Monthly Highlights: October 2019

Highlights ยท

Updated on

Sometimes I find it hard to remember what was I doing only a few days ago. It might be my bad memory of just the fact that things tend to move extremely fast nowadays. That’s why I’ve decided to start a small experiment with the goal of better understanding what excited me the most during the last month. I’m happy with the results so far and I’m planning to extend this experiment at least by one more month. Below, you can find some of my personal highlights from October 2019.

Calendar (post illustration)

Photo by Eric Rothermel

Switching to LineageOS

Mobile operating systems are a mess. Basically, there are 2 most common options when it comes to buying a smartphone:

  • Buying an expensive smartphone from Apple which has a closed source non customizable operating system and a walled garden app store. Yes, you can’t even install apps without a permission from Apple.
  • Buying a reasonably priced smartphone with a clean open source OS, but bloated with terrible closed source adware planted by Google. It’s so deeply integrated in most of Android distributions that you won’t be able to get rid of it.

I’ve been in both camps for a while and they’re both suck. I’ve heard about alternative options but they all seemed like too much of a hassle. I have to admit, I’ve been wrong: it’s very easy to install an open source Android distribution such as LineageOS on any of the supported devices and it works like a charm. Google Services are not requited to run most of the apps, even if they state othervise. It’s even possible to continue using your apps from Google Play with the help of Aurora Store and other porjects aimed at freeing up people from Google’s nasty grip.

New Router: GL.iNet GL-AR750S-Ext

I wanted to paly with OpenWRT so decided to buy a travel router from GL.iNet because I’m lazy and it comes with OpenWRT by default. My choice exceeded my expectations and I had a lot of fun configuring OpenWRT. It’s much easier to control your router when you can connect to it via SSH but it also has a slick web interface, of course. One thing that amused me the most: it has a hardware switch that allows me to enable VPN mode and cover all of my wireless network with WireGuard.

Nextcloud

I tried to use Nextcloud before and I was disappointed with how it handles syncing large quantities of files such as photo galleries. I wouldn’t use it again for such tasks, at least the current release, but it can do much more than syncing pictures: it has a lot of official apps that are few clicks away and I was particularily interested in “Contacts” and “Calendar” apps. That was exactly what I needed for a long time: a reliable alternative to Google services that can keep my Debian laptop and LineageOS smartphone in sync.

RSS is Live and Kicking

Nextcloud can also be used as an RSS aggregator. I wouldn’t say that it’s the best option but it works and I’ve decided to give it a try for a couple of weeks. My main concern is the lack of development activity in it’s backend and Android frontent codebases. Nextcloud’s RSS server is also supported by FeedReeder: a popular Linux RSS client. I hope that Nextcloud will be fine, otherwise I’ll probably try to set up Tiny Tiny RSS server.

Traefik 2

I like to play with ARM instances from time to time, just to check if it’s ready for prime time. During my last experiment, I tried to deploy this website on ARM instance and it turned out that nginx-proxy doesn’t support ARM. I was disappointed to see the old tread on GitHub which gave me an impression that it’s not a bright idea to expect ARM support any time soon so decided to try another popular reverse proxy implementation: Traefik 2.

It works great and it supports ARM. I found it’s configuration to be cleaner and more descriptive than that of nginx-proxy. I probably should move more of my projects to Traefik. Here is a little example of how to configure Traefik with Docker compose and Let’s Encrypt: traefik-letsencrypt-compose

SSH Agent Forwarding

– Know your tools!

That’s the thing I can’t stop repeating to myself. I try to dig more information on any of the tools I use on a daily basis and SSH has been one of my most used tools during the recent months. One of my main pain points with SSH was the necessity (so I thought!) to set up SSH keys on remote servers and register them on GitHub in order to work with my repositories from those servers. It turned out that there is no need for any of that, thanks to agent forwarding.

You can read more about SSH auth and agent forwarding here: http://unixwiz.net/techtips/ssh-agent-forwarding.html

Dark Side of Raspberry Pi

I like my new Raspberry Pi 4 but it still has many flaws. Contrary to popular opinion, its not a Linux board. The real OS that runs on Raspberry Pi is ThreadX. Linux distros are second class citizens on Raspberry Pi boards.

You can read more about that here: https://ownyourbits.com/2019/02/02/whats-wrong-with-the-raspberry-pi/

Raspberry Pi firmware is closed source and its code is stored on an EEPROM module which can actually be updated with the help of a special utility called rpi-eeprom. For some reason, my Raspbian system never asked me if I want to update firmware and that’s a shame, because firmware updates bring a lot of performance improvements.

And, to end the rant, this board still doesn’t support USB boot!

Nmap is Really Cool

I’m not familiar with network stack and I found it very interesting to play with nmap utility. It has many features but I mostly used it to check which ports are open on my network computers and routers, and, if they have no use to me, close them. Better safe than sorry!

Things to Watch

I’m a big fan of documentaries and BBC Documentary is one of the few channels that I watch on YouTube. Here are my favorite documentaries this month:

This site doesn't have ads and the reasons are simple:

  • Most people don't want to see ads, that's not what they look for when they open web pages.
  • Ad scripts can track visitors, exposing private data to third parties.

If you find this post valuable and you wish to leave a tip, you can do it with Bitcoin:

34CXtg7c4Vbw8DZjAwFQVsrbu9eDEbTzbA