OpenBSD on the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (5th Gen)

posted on sep 1st, 2017 with tags hardware, laptops, openbsd, and thinkpad, and last updated on sep 4th, 2017

ThinkPads have sort of a cult following among OpenBSD developers and users because the hardware is basic and well supported, and the keyboards are great to type on. While no stranger to ThinkPads myself, most of my OpenBSD laptops in recent years have been from various vendors with brand new hardware components that OpenBSD does not yet support. As satisfying as it is to write new kernel drivers or extend existing ones to make that hardware work, it usually leaves me with a laptop that doesn’t work very well for a period of months.

After exhausting efforts trying to debug the I2C touchpad interrupts on the Huawei MateBook X (and other 100-Series Intel chipset laptops), I decided to take a break and use something with better OpenBSD support out of the box: the fifth generation Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon.

Continue reading 1,976 words...

OpenBSD on the Huawei MateBook X

posted on jul 14th, 2017 with tags hardware, laptops, and openbsd, and last updated on mar 24th, 2019

The Huawei MateBook X is a high-quality 13” ultra-thin laptop with a fanless Core i5 processor. It is obviously biting the design of the Apple 12” MacBook, but it does have some notable improvements such as a slightly larger screen, a more usable keyboard with adequate key travel, and 2 USB-C ports.

It also uses more standard PC components than the MacBook, such as a PS/2-connected keyboard, Intel WiFi card, etc., so its OpenBSD compatibility is quite good.

Continue reading 1,643 words...

Pushing DNS into the Cloud

posted on jul 10th, 2017 with tags pushover and rails, and last updated on jul 7th, 2017

For the majority of the past five years, Pushover has run on one physical OpenBSD server. It does have a hot spare hosted with another company in another part of the country, but usually everything has been served from just one machine at a time. Its MariaDB database is replicated in a master-master configuration over a secure tunnel between the servers so that either node can become active at any time.

When I wanted to take the primary server down for upgrades or the server’s network provider was having routing troubles, I would update DNS for various pushover.net entries to point at the other server’s IPs where all of the components were already running. Within seconds, traffic would start hitting the secondary server and within a half hour, everyone would be using it, allowing me to take the primary server offline as long as I needed.

Continue reading 2,353 words...

iOS Universal Links and Privacy

posted on feb 14th, 2017 with tags endless, ios, and privacy, and last updated on feb 9th, 2017

Introduced in iOS 9, Universal Links allow iOS developers to claim ownership of domain names (including wildcards) that can be processed by that developer’s iOS app. When an iOS user taps on a link to a URL of that domain name in any app, such as Safari or Mail, and the user has that 3rd party app installed, that 3rd party app is immediately launched to service the URL.

For web browsing apps on iOS that route traffic through VPNs or Tor, this feature can cause traffic to be sent outside of the VPN/Tor network without warning. For instance, if one has the eBay app installed and taps on this link from within Safari or any other web browsing app on iOS, the eBay app will be opened to load that auction page.

Continue reading 996 words...

OpenBSD (not) on the Surface Pro 4

posted on jan 2nd, 2017 with tags hardware, laptops, and openbsd, and last updated on dec 30th, 2016

I recently had access to a Surface Pro 4 and tried to boot OpenBSD on it. It did not go well, so I am just putting this here for posterity.

The 2016 Surface Pro 4 is basically just a keyboard-less x86 (Core i5 on the model I had) tablet with some tightly integrated (read: not upgradeable) components. Its optional Surface Type Cover is just a USB-attached keyboard and trackpad, which magnetically secure to the bottom of the device.

Continue reading 640 words...

The 2016 MacBook Pro

posted on nov 8th, 2016 with tags apple, hardware, laptops, and macos

I’ve been using an 11” MacBook Air as my primary computer for six years. It’s a great computer that satisfied a lot of requirements I had for a laptop: thin, lightweight, small form factor, excellent keyboard and touchpad, mostly silent, but not an Atom or Core M processor.

I’ve done a lot on this little computer, like compiling and maintaining an Android ROM, writing the Rails, iOS, and Android apps for Pushover, creating Lobsters, recording and editing 40 episodes of Garbage, and lots of OpenBSD development.

Continue reading 2,061 words...

OpenBSD on the Chromebook Pixel (2015)

posted on aug 26th, 2016 with tags laptops and openbsd, and last updated on aug 22nd, 2016

The Chromebook Pixel LS (2015) has an Intel Core i7 processor (Broadwell) at 2.4Ghz, 16Gb of RAM, a 2560x1700 400-nit IPS screen (239ppi), and Intel 802.11ac wireless. It has a Kingston 64Gib flash chip, of which about 54Gib can be used by OpenBSD when dual-booting with a 1Gb Chrome OS partition.

Continue reading 3,236 words...

Creating a BBS in 2015

posted on apr 2nd, 2015 with tags retrocomputing and ruby, and last updated on mar 28th, 2015

Although it fooled nobody, yesterday for April Fools’ Day, Lobsters users that normally saw a boring list of story titles and links were greeted with a BBS-style interface to the site complete with story and comment browsing, private message reading and sending, and a multi-user chat area.

The BBS remains active at https://lobste.rs/bbs (you can login as “guest”).

Continue reading 2,795 words...

Remotely Installing OpenBSD on a Headless Linux Server

posted on sep 12th, 2014 with tags linux and openbsd

I recently activated a new dedicated server that came preinstalled with Linux, as the hosting provider didn’t support OpenBSD. Since they also didn’t provide an IP-based KVM without purchasing a dedicated hardware module (though most of the IP-KVMs I’ve used recently require interfacing with some terrible Java-based monstrosity anyway), I needed a way to remotely install OpenBSD over the running Linux server.

Continue reading 972 words...

Adventures in Toronto

posted on jun 9th, 2013 with tags openbsd and travel

I spent a week in Toronto, Canada attending the OpenBSD t2k13 hackathon hosted at the University of Toronto. While these events are put on every year in random places, I have not attended one since c2k7 in Calgary back in 2007. I tried to go to the Portugal hackathon last year but my travel plans got all screwed up.

I wrote about the technical details of what I accomplished at this event at the OpenBSD Journal so I won’t duplicate it here, but it was a fairly productive week for me. I remember at c2k7 I didn’t really have much to work on and felt out of place but this time I had more things to do than I had time.

Continue reading 723 words...

An Update on Pushover

posted on sep 23rd, 2012 with tags android, ios, iphone, pushover, and superblock

It’s been a little over 6 months since I released Pushover, the notification service with Android and iOS apps. I’ve been asked to post an update on how things have been going since then.

Shortly after the initial release, I received some great feedback from Chad Etzel, one of the creators of Notifo, the notification service that I used until it was shut down (which prompted me to create Pushover in the first place). Chad asked for Pushover to support sending messages with URLs that can open external apps, and Pushover soon gained supplementary URL support which required changes in the API and on both Android and iOS apps.

Continue reading 1,720 words...

Hellbanned from Hacker News

posted on jun 13th, 2012 with tags drama

Yesterday I submitted a post on Hacker News out of frustration at moderators pedantically changing post titles. After quickly rising to the number two spot on the front page with 482 points and 37 comments, the post was deleted by a moderator, presumably the operator of the site, Paul Graham.

Continue reading 823 words...

Counting Pull-ups

posted on apr 25th, 2012 with tags fitbit, openbsd, and ruby

I’m a big fan of my Fitbit pedometer because it does most of its work without any interaction. I clip it onto my pocket and it counts my steps and flights of stairs as I walk throughout the day, then automatically, wirelessly uploads the data to Fitbit’s website whenever I’m within range of its USB dongle plugged into one of my computers. The whole thing works without having to think about it or plug anything in. The battery lasts for about a week, and when it finally runs low, my low battery notifier sends a message to my phone through Pushover telling me to put it on its charger for a few hours.

To add to my step data, I got a Withings scale last year which logs my weight and BMI on Withings’ website automatically every time I step on the scale. Fitbit’s website syncs this data from Withings, so now I’m able to track my steps, flights of stairs, weight, and BMI, all automatically, all on Fitbit’s website. I use this data mainly as a motivation to walk more and not get fat, just as my Wii Fit motivated me to exercise every day by tracking all of the data. When I know my Fitbit is counting my steps, I’ll avoid hopping on the bus or train to get home and just walk. A few times I’ve left the house and upon noticing my Fitbit wasn’t there, walked all the way back and got it just so the steps I was going to take that day would “count”.

Continue reading 876 words...