I guess this is a milestone, isn't it?

Feb 09 2018

As I write this, it's roughly a week before my 40th birthday.  I'm sitting in a hospital waiting room tapping away on Windbringer while Lyssa undergoes surgery to remove a cataract from her left (and only working) eye.*  When this post goes live on the day of my actual 40th birthday, more things will undoubtedly have happened.  I don't know how much time I'm going to have in the next few days, so I guess I'd best take advantage of the spare time I have due to how busy I've been lately.

A lot's happened in this past year that I'm still trying to wrap my head around.  My grandfather diedSomebody I knew but wasn't terribly close to committed suicide.  I've been in the hospital and laid up at home a couple of times with strict "Sit on your ass and read comic books while you heal" orders (which, as you've probably already guessed, got boring pretty fast).  Our landlord has begun the process of selling the house we're presently renting, which has introduced no small amount of uncertainty into the short-term future.

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Online talk about exocortices.

Jan 28 2018

A couple of days ago I gave a talk online to some members of the Zero State about my exocortex.  It's a pretty informal talk done as a Hangout where I talk about some of the day to day stuff and where the project came from.  I didn't have any notes and it was completely unscripted.

Embedding is disabled for some reason so I can't just put the vide here here.  Here's a direct link to the recording.

Curveballs.

Jan 25 2018

Sometime last summer, around the time we renewed our lease, our landlord mentioned that he wanted to sell the house we've been renting in California for the past couple of years.  As one might expect, this caused a bit of a stir at home, but then we didn't hear back from him for a couple of months (no news is good news, right?) and went back to life as normal.  Around Yule we all but forgot about it.

Last weekend, our landlord paid us a visit and informed us that he was starting the house-selling process.  The first round of inspectors would be around to check the house out last week (as you read this post) and could we please straighten the place up a little.  A not unreasonable request, this immediately kicked the family into high gear, cleaning stuff out (at last count, one box of clothes and four of books), throwing stuff away (so much stuff that we had to call a trash hauling company to take it away due to the limitations imposed by the local trash pickup company (only things in the bins they rent to you, nothing overflowing, nothing on the ground or street)), straightening up the backyard (the lawn clippings and raked leaves constituted a nontrivial amount of the stuff hauled away)... you get the drill.  Suffice it to say that the house hasn't looked this good since Yule.

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Making offline backups of a Linux machine using Backblaze.

Jan 14 2018

As frequent readers may or may not remember, I rebuilt my primary server last year, and in the process set up a fairly hefty RAID-5 array (24 terabytes) to store data.  As one might reasonably expect, backing all of that stuff up is fairly difficult.  I'd need to buy enough external hard drives to fit a copy of everything on there, plus extra space to store incremental backups for some length of time.  Another problem is that both Leandra and the backup drives would be in the same place at the same time, so if anything happened at the house I'd not only not have access to Leandra anymore, but there's an excellent chance that the backups would be wrecked, leaving me doubly screwed.

Here are the requirements I had for making offsite backups:

  • Backups of Leandra had to be offsite, i.e., not in the same state, ideally not on the same coast.
  • Reasonably low cost.  I ran the numbers on a couple of providers and paying a couple of hundred dollars a month to back up one server was just too expensive.
  • Linux friendly.
  • My data gets encrypted with a key only I know before it gets sent to the backup provider.
  • A number of different backup applications had to support the provider, in case one was no longer supported.
  • Easy to restore data from backup.

After a week or two of research and experimentation, as well as pinging various people to get their informed opinions, I decided to go with Backblaze as my offsite backup provider, and Duplicity as my backup software.  Here's how I went about it, as well as a few gotchas I ran into along the way.

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Quick and dirty copies of website with wget.

Jan 14 2018

Let's say there's a website that you want to make a local mirror of.  This means that you can refer to it offline, and you can make offline backups of it for archival.  Let's further state that you have access to some server someplace with enough disk space to hold the copy, and that you can start a task, disconnect, and let it run to completion some time later, with GNU Screen for example.  Let's further state that you want the local copy of the site to not be broken when you load it in a browser; all the links should work, all the images should load, and so forth.  One of the quickest and easiest ways to do this is with the wget utility.

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Automating deployment of Let's Encrypt certificates.

Jan 06 2018

A couple of weeks back, somebody I know asked me how I went about deploying SSL certificates from the Let's Encrypt project across all of my stuff.  Without going into too much detail about what SSL and TLS are (but here's a good introduction to them), the Let's Encrypt project will issue SSL certificates to anyone who wants one, provided that they can prove somehow that they control what they're cutting a certificate for.  You can't use Let's Encrypt to generate a certificate for google.com because they'd try to communicate with the server (there isn't any such thing but bear with me) google.com to verify the request, not be able to, and error out.  The actual process is complex and kind of involved (it's crypto so this isn't surprising) but the nice thing is that there are a couple of software packages out there that automate practically everything so all you have to do is run a handful of commands (which you can then copy into a shell script to automate the process) and then turn it into a cron job.  The software I use on my systems is called Acme Tiny, and here's what I did to set everything up...

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It's 2018.

Jan 02 2018

It's now 2018.  Don't ask me how we made it, but we did.

Regular readers have probably been wondering what's been going on that I haven't posted much.  The short form, and the honest answer, is that I haven't had it in me to really post, aside from some stuff that I copy-and-pasted out of my notes, polished up a bit, and saved.  The holiday season is always a busy time, and my life is no different from anyone else's in that regard.

Lyssa and I flew back to Pennsylvania at more or less the last minute about halfway through the month to celebrate an early Yule with our respective parents.  Some last minute jiggery-pokery landed us a pair of get-seats-at-the-gate redeye flights to and from the other coast, which resulted in the peculiar combination of jet lag and sleep deprivation.  This resulted in my getting sick again not long after arrival.  I was in a fair amount of pain for several weeks due to this particular illness.  Frequent readers are somewhat aquainted with my dental history, which reads like a classic farce as written by Hunter S. Thompson.  Suffice it to say that I was living in a haze of pain that took most of the wind out of my sails without actually being overtly incapacitating.  At least Lyssa and I spent some quality time with our nieces and nephews, and everyone seemed to enjoy their gifts.

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