Since I discovered it was possible, I’ve been yearning to make something out of the Webserver on a Stick project (WOS). Components that make WOS are:
- A web server; Apache
- A database server; MySQL
- A scripting language; PHP
For one, I love all the recursive acronyms. GNU, stands for GNU is not UNIX. Witty! And PHP stands for PHP Hypertext Preprocessor. I suppose this is why I get called a geek. Not just for knowing the acronyms – necessarily – but that I find them funny.
Anyway, the case in point is that these three pieces of software, three giants of the software world; can all be crammed onto a USB memory stick. The “AMP” combination (Apache, MySQL, PHP) is such a powerful combination, although rarely seen by end-users directly, it sits behind hundreds of millions of websites, not to mention the hundreds of famous companies that use software like MySQL. Most amazingly something that warms by heart and opens my mind is that it is all distributed for free and with freedom. Their mission statement is this:
[it is our] mission to preserve, protect and promote the freedom to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute computer software, and to defend the rights of all free software users
It is also, from what I can tell, a mostly pointless exercise. There is very little point in having these three incredibly powerful pieces of software on a memory stick; it is more a showcase of possibilities. The power of the software, and the millions of man-hours of work that has gone into the software development, is encapsulated in an extremely small artifact. Its almost like having an all knowing guru, who could have memorised all of human history, but they are unable to write, talk or communicate in any other way. The strength and power of the software is somehow “trapped”.
You may have heard of BookCrossing (“bookcrossing” is now included in the Oxford Concise Dictionary). BookCrossing is defined as;
“the practice of leaving a book in a public place to be picked up and read by others, who then do likewise”
Although I have significantly different aims, I have transferred the same functional structure, which resonates well with my other audience collaboration oriented work, to work with the “Webserver of a Stick” technology.
Rather than leaving a book in a public place, I am leaving USB memory sticks. Each stick has installed on it Apache, MySQL and PHP and blogging system WordPress (also the system behind this blog!). Anyone who plugs in a memory stick they have found is invited to make a blog entry and then pass the memory stick on to another person, who will then pass it on to another, and so on. I want to this to continue until each stick’s memory is full, when they will all be sent back to me.
Isnternet; although it is all web and internet based technology, BlogCrossing works in a completely “disconnected” manner. The network is made by the people rather than the telephony and internet networks that we are more often a part of.
Anti-Blogs; traditionally a blog resides on the web, and can be accessed by any number of visitors, search engines, news aggregators and so on. Also, most blogs are maintained by an individual, they’re often diaries and journals (like this one!). BlogCrossing is neither of these things, and in fact it is in the inverse. Maintained and written by many individuals, accessible by only one person at a time.
BlogCrossing; a tribute to the brilliance and success of BookCrossing.
I’ve released three BlogCrossings so far.. I hope they’re doing well.
My one misgiving is also the strongest part of the project. I’m worried that the network of people will break down. Somebody might loose the memory stick, they might steal the memory stick, they might accidentally delete all the data on it, anyone of these things would just ruin it. However if those things don’t happen, it proves a mass-understanding, a connectedness (even in anonymity); for me a pleasurable outcome. The aim, is that each person that takes part, and in the future people who see the fruits of the project will feel that pleasure too.
NB, I just spell checked, misread something that I thought I’d written, then thought of the word “witticism”, checked it and it exists – Cool!
“Witty remark. Blend of witty and criticism.”