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Writing on various topics including travel, finance and technology.

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.

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…

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:

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 Manjro, 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.

How to Backup & Restore macOS Mojave

17 minute read Enclosure Updated

If there's one thing computers do well, it's malfunction. Plan ahead so you don't lose data should your Mac start behaving more like a computer.

Last month, while download Mojave patches for at least two zero-day exploits a malfunction occurred and I couldn’t upgrade, leaving my machine vulnerable:

During a 10 minute chat with Apple Care it was suggested I back-up and restore Mojave. The resolution wasn’t exactly what I’d hoped for. But not a big deal as I hadn’t created a backup in 3 years and it was about that time.

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…

When I Stopped Trusting Apple

3 minute read Published

How I lost my trust for Apple as an American, and what I'm doing about it.

Trust is like the stock market. Escalator up, elevator down. When an individual places trust in something they typically do so because that trust has been won through unwavering commitment over time. When we speak of brand trust – or trust with a company – committed relationships work much the same. Especially as that trust applies to technology in an era of cloud.

But here’s the thing about trust. If it’s not built with transparency, it is created under false pretenses – smoke and mirrors – and, in the long-term, will never stand. This is the unfortunate case with Apple. And here I will explain exactly when I stopped trusting them and why, and what I’m doing about it.

Surfing the Uncensorable Web

11 minute read Enclosure Published

Testing the waters of ZeroNet to enjoy a Web without information gatekeepers.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you already know the guy behind WikiLeaks, who was living at an Ecuadorian embassy in London, was recently arrested and now facing extradition to the United States – the country I’m originally from – and the country which forces tax payers to fund the second-largest stockpile of nuclear weaponry ever created.

But perhaps you didn’t know that WikiLeaks was at one point hosted by Amazon. Yep, right up until political pressure caused them to take it down. Afterall, nothing says freedom like a fear of misbehavior in a country with the highest incarceration rate in the entire world. I suppose Julian Assange’s situation could be worse… Maybe, had he also been practicing Falun Gong in China. But I digress. And there’s no telling what’s going to happen.