From the Canyon Edge -- :-Dustin

Monday, January 13, 2014

How I REALLY WISH I could use my Intel NUC

Ars Technica posed an interesting question back in October: We have an Intel NUC -- what should we do with it?  Here's one idea...
Of course I have Ubuntu One storage and Dropbox account.  And I'm very well familiar with and dozens of other highly successful cloud storage solutions too.

These are unfortunately not the solution I want, to the problem I have.

I've considered many, many alternatives.  But ultimately, the only product on the market which I'm willing to buy is a co-lo service.  I want full root access, inside of a virtual private server, running a pristine, unspoiled, unmodified Ubuntu LTS server.  And attached to that, I want a lot (like, 1TB or more) of highly available, scalable block storage.  Not object storage.  BFS.  Block frickin' storage.  I want to format it with the file system of my choosing, and encrypt the data within with a cryptosystem and key of my choosing.

And finally I want to run rsync over an encrypted ssh connection multiple times per day to push my backups "to the cloud".

That's it.  And that's neither U1 nor Dropbox.  That's a little bit like, but not really.

I currently use AWS's EC2 and EBS.  I'm happy with the technology, but unhappy with the cost and security.  You can encrypt your data, but Amazon certainly could subvert your keys and encryption (or collude with the NSA to subvert your keys and encryption).

You're welcome to try, but you're not going to convince me to do this some other way.  Sorry.  This method is time-tested, recovery-proven.

A few years ago, I blogged about how I used a Dell Mini9 netbook as an Ubuntu Server.  I tucked that machine away in a nook at my parents house, and it served me reasonably well as a (free) co-lo for a several years.

 But there is now a clear and present opportunity now for a new cloud services business to emerge.  And the industry perfect poised to offer such a cloud service is one of the oldest brick-and-mortar institutions in human history....


Yes, banks.  You know, the important looking place your parents used to visit a couple of times per week to deposit and cash checks, but now largely replaced by robots called Automated Teller Machines (ATMs)?

There's really only 2 reasons I've visited a bank in the past 15 years.
  1. To have a document notarized
  2. And to access my safe deposit box

And every single time I do the latter, I yearn for a power outlet and an Ethernet jack in that magic, safe little box.

Consider that for a minute...  How nice would it be, to have your physical co-lo machine, under lock and key, in a safe, held by an old and trusted financial institution?  A physical location that you could travel to, authenticate using multiple forms of identification, present a key, open a sturdy looking box, and access your micro PC.  With current technology, that's my sleek little Intel NUC.  (Or alternatively, give me a USB power port and I'll use my Raspberry Pi.)

I think banks are extraordinarily well positioned to offered this as a service, as there are strong, established standards for physical security, and they're well placed in most neighborhoods around the world.  Establishing the service would mean beefing up redundant power supplies, internet connectivity, and air flow in at least one portion of the safe deposit vault (which might mean an altogether new vault).

And the multi-factor authentication!  Yay!

And the service itself?
  • I currently pay $50 per year for a small, document-sized safe deposit box (which, by the way, the NUC fits within -- I've already checked).
  • The NUC itself, at maximum energy consumption, draws 17W, at $0.125/KWh (the current rate in Austin, Texas), costs approximately $18.60 in energy costs per year
  • And a bare minimum Internet service plan runs about $20/month in my area, or $240/year
So at retail costs, I think we're talking somewhere between $300 - $500 per year for this service.  Done well, this is easily worth $1200 per year to me.  Which I would delightfully buy, as this is actually not far off from my yearly AWS bill.

How long have I been thinking about this?  Nearly 10 years!  Regrettably, I filed way-too-many patents during my 8 years at IBM (which itself deserves a blog post of contrition).  Including one on this very concept (US Patent 7,484,657; filed July 14, 2005; granted February 3, 2009).  Not that IBM has done anything productive with it to date, much to my chagrin :-(

So there, Ars Technica, that's what I would do with my Intel NUC :-)