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We Asked ChatGPT the Most Common Questions About Self-Hosting 17 min read
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We Asked ChatGPT the Most Common Questions About Self-Hosting

Asking the hard-hitting questions so you don't have to.

By Ethan Sholly
We Asked ChatGPT the Most Common Questions About Self-Hosting Post image

ChatGPT – an artificial intelligence chat bot developed by OpenAI – has taken the world by storm in the early months of 2023 as users have flocked to it to generate essays, search engine capabilities, memes, and other creative applications. The software itself is still in technical preview but can be accessed by anyone with a valid phone number through a free plan that limits responses during peak demand and restricts early access to new features.

Over the weekend we decided to ask it a few questions of our own about self-hosting, which we've shared below. Each response typically consisted of a short intro followed by a generic answer of the topic(s) in question. We didn't receive any real unique insight about any given application or subject – most of what was shared were descriptions that could easily be pulled from the first page of a Google Bing search. Admittedly, most of the questions beyond the first one or two were also meant to be cheeky because why not?

One of the more interesting takeaways from our conversation with ChatGPT was its constant reminder that the best software for any individual depends on their own specific needs and preferences while also underlining the importance of researching the various options available in any given category. (There's probably something to be learned here for those who frequent communities that experience a high amount of recommendation requests.)

And while we don't believe its responses are an indicator of anything beyond the massive popularity of the applications that were frequently mentioned, it was still an interesting exercise in how AI perceives and interprets the information available on the internet.

Without further ado, here are the questions and responses.

What's the best self-hosted software?

There are many great self-hosted software options available, and the best one for you will depend on your specific needs and preferences. However, here are a few popular options that are highly regarded by many:

  1. Nextcloud: Nextcloud is an open-source, self-hosted file sharing and collaboration platform that allows you to store and access files, calendars, contacts, and more from anywhere.
  2. WordPress: WordPress is a popular content management system (CMS) that allows you to create and manage websites and blogs. It is highly customizable and user-friendly.
  3. GitLab: GitLab is an open-source, self-hosted Git repository manager that provides version control for your code. It also includes project management tools, issue tracking, and continuous integration and deployment (CI/CD) capabilities.
  4. Matomo: Matomo (formerly known as Piwik) is an open-source, self-hosted web analytics platform that provides insights into your website's traffic and user behavior. It is a privacy-focused alternative to Google Analytics.
  5. Mattermost: Mattermost is an open-source, self-hosted team messaging platform that allows you to communicate and collaborate with your team in real-time. It includes features such as voice and video calls, file sharing, and integration with other tools and services.

These are just a few examples of the many great self-hosted software options available. It's important to research and evaluate different options to find the one that best fits your needs and requirements.

What's the best self-hosted Google Photos alternative?

There are several great self-hosted alternatives to Google Photos that provide similar features and functionality. Here are a few options to consider:

  1. Nextcloud: Nextcloud is a free and open-source self-hosted platform that offers many features, including photo storage and sharing. It includes a dedicated photo app that allows users to store and organize photos, share albums, and even edit photos online.
  2. Piwigo: Piwigo is another free and open-source self-hosted photo management platform. It provides advanced features such as metadata management, tagging, and geo-location. Piwigo also includes an intuitive web interface that makes it easy to manage and organize photos.
  3. Lychee: Lychee is a lightweight self-hosted photo management platform that is easy to install and use. It includes basic features such as photo organization and sharing, but is limited in advanced functionality.
  4. PhotoPrism: PhotoPrism is a new open-source self-hosted photo management platform. It provides advanced features such as auto-tagging, facial recognition, and even machine learning capabilities. PhotoPrism has a modern and intuitive user interface, making it easy to organize and manage photos.

These are just a few of the many self-hosted Google Photos alternatives available. Each option has its own unique set of features and capabilities, so it's important to evaluate and test each one to determine which one is best suited for your needs.

Is there anything Nextcloud can't do?

While Nextcloud is a powerful and versatile open-source software suite for file sharing, collaboration, and communication, there are some limitations and use cases that it may not be well-suited for.

Here are a few examples:

  1. Resource-intensive applications: Nextcloud is not designed to run resource-intensive applications like data processing, machine learning, or video editing. While it can be used for basic document editing and collaboration, it is not a replacement for dedicated productivity tools.
  2. High-performance computing: Nextcloud is not designed for high-performance computing (HPC) tasks that require large amounts of computing power, parallel processing, or specialized hardware.
  3. Real-time collaboration: While Nextcloud does offer collaboration features like document editing and commenting, it may not be the best tool for real-time collaboration or communication, especially for large teams or complex projects.
  4. Large-scale data analytics: Nextcloud is not a data analytics platform and does not offer advanced data processing or visualization tools. For large-scale data analytics, specialized tools like Hadoop or Apache Spark may be more suitable.
  5. Custom development: While Nextcloud is highly customizable, it may not be the best platform for complex custom development projects that require extensive coding and integration with other systems.

Overall, while Nextcloud is a versatile and powerful tool for many use cases, it may not be the best solution for all scenarios. It is important to evaluate your specific needs and requirements before choosing a tool or platform for your project.

Reverse proxy or VPN?

Whether to use a reverse proxy or a VPN depends on your specific needs and requirements.

A reverse proxy is a server that sits between a client and a backend server and forwards client requests to the backend server. It can be used to improve performance, security, and scalability of web applications. A reverse proxy can provide load balancing, SSL termination, caching, and other features.

On the other hand, a VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a technology that creates a secure, encrypted connection between two or more devices over the internet. VPNs are typically used to provide remote access to a network or to encrypt internet traffic to protect it from eavesdropping.

Here are some factors to consider when deciding between a reverse proxy and a VPN:

  1. Security: Both reverse proxies and VPNs can provide security benefits, but they do so in different ways. A reverse proxy can protect against common web application attacks like SQL injection and cross-site scripting (XSS). A VPN can provide end-to-end encryption and protect against eavesdropping and man-in-the-middle attacks.
  2. Performance: A reverse proxy can improve the performance of web applications by caching frequently accessed content, compressing data, and offloading SSL encryption. A VPN can introduce additional latency due to the encryption and decryption of traffic.
  3. Scalability: A reverse proxy can improve the scalability of web applications by distributing traffic across multiple backend servers. A VPN can be used to provide remote access to a network, but it may not be suitable for load balancing or other scalability needs.

In general, a reverse proxy is a good choice for improving the performance, security, and scalability of web applications, while a VPN is a good choice for providing secure remote access to a network or encrypting internet traffic. However, the specific choice will depend on your specific needs and requirements.

Should I self-host e-mail?

Self-hosting email can be a good choice for some users, but it is not without risks and challenges. Here are some factors to consider when deciding whether to self-host email:

  1. Technical expertise: Self-hosting email requires technical expertise to set up and maintain. You will need to configure the mail server, manage spam and virus filters, and ensure the server is secure and up-to-date.
  2. Security: Self-hosting email can be more secure than using a third-party email provider because you have complete control over your data. However, self-hosting also exposes you to security risks, such as hacking attempts, denial of service attacks, and other security threats.
  3. Privacy: Self-hosting email can provide greater privacy because your data is not stored on third-party servers. However, you will need to ensure that your server is configured to comply with privacy regulations and protect user data.
  4. Reliability: Self-hosted email may be less reliable than using a third-party email provider because you are responsible for maintaining the server and ensuring it is available and operational. You will also need to ensure that your server is properly configured to avoid being blacklisted by email providers.
  5. Cost: Self-hosting email can be cheaper than using a third-party email provider, especially if you have a small number of users. However, you will need to factor in the cost of hardware, software licenses, and ongoing maintenance.

In summary, self-hosting email can be a good choice for users who have the technical expertise and resources to manage their own email server. However, it is not without risks and challenges, and users should carefully evaluate their needs and requirements before deciding whether to self-host email.

Is it okay to use "dockers" as another name for Docker containers?

While "dockers" is sometimes used as a colloquial term to refer to Docker containers, it is not the correct terminology. "Docker" refers to the software platform that allows you to create and manage containers, while "Docker container" refers to the lightweight, standalone executable packages that can be run on the Docker platform.

Using "dockers" instead of "Docker containers" can cause confusion, especially when communicating with others who are familiar with the proper terminology. It is always best to use the correct terminology to avoid any misunderstandings.

That being said, if you are communicating with non-technical people who might not be familiar with Docker and its terminology, using "dockers" as a shorthand term might be appropriate as long as you clarify what you mean by the term.

Do users really enjoy looking at screenshots of other users' dashboards?

Some users may find screenshots of other users' dashboards interesting and informative, especially if they are looking for inspiration or ideas for customizing their own dashboards. However, not all users may be interested in viewing screenshots of other users' dashboards, especially if they are not relevant to their own needs or interests.

Whether or not users enjoy looking at screenshots of other users' dashboards depends on several factors, such as the quality of the dashboard design, the relevance of the dashboard to their needs, and their personal preferences. Some users may find it helpful to see examples of how others have customized their dashboards, while others may prefer to experiment and create their own unique dashboard designs.

In summary, while some users may enjoy looking at screenshots of other users' dashboards, it is not a universal preference, and users may have varying levels of interest depending on their needs and preferences.

What should I do if I spend more time maintaining and organizing my self-hosted services and content for other users than using them myself?

If you find yourself spending more time maintaining and organizing your self-hosted services and content for other users than using them yourself, it may be a sign that you need to reassess your priorities and focus on what's most important to you.

Here are some steps you can take to help you prioritize and manage your time more effectively:

  1. Set clear goals: Define what you want to achieve with your self-hosted services and content, and prioritize your activities based on those goals. Focus on the tasks that will help you achieve your goals and try to delegate or outsource tasks that are less critical.
  2. Automate where possible: Look for opportunities to automate tasks that are repetitive or time-consuming. There are many tools available that can help you automate tasks such as backups, updates, and monitoring, freeing up more time for other activities.
  3. Simplify your setup: Review your self-hosted setup and look for opportunities to simplify or streamline it. Simplifying your setup can help reduce maintenance and management overhead and make it easier to use and maintain your services and content.
  4. Delegate tasks: If you have other users who are helping you maintain your self-hosted services and content, consider delegating tasks to them based on their skills and interests. This can help you focus on the tasks that are most important to you and reduce the burden of maintenance and management.
  5. Schedule time for yourself: Make sure to schedule time for yourself to use and enjoy your self-hosted services and content. Set aside time on a regular basis to explore new features, experiment with new tools, and enjoy your content.

By prioritizing your activities, automating tasks, simplifying your setup, delegating tasks, and scheduling time for yourself, you can help ensure that you are using your self-hosted services and content in a way that is enjoyable and rewarding, while also managing the maintenance and management overhead effectively.

Should I deploy an uptime monitoring application within my own infrastructure?

Deploying an uptime monitoring application within your own infrastructure can be a useful way to monitor the availability and performance of your services and ensure that your users have a good experience. Uptime monitoring applications can help you identify issues and outages quickly, allowing you to respond and address them before they impact your users.

However, there are some potential drawbacks to deploying an uptime monitoring application within your own infrastructure, including:

  1. Single point of failure: If the uptime monitoring application itself goes down, you may not be able to receive alerts or monitor the availability of your services.
  2. Additional management overhead: Deploying and maintaining an uptime monitoring application can require additional resources and management overhead.
  3. Limited external visibility: Deploying an uptime monitoring application within your own infrastructure may not provide visibility into issues or outages that are happening outside of your infrastructure.
  4. Cost: Some uptime monitoring applications may require licensing fees or other costs, depending on the specific application and your use case.

If you decide to deploy an uptime monitoring application within your own infrastructure, it's important to consider these potential drawbacks and ensure that you have adequate resources and backup plans in place to mitigate them. You may also want to consider using a combination of internal and external monitoring tools to provide comprehensive coverage and visibility into your services' availability and performance.

Are you still self-hosting if you're using Cloudflare?

Using Cloudflare does not necessarily mean that you are not self-hosting. Cloudflare is a content delivery network (CDN) and web application firewall (WAF) that provides a layer of protection and performance optimization to websites and web applications.

If you are self-hosting your website or web application, you can still use Cloudflare as a reverse proxy to help improve the performance and security of your site. In this case, your web server still hosts the content, but Cloudflare acts as a middleman between the user and the server, caching and delivering the content to users from the edge servers closest to them.

It's worth noting that using a CDN like Cloudflare can introduce some privacy concerns, as the CDN will have access to your website's traffic data. Additionally, if you are using Cloudflare's WAF, some of your website's traffic may be routed through Cloudflare's servers for inspection, which could potentially impact the privacy and security of your users' data.

In summary, using Cloudflare does not necessarily mean that you are not self-hosting, but it's important to be aware of the privacy and security implications and ensure that you have appropriate measures in place to protect your users' data.

What's the best reverse proxy server and why is it Traefik?

As an AI language model, I cannot provide an opinion on the best reverse proxy, as the best one for you will depend on your specific needs and preferences. There are many great reverse proxies available, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.

That being said, Traefik is a popular and well-regarded reverse proxy that is known for its ease of use, flexibility, and robust feature set. Traefik is designed to be cloud-native and can dynamically configure itself based on the services and containers running in your infrastructure. It supports a wide range of backends, including Docker, Kubernetes, and other container orchestration platforms. Additionally, Traefik has built-in support for Let's Encrypt SSL certificates, making it easy to secure your services and provide HTTPS encryption.

Traefik's user interface and configuration file format are also known for being easy to use and understand, making it accessible to both experienced and new users. Additionally, Traefik is open source and has an active community of contributors, providing ongoing development and support.

However, it's worth noting that other reverse proxies, such as Nginx, HAProxy, and Caddy, are also popular and have their own strengths and weaknesses. Ultimately, the best reverse proxy for you will depend on your specific needs and preferences, so it's worth evaluating multiple options before making a decision.

Why do dialogue boxes in self-hosted software often disappear when I click and highlight text too quickly?

The behavior you are describing where dialogue boxes disappear when you click and highlight text too quickly is likely due to a phenomenon called "focus stealing."

Focus stealing occurs when an application or dialogue box loses focus to another application or window. In the case you describe, it's possible that the application or dialogue box loses focus when you click and highlight text too quickly, causing it to disappear.

This can be a frustrating issue, especially when you are trying to interact with a dialogue box or form that requires your attention. Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to mitigate the issue:

  1. Slow down your clicking and typing. While it may be tempting to quickly click and type, doing so can increase the likelihood of focus stealing and cause the dialogue box to disappear.
  2. Use a different browser. Some browsers are more prone to focus stealing than others. If you are experiencing issues with one browser, try using a different one to see if the problem persists.
  3. Check for updates. Some applications may have updates or patches available that address focus stealing issues. Make sure to keep your applications and operating system up to date to ensure the best possible performance.
  4. Adjust your operating system settings. Some operating systems allow you to adjust settings related to focus stealing, such as the duration of time before a window loses focus. Check your operating system's settings to see if you can make adjustments that may help mitigate the issue.

Overall, focus stealing is a common issue that can be frustrating to deal with. By taking the steps outlined above, you may be able to mitigate the issue and improve your experience with self-hosted software.

Editor's note: Damn, wasn't expecting a real response here.

Can I host Plex on an old laptop?

Yes, you can host Plex on an old laptop as long as the laptop meets the minimum system requirements for running Plex. According to the official Plex website, the minimum recommended specifications for running a Plex Media Server are:

If your old laptop meets these specifications, it should be able to run Plex without any issues. Keep in mind that the performance of your Plex server may be limited by the hardware capabilities of your laptop, so you may experience slower transcoding or streaming speeds compared to running Plex on a more powerful machine.

How can I achieve HTTPS on LAN?

You can achieve HTTPS on your local area network (LAN) by setting up a local certificate authority (CA) and issuing SSL/TLS certificates for your LAN domain name. Here are the basic steps:

  1. Create a local certificate authority (CA): You can create a CA using tools like OpenSSL or XCA. The CA will issue SSL/TLS certificates for your LAN domain name.
  2. Generate a SSL/TLS certificate: Using your CA, generate a SSL/TLS certificate for your LAN domain name (e.g. myserver.local).
  3. Install the certificate on your server: Install the SSL/TLS certificate on your server and configure your web server to use HTTPS.
  4. Install the CA certificate on client devices: Install the CA certificate on all devices that will access the HTTPS site on your LAN. This is necessary because the CA is not trusted by default on client devices.

Once you have completed these steps, you should be able to access your website on your LAN using HTTPS. Keep in mind that the SSL/TLS certificate will only be trusted on devices that have the CA certificate installed, so you may need to install the certificate on multiple devices.

Note that using HTTPS on a LAN may not be necessary if you trust all devices on your network and are not concerned about eavesdropping or man-in-the-middle attacks. However, using HTTPS can provide an additional layer of security and protect against some types of attacks.

Why don't any real self-hosted OneNote alternatives exist?

There are several self-hosted alternatives to OneNote available, although they may not have the exact same features and functionality as OneNote.

Some of the most popular self-hosted note-taking applications include:

  1. Joplin: An open-source note-taking application that supports Markdown and end-to-end encryption.
  2. Standard Notes: A secure note-taking application that encrypts your notes and stores them locally on your device.
  3. Turtl: A privacy-focused note-taking application that encrypts your notes and allows you to sync them across devices.
  4. Laverna: A note-taking application that supports Markdown and encryption and can be self-hosted on your own server.

While these alternatives may not have all of the features of OneNote, they offer many of the core note-taking capabilities and can be self-hosted to provide greater control and privacy over your notes. Additionally, because these applications are open source, you can customize and modify them to fit your specific needs.

It's also worth noting that OneNote is a highly specialized application with a large development team and significant resources dedicated to its ongoing development and improvement. It can be difficult for smaller self-hosted alternatives to match the features and functionality of a well-established application like OneNote. However, self-hosted alternatives can offer greater control and privacy over your notes, making them a compelling option for those looking to take their note-taking to the next level.

How can I automate holiday lights with a Raspberry Pi?

You can automate holiday lights with a Raspberry Pi using various methods, depending on your specific setup and preferences. Here's a basic overview of the steps involved:

  1. Choose your lights: First, choose the type of holiday lights you want to automate. Make sure they are compatible with the voltage and current of your Raspberry Pi's GPIO pins or use relays or other hardware to switch them on and off.
  2. Connect your lights: Connect your holiday lights to the Raspberry Pi, either directly through the GPIO pins or using a relay or other hardware.
  3. Install software: Install software on your Raspberry Pi to control the lights. You can use a programming language like Python or a tool like Home Assistant to create scripts or automations to turn the lights on and off according to a schedule or other triggers.
  4. Schedule the lights: Use a scheduler like cron or a home automation tool like Home Assistant to schedule the lights to turn on and off at specific times or in response to certain events or conditions. For example, you could set the lights to turn on at sunset and turn off at a specific time each night, or have them blink in response to a sensor or button press.
  5. Add extras: Add extra features to your holiday lights automation, such as music synchronization, color changes, or voice control, depending on your skills and preferences.

Keep in mind that working with electricity can be dangerous, so make sure you follow appropriate safety precautions and consult with an expert if you are unsure about any aspect of the project.

Should I self-host my own instance of Mastodon?

Self-hosting your own instance of Mastodon can be a good option if you want greater control over your social media data and more control over the rules and policies of your community. However, self-hosting also requires technical knowledge and resources, including a server and a domain name, so it's not the best option for everyone.

Here are some factors to consider when deciding whether to self-host your own instance of Mastodon:

  1. Technical expertise: Setting up and maintaining a Mastodon instance requires some technical knowledge, including familiarity with server administration and command-line tools. If you're comfortable with these tasks, then self-hosting may be a good option.
  2. Resources: Self-hosting requires a server and a domain name, which can be expensive and require ongoing maintenance. If you already have access to a server and domain name, then the costs may be minimal. If not, you'll need to factor in these costs when considering self-hosting.
  3. Community: If you want to create your own Mastodon community with specific rules and policies, self-hosting can give you more control over these aspects. However, if you're just looking to connect with other users on Mastodon, joining an existing instance may be a simpler and more straightforward option.

Ultimately, the decision to self-host your own instance of Mastodon depends on your technical expertise, resources, and goals. If you want greater control over your social media data and more control over the rules and policies of your community, then self-hosting can be a good option. If you're not comfortable with the technical aspects of self-hosting, or if you just want to connect with other users on Mastodon, then joining an existing instance may be a better choice.


Thanks, and happy selfh.st/ing!

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