(This is a long ramble with a concluding announcement that kitenet.net users should read even if they skip the rest.)
Back in spring of '03 I bought a used VA Linux 2u on ebay for $300 and dropped it a cabinet in the blue spaceship halls of the Hurricane Electic co-lo in Fremont, CA. I've never seen it again; I use it every day. Weird world.
Digression: The reason I needed to have a hunk of silicon and spinning metal hooked up to a power and an ethernet cable somewhere is this: On the internet you can either be a soverign entity, controlling your own computation, choosing your own software, making your own mistakes, and doing things your way -- or you can be a sheep. Or at least that's what I believe; reasonable people think otherwise. Here's a story illistrating this concept.
Not only do I want to be a sovereign entity on the internet, but I want to empower others to be the same, to the small extent that I can: making software that supports it easier to install; contributing to co-ops like the one that hosts my computer; working on software that empowers users to become programmers; fiddling with making special-purpose embedded hardware useful for general purpose use; and letting a few users run code and such on my server and use it much the same as I do. It's a theme through a lot of my activities.
Anyway, it seems like my computer has been there longer than three years, and it's had a good run, despite little incidents like:
- The power and reset buttons apparently getting broken somehow a few months after it was installed. No idea how, but the console monkeys tell me they don't work anymore.
- That time I tried to get grub to display to the serial console and instead made it hard lock on boot.
- At least two kernel crashes that needed a reboot.
- Someone yanking the power cord once.
Mostly though it has kept on running without problems for years, being my personal server and performing a few other roles. This seems to prove something I've long suspected; that computer hardware runs much better when I'm not near it.
But that can't last. Eventually a hard drive will die, eventually whatever fans have (probably) already died will overheat it. Eventually I'll screw up a kernel update (which still have to be done blind, since I never did get grub talking to that serial port.) One option was to go back out there and do enough maintenance for it to last another three years. The other option was to move away from running my server on that nasty computer hardware stuff.
Happily, in the intervening three years, that has become, in a way, possible. Xen and the like are big news, letting a single standard server appear as multiple separate machines. Not a new idea, but an idea newly within easy reach.
So when I heard that Steve Kemp was puttng together a Xen co-op to buy a machine and split it up 6 ways, into 6 virtual machines, I jumped at the opportunity. Not only does Steve know a lot more about administering Xen than I do, but he got a good deal for on hardware that should be fully managed in case of breakage. Plus, he's providing a template for doing this on a grassroots level that I hope many other people follow. (Only partly because I want to have more than one little virtual server other there, rather than one big physical one..)
I'm still a bit unsure about Xen from the point of view of wanting to fully control my machine, since it does a) let the admin of the underlying hardware get at any data they want to if it's not encrypted and, b) it doesn't make it easy to run your own kernel. Luckily I a) basically trust Steve, and b) he seems to want me to run the exact same kernel (latest Debian unstable stock kernel) that I want to run.
So, the conclusion to this ramble is that kitenet.net will be moving, over the next few weeks, to wren.kitenet.net, which is theoretically located in London, but which is not a "real" computer as you might be accustomed to thinking of them.
I decided against moving it all at once, and will be trying to keep all the various services working while shifting them around. The utterly gory details of the transitions are being kept on kite's page in my wiki, and announcements for kite users will be posted to kite's blog.