Why self-host?

Tags: computing

Messing about with computers used to be fun. During the 1980s we had an Acorn Electron in our home. The Electron was an inexpensive and less powerful clone of the BBC Micro. I spent many a happy hour programming the Electron to do pointless things, but having fun and learning things nonetheless.

By the mid-1990s personal computers had become commonplace. Technology had improved rapidly and new machines came with full-featured office suites, dial-up modems and other useful tools for actually getting stuff done. With those additional capabilities came added software complexity, which software developers worked hard to hide from the user. We had better platforms for the average user to accomplish useful things but the business of actually interacting with the computer had became abstracted. Using the internet and e-mail became feasible and convenient without any real understanding of networking. Arguably all this is an excellent thing for the consumer, budding knowledge-workers and society in general. However, by using exclusively successive versions of operating systems from Microsoft (which generally worked fine), I was eventually to become a passive consumer of technology rather than someone enthusiastic about doing creative things with technology. In my teenage years I pretty much lost interest in computing and all the possibilities it represented.

Fast-forward to the mid-2000s when it dawned on me that I knew precious little about how computers or the internet worked. I felt uncomfortable about this and decided to take proactive steps to learn more about the underlying technologies that we have started to use routinely to run our lives and which we take for granted. Around that time I discovered free and open source software. Getting to grips with system administration on a variety of Linux systems became a diverting hobby. I came to love the new-found freedom and endless possibilities of firing up a laptop or VPS and installing my current favourite distribution and just messing around.