Roll Your Own Dropbox with BitTorrent Sync on Amazon EC2

Note: BitTorrent Sync is now Resilio. I have no idea if this tutorial still works with Resilio.

File sync is awesome. Without the ability to get at my files on all my computers (4, currently), I don’t know how I would function. That said, I’m not super-fired-up about Dropbox’s security and privacy practices (or Google Drive’s, for that matter), particularly in light of recent news.

So I got pretty excited when I learned about BitTorrent Sync, software that syncs your files without requiring you to give the key to those files to a company like Dropbox or Google. Like its namesake, BitTorrent Sync is decentralized. It syncs files between the computers you install it on, and does not rely on any central server.

Unfortunately, the lack of a central server is also a downside. If you have a desktop and laptop, for example, BitTorrent Sync will only sync up your files when both of your computers are turned on and connected to the Internet. That’s not a problem with Dropbox, because Dropbox’s servers keep your files synced up all the time, even if your computers are never connected to the Internet at the same time. But if you got BitTorrent Sync running on your own server, you could get this same functionality.

That’s why I figured out how to install BitTorrent Sync on an Amazon EC2 server. Here’s how I did it (with crucial help from the friendly folks on #ubuntu-server at freenode).

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Sherpak Go 15 Roof Bag Review

Last weekend, my wife and I took our daughters (almost two and almost four) camping. It was the first camping trip for all four of us, and we needed to fit four people, a dog, and all our gear into our little Jetta Wagon. The morning we planned to leave, we finally realized we were never going to fit everything inside the car.

I have wanted a great big Yakima roof box for years, but I have had trouble selling Jess on a $500+ box that will take up the entire roof of her car. So we started looking at roof bags. In the short time available to us, we decided to get the Sherpak Go 15 based on the reviews. Then we drove about two hours through a torrential downpour to our campsite, just to make sure we gave our new roof bag a good workout.

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Put Your Dog on a Leash

That’s my dog, Josie. Josie is awesome. She is big and furry and looks kind of like a wolf. And she makes Chewbacca sounds. We probably should have called her Chewie. She can run all day and hold her bladder all night, and she loves to stay outside all day in the winter. Josie is obsessed with squirrels, and she even catches them sometimes.

She loves people — except mail carriers. Josie is also an excellent guard dog, because who would break into a house with a big wolf-looking dog hanging out on the front porch? And when my daughters stick their fingers in her eyes or nose, she just wags her tail and flops over on her back so they can rub her belly.

Yep, unless you are a mail carrier, a squirrel, or another dog, my dog is awesome.

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Use IFTTT + Buffer to Update All Your Social Media Profiles

There are a bunch of options for updating multiple social media profiles at the same time. Many of the best ones cost money, and many of the free ones don’t work all that well.

I need a way to update Lawyerist‘s Twitter feed, Facebook page, LinkedIn group, and Google+ page with each new post. I was using a hodgepodge of options for a long time, including FeedBurner for Twitter, Twitterfeed for the Facebook page, and updating the LinkedIn group and Google+ page manually. This worked, but not well. I couldn’t always get LinkedIn and Google+ updated on time, and Twitterfeed recently stopped updating our Facebook page altogether. Plus, our analytics were spread all over the place.

The other day, I was poking around in my IFTTT and Buffer accounts, and I think I finally found a pretty-close-to-perfect solution.

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Basic Winter Camping Checklist

My first winter camping trip was a 9-day Outward Bound expedition in the Maine wilderness, cross-country skiing and dog sledding. I learned the basics there, and I have been camping in winter in the Minnesota Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness since shortly after I moved to Minneapolis in 2000.

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WordPress without Thesis

I recently wrote up my feelings about Thesis 2 on Lawyerist. Here are the choice bits:

If Thesis 2 was supposed to empower unsophisticated users, it is a failure. The Skins Editor is far more complicated than the old settings panel, from which you could change the layout and all the colors and fonts from a single screen. Now, you have to visit dozens of HTML “Boxes” and CSS “Packages” to do the same things. It is ludicrous.

If Thesis 2 was supposed to empower sophisticated users, it is likewise a failure. Using the Skins Editor is far more complicated than editing a couple of custom files for someone with a fairly basic grasp of HTML, CSS, and PHP. In fact, it is even useless for intermediate users, who would probably have an easier time copying and pasting chunks of code than hunting down settings on boxes inside of boxes.

Rather than wait to see if DIY Themes can improve Thesis 2 (or just for Thesis 3), I am moving on.

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Set Up Domain Mapping When Your WordPress Multisite Network is on a Subdomain or in a Subdirectory

If you set up a WordPress Multisite Network on a server with other websites on it (for example, Lawyerist Sites is hosted on the Lawyerist server, so there are a number of directories on the server. If your network is set up similarly, you will probably get frustrated trying to set up domain mapping according to the “standard” tutorial by Otto on WordPress.

Here are a few problems I solved on the way to getting domain mapping working on Lawyerist Sites.

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