My website can still be found at, but I have not been posting on this blog as I've been primarily focused on - please head over there and take a look!

Tuesday 16 October 2018

Sonnet Comix patreon campaign now open!

Hi everyone! We had to go back to the drawing board for a while, but it's finally time to give this another shot. Please check out my patreon campaign - and don't forget to sign up and share!

Friday 17 August 2018

self-signed localhost ssl certificate on windows (for dummies)

[THIS ARTICLE IS OBSOLETE: you'll find better ones here and here]

if there are devs i really admire, it's everyone behind the software listed in this guide. they're out there making the internet a safer place and saner place, building easy-to-use tools and providing their services and products for free.

today i needed to self-sign certificates, and while there are good guides available they make a lot of assumptions or use complicated tools. here's what i figured out this morning after a long struggle with scripts that windows doesn't like:

1. install openssh for windows, and make sure to remember where the installation directory is. there are a number of options available from the openssl wiki, shining light productions' version is the most official. download the default build (the larger installation file) paying attention to whether your system is 32-bit or 64-bit.

2. install babun (bash and zsh on windows for people who don't want to micromanage their software)

3. using babun, change to the openssl bin directory. run the following command from letsencrypt:
openssl req -x509 -out localhost.crt -keyout localhost.key -newkey rsa:2048 -nodes -sha256 -subj '/CN=localhost' -extensions EXT -config <( printf "[dn]\nCN=localhost\n[req]\ndistinguished_name = dn\n[EXT]\nsubjectAltName=DNS:localhost\nkeyUsage=digitalSignature\nextendedKeyUsage=serverAuth")

once installed in your app you'll be able to access with http or https - your browser will warn you that the certificate isn't signed but it's yours, so just accept it and get back to work!

Saturday 11 August 2018

IIS Rewrite Rules Regex

I'm not sure why it's so hard to find clear examples of the not-quite-regex regex that the IIS Url Rewrite module implements for its rewrite rules. Here are three things that I've wasted time figuring out.

1. Rewrite actions use regex matched groups by referencing {R:<group number>} eg. {R:1}

2. The order of the rules is critical, rewrites are then re-matched from scratch.

3. To prevent matches beginning with a word, use "^((?!theword).*)"

Friday 20 April 2018

Wednesday 28 March 2018

Azure Key Vault in C# for Dummies

There's a vast amount of documentation available, but all of it assumes a lot of prior knowledge or very particular use cases. Here's a simple and straightforward guide to creating and using a service principal for an Azure Key Vault so that your secrets can be managed programmatically.

Please note: I'm excited because I've finally managed to authenticate using a secret, it's probably more secure to use certificates but I'll get to that another time.

Step 1: Registered App

Under Azure Active Directory in the Azure Portal, select App registrations.

Add a New application registration, the application type being Web app / API and the Sign-on URL anything being any valid URL (just the format, it doesn't have to exist). If the name you enter isn't simple to remember then it would be a good idea to take a note of it for step 2.

Take note of the Application ID as that will be your Client ID for authentication, then select the Keys blade under Settings. Enter a Key description (preferably indicating the user or application that will be using this key), select a duration and Save. Immediately store the resulting value somewhere safe as it will never be displayed again.

I recommend adding yourself as an owner on the Owners blade (also under Settings), whatever else this may be good for it'll let you see the app registration immediately on the App registrations blade without having to select "All apps".

Step 2: Key Vault permissions

Open the Key Vault in the Azure Portal and select the Access policies blade under Settings. Click Add New and click on Select principal - you'll have to enter the full name of the registered app you created in the previous step in the search box before it'll show up, at which point you'll be able to select it.

You can either select an appropriate template from the top dropdown or choose Key, Secret or Certificate permissions manually. Don't worry about Authorized application at this stage.

IMPORTANT: pressing the OK button will add your new policy to the list, but it will not be saved! Be sure to click Save before continuing.

Step 3: Accessing the Key Vault from your Code

There are many different ways to authenticate, most of them obscure and undocumented. This is the simplest method, I've put the credentials in the code for clarity but I have faith that you'll store them somewhere more intelligent. Never store credentials in the codebase. Seriously. Just don't.

Monday 5 March 2018

Let's Encrypt site deletion (Apache on Ubuntu)

Let's Encrypt is brilliant, but why site deletion makes things so complicated is beyond me. I had a bunch of sites running on Apache that Let's Encrypt automagically generated certificates for, which was fine right up until I needed to make one of them unavailable. What follows are the instructions for regenerating the certificates quickly and (relatively) painlessly.

  1. Ensure that Apache site configurations are removed from
  2. Move unwanted site configurations from
    /etc/apache2/sites-available to a backup location if needed
  3. Remove all certificate files from
  4. Restart Apache
    service apache2 restart
  5. Run letsencrypt