ZENSASPRIME.NET

Highlighted below are some of the technologies and services that i host on my personal server and network. I have been hosting network and internet services since the late 90s. Sometimes it can be a real challenge configuring and maintaining it all but, most of the time, it just runs itself. As the networked world grows ever more complex (and strangely more meaningless), I really enjoy having my own slab of cyberspace that can provide some fun bits of utility for myself and my friends.

Tech & Gear

Some folks might look down on me for using the gear I use to run my services but I think that makes it all the more fun. While it would no doubt be more practical to run the whole shebang in some Linux distro and a custom built rig, I've been maintaining Apple hardware and Mac OS X server software of various sorts for over 20 years now. I haven't felt any urge to make the switch. So go ahead and have a good chuckle if you are one of those nerds, I don't mind.

All that said, here's my setup: The computer hosting the bulk of the services is a humble Mac Mini 2011 running Mac OS X Server El Capitan. I also have an even more humble Mac Mini 2007 running Mac OS X Server Lion that acts as my email server. Both of these machines are happily sitting snug in my comfortable finished basement retro room.

Domain Name System

When I first cut my teeth on hosting my own domains I used a piece of software called MacDNS. It was configured via a very simple interface and ran it's DNS service as any other Mac OS application. While not as fancy as configuring zone data by hand in some esoteric terminal text editor like Vi, it got the job done with almost no complaints.

These days, Mac OS X Server runs the pretty standard Bind 9.9.7. Strangely enough, even though I've gotten pretty good at manually editing my zone files, Apple dose not like this. For anyone familiar with Apple products, Apple believes it knows best. Therefore, not only are all the zone and config files stored in non-standard locations, the server software itself has a tendency to overwrite zone files with data that it feels is more correct than anything any mere human administrator could configure. After a few years of thinking that things should be done my way, I resigned myself to simply welcoming my new Apple Server Overlords. Ever since I learned this valuable lesson, my DNS services have been remarkably stable.

Web

Back in the late 90s, when the web was a wee lad, I put some energy into configuring my own web server to host some of my early websites. I did this on an Apple Power Macintosh 7500/100 running Mac OS 9 and WebSTAR 5 Server Suite. While it wasn't exactly as hip as compiling and configuring Apache from the command line, it was remarkably stable. It's uptime, barring any kind of power outage, was measured in years. I was using WebSTAR well into the 2000s, after which I switched over to Mac OS X and Apache.

These days, I'm running Mac OS X Server El Capitan (10.11.4) with Apache (2.4.18) (not as old as WebSTAR but getting there). I pretty much run it out of the box, learning long ago that Mac OS X Server doesn't really like it when you customize your config. I don't do anything fancy though, so configuring the sites that I host using the Mac OS X Server software get's the job done. Predominately I host zenasprime.net and some associated subdomains. Like I said, nothing fancy.

eMail

I had been hosting my own email server since the late 90s (using the aforementioned WebSTAR Server Suite 4/5) but as the nature of the fight against spam intensified, and major providers started walling off their email gardens with ever more restrictive blacklists (I'm looking at you Gmail), hosting ones own email server has become problematic. If your email address isn't hosted by one of the big providers, even those servers that follow all the rules, messages can end up in junk email filters or even worse, rejected by those providers all together. As such I rarely use my personal addresses for anything outside of communicating with friends and family who I've specifically instructed to whitelist my address. And to be honest, it's been a better experience this way.

As mentioned earlier, email services are being hosted by a Mac Mini 2007 running Mac OS X Server Lion, which utilizes Postfix. It can be bit of a pain to configure manually and with Apple server tools being notoriously finicky about custom configs, I've opted to run the service as configured out of the box. It gets the job done just fine.

Previously, I had been hosting email services (POP, then IMAP, and SMTP) on the newer Mac Mini 2011 but something happened a few years ago that prevented SMTP from working properly in Mac OS X El Capitan. Not even a fresh install would get it to function properly. So after a couple of years without any services altogether, I dusted off the Mac Mini 2007 and put it to work.

Internet Relay Chat

In the past I had wanted to set up my own private chat server but since chat options have been ubiquitous and many throughout the years it seemed not only redundent but pointless if nobody else bothered to join in. Still, I did give it a go with some peer to peer solutions, even trying to get my own iChat server going (it was a complete failure by the way). More recently I've been tinkering with an IRC server called ngIRCd. As it stands, ngIRCd is nicely documented, easy to configure, and getting it running is super simple. It's a nice (retro?) alternative to the more contemporary third party services like Slack or Discord so long as you don't need all of the other bells and wistles those services provide out of the box.

What's cool about IRC is that you can run an IRC client on both modern and retro systems. You can even run one from a humble termal window. On MacOS I'm using Textual 7, which is probably the best IRC client you can get on a modern Mac. For my older Power Mac G4 I'm using Limechat. You can access the IRC server at irc.zenasprime.net.

Bulletin Board System

As kid in the 80s I was facinated with dial up BBSs. Influenced by the romantic notions of comuter hackers depicted by movies such as War Games and the allure of playing door games such as Trade Wars. Unfortunately, as a kid I never managed to acquire the resources to create my own BBS. It wasn't until fairly recently that I relized that BBSs were still a thing that continued to exist in the world of the internet and the world wide web.

I have since begun to configure my own bbs using MysticBBS. As of writting this I'm still int he process of configuring and customizing the service. None the less you can access the BBS via telnet at bbs.zenasprime.net on port 2323.

Internet Radio Stream

In the early 2000s I set up an internet radio station for Zenapolae, an idie record label and net label I cofounded with a friend. At the time I was running a Shoutcast server set up from my own hardware. I maintained and curated ZenRadio, as it was called, for several years before a server failure brought it down in the late 2000s. At the time I didn't have the resources or time to recreate the stream and with various new streaming services overtaking the popularity of internet radio, I moved on.

More recently I have set up an Icecast server running from my own humble hardware. From my modest DJ setup in my livingroom I'm now able to stream live mixes as well as currated playlists from my music library. My live setup consists of two Gemini PT1000 turntables, an American DJ Q-Deck mixing board, an aging M-Audio Torq Connectiv, Apple's iTunes... I mean Music, and Algoriddim's DJay Pro 2 (though I think I may be switching over to Native Instruments Traktor so that I can use their time code vinyl).

The stream is available here or via this Direct Link

Minecraft

Info coming soon.