2023 November 25 23:17

Two “infrastructure” changes:

Cloudflare wins!

My domain registrar for many years, Pair Domains, decided to raise their prices significantly. For a .com domain they now charge $23/year if you register for one year, and $20/year if you register for five years. The last time I renewed with them the per year price for a five year renewal was $13!

Cloudflare has been on my “radar” since they released – their public DNS server, which I use on all my devices.

Earlier this year I discovered that they offered an “at cost” registrar service: you pay the registry price plus ICANN’s $0.18 fee. No markup! On their blog they say that they created their own registrar because they needed it for internal use – the other public registrars they had used were too insecure – and decided that since they had built it, they could offer its service to the public free of charge!

A one year .com registration costs $9.15 through Cloudflare, including the ICANN fee.

My DNS has also been hosted with Pair Domains, so I thought I would start my transition there. I moved the DNS servers to Cloudflare and made sure that everything still worked, then moved the registrations. Everything was easy and seamless.

I have been “hosting” the sites on GitHub’s Pages service, which works well but has some quirks. Cloudflare has a similar service – they also call theirs Pages – but it’s more flexible than GitHub in several ways:

2023 November 23 13:38

Happy Thanksgiving!

As always, I seem to, near the end of the year, lament that I didn’t write enough. Last year I didn’t even create a journal page! It’s a bit ridiculous, and someday it may get better.

I thought I would make an effort to summarize a few of the technical adventures I have been on. Curiously, they are almost all Linux-related!

David, meet Windows!

I had heard about WSL – the Windows Subsystem for Linux – for several years, but it wasn’t until the end of last year that I got really interested. The changes with WSL2 – running a real, para-virtualized Linux kernel instead of an emulation layer for a subset of Linux syscalls – meant that almost anything possible with Linux should be possible with WSL.

I have been using an Acer 14 Chromebook as my “daily driver” for several years now. With Gentoo installed in a chroot, I had a comfortable environment for coding (mostly C and muforth) and writing. In June 2022 Google stopped supporting that machine, so I was thinking about what would be next.

I decided that, in addition to installing a conventional Linux distribution on the Acer, I would “test out” WSL and see if it met my needs. For that I needed a Windows machine, and, after much tearing of hair and gnashing of teeth, in early January of this year I bought a Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 (i7, 16 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD). I got the machine for a bit less than $1100.

It’s a beautiful machine with a big 3:2 hi-res screen, a good trackpad and keyboard, and it’s quite small and light.

I spent a day playing around with it, felt somehow overwhelmed, and put it away for several months. I had never tried using Windows on a daily basis, and while I can “get around” in Windows, I’m not comfortable with it the way I am with BSD, OSX/macOS, and Linux. Amusingly, every Windows laptop I had bought before this ended up having Linux or FreeBSD installed on it within a day of coming into my possession!

Acer, meet NixOS!

After putting the Surface away (and wondering if I should return it), I switched gears and decided I would tackle the “Linux on the Acer” problem. First I installed the MrChromebox UEFI firmware for Braswell machines. Then I made a USB installer for NixOS – which I had used on my last laptop and had really enjoyed, though I found it sometimes challenging to understand how to turn an idea I had into a Nix expression that embodied that idea.

I was able to get a comfortable text-only environment set up pretty quickly, but I needed X (the X Window system) too; this machine will continue to be used the same way it always has been: for writing code for microcontrollers, and writing words destined for the Web. I need to be able to read PDFs and web sites. I need a browser, so I need X.

It has been many years since I have installed and configured X, and this overwhelmed me the same way that running Windows did! So I switched gears again... Back to Windows!

Windows, meet Linux!

I dug out the Surface and started to patiently learn about how to configure Windows to my liking. I installed WSL, Windows Terminal Preview, and usbipd-win (which is necessary for my work with microcontrollers: it connects external USB devices to the WSL Linux kernel).

I’m not a big fan of Ubuntu, but because it’s the default distribution that WSL installs, and because the instructions for getting usbipd-win running are somewhat Ubuntu-specific, I decided to use Ubuntu for any Linux tasks involving USB devices – in particular, for talking to muforth targets.

After a few tweaks to colors and keyboard shortcuts in Windows Terminal, I was able to set up a pretty comfortable environment.

Time to return to the Acer...

Fedora Silverblue and immutable distributions

Thinking that my troubles with X (and the console font – that’s another story!) were because of NixOS, I started exploring other distributions, and this ended up being a deep rabbit hole.

In the process I discovered the joy of containers, Podman, and the fascinating and new-to-me world of openSUSE!

I have much more to say on this topic...

Read the 2021 journal.