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Writing on various topics including travel, finance and technology.

External Backup Drive Encryption

14 minute read Enclosure Published

How to create secure external backups with LUKS, Borg and BLAKE2.

A friend in Bali handed me a 1 terabyte external SATA drive recently and that’s great because the device is an integral part of a 3-2-1 backup strategy I’m adopting after Apple Care suggested I make a full backup of my 15” MacBomb Pro.

The principle is simple:

3 copies, 2 different types of storage (physical and in the cloud for example) and one copy being physically separated from the others

Emanuele M. Monterosso

Of the 3 copies I needed 2 are complete. One copy is stored on MicroSD and kept with me. The other encrypted in the cloud on a Scaleway server in France. The last copy is going on the external SATA drive given to me last week which I will physically separate with and hide somewhere in Bali.

In this post I will show you how to securely store your backup data with two layers of encryption on an external drive or disk. After securing the disk we will start to automate the creation of space-efficient backups. Tools we’ll be using include GNU Parted, DMCrypt, a device-mapper crypto target, and Borgmatic to automate our backups in a expressive way.

Encrypted Internet with WireGuard

9 minute read Enclosure Updated

How to install and configure WireGuard on Manjaro Linux, a step-by-step guide.

One of the motivations behind dual-booting Linux on my MacBook Pro was to take back control of my personal data. Not just because Apple uses faux encryption on iCloud. And not because macOS has been shown to leave users open to eavesdropping exploits. But because when I use my Mac with macOS the operating system gratuitously beams out activity records1, sharing information I’d rather keep private with people I don’t personally know nor have I ever met. And without the ability to shut it off, I find my privacy – the sentient and autonomous nature of my very being – constantly under attack.

In many instances, privacy is threatened not by singular egregious acts, but by a slow series of relatively minor acts which gradually begin to add up.

I've Got Nothing to Hide and Other Misunderstandings of Privacy

In this short guide I’ll show you how to encrypt and route your local Internet traffic through a fast, modern, and secure VPN tunnel called WireGuard using a free and open source operating system called Manjaro Linux. I will explain how to install WireGuard on Manjaro, share a simple means of establishing and testing an encrypted Internet connection, and leave you with next steps and personal experience to help further your understanding and gain confidence getting started.

JAMstack Frameworks, Tips and Tools

14 minute read Updated

Frameworks, tools and tips for brewing up a hot website.

Thinking about brewing up the next Smashing Magazine? Maybe you’re looking for tools to delivery value inside your app’s continuous delivery pipeline? Whatever your reasons for building you’re in the right place. Read on for a hand-picked list of toolkits specifically designed for creating incredible webapps – online or off.

The Bomb I Took on 30 Flights

2 minute read Enclosure Published

I thought I bought an Apple; what I got was a lemon. A flammable one at that.

Years ago I built my own computers from parts sourced by a Chinaman who ran a small warehouse in an industrial park in Westmont, Illinois. No big box retailer could beat him on price and so I eventually became a loyal customer of Han’s. My most frequent purchases were 3.5” SATA drives which I used for system backups.

When I moved to Bali I chose not to lug around those large SATA drives. Instead I bit the bullet, dropped a cool three grand on a MacBook Pro and started paying for iCloud – expecting Apple to keep my data safe. Sadly that was a mistake.

Beyond Incognito

2 minute read Updated

Block your computer from making requests to known ad and malware servers.

I read an article on Medium titled How to encrypt your entire life in less than an hour. The article provided a number of tips for staying secure digitally. One of the tips was to use the Tor browser because popular browsers such as Safari and Chrome were not private enough – even in private mode.

What the author didn’t tell you was that it’s possible to increase your privacy without switching browsers using Dan Pollock's hosts file. A quick look at the file describes exactly what it does…

Securely Access 08chan on ZeroNet

2 minute read Published

How to use Tor and WireGuard to access ZeroNet without revealing your IP.

Daily Beast reports 8Chan refugees are leaving DARPANet, commonly known as “the Web”, for a new home on ZeroNet and doxxing their IPs in the process.

Getting on the ZeroNet can be done more discretely, however, and it’s not hard if you’re running Linux – even if running Linux on a MacBook Pro:

Hugo Deploy: Migrating from S3 Website

10 minute read Published

How to install and configure Hugo for Amazon S3 deployments using Docker.
Scala is great and all though I’m not familiar with it and the maintainer of the deployment tool I’ve been using since 2016 ended active support for s3_website earlier this year. That’s too bad because s3_website was a huge breath of fresh air for me given its support for deploying both Jekyll and Hugo, among others. In addition to its support for various generators s3_website also has some novel features for deployments to AWS not trivial otherwise including:

Bali Short Visa Long Stay

2 minute read Published

Exploring the depths of Bali using a short-term tourist visa.

“Duah tahun setengah,” I replied to a pair of grinning Indonesian men just beyond the gate of a modest homestay in northern Bali. They were “kepo” to know how long I’ve been living in Bali. And though I’ve been here just over two-and-a-half years I’ve been doing so freely using a short-term tourist visa called a VoA.

Who wouldn’t want to live on an island in the tropics given the opportunity? And that opportunity became apparent in late-2016, the first time I set foot in Ubud. “What kind of magic place is this,” I remember thinking. The desire to move came strong, and my intention manifested accordingly.

It’s been two-and-a-half years since I moved to Bali. And even without a typical long-stay visa I’ve managed to make things work using bi-monthly flights, and appreciate being able to communicate it to others more with each passing day.

Alternatives to Firefox on Manjaro Linux

6 minute read Updated

A quick rundown of Firefox browser alternatives you should be aware of.

Last week Firefox suffered multiple zero-day vulnerabilities, prompting renewed interest in a browser discussion thread on the Manjaro Forums.

Ironically the reason I’m using Manjaro in the first place is because macOS itself had several zero-day vulnerabilities recently, prompting me to perform a serious back-up of macOS and all my files on iCloud.

Thankfully switching browsers is trivial compared to switching operating systems on macOS. So herein I’ll show you how to easily install a few different browsers so you can try them out and decide for yourself which you prefer.

Burying Firefox's White Tab of Death

3 minute read Updated

How to change the Firefox New Tab page for suitable display in low-light.

I don’t know about you but I really like dark interfaces. Dark interfaces use less battery on AMOLED screens, reduce eye strain at night, and help protect you from shoulder surfers and nosy bar flies. Plus they just look good.

Which is why I was a bit miffed after installing ghacks-user.js to lock-down security in Firefox Quantum. I finished setup right before bed, opened the browser and – WHAM – my entire room illuminated with New Tab page:

Dual-Boot Manjaro Linux & macOS Mojave

12 minute read Updated

How to dual-boot macOS Mojave and Manjaro Linux directly from your Apple SSD.

Are you familiar with the concept of “habit fields”? They’re these magical auras we give to everyday objects, assigning them purpose and allowing us to focus our awareness to accomplish tasks faster. But habit fields can work against you as well, if you’re not careful:

If you’ve been trying to do everything from one place and one device, then you may need to make a conscious decision to divide different modes of behavior.

Jack Cheng, Habit Fields (2010)

One device you may be trying to do everything from one place is the MacBook Pro. With the beefy specs on the flagship Apple notebook it can be easy to piledrive too many activities all into one place, affecting your Mac’s habit field.

But there’s a trick you can use to divide different modes of behavior on a Mac. And that’s to add a second operating system and dual-boot. Here’s how to install and dual-boot Manjaro Linux alongside macOS Mojave on a MacBook Pro.