Passed my CISM Exam!

After about 3 months of studying I finally took my CISM exam and passed. It was tough. It was a lot tougher than I expected even with all the studying I put in. The CISM focus on mainly on management, so it required a different style of thinking compared to many of my other technical certifications I’ve taken.

If you’re thinking about getting your CISM certification I highly recommend the following book. It’s a lot easier to read than others, and it comes with a great practice test software.

(The book is not an ad nor do I get anything out of it for mentioning it. It’s just a great resource if you’re studying for the CISM exam.)

Hard Drive Encryption

I have an old desktop at home that my wife and I use. It’s going on 5 years and it does everything we need from photo editing and gaming. But one of the things that bothered me is that my hard drive isn’t encrypted. As a cyber security professional it bugged the hell out of me. Over the past few weeks I had to buy a TPM (Trusted Platform Module) chip that was compatible with my old motherboard. For those tech nerds, I know I don’t need one, but I wanted to use Bit Locker encryption without using a USB stick and PIN every time I boot up my computer. Anyhow, I bought one on Amazon, and I spent 4 hours trying to get it to work, but it turned out to be incompatible even though the manufacture stated it would work. So I ended up returning it. After some Googling efforts I learned that I needed a TPM module with a specific firmware version that worked with my motherboard. So I scoured eBay and found a seller who had one in stock. After a week-long wait I got my TPM chip and now my desktop hard drive is encrypted.

For those who aren’t familiar with hard drive encryption I’ll try to break it down as simple as I can.

For people who have a desktop computer it tends to be their primary computer where they store everything on it from personal family photos to work related documents. Most desktops don’t have encrypted hard drives as most manufacturer don’t believes it’s a necessary feature. This means that, for some unfortunate reason, if someone stole your desktop all the information on the hard drive on that computer is easily accessible. Even if you have a 25 character password for your Windows login. If a thief was interested in the contents of your drive they can pull out the hard drive and plug it into a different computer system and read all the files stored on it. This can be scary if you store sensitive information on it such as your social security number, credit card information, and other personal information.

Most modern laptops today have encrypted hard drives as they’re more mobile and easier targets of theft compared to desktops. Thieves will have a very hard time accessing the information of your laptop due to it’s encryption. Unlike desktops, the hard drive is bound to the motherboard. So if a thief pulls the hard drive and plugs it into another computer they wouldn’t be able to access any information on it. They would need to have special encryption key stored within the original motherboard. There’s a special chip call a TPM where that key would be stored.

Again, I don’t want to get too much in the details but having encrypted hard drives is critical in keeping your information secure even if it’s a desktop computer. If you have a Windows computer and your C drive has a padlock image that looks like the one below it means your drive is encrypted. If not, then it’s no encrypted.

Go ahead, and check on your Windows laptop or desktop computer. Is it encrypted?

Poop In the Toilet

One of the biggest milestones as parent is seeing your child poop or pee in the toilet for the first time.  My second oldest son has finally done it.  He’s over 3 and half years old and up until yesterday I didn’t think he was ever going to stop wearing his diaper.

Now that he’s a “Big Boy” I guess my wife and I will have to plan a Disneyland trip; an incentive for his potty efforts.

Avengers Infinity War

The hype is real.  10 years in the making with some great and not-so-great films leading up to the arrival of Thanos to gather all the Infinity stones to be come a god.  This movie can only be truly appreciated if you invested in previous Marvel movies. They somehow managed to squeeze all these star studded casts and characters without bogging down the plot or create some weird disorienting story line.  It’s hard to talk about the movie without spoiling it. All I can say is that I enjoyed the movie from the opening screen till the end credits.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★★½

Rampage

Rampage is loosely based off one of my favorite childhood games. I remember playing this game hours on ends on the Sega Master System.  Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson plays the titular role in saving the world.  Unlike other movies based on video games Rampage is a fun and exciting through and through.  If you’re looking for a fun giant-monster movie this is it even if you never play the game.  I wouldn’t be surprise if a sequel is in the works.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★☆☆

Surface Book 2 “15 Review

During the fall of last year I needed a new laptop and I was doing a lot of research and decided to go with the new Macbook Pro 15″.  I chose it mainly for the build quality, battery life, and it’s ability to be able to run Windows if I needed it to.  But as it turns out I ended up needed to be in a Windows environment more than I was expected.  Running Windows 10 via Bootcamp didn’t have the battery life I needed, and running it as a virtual machine via VMWare Fusion didn’t have the smooth performance I wanted.

On to the Surface Book 2 review, so I picked this up several weeks ago and I couldn’t be more happier with my choice.  The build quality is excellent and the battery life is great.  Prior to my stint with the Macbook Pro I was using a Thinkpad W520. It was a large portable workstation that I used for about 7 years.  Everything about the Surface Book 2 blows it away.

The 15″ screen is amazing. The 3:2 aspect ratio is great for productivity work.  I work on large spreadsheets, multiple Powerpoint files, and the occasional retro gaming, just to name a few, and the SB2 screen makes the whole experience more enjoyable. The screen is bright and sharp and I can easily use it in bright environments without any problems.

The battery life on the SB2 is exceptional. It’s likely due to it running on the Intel 8th Gen U series processor that is 15 Watt TDP instead of the 7th Gen H series that is 45 Watt TDP as used in the  latest Macbook Pro “15.  I’ve never had a chance to run down the battery completely to get the full battery life time, but on several occasions, as a lecturer at a University, I would take the SB2 to my office hours, then to my 3 hour class. I would go 4.5 hours and end with about 54 percent battery remaining.  On the Macbook Pro,  I would normally end with about 42 percent. For reference, my old Thinkpad W520 would struggle to go beyond 3.5 hours even with a new replacement battery.

I’ve always been a big fan of the Thinkpad line of laptops because of their durability and unassuming designs but at the expense of a more modern and fashionable styles (which is reserved for their Yoga product lines). The SB2 is all about the industrial look. It’s slim and minimalist looking. It’s as close to the Macbook Pro in quality than any other laptop out there in the market.  The SB2 hasn’t gotten hot or warm at all during the time that I’ve used it during my non-gaming use. The keyboard is great. There’s plenty of travel and it is very comfortable to use, and the glass trackpad is smooth and very responsive. I think its one of the best trackpads for a Windows system I’ve used. The trackpad does have a loud clicking mechanism, but I tend to use the double-tap to click function anyway.

Overall, the Surface Book 2 “15 is one of the best laptops out on the market.  It’s a 2-in-1 device as the screen can be detached and used separately as a tablet. I don’t see myself using it as a tablet, but knowing that if one day I do need it that it’s there.  The mechanism to release the screen is ingenious. All I have to do is press a button and a message pops up to say its ready to be removed.  Popping the screen back into the base automatically locks the screen in place.  I’ve taken the screen off a few times to show people how it works, and every time people are surprised how cool the features is.  If there’s only one thing that I wish the SB2 had was a Thunderbolt port. It’s just annoying that as expensive and high-end this laptop is suppose to be that it’s missing something that is standard among mid range laptop released last year.  It’s only saving grace is that it has a USB C port.  I’ve used the USB C port a few times to charge and to output video to a VGA adapter (not at the same time).

Lastly, the thing that surprises me was the Surface proprietary charging port.  I was annoyed that Microsoft decided to use a proprietary solution instead of the USB C/Thunderbolt. As it turns out the port uses a magnetic adapter solution, similar to the old Macbooks MagSafe chargers.  There was a couple of times where I accidentally kicked the power adapter and the cable snapped off as expected. If it was charged via USB C my SB2 would have easily flown off the table. At that point I didn’t feel so bad for having that proprietary charging port.  So, if you’re in the market for a high end Windows laptop that provides smooth and productive computing experience I highly recommend it given you can stomach the high price.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆

Pros:
Incredibly Fast
Excellent Battery Life
No additional Manufacturer Bloatware
Windows Hello Face Recognition is very fast
Great build quality

Cons:
Very expensive
Doesn’t come with Surface Pen
No Thunderbolt 3 port
No Fingerprint reader

Macbook Pro, You’ll be missed

Several months ago I got a brand new Macbook Pro 15″.  It was my first Mac computer and it was great. It was great for doing many of the basic things like browsing and presenting PowerPoint  and a few other things. But creating documents were a bit frustrating. I’ve used MS Office on a Windows PC for so long and it’s the only way I’ve done it.  It’s nothing against the Macbook Pro or MacOS its actually the MS Office Suite for Mac was just different.  Basic templates for it weren’t available and the ability to embed web videos isn’t available as it is on the Windows version, just to name a few.

I got VMWare Fusion 10 to enable my Macbook Pro to run Windows, but the slight sluggish performance was annoying. It was annoying when browsing, working on MS office suite apps, and other software I can only use in Windows.  I switched to Bootcamp, Apple’s tool to run Windows natively on their hardware. This solved the Windows performance issue. But that solution led to another problem.  Since the Macbook Pro has a discrete video card, a dedicated high performance video card, it was the primary video driver for Bootcamp.  Instead of using the Intel integrated video chip it used the discrete video card 100% of the time which dramatically decrease the battery life, and that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Unable to live with those annoyances I sold the Macbook Pro and got the Surface Book 2, 15″ model.  The Surface Book 2 is an amazing device it does everything that I need it to do and the battery life is awesome. It’s just as good as the Macbook Pro, with MacOS, if not, better.

There are a few things that’ll I’ll miss from the Macbook Pro. First being the amazing trackpad. The smoothness and all the gestures built into MacOS makes it a joy to use.  The trackpad on the Surface Book 2 is also great. Windows 10 has a lot of great trackpad gestures but overall performance and smoothness the Macbook Pro edges it.  Secondly, the Macbook Pro’s build quality is top notch. Almost everything about it makes it feels and looks premium. The Surface Book 2 looks just as premium. The build quality is also great. Again, the Macbook Pro has a slight edge against the Surface Book 2.  I think its the Surface Book 2’s magnesium case. Maybe its just me, but it feels plasticky (is that a word?).  I know its all metal. I guess I’m not use the magnesium feel of it.   If I had to give it a score for build quality the Macbook Pro gets a 10 and the Surface Book 2 gets a 9.5. And Lastly, I will miss the Thunderbolt 3 ports.  The ability to charge the laptop from any port and use any of them to connect to a monitor or a Thunderbolt 3 hub makes it so flexible and future proof.  The Surface Book 2 doesn’t have a TB3 port. But it does have one USB-C port. You can charge the SB2 with it and output to a monitor, but not at the same time.

There are some trade offs between the two laptops, but overall the Surface Book 2 is the ultimate laptop.  I didn’t mention it yet, but the SB2 is a 2-in-1 device as it has a touch screen and the screen is detachable and it can be used with a Surface pen things the Macbook Pro can’t do.

Website Rebuilt

So I decided to rebuild my WordPress blog.  I migrated to Dreamhost so long ago I don’t even remember when I did it.  Before Dreamhost I hosted the site myself on an old desktop in the living room.

Over a decade with using WordPress I’ve tested a bunch of plugins and and add-ons and stuff.  Anyways, I decided to delete the whole site and imported only the posts and images making the site cleaner.

Next steps for me is to pick a theme and make a few cosmetic changes to the site.

Consumed by Pokemons

Over the last couple of of weeks I got started playing Pokemon Go with my children.  Before I knew it I was sucked into the Pokemon Universe. My wife reluctantly joined in on the party, so now we spend several hours a week walking around our neighborhood looking for these Pokemons. Once I started playing I can see the flexibility of the game makes it very popular.  It’s one of the few games that encourages you to go outside and walk around. You can play alone or play side by side with other players, and in my case it’s with my wife, kids and sometimes with other family members. The only time you really co-op with other players is when you battle against a Pokemon, and even then it’s limited to just attacking and trying to defeat that Pokemon. Win or lose you collect some random loot and you move on.

Holiday Weight Gain

Every weekend is almost taken up by parties, get-togethers, research time for deals for gifts to buy, which leaves leaving little room to workout. So far this season is off to a good start. I usually gain significant amount of weight over the Thanksgiving weekend that ends up lasting till the end of the year. So far I haven’t gained any partly due to being sick right before Thanksgiving which limited my appetite.  The season is still young and there’s plenty of time for me to unintentionally pack on the winter weight.