S9 E5: Matt Hill on the Philosophy of Sovereignty

Today, sovereignty is more important than ever. As the internet centralizes around a handful of actors and data becomes more susceptible to manipulation and censorship, we need more ways to self-host our content and communicate in a truly private and decentralized way.

The Embassy OS by Start9 Labs is one of these tools for sovereignty. With an inexpensive Raspberry Pi 4 and a quick download, you get everything in one tiny box: validation for your hard money (Bitcoin Core), quick second layer transactions (LND, c-lightning), a decentralized payments processor (BTCPay Server), self-hosted encrypted messaging (Matrix, Cups, Sphinx), decentralized federated social media (Mastodon), a password manager (Bitwarden), and a bunch of other useful applications. On the roadmap you can also find Electrum Personal Server, Nextcloud, and WordPress (my personal favorite, as it would allow people to easily self-host blogs).

Everything is free open source software (FOSS) which gets routed via Tor v3 to preserve every user’s anonymity. Also, everything is optional and can get installed at the click of a button.

However, Embassy OS itself doesn’t have a MIT (completely free open source) license yet. While the Start9 Labs team regularly publishes the code in the GitHub repository for public verification, people or businesses who are interested in building a business on the grounds of the project aren’t allowed to. As mentioned by Start9 Labs co-founder and CEO Matt Hill, the team has written a proprietary license file to suit the company’s software distribution and update strategy. Yet the long-term goal is to transition towards FOSS and allow Embassy OS to become truly unstoppable.

Also, as Matt Hill mentions during this exclusive interview, Start9 Labs is more than willing to financially support users who want to pursue third party audits. Though the methodology is yet to be announced, people who want to be sure that the software does what it says should feel free to contact Start9 if they need help with paying for an independent verification. In this space we like to say “don’t trust, verify”, but very few individuals have the expertise to review complex and ambitious open source projects. So paying for their work should be normalized as a practice which brings reassurance or else points out to critical flaws that need to get fixed.

Throughout this interview, Matt Hill also talks about the imminent transition to a Ubuntu-based version of Embassy OS which enables more devices (not only Raspberry Pis) to run the easily-accessible sovereignty solution. He explains the differences between hardware and software innovation, praises the decentralized Bitcoin development, and argues in favor of a decentralized internet which follows Tim Berners-Lee’s vision for the World Wide Web (a network where users run their own servers that exchange data with other network nodes).

Listen to Matt Hill on Apple Podcasts and Spotify!

If you haven’t subscribed to any of these centralized big tech services, please use my free player and open it with Tor browser. You get the greatest amount of privacy and can enjoy this educational interview about sovereignty even if you are in a country which bans all of the tools mentioned. This way, you will empower yourself with the kind of knowledge which sets you free.

On the other hand, if you do have Spotify and Apple Podcasts accounts, then please subscribe and leave a feedback. It only takes a minute of your time, but can make a huge difference in terms of ranking: if I have more subscribers and reviews, then people searching for Bitcoin and sovereignty-related topics will have an easier time finding this interview. Not only that, but you also find out first when a new episode gets published.

And if you’re into the whole Podcasting 2.0 movement that’s powered by the Lightning network, then read this article to find out how you can listen to Bitcoin Takeover on Sphinx, Podcastindex and Breez.

This episode is sponsored by Vaultoro & Wasabi Wallet

Joshua from Vaultoro is a big fan of the show and I’m happy that he sees potential in my work and supports it without caring about numbers and growth statistics. So I must thank him for his generosity and invite you to check out Vaultoro – the exchange where you can trade with honest money (bitcoin, gold, and silver). 

None of this is financial advice from me, but I’m pretty sure that the shiny rock is a better store of value than any fiat currency or “stablecoin”, so maybe it would be wise to use this commodity to preserve your purchasing power during bear markets and get back into bitcoin as soon as you’re convinced that the downwards movement are over. You can also have the gold bars delivered to your house… because you know, if it’s not in your safe then it’s stored somewhere in Switzerland where you can’t touch it whenever you please. For more information, check out Vaultoro’s website.

Also, Joshua from Vaultoro is sponsoring a Lightning Network faucet – he hopes that Bitcoin’s second layer will one day become potent and popular enough to replace the smart contract and tokenization features of Ethereum. And he also supported Giacomo Zucco’s layer 3 RGB Spectrum experimentation from 2019. So if you’d like to get 10 bits/100 sats on the Lightning Network, you’re gonna have to listen to the latest Bitcoin Takeover Radio broadcast and be the first to figure out the secret.

And if you would like to increase your network-level and transaction privacy, you should download Wasabi Wallet on your computer. It routes your connection through the Tor network to hide your IP, it downloads block filters so you validate your own transactions locally without appealing to a trusted third party, and it also connects to your own full node to boost your financial sovereignty. Extra features include advanced hardware wallet integrations, easy UTXO management, address reuse prevention, and even a lurker wife mode.

Wasabi is best known for its link-breaking CoinJoins, which are giving a hard time even to the EuroPol. Use the wallet to increase your financial sovereignty, but don’t do any illegal stuff – use your financial sovereignty with responsibility (also read the Wasabi terms of service).

Time stamps:

02:30 – The applications you can run on Embassy OS

06:45 – What makes Embassy OS unique

08:56 – Can you connect Embassy OS to other Raspberry Pi full node solutions?

13:37 – Should you use one node for everything or diversify with multiple devices?

17:07 – Raspberry Pis are awesome

18:24 – Why Embassy OS is an operating system which helps you monitor all apps in real time

19:24 – Start9 Labs’ Embassy OS and external storage options

25:00 – Why the relationship between humans and computers is sacred

26:52 – To which extent is Start9 Labs’ Embassy OS FOSS (Free Open Source Software) and how free is it?

34:57 – Open source vs source available

39:04 – Private code audits by the users and how Start9 Labs plans to promote them

43:21 – Anyone who wants to audit Embassy OS is perfectly welcome to hire an auditor and Start9 will contribute to that with a fund

46:30 – Start9 Labs’ business model

58:21 – Start9 Labs’ policy for accepting new Lightning channels

59:49 – Start9’s Lightning-themed meet-up, which takes place in Denver on July 20th 2021

1:02:30 – Do you need to purchase a VPS service to use BTCPay Server with Tor routing?

1:07:15 – IP2Tor bridge service (clearnet story) on Embassy OS

1:22:08 – Raspberry Pi vs Open Source Hardware (RISC-V)

1:14:44 – The upcoming Ubuntu-based Embassy OS software, so more hardware devices can run the OS

1:19:07 – Innovation in hardware vs software

1:24:00 – Tim Berners Lee, the World Wide Web, and returning to the original decentralized design

1:40:20 – How the Bitcoin scaling debate and UASF helped consolidate this decentralized user-centric development direction

1:54:40 – Tribalism in Bitcoin 

1:09:23 – Why calling out scams is important 

1:10:15 – Monero, Grin, and why Ethereum sucks

1:27:56 – Bitcoin’s small block efficiency and why it’s pushing the limits of computer science

1:31:50 – What kind of applications would be useful to add to Start9 Labs’ Embassy OS?

1:40:45 – How does Start9 Labs manage third party application in the Embassy OS app store?

1:44:00 – Start9 Labs’ Telegram channel migrating towards the privacy-friendly Matrix messaging protocol

1:50:16 – Hosting your website as a Tor v3 .onion URL with Embassy OS via Embassy Pages, which allows you to generate Tor v3 vanity address

Vlad Costea

I'm here for the freedom, censorship-resistance, and unconfiscatability. What about you?

One Comment



    Money launderers will NOT use BTC to wash their money into a bank account,as the Block chain methodology,is based on complete audit trail.

    Money launderers will use BTC to store cash,but that also comes with the risk of price reduction,and so a buy back contract will have to be executed,off market,to hold the price.So long as the keys are safe,the money is safe,and beyond the reach of the law.The concept of actual,nominal and beneficiary owne, does not exist in BTC – it is only the «KEYS» – and so,there is complete legal anonymity

    Next is the movement of cash.BTC will move 10 Million USD from the North to South Pole,in less than a second – which has no price risk,and this aids money launderers to move cash to safe harbours in offshore jurisdictions.

    BUT STILL the sale proceeds of the BTC,cannot be banked.Once it is banked,then FATF,KYC and AML of the banks will nail the inflows.

    So BTC will aid in storage and movement of cash – but the last leg of WASHING THE PROCEEDS OF THE BTC sale,will have to be done offline or in some offshore jurisdiction,where no questions are asked,about bank inflows

    There are several options,to wash the money at the last leg

    On the above principle,BTC can crash the costs and time in remittances,and also,force banks to be cost effective and efficient.This is a social service.

    BTC can be a stepping stone for Salvador to start an e-currency.dindooohindoo

So, what do you think?

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