Just over a year ago, I purchased a refurbished Lenovo Thinkpad X230 off eBay. I've been using it everyday as a daily driver. It has its pros and cons which I'll go through, but so far, it has been the best laptop I have owned.

Here are the specs. Make/model: Lenovo ThinkPad X230 CPU: i5 3320M 2.6GHz RAM: 8GB DDR3 Storage: 128GB SSD Cost: AUD $256.91

I have since upgraded it to 16GB DDR3 RAM and the other modification I have made is flashed the BIOS with Skulls. I wrote up an article on the Ministry of Nodes website for more detail on this modification and installing QubesOS. In the end, I opted out of running QubesOS – it was just too much for my needs and only had 8GB of RAM at the time.

In terms of operating system, I landed on Pop!_OS. It has the “it just works” factor to it. It runs incredibly well for all my needs.

In terms of pros, this has been the cheapest laptop I have ever bought. I'm expecting this laptop to last for a long time. Thinkpad's have a reputation of being built to last. So far, it's lived up to that, keeping in mind it's a refurbished computer. I like the screen size. Upgrades can be made with minimal fuss. Battery life is good for when I'm on the go as well. For all of my browsing and bitcoin needs, this laptop has been excellent.

In terms of cons, there's a few. My biggest gripe is the trackpad. It's just completely rubbish, but I am comparing it against a Macbook Pro. It has an old school VGA port, no HDMI port. The webcam isn't great either. The laptop itself is quite bulky and thick.

I would like get a new laptop as some stage, but a couple things hold me back. 1. I'd want to figure out how to flash coreboot/libreboot on to whichever laptop I decide on. This will take a bit of time and effort. 2. I see nothing wrong with my existing laptop. Everything works perfectly, I can't justify getting a new one. Other than some additional comforts, there really is no need to fork out money on another laptop.

Some features I'd like in my next laptop would be a better trackpad, slimmer design, higher screen resolution and USB-C charging.

But for now, I will continue to use this one.

I have come across a few articles in the mainstream media reporting on how young families are priced out of the property market in Sydney despite having saved vast amounts of money for a deposit.

Examples of such articles here and here.

By no means am I qualified to provide advice, but I am a chartered accountant (for whatever that's worth). Here's the only option I think you have if you're struggling as presented in the articles above.

Forget home ownership for now. Don't bother playing these games. It's a waste of your time and energy.

Rent. Rent a place in an area that is well within your budget but also has decent amenities.

Live frugally. Go through your expenses line by line and cut where necessary. Be ruthless with this.

Maximise income as much as possible. This can be in the form of finding a better paying job, negotiating higher wages or building a side hustle online.

This all sounds very normal and vanilla. It may even come across as insulting your intelligence.

But here's the secret sauce.

With all that money you have saved, buy bitcoin with it. Do it, no matter what the price is, every pay cycle for 8 years. Non stop. Without fail.

If Bitcoin succeeds, happy days. If Bitcoin fails, it won't matter, because you were fucked either way.

This is your only hope.

It seems as though it's a good idea to start moving away from centralised services.

The biggest and boldest idea is to stop using central bank issued money such as US dollars or Australian dollars. Opt out and use Bitcoin instead. Start converting any left over money you have into bitcoin. Better yet, start earning it. Ask to be paid in bitcoin for the work you do. Offer a discount to anyone willing to pay you in bitcoin.

Since coming on to the Bitcoin standard, I don't particularly have a stock or real estate portfolio. I don't need one. I own money that is finite in supply. That does and continues to do all the talking for me.

Benefits: 1. No need to pick stock or hire a professional gambler to do it for me 2. No need to have stocks held in custody with a trusted third party 3. No need for a deposit to put down on properties 4. No need to pay someone to look after my properties 5. No need to deal with tenants 6. No need to pay ongoing property taxes and maintenance costs 7. No need to care about decisions made by central banks, financial institutions and banks.

Just to be clear, holding bitcoin defends you from parasites entering into your affairs.

I've spent a bit of time trying to move away from Google. Here are some tips you may wish to consider.

  1. Set up your gmail account to auto forward your emails to another service provider such as ProtonMail or Tutanota. Start changing all your accounts to use your new address. You might find you have subscriptions and accounts in places that you never thought of. Consider keeping the autoforwards going for a year or more before completely deleting your gmail account.
  2. If you want to give out fake e-mail addresses, consider simplelogin.io. It is a great way to mask your real e-mail address. Alternatively, there's guerrillamail and getnada for throwaway one time use.
  3. Check out this enormous repository for Google alternatives.

pfSense is a router software built on the FreeBSD operating system. It allows advanced functionality with your home or business network. Out of the box, pfSense is configured to protect your network by default.

If there's one video that I wish was available when I was first getting started using pfSense, it would be this one by Tom Lawrence. It is lengthy, but is well worth your time. His entire channel is an excellent resource.

Why pfSense?

Here's what I've been able to do on my home network with pfSense. These are not all the features, but they're the ones I have tried.

  1. Connect to a VPN client such as Mullvad, ProtonVPN or IVPN. All devices on the network are tunneled over the VPN. Pick and choose which devices get tunneled and which don't.
  2. Host a VPN server to retrieve data from home network and access information from anywhere in the world.
  3. Install a package called pfblockerNG to remove ads at the router level, protecting all devices on the network.
  4. Set up guest networks and sub-networks for specific use cases. Segregate devices to different networks so certain devices can't access other devices on different networks.
  5. Inspect data usage of particular devices.
  6. Monitor traffic download/upload speeds and throttle if necessary
  7. Use the router as a reverse proxy with HAProxy package, create ACME certificates for hosting websites.
  8. Set up a fail-over, whereby if the primary internet connection goes down, the secondary connection will automatically kick in.

pfSense has plenty more features to explore and experiment with.

Hardware Requirements

To use pfSense, it is ideal to run this on a spare computer (not a virtual machine). It needs at least 2 network ports. Make sure they are Intel network cards (as opposed to RealTek). You can use an old desktop computer.

It's up to you what hardware you want to run pfSense on. Here's some ideas: QotomPC – China based MiniPC. Can be found on Aliexpress. Protectli – US based MiniPC. PC Engines – EU based MiniPC. pfSense – buy the cheapest unit from Netgate, the developers of pfSense, directly. Take a look at their forums for more Hardware ideas. Any spare PC with a 2 or 4 port NIC. Look up Intel i340 or i350 on eBay or gumtree and put it into your computer.

One network port will be the Wide Area Network (WAN). The other port will be for the Local Area Network (LAN).

The WAN will connect to your modem and is generally assigned an IP address by your Internet Service Provider (ISP).

I would suggest utilising your existing consumer grade wifi router and putting it into Access Point mode. Plug one end of the ethernet cable into the LAN port of your pfSense router and the other end in to the WAN port of your existing wifi router. This will allow you to access wifi and plug into the remaining 4 ports of your consumer grade router.

Software requirements

If you've bought hardware with a preinstalled software, you should be good to go from the moment it arrives. But if you're using your own device, you'll need to install pfSense. The download page can be a little confusing. What you're likely after is > AMD64 (64-bit) > USB Memstick installer > VGA

Download this file, flash it on to a USB drive using Etcher and boot from it on the device you want to install pfSense on.

The setup wizard is fairly intuitive. Follow Tom's video from here.


Lawrence Systems YouTube channel pfSense forums

Here are some apps that you may find useful.

Aegis Authenticator – used for 2 factor authentication AntennaPod – download your favourite podcasts Aurora Store – when you need an app from google play store Bitwarden – password manager Blue Wallet – bitcoin & lightning wallet Simple Calendar – good calendar widget DAVx5 – sync contacts and calendar with your nextcloud instance Forecastie – weather app Gboard – ability to swipe and type on keyboard (not open source, but the only good way to swipe and type. you can kill access to data transfer on the app so no information is sent. The open source equivalent is AnySoftKeyBoard but it's not great.) Keybase – secure chat OpenStreetMaps – GPS navigation Mullvad – VPN client ProtonMail – email client Samourai Wallet – privacy focused bitcoin wallet Signal – secure chat Telegram – group discussions Tusky – mastodon client WebApps – view facebook, twitter, tiktok and instagram via web

Welcome to my personal site. Feel free to browse around. The site consists of my thoughts and musings on random topics.