“The Road to Digital Self-Sufficiency
Self-hosting the Digital Services of my Life
Mission Walking the long and difficult road of trying to self-host the digital services that I use in my day-to-day life.
Why? When you’re using a free product, you’re not the customer, you’re the product.
If you host the service on your own server you can be sure that your data isn’t being harvested/sold to 3rd parties, and you are in control of your own data security & privacy. The person I trust the most with my sensitive data is myself.
Once I am successful in getting services self-hosted for myself, I will help family & friends to self-host too, or use services on my server.
So how am I doing? Am I self-hosting the services I use?
Summary of Digital Self-Sufficiency
Yes! - Internet Search, Online File Storage, Blog (3)
Not yet - Private Messaging, Social Media (2)
Not worth it - Email, Photo Album, Book Tracking (3)
Private Messaging: Not yet.
Currently using: Signal app
- Pros ✔: encrypted, can send files, voice chat
- Cons ✘: run by one company, uses phone number as id #
I am trying to use XMPP service with the Conversations app from F-Droid on my phone. Currently, only text messages work. There is an issue with Yunohost implementation of the XMPP http_upload component.
My wife likes the interface of Conversations more than Signal, so she’s willing to switch with me when the image issue is fixed. Hopefully, this issue will be resolved soon.
Internet Search: Yes!
- Pros ✔: no cookies, user profiling, user tracking
- Cons ✘: image search isn’t as good as Google/DDG
SearX is a meta search engine that makes requests on my behalf to other search engines and aggregates the results. It doesn’t work so well with images, so sometimes I am forced to use DuckDuckGo if I’m searching for images.
Online File Storage: Yes!
- Pros ✔: stable, big developer community, sync client for Linux/Android, lots of add-ons.
- Cons ✘: None.
Social Media: Not yet.
Currently using: Mastodon (scholar.social)
- Pros ✔: federated servers like email, no ads, no tracking
- Cons ✘: you have to trust person running your server
Trying to configure Epicyon but currently having difficulties. I shall put more effort into troubleshooting it.
Yunohost has a Pleorama and Mastodon package that I can install but I messed up my server last time with them so I’m scared to try again.They both use Docker images which I’m not a huge fan of. Also, both of those implementations of ActivityPub servers are not very lightweight.
Email: Not worth it.
- Pros ✔: ‘encrypted’ on their servers
- Cons ✘: easier than self-hosting
Yunohost has a built in email server but it’s very, very difficult to configure it to not have emails rejected by Google Gmail servers. To make my emails be delivered, I would have to setup an external SMTP relay, so I would defeat the purpose ofself-hosting my email.
Email is an inherently insecure protocol so I don’t waste time trying to self-host. I just assume anything I say over email could one day be compromised.
- Pros ✔: lightweight, no extra features, federates with ActivityPub (mastodon etc)
- Cons ✘: no images
Very easy to setup this blog WriteFreely on Yunohost. It’s still a very new product so you have to be careful to run daily backups because there is no way to easily restore all your blog posts if there is a problem. I run daily backups in Yunohost with a cron job.
Photo Album: No.
Currently using: Google Photos
- Pros ✔: photos organized by date/location, automatically backup from my phone
- Cons ✘: data on Google servers - privacy concerns
The only credible alternative I’ve seen to Google Photos is (OwnPhotos](https://github.com/hooram/ownphotos). It is not a mature product yet. I also don’t like that it runs on Docker images.
Book Tracking: No.
Currently using: GoodReads
- Pros ✔: track books with Reading Challenge, view reviews, book covers
- Cons ✘: owned by Amazon, website has trackers, hard to export data
No alternatives yet unless I just track books I read in a spreadsheet. I really love having book covers for my books, and sharing my reading with my friends.
Somebody from Mastodon is working on a project called ReadleBee that is attempting to be a GoodReads replacement. I wish him luck!
Note About Yunohost
I mentioned Yunohost a lot in this post. Yunohost is an awesome project that makes it very easy to self-host services on SBC computers like Raspberry Pi, or any old computer you have lying around. They have a great community on their forums and have lots of apps you can install with a click of a button. If you know how to do port forwarding from your router, you have enough knowledge to give it a good.