10 Apr 2014 joey   » (Master)

Kite: a server's tale

My server, Kite, is finishing its 20th year online.

It started as kite.resnet.cornell.edu, a 486 under the desk in my dorm room. Early on, it bounced around the DNS -- kite.ithaca.ny.us, kite.ml.org, kite.preferred.com -- before landing on kite.kitenet.net. The hardware has changed too, from a succession of desktop machines, it eventually turned into a 2u rack-mount server in the CCCP co-op. And then it went virtual, and international, spending a brief time in Amsterdam, before relocating to England and the kvm-hosting co-op.

Through all this change, and no few reinstalls from scratch, it's had a single distinct personality. This is a multi-user unix system, of the old school, carefully (and not-so-carefully) configured and administered to perform a grab-bag of functions. Whatever the users need.

I read the olduse.net hacknews newsgroup, and I see, in their descriptions of their server in 1984, the prototype of Kite and all its ilk.

It's consistently had a small group of users, a small subset of my family and friends. Not quite big enough to really turn into a community, and we wall and talk less than we once did.


Exhibit: Kite as it appeared in the 90's

[Intentionally partially broken, being able to read the cgi source code is half the fun.]

Kite was an early server on the WWW, and garnered mention in books and print articles. Not because it did anything important, but because there were few enough interesting web sites that it slightly stood out.


Many times over these 20 years I've wondered what will be the end of Kite's story. It seemed like I would either keep running it indefinitely, or perhaps lose interest. (Or funding -- it's eaten a lot of cash over the years, especially before the current days of $5/month VPS hosting.) But I failed to anticipate what seems to really be happening to it. Just as I didn't fathom, when kite was perched under my desk, that it would one day be some virtual abstract machine in a unknown computer in anther country.

Now it seems that what will happen to Kite is that most of the important parts of it will split off into a constellation of specialized servers. The website, including the user sites, has mostly moved to branchable.com. The DNS server, git server and other crucial stuff is moving to various VPS instances and containers. (The exhibit above is just one more automatically deployed, soulless container..) A large part of Kite has always been about me playing with bleeding-edge stuff and installing random new toys; that has moved to a throwaway personal server at cloudatcost.com which might be gone tomorrow (or might keep running for free for years).

What it seems will be left is a shell box, with IMAP access to a mail server, and a web server for legacy /~user/ sites, and a few tools that my users need (including that pine program some of them are still stuck on.)

Will it be worth calling that Kite?


[ Kite users: This transition needs to be done by December when the current host is scheduled to be retired. ]

Syndicated 2014-04-10 15:17:38 from see shy jo

Latest blog entries     Older blog entries

New Advogato Features

New HTML Parser: The long-awaited libxml2 based HTML parser code is live. It needs further work but already handles most markup better than the original parser.

Keep up with the latest Advogato features by reading the Advogato status blog.

If you're a C programmer with some spare time, take a look at the mod_virgule project page and help us with one of the tasks on the ToDo list!