Should we endorse the McPlant?

Admission: I am not a vegan. I try to have a balanced diet of both meat and plant based meals, but I have no desire to cut animal produce from my diet completely.

The rise in popularity of plant based products has saw consumer consumption in the market rise at an unprecedented rate, looking at the Google search statistics searching for the work ‘veganism’ has increased a massive 590% in the last 5 years. And the Fast food chains have started to cotton on to this growing trend.

We’ve had Greggs here in the UK launch with much success the vegan sausage roll and steak bake with further additions rumoured to be on the way. KFC released the vegan burger providing their iconic original flavour recipe on a meat-free alternative and now its time for king of the fast food industry McDonalds to throw its stake into the game with the impending launch of the community dubbed McPlant.

But aren’t these copy-cat, meat emulators creating a new problem?

My issue with plant based proteins that imitate meat counterparts is that they are not really any more sustainable than meat itself. If a time comes when the world has dramatically reduced its consumption of meat in favour of plant based alternatives, large swathes of fertile land (possibly that which is currently used for cattle) would be required to grow the quantities needed to meet current consumption habits. Since the plant based proteins are then refined to become something akin to meat, there is still that intensive process to create the plant based substitute. I can’t see why we wouldn’t have all of the existing problems that a capitalist society breed, such as deforestation to make more cattle farming space. The problem would surely only evolve to become deforestation to make space for more crop growing farmland!

Many of the arguments against the consumption of meat link back to animal cruelty and the practice of animals being bred and raised purely for slaughter. A shift to a plant based alternatives would help to address this of course, but bringing this article back to McDonald’s recent announcement of the McPlant, one has to ask how anyone who has chosen to ditch meat for animal cruelty reasons could then endorse a company like McDonalds?

The fast food chain happens to be one of the largest producers of meat in the world, with many of their farms having featured in documentaries and news reports exposing the appalling, squalid conditions that animals are forced to live in. The same animals that go on to become our McNuggets or Big Macs. Surely any vegan cannot in good conscience endorse a vegan plant based range developed by one of the worlds biggest animal killers, and can see the McPlant range for what it is – a marketing ploy and to tap into a new-ish emerging market.

I have no issue with anyone who chooses to follow a plant based diet. I think we should all take steps to reduce our meat intake. However I also think that there must be a better solution to climate change than replacing animal meat with a plant based substitute. As the supposedly superior race, it is arguably within our capabilities to find a truly sustainable solution.

I believe the first step towards sustainable tranquillity would be for human beings to adopt a ‘grow what you need’ idealism. This could be as simply as utilizing back gardens, green spaces and/or allotments to grow our own produce to support what we and our immediate family required. Admittedly to reach this equilibrium would require a dramatic shift in current consumerism habits, and a reduction in our want for things to be available to us instantly.

But to eradicate our appetite for instant gratification, you need to break down capitalism.

And there in lies the real problem …

Ad-Blocking – Blocking Social Popups

Ads are annoying, they are generally all in your face. If you haven’t got an ad blocker running on your browser now is the time to correct that! Go download uBlock Origin for your browser of choice be it Chrome, Firefox or Safari, its one of the best on the market and it’s lightweight enough for you not to notice any difference in page load times, you might actually notice an improvement in load times as a bunch of the usual trash that was being loaded is now being blocked.

Once you have an ad-blocker setup you soon discover that the net is quite a nice thing to look at. You can easily digest articles or sites that take your fancy without sensory overload when your not seeing the latest nonsense being punted by Wish or your favourite sites call to action for this weeks social injustice.

One of the most annoying pop-ups for me that used to slip though my filters was bloggers or influencer pop-ups asking you to subscribe to their mailing list or other social medias but alas, there is actually an option within uBlock Origin to block these. Its not enabled by default and hidden away under the Annoyances section if uBlock, flipping it on gets me one step closer to an annoyance, distraction free Internet.

To turn this setting on head into uBlock Origin’s settings and you will find a bunch of additional blocks that you can enable that are off by default, such as filter lists to block everything from Facebook but more specifically to turn off Social Media subscription messages or call to action pop-ups make sure you check to block Fanboy’s Annoyance and Fanboy’s Social.

Give it a go, you might be surprised how clean the web actual looks without all the advertisements and calls to action.

Korn Shell Operators

I write $SHELL scripts most days, I am always looking these two tables up on other sites rather than commit them to memory, so why not just post it here so I know where to find it forever more. We mostly use ksh over bash as ksh is on every system regardless of age of that host.

ItemDescription
-a FileTrue, if the specified file is a symbolic link that points to another file that does exist.
-b FileTrue, if the specified file exists and is a block special file.
-c FileTrue, if the specified file exists and is a character special file.
-d FileTrue, if the specified file exists and is a directory.
-e FileTrue, if the specified file exists.
-f FileTrue, if the specified file exists and is an ordinary file.
-g FileTrue, if the specified file exists and its setgid bit is set.
-h FileTrue, if the specified file exists and is a symbolic link.
-k FileTrue, if the specified file exists and its sticky bit is set.
-n StringTrue, if the length of the specified string is nonzero.
-o OptionTrue, if the specified option is on.
-p FileTrue, if the specified file exists and is a FIFO special file or a pipe.
-r FileTrue, if the specified file exists and is readable by the current process.
-s FileTrue, if the specified file exists and has a size greater than 0.
-t FileDescriptorTrue, if specified file descriptor number is open and associated with a terminal device.
-u FileTrue, if the specified file exists and its setuid bit is set.
-w FileTrue, if the specified file exists and the write bit is on. However, the file will not be writable on a read-only file system even if this test indicates true.
-x FileTrue, if the specified file exists and the execute flag is on. If the specified file exists and is a directory, then the current process has permission to search in the directory.
-z StringTrue, if length of the specified string is 0.
-L FileTrue, if the specified file exists and is a symbolic link.
-O FileTrue, if the specified file exists and is owned by the effective user ID of this process.
-G FileTrue, if the specified file exists and its group matches the effective group ID of this process.
-S FileTrue, if the specified file exists and is a socket.
File1 -nt File2True, if File1 exists and is newer than File2.
File1 -ot File2True, if File1 exists and is older than File2.
File1 -ef File2True, if File1 and File2 exist and refer to the same file.
String1 = String2True, if String1 is equal to String2.
String1 != String2True, if String1 is not equal to String2.
String = PatternTrue, if the specified string matches the specified pattern.
String != PatternTrue, if the specified string does not match the specified pattern.
String1 < String2True, if String1 comes before String2 based on the ASCII value of their characters.
String1 > String2True, if String1 comes after String2 based on the ASCII value of their characters.
Expression1 -eq Expression2True, if Expression1 is equal to Expression2.
Expression1 -ne Expression2True, if Expression1 is not equal to Expression2.
Expression1 -lt Expression2True, if Expression1 is less than Expression2.
Expression1 -gt Expression2True, if Expression1 is greater than Expression2.
Expression1 -le Expression2
True, if Expression1 is less than or equal to Expression2.
Expression1 -ge Expression2True, if Expression1 is greater than or equal to Expression2.

You can combine expressions together like below;

ItemDescription
(Expression)
True, if the specified expression is true. Used to group expressions.
! ExpressionTrue, if the specified expression is false.
Expression1 && Expression2True, if Expression1 and Expression2 are both true.
Expression1 || Expression2True, if either Expression1 or Expression2 is true.

Listening Faster – Audiobooks at x2 speed

Over that last few weeks I have begun listening to audiobooks at x2+ speed, after each book is completed I increase the speed by 0.5 to find my max digestion speed. As it stands my current speed is at x2.15, I still have no problem taking in the information or understanding what’s being said. I’ll admit when I first started at x2.0 speed it sounds a bit strange but after 10-15min my brain had adapted and was processing the information normally. But why I hear you ask?

Consuming information and media is a fundamental part of life, whether your listening, watching or reading we all do it, it’s how we grow as a person via our learnings and life experiences, if you can consume and learn more, it can set you apart from another who is consuming only minimal amounts and not learning much at all.

If I said to you that you could easily get through 5-6 audiobooks per month with only an hour a day of listening, would this not peak your interest? Over the course of a year you would amass a total completed list of 72 audiobooks!

How? Audiobooks are recorded for all ages and capabilities, the default playback speed has to suit everybody regardless of the speed they themselves can read or digest information. In a digital age of social media and instant gratification the speed I can process information is much faster than the likes of my Dad, while he is tech savvy enough not he’s not been around technology and the Internet throughout all of his teens and adult life like I have, he’s much more comfortable reading the paper than flicking though Reddit and news sites. Due to the bombardment of information I am used to I can process information quicker, and more efficiently than my Dad can and no doubt the kids of today the true digital natives can do it better and faster than me.

Finding your limits, when you read a book to yourself or think to yourself what speed does your internal monologue go at? I am sure its much faster than you can read aloud. The aim of listening to audiobooks at an increased speed it to find where your limit is, when your internal monologue can no longer keep up, once this point is reached drop the speed one or two points below this value and continue listening. Being at x2.15 at the moment I am having no trouble I can see myself reaching around x2.5 before I need to look at tapering off.

Honestly give it a go, audio books, podcasts anything you just need to sit and listen to, its weird at first listening to someone speak in fast forward, by your mind soon adapts the situation and handles it as the new normal.

Weekend Project: Part 3 – Installing Pi-hole

As Sunday draws to a close we can finish up this weekend project by installing Pi-hole. What is Pi-hole I hear your ask? Well copied and pasted straight from the Pi-hole website, “The Pi-hole® is a DNS sinkhole that protects your devices from unwanted content, without installing any client-side software.”

Previouly I wrote the first 2 parts of this guide on my Macbook Air, but this final post I have written on my PC, please excuse any formatting of commands between Terminal & Putty.

To begin installing Pi-hole run the below command on you rPi;

paz@raspberrypi:~ $ wget -O basic-install.sh https://install.pi-hole.net
paz@raspberrypi:~ $ sudo bash basic-install.sh

The installer is very handsoff, it preforms a bunch of checks and then installs the whole process was done in a couple of minutes. One of the questions asked by Pi-hole installer is which DNS provider you would wish to use. You can choose any at this time as we will change it to Cloudflared (DNS over HTTPS) later on. The installer also asks if you would like to install a webGUI, this is optional I choose to have the GUI as over the initial weeks I intend to see how everything is going, so having a GUI is nice rather than trawling through endless logs. Once the installer is completed take note of your Pi-hole GUI web address and admin password as we will need this to login.

Installing Cloudflared

What is DNS over HTTPS, again copied directly from the Pi-hole website to save me having to type out my own explantaion.

DNS-Over-HTTPS is a protocol for performing DNS lookups via the same protocol you use to browse the web securely: HTTPS.

With standard DNS, requests are sent in plain-text, with no method to detect tampering or misbehaviour. This means that not only can a malicous actor look at all the DNS requests you are making (and therefore what websites you are visiting), they can also tamper with the response and redirect your device to resources in their control (such as a fake login page for internet banking).

DNS-Over-HTTPS prevents this by using standard HTTPS requests to retrieve DNS information. This means that the connection from the device to the DNS server is secure and can not easily be snooped, monitored, tampered with or blocked. It is worth noting however, that the upstream DNS-Over-HTTPS provider will still have this ability.

To start installing Cloudflared we need to pull down the Cloudflared files with wget

wget https://bin.equinox.io/c/VdrWdbjqyF/cloudflared-stable-linux-arm.tgz
tar -zxf cloudflared-stable-linux-arm.tgz
sudo cp ./cloudflared /usr/local/bin
sudo chmod +x /usr/local/bin/cloudflared

Next we will create a cloudflared user to have the cloudflared service running sepratly from our VPN on our Pi, This user will be for cloudflared only and will not have a SHELL or any login password to prevent other utalising the account.

sudo useradd -s /usr/sbin/nologin -r -M cloudflared

Next create a file in /etc/default/cloudflared and paste the below into the file;

Commandline args for cloudflared
CLOUDFLARED_OPTS=--port 5053 --upstream https://1.1.1.1/dns-query --upstream https://1.0.0.1/dns-query
CLOUDFLARED_OPTS=--port 5054 --upstream https://9.9.9.9/dns-query

Change ownership of the cloudflared files to the cloudflared user

paz@raspberrypi:/etc/default $ sudo chown cloudflared:cloudflared /etc/default/cloudflared
paz@raspberrypi:/etc/default $ sudo chown cloudflared:cloudflared /usr/local/bin/cloudflared

Create the below file in /etc/systemd/system/cloudflared.service to allow automatic startup of the cloudflared service.

[Unit]
Description=cloudflared DNS over HTTPS proxy
After=syslog.target network-online.target

[Service]
Type=simple
User=cloudflared
EnvironmentFile=/etc/default/cloudflared
ExecStart=/usr/local/bin/cloudflared proxy-dns $CLOUDFLARED_OPTS
Restart=on-failure
RestartSec=10
KillMode=process

[Install]
WantedBy=multi-user.target

Once the file has been created as per above, enable cloudflared in systemctl

paz@raspberrypi:/etc/default $ sudo systemctl enable cloudflared
Created symlink /etc/systemd/system/multi-user.target.wants/cloudflared.service → /etc/systemd/system/cloudflared.service.
paz@raspberrypi:/etc/default $ sudo systemctl start cloudflared
paz@raspberrypi:/etc/default $ sudo systemctl status cloudflared
● cloudflared.service - cloudflared DNS over HTTPS proxy
Loaded: loaded (/etc/systemd/system/cloudflared.service; enabled; vendor preset: enabled)
Active: active (running) since Sun 2020-01-26 09:34:51 GMT; 3s ago

Test the service is functioning as expected, you should recieve a response from bbc.co.uk similar to the below;

paz@raspberrypi:/etc/default $ dig @127.0.0.1 -p 5053 bbc.co.uk

; <<>> DiG 9.11.5-P4-5.1-Raspbian <<>> @127.0.0.1 -p 5053 bbc.co.uk
; (1 server found)
;; global options: +cmd
;; Got answer:
;; ->>HEADER<<- opcode: QUERY, status: NOERROR, id: 12841
;; flags: qr rd ra; QUERY: 1, ANSWER: 4, AUTHORITY: 0, ADDITIONAL: 1

;; OPT PSEUDOSECTION:
; EDNS: version: 0, flags:; udp: 1452

; PAD: 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 ("………………….")
;; QUESTION SECTION:
;bbc.co.uk. IN A

;; ANSWER SECTION:
bbc.co.uk. 226 IN A 151.101.64.81
bbc.co.uk. 226 IN A 151.101.128.81
bbc.co.uk. 226 IN A 151.101.192.81
bbc.co.uk. 226 IN A 151.101.0.81

;; Query time: 26 msec
;; SERVER: 127.0.0.1#5053(127.0.0.1)
;; WHEN: Sun Jan 26 09:36:56 GMT 2020
;; MSG SIZE rcvd: 164

Now that we have configured Cloudflared its time to head over to the Pi-hole GUI to remove Google DNS and point to Cloudflared DNS servers. Login to your Pi-hole GUI using the username and password provided before. Once you login you should see something similar to this;

Head down to Settings then choose the DNS Tab, un-check Google DNS, add 127.0.0.1#5053 & 127.0.0.1#5054 to the Upstream DNS servers section and finally check ‘Listen on all interfaces’

Everything should now be working, you can use your Pi-hole dashboard to see hosts connected to Pi-hole, see how much has been blocked. You can test if you are using DNS-over-HTTPS here!

This brings me to the end of this weekend project, I could have rattled through all the comands myself in an afternoon, but writing these blog post added extra time. Until next time, happy surfing!

Weekend Project: Part 2 – Configuring a VPN on a Raspberry Pi

Following on from my previous post I will be setting up a VPN on my Raspberry Pi with an aim to better protect my online privacy with a VPN and Pi-hole. Having this setup will allow me to connect various household devices to the Raspberry Pi which will then pass traffic though the VPN. To allow connections we must make sure the Pi has a static IP address.

To set a static IP address we must add the address we want to the /etc/network/interfaces file on the Pi.

Add the address you wish your Pi to have in my case I chose 192.168.1.123 for gateway specify your gateway normally this is the address you us to access your router.

auto eth0
iface eth0 inet static
address 192.168.1.123
netmask 255.255.255.0
gateway 192.168.1.254

Lets start getting the packages we will need to configure our VPN by running the below;

paz@raspberrypi:~ $ sudo apt install openvpn curl iptables-persistent python-requests -y

Next we will begin configuring the VPN. For my VPN provider I use PrivateVPN. They are well respeceted, reasnably priced and keep no logs what so ever.

Download PrivateVPN’s openvpn files to your Raspberry Pi with the below commands;

paz@raspberrypi:/etc/openvpn $ sudo wget https://privatevpn.com/client/install.sh
paz@raspberrypi:/etc/openvpn $ sudo su -
root@raspberrypi:~# cd /etc/openvpn
root@raspberrypi:/etc/openvpn# ./install.sh

Running install.sh prompts you for username/password and creates the a VPN connection on your Pi that can be used on your Pi.

Edit the file /etc/openvpn/privatvpn.conf with the details of the PrivateVPN exist point you wish to connect to PrivateVPN provides a script to allow you to start the VPN called privatvpn. After install this file is located at /usr/bin/privatvpn. Add this file location to /etc/rc.local which will ensure that the VPN starts on startup should your Pi reboot or require a restart.

How Does An Execution Plan Suddenly Change When The Statistics (And Everything Else) Remains The Same ? (In Limbo)

Richard Foote's Oracle Blog

I’ve slipped this post in as there have been a number of discussions recently on how execution plans have changed while nothing else appears to have changed in the database. How can an execution plan suddenly change when no one has made any changes to the database ?
 
By no changes, it means that there have been no alterations to any segments, no new indexes have been added, no changes associated  bind peeking (indeed, there may not even be any bind variables), no parameters changes, no new patches or upgrades, no new outlines or profiles, no new system stats and perhaps most prevalent of all, no changes to any CBO statistics.
 
The DBA hasn’t touched a thing and yet suddenly, for no apparent reason, execution plans suddenly change and (say) an inappropriate index is suddenly used and causes performance degradation.
 
How can this be possible ?
 
There are…

View original post 1,271 more words

The first full day

Japan à Trois

Stephen: It’s 5am, after our first full day in Japan. We’re left feeling a bit like Scarlett Johansson in Lost in Translation at this point, with our body clocks thrown completely out of whack. Sleeping until 2.30pm was probably not our wisest ideas – but the 18 hour journey was pretty gruelling – even for me, who is fairly well accustomed to long haul by now.

We are staying in the famous Shibuya area, and stepping out of the train station to the mass of excited chatter, neon lights, and noise after being on a plane for so long was both a welcome, and overwhelming experience. Despite some serious exhaustion, we wandered out braving the rain and humidity to marvel and take pictures of everything we saw. Now the penchant that Asian tourists seem to have for taking photos of every single minute detail when they travel abroad doesn’t seem…

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There’s Been a Murder!

In a bid to do something creative I made this a T-Shirt, if you fancy it you can pick it up from here for £12 + Shipping. T-shirt will be available for 21 Days and will only be shipped if I meet 10 orders.

 

 

Cheers Paz.