Archive for the ‘Internet’ Category

I discovered Scott Helme’s blog only recently, but I’m glad I did. Scott knows much more about HTTPS and certificates than I do, and he succeeds in explaining the subject in a very understandable way. The post that pointed me to his blog explains how certificate “Revocation is broken“. And that subject has some surprising aspects, by the way. Earlier posts on his blog will let you discover what SSL means, how you can install certificates, what to look out for, and more.

Let’s face it: I’m happy to blog here on the WordPress site, which takes care of all the SSL stuff for this blog (and probably does it better than I could do myself at this moment). But if I want to continue to help build and run other websites, I’ll have to get my hands dirty on this subject! We may all be waiting for the days when “buying” a domain name will include the corresponding SSL certificates, but as long as that isn’t the case, you and I will have to do it ourselves. That’s where people like Scott can be a big help.

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The language isn’t new: Kotlin was created more than 5 years ago by JetBrains engineers. A preview version was released in 2011. Kotlin is a statically typed programming language for the Java Virtual Machine (JVM). Being crude, you could say that it’s “just another” enhancement of the Java language, just like Groovy or Scala. Nice, but hardly indispensable.

But Kotlin made a name for itself in May 2017, when Google announced “that it is making Kotlin […] a first-class language for writing Android apps” (in the words of Frederic Lardinois on TechCrunch). The Wired website has a bit more info on why the language was developed and why it is so “hot” these days. And the article concludes:

And its applications extend well beyond Google’s platform. Like Java, it can be used to write apps that run on desktops and servers as well. Plus, JetBrains has released tools for translating Kotlin code into code that can run on iOS or even in web browsers. All of which is to say, you can expect to find yourself using apps written in Kotlin more and more often in the coming months and years.

I have not yet written a line of Kotlin, but perhaps I should try that sooner rather than later. Since I’m also looking at Apple’s Swift language, the combination of learning both could be beneficial… or problematic, since someone asserts that both are quite similar (but not the same, of course): see “Swift is like Kotlin” for details.

I still would like to know how the name “Kotlin” was chosen…

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I have used the Signal – Private Messenger app for a long time – I even remember that it was originally called ‘TextSecure’.

Luckily for me, the app also includes support for ‘normal’ (unsecure!) SMS messages, because only a very limited number of friends and acquaintances were willing to follow me. Perhaps this news will change their minds:

Without any fanfare, the Senate Sergeant at Arms recently told Senate staffers that Signal, widely considered by security researchers and experts to be the most secure encrypted messaging app, has been approved for use.

Source: ZDNet

So the US Senate is allowed to use this app – will the Open Whisper Systems crew be proud and see this as a compliment?

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Last weekend, I spotted two old BMW motorcycles on the road in the port of Antwerp (Belgium). I had my camera in my hands, so I managed a few badly-framed photos – you can see them on Flickr.

By chance, I also spotted an advertisement for a similar bike. I don’t pretend to be a specialist on the subject, but I haven’t seen many BMW R50/2’s in this color scheme (not even on Google Images), and I find this combination quite flattering!

A fine-looking oldie, as seen in one
of the last advertisements on Kapaza

When I said I found this “zoekertje” by chance, I meant that I just had a quick look at the Kapaza website, because the site announced just last week that it will be closing down in a few days. I have visited that site, with its thousands of advertisements for second-hand stuff in many categories, while on the prowl for say another bike or a special lens for my camera. Kapaza is (was) one of the few big Belgian websites that used ColdFusion for at least parts of its site, and that made me pay a bit more attention to it also. This is one more website that won’t last half a century and more, unlike the motorcycle shown here!

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In a blog post titled “Securing our Digital Economy“, the president and CEO of the Internet Society writes:

The truth is that economies can only function within a secure and trusted environment.

Which brings us to encryption. […]

Encryption is a technical building block for securing infrastructure, communications and information. It should be made stronger and universal, not weaker.

Stronger encryption? I’m all for it. Do I really have to explain that government-enforced “backdoors” in encryption tools will only weaken those tools – and the trust they are supposed to deliver?

Source: Shutterstock

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Last week, I did loose a lot of time in what should have been a quick ColdFusion hack. My colleagues and I were just trying to set up a web service-based solution for a simple problem: they had a JavaScript page that needed a bit of data for which I already had the code in ColdFusion. So I created a new directory in an existing application, whipped up the required code in ‘index.cfm‘ to return a bit of JSON and tested the result from my browser… only to get an “Error 500 - Application index.cfm could not be found“.

Weird, heh? The required file was there, so why could CF11 not find it? Adding an ‘Application.cfm‘ did not help, neither did repackaging the code in a CFC. On CF8, on the other hand, everything worked as expected. So what was going on?

It took some time, but I did find the explanation: CF11 reserves the directory name ‘api’ for special treatment, so you can’t use it like any other directory name – and of course that was the name I had chosen! Adam Tuttle described the situation nicely in 2015:

Funny you should mention that the issue is inside an /api folder. I’m trying to track down the same problem, except I’m directly accessing an index.cfm (sort of — onRequest intercepts the request and redirects to CFCs as appropriate — it’s a Taffy API) and I’ve found that renaming the folder from /api to … literally anything else… works fine. It’s almost as if something in CF has special meaning at /api, like the special /rest mapping does.

Indeed, renaming my directory solved the problem – too bad it took me so long to find the cause. On to the next problem!

PS. Adam Tuttle has more to say on the subject, but his post on the subject has disappeared: the URL ‘http://fusiongrokker.com/post/coldfusion-11-sometimes-chokes-on-api‘ no longer points to the relevant text, but is redirected to another blog also belonging to Adam Tuttle. There, unfortunately, the post is NOT available. I won’t call this a case of linkrot, but it’s not good either. Luckily, the Wayback Machine has a copy of the page, including a few comments…

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Social media are everywhere these days, to the point where they suddenly seem to be more important than any other communication medium. Families and friends use them to stay in touch while on holiday, companies use them for informal meetings and discussions, news media distribute their headlines with them, politicians on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean (and probably elsewhere in the world too) use them to try and set the stage for policy changes.

Privacy questions remain, however. Especially now that the concept of real and virtual walls around nations is rearing its (ugly) head again. So here’s an interesting suggestion from Maciej Cegłowski, in a post titled “Social Media Needs A Travel Mode“:

All I care about when I’m on vacation is posting devastating beach photos that will make my friends jealous. So why do I need to carry the complete list of people I went to high school with, or an archive of messages I exchanged with a chance acquaintance ten years ago?


We need a ‘trip mode’ for social media sites that reduces our contact list and history to a minimal subset of what the site normally offers. Not only would such a feature protect people forced to give their passwords at the border, but it would mitigate the many additional threats to privacy they face when they use their social media accounts away from home.

Reinforced real borders the world all over form a strong contrast with an Internet that has (almost) no frontiers. So I do wonder if we’ll ever see such a thing – perhaps Diaspora could propose a solution?

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