I like the idea of “sovereign” computing. The idea that I own my hardware, software, and data. Living that life is very difficult if you’re a normal person. Most people use Apple, Google, or Microsoft for everything that’s digital in their lives. They’re locked down to one company’s platform. I try to spread myself around to different companies and platforms except for Apple. I won’t enter that universe because it’s too hard to get out once you’re in.
I have a degree in computer science but have never worked in the field. I’ve always been interested in computers and have been tinkering around with them in various forms since I was 14 years old. For reference, that’s 42 years ago. I’ve used everything from Atari computers, to IBM XT compatibles, to early Macintosh computers. I like to know how things work but I don’t have the patience to write code to make them work the way I want. I am able to cobble most things together and get them working though.
I rely on my Windows machines for basic computing tasks, Dropbox for file synchronization, Google and Android for mobile computing and cross platform e-mail and photos, and Umbrel to host my own Bitcoin and Lightning nodes. I have a Windows 10 machine I use for a home entertainment server that runs Plex. This serves my movie, TV, and music library from an 8 TB hard drive. That main hard drive gets mirrored to two other 8 TB hard drives in case one drive crashes. I’m gambling that all three won’t crash at the same time.
I use Dreamhost for hosting my web sites and e-mail accounts. I use Gmail as an e-mail client because I haven’t found any client that filters spam as well. I know a lot of people complain about Google’s aggressive filtering but I don’t mind it. It keeps most of the bullshit out of my inbox. As for Google’s privacy issues I’ve never been that concerned. I know there are risks involved with having anything in the cloud and I try to take as many reasonable precautions without burdening myself with crazy security policies.
My Umbrel server was quite a hassle setting it up. I installed it on a 10 year old x86 PC running Ubuntu. Ubuntu is easy enough to install and get running but I find the updates a pain in the ass. I’m also not great at using Linux. I can figure things out by following instructions but it’s not an operating system I use regularly so I’m not intimately familiar with the ins and outs or the command line commands.
Umbrel seems friendly enough until you actually use it. The interface is nice but I’m always having difficulty running Thunderhub to monitor my Lightning node. The Lightning Network is a sub-branch of Bitcoin that allows you to transact in crypto in small payments almost immediately. It’s akin to cash in your pocket as your Bitcoin wallet is to your bank. Running your own Lightning Node is not easy. It’s not easy to understand and not easy to use. It’s also not something I use every day so when I get back to it I have to remember what to do again. It’s not intuitive. My frustrations has led me to transfer all my Bitcoin (I don’t have a lot) from my Umbrel to my Alby Wallet (Alby is a subject for another time) because I want to give Start9 a try.
I’ve been hearing Adam Curry talking about how much he prefers his Start9 server to his Umbrel and that everything just works. Start9 runs on another Linux flavor called Start OS. StartOS was originally based on Ubuntu but has been discontinued. I’m guessing Start9’s Start OS version is a fork of Ubuntu. Given Start9’s stated goal of true sovereign computing I want to give this a try to see if I can get it running and working for my needs.
I would like to be able to easily run my own Bitcoin node, Lightning Network node, and move crypto between my wallets and various apps I use to listen to podcasts. I don’t want to rely on Alby or any other service where I don’t run the node. It’s not because I have a lot of crypto I just don’t like the idea of a service shutting down and not being able to get my sats out of their system.
There is nothing more that I would like to do as I get older than stop using Windows, Office, Gmail, Dropbox, and other services that keep me trapped in one company’s ecosystem. I’ll still use them for convenience but I don’t want to depend on them. Hard drives are cheap, my old PCs have the specs to do what I need, and my home bandwidth is more than adequate to serve my personal files while I’m mobile. I just want to stop paying fees and getting trapped in systems for things I should be able to run myself.
We’ll see how this goes!