Tool

Tools to Keep Up To Date

The news is something personal to all of us. We develop rituals to keep ourselves informed by various means. This task is difficult for me to accomplish, due to many different factors of my life. One factor, above all else, keeps me from staying up-to-date. I simply don’t remember to check the tools I’ve setup for this task.

Currently

As of this writing, I have two major tools for aggregating and then storing news I’m interested in. Feedbin (open source, $5/mo for their hosting) aggregates different news sites via RSS. Pocket (open-ish source, $5/mo for their hosting) is where I send items I want to spend time reading. Additionally, I have both the Pocket app and Reeder (v3) on my phone to save ancillary articles and to read them on the go. This seems like the ideal setup as each tool does it’s job, leaving me the arbiter of what is deemed “interesting”.

Changes

Since the tooling does not need any significant changing, perhaps my own habits and methodology need tweaking. To that end, I’ve added three 15-minute calendar appointments to the day. One in the morning, after I wake up. One in the afternoon for lunchtime reading. And one in the evening so that I can be updated on any changes to the latter two, or new developing stories. This allows me to focus on the task instead of trying to force it in where it would be a disruption.

Conclusion

While my brain’s software may not be as finely tuned as some, but I can use tools to augment it. Though it may seem trivial to do what I’m doing here, the important point is that we are surrounded by often underutilized tools, because we’re too busy “in the moment” to utilize them. Taking a second and looking at a problem can often uncover hidden truth and allow you to explore new methods of solving it using existing tools at your disposal.

Bitwarden is Amazing

Promotional image of Bitwarden running on various platforms
Bitwarden promo screenshot

Bitwarden is awesome! Why didn’t anyone tell me before? Seriously, this is what 1Password felt like back in the day when they weren’t pushing their cloud-only versions of their tools.

1Password

Speaking of 1Password. It’s becoming harder and harder to recommend them due to the fact that getting versions of the tools that work with offline files, instead of their online service is near impossible, and something users had to beg for in the first place. The decision to nail everyone for either a monthly sub fee, or $60 a year for upgraded versions is getting tired.

What prompted me to change to Bitwarden was exactly this. My wife uses an older, but still compatible version of 1Password in her browser and on her computer. An update to the extension broke this and now it seems like the only solution is to buy the latest version, which is $50. Additionally, being a Linux user myself, I was pretty much left out in the cold. I either had to run it through Wine or just use my phone to manually enter the code. Because of that, I was lazy and just let my Firefox Account sync them. Not ideal, since it didn’t sync with anything else.

I do, still, respect them for upping the bar as far as password management goes. They introduced excellent browser plugins and are extremely open about their methods to secure your data. However, it’s been a while since they’ve done much to push the envelope, and the competition has largely caught up.

A New Challenger Approaches

I had heard about Bitwarden, and was a little skeptical. I love F/OSS software, but the password managers I had used, like pass and KeePass were great as stand-alone tools, but not exactly… fluid when trying to sync to multiple devices, let alone a family of them. Bitwarden solves that problem and is still open source.

The Bitwarden app for iOS looks and feels very similar to the desktop app which looks and feels similar to the browser plugin, the website, the Android app and so on. This is all amazing because it allows me to deploy this on my families devices and remain consistent. I don’t like that they’re all electron or similar apps, but it’s a small concession I’m willing to live with.

While I’ve opted to use their paid service for now ($10/yr is pretty crazy cheap), I do plan on self-hosting when I get into a more stable network environment (i.e. home). The fact that I can just do that is also pretty freaking awesome.

Conclusion

Passwords and security aren’t sexy. In fact, they’re the thing people think the least about until they have to deal with it (just like backups). Still, the F/OSS password/secret management systems are growing up nicely and provide excellent security, audit-ability and full control over your data, and I couldn’t be happier.