Sunday, April 30, 2017

(ARCHIVED) Manjaro Linux Review

*Originally posted on the Aclevo Blog*


There are many people in this world who are fed up with Windows, especially after Windows 10. With Windows 10, users don't have as much control over his or her machine compared to previous versions of Windows. A great alternative to Windows is Linux. However, choosing a Linux distribution can be very tedious, as there are many out there.

Manjaro

I have spent a week using Manjaro Linux, a Linux distribution based off of Arch Linux. It's much easier to setup than Arch Linux, but it includes all of the basic programs that a user wants. It comes in a couple of flavors. The version I chose comes with the GNOME Desktop Environment. Other options include KDE and XFCE. Manjaro's website is https://manjaro.org. The download size is about 1.5GB.

My setup

I am using Manjaro Linux as my main operating system on my custom-built gaming PC. It has an Intel Core i5-6500,an AMD RX 470 video card, 16GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, a 3TB hard drive, and a 1TB hard drive.
 


Gaming

Linux gaming has grown immensely in the past couple of years. Many games are available for Linux, including Counter Strike Global Offensive, Rocket League, Saints Row IV, Borderlands 2, Portal and Portal 2, Cities:Skylines, and many more games are available on steam, or they are playable through Wine. A great option to play games through wine is a program called Play On Linux. It makes everything easier to understand for the end user. On my system, I downloaded a few games through Steam and I downloaded a couple of games that are compatible with Wine. This system handled the games very well, even though I am using the AMDGPU open source drivers. A few months ago, my experience with AMDGPU was horrible, but with Kernel 4.9 and 4.10, my experience has been amazing. Games such as Grand Theft Auto V, however, aren't compatible yet with Wine (that that I know of.) I still have Windows 8.1 on a different partition for games that won't work at all on Linux.

Web Browsing

For general web browsing, Linux handles it like a champ, except the fonts are not perfect. I installed a few extra fontpacks, and somehow the system fonts got all whacky, as in numbers weren't showing. I spent about an hour going through terminal commands, but I mostly fixed it, except in Google Chrome. I had to completely reset Google Chrome to fix the font issue there. Firefox and Chrome both are completely compatible with Linux. I prefer Chrome because I can sync all of my stuff across devices with my Google account.

Software & Updates

Installing updates is very easy with Manjaro Linux. There is a program called Software Updater that automatically checks for updates and it is easy to install updates from the program. There is also a program called Add/Remove Software that lets the user add additional software or remove any installed software. The underlying package manager is Pacman, which is the same package manager that Arch uses. To manually update, the user can type sudo pacman -Syu in the terminal.
 


Verdict

My verdict for Manjaro Linux is that overall, it's a very good distribution. It's a Linux Distribution for the advanced user and for the simple user. It's very easy to install, update, and it's very easy to browse the web for those who just want to use websites like Facebook. It is very stable with modern hardware, and it comes with the latest available kernel that supports a wide range of devices. I've only used it for a week, but my overall experience has been great. This year is definitely the year of the Linux Desktop for me.

(ARCHIVED) Discord's New Policies - How They Affect You

*Originally posted on the Aclevo Blog*


Just recently, Discord released new policies regarding text channels and personal messages. These changes include a new Report button, a new Community Guidelines policy, and restricting access to minors from using the service. The Privacy Policy and Terms Of Service were modified to reflect those changes. Here are five changes to expect with Discord.

1. Reporting Users Is Now Easier

Discord now provides a Report button to make it easier to report message that have offended you. The user you are reporting cannot be on your friends list, and you must unfriend them first by right clicking on their username and selecting "Remove Friend". To report a message, click on the hamburger icon next to the offensive message, and selecting "Report". From there, you will see this message:
 

Discord's New Report Screen, as posted here.
From here, you can select from several different reasons to be sent to the Discord abuse team for review. The following reasons are provided: Illegal Content, Harassment, Spam or Phishing Links, Self Harm, or NSFW (Not Safe For Work) content. More information on the following reasons can be found on this article about how to report a user, and this article about the recent changes.

2. NSFW Content Is Now Hidden

All content that is considered to be Not Safe For Work can now be put into a channel that requires verification. As part of the updates to their policies, Discord now requires that all NSFW content be placed into a marked channel so that users can opt-out ahead of time. This puts the user at ease so they won't get their co-workers and bosses upset. Here is an image that users see when they access a channel that is marked:
 

The new NSFW Channel Notice, found here.
From here, users may continue to see this content. Users may also click "Nope" as described above if they do not wish to see the content. They will be sent to the general chat room, whether or not modifications to that channel were made or not. This means that users may be sent back to the announcements or rules instead of the main chat if general was used for that purpose. Also note that according to the image above, users that are under the age of eighteen (18) will not be allowed to look at this content.

3. Discord New Age Requirement

Additions to the Privacy Policy require users to be thirteen (13) or older in order to be able to sign up for a Discord Account. In order to comply with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, otherwise known as "COPPA", Discord is not allowed to knowingly collect personal information on children under the age of thirteen (13). Parents who believe that their children may have exposed personal information may contact Discord staff by clicking here. It is unknown how this affects children who use Discord to this day. Discord recommends parents be aware of their child's use of the internet in order to keep them safe online.

4. Advertisement Data Collection

Users are entitled to stop having data collected from Discord's advertisements on other services. Updates to the Privacy Policy now entitle users to exercise opt-out programs administered by third-parties. Such parties include the Network Advertising Initiative (NAI), and the more common Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA).
The new Privacy Policy is scheduled to be enacted on May 1st, 2017. Users must read and accept it in order to use their services, as well as the Terms Of Service. The Privacy Policy can be found here. The Terms Of Service can be found here. The Support portal can be reached by clicking here.

5. New Community Guidelines

Discord now has a Community Guidelines page, just like YouTube does. The guidelines can be found here. These guidelines talk about the rules of Discord. They explain the consequences for violating such rules, which can include suspension of the service for a certain amount of time, and/or account deletion. They make it clear that misconduct is not tolerated, and that they will incite consequences for those who disobey.

Conclusion

How do you feel about these new policies? Perhaps the policies are too strict for you? Feel free to leave your thoughts down in the comments section below. If you would like to see more blog posts like this one, please subscribe so we can get the latest posts to you as soon as possible. Thank you for reading this article, and stay safe!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

(ARCHIVED) New MacOS Malware Can Intercept Encrypted Webtraffic

*Originally posted on the Aclevo Blog*


The Malware Research team at CheckPoint have discovered a piece of fully-undetectable Mac malware, which according to them, affects all versions on Mac OS X and is signed with a valid developer certificate signed by Apple.

At the moment, the malware is being distributed by a large amount of phishing e-mails targeted to unsuspecting MacOS users. The malware has been designed to install a new root certificate on the infected system after gaining unauthorised administrator privileges, which allows attackers to intercept and receive all communication in and outbound of the system, including information encrypted with SSL.

Network settings reveal a proxy configuration set by the malware.

Image courtesy of: blog.checkpoint.com


Since the malware author is using a valid developer certificate signed by Apple, the malware easily bypasses Gatekeeper, a built-in security feature of macOS. Apple can resolve this issue just by revoking the developer certificate being abused by the malware author, but so far Apple has yet to respond on this issue.

Although this is a new type of malware, the distribution-method remains the same as most phishing attempts. The golden rule is to always avoid clicking links messages and e-mails from unknown sources.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

(ARCHIVED) YouTube Monetization Threshold

*Originally posted on the Aclevo Blog*


Not too long ago, Google posted on the YouTube Creators blog that they are adding a view threshold to serve ads on your videos, now they are saying in order to make any sort of revenue on your videos via ads you have to have at least 10,000 lifetime video views on your channel.

That's quite a bummer for the average small YouTube Creator, as it usually takes at least over a year to rack up so many views on your channel. Though is that mostly a good thing or a bad thing, The good thing is that it gives YouTube enough information to determine if a channel is worthy of placing ads on their content. The bad thing is... you don't get ad revenue for quite some time, like that even matters how little you get during those early days.

Why did YouTube decide to do this you may ask, well, many large advertisers heard from a source called the Wall Street Journal that their ads were being shown on hate content such as ISIS videos and things of that nature, and they took action and decided to pull ads from YouTube all together.

The culprit of these actions is Content ID, which is a flawed system. Said videos were being claimed via the Content ID system resulting in premium advertisements being shown on those videos, thus getting noticed by the Wall Street Journal, thus resulting in ads being pulled, thus the new view threshold being placed.

I personally don't this this is a good solution to this problem as what I do believe is that Content ID should be fixed instead of adding a view threshold.

Will things be sorted out for the better soon? Who knows.

More updates on the situation will be posted as I find out about them.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

(ARCHIVED) Amazon introduces Amazon Connect - Who will bite the dust first?

*Originally posted on the Aclevo Blog*


Last week, Amazon announced the release of Connect, their cloud-based contact center solution that lives in the growing AWS (Amazon Web Services) suite of business products. Amazon Connect is taking what they have built and use themselves “to power millions of customer conversations” and making it available to anyone operating a contact center. Believe it or not, this seemingly small product release has the potential to kill multiple industries.

AWS is a global technology giant. They’ve been innovating and providing solutions for a long time. They’ve built their own systems in-house and know a lot about providing service at scale. Amazon is known throughout the industry as the gold standard of customer support processes and tools, so I’d imagine most consumers are excited to get the opportunity to access the same tools they use. However, if I were a technology provider, I'd be concerned. Deeply concerned.

Amazon has the potential to disrupt entire industries. Think about how many hosting businesses died as AWS entered the market with a cheaper and more scalable solution that was backed with the Amazon name. Amazon also has the patience to wait years before making money, patiently waiting as they grab market share and watch competitors die.

VoIP providers

Companies like Twilio, Skype and Vonage are all hosted solutions that make money selling minutes. Now that Amazon Connect is in the space, this could mean bad news for these providers. Connect is reported to be 40% cheaper than Twilio’s offering and some developers claim that the interfaces are easier to use. Minutes are a commodity and a race to the bottom. Just as Amazon leveraged their scale and patience for profits to win the hosting space, they may do the same here.

Cloud-based providers

Then we have cloud based providers like Talkdesk and NewVoiceMedia that were born on the cloud and offer fully digital experiences. These companies advertise benefits like ease and speed of implementation and much better user experiences than their on-premise counterparts. Connect is advertising itself as “a simple to use, self-service, cloud-based customer contact center that scales to support any size business.” None of this sounds any different to what current cloud based companies provide.

Connect offers easy implementation with its out of box solution and its low pay-per-use cost structure makes it much more attractive to smaller businesses as well as easily scalable with growth. Additionally, Connect’s out the the box solution is fully integrated, so it’s literally plug and play. These cloud companies also differentiate based on their integrations, but my hunch is that 3rd party developers are going to prioritize the Amazon ecosystem for good reason.

What's next?

Amazon Connect just launched this week and there are still a lot of questions out there. But if connect has any success, imagine what’s next?

Amazon has built their own CRM platform in-house and it’s a powerful tool to say the least. While they aren’t currently focusing on a CRM solution as they are touting integrations with Salesforce and Zendesk out of the box, that’s not to say they won’t in the future. Amazon is coming at the contact center market as a cloud first technology company.

Combining that with their AWS backbone, superior engineering, and AI capabilities is scary. Bolster that with their brand name and unlimited budget and Amazon could have a shot to become the contact center technology company, just as AWS has become synonymous with cloud hosting.

Friday, April 7, 2017

(ARCHIVED) The End of The "Old" SFC Blog


Some of you may be asking, "What's with the absence of posts on The SFC Blog?" You may think it has something to do with major projects in the way, but that's NOT the main reason. It's actually a bit of a serious reason which we'll get into later. Despite that it's the first post on this blog in a while, unfortunately, this may be the last one for this blog, which we'll get into later. For now, here are a couple of major announcements:

The SFC Site has been updated to version 2.1! Ever since The SFC Site 2 got released to the public a couple months ago, you guys gave us great feedback, and it made us continue to develop this version of the site you currently love. Today, we are updating it to 2.1, with some great changes we think you'll like:

The SFC Site Version 2.1 (Released on April 7th, 2017)
- Added SFC Live Discord BETA Chatroom into the SFC Live page
- Added the Polls into the SFC Live page from The SFC Blog
- Added a new Site Info page on the More section
- Added SoundCloud to the Social Bar
- Changed Myriad Pro Font to Raleway on some pages
- Other improvements and bug fixes

As you would expect, the polls are NO longer on The SFC Blog (they are now on the SFC Live page), alongside any new SFC Site Changelogs; they will be available only on The SFC Site from now on, under the new "Site Info" page in the More section of our website. And yes, we are NOW on SoundCloud, which replaces our former Vimeo space.

Follow us on SoundCloud today:
https://soundcloud.com/sagefuncom

2. Technology Showdown, RoadRailer Simulations, and Railfan Central Updates!
Thought it would be cool to incorporate 3 announcements in one major one! First up, Technology Showdown: The Prologue is back in production, and we are planning to release an early teaser on Youtube later in April. We know you guys have been waiting patiently for a new Technology Showdown episode, and we promise you, the wait will be worth it!

For RoadRailer Simulations, we are planning on redesigning the main site, as "The RRS Site 2.0", which will introduce a whole new way to publish your TS fan content and make mod installation quick and easy for others, called the Fan Library. Multiple Train Simulator scenarios for the Bergen Line (Croxton Ordinary) are also in the works, including a scenario loosely based on Metro-North/NJ Transit operations from Port Jervis to Hoboken.

Lastly, the long-awaited Railfan Central website update (version 6) is in the works, with a redesigned Penn Central and Pennsylvania Railroad Stock Gallery to match with the New York Central and New Haven ones! We're hoping to get it out by late April/early May if all goes well.

3. SFC Live Expansion!
For this third and final major announcement, is related to SFC Live. For those who don't know, SFC Live is our live gaming show that airs on Saturday nights at 7PM Eastern, where we play games like Train Simulator, Rocket League, Marble Blast Platinum, and even QUIPLASH! We also have our own trivia game, SFC Live Trivia, where you answer questions for points that will go on our leaderboard, where the points will be counted up at the end of the game, and the winner receives a special prize!

For this week's SFC Live (April 8th), we are expanding it with a new Discord BETA chatroom, which will be opening 15 minutes before the main show starts. Along with that, we also have the polls now available, as well as gaming stuff, like Quiplash, and Train Simulator: Workshop Mania. You do not want to miss this, so please make sure to tune in for some entertainment!

Alrighty, so now that I've explained the announcements for this week, to conclude this final post, here is the sad news:

Due to low viewership, WordPress security flaws, and migration to Backstage & Newsletter and our social media pages for announcements like this, The SFC Blog will be ceasing operations on May 20th, 2017 following the next major SFC Site update, which will be coming out on the same day. I know it's a shame that it has to go, but it's about time we move on.

So what's going to happen to the content from The SFC Blog after the Blog itself shuts down? Well, here's what's gonna happen:

- All SFC Site update posts will be available to The SFC Site 2 under Site Info, available on the More section of our website.

- Any other new updates, such as Technology Showdown and Youtube Channel updates, will be available on Backstage & Newsletter and our social media pages (Facebook, TwitterGoogle+, and Steam), so make sure you follow us there for more updates like this that were formerly on The SFC Blog.

- Our Polls have been relocated to the SFC Live page on our website, under the "Schedule & Polls" tab.

As of right now, The SFC Blog will no longer be maintained by us anymore, but you can still view the blog and its archived posts, up until the shutdown date.

Overall, lots of new things coming to The SFC Group, and it's just the beginning of a massive expansion that will change overtime and will make your SFC fan experience better! Even though The SFC Blog is going away, all major updates will be posted on our social media pages, so like I said, make sure you follow us there to keep updated!

So for the last time on this blog, I will see you in the not-too-distant future.

- Sage from The SFC Group

Thursday, April 6, 2017

(ARCHIVED) Making Your Technology Perform

*Originally posted on the Aclevo Blog*

There is a new world order, where data is king and where simple and effective customer experiences rule. The kind of experiences that are targeted, powered by micro-segmented analytics and focussed behind the scenes whilst being elegantly simple and effective at the front-end.

'Mega data'  and the end-user

I read the other day that users, in the future, will be inclined to bank with Google, Amazon, Facebook or Apple. Why? They are seen as simple, cool, personal, adaptive and trustworthy by users - what users don’t see is the ‘mega data’ analysis that is happening behind the scenes to make this possible. The stark reality for banks is that unless they ‘get on the bus’, understand this ‘new world order’, improve their understanding of what users actually want, improve their service offer in line with their understanding (through all channels), understand the need for flexibility in their network formats and channels, improve everything.

Simplicity = key

The reality is different. New benchmarks are being set every day by organisations like Uber and others that are having a profound affect on the way we interact with technology. In the ‘new world order’, complicated interfaces and intimidating screens of information will be replaced by intuitive carefully choreographed interactions where at every point, the customer is able to do exactly what he or she wants to do, wherever they want to do it, whenever they want to do it and, almost unknown to the customer the service provider will be quietly gathering data on the users' behaviour and refining their business with rapid, incremental innovation.

Data analysis

Progressive banks understand how customers are browsing, where they go to perform specific tasks, how long they are taking to perform these and how successful the service is in delivering to the customers needs. By gathering more and more data about how and what customers are doing Banks will remove the guesswork from their business, target on opportunities that win and drive simplification. The more data they gather, the more personal the experience will become and the more they will ‘take the guesswork out of winning’.
I like to call this 'the yacht effect', because on the surface it all looks beautiful and the interactions are simple and elegant, but in the engine room, the engines are paddling like crazy.

Tips to make your technology perform
  • Make sure the technology has a real purpose and not an imagined one. If it isn't necessary yet, then don't implement it.
  • Integrate technology into a carefully choreographed customer journey that enhances your customers experience of your brand.
  • Only use technology where you know users will use it.
  • Keep interfaces simple and uncluttered. This is a mistake that I'm still seeing too often.
  • Never over promise - make sure the technology works. It's what users need in the first place.
  • Gather data on customer behaviour whenever possible - Data is the new oil.
  • Remember that users use technology for transactional and informational purposes, very little else.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

(ARCHIVED) Gentoo Linux Review

*Originally posted on the Aclevo Blog*


As promised before, I've decided to go ahead and write about Gentoo. Like Arch, Gentoo is also one of the most customizable distributions of Linux, though it takes a bit more time to install than Arch due to having to compile literally everything.

Gentoo has it's own build utility though, that the name of slips my mind, it's easily accessed using the command emerge. Installing Gentoo is done completely through said command.

Like Arch, It can be proven difficult for new users to install if they don't know how to partition the hard drive or how to use basic shell commands, it's best to read the installation guide if that's the case.

Also like Arch, the most basic installation is a Kernel, Shell, and a copy of the GNU Compiler Collection. Installing other software is as simple as typing emerge then the name of the program unless the program is somehow not included in the source code repositories, using emerge automatically takes the system through the build steps to compile said program making the task much simpler.

My honest opinion on the score I shall give Gentoo, 7.9/10, due to the slow install process. I'd prefer Arch over Gentoo for that reason alone. Gentoo is mainly for people that like to have the binaries completely tailored to the hardware their PC has.