An IndieWeb Itch

I’m trying to wrap my head around the #indieweb approach, and thinking about how it could be applied to my site, and more importantly, I’m trying to figure out how I would want it to work for me:

  • If I post a short post type (<280 chars), it automatically gets syndicated fully to Twitter, including any attached media. Micro.blog would also be good.

  • Any interactions with that Tweet are reflected on the original post.

  • “Pure” indieweb philosphy would have me reply to any/all tweets from my site, but I’m not sure I want to go there.

  • Other social media “silos” should similarly interact with the site in a push or pull manner as appropriate – e.g. if I post to Instagram, the photo should be converted into a new post on my site, with the file rehosted.

  • The site should essentially be the “hub” for everything I post online, including a “profile” of sorts.

  • Microformats and POSH should be a given.

  • Longer posts should still be first-class citizens.

  • Post titles are completely optional and the tools involved should handle this gracefully.

  • Different post types should have distinct/appropriate visual styling.

Oh, and all of this should work as easily and seamlessly as possible on iOS (my primary platform)

Right now, I’m trying to get this setup using WordPress with several of the recommended IndieWeb plugins and recommendations, but so far I’m struggling to get things “just so.” The site definitely feels very rough around the edges. I’m not tied to this current approach though. Ideally I’d like to stick with tools/languages I know, and not need to spend weeks configuring things.

In an ideal world, I could have integrated the IndieWeb tooling/approach into my existing blog, which is powered by Jekyll – but this currently fails my “easy to do on iOS” test, which is the main reason I’ve not blogged there in around six months.



New Necromunda Website, Info, and Videos

Games Workshop have released a new website for the upcoming new version of Necromunda. Digging through the website gives plenty of new information about the game:

  • The main boxset contains a game board with 3D barricades and accessories, for new players to play on
  • Pre-order date is November 11th
  • A supplemental book called “Gang War” will be released alongside the boxed game. This contains the “advanced rules” for playing Necromunda on a table filled with terrain, just like “old-school” Necromunda.

In addition, there are 5 new videos linked from the site which aren’t yet publically available on the Warhammer TV YouTube channel. These videos give a quick overview of the game, plus a look at the new models included with the game:



The Apple Watch Series 3

I’ve had my Series 3 since launch1. At different points over the last several years, I’ve had many a wearable strapped to my wrist, and several times over my lifetime I’ve tried to get into the habit of wearing a watch. I’m pretty confident in saying that nothing has stayed on my wrist more than a few months. So why get a Series 3, and is it any better?

First, Some Background

Wearable tech always ended up falling short of its promises. In this category, I’ve tried various health trackers and one other SmartWatch — a Motorola 360 v2. My most common technological complaint with all of these devices was software quality, with “utility” (specifically: lack of) being a close-run second. Each device has been close to what I wanted the technology to be at the time, but each had maddening quirks and flaws which would build up frustration over time.

When it came to actually wearing each of these devices (and the traditional watches), we get to the main reason I stopped using them: none were comfortable. Whether it was thick, sweat-inducing rubberised straps, solid fastening mechanisms digging into my wrist as I tried to work, or general size, shape, and weight… I rarely wanted to keep them on my wrist for long.

Nothing epitomises all of my previous complaints more than the Motorola 360 I wore for a few months, around 2 years ago. Within a few days I knew I’d made a mistake but as I’d spent what felt like a lot of money on it, I was determined to stick it out. It was big, heavy, and I struggled to find a position on my wrist which was comfortable. The weight meant that it would slide further down my wrist as I was walking, so it wouldn’t stay comfortable for long. The strap buckle would dig into my wrist when I was typing; I tried several alternatives (1st and 3rd party), but each had their own flaws. The software was “OK”, especially when sticking to the Android Wear 1st-party apps, but in general, it was slow as hell. Very few 3rd-party applications were worth installing, though I tried a lot. Battery life was terrible — even when I wouldn’t use it all that much I’d have to charge it every night, and often during the day too. There were annoying bugs: notifications wouldn’t appear, or would appear multiple times; the screen would randomly stop responding to touch input; software would freeze up and the watch hard-rebooted. I think I lasted 9 months, mostly out of sheer stubbornness. The last month of that, I’d switched back to iOS, and without an Android phone the 360 was practically useless – so I threw it in the metaphorical drawer.

So. The Series 3…

Let me start by saying I had low expectations. I went into this fully expecting to be returning the Apple Watch to my nearest store within a few days, maybe 2 weeks at most.

So colour me surprised when the Series 3 turned out to blow away all of my expectations. For reference, I bought the 42mm “Space Grey” aluminium-bodied watch, with the “dark olive” Sports Loop strap.

The first thing I want to say is this is the most comfortable anything I’ve worn around my wrist. The “Sports Loop” strap is fantastic. It’s soft, unlike nearly any other hook-and-loop strap I’ve worn previously, and has a little bit of stretch to it, so at no point have I felt like the strap is constricting my movements. I like it so much I’ve put 2 more on my wish list.

The watch body itself is so light, and the shape — for me — has been perfect. Maybe if I’d tried a rectangular watch I’d have managed to get into the watch habit before now? As far as size goes, the 42mm has been perfect. It feels small, but it’s deceptively big… without feeling big, if that makes sense?

The combination of low-weight and stay-out-of-the-way shape mean that on more than one occasion I’ve grabbed at my wrist because it feels like the watch isn’t there anymore.

It even looks nice. The Motorola looked fine if a little cheap. Other wearables have looked like toys. The Apple Watch looks positively amazing compared to them all. Granted, I have a soft-spot for black anodised aluminium which stretches back to my PC building days.

Oh, that controversial red dot on the Digital Crown? I really like it, on the Space Grey model at least (I haven’t seen it on the other models in person yet).

The “bulge” on the bottom of the body for the various sensors has the added benefit of keeping the watch in one place on my wrist. Once I tighten up and fasten the strap the watch just does not move unless I reposition it.

The only ergonomics “quibble” I have is the plastic tab at the end of the Sport Loop. It sometimes catches on my shirt when I go to check the time or a notification… and sometimes I’ve felt it when I’ve been typing. This seems to be dependant on the keyboard setup I’m using at the time. It’s more noticeable on the very small (65%) keyboard I use at home than with the full-size keyboard at the office.

Battery life has been a revelation. Most days I never dip below 75%, and some days it doesn’t go below 80%. I’ve had a conundrum about charging the watch every night – I want to extend the life of the battery as much as I can, so I should let it run down more often: maybe only charge it every second or maybe even every third night would be the way to go?

Now, to be fair here, I’m not exactly stressing the watch much. The only 3rd-party app I have installed is Dark Sky, for the watch face complication. I’m not using the headline feature of the Series 3 — LTE connectivity — as my carrier doesn’t support it yet. I am frequently checking notifications or the time (so turning on the screen quite a bit), using the movement and heart-rate tracking constantly, and using Siri semi-regularly to set timers or reminders and stuff. I haven’t tried using the watch as a music player (paired with my AirPods), as 1) any time I’d want to listen to music I’ll already have my existing phone setup with me, and 2) I mostly listen to podcasts these days, and podcast apps pretty much suck on the watch. It is something I’m going to try out at some point in the near future though.

But for now, it’s doing everything I want it to do, and it’s doing them without any fuss or bother. If I absolutely must pick out one quibble with the software it’s that the audible notifications volume setting seems to suddenly jump from inaudible to Really Very Loud. I’m still trying to find the right setting for me.

One of the biggest reasons I wanted to try the Apple Watch was for the health tracking features. Already these have exceeded my expectations. The subtle (sometimes not so subtle) motivations the watch gives me have actually started to have an effect. I’m looking for ways to close out those rings: getting off the bus a stop early for a few more steps or the chance at a brisk walk; standing up regularly to stretch my legs. Even the Breathe app has been an unexpected hit with me – and I made fun of that app heavily when it was first announced. (Who didn’t?) I don’t use it as regularly as I maybe should, but the times I’ve remembered to it’s genuinely helped me feel more relaxed and focussed.

The only thing I’m really missing is a good way of tracking my sleep, something I know is a problem area for me. And maybe blood sugar monitoring, but rumours are that Apple is already researching this. If it does happen, hopefully it can be done with just a software update.

With the data from my watch feeding into the Health app on my iPhone and coupled with some data fed in from other apps, I’m starting to build a decent picture of my overall health and habits – and more importantly, started to make adjustments. Since wearing the watch, and making these admittedly small changes, I’ve managed to lose 5lbs. Still, a lot more to go (and weight isn’t the be-all-end-all of health), but it’s a start.

TL;DR

All of this is to say: the Apple Watch Series 3 is the first piece of wearable technology I actually believe in. It’s good, so much better than anything I’ve used before it’s almost comical. I didn’t expect to be this impressed with it, but here we are.

As something to wear, it’s light and comfortable, and the first anything I’ve managed to keep on my wrist without causing discomfort. WatchOS is doing everything I want it to do now, without any frustrations, and I still have more scope to dig into features I’m not using yet.

I enjoy my Apple Watch, which was not what I expected coming into this.


  1. Incidentally, it was delivered around 2 weeks ahead of what I was quoted when preordering. 


Using Cloudflare and Mailgun to Forward Email

Recently I’ve been “[sunsetting][]” old email accounts I don’t really need any more. One of them was a private domain, and was hosted with Fastmail. In most cases I could have set up a simple forwarding rule from my domain registrar to my master email, but this one domain made extensive use of subdomains to filter and “tag” email from services — i.e. user@service.domain.com. Forwarding from the registrar would only catch mail at the top level. Everything else would return an error to the sender1. If I were to move the DNS to Cloudflare, like my other “active” domains, I wouldn’t be able to do even this basic forwarding; I’d have to setup my own mail server to handle the domain.

[sunsetting]:{{site.url}}{% link _posts/2017-09-08-sunsetting-a-decades-old-email-address.markdown %}

Running your own email server, in 2017, is a fool’s errand. I needed to find another way.

After a few evenings research, and weighing the pro’s and con’s of each approach, I settled on using Mailgun to route email2.

Step 1. Mailgun

Create your Mailgun account. Add your domain. Mailgun will encourage you to use a subdomain, but I didn’t. During the setup, you’ll be presented with several DNS records you need to add to Cloudflare – 2 TXT records, 2 MX records, and a CNAME record. Leave this tab open for now.

Step 2. Cloudflare

Add the domain to Cloudflare, if you haven’t already. Modify the DNS records to remove any previous MX records and add in the details Mailgun gave you. To get the subdomain email addresses to work, you also need to add 2 more MX records similar to these:

MX    *.domain.com    mxa.mailgun.org    10
MX    *.domain.com    mxb.mailgun.org    10

For some reason I also needed to add a wildcard A record (*.domain.com) to get things to work correctly. This might be a Cloudflare quirk.

Step 3. Back to Mailgun

Click through to finish adding the domain to your Mailgun account. Depending on DNS propegation timings, you might need to click the “Check DNS Records” button a couple of hours later, to verify the domain (usually it will only be minutes). Under Domain Settings, change Wildcard Domain to On.

Switch to the Routes screen. Create a Route. A “Catch All” type should be fine, but you can check out the Mailgun documentation to define more complex rules. Make sure the Forwarding checkbox is ticked, and enter your master email address as the destination. Set the priority to 10, give the Route a name, and click Create Route.

Use the Test Your Routes box to, well, test the route with a sample email address to make sure it will fire appropriately.

Step 4. There is no Step 4.

At this point you should be done. I needed to wait a few hours for the DNS records to propegate out to other services before test emails would arrive properly. But once DNS did its thing I was receiving email to my master address just like I had been in Fastmail.


  1. GMail, for example, tells you the subdomain doesn’t accept mail, using a nice, clear message. Other services are usually far less helpful. 
  2. Note that Mailgun appears to discourage you from using their service like this. 


Sunsetting a Decades-old Email Address

I recently decided it was time to consolidate several email accounts, spread across multiple services, to one easily managed account. Some of these have been in use for over a decade. Some are “custom” domains, some are Gmail and other hosted services.

Partly this was for simplifying things — “what account did I use for signing up to that?” — partly it was to reduce the number of services I pay for every year (more on that in another post. Probably.) and partly it was to reduce my online “footprint” for privacy and security reasons. As a welcome side effect it would dramatically reduce the volume of spam I receive!

Importantly, my goal wasn’t to just redirect them all into yet another account. That would just lead to more juggling in the future. My goal was a full purge. I would have one master account and anything old would no longer exist.

Step 1. Identify What Was “To Go”

I had one fairly recent Gmail account which was practically never used, and had a decent address. I quickly settled on this as my new master account. Everything else was on the chopping block from this point on. This included some domains setup at FastMail which used some special setup to let me segregate each service I’d signed up to under its own subdomain address (i.e. user@service.domain.com). More on these domains in a later post.

I checked through my password manager to make sure I’d found all of the email services I had logins for, in case I’d forgotten about any.

Step 2. Secure the Master Account

Buy a Security Key. Use it. I followed these steps to get things setup so I have 2FA through either the key, or the authenticator app on my phone. This lets me avoid the backup SMS codes I’ve never really felt were particularly secure.

I really wish more services supported this setup, instead of limiting you to app + SMS. Or primarily SMS — yes, I’m looking at you, Twitter.

Step 3. Temporarily Redirect Everything to the Master Account

This was so I could categorise and prioritise the mail I was receiving. I applied a filter to incoming mail to tag it with the service it was forwarded from. From here I was able to identify where I had to put the most work in.

Step 4. Update Priority (Non-Email) Services

Mostly this involved going through my 1Password vault and updating anything I felt was important during the first pass. As many of the services used an email address as part of the login, I could search for each address in turn to cut down on the number of sites I’d have to update in each session.

Step 5. Purge Unnecessary Services

While I was updating services it was as good a time as any to delete any accounts which were idle. Using Just Delete Me sped the process up considerably. I think I’d cleared out 100 logins from my 1Password Vault by the end of the first week.

Step 6. Export Email Data

If it’s an old GMail account, you can use Google Takeout to download an archive of your mail. Other services vary, but the easiest way to grab an archive of your mail is to configure a desktop client, synchronise/download to your local computer, and then export from there. This is what I had to do with my Fastmail domains.

Step 7. Tidy-up

We’re in the final stretch now… with all the legwork out of the way, you’ll want to: make sure you’ve updated any friends, family, and contacts who would have the old email account; update any profiles or web pages where you have the email address listed; remove the account from devices, and basically remove as many references to the address as you can.

Step 8. Close the Email Account

This should be the obvious bit, but there might be some caveats… for example, with GMail you need to close the entire Google Account, taking any data in other Google services like YouTube with it. Some services make it harder than others to delete your account. If in doubt, check Just Delete Me, or try a search for “delete account.”



How To Add A Security Key To Your Gmail (Tech Solidarity)

A clear, concise guide on using a hardware Security Key1 with a Gmail account. I didn’t even know it was possible to avoid using SMS as your backup second factor — thanks to this guide I have my Key as my main and the Authenticator app as backup. No SMS involved. (My phone number has since been removed from my Google account)

The official documentation/setup guide should really make this clearer.


  1. I use this simple FIDO/U2F key by Yubico (affiliate link) which is the key recommended in the guide. 


PSA: You Should Not Force Quit Apps on iOS

The single biggest misconception about iOS is that it’s good digital hygiene to force quit apps that you aren’t using.

I’ve been trying to stamp this out amongst my friends and family for as long as I can remember. The system is smart; let it do what it was designed to do.

For what it’s worth, nearly everyone I’ve corrected on this has at some point been a convert from Android.

External link: Public Service Announcement: You Should Not Force Quit Apps on iOS



A Jekyll Workflow

1. Sublime Text (Portable) + Plugins

By using Sublime Text with the Sublime Jekyll and Git plugins allows me to write and publish posts from within a single app. By-and-large, Sublime is the “Admin UI” for this website.

I tried using other editors, but I just couldn’t get them to work the way I wanted them to work. Your mileage may vary though, so if you don’t feel Sublime is still worth the license fee, Visual Studio Code is good.

Using the portable version of Sublime lets me drop it into a USB stick/Dropbox/whatever and take my settings with me. 99% of the time this works seamlessly, but now and then I’ll run into an environment issue breaking the link between Git and Sublime. This isn’t that big of an issue though — I just open up a terminal session for all of the Git commands instead.

2. Setup Some Templates

Sublime Jekyll gives a lot of handy commands for quickly working with Jekyll — ctrl-shift-p jnp to start a new post was my most used for quite some time. But manually typing in all of the front matter except the title was a PITA. I use front matter for controlling the “style” of different post-types on the front page, so it is important to my setup. Then I found out about the ability to create templates, which speeded things up considerably.

To use templates, create a _templates folder in your Jekyll site. Create one or more markdown files in there to correspond to your various front matter defaults. $n can be used to set tab-stops. For example, here are my “Post” and “Link” templates respectively:

---
layout: post
title: 
date: $1
---
---
layout: link
title: 
date: $1
link_title: $2
link: $3
---

Note the tab-stop marker on date which lets me quickly insert the full, formatted, date and time using a Sublime Jekyll command

3. Git, plus a Commit Hook

I can’t always install Ruby + Jekyll on the environment I’m working on, so I offload the compilation of the site to the web server itself. To automate things, I manage the source files with Git, push changes to a repository on the server, and a commit hook fires whenever the server receives an update.

If you followed my post on [setting up a blog with Caddy and Jekyll][g], you might already have this setup. If not, the details can be found in this guide on Digital Ocean, which I linked to from there.

[g]:{{site.url}}{% link _posts/2017-06-26-start-a-blog-with-caddy-and-jekyll.md %}

4. Write

This bit I’m still working on improving my efficiency at…



Element Games Essentials series Brushes

I’ve been using the own-brand Element Games Kolinsky Sable brushes for a while now, and I have nothing but really good things to say about them. For the money they are fantastic. Winsor and Newton Series 7’s are usually seen as the “gold standard” brushes for miniature painting (obviously it’s one of those subjective things) — I think the Element Games brushes are easily as good as the W&N’s I’ve used over the years. At £19 for the set of 3, it’s hard to argue against the value, either.

Don’t just take my word for it: multiple Slayer Sword winner David Soper likes them too. Interestingly, he found them to be “stiff” compared to the Series 7’s… I had the opposite experience in that mine were “softer” – particularly the “Regiment” brush – which has become my new go-to brush for most tasks.



The Cheap Gamer: Planning Your Buying

A great post (part of a great series) from “Admiral Rob” on planning out your gaming purchases to save money and get maximum bang for your buck. Games like Warhammer 40,000 can be really expensive, but if you plan things out ahead of time you can really make some savings.

In our discussion on Twitter I pointed out another, related, way to save on new 40K armies: remember the spare parts/kits you already have. I’m terrible for starting a project and never finishing it for various reasons. I was thinking about reviving an old idea as a new army, pricing up all the kits I would have to buy. Then, when I was looking for something else, I found a bunch of old kits and sprues that — while not the shiny newest versions — would significantly cut down the amount of stuff I might need to buy. It’s totally fine to repurpose stuff from one project to another, if it means at least one of those projects getting finished.

So plan things out, remember what you already have, and spend smarter, not more.



Hitman (2016): An Update

I’m having a _lot_ of fun in Hitman. I’d go so far to say it’s surpassed _Hitman 2_ as my favourite entry in the series.
_Hitman 2_ was fun to play, but I never felt there was all that much replayability. Sure, you could go back and try a different approach, but you weren’t really rewarded for it. _Hitman (2016)_ has had me replaying the same level for days at a time, trying to beat all of the Challenges, get all of the Feats, and try out all of the Opportunities.
The approach I’m taking is to max out Mastery on each level and complete all of the Challenges/Feats/Opportunities before moving onto the next level, and I think it’s been the best approach to maximise my enjoyment of the game. Once I’ve done all of the levels then I will go back and play the Escalation modes and bonus missions.
Depending how much time I have in the evenings to do this, then I might be ready for the rumoured start of Season 2 in August…


1Password No Longer Selling Standalone Licenses

I completely missed this when Agile Bits introduced their new 1Password.com product (which, admittedly, I didn’t really pay attention to), but standalone licenses for 1Password are no longer being marketed. If you want one, you have to email Support to get one.

As someone who’s bought multiple versions and upgrades of 1Password over the years, I’m a little torn over this. On the one hand, if there are genuine technical limitations caused by supporting standalone versions with local vaults, and the new platform provides a truely better experience, then great. On the other, I’m always wary of putting all my eggs in one basket… if Agile Bits were to suffer some catastrophe tomorrow then my standalone 1Password 4 and local vault wouldn’t be affected in any way at all. I’m mostly fine with the security aspects, as from what I can tell, even if they were to be breached, all a hacker could get would be an encrypted binary of your data.

Something for me to think about, I guess.

External link: 1Password Support Forum Thread