Category Archives: General

Digital Minimalism

I just finished reading Digital Minimalism, Cal Newport’s manifesto on reclaiming our attention. It’s a fast and easy read, and I found his thoughts on solitude and leisure echoed mine from the last few months.

Between travel and professional commitments, I’ve been struggling recently to find the time my introverted brain requires to recharge. I can see the toll this is taking both on me and my family, as my ability to be present with them has been gradually degrading. Newport defines the condition of “Solitude Deprivation” as:

A state in which you spend close to zero time alone with your own thoughts and free from input from other minds.”

He builds a strong case for a link between solitude deprivation and anxiety-related disorders, and makes the claim that humans require solitude in order to survive. I’ve long known that this is true for me, and I know that I need to change my behavior and habits in order to carve out more time for myself. In particular, I need to plan and defend my time with a priority on solitude and meaningful leisure pursuits.

It’s unlikely that I’ll put myself through the intensive “digital declutter” he advocates, but I intend to evaluate the sources of distraction in my life through the lens of Digital Minimalism.

Deploying a Theme

Back when I wrote about creating a child theme for this blog, I never properly configured deployment of the theme. I attempted to configure it with git --bare init, with the working tree in the wp-contents/themes/ folder. This didn’t work. I’m not entirely sure why, but I suspect it’s due to permissions.

In the end, I cloned the repo into my user home folder:

git clone https://github.com/jeffvautin/twentytwelve-child.git twentytwelve-child

Then I created a softlink from the WordPress themes folder (via ln -s).

Finally, I added the server as a remote on my local copy of the repo, so I can push changes to it with:

git push prod master

SSH Keys with FE File Explorer Pro

Following posts by Dr. Drang and Federico, I’ve been experimenting with FE File Explorer Pro. I learned a few things I thought I’d share:

The World Deserves Nothing Less and Would Not Wait

I just read The Circle, Dave Egger’s 2013 dystopian novel about a young employee of a tech company that aspires to “complete the circle”: making all information available to everyone, all the time, with the mantra “privacy is theft”. I found the technology discussion obtuse, but the themes resonated with me.

In the book, the titular company seeks to abolish privacy through the use of “SeeChange” cameras. The leadership of this company genuinely believes that consolidation of the world’s information in a single for-profit company is in the interest of humanity. The novel illustrates the absurdity of this idea through personal tragedy.

Last week, the news broke that Facebook has been paying teenagers to provide them with complete access to their phone and web activity. This could easily have taken place in the world of this novel, in which The Circle seeks to implant tracking chips in the bones of babies at birth. In a year of escalating scandals, it’s also the tipping point for me; I’m done with Facebook. I deleted my Facebook account two years ago, and I haven’t missed it for a moment. I deleted my Instagram account today. This website is now my exclusive public presence1.

The open web is the only inoculation against the tragedy that comes with the consolidation of information within companies like The Circle.


  1. I’ve been inactive on Twitter for months, except for auto-generated links to this site. 

.plexignore

I’ve been tinkering with Plex again, and I wanted to add my iTunes music library. Unfortunately, iTunes nests Movies and TV Shows inside of the general music folder, and I had already added those folders as Music and TV Shows libraries in Plex. A little digging turned up the documentation for .plexignore files.

I created a file named ~/Music/iTunes/iTunes Music/.plexignore:

# Ignore Movies
Movies/*

# Ignore TV Shows
TV Shows/*

And I then added ~/Music/iTunes/iTunes Music/ as a Music library in Plex. That seems to have done the trick; the music is now available via Plex without duplication of the movies and TV shows.

Homebridge & Retiring the WUnderground API

With the retirement of the Weather Underground API, I needed to make some changes to my homebridge configuration.

I’ve been using the homebridge-weather-station-extended module to show the outside weather, but that seems to be abandoned, and only offers support for the Weather Underground API. As an alternative, I found the homebridge-weather-plus module. homebridge-weather-plus supports the Dark Sky API, the OpenWeatherMap API, and the Yahoo weather API, in addition to the Weather Underground.

In the end, the configuration was dead simple, per the project’s readme. I added this to my config.json, replacing the XXXs with my API key, and the lat and long with appropriate values:

"platforms": [
    {
        "platform": "WeatherPlus",
        "name": "WeatherPlus",
        "service": "darksky",
        "key": "XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX",
        "locationGeo": [lat, long],
        "language": "en",
        "units": "imperial",
        "forecast": [1,2,3,4,5,6,7]
    }
]

And with that, I have weather forecasts available to me in the home app again:

Screen capture from macOS Home app

macOS Server VPN Migration

I went to update my iMac to macOS Mojave, and I was reminded that a number of macOS Server services are no longer supported:

[…] in the fall of 2018, new installations and upgrades of macOS Server will require you to migrate most services to other software.

Apple has provided documentation for migrating from macOS Server to open source solutions, and the instructions for moving to vpnd are fairly straightforward:

  1. Turn off VPN in macOS Server (leaving your settings intact).

  2. Create the launchd file /Library/LaunchDaemons/vpn.ppp.l2tp.plist1:

    <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
    <!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC "-//Apple//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN" "http://www.apple.com/DTDs/PropertyList-1.0.dtd">
    <plist version="1.0">
        <dict>
            <key>Disabled</key>
            <true/>
            <key>EnableTransactions</key>
            <true/>
            <key>Label</key>
            <string>vpn.ppp.l2tp</string>
            <key>KeepAlive</key>
            <true/>
            <key>Program</key>
            <string>/usr/sbin/vpnd</string>
            <key>ProgramArguments</key>
            <array>
            <string>vpnd</string>
            <string>-x</string>
            <string>-i</string>
            <string>com.apple.ppp.l2tp</string>
            </array>
            <key>EnableTransactions</key>
            <false/>
            <key>EnablePressuredExit</key>
            <false/>
        </dict>
    </plist>
    
  3. Set the file ownership to root:wheel2:

    sudo chown root:wheel /Library/LaunchDaemons/ vpn.ppp.l2tp.plist
    
  4. Load the launchd job:

    sudo launchctl load -w /Library/LaunchDaemons/ vpn.ppp.l2tp.plist
    
  5. Verify that the job is running:

    launchctl print system/vpn.ppp.l2tp
    

Once I had completed these steps, macOS Server showed the VPN as running, and my attempts to disable it via the switch would result in it turning right back on. Fortunately, this is the only service I’ve been relying on macOS Server for, since caching was moved into the OS, so my migration was this easy. Replacing some of the other macOS Server services appears to be quite a bit more complicated.


  1. It appears that version 1.2 of the migration instructions have some formatting issues; some of the quotes in the code example have been rendered as smart quotes. 

  2. The migration instructions also mistakenly try to use chmod to change the ownership. 

Hotel Vernon

I just stumbled on this series of videos Narragansett Beer compiled: an oral history of the Hotel Vernon, the Yacht Club, and the speakeasy in the cellar.