Category Archives: Notes

Talking about Device Management and Multi-computer Management: Is Wireless Always More Convenient than Wiredness?

As a former CS student and an ITer, the computer has become an inevitable part of my life. And also how to well manage the computers and peripherals is always a changing problem.

Why does this problem keep changing?

Environments Decide the Requirements

When I was in university, what I could control was just a tiny desk in the dormitory. So at that moment, I hoped all the peripherals would be slim and wireless so I could quickly put the mouse and keyboard into the drawer without unplugging the cable.

I have to say that if we forget to turn off the mouse and keyboard, the receiver drains the battery really fast 😂. There was no Bluetooth then, and the early versions of Bluetooth were unsuitable for data transmission between computers and peripherals.

One Wireless Mouse and Its Receiver
One Wireless Mouse and Its Receiver

Looking at the HUGE CRT and chassis, having a laptop became my dream then. In this way, I could take it everywhere. Especially during summer and winter vacations, I could take it home 🤭.

CRT and Chassis
CRT and Chassis

After graduating, nearly all my computers are laptops. And due to Apple, most manufacturers are simplifying the ports on the laptop, so I have to make sure most of the peripherals should support Bluetooth. Then, due to the need for confidentiality at work, I had to ensure all Bluetooth devices could memorize multiple pairs to separate my personal laptop and office laptop so that I could conveniently switch one set of peripherals between my personal laptop and office laptop.

Is Wireless Always More Convenient than Wiredness?

However, due to the requirements of my employer and myself, my device management has become incredibly complicated 🤦. I need to ensure one set of peripherals can switch smoothly across four laptops and one chassis. Obviously, Bluetooth is unable to handle this.

By the way, owning five laptops is not weird. When I was working on a mobile project at my former former company, I had more than ten cellphones, several tablets, and four computers, but of course, nearly all of them did not belong to me but my employer. At that moment, there was no cloud testing platform for mobile projects, so all the tests needed to be processed on local devices.

Let’s get back to the main topic. Luckily most of the peripherals I had were dual mode, which means supporting cable and Bluetooth; this made me figure out a compromised solution. I connected the keyboard, mouse, and display to one multiport adaptor, and I could easily switch this adaptor from the currently connected computer to another chosen one. Since the COVID situation is not so intense, I sometimes need to go to the office. When I need to go to the office, I can unplug the display and put the laptop into my backpack with the adaptor, keyboard, and mouse.

Days ago, one question popped up in my mind. If a device named HDMI switch can switch the video sources smoothly, why is there not a device that can help us conveniently switch the peripherals across the computers? Then I found it, and it is KVM Switch. This KVM is not a Kernel-based Virtual Machine; it is the abbreviation of Keyboard, Video, and Mouse.

KVM switch (with KVM being an abbreviation for “keyboard, video, and mouse”) is a hardware device that allows a user to control multiple computers from one or more sets of keyboardsvideo monitors, and mice.

From Wikipedia
KVM Switch Diagram
KVM Switch Diagram

This switch really saved my life. I don’t need to leverage more than one set of peripherals to cover all my computers or don’t need to plug in and out whenever I switch across my laptops. This switch also makes my desktop tidier, although it is still not quite tidy.

Choose the Suitable KVM Switch

The type of KVM switches varies and is not easy to choose. If you want one, keep an eye on the tech specs, especially the HDMI part.

  1. Confirm the number of devices you would like to switch across.
  2. The type of USB ports. Due to the velocity gap between USB 1 and USB 2, consider it based on your own devices, such as whether you have external high-capacity storage devices or others.
  3. The type of HDMI ports. If you have devices supporting HDMI and Dolby Vision, such as Apple TV and Xbox Series X, please check whether your chosen KVM switch supports this. And HDR has several types of video formats, such as HDR, HDR 10, HDR 10+. The same as audio, its encoding varies.
  4. High resolution and refresh rates are pretty important for video and game enthusiasts.
  5. And also, hot-swapping affects the user experiences a lot.

Hopefully, this small talk can help guys with multiple computers a little.

Blog Reopens

The blog finally reopened!

You may be aware that this is not the first time I have created a blog based on the title, and I think this is good timing for me to recall the history of my blog. Since it happened a long time ago, the timings mentioned may shift a little from reality. Here is the evolution of my blog:

Sina Blog –> Live Space –> Wordpress
Blog Service Blog Service Self-built with WordPress

The blog started to become popular in China when I was a sophomore, so most of the famous web portals released the blog services. I also registered for one on the Sina Blog service to catch the trend. But I didn’t manage it well, and I just regarded it as a notebook.

After a short while, I found that Sina Blog services set up too many limitations. As a CS student, I couldn’t stand that. Therefore I decided to transfer my blog to Live Space which Microsoft just released. There were not many posts, so I manually moved them. At that moment, I began to post more about myself on my blog and regarded it as a place where I could share my emotions other than as a notebook.

When I was a second-year graduate student, self-built blogs on VPC became the trend. Based on the recommendation from Solrex, one of my classmates, I registered a domain name and began to continue with my blog by using WordPress on Hostmonster VPC provided by Jun Gu. I choose iron-feet.cn as the domain name of my blog. I never expected that selecting a CN domain name would be really a huge failure, and I will share with you why later.

At that moment, there were lots of posts. Manually transferring them one by one was really a mission impossible for me, such a lazy guy, not to mention that I need to retain all the tags, updated times, etc. I implemented a GUI tool to move the whole blog from Live Space to WordPress to finish the transfer rapidly. I didn’t open-source this tool due to a lack of sense of open source then. And I lost the code when I switched to a new laptop once. What a pity, If I open-sourced this, this tool could help others a lot when Microsoft shut down Live Space.

Since I used WordPress, my blog changed a lot in my mind. I started to contribute a lot to manage it. I made sure that I posted once every week and quoted others’ excellent parts indicating the source instead of directly quoting the whole post. And most of the posts should be technique-related.

In comparison to other CMSs, WordPress was quite good. However it still had many issues since the version I was using was quite old, such as encoding issues, dirty DB data caused by version upgrading, backend hung due to plugin upgrading, code reverted caused by upgrading, etc. If I detailedly introduced them one by one, I could publish several more posts. 😄

RSS was once quite a popular way of subscribing to blogs, so many bloggers liked to use RSS subscriber count to show the quality and popularity of their blogs. I was also one of them. But the build-in statics of WordPress is totally a mess, so we preferred to use Feedburner to burn a feed. And Feedburner could also fix some XML syntax issues in the original RSS.

The bloggers also show the Feedburner subscriber count as below on the page.

Feedburner Subscriber Count example shown on blog
Feedburner Subscriber Count

it is pretty hard for the bloggers whose audiences are mainly in China to show this fantastic counter. This counter is inaccessible from China because Feedburner is under the Google domain, which is google.com.

To resolve this, I had to implement a plugin named ImgCache. Suppose the attribute “ref=imgcache4wordpress” is added to an <img> tag. In that case, ImgCache will automatically persist the image into the local disk and replace the link with the local path so that this image becomes accessible from China. I used this way to show images provided by Feedburner and Twitter.

The latest updated time was 12 years ago. These days I went through this plugin and really could hardly bear my poor English and coding. It shows I will resolve the known issue in the next release. So it seems nothing needs to be fixed if no newer version is released 😅. Maybe I should take some time to release a new version to fix that.

Besides ImaCache, I also implemented another plugin called Custom URL Shorter. I knew shorter should be shortener, ignore please 🤦‍♂️. The plugin name could not be updated, and it is not sure whether it can be updated now. A single slip may cause lasting sorrow. (Developers can update the plugin name now, and I have updated the name to Custom URL Shortener.)

My blog meant a lot to me, but I made a tough decision three years after I graduated from the graduate university: shut down my blog.

I kept being annoyed by these:

  1. The blacklist way of GFW: Once a site under IP outside China contained any sensitive data, that IP would be blacklisted. That was to say, all the sites using this IP would be banned from China. So I had to ask the VPS provider to change the IP repeatedly. No clue that the situation could be better.
    I was not sure whether that was due to GFW. Accessing my blog from China became unstable, but accessing from outside China is quite good.
  2. The complicated registration: the instruction for registration kept changing. The MIIT always asked for new files and documents, asked to renew the information, and asked to add further information on the pages.
    Every time one Email would be received with a very close deadline. If you could not meet the requirement in time, your site would be shut down immediately
  3. Cyber attacks: After joining an Internet company, I became swamped, so I always forgot to upgrade WordPress to apply the security patch. Therefore, my blog was attacked several times. Although I had backups, restoring still took much time.

OT in the daytime, dealing with the none technique stuff such as GFW, registration, etc., in the evening really made me tired. Finally, I gave up and chose to shut down. Shutting down my blog has always been in my mind, and it isn’t easy to erase.

Actually, I already planned to reopen the blog when I arrived in Singapore. But first time joining a foreign company delayed this plan. The arrival of my wife and baby kid delayed it again. I never thought that taking care of the baby without the support of elders would be so difficult. Finally, I have decided to reopen the blog now. Cause I have not touched this for a long time, I don’t know much about the VPS providers. Thank Xintao Lai, for recommending DigitalOcean to me.