewalk yesterday. Construction workers are currently patching up the massive hole in said sidewalk (your Nokia is fine) and you still need to find a new smartphone. Brands, specifications, screensizes … it could have been written in Klingon for all you care. You do not have a clue.. but at least .. you have a choice.

To those with a brain.

What those who are clueless and what those who are ‘in the know’ have in common is this : You have the freedom of choice. Try to see yourself, your requirements, your personal taste and your budget as the very pinnacle of your technological existence. You are wise (or ignorant) enough to realise that you can choose anything you want to. You choose with your dollars and let brands and products fight and compete for the highest amount of value for the lowest price. You have no shame to switch back from an Android phone to a Windows Tablet. You even have been known to mix it up. To find technological solutions across different brands and platforms and integrate them in your life. You have come to the point that your terms are not dicated by brands or advertising .. you make your own choice to a a “cross platform geek” who loves to slide from brand to brand and from OS to OS. You have a choice .. and you are smart. (and that is exactly why you are reading this blog :) )

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