Ramblings of an IT geek
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)
Right, now I’ve got my preferred browser, I’d like to sort out some gestures. To be fair, 2-finger gestures seem to be working pretty well ‘out of the box’ or at least I can scroll up and down.
In macOS I use 3-finger swipes to so 2 really common things:
- 3-fingers left and right go backwards and forward in the browser, and make jumping in and out of pages so simple
- 3-fingers up and down switch between desktops, which I use a lot as I like to have different things running on different desktops, more often than not full screen
If I can get this sorted, everything will feel a lot more like macOS.
I’ll digress a little here, but what did we do before the world wide web, and more specifically Google?
Yes, I hear all the anti-Google arguments, but they don’t charge me anything and the convenience and access to knowledge they provide is a price I’m willing to pay. I’ve not really hunted around for alternatives, as I’m pretty sure I’ve found the best.
I remember using Yahoo and Netscape in the early days, but where are they now? I’m actually forced to use Bing on a clients laptop I’m currently using, and even that doesn’t work quite as accurately as Google.
Another great question! I guess my aim is to see if I could live in eOS should there come a time when I feel the need to ditch macOS.
I’m not going to get into the applications too much in the post and will save that for later when I have a nice and stable system that’s doing most of what I want. Needless to say, I know I’m not going to get some software that runs permanently on my Mac, but I know of alternatives for some (e.g. MS Office) and will be interested to see if new ones exist for others (e.g OmniFocus – I’d really really miss that!)
One of the reasons I love macOS so much is the interaction with the enormous trackpad. If you’ve never used an Apple trackpad you don’t know what you’re missing. If you have, you know what I mean. Using 2, 3 and 4 finger gestures is something I’d really miss and I’m going to try and tackle this early on. It’s one of the things that might have broken the 1st (undocumented) attempt, so I don’t want to get too far in only to find I break ‘take 2’
Good question, and one I’ve asked myself several times since I started thinking about reusing my MBA to run Linux.
As I mentioned earlier, I don’t profess to have a great understanding of Linux or even how different distros come about. I’ve played with the following (alphabetically) VMs on my FreeNAS machine running in VirtualBox:
I’m sure there are several ways to do this and hundreds of Linux distributions to choose from, but this is how I’ve done it for eOS:
1. Download eOS ISO file from > https://elementary.io They’d like you to make a donation to ongoing development, which I don’t have a problem with as I plan on trying to live with it for a time. If you’re just wanting to test things out, you can enter a value of £0 and still download.
2. Burned the ISO file to a blank DVD-R in macOS (simply right-click the ISO file and select Burn to Disc from the menu)
3. Booted MBA to new rEFInd menu with connected Apple SuperDrive and ISO disk inserted