Intrepid, Enterprise, Discovery, and Kelvin

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Last night I completed a new PC build after using roughly the same setup for the past five years. My last computer, Intrepid-A, served me well on its five year mission but it was time to retire it to the drydock. After five years, a simple retrofit would no longer do. The liquid cooler pump didn’t consistently start up, the fans were creaky; an upgrade was needed.

Intrepid 2015
Intrepid 2012

If you know your Star Trek terminology, you know that the -A designation represents a refit. The original Intrepid dates back to 2012 when my parents bought me an iBUYPOWER desktop. That thing had an nVidia GeForce GTX 660 and a third generation Core i7. I’ve included a photo of the interior of the case. You can see that iBUYPOWER gave me an mATX motherboard, a pretty substandard CPU cooler, and a non-modular power supply. In early 2015 I retrofitted her with a new modular power supply that carried over into Intrepid-A, as well as a Hyper 212 Evo CPU cooler and a Radeon R9 290x Lightning that I had actually bought used and had to RMA back to MSI.

Intrepid-A 2016

In 2016 I did a full upgrade of Intrepid that became the Intrepid-A. Intrepid-A was equipped with an MSI gaming motherboard, an Intel Core i7 6700K, 16 gigabytes of DDR4 RAM, and originally a Radeon R9 390X. She also received a new motherboard, which was required for going from the third gen to sixth gen Intel CPUs and a new case. The only upgrade over her five years was a new graphics card in 2019 (Sapphire AMD RX 5700XT) and some hard drive and SSD swaps. She will be remembered fondly.

Intrepid-A 2016

Another device I had that lived a roughly similar lifespan as Intrepid-A (2016 -2021) was my Surface Pro 4, named Voyager. Earlier this year it was struck by flickergate. I gave it to a friend and bought a Dell XPS 13 laptop, Kelvin. Voyager had a Skylake i5 and 8 GB of RAM. You can read more about that here. I would not give the Surface Pro the same high marks I did five years ago today. Microsoft’s commitment to its hardware QA is very lacking. Surface Pro 4 was a stunning device full of bugs and Microsoft was not interested in patching those out over the long term. That’s why I didn’t upgrade to a new Surface, and also a big reason why I left the Microsoft ecosystem entirely (again), despite having been big into it in 2016 with the Surface Pro, Windows 10, and my Windows Phone.

Kelvin has an 11th gen Intel i7, 16 GB of RAM, and a 3840×2400 display. It’s running exclusively Manjaro Linux and it runs it VERY well. I’m astonished at how beautiful the display is and how good GNOME looks on it.

Late last year I blogged about the big media move. It didn’t turn out well over the long term. Unfortunately the Raspberry Pi just wasn’t stable enough for what I was using it for. It’s a very capable device, it’s just not a very stable device. I’m now using a desktop computer (Enterprise) to host my Plex server, other servers, and my torrent client.

My new desktop PC which hopefully lasts another five years is Discovery. Discovery is armed with an AMD Ryzen 7 5800X CPU, a Sapphire AMD Radeon RX 5700XT Nitro + GPU, and 16 GB of DDR4 RAM. The build went very smoothly. It’s actually probably the first time I’ve ever had a PC build work perfectly the first time I booted it up. Temps are phenomenal even with just that one intake fan, it’s super quiet, and even though I swapped motherboards and went from Intel to AMD, Windows and Manjaro are working absolutely perfectly. I was thinking I would have to reinstall them but they’re working flawlessly. A reinstallation is probably due at some point relatively soon; my Windows install is five years old and my Manjaro installation is two years old. Manjaro, being a rolling release distro, has probably accumulated a bit of cruft.

Anyway that’s where I’m at in July 2021 in terms of my computers. I have three of them that I use pretty much daily, while most people nowadays don’t even use one daily anymore. Leave a comment if you’ve got any questions, I’ll probably respond in a year when I write another post.

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So a couple weeks ago I bought a Raspberry Pi 4b 8 GB with the intention of moving all my media and torrents over to it, as well as to serve as an IRC bouncer. My current set up consists of two external hard drives manged by Plex Media Server (one for music, one for movies and tv shows) and Deluge BitTorrent Client all set up on the Linux installation of my primary computer. This setup was a pain because of instances where I’d need to switch over to my Windows installation. I would lose access to all my media and my ~1500 torrents would stop seeding. I’ve also been paying $5 a month for the past two years to IRCCloud to maintain a constant connection to the dozens of IRC channels I’m in, and IRCCloud has a native Android app so I could talk while on the go.

Yesterday I finally started the process of moving 8 TB of video, 1 TB of music, and those ~1500 torrents over to my raspberry pi. As for the OS, I went with Raspbian. I started with setting up the Plex Media Server. I absolutely love Plex because it lets me build and organize my own personal Spotify and Netflix. My use case does not involve transcoding video streams over the internet, just direct streaming content to my living room, so the pi should be more than adequate for that. Plex makes the configuration super easy so everything was up and running in 30 minutes, and after a couple hours it had finished scanning all of my media.

I went with Transmission for my torrents instead of Deluge again. Transmission has a much more robust application set for remote management of my torrents. I’ve got transmission-daemon and transmission-web running so I can access the control panel from my home network.

After this I went about setting up ZNC and The Lounge. ZNC is an IRC “bouncer.” ZNC connects me 24/7 to the IRC servers I’m in, and then I use my IRC clients to connect to ZNC. I use weechat at home, and I wanted to use The Lounge in order to access my ZNC remotely. In order to maintain security, I set Nginx up as a reverse proxy for The Lounge, with TLS. This is much easier said than done as I’ve never done this before. I’m using a Noip subdomain to access my The Lounge away from home, and Certbot makes serving it securely incredibly easy with “certbot –nginx.” Unfortunately there’s not a lot of documentation for setting up The Lounge with Nginx so in my trial and error I was getting errors in Firefox like “PR_END_OF_FILE_ERROR” and “SSL_ERROR_RX_RECORD_TOO_LONG.” If I knew how I fixed it I’d document it here, but it mostly involved copying and pasting lines from the internet into my nginx reverse-proxy.conf file.

Finally, in order to maintain compatibility with my current setup, such as my desktop music player (Deadbeef), I set up two samba shares from the raspberry pi, one for Music and one for Video. I mounted these samba shares in the directory my external hard drives used to be mounted and set up fstab to automatically mount them.

Very productive day yesterday, one I’ve been putting off for a long time.

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Bye Bye Nokia 6.1

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My Nokia 6.1 was my first Android phone, after owning an iPhone 4 and two Windows Phones (HTC One M8, Lumia 950). I went with the 6.1 in April 2018 because it was a great midrange phone for the price, had the 1080p display, Android One, a perfect size (not too big), and a headphone jack. It’s served me well over the past two years, although it’s had its wonky moments; I remember the camera app being absolutely awful when the phone first came out, and now it’s slowing down and the battery life isn’t so good anymore. I wanted to stick with Nokia but unfortunately they’re not putting out any compelling midrange options, and based on the feedback of the Nokia subreddit, they seem to be going downhill. It’s a shame to see this happen to the Nokia brand yet again, especially after they were putting out such winners.

My Google Pixel 4a arrives tomorrow and I think it’ll be a great phone to move onto after my 6.1. It sounds like everything the Nokia 6.1 was in 2018, but designed for 2020.

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Modernizing My Internet Life

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Over the past month or so I’ve done a lot of “modernizing” stuff I’ve been too lazy to take care of over the past few years.

My website is now reactive (at least more than it was before) and uses https. I’m updating my blog more as well.

My personal email to my domain was always configured kinda weirdly. My domain is owned through Godaddy but my site is hosted by Mediatemple, and my DNS zones were pretty convoluted. I’ve got my CNAME back on Godaddy and my email is now going through the Outlook web client (my primary way of accessing my email), so no more dealing with POP or any kind of delay in sending or receiving emails.

I’m desperately trying to stop using Facebook but unfortunately Messenger is a primary way of contacting my friends so I can only deactivate my account rather than delete.

I can now be found on Mastodon. The federated social network is a very interesting idea, and it’s cool to be part of it.

I’m trying to decentralize my online presence from Microsoft services. When I owned my Windows Phone and was using my Surface a lot more I got pretty ingrained into their stuff. Right now I’m paying $10 a month for Microsoft 365. At some point I’d like to build a second computer as a server and run Nextcloud on it, but then I’d be at the mercy of my home internet reliability and keeping it secure and up to date myself. I’d also have to get my Plex server running on it. Right now when I switch over to Windows my Plex server goes down and all my torrents stop seeding. If I had a second computer to host all that stuff I wouldn’t have any issues. I’d also get a ZNC set up on it so I wouldn’t have to pay monthly for IRCCloud.

It’s taken me a long time to do a lot of this simple sounding stuff but the pandemic has spurred some productivity in me.

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GNU Social Post
All these “photorealistic” trailers for new games and all I see are muddy textures, no anti-aliasing, and choppy framerates. And these are the trailers! The actual games are going to look worse!

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GNU Social Post
I’d like to de-centralize my online life and get back out of the Microsoft ecosystem I entered when I bought my Surface and still had a Windows Phone. I think I’m going to set up a nextcloud one of these days.

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GNU Social Post
Please make sure you do not use biometric authentication on your mobile devices. Let the fifth amendment protect you.

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GNU Social

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If you’re following this blog for whatever reason, you’ll start seeing my GNU Social posts here. I like the thought of microblogging because I can just say whatever without having to devote a long article to explaining myself, and I like GNU Social because I’m adamantly against the mainstream social networks for privacy reasons.

Off topic addendum: I’ve added https support and I’ve given my website a bit of a refresh over the past few months. I’m still very partial to the plain white theme though. Don’t expect any big deviations from that; it’s pretty easy to maintain.

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