Trevor Parker

Tech enthusiast, amateur photographer, and random blogger.

Things I Use - Personal Finance

I've often toyed with writing a post about things I use on a daily basis (see my Personal Security Tools post which, admittedly, contains a few things I don't use on a daily basis), but never quite convinced myself that the lists would be substantial or unique enough to write about.

I figure that it gets exhausting to read about really geeky things like command line tools and server technology all the time, so I hope that these posts might be a little more useful if they speak to a slightly more conventional audience.

So, here it is -- and on Tax Day no less! With one exception, these are all tools that anyone with a computer can readily use.


Personal Security Tools

Internet and system security is a growing interest of mine. There are numerous ways to protect yourself and some really great tools to help you.

I asked myself what tools I would recommend to a friend or family member interested in securing their data and Internet activities. Some of these are for the more paranoid or technically-inclined, while others are practical to anyone using a computer.


Hardening SSL in Nginx

Securing your site's web traffic with SSL is more than just slapping an SSL certificate on your server. Times have changed. Things have gotten more nuanced as browsers have aged, ciphers have weakened, and attackers have gotten more creative.

For starters, you'll want to choose a set of ciphers that provide a high assurance of security without neglecting visitors on older browsers.


Monitor Latency with SmokePing on FreeBSD

I run a couple of Internet-facing servers for my website, side projects, and the like. I also have the pleasure of a home Internet connection that isn't always the best. (Don't we all!) It's useful to be able to monitor network conditions to specific servers or addresses -- usually to determine that my home connection is to blame.

There are numerous solutions for monitoring networked computers (Nagios, Munin, MTR in a screen session), but one stands out as being really good at visualizing network latency.

SmokePing -- written by Tobi Oetiker of RRDTool notoriety -- monitors network latency and visualizes it with a number of useful graphs. There are a lot of ways you can configure SmokePing to monitor and present network latency, but it's pretty dang helpful right out of the box.

Installing and configuring SmokePing is pretty straightforward for most Linux distributions, but I had a hard time finding a good example of how to do it on FreeBSD. So, here are the steps I took to get an Apache and SmokePing stack running.


Music Library One-Liner

I'm learning more about powerful tools like sed and awk while taking a break from my task management app project. One-liners are great for many reasons -- they're easy to stick in your .bashrc or .zshrc file as aliases or to incorporate into functions.

This particular one-liner simply traverses a music directory, organized as Artist/Album/Songs, and dumps it out in a pretty list.