• Stories are coming to Signal

    I learned that stories are coming to Signal from a commit message shared on Signal community forums earlier today. Stories is one of the top requested features, and something I personally like too.

    A screenshot of a commit message from GitHub that indicates stories may be coming to Signal soon.

    Many of my friends are reluctant to move over to Signal because of the lack of engagement functionality, which includes features like stories, bots, multi-player gaming. The latter two feel a bit far-fetched, yeah. It is easy for messengers like Telegram to implement them because it’s not end-to-end encrypted by default. Anyway, these are exciting times and I am keen on seeing where Signal heads. They promised usernames in 2021 too, fingers crossed.

  • Poor confirmation UI after email address change on Amazon

    Amazon India has a poor flow for email address change confirmation. A sensible flow would be one where you are prompted to verify the new email address in the form of a unique URL that needs to be visited once, or by entering an one-time password (OTP) that’s sent to the new email address. Amazon does the latter, but requires one to enter the account password to save the changes.

    In the image below, we can see a messaging that reads Your current email address has been verified and in green. That’s indication that the new email address is saved to the cloud. But, that’s not the case just yet.

    Only by entering the password and by clicking on Save changes, are changes saved to the cloud. I don’t understand the need to check for authentication one more time. I am able to initiate this flow only because I am logged in!

    If I remember well, this is the second time this is tripping me off. The last incident was well over an year ago.

    I wonder if it’s just Amazon India that does this or if Amazon in general behaves so.

    I contacted their customer support team by chat as well, and they were clueless at best. They insisted they arrange a call back from the involved team, one that handles accounts questions. I am just glad I managed to figure it out before we took that approach.

  • Private Among Us games on the Tailscale network

    Among Us can be hosted on the public servers. Games can be private or public, but the problem with public server-hosted games is that, games disconnect sometimes. That’s because these public servers are popular that it doesn’t handle surge in active sessions. A solution is to host the games locally on a private network.

    That’s where Impostor and Tailscale come in.

    Tailscale is a mesh VPN software that makes it incredibly easy to connect all of your devices and services running on those devices. Impostor is an open source re-implementation of the Among Us server that can be self-hosted on any device. In my case, I am hosting Impostor on my Raspberry Pi, which is linked to my Tailscale tailnet. This unlocks all of my devices on the tailnet to access Impostor too.

    Setting up Private Among Us Games

    The first step is to install Tailscale on all of your devices and connect them to the same Google, GitHub, or supported auth provider account. This ensures all of the devices are in the same tailnet. Use the same Tailscale account for your Tailscale installation on the Raspberry Pi too.

    Install Impostor on the Raspberry Pi. The process involves installing Dotnet runtime (in my case, I installed the full SDK), installing the server build, modifying the configuration file to set the Raspberry Pi’s Tailscale node address as the public server and running the server itself. To elaborate a bit,

    Other devices can join this custom Among Us server by following the instructions on this page.

    Finally, anyone can start the game, mark it as Public and then other devices can join this public room. Make sure that the “World” in your “Online” mode is set to “Impostor”, not “Asia”, “Europe” or “Americas”.

    Other notes

    It’s okay to disclose the Raspberry Pi Tailscale node address to the public as it’s of no one for anyone else. It can be accessed only if the device is connected to my Tailnet, which requires authenticating using my GitHub account. I have also locked down that node’s port 22023 to be accessible only by certain devices using Tailscale Access Control Rules. And, ACLs also help make sure other devices can access only this port on my Pi. They wouldn’t be able to access services that I run on other ports.

    Right now, it’s just my family that can access this port on my Raspberry Pi (called mewtwo):

    { "Action": "accept", "Users": ["group:arun-family"], "Ports": ["mewtwo:22023"] }

    With this setup, anyone from any part of the world can join your custom Among Us games without depending on the official Among Us servers. I also learned that switching from WiFi to mobile data doesn’t disconnect the game. I imagine that’s possible due to Tailscale’s graceful handling of network changes.

  • dnsmasq: Custom DNS resolvers for specific domains

    Learned a neat thing today — it’s possible to set custom DNS resolvers for certain domains. I can create a custom config file for dnsmasq and specify the DNS resolvers to use for those domains. I don’t have a need for it today, but may be handy in cases like archive.is not loading on Cloudflare DNS.

    These requests still go through pihole, so ad-blocking capabilities are available. It’s just the upstream that changes. My test below confirms so: I have set dnsleaktest.com to be queried using Google DNS but requests still pass through pihole.

    A screenshot from my pihole dashboard that shows requests to dnsleaktest.com made using Google DNS, but requests still pass through the pihole.

    I use two Raspberry Pi devices at home, both running pihole with Unbound as a recursive DNS resolver. These devices are connected to my Tailscale network, so all of my devices (and my friends) can enjoy Unbound and pihole’s ad-blocking capabilities.

  • Google Drive backup for WhatsApp

    A lot of folks don’t realize that the Google Drive backup for WhatsApp is not end-to-end encrypted like messages and files within WhatsApp. When that backup to Google cloud happens, all messages and files are visible in plain to Google.

    The same problem exists in Telegram, which backs up messages to the cloud. The only exception in Telegram are messages and files sent within their “secret chats” feature, which is end-to-end encrypted. When folks move from WhatsApp to Telegram, it’s important that they understand that this is a step down.

    WhatsApp without Google cloud backup is a good option, and even better when WhatsApp’s new end-to-end encrypted backups feature is fully available. If I remember well, it’s available only on iOS at the moment but for some reason that support document doesn’t mention that. Or, is it available for everyone already?

    The best option, without doubt, is Signal: it is end-to-end encrypted by default and offers encrypted backups too. One problem with Signal is that it doesn’t offer cloud backups. So, the backups are stored locally on the device.

  • Lucky last shot

    A screenshot from a VALORANT Replication gameplay that shows Raze clutch the game with a last shot of Jett.

    I got very lucky with this last shot. In a VALORANT Replication game, both teams were at 4-4 mark. Spike was nearby but I didn’t have enough time to plant. Decided to go for the last kill, but I am a Judge player all the time, which means Jett being far was a tough kill.

    The Jett opposite me had an Operator too, I think, but luck favored me and I could reach her. Got the shot in the last 3 seconds. Phew!

    A screenshot from a VALORANT Replication gameplay that shows Raze as the game MVP.
    A screenshot from a VALORANT Replication gameplay that shows the last round stats from the game.
  • jq magic to create contacts for SimpleLogin aliases

    One thing that I found lacking in the SimpleLogin API is that, it doesn’t expose an API endpoint to create a contact based on the alias’ email address. Rather, the POST /api/aliases/:alias_id/contacts endpoint requires the alias ID. So, I ended up downloading all aliases as multiple batches (each query returns upto 20 results) and saved them as json files in a folder.

    With them in a folder, I could use jq to parse all of these json files for an alias email address, get its ID and further use it to create a new contact. All of this works like a charm now. My entire process works independent of the dashboard now: create a new alias, get its ID, create a contact, copy the reverse contact address, paste it on my email client.

    The first part for getting the alias ID involves this command:

    cat ~/Documents/SimpleLoginFiles/* | jq '.aliases[] | select(.email=="aliasAddress")' | jq '.id' | tr -d '\n' | pbcopy .

    It was a pleasant surprise when I learned that I could pipe in all files in a folder to jq, instead of having to implement some sort of a loop logic. I don’t know if it’s bash’s magic or something that jq handles elegantly.

    The second part for creating the contact involves this command:

    curl --location --request POST 'https://app.simplelogin.io/api/aliases/aliasID/contacts' --header 'Authentication: token' --header 'Content-Type: application/json' --data-raw '{"contact": "contactAddress"}' | jq '.reverse_alias' | tr -d "\\"" | pbcopy .

    If you are wondering what the tr -d "\\"" part is, it’s to remove the unwanted escape characters that appears as a part of the SimpleLogin API output. I imagine it’s possible to remove that using jq, but for now, the current workaround is sufficient.

    The contact’s reverse address is finally in my clipboard, which I can paste on Apple Mail:

    A screenshot of my Apple Mail on Mac, that shows an email address pasted to the "To" field of the composer.
    Reverse alias on the “To” field of the composer

    SimpleLogin recently announced an update to their Firefox extension too, to create reverse aliases (contact reverse address) on the go, but I like this API-based process better. The extension takes a while to populate all aliases.

  • Storing 2FA codes on my 1Password

    I definitely agree with what James writes here:

    Storing them in your password manager is probably as safe, or even safer, than using your phone

    Many people, like Google or the government, text a code to your mobile phone when logging in. That might be visible on my mobile phone’s lockscreen, or my SIM card could be cloned and used elsewhere. It’s much better than having nothing at all, of course: but it’s not quite as secure.

    If you’re storing your 2FA code using Google Authenticator or Authy on your phone, and your password is saved on your phone, then you’ve no two-factor authentication anyway. Both are being stored on the same device, just like your password manager would.

    Lose your phone with Google Authenticator installed, and you lose your codes. If you change phones, you can manually transfer those codes these days, assuming that you still have access to your old phone, but it’s a monumental hassle to switch otherwise.

    Most people feel that storing 2FA codes would equal putting all eggs in the same basket, but password managers these days are locked down with themselves supporting 2 step authentication. In my case, 1Password goes one step beyond by offering an unique Secret Key method.

    My 1Password’s 2FA code is stored on Authy today, but I guess it’s time to replace that with a physical key.

  • Thoughts on the 1Password-Fastmail partnership

    A week ago, the wonderful folks at 1Password announced a new feature: automatic generation of email aliases when creating a new vault entry. As an user of SimpleLogin, I am already familiar with the concept of using unique aliases for each website. It’s the same functionality that 1Password and Fastmail announced, except that generating the alias doesn’t require a visit to the email provider’s website.

    Fastmail vs SimpleLogin

    I see how this is helpful for the common user, but I am also slightly sad that smaller players like SimpleLogin and Anonaddy get left out in these corporate partnerships. From a quick comparison between Fastmail’s alias service and the smaller players, the best choices are the latter ones. For some context, SimpleLogin does not have any limits on the number of aliases that I can generate or the number of reply addresses (address that you send an email to, so that SimpleLogin sends out that email to the final destination from the actual alias address), while Fastmail limits them to 600 aliases and 500 sending identities (equivalent to SimpleLogin’s reply address).

    In my 2 years of being a SimpleLogin customer, I have generated over 1200 aliases and I guess, about 50% reply addresses. All of that is available at a fantastic cost of 30 USD per year.

    An image from my SimpleLogin dashboard that shows the number of aliases that I have generated, incoming emails, outbound responses and blocked emails.
    An image from my SimpleLogin dashboard that shows the number of aliases that I have generated, incoming emails, outbound responses and blocked emails.

    Except one outage, the service has been spectacular so far and support is great. The founder, Son, often responds to my emails, welcomes feedback and sometimes includes users in future product discussions. If you are looking for a privacy-respecting email alias generator, look no beyond SimpleLogin. This is not a sponsored post. I am just a happy user.

    SimpleLogin is also open-source and can be self-hosted.

    Final words

    I am not a Fastmail user today, but I hear great things about their service. I wouldn’t be switching to them though, as my existing mailboxes on WordPress.com Professional Email and Migadu haven’t seen any issues so far. Plus, Fastmail is based in Australia which is known for poor encryption laws.

    I love that 1Password is headed in a great direction with extensions. First they announced privacy-respecting, unique cards for online transactions with Privacy.com. And now, this partnership with Fastmail. Can’t wait to see what the future holds.

  • Among Us roles πŸ‘€

    Looks like Innersloth is working on roles for Among Us! I have enjoyed countless hours playing Town of Us. Can’t wait to see what official roles bring.

Hey there! I am a Happiness Engineer at Automattic, working on WordPress.com support. If you enjoy discussing online privacy, encryption, and fediverse like I do, you can reach me by commenting on my posts, or by email.