Simbly Me

Day 21

As the summer rages on, we have had unexpected visitors at home. Flies. The god damn flies that get into the house the minute I open the back door to let the boys into the yard. I don't have a mesh between the door and the outside to keep the door open and the myriad insects out but I do take extra care not to leave the door open. The flies don't care. They are faster and smarter. My research on fly paper brought me to this TrapStik [Amazon Product Link]. Took a week for this to arrive. I have already seen my neighbor use this same product in their patio and it is effective. The glue is really sticky and I learned this the hard way after my carelessness got some papers and a sippy cup stick to it 🤦‍♂️️. Few cusses later and a generous application of oil on the sippy cup, I still have some glue residue on it. Like I said. Sticky. For now, this contraption hangs above the patio and my watchful eyes are on it. Eager to see some dead insects.

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Day 20

I have been on a self-hosting adventure lately. I was successful in setting up Pi-hole, Gitea, Linkding and Komga to some extent on my Pi 3B but kept running into issues and app breakdowns resulting in reinstalling everything thrice in two weeks time. To cut a long story short, the original no name micro SD card died and I bought a new one from Sandisk.

After having read reports of how fake Sandisk SD cards were common, I thought of testing the card before writing anything to it. Mounted the card and checked the capacity. 30 Gig reported.

df -h /media/sajesh/3430-3462/

The next test was to ascertain the reported capacity by writing 30 Gig of data onto the card and reading the same. Installed the tool F3 to help me do that.

f3write /media/sajesh/3430-3462/

F3 filled the card without any fail with a set of 30 files. It took some time as the writing speed was just 14.31 MB/s. A higher capacity card or disk will take much longer time. Next step was to read all the files to verify whether the write was successful.

f3read /media/sajesh/3430-3462/

So far so good. So the card can write 30 Gig and read 30 Gig. It's an original card after all.

Although F3 shows the average read and write times, every helpful website kept saying dd is a more accurate way of calculating SD card speed. I did run it but see the result for yourself.

Anyway, I just have to use this card to enable USB boot in the Pi so that I can boot from an m.2 SATA SSD. More on this later.

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Day 19

After a week of reading up on VPNs and why I don't need one, I decided to set up Algo. I know right? Not a good time to go out and sit in coffee shops. Least of all to connect to a public WiFi. Being home most of the time and having unfettered access to content that I barely consume doesn't give any reason to go looking for a VPN but curiosity proved irresistible .

So last night before going to bed, I fired up the laptop, followed the instructions for Algo and... woke up an hour later with the laptop on standby. Did not bother to check how the set up went at night and shifted my arse from the couch to the bed and when I tried today morning, it wasn't connecting to anything. Felt quite dumb for a while for messing up simple instructions. You see, in my stupor last night, I spun up a droplet and ran the set up on the first droplet resulting in a second Algo droplet. Genius 🤦‍♂️️. The first instruction literally asked to run the setup locally. Of course, the realization came quite late. So this afternoon after scrapping up everything and doing the setup all over again, it thankfully worked. I have tried Mullvad and Nord VPN in the past but they were always sluggish. Pretty happy with how snappy Algo is.

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Day 18

Going in to this challenge of 100 days to offload, I knew I cannot keep up with a post everyday and it felt good to take a day or two off. I am glad the rules of the challenge has changed a bit that takes the pressure off from most of us. One should feel the want to write rather than being compelled to. On that note, I wanted to share a little nugget about my boys.

The other day I was making omelette late in the evening. The boys love the eggs and were constantly on my tail in the kitchen. I turn left. They turn left. I turn right. They turn right. I move towards the trashcan to throw the eggshells and they follow. And so on. Now, I do make them their plain omelettes once in a while but today they were well fed and had a chance to play a lot in the yard. By all means, they should be tired as fuck and sleeping but here they were following me around to get a piece of that omelette. I sat down on my couch with the plate and the younger one promptly climbs up, nestles himself against the couch and my shoulder, lets out this tiny little bark as if asking me for a bite and slightly pushes on my shoulder with his tiny little feet 🤣️. It's amazing how expressive these guys can be when they want to. Oh the older one is not as vocal or expressive as the younger one but he was saying a lot with his big pleading eyes. So I relented and made them their plain omelette. Only then did they decide to call it a day and sleep 😄️.

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Day 17

This Reddit post hits the nail on the head when it comes to privacy and the effort it takes to secure my privacy. I am in the same boat. Trying to reduce what the big corp want from me with multiple browser add-ons. Making a conscious choice of sticking with iPhone because the alternative is a nightmare. Doing all my work on Linux and keeping the Windows partition for that one rare occasion. Thinking for weeks on whether I should pay for this service because it adds up to a significant amount. The obvious answer is to self-host but I don't want to spend time managing stuff that involves too much effort like email for instance. I know it's trivial for most of the folks reading this but I would rather have Migadu handle it and allow myself to enjoy the convenience. There are certain things I can self-host though...when I am done debating what hardware I should settle on. Sigh.

In other news, I finally got rid of Instagram. I will miss the convenience of posting from an app but posting to Pixelfed via browser is not too bad either.

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Day 16

I had been a Zoho mail user since 2014. The free tier. Their free tier is convenient enough to use it for personal use. Although it doesn't provide IMAP access and forced me to use their mediocre app on Linux, I was fine as long as it was free. Plus, it was convenient enough to use my domain name with their free tier. One incident forced me to evaluate whether to keep on using Zoho's services.

Back in January, twitter erupted with a hashtag BoycottZoho and I woke up to the news about how the founder of Zoho, Sridhar Vembu was invited to an RSS event and to his subsequent response.

The event in question was being conducted by RSS, a violent outfit of the current ruling party BJP in India. BJP is known for its bigotry against muslims and RSS is deeply involved in state sponsored riots and systematic attacks against muslims and other minorities. As such, Sridhar Vembu's response is nothing but a thinly veiled support to a fascist organization.

I started looking out for alternatives and was initially looking into Tutanota and Protonmail but Migadu won me over quickly.

Migadu is refreshingly simple compared to other popular providers out there. And they are quite honest about their benefits and drawbacks. If you are heavily dependent on email, the daily limits might be a deterrent but for my personal use they are more than enough. Have a look at the “limits” I have on my account.

I am on their Mini plan ($48 a year). Even the free plan is decent enough if you are not sending out more than 10 emails a day and if you can live with “sent via migadu.com” in every email. Their free plan supports IMAP and there's no per user pricing!

The only issue I have with them is the calendar support which they said is weeks away from release but there has been no news about it till now after we exchanged emails back in January 2020. They do have regular updates to their infrastructure though and I am quite happy using Migadu for my emails.

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Day 15

Feeling a little better to open up the laptop and read stuff that happened this week. The blog posts that kept on coming. News items and articles kept popping all week and I kept starring them to catch up with them. Read some. Marked most as Read.

I woke up with weird dreams yesterday. There was a dream wherein I died because of COVID-19. I have been sick on and off and I can't go to test for COVID-19 because the symptoms are not that severe and the best advice every doctor is gonna give is to self-quarantine. Another dream was related to my former workplace. I had to (involuntarily) quit late in March because of work permit issue (thanks Coronavirus). We had our second PI planning back in January and if I were still with them and Coronavirus wasn't anywhere on the horizon, I would have attended the third one in April. That wasn't meant to be though. Anyway, the dream. I dreamed that I was attending the third PI planning and I am waiting for someone in the hotel lobby but they never arrive 🙄️. The wait went on forever and then I woke up.

Called my folks back in India in the morning. They were happy to hear their grandchild laugh and babble. They have seen her only in photos and we would have made the trip to India later this year with her but its risky now considering the pandemic.

I found these Rabbits on my timeline today. I am so taken in by their philosophy on building software and amazed at how they live their life on a sailboat. And they have detailed posts about Japan! Currently playing around with their text editor Left. So many great design ideas in their apps and games.

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Day 14

As I try to write on my blog each day, penning down my thoughts comes with two challenges.

  1. Am I writing this for myself?
  2. Is my writing good enough?

I suppose I am writing for myself. At least I think I am. Occasionally there might be some posts that is aimed at the reader. Writing consistently for an audience is too much a pressure. When I had my blogger account, I wrote a short story that snowballed into something else because I had an audience. One could tell the difference between the first post (which was for myself) and the subsequent ones (demand and supply!). Certainly do not want this experience to turn out like that.

Is it good enough? I don't know what the metric is here. A grammatically correct sentence is a start. A cohesive paragraph is next. A post that I can enjoy and not cringe months or years later is the objective. Be it personal or something written for the reader. For starters, I am looking into the Open Source proof-reading tool LanguageTool to improve my writing. The goal is to set up a local server to parse my post within the terminal before posting. Baby steps.

PS: I didn't realize this whole time that my posts had date on top because the post titles were at H3. I have no idea why. Went back to each and every post and corrected it and fixed the style as well.

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Day 13

As recently as January I used to have over 36 games on my iPhone. After the great culling in February, its down to 4 and there's only one game I even open in some 10 minutes I am on the throne. Crash of Cars.

Crash of Cars home screen

Gameplay

Crown Mode

There are many maps and at one time we can choose any 6 of those for multiplayer game. The maps keep rotating every 4 hours and there are different network regions based on different regions – Europe, Asia, Australia, South America, South Korea, China, USA East, Japan, USA West, Canada East and India. We can choose any region and the connection strength varies depending on which part of the globe we are in.

The Crown Mode lets us amass crowns and shoot any other cars in the map. Every other car in the map is an enemy. We fight for the crowns and avoid being killed. There are plenty of cars to choose from. Some cars have their own special powers which gets activated in the game when collecting mystery boxes. These mystery boxes also hold regular weapons which activate only for a short period of time. Some of the maps have hidden areas upon entering which it gives us hidden cars. There are only few cars which are worth using it in the game if we want to avoid dying early. I prefer the one called Shadow (in the picture above). Its not the fastest but it's faster than most cars and can disable shields on other cars. Super handy in the fights. The speed and shield piercing comes at a cost. Any hit from other cars makes it lose control and become unresponsive for a brief second during which we are most vulnerable.

Skirmish Mode

No defensive weapons in this mode. Some cars have defensive capabilities like dropping health, mines, oil or deploying shield which are not allowed in this mode and killing an opponent gets us extra crowns.

Private Match

We can create a private room for our friends to play if we don't want to play with strangers. The private matches are the only place where we can play TDMs and Crash Ball along with regular Crown Mode. I usually play by myself with online players so haven't been able to play this mode yet.

Progress in game

When we amass 100 crowns, we can exchange those for a prize in the Prize Machine. It might be a new car or an upgrade to the car which gives us Prestige that will unlock new weaponry to use in the game. As we upgrade cars, we get gems which can be used in the Rare, Epic and Legendary Machines next to the Prize Machine for cars or upgrades like body color or weapons. There are daily missions to earn extra crowns and a lab where we can mix different cars to produce a mix which has all the properties of those mixed cars. The advantage of gaining a new car has the disadvantage of losing all the cars that went in the mix which we have to earn it back from the slot machines (Prize, Rare, Epic and Legendary). We can choose to buy gems with real money to advance in the game but earning crowns is not so hard. This free game does come with annoying ads but that can be removed by any single purchase of gems. The lowest pack of 20 gems sells for $1.99.

I was planning to upload one of my game session on Peertube but was not able to transfer the video from iPhone to the laptop 🤦‍♂️️. I will update this post once the video is up.

Please enjoy couple of screenshots from the game here.

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Day 12

Apostrophe, the prince of markdown editors

I found Apostrophe from the homepage of the AppCenter on Elementary OS. The markdown editor of my choice to compose my blog posts in. Mainly because the compose window in Write.as is designed to publish immediately. I am not that impulsive and the way to manage drafts is not very intuitive here. You can maintain only one draft. And then there's the preview. I like to have the live preview to make sure I am not making any syntax errors. Besides, writing locally on the desktop gives me the flexibility to post via the command line.

Visual Appeal

Apostrophe is designed for Elementary OS. The app follows the design language laid out by the folks at Elementary OS making it feel like a part of the OS. There's a neat trick Apostrophe pulls when you start writing – The title bar disappears leaving you with just your words. Go fullscreen by pressing F11 and now you have a no distraction mode. Neat. You can turn off title bar behavior in preferences if you wish so. Advanced writers who prefer Hemingway Mode / Focus mode can also set them via app settings (the gear icon on the top right). Apostrophe looks great even in the dark mode. Apostrophe in Dark Mode

Markdown Language Format

I am a newbie when it comes to markdown and make do with the Plain Markdown for my purposes. Advanced users have the option to set the Markdown input to:

  • Pandoc's Markdown
  • CommonMark
  • Github Flavor
  • MultiMarkdown
  • Plain Markdown

There are plenty of Markdown editors (Atom, VSCode) that can do fancy stuff like Flowcharts, Sequence Diagrams, UML etc with the help of plugins. Apostrophe doesn't do that nor it has any plugins that will enable such a feature.

Issues

The developers fixed two major issues with the last update. One with the external image preview and the other with the opening of md files via file manager. However, they forgot to update the version number in the UI which points to 2.2.0.2 instead of 2.2.0.3. I wanted to report this minor issue but loathed to create any account in GitLab. Anyone who has a GitLab account is welcome to create this issue. Version number in UI

Alternatives

Plenty of tools available to even possible for me to list everything here. Do your own research for your choice of OS to find one. A popular markdown editor on Elementary OS that gets featured in every article is Quilter. It certainly is packed with more bells and whistles but I couldn't warm up to it. Found this online editor dillinger.io which taught me how to add links at the bottom of the article you are writing to keep the content clean but unfortunaltely isn't supported by Write.as. Thanks to this post by Justin Vollmer.

I took couple of other screenshots and added them in an album but Write.as doesn't have any means to embed an album currently so I will leave the apostrophe album link here if you are interested in checking out how Apostrophe looks.

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