Category Archives: Technology

Republic Wireless – A Customer’s Review

Written by William Roush on December 28, 2014 at 10:16 pm

A review from a user on Republic Wireless, a relatively new wireless carrier that uses WiFi to offload your phone calls and text messages, reducing costs and passing those savings off to you.


Background On Republic Wireless

Republic Wireless is a wireless services provider started by the VOIP provider BandWidth. They differ from your common wireless providers by understanding the concept that anything the cell network can do, the internet can do better. They save you money by offloading as much as they can, including phone calls onto your wifi connection. This reduces their costs and they pass that onto you.


As of 12/28/2014 their plans are as follows:

Cost Features
$5  Unlimited talk, text and data on WiFi only.
$10  Unlimited talk and text on cell and WiFi.
$25  Unlimited talk, text and 3G on cell.
$40  Unlimited talk, text and 4G on cell.

You can jump between plans twice a month on their website at the click of a button, allowing you to jump on 4G when you’re going to some big city for a conference and will be pulling a lot of data, but fall back on 3G when you’re at home surrounded by WiFi you use often and your own computer and internet.

Dead Zones

The biggest thing I worried about up-front was dead zones. Well it’s basically Sprint when you’re on the cell network, so nothing new for me there. Coverage was a bit spotty but I never was unable to make calls, data usually suffered poorly in these places though. All the same problems I had when I was a Sprint customer I have now when I’m on the cell network.

However at work, there is a funny dead spot that affects all of us… well, did affect all of us. Now two of us are on Republic and we tag on our guest wireless to make phone calls, so while we have Verizon and Sprint people having to move around the building to find cell signal, us Republic users are strong phone and texting over WiFi.

Call Quality

First call I make I’m on wireless, nice and clear (relatively), arguably better than when I’m on the cell network. Walked on the other side of the house where my WiFi is spotty without thinking about it, after my call Republic had a message for me “Congratulations on your first WiFi to cell transfer!”, I honestly didn’t even notice.

When I’m on cell, again I notice no difference from Sprint’s network. Of course this is all “by ear” and phone quality is garbage as-is (when compared to higher quality VOIP services such as TeamSpeak).

Account Management Tools

The account management UI on the site is simple and easy to use and offers a few fun reports on WiFi offloading. Everything is consistently clean and minimal, without the need for a ton of additional text, details, and ads for other services plastered all over the screen as is common with other carriers.

Simple straightforward statement history page.

Simple straightforward statement history page.

Order status page showing the phone I ordered.

Order status page showing the phone I ordered.

Nice phone status page.

Nice phone status page.

Easy to read bill.

Easy to read bill.

Cool little offload graph

Cool little offload graph

Their mobile app leaves a lot to be desired, I can’t access billing, orders or my overall WiFi offloading, but is receiving improvements so we may see those sometime. Recently detailed data usage has been added, showing you how much data is being used on various networks including wireless, cell and roaming, and by what apps. Very useful.

Dashboard, not much to see here.

Dashboard, not much to see here.

My Account leaves much to be desired.

My Account leaves much to be desired.

New feature on the app, data tracking.

New feature on the app, data tracking.

New feature on the app, data tracking.

New feature on the app, data tracking.


Cost Savings

Sprint Republic
Data + Minutes $69.99 $25.00
Premium Data $10.00
Surcharges $4.15
Taxes $6.01 $5.17
Total $90.15 $30.17

$59.98/month in savings, I pay for my cell phone in 3 months.

Hardware Availability

Now for the bad news, Republic Wireless currently only offers 3 phones. The Moto X (just releasing the 2nd gen), the Moto G (1st gen) and the Moto E. The reason for this is that they have to put their own calling software on the phone to handle their WiFi offloading technology.

If you’re looking for a specific phone (or anything not Android) you’re out of luck for the time being. I think the range of phones offers a decent choice in features and prices, but I can see if you have your heart set on a phone you may be locked out of Republic Wireless.

I hope they consider porting their system to Cyanogenmod, opening up for unsupported phones that you can hack onto their network.

Also, Republic Wireless doesn’t subsidize your phone cost, so you’ll be dropping anywhere from $99-$300 on a new phone when you hop on Republic Wireless (used phones are available too at discounted rates).


Unless you need a specific phone or can’t deal with Sprint’s towers, go with Republic Wireless, you’re throwing money away if you don’t. If you’re currently on Sprint you’re dealing with their spotty towers AND not taking advantage of leveraging WiFi, stop doing that to yourself and get on Republic Wireless.

Looking at my bill and my early cancellation fees (yours may be different), I should have dropped them months ago and hopped on Republic Wireless for a massive savings by now.

I’ll come back after probably 6-12 months and update this on anymore findings…

Invision Power Revokes Perpetual/Lifetime Licensing – My Thoughts

Written by William Roush on December 28, 2014 at 1:56 am

A story about a board administrator’s experiences with Invision Power’s move to drop Perpetual/Lifetime licensing, and the responses from the community.

What Is Perpetual/Lifetime Licensing?

Perpetual/Lifetime licensing allowed those of us on the older Invision Power’s IP.Board software (prior to 2007) to have lifetime upgrades for as long as the product was around and only pay for support if we wanted to open support tickets. For someone that wanted to run the boards for an extended period of time and didn’t need to rely on support for anything could break even after quite a few years of operation (usually around 4 years).

The Decision To Purchase

Back in 2006 I was running a small board with a handful of users, mostly friends. I had some plans to expand the board that never really panned out, during this time Invision Power was closing out their lifetime licensing and I decided that dropping the extra cash for the software would be a worthwhile investment if I ever decided to start up a board again.

This is important, because I honestly haven’t really been using the software for the past 8 years, which sets the tone for why I feel burned. Recently I decided to investigate the use of IP.Board for a new project…

Invision Power’s Move To IPS4

So Invision Power is working on a new version of their forum software, called IPS4, it’ll consist of a “core” module and their forum software.

“With IPS4, we’ve changed directions somewhat in that IP.Board as we all know it will become a forums app within the suite. Members, profiles, search engine, ad management, spam mitigation and other key items are now part of the suite core. This allows for cleaner, more streamlined integration across the whole suite with the forums app no longer carrying the weight of the load which led to clunkier integration in the 3.x line.” – Lindy, IPS Management

No different than it is now...

No different than it is now…

Whoops, that’s how our software is technically licensed in 3.x, oh well. Sure more responsibilities are in the core, but the point still stands.

“After careful consideration, we determined the most appropriate thing to do is offer the ability for legacy customers to switch to the newest structure, free of charge — this would allow them access to anything current customers have access to. Legacy customers would receive six months free renewals, so there are no out of pocket expenses. After that period, renewals would then be $25 every six months, which would include all of the latest services such as chat and spam mitigation.” – Lindy, IPS Management

“After careful consideration, we decided to invalidate lifetime licensing and ask for more money.” Bold strategy cotton, lets see if it pays off.

“I would like to stress that these legacy licenses were only offered for 2 years – there really aren’t that many of them and even less exist today as most have converted to the new structure over the years to leverage hosted services such as spam mitigation. All told, these changes will only have a net impact on less than 4% of our license holders – of those 4% we’re not sure how many still even use their license. From IPS’ perspective, it makes sense to clean up our backend systems and rid them of 10-12yrs of accumulated coding provisions to handle different license types under different scenarios. Further, it allows us to more cleanly reintroduce our software as a true suite of community applications with seamless integration across the offerings.” – Lindy, IPS Management

If those of us with lifetime licensing don’t make up a substantial part of your customers, mind refunding that licensing then? Also, customers shouldn’t have licensed benefits revoked because you didn’t consider it in your billing software setup.

A forum member brought this up:

“The license was for IP.Board, not IP.Core + IP.Board. If IPS wanted to, they could call the forums “IP.Forums” or “IP.Discussions” starting with v4 and legacy license holders wouldn’t have any claim to it at all. Might be off of IP.Board, but since it’s a rewrite of the code and such, it could be given a different name and would be perfectly legit.” – Wolfie, Forum Contributor

However that wasn’t the case when Invision Power 2.x (around 2004) or 3.x (2009), when under both of these releases they could have just renamed the system (and if I’m not mistaken 3.x was actually rebranded to “IP.Board” from “Invision Power Board”).

Discussion link 1, discussion link 2

Further Iffy Behavior – Charging For Domain Changes

Another fee they’ve tacked on is some “administration” fee for changing your domain more than once every 6 months. In the early days of testing I hosted the site on a handful of different domains (all variances of the original domain name), it was a pain but I got the license changes done during the process. Now you pay $15.

“It’s to stop dishonest clients from “domain hopping” a licence in order to be able to get support on them all, instead of legitimately paying for support on them all.” – The Heff, Invision Power Client

That doesn’t make sense, you only get support for whatever the currently licensed and active board is. Auditing can easily track hopping, and paying $15 doesn’t prevent this (and is still much cheaper than buying multiple licenses), it barely impacts those that are stealing $200 pieces of software, and harms those that are experimenting or host multiple domains (and aren’t just reverse proxying their way to victory).

Also, this system is completely broken for lifetime license holders. Those “hacks” that make the system work are working well.

This sounds like a cash grab and less like they’re resolving an issue.

Leaving Early Adopters Out In The Cold

Mind you, the solution we’re being given is to give us a $100 credit towards a platform that we must pay $25 every 6 months for updates (something we got for free prior)! This is their “generous” offer to us (and they’re using this word so many times it’s raising my blood pressure. We get to decide if it’s generous, it’s pretty crass for you to be repeating it yourselves so often hopping we’ll parrot it back to you).

I think one of the biggest telling pieces is this bit from Lindy:

“Naturally, we consulted with our legal counsel just as a matter of due diligence and the option to simply discontinue legacy licenses without any further intervention was technically within our right, but we did not achieve our position as a respected leader in the industry by being that company. After feedback discussion from customers and other parties, we devised and fine-tuned this solution, which we think is very fair.” – Lindy, IPS Management

Pretty much telling me “yeah, we were so unsure about this we consulted a lawyer” is already pretty telling, you knew this wouldn’t go over so well you had to seek legal council.

“The goal behind this change is to allow the software and internal systems to move forward without provisions and hacks from purchases made a decade ago. When these licenses were offered, we had limited product offerings, no spam mitigation, chat, etc. Since introducing those, we’ve incorporated hack upon hack to accommodate older licenses because we genuinely do appreciate those early adopters and their purchases. Further, we had IP.Board – which was everything – the core and otherwise. In IPS4, we have a forums app, which is an independent component of the suite, much like Gallery, Blog, Nexus, Content, etc. Search engines, file/storage handling, members/profiles and much more is all part of the community suite core that all applications share. With that, the time has come to press forward for the future and we would very much like to take our early supporters with us – hence the, in my opinion, appropriately generous offer which in some cases, more or very close to the original purchase price; again, even after a decade of usage.” – Lindy, IPS Management

You’re telling me that because of your team’s inability to plan on how to support various configurations that you’re just dropping a chunk of your customers, a good chunk that is the reason you guys are here today? Your earliest adopters?

Let alone WordPress can monetize on a hybrid system of free/paid services, are you telling me Invision Power’s engineers can’t figure out how to write a system that’ll handle it?

Literally telling me they must “hack” the system to make it compatible is telling me they don’t know how to properly implement a system that’ll handle it.

Mind you these are my options if I stay with this product:

  1. Don’t upgrade, stop receiving updates when Invision Power stops updating 3.x, get my IP.Board install hacked.
  2. Upgrade, get two years free usage, then pay $50/yr after that.

At the end of the day, I’ll just find another board, but I’m sure going to recommend a long list of boards before this one now, and I’m going to feel really burned that I dropped money on the future of a product (literally), and got that taken away by the very company I gave money to.


And to leave with this tidbit:

“Please think about what the Internet has done in the past decade, how it has evolved and how we, as a company, have evolved. Ultimately, we need to move forward and we feel we’ve found a fair and just way for you to join us. We do recognize, however, that not everyone will feel that way and apologize for those ill feelings.” – Lindy, IPS Management

Literally “People are moving things to recurring payment services now, and we want a piece of that”, thanks Invision Power.

Intuitive Password Online Password Management Review

Written by William Roush on September 8, 2014 at 8:06 pm

A review for the online password manager Intuitive Password.

Disclosure: I was requested to look at Intuitive Password, I generally don’t look at online password managers due to a lack of self-interest in them, but I’d figure I’d give it a go if a reader suggests it.

Intuitive Password is a software as a service platform for storing and managing your passwords, similar to KeePass or PasswordState, but out on the internet where you don’t have to manage it and it’s nearly always available.



Registration page

Registration page

Registration page is really straight forward, just one minor complaint, the “security question” is an open-ended free form text field. This leads to people putting in things like “how many cubes away from John am I?” (I have actually run into this one before), which after a few guesses you’re into their account. Though honestly this is less Intuitive’s fault and more of how security questions can be broken. Just make sure you pick a really solid security question.

Gmail used to do the same thing, now they have more secure password reset options (phone call, recovery e-mail, or a Google-enabled device).

Logging In

On-screen keyboard, an attempt to fool keyloggers.

On-screen keyboard, an attempt to fool keyloggers.

One thing I noticed during the log-in process was a Javascript driven keyboard for password entry, on one hand this will fool a lot of keyloggers, on the other hand I have seen keyloggers that tracked enough to pull your password off of this (some take screenshots, others mouse positions on clicks). I couldn’t really imagine myself using it really.

Password Management

All that you'd really want.

All that you’d really want.

Password management is really straight forward and like every other password manager, give it a title, set the password. These fields are driven by what category your password resides in.

Password ratings give a quick visual cue on your password's security.

Password ratings give a quick visual cue on your password’s security.


Password category management is nice.

Password category management is nice.

The slick UI really helps with this, and the default layout shows that Intuitive Password isn’t just for logins, but any other encrypted information you want to keep. You can create additional custom categories, each with their own custom fields, leaving it up to you how much or how little you want to keep in here.

This software by default has security questions for general logins, domain/machine name, IP address, etc. for network logins. So a bit of thought was put into having a nice starting configuration for your categories.


You can share individual passwords with other people, it’s as simple as inserting an e-mail address. Not exactly useful for larger teams without a lot of tedious work, but it’s good if you want to share a handful of passwords with another person.

Account Management

IntuitivePassword - Account Details

Account management is straight forward: ability to reset your password, your security question, set up two-factor authentication, pretty standard stuff. Biggest thing I like here is the display of the currently running version of the software. I always like to know when my SaaS platforms get updated (and push for this to be an option on projects I work on).

IntuitivePassword - Country Restrictions

An interesting feature I’ve observed was login restriction by country, pretty cool little feature.

Additionally they do support the concept of downloading all of your passwords in case you want to move to another platform which is always an awesome option (may be required by law in Australia, not sure), and have the ability to download/restore your own backups in case you’re paranoid about Intuitive Password’s team to be able to do that.


IntuitivePassword - UI

Intuitive Password has a pretty slick UI, I like the look and feel. The only complaint I have is that the textured background that permeates through all UI elements can sometimes make certain letters not the easiest to read (only had that happen once on a specific field), but generally the chosen font size and style makes everything really clear.

As for UX design, everything is pretty accessible and intuitive (heh), the only feature that wasn’t immediately apparent was sharing passwords (I was always mentally driven to the “shared” tab to try to figure things out, not to the bottom of your currently selected password). The integrated help is unobtrusive and very informative and is available throughout the software.

Quick Login

This is similar to your auto-type you have on similar software, this only applies to web based software (so no auto-logging into your games). It consists of a bookmarklet that pulls scripts from Intuitive Password’s servers and will attempt to log you in.

IntuitivePassword - Quick Login Training

If you attempt to quick login on to a page that Intuitive Password doesn’t know how to log into, it’ll ask you to train it to understand what the login process is. So instead of just jabbing at currently selected fields like KeePass does, it is actually somewhat aware of the website layout (though this wont work for those multi-step banking sites that have a massive amount of security theater going on).

Offline Storage

Offline storage is pretty cool, right now they only support sending you an HTML document with everything embedded. Your passwords sit in a base64 encrypted blob to be decrypted with an AES key derived from your offline password. They’re also looking at add Dropbox, Box, and OneDrive support in the future.

Mismatching password lengths.

Mismatching password lengths.

One thing I thought was a problem but figured out it was a major benefit was this password screen. Here I’m trying to type a 32 character long password (longer than the 20 character limit), here they only truncate the confirmation password field. This prevents silent truncation of passwords, which is a major thing I complain about in my up and coming post about password security theater causing massive user experience issues.

I like these little details that prevent me from accidentally doing dumb things.

Online Storage

Well if I was to investigate how passwords are stored offline, it only made sense to figure out how passwords are being transmitted online. Due to offline storage I had a lot of hopes for this, until I ran across this:

Password being sent embedded in the JSON response.

Password being sent embedded in the JSON response.

I’m kind of surprised that with all the care passwords are given on client-side storage that the server still handles decrypting/encrypting your password for you, meaning a breach at the cloud provider can put your passwords at risk.

This is why I generally like the option like CrashPlan provides — a second password so that the Software-As-A-Service provider CAN’T decrypt it even if they wanted to. There are methods that involve using a single password where this method could be viable (use a derived key from your password to sign something to verify your login instead of sending it to the server, send encrypted data to client to be decrypted with derived key… something of the sort).

Master Password

They do have the ability for you to add additional security to your passwords, via a “master password”, this is still sent to the server and decrypted server side, it really just adds a layer for if someone gets your account password on your desktop.


Intuitive Password is a pretty slick product, if you’re not paranoid and don’t mind storing your passwords online (and the provider having access) I’d definitely recommend it. I’ve been recommended to eyeball LastPass being as they apparently handle online password transmission differently, so keep an eye out for that review too.

How VMware Can Make The Web Client Awesome

Written by William Roush on August 4, 2014 at 12:39 pm

Some pretty basic design principals that would make the web client on VMware awesome, including the ability to make it redundant and supported on free systems!

I was reading this article by Trevor Pott, which does a fairly good job dealing some major problems on VMware’s vSphere web client, and how absolutely terrible it is. However I have some major issues with this article, first of all is no real concrete suggestions on architecture changes (how do we handle the vCenter single point of failure? What about free clients? What about the Flash plugins?). Here I’m going to offer up some suggestions to reaffirm Trevor’s stance that VMware could and should do this better!

A True Single-Page Application

By far I figure one of the easiest ways to resolve all of our issues is a solid single-page application. This is the concept that the website you visit will load all the resources needed on your computer to run without refreshing the page. This is generally done using HTML5 and Javascript, common frameworks include AngularJS and Ember.JS. A giant flash application like the vSphere web client has now doesn’t really count.

How to Handle the API

Some suggestions on how to handle API calls to the hosts/vCenter:

  1. Transparent layer – Have the web server host a JSON based API that gets translated into the API calls to the host/vCenter box. This allows you to have very low overhead calls (as opposed to very noisy SOAP), and allow Javascript to do what it does best (talking in a native tongue instead of using Apache CXF for Javascript clients). This incurs minor overhead on the host running the web server to do the translations, this also effectively creates two web APIs you use (though arguably you wouldn’t support consumption of the JSON API).
  2. Reverse Proxy – This allows you to remove any difficulty with Javascript dealing with cross-port requests, but you’re going to be leveraging something like Apache CXF for the web services.
  3. Direct Communication – vCenter and VMware’s APIs already exist over HTTPS for web services, if you serve up the single-page application from the same domain/port in a hybrid host setup there will be no additional overhead!

In-Browser Remote Console

Now this is the one piece I will detail is pretty experimental, and by all means feel free to fall back to a Flash/Java console, but what I’d really like to see is a true in-browser console, look at solutions like Guacamole which runs a full VNC client in-browser. Of course there may be some barriers here (Guacamole requires server-side code, not sure how much overhead is acceptable on the Busybox management VM on vSphere).

The only feature I can’t think of reproducing in HTML5 is direct device access required for mounting ISOs/USB devices.

Addressing The Single Point of Failure

These thin API layers (or in one case non-existent) allows not only vCenter to support these single-page web applications, but also the individual hosts. Now it becomes safe to completely scrap the old vSphere desktop clients.

Browser Security

Trevor Pott does some hand-waving about security issues on browsers, and then goes in to complain that the problem really relies with Flash and Java Applets. I’d recommend dropping auto-sign on removing all need for plugins and leaving it at that.

The current desktop client embeds Java applets for some 3rd party tools, so to say it’s more secure is silly.


The old Windows client is imperceptible. Click and the info is there. Expanding a tree just completes in a time frame so short that a human can’t tell there was a delay.

Yeah, I’m not going to stand by this stance at all, the desktop client is a massively bloated slow piece of garbage. It eats a massive amount of memory, is prone to killing consoles and requiring you to play whack-a-mole in your process manager to kill the spawned processes and get it online again.

The web client is slower, but the desktop client isn’t some kind of idea of what we’d want to achieve, that was pretty bad to begin with.

Using PowerCLI it seems like most operations are pretty instant, so it just seems to be entirely overhead on the applications themselves, so a well-written single-page application could easily handle this and be lightning fast.

What’s ultimately the damning element of this is that Internet Explorer is the most common enterprise browser. In many environments, browsers that aren’t Internet Explorer are outright banned. 

This is more of a problem with your work environment than the web application itself. If you’re on IE11, things are pretty decent (Javascript is fast, support for modern things is pretty up to date). If you’re at a company that keeps you on IE8 and wont let you install Chrome, that is absolutely no fault of VMware’s.

 Other Options and Why I Think They’re Not Good Routes

Native Application

This is going back to the roots of the vSphere desktop client, which generally comes with the same problems (going to be Windows only). I highly doubt VMware will write some GTK+ Windows/Mac/Linux client. So far VMware has still been unwilling to patch a major problem with RVC, so I don’t think they’re giving attention to more “hip” languages like Python and Ruby.

Cross-Platform Application

The next option is planning on a cross-platform application, and I know what they’re going to do: what ever other vendor has done.


I don’t really think I need to say more, I have a love/hate relationship with Java, but most system admins have just the hate side. Mainly it comes down to writing cross-platform applications can be more costly in languages that aren’t like Java with a nice solid platform.

Mono is also an option, but I have a feeling VMware won’t jump on that boat this early.


By far, one of the best parts of major infrastructure decisions: freebies. Additional features or supported platforms with reduced, little or no effort. This list is by no means exhaustive.

OSX/Linux Support

This has been a goal off and on for VMware, obviously fully HTML5 will get you 98% of functionality on OSX and Linux, with minor plugins needed for device management.

Mobile Support

Take that single-page web application, wrap it in a delivery method like PhoneGap, stylize it so that it fits better on the device (different CSS files for phone/tablet), and you’re going to have not just a small subset of features (like most current mobile apps available), but the ability to fully manage your VMware cluster from the ground up.


There is no reason that VMware should have shipped the web client in it’s current state, nor is it an example of why VMware shouldn’t dedicate resources to writing solid web-based management software, it misses most of the point while throwing all of it’s resources into a dying framework. A bit of design centered around delivering the things customers have been asking for could lead to a product that will put all competitors to shame, instead of turning them away from vSphere.