I’ve been putting it off for over a year: our home server is running an old Ubuntu Linux installation, and needs to be upgraded. Research and teaching and life intervened, and this upgrade fell farther and farther down the list. In the meantime, Ubuntu produced two stable releases… making the chore of upgrading twice as hard. Let’s take a look at some lessons I learned by not upgrading, and my state of mind as I proceeded through the first phase of the upgrade today.
Inspired by the creation of the pump.io open, federated social protocol in 2013  and the need to bridge posts between a diversity of social networks (Pump.io, GNU Social , Diaspora , Twitter, and Facebook), I recently released an alpha version of a social network bridge, named NavierStokes. An homage to the equations at the heart of fluid mechanics, NavierStokes uses external tools to tie together social networks and allow you to distribute posts from one to another.
It is primitive but functional. At least one other person is using it right now for post broadcasting. To learn more about NavierStokes, check out the documentation page (also where you can download it). To install it, you need to be familiar with Python and be able to compile/run C, PHP, Ruby, and Python programs.
Data ownership is a serious issue on the internet, especially given the revelations that spy agencies like the NSA have been sneaking into back doors in companies like Google and collecting massive amounts of our personal metadata. While the courts and other US public institutions wrestle with the difficult constitutional issues behind this unprecedented warrantless surveillance, each of us can do things to own and protect our data on the internet. By running our own internet services, we can take data out of the hands of companies like Google and Facebook and, instead, hold that data in our own homes, encrypted, while deciding with whom we share it.
And since I’m sick with the flu . . . this was a good 1-day sick-day activity. 🙂