For context, let me refer to my very first entry, the idea was basically looking for alternatives, so here’s the long awaited progress report:

Changes already in place

  1. Using Mastodon instead of Twitter
  2. Using Pixelfed instead of Instagram
  3. (On Android) Using NewPipe instead of YouTube, this one is quite cool, it has all the features you’d want: Download, Picture in Picture mode, Background Music reproduction…
  4. Using Writefreely and/or WordPress (Still haven’t decided) instead of other blogging platforms
  5. (On Android) Using Signal instead of WhatsApp, although that may change in the near future
  6. Using Jitsi Meet instead of Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts
  7. Using Protonmail instead of Gmail (although not sure if FOSS/FLOSS, they maintain an OpenPGP library)
  8. (On Android) Using Simple Mobile Tools SMS Messenger instead of Google Messages
  9. Using Simple Mobile Tools Gallery instead of Google Photos
  10. Using Bitwarden instead of LastPass
  11. (On Android) Using andOTP (at least for personal stuff)
  12. Using F-Droid instead of the Google Play Store whenever possible

Changes in transition period

  1. Self-hosted Nextcloud instead of Dropbox, Google Drive, One Drive…
  2. Self-hosted Gitea instead of Github (currently only mirroring)
  3. Self-hosted Piwigo gallery instead of Google Photos (more info on my setup here)
  4. Self-hosted email (problems with outgoing port 25)
  5. Self-hosted Synapse (Matrix server) in testing phase, could replace Signal by Element if tests show promising results
  6. Calendar synchronization using Nextcloud instead of Google Calendar (Android apps: Simple Mobile Tools Calendar, DAVX5 and OpenTasks)
  7. (On Android) Trying to use OsmAnd instead of Google Maps (This is by far the hardest change to be made)

Compromises

  1. Facebook is still the platform where everyone plans events so I need that just to follow-up on them (not actively in use)
  2. Whatsapp and Facebook messenger as backup messaging (Trying to move friends and family over to Signal or Element)
  3. Can’t seem to get away from Microsoft: Teams, Outlook and Microsoft Authenticator are used for work

Day 11 of

Ever since discovering the Fediverse and reading toots from awesome people in Fosstodon, a little idea started to take shape in my head: perhaps its not that hard to self host, there are tons of tutorials and resources out there…And I need some alternative to google photos to share albums with my family back home

Hardware

After some research and settled for a RaspberryPi server/NAS, now, the purists will say that it is not the ideal platform to host but I think it is perfect to get started and learn the basics or as a hobby, then you can move on to the big boy fancy server hardware.

The first step was to choose the hardware, I settled for this kit because it provides a nice way to attach 2.5″ SATA drives:
Dual/Quad SATA HAT, top board HAT and metal case from Radxa

It was easy to assemble and the process was fun:
Step 1
Step 2
3

Software

For the software related part, I decided to install the Raspbian lite image from raspberrypi.org downloads. And then on top of that OpenMediaVault 5 since there are a lot of tutorials on YouTube and it has a nice GUI. Installation guide

I was up and running after following some instructions in the Radxa Wiki. Ran into some trouble with the Top board hat not displaying any information and RAID because my 4 drives were not detected at first by Open Media Vault and had to set up RAID from terminal- This setup has 4 1Tb HDDs on 2 x RAID 1 configuration – Just remember that forums are your best friends 😉

Now, you can basically learn everything related to Open Media Vault from Techno Dad Life. After a few tutorials I had a piwigo photo gallery up and running, accessible from my local network.

Hosting over 4G?

For the access through the internet part, the not so fun part: it is a long story, but in a nutshell I have to access the internet using a 4G router because my landlord sucks. Anyway it was a bit of a nightmare, after setting up dynamic DNS on my router with noip and also setting up OpenVPN (a very nice feature to have on a router if you ask me) I discovered that neither accessing my local network through VPN nor port forwarding were working.

After tedious exchanges with my ISP/carrier (I am using an additional sim card linked to my phone’s data plan), calls to the store where I got my router from and even TP Link’s product support; some random hero from my ISP’s customer support call center said “Officially we don’t support third party routers, that being said I would suggest you change your APN setting to internet.public” and here I am now, a week after following that advice, sharing photos with my family back home through means I trust and manage myself.

I also installed Murmur (The Mumble server component) on the Raspberrypi 4 and was amazed by how easy it was to set up. My use case is having voice with friends while we play 0 A.D.

Day 4 of

Fediverse

Privacy and social networks

Welcome stranger, let me start by saying this blog is just meant to be a space to share my thoughts and because I find it therapeutic, don’t expect the next best novel 🙂

Now, let’s get right to it: I had always known that big tech companies such as Facebook or Google don’t let you have free accounts out of the goodness of their CEO’s hearts, I also knew that their revenue comes mostly from ads, targeted ads. So far so good, what’s the problem? It doesn’t stop there.

I will not go through all the references and details but let’s just say that most people have an idea of what is going on by now (or at least that’s what I hope). After the Snowden and Cambridge Analytica scandals I started to dig a bit more into privacy and that is when shit really hit the fan…. trackers, cookies, ads, sensitive data breaches and mass profiling are terms that popped up very often. Let’s just say that at this point I was wary but didn’t take any measures.

It wasn’t until recently (2 weeks ago) that I decided to take some steps to protect my data, easy things like replacing Whatsapp by Signal, using OsmAnd instead of Google maps while trying to use Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) as much as I could.

The discovery

When I was searching for privacy oriented FOSS alternatives for the apps and services I normally use I came across the term Federated Social Networks, and the term Fediverse, that describes all the social networks that work in this way, I got interested.

Turns out it gets even better:
1. No ads
2. Anyone can host their own instance and still interact with other instances
3. Instances can be dedicated to your topics of interest and (in my experience so far) the people that host them are not in it for money, they just want to create a community in which they can meet other like-minded people
4. There is a set of rules to follow and moderators
5. As someone used to YouTube like interactions on the internet I was surprised to see that everyone is very polite (at least on my instance)
6. Did I mention no ads?

For now

It was until I was thinking of removing the Twitter and Facebook apps that I found a problem: while I can uninstall Twitter because I don’t use it that much, or Instagram because I mostly do it to have a nice gallery of my favorite pictures, Facebook is mostly how my friends organize events so I ended up deciding to keep the app while limiting the usage to just events and messaging if there is no other alternative, a necessary evil.

I think I’m going to eventually replace all my social networks for Fediverse alternatives…

Some alternatives:
Twitter -> Mastodon
Facebook -> Diaspora, Friendica
Instagram -> Pixelfed

More on Fediverse Party