Category: personal

Adam ruins the social networks conversation

Adam ruins the social networks conversation

Video:

In this video Adam Conover argues that people cannot leave Twitter because everyone is there and Mastodon is hard to use. He thinks that the best is to transform Twitter into a nationalized, gov-owned public good platform.

Well…

He may be right that people are not going to leave Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and the like since “everyone is there”. Which, let’s be honest, is an indirect way of saying that humans are mindless sheep who will go to the popular party regardless if they are fucked in the ass all day. So let’s not brush this aside. Humans are mindless idiots, at least most of them. And busy for that matter. That should scare the shit out of us and to make us try to find a solution for that, not a solution for Twitter and the like.

Second, Mastodon is not the fucking “fediverse”. The fediverse is a big network made up of many different platforms. It is like calling the mail, GMAIL. As if it is only Gmail. Also, if Mastodon is hard to use, and for that matter other platforms like Friendica and so forth, then humans must be true idiots because it takes you a minute to understand how these work. They are as “complicated” as Twitter, Facebook and the like. The people who think that using Linux or a federated platform is “hard”, are those that need any little excuse to not change their habits. When people start to use new platforms like Zoom, TikTok and the like, they put up with whatever new interfaces they have to navigate, just to use them because “these apps are trendy and everyone uses them”.

Lastly, a gov owned social network is not like a gov owned educational network like PBS….PBS produces specific content that it controls. A social network is made up of the content that people produce….if the gov would control that, it would be censored like hell. Terrible idea!

The solution is decentralization. Else you have a giant company or gov that decides what we are allowed to post. Therefore, small instances of locally-moderated groups of people, that create a giant network. Welcome to the Fediverse.

Now let’s continue to educate people about it rather than dreaming about the gov taking over a multi-billion dollar ad-based company and making it usable and free for all of us.




It’s no secret that Elon Musk has absolutely tanked Twitter, so why haven’t we all left? Despite the site becoming an apocalyptic hellscape, there’s a surpri…

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A lesson about why “free” is not free

A lesson about why “free” is not free

This November Facebook is rolling out a subscription model for EU. Their options: pay 10 Euros a month and you will not see ads on Facebook, or as they say it:

People can refuse to pay a subscription and continue to use Facebook for FREE while seeing ads.

Let’s quickly unpack this shitshow.

For the past 10.000 years humans have used a practice to move stuff around the globe: trade. You take care of my sheep, I give you cheese. In time it evolved into specialized work, the notion of debt (trade for it later) and the invention of “currency”. A worthless resource that humans imagine to have value. Such as gold, shells, coins, etc..

You do not have to build houses for others in return for some clothes and food, you will get a currency in return for your work. In time humans started to lose track of what is really happening in this society of trade and then believed that they work for the currency itself. Like you work for money. Despite the fact that not a single human works for money, they work for what money gets them (food, comfort, access, power, etc..).

Therefore, from economists to regular workers, journalists or historians, everyone got tricked and confused by the ways the trade practice mutated over the past thousands of years.

Nowadays it is even more confusing because one can trade their attention (watch ads) in return for accessing some digital content. Or agree to let their data being mined in return for other services. Therefore a currency is often not needed, but the practice of trade is the same as it was 10.000 years ago.

So today humans somehow think that if something does not cost money (or other currencies) that something is FREE. This is almost like saying that someone is not dead unless it has a death certificate.

If we were to understand this simple fact of life, we could cut through a lot of the crap that is raining down in today’s society. We could easily ask the question: What Am I Trading? Like: what do I have to give in return for using Facebook?

And the answer is simple: you need to give them your attention (watch ads), your data, and your currency to either pay to reach your followers and so forth, or pay for a monthly ads-free experiencing.

As you can see in no scenario Facebook is free. NONE.

This is what TROM is trying so hard to make visible: the invisible part of our society. The fact that TRADE is at the core of how this society works, and how this force of trade is making us all complete jerks, charlatans, and abusers. We need to understand what the problem is, in order to come up with any solution.

Understand first!

Astrophotography with the Pixel 4A

Astrophotography with the Pixel 4A

The Pixel 4A 4G is a phone that you can buy for about 100-200 Euros second hand, and it is an amazing device to take photos of the night sky. Most of the time you point and shoot and do no other edits. Like here’s a photo directly from the phone:

Very challenging with the Moon in the center stage, and yet it did great.

Another one from the terrace:

But when the light is weird it cannot do a great job:

I mean it is a very good photo but here it is after I manually edited the RAW one from the phone:

You can eve see a bit of the Milky Way there.

Another sample. This one it did very well:

But then I went a bit insane and edited (perhaps too much) the RAW file (because yes the Pixel also shoots in RAW):

The amount of stars is INSANE! But I feel like I made it too artificial…

Next one is a sample of a photo with yellow light pollution:

That I tried to fix using the RAW version again:

I know I made it a bit too blueish…but I think it is better than the original one. In that photo you can even see the Andromeda Galaxy:

That’s WOAH! Amazing!

Tonight we went out to take some photos before the Moon would ruin it. Here are some of the photos we took. My favorite of the night:

This is straight out of the phone. Zero editing. I LOVE it. So much that it is now the Wallpaper for my phone. Quite funny…the wallpaper that the phone took :D.

The rest of the photos are a bit edited by me but not so much:

Here are the original ones directly from the oven phone:

I think it is mindblowing to be able to do these photos only with my phone. And this is only the beginning! I have a telescope and a mount for the phone, so I will try to point it at say Andromeda or some nebulas or the core of the Milky Way and photograph through the phone. The main issue is that I have to make my telescope track these objects else they will move too fast even for the “smartness” of this camera. I cannot wait! Fuck yah!

You know I’ve seen many photos of the night sky that are 100 times better than mine. And for one they do not excite me nearly as much, simply because the ones you make are personal. You made them. So you are really enjoying them!

But second, this is about going out, seeing the night sky with your own eyes! Talk to each other, observe, be amazed. Learn more about what objects are out there….what other worlds. That’s the fun part! So I really love that there is almost no effort in taking these photos with the Pixel. I am using the Pixel Camera in Night Mode. Once it detects that it is still enough, it goes into Atrophotography mode and you simply press the shutter button. It takes usually 4 minutes to do these photos.

It’s been a while since I updated the photo gallery on my website, but now I will more often!

You know I tried to edit the above photos, their RAW files, quite a bit tonight but I feel like I should not spend too much time on that. Because it may take the fun away. In any case, if anyone is interested I am using Raw Therapee and Darktable for editing. Both trade-free.

I also took Sasha’s Sony a6600 camera to see how it compares with the phone. For sure it can take a lot better photos since the sensor is a lot bigger. But it is not that comfortable to take it with you and set it all up. I kinda fucked most of the photos I took but this one is good:

Unedited. I tried to tweak the RAW file but the above one is already good. We can even see Andromeda with a bit of color :).

I will try to do more photos with that camera too, but am telling you nothing compares with the comfort of the phone for this. However the sony camera may take such better photos if I eventually will get used to using it, that I may put up with the discomfort of it.

Next I will try some longer timelapses. The Pixel already creates some that are just 1 second long but I will find a way around it. Till then, here are some that I made:

The Smartphone World and how I cope with it

The Smartphone World and how I cope with it

My first mobile phone was one I was allowed to use for a limited amount of time. It was one my father had from his workplace. No colors, heavy, big. This is how it and I looked back then:

It was the very early 2000. It felt strange to have your parents call you when you were out. It felt like you had an umbilical cord attached to them. But phones were a cool new thing so we kept riding that wave.

Everything evolved very fast in the mobile phone world. An explosion of forms and colors appeared.

My first personal phone was the memorable Nokia 3310.

Everyone had these. They were every resilient and the most popular among teenagers. We would buy new “skins” to customize them, write songs out of the keypad sounds (yeah, here’s how), and message each other using that weird keyboard…

It was back then that the phone became not a tool to keep in touch with others, but part of your own image in this society. And I am SURE that marketing had NOTHING to do with it!

I became a bit obsessed with these gadgets. My uncle had a store selling these, so I could grab the latest and the coolest. My first color phone tho is one I bought from a friend. It was the Nokia 7650.

I was shocked at how cool it was. Colors! Camera! Sliding up and down. Wow!

I am sure I recorded a bunch of videos and I have none of them because they were of a horrible quality.

I went through a lot of other phones, mainly because of my uncle’s shop, but the most memorable was the N-Gage one.

I could play games on that thing! Wow! How amazing! But of course even I was starting to realize how kinda useless these are. Yeah you can play games and record videos, but the quality of them was terrible. Yes you can keep in “touch” with your friends, but fuck it is more interesting to meet in person!

At last you could still service these phones back then. Changing the battery was easy, and they were usually resilient even tho they were made out of plastic.

In college I settled for the Nokia 6600 because I found it to be more useful:

Big screen, comfortable keyboard, that nob in the center was useful for navigation. I used it for quite many years actually. I was able to add files to it (from documents to audio/video files), customize the look and even install some “apps”. Probably had this phone from 2008 to some 2013 or so.

This was the beginning of the “smart” phone. The access to the internet was open, the “apps” were invading, the companies were preparing the forks and knives to come for our brains!

The iPhone took over the world with its touchscreen, and the other companies followed. Now the shapes were only rectangular, the screen was huge, the keyboard was digital. The Internet was part of the phone.

My first “true” smartphone was a spanish brand, a Bq Aquaris:

That was around 2014 I think. It was thin and had a “great” camera by those years’ standards. But I was unsure what to do with it. I was taking photos and recording videos and that’s pretty much it.

In 2016 or so I had some saved money and I wanted to also start a video series for the TVP Magazine, so I decided to buy the latest and shiniest: Samsung Galaxy S7. It was a fortune, some 500 Euros. I thought I can use it as a smartphone but also as a camera, so I can do my videos with it.

4k camera, 2k screen, multi-core, waterpfoof, thisorthat-proof, cool-approved. It was indeed a very good phone and in fact I have used it since then.

I took it to the pool so many times and did a lot of recordings underwater. I washed it with soap regularly after coming from the beach to get that salt and sand off of it. I never cracked its screen and overall I kept it in pristine conditions.

In normal conditions the phone took really great photos:

And even in low light with the “pro” features of its Samsung camera I managed to take some really cool shots:

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But I did not make the videos that I wanted to make…for all sorts of reasons…And I realized something else: you do not own the phone…

The more I used it and the more I started to understand how this society and the internet work, the more I started to hate this phone. You see, there are basically 2 kinds of phones in today’s world:

1. Apple phones.

They are loaded with Apple’s shit and are locked down in that environment. Usually you have to pay a lot of money for these devices and you can’t just have an Apple phone…you have to have an Apple computer and now an Apple watch for these to work with each other. Try having an iPhone and a Windows/Linux computer and then you’ll see the hurdles when for example you want to sync your gallery across devices and stuff like that…

2. Android phones.

Google injects their own shit into Android, but then other companies such as Samsung (that sell their own phones) take the Google Android and add another layer of shit on top of it: the Samsung apps! And the phone carrier who sells these phones, say Verizon, will add even more crap of their own on top of this. If you think that’s all….some companies like Facebook can have partnerships with any of these motherfuckers and they will add their own apps preinstalled on these devices.

In all creating multiple layers of shit. A big turd cake.

Your phone is not yours.


So my S7 came with a ton of these crappy nuggets of shit. From Google Drive to Google Hello, Google this, Google that. Google assistant everywhere….their own crap Chrome browser full of nonsense. And their payment option: the Google Wallet…But Samsung had their own Samsung Pay…and their own Samsung browser….and so forth. I was also surprised to see Facebook being pre-installed. Or Whatsapp and the like.

In all honesty in the first 2 or so years of use I was not as bothered by these. It was my lack of understanding this big layered turd and the fact that I did not use the phone so much. But it started to sink in when at one point a Samsung update pushed Instagram, Netflix and a bunch of other apps into my system…they installed them themselves! WOW! And none of these apps I could remove. Not Instagram, not Facebook, not the Google apps, not the Samsung apps…

It was then when I realized that in fact I have no control over my phone. What stops them from installing and uninstalling apps on my phone?

Over the years I tried to disable some of these apps and clean up my phone. I was one of the first to use F-Droid and apps like Newpipe (replacement for youtube), so I really tried. I wanted to make my phone a device that I can trust and use, and feel like it is mine. But I realized that it was impossible….

You need these apps! You need this phone!


The truth is that there are some things in this world that you cannot escape. At least it is fuck hard to. Like having a credit card is a must, or a phone number, and nowadays your bank app to confirm payments or transfers, or some messaging apps for your work or whatever…

The phone is becoming an essential part of you being a citizen of this society. Unfortunately.

So for example I need my bank app in order to do some payments with my credit card. Else I simply cannot do any. On the other hand I do find it extremely useful to be able to pay with my phone in this trade-bullshit society so that I do not have to carry my card with me all the time. I was one of the first to use the mobile payment via Samsung Pay where I live, so much so than when I was paying with my phone back in 2016 people were shocked in the supermarket to see that. One time the cashier called her colleges to see me do that. It was so new, and yet today it is so common.

I also use Google Maps for navigation and finding info about places (when is open, see reviews, etc.). I also need a browser to access the internet and pretty much all of them are based on Google’s browser…I need to install some apps and the only place is the Google’s Play Store that they 100% control. Sure, unless you know how to install F-Droid and all that.

But the point is that you need a smartphone today and some apps, else you are fucked.

But how can I accept this phone to be with me all of the time when I felt like it isn’t mine? Not to mention the data it collects for all of the shit layer creators of the big turd cake.

The Ads!


On my Linux computer I can block ALL ads. It is so easy fortunately. But on my phone I can only block some. For the past 5-6 years I struggled so much to keep the ads away on my S7. I tested so many apps that try to block these ads. But because of how this phones are setup you can’t really block ads easily. For websites you can use a browser with an adblocker but most people use the “apps”, they don’t visit websites anymore. And most of these apps are infected with ads.

Well, don’t use these apps!

I agree…we should try to avoid these apps as much as possible, but there are some that even I (who does not use the phone much) want to use and cannot find alternatives.

Such as Surfline or Windy to keep a detailed look at the wind and waves – I live near the beach and that’s useful if you want to go with the kayak, or for a snorkel, or dive and so forth. I also use GuitarTuna to tune my guitar, or some astronomy apps…. I can’t find any trade-free alternatives for these on F-Droid.

Pause.

Trade-Free (TF) vs Trade-Based (TB).


Before I continue I need to explain this for those who are not familiar with these terms. For the past many years I have explained how our society is based on trade. All of that capitalism talk, and money, and data collection, and so on, are in fact fancy terms to describe a practice that’s at the core of our society: TRADE. I give you this ONLY if you give me THAT.

A supermarket will ONLY give you that chocolate IF you give them some currency (money). In the same way that Facebook will ONLY give you an account IF you give them your data and attention (watch ads). There is no other choice in both cases. Therefore these are trade-based, not trade-free.

A trade-free app, say one that let’s you edit your photos, is exactly that: an app that let’s you edit your photos. The people who made that app made it for that purpose. They do not want your data or attention (so they won’t add ads inside the app), or they do not want your currency (they don’t make you pay for it or hide features unless you pay for it). It is a PURELY FREE app.

Back to the smartphone-story.

The smartphone has become a trampoline for trades.


Tell me if you know any app in the Pay Store that is trade-free. So it has no ads, it doesn’t cost money, or doesn’t block features unless you pay! I do not think there are any….or maybe they are, but they must be so so so so rare.

Therefore the phone has become a marketplace where people trade their data, time, attention, and currencies, in exchange for silly entertainment. It is a disgusting world that I started to hate so much.

That Pay Store is a load of crap. You do not know what is an ad and what is an app. At times they are one. You are forced to log in with your Google account to even access it, and Google then tracks you and “recommends” you more vomit-inducing-apps and ads.

And kids are now growing up in this environment. They are used to watch ads in every app, to pay to access, to prostitute to gain more points in a game, to overall accept this circus as if it is normal. It makes me puky!

I feel like the smartphone is a trampoline for stupidity overall, because of the trades it slingshots into people’s brains.

Think about it: the ONLY reason why we see this fuckery is indeed because of trade. Because Google wants more data in order to make people click more ads, since Google gets currency for that process from other companies. People and companies who make apps are incentivized to make whatever the shit to keep you engaged in order to collect more data, more of your currency, attention. To get something from you. All of them want you to be GLUED to that fucking device!

Today this device that we call a “smart” phone is in fact a remote control for trades that in turn creates a lot of idiots. When you have a population of workers, who spend 8h or more a day doing things that probably they do not like doing, and they come home tired, then they are easy targets for these companies. Almost like flies without wings. They are easily trapped in the vast digital land of bullshit….

Because they have no more energy left to focus on anything more interesting and complex. It is easy to endlessly scroll on TikTok and watch silly videos, and it is reinforced when making silly and stupid videos is also a low effort game. A loop of crap.

You are not a human using a device, you are a consumer using a consumer device. Long are gone the days when the phones were used as phones, to keep in touch with others. Changing the skins for a Nokia 3310 to impress your classmates has transformed into a dangerous game of your image and identity being trapped into the little device that you are holding with you. All day….all night. A device that is not yours to begin with.

So I hate so much this world of zombies who are now depleted of time and thoughts. Who have a remote controller in their pockets that controls them. I hate the dependency on the phone and how it turned people into distracted idiots.

I HATE IT!

I can talk nonstop for days about how much I hate the smartphone world, from the stupid vertical videos to accepting an intimate relationship with these nasty companies, but I want to turn this into a positive direction. Imagine that….

Android without the crap!


When I bought my laptop it came with Windows, but of course I could easily install Linux on it, and so I did. That’s how now I control my laptop and it is my friend, instead of a trampoline of bullshit. No ads, no trade-based applications. So nice, so fast, so useful, so reliable!

But you can’t really do this on phones. Hard to explain why and my friend Roma does a great job understanding all of this and explaining it (so contact him πŸ™‚ ) but it is basically a fuckery about the closed down hardware that they use and licensing. So it is extremely difficult to make another operating system for these smartphones.

But a few did it.

Not creating it from scratch but using the Android OS and tweaking it to remove the cancer of Google and the like, plus add some tweaks to it to make it more private and secure. There are a few of these and you can count them on one hand. On a side note you can search for “mobile operating system” on our Trade Free Directory to find them. Quite handy!

For the past few years my S7 started to not work well anymore. The main home button rarely worked to press it, so going “home” on my phone was an uncomfortable experience. The camera would go out of focus all of the time and the only way to fix it was to smack my phone until it focused. So it was a hardware issue. And the battery was terrible. Even if I were to do nothing on my phone it would discharge on its own in less than 20 hours. Using it, even the way I used it (almost not at all), would drain the battery in 3-4 hours. It was terrible.

I was aware of these Decrappyfied Androids but I didn’t want to test them on my main device. You see the truth is that I barely use my phone. I mainly use it to see what time it is, to check the weather, navigate at times, and keep in touch with 3-4 people over Signal. I rarely take photos, but I do use it to pay. I don’t remember last time I used my card or cash to pay. However even I felt uncomfortable to experiment with these OSes on my main device. What if it stops working?

Luckily Aaron sent me his old Pixel 4A 4G a week or so ago and I thought that this is my opportunity to delve into the world of alternative smartphone operating systems.

The screen is very cracked in one corner but is not that noticeable when it is on.

It already had GrapheneOS installed, an OS that Aaron was using for some time now. I remember him telling me about it and him being excited about it. Truth is I didn’t quite understand it and I was not as curious at that time. Perhaps my hatred towards the smartphone-world is what blinded me.

GrapheneOS seem to be one of those that put privacy first, even at the expenses of usability perhaps. Out of the box the OS looks quite dead – black and white.

Yeah this is how it looks like out of the box!

Sure you can customize it a lot, but for newcomers this looks quite dead and scary. These OSes try to contain Google via all sorts of means. Like stopping the communication of Google services with the Google servers, or adding a layer on top of them so that Google does not know who you are, and so forth.

Because the truth is that if you are to only use Open Source apps, and the ones that do not track you, then you will find it hard to use a smartphone.

You will have no banking app, no healthcare system app (another one that I use), transportation app, or access to better maps…paying services that you may need, messaging apps that you may be forced to use, and so forth. It is truly unfortunate, but this is the world we live in. The fucking healthcare system here in Spain is free for all, but can’t fucking make an app that works independently of the motherfucking Google Pay Store…

Terrible!

Anyhow, GrapheneOS did not scare me, but looking at the list of devices that they are supporting I realized that they do not support the Pixel 4A 4G anymore…

Actually it is sad to see how few devices are supported. This is because these people depend 100% on Google. If Google drops the support for some of these phones then these people need to do it too….in a sense if you do not keep on buying the new phones every 2-3 years, you are left out with a device that will not receive any updates anymore even from these TF OSes.

So I decided to try another one: CalyxOS. CalyxOS was providing support for my model and promised to upgrade to the next Android version. So that was great:

Later found out that perhaps they will do what GrahaneOS was doing and only provide “extended” support for my model, but well… Anyway, I’ve heard about the Calyx Institute for a few years now and they seem to do some cool stuff.

The installation process was quite simple if you follow the guide carefully. This is the first time I am installing an OS on a phone and it was really cool to see it boot into the CalyxOS.

What’s so cool about CalyxOS?

They have a firewall that allows you to easily block the access to the internet per apps basis. This is handy when you cannot block the ads for some apps and these apps do not need an Internet access in order to work. Simply go to the firewall and disable the internet access for these apps.

They also provide trade-free VPNs. Two of them. We also provide the Riseup VPN via our TROMjaro. This is really handy in order to avoid censorship and mask your IP address.

They use microG which is a replacement for many Google Services. In other words they are going to protect you from the Google cancer. As much as they can, while allowing you to use their Pay Store.

Aurora store is an interface for the Pay Store much like Invidious is for Youtube. So without the crap. You can connect to it either in an anonymous way (click a button when you open it) or even connect to your Google account. Whatever you prefer.

On top of this you have the great F-Droid where you can find only Open Source apps.

So basically you have 2 App Centers. Which is fine I guess…

Stop. Open Source is not enough.

Let me address something. Many people focus on the battle between proprietary software vs open source software, as if that’s where the issues emerge from. They think that proprietary software is bad since you cannot control it and cannot see its source code, share, modify etc.. They are right, but no one makes proprietary software unless they want to trade it. Else what would be the reason to stop others from using your code? Why would I refuse to open my code unless I want to own that for trade purposes to either make money off of it, or stop others from using my work and make money out of it!?

So the issue starts because of trade again. And to prove that, the Open Source software is the same pile of garbage when people trade it. F-Droid has a ton of trade-based software. Software that is Open Source but limits you – they force you to pay, or register, and what-not in order to unlock more features that are perhaps proprietary blobs added on top of a demo-like Open Source code that they promote via F-Droid.

That’s why Trade-Free Software (TFS) is a much better approach because it deals with the incentive. If you make a TF piece of software then it means you do not ask the users for anything in return, and thus you are not motivated to lock it down. Very likely a TFS is also Open Source. While if you trade your Open Source software you can insert ads and trackers (to grab people’s data and attention) and hide features behind paywalls.

Trade Free Software > Open Source Software

So I would really love to see a Trade-Free Software center much like we have for TROMjaro.

When you search for an app in TROMjaro’s Library you know for sure it is not a bullshit app. It is what it says it is. If it is a photo gallery, then it is a fucking photo gallery with all of the features it provides. No data collection, no ads, no pro-bro features for the “paying customers”.

I wish this “movement” of trade-fee would catch on, to slice through the turd cake that this world has become. Until then you have to still navigate carefully even when using the F-Droid app center.

Back to CalyxOS.

They install some apps like Signal, Tor, Bromite (Chromium with an adblocker), and a few more. What I love is the ability to backup your phone to WebDav or Nextcloud. I made an article about how I bought a cheap Hetzner Storage Box and I backup 4 laptops there via WebDav. So I was able to easily do that for the phone too. It means that in theory when you reinstall CalyxOs you can bring back everything (or almost at least).

Calyx is quite nice from the Get-Go and it feels like a “normal” Android experience except the Google or other crap. It is nice and simple. They also support a few more phones than GrapheneOS does and overall I managed to install a bunch of apps and customize my phone experience. I got so trapped and excited about my phone now! πŸ™‚ A rare thing for me to say.

So how do I manage my phone-life now?


For one, I am so relaxed to know that Calyx got my back, and that the tumors were removed from the OS itself, at least most of them!

Ads, still a problem!

I tested a few of these Operating Systems and they cannot remove all ads from apps. But they should at least try to add something system-wide to try and stop them. Unfortunately Calyx does not have this. After trying so many adblockers (from adaway to personalDNSfilter or the freemium blokada) I settled for Rethink. A bit more complicated to use but you can enable so many ad-filters and seems to work very well.

You have to go to the DNS section, then select the Rethink DNS:

Then select the RDNS Plus, and then the Advanced and select a bunch of filters and then that’s it.

Well then you have to go to the battery optimization for this app and select to not optimize it, so that it always stays on. Also select from the Rethink app’s settings to start on boot. I can still see some ads for some apps…but as I said, I think it is impossible to block them….and I will not use any app that shows an ad if I have an adblocker already. Period! If the adblocker cannot block it, fuck that app.

I need to stress out how IMPORTANT it is to have a system-wide ad and tracker blocker! It is a must!

Apps via Aurora and Droid-ify

Hard to tell which one is which, but that’s good I guess. I am trying to use F-Droid as my first alternative as much as I can. But it is very easy to install ANY android app via these two managers.

Weather

Surfline and Windy for the sea and wind – these are trade-based….but I cannot find any better ones than these…However I am using the Geometric Weather for the “general weather” which is quite trade-free and looks great:

Browser: Mull!

Because it is Firefox without the BS and you can install basically any Firefox extensions. So I installed Ublock and Privacy Badger. And now I feel like I have control over it like I do on my desktop. I even added SearX as the search engine.

Now I am sure that the ads and trackers are nuked out of every website I visit, even youtube!

Maps!

I use Magic Earth for navigation. It is better than Google Maps, I can finally say that after a decade of searching for an alternative. I am not going to do a review for it now, but it has a ton of features: offline maps, great voice assistants, and a fantastic navigation system that is more accurate than Google’s.

As I said you cannot escape Google Maps since that fucker has so much data about every place and that’s useful…so I found a way around it. GMaps WV. This is basically Google Maps wrapped in a protective layer so that it won’t spy on you. It works as good as Google Maps itself. The downside is that the navigation does not work. BUT, remember Magic Earth? Well when I find a location in GMaps WV and I click share it will open it in Magic Earth and it jumps to that location. So I can easily then click “start” in Magic Earth and navigate! Search on GMaps WV and navigate in Magic Earth!

Nice! Now I can use the power of both without being spied on. Biking, hiking, car-riding, they are all covered by the above!

Nextcloud connect!

If you do not have a Nextcloud account, you can use our TROM Files then install the Nextcloud app from F-Droid and connect to it. You can choose folders to auto-upload from your phone to the cloud, so you can in theory use this to backup your files too. But what’s cool is that you can install for example the Nextcloud Notes (what I did) and have it as an independent Notes app on your Phone and your computer, all connected via the main Nextcloud account. Nextcloud is so powerful I highly recommend using it. Imagine you have access to LibreOffice directly from our TROM Files with Dark Mode as optional:

Among other apps I use SimplyTranslate (TF), LocalSend (TF and so useful), HopToDesk (TF – in case I need to control my phone from my laptop or vice-versa), and the amazing KDE Connect (TF – to control the media on my laptop; so useful when we watch documentaries on the projector form the laptop, it acts as a remote). Syncthing is used to sync the photos and videos between my phone and laptop and I use NewPipe as a TF Youtube interface.

Oh and my banking app to pay with the phone. Luckily it worked because something like Google Pay does not work on any of these TF OSes I think….

And that’s one downside, some apps (maybe rarely) will not work on these custom OSes.

Be mindful about that!

To the the sky!

When I got the Pixel 4A it came with a surprise: the Google Camera for the Pixel has an Astrophotography mode. It means that when you hold your phone still on a tripod, and it is night, and it detects all of that, it automatically goes into this astro-mode and can take amazing photos of the night sky. So amazing that I am amazed! πŸ™‚

More on that in a bit, but basically I am using Sky Map, SkyView Free, Nightshift, Phases of the Moon, and Stellarium to track the objects in the night sky for my next adventure (astrophotography) and my old hobby (go out with the telescope – I have to do it more often….). All of these apps are Trade-Based unfortunately…I cannot find any relevant TF apps for these….and it is such a shame…

Now, back to the astro-mode on the camera. For this, we have to talk about the Cameras. The FUN part!

The Software is more important than the hardware


These are zoomed in photos with the Pixel, in very dim light, hand held. Click to enlarge:

With OpenCamera – best TF camera app.

With the Pixel Camera app in auto mode.

With the Pixel Camera app in night mode.

The difference is huge. The OpenCamera photo looks like it was taken with those early 2000 phones. And yes I tried many settings for that app and cannot get better results than that.

I just now realize how crucial the software is for these phones after testing at least 20 camera apps. Not one gets close to the Pixel Camera. Again, mind you, this is THE SAME EXACT PHONE, but different camera apps.

What can I say….Google does a fantastic job at processing these photos. And it is all so easy to use. Actually the camera and the Pixel Camera app really impressed me. The way it takes photos looks quite close to how the scenery looks in reality… Here are some photos I took:

Mind you these are photos that I took without much effort at all. Grab the phone, take a photo. The photos really look amazing. Yeah, truth is in normal conditions pretty much all phones take great photos. But the processing the Google does is indeed making a huge difference in dim and low light, not to mention the astro-mode….Man look at these photos:

So many stars and I took these photos when there was almost a full Moon, therefore the worse conditions for astrophotography. I cannot wait to do them in full darkness and do them properly. I’ve seen some photos made by others with this phone and app and they look astonishing. I cannot wait to start and do more. I was already going to test the waters of astrophotography before even knowing that Aaron will send a phone, but now, with this phone, it makes it all so much easier. You’ll see, I will post my adventure on my blog! πŸ™‚

As a side note with my S7 I had to do a lot of setups with the phone in order to take photos of the night sky. The ISO, exposure, colors, etc…

The battle of the cameras!


For the past 7 or so years I noticed a trend in this world of phones: the “battle of the phones”. Youtubers and bloggers comparing the phones in a battle-like-style where they focus on minuscule things like how many atoms is this one thicker than the other one; zoomed photos in low light, tap to open an app on multiple phones at once and see how many light-seconds difference was between them….bla bla bla. It is a cult I swear. A cult of idiots who want to make money out of the views they generate for stupid and simplistic content. Yes there are some differences between phones, but they are really not important for the vast majority of uses.

Remember my S7 and the awesome photos it took of the night sky?

That was 7 fucking years ago. I wonder if the same camera could take advantage of that Google Pixel software how would they look like? If the software makes so much difference, you wonder what makes these phones obsolete? And likely it is the software. My S7 is in an almost perfect shape, besides that home button and the camera focus that I may have broken over time. But the screen is as good as my Pixel 4A. 2k, OLED, no difference!

The hardware on most phones can deal with any bloody task anyone has.

What I am trying to say is that the new phones are as good as the old phones, and it is mostly a progress of the software. A progress only applied to the new phones, to sell more.

Imagine if a phone like that S7 would receive updates today and be improved in terms of software….instead of people throwing their phones after 2-3 years of use, we could keep on using them for a long long time….

A lot less waste in terms of phones being thrown into the garbage, and a lot less waste of time and resources. People should do other things than creating the same phones every few months….

To give you another example. Sasha has a huge phone, and funny enough it is yet another one of Aaron’s old phones…is not like he buys phones so often but he gets phones from others too. I think this one was from his uncle, because yeah….as I said, people buy new phones all the time. Her phone is a Huawei M20 Pro:

It is HUGE. Look at it compared to the S7. And it has 3 cameras because it is so lame to have just 1 nowadays. The cameras are indeed better than the S7, but not by a lot, and only in some ways. The Pixel has only 1 camera, so what is the purpose of so many cameras? Wide lens and Zoom.

I went with Sasha for a hike and we saw some beautiful Iberian goats. Bheee. They were very far so we could barely see them with our own jelly-cameras, the round mushy balls that we have bulging from our skulls. So we decided to use our phones and grab some photos.

Her camera can zoom in like nuts…so she took this photo that doesn’t look terrible:

My Pixel only has a digital zoom and yeah the photo is not as good if you enlarge it:

Tho considering that most people use smartphones nowadays, on a small screen the difference is not that noticeable. We can try to get even closer to the horned-animals via the cameras:

Huawei goes as close as that. While on the Pixel I would have to manually crop the photo to zoom at that level.

Yes, sure, we can see a “clear?” difference. Huawei is better at taking these super zoomed-in photos. But for one look how good the Pixel still does despite having only digital zoom. And second even if Sasha’s photos look better, they still look like shit when you try to get these shots, so I do not think anyone is going to use these super zoomed in photos for anything anyway. So what’s the point?

There are however instances where if you zoom in at reasonable distances the photo is indeed nice (click the photos to see them in full quality):

Again Huawei:

And the struggling Pixel:

In dim light the Pixel did better when zooming in. This is Huawei without zoom:

Here is Pixel:

And zoom in at max with the Huawei directly from the camera:

Then tame it down to a more reasonable zoom:

I did the same for the Pixel and zoomed at max with the camera:

Pixel does better.

But of course who is hunting for that awesome shot of a deodorant in a dim light room using the phone camera? πŸ™‚ A more decent comparison is this: a photo of the island with Huawei being hand held and no zoom – it was so dark we could barely see the island:

Huawei could also barely see it :). And it was taken with the phone’ nigh mode. Pixel did a ton better (same: hand held and no zoom):

But honestly who is taking these photos of things that you can’t even see with the naked eye? Because even if you can see the island with the Pixel, I will never use this photo for anything…it is still crap quality.

Lastly, a realistic scenario of a hand held photo of a darker scene at night. Something many people will photograph for sure. Both phones were in the Night Mode, so you had to hold your phone for a few seconds.

Huawei:

Pixel:

I am truly impressed by the Pixel how good it takes these low light photos.

So yes you can improve the hardware on these phones too, but it is blown out of proportions. I bet very few people need to take these super zoomed in photos or in super dark places….these are the things that Youtubers focus on in order to get more views because in these extreme cases you may see some differences between the phones so they can use that to explode it into nonsense comparisons. And of course these videos are so easy to make…. And when you see Pixel doing these great night shots, it is mostly (if not entirely) a difference in software….something that could be improved on all phones. No need to throw these phones away and buy new ones or add more and more cameras. We would need software improvements… If only humans were motivated to do that….

Back to the S7!


Now that I could experiment with the Pixel and I would use it as my daily driver, I said why not try to install a TF OS on the S7. I came across /e/ OS (bloody weird name). They support over 200 phones, which is already mind-blowing. Luckily the S7 was one of them. The installation process is top-notch. They have a special app you can find on Linux that will guide you step by step, with photos and all of that. You can’t do it wrong! Unless you are a complete idiot :D.

And voila! eOS on the S7:

Rocking the Android 10 instead of the 8 that it got stuck with since 2018. No more Google, no more Samsung, no more bullshit! Felt so refreshing! Almost like it was a new phone!

It took a lot longer than CalyxOS to install, but it was not difficult at all.

My sister had the exact same model and her phone bricked 2 weeks ago. I said what if I open it and grab the camera and the home button, and maybe the battery too? I never opened a phone so I had to learn how to do it. Heat the back of the phone with a blow-dryer and then with a playing card try to unglue the back from the phone.

And so I did it:

This is an insane way of having to open up a device. It should be easier. Screws anyone!?

But anyway after a few hours I indeed managed to replace the camera and the battery. To replace the home button you have to take the screen apart and that is super difficult with these phones so I decided not to risk and destroy the phone.

And here it is, the Samsung Galaxy S7 without the Samsung in it, or any other crap, and with a working camera and a much better battery:

Now I am thinking if I should install eOS on my Pixel too…it is great o have a system-wide ad/tracker blocker, to integrate with Nextcloud from the get-go, to even have Magic Earth installed, to be so clean and nice and to support over 200 devices… Also to have ONE single App Manager is fantastic. Together with ranking these apps for privacy inside of the Manager itself.

Yeah, eOS looks quite great.

I really dislike that they made it look like iOS and you are unable to add widgets on any screen. And I am not sure how well the backup app (SeedValut – btw developed by CalyxOS) works on their system. And I cannot live without backups man :D.

The only downside is that the camera is now kinda bad. As I mentioned several times before, the software is essential in order to take good quality photos. And since I cannot find the Samsung Camera app anywhere, any other camera apps takes bad quality photos.

So now I have a “brand new” Samsung Galaxy S7, with a shittier camera :D.

Back to the Pixel!


I thought is easier to show you the phone and talk a bit about it, so watch this video where I also have tourette and cough many times πŸ˜€

Here’s a short video I did with a Pixel that has the stock Android and is full of Google tumors:

Overall I really like this phone with CalyxOS and because it was free I like it 10 times more. Indeed I depend on the Google Camera entirely, else the videos and photos would look crap, but at least in CalyxOS I could easily disable the internet access for both the Camera and the Google Photos app that the camera depends on. So all of the processing and that, happens on my phone.

Thank you so much Aaron!

Conclusion


Waste of materials.

All of these (plus this one) are the phones we have at home, on top of our own phones that we use daily. Which means we are 5 people and have 12 phones in this house…

Six motherfucking phones that we do not use! One is my old S7 and I just now have replaced it with the Pixel I got from Aaron. Another S7 is my sister’s and it bricked, but basically many things like the camera, buttons, etc are still working – so what can we do with it? The iPhones were given to us by other people, but being iPhones and locked down we can’t use them so we will give to other people. Actually the last iPhone in the photo is quite dead and the one before it cannot update anymore (thanks to the Apple-environmentally-conscious company).

Yes that’s a new thing from Apple now on their main homepage…. yet they make new phones every few months and incentivize people to buy them via the pesky ads that have infected us all.

Then they stop providing software updates for the old phones and you cannot install many apps from their “store” because your system is not up to date. On top of that you may find it impossible to fix any hardware issues with these old phones (may not find the parts anymore, or will cost more to repair than to buy a new model).

Imagine how many people have these outdated phones at home….there must be in the hundreds of millions. And when they dispose them is not like the Earth will eat them and poop trees.

So the conveyor belt production of phones, coupled with the invasion of ads everywhere, have created a catastrophic situation of wasted resources and pollution.

If Apple, Google and the rest want to be “sustainable”, then it is simple: make good phones that can be easily repaired and upgraded, and provide lifetime software support.

Waste of brains.

Let’s be honest, most people give no shit about who the fuck made this phone, about the data collection or even ads. When people see their phones with Whatsapp, TIkTok and Instagram pre-installed they cheer, not get angry. They use these apps a lot. They consume and are being consumed. And overall the phone is so small and full of crap that you can’t really use it for more than endlessly scrolling through nonsense, spiced with ads and data collection.

I wonder if people have thoughts nowadays….

Useless features

My phone films in slowmotion at 240 frames per second. Here’s a video where I showcase how throwing a darts arrow in a weird way makes it eventually rotate in the proper way because of how it is designed:

That’s very cool. But filming in slowmotion is a feature that I will probably never use. I remember when I got my first slowmotion camera – a cheap one from Lidle some 14 years ago. I filmed for a week or two, all sort of things in slow motion almost burning down my house because I wanted to see how flames flame in slowmo :D. And then I forgot about it. And most will too!

How many times you felt like filming in slowmotion? Or zoom in like crazy for a shot? Or take photos in extreme darkness?

These “features” that the phone companies add, are mostly useless for most people. They use these as marketing strategies, of course.

But you love the astrophotography feature you cunt! Isn’t it?!

Yes, but this is a software-related feature mostly. These are features that should not require any hardware change. Such features I understand and accept as useful. But adding more cameras, or other hardware components, that most people won’t use, only adds up to the waste that’s being created by divorcing people from their old phones.

We need no new phones.

Using these Trade Free operating systems we can put a new life into our old devices. And we can do that for hundreds of devices.

It is not a perfect ride at times as I’ve seen with my S7 that basically has a shitty camera right now due to the fact that there is no camera app adapted for its hardware. But the more support these devices get in terms of software, the more chances for us to create a similar world to the one of the computers where I can use any 20 year old laptop with the newest Linux it!

I would never buy a phone, especially a new one. But eventually I think it is worth to sell your phone if it is not supported by any TF OS, and buy a cheap second hand one that is supported. So that you detach yourself from the big turd cake. I highly recommend the Pixel 4A 4G that I have. You can find it second had at about 100-150 Euros. It is a great phone considering the alternatives.

Ideally we should share these things…and at one point we will release a sharing platform for that purpose.

Will these Trade Free Operating Systems be reliable in the long term?

CalyxOS will likely drop the support for the Pixel 4A in a few months time because Google drops the support for it. But that’s fine. I am ok with using it for a few more years without any updates. I used the S7 for at least 3-4 years with no updates and rely on Android 8. Plus I can always switch to /e/ OS because it is likely that they will support these devices for longer.

So yes, I think they are reliable and perhaps more such TF OSes will spark over the next years.

A battle to clean the shit

In the end all of the energy and resources put into these TF OSes, and TF software, and even this article and the time I spent to deal with the phones’ situation for the past week(s), is all about cleaning up the shit. Nothing more.

No innovation, or discovery, or learning something new. It is to clean up the big pile of shit that humans have created in the digital space. To stop these companies for spying on us, from stopping the ads from burning our eyes, and tricksters to make us pay for useless shit.

Imagine of this was a saner society…this article and all of the effort I talked about, would not exist. They will be directed towards creating something new, instead of fighting against these cancerous practices.

But now that we live in the shithole society much like a wingless fly being trapped in a vast cow turd, we have to find our way out of it. If you have some dormant phones-at-homes either install a TF OS on them and use them, give them to your friends, or sell them and buy second hand phones that are supported by these TF OSes.

But more importantly, make sure to tell everyone about the fucked up situation that revolves around these “smartphones” and why it is a side effect of this trade based society that incentivizes these types of behaviors: from “companies” to “consumers”.

The best backup tool?

The best backup tool?

Disclaimer: I only have used this for less than a week but I plan to use this for years to come. My excitement compels me to write an article about it.

Backups. So useless 99% of the time, but when you need them, that 1% of the time, they are crucial. I lost TB of files, twice, by mistake, and I had no backups, so that made me be extremely cautions about securing the survival of my digital files. And the files of my family.

The challenge: 4 laptops, around 3TB of files, and hundreds of thousands if not millions of them. From tiny files to tens of GB in size. I need them to be backed-up daily in at least 1 safe place. Sounds easy? Well…may not be.

Local backups plus file sync.

I used to backup all of my files on external HDD’s that I kept in a shoebox attached with a lot of umbilical cords to my laptop.

I was syncing them with FreeFileSync since I found it easy to use. You have a left side where you can select directories you want to back up, and a right side where you can select where to sync.

But ofc you had to go through some settings and put on some rules about what to do with the deleted files and so forth. Plus you had to create a CRON job to automate the process.

Took me some time to figure that thing out. On top of this some files were not properly copied. This was hardly a backup solution. It was sketchy.

Setting this up for the other laptops was not feasible since you would need the FreeFileSync to copy files over the internet from their laptops to my HDD. Ttherefore I used Syncthing to basically sync the files from the other laptops (my family) to my external HDDs. When you need to sync hundreds of thousands of files like that, it is a pain in the ass. Slow, unreliable.

So basically it was difficult, slow, and I was entirely attached to my desk and the drives. No good!

I also tried DejaDup Backups and although super easy to use, it was never that reliable and too simplistic.

Borg, Vorta and Pika.

Before using these I tried a traditional backup method for those who wanna “pay and backup”. Simple as that. Mega. I was paying around 20 € a month for 8TB. Fuckers only provide 2TB or 8TB but nothing in between. I needed only 4TB or so…

Anyway, with Mega it is easy to backup, files were encrypted, they have a good Linux desktop client. I was doing that in parallel with the local backups. But it was not as reliable and would always backup, or sync to Mega. Not every X hours or daily, but ALWAYS. Plus I was relying on them and them only, and their website to go through my files and restore any. And took ages to decrypt my files in the browser to then access them….I felt uncomfortable to use Mega and it was a bit expensive. Plus I could not easily backup the other laptops to the same Mega account.

In all, it was not that great.

Borg. A new way to do backups.

Mega is designed for filesharing, but Borg is for backups. They must be good! But the truth is, a bit complicated. Now, to backup with Borg locally you need either Vorta or Pika, since I am not aware of any other tool for the job that is easy to use.

Pause!

I know there are many people passionate about computers who rsync and restic into ssh sources and daemon-kickstart their backups. I do not want that! I want an app with an interface that I can easily setup for me and my family. I do not do backups because is fun, but because I want to easily backup my files and restore them.

So with Vorta you open it and have to understand how and why they use “repositories”, else you are lost. Repository means….well…hard to explain but you have to select this:

Then choose a folder/drive on your computer where Vorta will create this repository, which is a bunch of files with rules, containing data about your backups. Once you understand this concept is easy. Select a local path then navigate the oldish Vorta interface to select what files you want to backup. Vorta also advertises their borgbase.com, their paid service:

And that does not sit well with me.

They also use this “Prune” notion to delete old backups. In all Vorta is quite messy I would say hard to navigate. For me at least.

But it gets the job done. Locally, from what I remember, it took a few days to backup my 2TB files because it is also encrypting them and compressing them. So good that 2TB may transform in less than 1TB in the repository. That’s fantastic!

The incremental backups are also fantastic and take only a few minutes. Therefore only the first backup is slow. To access your backups you have to go to “archives”, select one, then either “extract” it – which means you’ll be able to download all of it, or parts, somewhere – or “mount” it which asks you to select a folder on your computer where it will mount it all.

The “mount” part is what Borg introduced me to, and it is fabulous. It basically creates a folder where you can access ALL of your backed-up folders and files. These are NOT on my computer, they are “streamed” from the backups drive into a mounted directory:

Which means I can access how my computer files were 6 months ago, if I have backups for those, and navigate them and copy from it to my computer anything that I want, while being able to preview any file.

Stop for a moment to think how useful this is. It is like going back in time, via your file manager, and see your files. Resurrect the dead 2.0!

This is even more amazing when you backup to an online location.

Borg plus Online = Hard.

The same concept and gymnastics apply when you backup to an online location. Remember, I need to backup 4 laptops not just mine. So I decided to rely mostly, if not only, on online backups.

Online backups.

Look…I’ve heard that people say that you have to backup in 2 different locations and one should be local. But let’s be honest, most people do not do any sort of backups and they are fine most of the time. And backing up to an online location is damn secure nowadays. What can happen? The datacenter may be destroyed? Most datacenters have backups anyway so they can restore immediately, and overall it is so rare for this to happen. Almost never.

Second potential problem: these online providers may close your account for some reasons. But super unlikely. If you do encrypted backups and no one knows what you are storing, why would they? Yes they can close your account if you use their storage locations to store “illegal” files that you publicly share….but else…

So I decided to rely on online backups and also finally detach my laptop form the umbilical cords.

Problem numero 1.

For Borg to work you need to find a hosting that provides Borg backups. The server itself NEEDS to have Borg installed on their side too. Right now I only know 2-3 such provides. So from the get-go this is already very limiting. I chose BorgBase since they seem to be the cheapest and most reliable. But for some 4TB of storage you have to pay around 23 € a month. Mega is twice as cheap.

Problem numero 2.

Fucking SSH keys…

I won’t rant again about them, but it was always a pain to create one on my machine, then add to BorgBase, then add to the repo, then connect the two. At times it won’t connect. In short, it was always uncomfortable for me with the SSH keys and 4 laptops. I am still confused about them. I hate them!

BorgBase!

So I ended up setting repositories with BorgBase for everyone and backing up there, daily. Despite being a lot more expensive than Mega, it was a lot more reliable and I felt more comfortable using it.

But I cannot tell my girlfriend, sister, or parents to use Vorta in case they may want to restore something. Because it is too complicated. So I thought to try Pika.

Pika – great and unreliable.

This one is light years better than Vorta in terms of the interface.

Easy! Files to backup, files to exclude, Archives…

Even the schedule is sane:

I can give instructions to my mother over the phone and she can manage it no problem. I cannot say that about Vorta….

However…to connect to BorgBase is not something my mother can do.

So I have to create a new repository on BorgBase.com for my mother, copy the URL for it, add to Pika. Open the terminal on her laptop and figure out what’s the command for creating an SSH key. Create! Find out the command to display it. Copy the key. Go to BorgBase and add it to the Keys section. Then go to the repository I created for my mother on BorgBase and attach the key to it.

Only after that connect to the repository via Pika. I don’t like it, but I did it for everyone.

And guess what, at times this SSH key needs to be “unlocked” with a master password on your XFCE desktop and if you are not prompted for it when you reboot, then Pika is like “I cannot connect there is no SSH key I can use”. So for example on my sister’s laptop the backups with Pika failed multiple times because of this.

Am telling you the SSH keys suck balls πŸ˜€

The main issue with Pika. It is slow.

This is something that I reported to the developers. Pika was several times slower than Vorta to backup. So slow I had to use Vorta to do the first backup for everyone, before using Pika to pick it up on the incremental backups. I remember backing up a few hundreds of GB for my sister’s laptop and it was like 10% after several days.

If Pika wasn’t so slow, it would definitely be worth using it. But if you do not have to backup a lot of files, it can be ok. It is a reason why I added Pika as the default backup tool in TROMjaro. It is great overall!

Pika can also mount archives like Vorta and it can even backup to FTP/SFTP sources. And that’s the key for finding out the best backup tool!

Kopia – the best!

We have used Pika and Vorta for the past 2 or so years. Pika was unreliable at times for a few of us. And Borg overall limited in terms of hosting choices and a pain to setup. Plus expensive.

A backup tool needs to have a simple interface; to allow you to easily control what to backup and what to exclude; to allow you to manually delete old backups; to make it easy to schedule and to restore. Plus to support different locations: SFTP/FTP, WebDav, S3, local…

Kopia is an app I found a few days ago while I was trying to find out how the hell to move from BorgBase to a Hetzner Box which supports Borg.

Hetzner provides some really cheap storage boxes. Look:

For 13 € a month you can get a 5TB storage, half as cheap as BorgBase. Mega was 20 € for 8TB, Hetzner is 26 € for 10 TB. So Hetzner is almost as cheap as Mega. Plus look how many protocols it supports:

I tried for several days to make Pika/Vorta borg backups work with Hetzner, but because of multiple SSH keys failures I gave up. No more Borg, that’s it! Fuck those SSH keys!

So I tried Pika via SFTP to Hetzner. Connecting via SFTP is 100 times easier. You get an URL, a username, and a password from Hetzner. Add that to Pika and voila. Connected!

Problem is when I tried to backup my 2TB with Pika to Hetzner it took almost 2 days to backup 3%. Terrible. I had to try something else.

Ok, so what’s this Kopia?

Well it is open source, does encrypted backups by default and with compression, does not promote any hosting so it is independent, and it looks a bit oldish or Windows-ish. Those were my first impressions. I quickly found it in TROMjaro Add/Remove Software as KopiaUI. And it looks like this:

Not bad…And all of those are the protocols that it supports. Yes we see Google there and Azure, but well in case people wanna use these to backup….

So I like that it is so straight forward from the get go. I go and select WebDav since Hetzner supports it.

3 fields. Completed them and connected in less than 30 seconds to Hetzner! See that Borg? See that SSH key nonsense? πŸ˜€

And this was the first WOW, fuck I love it! moment. No more BS SSH keys. That’s it. Connected.

You see they also use repositories and now I understand why this is great. Once I connected to my Hetzner WebDav, Kopia created some config files there and from that moment on it will update those files based on the changes I make via Kopia. I will explain later why this is amazing!

Ok, next step. They call backups as “snapshots”. Click and see this:

Select the folder/directory you want to backup. I chose my entire Home folder. From here on can be a bit more complicated but it is totally worth it!

Policies!

If they called these “rules” would have been better, because that’s what they are. So in Policies click edit on your snapshot that you have created.

Here you will see a lot of options but here are the important ones.

Snapshot Retention (how many backups to keep):

This can be confusing but most backup apps use this approach. I want mine to be kept for 30 days, like imagine the past 30 days I have a backup a day. Then for each week to have 20. So for the past 20 weeks, that can go back some 5 months, a backup a week. 12 a month means the same, basically I could have a backup from june, one from mach, or january, and go back 12 months. Took me a bit to understand what these mean….

Then Files is meant to be about ignoring certain files or directories:

I am still unsure if you should add the path with / or without, so I added both. You have to add this manually. Pika is far superior in terms of UI.

Next in Compression:

I selected the one that you see there. You have lots of options. Not for casual users, but well…make sure you select a compression so that the size of your backups is reduced.

Lastly: Scheduling. To schedule how often to take a snapshot.

Bellow all of those is a save button. Save it!

This was the hardest part. Once you learn to navigate that part a bit, that’s it. No more headaches. Trust me this is better than setting up Borg with SSH keys :D.

Now simply go to Snapshots and click: Snapshot Now to create your snapshot.

Keep in mind this app is actually quite simple and efficient. You only have Snapshots, where your backups are. Policies to edit the rules of how your snapshots will be taken, and the rest 2 are for Tasks to see what tasks have been made or, Preferences for a few settings.

It really is not much to it. And that’s fantastic! Except setting up those policies, all is easy.

Fast as hell!

2TB of data backed-up in less than 20 hours, and compressed to 1.4TB. Remember, same files, same server, took Pika 2 days to backup 3%. Would take Vorta a few days to backup to BorgBase.

But I was shocked at how fast it is. And it never crashed.

Easy to restore.

Click the Snapshots, then the “path” – basically your snapshot, and you’ll see them all:

Very easy! I also like the retention tags, the colorful ones.

Now say I wanna restore from the 17th of October. Click it and you’ll see a list of your directories and files:

What I suggest now is to click the top Mount as Local Filesystem button. And then browse:

And this does what Vorta and Pika do, mounting the backup on your system. Again, this is NOT on my computer:

This is from Hetzner but I can browse it as if it is on my computer. How fucking cool! And Kopia is much faster when it mounts them than Vorta for example. Actually Kopia is instant for me.

Icon tray that’s sane!

So simple. Choose to start it on boot, or connect to another repository.

Move it anywhere!

So after I backed-up 2TB of data to Hetzner via WebDav with Kopia, I removed all of the Kopia settings files from my laptop, almost like starting Kopia as brand new. Then I moved ALL of the repository files and backups (1.4TB) from Hetzner to another location on the same Hetzner box. So almost like being on another server. Opened Kopia and it was as if I opened it for the first time. No more backups or anything.

Added the WebDav credentials that would point to the new Hetzner location where the repository was, and in less than a minute Kopia brought back all of my backups and settings.

From this:

To this:

In seconds.

How cool!

This means that I can move the entire Kopia repository anywhere, including locally on a drive, and simply point Kopia to it and we are back on track in minutes! Tell me this isn’t amazing!

Imagine if I find a better alternative to Hetzner. I can move the repository from Hetzner to the new location and then point Kopia to it, and voila. All back!

I cannot do this with Borg. At least not easy at all.

Kopia + Hetzner

I will give you more info about how I set it all up. Remember, 4 laptops need to be backed-up.

In the Hetzner Storage Box panel you can create sub-accounts. These accounts have access to only the folder you give them access too. Like in the example bellow, Sasha only has access to the folder Backups/Sasha and cannot access the other folders:

When you create such a user Hetzner gives you a username and password. Save them. For example when I created the user for Sasha I saved the username (different from Sasha, unique to this storage box), and password. She needs those plus an URL like: https://her-username.your-storagebox.de.

That’s all. She can connect to it via Kopia WebDav in seconds.

Side-note: you also have a MAIN admin user for the entire Hetzner box that you can find in the panel. That user has access to all of the folders for all of the users. I used that admin user to connect in the same way to my Nextcloud account via TROM Files. Simply go to Personal Settings and then External Storage and add a WebDav connection:

Now I have extended my Nextcloud storage to 5TB :D. And I can access the entire box. That’s how I created the folders for the other users. So yeah, you can use the Hetzner Storage Boxes to expand your TROM Files storage to massive amounts.

So yeah, basically you can easily create new sub-accounts on Hetzner and give WebDav access to whoever you want. That’s how I now do the backups.

Hetzner also allows for automated snapshots of the entire storage box:

And these snapshots take very little storage space:

Imagine if by mistake you delete your backups from Kopia or who knows how. You can restore them via the Hetzner snapshots. Neat! Double the safety!

Conclusions.

13 € a month for 5TB, 4 different users with access to WebDav, plus Kopia on individual laptops.

5TB should be enough for many years to come, so it is totally worth it.

Kopia is not as nice looking as Pika, and their “Policies” can be a bit confusing, but else it is so to-the-point, fast, flexible, and reliable. And it is way more than what I presented. See here.

I feel much better now when I know that I can move my backups anywhere and still have them work with Kopia in less than a minute.

Plus doing all of my backups online makes me more free to use my laptop as a laptop. Fuck those cables, I got sick of using them for so many years. I need to keep a balance between security/safety and comfort/mobility.

Divorcing myself from this retarded society

Divorcing myself from this retarded society

I need to divorce myself more from the society/politics/conflicts part of our world. It is insane what it has become. When Russia put hundreds of thousands of troops on Ukraine’s border and were accused of preparing an invasion, they said that’s entirely false. Then they invaded, then they called the war against Ukraine as a “special military operation”.

They bombed hospitals and schools and residential or public spaces, killing so many innocent people…

UK, USA, and EU were “horrified” at these atrocities, while China was “on the fence” and Iran and the like were kinda cheering up for Russia and helping them.

Day by day, people dying, politicians lying. People were crying…

And now Israel drops thousands of bombs on Gaza, killing again so many innocent people. Creating a total disaster.


So much suffering, just like in Ukraine. And yet USA, UK and EU are cheering up for Israel.

Even helping them…

Suddenly there is no more genocide….

Israel says they only kill the bad people, despite the videos and photos showing the contrary. They say they are saints and are fighting against evil, because you see Hamas killed over a thousand innocent Israeli people and that’s EVIL, so they must go and kill thousands more innocent people….because that’s GOOD!

Not to mention what Israel has done to palestinians over the past decades….trapping them in an open prison basically…

Then Russia is like: Oh my god, this is genocide! Unbelievable! To drop bombs on hospitals and kill entire families. This is terrible!

And China speaking up against what Israel is doing, more than what Russia is doing. And Iran talking about “human rights”….

And Ukraine not putting any blame on Israel for doing what Russia is doing to them….

Add to the mix the Hamas and other groups that create a lot of misery and terror, and the values of the so called “Arab countries” that are full of shit, and the primitivism of religion overall.

Ukraine is also not an angel, or any other tribe for that matter. Politicians are lying, propaganda is a daily news, and people continue to suffer while at the same time we have problems like cancer killing so many people, tuberculosis that is treatable killing the poor by the millions; diseases, climate change, pollution….

But the thing is, many of these situations are still a result of our trade-based society. The destruction of our environment, enslaving people, making humans into consumers, and so on, are a result of this society.

But even when it comes to wars they are a result of boiling trade-interests on a high flame. Where politicians say all sorts of stupid things, create propaganda through social (ad) networks that also rely on trades, promoting nationalism and patriotism to get more votes, to then have these politicians rule over others, and have luxurious cars, do all sort of businesses, and gain more power.

In other words do you think the “head of states” really care about their tribe when they are almost always caught avoiding taxes, doing shady businesses, and stealing form their tribe?

They care about them and their families, but then they start to promote “patriotism” and “us the tribe” stupidity, to gain votes to be elected as “heads of states”. And they use these platforms that care mostly about you paying them to promote your posts. The cycle of vomit.

The thirst for power comes mainly from humans being trained to trade to acquire, because the more you have the more power you have, and vice versa.

And then starting wars is part of the power thirst and the need to get more “support” from the “nationals”.

A mix of rich people who lie and have power over others, and the others who are confused patriots, busy workers, and idiotic consumers. Going at war is easy.

Conclusion.

This is a totally insane society, full of lies and idiots. A horror carnival. And I think the sanest way for me is to force myself to ignore this side of our society. Ignore everything that any politician says (I already do this anyway), ignore these conflicts that I cannot do a thing about and are wrapped in propaganda and misery; ignore this society and focus more on the natural world.

I want to try and do astrophotography to reveal what my eyes can’t see. To go more in nature, to grow TROM and its many positive projects, to live a less stressed life, because the society is too retarded and chaotic to even make sense of it, let alone do anything about it.

#Israel #Palestine #ukraine #astrophography #war

Moving from Contabo to Hetzner

Moving from Contabo to Hetzner

I made another article about how I moved from Cuntabo to Webdock and why I am moving from this awful Cuntabo hosting company. So read it here because I will not go into the details of how I did it. But basically I am using Yunohost and it makes it so easy to manage a lot of services and transfer them to a new server. Love it!

The challenge: 1.4TB of data and some 15 services.

The previous move was about 100GB in size. Now more than 10 times the size. I would have to find a hosting that provides a lot of storage space, they are decent, and I have full root control over the server. Very hard to find. And Webdock would not do it. They provide 500GB of diskspace max, so that was out of the question.

Why Hetzner?

They seem very popular in Europe and used among the people who provide similar services to ours, so the feedback from these people is decent. Plus they have these auctioned servers that are basically computers, older, but still good, that you can basically rent. And they are cheap. Plus they have a huge variety of them so it was not that hard to find one that had a lot of storage space.

2 x 1.92TB SSD SATA is almost 4TB of SSD storage. 32GB of RAM and Intel i7-6700 CPU @ 3.40GHz, 8 cores.

That’s the one I bought. For only 45 Euros a month. On Cuntabo I paid 38 Euros for 2TB of storage, 64 GB of RAM (too much for our needs anyway) and a 10 virtual core AMD (the one we have now is more powerful and the hardware is only for us, dedicated). Plus I had to pay 4 more Euros a month with Cuntabo to get a new IP because the old one had a terrible reputation because we hosted all sorts of services like Invidious, Searx, and the like, and google and the rich-crew started to ban our IP and thus all of our services were affected.

Anyway, with Cuntabo I was paying 42 Euros a month for 2TB of SSD storage, and now I pay 45 Euros a month for almost 4TB of SSD storage and a better overall server. Not bad!

You see we were running out of disk space and we had to move to a new server or use an object storage, so I was ready to pay some 10-20 more euros a month for a 1-2 TB of extra storage. Now for just 3 more Euros a month I get that!

I also feel good using older hardware so it does not go to waste πŸ˜‰

How to manage a dedicated server?

A dedicated server is just a computer somewhere else. It has no management besides some basic panel that allows you to change a few things and restart the computer. Therefore no snapshots….but do I even need them?

Snapshots – bad??

I mentioned before that I NEED to be able to make server snapshots and that I am obsessed with backups. BUT I started to realize that my practice was not good.

There are a few situations that stress me out in terms of server management and the services that we provide:

1. When I update either Friendica or Synapse (Matrix).

Both have massive databases and to backup these automatically before doing the updates via YNH, can take between 30 minutes to an hour and needs to be done via the terminal else the YNH panel will show you a timeout error because of Nginx probably.

Then if the update fails, the restoration takes another hour or two for each. Meaning these services can be unavailable for a few hours if there is a failed update. And Synapse gets updates quite often. So I am always stressed when I have to update these. And these two services failed to update a bunch of times over the past years…. Snapshots saved my ass…

2. When I do kernel/core system updates or migrate to a new Debian version.

These sort of updates should be super stable. It is Debian after all. But what if the shit hits the fan one day!?

3. When YNH upgrades to a new major version.

Same….so far so stable, but what if shit hits again the fan?

4. When I do custom stuff to the system or make some mistake like delete some files…

These can happen considering that at times I do some custom changes for our services, but unlikely for me to do custom stuff to the system itself. Still…

So how?

Before, my dirty solution was to take a snapshot of the entire server before I do any of the above. If shit hits the fan I restore in a few seconds. Of course that’s not a good practice. Imagine I update Synapse and even without a backup before update, it can take 15-20 minutes to update. So I take a snapshot before I start the update. The update fails and Synapse is broken – it takes me 10-20 minutes to realize or try to fix it. 30-40 minutes have passed and now I click the restore snapshot-panic button!

I have restored Synapse ALONGSIDE everything else how it was 40 minutes ago. If anyone made posts on Friendica, synced files via Nextcloud and so forth, are ALL LOST. BAD!

You can see why this is a very very BAD practice and I’ve done this a dozen of times for the past years, simply because the alternative was kinda bothering me….Like I said it would take me 1-2 hours to restore Synapse from a backup. And frankly I never tried to restore these properly because a few times when I tried via the YNH panel they failed.

So how to manage it all?

First, Yunohost is quite great at the way it manages updates. It forces a backup of the service and only after it does the backup, it will update it. Now that I have a lot of experience restoring stuff from backups I realized that it is not too scary to do it via SSH (command line) for massive services like Synapse or Friendica. So we are covered there. If any of them fails, restore them via the command line even if it takes an hour or so.

As for the rest….it is unlikely that the Debian or YNH updates will go bad, but just in case I installed and setup Timeshift. With it I scheduled hourly and daily backups. Keep 6 hourly and 3 daily. It uses RSYNC to basically create backups of the entire system, on the same hardware. I chose to exclude the Home folder where the YNH data is stored (peertube videos, nextcloud files, etc..) – makes no sense to backup TB of that data when that data is already backedup on Borgbase.com.

So yah now I have system backups in case shit truly hits the fan.

Therefore with YNH + Borg + Timeshift you can have a safe server even if you go for a dedicated server.

We’ve looked into Proxmox too and it looks very promising. With it you can have a proper panel and control over your dedicated server. Snapshots, backups, etc.. Roma, the wonderful human, helped with testing Proxmox. However since this is something new and on top of the entire YNH install, we need more time to test and see if we can use it. For now I decided to go ahead without server snapshots for all of the reasons mentioned, and Proxmox is mostly useful for these cases where you can make snapshots in seconds.

So how to move big YNH backups?

My previous Webdock experience gave me a lot of experience about how to move YNH from one server to another. I took many notes and now I was ready. So everything was very smooth, but moving big backups is a bit different. Here’s how:

Our Peertube backup (archive) is 800GB in size. It is already backedup on Borgbase.com. So I connect the new server to my Borg repo, list the archives and then download the backup WITHOUT the data:

app=borg; BORG_PASSPHRASE="$(yunohost app setting $app passphrase)" BORG_RSH="ssh -i /root/.ssh/id_${app}_ed25519 -oStrictHostKeyChecking=yes " borg export-tar -e apps/peertube/backup/home/yunohost.app "$(yunohost app setting $app repository)::_auto_peertube-2023-10-08_22:26" /home/yunohost.backup/archives/_auto_peertube-2023-10-08_22:26.tar

Replace _auto_friendica-2023-10-08_22:26 with the name of your archive and where you see “peertube” in the code, replace with the name of your app. For example my Peertube backup without the files is around 2GB in size. So tiny.

Then extract the data. Go to the folder where the data is stored: cd /home/yunohost.app/ Then extract the data with:

app=borg; BORG_PASSPHRASE="$(yunohost app setting $app passphrase)" BORG_RSH="ssh -i /root/.ssh/id_${app}_ed25519 -oStrictHostKeyChecking=yes " borg extract "$(yunohost app setting $app repository)::_auto_peertube-2023-10-08_22:26" apps/peertube/backup/home/yunohost.app/
mv apps/peertube/backup/home/yunohost.app/peertube ./
rm -r apps

Again replace the _auto_peertube-2023-10-08_22:26 with the full name of your archive and “peertube” with the name of your app.

Took around 5 hours to download all of the Peertube data.

After that is done go to your YNH Backup panel to restore the archive as normal. Click it and restore!

One small issue: YNH thinks that it has to restore the entire 800GB and if you do not have that much storage space it will fail. Got to your archive folder (I use Webmin):

And edit the .json file associated with your backup archive. Modify this to whatever low number:

Then restore the normal way via the YNH panel.

Another issue….at times the ownership of the downloaded data is not correct. So for example for Peertube I had to change to peertube::www-data:

But that’s basically it for an app that has a small database and archive overall, but huge amounts of data.

If you are dealing with a huge database restore manually via the command line (SSH) with yunohost backup restore _auto_friendica-2023-10-08_22:26 --app friendica

That’s the main difference here for big backups. I wish they could all be done via that YNH panel….but seems unreliable for such massive archives…

Overall if it wasn’t for YNH I would give up. No TROM.tf for sure. YNH is brilliant I swear! Despite some hiccups here and there, it is amazing.

Conclusions and the future of trom.tf

I was forced to move to new hosting services and that was good because now I know that just with our Borg backups I can move anywhere in a matter of days. I also chose 2 different companies this time so to not put all eggs into one basket.

One thing we will need in the future for TROM.tf is diskspace. Everything else is more than enough. I tried to use Peertube with an Object Storage that you can always scale up but was not reliable. To me is so much easier and reliable to have the data stored on the same server.

Luckily with Hetzner we can add 2 more physical drives to our dedicated server. Here is a list of prices. Now we have enough, despite Timeshift’s backups taking up some 500GB. So we still have some 1.5TB to spare. Enough for 2 or so years I guess. And if we ever need we can add another 2TB for 17 Euros more a month. Or move to HDDs for storage and add up to 16TB or more for quite cheap.

Therefore I am double happy. One to move from Cuntabo, and second to be able to scale up TROM.tf and make it reliable for the years to come!!

Quick note: Hetzner so far did not ask me to send them a photo with my passport and my face, like the crazy Webdock people did….so far….will see…

Best notes app

Best notes app

I rarely change my Notes app because I have a lot of notes and I need to use them. I can’t afford to switch often, plus I could never find anything better than Zettlr for the past years. Until now.

AppFlowy!

That’s the one I’ve been looking for.

Supports markdown but has a WYSIWYG so it is very easy to use. Text formatting, links, headings, tables, text colors and highlights, paste images, man it has a lot and yet it is so simple!

I add many code snippets and its code blocks are awesome and simple, with auto recognition for the code type:

And you simply hover a piece of text and have all of the options you need to edit, or add blocks via / or a button.


You can even create kaban-style pages:


And if you click on any entry there you get a popup where you can add more details via the same text-rich functionalities like any notes:

WOW! Just WOW. It means that I am replacing not only Zettlr but Vijunka too, in one single app! And it is all local.

And it has a lot more, so give it a try.

They are working to add a search function (a must) and more features!

Yeah they added a ChatGPT integration for those who want to use it and add a API key to it….idk how to feel about that but I proposed to them to at least use GPT4all, the open source and locally run language model.

Anyway, I love this notes app! Give it a try. Trust me, it really is amazing how much you can do with it!

Moving from Contabo to Webdock

Moving from Contabo to Webdock

I used to pay around 80 Euros a month for a Dreamhost server with 4GB of RAM 80GB SSD and 4 vCPUS. That’s the price for a managed server. Meaning you don’t do anything, just install WordPress and that’s all basically.

Then I felt equipped enough with some Linux skills to take on unmnaged servers. I found Contabo. They were super cheap and provided some control over the servers. 22 Euros a month for 32GB of RAM, 800GB SSD, and 8 vCPUs. As you can see the difference in price is immense. I moved all of the websites there. Took a while to understand how to manage an unmanaged server, but thanks to Yunohost it was quite easy.

Therefore, a server that we have control over, with an old but ok control panel.

For me it is crucial to have such a control panel. I want to easily install an operating system, like Debian. I want to restart the server in case it gets stuck, and MOST importantly to take snapshots.

SNAP-SHOTS!

They are too important! They saved my ass countless of times. Basically you can take a snapshots of your server, in seconds, and then restore to it in case you have to. Before every major system or apps update, I take a snapshot. Imagine if an update nukes your server….what do you do? If you have snapshots you fix it in a second!

At times I had to update our Matrix server that had a 200GB database. If that update fucked Matrix, then restoring a backup of 200GB is not pretty. A few times I had to resort to snapshots because of Matrix.

Therefore I NEED snapshots. Actually I need to be SAFE.

BE SAFE!

3-4 years ago I was testing TROMjaro on my laptop and wanted to install it on an external HDD I had around. Problem was I had some 5 HDDs connected to my computer and by mistake I chose the wrong HDD to install TROMjaro, thus I deleted 4TB of personal files. Photos, videos, whateverelse. Had no backups… This happened twice to me until I learned a lesson: backups are a must!

Now I backup my computer in the cloud with Borgbase daily. I like it because they are incremental and encrypted. Borgbase has no clue what I host there. That’s how it should be.

I have become obsessed with being safe with my digital files, because you will truly regret it if you are not. So I cannot accept to not have daily backups for our servers, to a remote location!

Yunohost made it super easy to use Borg and backup to Borgbase. So that’s what I’ve been doing for the past years. Daily. Fully. 6TB of data.

Why move?

In short because Contabo forced me to remove a Nitter link a year or more ago and we had a huge fight over it. See the details here. They were wrong and douchebags. I cannot accept to be bullied like that. I had to comply eventually but then Countabo refused to sell me any other service. Look at what they say:

Thanks for reaching out to Contabo customer support.
For internal reasons we had to take the decision not to provide you with any new products this time, we are awfully sorry to say. “For internal reasons” means we are not going to communicate our motivation. Our decision is not up for debate; we kindly ask for your understanding. Please do not take our decision personally. It has nothing to do with you but rather with reasons that we are not going to explain since we do not want you to misunderstand us or misinterpret our statements. Exactly because of this, we consider all information as internal company information.
Still, we are always available for you personally and will respond to all of your questions as soon as possible. Always feel free to contact us.

Fucking hell. This is insane. You see I could not find a cheaper alternative so I was trying to move past that incident and buy a bigger server because 3 years ago we started this TROM.tf suite of websites that grew and grew and we needed more storage space….

So now that I cannot continue with Cuntabo, I had to look for options.

What do I need?

I need to host these websites on one server: tromsite.com and TROM Drive, tiotrom.com, bigworldsmallsasha.com, webape.site, videoneat.com, trade-free.org and the directory, tromnews.com, tromjaro.com and the forum. Many WordPress websites plus a Nextcloud and Discourse.

For this I need around 200GB SSD, 20GB of RAM, and some 6 vCPUs.

For TROM.tf it is a different and developing story. So let’s focus on these TROM-sites for now.

I need a server that allows me to control it from a separate panel (restart, shut down, install or reinstall OS), plus one that has backups/snapshots.

Webdock

After months of searching I caved in for Webdock. A hosting provider that Alexio was bragging about for years now πŸ™‚ – he hosts his websites there. Why them?

Custom builds and low prices.

The fantastic part is that you can configure it any way you want.

So you get exactly what you need. Yes Cuntabo is cheaper, but I only used 200GB our of 800GB of diskspace there, and 20GB of RAM out of 36GB. No point in wasting resources. The above setup is what I got and it is 1 Euro cheaper than Cuntabo πŸ™‚

Upgrade/downgrade

With Cuntabo you could only upgrade and it was not that easy. Here you can upgrade/downgrade even for like 1 vCPU and stuff like that. This is crucial for me in case I quickly need to upgrade, or even downgrade. Great!

Snapshots!

This one I LOVE! You see Cuntabo made snapshots on the same server. That’s like an image of the server. Took seconds to do and restore, which was super fantastic, but these are not backups. If anything happens to that datacenter you are fucked. Webdock on the other hand does FULL backups of your entire server, to another location basically. And yes it can take up to 40 minutes to do one for a beefy server, but the moment you click to create a snapshot that’s it, it will create a backup of your server the way it is when you clicked. So you can do whatever you want on your server from then on, it will not affect the snapshots.

This is super duper cool. They provide 3 manual snapshots, like Cuntabo, but you can store them for 6 months compared to 3 on Cuntabo. Even more cool they do daily automated snapshots and keep 5 of them. This is fabulous! Imagine something terrible happens to your server, but you know that you can restore it with a click because you have daily automated snapshots. For me this is a must!

Great control panel

It took a day or two to get used to it but then I ended up really liking the panel. You have a lot of control over your server: reboot, reinstall, even create and manage shell users, execute scripts and so forth.

So far great tech support

Cuntabo’s tech support was always either missing or extremely unhelpful. Everyone complained about that. Webdock brags about how awesome they are at that. They even have a live chat for that. And so far so awesome. So fast, so useful, so friendly. I am impressed. They brag about the Trustpilot reviews on their first page:

I am trying to tame my enthusiasm about this but so far the support was stellar. It feels more friendly and less companyish…

So let’s see…

So yeah, Webdock seems like a great choice. The irony is that they made everything so easy to understand and setup, but their “trial” pricing is a complete mess. I was totally confused….they give you some credits in Euros to test the service, and you cannot build a custom server unless this credit expires or you ask them to switch your account to a non-trial one….it is messy. But well…

How to move?

Let’s’ get technical now. If you have Yunohost and remote backups like say with Borg on Borgbase, then it is not that difficult to move. Mind you we have to move ALL of the websites and configs and users. Emails, domains, files….

Backups to the rescue!

Imagine this: I have an archive backup for EACH of our website.

They are encrypted and stored with a 3rd party. Even if Cuntabo was to entirely cut me off, I had them there. So no biggie!

Set up the new server!

When I bought the Webdock server I chose to have it installed with Debian 11. This is needed for Yunohost. Super fast! I did not have to manually install Debian and that’s awesome!

The SSH madness….

Now you have to login via SSH to the server and install Yunohost. Well….this was by far the hardest part! Not installing Yunohost, but log in via SSH, and SSH keys overall. I don’t know but I am confused by these keys. Webdock tries to make it super secure and enforces SSH keys by default, but anyway….you can disable that, however it took me more than an hour to connect to the server via SSH because this key, or that key, or both, are not recognized and all of that. This was painful, I hate this SSH keys. I HATE THEM!

So you have to open the terminal in Linux and do ssh user@server-ip to connect to your server. Then lose your mind for an hour because it asks you for the key, and keys and shit like that, and then you add your password and does not work and bullshit. This is a general issue, nothing to do with Webdock really, but once you manage to connect it is so so simple.

Install Yunohost

Install Yunohost with this command: curl https://install.yunohost.org | bash

Then follow the very simple instructions and let YNH deal with your SSH user. Once installed, it will tell you to visit your IP (in the browser) and setup your admin password.

Now YNH has created a new SSH user and that fucks things up again with your connection since you are trying to connect to the same IP but different user and keys….that also put me off for hours trying to figure it…. Your SSH user is now the YNH admin and the password you chose when you visited your IP via the browser and set it all up. Remember that!

Ok. YNH is installed!

Now install Borg Backups app from the YNH panel. Use the same repository from your Borgbase so it connects to it. Then add your public key from the Borg YNH settings to your Borgbase’s repository.

These SSH keys are nuts. You have to figure this shit out in order to connect!

After you do that you have to one by one grab the archives and restore. Here’s how I did it:

1. List the archives

In SSH do:

app=borg; BORG_PASSPHRASE="$(yunohost app setting $app passphrase)" BORG_RSH="ssh -i /root/.ssh/id_${app}_ed25519 -oStrictHostKeyChecking=yes " borg list "$(yunohost app setting $app repository)" | less

This will list all of your archives from your Borgbase. That if you don’t get a connection error because the repository does not recognize your SSH key….and you spend a few more hours using ChatGPT to figure it out. You may need to force Borgbase to “please take your SSH key!” to let you connect.

Pause here.

The only major issues for me were to connect. From my computer to the server, from the server to the backups, and so forth. All because of SSH keys. This took THE MOST time. If it wasn’t for this, would have been a ton easier. Also ChatGPT is really useful in these situations and helped me figure shit out.

Anyway.

To exit that list press q.

2. Download a backup

You should see a list of backup archives. Now copy the full name of any archive you want, and replace it in this example:

app=borg; BORG_PASSPHRASE="$(yunohost app setting $app passphrase)" BORG_RSH="ssh -i /root/.ssh/id_${app}_ed25519 -oStrictHostKeyChecking=yes " borg export-tar "$(yunohost app setting $app repository)::_auto_my_webapp-2023-09-24_17:36" /home/yunohost.backup/archives/_auto_my_webapp-2023-09-24_17:367.tar

Replace the _auto_my_webapp-2023-09-24_17:367 with the backup you want to download. Paste that into your terminal. It should start to download your backup archive.

RESTORE THE YNH CONFIG FIRST!

I suggest you first download your server backup data. Maybe it is simply called Auto Borg. You want to first restore your YNH configs: users, data, settings, domains, etc.. So download that first. Then go to the YNH Backup panel and restore it as you would normally do.

Mind you, now your original users from your backup are the ones in charge, so your admin and password, and thus SSH users have again changed. They are your old ones, keep that in mind. You have to relogin via SSH and deal again with a cluster fuck of SSH keys.

But once this is done, it is easy peasy!

Also make sure you select your default domain as it was before. This is important to make sure your email works with your email client. Do it from the YNH panel. Easy.

3. Deal with the DNS!

Your new server has a new IP, of course. This is how I would do things: first download the backup of say Nextcloud. Then go to the YNH Diagnosis and check the domain for my nextcloud, say drive.tromsite.com and take the information from there and add to my DNS where my domain is registered.

So from here:

To here:

One by one. It is likely that you only have to change the IPv4 and IPv6 info.

It may take several minutes for the DNS to propagate, but by now the Nextcloud archive is probably downloaded from Borgbase. Head over the YNH backups panel and simply restore.

Download the archive from Borgbase -> Change the DNS values -> Restore!

That’s it!

Now the drive.tromsite.com domain is redirecting to our new server where we restored the Nextcloud installation. And that’s all it is!

One by one. Download and archive with that command, tweak the DNS in your domain registrar panel, then restore the archive via YNH.

How easy!

By far the most painful experience is to deal with the connections….those SSH keys….and the SSH users….because the rest, thanks to YNH, is so easy to do!

And how important it is to have backups via Borg to a remote location. It took me a few days to move all of our websites to Webdock, and that’s mainly (and repeating over 100 times), because of those SSH connections issues….

Now I am confident that even if Webdock decides to shut me down, I can move to a different hosting provider and I will get everything back in a few days time.

Here’s the recap:

1. Get a new VPS with Debian

2. Install Yunohost on it via SSH

3. Considering you have Borg backups, install the Borg app via YNH, and connect it to your Borgbase.

4. Via SSH grab the list of your Borgbase archives, then with another command select the one you want to download. First do so for your YNH config.

5. Restore your YNH data (configs, users, etc.)

6. Select your default domain and change the DNS for it.

7. Proceed to download a new archive and restore it via the YNH backup then change the DNS.

DONE!


The next big adventure is to move our TROM.tf services, some 2TB of files, to a new server. Probably with a different company to make sure we don’t put all of our eggs into one basket. I will make an article about that too.

I forgot to mention.

Webdock forced me to send them a photo of my passport, which is something most hosting companies force you to do nowadays, BUT Webdock went a step further asking me to open my webcam and take a selfie…. Very invasive. Very terrible. Fucked up even. Mind you, these things will add up and in the future we will get very entangled with companies and governments. More power to them! Terrible!

The ZDay experience

The ZDay experience

ZDay, also known as The Zeitgeist Day, is an annual event organized by The Zeitgeist Movement (TZM) for the past many years. For those unfamiliar, TZM started as the activism arm of The Venus Project back in 2008 I think.

Anyway, they were making these annual events where they would invite all sorts of people to give talks, mostly those active within the movement. Some talks were very interesting, some boring, a few very weird πŸ™‚ . But overall I was always interested in this ZDay and I would watch it either live or the recordings. At least some of the interesting ones (in my view).

For the past few years I tried to get myself into these ZDay evens to present TROM. I was close to get to the Frankfurt one a few years back, but they had no more available spaces for my presentation. A few months ago I’ve red that there is a new ZDay coming in Prague, and it would be the last one because TZM wants to decentralize the movement. So, being the last one, combined with the fact that one of my best TROM friends lives in Prague,

I said that now is the time for me to invite myself to ZDay :). And make sure I go there!

I sent some 2-3 emails but got no reply. After a few weeks someone got back to me and told me that they are aware of TROM and they would like to have me there.

Exciting!

You see I always kept myself active with TROM, but I was never invited anywhere to present it. Maybe it is because before 2018 I was not willing to do these sort of things at all, and I would not put myself out there. But also because I am not on Facebook, Whatsapp, Telegram, Discord and all of these trade-based platforms where most activists hang out, so I did not make friends/contacts with any of them really. And I get the feeling that this is how you get into these events.

Anyway, excited to go. I had a month to prepare but I worked more than half of the month on a new big release of TROMjaro. So I had around 2 weeks left to come up with a presentation. We do so much at TROM that it is insane to try and present it all in 30-40 minutes, the time they would give me for my talk. So I had to come up with a more unique way of presenting it.

It was my first time using LibreOffice Presentation so it took a few days to get used to it, but then I LOVED it! You can easily animate stuff, create shapes, paste images, do it all!

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My talk would be called: How to Grow a Saner Society. A Lifetime Adventure!

I wanted to keep it more positive and focused on our trade-free approach. I figured that the people who were familiar with TZM are already over-saturated with the “how bad this society is” and want to hear something new. Like what we can do about it.

I bought a wireless presentation remote controller and I practiced the presentation. I was quite happy with it. Sasha and Georgi were my test subjects and they seemed to love it. That was encouraging.

I bought the tickets to Prague – expensive as fuck – and put everything I needed into one small backpack. Let me say that I LOVE the fact that now I have a proper laptop, thanks to Roma and Gui mostly who donated enough money for the campaign to buy me a new laptop. It helps a fuck ton because I do a lot on the laptop and to be able to carry it with me was a must. It is thin, metal, powerful, lots of storage, but big enough so I do not even need an external screen to do my work most of the time.

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See how happy I am because of this laptop? πŸ™‚

All I need is my 18-buttons mouse and I am all set:

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Now I can go. I have control over all of the TROM projects thanks to the laptop and my mouse πŸ˜‰

The TROM Crew!

Roma was about to host me for the entire stay, and I decided to stay for 13 days or so. Aaron, who lives in Dresden (2h away from Prague with the bus/train) would join too. But also Vicky and Rafa from Spain who came to support me, us, everyone :). I was so happy that we had a part of the TROM Crew for the ZDay!

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These people are so nice, and calm, and friendly. They are family! I don’t say it lightly.

We spent the next day together and it was relaxing. That’s the OK sign for when you dive! So you know πŸ˜‰

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Roma hosted me like I was a king or something. Everything was so neat at his place, and clean, and organized.

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He even gave me his own big room and he slept on a mattress in the livingroom. You know I am not the best when it comes to go visit people and places. I would say I may be the worst. Even when I was a kid I never “slept over” to any of my friends’ places, because I feel uncomfortable. I get very easily bothered if I do not have my own kind of comfort. I struggle with the sleep (light burns me alive and I go to sleep early in the morning so if the room is not very dark the vampire in me will suffer a lot); I also struggle with eating….You know actually there are 3 essential things that put a huge toll on my life: eat, sleep, and shit. πŸ™‚

I have a lot of digestive issues so I can only eat a few kinds of foods. Therefore I am always stressed about what I am going to eat. I need those specific foods! And because of that, the other side of the coin colon has to struggle to deliver. Ok. I’ll stop here, but these normal things are very abnormal for me and are stressful. Combine that with the fact that I struggle to fall asleep and keep myself asleep….and you get a clusterfuck of daily issues.

Is it clear now that I need my own comfort and control over my daily life?!

Ok. So basically Roma hosted me in a way that I felt at home. And this is quite an achievement I would say. His apartment was so nice I wouldn’t mind to sleep in the living-room on his NEW mattress that is better than my bed at home! But he insisted to give me his room.

I was happy and relaxed:

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Thank you Roma, you are the best human I swear! πŸ™‚

Ok. Time for ZDay!

We went to the venue and I thought we would see a bunch of people outside waiting. But it was no one. I was told that some 40 people reserved a seat weeks ago and that they were reserving more. That there are some 100 seats available and I think I’ve heard that they were all booked before the event.

Anyway, I was expecting to see some people outside. One guy came to us and recognized that we were from TROM. That was nice. Likely our TROM “handprint” tshirts were a clue :).

We went inside and we saw a few people. The venue was very nice. I recognized some of the people. They were all very nice! We were in!

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The venue was a lot smaller than I thought:

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But very neat and well organized. They even had super tasty foods there:

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I wish I could fucking eat some!

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Mind you everything was free there, no one paid anything. These guys organized it all from their own money and donations. So kudos to them it was a super nice place.

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They even had live translations with live-human-flesh-and-meat translators. They gave us individual headphones:

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Am telling you they were very well organized. Well, almost.

The first hurdle was that they had a Widows laptop that was the main machine streaming the presentations to the projector, and my presentation was made in LibreOffice (LO). So it was not working…we had to install LO, then a font, then test a bit to make it work. I told them I will use LO weeks before the event, and I was told that “This should not be a problem. All of the computers will be running Linux to my knowledge.” – Well it was fine eventually. But I was a bit surprised.

I was also surprised that they did not have a remote controller for the presentation. Luckily I brought mine and everyone would eventually use it. Without one how are you going to present? Using the laptop arrow keys?…

But don’t get me wrong, these are small details. Everything else was great there. Super duper nice and organized.

At one point this guy approached me and he told me that he translated the TROM II documentary into Polish. He was “Jaro”, or “Jaromatrix”? That’s how I know him from the TROM Chats.

It was so cool to see someone in person who was part of our chats for some months now, if not longer. Such a nice guy! He wanted for us to talk more, but it was a bit too chaotic and busy for me, so we didn’t get to spend too much time together. Thank you man for coming and I hope to meet you again!

We had some interesting discussions before the event started:

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I was very surprised to see Zach and Arjang. I was aware of their youtube channels because I added them to our TROM Curated Videos a few months ago. Zach is part of this Moneyless Society project, and Arjang has his own Beyond Capitalism channel. They did not present at ZDay because there was no more space, but we got to talk a bit. Interesting people!

Ok, and so it started!

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There were not many people, but it was still exciting.

The issue with languages!

The entire presentation and the talks were in Czech. Only I did the talk in English. Most people in the audience did not understand Czech. So for the first 3 talks that were in Czech, we had to wear these headphones and listen to the live english translations:

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And it was….well….not fun! It was really difficult to focus on the presentation and listen to them. It is difficult to do live translations let’s be honest. Plus the speakers had a few slides mostly with text, in Czech, so it was basically impossible for me or anyone I talked to, to understand the talks…. It is unfortunate that we do not speak a common language and have to struggle so much.

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I appreciate very much the effort, honestly, however for us it was impossible to make sense of the presentations. I think one presentation was about a sort of credit-trade-system, and one about permaculture, but as I said it was impossible to get much out of them.

The problem with the recording.

30 people seeing my talk is very good, but it would be a shame not to record and share it with hundreds or thousands of people online. So having the recording of my talk was paramount for me.

We decided on the spot that perhaps it is a good idea for us to film too. Roma had a camera and a tripod and I am so happy that we took that decision!

You see, I asked beforehand the organizers if they would film and make the recordings available for us too. They said that of course they will. However when we were there they would stream with an ipad that was either in one corner or moving around, and Zach was also filming at times. But it didn’t look to me like they had that very organized. I later was told that the streaming was in Czech, even mine…so for those who wanted to watch the livestream (probably the vast majority of people) it was not watchable.

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Look, I understand that the event was held in the Czech Republic, and some Czech people do not understand English, but I think it would have been good to stream it in English honestly. But anyway, the streaming quality was not great for later use anyway.

Zach also filmed but for one he did so more dynamically, and he would move around quite a bit. And so he will not capture my slides many times. Tthe way that I made my presentation was to rely on the slides, make it fun, animated, interesting, funny at times. Without the slides it does not make sense. Zach also filmed with a camera in RAW format, a format that I think it is proprietary (.braw). Some 150GB in size for less than an hour of footage. Plus because it is RAW you get a washed out video that needs color grading/editing. This made it nearly impossible for us to share these files and edit them. I can’t even play these files in Linux without their proprietary/licensed codec. To edit I had to install the trade-based Davinci Resolve video editor, the editor made by the same company that made the camera that Zach was using. And the recording from Zach was missing a few bits here and there.

Look, call me crazy but I think it is insane to make the digital media so enormous. 4k, 8k, raw and whatever K, in my mind they make no sense, unless you are BBC filming a nature documentary all around the world and presenting it on large screens in cinemas… I am not trying to be mean, and Zach if you read this post please be open minded and do not take it personally. We need to be mindful about the fact that the digital too has a real impact on resources: pollution, waste. You know you have to store large files on physical hardware, and transport, and download, and backup. Energy consumption, manufacturing, waste. Multiply with billions of times and you get a massive impact. Plus it is impractical, especially when these formats are locked-down.

Anyway. Zach was very patient and shared with us the files.

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He also recorded the audio from a stage mic, separate form the one we were holding for the presentations. Because of that it recorded with a lot of echo. The audio was attached to the videos so it was again difficult to deal with them because you had to, well, extract the audio from those super massive-in-size videos.

Therefore we were left with Roma’s recording, with the mic from the camera itself. As you may imagine, a lot of echo and background noise. I really wanted to take my lavmic with me, but I was SURE they will record directly from the presentation mic itself….

I wanted to give you all of these details because the presentation that you will see has a bad audio…and we really tried to improve it but it is kinda impossible to make it sound well. I worked for the past weeks on this ZDay presentation and that’s only because I had to deal with the above issues. Else I would have made this article a lot sooner.

Basically we ended up with two presentations. One from Roma’s camera: video and audio. And one a mix between Roma’s and Zach’s footage and recordings. Whatever you like best….

Here I am on the stage:

I was not nervous really. People were asking me about that. It is because I know what I want to say and the things I was presenting are important and real. For me this is not a presentation, it is me talking to people about some really fucking important things! Why would I be nervous?

Ok here’s the Roma-based presentation:

And this is the Roma-Zach-based presentation:

I think the analogy with evolution works wonders. And it gives people a great visual of all that we are trying to say and achieve. It worked out a lot better than I expected. I thought about this analogy while we were recording for TROM II, but I didn’t include it in the documentary because it was a spontaneous thing and not so well thought as this presentation. In a way I think this presentation is a very well explanation of what we do at TROM. Maybe the best and shortest presentation about TROM.

It seems that many people really liked it. So that was super fantastic.

After my presentation there were a few video remote presentations. Basically pre-recorded videos that we would watch. I want to briefly mention this one about Humania. I’ve heard about this project a month before ZDay. Now, I cannot show you the presentation because where can I find it? But I was aware of them presenting this project before I went to Prague. Someone even sent me their slides. I looked over the project and I want to say a few things. For one I am quite sure that the people behind it are good people. One of them, Ziad, is someone I worked with on TROM for several years. I was so surprised to see him involved in this. Ziad helped me rebuild TROMsite and VideoNeat several times. We spent many nights working online on these projects. He was always so kind and very computer-smart. Anyway, I am happy to see him active because he kinda disappeared a few years ago. We haven’t talked since then.

Now, Humania….it is a project that wants to build a community, kinda like TVP. This is their “3D planning”:

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They even had to start the presentation by saying that “No, it’s not The Venus Project…” πŸ™‚ – well if you see their presentation then this is kinda the Venus Project…but should not matter. What matters is that I’ve heard about these projects hundreds of times for the past decade. And none survived. None went beyond some Google Docs and some 3D models. And I am not saying this in a mean way, I wish these people had the resources to do something, but I am FRUSTRATED at this approach overall.

TVP made people dream about new worlds, built almost like in parallel with this one. Dome houses, maglev transport, circle-shaped cities, automation, etc.. I am quite sure Fresco was not that naive to think that this is the future, and he said it a bunch of times actually. But people started to focus more and more on these technologies. And forgot the message: this monetary system (trade system more exactly) is the source of most problems. This is a long conversation to have and we made several TROMcasts about it, but in essence I now realize that people got the wrong message and they fantasize about building a new city to prove how a new society looks like. TVP itself jumped on this train for the past many years, to the point of sounding like a cult.

My frustration is with the fact that people focus too much on these fantasy lands that are at best some simplistic 3D models, while ignoring the real things and progress that we can do today. The volunteering, the open source, the organizations helping others, and so forth. We NEED to work with these in order to change something! TVP made people ignore these real and realistic approaches because