Contributed by mtu on from the thou-shalt-let-cowards-speak-anonymously dept.
devio.us - The Free OpenBSD Shell Provider
This is a service that caught my interest. At first, I thought to myself, "why would I want a shell account on a box that I don't control?" My problem is that I have too many shell accounts. So what can be gained by having another shell account and what is so special about this free shell account provider?
Read on to find out more about devio.us:
First off, this is a project run by a group of Unix Admins that are passionate about OpenBSD. Moreover, they are providing a free service for anyone with very little restrictions. This is kind of interesting on many fronts.
Why are they doing this? I read that they wanted to create a community of like minded folks; a community filled with UNIX and OpenBSD enthusiasts, developers, network engineers and so forth. However, on a deeper level, most of the devio.us Admin team have worked in the web hosting industry for quite a few years. It is perhaps this experience that drove them to create this project.
I was told that you tend to feel disconnected from the clients that you support on a daily basis. After a thousand support tickets, that 'inner reward' factor begins to diminish and the only satisfaction stems from working on other internal projects. In order to alleviate this debilitating effect, the devio.us team wanted to 'reconnect' with their users and establish a sort of camaraderie amongst the community. Furthermore, they have a serious love affair with OpenBSD and wanted to spread the message and encourage users to try the OS.
There are two interesting things that I learned about the sign-up process. There is a question in the sign-up form that asks "What will you use the account for?". Almost 60% of the users stated during sign-up that they wanted to learn more about OpenBSD! Not everyone is given a shell account though. In fact, for every three sign-up requests, they reject one for some reason or another.
On the first day on my new shell account, I received a talk message from someone I didn't know. It turned out to be someone from China who was happy to talk with anyone and he didn't know who I was. I was a bit turned off by that and questioned why it was enabled on the server. This is part of the education aspect, I was told. They want to get people into Unix and everyone gets wide eyed when they 'talk/ytalk' someone for the first time. Fair enough. It really isn't for me. I'm rarely ever on any chat program as I can never get any work done.
Anyhow, what do you get on the free shell account? The details are here but essentially you get access to all the packages on the system, 100 MB of personal space for free, a good Internet connection and IPv6 support coming soon. So long as you are not abusing the resources, tunnelling and port forwarding are permitted but not for watching youtube videos or any P2P file sharing. You can read their policy for more details. I really like their common sense attitude and goals.
Perhaps the biggest concern or question for most OpenBSD users is what about security? How the heck can you trust a system with so many users and packages installed on it? At least, this was the first thing that came to my mind. Indeed, this will be an interesting experiment, if I can call it that, on two fronts. It is hard for me to trust a system where I am not the only user on that system. Secondly, this server is going to be pushed to the limits in some form or manner. That said, it already has bigmem support. So far, I like what I see and the direction they are taking this. It has never been done before to my knowledge, at least not on OpenBSD and I have confidence in the Admins looking after the system. I think that they are doing a great job in many respects.
I will leave the inner details and workings of this project to another article or two as I'm sure that many of you have questions. Hopefully, they'll be answered for you in the next article or so. In the meantime, why don't you have a look at the site, sign-up to get your free OpenBSD shell account and check it out for yourself. The process doesn't take very long and there really aren't very many questions and what information they collect will not be sold. They will also do their utmost to protect the data that you put on your personal site. I don't know about you but this is a good deal considering that it is for free. You can also upgrade your account for a few pennies a day and do a lot more. I would strongly recommend you to at least have a look.
I would like to thank the devio.us team for setting this up for the community. I really appreciate and fully support their efforts. They're a bunch of smart people doing something very unique with OpenBSD on a scale that may surprise many in a few years, if not months from now. Stay tuned for more on devio.us in the next little while.
Mark T. Uemura
(Comments are closed)