Bookmarked Lessons in Self-Hosting Your Own Personal Cloud (Tedium: The Dull Side of the Internet.)

What I learned about trying to run my own cloud from a few weeks of trying to run the whole dang thing myself. (Hint: I found myself trying multiple solutions.)

Ernie Smith discusses the challenges associated with hosting your own cloud. He provides a summary of his findings.

So, armed with the knowledge that Syncthing is awesome but didn’t cover every one of my bases, I went with a hybrid approach. Rather than attempting to embrace one solution for everything, I decided a mix of solutions was the way to go, each optimized for specific needs.

  1. NextCloud for standard document editing and office-style applications, which can be useful in cases when I’m not near my machine or I want to make a quick edit to a file on mobile. This sync runs on just one machine, my Xeon—the same Xeon that hosts the server on Docker—and only stores essentials like text files and images at this juncture. (Essentially, I took away NextCloud’s need to sync most of my files.)
  2. Syncthing for file sync across a variety of machines. This runs on every machine I rely on, including iOS and Android.
  3. Backblaze B2 for long-term cloud file storage, which I manually handle once a week through the command-line tool Rclone. (Info here; I could easily automate this.)

This is an interesting piece in regards to discussions of quitting platforms such as Google and Spotify.

Bookmarked Become a Better Digital Researcher: Tips From Tedium (Tedium: The Dull Side of the Internet.)

If you’re a longtime reader of Tedium, you might wonder how I manage to uncover so many strange stories. Well, let me tell you. Hopefully it’s inspiring.

Ernie Smith discusses how he conducts research. He touches on some of the different sources, such as Newspapers.com, Google Books, Google Patents, Internet Archive and a library card. Overall, he estimates that he reads 200 articles a day. In addition to his sources, he provides a number of tips for building out ideas and pieces, including:

  • Look past the accepted answer
  • Build an overall context behind the history in question
  • Don’t go into a story looking to tear anyone down
  • Focus on interesting framing
  • Make it unique by building in personal anecdotes

It is always interesting reading about how different people conduct their research. Whether it be Maha Bali’s reflection on researching and writing a paper in 10 days, Naomi Barnes’ comparison to walking around city streets, Lucy Taylor’s advice on completing a PhDRyan Holiday’s five steps or Ian O’Bryne’s process for writing a literature review. At the end of the day, I feel that the method often comes down to the intended outcome. Writing a post for Tedium is going to be different to writing a long book which is different to doing a PhD.

Bookmarked Why Your Favorite Email Newsletter is Always So Jumpy (Tedium: The Dull Side of the Internet.)

Popular email clients, particularly Gmail, have a tendency to cut emails off after a 102-kilobyte limit. Why the heck is that?

Ernie Smith dives into some of the technical problems/limitations to email newsletters, in particular why one email gets cut off at 1,500 words and another doesn’t:

  1. You Write Too Much
  2. Your Email Has Too Many Design Elements
  3. Your Links Are Too Long
  4. Your Readers’ Email Addresses May Be Too Long
  5. You Waste Too Much Space

It is interesting to think about this in regards to Angela Lashbrook’s discussion of spam filtering. It is also another reminder of why email is broken.

Replied to FTP Fadeout (Tedium)

Unlike in cases like IRC (where the protocol lost popular momentum to commercial tools) and Gopher (where a sudden shift to a commercial model stopped its growth dead in its tracks), FTP is getting retired from web browsers because its age underlines its lack of security infrastructure.

Some of its more prominent use cases, like publicly accessible anonymous FTP servers, have essentially fallen out of vogue. But its primary use case has ultimately been replaced with more secure, more modern versions of the same thing, such as SFTP.

If FTP’s departure from the web browser speeds up its final demise, so be it. But for 50 years, in one shape or another, it has served us well.

This reminds me of Quinn Norton’s post of the dangers of email and whether we will get to a point where the security issues will force a similar change.
Replied to Tales Of Type (tedium.co)

A discussion of the ways that large tech companies helped to define the evolution of computer typography. One battle made the CEO of Adobe really mad.

This was an interesting read in light of the roll Crystal Reports play in my job and the way templates relate with different printers. I would assume that it is all somewhat related.
Bookmarked No Room for Design (tedium.co)

Of the many things that social platforms have taken away from us, perhaps the most disappointing is the freedom to customize our spaces. We need it back.

Ernie Smith discusses the lose of design and customisation on the web. He reflects on spaces like Substack, Facebook and Medium.

Walled gardens are kept up very carefully from a design perspective. They don’t have weeds. Instead, you get a plot—a spot where your entire presence online lives. This is great if you want some modest lines to paint within, but as soon as you have any sort of ambition, you find yourself stifled by the platform pulling the strings.

This is in contrast to spaces like MySpace and Tumblr. Although customisations have provided an avenue for other activities, which have compromised platforms like MySpace, something is lost in a focus on security.

I guess the flip side of all this is that some people would rather not think about such aspects and are instead comfortable with the slick experience offered inside the walled garden. This is something I have found in my discussions with others of the IndieWeb.

Bookmarked Transitional Audio Recording Formats: Jagged Little Tapes (Tedium: The Dull Side of the Internet.)

These transitional audio recording formats were briefly dominant—then, quickly grew obscure. The further back you go, the more obscure they get.

Ernie Smith discusses some of the recording formats lost to time. In particular, he focuses on the ADAT recorders that were popular in the 90’s.

If you’ve ever used a Super VHS tape to record anything on TV, you know that such tapes have different modes. Most people tended to choose the long-play modes, which allowed for a maximum amount of content on a single tape in exchange for lower recording quality. As you might guess, studio recorders are focused on quality, and ADAT was a way to bring digital recording innovations within reach of musicians and studios with limited resources. SVHS tapes were of course incredibly common at the time, and each one could hold 40 minutes of multitrack audio in 16-bit quality. Each tape held eight tracks, and up to 16 ADAT machines could be synced together, allowing up to 128 tracks of audio to be played together at once.

This was the format used bu artists such as Alanis Morissette, Lisa Loeb and Wheattus.

ADAT is the ultimate transitional format—filling a gap between analog and digital at a time when the gap made a huge difference.

For more on the topic of lost formats, James Elton discusses the ABC tape machines and the memories kept on them.

Replied to How COVID-19 Could Kill The All-You-Can-Eat Buffet (Tedium: The Dull Side of the Internet.)

As we try to find new ways to be communal, we ultimately are going to have to leave some things off to the side. And restaurants that offer unlimited helpings on tiny plates are likely to be one of them. Shed a tear for the chocolate fountain.

So many great memories of buffets and all-you-can-eats: Smorgys, Sizzler, Melba at Langham, Pizza Hut, Cuckoo, Hungry Jacks, Costco. However, in addition to the germs and viruses, it feels like the time of gluttony and indulgence may have passed?
Liked Google vs. Technorati: The Great Blog Search War (Tedium: The Dull Side of the Internet.)

It became way too easy to clutter things up in an effort to find just the right tool that could help you squeeze a little more traffic or revenue out of the lemon that was your blog. (Less considered, of course, was that all of these widgets were siphoning data about your readers in exchange for this little feature or that neat doodad.)

Technorati was in many ways the first shot in that general direction, though it was not the only one and certainly not the worst offender. But the purity of its original model, which was lost to time and ever-quickening innovation, was valuable for what it was. Rather than forcing us to live in someone else’s world, it tried to make sense of the quickly growing blogosphere, while allowing that sphere to live in place elsewhere.

By making the world of blogs trackable in real time, it made them more communal—a feeling some of us are trying to get back to today. But the globe kept spinning too fast for any one site to keep up—even one designed for that purpose.

Liked Scratching Stuff: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know (Tedium: The Dull Side of the Internet.)

In case you were wondering, it is possible to make your own scratch cards. The process, as shown in this YouTube video, involves a combination of a glossy or coated surface (often with the help of tape), some acrylic paint, and some dish soap. Coating is a key element of a successful scratch-off, notes Prismtech Graphics. “Uncoated coverstocks can absorb quite a lot of varnish, and the toothy surface can provide such good adhesion to the scratch-off ink that it’s impossible to remove,” the firm notes on its blog.

Replied to Why Modular Design Works Better for Consumers Than Businesses (Tedium: The Dull Side of the Internet.)

What makes modular designs great for consumers often makes them troublesome for businesses, or why you can’t upgrade an iPhone in 2020.

Ernie, it is interesting reading this discussion of modular design. Does software fit into this as well? It is interesting to think of this alongside Cory Doctorow’s call for more adversarial interoperability. Although the technical may seem obvious, I wonder if there is a model that actually works for businesses or if it is something that happens bit by bit by chance?
Replied to Hypergraphia: The Neurological Condition Behind Excessive Writing (Tedium: The Dull Side of the Internet.)

What makes someone obsessively journal every moment of their life? In some cases, it might actually be hypergraphia, a condition tied to a neurological trait.

Ernie, this was fascinating and has me thinking about my own practices to organise the web or world. I always thought that it was a ‘blogging’ thing, but as I reflect upon my time in university, I worked as a cleaner. Working alone, I would often come home with scraps of paper on which I had written down quick thoughts.

I really like how J. Hillis Miller captured this. he argued that we have an obligation to write. He suggested that reading and teaching are completed by writing, that it is a core element to our transaction with language. As he stated:

As we read we compose, without thinking about it, a kind of running commentary or marginal jotting that adds more words to the words on the page. There is always already writing as the accompaniment to reading.

Replied to LAMP Stack History: It’s Everywhere, But Developers Hate It (Tedium: The Dull Side of the Internet.)

Giving some well-deserved appreciation to the LAMP stack, a key building block of the modern-day internet that you use daily. It’s everywhere. It may never die.

It is both intriguing and disconcerting to consider how much has changed since 2001.
Liked Penn Jillette’s Surprising Success as a Computer Columnist (Tedium: The Dull Side of the Internet.)

One of his first columns for the magazine, written in 1990 under the name “The Micro Mephisto,” is surprisingly relevant today. Jillette made a case for taking your computer and making it your own by heavily customizing, or “trashing,” it. A passage from that column:

No matter how you got your computer, you will never sell it. Why the hell would you sell it? Six months after you bought it, it wasn’t worth spit. How the hell could you sell it, it would be easier to unload used 8-track and beta tapes. Whatever you got on your desk or lap right now—there’s a faster and sexier one with more memory and a better display featured right here in this magazine.

So, tell me this, why the hell is that thang still beige? And if it’s not beige, why the hell is it still tan? And if it’s sleek, high-tech black … well, we know they saw you coming. I’ll tell you why it’s that same boring factory color—because you’re a coward. You’re afraid if you mess with it—someone is going to yell at you. That’s just wrong thinking. No one’s going to yell at you because no one gives a good goddamn. Other people have their own problems. Have you seen these other people on the street? They’re all miserable, look at them. They don’t care about you or your computer. You could erase your entire hard disk including the unera utility, by mistake, while showing off for a cute babe and the people on the street wouldn’t even blink. They’re busy making their own stupid mistakes. And that gives you a great deal of freedom.

So here’s what I say and here’s what I do. Make that computer yours. Make it belong to you. Make it look right to you. Dominate it. Rule it. Violate it. Posses it. Trash the mother. I’m not going to tell you exactly what to do with it, I’ve already stuck my nose too far into your business. I don’t care if you put on backstage stickers to Lou Reed and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. You could peel the warning sticker off your 2 Live Crew CD and decoupage it right above the screen and change your prompt to (C:) Oh, me so horny>, put on scuba stickers and pretend you aren’t just a nerd like the rest of us. Or—be practical—no one can remember those WP commands so why not take a Sharpie and write “Just Kidding” right above the F1 key and “where the hell am I?” above F3. I haven’t tried a wood-burning tool or a soldering iron (they’re the same tool with different packaging, right?) But I bet it would look boss. Make it so if your computer was coming down the airline luggage carousel you wouldn’t have to look at the claim check number to tell it was yours. “Many computers do look alike”—and that’s a bad thing.

Bookmarked Time to Rejoin Tumblr? Thoughts on a Social Media “Reunion Tour” (Tedium: The Dull Side of the Internet.)

Five social networks that offer ripe opportunities for a “reunion tour” of your own

  1. Flickr. Owned and acquired, and later sold in a fashion very similar to Tumblr itself, the photo-sharing service (now owned by SmugMug) has moved to a pay model, but it could still be a great tool for folks that are looking for a more low-key version of photo sharing.
  2. DeviantArt. Going back to a vintage site doesn’t necessarily mean that the site will look like it did 15 years ago—something that can definitely be said of DeviantArt, which just released an ambitious redesign that was so out of character for the old-school platform that it recently trended on Twitter. It’s an opportunity to go back just after a snazzy renovation.
  3. LiveJournal/Dreamwidth. Technically, the old-school LiveJournal is still around, and the one you definitely don’t feel like sharing might still be online. But its ownership has changed dramatically over the years, in keeping in tune with its Russian user base, and it has led to moves that you might not be cool with. Fortunately, there’s an alternative in the form of DreamWidth, a fork of the original LiveJournal that’s been around for a decade.
  4. Internet Relay Chat or Usenet. If you’re a bit older, you may have gotten your first taste of a social internet through either of these digital protocols. They’re still around, though their focuses have changed dramatically, and you may find yourself most at home if you’re a developer. (IRC will be easier to get back into, just an FYI.)
  5. Blogging. As I wrote at the beginning of the year, the blogosphere is a culture worth defending, and if you can add something to it, you should! If you’re looking for the most retro-seeming blogging experience possible, Blogger is a good choice because Google hasn’t updated it in years.
Ernie Smith reflects on Automattic’s purchase of Tumblr and uses this as an opportunity to review and revisit some social media spaces that have seen better days, but still might be worth our revisiting. Personally speaking, I am an advocate for blogging and possibly POSSEing to some of these other places. Therefore, hedging your bets both ways.
Bookmarked James Ferman: The British Film Censor Who Hated Nunchucks (Tedium: The Dull Side of the Internet.)

How the quirks of a conservative British censor led one of the most popular cartoons in history to appear in censored form during the height of its success.

A fascinating look by Ernie Smith into censorship and violence through Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The focus in the UK was on two aspects: ninja and the nunchucks. This is an interesting look at the impact of constraints on creative process. Interestingly, it touches on why The Toxic Avenger was renamed the Toxic Crusader:

Fred Wolf explained the studio’s approach as such: It would take edgy properties such as the Turtles and make them palatable to mass audiences, something that, at the time, the studio was trying to do with the Troma Entertainment property The Toxic Avenger, which it renamed Toxic Crusaders.

Bookmarked Why Most Marketing Emails Still Use HTML Tables (Tedium: The Dull Side of the Internet.)

How HTML helped, then hindered, the evolution of email, or why all those fancy marketing emails you get in your inbox still rely on HTML tables in 2019.

Ernie Smith discusses the problems with email and the need to move forward. This is another post that highlights the fragility of email as a technology.
Liked Microsoft’s Project Photon: A Stunted Effort To Rebuild Windows Mobile (Tedium: The Dull Side of the Internet.)

Today in Tedium: It’s a make-it-or-break-it situation when a software company decides to scrap an operating system several years in the making. Apple. Failing to ship Copland, averted the crisis by relying on a third-party groundwork—that one led to the creation of macOS. For other companies, like Palm and its spin-offs, projects like Cobalt are left as eternal reminders of their former ambitions. The case of Microsoft and their Photon project is peculiar in this regard. When the company announced a brand-new Windows Phone 7, no one shed a tear over the “true” successor to Windows Mobile 6. Nowadays, though, both platforms are just as irrelevant. But while the former gained a cult following, it’s time to ask: was there truly nothing left of Photon?

Liked How Telegraphs and Teletypes Influenced the Computer (Tedium: The Dull Side of the Internet.)

We may not discuss our connectivity speed in baud anymore—not when we can measure data by the gigabits per second—but these points of evolution have clearly had an impact on what we, as modern computer users, actually got to use at the end of the day.

A trackpad is, of course, infinitely more functional than a straight key, but if you squint hard enough, maybe you’ll see the resemblance.