My version of Ramen (Ginger Ramen?)

Once in a while (*ahem* a lot) I end up with a cold of some sorts due to my amazing sinuses. It’s just something I’ve come to deal with over time. Due to this, I’ve concocted a number of food items or drinks that help me clear out a bit and feel better. One of these is my version of Ramen as a stew almost.

I get it, Ramen isn’t good for you. But the warm broth and soup helps my throat immensely and helps loosen my sinuses a little for some pleasant relief and some amazing flavor.

Continue reading My version of Ramen (Ginger Ramen?)

Smart Home: Mindset and Products

Smart Home.

The new buzz word of 2017, and now 2018. You’ve all seen it. Products lining ads in webpages and flyers for Black Friday of last year touting “Google home!” and “Amazon Echo/Alexa!”.

I personally have tried a number of these basic items and have fallen in love with the simplicity of a smart home. Just don’t think about it too much or you might get a little weirded out…or a lot.

I started my smart home endeavor with just an Amazon Echo (first gen, refurb) for what at the time was a stellar deal on Woot!. This was amazing, mostly for the usefulness of having a music system, alarm, news, and reminder assistant all in one. Set up an alarm at 0700 to wake up, tell me the news, what’s tomorrow’s weather? It’s all handy to use. Fast forward to Amazon’s black friday and christmas sales this year, and now I have a number of Dots to complete the control factor. The audio isn’t nearly as good, but the price point (30 a pop at the time) makes a smart home very easy to afford for anyone.

So what’s a smart home without a little…well, smarts? I ended up adding various lightbulbs around the house using the TP Link Warm White Wifi bulbs. These mimic the light of incandescent bulbs and are very easy on the eyes. With this, you can also do voice control of levels of brightness and on/off. Kicking it up a little, I picked up a couple RGB bulbs with light stands and now can control my living room’s color with just voice commands.

Further down the smart home path, I added several wifi sockets to control various lights and LED strips I have around my home. Biggest perk here: Adding a group in the Alexa to turn off everything when I go to bed. I frequently forget lights constantly and now I can just control it all.

But, there is one functionality I enjoy the most for all of these: The scheduling.

Various rooms are set up to come on at certain times. Example: I wake up in the morning, my room is dimly light to get me moving, living room is on and so is kitchen. My lights then shut off on their own after I leave, and come on right before I come home from work. This both helps me not forget to turn off lights (saves power!) and if I’m not home, there’s a nice glow from the house to ward off unnecessary guests.

Now if only I could get my friends/family to stop changing the lights with voice whenever they come over…

Thoughts? Does anyone else use smart home gear or get weirded out by the invisible assistant running your life? Let me know in comments!

Steam Link: First impressions

Steam had a sale on their Steam Link device over Christmas and the following week. I picked one up for dirt cheap and figured even if it wasn’t that great, it wouldn’t be more than a few bucks lost.

I got the unit in the mail last night and was impressed immediately with the packaging: It all looks like a nice retail box and set up, not just some brown box that’s bland.

The install/set up is incredibly simple. I plugged into the unit into power and into another HDMI on my TV. Plugged in a mouse into one of the 3 USB ports on the Steam Link, and went through a simple set up which prompted for an update and restart. All total, this might have taken 20 minutes.

Once this is done, you go through some prompts on your computer used for streaming to this which involved confirming a PIN code quick and setting up a new Audio driver (Steam Link can play audio over the TV from the computer!) for streaming to itself. I will say, getting the full sound bar usage off my desktop PC system has been wonderful.

Now, I ran into a couple snags with some games but this was a a mod issue with Fallout 4: Fallout 4 Script Extender (F4SE) uses a custom launcher which isn’t supported properly by Steam. To fix this, you go into Steam and “Add a non steam game”. Browse and find the F4SE launcher/binary, add it to your library and you can now launch it from the Steam Link properly!

Overall, I love it and how simple it is. I’m using a wired Xbox 360 controller and it works great, even over WiFi (AC, 5GHz) and there’s very little lag or latency. Definitely recommend checking it out!

Crockpot Mac and Cheese recipe

This is amazing and comes out wonderfully for any parties/events I go to and the mac and cheese comes out amazing. Everyone asks for the recipe after!

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups (1 lb) uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stuck) butter, cut into pieces
  • 3 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups grated Pepper Jack
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • (2) 10 3/4-ounce cans condensed Cheddar cheese soup
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Boil macaroni until al dente (will fully cook in crockpot). Drain.

In sauce pan, mix shredded cheese and cut up butter stick and cook on low heat until melted and creamy.

In the crockpot, mix everything together then put macaroni and cheese sauce in. Stir.

Set cooker on lowest setting for 3 hours, stirring occasionally.

Email servers? Let’s do it.

Background: Anyone who gets anywhere near INFOSEC information tends to get a little paranoid….or a lot of paranoid. This is just a side effect of knowing what you can do to own people’s information and learn about them. Email can be a weakness in this.

I encourage everyone to think about worst case scenarios related to this. What happens if your primary email account is compromised? What happens if you use it for everything? Well, then someone now can reset any account you have without Two-Factor authentication and even some with it.

Fast forward, and now we have an issue: Do you set up a throw away email for every account you have? Do you use something like ProtonMail that boasts double encryption? What if you set up your own system? Hm…..

In walks iRedMail. Opensource, beautifully simple and it just works. I don’t send many emails (maybe a couple a month at tops) and mostly use it for either news/updates, or for account information. This is good, because setting up your own email solution can get blacklisted quickly and not be able to send emails out. This is fine for me, so using a new set up works like a charm and runs off an encrypted system internally. Add to this that the website isn’t accessible via web, and we have a more solid and secure system. It’s nice getting my feet wet in these projects should other opportunities arise for freelance work as well.

Sometimes peace of mind is worth the extra effort.

Streaming, streaming

Due to a late birthday gift, I ended up with an updated graphics card in my main desktop gaming rig; I can finally stream while playing games without massive FPS loss. Check me out!

Chaotic Legacy 88

Specs on current setup:

  • Stealth Mid size tower
  • 500W Corsair Modular PSU
  • AMD 8 core bulldozer (3.8GHz, stock)
  • Hyper 212+ Cooler
  • 16GB Corsair RAM
  • 240GB Kingston SSD
  • Corsair K70 Red with Blue switches
  • R.A.T. TE Mouse
  • EVGA 1050 ti 4GB

Hope to see you guys in when live!

Migrations, migrations…and SSL

I’ve wanted to use SSL for a while now on my sites to better encrypt traffic and logins on the site. Unfortunately doing this nuked my previous server and had to be restored from backups. As such…

Welcome to a new webserver!

I went through and migrated all hosts from this system to utilize SSL as default using a permanent redirect. The whole process was a bit intense at first but was extremely rewarding. Thankfully, Let’s Encrypt makes this a very simple process:

https://letsencrypt.org/

Add to this a WordPress plugin to allow everything to migrate from host to host, and some fancy internal DNS resolving and everything is now moved over and encrypted. It’s a good feeling seeing the “Secure” posted next to the URL now. Cheers!

A Look into Prepper Life: EDC

Prepping has been something I’ve looked into for a few years now and tried to keep a proper mindset to plan for life’s chaos. With that comes stocking up on a couple weeks of food at any one time, keeping extra water on hand and one important item: an Every-Day Carry (EDC) bag.

I like being prepared for day to day situations and issues. With this, I wanted a few things:

  • Easy/comfortable bag that’s light enough to walk with or use on my motorcycle
  • Big enough to carry a few tools and tech devices for home/work/travel
  • Be able to literally walk out the door at anytime for even an overnight and be ready

First, the bag:

This bag is small enough to be easily carried but can still pack a bunch of gear and even some “Get home” essentials (water filter, emergency radio, etc). I went with Grey to keep it blending in a little better but may even get a black one to allow better blending in a group; Think grey-man concept. This is comfortable on my motorcycle even for a couple hours due to the extra cross strap that keeps it stable as well.

The fun stuff: The gadgets and gear

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