A self-hosted blog born in quarantine

I’ve always been fascinated about machines and how they work: from airliners to vessels, trains and even the Internet. Machines that work uninterruptedly and are interconnected by fiber optic cables running below the streets, roads and oceans.

A couple of years ago, I saw somewhere on the Internet an image that caught my attention. It was a picture of the world’s first web server that, somehow, brought me back memories from when I used to carry a floppy disk to get my first website hosted and also updated on a machine in the computer store of my hometown. Times where having home internet access was a coveted thing, not to mention 24/7 broadband access.

World’s first web server at London Science Museum
World’s first web server at London Science Museum

That image stuck with me for long, and with plenty of free time available in this quarantine, I started to explore different ways to launch a small web server at home. Since I already have a desktop PC always on streaming audio for Blur FM, I decided to try a VPS on a VirtualBox machine first.

The machine that hosts and serves this blog
The machine that hosts and serves this blog

Debian Server proved to run very smooth locally. Then came the hardest part of all: exposing the Virtual Machine to the Internet itself. It was a long way to go. My ISP uses CG-NAT, meaning that the public IP of my link is shared with other subscribers. NO-IP, which is one of the most popular choices for clients with Dynamic IPs, was not a viable solution.

VPN tunnels

After weeks of research I managed to set up a VPN tunnel using an Amazon Lightsail instance. Thereby, with the static IP coming from Amazon and some tinkering with port forwarding and iptables, I found a way to expose my web server to the Information Highway.

I consider this a personal milestone because, even though I’ll keep relying on the cloud for everything, hosting this blog on my web server feels like a feat in itself. Now, I’ll have to add a note to my desktop like Tim Berners-Lee, considered the father of the World Wide Web, did 30 years ago:

“This machine is a server. DO NOT POWER IT DOWN!!”

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