My Personal Security Net: I C U

Today I installed the last of the cameras for my video CCTV surveillance system and DVR machine. A total of eight cameras are now in their locations, dotted along the various buildings here on the farm that I occupy. With the blessing of my landlord, both his home, and mine, will have two separate CCTV systems running together, watching pathways, doors, and driveways, 24/7. The purpose of setting up the video surveillance systems is to watch locations where thefts have occurred in the past, and to watch out for livestock, both intruders and escapees, from the adjoining farms.

The All Seeing Eyes - To Watch You With - April 23 2014 Weblog Image

All of the cameras are outside, in plain view, and I have posted signs letting people know that there are CCTV cameras on the property. I am hoping that if people see the cameras that this should be more of a deterrent than by just posting signs that say private property alone. If people see the cameras, then that should play a huge psychological effect of when they are about to walk through the field after jumping the fence, making them think twice. Each camera is positioned in a key location at points of entry to buildings, like the shop, and the storage shed. I also have one camera aimed right where I park my SUV, and another aimed at the path that leads to the shop/barn.

It was a fair bit of work setting up and mounting the cameras on top of roofs and poles, but running the cable was the most tedious because I wanted to hide them so no one could see the lines and try and cut them.

We bought the cameras and DVRs, from off of E(vil)Bay for a really good price, from a US Store. The whole system was for under $300.00, close to $1000.00 up here in Canada. These were on sale, fifty percent off, so we got a good bargain. The cameras come with night-vision, and motion detection built into the hardware, plus we put 1TB hard-drives in each one for up to a month’s worth of video storage.

Already the cameras are paying off, the place is eerily quiet tonight. :)

Logging Time in the Studio

I have some studio work to do over the next couple of days. I will be doing some product ads for an on-line store, and then some portrait shots coming up tomorrow after that. The best part about my studio is that it is right over in my living, so the commute is awesome! Most of the work is volunteer work, as I want to add more shots to my portfolio, but the products shots are on a commissioned bases, so we will see how well this arrangement works for me.

I am posting some of the test shots from the ads set-up. The website’s main theme is not completely white, but a soft grey, so the owner did not want a completely white background in any of the shots. So I started off tweaking the white-balance on my camera to try and match the grey that they wanted. In the end I photo-edited the grey after wasting way too much time trying to set the white balance on my camera. Once I got the white-balance sorted out, my light meter was all over the map as I was reading anything form F22, down to F11, depending on which item I was shooting. I finished off with just two 300 watt-second strobes, using umbrella diffusers on them, and then continually adjusting the F-stop for each item being shot. This was a lot of work.

Colours of Pills - Weblog Image April 22 2014

For the background I used a semi-gloss poster-board, neutral white. One of the tricks I used to get the grey set just right was to set the strobes to their lowest power, and move them back about 2 metres. Then I adjusted the F-stop to ramp up the white-balance on the actual items. It worked!

Fork - Weblog Image April 22 2014

Yes, I even grabbed a fork from the kitchen to see if I could make the right adjustments for the grey background with chrome objects.

Thomasso Head Shot Weblog Image April 22 2014

My pencil was having a bit of a bad hair day. LOL This was one of the first sets of test shots that I did today just after setting up the studio. I was shooting with a 70mm Macro, with my Sony A77.

Stinging Nettles Newsance

I have hundreds of stinging nettles growing around my place. Most of them are growing along my driveway, and dealing with those was just a simple run through with the lawn trimmer, but I just noticed that they are also growing amongst the flowers in each flower bed, and getting to them can only be done by hand. I bought a pair of heavy fabric/rubber gloves, thinking that that would protect me from the itch, but after digging up few nettles for a few minutes I noticed that those little hypodermic needle like pins from the leaves can actually go right through the material onto my skin. I must be hyper sensitive to this plant?

Those Ichy Stinging Nettles - April 21 2014 Weblog Image

During the long weekend I took my lawn trimmer to mow down as many of these stinging nettles as I could along my driveway. Some of these plants were already a metre tall, reaching over the ditch onto the road. At the time I thought these were raspberry plants, but quickly realized what these were. Just cutting them up, wearing long-sleeves seater, faller’s hard hat (with face shield), high profile steel toe boots, and riding gloves, I was getting stung with the little chunks of leaves landing on my skin.

Unlike last year, the population of these itch causing plants has seemed to exponentially exploded in size, and growing area. I even have them sprouting up  along my doorstep and patio. Yes, even up through the steps going out to my patio.

Right now I am using long handle garden cutter to slowly weed out the nettles, one plant at a time. I have respect for these plants, but I will slowly weed them out back to the forest edge, but I pity the poor fool who goes romping through the bush in shorts.

How Do You Like Your Eggs?

I like mine done two minutes, hard-boiled, Blender Style. I am talking 3D eggs, not the real ones! Creating eggs was only coincidence during the long weekend where some organized religions do their thing with eggs, and other exotic rituals with rabbits and chocolates too. For me, this was a well deserved long weekend, and I will take any free time that comes along, even with the chocolates. But back to Blender, and rendering Blend files of eggs.

EGGS in 2 minutes Done Blender Style - April 21 2014 Weblog Image

I was practising using the proportional editing tool in Blender, and I was trying it out on UV Spheres. Within a few clicks, I created an almost perfect egg shape, and thought to myself how cool that was. Since so many people were posting eggs jokes, and colourful patterns and designs on them, over this past weekend, I thought why not post just a plain colourless render of my egg art work as well. The only limit to my creativity was adding in the odd egg into this scene, the little one in the foreground.

They sure do look real, eh?

A Little Upgrade Here, and a Little There, There is So Much Going On!

From finally getting to my P.C., the Ubuntu 14.04 LTS Upgrade, and fixing a couple of issues with my personal network at home, and the upgrade from WordPress to 3.9, I think I will have a completely new computing environment by the end of this weekend! The WordPress upgrade just happened a few minutes ago, so that just added to stretch of labour that I put in already today on my machines. The OS upgrade was really only from the Ubuntu 12.04, up to the 14.04 because I am sticking to the long term releases for my home equipment. So this was the first upgrade in two years on my PC. I am tired of the bleeding edge OS, and SVN headaches, when I come home from a long day spent at someone else’s broken system. So far everything here seems to be working find.

Ubuntu 14 04 Screenshot from 2014-04-18 16:58:55 Weblog Image

I did a complete reinstall of my PC, as opposed to a initial upgrade. I wiped out my internal hard drive with a program called Gparted, and made sure that drive was completely clean before I installed back on to it. I had a couple of irritating bugs that were driving me up the wall, one of them was with FireFox, and Flash. For the last couple of weeks I could not run TweetDeck from off of that browser, due to flash and URL cache issues. The step up to 14.04 fixed all of that in one sweep. I am a much happier camper now. :)

There are still several programs and pieces of software that I still need to install, but I did the main ones to get me though for now. The installation was super fast this time around: in under 45 minutes–start to finish. I used a USB flash drive instead of installing from the web, or from a optical drive, and having a 6-core Pentium did not hurt either. Added all up, this was a huge time saver in performance, and caused far less headaches overall for a clean install.

20,000 Tweets Says Me

By the time I post this, my twitter feed will mark this post as my twenty thousandth tweet as @thomasso01. A mile stone, a social networking obsessed geek, whatever your opinion, Twitter has severed it purpose for the greater good above all other social networking services that I use. Expect more tweets, for a very long time! LOL

20 000 twitter tweets April 15 2014 thomasso com

I first jumped on Twitter way back in July, 2008 while attending a WordPress Boot Camp in Langley City, BC, back when I was at the peak of my blogging performance. At the time I had several websites that I was running, including three personal sites that I was trying to monetize. I was super busy back then, going to university, working full time, knee-deep in some of the greatest moments of my personal life–how did I manage it all? So Twitter was just one of those “hey you need to try this” fads. I had no idea how much it would eventually take hold of my life.

So, when I press the “Publish” button, it will mark 20,000 tweets! Here it goes….

ADDED:

Screenshot from 2014-04-15 - Weblog Image

A Screen Shot of my Twitter feed taken from the GUI  – TweetDeck, just as I tweeted this post.

The Mower of Dandelions

Overnight the green field by my home turned a sea of dotted yellow, marking the rein of the dandelion in, the last sure sign that spring has taken hold, and summer is closing in. I got the go-ahead from my landlord to level the playing field with the lawnmower before the rain sets in today. But I wanted to shoot a bunch of shots of the dandelions before the mow becuase they seem extra thick this year. They are growing everywhere, even in places no one wants them to, or least expects.

Dandelions - April 15 2014 Weblog Image

Back on Saturday, I found patched of dandelions growing on a roof of a barn that was in various stages of decay. There was this one section of roof that was flat, and had a tar-and-gravel layer on it, and the dandelions just seem to love this surface for growing on.

Dandelion - April 13 2014 Weblog Image

Soon they will change to white balls of seed pods, and sail away with the wind, spreading themselves to invade other far off lands. Bye-bye dandelions as I mow them over.

Has Your Server Been Fixed Yet?

Twelve hours sitting in knee-deep chaos, watching twenty progress bars slowly move across a tiny 38cm monitor, as patches are installed to correct the OpenSSL hole, a.k.a. as the HeartBleed Bug, I just want to go to sleep now. In general, most of the servers that I deal with are not affected by this bug, but the handful that are, replacing the software was not as easy as I hoped it would be. Taking the servers off-line, running the configuration routines, and then running security scans, it all adds up to a lot of time spent in one tiny room with stale air.

heartbleed bug graphic April 15 2014

How serious is this bug?

Well, I ran a bunch of hacks on my own server just to see if gaining access was as easy as the media said it was. After my results, I was left sitting with my jaw on the floor. If you know what to look for, snooping around emails, data file, logs, back-up files, it was all there, albeit I really had to dig around, but I did it. I was stunned! It did not matter what you were running, if you are running OpenSSL, then you have the hole.

As a favour to the online world, I am not going to go into any details. I know it will be months before all of the servers are updated around the world.

If you think that your server is affected by this, then there are couple of websites that can help you detected whether or not you are vulnerable to HeartBleed.  You can run the HearBleed test here: http://filippo.io/Heartbleed/ and http://heartbleed.com/ for more information about HeartBleed.

According to Hearbleed.com, they say this about the fixes:

As long as the vulnerable version of OpenSSL is in use it can be abused. Fixed OpenSSL has been released and now it has to be deployed. Operating system vendors and distribution, appliance vendors, independent software vendors have to adopt the fix and notify their users. Service providers and users have to install the fix as it becomes available for the operating systems, networked appliances and software they use.

As for the open source community, help was rapid and support was fast. I had the patches in less than a day of receiving the news. Most of the updates were up on the repositories when I first checked, so everyone should have this fixed within days–so do your regular updates!

Damn bugs.

It was a Good Weekend, but Not the One I Planned

When I took this shot, I was sitting on my lawn chair down by the lower section of the back field from my house. This was the very last spot where the Sun shines through the trees before the evening takes holds and darkness rule the rest of the day. The air was warm, and it was very quiet; almost the perfect end to a great weekend.

Red Flowers - April 13 2014 Weblog Image

The whole weekend was not all rest and relaxation. I was called in to visit an old client that I did a server installation about two years ago because they feared that they might have being victims to the Heartbleed Bug that has been plaguing servers around the world who use OpenSSL as part of their security. Sure enough, they were using it, but their system was so bug ridden, that I told them they might as well reinstall the OS, and work off of their back-up data once all of the fixes were done. When I opened the servers up, I was shocked/breath-taken at what I saw. They completely gutted everything that I stalled back then, and now everything was a disaster. Sadly, becuase they were now using the archaic MS WIN2003 Server Software (becuase they broke the newer version I installed), they were now looking at a bill of about three thousand bucks to do a minimum upgrade. So I packed up and left, leaving them in the lurch with a broken server–they did not have the cash on hand to buy the licences. I was looking at a whole day to fix everything, adn they were not prepared to hire me for that.

When I got back home, more calls from businesses asking for help, asking to see if I was available for emergency calls. I switched on my answering machine, and did yard work instead for the rest of the day. I wanted to go camping, but time had run out with all of the fiddling around on Saturday, so I decided to stay home. I was not going to waste a great weekend on being stuck in server rooms while the Sun was blasting outside, so yard work it was.

I bought a gas power lawn trimmer. Up until now, I was using an electric one. It was good, but it was useless with thick weeds, and my range was quite limited with my extension cored. Having the ability now to move freely around the yard was an instant boon with me, and even my back was better as compared to having to dragging the power cord with me. But having the torque and high RMPs was the ultimate advantage. My goal this year is to make sure that every blade of grass is kept cut so that NO mosquitoes have no were to live near my home.

Well anyway, there is a few more hours left for this weekend, so I am going to enjoy them!

It is Realy an Artesian Well!

I would not have believed it if it were not for seeing it. It is a gusher. My landlord is super happy about the results, and I am sure the rest of users are too; I know I am. The well was completed last night, but was not officially capped until this morning. When I got home around noon today, all there was sticking out from the ground was the metal pipe with water spewing out from it.

Artesian Well in Fort Langley BC April 11 2014 Weblog Image

According to my landlord, the rate of water is close to 90 Imperial Gallons, or 280 litres per minute.

I am not sure on the timetable of when the water will start flowing through our taps, but for now, I could fill up on water from here. I do not know if there is a time limit before you can start drinking this water, so I will wait and see. But for now, this is a sight to behold!