Welcome to Nomagic, an not-for-profit organisation, registered in France. Nomagic aims to provide private individuals and small associations with a viable, responsible, and committed alternative to the Web services provided by big IT corporations. Located in Grenoble, France (relocated from London, UK in July 2020), we intend to be an accessible and trustful partner of your digital life (which is still Your life).
The big picture
“Freedom is something that dies unless it’s used.” – Hunter S. Thompson
We aim at helping you to achieve data ownership and full control over what we believe is yours and yours only. By providing you with an affordable access to various FOSS-based (Free and Open Source Software) Web services, we want to do our share in getting an Internet that is not constantly looking back at us, scrutinizing and selling every piece of information we produce, whether directly or indirectly (metadata).
This is all the more a concern as Internet has become an ever-growing part of our life, and a lot people’s data is held by a few corporations. The reason for this is mostly historical, with early Internet companies managing to attract people decades ago by offering free (as in free beer) access to their services under their terms of conditions. Those terms usually result in making the end-user the ‘product’ to sell to others.
We think that such an hegemony is not healthy for a fair and respectful Internet, and by extension, to society. This has raised several issues, such as:
- They have become targets for easy implementation of mass surveillance, which we believe will not help to better our societies but only contribute to reduce our freedom. It also puts us at the mercy of whoever has access to this tremendous power. And of course, this will result in self-imposed censorship, like in autocratic regimes (1984, anyone?).
- they tend to trap users into their products by deliberately making them incompatible with others, violating standard protocols along the way (ex: XMPP chat protocol).
We strongly believe that full transparency and irrevocable rights over people’s own data is the only way ahead for an ethical future. We believe people’s data is their own, and should not be monetized and resold to third parties. To put it simply, freedom and privacy are too valuable to be bargained with.
Our endeavour is to be part of a larger and growing network of hosters sharing fundamental values of openness, exchange, and respect. Nomagic is a member of Librehosters and CHATONS.
Nomagic mascot embedding done by R.ias, under CC-BY-SA 4.0. The original illustration is from David Revoy, licensed under CC-BY 4.0
Internet is in danger
Known privacy infringement laws and worldwide spying are very real, and represent a danger to our most basic freedom: the right to privacy and the freedom of speech. Net neutrality, the most sacred principle of Internet, which is also the main reason for its success, is regularly challenged by private entities, authoritarian regimes and democracies alike. Whether it is to make profits, keep a tight hand on your population or supposedly national security, they all violate our irrevocable right for privacy.
They probe, track and tap everything they can: all hail the era of Big Data!
We believe those changes, imposed on citizens without consultation or provision of a choice, are shaking the foundations of our democratic societies as a whole.
While we hope these laws won’t last forever, we also believe it is everyone’s responsibility to take a stand against this trend, by bringing our own changes. As citizens and consumers, we are all part of the system, and our actions and choices (or the lack of them) have consequences.
What can we do?
“Change is hard at the beginning, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end.” – John Charles Polanyi
Only the use of Free Software provides the most basic requirements for a digital trust relationship. More than that, they provide a virtuous circle in the development of software programs, as a Free Software program can be used, studied, modified, and redistributed freely.
Why shouldn’t you trust a software that does not provide its own sources? Because you can’t make any improvement or correction, and have absolutely no way of knowing if that piece of software does not contain malicious code, a back-door, etc.
It’s like buying a house in which you would not be allowed to change anything, with some rooms closed with no key to open them, and possibly a back-door without the key required to open or lock it. It is that simple, really.
No software is ‘perfect’, and bugs and vulnerabilities can be found regardless of the software licensing model. The Wikipedia page on open source and closed source software confirms this. However we also know that open source communities are usually very fast to react to vulnerabilities and provide a patch publicly available within hours.
In the last few years, we have noticed a growing number of concerned citizens having an interest in their privacy and taking back ownership of their digital lives. Nomagic is committed to providing those people with a full set of applications and best practices to broaden their use of the Internet without being a product while contributing to a small local business.
Online data is real life information, Nomagic pledges to not give any of it to the best bidder.
Closer to the local loop
We would be happy to have you onboard and to accompany you in mastering our tools and services (when possible). If you live near London, your system administrator has probably never been so close, and we hope to meet regularly to chat and exchange.
As said earlier, we want a decentralized Internet with services we can trust and rely on without having to trade-off our privacy. We aim at providing as many services as possible, and are ready to grow our infrastructure as we get more users. We want to stay relatively small and be able to meet with as many users as possible.
How would it make a difference?
We are not alone! Many passionate and concerned people feel the same way. There are already hundreds of companies, cooperatives, not-for-profit organisations, informal entities, etc. proposing great alternative services relying exclusively on free software.
When online, free to use is not what should determine the adoption of a tool or solution. It should be free to use, but also to study, modify and share! Free to know that your data will not be harvested, that you will not (indirectly) contribute to the great people farming at play. Free to keep your data private. And if you have to pay or donate for it, you are contributing to a better web by helping to make an ethical service sustainable.
What can you expect?
We have implemented a number of services for our users to access. You can see the full catalog with more details here.
- Email using any mail client or our webmail SOGo. Our email solution is a Postfix / Dovecot server.
- Chat via XMPP or Matrix. Our XMPP server is OpenFire, and Matrix is implemented via Synapse.
- Webmail/ Address Book / Calendar using SOGo
- File Hosting using Seafile client or via the Web Interface, with OnlyOffice integration for online editing
- Temporary file hosting using Lufi
- Calendar/ event tool using Framadate
- Taking notes using Turtl
- Collaborative text edition using Etherpad-lite and Hedgedoc
- Read-later online tool using Wallabag
- And many more!
Under the hood
- Our infrastructure servers are hosted by Hetzner, a German hosting provider.
- We use Proxmox VE hypervisor solution on a GNU/Linux Debian distribution.
- We make use of LXC containers and Qemu-KVM virtual machine for our infrastructure.
- The infrastructure is monitored locally and off-site for reachability.
- We have 2 weeks worth of backups for everything except Lufi and Lutim (temporary file and image share) data.
- We have daily snapshots of all containers/ virtual machines.
The ‘green’ label of a hoster is not a determining factor in our ultimate choice: we will first and foremost focus on the geographical location, the laws of the country (Patriot & Cloud Act for an American hosting provider, for example), and the independence of the hoster regarding the web giants.
We are wary of this kind of label for the following reasons:
- Most of the time we are talking about compensation. Indeed the energy source actually used to power data centres is usually either nuclear of fossil fuel, both having their issues.
- That leads us to the main point: the ‘bad’ energy is still consumed, and when you run advertisement for the world on it like Google and Facebook, you are generating huge quantity of CO2 in advertisement traffic throughout the globe. As seen in point 1), you effectively are using large quantities of energy to comply with your data-hungry, privacy-aggressive business model.
However, it so happens that our current hosting providing Hetnzer is actually pretty serious about it: indeed their datacenters in Germany are provisioned with 100% hydroelectricity (see here).