House Server

House Server

Once I got DSL in my house I realized that I could run my own server. I had waited years for that moment! I've used a number of commercial servers but they were always slightly less than I wanted. Either they didn't have enough space, or I could run J2EE applications or some other thing. Now that I had my own physical hardware, I could do what I want. (Well, almost what I want. I still want to run a Notes server!)

So it's great, I can have my own site, with sub-regions for all my roommates. One of them has even moved one of her major sites AnnoyYourFriends to the house server. I've been able to help out friends by giving them hosting space. Since I moved it to a house server I can even set up mail accounts, ftp, file serving, etc, etc.

But that's mainly small, simple, predictable stuff. It also occured to me that almost everyone in my house has a computer. So there is nearly a computer in every room. Surely there is something we can do with that! No, not something cool, or fun. Something useful.

And that started the idea for the "House Server". Basically a collection of related applications to be generally useful to a bunch of people living in the same house. The project won't get properly started till I have my own home and am willing to invest in hardware to enchance it, but there is no reason planning can't begin!

The applications are intended to be server based and rendered through a browser. However we may also create a small pop-up for windows that can sit on your task bar and alert you to various goings on. Additionally I want to see if it is worth buying cheap past-their-prime PDAs and mounting them on walls in, say, the kitchen. So I might give selected applications an additional WAP interface to facilitate this usage.

House Mail. The first and simplest module is house mail. Each person in the house has a mail account that is designated as the account that the house system will interact with. (By default that will be the POP3 service on the house server.) There will be a web front end to let House Users log in and send e-mail to each other and outside addresses via their account.

House Directory. This is just directory pages for the people living in the house, alumni, friends, favourite take-outs, etc, etc. Phone numbers, different e-mails, chat ids, and so forth can be coordinated here so we can find each other when we are not on the house system.

You Have (Snail) Mail. We use a system of mail boxes to track snail mail. Not all of us are so good at emptying them out, which can make it difficult to tell when new mail has arrived. This is a simple check-list application that allows whoever takes the mail in to quickly check off who just got mail. If the user has chosen to be alerted to this, they will get an e-mail or pop up telling them they have snail mail. To be useful, this has to be fast and easy to do. If we can put a cheapo-PDA in at the mail station, it would be perfect.

You Have (Voice) Mail. Initially we'll probably just user our normal voice mail. This alerts you when you pick up the phone that there are new messages. However, once you listen to them, and save them if they aren't yours, it no longer alerts you. You have to remember to tell your roommate that they have voice mail. So a check-list app, very similar to the Snail Mail app, can be deployed to let somone check off to alert someone else that they have voice mail.