Installing Arch Linux with an encrypted root

I’ve got a ThinkPad T410. I got it off craigslist in what was a somewhat shady transaction. Regardless, it came with a 300GB spinner. Not interested in finding out how much life was left on it I got a solid state replacement from NewEgg for “Cyber Monday”. A 240GB Intel one for $110, that’s less than 50 cents per GB!

The spinner has a single unencrypted partition with Arch Linux running on it. I wanted to run Arch on an encrypted partition. The main reason: If it’s ever stolen I don’t want to have to worry about any of the data on it. Bonus reason: Geek/spy points.

So, while there are excellent guides for installing Arch, and setting up encryption, and optimizing an SSD, there don’t seem to be any combining the three. In reality it’s not that much more difficult, and if you are motivated to setup encryption on Linux in the first place you probably know what you’re doing. Still, I was disheartened a bit at the lack of information so I decided to note how I went about it in general. Continue reading

Interesting Spam

Akismet is really good at preventing spam, but I’ve noticed that spammers don’t even seem to be trying sometimes. This is what’s in my spam queue:

{I have|I’ve} been {surfing|browsing} online
more than {three|3|2|4} hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours.
{It’s|It is} pretty worth enough for me. {In my opinion|Personally|In my view}, if all {webmasters|site owners|website owners|web owners}
and bloggers made good content as you did, the {internet|net|web} will be {much more|a lot more} useful than ever
I {couldn’t|could not} {resist|refrain from} commenting.

Granted, it’s probably a bot doing this that has some Mad Libs license key problem, but still… at least try.

Updating WordPress on hosts

Update Dec. 13, 2014:

These scripts are out of date. NFS has the WP-CLI installed allowing for much, much easier upgrades, backups, etc. See the repository for information.

Originally posted on Sept. 10th, 2014:

If you use as your web host, you may have found it difficult to automate WordPress updates. I’ve made a script that does this for you. It also calls my backup and permissions fixing scripts, which I include here as well.

Beware of some notes and assumptions though:

  • Assumes WordPress is installed in /home/public/ (not a subdir of it)
  • Scripts are assumed to be in /home/private/
  • Does not check or recover from errors

Continue reading

Windows Backup

After installing Windows 7 in place of OS X on my MacBook Pro for work, there are only a few things I miss. But man, they were really nice.

  1. Unix shell
  2. Time Machine

The first one I’ll just say if you haven’t used a Unix-like shell of some type (Bash, zsh, whatever) then it’s hard to explain. Just that you can do everything a GUI can do (save for graphics work), but much, much faster. It’s very powerful, especially with file management.

Compared to Windows Backup, Time Machine is light-years ahead. Mainly because it’s a ‘set it and forget it’ type of thing. Here’s the number one problem with Windows Backup, it doesn’t overwrite the oldest backups. That’s right, no rolling backups. So guess what happens when your backup drive is full? It doesn’t backup. Great! If you’ve disabled the annoying Action Center, it silently fails.

Windows Backup


You have to manually delete older backups. Here’s the process:

  1. Remember to check Backup status
  2. Start Windows Backup and wait for the service to start to show status
  3. Realize it’s out of space and doesn’t have any recent backups
  4. Click on “Manage Space” and wait for another window to load
  5. Click on “View Backups” to show the list below
  6. Click on a backup period to select it
  7. Click delete
  8. Click “Yes” on the confirmation
  9. Wait for it to be deleted
  10. Repeat steps 6-9 until a satisfactory amount have been removed

Windows Backup

6 clicks, at a minimum, to ensure you’re backup is working. That’s pretty lame. Also, there’s no way to encrypt your backups without BitLocker (not available in all Windows 7 flavors) or a 3rd party tool. Time machine does all of that, automatically. And it’s easy to navigate. And it tells you when things go wrong.

D-Link DIR-860L Woes

For the past week our internet service has been slowed to a crawl. Like, dial-up speeds: 0.8/0,1 Mbps (so 100 kB/s down, 12 kB/s up). I tried restarting our 8 year old modem, our brand new router. I eventually gave up and called Comcast and had a cable guy come out and check the signal level. He says it’s fine, but our modem is the culprit. So, I figure he’s right and besides, it’s an ancient modem anyway. I one-day a new DOCSIS 3.0 one and activate it.

Nope. Same speeds. I’m convinced it’s something on Comcast’s side, but after calling their support line again and getting disconnected I realize I haven’t tried connecting directly to the modem. After the call dropped I figure I’ll try it and call back. Well, lo and behold, our full 6 Mbps is unleashed. The thought that maybe Comcast support dropped the ball and flipped our internet switch back to “Normal” from “Remind them how much they need me”, and in all the embarrassment he ended the call out of shame.

Nope. Plugged back into the router, and speeds are back down to 0.8 Mbps. Great. I had already tried updating the firmware, restarting, and changing some configuration options. So in frustration I changed about 50 settings at once: Disabled IPv6, disabled the second band at 5GHz, disabled QoS, and a few other things I can’t remember. Now it’s back up to the correct speed.

So, perhaps over time I’ll start enabling QoS and 5GHz, the only things I’d really care to re-enable. Until then, who knows what killed it.

GAWMiner Fury

So I’m attempting to jump on the Scrypt based ASIC coin mining bandwagon. I got a GAWMiner Fury to try out. It came with a free ZenMiner, which is a Raspberry Pi with a custom image that runs mining software automatically, and connects to a 3rd party website to allow remote control and monitoring.

GAWMiner Fury and ZenMiner

GAWMiner Fury and ZenMiner

It came with everything needed to power up and get started. The included instructions just mention how to get started using the ZenMiner, so it’s pretty skimpy compared to most other packaged products. Being an ASIC cryptocurrency miner, it’s already a specialty device so you likely know what you are doing. Still, the ZenMiner is geared to newcomers so they can easily start mining. In that respect I think it still needs work as the ZenOS web interface is pretty but limited. Continue reading

Windows bugs

Over the years I’ve noticed a couple bugs that are present in in some or all of NT/Vista/7. I experience these on a daily basis, across dozens of computers. So it can’t just be me, right?

  1. Focus bug. If the timing is right, some windows remain on top despite clicking on a background window. The background window obtains focus, but does not move to the front. This is typically when the foreground window does some focus changing action (Showing a dialog, opening a new tab, etc.). Clicking on (focusing) the foreground window then refocusing on the background one fixes it.
  2. False maximization. When restoring windows from standby when a window is maximized and different monitor configuration than when last powered on, the window will no longer be maximized (it will be in windowed mode at or near full width and height), but the window manager buttons are in the maximized state (the restore button is shown in place of the maximize button–clicking it maximizes the window, the opposite of what it’s supposed to do).

There is one or two more less common ones, but these are all I can remember at the moment. I just wanted to get them down.

Arch Linux on Lenovo ThinkPad T410

I picked up a really cheap ThinkPad T410 from Craigslist. First-gen mobile Core i5, 4GB, 320GB drive and most importantly: 1440×900. A 40% increase in horizontal space (and 17% vertical). Finally I can tune without trying to get TunerStudio to fit.

Installing Arch was quick, as usual. The laptop has a fingerprint reader, which works really well in Linux. Now I can log in with a finger swipe–although you have to press enter after swiping.

The only thing I might change is swapping out the spinner disk for a SSD, since they are pretty cheap. I don’t like the idea of a disk in a moving vehicle.


I tried mining bitcoins a while back, briefly, and only earned a small fraction before giving up (my hardware was not up to the task). I’ve been following it casually for the past few years, and more closely now. I decided to spend a small amount (that I won’t lose sleep if it dissappears) and expirement with the cryptocurrency.

So I now own 1/3 of a bitcoin: 0.333, exactly. I’m going to try out some alt-coin trading and see what’s what.