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Retiring #OpenWeb

I initially launched #OpenWeb over six years ago as a way to aggregate headlines from independent publishers that focus on Apple products and software. It was a fun little project to build, but the underlying system was a bit fragile.

The mechanism I used for publishing headlines was built entirely using IFTTT. The service was and continues to be great, but I found that RSS feeds would often break and I’d have to go in to the IFTTT dashboard to remove feeds, update feeds, or manually re-enable applets that repeatedly failed.

This eventually lead to me relaunching the site a couple of years ago. Rather than publishing headlines from a list of sources, the site would just publish links to independent weblogs.

This was a much cleaner setup as it no longer relied on IFTTT for publishing. But over time, my interest in managing the site waned. The process for publishing new links was a bit tedious and the site hasn’t garnered enough of a following to justify the effort required to run it.

So rather than continuing to half-heartedly update the site, I’ve decided to simply retire it.

Since making that decision, I have published the Initial Charge Rolodex, which is a list of writers that publish some of my favorite work. It’s like MySpace’s top 8, but for the open web.

The Rolodex will be a cinch to manage. I can revisit it once or twice a year, remove some folks that haven’t been publishing and add some new writers that I’ve found interesting. Easy peasy.

As for the #OpenWeb site, it will remain up for the foreseeable future. I don’t have any reason to remove it at the moment. I imagine it will be taken down at some point, though, if I decide to re-use the domain for a new project.

I’ve had a few ideas, but nothing I’m ready to get off the ground just yet. As a little bit of a peak behind the curtain of the frontrunner, though, I’ve thought about repurposing the domain as a landing page with information about how to get started publishing on the web.

It would likely focus on self-hosted options — WordPress, Mastodon, Pixelfed, etc. — and include recommendations for hosting services to try.

But that’s just an idea that exists in my head. I don’t know when I’d even start on something like that or what form it would exactly take. Who knows, maybe I’ll end up publishing something along those lines here on Initial Charge and the #OpenWeb domain will end up redirecting to it for easy sharing.

Linked List Entries

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Umbrel Home

UmbrelOS Dashboard

The Umbrel Home is a tiny, $399 home server that runs UmbrelOS — a home server distribution that’s most commonly used for cryptocurrency applications, but is just as capable as a general purpose home server operating system.

The machine features an Intel N100, 16GB of memory, 2TB of storage, and gigabit ethernet. It also includes Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and three USB ports, although I haven’t been able to find any use for those with the stock operating system. At least not the current version.

The product is quite slick, especially the setup process. You connect it to your network with an Ethernet cable, plug it in to power, wait about 30 seconds, and open the dashboard in a web browser.

From there you can create your account, go through some basic setup questions, and start installing apps.

Applications and Features

UmbrelOS offers an excellent assortment of applications. From files and productivity to media and more. You can find an app for just about any use case. At the moment, I have the following installed on my Umbrel:

  • Bitcoin Node — Allows you to run your own, personal Bitcoin node. This can be paired with other applications to reduce reliance on third-parties for wallet apps and other Bitcoin-related services.
  • Calibre Web — An ebooks server. I’m using it to store PDF copies of product manuals for the items in my home.
  • File Browser — A simple file management application.
  • Jellyfin — An excellent open source media server.
  • LibreTranslate — An open source alternative to Google Translate and other similar services.
  • Lightning NodeLightning is a layer 2 payment protocol that allows for more efficient Bitcoin transactions. Running your own node lets you participate in the network by routing payments and self-custody your Bitcoin on Lightning.
  • Mealie — A recipe server. I don’t have too much in it now, but I plan to give my wife access when I have a chance so that we can both store and share recipes through it.
  • MeTube — A web interface for downloading videos from YouTube and many other video hosting sites.
  • Overseerr — A slick requests manager with Plex integration.
  • qBittorrent — A BitTorrent client with support for proxies.
  • Transmission — Another BitTorrent client with an interface I prefer, but without built-in support for proxies.

Umbrel Application Store

You can view the whole application store on the web, but Home Assistant, Nextcloud, and Plex are a few other notable entries.

Aside from the application store, Umbrel has some simple system monitoring, which you can use to keep an eye on storage, memory, and CPU usage. There are also some basic settings like the option to select a different wallpaper, enable two-factor authentication, and remote Tor access.

The Issues

Although the experience has been generally positive, I have run into a handful of snags along the way.

  • I’ve run into occasional SSL errors with my Lightning Node. The fix is relatively simple, but requires using SSH or the system’s built-in command line interface.
  • The Bitcoin Node has randomly dropped to zero peers and stops updating. Restarting the app hasn’t resolved the issue for me and I end up having to reboot the entire system.
  • Speaking of rebooting, the first time I tried using the “Restart” option from within the web interface, the reboot never completed. I waited for several minutes and eventually used the power button to force the shutdown. Since then I’ve only used the “Shutdown” option in the web interface and then started it back up using the power button on the front. That method has been far more consistent for me.
  • I’ve had instances where the Umbrel becomes randomly inaccessible from some of the computers on my network.
  • There’s been a couple of times where my two-factor authentication codes didn’t work for logging in. I had to disable the feature from another system where I was already logged in. I can’t say for certain whether this was an Umbrel issue or something wrong with 1Password, though.

UmbrelOS did receive a software update while I was writing this piece, which claims to address the issue where it was inaccessible on the network. But I haven’t had enough time with it to know for sure.

Aside from those bugs, there is one glaring omission on UmbrelOS. And it feels like the kind of feature that the team should be working diligently on, if they aren’t already. UmbrelOS needs support for USB storage.

I still have plenty of storage left on my Umbrel — 2TB is a great starting point — but if you wanted to use the device for Plex, Jellyfin, or Immich, you’ll almost certainly end up wanting additional storage.

Overall

The Umbrel Home is an excellent package overall. The interface is slick and it offers a great assortment of applications on a sufficiently powerful system for a decent price. If the team is able to address the bugs and add support for USB storage devices, it feels like something I could recommend to average users.

As it is now, I think of the Umbrel Home as more of an option for tinkerers and technically savvy individuals. The type that aren’t afraid to jump into a terminal from time to time, but want something that’s a bit easier to get up and running than the alternatives. Or perhaps, this would be a good option for a more technically savvy person to setup for a family member, knowing that there could be the need for occasional support when things go wrong.

Home Server Storage Upgrades


— May 31, 2024

Budget Home Server


— May 15, 2024

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— April 30, 2024

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— April 16, 2024

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11-Inch MacBook Air


— March 28, 2024

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