Setting up my new laptop, spending time in New York City, and visiting the National Cryptologic Museum.

Framework + NixOS

NixOS Neofetch on my Framework 16

I received my Framework laptop this week and spent the first couple days setting it up. I wrote up my first and second days with it. TL;DR: I put it together and installed NixOS on it, and promptly had to stop working on it on Tuesday evening.

My goal with writing up my experiences this way is to try to capture the why behind my decisions, alongside how I do something. The biggest problem I had while trying to learn my basic NixOS configuration is that a lot of the content out there is pretty complicated and doesn’t necessarily explain why certain changes are made. It’s not really meant to be a tutorial or anything. More like a Captain’s Log of setting up my NixOS laptop.

Visiting New York City

We took a quick trip to New York City this week, as a sort of miniature vacation. Our lodging plans changed at the last minute on our way to the airport, which was a bumpy start. But once we got that sorted out, it was nice to just take a couple days off and explore New York.

If you find yourself in New York City, I highly recommend Blue Ribbon Fried Chicken in the Bowery neighborhood of Manhattan. There used to be one in Las Vegas that I would eat at lunch nearly every day during Defcon. Unfortunately that location closed, and the only remaining location is in New York City. I get 4 drumsticks and plain fries. But also I’d probably enjoy just getting like 6 drumsticks.

National Cryptologic Museum

On Saturday, we took the Northeast Regional from New York City to Baltimore and visited the National Cryptologic Museum. I’ve been wanting to visit the National Cryptologic Museum for years, but it’s just far enough away that whenever I’ve been in Washington D.C., usually for Shmoocon, I haven’t been able to reasonably go.

Admission to the museum is free, which is hard to beat. I really enjoyed the historical computer and communication artifacts, and in particular I really enjoyed this NSA Blackbox. It’s meant for generating key material, and I found it funny that you can also get hardware PRNG devices in a USB form factor (I bought Infinite Noise TRNG some time ago to make my own root CA at home).

Photo of the NSA Blackbox

I’d highly recommend visiting if you’re interested in cryptology, the history of cryptography, or playing with a working set of Enigma machines. You can also learn about William Friedman sitting on encryption 0day in an obscure commercial encryption/decryption device.

Photo explaining how William Friedman discovered a vulnerability in the Kryha encryption machine after only 2 hours 41 minutes

What I’m Reading

Book cover for Tor, by Ben Collier. Subtitle 'From the Dark Web to the Future of Privacy'

Tor: From the Dark Web to the Future of Privacy

By Ben Collier

ISBN: 9780262548182
Learn More

I finished the first chapter while at the airport this week, but haven’t been able to get further. I’m hoping this week I am able to get some more reading time in, though.
  • The Gili Ra’anan model - A look into a fund called Cyberstart and some of the very questionable tactics they use to influence CISOs to buy portfolio companies. It does explain why several companies that I’d basically never heard of before suddenly popped up sponsoring basically every conference, touting impressive revenue and adoption, seemingly out of nowhere.
  • Building a faster, smarter, Chromebook experience - Chromebooks are adopting the Android Linux kernel and Android frameworks, in order to “continue rolling out new Google AI features” – something that I could literally care less about. I like the ChromeOS model, from what I understand of it, and I’m hesitant but interested to see where the Android adoption will go.
  • Bambu Lab A1 Mini 3D Printer – It’s on sale right now, I think I’m going to buy one. I have always been interested in 3D printers but never really wanted to invest in one because they seemed like a lot of hassle. This one seems pretty easy to use, at an affordable price point, and with a physical footprint that will fit nicely on my shelf behind my desk.
  • Apple Private Cloud Compute - Apple announced their Apple Intelligence integrations at WWDC on Monday, but perhaps most interesting is their PCC blog post that aims to enable privacy centric cloud based LLM usage. It’s interesting from a technical perspective, to say the least.
  • Matthew Green’s PCC Thread - Matthew Green’s thread on Apple PCC.
  • ASCII Silhouettify - There have been many tools in the past for turning an image into ASCII art, but this one is particularly good. I’ve just been using the web version, though, because I really don’t want to npm install things on my machine 😂.
  • NixOS Secrets Management - EmergentMind did a video series on managing secrets in NixOS with sops-nix. It’s a good walkthrough of how to get it set up, and I think I’ll need it more as I move more of my servers, both home and hosted, towards NixOS.

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