Monday, November 18, 2013

Net Debt - November 2013

Student loans: -$77,240.66 ($405.22)
Car loan: $0
Revolving Credit card debt: $0
Mortgage: -$132,430.62  ($256.12)
Total Debt: -$209,671.28 ($661.34)
Debt Jan 1, 2013: -$216,875.08 ($7203.80)

So this month ALL of the interest is paid off on the student loans!  Yay!
I've made a pumpkin spice porter beer for Turkey day.  Yay and Yum!

We have been putting together a list of items for the baby registry and it's exhausting trying to do research on everything, determining something that is safe, looks appealing, of high quality and at a reasonable price. And then of course trying to answer the question: Does baby really need this? I think (hope) so. Take for instance crib bumpers, they are cute and are supposed to prevent baby from bumping his head against the crib slats, only problem: They are also a suffocation hazard and their use (even the ones that claim to be breathable) is not recommended...

On another note, I hope everyone has a wonderful thanksgiving!

Monday, October 21, 2013

OpenVPN bonus

This post will mostly be technical material for the casual linux user and adventurous home user.
Disclaimer: I take no responsibility for anything breaking in your device. Please be careful!

Lets get the details of my server and how to discover them for yourself.

First, log into your synology through SSH as root. If you are using a windows computer, I recommend using PUTTY.  Next lets find out what version of OpenVPN you are using, type in openvpn --version  and you should get an output like below

OpenVPN 2.1.4  armle-unknown-linux [SSL] [LZO2] [EPOLL] built on Mar 9 2013
Originally developed by James Yonan
Next, you can find out what version of linux you are running by typing in: cat /proc/version From that we can find out it's linux  gcc version 4.2.1

One security feature that (should) already be in the configuration files is proto udp. OpenVPN can run using either TCP or UDP protocol, however, UDP will generally provide better protection against DoS attacks and port scanning than TCP.

Now, there are some advanced things you can do to your OpenVPN, the first is to increase the symmetric keys. By default OpenVPN uses Blowfish, a 128-bit symmetrical cipher. While Blowfish is relatively secure at 128-bit, we can change it to 256-bit AES cipher, Cipher-Block Chain.  One reason why I like this instead of Blowfish is that 256-bit is good enough for TOP-SECRET for the government.  To implement it you'll need to add the following to both server and client configuration files:

cipher AES-256-CBC

The server file can be found at this pathway:
cd /usr/syno/etc/packages/VPNCenter/openvpn

Also, there is a way to implement Google Two Factor Authorization on Synology.  Likewise, while there are some forums out there discussing how to get this service implemented from Synology to OpenVPN, it has yet to be successfully shown.  However, I might experiment with it and try to get it working on my own server.  If I do, I'll be sure to show you how to do it as well!  :-)

Check out Part 1 of 3
Check out Part 2 of 3
Check out Part 3 of 3
Check out the bonus stuff!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Net Debt - October 2013

Student loans: -$77,645.88 ($1,484.51)
Car loan: $0
Revolving Credit card debt: $0.
Mortgage: -$132,686.74  ($255.09)
Total Debt: -$210,332.62 ($1,739.38)
Debt Jan 1, 2013: -$216,875.08 ($6,542.46)

Great news! For my two student loans, Aspire and Discover, all of the interest will be paid off by the end of next month! There is currently around $350 of interest left, and we pay more than that each month for sure. Soon we will have to change gears and begin to pay the highest interest to get it paid off as quickly as possible.
The mortgage is slowly going down - one monthly payment at a time. We've been getting a lot of flyers from our mortgage company to refinance, so I'm not sure if it'll help pay down much faster, I'd like to investigate just to be sure. The wife doesn't like the idea of paying more closing costs though...

Likewise, next year will probably be a wild roller coaster for us as we will be adding another human to the household: Healthcare expenses (i.e. dependent coverage), childcare costs ($1k easy per month), and reduced income due to maternity/paternity leave will make things interesting to say the least. We will have to look at our budgets and discuss priorities, but we will make it work :).

However I'd like to share a couple of websites that I have found recently that might save you some green. For today, lets start with This website lets you put a bid on a popular item at retail stores to get a great deal.  They sell TV's, laptops, baby gear, etc.. I personally haven't purchased anything from them, but was intrigued by the concept. I will let you know when I know more!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


... we bought laminate flooring for "Rover's Room". Last November, our not so tiny kitten Rover had dug a hole in the carpet near the door. We had been meaning to replace the flooring in that room ever since, but had postponed it month after month.
It wasn't lack of money, more a lack of urgency. We kept telling ourselves that there was no rush, and really there wasn't. We covered the spot with a sisal scratching mat to prevent the hole from getting bigger and to provide Rover with something that was better suited for his little claws. And in the end, it is our kitten's room where he spends the day when we are at work so that he doesn't get into trouble or hurt himself (he's clumsy) and to give our other older cat a much needed break from the little bully. But now "Rover's Room" is awaiting a little bit of a re-purposing as in February a new (human) family member wants to move into that room - it is the nursery after all!
Another factor that lead to us postponing the flooring was that we were undecided about what kind of laminate flooring we wanted. We read reviews, got samples, tested the samples, and considered prices and availability. (I am sure the husband will go into detail about that in a later post.) But a couple weeks ago we made a decision and the husband is eager to start on this new project :) but the installation probably has to wait until Thanksgiving. But that's ok, no rush, right?

Monday, September 9, 2013

Cyber Monday - Setting up an VPN with Synology on your Android & iPhone Part 3 of 3

Setting up a VPN on your Android or iPhone device is just as easy as setting it up on your computer. To begin, you'll want to download the configuration files from the synology server, or if you've already done that, you can use the same ones you installed on your computer for your phone.

To set up the android, you'll want to navigate to the Android Play store and either download this version if you have a newer device (4.0 and higher) or this version for older devices (1.5 and up).  It's very possible that if you are installing the older version (and possibly the newer, I'm not sure), that you'll have to install TUN.ko Installer. TUN helps establish the virtual point-to-point IP link. If you have this problem you'll be notified like shown on the picture to the left and it will likely even open another page of details (like the picture below) giving you a link to install it. If it is installed, then you'll just open the program and load the drivers and all will be well again.  This does happen to me every now and then because the drivers aren't loaded.

However, before you run into those problems, you'll need to connect your device to your computer and transfer your ca.crt and your openvpn.ovpn into the necessary folders.  For me, it was under the /mnt/sdcard/Openvpn folder.  From there you can start up the vpn client and you should be good to go now that you know how to trouble shoot any potential problem.

Now that you're connected you can check out the data transfers in the status bar of the phone.  :-)

Currently the official OpenVPN (1.0.1 build 88) software is too buggy for it to be easily compatible with iOS 6.1.3 (10B329). When I attempted, I ran into many errors. The files worked on my desktop OVPN connection, however they failed when trying to work with the iPhone version.  If/when the next release of OpenVPN is out there, I believe they will be fixing many of these issues and I will attempt an easy guide at that point.  However, currently you would need to log into the server, run several commands modifying several files and start and stop some services then play with it on the iPhone as well, all far too dependent upon what version of Synology/openVPN you are running and iOS version.  No elegant solution is possible currently.  Sorry guys!  :-(

Check out Part 1 of 3
Check out Part 2 of 3
Check out Part 3 of 3
Check out the bonus stuff!