Srikanth Perinkulam

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For Good, For Now

Meena, Shasta and I moved back to India from the US a few days back with bags and no baggage! With most of my family in the states, this was one tough decision to take and it has been on our minds for the last three to four years. Our 2018 vacation in Uganda solidified our resolve to enter the Foreign Service and work towards a more holistic life that involved sustainable travel. During one of those long car rides, we decided it was time and planned to ‘initiate exit procedures’ right after our vacation. Just as we were finalizing things back in the US, we’d realized that we would be having Shasta that year and decided to push the move to next year. Come 2019, once we had Shasta’s paperwork in place and she was ready to fly, we head back to Uganda to spend a few months there with Meena’s father and finally made our way to India with a short stay in Dubai. Read more

Baseline Road Trail

A beautiful 6 mile hike/walk near Miss Bama’s home. Shasta slept through most of it in the carrier and Dhruv had a ball of a time! So glad we fit this in. Probably one of our longest walks in Florida. The march of dimes event happens here every year.

Bringing the cloud home

I finally got my Shoebox server setup working! I now have three Single board Computer [SBC] working in tandem behind my home router to accomplish what I’ve been wanting to do for quite sometime now – Setting up an easy-to-maintain, in-house server for all my data and web hosting needs. Fixing this all together has been a tremendous learning experience. I still need to weed out some pesky issues but I believe I have the bearing right now.

Here’s my current setup:

  1. NexcloudPi installed on a Raspberry pi 3B+ board
  2. Yunohost installed on an Odroid XU4 board
  3. Diet-Pi installed on another Raspberry pi 3B+ board

I’ve been using Nextcloud as my data storage solution for more than a year now. It does what I expect it to do and much more. NextcloudPi handles the intricate details and takes out the hassles that come with hosting data on personal servers.

On the ODroid-XU4, I installed debian stretch as the base OS and then manually installed Yunohost as my web server. I use ServerPilot on my Digital ocean servers and was looking for a close match while self hosting. Love YHs web-ui and they did seem to support quite a few web apps. I also have my eyes on cozy and caprover. Might explore these at a later point in time if decide to switch to a different SBC.

Both NextcloudPi and Yunohost have letsencrypt tools to setup and manage certificates for the domains/sub domains. While super useful, I realised to benefit from that feature, I had to rely on haproxy. With some pointers from the Nextcloud forum, I decided to use another pi to front as the main server. Installed Diet-pi on it since it’s just something I really liked and configured haproxy on it to map to the corresponding server based on the hostname. While at it, I also added in a switch between the router and various servers.

I still need to work on making this more robust. One niggling issue is the speed is heavily compromised. I’m guessing it’s do with my haproxy config and I should be able to fix it pretty soon. Once I have this sorted out, I need to spend some time hardening the security of the server, further configure Yunohost, device my backup strategies and finally moving my websites over from Digital Ocean.

Skiing at Liberty

Sneaked in a day at Liberty at the very end of the skiing season. Was so totally worth it!

Meena didn’t get around taking the slopes since Shasta was pretty much tethered to her. Kids and I had a blast! Last time we were here [Dec 2017] I barely made it down the hill. This time around, I followed Nik’s strategy of letting gravity do it’s job and maneuvering only when I had to. Totally see how this could be addictive!

River ridge trail

Shasta’s first visit to Patapsco state park. Sharath, Meena, Shasta and I planned to head out together initially. Was pretty breezy and cold. Shasta initially was showing signs of queasiness, so Meena suggested Sharath and I head out while she’d stroll closer to the car.

Started out on the downhill and entered the woods around the corner. Meena joined with Shasta as we were heading back covering about three miles. A wonderful, refreshing day out!

We head out to Hot Pot later that evening. Delicious food and some real good time with the whole family!

Serpentine Trail

An impromptu and beautiful 2 mile hike with Sharath near the Soldier’s delight Natural Environment area. Winter storm Gaia wasn’t as severe as they projected it to be (in this area).

This is definitely one of those trails that I would love to get back to on a full moon night!

ODroid XU4 SBC

Meena and my family gifted me an Odroid XU4 SBC earlier last month as a Christmas/B-day gift. One of my projects during the year-end holidays was to setup a robust home server; Essentially getting my webservers home from Digital Ocean, where they are currently hosted. This would be a terrific companion to the nextcloud fileserver that I setup earlier using a raspberry pi.

Earlier this week, I chanced upon DietPi and decided to launch it on the eMMC chip. One of the first things I did was to install Pi-Hole. With uBlock addons’ that should be some good riddance to ads across my home network! Would be interesting to keep track of these network pings to see what devices are needlessly calling ‘home’.

I’ve ported my web applications to the Odroid board and am currently testing out the server internally before I ‘turn on’ the traffic switch. All looks super-promising so far! Over the next few months, I’ll have to tweak the settings and tune this mini-beast a bit for performance. For now though, I’m more than happy with what it’s delivering!

Gun Powder Falls Hike

Had my eyes on this trial ever since I saw the ‘Gun powder falls state park’ sign on I95. Drove over for about 30mins with Sharath to get here this afternoon.

Pretty surprised not to find many folks on this trail. The weather was just right and this short 5 mile round trip hike was precisely what we needed to close out 2018. The short stream crossing at the end of the trail was an added bonus!

Liberty Dam Hike

A bright December weekend calls for a quick hike with the brothers! Here for the third time this year, and it still mesmerizes me!

Billy on the Potomac

I’ve had my eyes on the Billy goat trail for a while now. With a beautiful foggy forecast, this Sunday was a great day to head to the woods.  We reached the Chesapeake and Ohio National Historic park  in about an hour’s time, only to realise that the Billy Goat section A and B trails were closed due to flooding!

Having come this far, we decided to explore rest of the park. The short hike to Great Falls via the locks was insanely beautiful! So glad we decided to head this way!

After that, we head all the way down the parking lot to hike the Ford mine trail. The trail runs parallel to the C&O canal for about a mile or so and loops back to the parking lot crossing several streams and small waterfalls. Though not quite comparable to the BG section A hike that I had visualized, this was a pretty decent hike.

This region totally calls for a revisit!

Honnold attempt

A short morning hike to the Liberty Dam near home. Scouted a shorter trail but ended up hiking on a proper road up to the Dam. 3.6 miles round trip and a quick scrambling attempt on a rock face with N at the end.

Got back here via the trail the subsequent weekend. The trail was pretty picturesque. Winding by the North Patapsco river and eventually terminating at a beautiful vantage point right near the foot of the dam, this dirt trail made it totally worth coming back here again. A branch off this trail also seemed to lead back to the parking lot at the top. Will likely get back here while putting in some mileage for trail runs.

Moving on…

As we stood there in front of the casket, me pouring the last drop of water in his mouth, memories flashed in front of my eyes. Of monkeys cornering us that early morning on their house terrace in Ahmedabad; Of walking on the busy roads in Habsiguda, him walking on my left, guarding me from the traffic and I craning my neck to look at him as he mentions how I would be wonderful doctor; Of  us both sitting beside Amma in the hospital bed and him explaining in ‘kid terms’ what was likely happening in Amma’s brain as she was fighting her tumor; Of him and Sharath gate crashing wedding receptions in our colony; Of all the discussions we had on ‘living’ life and making a concerted effort on spending more time with family; Of the weekend in Queens, NY during their visit to the east coast; Of Grouse Grind and the Dragon boat race, he wanted to do together; Of setting up a local cloud server and him wanting to get into software development and app design; Of all the outdoor trips we planned to do over the next few years; Of our visit to Allouette lake when we visited them a few years back in Vancouver; Of him making arrangements to get a ride for us from the airport to the hospital where he was the patient, Of him asking me not to leave that early when I visited him in June…

The person in the casket in no way resembled the person we’d known. Cancer had devoured him inside-out and it was excruciatingly painful to see him in this state. I was hoping beyond hope that this was all a bad dream and he would wake up, we’d call this a miracle and get back to our regular lives…We knew the end was coming and looking at him in deep pain a few months back, I then hoped it would happen sooner than later… but being there and to see his casket go into the furnace and realizing it’s all over, I wish I had dropped everything I was doing and spent more time with him over the last few months…

On the flight back to Boston, as I was trying to make sense of it all, I was volleying between Ramu anna’s death this year and Rajesh’s suicide in 2015. I was reminded of the podcast on Voyager1 and Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot.

That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. — Carl Sagan

In the big scheme of things, we’re all so dispensable. Arguably, There’s so, so little that you have control over and there’s no rhyme or reason for certain things. Life is best lived, living in the moment and spending time with family and friends.

Rest in peace, Ramu Anna. You were a terrific person and will be sorely missed.

Takayna

Came across this phenomenal documentary from Patagonia about the Tarkine in North western Tasmania.

Reminded me of the incessant wood logging that I witnessed almost on every backpacking trip across the western ghats in India. Irrationality of humans blows my mind beyond all proportions. If only there was a master switch to reset it all…

Snappy Nextcloud

Last year, I procured a Nextcloud box and moved part of my data to it. I’d just heard about Ubuntu Snappy Core OS and was keen on porting my install to that setup. I finally got around doing that last week and thought I’d quickly jot down the install steps for reference later. Essentially, I installed the Core OS on a 32GB microSD card and installed Nextcloud as a snap. Two 1TB hard drives service the Pi3 and are synced with rclone. Below is a crude outline of the setup:

Install and sign-in to the UbuntuCore OS:

1.Download the latest Ubuntu Core OS and use Etcher to burn it on to a microSSD card.

2.On your local machine generate a public/private rsa key using the following command:
ssh-keygen -t rsa
Create an UbuntuOne account if you don’t already have one and import your ssh key to your account. You’ll need this to ssh into your Core OS pretty soon.

3.Slide in the microSSD card onto the Pi3 board. Then connect a monitor, keyboard and hard drive to the Pi3 and power it on. The Pi3 Board B comes with in-built wi-fi and bluetooth and once powered on it should automatically prompt you to connect to the wi-fi and then to your UbuntuONE account. Once this is setup, you should be able to ssh into the CoreOS from your local machine using:
ssh [email protected]
+ If ssh fails – “Error – signandsend_pubkey: signing failed: agent refused operation”. This is most likely because the ssh agent is already running but isn’t able to find the private keys. To add the keys to the authentication agent, enter ssh-add. Also to see list of fingerprints of all identities added use ssh-add -l + To add a password for the user: sudo passwd ubuntu-username + To re-configure network at anytime: sudo console-conf

External Drive setup
1.I use two external hard-drives one as a primary and the other as a secondary. First format the drives: sudo fdisk /dev/sda
+ Welcome to fdisk (util-linux 2.27.1).
Changes will remain in memory only, until you decide to write them.
Be careful before using the write command.
Command (m for help): o
Created a new DOS disklabel with disk identifier 0x8b913f43.
Command (m for help): n
Partition type
p primary (0 primary, 0 extended, 4 free)
e extended (container for logical partitions)
Select (default p): p
Partition number (1-4, default 1):
First sector (2048-1953458175, default 2048):
Last sector, +sectors or +size{K,M,G,T,P} (2048-1953458175, default 1953458175):
Created a new partition 1 of type 'Linux' and of size 931.5 GiB.
Command (m for help): w
The partition table has been altered.
Calling ioctl() to re-read partition table.
Syncing disks.

2.Format the partition and give it the label data. This label will be used to reference it for mounting later: sudo mkfs.ext4 -L data /dev/sda1
+ mke2fs 1.42.13 (17-May-2015)
/dev/sda1 contains a ext4 file system labelled ‘data’
last mounted on Sat Nov 18 08:38:49 2017
Proceed anyway? (y,n) y
Creating filesystem with 244182016 4k blocks and 61046784 inodes
Filesystem UUID: c03685e6-fc4d-4d69-b8cf-8b17b24f2e0a
Superblock backups stored on blocks:
32768, 98304, 163840, 229376, 294912, 819200, 884736, 1605632, 2654208,
4096000, 7962624, 11239424, 20480000, 23887872, 71663616, 78675968,
102400000, 214990848
Allocating group tables: done
Writing inode tables: done
Creating journal (32768 blocks): done
Writing superblocks and filesystem accounting information: done

3.To mount the partition we’re forced to rely on systemd since most of Ubuntu core system is read-only and editing /etc/fstab is not an option. Mount units need to be named after the mount point directories they control. So create the media-data.mount unit: sudo vi /writable/system-data/etc/systemd/system/media-data.mount and add in the following content:

[Unit]
Description=Mount unit for data
[Mount]
What=/dev/disk/by-label/data
Where=/media/data
Type=ext4
[Install]
WantedBy=multi-user.target

4.Reload systemd to reflect the changes,Start and enable the mount volume so it gets automatically mounted:

sudo systemctl daemon-reload
sudo systemctl start media-data.mount
sudo systemctl enable media-data.mount

5.Make sure Ubuntucore is up to date and refresh:

sudo snap refresh
sudo reboot

After the reboot make sure /media/data is mounted and functional: sudo systemctl status media-data.mount

Install and configure Nextcloud as a snap

1.Install Nextcloud: sudo snap install nextcloud
2.Access the nextcloud install from any browser in the network using the IP address: http://192.168.0.xx, create an admin account and complete the installation.
3.Enable the ‘External Storages’ app under ‘Apps’.
4.Associate the removable media with nextcloud: sudo snap connect nextcloud:removable-media core:removable-media
5.Map /media/data with nextcloud in the external storage with the following settings:

Folder name: data
External storage: Local
Authentication: None
Configuration: /media/data
Available for: All

6.Setup encryption certificates: sudo nextcloud.enable-https self-signed
7.To access the setup pi3 server from outside the local network, you’ll need to map the dynamic dns provided by your ISP to a global address. I used no-ip and my netgear router to facilitate this.
8. Do note that when you upload files, by default they’re saved to the microSD card!! + here: /var/snap/nextcloud/common/nextcloud/data/NC_user/files. Read this forum for details.
9. If more than one user would be using the external data mount either install the ‘File access control’ app and setup rules or create folders for each person and just mount those folders for each user in the Nextcloud admin panel.

Acadia

Photo taken at: Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park

Last November we drove to Acadia and had a terrific experience there with the Labrador cold front.Being off-season, there was sparsely any crowd and we had most of the park just for ourselves.  Those three days were the most relaxed days we spent together in a while.

Earlier this month, we revisited Acadia, this time with family. The park was very crowded and we had to rise up pretty early to have access to some quiet zones. Nevertheless, it was a just great being back there. Drove around the park loop, hiked up the bubbles, and visited Schoodic peninsula and Bar Island. Stayed at an RV camp park in Ellsworth.

Nothing to beat some good quality time with family, outdoors!