Internet and open-source as crucial to covid-responses - what are you working on?

Hi all,

In these weird times, the role of technology in hindering or helping is amplified. This CFR article argues for the importance of making ventilators open source.

What examples have you seen of good or bad use of digital technologies? What worries or excites you most? What initiatives have you been involved in and what expertise can you share or are you looking for?

Share your thoughts and stories here and find the folks you are looking for or that are looking for you. Now is the time to make the Internet all about humans and human connection!

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ping @erik_lonroth @hampus @unclecj @ramykim @anthony_di_franco @felix.wolfsteller

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@hugi Hampus and a bunch of others are rapid manufacturing visors and protective clothing at Huset blivande. Also, I know Hugi made a large order of ingredients to make santizer (apparently you need to be like a plumber or something to get ethanol in those quantities).

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Indeed these feel like very disruptive times - and I appreciate the conversation!

Admittedly superficial - but I’m pouring much of my creativity into setting up a fun and innovative modded Minecraft server - initially for entertainment over Easter. Placed on part-time leave (working only tuesdays and wednesdays), as my consultant client move to salvage their cash flow, I also have much needed energy to attend to our home and make staying at home sustainable.

Professionally, my domain is system development tools and methods - so my long-time efforts to enable better development and communication abilities among colleagues suddenly received tons of attention when everyone needed to work from home. Fortunately, my department seem to be riding the storm better than most, as we connect through Microsoft Office 365, VPN and Citrix. Nothing particular Open Source there, but @matthias and others’ Distributed Collaboration Manual was very timely and inspiring (eventually I also found Matt Mullenweg’s distributed.blog and other fine resources).

I’ve described what feels like “the new normal”, hope others can contribute some “new and disruptive” :slight_smile:

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My wife is a yoga teacher and decided to give courses online for the time being. I developed an Open and Free Software to announce the dates and host her session videos: https://online.yogamitveronique.de - :computer: source at https://github.com/econya/yosis .
Unfortunately, the sessions themselves rely on a proprietary solution everybody knows - we have not yet seen viable alternatives (and yes, I looked around).

Besides, we use only Free and Open Source Software to cut and edit the videos - I learned quite a bit about video containers and formats, streaming etc for the web - not sure if I will come up with a write-up soon, as its a really deep matter and I feel like being just at the start of my learning path; but some hints are already included in the source location of mentioned software (“yosis”).

I live in an intentional community, so we set up a “local” (LAN/InTRAnet) https://jitsi.org Jitsi Video Chat platform (where I also made a small programmers contribution). Next, I will beef up our etherpad-Server (made a small documentation contribution along the line), that integrates with the jitsi-chat platform (for writing protocols) and our nextcloud and most likely install a https://discourse.org forum (that is the software running edgeryders.eu).

All in all I feel as if I aged 5 years in the last weeks. That is probably not what one should be doing.

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Felix if you havent already met, @sammuirhead has been doing good video and animation work using opensource only software and e.g music for ages now, goes under cameralibre. Maybe you will find some resources he has made useful/ time saving

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I’m working on a software stack that deploys a private social, office and communication platform called https://nextcloud.com.

Nextcloud is a very attractive software collection aiming at providing a truly private and secure platform that respects the integrity of the community that deploys it.

Some of the components are:

  • Web conference using technology that doesn’t allow for third party eavesdropping.
  • Online office tools for creating and sharing content, while not allowing for a third party to analyze, track, profile and commodify the members of the community.
  • Storing and sharing files - while not allowing for a third party to analyze, track, profile and commodify the members of the community.
  • Tons of community plugins. Here is a list: https://apps.nextcloud.com/

Nextcloud approach is very similar to the offerings from the ad-tech companies - Google and Microsoft.

Google and Microsoft runs well known popular public services on their advertisement platforms “Google suite” and “Microsoft Office365”. They deliver excellent quality on their services, but the price for a community is high:

  • Submits to commodification of its members.
  • Submits to tracking if its members for opaque reasons.
  • Subjects the whole community to data harvesting, without consent or knowledge of the intent of the harvest.
  • Denies community members to revert/rollback/forget their data stored within the platform.

So, when trying to build a community based on values of consent, privacy, integrity, freedom - there will be a fundamental principal problem using these ad-tech platforms - despite their excellent quality.

From my discussions in other threads on the topic of open source, with @nadia (and others; @MariaEuler, @felix.wolfsteller, @johncoate, @hugi @matthias) the issues raised above are not unknown.

I don’t have the full knowledge on the needs and challenges of Edgeryders, but it would be interesting to know if there are more people what would be interested in collaborating on creating and maintaining a Nextcloud instance for Edgeryders…

I have the knowledge to teach and deploy Nextcloud, which I would be happy to provide training for to anyone within the community that would be interested. It could intersect with the effort that @MariaEuler does within Edgeryders.

I plan to host a session on this topic on the 1-3 may for another NGO for the Openhack2020 Australia: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1G7wzXV-YGU … so it wouldn’t be too much effort to run it more times.

Screenshot%20from%202020-04-05%2016-20-42

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I’d be happy to join and can throw in experience with two or three other plugins and pain points.
Two of probably many other features that were not mentioned: Calendars (also shared, and synced with other devices) and (potential) file synchronization (dropbox-like, have the files “in the cloud”, on your laptop and on your desktop computer). I would drop the advertisement of web-conference, though - in my experience you’ll need advanced hardware on all ends to make it scale just a little bit. You can kind of promise working 1-on-1 calls, but thats it.

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Great. Let’s see how many we could be and also if other parts of the community we need to connect with that already probably are working on adjacent projects and what efforts they have put in that is of value.

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@matthias @alberto @noemi @johncoate @hugi

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very impressive the effort you made for your wife’s site, Felix!
a very good pointer about Jitsi, noted!

Take care, hope you guys in the village can at least enjoy more nature than the rest of us.

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Erik thanks, maybe we can join your session during the Hack, as opposed to having you host another?

Is it strange that while browsing through https://apps.nextcloud.com/ my sight lingered on Cookbook? :stuck_out_tongue: as a version of everything you’d like to inventory - visual and more readable - in matter of diy homemade solutions.

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Well, yes – we have a medium-term plan already to move to NextCloud on an own server. Ideally in combination with Collabora Office (though I’ve heard people recommend going for ONLYOFFICE instead, but I like to have a full-featured word processor and not the limited feature set that comes with Google Docs and ONLYOFFICE).

The problem is that a migration to NextCloud, together with the ~9 GiB of files we have accumulated right now, would be at least one month of full-time work … and I don’t have that time right now. This includes (1) migrating Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Presentation files, (2) migrating the rather complex setup of our financial forecasting spreadsheets, (3) setting up a redundant backup system for the server (using the rsync.net open source infrastructure and cloud), (4) removing everything we had on Google Drive. (I don’t want us to use NextCloud and Google Drive in parallel for any considerable length of time. That’d be a recipe for mess …)

But if a group from around Edgeryders wants to install and configure NextCloud, I can provide a server with Ubuntu 20.04 LTS for that. It would be the same server to which we’ll also migrate the rest of the Edgeryders sites in the near future as well.

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I’ve released a new version of the Nextcloud juju charm that would make things easy for you.

I announced it in the Juju discourse forum: https://discourse.juju.is/t/new-version-of-nextcloud-charm-rev-4/2928

In that post, you will also find a link to a tutorial which goes through the whole thing in detail and I’ll create a video of the process aswell this week with a friend who is also going to participate in the Hack4Future event in Australia.

The juju framework (https://juju.is/) is a revolution for this purpose. I use it for everything DevOps nowadays. I have a running Nextcloud 18.0.3.0 with 4TB running at home with no effort using Juju.

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I wish it were that easy :slight_smile: But when you try to migrate gigabytes of files out of Google Drive, you run into all kinds of weird issues that Juju won’t be able to help with:

  • Finding an automated tool to even download all of the stuff from Google Drive. The Google-supplied client application does not cut it as it links Google Docs / Sheets / Draw files to their online versions rather than downloading exports. Last time I figured it out with open source tools, but they had some bugs so I had to use other tools to check what they do …

  • Making sure documents are not destroyed when exported from Google Docs / Sheets / Draw to LibreOffice formats. Because we can’t get the Google formats natively. And at least in Google Sheets some functions are specific to their application, so you’ll have to fix the formulas in the exports or your financial forecast spreadsheets etc. will be wrong.

  • There will be issues with duplicate file names resulting in clashes, because duplicate file names are allowed in Google Drive (which rather uses file IDs).

Last time, it took me four days to migrate our stuff, and that was just from Google Drive to Google Team Drive (… and no, they don’t offer a function for migrating from Google to Google). Like I said, it’s better not to get locked in. Breaking out is hard work … :expressionless:

As for Juju and other automation interfaces for cloud services: they are great tools when there is a need for more than one server. But (caveat, little rant about to start): we don’t have that need, nor will we have it for the next 10 years, so server instance management tools are an unnecessary layer of complexity. I hate Docker with a vengeance for the same reason. Besides other reasons, Docker makes it so easy to overlook all the details of setting up a server properly because servers are encapsuled into black boxes that you don’t look into much. How many operators of Docker containers can assure that all of their containers have all of their security updates installed? Or just if all of them are configured to install security updates automatically?

Years ago I used the Heroku CLI tool, one of the first tools like Juju. It started sweet and nice, but after 2-3 years that tool itself became so complex, causing problems everywhere due to corner cases, technological legacy and so on. It was a nightmare. We went back to one personally administered server and never looked back …

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I hear you m8. This is what true lockin looks like.

Imagine what a company or a community will end up in a few years.

I would love to be able to reference your post in another context if that’s OK with you? It’s a beautiful example.

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Sure! It’s a public post, link it from wherever you want :blush:

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I believe you that the migration will be tough. https://rclone.org/ might have one or the other trick in it for you .

I host a dokku instance running (http://dokku.viewdocs.io/dokku/ , pretty pervert setup: http://fwolfst.github.io/docker/dokku/dokku-alt/virtualization/2016/04/18/dokku-on-ubuntu-vm-complete-rails.html ).

And I disagree that you will live happy forever with a single (OS) Server, unfortunately. Sooner or later you want some segretation and/or have the odd legacy-tool which just will not live happy alongside your modern stack, let alone for the security point of view. But this does mean that docker or other container- or devops setup is the silver bullet. I have seen this discussion in another topic elsewhere here on edgeryders, and its an interesting and important discussion, that I would love to continue around a camp fire with you one day.

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Thanks for this, it seems very promising! Never came across this so far for whatever reason …

About containers, it’s somewhat of a sensitive issue for me :smile: Installing and deploying software to Windows was always a mess and I don’t care. But I still think that the free software world got severely unhinged when, 10-15 years ago, people started to (1) create their own special purpose package management systems, from browser extensions to source package systems like NPM, Gem etc. and (2) also they created too many Linux distributions and (3) they never took up packages as the means to distribute serverside web applications (with a few exceptions). Before, there was .deb and .rpm as a de-facto standard, and when you made these packages for your stuff, you were done. But now, packages were no longer the standard single-command way of deploying everything. And since nobody had the time to do all the manual installation work, the idea of distributeable containers was born. The worst hack ever, in my view. But yea, let’s have a postpandemic fireside chat :slight_smile:

Specifically about Ruby deployment, I feel the temptation of using containers too. Such a mess when you need different rubies and different bundler, Rails and gem versions on the same host. I tried multiple solutions but now am mostly happy with chruby. Probably you know it …

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I believe the story is to be told differently - rather as a scaling issue that gave rise to containers and devops and now also a scaling issue that the solutions that work in this big scale are seemingly applied to very small scale situations, too.

When I came into the situation, I looked around and there were rbenv, chruby and rvm. I tried rvm, it worked and I am using it since years now. But funny enough like ALWAYS when I ask a fried to set it up there are some weird installation issues. But for me it just works™.

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