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You Need a Personal Server In Your Life & The Time is Nigh

by Mike Levin

Thursday, October 27, 2022

It can be incredibly difficult to stay on-task every day in pursuit of some goal, especially if it’s just you yourself trying to make it happen. With the outside influence of pushing parents or having committed by spending money to education, you employ outside influences to keep you going. But they are not always genuinely of your own choosing.

Sometimes you’re lucky and the direction parents and school compel you are the same direction some deeper internal force wants you to go. But not always. In fact the residual effect of outside influence can feel like internal influence maybe for the rest of your life because you internalized it and used that external force to override your own internal preferences.

The problem is knowing. Knowing comes from a result of thinking and speculating and testing and doing. This is self-reflection and knowing yourself. Problem is, even this is a skill which if you develop excessively under the influence of outsiders, even YouTubers, is still not necessarily your own. You need a breaking-free-of-influence process that still somehow conditions you.

How to condition yourself to go the direction you want to go and do the things you want to do? How do you not get derailed by the powerful outside influences in your life? You make something that serves you (and only you) in your life. You make a server and you have it play the role of parent, school or youtuber. You choose your own path in such a way your path reinforces staying on it.

I’m in my fifties now and from time-to-time have had servers in my life. They were almost always for employers. On those rare occasions I set servers up for myself, they didn’t have the staying power to help me navigate my life long-term. And by long-term I’m talking 2 years, 5 years, 10 years. Can you keep a server running on your behalf for ten years helping you out?

I’ve been on many false-starts including Raspberry Pi’s, virtual machines, and yes even real physical server-grade hardware in my home. The problem is a dynamic life and outside influences. Moving. Rearranging. Even just neglect of the server long enough to forget how it works not wanting the extra overhead in your life of re-figuring it all out and enabling it again.

Disruptions to setting up ones own personal server prevents certain accelerating and compounding return effects that you want/need in your life to move you forward from from ever even occurring. They are interrupting. They are blocking your blossoming. Most of us go through life like a barely germinated seed sitting on fertile soil with plenty of breathable carbon, but the power of the sun is blocked by a taller more spread out canopy of trees. Your figurative seed never busts open to send its roots down and its leaves up.

Feel familiar? Well if you have even the most basic technical leanings, such as the ability to use Excel and do the occasional macro, then you have all the ability necessary to have a permanent ongoing and resilient to disruption server in your life. It’s getting easier every year. I did it the hard way in my twenties and thirties trying to make my mark in NYC but it didn’t stick. Now that I’m in my fifties, I’ve stepped back to assess tools, methodology and technique. And I find it now uniquely doable thanks to LXD Linux containers.

I tested the techniques directly on my laptop. I did things to make computer programming code on my laptop run exactly as it would on a cheap generic Linux server. Any device you buy can basically be set up this way. This is not true of Windows or Mac servers which require you to use their proprietary software in their ways, which thus creates a dependency, expiration date and fragility in the long-term. Everything about a personal server is about generic Linux. And even if you’re on a Windows or Mac system, mastering generic Linux should be your goal if you’re thinking long-term.

Once the techniques worked on my laptop simulating a server I looked around to the things in my home that could also work like a generic Linux server. I had a device called a NAS for network-attached storage. That acronym sells such devices so short. Since these devices need to provide network protocol services they needed little computers built-in. Once you build a little computer into something that’s just supposed to give you more drive space, it’s natural to use it for more things. The precedent is set by DHCP servers that issue IP addresses in all our homes. Your home WiFi router is working in much this same way but lacks the freedom for many other services than DHCP. NASes don’t have such limitations.

Since NASes already needed built-in computers, and powerful built-in computers are so easy to provide cheaply, it only made sense to make NASes serve applications. So the “AS” of NAS can also stand for “Application Server”. And one of the applications it can serve is the LXD Linux container host. And therefore everything you’ve been running in “server mode” on your laptop is now transferable to a home cloud. Since your NAS is on all the time, you’ve now got a generic Linux server running 24x7 without paying a cent to any cloud provider.

I received an email at 2:30 AM this morning telling me so. Now I’ve got a generic home Linux server running 24x7 from my NAS. If I wanted to move it from my NAS to some other hardware, I either move the container or re-run my server install scripts which work on almost any hardware that supports Linux because highly generic. I have now both easy portability and reproducibility of the now-lifetime 24x7 server system.

And so what now

Add more intent to your life.

Create a plan for clear daily forward progress.

Customize it to you and what you know about yourself. Be realistic.

For me it’s publishing some writing and getting out some video to document my actions, my systems, my evolution before the day has barely gotten underway.

Use this slightly altered and expanded perspective to improve your performance on your day-job.

Win back lost time the extra overhead of this process incurs by working smarter and not harder.

If this is not possible, re-examine the “intent” you’re trying to set for yourself with the emails. Make adjustments to what you are trying g to get yourself to do each day.

And so for me now, it’s little chisel-strikes refining that email and the process surrounding it.

Switch it from just using GNU screen in a terminal session starred manually to using GNU screen in a terminal session stared by Linux’s system for automatically starting services.

Layer in better messaging and intent to keep compelling me forward every day.