Running my own server again

A year and a half ago, my brother gave me a Raspberry Pi 3 as a birthday present, suggesting that I should use it to run my own server.

I used to run my own server. A friend who liked to build such things had built it. It had two ethernet ports, one connected to my cable modem and the other connected to my WiFi router, and it was running OpenBSD (then the most secure OS easily available) and was configured to serve as a firewall.

I used it as a server in other ways. I put an extra disk drive (40 GB!) in it where I could store files that I might want to access from elsewhere. (In particular, when I went to Clarion I copied my latest draft of my current story there each evening, in case of catastrophic computer failure.)

It didn’t require much upkeep, but it required more than none—which turned out to be more than I wanted to devote to it. At some point a serious security flaw was discovered in the OpenBSD release I was running. By then most desktop machines had built-in firewalls as did most routers, and I had Time Machine as a backup solution. It seemed safe to give up my server, and easier than updating it.

In the years since then, the use of cloud services has become ubiquitous, to the point that practically everything I do ends up in the cloud—my photos go to both Flickr and Google. I also use Dropbox (where I have Scrivener stash a backup copy of everything I’m writing) and I stash some amount of my music at both Google and at Amazon.

That’s all great—those services are well backed-up, and the servers are very likely running the latest security patches—but I really like the idea of having my own data on my own machines. But I want that without giving up the advantages of having my data in the cloud. Hence wanting to have my own server.

All that as prequel to my brother coming to visit this past week, and helping me get my Raspberry Pi server up and running.

Once the basic install of Raspbian was up and running, I went ahead and ordered a bit of hardware for it. I got a short ethernet cable to connect it to my router, so that it doesn’t have to do WiFi for basic connectivity (although WiFi and Bluetooth are built in). I also got a slightly more powerful USB power supply for it, mainly because I also got a portable USB hard drive that takes its power from the USB port, meaning that the power needs to be available to the Raspberry Pi. Finally, I got a case for it, so that I don’t just have a naked circuit board sitting on my dresser.

This time the hard drive is 1 TB rather than 40 GB.

For cloud functionality I’m following my brother’s example and running syncthing, which has the advantage of being able to handle being behind a NAT and not having a port exposed to the outside world. I’m running it on my Android phone as well and sharing my photos with a third place: my server. The server then shares them with my desktop machine, so they’re available to use. (That’s how I got the photo above: Taken with the phone and then transferred to the desktop within about a minute.)

I’m still sorting out my sharing strategy. I don’t want to share my whole Music folder with my phone, because it would use all the space there. (I’ll probably end up making a folder with an “essential subset” of my music to share with the phone.) I don’t think I want to share my whole Documents folder on my desktop machine, but I’m not sure yet. For the time being I’m sharing a folder I call “Active writing” with the files I’m currently working on, on the desktop, the server, and my laptop. That way they’ll be available wherever I want to work on them.

Other things are tougher. I’d like to have my own calendar server, but that doesn’t seem easy. I should go back to my post on the google-free option and see what else I was thinking about that I might now be able to implement.

For now, though, I’m pretty happy.

My previous server was rack mount width and maybe four or five inches tall, about the size of a stereo component. This one is maybe 3 inches by 5 inches, rather smaller than the hard drive it’s sitting on.

Two bumblebees

I missed joining Jackie for a volunteer stewardship day at Meadowbrook Park yesterday because I was doing taiji in Morrissey Park instead. She wasn’t quite done when I got there to pick her up, so I used the time to walk in the prairie.

While I was there I got some pictures of bumblebees that turned out pretty well. Click through to embiggen enough to actually see the bumblebees.

Bumblebee on flower:

Bumble bee on flower

Bumblebee in flight:

Bumble bee in flight

 

More Flickring

I’ve been putting my photos on Flickr for years now—my first photos were uploaded in 2004. I didn’t upload all my photos, just the ones I particularly wanted to share. (In those days, you had to pay for a Pro account to share more than 200 photos. By uploading only occasionally, I stayed under that limit almost until it was lifted.)

More recently, I configured my phone to upload all the photos I take with it to Flickr, but to make uploads private until I go and publish them. I don’t do that for privacy or security. (I figure once a photo is uploaded, it’s effectively public anyway.) I do it this way so that my photostream is a list of photos that I’ve chosen to share, rather than just all my photos.

I think I once had a “Flickr badge” with some of my photos on the sidebar of my blog, but it seems to have gone away at some point. I forget whether there was some technical reason, or if it just got lost when I changed themes or something. In any case, I once again have a widget on the sidebar, showing my most recent shares to Flickr.

It’s pretty far down on the sidebar. In case it’s too far to scroll down, here my most recent Flickr photos, as of this morning:

Preying Mantis

Prairie path in fall

Wooly bear

Jackie weaving squares

Prairie sunset

 

License your photos thoughtfully

What’s the big deal with Flickr making commercial use of creative commons licensed photos that were licensed for commercial use? What did people think they were doing when they licensed their photos?

I have a bunch of photos licensed with the attribution license, and a few have been used many times. Here’s my most popular:

Foreign Currency and Coins

That image has been used thousands of time, mostly on financial websites, but also lots of other places, including printed publications. This is just what I had in mind when I licensed it. (Click through and read the comments—a few of the people who used it posted to thank me.)

When I first started writing posts at Wise Bread, I tried to take most of my own pictures. I did that for a couple of reasons. One was so I could get the picture I wanted; at least as important was so that my photos would be unique. (So many financial sites used the same few stock photo sources, so readers pretty quickly started seeing the same images over and over.)

When I didn’t think I could create an image of my own, my go-to source for alternatives was creative commons licensed photos on Flickr.

Before I started using creative commons licensed photos myself, I’d put a creative commons license on some of my images, but was inclined to use a more restrictive license, including non-commercial. After all, I figured, if someone was making money off it, didn’t I deserve a cut?

But for use on Wise Bread, since I was making money, I figured that I shouldn’t use images marked non-commercial. And I was surprised and pleased at just how many people shared their images without that restriction.

I was so grateful, I started licensing most of my photos with an “attribution” license, meaning that I was allowing commercial use—just like the use I was making of other people’s images. (Some photos I didn’t license—mostly those with pictures of people. Properly speaking, a creative commons license is silent on the issue of a model release, but most people don’t think about it when they use an image, and I didn’t want to be in the position of enabling that behavior.)

My point here is simply that I knew what I was doing—and I would certainly hope that everyone else who used a creative commons license did as well. If you license a photo for use with an attribution license, you are explicitly permitting commercial use. It seems bizarre to complain about it when it happens. What did you expect?

Because I think it’s a somewhat nicer photo, I thought I’d also share my second most-used creative commons licensed photo on Flickr:

Piggy Bank Awaits the Spring

Believe me, I didn’t choose the license without thinking about it. Anyone may use my creative commons licensed photos, in accordance with the terms of the license.

That includes Flickr, and Yahoo. Duh.

Photography

Since I started writing for Wise Bread (because each post I do there needs a picture), I’ve taken a greater interest in my own photography, and in the creative commons.

I’m taking my own photography more seriously, simply because it matters more. More people see my pictures—and a really good picture can bring traffic to a post.

I’m taking the creative commons more seriously, because it’s provided me with a number of cool pictures for posts where I didn’t have a picture of my own to use.