Here is the Server Room. It's where I will talk about computer stuff, internet things, etc. Overall, I have this feeling like free/open source software, the internet, cheap and cool little computers (like Raspberry Pi) and all just give us all the power to do a lot of things that used to be very difficult or impossible. It's totally amazing! Online I often hear people complain about social networks or big tech companies doing this or that, but... we have the power, if we really want it.
The Gemini Protocol
One of the fun projects out there on the net is Gemini. It's a protocol that pitches itself as heavier than Gopher, but lighter than the web. Gemini runs on simple servers that listen on port 1965, and those servers serve up simple Gemtext. Gemtext is simple and pretty similar to Markdown in many respects. All Gemtext is based on lines, and there are only a few types of them: Unordered lists, Header 1, 2 & 3, Preformatted Text, Regular Text and Links. There seem to be a few goals for the project. One is that the protocol is intended to be so simple that a basic server for it could be coded in 100 lines or less, simple enough for a single person to understand and keep it all in mind. Another is that the protocol is intended to be resistant to some of the forces that bloated and complicated the web. Pages are simple text with no embedded pictures, cookies or other trackers. When you request a page, you get only that page and not anything else. Another goal of lesser importance, but certainly some of the fun, is just the slower, more old school web vibes the project and community engender.
One thing with projects of this nature is that inevitably there are people who don't see the value in it. That's fine. It doesn't have to be for everybody. Even for those who may be intrigued, it can be difficult to get your foot in and find enough content to keep yourself interested. Others might want to create some stuff and don't know how to get it on the net with this protocol. Here are some links for those people!
Project Gemini: The main home page for the whole project, there are links to documentation on the protocol, how to type in Gemtext, links to servers and clients, and basically everything you need to get started.
LaGrange: This is probably the fanciest, most feature full client for Gemini. It also supports other protocols such as good ol' Gopher, and some spin-off protocols like Spartan and Titan, along with being quite customizable if you want to mess with any of that.
smolZINE: A regularly published zine/newletter that links out to interesting Gemini capsules and mentions some news from around the scene.
midnight.pub: A community that hosts capsules for a large number of users. You can see what the community is posting from their front page, maybe dive into a particular user's capsule and find someone you might enjoy following.
I hope to add a few more links as well. I have some spread between a couple of my computers. The community has come up with a way of creating links that allows many clients to subscribe to a capsule's "Gemlog" (kinda like subscribing to a blog via RSS), which is nice for giving you new material to read. I like the vibe in Gemini Space, I've found enough content to keep my interest and it feels a bit like discovering people's sites back in the late '90s. I even run my own server at Dreamcloud Academy and have a capsule up on tilde.club.
FreedomBox: This is a project that uses Debian Linux to host a bunch of little services you could run from your own home. The idea is to make it easier than installing everything manually in Linux, which can be quite a learning curve. They have a little Raspberry-pi-like computer you can buy especially for it, or you can download it and use it on a normal PC, etc. I've tried it out and it hosts a Wikimedia instance (the same wiki software that runs Wikipedia), but there is a lot of software you can run on it.
Neocities: Anybody remember Geocities? It was the first place a lot of people experimented with making their own web sites back in the day. Over time the site got more and more loaded up with ads, and you never had a ton of space to work with, but people made of it what they could. Neocities, in comparision, is beautiful! The idea was a site where people could code their own web sites for free. Using this site, you can grab an account and get your own home on the web. In fact, I'm running this site on Neocities, but I did purhcase a subscription. The subscription lets me host a bunch of websites and attach a custom domain, but you can do almost everything with just the free plan.
Nextcloud: I run Nextcloud on a server running in my house. It is open source and amazing. Primarily I use it as an alternative to cloud storage services like Google Drive or Dropbox. It does a lot more than that though. I also use it with Floccus to sync my browser bookmarks between all of my browsers and devices, and have used it to make little surveys I link online, etc. If you've never heard of it, you should check it out.
Ninite: This is a neat site/utility that allows you to download and keep updated a number of apps. It's kinda like a Linux package manager, but for some select Windows apps. There are a couple other projects along these lines I'll probably add to my list as well.
PortableApps.com: If you're living in the Windows world, PortableApps.com is a cool project where they package up a number of free applications you can install on a USB stick (or elsewhere) and take it with you to use those apps wherever you go, without ever needing to install the applications on the local PC. You can have, say, Firefox, Notepad++, WinSCP, Paint.net, LibreOffice and VLC Player on your stick and use them regardless of which Windows PC you pull up to. It's pretty convenient, comes with its own built in little menu system, and there are over 400 applications available. The software makes it easy to add or remove apps from your USB stick and update apps as well.
Yunohost: This project is similar to FreedomBox but it seems to support installing a wider variety of software. Whenever I decide to do a reinstall on my home server I think I'll give Yunohost a try.