Umbrel Is More Than A Bitcoin / Lightning Node Now, Way More

If you ever dreamed to run your own Bitcoin / Lightning node on a tiny Raspberry Pi, you have a handful of alternatives. Depending on your level of geekiness, you can go with RaspiBlitz, or you can settle for a slicker UI, like the one in Umbrel.

Before going further with more details, here are, very quickly, the most important reasons for which you want to run your own Bitcoin node (regardless of which implementation you choose):

  • “verify, don’t trust” approach: make sure you’re actually running the Bitcoin chain on your own machine
  • connect a wallet to your node and use it to broadcast transactions from your very own place, not from a third party
  • having your very own block explorer
  • open and maintain Lightning channels, both for getting paid via Lightning, or for facilitating (routing / forwarding) other lightning transactions

I played with Umbrel extensively over the last month (I have this weird idea that once Bitcoin becomes legal tender in El Salvador, this September, Lightning will explode, so I want to be prepared).

It’s very easy to use – a bit too easy, for me, as it sacrifices some of the functionality for simplicity. But they mitigate this problem in a surprisingly effective way: they have an app store.

So, even if Umbrel itself doesn’t offer too much for, let’s say, managing your Lightning channels, they have a lot of apps in their app store that you can install, and use for whatever you want: from creating and managing channels, like I said, up to watching the mempool, or having your very own block explorer.

I find this flexibility very useful. By cutting the monolithic approach into small, loosely coupled bits and pieces, your Bitcoin / Lightning node is actually adaptable to whatever functions you want to attach to it. Not everybody will want to maintain Lightning channels, but probably many people will want, in a not so distant future, to receive payments via Lightning.

And Here’s Where It Gets Interesting

The latest release of Umbrel, 0.4, goes way, way beyond this. They take the “sovereignty” approach to a whole new level. It’s not only “money sovereignty”, but “data sovereignty”.

What they did with this release was to open their app store to apps which are not directly related to Bitcoin, but more to the different types of data you use every day: files, pictures, calendar, etc.

So, in this new release, you may install on your Umbrel a personal cloud server (NextCloud), a network level ad blocker (PiHole), a photo storing app (Photo Prism), a home automation app (Home Assistant) and even a code server to run Visual Studio over the network. I confess that the geek in me was deeply touched by this one.

It’s an interesting twist that Umbrel takes with this one and I really like it. The only drawback may be that it increases the attack surface for your Bitcoin setup, but I guess it’s just a case of buying a separate Raspberry Pi for your data, and keep the money and data on two different machines.

If you want to know more, go here. I’m not affiliated with Umbrel and I won’t get any commissions if you click on that link.

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