Previously, I have written about my intentional minimalism in design for this website, including my agreement with the hyper-minimalist ideas (not the foul language) to be found in the Suckless Project’s webpage “The Web Sucks.” Also, I have written about how simple the installation and configuration of FreeBSD on a Raspberry Pi 4 became with the arrival of FreeBSD 13-RELEASE, as well as how easy FreeBSD is to use on a Raspberry Pi as a low-powered homelab. Early last month (November 2023), I decided to merge these two ideas by mirroring my professional website, www.coreystephan.com, as a Gopher hole on my Raspberry Pi 4 running FreeBSD 14 with the address gopher://coreystephan.duckdns.org.
Gopher is the alternative to the modern Web that the Suckless team recommends. Developed at the University of Minnesota— that is, in the heart of my dear home state—and first released in 1991, the Gopher protocol allows the distribution and digestion of text. Unlike the World Wide Web of the 2020s, Gopher has nothing to do with “apps” or, arguably worse, several hundred megabyte, must-be-downloaded graphical billboards masquerading as useful documents. Gopher is for people who long for the professional websites and clever blogs of the 1990s through early 2000s.
Even as a newcomer to the Gopherspace, after only half a dozen hours of work scattered across the past few weeks, I now have gopher://coreystephan.duckdns.org ready for visits in any Gopher client. The process has been painless—and refreshingly so, relative even to managing www.coreystephan.com, which I at least have made less painful to manage than it could be as a 2020s website with TLS and comment sections.
With a fresh installation of FreeBSD, this is all that is required to start hosting a Gopher server:
- Install the “small and secure Gopher server” Gophernicus with
pkg install gophernicus
- Append the following line to (presumably, the bottom of)
/rc/inetd.confto enable Gophernicus:
gopher stream tcp46 nowait nobody /usr/local/sbin/gophernicus gophernicus[options]
- Restart inetd(8) with
service inetd restart
For the full list of options (flags) that are available in Gophernicus, type
gophernicus --help . There are two flags that I consider to be necessary (in the strictest sense). First,
-h [url] allows specifying the hostname. Second,
-o UTF-8 overrides the default character set with Unicode, thereby allowing the server to host special, non-Latin characters, including polytonic Greek (and emoticons). For now, then, my full
/rc/inetd.conf entry for the Gopher server is this simple (as one line):
gopher stream tcp46 nowait nobody /usr/local/sbin/gophernicusgophernicus -h coreystephan.duckdns.org -o UTF-8
Gopher defaults to port 70. Gophernicus allows one to choose any port that one might like, but clients tend to try to access default ports for Internet services automatically. Accordingly, I have allowed Gophernicus to use the default port, and I have forwarded all WAN calls for port 70 from my SOHO router+firewall that runs the free and open source firmware OpenWRT to my Raspberry Pi.
Piecing together an orderly, pleasant Gopher hole is barely more complicated than enabling Gophernicus inside FreeBSD. The best place to begin is gopher://gopher.floodgap.com, which contains a brilliant “Getting started with gopher, software, and more” page that links, among many useful places, to a “Toybox” that explains exactly how to setup a Gopher hole with tangible examples. I keep my own hole’s source code up-to-date at github.com/historical-theology/gopher.
The best place to start organizing a Gopher hole is with the landing/root “gophermap.” A Gopher hole’s main gophermap is equivalent to the “index.html” webpage of a website, that is, the homepage that directs a visitor to all the website’s other webpages. The floodgap “Toybox” contains a small sample gophermap with everything that one might need in order to configure his/her own, and the source code for my Gopher hole on GitHub shows how I have my own gophermaps (plural) configured (one as the homepage, one as the index for my phlog, and so on).
Finally, for the reader who is brand new to the Gopherspace, I share a few common equivalencies between the World Wide Web and Gopher. After all, knowing a hobby’s most basic jargon tends to be helpful when first entering into it.
|World Wide Web (WWW)
|homepage / index.html
|Blog (Web log)
|Phlog (Gopher log)
|Ports 80 (http) & 443 (https)
With that, it is time for me to resume diving into Gopher holes.
Deus vos benedicat,