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Writing on various topics including travel, finance and technology.

The Five Year Cough

7 minute read Published

I've been coughing for five years. Mitragyna Speciosa addressed it instantly.
Last October I was co-located for two months with an unlikely pair of digital nomads perched at a private villa in northern Bali. One of them was visionary, born again vegan in his late 30’s. The other a talented twenty-something savant programmer from Volgograd. During our time co-locating I helped the two containerize an application stack they’d been working on for over a year. And they introduced me to a healing herb used in traditional medicine I would later find out was the treatment I needed to control my chronic bronchitis.

Living Without a SIM Card

4 minute read Updated

A year later. Getting by without a SIM card in my smartphone.

Subscriber Identity Module. That’s what “SIM” stands for. I acquired my first SIM when I was 17 at a T-Mobile outside Chicago when I got my first cell phone, the Nokia 1110, the best-selling phone of all-time.

A few years later I was working in Chicago and almost everyone in the office had an iPhone. But a few people had Android phones. Their phones did so much my dumb phone couldn’t do. Though having grown up in an analog world the idea of the phone doing everything concerned me in that I would grow dependent on it.

Onion Sites Vivaldi Browser Android

2 minute read Published

Surf the Web more privately on Vivaldi browser for Android.

For the last three years I have been living in a predominantly Muslim country where pornography is censored. And I’m not just talking the obvious sites like PornHub. Reddit and Vimeo – both of which contain porn – are also censored.

If not being able to access any of the above websites seems unfree to you consider the fact you too are are being censored on a daily basis. The censorship most of you experience just isn’t as obvious because you’ve grown accustomed to paywalls, cookie disclaimers and the occasional reCAPTCHA.

(Rolling Down) Katamari Drive

2 minute read Enclosure Published

Using FFMpeg to combine CC-licensed works.

Inspired by a chiptune topic on ZeroNet I downloaded one of the songs shared using youtube-dl but wasn’t satisfied with the quality of the video encoding. The song on the other hand was great. And thankfully the author’s website was still up so I could download the original MP3 and creating a new video.

I spent a few hours learning FFMpeg from the comfort of the chair behind my Invisible Arch. The manpages for FFMpeg include tons of diagrams and examples so cobbling something together wasn’t as hard as I’d expected. Once I was satisfied with the result I transitioned over to my 2019 Mac to share the video…

Moving GPG Keys Privately

4 minute read Updated

How to privately move your GPG keys from one machine to another.

If you’re a software developer working ethically you’re almost certainly using GnuPG to sign your work. And if you’ve been at it for any length of time you’ve almost certainly been forced to switch machines. Unless your aim is to create a new identity for each machine you use (please don’t) you need a simple, repeatable strategy moving GPG keys privately. Let me show you how.

Secure Your Digital Life

8 minute read Updated

Safeguard your privacy online. Arm yourself with knowledge and use these tips, tools and techniques to secure your digital life.

I’m no Steve Wozniak but I carry a healthy distrust of computers. After hearing of the Equifax data breach affecting the privacy of more than 145 million Americans, learning Uber paid and tried to cover up the loss of 57 million driver and passenger records and seeing the lasting impact of the Meltdown attack I’m starting to understand the gravity this quote from Woz:

Awesome React Boilerplates

7 minute read Updated

Awesome React starter kits to kick your app development into high gear.

Not interested in reinventing the wheel? Neither am I. Here’s a short list of awesome boilerplates – sometimes called starter kits or seeds – for getting your React applications off the ground in a hurry.

These boilerplates weren’t taken from any list, however awesome it might be. Rather, they’ve gained enough mindshare to find me outside The Stream.

So without further ado…

Putting WordPress into Hyperdrive

2 minute read Updated

Prepare for Ludicrous Speed with a 300% improvement in page load time.

After giving a talk at WordCamp Ubud 2017 – where I showed how to use a $5 Vultr box and Redis with Load Impact to support up to 7000 concurrent WordPress users – I was asked to help turn some of the performance optimization work demoed into a WordPress plug-in.

It’s the first of it’s kind — and like no other performance plugin to precede it. Based on initial tests it speeds up the stock Twenty Seventeen theme about 300% and I suspect time will show even greater gains for other themes. It builds on top of a performance optimization technique called Fetch Injection, enabling external scripts to download asynchronously in parallel while preserving execution order.

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.

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.