February 7, 2018
Late last year, I bid a fond farewell to my home media server hosted on a Nokia N900 Linux phone. For all of the innovations in the interface and design the erstwhile N900 had, you needed to be an expert-level Linux system administrator to keep one functioning, so eventually I named my phone Nusiance. This meant my spare, which served my music and video collection on a succession of larger micro-SD cards, became Twosiance.
Twosiance worked hard for me for over 5 years, both as a lightweight file server and as a playback device directly attached to my entertainment center. While the hardware would’ve happily kept running, the need to compile my own software to get new features and security updates became a burden. Running an always-on server over wireless is also a unique challenge, requiring cron-managed nightly firmware reloads to keep the wireless device performing steadily.
Unlike PCs, mobile devices lack the architectural consistency or corporate backing to support perpetually-updated Linux kernels and OS distributions. So we lose out on having little servers with battery back-up built in. With the advent of cloud provisioning, few people want low-power battery-powered mobile servers, but from a security perspective there's no substitute to directly managing your own data. In a world where the only provably-secure data is directly managed by individuals, such a system will eventually be necessary.