OpenBSD on the Microsoft Surface Go

posted on aug 31st, 2018 with tags laptops and openbsd
part of OpenBSD on Laptops series

For some reason I like small laptops and the constraints they place on me (as long as they’re still usable). I used a Dell Mini 9 for a long time back in the netbook days and was recently using an 11” MacBook Air as my primary development machine for many years. Recently Microsoft announced a smaller, cheaper version of its Surface tablets called Surface Go which piqued my interest.

surface go with keyboard on desk

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Fetching Node Status from AirPort APs

posted on jun 12th, 2018 with tags apple, netbsd, networking, and ruby

Seven years ago, I hacked together some code to update my Ecobee WiFi thermostat temperature depending on whether I was home. While my newer Ecobee thermostat has room occupancy sensors that make this tracking automatic, back then I had to poll my WiFi access point through SNMP to look for my phone’s MAC address in its table of associated clients.

Recently I needed to do something similar to pass to my Z-Wave controller but it seems that Apple has removed SNMP support from its Airport Extreme firmware some time ago.

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Dolch PAC 64

posted on mar 20th, 2018 with tags hardware and retrocomputing

The Dolch PAC 64 is a portable, rugged Pentium-powered PC from the mid 1990s. It was usually used (and can usually be found on eBay) as a “portable network sniffer” complete with multiple network cards supporting multiple media types.

dolch pac with keyboard folded up

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Switching from 1Password to Bitwarden

posted on nov 17th, 2017 with tags firefox, openbsd, ruby, and security

I’ve been using an OpenBSD laptop as my workstation a lot more lately, probably because most of my hardware just works now and I don’t have to think too much about it. The touchpad works when I touch it, I can be confident that when I close the lid, the laptop will fully suspend and then fully resume again when I open it, WiFi works all throughout my house (although it’s not terribly fast), and my web browser is fast and stable. What amazing times we live in.

In the past, one thing that frequently kept me going back to my Mac, aside from iOS and Android development, was 1Password. I have a ton of logins for websites and servers, and because my browsers are all configured to clear cookies for most websites after I close their tabs, I need frequent access to passwords synced across my laptops and phones, and 1Password has great apps for all of those except OpenBSD.

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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
part of OpenBSD on Laptops series

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.

thinkpad x1 carbon running openbsd on desk

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OpenBSD on the Huawei MateBook X (2017)

posted on jul 14th, 2017 with tags hardware, laptops, and openbsd, and last updated on mar 24th, 2019
part of OpenBSD on Laptops series

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.

huawei matebook on desk running openbsd

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Pushing DNS into the Cloud

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

sad cloud cartoon with text 'there is no cloud, it's just someone else's computer

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.

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iOS Universal Links and Privacy

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

animated GIF of ios showing link opening ebay application

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.

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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.

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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.

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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”).

screenshot of lobsters BBS login terminal

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