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Tech Tips, Tricks & Trivia

by 'Anil' Radhakrishna
A seasoned developer's little discoveries and annotated bookmarks.

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

Google Street View can provide visual history of a place over time

Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Google Street View was launched in 2007 in several cities in the United States, and has since expanded to include cities and rural areas worldwide.
Maps with areas highlighted in blue support Street View imagery
This feature of Google Maps provides a view of actual images of streets and objects as if you were walking there.

According to Wikipedia, the option to view Street-level imagery from the past has been introduced in 2014. It is only available where Google has imaged a street more than once.

To start viewing Street-level imagery click the Pegman in the bottom right corner. Any roads which have Street View imagery will appear highlighted in blue. Click on a highlighted part of the map to see Street View.

If past imagery is available, there is an overlay in the upper-right corner with the address and Street View date which can be changed to view images over time.
Street View image showing a Safeway supermarket. Notice a building under construction in the background in October 2007

The supermarket is gone. The building in the background is ready in August 2011. 
Street View is currently available in India only in certain areas of a few cities (shown in blue)


This Week I Learned - Week #75

Saturday, September 13, 2014
This Week I Learned:
  • Twitter determines the people you might enjoy following based on your recent visits to websites in the Twitter ecosystem (sites that have integrated Twitter buttons or widgets). Twitter's tailored suggestions feature works by suggesting people who are frequently followed by other Twitter users that visit the same websites. 
  • Redis takes underutilized resources on servers and turns them into valuable caching service. Twitter forked Redis 2.4 and added some features to it, so they are stuck at 2.4 (2.8.14 is the latest stable version). Redis drives Timeline, Twitter’s most important service. Timeline is an index of tweets indexed by an id. Chaining tweets together in a list produces the Home Timeline. Memcache didn’t work as well as Redis for the timeline.  - High Scalability
  • According to this answer on SuperUser, it is possible to use an older version of Google Chrome by installing Chrome while offline. The file GoogleUpdate.exe found in this folder location: %USERPROFILE%\AppData\Local\Google\Update has to be deleted to prevent updates.
  • There is a workaround to install WhatsApp on a tablet that can access internet over WIFI
  • SIM-Swap involves a fraudster issuing a duplicate SIM card which is registered under your name. With a SIM card that shares the same number, the fraudster can stalk and save your bank related information via mobile banking transactions.
  • Convergent evolution - Birds evolved wings when their finger bones fused together and sprouted feathers more than 150 million years ago. Bats evolved wings about 60 million years ago when their fingers stretched out and became covered in membranes.
  • Peanuts are not nuts; they're legumes
  • West Africa produces nearly 70% of the world's cocoa.
  • Size is a general indicator of chilli heat: the smaller the hotter
  • The brain requires 20% of a human's energy when resting; by comparison, an ape's brain requires only 8%.
  • Groups not dependent on cattle, such as the Chinese and Thai, the Pima Indians of the American Southwest, and the Bantu of West Africa, remain lactose intolerant. - National Geographic
  • In 1876, Elisha Gray and Alexander Graham Bell filed a patent on discovery of the telephone on the same day
  • Dr. George Papanicolaou also known as Dr. Pap is the inventor of the "Pap smear" test. He first reported that uterine cancer could be diagnosed by means of a vaginal smear in 1928 but the importance of his work was not recognized until 1943. Upon examination of a slide made from a smear of the patient's vaginal fluid, Papanicolaou discovered that abnormal cancer cells could be plainly observed under a microscope. "The first observation of cancer cells in the smear of the uterine cervix," he later wrote, "gave me one of the greatest thrills I ever experienced during my scientific career." In the 1940s, when the Pap Smear was first introduced, cervical cancer was the number one killer of women.  The Pap Smear, now a standard cancer screening test for all women, has greatly reduced the death rate for cervical cancer patients worldwide.
  • His wife Mary was his first and long term, human subject.
  • The legend goes that Maharaja Agrasen had 17 sons and one daughter, whose descendants are known as Agrawals. There are 17-and-a-half Agrawal surnames (or got­ras)—including Garg, Goyal, Mittal, Singhal, Kansal and, of course, Bansal. Four of the five e-commerce Bansals are IIT grads.
  • The 17 Laws of the Game of Football are governed by a global organization called FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) or in English (International Federation of Association Football).
  • Offside is a rule in soccer that ensures an offensive player does not have an unfair advantage.
  • It is governed by imaginary lines on both sides of the field. These lines are based on the position of two different points: Either the second-to-last defender or the position of the ball. Common Craft's Soccer Guide has an excellent explanation in the form of animated gifs


Book Review: Drawing Cartoons and Comics For Dummies

Thursday, September 11, 2014
I doodle, draw cartoons as a hobby and follow comic strips with interest. I enjoyed reading Brian
Fairrington's Drawing Cartoons and Comics For Dummies. Though it appears to be written for an American audience, the book discusses tricks of the cartooning trade and numerous ideas that can be useful to aspiring cartoonists anywhere in the world.

The author, a professional cartoonist, makes it clear in the beginning that this book is not a complete art course. It has step-by-step examples on how to draw characters and objects commonly used in cartoons and explains topics that make cartoons interesting like Lettering, Perspective and Layout. The author offers valuable tips on packaging and selling your work. There is a good deal of cartoon history that makes the book engaging.

While drawing can be taught, I think drawing humorous cartoons is a highly individualistic process that cannot be taught. I feel, studying the work of the masters & drawing from the experience of experts like the author of this book can set aspiring cartoonists on the road to success.

I exaggerate, therefore I am
Exaggeration is an essential element of humor. (I drew this in 2001)

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Notes on SSL enabling a website

Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Though implementing it requires complexity, risks, and costs it can mean increased security, better referral data (whenever traffic passes from a secure HTTPS site to a non-secure HTTP site, the referral data gets stripped away but if traffic passes to an HTTPS site, the secure referral information is preserved whether it originates from a site using HTTP or HTTPS), and a possible boost in rankingsMake the switch to HTTPS if doing so is reasonable for your business.

Google has announced they would reward sites using HTTPS encryption (though its not a major ranking factor) with a boost in search results.

According to statistics from BuiltWith, 1.9% for the top million sites and 4.2% of the top 10,000 websites redirect users to SSL/HTTPS by default.

An SSL certificate confirms the identity of the domain name that is operating the web site, encrypts all information between the server and the visitor and ensures the integrity of the transmitted information.

To use HTTPS on the web today, you need to obtain a certificate file that's signed by a company that browsers trust. Once you have it, you tell your web server where it is, where your associated private key is, and open up port 443 for business.

There are a variety of SSL certificates whose cost (StartSSL offers basic certificates to individuals for free) varies according to functionality:
- Domain Validated (DV) SSL CertificatesWhen issuing a Domain Validated SSL Certificate, the certificate authority (CA) checks only that the applicant's name and contact information matches the registration information in the WHOIS database for the domain name associated with the applied for SSL Certificate. Because CAs aren't required to validate the legitimacy of the applicant's business, Domain Validated SSL Certificates are a good choice for businesses where customers will not be transmitting sensitive data or are less concerned about website security issues like identity assurance. 

Organizationally Validated (OV) SSL CertificatesThis certificate assures the validity of a Web site by verifying that the applicant is a legitimate business. Before issuing the SSL certificate, the CA performs a rigorous validation procedure, including checking the applicant's business credentials (such as the Articles of Incorporation) and verifying the accuracy of its physical and Web addresses. An Organizationally Validated SSL Certificate is an excellent website security option for any business conducting online transactions and accepting sensitive data, such as credit-card numbers, from customers. OV certificates conform to the X.509 RFC standards

Extended Validation SSL CertificatesExtended Validation SSL Certificates are the first SSL Certificates to adhere to industry-wide certification guidelines established by leading Web browser vendors and Certificate Authorities, including Network Solutions. The Certificate application process itself is more thorough and the validation criteria more rigorous for EV certification, whose applicants, at least initially, are limited to certain types of business entities and government agencies. Among the new features of EV SSL Certificates is the color-coding of the Web browser's address bar to signal secure connections. The browser navigation window turns green to indicate an authentically validated site with an Extended Validation SSL Certificate, full website security, and encryption in place, and turns red when it encounters a known phishing or otherwise untrustworthy site. 

EV certificates triggers a visible Green Bar on modern browsers to distinguish the secured site apart from others. EV Green Bar cannot not be triggered by DV or OV certificates

Visitors viewing details of the certificate will find more information about the organization than a DV or OV certificate:

It is not possible to get a wildcard Extended Validation Certificate.

Network Solutions and Symantec are two among many providers of SSL Certificates.


A rant on Visual Studio Updates

Tuesday, September 09, 2014
I wanted to access a Github Repository through Visual Studio on a machine that had Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2.

I learn that Visual Studio 2013 comes pre-packaged with Git support and it is nice that there is a Express edition (Microsoft Visual Studio Express 2013 with Update 3 for Web) that can be downloaded for free. Unfortunately, it needs Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 which is a huge download so I choose to go with Visual Studio 2012, which I already have.

VS 2012 needs Visual Studio Tools for Git. Visual Studio Tools for Git requires Visual Studio 2012 Update 2 before it can be installed.

The download link cannot be copied so I type it out to get Visual Studio 2012 Update 2. That link takes me to a page that will be let me download Visual Studio 2012 Update 4 (not 2).

Fine. I download VS2012.4 which is just 1.3MB and proceed to install it.

Before I do that I get this notification that "This installation will update all the Visual Studio 2012 products and languages which are currently installed". I click on the More Information link to see if there is anything I can exclude. But no, I can't.

The installation plans to install 3GB worth of updates. You can't escape from software updates. I suddenly lose interest in what I set out to do.
Am I sure, I want to cancel setup? Oh yes!

Update (15/Sep/2014): I got around installing Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1(903 MB). It took a couple of hours and a restart.

Microsoft Visual Studio Express 2013 with Update 3 for Web needs IE 11 to work best. 
IE 11 has an option to have new versions installed automatically, enabled by default

After a couple of computer restarts and about 4 hours to finish installing, I was able to start using Visual Studio Express 2013. In the future, I'll probably use a VM from Azure and RDP into it rather than go through all this installation business.

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