Here's the back story: the last year has been non-stop work. My $HOME folder turned has about 100 files just sitting in it, 2 tmp folders filled with lots of stuff, I'm constantly synchronising emails to my disk so that I can use notmuch mail to filter it but something broke – I don't even remember / know what (maybe nothing?), I have accrued many private keys for all the VPS' I've been using, invested in a password manager and am only starting to realise how easy it is to get to 50+ different services – and none of this is backed up.

My entire digital existence, ability to operate at my desired pace, and thousands of hours of work over the past year exists solely my laptop. I rely on all of the digital systems patchily held together on my laptop like oxygen. It is the ever reliable tool that is now broken, awaiting to be picked up by courier today to be sent back to Lenovo. I'm somewhat lucky, that my old laptop started to fail at this time when I seem to be perpetually struck down my viruses and therefore have an excuse to "take a break" and backup all my data at the very least. Of course being me, I'd rather take this an opportunity to review, revise, and do better. I'm forcing a complete systems reboot on my terms.

This time, I have a recovery plan that starts from pen and paper. Starting from my notebook you should be able to reconstruct my operating system to all systems go even if I had completely lost my memory or died. I broadened what I consider my operating system to include hardware devices both analogue and digital. This has allowed me to include more aspects of my life as systems. My operating system is the collection of these systems carefully designed such that I achieve my goals transparently. Something I want to stress – nothing should feel like it gets in the way. I just do within my operating system and things happen the way I want them. This lets me, the human, do what I do best: focus on the creative and abstract.

Yeah… it was only a matter of time before I was to become a full blown life hacker.

As my laptop only died about 4 weeks ago and I am being painfully conscientious about all design decisions I have decided to start publishing this little endeavor of mine in pieces under the myos tag. Since I am down a laptop, before I can start on the fun analogue stuff I better replace my laptop.

Jumping right to it.

myOS / digital::device::laptop

My laptop on the way out is a Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga X1 Carbon Gen 2 (x1y2) with a gorgeous WQHD OLED screen. I bought the x1y2 for the screen: black meant zero light, fantastic for power consumption and night use. Being a Thinkpad X1 it's rugged and lightweight too – necessary features because it is important to me that I can simply slip my laptop in my analogue::device::bag and head off to work anywhere.

Lenovo offered to replace my x1y2 with an x1y3 (gen 3) while the processor is faster and it was a fair trade monetarily it didn't have an OLED screen and therefore for me was not a value trade. Instead, I got a cash refund and purchased a Thinkpad X1 Carbon Gen 6 (x1g6). It also doesn't have an OLED screen but it is smaller, lighter, and I was able to get an even faster processor and more digital::storage::local::bulk to offset the loss of the screen.

distro = myOS / Qubes

After being a loyal Arch Linux user for over 5 years I have decided to move to Qubes OS. I hadn't tried Qubes before and it started off simply out of curiosity but I believe I'm going to stick with it. Qubes provides security by design through compartmentalisation. Security is important to me and using Qubes (correctly) forces me to be more secure simply by operating within it. However, this isn't the only reason why I have selected Qubes. Compartmentalising is organising too, proof of which I leave as an exercise to the reader.

For my current mode of operation, I find that there are only two drawbacks to the compartmentalisation that Qubes provides: no GPU rendering in the browser, and audio forwarding takes more CPU. I understand and completely respect that this is for security reasons. I also greatly respect the Qubes team's dedication to security and user experience. It's only a matter of time before something is worked out and it will be awesome. Qubes is the future.

Organisation by compartmentalisation

As I was looking at the top level of my old documents folder I had separated it into: personal, university, businessX. As you can see from PGP Identity I also have multiple email accounts, each one calls on me to do a different type of work. Unsurprisingly, these email accounts directly translate to my now old top level folders of files. It makes sense from a security standpoint, and an organisation standpoint to have a different qube for each of these email accounts. The emergence of this organisation organically makes sense: when you start a new role at a company, one of the first things they do for you is set up an email account. This brings me to my first theorem:

myOS / theorem 1
An email account provides an interface for the outside world for you to send and receive tasks and work.

So for every role/hat/character I play in the world I have an email account for input+output. To ensure it's actually getting to Aqeel the human, it must be associated with my PGP Identity. I'm liking this character-human relation so let's go with that for my first policy:

myOS / policy 1
For each character of the human Aqeel Akber there is:
  - an email account associated on PGP Identity 0x14FC5B7CFED383A3
  - a qube on digital::device::laptop::distro

Please don't trust the above statement of my PGP Identity blindly. Better, cross-check it with the signed PGP commit and original org file used to generate this page.


I am introducing myOS as a set of theorems and policies that define the my mode of operation with all systems in my life. The conscious design choice involved in developing of these theorems and policies is an investment of time. Return on this investment is a freeing of decision making and reducing stress in the future. The goal of myOS is to create an environment where progression of my personal identity and creation of work is maximised and effort is minimised.

Following myOS / theorem 1 and policy 1 ensures security and organisation by compartmentalisation. Backups have become trivial and security is improved. It fits naturally into my "character" workflow that I had noticed emerged organically. Surprisingly, my dotfiles have become simpler too and will be the subject of the next installment of myos.