Paperless Adulting on Linux with Evernote and NoteSlurp

Adulting is hard. Bills come and go, taxes have to be prepared, escrows have shortages, kids have activites, FSAs need proof of medical expenses, cars need to be registered.

The list of things an adult has to do seems to only grow larger over time, and one of the fundamental things that all adults seem to have to do is to track and file paperwork. I’ve gone “paperless” in my personal life (which I seem to have interpreted it to mean: “keep digital copies of everything, even if it was paper originally”).

When it comes to adulting, barriers to doing the right thing (like actually getting stuff filed paperlessly) are bad, as you won’t do them. So, recently I decided to make that just a little bit easier on myself with a new tool. Let me walk through the research I’ve done, what my process for paperless filing is, and where I’ve historically had problems, and how this new tool has helped me out.

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New Site Built with Hugo

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I just rebuilt realjenius.com using Hugo, docker, and a variety of other goodness.

I chose not to port over a variety of old content, and I also chose to not worry about feed links to RSS and such. Please review your RSS feeds if you happen to still be following this blog.

Media Temple Makes a Deal with the Devil

Today, Media Temple announced that they are being acquired by GoDaddy.

Here’s a tip for Media Temple: if you have to spend your entire FAQ trying to convince folks that the acquisition isn’t a bad idea… maybe it actually is a bad idea.

But surely, that’s not enough reason to switch hosts. It seems silly to move, just because of an acquisition that Media Temple has said so strongly won’t affect their service:

What about GoDaddy’s reputation in the tech community?

GoDaddy has been transformed in recent months and is essentially a new company. If we did not like what we have seen, we would not have joined the GoDaddy family. They have overhauled their leadership team and attracted tech talent from the best-of-the-best. We love “the new GoDaddy” that CEO Blake Irving and his team have created, especially their new approach with advertising, product focus and UX.

Though neither GoDaddy’s brand nor operations are being integrated into ours, we are excited to be a positive influence on them with how to make even more improvements to better serve the Web pro community.

Will Media Temple be merging with GoDaddy?

No, we keep operating independently. The strategy to keep the two companies operating independently was critical for us. While we are excited about GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving’s vision to build bridges between GoDaddy and the Web developer community, the commitment to maintain (mt)’s independent operations is what sealed the deal for us.

How does this affect me, as an (mt) customer?

It doesn’t. (mt) and GoDaddy continue to operate independently, so it’s ‘business as usual.’ We’ll keep doing what we do best: serving you and helping you succeed online.

Me believing any of these answers is predicated by me “trusting” the author; my web-host. While I have implicitly trusted the intentions of Media Temple over the years I have used their service, I have absolutely no trust for Go Daddy. And the reason is simple: They have shown time and again to have no integrity.

Integrity is a key element in your relationship with your web-host, as you are giving them a lot of trust in the execution and support of your personal and business ventures. Sebastiaan de With has summarized perfectly how GoDaddy has shown they don’t have the type of integrity I’m interested in my host having:

And so, with that, I must choose to vote with the only voice I have: my business. Which means I’m looking at the alternative hosts for the first time in many years. I currently run “unmanaged” VPS-style hosting via a DV-Developer at Media Temple, so my interests are specifically in finding a competitive and well-respected alternative in that space. If you are a Grid-Service or DV-Managed user; this list may not be useful for you.

For my analysis, I’m explicitly targeting the “$50/month” price point in unmanaged servers (tier 2 at MT). Let’s enumerate what I get at Media Temple for that price:

  • 16 cores; un-documented “fast-enough” CPU speeds.
  • 2 GB of memory.
  • 40 GB of RAID-10 storage.
  • 650 GB bandwidth.
  • Root + SSH access.
  • Old but current-enough OpenVZ kernel capable of running Ubuntu 13.04.
  • Parallels power panel
  • Good top-level tools for re-provisioning, restoring in emergencies, upgrading on-the-spot, and managing DNS.
  • Basic real-time server statistics
  • Good tech support
  • No built-in backups.

Now, let’s look at some competition (in no particular order)!

Host Price CPU Memory Disk Bandwidth Other Details Thoughts
ATUM $49 (Bronze) [email protected] 1GB 50GB 2TB 10K RPM Drives,Raid 5. Not a fan of the single core, and their docs on their VM tech and kernel level is absent. Have to contact for OS details.
Linode $40 (2GB) [email protected] priority 2GB 96GB 4TB Xen,HA,Data Center Choices,Image Config Tools Linode looks very powerful, and I like their backup pricing and very configurable tools. Xen hypervisor is very nice. 8 cores is good.
Digital Ocean $40 (Tier 4) [email protected] 4GB 60GB 4TB SSD,KVM,2-factor,custom admin,multiple data centers Only complaint on specs is cores. Price is good. Popular with the “hip” crowd. Custom admin looks nice. No documentation on kernel/OS options on site without registering. Competitive snapshots and backups for pricing. Awesome community docs.
RimuHosting $50 (slider configurable) [email protected]? 2.5GB 48GB 100GB Xen,Market pricing,slider config,multi data center,dated 12.04 Ubuntu only. I tried RimuHosting previously. It’s a good company and they have decent tools, but their core count is low, and their pricing isn’t super competitive. Also, their Ubuntu options are old.
Rackspace $43.80 (Tier 2) 1 “vCPU” 1GB 40GB .12c/GB I’m not particularly a fan of the EC2-ish-ness of the RackSpace offering for my personal hosting. It’s an OpenStack platform, so it’s in many ways just like EC2. Probably good for horizontal scaling, but not really right for me.
RocketVPS $44.99 (RS 4) [email protected] 2GB 75GB 3.5TB OpenVZ,SolusVM admin,Raid 10,full server specs The pricing is competitive on RocketVPS, and I like full specs. Not a huge fan of OpenVZ, and SolusVM admin looks “just ok”. Appears to be 6 quite fast cores.
BurstNet $49.95 (VPS 6) [email protected] 4GB 250GB 4TB RAID,1 IP,OpenVZ,vePortal,6 data centers A very highly rated host, but also very enterprise scale which may make impersonal. They are very competitive on price and scale. Only complaint is CPU, and that may just be bad docs. OS choices are pretty geriatric, unfortunately.
A Small Orange $50 (Tier 4) [email protected] 2GB 40GB 1TB cPanel,Free Backups,KVM,Ubuntu 12.04 max,SSD,2 Dedicated IP Interesting mom-and-pop style. The extra IP address is nice, as is free backups, and SSD. 2 cores is a little light, and bandwidth and disk are a little lower than some others.

Here are options I explicitly excluded for one reason or another:

  • EC2 and GCE - Biggest issue here is the commodity disks and the weird ephemeral IP nonsense. I’ve done a lot of hosting with EC2 through my previous life, and have no interest in bringing that into my personal world.
  • Heroku - I’m actually a big fan of Heroku, but only if I had a desire to scale out, which I don’t. I’d rather have one efficient-as-possible VPS, as opposed to the Heroku sandbox. I also need root access.
  • HostGator - Hello 1998. No thank you.
  • SoftLayer - SoftLayer has a lot of good enterprise-level hosting offerings (and their dedicated is way cheaper than cloud in many cases), but it’s just not priced well for where I’m coming in. Feels targeted to bigger fish than I.
  • DreamHost - I had nothing but bad experiences with the snarky, always ironic DreamHost “support”. I have no interest to go back and feel like I’m in a hipster coffee shop all day.

Summary

Right now I’m exploring hosts in this option:

  1. Digital Ocean - This looks really compelling at the moment. Pricing is great; tools look great, and they have a good reputation right now.
  2. Linode - Some folks simply swear by Linode, and I like some of their features such as HA proxy options. Pricing is good.
  3. A Small Orange - These folks have a lot of street cred, and while their pricing isn’t totally competitive everywhere, their deployment looks pretty sharp all told.

So did I miss anybody you’d suggest?

The Ides of March

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So Monday is my birthday: March 15th. For years I remember two things about the way adults reacted to me as a child: (1) Oh, your name is R.J.! That’s just like Dallas! (and for the record, no, no it is not ). Or (2) Oh my! You were born on the Ides of March!

It’s funny, because when I was a kid, I had no idea what the ides of march was; I just knew it carried with it a certain degree of playful dread, given the reaction of adults. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned a lot more about what the day actually is, and not what people seem to attribute to it.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m not surprised. It seems like the superstition around the date has faded in recent years. Historically speaking, the term ‘ides’ meant the middle of the month for either Martius (March), Maius (May), Quintillis (July), or October on the Roman calendar. On the Ides of March, the Romans actively celebrated for Mars, the god of war (who, by the way, is awesome).

But the reason that we don’t go around talking about the ides of October is not because the God of the Month was less impressive, but simply because of the historical significance of 3/15. Julius Caesar (a rather important Roman) was murdered by the Brutus', Longinus, and a bunch of other political turds.

So over the years, the day has carried a negative connotation. It has Dark Ominous Tones.

Now, the truth is, I am no Julius Caesar. Additionally, I find it highly unlikely that anyone will stab me to death. However, I’ve had enough people come up and chatter at me about the ides doom and gloom that I can think of a few to poke with the pointy end of a stick, at least threateningly.

Incidentally - you’ll likely notice that Quintillis is the only month that doesn’t have any aural relationship to it’s English counterpart. Well, it turns out that one of Julius Caesar’s many faults (for which he got the stabby stabby) was reforming the national calendar. The Roman calendar became the Julian calendar as he worked to resolve the listing that occurred in the traditional model set up by Romulus, which had 304 days, and was then later refined by Numa (Numa) which had 355 days. The Julian calendar is identical to our modern Gregorian calendar in terms of length and usage of leap years, but was simply not shifted to match the same days of the year.

When Julius Caesar was murdered, they renamed Quintillis to Julius, and then bippity-boppity-bacon you have July.

So anyway, that’s how I began to call myself the Roman god of war. Don’t make me smite you.

Danny Carey at Drum Explorers Clinic

As most of my close friends know, while having only recently picked up any form of drum stick, I’m passionate about drumming (though I’m personally still a beginner in my ability to play).

One of my favorite modern drummers is Danny Carey; I’m sure in no small part due to Tool being one of my personal favorite bands.

Even if I attempt to exclude my bias, however, I can see that Carey is a well-admired drummer, generally somewhere in the top 15 of top-100 drummer lists of all time; sharing space with the likes of Neil Peart, John Bonham, Keith Moon and Mike Portnoy.

Danny Carey has a rare technical accuracy in his playing, but he is able to combine it with his singular artistic flair to create remarkable tapestries of sound. Tool songs are initially accessible to listeners in search of a driving rock sound, but continue to breathe and grow as the complex rhythms unravel over time.

I’m always amazed to pick up an album like Undertow (from 1993) and to this day still hear new poly-rhythms in the beat and other minor adjustments for the first time. And it only takes listening to a song like Jambi, where the guitar, vocals, and drums are all on entirely different time signatures to be able to understand how capable he really is.

Recently, Danny Carey came into Kansas City for the 25th anniversary of KC Drum Explorers. He gave some tutorials, played along to some particularly drum-intensive Tool songs, and also had some great company: Terry Bozzio (another brilliant drumer) and Aloke Dutta (a wizard of the tabla, and mentor and teacher to both Carey and Bozzio).

I have no idea how I missed hearing of this event; it was mere minutes from my house (in a high-school auditorium in suburban Overland Park of all places), but thankfully YouTube has come to the rescue to make me feel like something other than a total failure.

I’ve dug up some videos of the event, and included them here (thank you evo462, jdub816, and andrewl85). Enjoy!

Rosetta Stoned

Jambi

The Pot

Aenima (Partial)

Carey, Bozzio, and Dutta Together - Part 1

Part 2