Joseph Nuthalapati
Follow

All it costs to fulfill the average person's needs for digital services is a $5 per month VPS instance. It's even cheaper if you buy a single board computer and host your services at home.

We've been letting companies steal our personal data and sell it to the highest bidder and destroying democracy in the process all to save what? A coffee a month?

This is one of the worst deals in history.

@njoseph What do you host on that small of an instance and is it just for you? How do you do security? And finally what about putting all your data in one place? Do you worry about the service provider downtime or equipment malfunction and losing all your data?

@jeff I run a FreedomBox instance on a single board computer which I temporarily moved to a 2.5 euro instance on Hetzner till I can fix the power backup issue at home. I wrote about my usage here
wiki.debian.org/FreedomBox/Use

We cannot expect the average privacy-conscious person to have sysadmin and infosec skills. The self-hosting platform should take care of these. In my case, I trust the underlying operating system to provide me regular security updates and for maintenance.

@njoseph There are certain issues with security when you talk about cloud hosting though. We take these for granted when a large company like Google is hosting our data, but when we self-host it becomes our responsibility.

FYI I am reading up on FreedomBox now so forgive me if I have asked questions that I will inevitably discover the answers to in my research.

@njoseph the $ cost is not the major barrier. I have a friend who can do email and FB, but thinks a wiki with a WYSIWYG editor requires a "tech whiz" to operate (their words). Geeks tend to heavily under-appreciate how much experience-based knowledge we hold, and how complicated learning new digital tools and processes is for most people

@njoseph IMHO breaking folks out of the #DataFarms requires every geek to set up a VPS (or box-in-the-closet) for their tribe (150 closest family and friends), and actively trained anyone keen to learn how to do the same; #CommunityHosting more so than #SelfHosting

@strypey @njoseph Oh, and don't forget the empathy to not make people feel like shit because they don't know something.

@akkartik @njoseph Amen to that. I'm trying to retrain myself to patiently explain to people why I avoid FB and suggest they do the same, instead of getting all exasperated and sarcastic as if it should be obvious to everyone by now. Again, it's easy to forget how much experience-based knowledge I hold as a fulltime geek activist

@strypey @njoseph I think we also need to reduce the cost of doing so by providing betters tools for that (for those who wants it), both the cost or time involved in that and the time needed to learn that.

Doing what you describe is a huge involvement in time today sadly (just think about handling emails...)

Freedombox and others are working on that but we really aren't a lot doing so :/ (it's not the funniest thing to do)

@strypey @njoseph

I agree. It's not so easy to self host. It requires choices, knowledge, time...
Many users jusy want to communicate easily.

@strypey

Woah. I think you just landed a major way geeks can help move this sort of thing forward.

Declare yourself captain of a small ship, metaphorically speaking.

@njoseph

@RussSharek @strypey People are already doing community hosting. Some notable examples are and .

FreedomBox was involved in community hosting too, in a few villages and university campuses. That reminds me. I should continue writing this WikiBook.
en.wikibooks.org/wiki/FreedomB

@strypey @RussSharek Yes, in fact, I maintain a list of alternatives to .

freedombone
Yunohost
Cloudron
Lima
PirateBox
LibraryBox
sandstorm.io
sovereign
urbit
ubos
home-box
homelabos
Antsle

Maybe I should put this list on my wiki.

@njoseph @RussSharek definitely good to have this list available on a public web page. Are they all distros that can run on a box-in-the-closet though? That's the use case for F-Box, F-Bone, and YUNO. My understand is that Cloudron and Sandstorm, for example, need more resources than a box-in-the-closet can realistically provide

@strypey @RussSharek Added them to my private wiki for now. Have to decide on which public wiki to put it on later.

njoseph.me/mediawiki/index.php

Will update the urls soon.

@strypey @RussSharek Thanks. I will explore these. Haven't heard of them before.

@njoseph @RussSharek ae, I'm aware of the great work #Framasoft do, and I'm a #Disroot user (and a #RiseUp user for more than a decade). What I'm challenging is the idea that the end goal of #self-hosting is atomized individuals hosting only their own individual stuff. I'm not against that at all, it's a legitimate option for those privileged to have the skills, but I don't see it as realistic or even desirable for everyone to do it that way.

@strypey @RussSharek I'd say that it's no longer a hardware problem, since today's ARM boards are more powerful than the servers of 20 years ago. It's just a matter of creating software that makes it convenient enough to do self-hosting.

Isn't one smartphone per person inefficient too? If each person can have an ARM device in their pocket running client applications, they can also have another ARM device at home running server applications. We just have to build the software for it.

@njoseph @RussSharek see my original posts. No, it's not a hardware problem, and yes better #UX for hosting distros will help. But there's a reason most people don't grow their own veges, even though they could. Human communities learned a long time ago that specialization is a more efficient use of human effort than everybody doing everything as an atomized individual.

@njoseph @RussSharek it's not practical to share pocket-size client devices (eg "smartphone") in the same way it is to share a VPS or box-in-the-closet. But I'd like to see a return to more shared client devices too, eg a shared #GNU #Linux PC-as-a-screen ("Smart TV") that families use to take turns pulling up short #PeerTube videos to watch together, or playing instrumental versions of songs to sing along to together

@strypey @RussSharek Well, I want to grown my own food and harvest my own energy. Guess I'm a weirdo! But I totally agree.

I'm thinking about a use case where self-hosting becomes a commodity like smartphones. It might still not be desirable for everyone, but it should be possible and not very hard to do.

Ideally, these companies shouldn't have forced us to resort to self-hosting in the first place. I fear the same may happen with agriculture in the near future.

@njoseph @RussSharek again, I'm not saying *nobody* ought to run their own server or grow their own veges. On the contrary, if you have the skills, the time, and the resources, go for it! Even if you don't have the skills, learning through doing is a great way to acquire them. But I observe that most people would rather delegate jobs like that to specialist services, and those don't have to be mediated by corporations (and it's better for many reasons if they're not)

@njoseph @RussSharek to some degree, the false dichotomy of be livestock on #DataFarms, or pure #DIY, is part of what keeps people on the datafarms. It's important we create and promote third options; family self-hosting, organization self-hosting, cooperatives, not-for-profits, social enterprises etc etc. Part of that is articuating clear criteria for why corporations are a problem here, and how replacements need to be different ie *not* VC-funded startups
ind.ie/excuse-me/

@strypey @njoseph @RussSharek The problem I've seen with the 'family-/household-hosted' model is that often, the job of maintenance, upgrades, etc gets left to one person to deal with.

If that one person moves out, or has a falling-out with the family, or otherwise no longer has the time and contact to deal with those issues...

Even if family/household/group hosting is an option, it's still important to ensure that there's more than one person who can handle that side.

@dartigen @strypey @njoseph @RussSharek there is also a privacy / trust issue here. If a single person was looking after server instances for their 100 to 200 friends, then it would become a big deal among that community for that person to be trustworthy. People could no longer tell themselves 'who would want to spy on me' because the relevant person would know them personally.

@highfellow @dartigen @njoseph @RussSharek
true, the ongoing skill-sharing and tech mentoring is important to the sustainability of community hosting, as I mentioned early in the thread
mastodon.nzoss.nz/@strypey/100

@highfellow @dartigen @strypey @njoseph @RussSharek

Yes this!

This kind of thinking illuminates a big part of why I'm interested in people getting together (forming communities/commons) for the production & maintenance of services & stuff (I've currently got a big focus on food)

It brings possible upsides and downsides of that thing back into focus, rather than being obscured behind what is often massive, complex opaque infrastructures of delivery.

@dazinism @RussSharek @njoseph @strypey @dartigen that's an interesting way of looking at it - to put trust and other issues into the foreground rather than just one of those many background issues that leave me for one feeling uneasy about my relationship with information tech.

@strypey @njoseph The dendency of geeks to assume that what's easy for them is easy for everyone bugs the ever-livin' hell outta me.

@strypey

This is exactly my experience. It is astonish how little the mainstream know/ care about the technic they use on a daily base.

@njoseph

@njoseph plus 1. Some modicum of technical competence and 2.. deciding which of a bazillion possible alternative platforms to run.

Spoken as a once-semi-competent Linux admin. Not a highly-prevalent skillset.

@njoseph In my case, the ISP blocks port 80 and 443 (and our net neutrality rules are dead) so I can’t host my own site except over Tor

My blog and all personal postings are now on a hidden service exactly for this reason. I’m using an old Thinkpad that I got on eBay years ago that now has a dead battery

@cypnk @njoseph If things go badly here I might end up doing the same. There is also the possibility of I2P and a few other things which might be more difficult for ISPs to block.

@cypnk @njoseph this is one reason at weho.st we offer vpns to our contributors with fixed ips to be able to host mail and similar from home like this (inspired by ffdn/neutrinet/yunohost)

$5 and lots of pain in maintaining services I think. I've had to badger my sysadmin if my gnusocial, xmpp and email don't work.

@njoseph except that you could never run a Ruby beast like Mastodon fluently on a $5 VPS :awesome_rotate:

@njoseph What about counting the hours everybody would have to spend learning to be their own sysadmins and actually making those $5 VPSes do something useful without becoming part of a botnet?

@starbreaker @njoseph exactly. We live in a bubble. Our world is computers. People walk around every day thinking computers are magic and not having any desire or time to learn.

Self hosting is not a solution for humanity unless you can invent protocols and software that self-hosts without their knowledge. But now you have a problem with backups and data loss... so they'll never trust your platform again if anything is ever lost and use centralized instead

@feld @njoseph

Maybe you've seen the phrase "Nintendo Hard" used to describe the difficulty of classic NES games, but I think we need to come up with a new term: #NintendoEasy.

Until we have offer data appliances that prove web, email, IM, network routing and storage, and media streaming that are as affordable and as easy to set up as the Nintendo Entertainment System was back in the 80s, #selfhosting just isn't realistic for the average person.

@starbreaker @feld @njoseph I have a sudden urge for the software to be on cartridges

NintendoEasy data appliances, unix Show more

@njoseph you're assuming the masses have interest in learning anything about computers and give a shit about their data

@feld @njoseph this is the correct issue. Convenience of centralization beats the abstraction of privacy for most. Somehow you need to pass parity with centralized services and create a value they cannot match. Some exciting service or interaction.

@njoseph this is why I still keep the online stuff I care about on my own blog. With RSS!

@njoseph

Who has enough money to buy $5 coffees, even once a month?

@njoseph @Shamar Assuming the person can take care of setting the VPS up and maintaining properly. It's a non-negligible effort even for IT geeks, let alone for an average person.

@Wolf480pl @Shamar I really should've mentioned in the original post itself instead of in the reply to it.

@njoseph and who teaches them the skills to keep the stuff up to date and secure? Let alone to run it in the first place. Most people aren’t able to do that and don’t have the time and will to learn it.

@nielsk Please read my first reply on that toot.

social.masto.host/@njoseph/100

Mastodon's 500 character limit didn't let me fully describe my intent.

@njoseph I did. How long does it take to have all your services up and running again when your single board computer or the disk with enough space for all your stuff fails? Do you have a monitor server to see problems when they come up? What do you do when Debian breaks one of your services? What are you using as your secondary MX? A second FreedomBox?
I think it is a good idea basically but has several problems in execution.

@njoseph Especially when you put in people who do not have the time or will to learn the stuff. I wouldn’t be able to fix my own car either

@nielsk I like the analogy. The current situation with digital services is like everybody is using rented car services. Self-hosting is like getting your own car. There will be some maintenance effort but more freedom. Not everybody that drives a car has enough skill to be a car mechanic either.

Automation of servers is easier than car maintenance automation. Self-hosting services typically are self-maintaining and come with automatic backup and restore.

@njoseph they do? The last time I checked for example my Nextcloud notifies me about updates, has often problems with the automatic update and I have to intervene and I didn’t see anything about backups (except the “backup” before an upgrade which won’t backup all the data to a different server)

@nielsk I have to agree that we're not there yet. A self-hosting solution won't replace a professional sysadmin. It should be seen as a good enough utility that automates enough of the day-to-day maintenance that normal smartphone-using people can use it without much IT skills.

BTW, I wouldn't categorize NextCloud into the same category as FreedomBox.

See njoseph.me/mediawiki/FreedomBo

@nielsk I agree that it's somewhat complicated to execute but we do have people running FreedomBoxes for years now.

We don't have all the features yet - full disk backups, email servers, notification systems and dashboards etc. but they are being actively developed.

Debian does break things in testing and unstable releases. It is safer to run the stable release instead. Early adopters are running the testing release for now.

Sign in to participate in the conversation
Mastodon

This is a general instance supporting toots in English and తెలుగు.

Hero image credit: Sean O'Brien, BoingBoing.net (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)