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XMPP - Fun with Clients

As I already wrote in my last blog post there's much development in XMPP, not only on the server side, but also on the client side. It's surely not exaggerated to say that Conversations on Android is the de-facto standard client-wise. So, if you have an Android phone, that's the client you want to try&use. As I don't have Android, I can't comment on it. The situation on Linux is good as well: there are such clients as Gajim, which is an old player in the "market" and is available on other platforms as well, but there is with Dino a new/modern client as well that you may want to try out.

The situation for macOS and iOS users are not that good as for Windows, Linux or Android users. But in the end all clients have their pro and cons... I'll try to summarize a few clients on Linux, macOS and iOS...

LinuxGajim

Fully featured multiprotol client with lots of available plugins. If you want to use OMEMO with Gajim you need to enable it in your plugin settings. There is even a plugin for letting the keyboard LED blink when there are new/unread messages. I found that a little bit annoying, so I disabled that. Gajim is an old-style client with the well-known layout of a contact list window and one for the actual chats. Gajim has some nice features like service discovery on your or remote servers.

Dino

Dino is available in Debian as dino-im and is a quite new client, which you will find out at first start: it's a single window app where the focus is on the chats. There is no contact list at first glance where you can see whether or not your contacts are online. You can find your contacts when you want to start a conversation with your contact. I don't find this bad or good. It's just different and puts the chat into focus, as said, maybe similar to WhatApp, Signal or other messengers nowadays where you just sent messages back and forth and don't care if the contact is online. The contact will receive and read your message when the contact is online and will eventually answer your message.

macOSMonal

Monal is an actively developed and maintained client for macOS and iOS. If you want to try out Monal, don't waste your time with the older client, but focus on Monal Catalyst (direct download link). Catalyst shares the same code as the iOS version of Monal and will become the default Monal download within the next few weeks. It's far easier for the developers to focus on one codebase than on two different ones. Monal has great potential, but also has some issues. For some reason it seems that some messages from time to time will be sent multiple times to a contact or a MUC. The developers are very helpful and supportive. So when you find a bug or issue, please report back. 

BeagleIM

BeagleIM is a free XMPP client by Tigase, which business is to sell their XMPP Communication suite and professional support for it. They provide clients for Android, macOS and iOS. Maybe for that reason their clients seems to be very mature, but of course will work best with their own server software. That doesn't mean that the clients won't work well with other 3rd party XMPP servers, just that their main focus will be their own server software, However, BeagleIM seems to work well with Prosody and ejabberd and when you have issues you can also reach out to Tigase on Mastodon, which I find a very big plus! They are really helpful there as well. The BeagleIM client is currently my main client on macOS and it works quite well. As you can see it's more or less chat-focused as well by default, but you can open a contact list window if you want to see all of available/all clients. Only issue I personally have at the moment is, that it seems to have problems with ejabberd: in the contact list and account preferences I see the accounts/contacts with ejabberd going offline/online every few minutes. There are some log entries in ejabberd that seem to be timeout related. I'm not sure whether this is an issue with ejabberd or with BeagleIM - or a rare combination of both.

iOSChatSecure

ChatSecure is one of my first XMPP clients on iOS I installed and used for a long time. It works mostly very well, supports OMEMO (like all the other clients I mention here) and it seems to be able to work well with bookmarks (i.e. use a list of MUCs to join). Only issues I have with ChatSecure currently are: 1) when ChatSecure comes to front after a deep sleep state of the client on iPhone it presents an empty screen and no accounts in settings. You need to quit ChatSecure and restart it to have it working again. Quite annoying. 2) when restarted it polls all messages again from MAM (message archives) over and over again. A small annoying where you can decide if it's better to have duplicated messages or may miss a message.

Monal

What was valid for Monal Catalyst on macOS is also (more or less) true for Monal on iOS. As said: they share the same code base. It is usuable, but has sometimes issues with joining MUCs: it appears as if you can't join a MUC, but suddenly you receive a message in the MUC and then it is listed under Chats and you can use it.

SiskinIM

Siskin is the iOS client from Tigase. It also seems to be very mature, but has some special caveats: in the settings you can configure Push Notifications and HTTP Uploads for each and every clients. Other clients make this automatically and I leave it to you to decide whether this is a nice feature that you can configure it or if it is a little bit annoying, because when you don't know that, you will be wondering why you can't upload files/fotos in a chat. Maybe uploading files will work with Tigase XMPP server, but it doesn't seem to work on my servers.

 

So, in the end, there are good/promising clients on iOS and macOS, but every client seem to have its own pitfalls. On iOS all three clients do support and use Apple Push Notifications, but you should choose carefully for which one you want to enable it. I can tell you it's a little bit annoying to test three clients and have Push Notifications turned on for all of them and have joined in several MUCs and get all notifications three times for every message... ;-)

MUCs are a special topic I need to investigate a little more in the future: when your server supports Bookmarks for MUCs I would assume that it should be working for all supporting clients and you only need to join MUC on one client and have that MUC at least in your list of bookmarks. If you want to join that MUC on every client might be another story. But I don't know if this is the intended behaviour of the XEP in question or if my assumption how it should work is just wrong.

In the end the situation for XMPP clients on macOS and iOS is much better than it was 1-2 years ago. Though, it is not as good as on Android, but you can help improving the situation by testing the available clients and give feedback to the developers by either joining the approrpriate MUCs or - even better - file issues on their Github pages!

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XMPP - Prosody & Ejabberd

In my day job I'm responsible of maintaining the VoIP and XMPP infrastructure. That's about approx. 40.000 phones and several thousand users using Enterprise XMPP software. Namely it is Cisco CUCM and IM&P on the server side and Cisco Jabber on the client side. There is also Cisco Webex and Cisco Telepresence infrastructure to maintain.

On the other hand I'm running an XMPP server myself for a few users. It all started with ejabberd more than a decade ago or so. Then I moved to Openfire, because it was more modern and had a nice web GUI for administration. At some point there was Prosody as a new shiny star. This is now running for many users, mostly without any problems, but without much love and attention as well.

It all started as "Let's see what this Jabber stuff is..." on a subdomain like jabber.domain.com - it was later that I discovered the benefits of SRV records and the possibility of having the same address for mail, XMPP and SIP. So I began to provide XMPP acounts as well for some of my mail domains.

A year ago I enabled XMPP for my Friendica node on Nerdica.net, the second largest Friendica node according to the-federation.info. Although there are hundreds of monthly active users on Friendica, only a handful of users are using XMPP. XMPP has a hard stand since Google and Facebook went from open federation to closing in their user base.

My personal impression is that there is a lot of development in the last years in regards of XMPP - thanks to the Conversations client on Android - and its Compliance Tester. With that tool it is quite easy to have a common ground for the most needed features of todays user expectation in a mobile world. There is also some news in regards to XMPP clients on Apple iOS, but that's for another article.

This is about the server side, namely Prosody and Ejabberd. Of course there are already several excellent comparisons between these two server softwares. So, this is just my personal opinion and personal impressions about the two softwares I got in the past two weeks.

Prosody:
As I have the most experience with Prosody I'll start with it. Prosody has the advantage of being actively maintained and having lots of community modules to extend its functionality. This is a big win - but there is also the other side of truth: you'll need to install and configure many contrib modules to pass 100% in the Compliance Tester. Some modules might be not that well maintained. Another obstacle I faced with Prosody is the configuration style: usually you have the main config file where you can configure common settings, modules for all virtual hosts and components like PubSub, MUC, HTTP Upload and such. And then there are the config files for the virtual hosts, which feature the same kind of configuration. Important to all is (apparently): order does matter! This can get confusing: Components are similar to loading modules, using both for the same purpose can be, well, interesting. and configuration of modules and components can be challenging as well. When trying to get mod_http_upload working in the last days I experienced that a config on one virtual host was working, but the same config on a different host was not working. This was when I thought I might give Ejabberd a chance...

Ejabberd:
Contrary to Prosody there is a company behind Ejabberd. And this is often perceived as being good and bring some stability to Ejabberd. However, when I joined Ejabberd chat room, I learned in the first minutes by regarding the chat log that the main developer of that company left and the company itself seemed to have lost interest in Ejabberd. However the people in the chat room were relaxed: it's not the end of the world and there are other developers working on the code. So, no issue in the end, but that's not something you expect to read when you join a chat room for the first time. ;)
Contrary to Prosody Ejabberd seems to be well-prepared to pass the Compliance Tester without installing (too many) modules. Large sites such as conversations.im are running on Ejabberd. It is also said that Ejabberd doesn't need restarts of the server for certain config changes as Prosody does. The config file itself appears to be more straightforward and doesn't differentiate between modules and components which makes it a little more easy to understand.

Currently I haven't been able to deal much with Ejabberd, but one other difference is: there is a Debian repository on Prosody.im, but for Ejabberd there is no such repository. You'll have to use backports.debian.org for a newer version of Ejabberd on Debian Buster. It's up to you to decide what is better for you.

I'm still somewhat undecided whether or not to proceed with Ejabberd and migrate from Prosody. The developer of Prosody is very helpful and responsive and I like that. On the other hand, the folks in the Ejabberd chat rooms are very supportive as well. I like the flexibility and the various number of contrib modules for Prosody, but then again it's hard to find the correct/best one to load and to configure for a given task and to satisfy the Compliance Tester. Then again, both servers do feature a Web GUI for some basic tasks, but I like the one of Ejabberd more.

So, in the end, I'm also open for suggestions about either one. Some people will state of course that neither is the best way and I should consider Matrix, Briar or some other solutions, but that's maybe another article comparing XMPP and other options. This one is about XMPP server options: Prosody or Ejabberd. What do you prefer and why?

 

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Too much disk IO on sda in RAID10 setup - part 2

Some days ago I blogged about my issue with one of the disks in my server having a high utilization and latency. There have been several ideas and guesses what the reason might be, but I think I found the root cause today:

SMART Self-test log structure revision number 1
Num  Test_Description    Status                  Remaining  LifeTime(hours)  LBA_of_first_error
# 1  Extended offline    Completed: read failure       90%     50113         60067424
# 2  Short offline       Completed without error       00%      3346   

After the RAID-Sync-Sunday last weekend I removed sda from my RAIDs today and started a "smartctl -t long /dev/sda". This test was quickly aborted because it already ran into an read error after just a few minutes. Currently I'm still running a "badblocks -w" test and this is the result so far:

# badblocks -s -c 65536 -w /dev/sda
Testing with pattern 0xaa: done
Reading and comparing: 42731372done, 4:57:27 elapsed. (0/0/0 errors)
42731373done, 4:57:30 elapsed. (1/0/0 errors)
42731374done, 4:57:33 elapsed. (2/0/0 errors)
42731375done, 4:57:36 elapsed. (3/0/0 errors)
 46.82% done, 6:44:41 elapsed. (4/0/0 errors)

Long story short: I already ordered a replacement disk!

But what's also interesting is this:

I removed the disk today at approx. 12:00 and you can see the immediate effect on the other disks/LVs (the high blue graph from sda shows the badblocks test), although the RAID10 is now in degraded mode. Interesting what effect (currently) 4 defect blocks can have to a RAID10 performance without smartctl taking notice of this. Smartctl only reported an issue after issueing the selftest. It's also strange that the latency and high utilization slowly increased over time, like 6 months or so.

Kategorie: 

Too much disk IO on sda in RAID10 setup

I have a RAID10 setup with 4x 2 TB WD Red disks in my server. Although the setup works fairly well and has enough throughput there is one strange issue with that setup: /dev/sda has more utilzation/load than the other 3 disks. See the blue line in the following graph which represents utilization by week for sda:

As you can see from the graphs and from the numbers below sda has a 2-3 times higher utilization than sdb, sdc or sdd, especially when looking at disk latency graph by Munin:

Although the graphs are a little confusing you can easily spot the big difference from the below values. And it's not only Munin showing this strange behaviour of sda, but also atop: 

Here you see that sda is 94% busy although the writes to the disks are a little bit lower than on the other disks. The screenshot of atop was before I moved MySQL/MariaDB to my NVMe disk 4 weeks ago. But you can also spot that sda is slowing down the RAID10.

So the big question is: why is utilization and latency of sda that high? it's the same disk model as the other disks. All disks are connected to a Supermicro X9SRi-F mainboard. The first two SATA ports are 6 Gbit/s, the other 4 ports are 3 Gbit/s ports:

sda sdb sdc sdd
=== START OF INFORMATION SECTION ===
Model Family:     Western Digital Red
Device Model:     WDC WD20EFRX-68AX9N0
Serial Number:    WD-WMC301414725
LU WWN Device Id: 5 0014ee 65887fe2c
Firmware Version: 80.00A80
User Capacity:    2,000,398,934,016 bytes [2.00 TB]
Sector Sizes:     512 bytes logical, 4096 bytes physical
Device is:        In smartctl database [for details use: -P show]
ATA Version is:   ACS-2 (minor revision not indicated)
SATA Version is:  SATA 3.0, 6.0 Gb/s (current: 6.0 Gb/s)
Local Time is:    Sat Jan  5 17:24:58 2019 CET
SMART support is: Available - device has SMART capability.
SMART support is: Enabled
=== START OF INFORMATION SECTION ===
Model Family:     Western Digital Red
Device Model:     WDC WD20EFRX-68AX9N0
Serial Number:    WD-WMC301414372
LU WWN Device Id: 5 0014ee 65887f374
Firmware Version: 80.00A80
User Capacity:    2,000,398,934,016 bytes [2.00 TB]
Sector Sizes:     512 bytes logical, 4096 bytes physical
Device is:        In smartctl database [for details use: -P show]
ATA Version is:   ACS-2 (minor revision not indicated)
SATA Version is:  SATA 3.0, 6.0 Gb/s (current: 6.0 Gb/s)
Local Time is:    Sat Jan  5 17:27:01 2019 CET
SMART support is: Available - device has SMART capability.
SMART support is: Enabled
=== START OF INFORMATION SECTION ===
Model Family:     Western Digital Red
Device Model:     WDC WD20EFRX-68AX9N0
Serial Number:    WD-WMC301411045
LU WWN Device Id: 5 0014ee 603329112
Firmware Version: 80.00A80
User Capacity:    2,000,398,934,016 bytes [2.00 TB]
Sector Sizes:     512 bytes logical, 4096 bytes physical
Device is:        In smartctl database [for details use: -P show]
ATA Version is:   ACS-2 (minor revision not indicated)
SATA Version is:  SATA 3.0, 6.0 Gb/s (current: 3.0 Gb/s)
Local Time is:    Sat Jan  5 17:30:15 2019 CET
SMART support is: Available - device has SMART capability.
SMART support is: Enabled
=== START OF INFORMATION SECTION ===
Model Family:     Western Digital Red
Device Model:     WDC WD20EFRX-68AX9N0
Serial Number:    WD-WMC301391344
LU WWN Device Id: 5 0014ee 60332a8aa
Firmware Version: 80.00A80
User Capacity:    2,000,398,934,016 bytes [2.00 TB]
Sector Sizes:     512 bytes logical, 4096 bytes physical
Device is:        In smartctl database [for details use: -P show]
ATA Version is:   ACS-2 (minor revision not indicated)
SATA Version is:  SATA 3.0, 6.0 Gb/s (current: 3.0 Gb/s)
Local Time is:    Sat Jan  5 17:30:26 2019 CET
SMART support is: Available - device has SMART capability.
SMART support is: Enabled

There is even the same firmware version of the disks. Usually I would have expected a slower disk IO from the 3 Gbit/s disks (sdc & sdd), but not from sda. All disks are configured in BIOS to use AHCI.

I cannot explain why sda has higher latency and more utilization than the other disks. Any ideas are welcome and appreciated. You can also reach me in the Fediverse (Friendica: https://nerdica.net/profile/ij & Mastodon: ">https://nerdculture.de/) or via XMPP at ij@nerdica.net.

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Adding NVMe to Server

My server runs on a RAID10 of 4x WD RAID 2 TB disks. Basically those disks are fast enough to cope with the disk load of the virtual machines (VMs). But since many users moved away from Facebook and Google, my Friendica installation on Nerdica.Net has a growing user count putting a large disk I/O load with many small reads & writes on the disks, resulting a slowing down the general disk I/O for all the VMs and the server itself. On mdraid-sync-Sunday this month the server needed two full days to sync its RAID10.

So the idea was to remove the high disk I/O load from the rotational disks the something different. For that reason I bought a Samsung Pro 970 512 GB NVMe disk and a matching PCIe 3.0 card to be put into my server in the colocation. On Thursday the Samsung has been installed by the rrbone staff in the colocation. I moved the PostgreSQL and MySQL databases from the RAID10 to the NVMe disk and restarted services again.

Here are some results from Munin monitoring: 

Disk Utilization

Here you can see how the disk utilization dropped after NVMe installation. The red coloured bar symbolizes the average utilization on RAID10 disks and the green bar symbolizes the same RAID10 after the databases were moved to the NVMe disk. There's roughly 20% less utilization now, whch is good.

Disk Latency

Here you can see the same coloured bars for the disk latency. As you can see the latency dropped by 1/3 now.

CPU I/O wait

The most significant graph is maybe the CPU graph where you can see a large portion of iowait of the CPUs. This is no longer true as there is apparently no significant iowait anymore thanks to the low latency and high IOPS nature of SSD/NVMe disks.

Overall I cannot confirm that adding the NVMe disk results in a significant faster page load of Friendica or Mastodon, maybe because other measurements like Redis/Memcached or pgbouncer already helped a lot before the NVMe disk, but it helps a lot with general disk I/O load and improving disk speeds inside of the VMs, like for my regular backups and such.

Ah, one thing to report is: in a quick test pgbench reported >2200 tps on NVMe now. That at least is a real speed improvement, maybe by order of 10 or so.

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Xen & Databases

I'm running PostgreSQL and MySQL on my server that both serve different databases to Wordpress, Drupal, Piwigo, Friendica, Mastodon, whatever...

In the past the databases where colocated in my mailserver VM whereas the webserver was running on a different VM. Somewhen I moved the databases from domU to dom0, maybe because I thought that the databases would be faster running on direct disk I/O in the dom0 environment, but can't remember the exact rasons anymore.

However, in the meantime the size of the databases grew and the number of the VMs did, too. MySQL and PostgreSQL are both configured/optimized to run with 16 GB of memory in dom0, but in the last months I experienced high disk I/O especially for MySQL and slow I/O performance in all the domU VMs because of that.

Currently iotop shows something like this:

Total DISK READ :     131.92 K/s | Total DISK WRITE :    1546.42 K/s
Actual DISK READ:     131.92 K/s | Actual DISK WRITE:       2.40 M/s
  TID  PRIO  USER     DISK READ  DISK WRITE  SWAPIN     IO>    COMMAND
 6424 be/4 mysql       0.00 B/s    0.00 B/s  0.00 % 60.90 % mysqld
18536 be/4 mysql      43.97 K/s   80.62 K/s  0.00 % 35.59 % mysqld
 6499 be/4 mysql       0.00 B/s   29.32 K/s  0.00 % 13.18 % mysqld
20117 be/4 mysql       0.00 B/s    3.66 K/s  0.00 % 12.30 % mysqld
 6482 be/4 mysql       0.00 B/s    0.00 B/s  0.00 % 10.04 % mysqld
 6495 be/4 mysql       0.00 B/s    3.66 K/s  0.00 % 10.02 % mysqld
20144 be/4 postgres    0.00 B/s   73.29 K/s  0.00 %  4.87 % postgres: hubzilla hubzi~
 2920 be/4 postgres    0.00 B/s 1209.28 K/s  0.00 %  3.52 % postgres: wal writer process
11759 be/4 mysql       0.00 B/s   25.65 K/s  0.00 %  0.83 % mysqld
18736 be/4 mysql       0.00 B/s   14.66 K/s  0.00 %  0.17 % mysqld
21768 be/4 root        0.00 B/s    0.00 B/s  0.00 %  0.02 % [kworker/1:0]
 2922 be/4 postgres    0.00 B/s   69.63 K/s  0.00 %  0.00 % postgres: stats collector process

MySQL data site is below configured max memory size for MySQL, so everything should more or less fit into memory. Yet, there is still a large amount of disk I/O by MySQL, much more than by PostgreSQL. Of course there is much I/O done by writes to the database.

However, I'm thinking of changing my setup again back to domU based database setup again, maybe one dedicated VM for both DBMS' or even two dedicated VMs for each of them? I'm not quite sure how Xen reacts to the current work load?

Back in the days when I did 3D computer graphic I did a lot of testing with different settings in regards of priorities and such. Basically one would think that giving the renderer more CPU time would speed of the rendering, but this turned out to be wrong: the higher the render tasks priority was, the slower the rendering got, because disk I/O (and other tasks that were necessary for the render task to work) got slowed down. When running the render task at lowest priority all the other necessary tasks could run on higher speed and return the CPU more quickly, which resulted in shorter render times.

So, maybe I experience something similar with the databases on dom0 here as well: dom0 is busy doing database work and this slows down all the other tasks (== domU VMs). When I would move databases back to domU this would enable dom0 again to better do its basic job of taking care of the domUs?

Of course, this is also a quite philosophical question, but what is the recommended setup? Is it better to separate the databases in two different VMs or just one? Or is running the databases on dom0 the best option?

I'm interested in your feedback, so please comment! :-)

UPDATE: you can also contact me @ij@nerdculture.de on Mastodon or on Friendica at https://nerdica.net/profile/ij

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#Friendica vs #Hubzilla vs #Mastodon

I've been running a #Friendica node for several years now. Some months ago I also started to run a #Hubzilla hub as well. Some days ago I also installed #Mastodon on a virtual machine, because there was so much hype about Mastodon in the last days due to some changes Twitter made in regards of 3rd party clients.

All of those social networks do have their own focus:

Friendica: basically can connect to all other social networks, which is quite nice because there exists historically two different worlds: the Federation (Diaspora, Socialhome) and the Fediverse (GnuSocial, Mastodon, postActiv, Pleroma). Only Friendica and Hubzilla can federate with both: Federation and Fediverse.
Friendicas look&feel appears sometimes a little bit outdated and old, but it works very well and reliable.

Hubzilla: is the second player in the field of connecting both federations, but has a different focus. It is more of one-size-fits-all approach. If you need a microblogging site, a wiki, a cloud service, a website, etc. then Hubzilla is the way to go. The look&feel is a little bit more modern, but there are some quirks that appears a little odd to me. A unique feature for Hubzilla seems to be the concept of "nomadic accounts": you can move to a different hub and take all your data with you. Read more about that in the Hubzilla documentation.

Mastodon: this aims to be a replacement for Twitter as a microblogging service. It looks nice and shiny, has a bunch of nice clients for smartphones and has the largest userbase by far (which is not that important because of federation).
But the web GUI is rather limited and weird, as far as I can tell after just some days.

Technically spoken these are the main differences:
- Friendica: MySQL/MariaDB, PHP on the server, Clients: some Android clients, no iOS client
- Hubzilla: MySQL/MariaDB or PostgreSQL, PHP on the server, Clients: don't know, didn't care so far.
- Mastodon: PostgreSQL, Ruby on the server, Clients: many iOS and Android clients available

I'm not that big Ruby fan and if I remember correctly the Ruby stuff turned me away from Diaspora years ago and made me switch to Friendica, because back then it was a pain to maintain Diaspora. Mastodon addresses this by offering Docker container for the ease of installation and maintenance. But as I'm no Docker fan either, I followed the guide to install Mastodon without Docker, which works so far as well (for the last 3 days ).

So after all my Friendica node is still my favorit, because is just works and is reliable. Hubzilla has a different approach and offers a full set of webfeatures and nomadic accounts. The best I can say about Mastodon at this moment is: it runs on PostgreSQL and has nice clients on mobile devices.

Here are my instances:
- Friendica: https://nerdica.net/
- Hubzilla: https://silverhaze.eu/
- Mastodon: https://nerdculture.de/

PS: "A quick guide to The Free Network" by Sean Tilley on https://medium.com/we-distribute/a-quick-guide-to-the-free-network-c0693...

PPS: this is a cross post from my Friendica node.

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#DeleteFacebook and alternative Social Networks

Some weeks ago a more or less large scandal popped up in the media: Cambridge Analytica misused data from Facebook. Many users of Facebook were unhappy about abusing their personal data and deleted their Facebook accounts - or at least tried some alternatives like Friendica, Hubzilla, Diaspora, Mastodon and others.

There has been a significant increase in user count since then and this gave a general boost for the networks.

Apropos networks... basically there are two large networks: The Federation (Diaspora, Socialhome) and The Fediverse (GNU Social, Mastodon, postActiv, Pleroma). Within the two networks all solution can exchange information like posts, comments, user information and such, or in other words: they federate with each other. So, when you use Mastodon your posts won't be available to Diaspora users and vice versa as they use different protocols for federation.

And here Friendica and Hubzilla do have their advantage: both are able to federate with both networks. Sean Tilley has some more information in his article "A quick guide to The Free Network" on medium.com.

Another great resource you can use to find more about alternatives to Facebook is the great new Fediverse Wiki.

From my point of view I would recommend either Friendica or Hubzilla, depending on what you want:

  • Friendica is in my opinion the best solution to have best of both worlds, i.e. Fediverse und Federation. It has active developers and a good and helping community. It concentrates on the social network topic.
  • Hubzilla is a more complete approach: you can add addons to have a cloud space, a wiki or create web pages.

Both offers you to create multiple profiles with one account (Friendica: profiles, Hubzilla: channels) and of course you have a fine-grained control about your content. There is also a fresh Youtube channel describing some Friendica features. Although it is in German, others might get some helpful hints as well from those videos.

Which alternative will be the best for you is up to you to decide. All alternatives have their pros and cons. If you don't already have a website, cloud space or such, Hubzilla might be the best choice for you. If you don't need such additional functions, you might be best suited with Friendica. If you like to install docker images, Mastodon will make you happy.

In the end, it's all about choice! You will have better control about your own data in all cases. You can run your own instance, make it private only, or you can join one of the available servers and try out what best suites you. For Friendica you can find some public servers on https://dir.friendica.social.

I'm running a Friendica node on https://nerdica.net/ as well as a Hubzilla hub on https://silverhaze.eu/ - feel invited to try both and register on either one to have a look onto some alternatives for Facebook.

After all: Decentralize and spread the workd! Use the alternatives you have and don't sell you privacy to the big players like Facebook and Google if you don't need to. :-)

PS: If you are already on one of those alternative networks, please feel free to connect me on my Friendica node or Hubzilla hub!

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Upgrade to Debian Stretch - GlusterFS fails to mount

Before I upgrade from Jessie to Stretch everything worked as a charme with glusterfs in Debian. But after I upgraded the first VM to Debian Stretch I discovered that glusterfs-client was unable to mount the storage on Jessie servers. I got this in glusterfs log:

[2017-06-24 12:51:53.240389] I [MSGID: 100030] [glusterfsd.c:2454:main] 0-/usr/sbin/glusterfs: Started running /usr/sbin/glusterfs version 3.8.8 (args: /usr/sbin/glusterfs --read-only --fuse-mountopts=nodev,noexec --volfile-server=192.168.254.254 --volfile-id=/le --fuse-mountopts=nodev,noexec /etc/letsencrypt.sh/certs)
[2017-06-24 12:51:54.534826] E [mount.c:318:fuse_mount_sys] 0-glusterfs-fuse: ret = -1

[2017-06-24 12:51:54.534896] I [mount.c:365:gf_fuse_mount] 0-glusterfs-fuse: direct mount failed (Invalid argument) errno 22, retry to mount via fusermount
[2017-06-24 12:51:56.668254] I [MSGID: 101190] [event-epoll.c:628:event_dispatch_epoll_worker] 0-epoll: Started thread with index 1
[2017-06-24 12:51:56.671649] E [glusterfsd-mgmt.c:1590:mgmt_getspec_cbk] 0-glusterfs: failed to get the 'volume file' from server
[2017-06-24 12:51:56.671669] E [glusterfsd-mgmt.c:1690:mgmt_getspec_cbk] 0-mgmt: failed to fetch volume file (key:/le)
[2017-06-24 12:51:57.014502] W [glusterfsd.c:1327:cleanup_and_exit] (-->/usr/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libgfrpc.so.0(rpc_clnt_handle_reply+0x90) [0x7fbea36c4a20] -->/usr/sbin/glusterfs(mgmt_getspec_cbk+0x494) [0x55fbbaed06f4] -->/usr/sbin/glusterfs(cleanup_and_exit+0x54) [0x55fbbaeca444] ) 0-: received signum (0), shutting down
[2017-06-24 12:51:57.014564] I [fuse-bridge.c:5794:fini] 0-fuse: Unmounting '/etc/letsencrypt.sh/certs'.
[2017-06-24 16:44:45.501056] I [MSGID: 100030] [glusterfsd.c:2454:main] 0-/usr/sbin/glusterfs: Started running /usr/sbin/glusterfs version 3.8.8 (args: /usr/sbin/glusterfs --read-only --fuse-mountopts=nodev,noexec --volfile-server=192.168.254.254 --volfile-id=/le --fuse-mountopts=nodev,noexec /etc/letsencrypt.sh/certs)
[2017-06-24 16:44:45.504038] E [mount.c:318:fuse_mount_sys] 0-glusterfs-fuse: ret = -1

[2017-06-24 16:44:45.504084] I [mount.c:365:gf_fuse_mount] 0-glusterfs-fuse: direct mount failed (Invalid argument) errno 22, retry to mount via fusermount

After some searches on the Internet I found Debian #858495, but no solution for my problem. Some search results recommended to set "option rpc-auth-allow-insecure on", but this didn't help. In the end I joined #gluster on Freenode and got some hints there:

JoeJulian | ij__: debian breaks apart ipv4 and ipv6. You'll need to remove the ipv6 ::1 address from localhost in /etc/hosts or recombine your ip stack (it's a sysctl thing)
JoeJulian | It has to do with the decisions made by the debian distro designers. All debian versions should have that problem. (yes, server side).

Removing ::1 from /etc/hosts and from lo interface did the trick and I could mount glusterfs storage from Jessie servers in my Stretch VMs again. However, when I upgraded the glusterfs storages to Stretch as well, this "workaround" didn't work anymore. Some more searching on the Internet made me found this posting on glusterfs mailing list:

We had seen a similar issue and Rajesh has provided a detailed explanation on why at [1]. I'd suggest you to not to change glusterd.vol but execute "gluster volume set <volname> transport.address-family inet" to allow Gluster to listen on IPv4 by default.

Setting this option instantly fixed my issues with mounting glusterfs storages.

So, whatever is wrong with glusterfs in Debian, it seems to have something to do with IPv4 and IPv6. When disabling IPv6 in glusterfs, it works. I added information to #858495.

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Back to the roots: FidoNet - I'm back!

Last month I blogged about Fidonet. This month I can report that I'm back in FidoNet. While I was 2:2449/413 back then, my new node number is now 2:2452/413@fidonet. The old network 2:2449 is still listed in the Fidonet nodelist, but no longer active, but maybe I can revive that network at a later time. Who knows.

The other problem I complained last month about was missing software in Debian. There is binkd and ifcico as mailer software and crashmail and ifmail as a tosser, but no reader software. So how did I get started again? First, I got into mood by watching all parts of the BBS documentary about BBSes:

 

It's a nice watch, so even when you don't plan to start a BBS or join Fidonet like I did, you can see Tom Jennings and others talking about BBSes in general and Fidonet. It's somewhat a nice way-back machine and it made me to actually start my comeback to Fidonet. I tried to compile some projects from Sourceforge like fidoip or GoldEdPlus, but all projects were in a state where they didn't compile without additional work under Debian. At least with those included debian/rules that have. 

So I decided to reactivate my old Fidonet software on my Amiga. Instead of GMS_Mailer I found AmiBinkd on Aminet which runs quite well. With that setup I was able to call to other Fidonet nodes and do some filerequests. That way I found out that 2:2452/250 is one of the still reachable Fidonet boxes in Germany and soon I became 2:2452/413. Still running on my Amiga with Mailmanager as Tosser and Reader and AmiBinkd as a mailer. Using Fidonet is quite different nowadays as you don't need to call out via phone line anymore, but use Internet connections instead. Although this is nice and much faster and with no additional costs and you can use "crash mail", it's not the same fun as dialing into a mailbox by modem and hear the typical sqeaking sound of a modem connecting. So I bought a Zyxel U-1496E modem on Ebay for € 5.50 and connected it to my FritzBox 7490. This works quite well and I could place calls via the modem using TrapDoor as a mailer on my Amiga.

Anyway, using my Amiga was only a temporary solution to get me up & running again. The goal is to run a full featured Fidonet node on Debian on my colocated server in the datacenter and in the meanwhile I was able to switch the DNS record from my Amiga to the server in the datacenter, running with binkd from Debian and Husky suite as tosser.

Husky is complete Fidonet suite, including tosser, areafix, filefix, tic-file processor, etc. However there are no Debian packages available - at least not easily to find. Philipp Giebel pointed me in an Fidonet echoarea to his own personal repository for Debian and Raspbian: 

https://www.kuehlbox.wtf/index.php#repo

He was very helpful in getting me started on Linux with Husky and shared many of his config files with me. Big thanks for that! He also used our discussions to write a blog article about this. Although it's German only you can find the necessary config files. You can find that on:

https://www.stimpyrama.org/blog/17-computer/138-ftnsetup

It covers nearly all necessary aspects:

  • how to setup his repo in your apt sources
  • install the necessary packages
  • configuration of husky, binkd and goldedplus with example configs
  • some tips & tricks like some keyboard shortcuts for goldedplus, etc.

So, this is really helpful for everyone that wants to join Fidonet as well.

You can use goldedplus as a reader for Fidonet, or when you just want to be a point and not a full node, you might want to try OpenXP on Linux. OpenXP includes everything you'll need for a point, like a mailer, reader and tosser. You can even use it as a mail reader via POP3/IMAP or to read Internet News (aka newsgroups).

It's still possible to run a Fidonet node on Amiga, on Linux and of course other operations systems like Windows and even OS/2. And with HotdogEd there is even Fidonet software available on your Android smartphone!

But why Fidonet if you already have the Internet at your fingertips? Well, this is something you need to decide for yourself, but for me there are several reasons why I joined Fidonet after 17 years of inactivity again:

  • It's not the Internet! :-)  This means basically no spam mails. At least I didn't experience any spam so far.
  • It's a small and welcoming community.
  • There is not only Fidonet itself (with zone 1:* to 5:*), but other zones as well, like for example AmigaNet with zone 39:* or fsxNet with zone 21:*. FTN technology makes it easy to setup a own network based on a certain topic. 
  • It's a technology that enabled people to communicate worldwide with each other, long before the Internet was available for everyone! This is some kind of technical heritage I find worthwhile to preserve.
  • Although most people of us can enjoy a free and open Internet, this is not valid for everyone in the world. Nowadays some regimes decide to block and censor the Internet for their citizens. Fidonet or FTN technology can enable those citizens to still communicate free and without censorship when even Tor is not working anymore because the Internet at all has been taken down in a country. Often enough you can still use phone lines and therefor you can use modems to connect to mailboxes and exchange mails and files. FTN is optimized for this kind of dialup connections and this is one of the main reasons why I don't want to only offer connections via Internet but also by modem to my Fidonet node.

So, be invited to join Fidonet as well!

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