Tuesday, 24 May 2022

Another Round?

 We eventually saw Google change their tack with The Return of the Google Apps Free Accounts. It was pretty unnerving to lose services which had been free for over a decade. Really the services are free anyhow: Email in Gmail, custom domains in Google DNS, cloud storage in Drive, basic web hosting in Sites and Blogger. Why wasn't there are a better migration tool? Google has been eroding the GA free for years and all we really needed was a migration tool to get like 80% migrated to Gmail etc and this push could have been more successful. But then again, how many users signed up for GA a decade ago and are still using it? I know we're free-loaders but really the "free" services are doing for Google what they're supposed to: Get users hooked on Google's suite of services.



Sunday, 20 March 2022

The Party For Grandfathers' Free Google Apps Is Over

With the end of Google Apps free accounts I've been looking at what services end up where and Google is pretty well covering personal use with maybe a few asterisks particularly around email.


Setup Email Forwarding in Google Domains by adding up to 100 email aliases.

Send an email from your alias in Gmail

  1. Generate your app password
  2. Add an email alias
  3. Confirm the address
  4. Change the "From" address
  5. Optionally set this address as default sending address once confirmed.

Use Google Sites or Blogger and add custom URLs and they will generate the DNS entries as needed.


Google Domains "is out of Beta" ... Uh what? I've been using Google Domains for a few years already and didn't realise it was a "Beta". It did mean they sent out promo codes to all their existing "beta" customers so we can get 20-30% off their regular price registrations

I took the opportunity to register a test domain to test out some of the changes for when the GA free accounts go away shortly. As far as DNS registration and hosting goes it's a pretty good offering. Not the cheapest, but does include WHOIS privacy, integration with website services, and up to 100 email addresses forwarded for free.

The website services is a handy integration including with free services both on Google Sites and on Blogger (i.e. this site). It automatically creates DNS records when you create custom domain. Maybe it's more intuitive for a lay person than an IT pro because on Blogger you click the option for "custom domain" and type in whatever you want and if it's in a domain under your account it just registers it? I guess? Not clear it doesn't tell you a lot which is maybe point - it's all very easy.

Email I was really struggling with because there seem to be a lot of variables. We're using plain old Gmail account and there's two parts to deal with custom domains: receiving and sending. The receiving side is simple - add an alias in Google Domains (or 100) and you're done. 

Sending is far more complicated which I chalk up to "we can't have nice things". In Gmail you can add an alias with another Gmail account and that setup is pretty easy "mymail1@gmail.com" can be added in your settings as an alias for "mymail2@gmail.com". To use an alias with a custom domain you have to give a mail server and you can use the Gmail SMTP but you need an app password. And you can only use an app password if you have 2FA on your account. And if you don't have 2FA you can use "less secure authentication". But that's a feature apparently getting dropped soon so if we follow all the caveats, it means you have to use 2FA and app passwords. There's Google docs all over the place - the above link in the TLDR I think has the necessary info. 

Compared to how easy it is to do one Gmail address as an alias for another this was a bit mind boggling to go through. I get it - Google wants to sell as many Workspace accounts as they can, and lots of other options just don't work in the 21st century because we ruined the Internet and Email with so much spam. 

Other options to consider 1) use a real mail client like Thunderbird and you should be able to specify your email and this is fine if you do this already or only infrequently care about sending as your custom email address 2) use own mail servers heck even Synology has apps to run mail services but still its pretty rubbish to deal with backups, certificates, spam blacklisting, etc. 3) pony up for Workspace which if this is work related its pretty cheap - but that's a bit silly for personal use (even Zoho and others). 


If you made it this far you're either brave for reading that rant or clever for skipping it :) 


Sunday, 5 December 2021

Restoring from Gmail Backup

 Migrating to a new Gmail email account is a lot easier using Google Takeout this Thurderbird Add-on ImportExportTools NG. I have been splitting up my email accounts so that I have several distinct accounts - more on that below. The gist was that in the past I was forwarding all mail into one account which I'm no longer doing but now I want to move all that old mail, ~30,000 emails, into a different mailbox. Recommendations online were to connect Thunderbird to the two accounts and move messages in batches but in practice Gmail times out these connections very quickly and the batches are way too small. Instead I ended up exporting my email and importing it - why Google does not offer an import of the format in which they export boggles the mind, and while it's possible I've simply missed proper screen where this can be done, somehow I think not. This seems to be one of those things that is easy enough, but not obvious and took a bit of searching. 

The easiest process I found was to use the ImportExportTools Add-on:

  1. Spring cleaning time of your old email! Newsletters and automated notifications that were being filtered to a folder go 💥, gone.
  2. Go to Google Takeout and export mail. This produces a ZIP file which you can extract and there is a single large MBOX format file
  3. Install  Thurderbird and the ImportExportTools NG add-on
  4. Import the MBOX as a local folder with ImportExportTools
  5. Re-Export the email from local folder to a directory of EML files with ImportExportTools
  6. Connect Thunderbird to your new email account
  7. Import with ImportExportTools "all messages from a directory" and import into your "All Mail" folder
  8. Wait.  ... Wait ... Ponder if you should have done more aggressive cleaning... And wait. My mailbox I think it ran at least 3 hours? Not sure, but a lot time, many hours.
  9. Tada! Go into your Gmail account and try a few searches and see if you got everything you expected.
This ImportExportTools is generic enough you could use it for any sort of mail service and I think I could have done the initial export with it instead of Google Takeout thus saving a couple steps. My confidence isn't that high that 100% of the email was coming across with the connection timeouts so I would kind of suggest sticking with Google Takeout to get the mail and go through the extra steps and also having the Takeout as a backup is a good idea regardless.

Really this stemmed from wanting to split from One Mailbox To Rule Them All, which I already was moving away from. I'm working with 4 mailboxes now.

A personal email address which I really only use with other people; friends, family,  like actual humans. Mostly, a couple exceptions but so few as to be trivial. This is on thenibble.org domain and I have a handful of aliases (yay for grand-fathered free Google Apps account).

A general email address I use for most everything - online services, loyalty points programs, emailing with contractors, the bank, etc. Some people call this a "personal assistant" in that it's handling everything outside your most personal emails. A lot of my other mailboxes forward into this one. This is where I wanted to move all the mail.

A junk email address particularly to get to websites where they require an email or registration to access whatever specific thing that I need and is probably a one-off and I really don't want to hear from them again. Basically any email into this mailbox, I flag the sender as Spam so it stays pretty clean but it is functional enough to pass a registration. Some people like using 10 Minute Mail or similar.

A second "personal assistant" email address but for the household. My wife and I sign up for Spotify - goes on the household mailbox. Also, fun spy-craft tip: you can use this as a secret message drop by writing a DRAFT email which is then read by the other person and then deleted. This way the message never went through all the delivery servers so there's no logs of it and there won't be multiple copies of it.


Sunday, 8 August 2021

Some Bits to Remember About Synology Standard Operating Procedures

Since running the Synology at home for a while now, there's a few things that I wanted to note which aren't really intuitive and I don't do often enough to remember. 

Encrypted folders are setup in a couple ways which I touched on in Home NAS Encryption 

One uses a key file stored on a removable USB drive. I have it setup to mount automatically so that's okay... But I used a really old USB key because obviously I didn't need an 32GB key to store a 32KB file but it's flaky so sometimes the USB key isn't available and it doesn't mount until I wiggle the key and re-mount.

Second uses a passphrase so there's no way to mount automatically and whenever I reboot like after a DSM update I have to go back in.

To mount the encrypted share manually, whatever the case it isn't mounted automatically, it is found in control panel.
  1. Open Control Panel
  2. Navigate to Shared Folder
  3. Select the share with the closed lock
  4. Encryption menu
  5. Mount
  6. Provide passphrase (if applicable)
The other part of the S.O.P. is updating the DSM and package software, i.e. the most common cause for reboot :) It's all been really smooth so I try to do it all the time.

DSM 7.0 was released a little while ago and I left the major version upgrade just so that I wasn't among the earliest adopters. Ran the upgrade today and it was seamless so far and Synology provided some clear prompts on cleanup items like removing obsolete packages (like Python now part of DSM).



Friday, 23 April 2021

Now Certified

Passed my Microsoft Azure Fundamentals certification this week and this is my first Microsoft exam. My primary resource was Microsoft Learn where there is a lot of material broken up into 30-60 minute lessons including some labs. Also used the practice tests and did those many times before writing the cert exam itself. 

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Passwords Passwords Everywhere

I seem to need passwords more and more often. They're so convenient! Couple methods I've been using depending on the lazy-vs-security trade-offs. 

Registering for websites online, Chrome or any browser can generate passwords. 

 For secure passwords I use KeePass

There's the old dummy password only used for the real junky junk that isn't worth protecting. 

Random.org password generator.

DuckDuckGo.com "pwgen" with or without "strong". Also for bonus lazy, I changed the search engine in Chrome to be "duck" for short so in the title bar I can type "duck pwgen 10". 

 Stay Safe!

 - Dom617B

Monday, 8 March 2021

Azure Fundamentals, PowerShell, and More

We have a big push at #dayjob to transition from traditional server operations to automation and Cloud so I've been learning new things and trying as best as possible to sweep out the cobwebs upstairs. Really want to be able to competently support my colleagues as it is going to be a very hard time for many. 

PowerShell was really what got me moving. I've been doing odds and ends scripts and finally got a couple books as to take things further. "Learn Windows PowerShell in a Month of Lunches" was really just to get a passable foundation to get into "Learn PowerShell Scripting in a Month of Lunches". By the time I got through those two books, I was using VS Code and GitHub and will definitely re-read some of those chapters to get a more professional level of coding practice. After reading those I wanted to learn more and starting using Microsoft Learn with a goal to get Azure Fundamentals certification and go from there. The material available so far has been great. Mostly in about 30 minute chunks. Lots of references available, some labs are available, and all free. I'm still on pretty basic stuff though feel like I'll plow through a lot. Azure is crazy huge - there are so many services and the global environment is absolutely gigantic. 

The Azure Fundamentals learning path lead me into another tangent to go through the learning path to build a .Net application with C#. The Azure path got to a point that one of the sessions was recommending as pre-requisites to have knowledge of API and WebAPI in C# and .Net and I do want to be able to get the best use out of labs that I can. My programming is really rusty, but having done so much in school, the pace of the early lessons are more frustratingly slow. My expectations are out of whack - like I'm learning basic syntax like variable declaration but then also what's a container anyways? 

It's been refreshing to be learning and be re-aligning my skills with the current world. 



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