PenguinDreams

Using Custom CSS with Mastodon

Multi-color Mastodon Elephants

Mastodon has an option for applying custom CSS from within its administration panel. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any examples of what this CSS should look like, even after asking in the Mastodon Fourms. I did discover how tricky modifying Mastodon CSS can be. I couldn’t figure out why changes to the body element wouldn’t affect anything, and was informed that Mastodon draws to a component with the .ui class. Through some careful work with the Firefox development tools, I was able to figure out which CSS selectors controlled what, and have tried to build a list for getting started with creating themes in Mastodon via a custom style sheet.

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The Decline of OpenID

OpenID Logo

In July of 2018, StackExchange ended support for allowing people to login via OpenID. One tenth of one percent of their users were logging in using OpenID, and I was one of those last remaining people. In an era where every website allows people to create accounts and login using other websites (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Google, Github, et. al.), OpenID was an attempt to create a standard to allow anyone to use any identity provider to login to web applications.

Unfortunately OpenID has slowly fallen out of use. Several major OpenID providers have gone offline over the years, leaving some users stranded without a login to services they use. Websites like Woot, Slashdot and Pypy, all which supported OpenID at some point, have slowly (and often silently) removed support. Other sites such as Freecode and Gitorious supported OpenID until they closed down. Although we are entering an era where more people in tech are pushing for distributed systems for content and social networking, the era of federated authentication via OpenID is most likely at a dead end.

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I paid $180 for Headphones that only lasted Two Years

Jaybird F5 Freedom Earbuds

On July 12th, 2016, I purchased a pair of Jaybird Freedom F5 earbuds for $180 from an eBay vendor. I really liked these headphones. They had clear audio, good sound reproduction and I used them to listen to music and podcasts on my morning and evening train commutes. They refused to power on recently, and I discovered that this was a common problem mentioned on various product forums. I contacted Jaybird, provided my serial number, and discovered my warranty had expired. There was no option for me to get them repaired, even though I was willing to pay. I was offered a coupon for a 30% discount on another Jaybird product which could potentially stop working in another two years.

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My Love Hate Relationship with Docker and Container Orchestration Systems

Fenced Consumerism - Journey of Khan
Fenced Consumerism - Journey of Khan

Docker was first getting big while I was working for an open source shop in New Zealand. At work we’d joke about containers, mostly because of our misconceptions. “Aren’t they based on LXC containers, which are full of security holes?” a co-worker and I would ask. When CoreOS was released, initially we laughed but also realized people were taking containers seriously. Late one night at a bar, some German developers who ran a name registrar, talked about how amazing Docker was and how they were currently running it in production.

It wouldn’t be until I took a contract in Seattle that I was really exposed to Docker. I worked at a shop that ran a CoreOS instance, and eventually switched to a company wide DCOS/marathon based platform. I learned a lot about containers, embraced many of their advantages, as well as becoming incredibly frustrated with their limitations. Despite the issues, I started to prefer using containers, and even wrote a tool for managing the containers I use to host this website. In this post I intend to cover what I’ve learned about containers, their strengths, their limitations and some good ways to incorporate them into your infrastructure.

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Bee2 In Production: IPv6, HAProxy and Docker

Airwhale

Over the past few months, I’ve been working on Bee2. It’s a provisioning system for automating the process of building, running and maintaining my own websites and web applications. In previous tutorials, I had gone over provisioning servers using APIs, configuring those servers for remote Docker administration via a VPN, and automating LetsEncrypt and HAProxy in containers. Bee2 has gotten mature enough that I’ve finally migrated many of my production sites and web applications to it, including this website. In this post, I’ll go over some of the additional challenges I faced with IPv6, and refactoring containers to allow live HAProxy refreshes.

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OpenBSD, SpamPD and the Startup Bug

OpenBSD Logo
OpenBSD Logo

Recently I added e-mail support to Bee2, a tool I use to provision servers and services for personal projects. My existing e-mail server ran on an openSUSE 13.2 box which stopped receiving security updates in January of 2017. I’ve been building Ansible roles to provision a replacement running on OpenBSD, and I found an interesting bug with a proxy filtering service called SpamPD. The bug prevents SpamPD from starting correctly with the standard OpenBSD rc.d service scripts due to the weird ways the OpenBSD init process works.

Update: This bug has been fixed and should be available in the next release. For more information, see the github issue and the OpenBSD ports mailing list.(Updated: 2018-08-27)
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Upgrading the SSD on an MSI GS60 Laptop

Tech Culture Shock: From America to the South Pacific, and Seattle to Chicago

Photo by Kate Trysh
Photo by Kate Trysh

I’ve spent the past two decades in tech, mostly as a developer or system administrator. In that time, I’ve worked in a variety of different markets, in six different cities, across three different countries. There are, of course, a number of similarities between companies, no matter where you go. But I also found a lot of oddities that were specific to certain regions and markets. People who only work in one market could get used to an IT mono-culture, and may not realize how things operate differently for their counterparts on the other side of the country, or the planet. In this post I will start with my experiences in Chattanooga, Tennessee and Cincinnati, Ohio. I’ll also talk about international markets and tech scenes from my experience in Melbourne, Australia and Wellington, New Zealand. Finally I’ll cover my return to the West Coast working in Seattle, Washington, and my current scene in Chicago, Illinois.

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Why I Don't Sign Non-Competes

Pen and I Agree Check Box

My first job out of University was in the IT department of a payment processing and debt collection company. My desk was juxtapose to a call center where, all day, I listened to people on welfare collect bad checks and credit card debt from other people on welfare. When several of our sales people left to start their own business, taking many of the company’s customers with them, the company began to have everyone in the office, from those in data entry to customer service, sign a non-compete agreement. It was the first non-compete agreement I refused to sign. Over the course of the next fifteen years, I would be asked to sign non-competes several more times, always prior to employment. I’ve always refused, and until recently, I’ve never been denied a position because of that refusal.

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Linux on a MacBook Pro 14,3

MacBook Pro 14,3 Running Gentoo Linux
MacBook Pro 14,3 Running Gentoo Linux

Since 2012, at the last three jobs I’ve held as a software engineer, I’ve always used Linux natively on my work desktop or laptop. At some companies this was a choice, and at one it was mandatory. Most development shops give engineers the option of either a Windows PC or a Mac upon hiring them. However, my most recent shop did not. I considered simply running Linux in a virtual machine, however VirtualBox proved to be so slow that it was unusable, and I had some EFI booting issues with a demo of VMWare Fusion.

I probably could have worked through those issues, but instead I decided to take the leap and attempt to dual boot into Linux natively. A considerably amount of work has been done in the open source community to get modern Apple hardware working under Linux, much of it documented under the mbp-2016-linux project on GitHub. I was able to leverage quite a bit of that work to get a mostly working development environment. Although some things are still broken, I’m confident I can work through those issues, and hope this post can help other engineers who want to use modern MacBook Pros as powerful Linux development machines.

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