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Earlier this year I mentioned to my dad I’d like to set up a web server at home. I’d want something second-hand with low power consumption that has an SSD and is effectively silent. You know, kinda like an ASUS EeePC. Dad had the crazy idea that I could actually just use an EeePC. ‘Brilliant’, I thought, and shortly got a 900A model very cheap from the Internet.

( I know I can host a wordpress blog with my domain name using my ISP’s webspace, and that this might actually be much easier, but this would mean I couldn’t play around with technology and have as much fun!)

I initially tried Ubuntu 11.04 on it but had a few small, technical problems. That, and I hated the Unity interface. For some reason I had it in my head that Ubuntu would be an easier distribution to use as a web server than Linux Mint 11, which I use on my other computers. I finally replaced it last week and, after many hours spent installing and reinstalling WordPress, it worked! I thought it could be nice to celebrate my week of uptime by posting a few photos of my physical server setup.

Click for full-size version

Internet, this is my web (and printer) server, sheeelob. (You can thank Cassie for the great name idea!) sheeelob lives on my desk under a small, wooden bookcase thing(?) that I once found on the side of the road. I leave the battery out to conserve power, but leave it close by for emergency relocations or power cable rearranging. Keeping the system simple, only essential programs have been installed – look how tidy the desktop is! That big orange thing is the security cable that makes it extremely inconvenient to use an external monitor.

(And to answer your question, yes, the composition of the above photo did take into account the prominence of my dinosaur card.)

Click for full-size version

And when I’m not configuring software or transferring images manually (I’ll eventually set it up so I can do all of this externally) sheeelob slides neatly out of the way.


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What’s in a blog name

I’m terrible at naming things.  There’s a lot about the arbitrary nature of names that makes me uncomfortable, and the part of me that does believe they can have positive value can never be satisfied that a name is ‘just right’ for its use.

In short: I’m a perfectionist, and a philosopher.  (A terrible pair of traits to have!)

So when it came to starting a new blog I loved the fact that I could just start writing in WordPress and change its name later on.  I could produce posts and easily move it to a different address once I think of the perfect handle!  I started with my real name because, while boring, it’s just a simple, obvious place to begin.  As long as I don’t care about anonymity it’s a good way to use an existing brand in a new setting.  But I also feel my real name is an inadequate representation for who I am.  Yes, its meaning grew with my actions, but it encompasses the sum total of these actions over my lifetime.  I wanted something else, something that represented who I am right now.  The easiest way to do that is to start from scratch, create a new pseudonym and just start participating.

One of my best qualities is that I am quite good with puns.  While this helps with picking out a cool name, I encountered issues of relevance and originality.  My first new blog from last year was called ‘eTheChange‘ (it’s still alive), a take on the oft-quoted Gandhi phrase, and this wasn’t too bad except that I felt limited in content.  I would happily write about activism and social change using digital media (my research focus in 2010) but anything else just felt out of place.  I then recently began a new blog with the working name ‘dailyontology’.  It sounds like paleontology (I wanted to dedicate my life to this when I was young, like every other kid) and I could use it to post about my own, daily existence (or something).  Still, I wasn’t happy with it – not everyone understands what ontology means, and I didn’t want to suggest that I’d post daily.

Then, reading some Asimov the next week, I thought I could use the pseudonym ‘andrewoid’!  Robotics is cool, and my first name is Andrew . . . but it made me worry that it created associations between me and a particular mobile operating system by Google that I have never actually seen let alone have a well informed opinion on.  And it appears a few others are using the name already on various social media sites.  I know it’s becoming increasingly difficult to have a simple and original name, but I didn’t want to encroach on somebody else’s established brand.

The next day I came up with the best name so far: ‘threadpoet’!  But this didn’t feel relevant to my planned content unless I got back into regular sewing projects.  I’ll happily settle altering it for a sewing group name, however: ‘The Thread Poet Society’!

The final, and current name comes from a conversation I was part of.  A friend was recounting an adventure that led them to a park bench where they were subjected to the not-so-modest actions of very public pigeons.  Being especially quick that day I said, ‘They were exhipigeonists!’

It didn’t immediately seem right for a blog name, but it began to grow on me.  I’m researching networked publics and I’m making an effort to be more open than I have been in the past, so it actually had some relevance.  And besides, doesn’t everybody like birds?  (And didn’t they used to be dinosaurs?!)  The final persuasion came when I did a quick google search for ‘exhipigeonist’ and it came up with zero results!

I think I’m set on it, at least for the time being.  The name’s not as important as what you do with it.  And even if it’s not ‘just right’, my actions will inform a new identity around it, forcing it to cohere.

So the next big question is where to begin.  Luckily, I already have a list of topics!