ArkOS is a project designed for “embedded computers”, and was originally put together to run on the Raspberry Pi.
As I’ve already indicated, I like the Pi, and I love how it could fit into the decentralisation lark I keep waffling on about, mainly due to price, ease of use and low power requirements.
Well, if you want a website you can run from your own home broadband network, which could have the capability of running wordpress, a forum, a chat page, or hosting your own email server, then ArkOS may be, in the years to come, the solution.
In this post, I’ll download ArkOS, install the image to my Pi, and see what it can do. by the end of this post, there may be a link to a DynDNS url where I’ll have the ArkOS instance hosted.
The makers are very keen to point out that ArkOS is still in dev. at this time, only version 0.3 is available, but there are plenty of people downloading and installing it, and feeding back.
A standard SD Card image can be downloaded from the ArkOS website. (Generally, because the Pi boots from SD Card, not a hard disk, any OS installation for it begins with taking a .img image file, and loading it onto an SD card. In this particular instance, I’m using a 32GB Sandisk Micro SD card I got cheap on ebay, and loading it onto a new Raspberry Pi model B.
Once imaged, install the card, and power up the Pi connected via the ethernet port to your router. From that point on, it’s simply a question of browsing to the right address now announced on your own home network, and going through a step by step process to get everything up and running.
So, what do I get?
The driver for all of this is a system called “Genesis”, which gives the owner an interface to install plugins to the main system.
Genesis plugins are components which normally on a Linux box would be command line installs, and each component would need to be set up to interlink. for example, if I wanted to run a WordPress website, I’d need to install a Database package, create a database for WordPress to live in, and then configure wordpress to point at said database.
With Genesis (which is currently at version 0.6) you simply click on an icon to install wordpress, and automagically install a database server to support it, and then do the same again to setup a WordPress instance.
hence why http://wordpress.lojacked.dyndns.org is now available.
(using a dynamic DNS service like DynDNS is pretty much the only way to enable accessing toys on your home network from outside. read your router documentation to understand how port forwarding works)
Genesis uses an “App Store” to download software packages from. and to be honest, they do cover everything that a “freedom box” needs. These include WordPress (obviously), a collaborative notes system, OwnCloud, chat, even a version of mumble which you could use to host VoIP conferencing. There is a CalDAV compatible Calendar/Contacts server called Radicale which is compatible with iOS, so I now have a self hosted Calendar server for my iPhone which is independent of the iOS cloud.
So, all told, you can store your files there, your contacts and calendar, and run a WordPress blog, all from your own home network, instead of the various centralised databases and Clouds.
+1 for ArkOS I think.
Total time for download, installation and basic setup of 1 ArkOS server running on Raspberry Pi, 1 WordPress Blog, and 1 Calendar Server, about 1 hour or so, allowing for me fiddling with stuff, and about 10 minutes arsing about with my home router.
Cost: $0, apart from my annual subscription to DynDNS, which is about $25.