Official Circumlunar Space FAQ
Q1. What is Circumlunar Space?
Circumlunar Space is a confederation of independently administered but
tightly interconnected public access unix servers, with a special
emphasis on gopher hosting; plus some related side-projets.
Breaking this down a bit:
* CS contains public access unix, or "pubnix", servers. These are
the same kind of thing as SDF, Grex, the various "tilde" servers,
and many others.
* These servers are interconnected, via e.g. a BBS where posts are
synchronised across all servers, and an IRC network. Users on two
different CS servers are less isolated than, say, users on SDF are
from users on Grex.
* These servers are independently administered: nobody who has root
access to one server has root access to any other server.
* These servers are a confederation: they are united for purposes of
common action, but each remains an independent "soverign" entity and
there is no strong central authority. The whole thing holds
together via voluntary cooperation.
* The primary public face of these servers is not in webspace, but
gopherspace. Gopher is a minimalistic information-sharing protocol
which came before HTTP and prioritises plain text. It is very
simple, and beautiful by virtue of this.
Q2. Is Circumlunar Space the first ever "pubnix union"?
Nope! The fine folks of the Tildeverse (tildeverse.org) did this
first, and provided a lot of inspiration for the development of
It might be the first one to make such a big deal about gopher, though.
Q3. How many pubnix servers are there in circumlunar space?
Currently there are three:
* The Mare Tranquillitatis People's Circumlunar Zaibatsu, which is
more often known simply as "The Zaibatsu", is administered by
Solderpunk and has the hostname zaibatsu.circumlunar.space (also
reachable at z.circumlunar.space for convenience).
* The Mare Serenitatis Circumlunar Corporate Republic, which is
more often known simply as "The Republic", is administered by
Slugmax and has the hostname republic.circumlunar.space (also
reachable at r.circumlunar.space for convenience).
* The Mare Crisium Soviet Socialist Regency, which is more often
known simply as "The Soviet", is administered by Katolaz and has
the hostname soviet.circumlunar.space (also reachable at
s.circumlunar.space for convenience).
Q4. What the heck is with those names?
The names of the servers, and a lot of other things in circumlunar
space, are borrowed from the 1985 science fiction novel Schismatrix,
by Bruce Sterling, which you should definitely read.
Bruce, if you're reading this, please don't sue us! You can have an
account on any server you like. :)
Q5. What other weird names do you use, then?
Users of circumlunar space pubnix servers are called "sundogs", which
in the Schismatrix universe is a slang term for a kind of
live-by-wits, nomadic, vagabond underclass.
Our pubnix servers are called "colonies", in order to distinguish them
from our other servers, which are called "outposts" (see Q11).
Q6. What makes the pubnix servers in circumlunar space special?
Perhaps the most unusual thing, if you're comparing them to all the
other pubnix servers out there, is that circumlunar colonies do not
grow without limit. Rather, each colony has a fixed maximum number of
active users. When a colony reaches capacity, a new colony is created
and new users are directed towards it. The Republic was established
once the Zaibatsu became home to 32 sundogs, and the Soviet was
established once the Republic became home to 64 sundogs. The current
plan is for the Soviet to accept a total of 48 sundogs.
Q7. What will happen when the Soviet reaches 48 users? Will a fourth
colony be created?
There are currently no plans for a fourth colony, but we'll see what
the future holds.
Q8. What is the point of limiting colony user counts?
Keeping the colonies small serves several purposes:
A small userbase places only a small load on the server, especially as
timezone differences make it unlikely that everybody is logged in at
the same time. Small server loads make cheap VPSes, single board
computers and "obsolete" PCs perfectly viable pubnix servers. This
makes server operation viable for a wider range of people.
More importantly, small communities where everybody knows everybody
else have very different social dynamics from huge communities with
hundreds or thousands of users, who inevitably form disconnected
cliques. Keeping communities small encourages civillity and
cooperation, and makes it easier to build consensus around how the
community should behave.
Finally, small colonies mean that even a medium-sized overall
community will necessarily be spread over multiple servers, which is a
Q9. Why is spreading the community over multiple servers a good thing?
Putting all your eggs in one basket is never a good idea. A
distributed community is a resilient community. If users are spread
out over multiple, independently administered servers, then only a
subset of users will be effected in the event of:
* Server downtime
* Server data loss
* Admin illness or death
* Abuse of admin power
Spreading the community over multiple servers also allows for greater
diversity. Some of this diversity might be technical. For example,
the Zaibatsu runs GNU/Linux while the Republic runs FreeBSD and the
Soviet runs OpenBSD. Using different operating systems on different
colonies gives choice to users with different preferences, and also
encourages software written by sundogs (see Q12) to be made easily
portable across systems, which is a good trait for software to have.
Other diversity might be in administrative policies.
Q10. Will there be a limit to how many colonies are created?
The current plan is to limit the total number of sundogs to around
150 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar's_number), which probably
means three or four colonies in total, depending on how many users
individual admins decide to accept. Certainly no more than five.
Q11. You said something about side projects?
In addition to colonies, circumlunar space contains so-called
"outposts", which are non-shell servers operated by sundogs. Outposts
offer various additional services to the circumlunar community, beyond
what the colonies offer, such as XMPP chat, webspace, or alternative
gopherspaces with new and unusual means of management.
If you're a sundog with an idea for a new outpost, please get in touch
Q12. You said something about writing software?
A central tenet of circumlunar space is that the software which makes
the colonies interesting and fun places to spend time should be
written by the users, for the users, and should be openly shared with
other pubnixes. This is a strong contrast with SDF, where much of the
core user experience is provided by proprietary software like BBOARD
and COM. See gopher://zaibatsu.circumlunar.space:70/1/software for
software developed so far.
Q13. Is Circumlunar Space a totally closed-off "walled garden", like
Compuserve and similar services from the early internet?
Not quite! Some things, like our BBS and IRC network, are not
accessible from the outside world. However, the circumlunar colonies
exchange email with, and allow outgoing SSH connections to, a small
number of other pubnix communities. Thus, we are not quite an
isolated cloister, but also not wide open to the world.
Q14. Who is in charge of circumlunar space?
In principle, nobody is in charge of the entire thing, and that's by
design. The colonies, and for the most part the outposts, are
independently administered. No server admin can force any other
server admin to do anything they don't want to, and nobody has the
power to shut the whole thing down.
In practice, solderpunk owns the circumlunar.space domain name, and
therefore has some kind of overall power in deciding whose hosts get
to be colonies and outposts. He promises not to be a jerk about it,
1.15 A hypothetical future FAQ: I want to join circumlunar space, but
all the colonies are full and no more will be created because the
magic limit of 150 sundogs has been reached! What do?!
Setup your *own* confederation of independently administered but
tightly interconnected public access unix servers! Or find somebody
else who has, and join it. We'll happily exchange email with you, at
the very least. Do some things like circumlunar space, but do other
things differently! There is no need for everybody on the internet to
belong to the one same big "thing". Blaze your own trail. Make new
friends and learn new lessons doing it. Leave your own mark on the