Revisiting One Server Per Person
Last December I wrote about an idea I call "One Server Per Person", the basic idea being that if every household included their own server, the Internet could make a return to being the decentralized, distributed, and open platform it was meant to be. Recent events have brought to light some pitfalls of cloud computing, and a call for privacy online make the concept of the One Server worth a revisit. I have three projects that I would like to talk about, and how they relate to bringing the datacenter home.
Raspberry Pi - The Linux Journal recently published an article titled "Rapsberry Pi: The Perfect Home Server, where the author straps a $35 Rapsberry Pi board to a piece of cardboard and a 1TB hard drive to build a home file storage and media sharing server. Despite the obvious hacker appeal of such a setup, the interesting portion of the idea is that a tiny home server can be built using such modest hardware. This is the way the world changes, it starts with people interested enough to build radical new things.
Transporter - If you took the Raspberry Pi setup above, put it in a nice plastic case, added a nice web interface and restricted its use to filesharing only, you might wind up with the Transporter from Connected Data. The Transporter is a tiny device that plugs into your home network and allows you to share your files with all of your computers and mobile devices, no matter where they are. It is like Dropbox, but hosted on your own personal server. The only drawback that I can see is that it is not open source (although I'd bet on it running Linux or FreeBSD under the hood), and it does require some form of cloud interaction with a central server to allow the connection back into your Transporter. However, as a proof of concept, it works well.
Codename Prometheus - I wrote about Aral Balkan's ambitious new project a couple of weeks ago. In a nutshell, Codename Prometheus aims to build an open source ecosystem of devices that is built around the user experience first, and features second. I've signed up to help when I can because I think it sounds like a fantastic idea. It may also be the type of project that the One Server could be a part of. When I discuss the One Server idea with my wife, she says that it sounds complicated, and only for people with my experience. It is true that what the server needs to do and the interaction of the software is complicated, but how the end user interacts with it and comprehends what the server does is a matter of design. Almost all but the most basic setup steps could be abstracted away, and like the Transporter, hidden behind a simple web based GUI.
The Raspberry Pi home server is the hacker idealism and engineering needed to build a concept like this. The Transporter is the commercialization and manstream acceptance that a regular family could use a server in their house. Codename Prometheus, even if the One Server turns out to have nothing to do with the project, provides an organizational template that the One Server would need, putting the user experience first, and the ethics to keep it all open source for the good of all.
It seems like the parts are all there. Digging into open source can feel like walking into a mechanics workshop and finding all the parts to build a rocket ship laying on the floor. All we need to do is pick them up and put them together.