Saturday, September 26, 2020

I have too many computers - Day 9

I saw people recently talking up their home setup - here are the machines running at my house.

Compression: Fileserver & dns cache/forwarder/short circuit, syncthing, ~20-ish terabytes, mostly USB drives (IBM Thinkpad Laptop, Slackware 14.2) Big disks are NOT put together in a volume. They're just mounted in the same place with container names: Barrel, Tankard, Flagon, Carafe, etc.

Dress: Plex server (Mac Mini - Core 2 Duo 2Ghz, SSD, Slackware 14.2)

Quarter: Asterix & Icecast server (Generic mini tower, AMD E-450, Slackware 14.2)

Kilt: i3, firefox, motion (Sony laptop, Slackware 14.2)

Boot: qemu hosts, podman containers (Mac Pro, 8-core Xeon @ 2.67Ghz)

Knee-High: Linode, mail server  - qmail, dovecot, rainloop, Slackware 14.2

Stirrup: Lenovo Legion Y530 (packed with ram & ssd, i7, Slackware-current, AlienBOB liveslak Plasma5/ktown version)

Anklet: Desktop, connected to 42" 4K tv, intel i7-3770, fast NVidia video card, 32G ram, some large spinny drives, some reasonable boot SSD drives, heavily customized Slackware 14.2 derivative & Windows 7 for gaming, in a fancy wooden case

(gratuitous network cables)

Tube: Raspberry Pi 2 B+, SARPi, mplayer running the pirate radio station

Bobby: Raspberry Pi 3 B, SARPi, running as the guts of an old tube radio box to stream tiki music to my bar

Toe: Raspberry Pi W, SARPi, mplayer running CatTV on an old monitor

Over-The-Knee: Raspberry Pi W, SARPi, currently unused, with camera module

Thermal: Raspberry Pi W, SARPi, connected to a few sensors about the house, with camera module

Crew: Calculating pi, slowly, using Bellard's Formula, IBM Thinkpad 760CD, Slackware 7. Not online! I keep this one running for historical reasons. it's shut down twice a year for cleaning and the batteries get replaced (They're still available!!!) when they need to be

Dev: Linode, development/storage server, Slackware-current

Gs: New Dell i7 mini tower, running Windows 10 (my one concession... hubby is only familiar with Windows)

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Day 8 - Link Dump!

 I don't call myself a prepper, BUT...

  • Tired of being tracked? Instead of bending over backwards to block trackers, poison their fucking well. It's not tough to write these either: I have a perl script putting together random phrases that opens 8-10 google, bing, yahoo, facebook searches in tabs, and then closing them all. Repeat at random intervals.
  • Sobering stuff about Tor. 

Happier things:

Odder Things

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

De-Googling My Life, Day 7 - sad interdependence

 If you're truly serious about removing certain very large internet companies from your life, blocking them at a DNS level with a blackholing mechanism such as pi-hole, you're going to start seeing this a lot in the browser: 

Site can't be reached

The sad fact is many of the big players provide DNS service - Amazon, Google, and in this case, Yahoo have infested the entire internet stack from top to bottom. If you block all of Yahoo, you end up cutting a large swath out of the internet, since a lot of people still use yahoo DNS servers. If you're serious about it, wouldn't you block DNS from certain companies? If you can't trust them not to track you at a cookie/fingerprint browser level, should you trust them not to track you at the DNS level? Imagine trying to avoid CloudFlare's front-end or dns service.

And even if you go as far as blocking the big named companies by-name in dns (ex: * someone may not be using google's DNS but their cloud services otherwise, so your traffic is still traversing into the googleplex.

Is it hopeless to avoid them?

Monday, August 10, 2020

De-Googling my Life - Day 6

I decided to try the De-Googling Your Life thing after Google killed yet another service I'd come to love and depend on: Google+. This is my list of things I've been able to replace Google services.

Gmail: This is a tough one. Gmail has great spam filtering and a good interface. I've run my own mail servers in the past for work (qmail, dovecot, sieve, etc) so the backend wasn't a challenge - just spun up a Linode. I experimented with numerous different front-ends, squirrelmail, roundcube, etc until I found a really good one: rainloop. It took some tuning to get it to talk imap, but I've been really pleased with it.

Drive: This one was tough - there are a lot of commercial file storage systems out there, but largely I used Drive to keep live backups. I'm now using Syncthing, with one of the folders shared via s3fs - so I could drop something in the s3fs folder on any of my devices and it'd be available on the web in an s3 bucket in minutes when I need to share to other people. Cool!

Android/Google-Fi: Google Fi is just too good, I haven't found a good alternative to this. I'm going to need a new phone soon, and have been researching other alternatives. I'm not sure, with Google Fi, I'll be able to use any other alternative OSes on Android-style hardware, and I refuse to go the Apple route. Blech.

Google Docs: I've reverted back to using desktop apps (Libre Office) for spreadsheet and more complicated word processing, and installed Codiad on my dev server for day-to-day note taking and development. There really aren't any good FOSS, online, self-hostable office style apps. At least not that I've found.

Chrome: I've been mainly using Firefox, Brave, and Tor for awhile. Chrome/Chromium's network password storage was nice; but I've trained myself to use KeePassX/XC full time. It's cross-platform, and synced with Syncthing I'm never without the freshest copy. KeePassXC will even do TOTP, though keeping your one time password generator right alongside your password is a questionable thing to do.

Google Reader: This one hurt the most. I had a massive list with many custom filters. I replaced it with tt-rss. Miniflux. The tt-rss guy is a jackass so I abandoned it.

Search Engine: DuckDuckGo. Startpage. I will bounce over to Google now and then when DDG's results are a little lacking, which they sometimes are - especially for looking for specific things to buy online.

Photos: I've always used flickr. There have been some design changes that people haven't liked about flickr's website, but I think they've only improved it over time. I'm happy to pay for that unlimited storage and instant backups for any pictures I take. I've been mulling creating a syncthing-folder automatic gallery app for awhile, but flickr works well enough. If flickr ever shows signs of being in trouble, I'll push forward with the idea.

Hangouts: Another service of theirs I really, really came to depend on and was furious when they pulled. You can still access it as a Google Fi user, but it acts pretty brain damaged these days. Most people I chat online have moved onto other services, like Telegram, Signal, or Facebook Messenger, or back to IRC. I detest facebook, but at least you can sideload 'lite' versions on android and sandbox facebook in a tab in Firefox.


Saturday, August 1, 2020

Virtual touristing, it's what we've got left, Day 5

Last night I fired up the "Wander with Friends" app in my Oculus Go after seeing an interesting picture in a brutalist architecture group on flickr:


I'm such a sucker for geodesic domes and brutalist architecture so I had to see where this was. It took me an hour of wandering around the Austrian town Bad Gastein to find it in the middle of town, an apparently decaying municipal building. I fear my post-pandemic "to visit" list has now exceeded my calculable life span. Guess I should learn some Tourist German.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Day 4 - My Worst Garden Weeds

I'm not only doing tech - I also am a fan of gardening. Here's a list (partly for my own reference) of weeds I've had to deal with in our yard.

When we first moved in here, this stuff was all over the yard. It didn't take much to kill, just pulling it out and then using Round Up on any stragglers. This went from a roar to a few little sprigs in a year. I still pull them out before they make berries, so they don't have the chance to go crazy.

White Mulberry
I'm of two minds about Mulberry... they do make nice shady trees, can be cut back into topiaries, and as long as they're far enough from something they can foul, such as a house or driveway - you don't want to see what the rotting berries will do to a hard surface - they can be nice. The berries are delicious and it can be very prolific. They're easy to kill, just cut them to the ground and they don't generally come back. Pull out or cut down the sprouts when you find them.

Tree of Heaven
Another fast growing, if truly foul tree. I cut these out whenever I see them, and a little round up on the trunks prevents them from coming back.

Sweet Goldenrod
This stuff is everywhere. It self-seeds very prolifically. It's tough to contain without being very dutiful about weeding it out where you don't want it. That said, it smells nice and will grow where other things won't, and provides some late-summer interest when everything else is dying off.

Lesser Burdock
At first I considered this as being something deliberately planted, since the previous owners as gardeners tended to plant as deer-resistantly as possible. Before I learned what this was, I thought it was some kind of rhubarb, since the leaves had similar size and shape, but the stems never got as big as rhubarb. I leave this in a few places since it fills in dark spots nicely and chop off the burs before they drop.

This is the bane of my gardening life. The previous owner didn't do much to the yard, and that let this get a complete foothold. I've been battling this for three years - it is one of the most pernicious and invasive weeds around. It drops berries that are very fecund, spread by birds, dropped where they are, they grow insanely fast into trees which are very difficult  to kill, and are some of the most allelopathic (natural herbicidal) things I've seen. If you don't nip this shit in the bud as hard as you can, it will kill everything else in your yard. Any larger (>1' width) trees I've had to gird and tried several different herbicides on the stump to prevent it from regrowing. The only thing I've found as a sure-kill has been Tricopyr, after a year of trying Round-Up and having to gird several of the bigger trees two and three times. I've gotten so far as removing all the tree-sized monsters and monthly round-up every single sprig I see coming up. I fear this is becoming a losing battle because the yards behind me have let several large buckthorns grow into trees that are persistently dropping berries into my yard. Terrible shit!I'm sorely tempted to go out one late night and use a hand saw to kill it all in the surrounding yards. 

Canadian Thistle
The first year we were here this had completely taken over our back yard gardens. It's been pretty easy to kill with persistent ripping them out and using Round-Up on bigger clusters. This is probably the first one I've seen in two years.

Mock Strawberry
This has been hovering at the edge of a wooded area in my yard and I've just resigned to watch it - it doesn't seem especially invasive but it has been forming pretty dense clusters.

Ground Ivy
This is everywhere. I could go on an herbicidal tear getting rid of this, but I decided to run an experiment instead - overplant white clover everywhere in the lawn and let the clover and everything else duke it out. 

This is a new one in my yard - several large clusters of this popped up this year. I seem to recall planting it the first year we were here, but then didn't notice any growing. This year it went gangbusters! Gilligan has been thrilled.

The other thing that's generally considered a weed that I've enlisted to help is White Dutch Clover. I've gotten past the whole 'perfect lawn' lie and want my yard to be much more resilient than the monoculture of fescue. The last two years I've overplanted 10 lbs of white clover, and this year it's really starting to show. My grass is greener than it's ever been and stays lush even in the rain doldrums usual around late July, early August. I'd inoculated the clover with the bacillus they offered and the clover has shown up in all parts of the yard. 

In the very back of our yard there's a somewhat old Ash tree that had mulch applied under it in a 10 yard circle, and that mulch had lost its effectiveness and was succumbing to weeds. Three years ago, I cut down the weeds as hard as I could, raked up and discarded what was left of the mulch, disturbed the dirt with a rake and seeded it heavily with white dutch clover. It completely took over and overcrowded out all of the remaining weeds, and that experiment led me to try overplanting it in the rest of the yard's lawn. There's a school of thought that the nitrogen fixation characteristic of clover will reduce the nitrogen hunger of normal grass. So far this year, the second year of overplanting it, that school seems to achieved its goal - I put down no fertilizer and the grass is greener, although that also partly owes to the leaves of the much-hardier clover being much more prominent. I kinda love it so far. The clover never grows so tall as to shade the grass, and it's been very tolerant of weekly mowing.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

So you're using Slackware to avoid systemd... Day 3

Good! Sadly, with the way things like Firefox and others are going in requiring PulseAudio behind it to play sound, you may still feel stuck with Poettering's malignant software empire.


You can run Slackware without PulseAudio - using apulse. apulse is a hack - a wedge library that provides a fake PulseAudio sink that programs that only seem to want PulseAudio can use, that dumps the audio data directly to ALSA. There are a few caveats - apulse provides nothing but a sink, and duplicates none of the other functions PulseAudio has usurped, so things (such as the KDE  volume control system tray item :( ) don't work as they should. It's ok, the command line alsamixer works fine still for volume control. I haven't found a program yet that really complains that much about it or at all. 

Once you've slackbuilt it, uninstall the distro pulseaudio package before you install apulse. It's also best to drop to init 3 and kill the pulseaudio daemon before you uninstall it.

% killall pulseaudio

systemd/pulseaudio evangelists or sealions in the comments will be deleted.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Day 2 - Link Dump!

I think I'll do this periodically. My pinboard gets full quickly and there's some really interesting stuff to go back to.

Useful Tech Stuff
  • Nitter - browse twitter without garbage
  • Invidious - watch youtube without tracking and other garbage
  • Plain Old Recipes - extract recipe text from recipe sites without all the ad/jumping around/click-behind bullshit
  • Open Broadcaster Software Studio - OSS suite for video recording and live streaming
  • Energized Protection - comprehensive host blocklists for spy/ad/porn/etc 
  • ShareDrop - super useful peer-to-peer, anonymized live file transfers
  • - another peer-to-peer file transfer page
  • ffmpegfs - FUSE filesystem for media file conversions. I've started thinking there isn't any problem you can't solve with a FUSE filesystem. Creating even more problems! But seriously, s3fs and sshfs are some of the things I always put on a fresh linux install
  • Project Gemini - Someone wants to resurrect gopher!
  • adservers.txt - another list of ad servers, useful for DNS blackholing
  • Wide-band WebSDR - located in the Netherlands, fun to play with 
  • CanaryTokens - tripwires to set around random places that let you know when people are where they shouldn't be
  • Monitoror - pretty host monitoring. I wrote something like this in perl with more comprehensive plugins, but this one's pretty good
  • posthaven - theoretically 'forever' blog hosting
  • Retroshare - peer-to-peer all-in-one social sharing
  • Aether - peer-to-peer ephemeral public communities. Probably where the nazis go when they get kicked off of facebook/twitter/reddit
  • perlwm - X11 window manager written entirely in perl!
  • BASH quick reference
  • My Little BBSing Resource Page - BBSes still exist!
  • Linux ThinkPad Wiki - sadly dated, but I ran across this while wrangling with my Lenovo Legion Y530, might prove useful if you want to run older laptops
Useful Life Stuff

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Not a bad habit. Day 1

I'm going to try out the 100daystooffload thing, because things aren't probably going to get better for at least that long.

Got Rid of Windows

The most recent Edge Browser snake-install that popped up a window that had no obvious way to close was the last straw for me - I had originally bought a Thinkpad Legion Y530 to experiment with the Oculus SDK, and told myself I'd stick with Windows 10 for the mean time. Initially, I attempted to create a dual-boot, with Win 10 on one and Slackware on the other partition. Slackware 14.2's X11 version is a little behind - so I recompiled from scratch something more recent and since the laptop has an NVidia chip in it I thought it'd be easy once I had some more modern drivers in it. Oops! That was not the case at all. The Thinkpads have the Intel-With-NVidia-Overlay setup where the Intel video chip does 2d & everything else, and overlays the NVidia output on the main screen. I just couldn't get it to go into X11 mode after several hours of work, updating practically everything including the kernel & mods and most of the X11-related libraries, and installing NVidia's non-GPL driver. I gave up at the time and wiped it to go back to Windows 10 thinking I'd just tolerate it. So many obnoxious things eventually tipped my hand. I read up on using Slackware-current via some of the liveslak disk images, and the most bleeding edge one with Plasma5 as of late June this year booted into X11 effortlessly. Happily, there's a "setup2hd" script that pretty much drops a full Plasma5 version of Slackware-current on your hd. Score! After one false start using slackpkg to update everything and not realizing it defaults to the generic kernel setup instead of huge (Why would anyone not use huge kernel these days?) I had to learn some of the internals of GRUB and ELILO to fix it, and it's running swimmingly now. It recognizes 99% of all the hardware on the laptop - display switch, function keys, etc. It seems to last longer on battery now than when it was running Win10, which was unexpected.

It's not a bad thing that I've always built stuff from scratch or used slackbuilds, but slackpkg sure does make things easier at times. The next major release of Slackware, I think I'll wipe my main desktop and only use slackbuilds/slackpkg (or build slackbuild-style builds) so it's easier to manage and things like rebuilding ffmpeg to the latest version doesn't break half of my AV software.

Just Finished Reading: Peace Talks by Jim Butcher
Still Reading: Shockwave Rider by John Brunner, Every Tool Is A Hammer by Adam Savage