I recently started using Obsidian for keeping notes, tracking projects, and just generally organizing all the information that would otherwise pass into my brain and then fall out the other side. Unlike other similar solutions which operate entirely in The Cloud, Obsidian works with Markdown files stored in a local folder1, which I find to be very attractive. Not only will this allow me to easily transfer my notes between apps if I find something I like better than Obsidian, but it also opens the door to using git to easily back up all this important information.
Not all that long ago, I shared about a somewhat-complicated WireGuard VPN setup that I had started using to replace my previous OpenVPN solution. I raved about WireGuard's speed, security, and flexible (if complex) Cryptokey Routing, but adding and managing peers with WireGuard is a fairly manual (and tedious) process. And while I thought I was pretty clever for using a WireGuard peer in GCP to maintain a secure tunnel into my home network without having to punch holes through my firewall, routing all my traffic through The Cloud wasn't really optimal1.
Non-technical users deserve private communications, too.
I shared a few months back about the steps I took to deploy my own Matrix homeserver instance, and I've happily been using the Element client for secure end-to-end encrypted chats with a small group of my technically-inclined friends. Being able to have private conversations without having to trust a single larger provider (unlike like Signal or WhatsApp) is pretty great. Of course, many Matrix users just create accounts directly on the matrix.
For a while now, I've been using an OpenVPN Access Server virtual appliance for remotely accessing my homelab. That's worked fine but it comes with a lot of overhead. It also requires maintaining an SSL certificate and forwarding three ports through my home router, in addition to managing a fairly complex software package and configurations. The free version of the OpenVPN server also only supports a maximum of two simultaneous connections.
Intro I've been using short.io with a custom domain to keep track of and share messy links for a few months now. That approach has worked very well, but it's also seriously overkill for my needs. I don't need (nor want) tracking metrics to know anything about when those links get clicked, and short.io doesn't provide an easy way to turn that off. I was casually looking for a lighter self-hosted alternative today when I stumbled upon a serverless alternative: sheets-url-shortener.
I've heard a lot lately about how generous Oracle Cloud's free tier is, particularly when compared with the free offerings from other public cloud providers. Signing up for an account was fairly straight-forward, though I did have to wait a few hours for an actual human to call me on an actual telephone to verify my account. Once in, I thought it would be fun to try building my own Matrix homeserver to really benefit from the network's decentralized-but-federated model for secure end-to-end encrypted communications.
A friend mentioned the BitWarden password manager to me yesterday and I had to confess that I'd never heard of it. I started researching it and was impressed by what I found: it's free, open-source, feature-packed, fully cross-platform (with Windows/Linux/MacOS desktop clients, Android/iOS mobile apps, and browser extensions for Chrome/Firefox/Opera/Safari/Edge/etc), and even offers a self-hosted option.
I wanted to try out the self-hosted setup, and I discovered that the official distribution works beautifully on an n1-standard-1 1-vCPU Google Compute Engine instance - but that would cost me an estimated $25/mo to run after my free Google Cloud Platform trial runs out.