In the past few days, a trend has emerged on one of my websites. There has been a stream of subscriptions to e-mail updates from Polish e-mail addresses which are obviously fake. They’re using names which seem to be randomly picked from an American phone book. I can’t tell you what they are hoping to achieve by mass-subscribing to mail updates for my blog. However, there is a clear pattern that is shared by all the domain names.

  • Compromised domains all belong to Polish cities: Kalisz, Scczecin, Zgora, Opole and other city related domains are all compromised.
  • All mail addresses are using subdomains.
  • All domains are using DNS.pl DNS servers.
  • All domains have been updated on the 13th of May 2020 which was when their “subscriptions” have started. I believe this is the day that the subdomain used for the mailboxes has been created.
  • The subdomain points to a different server / hosting provider than the main domain name.

It appears that someone has gotten access to these city-owned domain names and has managed to point new records to his spam mail server. When mailed to complain, DNS.pl said that the domain names were “regionally owned” and “not theirs”. They didn’t seem to be interested in doing anything about investigating the problem.

I don’t speak Polish and have wasted enough time on finding out what is happening. But if you live in the area and have IT expertise, you might want to contact the responsible person for the following cities and tell them their domain name has been compromised: Kalisz, Szczecin and Zgora (and a few others, whose names I didn’t write down).

Earlier today, I sat down to write a blog post about a topic. However, the problem is that I can’t tell you what that topic was. I forgot because of what happened after I sat down.

Once I was ready to start writing, I immediately got distracted. My brain kindly informed me that I have two blogs. One under this domain name and one under the Twitter handle that I am using. So it demanded to know where I was going to post the blog post.

Easy. I’m posting it on stevenzeegers.me. That’s where all my blog posts end up. How is this even a question?

My brain wasn’t satisfied with that answer. It told me I needed to consider all the angles. Was I really super sure that was the best approach?Continue reading

Today, I was curious to find out if there’s a simple way inside Microsoft Teams to create an overview of who’s who inside a team. Why would you need that? People that are new to your organization  might not always know who they can contact for certain questions. That becomes even more of an issue when you struggle with social anxiety or autism. If you’re already anxious about having to ask a question it sure doesn’t help if you don’t know who to ask.

While there’s no app inside Teams for this kind of “Who’s who” age yet, you can easily create that kind of page by using the Wiki. It’s super easy to get started, all you need is a picture, the name of a contact person and their username inside Office365!  The picture might not even be strictly neccessary (for people who work remotely) but once you’re creating something, you might as well cover all grounds.

All you need   is a picture and someone’s O365 username. With those, you can setup a page that’ll help people instantly connect to the right person. The Teams username will display the Teams profle card that’ll allow people to send them a message in Teams, mail them or audio/video call them. In my first version I also included the e-mail address and a phone number, but that turns out to be redundant.

Here’s the demo page I made for a team:

 

Team members can now easily figure out who to contact. After navigating to the channel and clicking “Wiki”, all they need to do is find a person in the “right department” and click their Teams username. No need to contact collegues about who to contact!

This solution leaves some room for improvement. I wish I didn’t have to navigate a Wiki, for starters. But it’s a good start and it’s super easy to setup!

Selina Bosmans

I have an announcement to make, and the title of this post mostly covers what I want to say. But most people will read that title and be confused about a thing or two, so here is a little backstory.

Computertaal is a technology blog that is more than a one and a half decade old. It has been an independant source of IT tips, tricks and articles ever since.

I joined the writer staff of the blog immediately when the blog was founded. I would hesitate to call myself a co-founder because the blog has always been the brain child of Peter D’Hollander, the main guy behind the blog that has kept the lights on for over more than a decade and whom is responsible for a large chunk of the 15,000 articles that you can currently find on the blog in Dutch.

About eight years ago, I took a “brief hiatus” from writing for Computertaal because I wanted to focus on writing about Joomla, a popular CMS. That was all I wrote a bout for a while, and people will tell you not to regret things from the past but I wish I would have found a better balance back then.

Anyhow, fast forward to 2020 (and skip a period where I didn’t write about anything for a long time because reasons) and I felt the urge to start covering broader tech topics again. Instead of starting a seven millionth website which I would never finished, I decided to see if there was a possibility to go back to my roots.

I’m happy to announce that there was still a spot available for a smart-ass like me who loves to write about everything tech related under the sun. So in 2020 I’ll be returning to Computertaal as a writer and start terrorizing the Dutch tech community again with my blog posts. You have been warned.

 

I always tought about making a career switch and becoming a developer, but it always seemed to be so hard. So, other than “hacking away” at some existing projects I never really did any programming. Even as a “web developer” most of what I did was focused on using existing tools. Programming my own solution? Yes, I’ll look into that. After I try every single plugin I can imagine to solve this problem.

I tried programming in my free time. I always quite, because I didn’t really see a path forward. I still struggle with figuring out what I should be doing or pursuing next. So my “developer career” never took off.

Until I was forced to make a career change and became a “Jr. Developer”. Or whatever the correct label is. Initially things were off to a slow start. I did a lot of learning and studying of complex concepts. It’s not like I didn’t write code. I had to self-teach myself enough Python to interact with an API and exchange information. I built a small demo portal in C# with ASP.Net Core. But none of that ever really left my development environment.

That changed when I got assigned some other projects. Before that, anything I’d ever programmed rests in some “PHP Projects” folder on my computer. Or it’s uploaded on some corner of the internet, but I never gave anyone the link to it.

The last month and a half were interesting, because I finally started building things that people actually used.  I went from never having built anything publicly used or available, to having built the following:

  • * A web portal used by a big company (I’m talking prime time TV ads, nation wide brand awareness big).
  • * An internal app for sales people
  • * An “app” that reads an API which  extracts data
  • * An app that runs on *my freaking Xbox*

Okay, so maybe that Xbox app doesn’t really count since it only exists in a sandbox environment. But I was crazy excited when I saw the splash screen pop up on my TV. I built a thing. And ran it on my Xbox of all places. That’s so crazy.

I just felt like sharing that with the world, for some reason. So, here you go. I’ve made some progress in my development career and I can’t wait to see what the future has in store. Please don’t be Cobol. Anything but Cobol.

Making all that money online

Anyone with a “hiatus” between jobs, access to a computer and knowledge of building a website has been there at some point. You were on the website after seeing an advertisement or Googling “How to make money online”. You were about to click that button that screamed at you to BUY THIS THING NOW. For only $99 you could unlock the secrets to making thousands of dollars online a month. All you would need was access to a computer – and the internet, they always forget to mention the internet – and their course with a magic money generating formula.

Did you end up buying such a course? Feel free to share your experience in the comments below. For those who haven’t, I’ll save you the money and tell you what you would have bought and what their secret to making money is.Continue reading

Car keys? Check.
The car itself? Check
Fuel card? Check.
Office keys? Check.
SIM card? Check.

Last Friday I dropped off the last of the items from my former employer. After working there for a little more than a decade, we decided to go separate ways. When two humans split up you are always wondering where things went wrong. That is hardly the case in this scenario. Don’t you worry, though. I am not going to bore you with my career at my former employer or an analysis of their operations.  I will also try and keep the clichés about chapters and “excitement” to a minimum.

However, I can’t deny that making this change has been treating me well so far. As I am writing this post I still have to figure out what the next step in my career will be. But I am cautiously excited about what will happen next. I am looking forward to interesting technological challenges and projects that will test my skills. There are a lot of things out there that caught my attention which I never got to research or implement and more than a few skills I would like to develop under the wings of my next employer.

I am usually not a big fan of change, but I am genuinely excited about the change in careers and the personal changes I get to make as a result. People around me are telling me that I am already far more relaxed than I was in the past and some people are even “concerned” about me because I seem to be more calm and excited around people. I guess I’ll take that as a compliment, sister. That was a compliment, right?

Originally, this blog post was supposed to be much longer and was supposed to sound like a standard LinkedIN post. But some things just don’t change and I hate writing those sort of posts just as much as I always used to, so this “into the future” post will have to do. For now.

I am looking at my Twitter feed in Tweetdeck. Tweets fly by, and I try to distill something useful or interesting from the stream of information in the awfully blue client. Somehow, it doesn’t click. Without reading a single tweet, I decide to close the tab, and I start wondering what happened.

There was a time where I was obsessed with Twitter. I send dozens of tweets daily, and on a yearly basis I probably sent thousand of tweets. But now, i feel indifferent towards the medium. “Oh, you felt like you had to tweet that, person? That’s nice. I don’t care, but it’s nice.”

It’s hard to exactly pinpoint what changed the sentiment towards the micro blogging platform.

Perhaps it’s that it stopped being a micro blogging platform and wanted to be many things at once. Video, images and tweets up to 280 characters saturate a feed that once used to be pretty minimalistic. You could scroll through (or read) through a bunch of short tweets without having to filter through a lot of distractions. These times are long gone, now. Nowadays, your feed looks like a gigantic billboard where everyone is trying to advertize his or her product.

Twitter wanted to make changes to become relevant, of course. In order to do so they introduced ads. Personalised ads, based on your preferences. Or that is the theory, at least. In reality they probably have the least appealing ads in place.

Their ads don’t feel very relevant. Promoted tweets are often for companies I have no interest in whatsoever, and I don’t have a clue why Twitter thinks I would be interested in the tweets of yet another bank. Is it because I follow two banks on Twitter? Great job, Twitter. You just discovered I’m a customer for banks. Don’t need a third one, though. Sorry.  People might hate on personalised ads all they want and I am not excited to know that companies know a lot about me either, but if I have to watch ads at least make sure they’re not eye rolling bad. Facebook does a fairly good job at it. Not as good as Google, though. Their ads are usually pretty on point (minus the car ads, but I understand that that’s also a result of how their ads work).

But I didn’t want to talk about advertizing. This is a nostalgic “what happened” about Twitter.

Death of the desktop

One of the biggest reasons I lost interest is because Twitter decided to kill desktop clients.

They already pushed a lot of non-official apps out of the market, with API and other restrictions, which made it impossible to compete. What remained was then bought by, and folded into Twitter. But Tweetdeck is no longer, either. The “app” you download is a wrapper for the web version of Tweetdeck. The same, blue, chaotic, “How the hell does this work” mess, just downloadable. You can’t even start the app if you don’t have an internet connection.

Of course, that wasn’t enough. They also made an awful Windows 10 app to replace their official Windows entry. And things got worse on Mac OSX where they just killed the desktop client entirely.

So now, you are stuck with their website or the iOS version. Neither of which I have open all the time. I don’t feel an “urge” to check my phone or to check that one browser tab that’s lost in a forest of tabs.

Twitter basically killed the link between my eyeballs and tweets themselves. Nowadays, when I log in, it’s usually to post something myself or check my mentions. No point in checking my feed anyway, because they now also introduced a “Best of” algorytm. Which is also awful at it’s job. It lacks all the flexibility of Facebook and it’s predictions are not on YouTube’s levels. Youtube only sucks at suggesting new accounts to follow. No, YouTube, I don’t want to watch a video because I watched a slightly related video to the one this gamer douche once made.

Bottom line, I guess, is that I don’t like the “new Twitter” a lot, and since I lost touch with the people I used to talk to the most, Twitter is no longer a platform I am paying a lot of attention to. I might be using it occasionally, just like I check my mailbox daily despite not expecting a lot of letters. But the late night “Let’s check Twitter one more time” or the constant allure of the desktop client with interesting, short tweets I could read? Those days are long gone.

I tried coming up with a nice story or a cool introduction for this post. Perhaps a story about puzzles, or the stereotype of men throwing out the manual of a new product. To be honest, however, I just want to rant for a bit about some of the “documentation” out there. To make matters worse, this rant is brought to you by niche Open Source software which could they could replace by a cloud solution which would have done a better job. But that’s beside the point.

Last week I was working on a project, trying to get an application to play nice with another application on a Linux server.

I’m not a Linux expert. Nor do I have particularly strong feelings for Linux. That will probably never change since I never bought into the “Open Source is best” ideology. But sometimes, there are things that need are done on a Linux Server. Things I need to do. In most cases, I manage just fine.

It’s when it comes to actually configuring Linux applications that things get frustrating, because half of the time, the documentation sucks.

And boy, does the documentation suck for this particular software. The official documentation was hard to read and made some pretty huge assumptions and never explained concepts properly. In order to get the solution running I needed to Google the puzzle together. Google is often my friend, but in this case it was complicated.

As is often the case with Open Source, the “solutions” for the problems I encountered were all over the place. Quite literally, too. I had to puzzle together comments from Forums, StackExchange questions and blog posts and pick the pieces I thought I needed to find a final solution for my problem.

In the end I got it to work, but not before I decided to scrap an entire “branch” of documentation that I was following. It turns out that there was a completely different way of doing the same thing, which solved my problem. While the “solution” I had started to follow from the beginning, ended up failing.

I’m not sure if there is an “idea” behind this blog post, other than to complain that some Open Source software seriously lacks in “final documentation”. In Open Source, the idea that “You need to figure it out yourself” seems to be really strong.

A Business Opportunity

There is a lot of documentation on the internet. Lots of it is in poor shape or spread out over dozens of websites. I imagine there would be a real business opportunity writing some real good documentation for the Open Source software that’s lacking. I now also understand why some people prefer to use “commercial” Open Source over the free Wild West variety.

Don’t look at me to solve the problem, though. I will happily admit that I am not the kind of person to shell out documentation for an Open Source solution. I’m not that invested in the Open Source philosophy.

However, this experience made me revisit an idea I had a while ago called DIYoomla.  I don’t want to give away too much, but I am planning to write and / or centralize some documentation for software that’s dear to me. Software of which I feel I could write some decent documentation. To fill the gaps that the official documentation left behind. But, more specifically, to help people with specific scenarios that the official documentation doesn’t cover for the simple reason that it’d be too much for the average user.

The name probably already gives away what direction I’ll be thinking of. And no, war hawks of FOSS, it’s not a trademark violation. It’s a clever play of words.

When I start writing this blog post, I sigh as I read the title. At the same time, I have got to accept that it really describes the app the most accurately. So, without further adue… allow me to explain.

About a year ago, I was standing in a store, helping my mother decide what detergent to buy. The store was throwing around with discounts and 2+1 sales. Both products were pretty much of similar quality. All she wanted to know which was really the best offer.

Because that’s the thing, right? Stores will try and trick you in different ways. Ever since that day I started paying attention, and discovered some of their schemes:

  • Bigger sizes of a product aren’t always cheaper.
  • The product on sale is still more expensive than the alternative, because of the price per content.
  • Hey, here’s a 15% discount. But you won’t know how much you saved until you pay for the product

Anyway, I decided to help my mother out by making a simple web app that would help her figure out which product was exactly the cheapest.

Since I’m not much of a developer I built the thing in HTML and Python. And all was well. It worked, she doesn’t care about the behind-the-scenes.

With that approach in mind, I started working on the app. I called it “Secret Formula”. There really aren’t any Secret Formula’s. It’s just math and common sense. But it sounds neat and to some people the math might sound like arcane spells written by an ancient wizard. But mostly it sounded good.

Ever since I “launched” the app I have been adding some new formulas. After the initial “This will help my mother” formula’s I started to think about formula’s that could help other people. I have since then added a formula to calculate gas prices, how much to tip, how much you save in a “Buy X, Get Y Free” sale… and so on.

So many plans (skip this if you just want to read about the app)

Over time I have developed some pretty wild plans for the app. That’s what usually happens when I have an idea.  One of the big ideas has always been to turn the app into a real iOS app. This is something I always keep postponing. It would mean I’d need to learn an actual programming language.

I was almost there when I tried to use Cordova to build an iOS / Android app built on HTML and Javascript. I quickly gave up on that idea because I can’t get Xcode to play nice. Yes, I’m quickly discouraged like that.

Talking about HTML and Javascript, though… I did rewrite the entire thing. Instead of using Python and CGI files and what not, it’s now a HTML/Javascript app. I’m proud to say it’s pretty damn fast and responsive. You can easily use it on your smart phone and it’ll be super fast.

For now, I have accepted that the HTML/Javascript app will be “the app” for the time being. It works! That’s what matters, right?

Get the app!

To get started with the app, simply go to https://toralkohost.com/apps/secretformula/en/ or, if you want the Dutch version, go to https://toralkohost.com/apps/secretformula/

You can start calculating things right away. Using the app is free and adfree. What I would appreciate, is if you let me know if you used and liked the app.

Neat detail: If you save the app to your iOS home screen, it’ll have it’s own icon and it’ll be searchable. So go ahead and do that, if you want.

Known problems are that there’s a grey button in an ocean of blue ones, that the “What’s new” is always in English no matter what version you are using and that you need to reload the page on the formula for splitting rent.  There’s also the problem that you need to use a dot instead of a comma as a decimal in most formula’s.

Another known “problem” is that the formula’s aren’t always self-explanatory. I am thinking of ways to make it clearer what they are for. Especially the newest formula, the one for splitting rent, might need a few words of explanation.

Other than that, the app is fairly functional and hopefully useful as well. Let me know in the comment or stalk me on social media.

Start Calculating Things

App Mirror (if the other one doesn’t load)