Category Archives: Computers


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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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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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Transitioning from Pok3r to Race 3

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I made the switch from the Pok3r (well, the Code VP3) to the Race 3 and I’m mostly happy with it. There are a few  changes I made to make the transition a bit simpler, and I recommend anyone who has a programmable keyboard try these suggestions as well.

The thing about the Pok3r I loved is how much I could do without moving my fingers a significant distance. The arrow keys were FN + I, J, K, and L. This is an amazing setup for web browsing and general daily usage. It’s a lot more convenient than moving your fingers all the way over to the arrow keys. I quickly programmed my Race 3 to do this. I also set FN + H to Home and FN + E to End.

Unfortunately the default layer of the Race 3 is not programmable, so I’ve switched over to the red LED layer full time. This causes a red LED (hence why I call it the red LED layer) to light up under the space bar, which is pretty ugly. I put some black tape over it and it’s no longer an issue.

The picture above shows the keyboard equipped with the RGB keycaps, but I like the gray keycaps much more so I quickly moved back to them. Cherry MX Blue is still my switch of choice. I do not like the lack of bumps on the F and J keycaps that come with the keyboard. Instead, there’s a very subtle dip that isn’t subtle enough for me, so a lot of the time my fingers come to the G and K keys and it’s very annoying.

I’m not sure if I’d recommend this keyboard over the Pok3r, but it’s a very solid keyboard and it’s a very good middle ground for someone going from a full size or tkl keyboard to something smaller. I went from full size with numpad all the way to the Pok3r and it took me a while to get used to it, but eventually I fell in love. I’m still not in love with the Race 3 like I expected to be…

Update: I returned this keyboard. I did not like it nearly as much as my Pok3r.

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Surface Pro 4

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Well I’ve pretty much failed at keeping this updated. I’ve been meaning to but I don’t know. I guess I’ll make a couple of posts.

About a month ago I became the proud owner of a Surface Pro 4, the Intel Core i5, 8 GB, 256 GB SSD model. I absolutely love it. It’s a beautiful machine with an absolutely stunning display.

There are a few problems with it though. It is very buggy. There’s a software issue with it where when you have Hyper-V virtualization features enabled and you scroll past a video the display flickers pretty wildly. Without the Hyper-V features enabled the Surface consumes full power while it’s sleeping, so your battery life is decreased significantly. It’s a very frustrating issue.

There’s another problem where with Windows Hello (the infrared face scan for login) enabled, half the time the display doesn’t turn on when waking from sleep. I’ve resolved this issue by disabling Hello entirely and using a PIN to login, which I actually prefer. It’s not that Windows Hello itself doesn’t work, I’m just a fan of using the PIN because when you lock the screen, it automatically searches for you. Sometimes I just want the screen locked without it trying to log me in.

The battery life is not particularly good, but it’s not particularly bad either.

Other than those not minor quibbles I’m a big fan of the Surface. It’s a fantastic tablet. OneNote 2016 is probably the best tool for taking notes in class and at work. It’s also a pretty good gaming machine. I’m able to play Street Fighter and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive on the go, even if I have to make sacrifices with the gaming quality. That’s not to say the Core i5 is sluggish. It actually probably outpaces my older desktop i7.

I do highly recommend the Surface Pro 4 over almost any other tablet, especially iOS tablets, simply because it offers the full Windows experience. You’re not limited to Store apps like you are with an iOS device. That’s why I bought it to begin with. I’m excited to see what Microsoft does with it in the future.

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I use two desktop computers on a daily basis. My primary computer is called Intrepid, and my server is called Enterprise.

  • os[Linux 3.2.0-61-generic x86_64]
  • distro[Ubuntu “precise” 12.04]
  • cpu[2 x AMD Athlon(tm) Dual Core Processor 4450e (AuthenticAMD) @ 1000MHz]
  • mem[Physical: 2.8GB]
  • disk[Total: 1.7TB]
  • video[NVIDIA Corporation C61 [GeForce 6150SE nForce 430]]
  • sound[HDA-Intel – HDA NVidia]

Enterprise functions as a “personal cloud” computer. I use a samba share and FTP on it to access my files wherever I am. In particular, my music library on one dedicated hard drive (100 GB IDE HDD, gotta get that replaced) and my videos on two other dedicated hard drives (500 GB HDD and a 1 TB HDD). It was originally configured to be a device than ran transmission-daemon full time, because I needed to continuously seed torrents and Intrepid was a dual-booter at the time.

I have a graphical user interface installed on Enterprise too, which is apparently taboo for servers, but I like it. It’s hardly a server anyway. I run openbox for the desktop / window manager and xfce4-panel for the taskbar. Both are incredibly light on resources. Openbox uses 5 MB of RAM and xfce4-panel uses 10 MB (which is probably a lot more than it should but it’s still very lightweight). I highly recommend both of these for anyone looking to use a lightweight but still functional and aesthetically pleasing desktop solution. Transmission-gtk is the most memory intensive process, using 50 MB of RAM.

Anyway, the more computers you have, the better 😀 Even if it’s just a raspberry-pi.

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Operating Systems

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I used to be the biggest Linux zealot ever. In spring of 2009 I had an Alienware m15x gaming laptop that was absolute shit, and it had Windows Vista on it. My best friend at the time had recently purchased a Mac mini and I loved it. I wanted Mac, but Hackintosh wouldn’t work on my laptop, so I installed an operating system called OpenSolaris. It was a now defunct operating system developed by Sun, and it was definitely not Linux, but I thought it was! I struggled with it and with its lack of software support, but I really loved the simplicity of it, so my best friend suggested I get Ubuntu.

An Alienware M15x

I installed Ubuntu on that laptop in May of 2009, and the next month completely got rid of my Windows partition. I used Ubuntu and all sorts of Linux distributions full time for roughly five years. In summer of 2011 I reinstalled Windows 7 so that I could finally use my laptop for gaming, but it struggled to even play Fallout: New Vegas. The Alienware m15x is easily the worst purchase my parents have ever made for me, and I so badly regret talking them into it. The laptop finally died in April, 2012.

Intrepid, the name of my current desktop.

Christmas of 2012 I got my current computer, my iBUYPOWER ne741i (I think is the model). It was a beast at the time but the mobo was a bit outdated and the GPU is showing its age. Anyway, it came with Windows 8, which I tried for literally five minutes, then I just installed Ubuntu and Windows 7 on it. I still loved Linux, but I had a gaming rig and I absolutely needed Windows 7 on it. Steam for Linux wasn’t available at the time, and it’s just now starting to get actually good triple A games. I guess I used Ubuntu about 3/4ths of the time, but that slowly started to shrink to under half the time. There were a few things keeping me from switching to Windows 7 full time.

  • Inconsistency: Different folders have different folder views, and there wasn’t a way to set them all to the same one. Popular third party apps almost always have unique interfaces whereas on Ubuntu almost everything was GTK or Qt that could be styled to the GTK theme.
  • My Music Library was almost all FLAC and I couldn’t find any good music players on Windows. Foobar2000 was incredibly complicated for me and Winamp was ugly as sin.
  • I use a second computer as a “personal cloud” and I didn’t know of a way to let Windows communicate with it. On Ubuntu I used a great bit of software called sshfs (highly recommend if you’re using Linux and need to mount another computer as a file system) and I didn’t know of any comparable software on Windows, especially something that could handle all my symlinks.
  • Just the fact that Linux was cool, stable, powerful. It gave me control over everything, which is something I still miss.

I suppose the catalyst that got me using Windows again was Micro$oft’s rebrand and redesign of Hotmail, It had a very nice interface, so I forwarded my emails to it. I started poking around through it and saw that it had a calendar, awesome contact management with the People app, and even Microsoft Word online. Skydrive (now OneDrive) was really nice too. Now you might be saying, “Thomas, Google has all of that stuff and more!” To be honest, for the past couple of years I’ve really been concerned about privacy with Google. That’s one of the reasons I don’t use Google Chrome really. I’m going to sound like a paid M$ shill here but Microsoft is probably the big tech company I trust most these days. They’ve really turned themselves around since Ballmer left. Still, fuck them for all that stuff with the Xbone. I moved all of my contacts from my iPhone into the Microsoft cloud and started syncing to OneDrive.

In October 2014, I suppose it was, I took the plunge and installed Windows 8.1. I still had the key from when I first got the computer, so *gasp*, I was actually using a legal version of Windows! Anyway I fell in love immediately. I loved the integration between all the apps. There were three things I really didn’t like though.

  1. Not as much control as I had over Linux. On Linux I could always pop into a TTY with Ctrl + Alt + F1 to do stuff like kill nonresponsive apps. It makes me sad this isn’t possible with Windows. The ability to just halt everything and bring up a PowerShell instance would be really nice though.
  2. Charm bars. Self explanatory. They’re pieces of shit.
  3. Full screen Metro apps. I really liked the Metro apps and their simple design, and the Segoe UI font is beautiful, but I just hated that they were full screen.

But I was able to solve two of my initial problems. Windows has this great program called NetDrive that lets me mount another computer, even one with an ext4 file system, with Windows, and it followed symlinks! And I just used Winamp. I just dealt with the ugly design (but I learned how to use and customize Foobar2000 so that’s what I’m using now).

On Linux, I was always into the bleeding edge stuff. Okay, yes, I stuck mostly with Ubuntu’s LTS releases after 2012 just because I was tired of upgrading every six months, but for the actual apps I probably had dozens of PPAs installed. I was really excited to use Windows 10 after it was announced, especially since there were windowed modern apps, so I signed up for the tech preview and that’s what I’m using now!

Windows 10 Tech Preview

Honestly, Windows 10 is probably the best operating system I’ve ever used, next to Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick Meerkat. It looks beautiful, has multiple desktops, windowed Metro apps, a mixture of the classic and Windows 8 start menu (Live tiles are awesome!) and Cortana from Windows Phone. I switched out NetDrive (which went premium) for Samba, which is incredibly awesome in every way. I really wish Microsoft would make File Explorer (formerly Windows Explorer) tabbed, but there’s a great program that does that called Clover. I also hope that they put in a shortcut to PowerShell from the Ctrl Alt Delete screen.

Anyway, that’s where we are today. Windows 10 is very nice and it’s completely free, so I highly recommend it. It’s still pretty unstable though, so don’t get it if you don’t absolutely know what you’re doing.

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