Hey everyone, I'm Matt Hill, Co-Founder and CEO of Start9.

Start9 is the team behind EmbassyOS - the most advanced, secure, and reliable personal server OS in the world, enabling anyone to run their own Decentralized Web Node. At Start9, our goal is to eliminate the need for trusted third parties in the human/computer relationship. We believe that the future of personal computing is sovereign individuals running open source software on commodity hardware, connecting on P2P networks without permission.

Today, EmbassyOS seamlessly accommodates Bitcoin, Lightning, password management, cloud data, P2P messaging, federated social media, and more. In the future, it will facilitate the private operation and coordination of sovereign fleets of Internet connected devices and also serve as the backbone of the Internet itself through mesh networking.

I am a developer by trade and team lead at Start9. I believe passionately in our mission and have devoted my life to manifesting individual liberty through education and technology. Feel free to ask me anything about anything, Start9 related or not. Topics I know well include:

  • @start9labs and EmbassyOS
  • Bagel baking 🥯
  • Plastics recycling ♻️
  • Elite running 👟
  • Objectivism 🤔
  • #Bitcoin
  • Decentralized Web Nodes 👨‍💻
  • PWAs 📱
  • Robot servants 🤖
  • Programming in #Angular
  • Books & movies 📘🎬

Looks good, similar to Umbrel. How is it different or better?

There are important differences in architecture and strategy.

We have a detailed compare/contrast that I will post here shortly.

Looks good. The private Tor webserver parts and SSL lan parts look great. Would be neat to maybe have some kind of automatic partial redundancy maybe. Not sure the best way but I'm picturing somehow having every webserver running being copied and ran on maybe three nodes. That would compete with both Flux and Umbrel at that point. And so no one can know "where" it's running.

10 sats \ 0 replies \ @muzz 5 Jul

This is where it is explained how it is different from Umbrel

https://youtu.be/kmfzATMxCj4

What's the single biggest "hurdle" we as a community need to over come in the next 10 years?

Patience. Rebuilding the global financial system and a new Internet is going to take time, especially in the face of fierce resistance from corporate and state actors. My prediction is it will take 60-70 years to fully realize the vision Bitcoin and sovereign computing promise.

Email is one of the primary communication mediums on the internet. It has become centralized and hosted by third parties. What efforts will Start9 play to decentralize email by making it easy to self-host?

You nailed it. Email is very difficult to do in a sovereign way, because it has been so thoroughly co-opted. In a near-term release of EmabssyOS, your Embassy and services running on it will be able to send emails. This is useful for notifications, invitations, and certain auth-related actions within services. It will not be, however, able to receive emails or serve as an alternative client to things like Gmail. Later, after we introduce clearnet (.com etc) support, it will be possible to run a full blown email server on your Embassy and connect to it from open source clients. However, to function well, it is still necessary to "play ball" with the various DNS and email verification standards, or else all your mail might get black holed. Ultimately, we think email is probably un-salvagable and needs to be replaced. This will take time, given how entrenched email is in our digital infrastructure and culture, especially in business.

120 sats \ 3 replies \ @kr 4 Jul

Looks like there are about 20 apps on the Embassy marketplace right now.

Have any of them surprised you with more or less adoption than expected?

First off, we try really hard to call them services, not apps, since the later concept collides with the little icons on your phone and laptop and causes confusion. But that's a side point. To answer your question...No, I don't think there has been any huge surprise in terms of which services are most popular. By design, we actually don't/can't have any concrete figures about service usage because we have no insight into these devices. But in polling our customers, the result have been roughly in line with expectations. Most popular services are Bitcoin and Vaultwarden (password management), followed by Lightning (mostly LND over CLN) and File Browser (Dropbox alternative)

21 sats \ 1 replies \ @kr 4 Jul

Interesting, what is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from talking to your customers?

They just want it to work. They don't care how it works, just that it does. Reliability is king.

120 sats \ 3 replies \ @kr 4 Jul

Had no idea you were into elite running, did/do you race yourself? What’s your favorite distance?

I specialize in middle distance (400m/800m). In high school I was our team captain, and we won the 5A state championship 3 years in a row. Individually I was 5th in state for the 800m and set a couple school and state records on various relay teams. I ran in college for Penn for a couple of years, but ultimately quite because I just wasn't it at the time. After college, I returned to my old high school and coached the middle distance for 7 years. During that time, I absorbed everything in sight regarding various training philosophies and tactics and coached multiple athletes to and relay teams to state championships of their own.

Today I continue to run half marathons, since the shorter stuff is just too hard on the body once you get over 30 haha. My best half so far is 1:17:58, so about 5:58 per mile.

21 sats \ 0 replies \ @kr 4 Jul

love it!

89 sats \ 1 replies \ @k00b 4 Jul

What’s the biggest thing other personal sever operating systems companies don’t understand?

Aside from base Linux/Debian/etc, I would argue that there are no other personal server operating system companies. If you are referring to the other plug and play node solutions, EmbassyOS is the only one I would really call an "operating system". I feel like that concept requires a minimum degree of functionality and control to the user, which none of them provide. They are more like "bundles of services" that you can view in a GUI. Almost ever action beyond simply installing ans starting a service requires SSH and command line usage. Only EmbassyOS affords users the ability to MANAGE their server over time, essentially turning an average person into a systems administrator or dev ops engineer.

does embassy works on non raspberry pi system? Because the pro is running on an Intel chip

At present, EmabssyOS only runs on a Pi 4. In the near future, it will run on x86 to accommodate the Pro.

10 sats \ 3 replies \ @om 4 Jul

How does Start9 make money?

We sell physical devices.

https://store.start9.com/

Start9 is terribly unattractive to most VCs because we make a physical product and sell it for profit. The business model is too understandable for them to hoodwink the next round of investors.

You know who you are.

https://twitter.com/_MattHill_/status/1542154637364666369

💯

0 sats \ 0 replies \ @moel 4 Jul

Your devices are sold out for a while now.

Is any new stock coming in soon?

73 sats \ 1 replies \ @Jel 4 Jul

What can you tell us about plastics recycling? Or what should we know about it?

From what I know it is hard do get this right. Difficult to separate properly and a lot of bad trade.

It is VERY difficult to get right. Single stream recycling practices (ie putting all your recycleables in the same bin) was a critical blow to plastics recycling. Not only are the plastics intermingled with non-plastics, but the various polymers are intermingled with each other. And on top of that they are covered in contaminants such as food, labels, metal, glue, etc. People have no idea how little of their plastic actually gets recycled. It is a tiny fraction. The problems are (1) efficiently identifying polymer types, (2) sorting the plastics based on polymer type, (3) decontaminating, and (4) producing a ground or pelletized product that meets the specifications of downstream manufacturers. All of this aginst the backdrop of incompetent regulation that makes everything more combersome and expensive. The vast majority of plastic ends up in land fills or are sent to China, Viet Nam, etc where they are sorted manually for cheap. There is a multi billion dollar company waiting for anyone who figures out how to identify, sort, clean, and pelletize to spec a mixed 1-7 bale in a totally automated fashion.

Any plans to package and deploy Mononaut’s bitfeedlive on EmbassyOS?

With the 03x series and our revamped developer documentation, it is easier than ever to package a service for EmbassyOS. You can literally get a Hello World service stood up in minutes. Then, depending on the complexity of the service to be packaged and the skill of the developer, it can take a few hours or a few days to package something up.

I say all this because Start9 will not be determining the service roadmap for EmbassyOS. It will be almost entirely community driven. If a team wants their service on the Marketplace, they can package it up. If an individual wants something on the marketplace that was build by another team, they can package it too. We are already seeing significant community development, and we expect the number of services available for EmabssyOS to sky rocket in the coming months and years.

Check out this video by Dread as he demonstrates how to package a service for EmabssyOS. Also, to answer you question directly, I am VERY confident bitfeedlive will be available on EmbassyOS. It's awesome.

https://youtu.be/gI6CeAGhFjE

134 sats \ 1 replies \ @Jel 4 Jul

“also serve as the backbone of the Internet itself through mesh networking”

What kind of mesh networking functionalities can be expected?

I think mesh networking could mean a lot to freedom of people. In countries where the internet is censored or of bad quality. But also in places where big companies rule the internet. I suspect that open standards and appropriate hardware are the first step. What do you think?

When I say mesh networking, I mean networking without central control or points of failure, a truly decentralized Internet in which participants can bootstrap and participate without permission and with impunity. Such a system requires a grand proliferation of hardware devices adhering to the same protocols. In short, it requires everyone to run their own node and for those nodes to speak the same language. Start9 aims to lead this march through EmbassyOS. We can't possibly predict which protocols and services will emerge as standards, and so we are developing an operating system that runs on commodity hardware that enables users to seamlessly choose and switch between various options. Whatever happens and whatever is needed, we know that physical devices and an operating system to manage them are essential prerequisites to any scale viable protocol or network.

How did you link up with Puresim?

We went on the hunt for the best Linux-based computer company and were overjoyed to find Purism. They really are in a class of their own. Reliable software, great hardware they manufacture themselves, and an incredible team.

Best (or favorite) books and/or movies? Maybe like top 5?

Always tough to just settle on 5, but here's off the top of my head.

Movies

  1. Matrix
  2. LOTR (series)
  3. There Will Be Blood
  4. Without Limits
  5. Contact

Books (cheating with 10)

  1. Fountainhead
  2. Gone With the Wind
  3. Red Rising (series)
  4. Battlefield Earth
  5. The Power Broker
  6. Pillars of the Earth
  7. Dune
  8. Atlas Shrugged
  9. The Stand
  10. Count of Monte Cristo

Contact is under appreciated. Love that movie.

Lots of great picks. I recently read Monte Cristo unabridged and i loved it.

Would love to hear about the following picks - why they made the list:

-There Will Be Blood (very well made and well acted, but there's probably more to it if it's #3 on the list)

-Battlefield Earth

I thought There Will be Blood was nearly perfect from a cinematic perspective. Cinematography, score, plot, acting, everything. The first time I saw it, I kept it on repeat for 3 straight days, basking in its achievement.

Battlefield Earth is a masterpiece of fiction, huge in scope and detailed in execution. Johnny might be my favorite hero. He goes from loin cloth primitive to galactic dominance in a believable way. I learned a lot from him.

Wen robot servants?

2 weeks tm

Hi Matt, thanks for the AMA. What's the process like to upgrade a Pi4 from an up-to-date Umbrel to EmbassyOS?

28 sats \ 0 replies \ @Ge 5 Jul

Whats up Matt hows it going?! hope u had a happy 4th! Saw in comments someone asked favorite books and movies...What is your favorite bitcoin book? any books that helped you in building start9 that you could suggest to a builder as yourself? love the mission statement. And what do you think is the best piece of advice you've received from anyone you look up to or has inspired you? Thanks alot Matt!

65 sats \ 1 replies \ @k00b 4 Jul

Start9 seems highly principled as a company. Can you speak to the advantages and disadvantages of running a company this way?

Nothing but advantages in every way that really matters. As an individual, I operate from 1st principles and hold integrity as the top virtue. You can "get away" with things in the world, but you can never get away from yourself. Every day is judgement day when it comes to your own conscience and self-esteem. I build Start9 according to the same principle. Sure, we forego some short term opportunities to grow faster or gauge harder, but our primary goal is to create a more free and independent world for future generations, for my daughter and other future children. Only secondarily do we consider the business angle. We wan to make money and lots of it, of course, but only secondarily to building a great product that improves the lives of those who use it and society as a whole.

21 sats \ 3 replies \ @felix 4 Jul

Favorite movie of all time? 🍿

It has changed over the years, but I always find myself wanting to re-watch Matrix. Never gets old. See my other answer for a few more.

Opinions on sequels and Animatrix?

The ideas underlying the sequels are cool, but I was not impressed with the execution. Never watched Animatrix.

I would love to know any updates on the Embassy Pro!

Nothing major. No hiccups so far, on track for Fall release. It's a game changer.

I eagerly await new services and functionality, and i occasionally check the roadmap page to see if it's not "under construction" any more.

I know plans and ETAs can be fluid, but is there anything you can share about Start9's current development priorities?

Our development priorities are almost entirely on EmbassyOS. As mentioned in another comment, service development will be almost entirely community lead, and we are very confident this will result in hundreds and eventually thousands of services available on the Marketplace. Regarding EOS development, our roadmap is a mile long, so many incredible things to build that will take many years to realize. At the moment, we are prioritizing full disk encryption, automated backups, clearnet support, and multi-tenancy.

All 4 of those goals are awesome. I think i'm most looking forward to the 2nd and 3rd. Anything you could share regarding which goals you think would be achieved first, and/or what some of the biggest roadblocks are?

(Also, i saw your telegram post about the possibility of getting Joplin working. Excited for that. I tried note-taking via file browser text edit, and that almost worked well enough to replace Std Notes for me. But not quite.)

40 sats \ 3 replies \ @k00b 4 Jul

What was your journey to Objectivism? Was it before or after finding Bitcoin?

First, I discovered Ron Paul, then through him Ayn Rand and Objectivism, then Bitcoin. So by the time I discovered Bitcoin, I was primed. In fact, I had been stacking gold from 2010-2015. I become obsessed with Ayn Rand and Objectivist philosophy. I have read everything she ever wrote, including fiction, non-fiction, even her personal journal. I think she is one of the most misunderstood figures in modern history and will (eventually) be remembered as providing the philosophic cornerstone for the next and most prosperous era of humanity's history.

Agreed. She's very misunderstood indeed. My fav is her first book: 'We the living'.

How did you make the leap from Gold to Bitcoin?