Self Hosting (almost) XMPP

After this weekend’s revelations about the NSA Prism program, I saw in my Twitter feed a mention of prism-break.org.  Besides the pun, this sort of  “alternatives to major cloud providers” site is not uncommon.  Since I run owncloud, have tried friendica, and already run email on my own domain, my eyes wandered down the list to IM.

For a while, I was a regular user of Google Talk, so, as I looked at Pidgin plugins and CryptoCat, I wondered if the client made a difference if you were still routing through a server whose owner might share data with goodness knows who.  “I have a site,” I said to myself.  “Maybe I can self host XMPP.”  After having no luck with Installatron, I headed for search engines (DuckDuckGo, since it has less logging).  It turns out that running an XMPP server (also sometimes referred to by its former name, Jabber) is resource intensive — too intensive for a shared host.

So it was off to see if I could find third party XMPP hosting that I could tie to my domain.  I stumbled on hosted.im.  Since IM is not a mission-critical app for me, I decided to give it a try.  They offer up to 5 accounts free (big enough for my household) and are owned by a company headquartered in Paris, so presumably have to deal with EU privacy rules (a definite plus).  Signup was straightforward, but actually configuring the hosted instance requires adding SRV records to the domain DNS entry.  Hosted.im gives you the entries you need to add, but you can’t add SRV records through CPANEL.

Here’s where being a HippieHosting client was great.  A tweet from Tim Owens, our friendly sysadmin, revealed that I couldn’t add the records, but he could if I sent him the entries.  One email and 15 minutes later the instance was live, allowing my IM and email addresses to match.  Now to update  my .vcf file again.

James Burke at dConstruct

The audio archives from this year’s dConstruct conference are now online, and I was particularly interested to learn that this years headliner was James Burke (hat tip to Debbie Chachra)  Burke is probably best known for two documentary series on the history of technology, Connections and The Day the Universe Changed. If you haven’t watched Burke, start with these rather than Connections 2 and 3.  The latter aired on The Learning Channel and, while they share the format  of the earlier programs (which aired on PBS), they lack, in my opinion, the sense of there being a larger point to the story,  which is quite pronounced in the first two series.

Burke, using some examples you’ll remember if you’ve seen Connections or The Day the Universe Changed, discusses how innovation happens, how we might foster it, and where, just maybe, that might lead. He mentions what he’s doing to foster innovation, and while he doesn’t mention  a URL during his speech, I’m pretty sure he’s referring to Knowledge Web.  In the final portion of his address, Burke ponders how nanotech might change everything.  This sounds farfetched, but , as he points out, so would a car or a cell phone to a 12th century peasant.