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Posts and notes 100daystooffload

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Completing the #100DaysToOffload challenge 13 January 2022

Twelve months ago - in January 2021 - I started my attempt at the #100DaysToOffload challenge. I had set myself a new year’s resolution to try to write more and, around the same time, I noticed the ha... (7 minute read)

Browser push notifications in a Flutter web application 18 December 2021

🎉 This is post 100 in my attempt at the #100DaysToOffload challenge! For a couple of years I have been writing mobile apps using the Flutter framework, having previously been a React Native advocate. ... (6 minute read)

Moving my Matrix identity to Element One 15 December 2021

For as long as I’ve been using Matrix I’ve hosted my own homeserver on my own VPS and at my own domain. Why I chose to move I previously wrote about how I self-host my homeserver with the ... (4 minute read)

Nextcloud for photos: using cheaper object storage 11 December 2021

Some people may remember my quest a few months back to find a good alternative to Google Photos for image storage and backup. At the time, I talked about Piwigo, Mega and pCloud as potential candidate... (7 minute read)

The Idiot Brain by Dean Burnett 8 December 2021

Dean Burnett’s The Idiot Brain is an interesting insight into why people think the way they do, personality, emotion, and the biology of the brain. The author (who happens to live in the same ci... (1 minute read)

Parse and process incoming emails in a web application 5 December 2021

Most applications include some sort of outbound transactional email as part of their normal function. These email messages could be to support account-level features (such as password-resets) or to no... (6 minute read)

Open-sourcing projects 2 December 2021

I maintain a small number of projects in my spare time. The amount of time I get to work on and maintain these varies depending on my other workloads. The projects were never designed to be a means of... (1 minute read)

Server back-ups with Restic 27 November 2021

A while ago I posted about how I back-up my personal servers to Backblaze B2. That approach involved adding all of the files and directories into a single compressed archive and sending this up to an ... (5 minute read)

Nightfall City 25 November 2021

From the hills of Dusk’s End to the small alleys of Main Street, you feel drawn to the lights of this vibrant metropolis in an uncharted internet territory. The sign reads “Nightfall&rdquo... (2 minute read)

Webzines 20 November 2021

I’ve really enjoyed my recent discovery of a couple of traditional-style webzines. Webzines (sometimes referred to as online magazines, or - in this instance - simply “zines”) are a ... (1 minute read)

Rebel Ideas by Matthew Syed 17 November 2021

I feel that this book really resonated with my own thoughts around the importance of diversity in groups and teams. Matthew Syed’s Rebel Ideas: The Power of Diverse Thinking is a book that exami... (2 minute read)

On websites and creativity 13 November 2021

I’ve recently been reminiscing about the “old” days of the web. They felt much more like expressions of personality and creativity. These days, most people have social media accounts... (2 minute read)

Our DIY bathroom project 10 November 2021

I’ve recently posted about our home, in which we’ve completed a few DIY projects, such as renovating the garden and building a small loft conversion (amongst other things!). Today I’... (5 minute read)

Automatically scanning for malicious user-uploaded files 6 November 2021

If you run a service that accepts file uploads from users, and then subsequent re-download by other users (such as images), then your service is potentially at risk of becoming a system for distributi... (5 minute read)

A little trip to A&E 3 November 2021

On Sunday I slipped and fell in the pouring rain. I landed hard on my side and ended up dislocating my shoulder. I didn’t really want to try risking it and putting it back in myself (sensibly, a... (1 minute read)

Thinking positive 30 October 2021

It’s been a weird 18 months. Before pandemic-initiated changes, our daily lives might have involved getting up and travelling on some form of commute (either by walking, public transport, car, o... (5 minute read)

Taking FreeBSD for a spin 29 October 2021

Background I’ve recently noticed (and read) more and more posts discussing *BSD systems. Creations like the new (and excellent) OpenBSD Webzine and blogs (such as Rubenerd’s and Solene&rsq... (5 minute read)

A mini loft conversion 24 October 2021

Following on from my previous post about renovating our garden, I wanted to write an entry about another project we’ve recently completed. Our home is a Victorian townhouse over three storeys, b... (3 minute read)

Extraterrestrial by Avi Loeb 23 October 2021

I often enjoy books that try to take a different view on known events. I don’t mean consipiracy theory - more around thinking laterally or “out of the box”. Such ways of thinking oft... (2 minute read)

This Week in Tech (TWiT) 17 October 2021

Another podcast I frequently listen to likely needs no introduction of its own. The This Week in Tech (or just “TWiT”) network’s flagship podcast - also called TWiT - must be one of ... (1 minute read)

Giving a talk at the BSV Wales meet-up 13 October 2021

Last week I gave a talk at the Bitcoin Association BSV Meet-up for Wales, hosted by Tramshed Tech in Cardiff. Before learning about this meetup, I had not heard of BSV - either from a technology or cu... (1 minute read)

Dotty 11 October 2021

A few years ago I was in the position of needing a solution to backup and sync dotfiles (configuration files for various pieces of software) across my machines. Specifically, I had Mac computers and L... (2 minute read)

This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay 6 October 2021

Having recently read The Secret Barrister, which I loved, I was recommended to also check out This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay. The book is similar to the Secret Barrister in that it’s a collec... (2 minute read)

Pinephone: Manjaro and Phosh 2 October 2021

It’s been a few weeks since my last post about the Pinephone. Since then I have been playing further with a different graphical shell and have been trying out new applications. In that previous ... (3 minute read)

The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How It's Broken 30 September 2021

The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken is an oustanding book. In my opinion it is easily the best book I have read in the past year - certainly the most interesting. The bo... (2 minute read)

Two months with Duolingo 25 September 2021

English speakers’ privilege I’ve always been crap at learning languages. From an early age my parents would encourage me to learn French, and I picked up Spanish and German at around the G... (4 minute read)

Accessibility is for everyone 22 September 2021

For many developers, the notion of adding accessibility features - such as image alt text attributes to web page images and integrations with host usability enhancements, such as screen-zoom and text-... (3 minute read)

Pacman: signature is unknown trust 19 September 2021

I was performing a standard system upgrade on an Arch server this morning and received the following messages (maintainer details redacted): $ sudo pacman -Syyu ... # Download of packages (159/159) ch... (1 minute read)

Twitter Learnings 18 September 2021

I recently wrote about reviewing my Twitter usage, with the aim of discovering any constructive takeways I get from the platform that warrants me keeping it installed as an app on my phone. The up-sho... (2 minute read)

Columbus Day by Craig Alanson 12 September 2021

Having recently read Project Hail Mary - and rated it highly - Goodreads suggested I try Columbus Day by Craig Alanson. This is the first book in the Expeditionary Force series - one that I hadn&rsquo... (2 minute read)

Using Telegram bots to receive updates from your automated systems 9 September 2021

The need for notifications I self-host several services on various servers - for both some professional and personal uses. I use automated backup scripts to periodically sync data to Backblaze (which ... (4 minute read)

Twitter is still too addictive 7 September 2021

TL,DR; I’m starting a Twitter diary to log interesting findings, and to measure its value to me. Twitter is pretty much the last bastion of mainstream centralised social media that I use (aside ... (4 minute read)

SSO Tools 2 September 2021

Another project I try to maintain (when I can!) is SSO Tools. This is a simple web service that aims to help developers test their own services’ single sign-on (SSO) functionality. The motivatio... (1 minute read)

Darknet Diaries: True stories from the dark side of the Internet 29 August 2021

Another of my favourite podcasts is Darknet Diaries. Created and presented by the excellent Jack Rhysider, Darknet Diaries releases new episodes fornightly. Each episode contains a true story from the... (1 minute read)

Stripping sensitive EXIF data from uploaded images 28 August 2021

The problem with image uploads Many services - including web and mobile apps - allow for their users to upload imagery. This could be to enable users to upload an avatar image or perhaps create a gall... (7 minute read)

Adding 'dark mode' and dynamic theming to your React websites 21 August 2021

Adding theming and the choice between “light” and “dark” modes to your website can enhance your site’s accessibility and make it feel more consistent with the host operat... (8 minute read)

Starting out with BookWyrm 20 August 2021

For several years I’ve been a user of Goodreads. It’s a very popular platform, and I primarily use it for keeping track of the books I’ve read, for receiving suggestions about new bo... (2 minute read)

Fixing up our outside space 14 August 2021

About 18 months ago we bought a new home. The house is an 1880s (ish) Victorian building, and many of its original features - such as tile floors, cornice, and fireplaces - had been retained, which is... (3 minute read)

Treadl 13 August 2021

I don’t tend to talk much about the projects I’m working on, but thought this would be a good opportunity to write a post about one such project - Treadl. Treadl is a web app (and more rec... (2 minute read)

Pinephone update: the first few weeks 9 August 2021

Back in April, I bought a Pinephone. I used the phone quite consistently for the first few weeks and I meant to write an update here a couple of months back, but work (and other things) got in the way... (4 minute read)

My development stack 4 August 2021

Some people have complex development processes and flows - making use of tools such as heavy editors and IDEs, Docker for running and building locally in development, or even develop entirely remotely... (2 minute read)

Our first few months with a dog 3 August 2021

About nine months ago - at the end of November last year - we adopted a dog. Although I’ve always grown up with and around dogs owned by parents and siblings, I’ve never been a huge &ldquo... (2 minute read)

Code syntax highlighting in Gatsby 28 July 2021

Providing code snippets on your website or blog can be a great way to convey meaning for technical concepts. Using the HTML pre tag can help provide structure to your listings, in terms of spacing and... (2 minute read)

Capsule.Town 27 July 2021

The Gemini protocol has gathered even more momentum in the few months since I last posted about it. Its popularity is largely driven by its privacy-focused and content-oriented design. It doesn’... (2 minute read)

Accidental Tech Podcast 26 July 2021

I listen to a number of podcasts each week. One of these is ATP (Accidental Tech Podcast). This is one of my favourite weekly podcasts. It’s humurous and full of cutting-edge discussion from the... (1 minute read)

Generating video previews in webapps 19 July 2021

Many web apps have support for uploading video files. Whether it’s a media-focused platform (such as a video sharing service) or just offering users a chance to add vlogs to their profile - vide... (2 minute read)

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern 14 July 2021

Every now and again it’s nice to dive back into a young adult book. I recently read The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. The book is a sort of dark romantic/fantasy mashup. It’s about a t... (2 minute read)

Syncing RSS feeds with FreshRSS 12 July 2021

I enjoy reading my RSS feeds across my devices - whether it’s on my phone when out and about, my Mac in between bouts of work, or my iPad when in downtime. Being able to sync feeds across these ... (2 minute read)

The '5AM Club' 7 July 2021

Recently my colleague was talking to me about the concept of the “5AM Club”, as defined in the book by Robin Sharma. The “Club” is focused around starting your day early, with ... (2 minute read)

How to resize images client-side in your webapps 6 July 2021

The problem Image processing and resizing is a common task in many types of applications. This is made even more important by modern phones that take photos several megabytes in size. For example, if ... (4 minute read)

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir 5 July 2021

Andy Weir has become renowned over the past decade for his science fiction novels. The Martian (and its movie) was hugely enjoyable and successful. I wasn’t so keen on Artemis, but still did enj... (2 minute read)

Using Blurhash to create placeholders for your images 30 June 2021

Loading indicators In user-facing software, loading indicators are extremely important to let your users know that something is happening. This is the same no matter whether your software is a CLI pro... (6 minute read)

Self-host your web searches with Whoogle 24 June 2021

Google and DuckDuckGo It’s common knowledge that part of Google’s business model is to use the data it knows about you, your searches, and browsing patterns in order to more effectively se... (3 minute read)

Joining a panel at Wales Tech Week 23 June 2021

Wales Tech Week is an annual event held by Technology Connected. The 2021 event is running this week, aiming to bring technologists together from a wide range of businesses and organisations across Wa... (1 minute read)

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman 19 June 2021

Anxious People is a book about an attempted bank robbery in a Swedish town (not Stockholm!). It is written by Fredrik Backman. The story involves a would-be bank robber arriving unexpectedly at an ope... (2 minute read)

Tmuxinator: simple terminal workspaces for your projects 18 June 2021

Living without workspaces IDEs and richly-featured text editors - such as VS Code and Sublime Text - support many great features. One of these is the notion of projects or workspaces. Such workspaces ... (5 minute read)

RSS: include your entire posts in your feeds! 12 June 2021

Recently I’ve noticed that some of the RSS feeds I subscribe to have become more and more restrictive. A post might contain just a title, or perhaps a short snippet or introductory paragraph, wi... (5 minute read)

City-centre beekeeping 11 June 2021

Getting and “installing” the nuc For his birthday a few years back, I bought my (now-)husband a beehive and a honeybee nucleus. Some might see this as a strange gift, especially given that... (14 minute read)

Married 10 June 2021

Just a quick post to say that I recently got married! By coincidence the event was three years to the day after our engagement. It was a lovely day - great weather and really nice to see those that co... (1 minute read)

I can't play games anymore 2 June 2021

Growing up and the “Warcraft years” In my earlier years I was fairly into gaming. I was definitely only ever a “casual gamer” in the scheme of things today, but I would play at... (4 minute read)

The H.G. Wells Classic Collection 26 May 2021

The Classic Collection of H.G. Wells novels contains five well-known stories: The War of the Worlds, The First Men in the Moon, The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, and The Island of Doctor Moreau. De... (3 minute read)

The networking mall 23 May 2021

Someone non-technical recently asked me the question, “what actually is a server?”. They knew it was just a type of computer that runs somewhere that can be accessible over the internet, b... (5 minute read)

How I back-up my personal server 18 May 2021

For a couple of years now I have been using a self-hosted Nextcloud as a replacement for iCloud and Google Drive. I won’t go into the details as to why (especially given the additional upkeep an... (5 minute read)

Running 12 May 2021

The effects of working from home The UK went into its first proper COVID-induced lockdown back around March time last year. At this time, our company locked its office doors and we all began working f... (6 minute read)

Self-hosted notes and to-do lists 9 May 2021

In this post I will talk a little about how I handle my digital notes and to-do lists. In the spirit of my last post on data sovereignty, the focus will be on self-hosted approaches. To-do list manage... (5 minute read)

Data Sovereignty 5 May 2021

The term ‘data sovereignty’ is something we hear much more about these days. Increasingly I’ve also heard it being mentioned in different contexts. We’ve seen it more in the wo... (2 minute read)

Go Time 4 May 2021

I listen to a number of podcasts each week. One of these is Go Time. The Go Time podcast releases episodes every Thursday. Its format is mostly comprised of panel discussions and interviews with found... (2 minute read)

Starting out with the Pinephone 27 April 2021

As you may know, I recently purchased the beta edition of the Pinephone. It arrived last week in the Pinephone Beta Edition box shown below. As mentioned in my previous post on the subject, I bought t... (3 minute read)

My appearance in the Wales "35 Under 35" 26 April 2021

This is a bit of a vanity post, but back in December I was lucky enough to be included in the 2020 WalesOnline “35 Under 35”. This list aims to present the “best young businessmen in... (1 minute read)

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson 25 April 2021

I was recently asked whether Steve Jobs was someone that inspired me. It’s a difficult question, I find; he’s definitely an inspiring person in the sense of his work ethic, the products he... (2 minute read)

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes 18 April 2021

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes tells the story of a young English woman - Alice - who marries an American man and moves to a small town in Kentucky in the late 1930s. Not long after arriving in Kent... (2 minute read)

Reporting business accounts using Ledger 17 April 2021

As is the case with many countries, all businesses in the UK must report the state of their financial accounts to the relevant inland revenue service at their year-end (in the UK, this is HMRC). This ... (4 minute read)

Six months of Invisalign 12 April 2021

Back in November I started an Invisalign course to help straighten my teeth. Invisalign works like traditional braces, but is instead formed from transparent teeth “trays” that others can ... (4 minute read)

Is Facebook scraping the Fediverse? 7 April 2021

I don’t use Facebook often. In fact, I only have an account currently because our company uses the “Login with Facebook” functionality in order to offer an additional single sign-on ... (2 minute read)

From Apple Mail to Spark to Thunderbird 4 April 2021

Like many people, I own and manage multiple email accounts - for example, some are for work, for home, or for specific projects. I used to be a strong user of solely web-based email clients (such as G... (7 minute read)

The simplicity and flexibility of HTTP for APIs 31 March 2021

Simple and RESTful HTTP APIs The HTTP standard is an expressive system for network-based computer-computer interaction. It’s a relatively old standard - it started life as HTTP/1.0 in 1996 and t... (6 minute read)

PinePhone and PineTime 27 March 2021

Pre-ordering the PinePhone Beta Earlier this week I ordered a PinePhone, which recently became available as a Beta Edition. I’ve been excitedly following the progress of the PinePhone for some t... (2 minute read)

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah 23 March 2021

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah is a book set out in the Alaskan wild. It tells the story of a young family that move in order to live off-the-grid after the father returns from being a prisoner of ... (2 minute read)

Running your own Matrix homeserver 22 March 2021

Why use decentralised communication services Centralised communication services, such as Telegram, Signal, and Whatsapp, offer convenient means to chat to friends and family using your personal device... (7 minute read)

Blood, Sweat, and Pixels by Jason Schreier 17 March 2021

This post contains some of my thoughts on the book Blood, Sweat, and Pixels by Jason Schreier. This book contains a number of stories about how some of the most well-known (and other less well-known) ... (2 minute read)

The Tildeverse 15 March 2021

The last twenty years of internet evolution Although I was still somewhere between being of single-digit age and a young teen back in the ’90s and early ’00s, I still fondly remember disco... (5 minute read)

The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy 10 March 2021

I recently finished reading The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy. This genre of novel (sort of military thriller fiction) is not usual for me and this is the first Clancy book I have read. That bein... (2 minute read)

Thoughts on minimalism, and what happens when I get mail 8 March 2021

Minimising possessions Like many people I these days try and live a minimal life when it comes to possessions. Having more stuff means there is a greater level of responsibility required to look after... (6 minute read)

Easily set up discoverable RSS feeds on a Gatsby website 4 March 2021

RSS has had a bit of a resurgence for personal websites and blogs in recent years, especially with the growing adoption of Small Web and IndieWeb ideologies. Many static site generators - including Hu... (7 minute read)

Making your Python Flask app serverless 28 February 2021

Python’s Flask framework is an easy and excellent tool for writing web applications. Its in-built features and ecosystem of supporting packages let you create extensible web APIs, handle data an... (8 minute read)

Migrating from Google Photos: Nextcloud, Piwigo, Mega, and pCloud 24 February 2021

By now I’m sure everyone has heard the horror stories about people (seemingly-) randomly losing access to their Google accounts. Often the account closures are reported to have been accompanied ... (8 minute read)

The Glamour of Cyberpunk and the Road to Solarpunk 20 February 2021

A few months ago I stumbled across this article: Beyond Cyberpunk: Towards a Solarpunk Future. It was posted on the excellent blog Tales from the Dork Web, by Steve Lord, which I can certainly recomme... (5 minute read)

A Year Without Answering my Phone 18 February 2021

This month marks a year from when I decided to (mostly - see below) stop answering my phone. This was not because I wanted to be antisocial (quite the opposite), but because it’s become the wron... (3 minute read)

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig 13 February 2021

Last week I read The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. The book won the 2020 Goodreads Choice Award for Fiction. “Set” in Bedford, England, the story starts by introducing the main character ... (3 minute read)

SSH Jumping and Bastion Hosts 10 February 2021

For many small or personal services running on a VPS in the cloud, administration is often done by connecting directly to the server via SSH. Such servers should be hardened with firewalls, employ an ... (4 minute read)

Using Monica to Help Manage your Personal Relationships 7 February 2021

Many people no longer feel comfortable using Facebook. Whether you were never a member to begin with or you’ve had an account but chosen to remove yourself from the service, or you’ve simp... (5 minute read)

Add icing to your websites using pattern.css 6 February 2021

Shapes and patterns can be leveraged in user interfaces to guide your users, draw attention to content, lend weight or emphasis, or just for aesthetics and decoration. Layout and styling on the web is... (2 minute read)

React State Management with Zustand 5 February 2021

React state React state management is what gives the library its reactiveness. It’s what makes it so easy to build performant data-driven applications that dynamically update based on the underl... (5 minute read)

RSS: The Rise and Fall... and Rise Again 3 February 2021

Many people would consider RSS - Really Simple Syndication - to be a relic of the past. However I think it has been making a comeback. RSS is a mechanism by which people can automatically receive upda... (9 minute read)

Blogging for Devs 2 February 2021

A few months ago I discovered Blogging for Devs - I think through Product Hunt when it made it to #1 Product of the Day back in August last year. At the time blogging was something I had been thinking... (4 minute read)

Why not SQLite? 1 February 2021

If you need a database for your next project, why not first consider if SQLite might be a good option? And I don’t mean just for getting an MVP off the ground or for small personal systems; I me... (3 minute read)

Dirty Little Secrets by Jo Spain 31 January 2021

Recently I finished reading Dirty Little Secrets. This is the first book I have read by Jo Spain and the first time I have known of the author. The book first appears as though it’s a typical mu... (2 minute read)

Out with the Old: Moving to Gitea 30 January 2021

If you’ve visited my geminispace (gemini://wilw.capsule.town) you’ll have noticed that I’ve recently been on a mission to decentralise the every-day tools and services I use, and wil... (4 minute read)

100 Days to Offload Challenge 29 January 2021

I know that I’ve been a bit crap at updating my blog properly and consistently over the past few years. One of my new year’s resolutions this year is to get into the habit of writing more,... (1 minute read)

Project Gemini 20 January 2021

Over the past few months I have been trying to use centralised “big tech” social media platforms less and instead immerse myself into the more community-driven “fediverse” of d... (3 minute read)

Scaling serverless apps: some lessons learned 3 January 2021

Building apps on serverless architecture has been a game-changer for me and for developers everywhere, enabling small dev teams to cheaply build and scale services from MVP through to enterprise deplo... (6 minute read)