Pubnix Admin Interviews - #2, Ben Morrison,

This is the second part of an interview series with pubnix admins.  This series
is part of the Pubnix History Project, an effort to explore and document the
history of an interesting aspect of the non-commercial internet.  More
information about the interview series, including a table of contents that will
be updated with each new interview, can be found here: [1].  Interviews will
initially be published on different servers and different protocols (e.g.
gopher, gemini and http), but this table of contents will be regularly updated
to point to them all.

Today's interview is with Ben Morrison (~gbmor) of Atlanta, Georgia, admin of[2].  Tildes and the Tildeverse were described in the previous
interview with Ben Harris, and more tilde admins will be interviewed in the
future. is unique in that it is one of the few tildes not
primarily based on Linux -- it runs OpenBSD. 

In old school pubnixes, from the 1980s and 90s, access to Unix and Unix-like
OSes was less common, so the "access" part of "public access unix systems" was
a big deal.  Now, anyone can easily run a *nix system at home, on a raspberry
pi or any spare hardware, and the exciting part of pubnixes is learning about
these systems and open source software in a social environment. tilde.insitute
fits this model exactly and is a great place to learn about OpenBSD with other

Ben shares another commonality with the previous interviewee (Ben Harris) in
that they both were first exposed to pubnixes via SDF.  I suspect this is a
trend we will see continue in many future interviews.

And now, on to the Q&A.  Questions and Answers will be prefaced with a 'Q' and
an 'A', respectively.

- Q&A - 

Q: How did you first get into computers?  ...and multi-user system

A: While I had used computers at school, my family didn't have a computer until
I was in the fourth grade, in early 1999. Once we got one, I dove in. By 2000 I
was learning how to make rudimentary web sites and had found IRC.

This is going to sound kind of strange, but around this time this person
convinced me to run a binary that was infected with sub7. After they got tired
of opening my CD-ROM drive and doing the 'wake up, neo' matrix thing on the
screen, they told me what they did, and kind of became a short-term mentor.
They explained how it worked. They told me about this thing called 'Linux', and
lots of other stuff I can't remember. It kind of jumpstarted my interest.

I started exploring the command line afterward with Cygwin and an account at, which was my first exposure to a public-access UNIX system. In early
2002, I built a PC with the help of a local PC shop, and was dual-booting
Windows XP with Red Hat Linux (I think 7.3). Around the time Vista came out, I
was graduating high school, and decided to just get rid of Windows (also,
OpenOffice at the time had usable MS Word interop, and writing school
assignments was the majority of my Windows time).

>From there, I never really stopped learning. I ran several servers over the
years intended for use with a myriad of things.


Q. What was your first experience with pubnixes or similar computer-based
social communities?

A: I first found in 2001-ish, maybe late 2000, and thought it was the
coolest thing. At first I knew basically nothing about UNIX-like OSes aside
from "this is a thing." Prior to that, I had been active on IRC.


Q: What pubnixes were you involved with before you started your own?  What did
you like about those? (Feel free to mention dislikes too, if relevant.)

A: I have been an on-off user of for a long time. Eventually I found, and then shortly afterwards and the tildeverse. The
sense of community really stood out to me - people collaborating and building
things together, even if the only justification was "because we want to". It is
a refreshing alternative to the now-heavily-commercialized web. Like a return
to hobbyist endeavors and creating things because it's fun.


Q: When did you start your current pubnix?  Briefly describe the history of
your pubnix from start until now.

A: In late 2018, after discovering,, and the larger
tildeverse, I saw that, at the time at least, all the pubnixes in that
immediate milieu were Linux-based. The main exception was's FreeBSD
option. I figured that there would be enough interest in a pubnix using OpenBSD
for it to be a viable project, so in November of that year I started putting together. It's been around 19 months now, and everything's
going well.


Q: What motivated you to start your pubnix?

A: I wanted to provide a space for people to play around with OpenBSD, write
software, socialize, etc.


Q: How would you describe your pubnix to someone who is not familiar with

A: It's a non-commercial space for people to socialize, write software, and
learn about UNIX.


Q: What are the biggest challenges you face as a pubnix admin?

A: Luckily, I haven't had to deal with many malicious users. But, I'd say it's
those few malicious users. They can be sneaky, and not very obvious, and their
presence can affect the existence of the system itself.


Q: What software have you developed? If more than one, what is your favorite?

A: wrote a twtxt registry server about a year ago. twtxt is a niche
microblogging platform using plain text files served over HTTP. It's called
getwtxt, and an instance runs on Repo:

A while back I started working on a currency simulation for pubnixes. Not
cryptocurrency. I have basically been implementing a spec written by aewens and
published on Development of it has kind of stalled, but I do
fully intend on finishing it. I need to rewrite what I have since I've come up
with some better ways of architecting it than I did initially.  Repo:

I've also been working on a gemini protocol server. Right now it just serves
static content, but I'm going to be adding in CGI support and user directories
fairly soon.  Repo:

I couldn't pick a firm favorite, really. 'getwtxt' is feature-complete, so
maybe that one?


Q: What are your hopes for the future of pubnixes?

A: I want them to flourish, and for plenty of people who want to build things
and contribute to an open, non-commercial space to join in.


Q: What should pubnixes be doing that they aren't yet doing?

A: I'm not sure, really. Maybe explore some less traditional operating systems.
OpenSolaris/OpenIndiana/Illumos (like maybe OmniOS CE), plan9, etc.


Q: Are the Internet's best years behind us or ahead?

A: Different years are behind us, and different years are ahead of us. The
barrier to entry to the UNIXy world is lowering as technical knowledge becomes
more commonplace among people. I hope in the future we see even more interest
in the free software movement and more people who want to join in, can.


Q: What do you do when you're not on the internet?

A: There's other things?

No, really. Biking, camping, fishing, high-stakes heists (don't tell interpol),
photography, wrestling with dogs, reading, exploring old buildings like
warehouses, kayaking.


Q: What else do you enjoy doing with computers besides pubnix-related activity?

A: Maybe keeping up with news and current events, or maybe playing a MUD or a
roguelike, or even a modern video game (occasionally). Writing code, too.


Q: If people want to follow you online, where should they look?

Personal site:


Q: What is a good interview question I didn't ask you? (This will also help
improve these interviews for subsequent interviewees.)

A: How many zombies would Rob Zombie rob if Rob Zombie could rob zombies?


Q: Answer the question you entered into #17:

A: The Woodchuck Bureau of Investigation has an open case on it.


Thanks Ben!

In the next edition of Pubnix Admin Interviews, we depart from the tildeverse
and meet an admin who runs another style of pubnix.  As always, if you have any
feedback or suggestions for this series, shoot me an email: cmccabe AT  I am extra interested in identifying pubnix admins of old,
retired pubnixes -- so if you know of any, please let me know.



[1] Pubnix Admin Interviews - Table of Contents 
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Gopher, coming soon here: gopher://