Rob Peck Observations on technology, leadership and life.

Proxying CUPS IPP using nginx

So I have this older Dell laser printer, a B1160w. It was released back in 2012, but it is a totally fine home printer for when I occasionally need to print something and it still works great after all these years, so I see no compelling reason to buy a new one.

But there’s a problem: macOS support. Namely, no drivers have been released for macOS since 2017. Starting with Catalina, Apple started requiring code signing for executables, and the official Dell driver has an executable in it that refuses to execute because it isn’t signed. And despite my best efforts, short of turning off Gatekeeper entirely, I was not able to get it to work.

But the printer itself is fine; there is absolutely no reason to create additional electronic waste purely for software reasons. But thanks to open-source software, we have another options: CUPS.

Creating a Safe Kids Network with pfSense, Unifi and NextDNS

Well, here we are five months later and COVID-19 is still a thing. And like many parents we are facing the need to continue our daughter’s education at home. Our local school district has stated that all learning will be conducted online for at least the first nine weeks. And even if they allow for students to return, we will probably opt to keep her at home for awhile longer until things are more stable.

Now, our daughter is seven and will be turning eight in a couple months. So she’s at that age where she’s old enough to do some things independently. But, as most of us know, the Internet is not a safe place for a seven year old and we as parents need to exercise some level of control over the things they can access. And while the best solution is a set of eyes, we obviously can’t be everywhere at all times. So this is the solution I came up with.

Making Native WebDAV Actually Work on nginx with Finder and Explorer

So my long march away from Apache has been coming to an end, and I am finally migrating some of the more esoteric parts of my Apache setup to nginx. I have a side domain that I use to share files with some friends and, for ease of use, I have configured it with WebDAV so that they can simply mount it using Finder or Explorer, just like a shared drive.

The problem? nginx’s WebDAV support … sucks.

First, the ngx_http_dav_module module is not included in most distributions from the package managers. Even the ones that are, it’s usually pretty out of date. And, perhaps worst of all, it is a partial implementation of WebDAV. It doesn’t support some of the things (PROPFIND, OPTIONS, LOCK, and UNLOCK) that are needed to work with modern clients.

So what can we do?

Securing Home Assistant Alexa Integration

One of the big missing pieces from my conversion to Home Assistant was Amazon Alexa integration. It wasn’t something we used a lot, but it was a nice to have. Especially for walking out a room and saying “Alexa, turn off the living room lights.”

I had been putting it off a bit because the setup instructions are rather complex. But this weekend I found myself with a couple free hours and decided to work through it. It actually wasn’t as difficult as I expected it to be, but it is definitely not the type of thing a beginner or someone who does not have some programming and sysadmin background could accomplish.

But in working through it, there was one thing that was an immediate red flag for me: the need to expose your Home Assistant installation to the Internet. It makes sense that you would need to do this - the Amazon mothership needs to send data to you to take an action after all. But exposing my entire home automation system to the Internet seems like a really, really bad idea.

So in doing this, rather than expose port 443 on my router to the Internet and open my entire home to a Shodan attack, I decided to try something a bit different.

We Want To Build!

Yesterday, Marc Andreessen, one of the more influential Silicon Valley investors, dropped an essay on the Andreessen-Horowitz blog called It’s Time To Build. I read it with a sense of bemusement because, like most things that come out of wealthy elites, and especially wealthy coastal elites (and especially wealthy Silicon Valley elites), it is filled with the myopia that can only come from spending far too much time in a bubble disconnected from what’s going on in the rest of the world.

In short, the main thesis of his essay is that we’ve stopped building “things,” which, in this context is housing and medical devices but can more broadly be interpreted as a loss of civilizational inertia, because we stopped “wanting them.”

Using Vue Single-File Components Inside Shadow DOM

Let’s say you’re building a tiny little Vue app. Not a full-on single page app, but something very tiny that will need to be embedded into other pages. Like a fully interactive widget that can do a wide variety of things, but will need to be self-contained so as not to interfere the rest of the page.

Traditionally, in the past, we did this with a wide variety of approaches. Going back to the 90s, we use Java Applets (remember those?) and Active-X controls (ugh). We used Flash too (double ugh). Lately the preferred approach has been iframes, and while this is still a perfectly valid approach, it has it’s own set of problems.

But now, we also have Shadow DOM which provides us another approach to building richly interactive widgets that are (mostly) contained from interfering with the styling of the surrounding page and, crucially, doesn’t allow the surrounding page to interfere with the widget!

And, yes, Vue can totally be used inside a shadow tree. It just take a bit of setup work.


There was a great article that was recently posted by the Harvard Business Review that I think bears some very important consideration by everyone.

Stress is easy to identify, and we are all certainly stressed. The predictability of our daily lives has been interrupted. Many of us have lost jobs, faced furloughs or pay cuts. Our kids are home from school. We’re worried about our families catching this disease, and ourselves as well. We’re all stuck together in this purgatory of waiting for this crisis to play itself out with no idea of what kind of world waits for us on the other side. We know that this will end - all pandemics eventually do - but we’re going to emerge from our shelters into a changed world.

My wife and I have spent the last couple of weekends cleaning out closets. It kind of feels like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic at times, but it also keeps my mind occupied for the most part and keeps it from going into pretty dark places. And hey, my closet is now the cleanest it’s been since we moved. But every so often my mind ends up going there anyways.

Such as from seeing a pile of T-shirts.

Some Thoughts On COVID-19

If you ask people over a certain age, they can always tell you where they were when they found out about 9/11.

I was a sophomore at Auburn, and my first class that day was at like 1pm, so I enjoyed the great collegiate tradition of sleeping in. Usually when I wake up the first thing I do is check my email. It’s still the first thing I do. That morning my inbox was full with messages on the fraternity mailing list, with things like “pray, a lot of people are dying today.” I turned on the TV just minutes before the first tower collapsed.

Stayed glued to the TV the rest of the day. News coverage was on every channel, even Discovery Channel. Class was cancelled. I went and filled up my car in case I needed to drive the 250 miles back home to Tennessee.

That evening I was in the SGA office in Foy Student Union folding thousands of little yellow ribbons for a very hastily organized memorial service on Samford lawn a few days later. We listened to President Bush’s speech on a small boombox in the office.

I feel like I have been living that day over and over again for the last two weeks.

Some Work From Home Tips For Your COVID-19 Isolation

I’ve been working from home occasionally for probably close to ten years now, and full-time for the last few months. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, many more people are now getting to enjoy (I guess?) the privilege of working from their homes during the crisis.

If there is one thing that I hope comes out of this whole miserable period it is the understanding that there are a lot of people out there have jobs that really don’t need physical presence in an office building. And if they don’t need to be in an office, maybe they don’t need to live in an expensive city either. This could be the beginning of a whole new boom for small and mid-sized cities with affordable costs of living. Maybe you can afford a house after all! And maybe companies don’t need to lease out an expensive building in an expensive city, fill it to the brim with people in open floor plans or (even worse) hot-desking to do the work they need to do.

It’s an even bigger win for disabled and non-neurotypical people who often struggle to work in the modern knowledge workforce despite their skills. For people with autism, ADHD, and other related conditions, modern open offices or cubicles are a difficult work environment whereas the home environment may offer much more safety and control.

If this is your first time doing this, it may seem a bit odd, even naughty, to be working without commuting to an office building. With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of things I have observed over the years of working from home to help you get a feel for what this is like.