Arun's blog ๐Ÿ“’

  • Day One: My new private blogging app

    I am a Day One user now!

    The team joined Automattic this month. The acquisition is perfect. Automattic is a pioneer in the web publishing and blogging space, while Day One champions the private journaling experience. I am excited to see what the future holds for Day One, and how Automattic integrates its products with it. Publishing from the app to a WordPress site, the other way around and Gutenberg on the app are few examples of great things that can happen.

    An image of the Day One app on a white iPhone
    Day One on iPhone

    Today on the company-wide townhall, the Day One team met the rest of Automattic. We had a quick overview of the Day One apps. They also offered a premium subscription for everyone working at Automattic. That’s very cool!

    I have not been into private journaling most of my life. I have written pieces on and off though. The first time I started private blogging, it was during my college days. I remember maintaining a notebook. That was my first time away from home/neighborhood and writing was a great way to cope with the change. I remember moving to a Dropbox later, where I stored them as text files, encrypted with Cryptomator.

    Day One, on the other hand, is a fully encrypted, cross-platform app. Android is an exception though. It does not support end-to-end encryption. I published a copy of this blog post as an entry as well. The Mac app seems polished with a great deal of features. I will not be using the Android app just yet. Hopefully an end-to-end encrypted version is available in the near future.

    Download the app

    If you are looking forward to trying the app, they do offer a 7 day free trial of the premium subscription. The premium version offers unlimited media storage, sync, and backup, amidst a whole bunch of other features. Get it on Google Play Store or the App Store.

  • First look at Among Us 15 players update

    The popular, cross-platform, LAN and internet-based social deduction game Among Us is dropping a big update today! They are finally supporting lobbies with upto 15 players. This is a big news to me, as my team at work has 11 members. I know teams that are larger as well, and someone always had to sit out, or had to create two different games.

    Along with the update to player count, there are a few other changes that I have noticed on the team stream that Innersloth is hosting at the moment.

    Changes that stand out immediately:

    • New voting screen.
    • Voting animation gets a new look as well (video below)
    • Dead bodies look different. Is it the backpack which the beans carry that gives the rectangle appearance?

    I got a chance to record the new voting animation as well. I think it’s a welcome change as it significantly improves the time taken to show all the votes, especially important in a lobby that’s sized 15.

    Besides these, the team announced support for mobile controllers and a certain new “honk” system on Airship. I am not curious about the mobile controller as I am a desktop player, but I am keen on seeing what the honk system is about. The update drops by 3PM EST, which is 12.30am IST. I am hoping to download the release tomorrow morning the first thing. ๐ŸŽ‰

    Among Us is available for Windows, Android and iOS.

  • Opt out WiFi from Google and Microsoft location tracking

    I was reading a Hacker News piece about Amazon opting out of Google’s FLoC and I learned something even more interesting. Google and Microsoft have been using information of WiFi networks, including residential properties, for location tracking purposes. It’s mind blowing that companies are able to make decisions as such. These requests must be opt-in, vs being an opt-out which is the case today.

    A stock image showing a lock on a fence

    Apparently this has been a thing for over a decade, and the earliest article that I could find on this is this blog post from Google where they outline a way to opt-out one’s access points and routers from this location tracking service. It’s fairly straightforward — one has to append _nomap to their router SSID.

    As for Microsoft’s equivalent of opting-out, one may add _optout to any part of the router’s SSID.

    To chain both opt-outs, _optout_nomap must do the trick. I did so on both bands on router – 2.4 Ghz and 5 Ghz.

    This is generally done by accessing the web-based software for your WiFi router and somewhere on the settings menu, you will see an option to change its name.

    Related: Setting up pihole on the Tailscale network to block ads and telemetry on the go.

  • VALORANT: I like this post-kill effect

    An image showing the post-kill animation VALORANT, a 5v5 character-based tactical shooter.
    This makes a great background for a desktop, right?
    An image showing the post-game victory notice on the popular tactical shooter, 5v5 character-based game, VALORANT.
    Clutched to secure the game

    On my latest VALORANT game, we had the lead at 4-3, and it was our final plant. 5 Viper agents vs 5 Yoru agents. My team sped to site A while I took the other direction. Besides one agent B, everyone else were A. Tackled the one at B and ran fast to the other site, via their base. We were 3-1 agents by that time.

    The other 2 die. I backtrack a bit, reach mid ground, walk to site A, clutched with a final headshot. A nice blue background appeared as well, which apparently is a skill from Yoru. I am yet to try Yoru.

    On that note, Replication is back on VALORANT! If you are yet to try, the game is available on Riot’s website.

  • Taildrop: free, p2p file sharing feature

    Tailscale has been on my mind lately. It’s a fantastic software that’s available across multiple operating systems. It allows you to set up your own VPN network that you can connect to from anywhere. I use Tailscale to host my pi-hole nodes, a web server at home and my favorite use-case today is the new Taildrop feature.

    An image showing the logo of the mesh VPN software called Tailscale. It offers a file sharing feature as well, called Taildrop.

    It is a p2p (peer-to-peer) file sharing system that doesn’t upload your files to the cloud. Best of all, it works between two different works (laptop on WiFi and mobile device on mobile data) as well. That’s because it runs on the top of the Tailscale network.

    It costs us, effectively, nothing to run, because itโ€™s your bandwidth (mostly LAN bandwidth), not ours. We just bust some NATs and negotiate the session. Which is why we can give Taildrop away to everybody, for unlimited use, with no file size limits, as part of the Tailscale free plan. Itโ€™s also open source.

    Avery’s blog post is a great read!
  • My favorite WWDC21 announcements: all new iCloud+

    Last night was fun. Apple’s WWDC21 event announced multiple software updates across their iOS, MacOS, iPadOS and watchOS platforms. I enjoyed the full keynote, particularly the part where they announced the new iCloud+ subscription. The Health-related segments were arduously long though.

    It was disappointing that the new 16 inch MacBook wasn’t announced as well.

    My most favorite announcement is probably the new iCloud+ subscription that includes privacy-focussed services like “Hide My Email”, “Private Relay” and the new pixel blocking functionality on the Apple Mail app. Other favorite announcements include:

    • TestFlight for Mac.
    • SharePlay for watch party with friends and family.
    • FaceTime on Android, Windows and Linux using web browsers. This brings end-to-end encrypted video calling across all platforms.
    • Universal Control. I can finally use my 2015 MacBook Air keyboard on 2019 MacBook Pro.
    • App Privacy Report. It’s like a mini pi-hole report, for your iOS device.

    iCloud+ subscription

    I am not an iCloud member at the moment, but with the new functionalities announced last night, I might end up choosing the lowest iCloud tier. It costs 75 INR a month in India, which is roughly about 1 USD. That’s a great price for something that includes,

    • Private Relay, a browser-specific VPN that works on Safari.
    • Hide My Email, to generate random email aliases that redirect all incoming email to your primary email inbox.
    • Custom domain support for iCloud.com email.

    It’s not clear what Private Relay is just yet, but in reading beta user experiences on Reddit, it seems that it’s a Safari-specific VPN. The idea seems to be that the customer’s IP address isn’t visible to the websites that they are browsing and their internet service provider. That’s pretty much what commercial VPNs like NordVPN and Mullvad do, and they apply throughout your device. Apple’s service is restricted to the Safari usage though.

    I am a devoted Firefox user, but considering that I recently cancelled my NordVPN subscription, switching to Safari for Private Relay feels like a good idea. It boils down to how performant Private Relay is though. VPNs are known to throttle your browsing speeds as they encrypt your data/route traffic through the VPN provider’s node. Private Relay routes your traffic through two hops instead, which is even better privacy-wise but I wonder if performance would take a hit.

    I am a huge fan of SimpleLogin and Anonaddy, of which I am a paying customer of the former. They are open source, can be self-hosted, offer API access and offer custom domain support. I wouldn’t be cancelling my SimpleLogin subscription, but using Apple’s “Hide My Email” functionality alongside feels like a good idea. Maybe compartmentalize usage for different purposes?

    “Hide My Email” had been a feature that’s part of “Sign in with Apple” functionality but that changes today because “Hide My Email” becomes a standalone app/functionality.

    Custom domain support on iCloud.com is very cool as well! In fact, I never signed up for iCloud.com mail until today. I am a ProtonMail user today and I am happy with it in most respects. The end-to-end encryption functionality of ProtonMail isn’t all that useful to me though, as 99% of the communication that I make are with non-ProtonMail customers.

    Email, in general, is known to be a protocol that isn’t secure. For anyone that’s looking for secure, private communication, Signal must be the goto option. That brings me to the idea that ProtonMail subscription isn’t necessary for my use case. When it ends in 11 months, I plan on canceling the subscription. Also because iCloud Mail allows usage on third-party apps and platforms, it’s not any different from other IMAP-offerings. This enables me to use the new iCloud mailbox on Android and Windows. Pretty cool for the price it comes at.

    TestFlight for Mac

    I am very happy with this announcement, mostly because I test Tailscale and Signal releases. Until today, beta testing on Mac has been a waiting game because developers have to submit the release on the App Store, which takes multiple days to be available to the customers. TestFlight speeds up the availability tremendously. I am looking forward to seeing whether Tailscale and Signal devs adopt TestFlight in the coming months. There is no reason not to.

    FaceTime

    FaceTime’s new link generation functionality is quite nice, which allows inviting non-FaceTime users to join the call using their desktop and mobile browsers. I haven’t used FaceTime ever, but considering that it offers end-to-end encrypted communication (this time even on browsers), I could give it a shot. Performance on browsers is a question though, especially in slow networks.

    Signal is my choice of communication today, and it became even better recently because it offers screen sharing, which replaces my occasional need for Zoom. It’s in beta at the moment.

    I look forward to trying FaceTime but convincing friends and families to use it is a challenge. Most are devoted WhatsApp users because their social circles are on it. Signal saw an increase in usage briefly in January 2021, which is when WhatsApp announced new terms (they have reversed that decision, by the way) but most of gone back to using WhatsApp because of the lack of social circles.

    Overall, WWDC21 was quite nice. I hope to test the betas in the coming days.

  • Replication mode on VALORANT

    The new replication mode on VALORANT is, well, LOL. It starts with 5 players choosing an agent each, and there is a random selector that goes through the list of agents and one is chosen. In our case, it was Raze and the opponents were a Raze bunch too.

    I don’t think I like this mode just yet, but I guess I must give it some time.

    I cannot imagine how the gameplay would be like when everyone has players with the blind skill. VALORANT social media team give us a sample. Real play must be the same, only 100x worse.

  • Breeze

    It had been a busy few days at my end.

    VALORANT greeted with a pleasant surprise tonight though. There’s a new map! Breeze! I have no clue how old this is, but I am definitely enjoy the new view.

    Picture of a gameplay from VALORANT.
    Picture of a gameplay from VALORANT.
    Picture of a gameplay from VALORANT.
    Picture of a gameplay from VALORANT.
    Picture of a gameplay from VALORANT.
    Picture of a gameplay from VALORANT.
    Picture of a gameplay from VALORANT.
  • Facebook must be deleted

    Look at this.

    Facebook tracks your web presence and activities even outside of their “Facebook.com” domain. Facebook is not a social networking website anymore. They are a data mining corporation, focused on showing targeted ads. They are minting money based on your interests.

    That Twitter thread has examples of the level of data that Facebook can collect. They can be so precise that they will know of the time you ordered pizza, what page of a website you are at, what kind of action you are taking on that website, what college you are applying to, and everything inย between!

    Facebook must be deleted. Today.

    At the least, you must be turning off their “Off-Facebook activity”ย settings. Get a copy of your data before you turn that off.

  • Breach alerts throughout your domain

    I am a fan of Have I Been Pwned. So far I have been using the service by periodically checking for my email addresses, or by depending on 1Password’s integration of that service. A much better solution would be to have Have I Been Pwned inform me of breaches that happen throughout my custom domains. Turns out that feature is available!

    I have enrolled all of my domains with this new feature. It’s also neat that Have I Been Pwned needs to verify my ownership of the domain only once. I don’t have to leave the DNS records in place for future alerts.

    You can sign up for alerts here — Have I Been Pwned Domain Search.

Hey there!

I am a Happiness Engineer at Automattic, working on WordPress.com support. If you enjoy discussing online privacy, encryption, and fediverse like I do, you can reach me by commenting on my posts, or by email.