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Tool Reviews 馃洜

#community-server 馃捇

The Servidor Comunit谩rio was born from the need for #communitynetworks to have their own digital space within the network.

Technically it's just a few docker-compose.yml, .env and occasionally a script, to start self-hosted services. It's special that it tries to bring together services and tools that are useful for community intranets, and is made to run on a low-end single-board-computers.

A WDR-3500 TP-Link router and a Raspberry 3+ connected and inside the weatherproof case

Every village I visited in the Krah么 territory I took the community-server with me. The experience with #moinho-mesh thought me that discovery is key for a local digital territory. So the use of #librerouteros with #pirania, the captive-portal, was key. Tweaking dnsmasq on the router gives us friendly domain names to link to. And if the village want's more WiFi coverage, LibreRouterOS is ready to mesh and expand the network with additional hardware.

The first thing I noticed with the Krah么 was that the community portal I had made for Moinho wasn't friendly at all, so I re-designed it:

This simple app was made with Gridsome, which permits content to be easily updated thru Markdown, and serves the important role of being the entry point to the local services and the distributed apps: Jellyfin, Kolibri, Feedless, Meshtastic, SSB clients, Mapeo and 脙hau.

Krah么 person navigating thru the community-portal

The biggest hit has always been Jellyfin, which has a friendly interface for a multimedia repository. I learned that what they love watching the most is videos of their ancestors and other indigenous peoples. So I started a personal repository of indigenous media, which I'm always updating.

Hahu fixing the community-server box into a wooden pole with wire

After travelling with the server around the villages we finally settled on leaving it at Manuel Alves, as it's a point-of-entrance to the territory as well a political hub.

Hahu, one of the young Krah么s which became most interested in all the stuff I was presenting, worked on setting up the router+raspberry in a box that we left at the top of a big mango tree which covered most of the village with the open WiFi.

Community server box fixed on top of a big mango tree with mangoes ripening

So far this community-server setup had been tested at Moinho and at #portalsemporteiras. Taking it for a spin with the Krah么s really put it to the test, and I felt it was a big success. Every village representative seemed to want one for their village.

What worked 鉁

  • Easy to setup the hardware
  • Easy to learn how to use and to teach others
  • It's really useful for them to have an offline map of their territory

What鈥檚 being worked on 馃毀

  • Content! Content! Content! Need more indigenous content such as films and music. Also need loads of educational content for Kolibri, with more useful technical courses, specially about the other apps on the portal
  • Video in Portuguese teaching how to setup, use and update the community server and the portal
  • More useful services, specially around community organizing (ex.: cobuy)

What needs working on 馃懛鈥嶁檪锔

  • No available ready built images
  • Software yet not easy to setup on a server
  • Some integration between the apps/services, ex.: 脙hau + Baobaxia or Meshtastic + Feedless
  • A way to share maintenance of the server infrastructure thru monitoring tools, like cadvisor and organizational tools

Future plans

This community server setup, filled with the right content and tools, was the technology with the biggest impact in this first experiment. I believe that's because it presents a small, but cozy, safe and familiar, digital space.

On a next experiment I plan on using the community server together with a LoRa emergency network to see how useful an Intranet can really be. It would a cheap and safe entrance-point to the digital world, that can be made-fit for each community.

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