All posts by Austin

Smart Home: Mindset and Products

Smart Home.

The new buzz words 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.

Continue reading Smart Home: Mindset and Products

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!

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

Continue reading A Look into Prepper Life: EDC

Overly complicated ideas: IRC command of servers!

A little background: I get these ideas once in a while that eventually come to fruition after a couple months of brainstorming and tinkering. I’ve had the idea for a while of having a central way to maintain my fleet of Linux servers I host along with Windows if possible. In the past, I used ssh keys to login and run updates. It worked pretty well but I’d like a way to remotely run and/or monitor these. Enter IRC…

Continue reading Overly complicated ideas: IRC command of servers!