Category Archives: Thoughts

Hard-wired Indicators

I was waiting in line, actually, more like in dot, because I was the only person waiting, at my favorite coffee shop, for the restroom. I see the light is on, I figure it’s occupied. I go outside for a smoke, I come back… still occupied.

Took me more than 10 minutes to figure “hey, no one is coming out. Maybe because there’s no one inside?”

I go to check, and yes, indeed the restroom was available.

We have these hard-wired indicators in our head. At least that’s a better situation than wrong indicators.

Oh damn, when I left I forgot the lights on…

Antranig Vartanian

July 20, 2022

The apartment building in front of our house feels like the United Nations. There’s so many flags.

The obvious one is, of course, the flag of Armenia. Then there’s the flag of Nagorno-Karabakh. The new wave of migrants means that there’s also an Ukrainian flag. I’ve seen some other flags too, but not sure which country was it.

Our balcony is small, if it was bigger I’d join them too. Also, we’re on the last floor where everyone would be able to see the flag.

Wave your flags, folks!

Moving (back) to WordPress

Our story starts 2-3 weeks ago, when my younger sister asked me to open a blog for her (it runs in the family, I think). Like any sane person, I created a FreeBSD Jail, configured its networking and followed an online article on how to deploy WordPress on FreeBSD. That’s the proper way to do it, right?

And I fell in love! Last time I used WordPress was in 2018, but this time it felt different, I’m not sure why (yet), but it feels like it came back to its roots. It has a simple screen that helps you to write.

Usually, I would say that tools don’t matter, and yet, I (narcissistically) rant about tools and that Docker is awful FreeBSD Jails is amazing. But I think that tools matters, they always mattered, it’s just that, we say such things in order to not sound like gatekeepers to newcomers.

Next was my girlfriend Lilith, she migrated from Blogspot to WordPress, she also blogged about that. Also deployed in a FreeBSD Jail in my home server.

Before making such decisions I look at data, so I downloaded my posts and did Unix magic.

$ xmlstarlet select -t -v '/ul/li/span' posts.txt | cut -d ' ' -f 3 | sort | uniq -c | sort
   2 2017
   2 2019
   3 2018
   7 2020
  14 2022
  29 2016
  35 2014
  47 2021
  90 2015

This comes from my Armenian blog, where I used to have WordPress, and yes, during 2015 I was very busy AND I used WordPress.

My Armenian blog is my “lab”, so I moved it not only to WordPress, but to a whole new domain, a Unicode domain with a Unicode TLD, անդրանիկ.հայ.

My English blog used to live at https://antranigv.am/weblog_en/, so I migrated it to a new subdomain, weblog.antranigv.am.

Migrating from Hugo to WordPress is not what I want to talk about, that’s a story for another day and that day is tomorrow!

I did some basic things on WordPress, such as disabling comments, which incidentally Rubenerd just blogged about and I added “Reply via email” as noted in Kev’s blog.

Oh and I added a plugin that publishes all the articles to ActivityPub, now you can follow @antranigv@weblog.antranigv.am from Fediverse (e.g. Mastodon, Pleroma, etc).

In the first week I blogged more on my Armenian blog than I did in months.

Expect a flood of posts (well, not really, more like 2-3 posts a day).

That’s all folks…

Techlife Crisis

This is another migration story, like the one that I wrote back in 2020. Unlike the other story, the motivation of this migration is totally different. It’s emotional instead of technical.

Last year a friend of mine got a new job that I referred her to. She passed the interviews and I helped her to get on-boarded as the employer was a friend of mine and I was pretty familiar with their product. The job was remote and she didn’t have a good laptop. Since I have many laptops I ended up giving her my ThinkPad T480s where she ran Ubuntu. As you can tell the employer was a VERY close friend of mine 🙂

All of this meant that I moved back to my MacBook Pro running macOS. I used to like macOS, for me it was always a rock-solid UNIX system with a proper graphical interface.

Unfortunatly these years the UNIX part is not solid anymore and the graphical interface is more iOS-y eye candy than a proper desktop interface.

But I was okay with that, since I spent most of my time in a terminal running vim, ssh, etc. I’d run typical work apps like Mail.app with GPGSuite and a Slack browser client.

But then something snapped in me. I think it was after the car accident. I spent two weeks at home, not able to work. So I started coding on my open-source projects again, doing some patches in FreeBSD, improving code on software that I like and so on.

I realized that I’ve been an Open Source advocate for years, and yet I was in the Apple ecosystem. Not that I don’t like the Apple ecosystem, don’t get me wrong, but as someone who’s been telling the government to use open source, helping them migrate, giving lectures to students about the open source movement and its history, I felt… bad.

I had this MacBook Pro laptop and this iPhone that both control me more than I can control it.

I contacted my friend again, asking if we can swap the laptops and she told me yes. She actually ended up working at our company and now she has a fancy new MacBook Pro while I came back to my lovely ThinkPad T480s running FreeBSD like I wanted in the first place.

As I mentioned, this time it hit me hard, so I decided to escape non-OSS things completely and now I’m running a Pixel 2 with Lineage OS.

There’s a whole story on how I got that Pixel 2 at this day and age and that story is coming soon. And the funniest thing is, as soon as I completed my transaction/migration to Open Source, I got the news that Apple Pay will finally work in Armenia.

Open Source changed my life when I was a kid in Syria, I learned more about computers because of Open Source and while I got distracted with the cute and nice macOS for a while, it’s time to come back home.

Here’s a screenshot

That’s all folks!

The long awaited vacation

It’s finally here and I cannot believe it. I’ve been waiting for this for a long-long time.

We started illuria Security on… wait let me check.

$ whois illuriasecurity.com | grep -i creation
   Creation Date: 2018-05-15T16:51:31Z
Creation Date: 2018-05-15T16:51:31.00Z

Ah yes, more than 3 years now. I never had a vacation since we started the company.

Every time I told myself “Okay, you will have relax time during the weekend” I ended up coding, if not for the company software then at least for something related to it. A patch in rc.d here, a shell script there.

But now, I’ve grown (I think), I finally know the value of the self. If I’m not good, then the company is not good, if I’m tired, then the company will be tired.

So, for once, all of the co-founders decided to take a proper vacation. We are all still online, because that’s what the world expects from us these days, but at least I’m not coding in Elixir or writing Shell.

Here are some thing that I wanted to do for a LONG time.

  • Fix my ZNC server and migrate my own channels to Libera.Chat.
  • Clean up my hard drives and setup ZFS backup pools and TimeMachine.
  • There are backups of my home server but I’ve NEVER tried to restore them. Time to open the Schrödinger’s cat’s box and see the results.
  • Fix my email servers that I run for communities. God knows how many TLS certificates are there to update.
  • Think about the redundancy of this weblog, but that’s a story for another day.

9 days of vacation after 3 years doesn’t seem much, but I promised myself that I will NOT do this again. Hopefully I will have a proper 7 day vacation after 5-6 months like a normal human being.

It’s very COVID-y on Earth, but at this part of Earth, Armenia, COVID-19 pretty much does not exists. No one wears masks, very few are vaccinated, night-life is all on and internal tourism is on fire. So we ended up going to Switzerland Dilijan, away from all the noise, always raining, never complaining about traffic and almost every corner has a coffeehouse that serves latte.

Take care of yourself folks, it’s okay to write that code a day later, send that email 12 hours late, but the time you spend not taking care of yourself will be spent 10x more later. It’s like legacy code.

This will also give you time to think about… life.

That’s all folks…

Good bloggers write a lot

I’ve been thinking lately that I am NOT able to blog a lot and I always blame external factors, “Oh I don’t have time” or “oh there’s no pagination in my theme so there’s no point of blogging daily, yet.”

But in reality, turns out I’m just being lazy.

I’ve been reading Jamie Zawinski’s blog for years, via RSS, of course. Couple of days ago I opened it via my web browser, an woah those number hit me hard!

As you can see, there are 366 days in a year but jwz happens to have more posts per year than that! Look at year 2012, there are 870 posts!

I mean, I know that my favorite blogger, Rubenerd blogs a lot, but I never knew how much.

I know he has 10 posts per, and his blog currently says

Page 1 of 758 → Older posts

And I know he started blogging since 2004, so if you do the math using bc,

$ echo '(758 * 10) / (2021 - 2004)' | bc -l
445.88235294117647058823

Actually, lately I’ve learned about expr, it’s very handy in command line scripts!

$ expr \( 758 \* 10 \) / \( 2021 - 2004 \)
445

What I’m trying to say is, I don’t know how people blog regularly, it’s not that I don’t have any ideas in my head, there’s always something to say, something to share, something to write about. If it’s not technical then at least it’s political.

Recently Lilith suggested that I should try to allocate 30 minutes a day to write some posts, even if it would end up into the drafts. This is me trying to do that, while drunk 🙂

That’s all folks!

Migrating home-servers

As I have mentioned before, I want to blog more, so here it goes.

I’ve been struggling financially lately, with COVID and then the war I’ve thrown away almost all of my savings. One of the decisions that I had to make was moving back to my old place. No one lives here anymore, my parents got their own house, which means I can live with freedom alone and rent-free.

That meant I need to move home servers again. Yes, I’ve always been a home server fan. This blog runs on my home server as well.

While many people argue that running a home server is a complex process compared to the cloud, since you need to pay for electricity and manage hardware, I, however, feel that’s a myth.

My current uptime is

ssh pingvinashen uptime
1:59PM up 48 days, 42 mins, 2 users, load averages: 0.15, 0.18, 0.21

And I only needed to reboot because I had to upgrade since I’m a fan of upgrading whenever there’s a patch to some critical software 🙂

One of the advantages of running a home server in Armenia is the fact that electricity is cheap, so are static IP addresses. I pay 2USD/mo for each IP address and I have many of them.

Usually, I have one static IP per service (Jabber, ZNC, etc.) and one static IP for all web-oriented services such as blogs, websites, etc.

However, norayr also runs a home-server for the community, he runs the Armenian instance of Diaspora*, Mastodon, and SocialHome.

Due to technical limitations at his side of the city, he’s been keeping his home server at my place.

Vartanian LLC, Home-Server as a Service 😛

Anyways, I had to bring his home server to my new/old place as well, which meant that he needs a static IP for his services.

I did not want to call the ISP for a new IP address since the last one I’ve been using was for an Armenian instance of Lobste.rs that I deployed for our community. It’s not very active, but you can’t force people to be active in communities and Armenia does not have the concept of “tech communities” like others do in the west.

That meant that I have to remove an IP from a Jail so norayr can use it.

So I had to migrate some things. I had to use my proxy server IP address and reverse_proxy the traffic to the lobsters’ Jail.

Sounds easy, until I remembered that I run Apache on my host.

I’m not very fluent in Apache, I keep doing mistakes, so I wanted to migrate all of my vhosts to Nginx.

You’d think that it would be easy, and yes it was 🙂

So now, norayr runs his home server and I have migrated the webserver to Nginx in an hour.

For some reason, it feels faster, but I’m still not sure why. I probably had to optimize Apache back in the day, but Nginx’s default configs do seem better.

Now, since many IP addresses have been changed, I have to struggle with SMTP issues. No, SMTP works fine, but Google, just like it keeps breaking the web, it keeps breaking email as well, routing all-good emails to people’s spam folder, eh.

That’s all folks.

* not a footnote but part of the project name.

Blogging Regularly

Ruben blogged recently about blogging regularly and it kind of hit me: Why don’t I blog regularly?

I love blogging. I improved my Armenian by blogging for years, I wanted to be a blogger so bad that I asked my friends to rent me a domain and a hosting service since I didn’t have money when I moved to Armenia after the war.

But yet again, it’s very hard for me to write my thoughts in English. Armenian? Yes, sure, I can write a very complex sentence very easily. English, however, the language that I think in, the language that I grew up having a love&hate relationship with, is not the language that I’m good at writing. I can talk English very well, at least I’ve been told, but writing is not there yet.

There are a lot of points that Ruben made that I love to be more mainstream. Use ANY blogging platform, literally any, as long as they don’t treat you as the product (Medium as an example). Write about anything, everything. I would love to hear about your daily life, how you solve problems, no matter if it’s about that very complex DB issue you’ve been having or the water pipe that has been leaking. They are all interesting.

At the end of the day the internet is the place that allowed everyone to speak. Now we are fighting over who gets to be heard.

But with blogs and RSS, everyone will be.

That’s all folks.