Mid-2012 tech priorities

By Alex Muller

A quick update on how I’m feeling about technology and computer stuff, and where my priorities are at the moment.

Security and ownership of data

Pretty much every password I use now is unique, and the ones that aren’t will be soon. I only know a couple of them from memory, and most of the important ones are over twenty characters. 1Password is still a dream come true. Password leak after leak has meant I don’t trust anyone online any more (and probably never should have).

I’ve changed the MX records (email provider) for this domain away from Google Apps and over to FastMail.FM. I’ll register new accounts with this domain rather than my @gmail.com address, and will move important services over gradually. I’m no longer comfortable with Google providing such an essential service for free. I pay O2 in excess of £30 monthly for a phone; why on earth was I holding out over £2.50 a month for email, which is arguably way more important?

Dropbox is no longer my go-to place to shove everything into. Instead, I’ll be even more anal about backup, soon setting up Crashplan to backup in an encrypted fashion to a drive at (my parents') home. This’ll be more useful when it’s actually an off-site backup.

For services that store data on my behalf, I’ve become a bit crazy about maintaining my own copy of that data. This includes keeping a copy of my Oyster card history using Mollusc, and sending Twitter a request under the Data Protection Act so that I can get a copy of my first three thousand tweets (they’ll be imported into Tweetnest soon).

Portability of data and striving to be lightweight

Much to Adam’s amusement, I fear, I’ve become a bit militant about the idea that web servers should serve HTML files whenever possible. To that end, this blog is now using Jekyll to generate HTML files that are transferred from my computer using rsync. I was rather shocked to see just how slow WordPress is:

Graph showing response time (ms) over time

Nothing’s changed with regards to what I wrote about links; I’ve tried to keep everything intact, and I think I’ve done pretty well. Old posts look old. I still like that a lot.


The iPad’s no good for long reading for me, even with the Instapaper or Kindle apps. Instead, I bought a (non-touch) Kindle from Amazon for my new commute and set up Instapaper articles to be delivered wirelessly each week. It’s incredible. The weight and the screen together make it a great reading experience on the Tube.

Money and graphs

I finally got serious about boring grown-up stuff like dealing with money. GnuCash is an excellent app, and I wish I’d been using it for years. I spend way too much on food. This is yet another example of how right Etsy are when they get shouty about measuring everything. Graphing expenses isn’t the most exciting thing in the world, but is so, so useful. For me personally, I find it so much easier to improve something if I can see it changing over time. A single GnuCash database that I can update both at my laptop and on an iPhone doesn’t seem possible today, but that’s the ideal end goal.

Later this year, I want to start graphing some of the data that’s generated by the house I live in. Andy Stanford-Clark gave a talk in York about some of his home monitoring kit and it’s got me a bit excited (his TEDx talk is very similar). There are hugely practical uses, like figuring out where in your house the majority of your electricity bill comes from so that you can do something about it.

And that’s where I am right now

A bit of a mishmash of stuff. This is just what’s important to me this month, a bit of a State of the Union brain fart.

Written on Sunday 05 August, 2012