Fireside 2.1 ( LINUX Unplugged Blog Fri, 17 Jan 2020 13:00:00 -0800 LINUX Unplugged Blog en-us Build your own desktop in the terminal Fri, 17 Jan 2020 13:00:00 -0800 1235080f-c7b1-4cf3-b5db-5554935f1cb2

For the longest time, I would connect remotely vis ssh into a computer located at home to handle a lot of my daily tasks. Including todo lists, chatting, RSS, monitoring connections, and a slew of others. I used dyndns and port forwarding to connect to a raspberry pi located next to my home router. This was a perfect solution for me at the time and really helped me learn the Linux terminal.

That being said, it wasn't always the best solution. Mainly because my home connection and power wasn't super reliable. I found myself calling my wife (when she was at home) to either reboot my raspberry pi or power cycle the router. So keep that in mind as your mileage may vary using this configuration. Since then I've moved over to hosting this setup on an inexpensive ($5/mo.) VPS.

Throughout the years I've gone through several apps. Starting with screen as my terminal multiplexer and irssi as my IRC client, both of which are still viable options and applications that you may want to consider for your setup. Below are a few of the applications that I've compiled over the years. If you take a moment to watch the accompanying video and have other applications that you use, please leave us a comment. We would love to see which applications you're using. If we get enough quality feedback we might even do a part two.

Handy Applications for a terminal based workflow

General use CLI applications

tmux - tmux is a terminal multiplexer: it enables a number of terminals to be created, accessed, and controlled from a single screen. tmux may be detached from a screen and continue running in the background, then later reattach.

Basic tmux commands

  • tmux (launches the tmux application)
  • tmux new -s session-name (create a new tmux session and name it)
  • tmux a (reattach to the last tmux session)
  • tmux attach -t session-name (reattach to a specific session)
  • ctrl+b c (creates a new window)
  • ctrl+b d (detach from tmux session)
  • ctrl+b % (split the terminal vertically)
  • ctrl+b " (split the terminal horizontally)
  • ctrl+b spacebar (auto rearrange panes)
  • ctrl+b n (next tmux window)
  • ctrl+b arrow key (while holding down control you can use the arrow keys to resize a pane)
  • ctrl+b z (make a pane go full screen. use ctrl+b z again to return it to it's normal size.
  • ctrl+b , (rename the current window)

  • calcurse - calcurse is a calendar and scheduling application for the command line. It helps keep track of events, appointments and everyday tasks. A configurable notification system reminds user of upcoming deadlines, the curses based interface can be customized to suit user needs and a very powerful set of command line options can be used to filter and format appointments, making it suitable for use in scripts.

  • ctw - cursetheweather - CurseTheWeather is a curses application which displays the weather in a terminal. It can give the current weather as well as forecast weather for up to 10 days.

  • tty-clock - displays a simply digital clock in the terminal

Traffic monitoring applications

  • bandwich - This is a CLI utility for displaying current network utilization by process, connection and remote IP/hostname

  • bmon - bmon is a monitoring and debugging tool to capture networking related statistics and prepare them visually in a human friendly way. It features various output methods including an interactive curses user interface and a programmable text output for scripting.

  • wavemon - wavemon is a wireless device monitoring application that allows you to watch signal and noise levels, packet statistics, device configuration and network parameters of your wireless network hardware. It should work (though with varying features) with all devices supported by the Linux kernel.

Chat applications

  • BitlBee - BitlBee brings IM (instant messaging) to IRC clients. It's a great solution for people who have an IRC client running all the time and don't want to run an additional MSN/AIM/whatever client. BitlBee currently supports the following IM networks/protocols: XMPP/Jabber (including Google Talk and Hipchat), MSN/Skype, Yahoo! Messenger, AIM and ICQ, the Twitter microblogging network (plus all other Twitter API compatible services like

  • weechat - Full-featured IRC plugin: multi-servers, proxy support, IPv6, SASL authentication, nicklist, DCC, and many other features.

Web browsing & other related applications

  • cortex - Cortex is a simple application to keep track and browse through reddit article lists where one would usually need to open a web browser and possibly use a mouse to navigate.

  • hn - A Hacker News ncurses CLI reader written in Go.

  • links2 - Links2 is a graphics and text mode WWW browser, similar to Lynx. It displays tables, frames, downloads on background, uses HTTP/1.1 keepalive connections. In graphics mode it displays PNG, JPEG, GIF, TIFF, and XBM pictures, runs external bindings on other types, and features anti-aliased font, smooth image zooming, 48-bit dithering, and gamma and aspect ratio correction.

  • newsbeuter - Newsbeuter is an RSS feed reader for the text console. Zed Shaw called it "The Mutt of Feed Readers". It is designed to run on Unix-like operating systems such as GNU/Linux and FreeBSD. NetBSD is currently not supported, due to technical limitations.

  • rtv - A text-based interface (TUI) to view and interact with Reddit from your terminal.

File managers

  • mc - Midnight Commander is an orthodox (two-pane) file manager, supporting standard file operations, virtual filesystems, panelizing of external commands, and user menus. It also includes an internal viewer, editor, and visual diff tool.

  • nnn - nnn is a full-featured terminal file manager. It's tiny and nearly 0-config with an incredible performance.

Obviously there are a ton of other great applications you can run on the terminal these are just a few of my personal favorites. I would encourage you to comment on the YouTube video above with your favorite applications. Until then stay cool and keep Linux'n.

System76 Superfan 3 Mon, 25 Nov 2019 09:00:00 -0800 18d76148-90b3-473b-af9e-7aa048ef2022 I was recently given the opportunity to visit the System76 offices in Denver, Colorado as part of its Superfan 3 event. Unlike the ten winners of the Superfan 3 that submitted projects, I was invited along with four other members of the press. My trip started in the early morning hours of November 15th with my flight leaving out just before 6am, I barely got any sleep the night before due to my crazy level of excitement. I landed in Denver around 9am and immediately caught a ride to the hotel System76 had booked in downtown. System76 even had gift boxes waiting on us when we arrived stuffed with all sorts of neat swag.

Of course travelling the first part of the day and skipping breakfast left me starving, so after doing a brief search on my phone and reaching out to Emma from System76, I decided to go grab a bite to eat at the 5280 Burger Bar. Unbeknownst to me it was right below where the System76 offices were previously located. Once my belly was full it was time for me to waddle back to the hotel, unpack and take a quick nap.


Before long it was time to toss my shoes back on and make my way to the happy hour event they had planned. A big thanks goes out to Adam Forshee from Samsung who sponsored this event and provided us with an awesome happy hour at 1up Arcade Bar, located just a short walk away from the hotel. This was such a great opportunity to meet a ton of awesome people, talk Linux, play some games, and nerd out for a bit. I even had a chance to get beat by Carl (System76's CEO) at Pacman, and by happenstance even ran into my Texan brother Carl George. Then, just like a quarter in an arcade it was game over for the night.

We had all been asked to gather in the hotel lobby at 8am the next morning to catch a shuttle over to the System76 office. On the shuttle ride Josh Woolery gave us a quick rundown of the day they had planned for us, a day that was sure to be full of fun and excitement. When we arrived we were greeted by Emma, and escorted into the building where we were broken up into three teams and prepped for our orientation for the mission to Thelio.

I ended up on the green team (the best team), and whisked off to the new recruit orientation, during which we were shown a brief and hilarious video and instructed not to "break shit." One of our teammates had the first clue which was hidden in their flight jacket. We were then ushered to the first stage of our mission. Once we opened the door to the warehouse we were greeted by a completely blacked out massive space that was dimly illuminated by black lights.


During the first stage we had to navigate our probe (a two wheeled drone) through a series of obstacle courses. Each team member was given a chance to navigate a course wearing a pair of "AI goggles" (safety goggles that were scratched to hell), and with help from our other teammates we each successfully navigated a series of courses. After completing that phase of our mission we were given another clue. This was the second of many clues we would end up receiving. A big thanks goes out to Dan Thompson for being our keeper of the clues.


With one phase of our mission complete it was time to head off to the next phase. This time we each had to pilot a drone and successfully land on an asteroid - which might sound pretty easy, but was actually really difficult. Oddly enough our entire team ended up landing our drones on the side of the asteroid. Once we had each successfully landed our drone we were given another clue and progressed to the next phase of our mission.


At the next phase we were instructed to manipulate the terrain of a planet to find clues to move forward to the next phase. This was actually based on a really cool augmented reality sandbox project that System76 developed a few years ago. Using a projector, Xbox kinect, and a sandbox we had to manipulate the terrain (play in the sand) to uncover a set of beads with letters on them. Once we uncovered the beads that gave us our last clue we were able to progress to the next phase.


Arriving at the next phase we were greeted by Carl Richell (System76's CEO) where we began to decipher our clues. Since we were the second team to finish we had to wait for the last team so we could put all the clues together and move on to the next phase. When the last team arrived we put all of our clues together to unlock the secret quote "We stand atop the shoulders of the giants who came before us so we may one day reach the stars." As soon as we figured out the quote we "opened the passage to the Thelio system."


Once entering the Thelio system we came face to face with aliens (space invader cutouts) that were attached to a series of boxes scattered throughout a section of the warehouse. To defeat the aliens we were given blasters (Nerf guns), and instructed to destroy the aliens to gain access to Thelio. Honestly there isn't anything much more fun than a group of adults blasting fictional aliens with Nerf guns. After a couple of rounds we were instructed to move in and finish off the aliens.

Then came the real surprise. Once we had defeated the aliens a button was hit and a garage door rolled up to reveal a fog filled room where we were greeted by Carl and Tux along with a table that was loaded down with Thelios. Then Carl told us that we were each going to be given a brand new Thelio. It was very much like an Oprah moment (you get a car, you get a car, and you get a car). You could hear nothing but gasps and mumbles of disbelief that we had each been given a brand new Thelio which had been specially engraved for the event.


Not only was it a brand new Thelio, but a newly revised Thelio that included a modified bottom panel to seal off the chassis and side panels which were slightly modified to increase airflow. These revisions addressed user feedback that said the original Thelio was a bit noisy. With these new revisions they were able to drop the decibel level by a staggering 7dB. To me this just goes to show how closely System76 listens to its users.

Once all of us picked our jaws off the floor, the lights came on in the warehouse and we were directed to a giant conference table where they had catered in Kenny's BBQ for lunch. Obviously I took a moment to thank both Carl and Emma for the Thelio. I had literally been talking to Emma the night before about wanting to someday own one of these beautiful machines. She without a doubt was the "happiness manager" that day.


After chowing down on some tasty BBQ we all sat down for a three hour round table with several System76 employees including Carl, Jeremy, and others. That's when we were given the news that System76 will be developing and manufacturing its own laptops in the next few years. We were asked what we would like to see in a laptop, and by the end of that discussion we had created a laptop that would have probably cost about $4,000.

Then we got another sneak peek at a project that they're working on, an i3 inspired extension for Gnome called "Pop Shell." While it was just in the early stages of development it already looked really awesome. We were told that it was scheduled to officially be released with the 20.04 release of Pop_OS!. Before long it was time to jump back on the shuttle and head back to the hotel - only this time we had several System76 employees join us.


After a quick visit back to my room to toss my bag down I met up with the large group and we all made our way down to Wynkoop Brewing Co. to wind down the night with a couple of brews and a few rounds pool. After a few hours of chatting and gaming it was time to head back to the hotel and crash after a long day.

I had decided to stay an extra day to visit with my good friend Nate (Haplo) who drove down to hangout. We met up around 9am that morning and took a trip out of the city to meet up with Emma at Waterton Canyon for a day hike. I must admit that being in the city was really awesome, but to get out of the city and hit the trail was really awesome. We hiked about 3-4 miles that morning and then drove over to Mission, Co. to sit down and have breakfast at Red Rocks Grill. After breakfast we wondered around Mission for a bit to take in the sights.


Then like the nerds we are we decided to head back toward Denver to meet up with Ian and Ben at another barcade where I quickly lost $10 in quarters, but managed to beat Nate at a few games :). After a few hours gaming we were all starving again and decided to head over to The Rock Wood Fired Pizza to grab some dinner and share in some great conversation. Once we finished dinner Nate dropped me back off at my hotel and that wrapped up another great day in Colorado.

Monday was my last day in Denver and my flight back to Texas was scheduled to leave out that afternoon. I quickly packed my bags and took a Lyft back over to the System76 office, where I sat out in front of the building like a weirdo while participating in the Linux Academy (Jupiter Broadcasting) Monday morning production meeting. Our meeting ended around lunch, which was just in time to go grab a bite to eat. Emma wrangled a few people and we took off to go grab a burger. Once we finished up lunch we went back to the office where I hung out for a couple more hours before jumping in a Lyft and heading back to the airport. That's when it really began to sink in that I had been part of a truly awesome experience and it was all coming to an end.


So, as a member of the "press" what did I really take away from this event? Well, I think the biggest thing for me were the people. Everyone at System76 really loves what they do and it shows. While it's nice being able to hang out with like minded Linux users, it's rather common, but being able to hang out with like minded Linux users that are creating hardware is a pretty rare occasion. I'm really grateful to have had such an experience, and definitely humbled by being asked to be a part of it.

I really would like to thank everyone at System76 including Josh, Myriah, Emma, Carl, Ian, Jeremy, Thomas, Kate, and everyone I met that weekend. I'd also like to give a big thanks to Samsung and AMD who both sponsored and donated the components in the Thelios we were gifted. I'm already looking forward to the next Superfan event and giving all our listeners an in depth review of the newly revised Thelio. Until next year, stay rad.

Pinebook Pro Review Thu, 21 Nov 2019 14:00:00 -0800 deb93ab6-a4fd-4ca7-8d1f-72fbc9a427a7 Pinebook-Pro-01

The Pinebook Pro is an ARM powered laptop created by Pine Microsystems, Inc.. This is Pine64's follow up to the original Pinebook which was released in November of 2016. The Pinebook Pro is a small 14" laptop that packs some pretty impressive specs, and best of all it comes in at only $199 ($232 shipped to the US). So what are the specs? Check'em out below.

  • Rockchip RK3399 SOC with Mali T860 MP4 GPU
  • 1080p IPS Panel
  • Magnesium Alloy Shell body
  • Bootable Micro SD Slot
  • 64GB of eMMC (Upgradable)
  • PCIe x4 to m.2 NVMe SSD Slot (requires optional adapter / Max 5W NVMe drives)
  • 1x USB 2.0 Host, 1x USB 3.0 Host
  • USB-C (Data, Power and Video out)
  • Lithium Polymer Battery (10000mAH)
  • Stereo Speakers
  • WiFi 802.11 AC + Bluetooth 5.0
  • 3.5mm Headphone Jack
  • Microphone
  • Front-Facing Camera (1080p)
  • ISO & ANSI Keyboard Variants
  • Privacy Switches for Camera, Microphones and BT/WiFi
  • Barrel Power (5V 3A) Port

So is a $199 ARM powered laptop worth it? In my opinion yes, very much so. I'm actually writing this review at 30,000 feet. In the time where inexpensive Chromebooks are gaining so much popularity, I think the Pinebook Pro really fills a niche for a truly all Linux powered laptop. Most avid Linux users are sure to fall in love with this laptop, but that's not to say it doesn't have issues.

So what are those issues? Namely, it's just one right now, the trackpad. The palm rejection isn't that great and if you touch it while typing it halts keyboard input or causes you to jump back to some random place in your document. Pretty frustrating to say the least. To work around this I just disable the trackpad using FN+F7 and use a USB or Bluetooth mouse. That being said, the firmware is currently being worked on to address the issue and will probably be available by the time this article goes live. Update: ayufan and several others have been hard at work and have released the first keyboard and trackpad firmware update. A huge thank you goes out to the entire team for turning that around so quickly.

The default Debian install could also use a little more polish, but I really can't fault Pine64 on that. I realize they were trying to get this device out the door and in the hands of those who are going to port their favorite distribution to it. However, the default Debian 9 installation is using the 4.4 kernel and as one would expect with Debian, the repository is a bit lacking when it comes to desktop applications, especially for aarch64. The default installation isn't all bad though. The on-demand throttling mode seems to work really well. It is also pretty snappy. I was able to playback 1080p 60fps video with zero issues.


Right now a ton of work is going on around this device by a lot different developers. Including Ubuntu, Manjaro, Kali, Chromium OS, Android, Armbian, * BSD and several of others. I've currently tried a few of the builds, including Ubuntu (MATE), Ubuntu (LXDE), Manjaro (KDE/XFCE), Chromium OS, and of course the default Debian build.

The Ubuntu MATE image is wonderful, and rather usable, but does lack the aarch64 packages you might need. You can extend the available software on Ubuntu and Debian by installing the snapd package and using snap versions of applications which you might not find in the default repositories.

As an Ubuntu user you will feel right at home with this build. Just know you might struggle to find that one must-have desktop application. I'm confident that we'll have a lot of this software available as aarch64 becomes more popular. When 20.04 lands I would imagine this will be a pretty big part of that release.

Currently, Manjaro has KDE and XFCE preview builds available which use the 5.3 kernel, and as one would expect it has a ton of software available for the aarch64 architecture. It's also rather snappy, but at the time of writing has a few issues. The biggest of which include flaky wifi, no bluetooh, poor audio (which isn't great to begin with), issues with suspend, and a few others. Although that seems like a big deal, and to some extent it is, it's really just part of the development process. I personally think Manjaro will be one of the best builds for the Pinebook once these few issues get ironed out. Mainly because Manjaro, being based on Arch, is going to have the largest selection of aarch64 software for a bit until the other distributions get up to speed.

Linux build links
Pinebook Pro Software Releases
Manjaro - Preview 3
ayufan's Linux build repository
mrfixit2001's Debian build repository

However, in my opinion the Chromium OS build is one of the best options for the Pinebook Pro right now. If anything it's a great image to flash to an SD card when your friend or even your kid wants to use the Pinebook Pro to do some browsing. Out of the box it supports 4k 60fps playback on Youtube with zero issues. In theory it should also support Netflix and other streaming services by simply logging in and pressing play. While I personally won't be installing Chromium OS on the eMMC module, I will always have a copy on an SD card, and I highly recommend you do the same. Just a great image to have in your go bag.

Overall I think the Pinebook Pro is a great on-the-go type of laptop. It's lightweight, durable, has a 6-8 hour battery life, and is powerful enough to get most of your daily tasks done. Need to compose an email, slack with teammates, edit some code, watch YouTube, listen to music, edit photos, or maybe even play a few retro games? The Pinebook Pro is perfect for that. Over time I'm confident the software will catch up and the Pinebook Pro will be a great everyday carry laptop.

Summer Sprint 2019 Tue, 27 Aug 2019 16:00:00 -0700 154015de-e3b1-4e62-8fe0-77e78c84210b Working remotely certainly has its advantages and I love the ability to sit in the comfort of my own home doing work I’m passionate about. That being said, I think it’s equally important to spend time together in meat space. There really is nothing like looking across the table at your co-workers while you try to flush out new ideas, make important decisions, or just share a meal. Not to mention, Washington is beautiful this time of the year.

The “JB Sprint 2019” got kicked off early Monday morning with the team arriving at the studio bright and early. Angela even brought us some amazing cake donuts so everyone could get their sugar fix. With mouths full of tasty donuts we went over our plan for the day, and intentions for the week. Without spilling the beans, we covered a lot in our short time together. Since you will all be seeing the results of our JB Sprint efforts filtering through the feeds soon, I’ll focus more here on the team-building time we spent together. In brief - our adventures were memorable!

First up, we hitched a ride on the ferry to Friday Harbor located on San Juan Island. Like most teams we have a weekly meeting - Mondays for us - but this Monday's meeting was a little different. This was our first time to have the entire team physically together during a meeting, which is awesome in itself, and the scenic backdrop made that experience even better.

JB Sprint 01

JB Sprint 02

JB Sprint 03

After about an hour we pulled into Friday Harbor, disembarked, and walked over to the Cask & Schooner for lunch. While I can’t say it was a “traditional” English pub (we have experts among us!), it certainly seemed the part. Once we had all looked over the menu it was pretty obvious that the majority of us were going to have Fish and Chips (thick cut Fries, not Potato Chips). I personally thought the food was amazing, despite the service. After we finished up with lunch we walked down to the pier, took a few photos, had a few laughs, and waited on the ferry to arrive. Once back at the studio we wrapped up a few things then called it a day - a great first day together.

JB Sprint 04

JB Sprint 05

Our next outing would be Wednesday evening to Diablo Lake, a man-made lake in the North Cascade mountains. It was dark when we arrived, perfect to watch the Perseid meteor shower above us. A few of us managed to catch the meteor shower before the moon came out in full, and full it certainly was. In an area with zero light pollution the full moon was really incredibly striking, casting visible shadows in what should have been complete darkness. Here are some of Alex’s photos from the overlook. Once the moon rose we paired off and started doing some long exposure photography. This is where I basically lost myself for the rest of the evening, and after several wonderfully creative hours, it was time to pack up and head back to the hotel for a night's rest.

JB Sprint 06

JB Sprint 07

JB Sprint 08

JB Sprint 09

Our final outing would be on Friday, with the group splitting up a little. Angela took a group of us to visit the Big Four Ice Caves. This place was incredibly beautiful, and after a mile-long trek through the Washington forest we emerged right in front of the ice cave - basically Mother Nature’s air conditioning unit. I would say it was 2-3 degrees cooler standing directly in front of the cave entrance. While tempting, you’re encouraged not to go inside the ice caves; it has been known to have ice chunks break off, fall and crush people. Luckily Alex brought his drone to do the dangerous work of navigating within the ice cave, and gave us views we might not have otherwise seen. Check out his awesome drone footage:

JB Sprint 10

JB Sprint 11

JB Sprint 12

JB Sprint 13

Those who didn't join for the ice cave adventure were either recording in studio, or participating in our very own JB flash mob - a real social treat in spreading happiness. We may have Rick-rolled an entire grocery/department store..

JB Sprint 14

Before long it was time to head back to the studio and record the final Friday Stream. While it was kind of sad to see the Friday Stream end, there really couldn’t have been a better send off. With everyone in the studio together for the first time, it was a great way to end the grand experiment that was the Friday Stream. After the show we tossed some meat (and veggies!) on the grill and finished out the evening sharing a feast and some great conversation.

JB Sprint 15

JB Sprint 16

Saturday morning came early, which meant it was time for the JB Sprint to start winding down. Joe left early that morning, followed by Ell shortly thereafter. For me that’s when it all started to sink in.. I knew the Sprint was coming to an end but I didn’t expect for it to happen so seemingly quickly. The rest of us took off to the Junk Yard to meet up with Chris, share a meal, and put the drones in the sky once more. As the daylight began to fade it was time for us to head back to the hotel one last time, pack up, and get a few hours of rest.

JB Sprint 17

JB Sprint 18

JB Sprint 19

With Sunday here it was time for Alex and I to head back to the airport to begin our trips home. After getting through TSA we hung out in the lounge for a while just reflecting on the week. One thing was obvious, neither of us wanted to leave, and we both agreed that if we had another week together we could have accomplished even more. I think you really gain something by being together in the same physical place. Conversations and ideas seem to flow so much better when you’re in person, there's just nothing quite like it.

JB Sprint 20

JB Sprint 21

JB Sprint 22

JB Sprint 23

This was our very first “Sprint” together as a team, and I feel like we accomplished a lot. Some of these accomplishments weren’t even planned, and just organically grew out of us all being together in one place. I really cherish these moments I got to spend with my team, and I walk away from the Sprint with a new level of respect for each of them the more time we spend together. Within the next few weeks we’ll have a new show out in the wild, and I think it’s going to be one of the best shows Jupiter Broadcasting has ever created. A show I hope everyone will enjoy. Stay tuned..

For now, a few more photographs from our JB Sprint..

JB Sprint 24

JB Sprint 25

JB Sprint 26

JB Sprint 27

JB Sprint 28

JB Sprint 29

JB Sprint 30

JB Sprint 31

JB Sprint 32

JB Sprint 33

JB Sprint 34

JB Sprint 35

JB Sprint 36

JB Sprint 37

JB Sprint 38

And, of course, a visit to the studio wouldn't be complete without a Levi..

JB Sprint 39

JB Sprint 40

JB Sprint 41

JB Sprint 42

BSides San Antonio 2019 Mon, 10 Jun 2019 15:00:00 -0700 5aa48c7a-e874-4105-a572-3719d4cc1d9f Greetings everyone,

Bsides Shirt

I’m writing this post the day after BsidesSATX and it’s almost like the day after Christmas. BsidesSATX is the conference I look forward to all year because I get to see all of my Infosec family. BsidesSATX 2014 was the first conference I ever attended, back before I even knew what an operating system was, they were the White Rabbit to my Alice, showing me the way into Wonderland (the tech world).

This year I decided to kick things off with what is quickly becoming a Jupiter Broadcasting tradition of breaking bread as a family near the time of the event. For Bsides we held a precon Hacker Family Dinner where 25 of us came together to share stories, precon speaking jitters and, of course, some salsa and guacamole!


I want to take a moment and say a very special thank you to @JediMamoth for, without asking for any recognition, stepping up and sponsoring the whole event. I say sponsoring because I don’t know the correct term for it, but he snuck away paid the bill and just whispered to me what he had done as he headed out the door. Even though I know you did not do it for the recognition, thank you @JediMamoth for your support in building our community.


Saturday morning the conference kicked off nice and early with the sad news that the conference badges had been held up in customs. Now If you have not been to a Bsides before you might not understand what a big deal this really is! You see these are not your traditional paper badges, BSides conferences really tend to step up their game when it comes to their badges. Can’timagine what that might look like? I encourage you to jump on Twitter and look up W3BGUY’s proto type badge photo also spend some time looking at the tag #badgelife.


They did however, know how to offer some southern comfort to ease our pain. As BSidesSATX is hosted at ST. Mary’s University, they opened the school cafeteria and offered a full hot breakfast to every attendee.


Normally I am not a breakfast person however, I knew this conference was going to take its toll on me. I was lucky enough to mentor two of the speakers, as well as having my own talk accepted. Oh and I also brought my son to the conference, allowing him to have his first conference experience as an attendee to be the same one as myself. It was going to be a full day!

I started my day off by listening to C00per talk about creating a prototype for an Open Source implantable computer. I know the idea of implanting hardware into your body makes many people uncomfortable however, the more time I spend listening to C00per speak the more I am opening up to the idea of getting a small implant that I could use as the key to my car sounds like an adventure I might be willing to take.

Once this talk was over I had to resist the urge to go and explore, as by this time the Villages had opened! The Villages this year included 3-D Printing Village, Malware Village, Mental Health Village, Lockpicking Village and even a Podcasting Village!


However there was work to be done and the next speaker was Linux Academy’s very own Brandon Bruce presenting “How to Train Your Customers- Changing the Course of Support.” This was an interesting presentation digging in to the different types of customers that Support encounters and how best to handle them. I enjoyed watching the audiences faces as they began to relate to each type of customer, from the “SITE SLOW” Captain Caveman to the “LET ME TALK TO YOUR MANAGER” Karen.

Now, I’ll save you from the play by play of my day but there is one last moment I want to share and that’s the proud mom moment of having my son invade Malware Village as a dinosaur. What can I say Hackers like to have fun! It was a proud moment, right up until he ran into the wall.
As the morning sessions completed we descended once more on the school cafeteria for a hot lunch and some cold ice cream treats!

A special thanks to Duncan McAllynn for sponsoring an ice cream social for the past two years,helping provide an alternative to an alcohol-filled socialization event!


That is not to say the event was a dry one, once the conference was over many of us dawned our best apparel for the after party!

After Party

Special thanks to RadioTeacher for the use of his photos.

Texas Linuxfest 2019 Mon, 03 Jun 2019 20:00:00 -0700 b53076ea-21b4-4897-95aa-9107d7238e4d TXLF-2019-11

Our journey to Texas Linuxfest (TXLF) began Friday afternoon with a five-hour drive from the Texas coast north to the hill country. The plan was to rendezvous at Hard Eights BBQ from 6:30 to 8:00. Since we had to make a five-hour journey it had us arriving a little later to the meetup. As soon as we pulled into the parking lot that smell of slow-smoked Texas BBQ slapped me right in the face, and I knew I had arrived; Google did not even have to tell me.



After making our way through the ala carte line we sat down with what was left of our meetup. Thankfully there were quite a few that decided to stick around so we were able to hang out, eat, and share in some great conversations. Then it was time to retire back to the hotel, kick off our shoes, and pass out.

We woke up to a beautiful Saturday morning. After getting all the swag together, it was time to head across the street to the conference center. This year we were able to set up right next to our friends Chaz and Mike from Linux Academy. Once the Jupiter Broadcasting booth was prepared it was time for us to head over to the Keynote.


This year's keynote was given by Thomas Cameron. He was previously a regional chief architect at Red Hat and currently works on the Amazon Linux team. While he might be considered an "old-timer" by some his message was anything but that. He talked about some tough topics within the community in a really fun and elegant way.



Being a Linux admin today isn't enough. You really need to diversify your skill set. If you're not trained in the "cloud" it's going to be a lot harder to land that next job. As an example, he showed a job search in Austin. There were 56 "Linux Admin" jobs, compared to the over 4,000 positions available for the "Cloud".

Thomas also spoke about ending the distro war as well as inclusion within our community. The latter is something I feel our community really needs to hear right now more than ever. This really was one of the best keynotes I've ever seen. We need more people like Thomas. We need more people who aren't afraid to stand up and acknowledge the negativity that has existed in the Linux community for decades, and that together we can fix it.

After the keynote wrapped up it was back to the Jupiter Broadcasting booth for a couple of hours where I had a great time getting to meet with old and new friends alike. It really was awesome seeing how many people enjoy the various podcasts we produce and how they've been fans for years. It's so remarkable hearing stories about the different ways people discovered the network.


With the next round of talks about to start Chris and I decided to divide and conquer. He went to Ell's and Allie's talk (Confessions of a Sysadmin), while I went to Alex's (The virtues of an open Home Automation system). Both talks went off without a hitch. With Alex's talk, it was evident people agreed with his idea of moving your home automation away from vendor lock-in. Just the types of questions coming in really showed how engaged people were and how interested they were in an open-source solution.

Chris said Ell and Allie's talk was a packed house and went over extremely well. I was personally really bummed out because this is the second time I've had to miss a talk given by Ell (thanks conference schedule fairy). One thing I can say though, the applause coming from that track was REAL. That itself was verification to me that Ell and Allie nailed it.


With stomachs growling and friends in tow, it was time to find some lunch. We opted for the "Yard House" which was just a few blocks away. This place had almost 50 beers on tap and an extensive menu with a little bit of everything. They even had this gigantic pretzel that I instantly regretted not ordering. After a beer and some BBQ chicken pizza it was time to head back to the convention center to hang out at our booth.

There was a steady stream of people coming by to tell us just how much they enjoyed what we do. Which really makes me feel good about the small part I play in this community. Then, just like that, it was time to pack up the booth and head back to the hotel.

After a short visit to the room, it was time to meet back up with the crew and go find some dinner. We ended up just deciding to meet up at the authentic Mexican restaurant located in the lobby of our hotel. This place had the largest serving of guacamole I've ever seen. Seriously, that serving of guacamole had no less than three avocados. I opted for the street style asada tacos.

After dinner, a group of us decided to carry our conversation over to the "Gingerman" located a few blocks away from the hotel. We had some seriously good laughs, deep conversations, and tasty craft brews. After a couple of drinks, it was time to walk back to the hotel and call it a night. We checked out early the following morning and a couple of us decided to grab some breakfast at the world famous Waffle House. Then, with full stomachs, we parted ways and drove back to the Linux Academy offices in Keller to record an episode of Linux Action News.


This year's TXLF was a great experience. It's always wonderful getting to see old friends, make new ones, and listen to some of the best speakers in the community. I am excited about next year's fest. I hope to see this conference grow each year. It is a valuable asset that our community cannot afford to lose. I encourage anyone on the fence about attending a Linux conference to get to the one that's closest to you. You'll learn a lot and more importantly make some awesome new friends.

KubeCon + CloudNativeCon Europe 2019 Tue, 28 May 2019 10:00:00 -0700 aa5b5222-a80d-4f47-91cc-bdc56c223355 Hello again, Linux Academy and Jupiter Broadcasting friends! I am writing to you on my trip back from Barcelona, Spain!





Wes Payne and I had a wonderful time getting to know the Kubernetes community, and we can't wait to share what we learned and saw while we were there! (Spoiler alert!: You may even be hearing more about a possible joint talk in the works.)

The reason that I am writing today, though is to tell you about my experience during the Kubecon Diversity Lunch and Hack event. I was extremely excited to have been chosen to lead one of the tables for this event as this was the first event I have attended of its kind that offered an opportunity for attendees to help grow soft skills but also the chance to get behind a keyboard and work on technical skills as well.

The event was organized in 14 different tables:

  • Organizing Inclusive meetups and events
  • Inclusion in Tech
  • Taking your CKA
  • Allies
  • Mentoring: Empowering mentors.
  • Inclusion in the Kubernetes Ecosystem
  • Communication skills for tech
  • Security in Kubernetes
  • Running Kubernetes on Bare Metal
  • Storage in Kubernetes
  • Monitoring in Kubernetes
  • Pair Programming- Contributing and Learning
  • Hands-on Kubernetes – Install, cluster support, etc.

Looking at that list, I hope a few of you wondered which of those tracks I would be leading, but I think most of you might have guessed I was leading the discussion on empowering mentors. This is a subject that has been close to my heart for some time and I was excited to hear what others had to say on the subject. However, to keep the tradition of being brutally honest with you all I was terrified that no one would sign up for my table, after all, how could I compete with Security in Kubernetes (I'm even running a study group on the subject!) or any of the other great topics. In fact, many of my friends from the OpenStack world were leading those tables so I knew they were going to be good!

I'm happy to report that every seat at my table was filled! I had managers, trainers, students, contributors, and even my friend Betty Juno join me as a co-lead. Our task was to discuss what the Kubernetes (and maybe the OpenSource) community could be doing to empower mentors to be successful. The conversations started off a bit formal at first as I asked everyone to go around the table and introduce themselves and say a bit about why they had joined us. However the introductions quickly turned in to stories of hardships we had faced in mentorship, questions we were not sure how to answer and even being open that many of us there though we had often been mentors struggled with the feeling that we were not "good" enough or experienced enough to be taking on these roles. Because of this our conversation naturally found its way not to answer the question about what the community as a whole could be doing but what we at the table could be doing to empower ourselves better to be better mentors.



The answers we came up with however I think could be used by anyone.

  • Give credit and thanks to the people who take time to mentor. Often times we don't acknowledge the time and effort that individuals spend helping others grow and find their way in the tech field. We focus too much on projects and the development of tech and not on the people who help create them.

  • Remember that contribution is more than lines of code. Growing an open source community is not just growing the number of lines of code in a repository. People spend countless hours helping others learn to bug triage, writing documentation and hosting events to grow the contributor base; all of these are forms of mentorship that are important to the community.

  • Think of mentorship not as a relationship but as an opportunity to help, teach or share. The idea of being in a mentorship relationship is off-putting to many individuals. After all, you already work 40+ hours a week, you have family obligations and perhaps even feel you already don't have enough time to spend on your actual relationship with your partner/significant other how can you possibly find the time to take on a mentorship relationship!? So what if we change the word mentor to help. If someone is asking for help with a line of code they are struggling with can you find 10, 20, 30 min to look over their code and help them find an error? Could you find 30 min to do a brown bag for those looking to learn something new?

  • Remember you are good enough! Although many of us voiced fears of not being good enough to be mentors, we all said we stepped up and did it because we knew we had experience with something someone did not. Let me put it bluntly for you if you more than a weeks experience, maybe even a days experience, in any subject you already know more than someone out there who is wanting to learn.


We also came up with one request we would have for those who would be , and that is: Be specific about what your ask is in both questions and time. Asking someone to help you "learn to code" is an enormous if not impossible ask. Spend time formulating what your ask really is. "I've been working on learning python, but I cant't figure out what's wrong with my while loop, might you have 10 min to help me understand the logic behind this" is much more likely to get you help than, "I wanna learn python can you teach me!?"


Clear Linux OS 2019 Tue, 28 May 2019 09:00:00 -0700 a46b1fff-dc65-4236-9e9b-7e3a9cd5b2ee It all began with a Friday Stream invitation to extend my already-extended LinuxFest Northwest trip. The proposition? To join Chris on a road trip to Intel's Portland campus.. an invitation one shouldn't refuse.

A bit of flight juggling later and we're together at the Jupiter Broadcasting studio - success! Our primary focus was to record a live in-studio episode of Linux Unplugged, and to then travel to Portland to join Intel's introduction to Clear Linux OS at their HF3 campus.



We received a warm welcome from the kind folks at Intel/Clear Linux, got to say hello to some Jupiter Broadcasting community members, and learned TONS about Clear Linux's inovative approach to updates, statelessness, security, and more, which we discuss in depth on this week's Linux Unplugged. I even made some Canadian connections with Kari, Intel's Open Source Outreach Advocate (she has a Canadian-themed tattoo! She's the real thing!) with whom we really had great connections and conversations throughout our time at HF3. Thanks Kari!




While our time in Portland was a short one, I must say - what a great city, and it treated us well. We were so pleased when Hadea pulled a hospitality-rabbit out of her hat that lead us to The Jupiter Hotel. What could be more perfect? Great location, lovely atmosphere, one of the best names around (we're biased), and nearby... THE FOOD - Plate lickin' good, some say. Here's a little taste..







Throughout my travels, Chris and Hadea took the time to tour me around their beautiful back yard of Washington and the Pacific Northwest, from some of Chris' favorite scenic back roads and lookouts, Hadea's masterful local food and cafe recommendations, to some of the best small-town Mexican I've ever had (Prawns!). As you might imagine, we have stories and memories galore from our time together, which to me and to so many others is what this Jupiter Broadcasting community has really been all about for all these years - making connections with like-minded folks from all over the world via the shows, IRC, Telegram, local meetups, conferences, weekly live recordings, in-person experiences and more. It's easy to say: I love this community of ours.







PS. Congrats to Chris, Hadea and Levi for securing The Junk Yard! A place to call home.. You can hear more about it, aswell as an insider's scoop and stories from our Portland trip on last week's Friday Stream.




Hope to see you all soon, wherever that may be..

Red Hat Summit 2019 Fri, 10 May 2019 11:30:00 -0700 99307712-f851-4baf-bec8-aaddea6c8fd2 Are cloud and culture alive and well at Red Hat? If I've taken away anything from this year's Red Hat Summit (my first), it's the two simple words "cloud and culture." Two words echoed several times this past week which to me is obviously by design. Red Hat and IBM want us to know they are ready for the cloud, hybrid-cloud, other person's Linux box, and its culture is still alive and well despite grumbling in the community about the IBM acquisition.

We arrived at midnight on Monday in the beautiful city of Boston. Upon arriving at the Airbnb we quickly unpacked and ordered some pizza. After dinner, we took to bed for what we knew was going to be a busy day.


Tuesday morning came quickly. After a few short hours of rest, we packed up and caught a ride to the convention center. As soon as we arrived I knew this was nothing like the quaintness of Linux Fest Northwest. A giant Red Hat logo greeted us as soon as we walked inside the convention center. This was an industry event. The energy, however, was still there. First stop, the press room.

Red Hat did a great job setting this up. Giving us an area away from the glitz and glamor. An area where Red Hat could convey its news directly to the press. They had specific panels just for the press with engineers ready to answer all our questions.

After a morning of press events and a peek inside the expo hall, we decided to take a quick lunch break with our co-worker Gabby from Linux Academy at the Trillium Brewing Company. After lunch, we walked back to the convention center for another press conference, a visit to the Red Hat store, and a walk around the hallways checking out all the interesting exhibits. We decided to take a moment and dip back in the press room to rest our feet for a few minutes before the night's big general session.




This general session was nothing like I've ever experienced before. There were lasers, fog machines, and a red carpet which led into an enormous hall with a million (or more) dollar set. Red Hat really pulled out all the stops with this session. With a short introduction by Red Hat's CEO Jim Whitehurst the session was quickly off to a start. The stage roared to life with first-class motion graphics. Followed by a Star Trek style door that revealed a TED Talk inspired stage which rolled onto the stage as if it were levitating.

Then came a grand introduction of IBM's CEO Ginni Rometty. After some reassuring words, the flood gates were let open to showcase a few of the companies that innovate with Red Hat. These included Delta Air Lines, DBS Bank, Deutsche Bank, ExxonMobil, Lockheed Martin, Volkswagen, and last but not least, the main attraction, Microsoft's CEO Satya Nadella. With our heads reeling and the general session over it was time to get back to the Airbnb. We ordered up some burgers and digested all the news from the day. Then it was time to crash for what we knew would be another busy day.


IBM's Ginni Rometty with Red Hat's Jim Whitehurst

Jim Whitehurst and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella


Waking up Wednesday morning was made a lot easier by the sweet smell of breakfast. Hadea managed to grab some groceries and made us a hearty breakfast of eggs (popey style), pancakes, and fruit. With powered up bodies and equipment, we parted ways with Hadea and caught a ride to the convention center.

The first stop, you guessed it, a press event. Again, kudos go to Red Hat on their organization of these events. This time we listened to Paul Cormier, Matt Hicks, Stefanie Chiras, and Ashesh Badani talk about Red Hat's open hybrid cloud portfolio. At one point Stefanie told us that $10 trillion dollars in business revenue had been touched by applications that ran on RHEL in 2019. A number I knew would be large, but I wasn't expecting to hear that roughly 5% of the world's business revenue is touched by Red Hat.

With our heads full and stomachs growling it was time to catch lunch. This time our buddy Carl George suggested we head over the City Tap and try the 5 Spice Wings. We were also joined by Hadea, Carl Thompson, Judd O'Bannon, and our Linux Academy brother Rob. After some awesome conversation and amazing chicken wings, it was back to the convention center.

Ashesh Badani, Stefanie Chiras, and Matt Hicks.

10 Spice Wings from City Tap. Thanks for the protip Carl

Now it was straight to the expo hall. This hall was filled with all the big names in the industry. However, tucked away in the corner of the hall was an interactive installation called "Innovators on the line". A really neat installation created by a Portland-based company Second Story in collaboration with Red Hat. Meant to break the sea of displays throughout the exhibit hall. This was a really fun way for Red Hat to showcase the speakers at this years summit. Emily from Second Story noticed us nerding out, recording audio clips, and taking photos so she came over talk with us.

Instantly the nerd in me started firing off questions like, "So you're using a microcontroller inside?", "Is it an ESP32, or 8266?", etc. That's when she signaled for Matt, one of the creators, to come over. Instantly we jumped right into it. He was using a Teensy with a board he created to deliver power to the LEDs, an audio hat, twisted pair for the runs, an IR sensor in the handset, etc. That's when Matt said, "Want to check it out?". Of course, I did. It was at this moment that I realized at the heart of this summit were real, passionate, people. This guy was more than happy to show off his creation, and I was super excited to check it out. A big thank you goes out to Emily and Matt from Second Story for giving us that opportunity. After visiting the rest of the booths it was time to head back to get some dinner and last minute gifts.


Innovators on the Line Exhibit.

Matt and Emily of Second Story


We got back to the Airbnb, took a quick moment to relax and ditched our gear. Then we took off to visit the shops in the historic Faneuil Hall. Sadly, we didn't have much time before the shops began to close, but I did manage to grab a few gifts, get a quick peek inside, and smell the leather goods. Now it was time to catch a bite to eat which just so happened to be one of the two "Cheers" locations in Boston where we learned that they do indeed "know your name" if your name happens to be "dick". We pulled up to the bar, ordered some food, shared a couple of beers, and a ton of laughs.

That's when Hadea mentioned she had one more place to take us. We parted ways with our bartender friend Chris, to head over to Mike's Pastry. It was obvious when we got there it's a popular place. There was a line that zigzagged up and down the sidewalk. After a fifteen minute wait, it was our turn. Everything looked so delicious. I ended up choosing the whoopie pie. With our pastries in hand, it was time to get back to the Airbnb. We were all exhausted. A whirlwind of a day had come to a close, and I was stuffed with whoopie pie so I slept great that night.




Whoopie Pie from Mike's Pastry

My last day in Boston was here. That's when Chris decided we should all go have lunch together before we parted ways. So we took off downtown one more time to find some lunch. Chris decided on Lobster rolls. While it's not something I'm a huge fan of, they did have solid fries, with ketchup on the side. Not like some lunatic that serves fries with ketchup on top. After lunch, it was time for us to say farewells, cry a little, and for me to head to the airport.

What did I take away from Red Hat Summit? Well, Red Hat is a lot bigger and has a further reach into the market than I expected. The Red Hat acquisition was a smart one for IBM as it is going to really provide them a solid footing in the market for years to come. As for Red Hat, this provides an quicker route to the deep reach IBM already has. When it comes to their culture, it's apparent that it's alive and well today. In the long-term, I'm not sure. We're just going to have to wait and see how that one plays out. I personally hope Red Hat continues to thrive. They have grown from a small scrappy company in 1995 to the powerhouse they are today. They really do deserve everything they've worked so hard to build.


LinuxFest Northwest 2019 Tue, 30 Apr 2019 10:00:00 -0700 cee3f186-f355-4513-b56b-f5df4014bcf0 As the mountains shrink in the distance the realization that LinuxFest Northwest (LFNW) has actually come to a close begins to sink in. I don’t think anyone would argue that this year’s LFNW was a fantastic success. Being that this was my first LFNW to attend I was pleasantly surprised how this event felt more like a large family reunion than a Linux conference. With friends traveling from as far away as the United Kingdom and Shanghai, this event was truly a unique experience that I'll never forget.

Friday started at the Jupiter Broadcasting studio. With standing room only we shuttled in and out of the studio during an extended Friday Livestream. Think of it as the round robin of hosts and community members. At one point Angela did a headcount and we had roughly twenty-three people in studio. It was very surreal hearing all the voices I've listened to for years all in one place.




Later Friday evening we moved to Bellingham Technical College to set up the booth. Then retired early for what we knew would be a busy Saturday. With a few minor adjustments to the stream Saturday morning we were off and rolling. This was also our first year to have a track, and man were we humbled by the turnout. Every talk was standing room only. Thanks to Chase and the team we were able to get a remote mic set up in the room so we could live stream those talks to the community. Which also showed great numbers. To say the least, we felt the love, and we want you to know, we love you too.





The talks continued as we began to set up for the one and only Jupiter Broadcasting parking lot barbecue. It quickly became apparent we weren't prepared for the wave of hungry attendees. Thankfully Bruce (Linux Academy's support manager) was there on vacation and jumped right in to give us a hand on the grill. With help from our wonderful partners at System76, we managed to feed over three hundred people. One thing is for sure, we're going to need a larger grill next year. With stomachs full, we mixed and mingled for the rest of the evening. New friends were made, old ones reacquainted, and a ton of laughs were had.






On Sunday, half of the team was busy with another round of standing room only talks. While another group of us drove back to the studio to record an episode of Linux Action News. Sunday evening wrapped up at the Jupiter Broadcasting studio with a group of us hanging out, eating pizza, and celebrating with libations. We can't wait until next year. Thank you to everyone that came out. We definitely felt the love.

Photo by Tyler Brown

Photo by Nate Thompson

Playing with Pi-hole Tue, 05 Feb 2019 12:00:00 -0800 771abb2a-4518-4565-85e1-6a12e3be43a8 Pi-hole replaces your DNS server with a modified DNSmasq system optimized for ad-blocking, complete with a nice GUI and a welcoming ecosystem and community. Pi-hole

Pi-hole is an appliance for network-wide ad-blocking and sinkholing.

How It Works

Pi-hole replaces your DNS server with a modified DNSmasq system. Normally this is done by adding a DHCP option that directs clients to use the pi-hole ip as their DNS server. You can also manually make this change on a per-client basis.

Unlike browser-based ad-blockers, pi-hole uses hostname and ip blocklists to block ads at a DNS level. This has upsides and downsides. The biggest upside is that you can easily deploy this at a network wide level, so clients without access to a browser basesd blocker, guests, etc, can all benefit. It also seems to evade some types of ad-blocking detector scripts.

One of the more notificable downsides, is that because ads are blocked at the DNS level, their is often still html space for them on the page. The ad doesn't load, but you end up with some awkward blank space. Many browser-based blockers simple remove the element. This can go both ways depending on site design. Because browser-based blockers are local, they are also more easily disabled.

Compared to /etc/hosts

Very similar, but on a network-wide level. You can also take advantage of their pleasant GUI to update and modify settings.

Also, because it is DNSMasq-based, it can be your DHCP server as well. If you have a stock consumer router and don't already have a system like this, I would reccomend it. The UI is easy to use, and well integrated. Plus you get nice stats about all your dns requests and how many are blocked.

If you are already a larger system like pfsense, pi-hole probably doens't make sense for you.

The Pi Factor

Obviously based on the name, the Raspberry Pi is a major taget for Pi-hole. However pi-hole is not like many other raspberry pi focused projects. They don't provide sd-card images, but rather a list of supported operating systems. This list includes popular distros in both amd64 and arm architectures. Once you've installed a supported OS, they provide an automated installer that will get everything up and running.

Raspbian: Jessie / Stretch
Ubuntu: 16.04 / 16.10
Fedora: 27 / 28
Debian: 8 / 9
CentOS: 7 (not ARM)

What is everything? A forked version of DNSMasq, some management scripts and cron jobs, and an api and web server.

Because of this simple architecture, you can easily run it on your desktop, in a VM, or a container. To that point, they also provide a ready made Docker image. Just tweak and ENV variables and away you go.

Overall the documentation is excellent, and their are guides for many different scenarios, including setting up pi-hole and openvpn on a VPS for mobile ad-blocking. Replace openvpn w/ wireguard and that sounds pretty nice!

Blocklists and Whitelists

Pi-hole Log

This can be a bit of a rabbit hole, but is important for operations. By managing your whitelist and various blocklists, you can determine how many ads and other potentially privacy invading hosts are blocked. Of course, the farther you go down this road, the more likey you will end up blocking services you, or another on your network, may wish to use.

Example: There are community blocklists that attempt to block any and all facebook hostnames and ips. In an office setting, this might be great for productivity, but considering the deep integrations FB has, it may break integrations downstream. It's also probably not realistic on a shared home network.

The default blocklists are fairly conservative, but will block the most egregious offenders. The wider-community has many published blocklists for all kinds of things, and the pi-hole project provides documentation for converting many of them. I suggest trying the defaults and maybe a few of the more popular options for a while before spending too much time configuring.

If necessary you can also whitelist any domains you know you wish to allow. This might be useful for work, or for the occasional service you still need to use.

They make it easy to export and import configuration and blocklists, so its easy reinstall or reimage as needed. You can start with a spare raspberry pi, and move to a server later. You can run it on a VPS or run it on your laptop.

Overall a robust and actively developed project. Not necessarily unique functionality, but well packaged and pleasant to use. I will keep mine running on the network for the foreseeable future, but also won't be getting rid of my regular ad-blockers anytime soon.

Example command

docker run --name pihole1                                 \
           --cap-add=NET_ADMIN                            \
           --restart=unless-stopped                       \
           --dns=                                \
           --dns=                                  \
           -e ServerIP=<Public IP of host running Docker> \
           -e DNS1=                                \
           -e DNS2=                                \
           -p 80:80                                       \
           -p 53:53/tcp                                   \
           -p 53:53/udp                                   \

Pi-hole Dockerfile (amd64)

How do I add additional blocklists?

Blocklist Collection ¦ Firebog

Pi-hole installer

pi-hole/FTL: The Pi-hole FTL engine (DNSMasq fork)

System76 Factory Tour Mon, 17 Dec 2018 20:00:00 -0800 673eb6af-eb29-4df0-b927-83ba2bc796c6 We tour System76's factory to see Thelio. It's not just a good looking PC, it's the next stage of life for a dedicated Linux PC vendor. One that's been totally financed by the sale of computers running Linux. Chris Walks up to the Factor

Thelio is a big deal.

It's not just a good looking PC, it's the next stage of life for a dedicated Linux PC vendor. One that's been totally financed by the sale of computers running Linux.

To be clear, I was darn skeptical of their ambitious plan. Loveable hipsters they may be, but System76 planned to build out a factory, learn how to operate industrial gear AND manage a component supply chain on this new scale. Seemed like an impossible task to me.

But Carl and his team proved me wrong. Granted they're not out of the learning curve quite yet (so set your expectations accordingly) but what I saw turned my skepticism on its head. They're further along in a few short months than I thought they'd be in a year.

Acid and Powder Coating Suits

And, lo and behold, the day we were visiting, just happened to be the day a stack of new Thelio systems shipped.

Despite their mad rush to get their factory online and start building Thelio, attention to detail hadn't been neglected. When our tour took a break, I observed System76's CEO Carl Richell checking in on each system that was currently being built. I asked him later, and he told me he's had his hands on every single machine in the first batch that's gone out. Guiding his staff along the way on the finer points of the build.


About mid-way through my tour the underlying reason they were putting so much effort into this desktop PC clicked for me. It was more than just a new line of PC desktops. It was a roadmap for System76's future. It represents their audacity to take PC building in-house, it's a platform that will serve them for the next decade, and it's their ultimate teacher. Taking them on the path of learning the hard way, and it's created a common cause, a bigger project than any singular employee could tackle, pushing them to all rise to the challenge together.

Parts that make up Thelio

The actual Thelio hardware is quite impressive itself. They're using parts and processes any geek would be proud to say went into their PC. The physical size of the standard unit is smaller than it looks in its marketing shots, and the noise under full load is barely noticeable. It's no exaggeration to say it's the most well built PC I've ever laid eyes and hands on.

Thelio clearly reflects many lessons System76 has learned over the years and finally being able to fully implement those lessons is a bit like taking the leash off a dog that wants to run around and play.

Thelio Side Shot

Play, and learn. They still have a long journey ahead of them, they'll need to find ways to get costs down, and volumes up. And eventually they're going to try and tackle building their own laptops in house too. But Carl and his team approach it with a humility and an eagerness in balanced check. Which appears to be a winning combination with hopes and backing of many in the Linux community.

Dell Precision 5530 with Ubuntu Review Sun, 28 Oct 2018 17:00:00 -0700 aa27f6fd-c2d8-4657-bfb8-95962dc1659c My review of Dell's Precision 5530 developer edition, pushed to it's edge. Precision 5300

Dell Precision 5300

The Precision is deceptive in size. It’s a 15inch laptop, and despite its relative thinness it feels large in the hand. Open it and the edge-to-edge screen gives the impression that they have some how snuck an even larger laptop into the housing of this sleek minimal model.

Review Note: More About our Test Workload in our Podcast Review

The carbon fiber mesh design wraps around the Chiclet style keyboard, with a satisfying touch. The trackpad is large, practical and smooth - one of the better trackpads I've used in recent years.

5300 Keyboard

But none of that really matters once the screen turns on, does it? Loaded with stock Ubuntu 16.04 it’s fine, if not a bit boring. However if you are wise enough to load it with Ubuntu 18.10 and the new theme, this 3840x2160 screen is so vibrant, and the colors so vivid, you'd swear the icons leapt off the screen.

On the right side of the wedge shaped bottom half of the laptop, you have an SD card slot reader, a handy USB-A port, and one of my favorite Dell features, the LED battery meter that lets you check the current charge with a quick glance.

On the left side of the wedge, you have a traditional barrel power connected, to accommodate the laptops 130w power hungry needs. Next to that is another USB-A, full sized HDMI, then a Thunderbolt capable USB-C port (not for charging) and a headphone jack.

It's got a 97WH battery built in, and what Dell calls a sophisticated thermal system that they are quite proud of.

The official benchmarks I threw at this machine simply confirmed what I could feel, it chew's through my existing studio production workflow at impressive speeds.

The kind of speeds that make a difference, and tend to push a laptop to its thermal limits. But the

Precision 5530 ability to handle a thermal load is impressive. And the noise level never registered about room tone on my Sound Level Meter. This is another area where Dell is pushing ahead of any other laptop I have tested.

Dell in the Wild

The Hardware

The CPU is an Intel Core i9 8950K with 12M Cache and a peak speed of 4.8GHZ

It's loaded with 32GBs of DDR4 ram, and a 512GB Samsung NVMe.

And yet its light enough that you could carry it a mile to a coffee shop (which I did) but heavy enough that you will notice it in your bag.

Dirty Job

Ironically I had difficulty writing this review, primarily due to my inability to relate how damn fast this laptop is relative to its size. And that’s where Dell has really excelled. That and its strikingly brilliant screen. This is obviously a machine built for a niche group of performers, who want a portable machine that can easily outperform its 6lb laptop competitors (did I mention this one weighs in the neighborhood of 3.5lbs?). Dell may be counting on its Linux users to be expecting more, or maybe they just know how to make a laptop that feels reliable and clean. And kudos to them for that.

Laptop Hike

It took me a while to sink into this machine, with everything else going on around me, including a lot of travel, I didn’t sit down with this machine and get to know it succinctly the way I have with other machines. However I found that after a couple of weeks I kept coming BACK to this speedy little computer, adding tasks to its growing resume in my project list. And soon enough, slyly enough, it has become my go to work horse.

Chris Goes to MeetBSD Tue, 23 Oct 2018 09:00:00 -0700 5b044c66-da9d-4aa5-8dfd-1169046cf466 MeetBSD California is a biennial BSD Unix conference that takes place in Silicon Valley. IntelEntry

MeetBSD 2018 took place at the sprawling Intel Santa Clara campus. The venue itself felt more like an olive branch than a simple friendly gesture by Intel. In truth it felt like a bit of an apology. You get the subtle sense they feel bad about how the BSD's were treated with the Meltdown and Specter flaws. In fact, you may be right to think they felt a bit sorry towards the entire open source community.

MeetBSD 2018

At most massive venues the parking is the first concern, not so here - in fact that was rather straight forward. No, the real challenge is navigating the buildings. Luckily I had help from navigator extraordinaire, Hadea, who located the correct building, SC12 quickly. Finding the entrance took a moment or two though. The lobby itself was converted by iXsystems efficiently into the MeetBSD expo hall, clean, efficient and roomy with registration, some seating, and an extra conference room for on-on-one sessions. On day two sponsor booths were also setup. All who showed up on day one were warmly greeted with badges, lanyards and goodies by Denise and her friendly team.


Like every great BSD event, plenty of food was made available. And as always they make it look effortless. These events showcase iXsystem's inherent generosity toward its community; with breakfast items in the back of the main auditorium room in the morning, boxed lunches, fruit and cookies at lunch time, and snacks for the rest of the day. But just in case your still hungry, there is a pizza meetup in another Intel room after day one and two.

MeetBSD leverages it's realistically small crowd size on day one. The morning starts off with introductions of the entire group, the mic is passed around the room.

The group is a good mix of pros in the industry (such as Juniper, Intel, Ebay, Groupon, Cisco, etc), iX staff, and a few enthusiast. Lots of people with a focus or passion for networking. And, of course, some friendly Linux bashing went down for good measure, always followed by a good natured chuckle.

The Kick Off

Allan gets Ready

At 10am Kris Moore takes the stage to layout how TrueOS can be used to bootstrap a FreeBSD based "distribution". There was some encouragement from Kris to his fellow developers to modernize some of their workflow. And underneath this all there is currently a debate underway about switching FreeBSD development to Git. Modernizing the tools and process that various members of the BSD community use feels like a growing area of focus.


Second talk of the day was "Intel & FreeBSD: Better Together" by Ben Widawsky from Intel's open source area. He has a long history of development in the multimedia area, including extensive driver work on Linux. He's now focusing on "technology enabling" for FreeBSD. This being the second talk of the event seemed purposeful. Ben had something he wanted to get across.

He put a lot of effort into his presentation. He wanted to clearly communicate that Intel is a contributor to open source, and intends to do better. He also went out of his way to cover his area of expertise, actively soliciting input and help from the audience at hand.

There was a lot of top level attention on this event from Intel. The long-ish negotiation process the organizers went through to get Intel to ratchet down security is a bit of context for this talk too. But also noteworthy was that Widawsky's talk was closely scrutinized by Intel legal, with what seem to be special emphasis taken on their statement on their "Security First Pledge".

After Lunch Glow


Andrew Fengler gave a detailed talk about what to monitor, and what NOT to monitor under FreeBSD. He used data from his production systems to show us the signs of a failing disk.

Before the group could get into another ZFS discussion (this time the official one on the schedule) the attention turned to the Bloomberg story about SuperMicro (and others but SuperMicro is an important player in the BSD world) systems being bugged by Chinese intelligence. The discussion focused around Apple and their servers. A strong note of skepticism was in the room, but many were open to the idea some of the story might have been possible. The discussion got the mic going around the room again, and was eventually punted to a impromptu dedicated talk.


One of the first slips in the schedule, the ZFS panel discussion started a few minutes late on the first day. The panel of distinguished ZFS experts assembled casually on the stage, and start immediately taking questions from the audience.

Questions ranged from solving specific issues for sysadmins, to what the future of ZFS on Windows means for FreeBSD.

The Second Day Hangover


Day two started with the crowd a bit smaller. The late night geeky conversations wore the herd a bit thin, with a few of them trickling in during Michael Lucas's "Why BSD?" talk.

His talk reminded me a lot of my early days in IT, working in an environment where the new hot Linux distro of the month would get deployed into production... Because how else could you really test something? It was a hit the ground running kind of way of learning operating systems, and I enjoyed hearing his similar journey. The irony is that experience led me to use Linux even more. But his experience drive him to BSD.

While Lucas' talk was great, the star talk of the event was one that did not even make it on the set schedule. So the majority of the attendees did not even know it would be coming. It was one of those down to the wire booking situations. Jury duty eventually strikes all of us, and it gives no consideration to BSD events of any kind. No matter how historically important the guest might be.

But the legal system stars aligned, and MeetBSD's special guest was able to attend on the second day, easily filling the space booked for a batch of 5-minute lighting talks.


Before our special guest could take the stage, the iXsystems staff planned surprise thank you for Denise Ebery the planner (of this event and many others) and feeder of the herd. She worked hard to secure everything from each individual speaker to each and every bite of food provided, and the room was feeling the appreciation. It was really a genuinely sweet moment, and the groups tightness was palatable. I can easily say I've never been tempted to tear up at an event like this before, but this one got to me. There is a true affections and history that many of the attendees have for each other and the recognition of hard work well done resonated. This alone made the second day special for me, but I think the day's special guest was the highlight for most.

This type of community is by nature virtual 90% of the time, and when communities like this finally get together in person the appreciation for each other and excitement to collaborate is noticeable.


Kirk McKusick who is a computer scientist, known for his extensive work on BSD UNIX, from the 1980s to FreeBSD in the present day.

If the BSD's really are the royal heritage of Unix (as they put it) then Dr. Kirk McKusick is one of their cherished Sovereigns. He gave his first-hand history of the very early stages of the FreeBSD project - a talk he has clearly given before, and one many in the audience has heard many times before. But as I looked around the room Dr. McKusick managed to hold the groups attention and solicit a few hardy laughs at the appropriate moments.

The rest of the day was filled with talks meant to help out the working sysadmin and developers out there. Topics ranges from using DTrace in production, wrangling virtual machines, and even why one curmudgeon refuses to use those new fancy languages like Go and Rust.


MeetBSD Gives me The Feels

I find that I am subtly unnerved at this venue, and at lunch I saw it clearly. I have always had a strong geek radar, allowing me to navigate a new area (like Berkeley for MeetBSD of 2016, or even SCALE earlier this year in Pasadena), and in a glance I can see who is from my conference and who isn't. This means it is easy, nearly effortless to know who to greet with a smile and a wave. These are MY people. Here at the Intel campus though it is different. The drive in alone reveals behemoth complexes all with well known tech names prominently displayed. This is Silicon Valley, and all of these people look like MY people. So much for knowing who's from my conference. Thank goodness for those infamous BSD horns. None-the-less I am struck by how massive these tech giants are. And Intel is one of the largest of those giants, and see the physical reminders of this fact brought home the significance that they had opened their doors, wifi, and bathrooms to the BSD community.