Friday, April 13, 2018

Dealing with FirstChoicePay's retirement


On 1/11/2017, Payoneer announced that they would be launching a service called FirstChoice Pay:




On 2/1/2017, my FirstChoicePay's debit card has been shipped to me:



This Tuesday, I've been informed by a party that FirstChoice Pay is ceasing its service: 


Yesterday, FirstChoice Pay informed us formally that the service is stopping: 



But, why?  

The problem is caused, as you may have guessed, the latin american bank, Choice Bank. Apparently, the bank has been forced into “liquidity-constrained position”. The bank provides credit cards for FirstChoice Pay, without that bank, the service cannot operate.

“With a view to enable the bank to manage cash flows in an orderly fashion to work through the current liquidity situation, in the interest of depositors and other creditors as a whole, the bank has taken the decision in its view as a matter of necessity, with immediate effect, to temporarily suspend all withdrawals from deposit accounts with the bank and other outbound payment activities (save for payment of employees, suppliers essential for core operations, consultants and advisers) until the bank and/or its relevant regulatory authorities (as the case may be) are satisfied that such suspension is no longer required,” Choice Bank said according to an article by XBIZ.

“The liquidity challenges the bank currently faces is truly a short-term one. As it progresses through this process, the bank is confident that all its depositors, cardholders and creditors will be kept whole,” Choice Bank also said.

Now, what?   

The first step is taking my money out immediately from the credit card. Even though FirstChoice said the money is still available to use; their statement is alarming and I wouldn't want to have any relationship with that bank or their services in the future. 

Taking my money out... NOW  

I remember I asked someone to drive at my 2:00AM to the nearest ATM, where I withdrew initially a part of the payment (1,800$). The second day I withdrew another sum (1,800$). The third day I withdrew (2,400$). All the money on the card, almost totalling for (6,000$) was withdrawn.

I used more online services to empty my card until it had $0.41. This means I am done with this service. The generous 41 cents left on the card can be used by First Choice to deal with their issues.



Moving on... 

It is time to move on.
The news were indeed shocking; I have had 0 problems with FirstChoice Pay and I really enjoyed that service.

No words can describe how good that service is with excellent customer support which includes Chat, Ticket and Telephone.

Even though my card is set to expire in 2020, I will be keeping their debit card in archived. Furthermore, I will be exporting and archiving all my statements and account details.

I am grateful for the service they have offered for years and now that I've withdrawn all of the funds it was time to move now to other solutions. Businesses succeed and fail and in that case, we all been unfortunate to witness such a great service cease.
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Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Thoughts on the sentencing of sharebeast.com's owner

I have recently learned that the owner of sharebeast.com has been sentenced to 5 years in prison for copyright infringement. The domain name has been seized by the FBI as well:
Copyright infringement crimes are increasingly common and it seems the operation of sharebeast.com was a blatant case of copyright infringement. The owner of the website uploaded copyrighted music and refused to take it down. It feels odd though because the owner lives in the US and has a chosen a domain name that is seizable by US Government agencies.

This is no different than websites pirating movies and streaming them to users. There are currently thousands of pirate websites, however rare are the operators who reside in the United States and use a '.com' domain name which is seizable by the US government.

As said previously, hundreds of thousands of websites exist worldwide with the intention to pirate. Some are 'rogue' sites, they pretend or do take down copyrighted content but it finds its way to the platform again. Example sites include "openload.co" (Alexa Rank: 134) and many others. A solution to that would be offering a service to fingerprint the content and automatically block it on re-upload. Also, a repeat infringers policy taking in place would be very appropriate.
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Monday, March 26, 2018

How to install cPanel on existing centos 7 server

Warning: Installing cPanel on an existing server/configuration/installation is a huge risk and doing mistakes might cause you to wipe out or make your server unusable, do this at your own risk.

I really wanted to install cPanel on a dedicated server running centos 7. The server doesn't serve any websites and just existing to help me accomplish some tasks.

You will need to uninstall httpd, and remove any mysql databases or installation throughout the process.

However, no support was given from my host and everything online said you need to wipe our your server before installing it, here is how to install cPanel on an existing server without wipeout.

Step 0: Log in to the root account via SSH to your server, command:

ssh root@1.1.1.1 

Make sure you replace 1.1.1.1 with your server's IP address.

Step 1: If you haven't set your hostname already, do it now.  The hostname is any domain or subdomain linked to the server, in that case, I will assume it is called www.example.com. To set up your hostname, type this command:

hostname: www.example.com

If this works, the terminal will remain silent.

Step 2: If httpd is installed (highly likely), remove it by typing this command:

yum remove httpd

Then, you will be asked a question, type:



Here is a screenshot:



Step 3: If mysql is installed (highly likely), remove it by typing this command:

yum remove mysql mysql-server -y 

Here is a screenshot: 


Then run this command:

mv /var/lib/mysql /var/lib/mysql_old_backup

If there are no problems, the server will be silent when you run mv.

Step 4: Run a separate screen, to do that type:

screen

Step 5: Run this command:

cd /home && curl -o latest -L https://securedownloads.cpanel.net/latest && sh latest

You should see something like this: 


Step 6: Wait for around 30 to 45 minutes for the installation to finish. It might take more.

Step 7: Visit installed VHM login on:

www.example.com:2087


The password is the root account of the server and its password.

Step 8: Follow all necessary instructions, then go to:

www.example.com:2083

You may be able to login normally to cPanel now:


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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

I think I found the best VPN ever made

Almost every internet enthusiast will use a VPN at some point, VPNs are probably a billion dollar industry today due to the increasing demands. VPNs promise to give you another IP address thus masking your real IP address. Casual users aren't really interested how it is done and most don't know how they operate; they just want an anonymous IP address to use.

There are many reasons why people use VPNs, one of which would be to increase their privacy online. That would work if you want to hide the websites and files you download from your ISP but it would never work if you want to hide your real IP address and location from websites such as google.com or amazon.com. At some point, they will always be able to route your original IP address. If private corporations are very much advanced against VPNs, governments would be much more advanced.

Having said all that, I definitely don't use VPNs for privacy protection, but instead, I use it to access entertainment content available to only US customers.

I tried to do that in the past hundreds of times, but always failed where Netflix detected I was on a proxy and refused to stream until it was off:



And recently, I found a VPN that was able to fool Netflix into being a US network and I was able to access US Netflix from Lebanon. I was desperate, I had already started White Collar in the UK, they obviously don't have the license to broadcast it in Lebanon, so I've tried PureVPN. And it actually worked:


Awkward silence.

Netflix might appear simple on the outside but inside they have an extremely advanced technology, for example, their video player is immensely advanced and I had started to believe it is more advanced than YouTube's video player.

Nextflix's fight against VPN is no secret as most and almost all VPNs don't work while on Netflix.  PureVPN seems to have won the fight today, and it works very perfectly without any performance issues, for streaming on Netflix, a Chrome extension has to be installed where you insert your credentials:


And not only Netflix US can be accessed but other services as well: 

This is not an advertisement for PureVPN but merely a feedback. I am very impressed by their new technology and their proxies that go undetected. This can be contrasted to a 'mouse and cat game' so now Netflix and other companies will have to catch up and find out how they can fight against those evolving proxies.  
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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Won't be able to stream on twitch in 2018

I have promised many of my friends to start streaming Hearthstone on twitch.tv, in fact, I even bought a gaming laptop to do that and even tried to test stream once on YouTube:


However, after doing some research it turns that the current restrictions of my Tier-4 visa in the UK prevent from 'being an entertainer' and streaming myself into gaming could fall into a category.

According to 'Guidance on application for UK visa as Tier 4 student', you cannot be 'be employed as an entertainer' and streaming on twitch could fall into that category. At worst, this could be undertaking self-employment in the UK which is not allowed:



I would have loved to stream Hearthstone as my passion for that game never cease to end. I do play 1-2 hours daily and have bought many packs already.

After consulting a law firm the UK, they have advised me not to stream until I am either outside the UK or switched to a visa that allows me to do that.

It is expected that I stay in the UK until September 2018 unless I find a job opportunity or pursue further academic studies in the country. 
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Sunday, February 11, 2018

How To Disable Directory Listing in Apache on Ubuntu 14.04

I found this very good tutorial on a Chinese blog, so it has been translated and reproduced here:

What you see in the picture below Directory Listing in Apache server settings. And this is turned on by default.



To check if you have this problem, try to visit a directory in your apache server location with a browser, such as localhost/someFolder and you will see the contents of this folder. Webmasters and website owners generally don't want this activated because they don't want strangers to browse the contents of their website.

If you see something similar to the above photo, you got this problem as well.

While it might not be a huge security problem to your site, it certainly makes you not comfortable, and it is also not a very pleasant experience for users to crash into your directory like this.

However, it is actually very easy to turn it off in Ubuntu, here is how.

1. Navigate to /etc/apache2

2. From there, you will find a file named :

   apache2.conf

3.  Open apache2.conf with your favourite text editor. If you don't know how to edit a text file on a server, find some help on Google.

4. Find this line: ( there are actually two lines of these, one's under <Directory /var/www/>, and another one is under <Directory /srv/>, for now, we will work on the former one since that's where our website is in.)

    Options Indexes FollowSymLinks

5. Remove 'Indexes' from this line, so that it will look like this

    Options FollowSymLinks

6. Save the file, open a terminal then restart apache.

    sudo service apache2 restart

And we are done, try to visit a directory under your web var/www in a browser, and you will get a 403 forbidden error.
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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Why You Shouldn’t Care What Others Think About You

This article was written by Micheal Miles. I read it in 2012 and really like it. You may get his new book 'Thirty Days to Change Your Life' and support him by clicking here.

Who’s in control of your life? Who’s pulling your strings?

For the majority of us, it’s other people – society, colleagues, friends, family or our religious community. We learned this way of operating when we were very young, of course. We were brainwashed. We discovered that feeling important and feeling accepted was a nice experience and so we learned to do everything we could to make other people like us. We didn’t want to be singled out by the crowd for being different because this wasn’t such a nice feeling. We learned this way of being so well that, as adults, we continue – mostly through mutual peer pressure – to keep each other in check. Like sheep without any need for a sheepdog, we keep each other in line.

“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.”  – Oscar Wilde

It works both ways. First, we are afraid of disapproval. Am I dressed right? Will people laugh at my accent? Will I look stupid? Will I make a mistake? When we feel that others think badly of us, it makes us feel bad and so we try to avoid this.

Second, we all want to feel important and so we crave the positive attention of others. This is one of our basic needs, according to Dale Carnegie, author of the multi-million best seller, How to Win Friends and Influence People. And so when people stroke our ego and tell us how wonderful we are, it makes us feel good. We crave this good feeling like a drug – we are addicted to it and seek it out wherever we can.

We are so desperate for the approval of others that we live unhappy and limited lives, denying huge swathes of ourselves and failing to do the things we really want to do because we’re worried about what other people will think. Just as drug addicts and alcoholics live impoverished lives to keep getting their fix, so we impoverish our own existence to get our own constant fix of approval.

The drug is so addictive that most people will not give it up – they will keep looking for approval because the hit is so intense. But, just as with any drug, there is a price to pay. The price of the approval drug is freedom – the freedom to be ourselves. Do you want your drug or do you want to be free? You cannot have both. If you want to pull your own strings, you need to stop giving away your power – you need to genuinely stop caring what other people think about you.

The truth is that it’s all an illusion anyway – you cannot control what other people think. People have their own agenda, they come with their own baggage and, in the end, they’re more interested in themselves than in you; in fact, they’re thinking about themselves ‘morning, noon and after dinner,’ as Carnegie wrote.

If we try to live by the opinions of others, we will build our life on sinking sand. Everyone has a different way of thinking, and people change their opinions all the time. The person who tries to please everyone will only end up getting exhausted and probably pleasing no one in the process.

So how can we take back control? If we are truly ready to give up the drug of approval and importance (which most people are not), I think there’s only one way – make a conscious decision to stop caring what other people think.

This doesn’t mean that you should start to treat people badly, step on them or use them. Why would it? I read somewhere recently that the world would be terrible if nobody cared what other people thought of them. But why so? We all know what’s right and wrong. I have written before about guiding your life by means of a set of values – not values imposed from the outside by others, but innate values which come from within. If we are driven by these values and not by the changing opinions and value systems of others, we will live a more authentic, effective, purposeful and happy life. We will be actualized and successful.

Only one question remains – do you really want to be free?
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Thursday, January 25, 2018

COMP6219 Designing Usable and Accessible Technologies - Feedback

12-Feb-18 Update: this post was updated with a comment from the module leader after my statement regarding 'disabled people':

As we explained on the course In the UK disabled people refer to themselves as 'disabled people' reflecting the social model of disability where society disables people by not creating an accessible environment (e.g. lack of captioning or ramps or accessible web design). They don't like the US term 'people with disabilities' as this reflects the medical model where society has no responsibility for the disability. 

I don't generally post feedback about courses (UK equivalent: modules) I take in college, but this one course was one of my favourites. That is because I really learned something I didn't really know existed before.

About Module 

COMP6219 - Designing Usable and Accessible Technologies is a course taught at the graduate (UK equivalent: postgraduate) level in the world-renowned Faculty of Physical Sciences and Engineering at the University of Southampton.

I am a webmaster and have designed websites for 5+ years but I have was never building a website and thought like 'Would a person with a disability be able to access this website?'.

And this course is designed to exactly be able to answer this question.

I never knew 'accessibility' was a topic for designing website and mobiles applications. And this course will teach you everything about that topic, from A to Z.

It starts from explaining an overview of accessibility and usability, then it talks about universal accessibility and usability standards (mainly WCAG 2.0). During the module, you are also taught how to create personas and later on thought how to evaluate websites and software applications for accessibility and usability. Frameworks are explained and examples in the lab are demonstrated. Other topics include 'business case for accessibility',  'accessibility and mobile technologies', 'designing for adoption' and 'open source development'.

Things liked:  

  • You are evaluated with coursework and not exams. No - seriously, I couldn't be happier. If exams were to be made, it would probably be memorising slides and cramming information to vomit later on an exam paper and not learning anything in the process. But instead, we are evaluated by one huge coursework which is due at the end of the semester.
  • Non-boring (at least for me), any topic about the web excites me. The lectures are filled with videos, websites which sometimes are checked on the spot and are generally interactive. The lecturers don't rely on the slides alone to explain and transfer ideas so you are less likely to be bored. Testimonials, examples, websites, and other educational material were shown in class.
  • The module has three lecturers and not just one. Sometimes the three lecturers are present in the class which dramatically improved the learning experience.
  • Not strict about laptop or cellphone use. Usually, no one is especially at the graduate level which is good.
  • Professionalism and punctuality. 

Things disliked:  

  • Slide Wiki: we are not allowed to use other than SlideWiki to make the slides. But SlideWiki, went down on several occasions. There was a time where I was a saving a slide and an error popped up saying 'Error 403: Service Unavailable'. I feel the site is suffering from a 'management' issue. It is also very hard to make slides on that website, and it fails to auto-save.
  • Sometimes the instructors refer to people with disabilities as 'disabled people'. It might offend some. It would be better if they use more sensitive wording such as 'people with disabilities' instead. 
  • Word limitations were really destructive for me. At the end of the semester, we have to produce a report where we evaluate four applications for accessibility and usability and other factors affecting them. We are only allowed to do that in 3,000 words which is too low for me. In my undergraduate university, the instructor used to tell me 'the limit is the sky' but here in the UK it is different. There are word limitations you have to follow. In my assignment, I had to remove a lot of information to reduce the word 3,100 words.
  • The assignment could have made a bit clearer. For example, we are asked about 'assistive technology description and analysis', but it is not really made clear what or how should we analyse. I do understand, that assignments can't be too explicit about some things to require us to research more but some questions aren't clear like the assistive technology one. 

The coursework 

It is arguably the most important part of that module. It is worth 100% of the total grade. So, I made sure to start way earlier than the deadline. I think I've started working 2 months earlier and made progress every day towards it. The reason why I started that early because the assignment is enormous:

My work

The report can be found here, whereas the oral presentation can be found here and finally the website can be found here. Here is a snapshot of the website:

Challenges

  • Reusing Microsoft Office: It brought back my old Microsoft Office memories. I broke up with Microsoft Office in 2014 and was using Google Docs for 3 years. I denounced Microsoft Office as a failing product but this time I've had to use it to write the report because it has more accessibility features and an accessibility checker which is something lacking from Google Docs. The product remains awful with a weak integration with OneDrive. I lost one night's work one time because of Microsoft Office and had to redo it.
  • Applications to pick: I had no idea what to evaluate but I wanted applications that are different so I went with: Reddit and Steam (for web), and VLC and Norton Internet Security (for web).
  • Time: The assignment was really time-consuming; especially if you like things to be perfect. It took a lot to build that website (despite having a template) and the presentation took a lot of time as well.  
  • Standards: Didn't know if my work was enough or not. 

Major things learned

    • Microsoft Edge has a good accessibility checker. I was really surprised about that and never thought Microsoft would bring such good feature in their mediocre new browser Edge.
    • Accessibility is generally ignored and most webmasters don't give a damn about making their site accessible (I didn't even know that was a thing). Governments such as UK and US have to put laws sometimes to force websites to comply.
    • All of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 in detail.
    • Personas, how to make them and what they mean.
    • That SlideWiki exists. Learned how to use it, but really that wasn't hard.
    • All web accessibility tools aren't completely accurate and can't be accurate. Human intervention is needed. They are basically a script written by a human being.
    • Many people in the world today have disabilities. Having said that, it is important that you feel an ethical obligation to make your website accessible to them. In the same way that you make toilets accessible in the UK or US, you should make accessible websites.
    • Basics of WAI Aria which is a "technical specification that provides a framework to improve the accessibility and interoperability of web content and applications".
    • Generally, how to make websites accessible according to standards.
    • There is a lot more to research, improve and innovate in this field. 

    Grade

    I scored an 87% (UK Grading System), here are the details of my grade:
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        Sunday, January 14, 2018

        Dear Apple thank you for giving me a new iPhone 7 for free

        For the third time in a row, Apple has provided a solution for my iPhone problem for free. The problem with my beloved iPhone 7 started when I upgraded to iOS 8. That moment, the Home Button stopped working. The rest is history.

        Once my home button got broken, I took it to the Apple Store in Southampton and was furious; and the Apple guru said that this is a hardware problem. I was puzzled, and I told him 'that is not reasonable since it stopped working after I upgraded to iOS 8'; however, the apple guru responded with 'it is a coincidence'.

        Eventually, Apple Store was able to fix my phone by replacing it with both a new screen and a new home button. You can't replace only the home button since it seems to all come within one piece.

        However, that repair was free because my iPhone was under warranty. The other issue started when I was in Lebanon, and my iPhone's screen decided to stop working. It kept on blacking out and showing weird colours until the screen stopped working entirely.

        But at that point, my iPhone's warranty had already expired, so I thought I had to pay for the repair. However, the Apple Guru informed me that the screen they replaced not too long ago is still under the 90-days warranty. And he informed that the repair would be free.

        I was really happy, and I was asked to come a few hours later to pick up my phone since the repair is done on the same day.

        When I got back later, another Apple Guru came to me and informed that the issue with my screen being completely black persisted even with a new changed screen, and then I thought 'I was really f*cked' until the Apple Guru handed me a new iPhone 7 black and apologised for not being able to fix my phone.

        The Apple Guru informed me that since the screen was still under warranty, I have to pay nothing and here I am with a new iPhone 7!
                                          

        They took the broken iPhone but luckily it was backed up entirely to the iCloud so all my data, photos and phone settings would transfer to the new iPhone.

        Thank you Apple for your professionalism and phenomenal customer support.
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        Tuesday, December 19, 2017

        Music habits in 2017 released from Anghami

        Anghami has been using data science to get to know some music habits about me. They analyzed my music habits and they found this: 


        What the...


        I don't know if this is accurate...


        Hmmm, Sia was probably in those songs...


        Ok, whatever...


        50,000 minutes of music? I must really be a music listening addict...


        The screenshots have been taken from Anghami can be found here
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        Sunday, December 10, 2017

        Rise of The Tomb Raider (2015) review

        I've finally finished playing Rise of The Tomb Raider (2015) and without a doubt this is one of the best games ever made.

        Rise of the Tomb Raider is an enterprise computer game created by Crystal Dynamics and distributed by Square Enix. It is the spin-off of the 2013 computer game Tomb Raider (which is a game that I've played as well). As of today, the game has reported to have sold 7 million copies.

        The game was immensely enjoyable with a solid story campaign, gameplay mode without outfits and many weapons that are upgradable.

        The game was immensely enjoyable with a solid story campaign, gameplay mode without outfits and many weapons that are upgradable. For some reasons, the gameplay is up on YouTube. This is not meant to be used as a walkthrough and uploaded only as for a future reference to me:
         

        You might want to check the game's beautiful soundtrack:

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        Wednesday, December 6, 2017

        Dear Palestinians Don't Protest In Lebanon

        Following Trump's decision to acknowledge Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the illegal and unlawful Palestinian people in Lebanon decided to go on the streets, close some roads, and attempt to further incapacitate this vulnerable country.


        I am extremely outraged by this behaviour. Lebanon should not suffer because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is not Lebanon's job to resolve this conflict!

        Palestinians, do not protest in Lebanon, this is not your country, and you don't even hold the Lebanese passport. Go protest elsewhere!



        Video also I've received also can be seen by clicking on this link.

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