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Uselessnet

The other day I was thinking about a pretty cool terminal app I downloaded years ago called Cathode, wondering if it had been updated for the new iPad Pro screen size. Apparently it hasn’t been updated in the past year. Shame, as it does a pretty cool job of replicating old CRT terminal displays. It also doesn’t appear to support some of the security configuration setup I have for my server, so it not being updated was a moot point as I can’t even really use it.

Once I got to thinking about what I might do over an terminal connection – why have an iPad with a cellular connection and a terminal app (Panic’s Prompt) if you can’t use it as a dumb terminal wherever you are? – my curiosity got the best of me and I fell down a rabbit hole of setting up the alpine mail client on my server so I could SSH in and triage my email. 1 I usually speed through Gmail using keyboard shortcuts to triage my inbox, but I wanted something that I could use more easily on my iPad. I’m surprised to say that it wasn’t as bad and more usable than I had expected it to be – it’s no good for image-heavy mail, but for text-only or mail with very few images it seems to work great.

I had to do some tinkering to get it to save my mail password; apparently it requires a certificate and key to encrypt the password file, but it might also be able to just use a password to encrypt? I’m not quite sure because I only really got it working once I had imported my webserver’s TLS certificate (which it couldn’t use for encryption, but was enough to let me in to the certificate management settings menu and set a password, then remove the key and certificate from the installation) as an experiment. I should really create an appropriate certificate and key and so on just for alpine and see if by having that it doesn’t need me to enter a password each time I open the application, but I haven’t reached that stage of tinkering yet.

I realized that alpine also has support for connecting to NNTP servers. I hadn’t used an application for newsgroups since Unison, another Panic application, but I figured that if alpine has newsgroup support I might as well try it. Even though forums on the web had probably taken the place of much of Usenet some time ago I wondered if there was any reason now to still use Usenet newsgroups.

Nope. There’s no reason. Of the few newsgroups I poked my head in to see if they were still active, only one (alt.fan.frank-zappa) that I used to lurk in or might be interested in now was (relatively) spam-free and/or active.

That said, I wouldn’t mind being able to use Reddit via an NNTP protocol if such a thing were possible…

  1. I had used pine back when I started college, so it wasn’t as if I was unfamiliar with terminal-based mail applications. 

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