What I done did in October 2021

Colin Wren
6 min readOct 30, 2021

I’m absolutely terrified that there may be a skeleton inside me

Photo by Sabina Music Rich on Unsplash

Started to try and move off iCloud

When Apple announced that they were going to be introducing Client Side Scanning for illegal content I was really miffed about the direction that things were going. While I understand that their intention is for a noble cause I think there’s a slippery slope being approached where it’ll start with stopping the distribution of CSAM and end at a complete invasion of privacy as governments realise that users have been complacent with this scanning.

The past year I’ve been slowly de-googling my life in a bid to get away from Google’s mass data collection and had basically relied on Apple’s services to facilitate that move so the announcement of them doing anything other than storing those files left a bad taste in my mouth.

I live in the UK and while it’s not as invasive as some countries it does feel like it’s heading that way so Apple’s privacy hypocracy isn’t great news (especially when you realise one of their first adverts was playing on the book 1984). In order to mitigate any future risk I decided to start looking into iCloud alternatives.

I’m also looking to move from iOS to Ubuntu Touch (and eventually Mac OS but I need that for Reciprocal.dev stuff) but I’ve got a banking app I need to take care of before I can do that.

So far I’m trying out Tresorit, Syncthing and Cryptomater.

Syncthing appeals to me the most as it doesn’t involve sending data outside of the local network but it also requires devices to have space available and I’ve had issues getting it to run on Ubuntu Touch. There’s also only one app for SyncThing on iOS and it requires payment after 20MB of data is transferred so I’ve not been able to battle test it.

Tresorit requires sending data to the cloud so there’s a level of trust there but as it’s cloud based I don’t require other devices to be available in order to sync data. It works well enough on iOS and offers trial before you have to pay for it.

Cryptomater isn’t a sync solution but a means of encrypting files, my thinking there would be to keep using iCloud but encrypt any personal files such as contracts or financial information. The app on iOS costs a fair amount but I’ve been able to try out the Desktop app and it’s worked pretty well.

My ideal set up would be to be running Ubuntu Touch on a PinePhone with any syncing happening via Syncthing but I think it’s a long way of being feasible so I’ll have to find a stop gap for now.

Found out how hard it is to film tutorial videos

In order to help users get up to speed with Reciprocal.dev I wrote some help articles (https://reciprocal.dev/help) and we had plans to turn these into videos too as people tend to consume information easier from videos.

Over the years I’ve been picking up bits of recording kit such as a Yeti mic, some USB lights and a decent webcam in the hope of making videos around the technical blogs I’ve done so after writing out our first script I was really excited to try using them.

However it turns out that I cannot speak properly. I tend to start a sentence really clear but towards the end of it I mumble and this made it really awkward to record the videos as when I did manage to make it through a paragraph without going off script when I played it back during editing it was basically unusable due to me not enunciating clearly.

This is also true of my handwriting, I think the way I tend to communicate is to assume halfway through the sentence that people have got the gist of what’s being said as when I listen to people I tend to do this with what they’re saying.

I also struggled to find a decent way of recording myself talking to the camera and recording the screen as I walked the user through the different steps I was doing.

I had originally used a combination of OBS and Zoom, using Zoom’s background removal functionality (and using a solid green Zoom background as a makeshift greenscreen) and capturing both the Zoom app and the browser before compositing in Premiere Pro but this required a fair amount of time to bring all the clips together.

I then tried mmhmm to do the compositing as I’ve used it in the past and it worked well but I encountered some weirdness with it. I’d set up the recording to show the browser feed from OBS in fullscreen mode but when I played back the recording it would have that screen in over the shoulder mode. I’m not sure if this was a bug or fullscreen is for paid users only but if that’s the case that’s a really shitty way of driving people to upgrade.

I eventually gave up and handed my kit over to my co-founder Kev so he can try using a tool that he likes to use but the experience has been an eye opener to how I communicate and given me a whole set of things to work on.

Bought an under desk treadmill

Before Covid happened I used to walk around 7–10km a day as I’d walk to and from work and on my lunch breaks I’d meet up with friends for raids in Pokemon Go which would often involve walking a lot between different parts of Leeds.

A week ago I weighed myself and found out I’d gained about two stone (12kg) since lockdown (although I already knew I was fat last year when my jeans no longer fit but wasn’t aware it had gotten that bad). So I decided to find a means to remain active while also being glued to my desk and as I have a standing desk I decided that a ‘walking pad’ would help with this.

I found one on Amazon that had really good reviews and while it costs more than I’d like I could justify the expense if it meant that I could lose the weight I’d gained.

The treadmill fits nicely under my desk and as I’ve got used to planning being active into my day I’ve slowly introduced my team at work to the fact that they may hear a low whirling noise in the background of any calls I’m on. Luckily it turns out that they barely notice the noise which means I can walk at around 3.7kmph and still take all my calls.

I’m currently only doing an hour a day but I’m hoping as I get used to things I’ll be able to increase this to 2 hours and get a solid 7km walk in a day.

Launched the Reciprocal.dev alpha

At the start of the month I’d finished the development of Reciprocal.dev but there was a lot of work to do on the marketing website such as the aforementioned help pages.

After two weeks we had finished adding the content and the website looked semi-reasonable so we decided to launch the alpha and I put an announcement out on Twitter, cross posted a blog about the journey we took and we put out announcement messages on LinkedIn.

So far we’ve had four sign ups from the announcement so we’re going to have to work hard to create content in order to drive traffic to the site and get people to convert to trying it out.

Once we have a larger user base we can start interviewing users and getting feedback on what they liked and what could be improved but I’m also planning on using this time to revisit the tech and architectural choices I made as I think there’s some improvements we can make.

Caught up on Animal Crossing

In September Nintendo teased an update to Animal Crossing New Horizons that would bring The Roost back to the game and then in October they had a 20 minute long video explaining all the ‘new’ stuff coming in the update.

I say ‘new’ as the update is just introducing a lot of stuff that was in previous games from launch but because of the more ‘agile’ delivery of New Horizons was not a priority for the initial release. The actually new things they are introducing has got me really excited to play the game again so I fired it up for the first time in 8 months (building reciprocal.dev kinda ate up all my time).

I spent a week working through the months I’d missed and I’m now going back to play the events that I missed so I can make sure I have all the recipes and items from those incase version 2.0.0 blocks off that content.

November will be an interesting month for games I think as on the 5th the Animal Crossing update comes out and later in the month Pokemon drops which will probably see me neglect AC again to focus on that.



Colin Wren

Currently building reciprocal.dev. Interested in building shared understanding, Automated Testing, Dev practises, Metal, Chiptune. All views my own.