Welcome to the Saladhax Blog!

Welcome to my new blog! I'm moving my blog from my old site that was harder to maintain to a fediverse blog instance. Stay a while and enjoy!

New Year, New Stuff

There are a lot of thing's I've always wanted to do, but I always kind of forgot about them since I never had much time, or because I just got lazy and decided to push them off until I just forgot about them. But after the dumpster fire that was 2020, and a bunch of staying at home doing nothing, I decided to start the new year off by doing some of the things I've been wanting to do for a while, and trying to stick with them as best as I could.

First thing is starting a YouTube channel. Ever since I started watching videos by YouTubers like MKBHD and Linus Tech Tips, I've always thought it would be fun to have a YouTube channel of my own for tech stuff. Of course, since I was a very involved person all throughout high school, I never had time. I also tried to hold myself to a high standard for my videos, and make videos like the YouTubers mentioned above, which just made things harder. But now, I've decided it would be fun to start making videos on YouTube, LBRY, and PeerTube! I've also decided to take a different approach in making my videos than I had before. No scripts, no unnecessary fancy stuff, no unnecessary planning, just point the webcam at myself, talk, and do things on my computer if necessary. That should make things simpler, take up less time, and make things a little more fun!

I've also started to work more on cybersecurity stuff. I've been wanting to learn some more cybersecurity stuff for a while now, since it interests me, and I haven't gotten that far in my college classes yet. I started working with TryHackMe a while ago, but just kinda got lazy and forgot about it. And while I did have classes and marching band to worry about, I still just kind of spent free time watching TV. But now, I've given myself the challenge of doing a small bit of TryHackMe every day I can. I feel like this will not only give me a head start for my cybersecurity classes later on, but it will also be a fun thing to do when I'm bored.

Finally, I'm going to try and get back into running. I've been running for fun since I was in 4th grade, and I did cross country and track all through out middle school and high school, as well as ran a couple of half marathons. Then, college came along. My first semester, classes and marching band kept me reasonably busy, so I didn't get much of a chance to run. Then Covid happened, and with the lockdown, and the general idea of staying inside, I just never got around to running. I also gained the “Freshman 15” over my freshman year, which didn't help. But I always had fun going out on runs, so I might try to find a place to run in the town my college is in, and try to go on a run every once in a while.

Now, will I run out of time to do some of this? Maybe. But I figured it would be a fun thing to try in case I don't!

This is post 13 of #100daystooffload

News via RSS: Great replacement for Google News

Ever since I got my first smart-device, I've almost always had some sort of Google app for news. I used Google Now for a while on my iPod and later on my phone once I got my first actual smartphone. I liked how it showed personalized and relevant information, as well as news that was related to my interests. And if I didn't like what popped up on there, I could just swipe it away, and less stuff like that would show up on the feed. Then they changed it to Google Discover or Google Feed or whatever the hell they're calling it nowadays, and things changed. It was harder to personalize what you saw, there were separate feeds for news and other stuff (weather, events, etc.) and I just didn't like it as much. Then, Google News came around and I started using it. It still wasn't as easier to personalize, and it didn't show the other stuff, but I still liked it! But then I turned on some privacy features in my Google account, and the news didn't feel as personalized as it once did, since it wasn't collecting as much data. Both services also started ignoring the sites I said I didn't want news from anymore. These were usually sites that felt like they had a bunch of click-bait titles and stuff like that. But no matter how many times I hit the button for ignoring those sites, they would still pop up.

Since all of this, I've been working to try and find other ways to get my news. Flipboard was a good app, but I still didn't like it as much. And I just couldn't find another app I liked as much as the Google options. But now, I think I've found a new option in some older tech: an RSS feed. I got the idea from a podcast I was listening to called Hacker Culture by J.R. Swab, where he talked about the same thing in one of his episodes. This intrigued me, so I decided to give it a shot. I downloaded Feeder from F-Droid, and found some RSS feeds that interested me. I feel like I have the perfect amount of customization as far as news feeds go. I can get them from any news site I choose, and I can even see when people post on YouTube! It also allows me to keep those pesky sites out of the feed. For example, I don't like getting news from Forbes or Express.co.uk, because I feel like their article titles are too click-baity, and sometimes tend to mislead the reader and say something different than what the article does. With the Google options, they would sometimes still show up even if I said I didn't want stories from them. But with the RSS feed, I can just not add their feed, and not get their stories. I haven't used this too much yet, but I'm really liking it so far since no one has to collect my data, and I can still get the nice personalized news feed I like.

This is post 12 of #100daystooffload

Goodbye Google, Hello Proton!

Just like most people on the internet, I've relied a lot on Google for stuff like email, storage, calendar, etc. This had a lot to do with the fact that I've used Android for almost all of my life, (with the exception of some touch-screened feature phones in early middle school,) but also because Google is one of the biggest (if not the biggest) forces on the internet. They do everything, and they do it all really well for the most part. So when I started to look into ways to make my digital life a bit more private, getting rid of Google services seemed to be the biggest obstacle. First off, my school used Gmail, Google's office suite, and Google Classroom, so I had to use those. But once I graduated, I stopped using the school account. But that left my personal account. I used just about every service they offered, so it wouldn't be easy to just leave it all behind. In fact, I still use Google services like Google Photos, Google Drive (until I set up a Nextcloud server) and Google Pay. But the services I didn't need, or the services that I could find good and easy alternatives for started to get replaced one by one. Google search was replaced by DuckDuckGo, and later Whoogle, Chrome was replaced by Firefox, and I just moved from Google Docs to just using OnlyOffice on my laptop. But the first big thing I decided to switch from is Gmail. This would be a bit hard since I had to change the email for a bunch of accounts, and make sure I wasn't missing emails from Gmail, but I figured I could just forward stuff until I got everything important changed over. Coincidentially, as I was thinking about how to swtich over, I was introduced to Protonmail through Mr. Robot. I saw Elliot use it in an episode in season 3, and I was intrigued. A couple weeks later, I had created an account and started moving stuff over.

After I started using it, I fell in love with it! It worked just as well as Gmail did, and I still got to have the piece of mind of having all of that privacy and security I had been looking for! Later on, I found out about ProtonVPN, but ultimately ended up ditching it. There was nothing wrong with it, but I ultimately went with Surfshark as my VPN since it was cheaper in the long run. But Protonmail still remained one of my favorite services to use.

After a while, I decided to buy the plus version for more storage and multiple addresses, and I switched to the beta version of the web client. With this, I found out about ProtonCalendar. I thought this would be great since I could replace Google Calendar as my main calendar service. The only thing that really kept me from fully switching over was using it on mobile, since there was no official app, but now that there is an official ProtonCalendar app, I have officially switched over from Google Calendar.

Before, I just saw Proton Technologies as another company that was doing awesome things. But now, with ProtonCalendar, and the recently introduced ProtonDrive, I feel like Proton has the chance to become the new Google, but without all of the garbage. It will offer a lot of great internet services, and they will all respect their users' privacy, which is great! And while ProtonCalendar and ProtonDrive are both in beta right now, I can see a future where people have a Proton account the same way people have a Google account now, and they won't have to worry about the privacy of their data.

This is post 12 of #100daystooffload.

My journey through a new internet

I've always been a fan of the idea of a “new internet.” I remember the first time I even heard of such a concept was while watching Silicon Valley. When Richard first talked of the idea of creating a new, decentralized internet that left out all of the garbage that plagues today's internet, I was immediately intrigued. Since then, I've looked into different initiatives to create a new privacy-focused and decentralized internet, and the journey has changed the way I use the internet for the better.

The first initiative I found was the Blockstack decentralized network. As the name implies, Blockstack is a decentralized network of sites based on blockchain technology. It works the same way the normal internet would, and can be used in any modern web browser. The difference is that everything is associated with your Blockstack account, and your data is stored and transferred on the Stacks blockchain. Using it is pretty straight forward. You just go to the Blockstack Browser, and create a new account. You can then use this account to browse a large selection of decentralized websites. This was cool, but I didn't ever end up using a lot of the services. One that did stick with me however was Arcane Office. This is essentially a decentralized alternative to Google's online office suite, and I absolutely love it!

In my journey for finding new alternatives to certain internet services, I also found a lot of different self-hosted services, specifically search engines. These search engines would still do what other search engines do, but on your device. All you would need to do is install it, start it up, and go to localhost to run the site. The first one I encountered was Searx. This was a pretty good search engine, but I ultimately stopped using it as I didn't like it as much as sites like duckduckgo and Google as far as results go. Recently, however, I found a couple of new initiatives. One is Xain, which is a mobile search app that runs it's search algorithm on the device. The UI is a bit clunky, but it gets the job done really well! The other one is Whoogle. As the name might imply, Whoogle is a version of Google without all of the tracking, ads, and other garbage. Using it is as simple as installing it, running it in the terminal, (which you do automatically at startup with a bit of work,) and go to localhost in your browser. I haven't used it much, but I'm loving it so far!

Finally, there's the Fediverse. I found out about this magical place when looking into Mastodon. The idea behind the Fediverse (which a lot of you might know since most of the people who read this probably came here from Mastodon) is that one service is split into instances. This could be a server hosted somewhere for all to join, or a self hosted instance for you and only you. This allows for easier moderation of content, and better control over your data. I started out joining Fosstodon, a Mastodon instance for fans of open source software, and have started using more sites as time went on. For example, I signed up for Pixelfed (the Fediverse's Instagram) and this blog is written on Wordsmith, which is an instance of WriteFreely.

It's been a long journey since I first heard of the ideas of a new internet, and while most of the internet is still a big mess, I still feel like I've found the new internet in Blockstack, and especially the Fediverse! I'm excited to keep traveling down this exciting new road, and to see what I'll discover next!

Post 11 of #100daystooffload

PinePhone as a Daily Device (Late 2020): So Close...

I've been excited about the idea of a smartphone running Linux ever since I found out it was a thing. After seeing platforms like Ubuntu Touch and Sailfish OS, I was intrigued by the thought of a smartphone running something other than iOS, Android or Windows Phone (you know, back when that existed.) Now, about 5 or 6 years later, I finally got to try one! Back in August, I decided to drop some of the money I earned from detasseling to get the PinePhone, and I got it in the mail in September. I was excited to see if it could replace my Pixel 3a as my main phone, even though I could tell it couldn't since it was a development device. And of course, it didn't. But after a few months, I'm surprised at how much closer it's gotten to being a usable device! However, without much of a surprise, its still not there. But with a few workarounds, I've been able to use it as more of an extension device!

First, lets look at what works. And that's actually a lot of things! Most of the operating systems, especially the ones running Phosh, are pretty stable! Yes, there are bugs, but everything works pretty well! As for apps, Firefox is amazing as a mobile browser, Megapixels is a simple and useful camera app, and the software store has a good amount of useful apps to install! As for communication, the phone works for making and receiving calls, Fractal is a great Matrix client, and the Chatty messages app sends and receives SMS withoug issue.

MMS, however, doesn't work. There's no option to send pictures or group messages, and it won't show any MMS messages that are sent to me. Since I use it quite a bit with friends and family, I couldn't use it on the daily. Battery life is also an issue. Again, this is probably because the software is still in development, but for now, it's still a problem. However, I am able to use it as a kind of “extension device” to my Pixel.

Since most of the things I do on my phone involve the internet and texting, I've been able to use the PinePhone to see information sent to my Pixel. For example, I use the Google Messages for Web feature to send and receive messages with my PinePhone. And for the times I'm not at home, I can use my Pixel's mobile hotspot to connect to the internet when I'm out in about.

So while this isn't something I could use as my main smartphone, I could use it when I want to save a bit of battery on my Pixel, or when I want to do a bit of a social media detox. I'm super excited to see where the state of the PinePhone will be in a couple months from now!

This is post 10 of the #100daystooffload challenge.

Deepin 20: My new favorite distro


I've been looking around for a new Linux distro to use on my laptop. Don't get me wrong, the distro I used at the time, Zorin OS, was great, but I was in the mood for something a little more interesting, and with a fresh coat of paint. Most of the distros I've used have felt more or less the same. Yes, I can just go and install a new desktop environment, but most of them either just looked like Windows, or were Gnome. And while those are great desktop environments, they felt a bit stale. Then, Apple released their new Macs alongside Mac OS Big Sur. Now, I'm not the biggest fan of Apple and their products, but there's something about the look and feel of Mac OS that's always intrigued me. And while I thought the design of Big Sur was kind of stupid at first, it quickly reminded me of a distro I tested earlier this year: Deepin 20. I absolutely loved it, but as it was still in beta, I couldn't use it as my main OS. But after installing it this time around, it quickly became apparent that all of the problems I had before had been fixed.

The Deepin 20 community distro is based on Debian, so all of the software I used on any Ubuntu distros works perfectly. It has all of the software you would expect from a modern Linux OS: a software download center, an office suite, text editors, etc. but it also has a fresh coat of paint to tie it all together. I feel like this takes the polished user experience of Mac OS, and mixes it with the efficiency, customization, and open nature of Linux. Because of that, Deepin 20 has quickly taken its place as my new favorite distro.

This is post number 9 of the #100daystooffload series. If you want to start doing this yourself, go to 100daystooffload.com to get started!

Moving to Wordsmith

I've been writing on my blog for a while, and while one of the reasons I haven't written on it as much as I would like to is the fact that I maintained my own website. this meant creating a whole new HTML file to write a blog post, and even just copying the post into a template and uploading it was more tedious than I would have liked. But now, I've decided to officially move my blog to the Fediverse with Wordsmith! So far, its been really easy to set up, and writing this post is a lot easier! I also like that it still gives you control over the site's CSS code so I can still give it the classic “Space Jam” style I love! I think this will make it so much easier to just sit down and write in my free time.

This is post number 8 of the #100daystooffload series. If you want to start doing this yourself, go to 100daystooffload.com to get started!