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2020-01-26 - Self-Hosting and Not Hosting

One of the interesting outcomes of deciding to ditch as many commercial cloud services as possible, and move further toward self-hosting, is coming to the conclusion that I don't actually need a specific type of service. I'm trying to simplify my life a bit and spend less time messing around unproductively with computers. It's easier to not need something than self-host :-)

As of 2020 I'm down to only Zoho Email for my personal domain, and an iCloud $2.99 family subscription shared with my wife, as the fully closed commercial services I use. iCloud is the less palatable one for me… but it's hard to break free from. I still use our family Macs for things that aren't practical on Linux, still have an iPhone, and want to be able to manage phone photos of the kids and share family things without too much friction. I don't use iCloud for much though, and it'll be interesting to see whether I end up with a PinePhone or similar one day and jetison it altogether.

Having experimented with self-hosting loads of different things, wasting far too much time and a little bit of money, I'm down to just 2 self-hosted at home services today. For 3 other things I still need I've moved to open-source or community alternatives to closed commercial offerings.

Things I'm still hosting…

File Sync with Syncthing

When I stopped using Dropbox I setup a public Nextcloud instance on a Kimsufi dedicated server, later replaced with a Vultr VPS, that I used to hold things I thought that I might want to access from my phone or other device when out and about. I also attempted to use it for syncing iPhone photos without much success, as the iOS client never really synced in the background reliably. I used a second Nextcloud instance on a home Raspberry Pi to sync private data between computers on the LAN only.

Fast-forward a bit more than a year and I've found I very rarely use my public Nextcloud instance, and that Nextcloud is really overkill for file sync between home computers. I've switched to Syncthing, which only syncs files between computers and is much simpler to setup and manage. It's not really something you 'host' but I do have it on an always on server at home, which greatly aids keeping devices synced.

Music in Ampache

I've always been a big music fan and subscribed to Apple Music or Spotify in prior years. About 6 months ago I cancelled, deciding that it's much more fun to buy CDs and vinyl, and discover new music via public radio stations and internet radio. I'm well served by BBC 6 Music, the local Dallas public radio station 91.7 KXT, and the SDF's aNONradio for the stuff I like to listen to. I'm also in the midst of re-ripping all my CDs (to lossless FLAC this time), and have an Ampache streaming server instance setup on a local machine so I can listen to things I own when I'm too lazy to pull out a CD from one of the binders, or put on a record. Working at home makes this easier… otherwise I'd be using my trusty iPod nano quite a lot again.

Things I'm still using, but not hosting…

Web site on SDF

I used to host this site on a VPS, but have recently moved it to be hosted on the SDF MetaArray. It has been great fun using SDF again, chatting to people, listening to aNONradio etc., so I decided I wanted to support the community by joining as an ARPA, and then MetaARPA member. MetaARPA membership comes with access to hosting with HTTPS on the MetaArray system. It's a shared system that can't be expected to be 100% reliable, but that's more than fine for a personal blog :-)

Git hosting on sourcehut

Gitea is a great light-weight self-hosted Git service with issue tracking, pull requests etc. It's another thing I used to run on a VPS but have recently switched off. I've moved my personal repos to sourcehut, where I'm paying a minimal $2 a month to use and support what is really promising non-corporate open-source effort.

Password management with Bitwarden

I pay for a $10/yr account now, rather than self-host, but am very happy with Bitwarden. It's friendlier than lastpass which I used to use, and it's nice to have an open-source client with open-source server options available if I wanted to host them.

Things I've stopped using…

Read it later

I dabbled with Pocket and Instapaper for a few years, and then ran a Wallabag instance to save things I planned on reading later. Turns out I don't actually ever read thing later, and if I want to keep something for reference I end up copying it into Emacs Org-mode instead.

Evernote and similar

I used to subscribe to Evernote, and tried out Joplin as an alternative a while back. These days I'm just keeping notes in Emacs Org-mode, and syncing them between computers with Syncthing. I don't really find myself needing things away from the computer, and a notepad or post-its are better to capture stuff in the absence of a keyboard.

Browser sync

I've avoided Google Chrome sync for several years now, along with other Google products. I've used Firefox sync, and tried hosting it myself for a bit. Turns out that hosting it is a pain, and it's not that useful. I tend to quite distinctly do work at my workstation and personal things on my laptop, so if I don't sync bookmarks and history it's rarely an issue.

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