Be Paranoid About Your Data

Last week wasn’t a very good week.  Over the weekend the hard drive on my iMac failed and by failing Mac OS X said it couldn’t repair the drive so it came up read only mode.  So I did the sensible thing and copied the entire contents to my external Drobo (essentially striped RAID).

Then Monday morning the Drobo wouldn’t boot up.  It would just do a continuous boot and restart.  Not good, but at the end of the day all of our most important stuff, the source code for projects, is stored on a commercial source code hosting service.  In case of theft or disaster of my equipment I’m only down as long as it takes me to buy a new computer and download the repositories.

The Mac hard drive was replaced by Monday night and by Monday afternoon Drobo tech support had the Drobo back up and running.  They didn’t give a reason but I suspect that because the Mac had hard crashed a few times (due to the bad drive) it got into a state that it didn’t know how to recover from.  But it works and I didn’t lose any data.

Tuesday when things started to go back to normal we couldn’t reach our source code hosting service, Code Spaces.  On Twitter they said they were experiencing a DDOS attack and I didn’t worry to much about it.  They’re the experts, right?

By Wednesday they still weren’t back up.  A little concerned I went to their website and found the message that you never want to hear.  They accounts had been hacked and ALL of their repositories had been deleted.  Oh, and pretty much immediately they are ceasing operations as a company.  You can read more about it at http://www.codespaces.com and http://www.electronista.com/articles/14/06/18/hosting.company.returning.what.data.it.has.left.financially.crippled.by.attack/

So much for the offsite backups.  The fact that the backups could be accessed through their Amazon Web Services account should give anyone pause for concern.  Is your web services company really paranoid enough to protect your data?

I know more than a few people have given Xojo some grief that their security for Xojo Cloud is over the top.  Maybe it is, but then you hear stories like this and you start to wonder if maybe being overly paranoid is a good thing.

So here is my advice.  Have multiple sources of backups.  Keep one source in a safety deposit box and update it regularly.  Use a commercial host that you trust.  There’s no guarantee they they won’t be the next Code Spaces and get hacked but hopefully this incident was a warning to them to be more paranoid and strengthen their security procedures.

I know of developers that backup everything to a thumb drive on their keyring.  I’m not sure that’s entirely secure but if that makes them feel better so be it.  At least their source code is always with them.

While last week was not a good week at least I’m learning to be even more paranoid about my data.  Being paranoid about your data is a good thing.

BKeeney Briefs RSS Feed

A while back I switched themes to the blog and the automatic RSS feed button/notice isn’t showing up in some browsers.  Since this is a WordPress site it’s built-in even if the browser isn’t supportive.  Use http://www.bkeeneybriefs.com/feed/ to get the RSS feed  to your favorite RSS reader.

Since it’s no longer built into Safari or Apple Mail I am now using the free version of NetNewsWire http://netnewswireapp.com.  It does the job I need it to do.

What are you using for RSS feeds?  Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS, Android, and Windows Phone?

Real Software Website Hacked

I was told this morning that the Real Software/Xojo website was hacked.  The timing sucks simply because all of their engineering staff is in Florida at the Xojo Developer Conference.

Xojo already had plans to migrate to their new Xojo Cloud servers as part of their one-click hosting solution, ironically, for better security.  Last night the Xojo engineers started that migration early.  As I write this they are still in that transition.

I was told that RS stores no credit card data nor other personal data either other than username and password.  Either way, you should change your password.  I’m sure you’ve heard this a hundred times before but you should not share usernames and passwords among websites.

Having gone through this myself in the not too recent past I feel for them.  The web is a dangerous place.

More information on their blog at http://www.realsoftwareblog.com/2013/04/our-servers-are-down-for-security-update.html

I Do Not Recommend MyHosting.com

As many of you know, I switched from a shared host that was I very happy with (BlueHost.com if you care) to a VPS (Virtual Private Server) so that I could run Web Edition apps (without fear of getting booted off for an app that took down an entire server) and get more speed from my website.  After 3 or 4 people were streaming videos the whole site become practically unusable and that’s the big drawback of using a shared web host – your server might have a thousand websites all clamoring for server processor attention at any given time.  So I switched.

I did my research and looked around and got recommendations.  I was settled on one and called and they called back a day later.  That was no good.  I called choice #2 and after a single, disastrous phone call with their tech support I decided to go to choice #3 which was MyHosting.com for their VPS package.  I went with them because I called tech support and got a real human being who was very helpful (and answered the question correctly).  So I went with them.

Unfortunately, since then I’ve had horrible tech support.  It took two weeks of tech support to resolve an issue with ordering (yes, just ordering) an SSL certificate.  It’s taken three weeks of going back and forth for them to acknowledge that the mail server wasn’t working right (this is after a very long-time client had emails bounce).  The latest round has taken over week of getting Spam Assassin installed on the server (again some ordering/billing issue) and the damn thing doesn’t even work.  I had one issue early on where the technician actually gave me the wrong instructions and caused my entire domain to be unavailable over a weekend.  So collectively I’ve had a very bad experience.

I should have learned my lesson years ago.  I used MyHosting at one point for my shared hosting.  Again, friendly, very polite people, but their tech support just wasn’t very good and I was spending too much time worrying and fretting over my website.

So I’m on the hunt again for a good, friendly, and useful VPS.  I don’t have the time to muck around with my web server for days on end as I have with MyHosting – I have a business to attend to.  At this point, I’d ideally love for someone to just switch all three of my domains over to their system and just “get ‘er done” if you’ll pardon the colloquialism.

So I’m looking for recommendations.  Don’t recommend one unless you have are absolutely thrilled with them.  Price is always an issue but frankly I just want the damn thing to work and if I do have a problem I want to call and be able to talk to a human being that knows the subject material rather than reading from a script.  The reason I mentioned BlueHost above is that I loved their shared hosting AND their tech support was always helpful – always.  And I used them for five separate websites (and still use them).  Too bad they don’t do VPS.  🙁

 

Google Support Not So Supportive

There’s been a lot of posts recently about Google vs Apple and whether or not Android is beating iOS or not.  Is Google the new Microsoft and will it thrash Apple in a few years?  Frankly, I don’t care, as a developer or as an end consumer.  I’m firmly in the iOS camp at this point as a developer (we have two apps in the App Store and one in the Mac App Store with more coming) and as an end user with a house full of iPhones, iPods, and an iPad.  I think Google will fail with Android simply for their piss poor tech support.

If you have an Android phone and you have an issue with <insert problem here>, who are you going to turn to?  The hardware manufacturer, the carrier, or Google?  The end consumer doesn’t care they just want the problem solved and just like how Microsoft is responsible for their hardware partners problems, Google will probably be left holding the bag for their hardware partners too.  Let’s hope their Android support is better than their business services help.

I’ve been experiencing issues with my mail server on my virtual private server and thought that going to GMail might be a good solution for a variety of reasons.  Because of Google ID issues I messed the registration up (hey, I didn’t say I was very good at this stuff now did I?) and locked up the domain registration for GMail.  After searching fruitlessly (ironically using Google search), I came to the conclusion that Google doesn’t really want to help you.  It’s downright impossible to talk to a human being or even send off a plain email to a support department.

I was never able to find an official tech support phone number for Google.  Sure, there are forums and articles and other information but nothing to get hold of a real life person – even at a price (as far as I can find).  There are some ways of getting hold of them through forums and other means but it’s all indirect and after sending off what I hope was a message to someone that can help I’m still waiting on even an automated response email saying they’d get back to me.  I’m not holding my breath.

Now, do the same thing for Apple.  It doesn’t take long to find a whole web page full of ways to get help.  Phone, instant messaging, email are all prominently displayed after two clicks on their website.  Sure, some of them cost money, but as a business, when I need support I’ll pay for it.  If that’s still not good enough I can go to one of the over one hundred brick and mortar stores around the world and talk to an Apple Genius for nothing.  If that fails, I can find Apple Resellers and other Apple certified experts in my area.

Apple’s been doing this for decades as a computer and consumer electronics company.  They’ve consistently been ranked very high on support satisfaction surveys.  As a family, we’ve had various minor issues with our Apple components over the years but nothing that a phone call or trip to the local store (either Apple or local reseller) didn’t fix promptly to our satisfaction.  I’m sure there are example of poor customer support with Apple but it seems to be the exception rather than the rule.

People say that one of the great things about Android is that it’s free.  The old axiom that you get what you pay for holds true in this case.  Google’s support is awful in my opinion.  To say that Google is the new Microsoft is an insult to Microsoft.  At least Microsoft got support right even if you have to talk to someone on the other side of the world.

What’s your experience been with Google support?

The Bad Thing About Automated Backups

I discovered, today, that automated backups are only good if the backup actually takes place.  A directory on the BKeeney website got corrupted and unusable today (don’t ask since that’s a really good question) wiping out the key to, well, everything.  After scrambling to figure it out I called the ISP to see if they could help (like maybe from their backup).

They gladly said that, of course, they could help.  They usually have 2 backups that they can restore from.  The tech looked up the info and then sheepishly said, “Until it gets too big”.  Which of course, with 20 hours of video (in both H.264 and Flash formats), easily exceeds their limit.

So, for now, the bkeeney site is down until I can get things reinstalled.  Oh, and just to make matters worse, the website of the software author we use is also currently down (related?  possibly but I doubt it) so if it takes a full install to recover I’ll have to wait until they come back up to download the install packages.

Did I mention that I’ve been incredibly busy with consulting work?  I don’t have time for this crap.

Marketing: Getting the Word Out

It’s been a while since I’ve given an update on our marketing.  Very early on we decided to start integrating social media into our portfolio.  As you’ve probably seen, we’re now active on Linked-In, FaceBook, and Twitter to name a few (the person doing our marketing is probably on a dozen more and, really, I don’t want to know all of them).  Part of our routine when announcing updates is to make sure we post on all of them as well.

I’ll be honest that I was a bit skeptical at first.  Maybe I’m just old enough to not ‘get it’.  I understand the importance of search rankings and all that but the social media thing has been somewhat of a mystery.

One of the first things we installed on our various websites was Google Analytics and I must admit that I get a kick out of seeing where people are coming from and what they’re search for.  Google Analytics is why I know people are coming from the social media sites.  I find it fascinating that some relatively obscure comment or article is drawing people.  As they say, the more eyes that see your product the better chance they’ll at least try it.  Leading them to your website is at least half the battle.

Since we’re heavily into Mac OS X software it comes as no surprise that a lot of referral traffic comes from MacUpdate www.macupdate.com and Version Tracker www.versiontracker.com.  Windows traffic isn’t nearly as clear cut and we’re working on how to get better exposure on that platform.  It’s obvious that the users of the two platforms research and consume their software differently.

I’ve heard some of the buzz about Woopra but I’ll wait a little bit before delving into it.  If you have any first hand experience with it I’d love to hear about it.  What is its strength and is it really useful for a small business like us?

The other thing we’re doing is making sure we get our press releases out.  I hate doing them myself because I have enough stuff on my plate as it is (and marketing speak is anathema to an engineer).  I’m glad to have turned that responsibility over to someone who likes doing them (at least more than me).  We are using prMac http://prmac.com/ and it is obviously making a difference because of its distribution network.  I find links from all over the internet based on the press releases.

Certainly one of the issues we struggle with is finding the time to do it all.  We’re lucky, to some extent, by having multiple employees who can do a bit of everything.  We hired a part time marketing person to help us out with all this stuff.  I know a lot of you don’t have that luxury.  How do you find the time for marketing?  Do you have any marketing tips for the small, independent software developer?

All Old Posts Converted

We’ve converted all of the old posts over to the new format except where, in a few cases, there were graphics in the original post.  In that case we’ve linked to the old posts.  We’re going to leave the old posts around because of the considerable amount of comments people have given over the years.  Also, some links didn’t come across so it’s just easier to leave everything up.

Thanks for reading and giving your comments!