The Setup Of My Dreams

published by Eric Mill on

Daniel Bogan (aka @waferbaby) runs an interview blog called The Setup, and has almost 500 interviews with people about what hardware and software they use to get things done. It's a novel and fun idea, and along the way he's interviewed some of my favorite people. He also has the unusual practice of using subdomains for all posts, e.g.

I was graced with a turn, and finally had my chance to tell the world about my insane practice of listing G1 converts in a text file. Read the whole thing at my own intimate, highly personalized subdomain:

I actually ended up pretty happy with my answer to "What is your dream setup?", because I think that private, empowering hardware by default is a vision that we should all be building to.

The perfect laptop:

  • is 100% FOSS, but without any rough edges. (This doesn't exist.)
  • is supported by the manufacturer despite an OS not from Google, Apple, or Microsoft. (Dell recently started doing this again.)
  • ships with its full disk already encrypted, with a password you reset on first boot.
  • comes with an open source USB or smartcard device designed solely for private key storage, with lots of great instructions and advice. (Can't think of anything good that exists like this.)

It would also have a document explaining (in plain language) what global institutions the laptop has been preset to blindly trust. In other words, which certificate authorities are trusted. That document would also explain how to disable certain institutions, in general or on a prompted basis.

The perfect phone:

  • is 100% FOSS, right down to the hardware and firmware level for every bit of it. (This doesn't exist.)
  • can be easily rooted, and its bootloader easily unlocked and re-locked, and a warranty that can withstand that. (The OnePlus One purportedly does this.)
  • ships with its full disk already encrypted, with a password you reset on first boot. The disk password should be totally separate from the screen unlock password.
  • uses Android's permission structure, but allows users to rescind any individual permission they wish.

It would also use a standard find-my-phone/kill-switch spec, that you can authorize (or revoke) the provider of your choice to control on your behalf. That's a useful feature that shouldn't require an irrevocable tether to a major point of failure or compromise like Google or Apple.

The perfect host:

  • focuses on the latest Ubuntu server LTS.
  • has special support for managing one's own website, or email server.
  • is so standards- and container-oriented that anything you create could easily be snapshotted, downloaded, and migrated seamlessly onto a Raspberry Pi.

It would also have documentation and an interface optimized for non-experts and single-use tasks. For example, a graphical UX to manage "the box's" crontab, and ways to point the box at, say, a Dockerfile hosted on GitHub and have it just go from there.