As the year comes to an end I took this last week off from work. It’s only been a few days of holiday so far, but I am glad I took it. I really needed a detox from work as it has been a hectic few months and a disconnect was sorely needed.
People say you should work in something you like; and while I agree with that it’s also difficult working in something you like as it can suck the fun out of the thing you like. I love working with computers, for instance, you could say it’s something I am most happiest at. And I enjoy my work too because it let’s me spend time on something I like. But the side effect is that since it’s “work” you also get lumped with things you may not like, or too many things at the same time such that you can’t take your time with each thing and really delve into it, with the result that you slowly start disliking things and the thing that you love doing slowly starts being a thing you hate. I don’t know if this makes sense, but that’s how it has been for me the past few months at least. Added to that all the work related meetings and social interactions – it’s just against my geeky grain. I want to spend time with computers, doing things, not attend meetings or juggle things for goodness sakes!
Books, Audiobooks, TV Shows
Anyways, this is not a “lets whine about work” post. :) I took this last week off, and It has been good as I was finally able to spend a few days not disliking computers or generally being angry. Spent some time catching up on my reading, audiobooks, and TV.
- I am currently reading Sophia by Anita Anand; I came across the idea for this book thanks to the excellent Empire podcast hosted by Anita Anand and William Dalrymple which I finally managed to catch up with and complete the India episodes at the start of the holidays.
- And I am currently listening to Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, narrated by Patrick Tull (such an excellent narrator!) I tried reading it initially, by the fonts were so small and the writing so Victorian that I figured it’d be best to try the audiobook instead (which turned out to be a good decision). I came across this book via the Empire podcast actually, where they briefly mention it in the Koh-i-noor episodes.
- Binge watched Season 3 of “Jack Ryan” (good one!) and Season 2 of “The White Lotus” (wow! that’s something; Mike White does it again).
Side by side I have started tidying up various computer related personal stuff. I tidied up some stuff on my Synology (boring, so won’t go into the details here). Moved some stuff from my Raspberry Pi to the iMac. These are minor things I have been wanting to do for a while but never got around to as I was too lazy/ tired after working to spend more time with computers.
I also started using Readwise Reader to bring my open tabs and reading under control. In the past I used to open multiple tabs, most of which I never got to. Then I started bookmarking them or putting them into folders; and that didn’t help either. I used apps like InstaPaper or Pocket but those were mostly for long form reading, not techie blog posts. Recently I had switched back to tabs, but was more brutal in terms of closing them if I don’t read a tab in a few days. Then the other day I came across Reader and had taken mental note of it; so I checked it out and I love it! I moved a bunch of my open tabs to it and so far I’ve been catching up on my reading via their iOS app and website. I didn’t install their extension as I prefer bookmarklets usually, and luckily I came across the following via reddit:
Reader is pretty good; I like its interface, and I love that I can add newsletters, epubs, and even videos to it. It’s become my new dumping group. It’s not cheap, and I haven’t started paying for it yet as I am in the trial period, but I think I’ll definitely sign up for it. (Oh, and a really cool feature, it can convert Twitter threads into a document so I can read it in peace and even archive for use later).
Bye Bye LastPass!
Moving on… I finally migrated from LastPass to Bitwarden. So far I was mainly a LastPass user (with LastPass family for my family) but I had a few passwords in Bitwarden and was using it too as an alternative option (I like to try out different things). But after the recent LastPass hacks I felt it was time to move out from there to Bitwarden. Maybe just knee jerk reaction, but I don’t know… it’s something I had been wanting to do for a while ever since LogMeIn purchased them (and probably from before that: LastPass had purchased the excellent Xmarks bookmarks syncing service back in 2010 and then shut it down in 2018 after they were bought by LogMeIn so that had left a bad taste in my mouth already). Plus I didn’t like some of the things I found from their disclosures and the Internet (URLs weren’t encrypted for instance, what the heck! and apparently you don’t need to change the master password if your PBKDF2 count is 100,000 or larger, but that’s only for newer accounts apparently not for older customers… why didn’t they at least send an email to everyone recommending users increase their count when the defaults were changed since that’s a sensible thing to do). Anyways, I guess in a way the hack was just an excuse I needed to move away, and it coincided with this holiday period during which I had time and inclination, so I spent some time moving our vaults from LastPass to Bitwarden. Had to do it for the family too; plus change passwords for some of the more sensitive services (e.g. Google) just in case.
Lastly, yesterday, I changed hosting providers for this blog. For the past 9 years I was hosting it with A Small Orange (ASO). They were great to begin with but some years ago they were acquired by someone and since then it’s been a slow decline. Again, I didn’t really care as I don’t blog much and they were relatively inexpensive, so it was fine. But then I started noticing things like how they were on outdated versions of PHP for a while and when I’d email asking about this they didn’t have a good answer (the advise was mostly to switch to a VPS or wait for whenever they will update; which they did finally from 5.x to 7.x after many years). The final straw, however, was when they moved datacentres earlier this month. They sent us an email saying a move was happening and there’d be some IP address changes, but there was no further communication after that and one day the blog just stopped working. Logging into cPanel I noticed the IP change so was able to get it working again by using the new address, but that pissed me off. I emailed customer service, but they weren’t very responsive or helpful either.
I follow Kev Quirk’s blog and he had posted a couple of times in the past on his hunt for a good WordPress host (this and this). Since I had it in the back of my head that I want to leave ASO some day I had taken note that he switched to Cloudways so I decided to explore them yesterday. Turned out they are a layer on top of VPS platforms like DigitalOcean, Vultr etc. but they take out the “hard work” of installing a web server and PHP and WordPress on these. Which is an interesting idea coz that’s why I was avoiding VPSes myself. I used to host on VPSes in the past but I really didn’t want to concern myself with keeping the OS and other parts of the stack up to date; so Cloudways seemed like a good in-between option. They are not cheap. A 1GB RAM, 1vCPU droplet on DigitalOcean is US$ 6 per month; the same on Cloudways is US$ 12 per month – so double the standard price just for them to manage things for you. On paper it is something I would have avoided, but I decided to take the plunge anyways by signing up for a trial and migrating my blog over (was super easy with the migration plugin they provide, which seems to be one from BlogVault but I didn’t have to pay anything for it). Even things like adding my domain name, aliases, setting up Lets Encrypt, backups was all super easy via the admin panel. Honestly, the whole process took an hour-and-half tops, but was so effortless that by the end of it I was in! This blog now points to Cloudways actually, and I’ve upgraded my account from the trial one to a paid one.
My only quibble with them is the lack of IPv6. I wish they provided IPv6, especially since DigitalOcean supports it.
I also signed up for Bunny CDN as that’s something I came across in Kevin’s blog posts. That plus the hosting change and now this blog is super fast. I didn’t do any testing metrics, it just feels fast when I visit it myself.
I also setup accounts on some Mastodon instances. Initially I signed up with infosec.exchange, then geekdom.social, and finally hachyderm.io. No particular reason for signing up with three Mastodon instances; initially I wasn’t sure I could just access everything else from either instance, then I wasn’t sure which instance topic resonated best with me (am I an infosec person? am I a geek (yes)?). I’ll probably settle with hachyderm.io, I like the name – a nice twist of pachyderm + hacker. Its topics resonate with me too.
Thanks to this blog post I learnt how to setup a webfinger page on this blog so you can just search for @firstname.lastname@example.org on any Mastodon instance and find me. I went ahead and added references to all three instances on this page, but put hachyderm at the bottom as the last entry seems to take precedence over the others.
Adieu 2022! Welcome 2023.
That’s it for now. Like I said, a nice productive week. I am only a few days, wish I had taken a week off earlier just to find me peace. :) I’ll probably update the page with more stuff if I end up doing more…
👉🏻 This post was updated since initial posting with some stuff I had missed, plus I added headings.