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October 08 2019 DNS, Freedombone, Minetest, CSS containers and Mastodon Meet

Posted on October 11, 2019
( 5 minute read )

Mike raised a problem he was having with DNS and Rob, joining us once again after a long absence, explained that the big players and the Content delivery networks were effectively operating a new version of DNS. The only answer was to get a domain hosted by one of the majors like GoDaddy. He went on to say that, notwithstanding the objections from state actors to encryption, end to end encryption would become the default with IPv6 and IoT because it was the only way to make IoT viable. Whatever happens, it will involve changes to hardware, firmware and the Linux kernel. Interestingly, the US Navy which uses Windows is using Linux containers for security.

John then outlined the presentations at the Manchester Software Freedom Day. Bob Mottram had introduced Freedombone, a free home Internet server intended to be for up to ten users who link to a mesh. It is not intended for commercial or payment systems and it is not intended to scale but it can be federated with other home Internet servers.

It offers all the things the commercial offerings do not such as pseudonyms and complete freedom to determine with whom you will associate. It will run on anything from an ARM processor upwards and its prerequisites are:

A variety of apps are available and it is ideally suited to guifi.net which offers mesh networking using antennae to connect servers.

Mike Dorrington introduced Minetest, a voxel open source game engine which runs various games including one also called Minetest, a Minecraft style game.

John gave the third presentation (What might CSS do to improve my website?) on how he had used CSS containers in his own website. This had prompted him to upgrade the old school association website which he maintains with both a flex and a grid container nested inside the flex container. The relevant lines of the CSS file are:

main {display: flex;}
main>article {order: 2; width: 58%; padding-left: 3em; padding-right: 3em;}
main>nav {order: 1; width: 19%; padding: 1em;}
main>aside {order: 3; width: 19%; padding: 1em;}
section.grid {display: grid; grid-template-columns: auto auto; justify-content: space-around;}

The first line sets up a CSS flex container in a <main> element; the next three lines specify the three elements in the flex container and the order in which they will appear.

Apart from anchoring the elements on the page in a way which was previously impossible, this allows the HTML code for the <article> element to appear first, before the code for the <nav> element, so that someone using a screenreader can read the content of the page before the navigation menu links while the order property in the CSS file means that someone viewing the page will see the <nav> element to the left of the <article> element.

The fifth line sets up a simple CSS grid container in a <section> element; it consists of two columns, automatically sized with any remaining space shared among the left and right margins and the centre of the page. This is documented in the website documentation.

Bernard introduced us to Mastodon, one of the elements in the Fediverse, an ensemble of federated servers which uses the ActivityPub API which allows social content to be passed from one server to another. After registering, you can register your own instance on your server and/or join another instance. Users have complete control over their own instance and communications with other instances on other servers. They can follow people on other servers and allow others to follow them. They can also link with other services like PeerTube. As it is a distributed network, if one instance goes down, it does not affect the others. It also offers private communications.