11.06.20

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Self-Hosting Parts of Techrights and Experiments With IPFS (InterPlanetary File System) for Distribution

Posted in Site News at 6:03 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Chair

Summary: Things are changing around here because it looks like the Internet approaches a tipping point (rebellion against bloat and surveillance)

THE Internet is fine. It’s not great, but it’s mostly OK. UDP is still used a lot (it is perfectly OK for a lot of things where packet sequencing isn’t so essential a factor), but Web sites or pages reject it. See, nowadays it’s considered normal to serve people up to 50 MB for a single article/page (videos, proprietary fonts, and full-scale photographs about 4,000 pixels across), not to mention loads and loads of JavaScript from as many as 50 different domains to occupy 4 CPU cores to their full capacity. That really sucks. So-called ‘Web applications’ make it hard to escape (they would not work without such JavaScript) and old computers are considered unfit for purpose, causing ewaste and spurring unnecessary sales of increasingly user-hostile hardware. Nowadays most browsers also come with blobs for DRM; they encrypt and decrypt things for no purpose other than serving so-called ‘holders’ of copyrights (never mind how easy it is to work around such restrictions).

Screw this. We need change. It has gone too far. The days of ‘collaborating’ by sending around — back and forth — E-mails with 5 MB Microsoft Office attachments are long gone (the Web served to eliminate such practices), but we’re walking into even worse territories of endless surveillance — down to one’s mouse movements — and limitless bloat. This is a ticking time bomb.

“The days of ‘collaborating’ by sending around — back and forth — E-mails with 5 MB Microsoft Office attachments are long gone (the Web served to eliminate such practices), but we’re walking into even worse territories of endless surveillance — down to one’s mouse movements — and limitless bloat.”Every day around midnight (depending on timezone), Techrights produces a text-only version of all articles, including Daily Links. We started doing that just over a week ago and we’ve received only praise for that. Many people are sick and tired of how the Web works. The text-only bulletins can be opened and read without a Web browser, even directly from some plain text editors, command line tools and so on. They’re fast to access, cheap in the CPU/RAM sense (both server and client side; those are static files after all), and they’re easy to archive even at the reader’s (or user’s) side. They are, after all, just a collection of singular text files (images are converted into descriptions of the pictures and/or the text in the pictures). When we started the whole thing we had torrents, gopher and several other things in mind. But soon came IPFS (InterPlanetary File System) experts, enthusiatically offering to help us with the technical side/aspect (here’s Wikipedia’s introduction to IPFS). Last night we set up a new Raspberry Pi machine that had arrived just hours earlier. Someone sent it to us and we’ve set up remote access so we can explore more self-hosting (from home). Time will tell how this evolves or turns out (we envision transport of text-only files, which are more self-contained than Web pages with loads of files in each).

WordPress will still be used for this site (we’ve almost exceeded 30,000 posts in WordPress) and we don’t plan to go “static” or serve cached pages any time soon (WordPress scales fine given the hardware we currently have, except when we hit the front page of some very major Web site). We’ll still upload loads of files (see below) whilst always ensuring that blind people (or image-blind people who read text only) miss nothing that each image provides.

Wordpress closeup

Long term, we’d like to think that the majority of people will read this site without the World Wide Web (or a Web — as in WWW — browser). We need to look past all that. Pleroma already supports gopher and someone said to me yesterday in Pleroma about the FSF: “they should just not renew it and switch entirely to GNUNet for distributing its website or something” (the context being FSF “let[ting] its SSL cert expire. You’d think they should have this in the diary and renew in advance if they’re run properly.”)

“The growing complexity of the Web (and Web browsers that actively block access to those who reject such complexity) is partly to blame for downtime (of services that are actually up albeit blacklisted by centralised CAs).”Yes, the FSF’s site was not accessible or barely accessible for a while because somebody forgot to renew certificates. The growing complexity of the Web (and Web browsers that actively block access to those who reject such complexity) is partly to blame for downtime (of services that are actually up albeit blacklisted by centralised CAs). We need to explore something else, potentially something a lot better and a lot less bloated.

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