TLS Mastery Release, Sponsor Gifts, and Acknowledgements

As if 2020 wasn’t sufficiently rough, I spent it writing about TLS.

Now, I’m done.

TLS Mastery has escaped.

TLS Mastery Beastie Edition
Beastie Edition
TLS Mastery cover
Tux Edition

Transport Layer Security, or TLS, makes ecommerce and online banking possible. It protects your passwords and your privacy. Let’s Encrypt transformed TLS from an expensive tool to a free one. TLS understanding and debugging is an essential sysadmin skill you must have.

TLS Mastery takes you through:

  • How TLS works
  • What TLS provides, and what it doesn’t
  • Wrapping unencrypted connections inside TLS
  • Assessing TLS configurations
  • The Automated Certificate Management Environment (ACME) protocol
  • Using Let’s Encrypt to automatically maintain TLS certificates
  • Online Certificate Status Protocol
  • Certificate Revocation
  • CAA, HSTS, and Certificate Transparency
  • Why you shouldn’t run your own CA, and how to do it anyway
  • and more!

Stop wandering blindly around TLS. Master the protocol with TLS Mastery!

Available in the Beastie Edition and the Tux Edition. The only difference is the cover. Hardcover has both covers.

Get the two-cover hardcover at any of the print bookstores below, or direct from my bookstore.

Get the combined editions at:

Get the Beastie edition at:

Get the Tux edition at:


If you’re a sponsor: your gifts are on order. I have enough on hand for my Patronizers, so I’ll be shipping those first. As soon as yours arrive, I’ll get them to you.

This was a rough book to write, so I want to share the acknowledgements.

TLS is perhaps the most complicated topic I’ve ever written about. Writing this book would have been impossible without outside help.

This book would not exist if the Internet Security Research Group hadn’t deployed ACME and organized Let’s Encrypt. TLS certificates are not only free for most people, their maintenance and renewal is highly automatable. They’ve changed the whole Internet, and deserve our thanks for that.

It doesn’t matter how many RFCs I study and how many technical mailing list archives I read: I lack the expertise and context to best illuminate an arcane topic like TLS. The folks who read this manuscript’s early stages and pointed out my innumerable errors deserve special thanks. James Allen, Xavier Belanger, Trix Farrar, Loganaden Velvindron, Jan-Piet Mens, Mike O’Connor, Fred Schlechter, Grant Taylor, Gordon Tetlow, and Fraser Tweedale, here’s to you.

Lilith Saintcrow convinced me that The Princess Bride could be a useful motif for a serious technology book. This book was written during the 2020 pandemic, so I must also thank The Princess Bride for providing me a desperately needed sense of hope.

Dan Langille gracefully submitted to the pillaging of his blog for useful hints and guidance. I am grateful that JP Mens, Evan Hunt, and John-Mark Gurney provoked him into updating that blog and saving me a bunch of work.

I am unsure if I should profusely thank Bob Beck for his time and patience in revealing the innards of TLS, or profoundly curse him and his spawn unto the seventh generation. I must acknowledge the usefulness of “Happy Bob’s Test CA,” however, so I’ll raise a glass to that while waffling over whether or not the bottle of fair-to-middlin’ wine I owe him should be laced with iocane powder.

For Liz.

Again, to all the tech reviewers and Patronizers and sponsors: thank you. This book would not exist without you.

My Penguicon 2021 Schedule

I’ll be speaking at the virtualized Penguicon 2021, and hanging around several events making a nuisance of myself. Fortunately, these online events are moderated and they’ll mute me any time I start to make trouble.

If you’re looking to see me, though, here’s my presentation schedule. (Events I will attend, but not as any sort of speaker, are not shown.)

22 April (Thursday)

7PM: Author Reception (hangout)

24 April (Saturday)

12PM: Becoming a Better Writer (presentation)
2PM: Reading (probably Woolen Torment, depending on the audience)
6PM: Why Aren’t I Writing? Dealing with Impostor Syndrome, Writer’s Block, and Other Muse Killers (panel)

25 April (Sunday)

12PM: SSL and TLS in 2021 (presentation)
1PM: Self Publishing at Scale (panel)

Registration for Penguicon is a paltry $10. The money goes towards keeping various background stuff in place so that Penguicon 2022 can be A Thing. I want Penguicon 2022 to be A Thing.

My blatantly exploited Patronizers have to pay $10 for an hour of my time once a month. Even if the rest of Penguicon doesn’t interest you, you can get 3-4 hours of Lucas for that amount. That’s enough to last anyone a year. If you can’t attend, they’d appreciate a donation.

You’ll note that, compared to previous Penguicons, I will not be attending any LN2 ice cream demos. This is a tragic weakness in the virtual format. I will be visiting my local shop to lay in copious supplies so that I may maintain a sufficient dairy level throughout the weekend.

With virtualization becoming increasingly acceptable for conference presenters, I’m looking at setting boundaries on how often I will speak. Grab me while you can.

“Only Footnotes” Now Available

My newest nonfiction release, Only Footnotes, is now in stores.

More than one person over on the Fediverse has informed me that this makes this book and/or my ouvre Pratchett-complete. Which I gather is something like Turing-complete, but cooler.

In case you missed it, or doubted that it was a real thing, here’s the release announcement–now with store links.


Only Footnotes. Because that’s why you read his books.

Academics hate footnotes. Michael W Lucas loves them. What he does with them wouldn’t pass academic muster, but that doesn’t mean the reader should skip them. The footnotes are the best part! Why not read only the footnotes, and skip all that other junk?

After literal minutes of effort, Only Footnotes collects every single footnote from all of Lucas’ books to date.* Recycle those cumbersome treatises stuffed with irrelevant facts! No more flipping through pages and pages of actual technical knowledge looking for the offhand movie reference or half-formed joke. This slender, elegant volume contains everything the man ever passed off as his dubious, malformed “wisdom.”

Smart books have footnotes. Smarter books are only footnotes.

*plus additional annotations from the author. Because sometimes even a footnote needs a footnote.

Available from:

  • my print bookstore
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Amazon US, Amazon AU, Amazon UK, Amazon CA, Amazon DE, Amazon FR, Amazon ES
  • New Book: Only Footnotes

    I know perfectly well why you people read my books. It’s for the footnotes.

    Some of you buy the Mastery books for the cover art, but those few who open the things do so for the footnotes.

    My conscience has been at me again, the filthy bastard. Charging everyone exorbitant rates for a handful of footnotes is robbery. I should produce books that people want to read. I have therefore gathered all of the footnotes from all of my books in a handsome collectible hardcover edition.

    Announcing: Only Footnotes.

    Only Footnotes. Because that’s why you read his books.

    Academics hate footnotes. Michael W Lucas loves them. What he does with them wouldn’t pass academic muster, but that doesn’t mean the reader should skip them. The footnotes are the best part! Why not read only the footnotes, and skip all that other junk?

    After literal minutes of effort, Only Footnotes collects every single footnote from all of Lucas’ books to date.* Recycle those cumbersome treatises stuffed with irrelevant facts! No more flipping through pages and pages of actual technical knowledge looking for the offhand movie reference or half-formed joke. This slender, elegant volume contains everything the man ever passed off as his dubious, malformed “wisdom.”

    Smart books have footnotes. Smarter books are only footnotes.

    *plus additional annotations from the author. Because sometimes even a footnote needs a footnote.

    Yes, it’s 1 April. April Fool’s day. This has got to be a joke, right? Am I the sort of person who would release an entire book as a gag? Might I even release a special edition of a book for those unable to accept feminine pronouns in their tech books?

    Yep. A good 1 April post has meat on the bone.

    It is absolutely real. ISBN 9781642350548. $24.99 USD, because hardcovers cost a bunch to manufacture.

    Unfortunately, IngramSpark has delayed production. You can’t buy it yet. (Insert one of those sobbing emojis, except he’s also enraged and flinging a Molotov.) (EDIT: It is now available, see https://mwl.io/nonfiction/wtf )

    Only Footnotes will exist only in hardcover, to be show off the lovely interior illustrations by OpenBSD’s Ayaka Koshibe. There’s no ebook, it’s a collectible. Specifically, it’s another step in my quest to make a career out of publishing the least useful nonfiction books known to humanity.

    New podcast interview: Alive After Reading

    If I was to choose a pseudonym, one pronounced “Need A Writer” would be too on-the-nose even for me.

    Tim Niederriter was born that way.

    Tim interviewed me for his podcast Alive After Reading. I signed on thinking that I’d promote the new Montague Portal stuff (the first short novel, Forever Falls, is now free everywhere, Drinking Heavy Water is fresh out, and there’s an omnibus collecting all things Montague Portal).

    Instead, we mostly talked about the craft of writing. Specifically, how to become a better writer.

    Yes, you can become a better writer. Hint: use the exact same techniques used by craftspeople for millennia.

    Unrelated: the title of this episode of Alive After Reading is perhaps the most appropriate of any interview I have ever given.

    My first “What is Wrong With You?” Patron Cert

    On both Patreon and in my store, I have a What is Wrong With You? Patronizer tier. It is a paltry $250 per month, chump change for all you dot-com gazillionares out there.

    So you like the idea of throwing money down a well, but don’t want to pollute the water table? Burning cash increases atmospheric CO2 levels? And using bills as toilet paper wrecks the plumbing?

    Send your excess cash to Lucas, who will safely dispose of it in the gelato shop.

    This is the daft level, for the true Lucas Loony. You get all the benefits of all lower tiers: your name in books! Defaced–er, *signed* books shipped to you! More books! Books books books! So many… blasted… books.

    You also get a special “What Is Wrong With You?” certificate, suitable for framing, with your first shipment books. (Upon Patronizer request, an F-bomb may be added to the title.)

    I might also send you something special. Something odd. It depends on what I can find around the house.
    When the opportunity arises, I will introduce you Crypt-Keeper style.

    There is no sensible reason to choose this level, unless you want to submit your support as evidence in your inevitable competency hearing.

    In case it’s not clear, this level was intended as a joke.

    In case it’s not obvious, some of you like to take jokes too far.

    I figured if anyone actually bought this, it would be a one-off. I designed humorous certificate to mail people when they did. Everybody laughs, we get on with our lives. The thought that someone would pay to Patronize me this thoroughly, and pay for a year in advance, did not occur to me. If you ship me a giant lump of cash, though, I feel obliged to extend a minuscule amount of effort into rewarding you. By watching one of EuroBSDCon’s many fascinating presentations and by grilling a mutual friend (who I shall identify only as “MHK-A”), I was able to personalize said certificate.

    With my Patronizer’s kind permission, I can share it with you. (Click for full size if you’re interested.)
    WTFIWWY certificate
    This could be you. For several thousand dollars, mind you, but still.

    Oh, and hire Eirik’s company. He clearly needs the dough.

    “TLS Mastery” pre-order on my web store

    Publishers have researched the best book release strategy for decades. Even the indie folks have done lots of number-crunching to determine the best day to release a book, and how to optimize that release. Me? My indie book release strategy is “trebuchet this mess into the cold world as soon as it’s done.”

    Running a pre-order through Kobo or Apple or one of the little, less relevant retailers requires knowing the release date. My release date is “day back from copyedit + days to lay out in print + day to index + day to produce final print and ebook versions” = “usually 10PM on a Saturday, but sometimes bite me o’clock Sunday morning.”

    These constraints don’t apply to my bookstore, though. I can have a release date of “when it’s done.”

    TLS Mastery Beastie Edition
    Beastie Edition
    TLS Mastery cover
    Tux Edition

    TLS Mastery is due back from copyedit 1 April. I should have ebook out about a week later. Print should be in stores a couple days after that, more or less, kind of sort of.

    The book will come in two versions, the Beastie Edition and the Tux Edition. The only difference is the cover. Buy the ebook or paperback anywhere else, you’ll need to pick which version you want. Only in my bookstore will you get both ebooks in one purchase. The hardcover dust jacket will have both, of course.

    This release will let me achieve a personal goal. Here’s a picture of me with one copy of everything I’ve published, including translations.

    The author, next to a nose-high stack of one copy of everything he's published
    One copy of everything I’ve published

    The paperback and hardcover will push the stack over the top of my nose, officially achieving “drowning height.” I could argue that I achieved this some time ago, as I don’t own a copy of the Korean translation of Absolute OpenBSD. My Platonic Ideal Pile is a couple inches taller.

    But drowning’s digital. Either you’re drowning or you’re not. Either the stack would kill me or it wouldn’t. And until now, I could breathe.

    I’m planning a stack taller than me before the end of 2022. And with that, I’m off to make some $ git sync murder.

    New Montague Portal omnibus, and a free novel

    I’ve released an omnibus of Montague Portal novels and stories, Aidan Redding Against the Universes.

    It collects Forever Falls, Hydrogen Sleets, Drinking Heavy Water, Sticky Supersaturation, and No More Lonesome Blue Rings in one convenient doorstop. Yes, in this order. It’s not exactly chronological, but Montague Portal fans have strong opinions on the order they should be read in and who am I to argue?

    You can grab this omnibus in ebook, print, or a luxurious dual-layer illustrated hardcover at:

    With the release of this omnibus, the short novel Forever Falls is now free. Yes, this is very much a “the first hit is free” situation. Many folks won’t try a new author without a free sample. The hope is that they’ll read Forever Falls, want more, and save themselves a few dollars by buying the omnibus.

    And with this, I’m pretty much out of procrastination. I guess I better start work on $ git sync murder.

    My books on Google Play, for now

    Google has been actively hostile to authors for years. That has changed, somewhat. You can now find much of my fiction and nonfiction on Google Play, for now. I rather expect Google to reverse their less-hostile stance without warning, so these might come down as quickly as they appeared.

    What do I mean when I say that Google has been hostile to authors? Forget the bit where they scan millions of in-copyright books and make the text available. That’s a separate problem.

    Google Play offers separate terms for traditional publishers than individual authors. I own my own publishing company, but I don’t produce books quickly enough to get access to the publisher terms. Fine.

    Since its inception, Google Play has let individual authors put a suggested retail price on their books. Until recently, they reserved the right to cut the price for their customers. If they cut the price, they would pay the author their cut based on the suggested retail price. Google used this to boost their platform. They could take, say, SSH Mastery, and make it free for the next thousand downloads. I would make my $6 or so on each download. I get paid, so what could I possibly object to?

    I object to it destroying my business, that’s what.

    Modern publishing is an ecosystem. Changes in one distributor affect how other distributors behave. Other major ebook distributor either respects the suggested retail price I set on their platform (e.g., Gumroad) or they have a Most Favored Nation clause in their terms where they can match competitor prices. Apple had this for years, but I’m not certain of its status after the antitrust lawsuits. Amazon still has this MFN clause, and it actively monitors competitors for prices to match.

    Here’s how this goes horribly wrong.

    • Google makes one of my best-selling books free.
    • Amazon sees it and price matches.
    • A few thousand people download the book on Google Play. I get paid for those.
    • Tens of thousands of people download the book on KDP. I do not get paid for those.
    • Google restores the suggested retail price.
    • I spend days begging Amazon to restore the normal price.
    • Everybody I might sell that book to got it for free.

    That book is dead. I made a few thousand dollars in a month but that book brings in nothing more, forever.

    Writing is a passive income game. I count on each live book to bring in a few hundred bucks a month. Some, I’m delighted if they bring in fifty bucks a month. I count on last year’s books to pay this year’s bills. If you want to know more about how this works, check out Cash Flow for Creators.

    Free books are a valid promotion strategy. (I’ll be announcing a free novel soon, to suck people into the Montague Portal omnibus.) I need to control their use, however.

    I half-expect Google to reassert their previous model at any time. Google is spectacularly indifferent to their users. When Google blinks, I’ll be turning them off.

    Mind you, I’ll keep the books set up in their publisher dashboard. When they twitch back, I’ll turn them back on.

    Private Patronizer site out of beta

    My homebrew Patreon is successfully processing renewals. A variety of stupid mistakes and bone-headed misconfigurations have been addressed. Patronizers can subscribe to posts by email. I hereby declare it out of public beta.

    This is not a statement that it’s bug free, mind you. I’m sure I’ll find new problems. My fans are dedicated to illuminating me through providing exciting, inexplicable errors, and they are legion.

    If you were pondering switching but didn’t want to be a guinea pig, you should be safe now. Or stick with classic Patreon. The benefits are the same. My private Patreon will have certain tiers not available to on Patreon, but only because I have more flexibility. If you want to pay only on 29 February, I have an option for you. I expect this one to be a top seller in 2024.

    I wish to offer blatant gratitude to my fearless beta testers. If you stayed on Patreon as well as signing up for my beta, this is the time to pick one. (JDM, I’m looking at you.)

    Why would I go through the trouble of building my own Patreon, when Patreon’s right there?

    Do whatever works for you. Heck, just buy my books retail. People can still do that, y’know.

    Gelato, out!