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Tech Tips, Tricks & Trivia

by 'Anil' Radhakrishna
An architect's notes, experiments, discoveries and annotated bookmarks.

Search from over a hundred HOW TO articles, Tips and Tricks


Microsoft Cognitive Services - Key Links

Sunday, January 14, 2018
To better track the resources available for Microsoft Cognitive Services, I'm compiling a list of key
links for easy reference

Cognitive Services Directory 

API Reference

Microsoft Virtual Academy video courses

* List of all Microsoft Cognitive Services

Vision Speech Language Knowledge Search
Computer Vision API Translator Speech API Language Understanding (LUIS) Recommendations API Bing Autosuggest API
Face API - API Bing Speech API Text Analytics API Academic Knowledge API Bing Image Search API
Content Moderator Speaker Recognition API Bing Spell Check API Knowledge Exploration Service Bing News Search API
Emotion API Custom Speech Service Translator Text API QnA Maker API Bing Video Search API
Custom Vision Service Web Language Model API Entity Linking Intelligence Service API Bing Web Search API
Video Indexer Linguistic Analysis API Custom Decision Service Bing Custom Search API
Bing Entity Search API 

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This Week I Learned - Week #249

Friday, January 12, 2018
This Week I Learned -

Microsoft Web Application Firewall (WAF) is a feature of Azure Application Gateway (layer 7 load balancer) that protects web applications against common web exploits using OWASP core rule sets. Azure Security Center scans Azure resources for vulnerabilities and recommends mitigation steps for those issues.

* Where there is sufficient will and resources, any information system can be compromised.

* UIDAI is the Unique IDentification Authority of India and they run the Aadhaar project. Anyone can access the Aaadhaar services from anywhere so long as they can get themselves an Indian IP address. VPN based IP addresses are blacklisted. However, geo-blocking is a really weak, easily circumvented control that often does more harm than good - Is India's Aadhaar System Really "Hack-Proof"? Assessing a Publicly Observable Security Posture

About two thirds of all browser traffic is now encrypted

There's a lot more to HTTPS than simply redirecting all the traffic

* The JavaScript KeyboardEvent can be used to detect numerous keys including the Caps Lock on key.

* The Social-Engineer Toolkit (SET) is specifically designed to perform advanced attacks against the human element. The attacks built into the toolkit are designed to be targeted and focused attacks against a person or organization used during a penetration test. Kali Linux, an OS favored by penetration testers, has this tool installed by default

* The size of a developer community certainly counts; it contributes to a thriving open source environment, and makes it easier to find help on Stack Overflow.

Every religion is an insult to somebody

* If someone with leadership ambition can count on the recommendations of key, highly placed connections, visibility becomes credibility, and the chance to progress into leadership increases - HBR

If an applicant for an Indian passport has stayed at three different addresses during last one year, the police verification will be done at all the three addresses where the applicant has resided in the last one year.

* A double negative is a grammatical construction occurring when two forms of negation are used in the same sentence. Multiple negation is the more general term referring to the occurrence of more than one negative in a clause. In some languages, double negatives cancel one another and produce an affirmative; in other languages, doubled negatives intensify the negation.

* Most citizens who are not in the working age or are not illiterate, or are well qualified educationally will fall in the Non Emigration Check Required (Non-ECR) category. Indian citizens categorized as ECR, are required to get a clearance from the office of Protector of Emigrants, Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs before leaving the country for employment purpose. Emigration clearance is required for employment in the following countries (18 in total): United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Malaysia, Libya, Jordan, Yemen, Sudan, Brunei, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Syria, Lebanon, Thailand, and Iraq.

* The unfinished books of Sir Terry Pratchett have been destroyed by a steamroller, following the late fantasy novelist’s wishes. Pratchett, famous for his colourful and satirical Discworld series, died in March 2015 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. The author of over 70 novels, Pratchett was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2007 - The Guardian

* UIDAI, the authority that issues Aadhaar, allows people to check online if their bank account has been linked to Aadhaar with its Bank Mapper website. It does not seem to work for all banks though. Moreover, if your Aadhaar is linked to multiple bank accounts, it returns the name of only one bank.

* Koduri Marakathamani Keeravaani, better known as M. M. Keeravani, is an Indian film music composer and playback singer, who works in Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam and Hindi cinema. He is also known by his aliases Marakathamani, Vedanarayana and M. M. Kreem.

Minmini (who shot to fame singing "Chinna Chinna Aasai" for the film Roja in 1992) lost her voice in 1993 on a stage show in London. She was unable to even speak for some years.

* Passports currently are issued in three colours. Government officers have a white passport, diplomats have issued red passports and all others are blue. Passport holders with ECR (Emigration Check Required) status would be issued a passport with orange passport jacket as per a new change.

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This Week I Learned - Week #248

Friday, January 05, 2018
This Week I Learned -

* Computer security experts have discovered two major security flaws in the microprocessors inside nearly all of the world’s computers. The two problems, called Meltdown and Spectre, could allow hackers to steal the entire memory contents of computers, including mobile devices, personal computers, servers running in so-called cloud computer networks. By exploiting the Meltdown flaw, a hacker can just load some software onto a cloud service and then grab data from anyone else who has loaded software onto the same server. Phones and PCs are more difficult targets. Before they can exploit the chip flaws, hackers must find a way of getting their software onto your device. They could fool you into downloading an app from a smartphone app store. Or they could trick you into visiting a website that moves code onto your machine. The onus is now on consumers and businesses to install the fix on their machines. A popular ad blocker among security researchers is uBlock Origin.

* Azure provides fully managed services for running MySQL and PostgreSQL databases on the cloud. And you can use the Azure CLI 2.0 to configure and manage these as well.

* Android & iOS versions of Azure mobile app can be used to run commands to manage your Azure resources

Azure Cost Management service (by Cloudyn) is a free service which updates daily with reports detailing the breakdown of your assets and costs in Azure.

Cloud Shell also securely authenticates automatically for instant access to your resources through the Azure CLI 2.0 or Azure PowerShell cmdlets. Persist your files across sessions in attached Azure Files. Cloud Shell is assigned one machine per user account. It runs on a temporary host provided on a per-session, per-user basis. Since Cloud Shell is built for interactive sessions, shells automatically terminate after 20 minutes of shell inactivity.

Cost of Azure Archive Storage is 90% less than Hot Blob Storage

As per the official Google Blog - GCP has already been updated to prevent all known vulnerabilities related to microprocessors. Google Cloud is architected in a manner that enables us to update the environment while providing operational continuity for our customers. We used our VM Live Migration technology to perform the updates with no user impact, no forced maintenance windows and no required restarts.

Adding a site to the compatibility sites list in Internet Explorer disables HTML5 on that site. This can be a way to block html5 videos system wide

* When you visit a website, online trackers and the site itself may be able to identify you. Panopticlick from Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) can detect such browser fingerprinting and analyze how well your browser and add-ons protect you against online tracking techniques.

* The objectives of Google exam certifications are different from Microsoft exam certifications. As per the Google exam certification FAQ - "Our exams are designed to determine only whether or not an individual meets a minimum passing standard. They are not designed to be diagnostic or spread people out on a scale of ability. For this reason numerical scores are not meaningful for the examinee and can be misinterpreted. We recognize that some other exam providers provide section feedback on their exams. We do not because it is not meaningful and could be misleading. Our exams are not designed to diagnose strengths and weaknesses. Our exam sections are very broad topic categories, and the range of specific questions you may receive for each section in a single exam sitting is extremely narrow by comparison. Based on such a small amount of data, there is no meaningful feedback at the section level that we can responsibly provide."

* Misery loves company - Yahoo reporting about an Aadhaar breach
 An epic and historic data breach at Yahoo in August 2013 affected every single customer account that existed at the time, Yahoo parent company Verizon said on Tuesday. That's three billion accounts -- including email, Tumblr, Fantasy and Flickr

* The 'Aadhaar Authentication History' option on the UIDAI website allows you to check where your Aadhaar number was used for authentication. You can also register a complaint with the authority if you find some suspicious activity involving your details - Business Today

How did The Hulk end up in India? A large part of Bruce Banner's self control is based on distracting himself and thus mentally distancing himself from being The Hulk. He thus lands up in Calcutta(India) where he is just another foreigner, far far away from the United States and is practically unrecognizable. In the end of The Incredible Hulk we see Banner meditating and gaining some control over his transformation. Whether it is true or not but the stereotype is that India is a good place if one wants to engage in spiritual studies, meditation or yoga type activities.

*  In the first decade of independence, the main political parties aimed to attract voters across all divides—Congress, the Socialist Parties, the Communist parties, and the Swatantra Party. But these could not paper over the immense number of social divisions, which gradually created parties based on caste (RJD, SP, the two anti-Brahmin DMKs), region (TDP, BJD, TRS, Trinamool Congress, AGP, INLD, PDP et al), and religion (Akali Dal, Shiv Sena). Many parties span more than one divide - Swaminomics

Ola Auto is currently functional across 73 cities with over 1.2 lakh autos.

*  It is widely believed that there are 79 organs; however, there is no universally standard definition of what constitutes an organ, and some tissue groups' status as one is debated.

* New movies are released on Friday in India & US. In France, movies open on Wednesday & in Germany, it's Thursday

* Checking your smartphone while you're working is normal -  a scene from Men, Women & Children

* War is an economy

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Comparison of Infrastructure as Code tools

Tuesday, January 02, 2018
Source - Why use Terraform?


Source Cloud Type Infrastructure Language Agent Master Community Maturity Initial Release
Chef Open All Config Mgmt Mutable Procedural Yes Yes Large High 2005
Puppet Open All Config Mgmt Mutable Declarative Yes Yes Large High  2009
Ansible Open All Config Mgmt Mutable Procedural No No Large Medium  2011
SaltStack Open All Config Mgmt Mutable Declarative Yes Yes Medium Medium  2011
CloudFormation Closed AWS Provisioning Immutable Declarative No No Small Medium 2012
Heat Open All Provisioning Immutable Declarative No No Small Low  2012
Terraform Open All Provisioning Immutable Declarative No No Medium Low  2014

Key points from the article -

The goal of DevOps is to make software delivery vastly more efficient.

Instead of constant outages and downtime, you build resilient, self-healing systems, and use monitoring and alerting to catch problems that can’t be resolved automatically.

There are four core values in the DevOps movement: Culture, Automation, Measurement, and Sharing (sometimes abbreviated as the acronym CAMS)

The idea behind infrastructure as code (IAC) is that you write and execute code to define, deploy, and update your infrastructure.

There are four broad categories of IAC tools:
- Ad hoc scripts
- Configuration management tools
- Server templating tools
- Server provisioning tools

Chef, Puppet, Ansible, and SaltStack are all configuration management tools, which means they are designed to install and manage software on existing servers.

Code that works correctly no matter how many times you run it is called idempotent code.

An alternative to configuration management that has been growing in popularity recently are server templating tools such as Docker, Packer, and Vagrant.

A server templating tool like Packer can be used to create a self-contained image of a server. You can then use other tools, such as Ansible, to install that image across all of your servers.

A virtual machine (VM) emulates an entire computer system, including the hardware. You run a hypervisor, such as VMWare, VirtualBox, or Parallels, to virtualize (i.e., simulate) the underlying CPU, memory, hard drive, and networking.

A container emulates the user space of an operating system. All the containers running on a single server share that server’s operating system kernel and hardware, so the isolation is not as secure as with VMs.

VMs virtualize the hardware, whereas containers only virtualize user space.

Server templating is a key component of the shift to immutable infrastructure. The idea behind immutable infrastructure is that once you’ve deployed a server, you never make changes to it again. If you need to update something (e.g., deploy a new version of your code), you create a new image from your server template and you deploy it on a new server.

Server provisioning tools such as Terraform, CloudFormation, and OpenStack Heat are responsible for creating the servers themselves.

Terraform is a binary that translates the contents of your configurations into API calls to cloud providers

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Book Review: Karmayogi - A Biography of E Sreedharan

Saturday, December 30, 2017
Karmayogi tells the awe-inspiring story of one of India’s greatest engineers & sons, the Metro Man, E Sreedharan. I loved his biography as it filled me with positivity & hope

In a 50 year accomplished and illustrious career, Sreedharan undertook gigantic projects, battled cultural lethargy and cut through red tape to build facilities that millions of Indians benefit from everyday. Some of the most challenging projects he led include the rebuilding of the Pampan Bridge in record time, Konkan Railways & Delhi Metro. He has won numerous national & international awards including the prestigious Padma Shri & Padma Vibhushan. Such a towering role model also highly deserves the Bharat Ratna

In his long career spanning projects across India, he had numerous tussles with politicians & those in authority who sought to intervene for selfish & political reasons. He rightfully asserted his position on the strength of his credentials & overcame hurdles while successfully finishing his undertakings with diligence

There had been several plans to connect the Konkan region region with Bombay starting from 1894 but due to the immensity of the task owing to the treacherous terrain, it started materializing only after 1990 under the stewardship of Sreedharan. The Konkan Railway project completed 2 years later than the original deadline of 5 years due to grave political & regional issues which Sreedharan deftly surmounted. His rich expertise made him an obvious candidate to head the Delhi Metro project  in 1997 although he was well past 65. Though he retired from that role in 2011, he is still consulted for all the upcoming metro projects in India.

Sreedharan has been a vocal critic of the private public participation (PPP) model for metro projects.Despite his argument that 90% of metros around the world are operating under public ownership and his scathing criticism of the PPP model, Kamal Nath, then the Union Minister for Urban Development, favoured the PPP model while drawing up the government policy in 2013. His argument was that 18% of all metros worldwide being built operated on the PPP model

The book is engaging with interesting facts and figures:

The 760 km Konkan line runs through 59 stations spanning three States

The Konkan Railways track has 92 tunnels. The track length under tunnels is 84.8 kilometres

The Panvel Nadi Bridge built for the Konkan line is the tallest bridge in Asia. Its highest point is only 4 metres shorter than the Qutub Minar

Sreedharan had reverse clocks installed at offices & work sites of Konkan Railways & DMRC to give team members a sense of time ticking away, motivating them to head for their goals without delay

To monitor progress and to organize the planned tasks of the Sreedharan-led Delhi Metro, a software application called Primavera Project Planner 3.0 was used

Delhi Metro became one of the only 5 profitable metros of the roughly 200 metros operating around the world

The 16 kilometre stretch of the Calcutta Metro took 22 years to complete. It exceeded cost estimates by a factor of 14.

The biggest of all metros in the world with the largest number of stations the longest track is the New York city Subway - 338 kilometres with 468 stations.

Beijing Metro stands first in terms of number of passengers transported daily

The London metro is the oldest

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