Grubb's thoughtspace

The universe is telling me to leave, and that's good.

Idk man, it just seems like the universe is telling me to leave.

'Twas the best decision I've made in a long time. I found some deeply meditative places in my head on those rides over the summer. It was one of the most creatively fruitful times I've had in a while. Since the weather turned colder I'm back to running, but I'd kind of gotten bored of running, which is why I bought a bike in the first place. That and getting older.

Turns out I live in paradise for road biking (I got a road bike. A 1974 Fuji, as it turned out. Off Craigslist. Vibe for days).

I had a good number of ideas on that bike that I turned into a coherent path forward for myself with this current company, but then sometime in early fall I hit a burnout wall. I had hatched a plan, sold it, and was getting ready to expand our team's responsibilities when I realized that actually I didn't want to do any of that shit.

I think that's about the time that I realized the flame had gone out. The flame that guided me to that spot in the first place.

I don't know, but I'm reading a lot lately, trying to figure out why I feel like an alien in this world sometimes. I would really like to go for a bike ride or two.

I actually kind of hate it at this point. Having a clear separation of work space and home space is going to be a very fashionable topic in 5 years, I predict. Working from home for this extended a period of time is like the worst of both worlds. I'm not fully at work when I'm working and I'm not fully at home when I'm not. My brain has been trained to associate home and work as the same thing and it's plusungood.

All my life I've had this flame inside that's guided me. Sometimes it's a flame, sometimes it's a compass, whatever the situation requires at the moment, but regardless my instincts have always served me pretty well. That instinct told me to move back to Atlanta after college, it told me to leave Atlanta. It told me to quit Railroad Earth and pursue a technology career. It told me to go after a job at Platform.sh.

I've been in a fairly existential funk for the last several weeks. I'm not happy at this job. I realize I've been trying to for years to engineer a career path out of a place where there is no career path. Many of the things that I've believed about my role in this company, my actual role not my title or my job, I'm starting to doubt. I'm starting to doubt myself.

And so in times like these in the past I'd have looked to that flame to tell em what to do now but it seems to have gone out for the time being.

I'm not sure when it happened, all I know is that it's not really there now. So I'm applying to jobs and stuff and hoping that getting out of this situation will allow me to find it again but somewhere else in my mind I know that I might be in for a few years of bushwhacking my way back up to the path. I'm scared.

Part 1 in the series where we discuss password managers and not sending sensitive things via email.

Hello. Today we're going to talk about DNS, which stand for Domain Name System. A good primer on the topic can be found here, and the Wikipedia article on the topic is here. As the first article helpfully summarizes, DNS is the phonebook of the internet. Every website you visit requires a “DNS lookup” to translate the domain, e.g. www.johnnygrubb.com, into an IP address so that the computer can go ask that other computer for the web thing you're trying to look at. You don't need to care about the semantics of all this, all you need to care about is that this lookup is happening thousands of times a day from that supercomputer in your pocket while the thing is not even powered on.

The truth will shock you

I'm going to resist my urge to explain how DNS works but to say that the lookup step is not (typically, historically) encrypted like your connection to this website. It happens in the background and is a plaintext lookup. This means that it could be snooped upon by somebody else in a coffee shop, but this isn't actually a/the big deal. The big deal is that unless you've already done what I'm about to tell you to do, you're doing these DNS lookups against default DNS servers that your phone company and your ISP have set in your phone and your home router. This means that even if you're safe and only use HTTPS to connect to websites (increasingly the default and only option) your ISP still has this log of all your internet activity on every device everywhere you go.

This still isn't that huge a deal because nobody at the phone company is going to target you, but who will is the data mining/marketing companies that buy all of these logs from the ISPs. Yes, this is very useful info for targeting users with ads. Of course it is, right?

Ok I'm in, what do?

The very easiest thing you can possibly do is to stop using the default DNS servers that are setup in your phone or laptop. Go into System Preferences –> Network and then go into the Advanced settings for the interface (probably wifi) that you're using to get online. Go to the DNS tab and change that to 1.1.1.1 as the first line in your DNS servers. You can safely delete the others. This will set your DNS on your laptop to use Cloudflare, a company that's more trustworthy than your ISP.

network settings

DNS settings

There's a similar thing on your phone if you click the little “info” thingy on the wifi network that you're attached to. Problem is that you'll have to do this everytime you hook up to a new wifi network, so it's a little cumbersome.

NextDNS – do this one

A better option, and the one that I'm using right now, is a relatively new service called NextDNS. NextDNS is very cool because not only are they more trustworthy than your ISP with all that DNS data, they actually will block a whole ton of ads, web tracking scripts, and other shit you don't want snooping on you as well. How does it do this? Thanks for asking!

DNS is the phonebook for the internet. If the phone number for a given domain is unlisted, then the computer won't know which IP address to call. So all NextDNS has to do is keep a list of domains that serve ads, trackers, and several other categories of things that people don't want on their computers (this is configurable by you), and whenever a request is made to one of them they just send back a blank entry. The ads don't get loaded. The tracking scripts don't get loaded. It's brilliant and effective.

The easiest way to get started with NextDNS is just to sign up for an account. Use a burner email address if you want, that's what I did. Once signed up they'll give you a number of different ways to get started, the easiest one being installing their app which acts as a VPN client on your phone and your laptop so that you can hook into your custom phonebook that you can configure to block various categories of stuff you don't want to bother you.

NextDNS panel

Finally

Enjoy not being tracked around the internet. NextDNS works outside the house or anywhere you go so you're not leaking personally identifiable information everywhere you go. The whole thing about blocking ads is just a huge bonus!

(HN inspired update: Movies Anywhere is the thing I was wanting and can't believe it actually exists)

I just bought my first Roku powered TV as an upgrade to the bottom-est bottom tier TV that we bought from Costco a couple years ago. This one is also from Costco, but it's a TCL rather than an Element brand, so it's like the second rung on the ladder. Roku is waaaaay better than the imitation version that was on the Element TV and generally I'm pleased. You can add channels and do all the stuff that I realize now qualifies as the “cord cutting” I've been reading about forever.

We bought an Apple TV probably 4-5 years ago and at some point in the last 12 months it's crapped out on us, so I'm conscripted into plugging my laptop in to the TV to watch any of the dozens of kids movies we've bought on iTunes over that time.

This has always irked me because none of those movies ever worked in the car's DVD player/entertainment system thingy when we go on road trips. It's a shame too, because we've only recently discovered that the headphones that came with the car for the DVD player not only work, but will let Michelle and I listen to Wait, Wait without the loud protestations of the kids (since they can watch a movie while we listen to podcasts). I have to stop at Target and trawl through the discount kid's DVDs for the car.

In many ways the future is damn handy.

But now we got this Roku TV and it comes with Amazon Prime so that's great, but I want to watch one of the movies we bought on iTunes. I don't want to start buying a library of movies on Amazon, because I already have a library of movies on iTunes (that they won't let me watch on anything but an Apple product :| ). Neither of these systems will let me burn to a DVD so we can watch them in the car, and neither of their apps will let me bounce out of my iPhone into the car's V-RCA inputs.

Is it that hard to let things interoperate? Can Apple please just relent and let Roku have an iTunes app? I'm not buying another fucking Apple TV. I'm not. I don't give a shit about games or 4K or an internal drive, I just want to watch the fucking movies I bought (or licensed, fuck you Hollywood). I may as well have to lug around a VHS player to plug in to all these screens, it's absolutely ridiculous and completely anti-customer. You all deserve the eventual death or disruption you suffer.

Michelle has her head down in a bowl full of steaming water with oregano oil in it. Twitter tells me I've been on that stupid site for 10 full years of my life. That's hard to believe.

Does anyone remember how fun the internet was 10 years ago? How full of possibility it seemed? How many different sites and blogs and forums and lists you visited on a daily basis? It seems in hindsight like it was dozens, if not more. RSS was so much fun, adding blogs to your blog roll, writing posts in Wordpress, learning about how all this stuff works.

Now?

The list of sites that I visit on a daily basis is down to about 2 or 3, and they suck more every day. Twitter is one of them. It was a place that was full of hope and possibility and now it's a capitalistic, dystopian internet shithole that I can't stop visiting because it's one of the last interesting places on this internet here in 2019.

I've attained my goal of getting out of the music grind, though not in the way that I'd wished 10 years ago. We're financially stable and generally vastly happier than 10 years ago, and that's not at all to be discounted. But the work of building the internet, I dunno. Something is missing these days.

At minute 0, upon hearing the news

Wow, that is an incredible amount of money. How could their ad revenues possibly be worth that kind of a figure? And to all these people on Twitter saying “I hope you'll still release your content on other platforms because Spotify sucks!”, good luck folks. That's not how this works.

2 minutes later

Oh I get it, they're going to borrow the Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, everybody else model and start presenting their own content in their own little walled garden. Oh well, I really enjoyed Reply All. Guess I better download all those back episodes while I still can.

A day or two later

Oh now I get it. This is how Big Tech will start getting their disgusting claws around the last bastion of the fun and open internet that still exists in the form of podcasting. If I were Thor I would bring a mighty anti-trust hammer down on all these assholes. I hope it's not too late, because they control all the channels of distribution and are about to start controlling all the channels of creation. I hate the internet.

But seriously Gimlet, I'm really frickin disappointed. I guess the fact that your very first podcast is called “Startup” is a giant hindsight clue as to your intentions but I really thought your image as young, scrappy journalists shedding light on some of the internet's darker corners was genuine. I guess everybody has a price, and I guess Spotify is calling up every successful podcasting company right now to see what theirs is.