k3tan.com

A personal blog

Newsboat, Nextcloud News, Nitter

I've recently started exploring Newsboat an RSS feed reader within terminal.

RSS feeds are an excellent tool to get updated with the latest headlines and information. You can customise your feed to what you want to see and it's presented to you in text format within your terminal.

But, if you want to sync your feeds across multiple devices, you'll need to store it in a cloud. Enter Nextcloud News, an app for your Nextcloud instance.

I have 3 devices I want to access the feeds from – my phone, my laptop and my desktop. You can subscribe to your feeds with Nextcloud News (server), and each device (client) can access the feeds synchronising with the server as to what has been read.

To access the feeds on my laptop and desktop, I'm using newsboat as the client. For my phone, I'm using Nextcloud News Android app, available on F-Droid.

Clients have been configured to call out to my Nextcloud and fetch the content of the feeds. Any time I've marked it as read on one client, this will be sent to the server so I won't see it again on my other clients.

A cool feature of newsboat is that you can set YouTube content to open in mpv with youtube-dl. If there's an article you're interested in, you can also open the link in your browser. There's an ability to customise font colours and how the terminal looks when you enter newsboat. It's very neat.

There's also the ability to view tags in newsboat, which categorises your content. For example, my content is split into: – News – Podcasts – Reddit – Shopping – Twitter – YouTube – Odysee

There are some accounts you might want to follow on Twitter, but unfortunately, Twitter does not have RSS feeds. Enter Nitter, an alternative front-end to Twitter. You can either self-host a Nitter instance, or you can use one of the various instances online hosted by others. One of the features, among others, is that it has RSS feeds for so you can import this into your RSS feed reader (in my case, Nextcloud News) and follow your favourite twitter accounts via RSS feed.

If you're on a debian/ubuntu based linux distro, installing with sudo apt install newsboat will install it for you. There's two files to edit, both contained within the ~/.newsboat directory. There's ~/.newsboat/urls and ~/.newsboat/config. If you intend to use a server/client model with your nextcloud, the urls file becomes irrelevant. Be sure to read through the newsboat documentation for a full explanation of all the functionality.

Video tutorial I found useful is here.

I've often wondered how I would start my digital identity again. This wouldn't be applicable to me but rather for anyone just starting out down the path. Knowing what I know now, I'd definitely do things a little differently.

If I was to start over again, here's what I would do. I think I could do it rather cheaply as well.

Earning money

Firstly, I would need some cash. Good old fashioned government issued paper notes. I'd do whatever it took to earn cash. That could be from completing chores, baby sitting, washing cars, mowing lawns/gardening, catering, walking/washing dogs, selling goods at the local market, tutoring, whatever. I'd look to save up $1,000AUD in cash but I wouldn't stop there. I'd also keep cash rolling in as best I could.

Acquiring devices

I would go to a public library and use a free computer to create an email address. I would not sign up for a gmail account, but instead opt for a free Protonmail account. I would not tie the email address to my identity. Something generic – a pseudonym. The password I pick would be 3 or 4 words put together. I'd try to memorise it and also write it down on a piece of paper for now. We'll look into password managers later.

Next, I'd search for a Google Pixel 3a and a Lenovo Thinkpad laptop on Gumtree. I would look to budget $250-$300 for the phone and $450-500 on the laptop. I'd make sure the devices are in working order and with decent specs. I'd arrange a suitable time and public location to make the trade with the sellers, paying with cash for the items.

Once I have the devices, it's time to start working on them.

The laptop

In all likelihood, the laptop will come with Windows. We're going to remove that. I'd go to the nearest shopping mall and purchase an 8GB USB drive. Shopping malls will usually also have free WiFi, so head over to the food court, open your laptop and download Pop!OS and Balena Etcher. Flash the USB with Pop!OS using Etcher. Install Pop!OS on to the laptop, overwriting the Windows installation.

The phone

Once you've completed the installation of Pop!OS on your computer, get back on the WiFi and download CalyxOS and the flashing tool. Use the flashing tool to flash the Pixel 3a with CalyxOS using the instructions provided. On first boot, enable MicroG. This allows me to use a 'spoofed' google account for some background services.

Get bitcoin

Now that you've got your mobile phone flashed, it's time to download a Bitcoin wallet on your phone. Samourai Wallet would be my choice of wallet. I'd write the passphrase and 12 recovery words down on a piece of paper. I would go to a local Bitcoin meetup and see if there would be anyone interested in selling me $300 worth of Bitcoin. Deposit the Bitcoin directly into Samourai wallet mobile app. For $300, it's probably not worth setting up a Samourai Wallet Dojo, but we will start a fresh wallet that connects to one later.

Getting an eSIM

Next step is to get access to a mobile phone carrier and get mobile credit in an anonymous way. The best way would be through silent.link. Purchase an eSIM and add credit to the account paying with bitcoin. Import the eSIM into your Pixel 3a device and you now have access to a mobile network on your phone without KYC, worldwide.

Upgrading existing home setup

This part assumes you have a home internet connection. Unfortunately, home internet connections require you to sign up using your identity and pay through traditional banking systems, not bitcoin.

In Australia, your internet service provider is required to keep 'metadata' on your internet connection for up to 2 years. 'Metadata' is loosely defined, but I assume it means timestamps of when you visited certain websites.

I would look to purchase a VPN (I like Mullvad for now) and pay with bitcoin for a yearly subscription. I would also purchase hardware for a pfsense router using my article. I'd setup the VPN on the pfsense router such that all devices on the home network are protected by the VPN.

With the pfsense router, I would also look to install a VPN server on it such that I am able to access my network from anywhere in the world.

Incremental upgrades

The next thing I would focus on is self hosting my data. I would purchase an old desktop computer (including monitor) off gumtree again, install Pop!_OS on to that. I would create a nextcloud virtual machine and a bitwardenrs virtual machine to host these services. Nextcloud would store my calendar, contacts, photos and other documents. BitwardenRS would be my password manager. I'd learn how to back all this information up, storing the virtual machine images periodically on a spare SSD for safe keeping. I'd consider learning more about backups such as RAID configurations, but for the short term, periodic manual data backups would suffice.

The next thing I would look into is configuring a bitcoin node box. I would purchase an old computer, run Ubuntu server on it and go through my tutorials on setting up a bitcoin node. I'd install bitcoin, a block explorer, samourai wallet dojo and whirlpool, lightning and btcpayserver if I wanted to earn bitcoin online. At this point, I'd create a new samourai wallet, pair it with my dojo and mix coins through whirlpool.

If I was pressed for time and wanted a quick and easy solution, I would look into one of the node packages available for raspberry pi – myNode, Umbrel, Raspiblitz or Ronin.

My non-negotiables

Here is what I wouldn't do. I wouldn't sign up for google, facebook, tiktok, whatsapp or instagram accounts. The only social media I would have is a nym twitter account and perhaps self hosting a mastodon/pleroma instance.

Instead of giving out my real email address, I would look to cloak my email address to sign up for services using simplelogin.io. One time use disposable emails I would consider using guerrillamail or getnada.

I would look to install and use as much free and open source software as I possibly could.

Conclusion

Building out self sovereignty takes time and patience. If you want to upgrade your digital life, I would recommend watching the free Go Incognito course by Techlore.

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 at 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.

Resources

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.