Sunday, February 17, 2019

Getting Settled and Various Projects

The past couple of months have been a combination of extremely slow and extremely fast. Right now, things at work are slow, which has given me some time to explore and learn about a ton of technology that I haven't had the motivation to look into until lately.  That being said, now that I have some momentum, I have had a ton of projects going on. I am not going into detail right now, but I figured I would give an overview on a "few" of the things I have been digging into more lately. Just to be clear, this is going to be a very tech heavy post with some more technical aspects discussed.  I am happy to answer any questions that anyone has about anything I discuss... well, assuming I actually know the answer!

i3gaps/Arch Linux:

I decided it was time to do a reinstall of Linux on my laptop, and started using Arch Linux.  I have been thinking about switching over for a while, but I was afraid there would be some configuration issues.  Back years ago, I used to use Slackware, and I was afraid the experience would be similar. Don't get me wrong, there will always be a special place in my heart for Slackware, but it could be a pain to configure. That being said, either because I know far more about Linux, or the architecture is more mature, I have found Arch Linux a delight. I have to do a ton of configuration still, but the documentation is good where it's needed, and there are so many options now that I am starting from scratch that I have actually enjoyed playing around with the new system.  That includes i3gaps which is a tiling window manager based on i3wm. I never knew how much I would like a tiling window manager, but I have loved this one. I have so much more flexibility with i3wm over say Gnome.  I am sure you can do many of the same things in gnome, but I think it is more difficult.  i3gaps is just so simple that it integrates well with other simple software.  It does what it does well and makes it easy for other things to do what they do.  It is pretty close to the Unix philosophy.


I have heard about Docker for a while, and I had been meaning to look into it more, but until recently I just have a bunch of motivation.  I kept hearing bits and pieces about it at work, so I finally started looking into it.  Initially, I wasn't that impressed, but then I saw a video about it where a woman had used it to basically isolate all of the applications on her computer.  Suffice it to say, I took a little more interest.  In all honestly, without really going into much detail, it is a powerful system, and I can see why it is so popular for systems admins/developers. I have actually started to implement it on my own network, which I have been overhauling btw and will discuss some below.


I have been using virtual machines for the past several years, and specifically kvm based systems.  That being said, I have spend a bunch of time lately doing a few more advanced things on test servers. I actually specifically purchased a small Intel NUC system to use as a test server that I have run up a dozen or so VMs.   This has allowed me to do some interesting server testing.


This is another tool that I decided to dig into recently after constantly hearing about it.  It really is an interesting management tool.  I have some experience with Puppet, but I haven't even used that in a while.  I am still working on getting it fully integrated into my network, but I think I will be using this a great deal in the future.

 My Home Network/Server:

I have been restructuring my home network. Mostly, I have been cleaning things up.  I added an OpenBSD server as my router and installed DD-WRT on an old router to use as an access point.  I updated the storage in my server from a 1TB RAID 5 array to a 12 TB RAID 5 array.  So I have more storage and can move all my stuff off of the external drives they have been living on. I set up a Nagios/Icinga VM to monitor all the servers/VMs/network devices now running on my network.

Other stuff:

I have also been working on more security and privacy projects.  A coworker introduced me to containers in Firefox, and I HIGHLY recommend them: Firefox Multi-Account Containers. This is an addon actually developed by the people at Firefox. I also have started using a complementary addon: Temporary Containers by stoically.  Between the two of them, you can isolate your network browsing.  This means that Facebook and Google and others are less able to track you.  Those along with a handful of other addons, you can gain at least a little more privacy.  Though, that is only scratching the surface of what you can (should?) be doing.  I think I will have to make a post just about that one of these days.

There are also a  few other things that I have been working on. I migrated my domain and website to a new system.  I have been playing with some new apps on my Macbook.  I did some interesting VPN work, but I have already bored almost everyone away, so I am going to stop here for now. I will probably come back to all of these topics in future posts in much greater detail.  Right now I just wanted to get some thoughts down on "paper" as it were. So hopefully there will be another post soon!

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