Brave web browser – will it change marketing?

‘Brave’ the new open source web browser based on Chromium. With inbuilt ad-blocking and a whole mindset of privacy, I am wondering if it will organically change the face of marketing on the internet and thus the internet as we know it?

Most advertising on web pages is loaded with tracking. There is nothing all that sinister about it. It’s just people trying to capitalise on free data. However it has made a mess of the usability of the web.

Brave web browser allows you to choose how many adds it shows per time frame and whether those adds are ethical in that they are not tracking your usage in some way.

Many business people I know have given up advertising on the web for it has become too expensive relative to the return. They are going back to other mediums to advertise and doing better there. I am included in this. Bang per buck and per hour effort has not produced the results for me compared to offline methods.

As a friend in marketing put it “It’s difficult now to get past the noise”.

Once again the engineers back in the 60’s did a great job of creating TCP/IP (the language and structure of the web). They created it to survive a nuclear war and thus it easily handles any corporate or government attempts to control it.

So I wonder how the net will look in the coming years as companies stop ‘in your face’ advertising killed by Brave?

GNUcash is still rocking.

A quick update. I am still using GNUcash. It is solid and easy to use. Could still do with some improvements on auto-matching. Could have a bit more work done on being able to write quotes and then being able to turn those quotes into invoices. However, when I really need those features I’ll just throw some cash at the GNUcash developers and contribute to the overall codebase.

Also I own my accounting file. I think I’ve said in a post before. Be concerned about having your data files on the software providers server. If it’s on their server, then in a court of law, they own it. Then you’re totally at the mercy of however much they feel like charging you to get at your own work. Also if they lose your data, you’ll have a tough time suing them as the data is actually theirs, NOT yours. Might pay to keep your data files on your own hard drives at your business premises and own the software outright so that you can get back to the work you created. Best to test this using a virtual machine. Install an OS you own. Install the software you own. Then open the files you created with your own sweat, blood and tears.

All in all, I highly recommend GNUcash.

NextCloud – the sequel.

All I can say is WOW, NextCloud (NC) rocks.! I wrote the last post in 2018 and it’s now late 2020 and the NextCloud server is still cranking on a Raspberry Pi.

I’ve done one upgrade to NC and that went smoothly. Webdav was a touch slow, so I went back to SAMBA. Especially for communal data running in a NAS. When adding data from your LAN via SAMBA the NextCloud database does not see the new files. Thus I made a simple shell script to run nightly to update the NextCloud database.

--------------------- filescan.sh - START
    # Last updated by DP 31st March 2020
    #!/bin/bash
    cd /var/www/html/
    sudo -u www-data php occ files:scan --path="shared/files/"
--------------------- filescan.sh - END

Create it with root permissions.
Set the permissions to make it executable.

chmod 500 filescan.sh

Test it.

./filescan.sh

Should return something like

 Starting scan for user 1 out of 1 (%user_name%)
 +---------+--------+--------------+
 | Folders | Files  | Elapsed time |
 +---------+--------+--------------+
 | 8069    | 186532 | 01:52:36     |
 +---------+--------+--------------+ 

Use

crontab -e

to add

02   03 *   *   * /var/www/html/filescan.sh

to cron to run filescan.sh at 03:02 daily.

It should take 20-25mins for 5k files’ish.

I still use Rsync to do second and third backups to offsite drives, but as far as a reliable, easy, cross-platform, cross-device system, it’s by far the best I’ve used.

TeamViewer on a Raspberry Pi

For this project the customer wanted TeamViewer running on a Raspberry Pi Nano so that a programmer he hired from interstate could connect easily to get some scripts running. For the more tech savvy an SSH terminal connection is by far more solid and runs easily on a Pi Nano, but the configuration is harder as a port forward would have to be setup on the customers home or business router and then DNS resolution has to happen. In the end that set up would be more fault tolerant, but then again it depends on how you look at it.

TeamViewer has almost become an industry standard as it is generally fast, reliable and easy to set up. I’ve not done a speed test between TeamViewer and FreeNX, but for ease of use TeamViewer is great. It also bypasses the firewall using tunneling without compromising security.

Back to the job at hand. It turns out that the older older ARM chips found in the Nano and the Pi 1 do not support SIMD (Single Instruction Multiple Data). SIMD is a type of parallel computing involving vectors (beyond the scope of this article). Either way the ARM processors in the Pi3 have an architecture called NEON which supports SIMD.

After 4ish hours of flattening the OS, reinstalling Raspbian, hunting for the appropriate version of TeamViewer host for Linux and then figuring out what the spurious errors meant I finally realised the NEON SIMD issue above. I popped the SD card out of the Raspberry Pi Nano and put it in a Pi3 B+ and away it went. Mission accomplished.

NextCloud –> Go you good thing!!

I have to say, I’m impressed so far. A few weeks ago I installed NextCloud server on a Raspberry Pi 3b. So far it is working very solidly.  The Android apps and the website interface work very well and are highly polished. The OS X client is very smooth and the Linux Mate client is nearly as good as the OS X one. It’s only missing the little green / blue dot icons in the Caja file browser to notify of synchronisation. It’ll take some months to make a true assessment of NextCloud, but I am fairly confident it will keep out stripping my expectations.

For instance, I wanted to make a standard network share for our client. I was going to set up Samba (windows file sharing on Linux servers). Samba works well. I’ve used it for years. It was to point to the same NextCloud share. However there was no need to set up Samba as NextCloud uses a protocol (communication language) called DAV. Simply create a

davs://example.com/nextcloud/remote.php/dav/files/USERNAME/

share and ShaBang!!! you’re in.

There are similar setups for the other OS’s here which I’ve not tested yet.

The security systems seem good and you can make it as hard as you want. Even to the point of using two factor authentication using SMS. How nice it that?

Why did I install it on a Raspberry Pi and not a more powerful solid server or a VPS?

  1.  The client does not add a lot of data per day
  2. The Pi uses less than 2 watts of energy (+ hard drive power)
  3. It’s not a huge expense to make a replicated mirrored backup server with automatic fall over protection.
  4. Having it onsite means the client knows physically where their data is at all times.
  5. Using Bind9 with NSupdate makes it possible to connect to NextCloud from any internet connection, so why not.

It just makes sense. Most data conscious companies and business owners I speak to just want to control their own data. The phrase “just stick it in the Cloud…” is too ambiguous for them. Even though there are so many advantages to the technology of Cloud based systems, they still feel unsettled knowing that the core of their business is reliant on some other data company. Now systems like NextCloud are possibly giving an alternative way to using this tech.

An alternative to online accounting software with payroll. GNUcash

Following up on my last post I decided to look for some accounting software I could run on my computers or servers. Jam paying for web accessible software if I can’t load it on my own cloud servers. Double entry accounting is not that complex a subject. Neither is payroll and neither are tax rules for small businesses.  I also wanted to be able to access the database behind the accounting software and payroll had to be in there. I started with GNUcash, Quicken, then SQL Ledger. I was happy to pay a fee for support.

SQL Ledger was looking nice, but it’s not a 5 minute install affair. If only they had an apt-get installer. Quicken has evaporated into the cloud. Xero and MYOB just said a flat “NO” to me buying even a binary to load on my own systems. Finally I came back to GnuCash. It’s a bit different, but it’s actually way easier to use. You can download QIF or OFX files from the bank to bring in your transactions and it does automatic transaction matching like MYOB Essentials although you can’t build rules as yet. Then again, the gnu cash method combined with the fact that it runs lighteningly fast more than makes up for it. Now I am tending towards quickly checking transactions as some of the text pattern matches I made (usually late at night when I’m fading) have been incorrect. It has an auto transaction download feature which I’ve yet to set up with the banks. AAAannnnd,, drum roll please,,,, wholly cow, it is able to connect directly to a remote SQL database (Postgres or MySQL).

How bloody awesome! I’ve yet to test the SQL connection, but just the fact that it’s there is good. Because it’s open source there is no rubbish in there. No bells and whistles which a marketing department has asked for. It just works. The only thing is that there is no automated payroll. When you think about it though, for the business with only a few employees, what’s the big deal? It’s pretty easy to ammortise 8.4 weeks of sick leave, public holidays and normal holidays over the other 43.6 weeks of the year.  Super is 9.5%. Tax is just read off the tax tables from the ATO. A spreadsheet and throwing the saved chunks into liability accounts until they come due. No probs. When it becomes more complicated well it’s not too hard to write a web app to automate it if you’ve access to the SQL database in the background. That’s if the people at GnuCash don’t get to it first.

An other thing is the sub accounts feature. You can make hundreds of levels deep. MYOB is only about 4 or so.

I’m not going to say I’m totally sold, but I am testing it from here on in. Watch this space for how it goes as the months pass by. If you want my spreadsheet templates for payroll, let me know and I can make a download page for you.