July 2021 Retrospective

Summary

This month really got away from me. Mudmap’s development has not slowed, but it has not been hitting the goals I’ve set this month. Instead, I’ve adapted to a changing landscape and user needs.

Highlights

  • Mudmap gets a free tier
  • Static IP addresses are now standard for Mudmap’s servers
  • A shift in focus and support for pfSense versions

Goal Performance

A review of last months three goals. See June’s Retrospective

Cold email at least 15 people

  • Appraisal: Probably set the bar too low here; only a few replies.
  • Rating: A

I did this, and got probably the market expected percentage of responses. All the responses mentioned a need for locking down their SSH port with some static IP addresses.

It was from this feedback that I chose to prioritise the deployment of a proxy in front of Mudmap. Setting the proxy allowed for a pair of static IP’s to be placed in front of Mudmap. The proxy is completely transparent to users even with SSH tunnelling. By doing this, users can now set source addresses for SSH - a huge security increase.

Some might wonder why my servers don’t have a static IP already? The hosting platform, Render.com, does not provide static addresses for any of its containers. A third party service, QuotaGuard integrates well with Render and hooking it into my application took about 2 hours. I am pretty happy with the service and whilst they don’t offer a free tier, I feel the starter plan is quite generous.

Add firewall rules to Mudmap

  • Appraisal: C
  • Rating: I have built the read-only pages but paused development due to important issues that arose.

So far, Mudmap’s feature set is limited to a only a portion of pfSense’s. The vision is grand and will eventually cover the majority of its features. Firewall rules, including the ability to read, create, update and delete them is a high priority. Unfortunately, other issues came up that forced this into the paused, or blocked state. I could deploy it as a read-only copy but have chosen to instead deploy it once its finished properly.

A work in progress look.

Record some videos for onboarding new clients

  • Appraisal: Did not start this.
  • Rating: F

I did not even get started on this.

I did create a landing page for new users inside the application itself. Initially, when a user register an account and logged in they were presented an empty table. That’s not very welcoming and makes the assumption that users know how to use Mudmap. Now they get presented with a few helpful links to get started - this will eventually be upgraded again, likely with a welcome video.

The welcome page. Unfortunately, I didn’t get screenshot of the empty tables as a comparison.

Free Tier

Mudmap is new, lacks social proof and is chasing a market full of security minded folks. Initially, to get started using the platform I was asking for a subscription. But, this was, as you would expect, not working too well. Before someone could even evaluate the performance, reliability and security of Mudmap they were asked for a payment method. I wanted to reduce this friction and increase user uptake.

So I decided to offer a free tier for all users.

Every user can now add their first two devices for free. No credit card needed and no time limit. It also lets small businesses or hobbyists who have a couple of devices test it out.

In hindsight this should have been released from the start. I’m hoping this will bring in some more feedback of the system too.

Social Media

This month I spent some time upping Mudmap’s social media presence. You can now find it at:

It’s always that fine line between development of the product and marketing. The developer in me always thinks it is not good enough to spruik yet. This, I feel, is a problem all developers have.

A problem and shift in Mudmap’s offering

Late this month, I started to see a uptick of users and a correlating spike of errors. The investigation into this lead me to a resolution I always felt was probable but hopefully unlikely.

tl;dr Mudmap is ceasing support for pfSense+

At the start of this year, Netgate elected to split pfSense into a closed and open-source model. The newer and closed source pfSense+ is for the time being largely the same as pfSense Community Edition (CE). Unfortunately for Mudmap (yet, fortunate for everyone else) they’ve made changes that have effected the product.

Initially, I attempted to reverse engineer a workaround to the most recent breaking change between pfSense+ and Mudmap. But after careful consideration, I decided this course of action is not in the best interested of customers.

Why? Providing a reliable and safe platform from which customers can manage multiple pfSense devices remotely is Mudmap’s core mission statement. This cannot be achieved without a stable platform to build from. Providing an interface that could potentially cause disruption or worse for customers is a risk I will not take.

Naturally, I am disappointed, and it will reduce Mudmap’s market appeal - possibly quite significantly - but I’m not losing hope.

So where to from here?

Mudmap will continue to support pfSense CE and develop functionality to meet the needs of that user base. I’ll also be keeping a close eye on the developments of pfSense+. I think it is important to disclose how excited I am for it and that I fully support Netgate’s decision to close source the project. I expect pfSense+ to be a cut above the rest when it re-launches after its rewrite in Golang. This should also deploy with an API very similar to TNSR’s. As both a user and developer, this makes me really happy. It should also allow Mudmap to push back into the market of supporting pfSense+ clients as I will (hopefully) be able to hook into the new API.

I have written a page in the documentation explaining the change in support, updated the homepage and made a toggle in the application itself ensuring that users are aware of this. I will be writing a blog post, newsletter and LinkedIn post in response as well.

Recommendations

Interesting topics

Whilst I am not a pentester or bug bounty hunter, I thoroughly enjoy watching videos on the subjects. Having binge watched most of ippsec’s videos, I recently started on John Hammond’s stuff. If you’re a developer, there is a lot of information to glean from how these guys go about exploiting your servers.

Worth a mention, ippsec has a handy search page where you can filter topics and find which video to watch based on it. For instance, if you searched jwt, it will show you a selection of boxes he’s pwned with JWT’s in there somewhere.

React development cheat code

If you aren’t using swr from Vercel, maybe you should be! react-query is apparently just as good - and I believe it, it’s from Tanner Linsley. I can only talk about swr and say that its made my Next.js app blazing fast - it literally feels like a cheat code for client side web. It integrates perfectly with axios too. As a heavy user of axios interceptors for JWT refreshing, I initially saw all the docs using fetch and thought maybe interceptors wouldn’t work. Thankfully it worked flawlessly.

Podcast of the month:

Wrap up

This month was a bit of test. It started quite well but sadly ended on a sour note. Nonetheless, I’m looking forward to August and producing more content for users of Mudmap to enjoy.

What can I do better?

  • Market Mudmap’s potential rather than internally focus on what it’s not providing right now

What have I done well?

  • Adapted to changing circumstances and took action when needed.

Next months goals

  • Actually release the firewall rules pages
  • Publish a Mudmap blog post

Analytics

Mudmap

Check-Redirects

Twitter