As much as I love the Internet, I think its one truly awful ramification is that it has allowed people to become legitimately stupider. I once had a teacher who was fond of saying “the next best thing to knowing something is knowing where to find it” or something similar, and at the time I nodded sagely (in 5th grade) thinking “yes, this is knowledge I can use”. Had I only known that almost a decade later the Internet would not only fulfill the role of “knowing where to find it”, but that such power, made available almost everywhere we are, would make having to know much of anything a thing of the past. As a developer I (and I suspect many of you) rely very heavily on the Internet to learn New Things, but also as a massive bookmark which allows me to just search for code whenever I cannot — or have not or will not — remember certain functions. “Coding” these days more or less requires only a basic knowledge of programming fundamentals, and Google will provide the rest. We might, over time, acquire specific knowledge through osmosis, but lets face it: knowing where to find it has supplanted knowing so many things.
When I set up a Linux server in my house, the primary goal was to use it as a backup for software, images, home movies, and other such “perishable” content that I had been saving to external hard drives for years. My reasons for choosing Linux were purely financial: I didn’t have another Windows key available and my days of pirating software are long, long behind me. A more minor reason was because I had been learning about Docker at the time, and since I do develop for myself here at home, I thought having a “working” server in my house would be pretty cool.
As someone who had never worked with Linux in the past, everything I did to set up this machine and to keep it running has been compliments of The Internet. As much as I like learning stuff, I don’t have the mental bandwidth at this point in my life to learn *nix, with it’s purposefully obtuse shorthand commands and the seemingly endless requirements for an exponential amount of supporting libraries to support libraries which support libraries. I have always been, and continue to trend towards, ease of use over smug satisfaction, but I kind of had to lean towards Linux if I was going to lean towards Docker, so this is what I did.
I have managed to get this machine running, and running fairly well I guess because I have been able to do most of what I want with it. I have managed to share drives with my Windows machines, although not well. I have gotten Docker running there, and have set up databases and home-accessible software that I have wanted to try. I have a reverse-proxy system working with these containers which is great for people outside my house, but because I don’t have something called a “loopback interface”, I have to turn on my VPN mask in order to open this very website from my desk, less than 10 feet away from the server. No, I am not soliciting advice on the matter, but thank you.
My latest attempt at blundering my way through the Linux world was to set up an Owncast server. As I continue to slouch towards the Fediverse where possible, and because I have a nagging and unrepentant desire to stream stuff, I thought that running my own Owncast server would be very low rent: it has no discoverability, so I would only have to worry about it being a thing when it is a thing. There’s no pressure to amass views or reach status milestones or monetize it primarily for the benefit of corporate techbros. I’d stream when the spirit moved me, and that would satisfy not just my sense of having set up my own little fiefdom, but maybe also this disconcerting itch to stream.
Of course, this process involves more than just running a
docker compose statement and walking away. There’s a lot to grasp, at least, when dealing with something like video broadcasting. Add to that Linux’s fetish with always wanting another library to be added, this time within a Docker container, and the project was very quickly spiraling out of my zone of interest as well as my control. I could get OBS to broadcast to the server, but the results were 60% dropped frames and buffering slideshows. Considering this was all being done on a wired internal network, I decided I couldn’t be bothered to troubleshoot it beyond what the Owncast website had to say about it. Unless…
…I hosted it professionally. I had looked into off-site hosting for Owncast in the past, but was scared away by, you know, having to pay for it. In a fit of madness, I went over to Digital Ocean who I knew had a turnkey deployment for Owncast, and gave it a shot. They offered a 2-core virtual Debian 10 server with a measly 4GB of RAM, but I had heard people running Owncast servers on RPi machines so I figured it has to be possible on some level, right? Well, whether it was my ignorance, incompetence, or the pithy server horsepower, this didn’t work well either. Considering that this configuration would run me about $30USD a month regardless of whether or not I used it during that period, I couldn’t justify spending my first month just futzing with it to get it to a state where I might decide to use it two or three times in a 30 day period going forward.
At the end of the day, I learned some things, refreshed some knowledge, but will retire this idea empty-handed. Putting a nail in this coffin will allow me to free up what little mental space I had allotted for this task so that I may move on to some other task which has yet to be chosen. I might get the bug to try again at some point, especially if I come into possession of a better spare system than the one I have on the shelf behind me, so never say never.