Ramblings of an IT geek
I’ve decided to try and break this down into 2 blogs, and as a small homage to the greatest film ever made I’m calling the first one Episode IV!
I thought it would be useful to understand what I use in macOS before diving into the alternatives available in eOS. This is likely to be a real deal-breaker, as I know some of the things I use daily just don’t exist outside macOS, but let’s cover off some of this to begin.
Not with Miley Cyrus!
One of the good things about a default eOS install is the lightweight feel. It really doesn’t come with a lot installed, which is good if you want to add just what you need, but I do feel it’s missing a few fundamental things. There are also some settings and switches that can make it feel a little more macOS like, so I’m going to cover these here. Some might say they’re just apps (and they’d probably be right) but I’m still working on that blog(s)…
You didn’t actually think I was done?
I’ve actually been playing around some more with my eOS MBA and after installing a few more things and trying a few alternatives managed to break it again! It wasn’t broken in the same sense that it wouldn’t boot, but I couldn’t install or update anything through the AppCenter (or Ubuntu Software Center I’d installed as an alternative) so after not too much trying to fix I thought I’d start again, hence Take 3.
Are you crazy I can imagine some people thinking? Possibly, but I also wanted to see how long it would take a 3rd time and how much easier it would be knowing I’d blogged everything last time. And unsurprisingly it was much quicker and easier! I’m back to where I left, and have resolved a couple of self-inflicted issues from Take 2:
I’ve kind of left this until the very end as I knew accessing my mail would be pretty straight forward. Webmail would always be an option if not, but I’ve configured other mail client in other Linux VM’s so knew this would be fine.
I have 4 e-mail addresses, or which I really only use 2. The 2 I don’t really use are iCloud.com (I actually used me.com long before iCloud) and Gmail.com. I still receive some mail into both, so have them configured but don’t send anything. The 2 I use are both hosted by Pickaweb on my own domains – aw1.co.uk and the one you’re viewing this on apeconsulting.co.uk.
Let me start by saying I LOVE PLEX!!!
I needed to get that out of the way, as I’m sure others will love their choice of Media Server just as much, but for me, Plex does almost everything I want, and even some stuff I don’t!
I’ve been using Plex almost from the start in 2009 and had played around with XMBC before that, but it wasn’t until I started using Plex that I realised how great it would be to have all my media content in once place. This was also the start of my journey to what seems like an ever-growing need for storage and various devices to try and provide this.
The last piece (I think) of my connectivity puzzle is the remote access back into my network when I’m away from home. This is really handy when stuff doesn’t work, and by using a Virtual Private Connection (VPN) also provides an added layer of security when I’m using an untrusted WiFi network.
I have an openVPN server running, you guessed it, in a freenas1 jail and use TunnelBlick on macOS and OpenVPN on iOS to connect to it and through it to the internet enabling me to use a connection which I know is secure, rather than one I don’t trust. Maybe I’m starting to sound a little paranoid, but I figure the more things I can do protect myself, the less chance I am to become another cyber security statistic which can’t be a bad thing 😉
Anyway, VPN is built directly into eOS and is simple to configure in the Network settings. I simply opened my openVPN configuration file and it appeared to connect successfully. This is actually difficult to validate whilst I’m already connected to my LAN, so I’ll try and check it out later in the week when I’m away from home, but everything looks like it should work fine. As I won’t be using this as my daily driver, I probably won’t use this a great deal, but it’s nice to know how easy it was to setup (unlike configuring the openVPN server in FreeBSD, to begin with!)
That pretty much wraps up my connectivity requirements, as I can now access everything at home and (hopefully) away. There are a few things that can make that a little easier though…
I configured Dropbox in the last blog, which I use to send scanner output from my WF-3640. I also use it to sync a number of services between iOS and macOS devices (1Password, YNAB, MacDive, and Mindset to name but a few) but other than that I don’t really use DropBox for data anymore.
For me, and I suspect many others, Dropbox was probably one of the first ‘cloud’ services I used regularly. I guess I was a bit of a ‘Dropbox Evangelist’ when it first became popular, mainly as it made sharing files so simple, but also because for every friend you recommended they gave you an extra 250MB of free storage! I can’t remember exactly what you got free, to begin with, but over time I managed to increase my limit to 9.25GB. But once I’d realised how useful this was for keeping things in sync across multiple devices, whilst being able to share and/or access from any device, it really wasn’t enough. I know you can get almost an unlimited amount now for a whole range of different providers, and I’ve probably got basic accounts with many of them (Google Drive, Amazon Cloud, Microsoft Onedrive, Box, etc.) but back then it wasn’t particularly cheap to get more storage, and at the time I think I preferred the idea of keeping my data (especially the important stuff) on my hardware.
I was actually expecting this to be a lot more difficult too, but in reality, it was pretty straight forward. I have an Epson WorkForce WF-3640 in my home office, and in any of my Linux VMs I’ve never been able to connect to it, even though it’s physically connected to my LAN and accessible over WiFi.
It wasn’t a major problem as I rarely need to print anything from a VM, and when I do I can actually send it to an Epson Connect e-mail address which sends it directly my printer and prints it out. The wonders of modern technology!
Adding a printer is pretty much the same in eOS as it is any other OS, but the WF-3640 isn’t listed in the longest list of Epson printers I think I’ve ever seen. Off to the Epson website and a search found me a number of .deb files.
No, I haven’t screwed things up just yet, but in trying to connect to all my devices I realised just how ‘locked out’ of just about everything I’d be (both locally and online) without access to 1Password!
I’ve been listening to all the scary cyber security stories, and whilst I’ll admit that many years ago I probably used 2-3 passwords for just about everything, I’ve been using 1Password for quite a long time now and almost every password I use is unique and relatively complex. Where possible, I’m also using 2-Factor Authentication (2FA) which makes me feel a little more secure but also raises the issue of what would happen if I couldn’t access 1Password.
Why is this always so difficult? Surely it should be a simple in this connected world for devices to talk with each other without jumping through various hoops?
Playing with FreeNAS has developed my network understanding, but I’m still very much an amateur when it comes to fully understanding my ‘network stack’ I need to figure out the best way to talk to the various devices I have using a combination of sharing protocols (e.g. CIFS, AFP, NFS)