Software start-up Node Umbrel prepares ambitious offers beyond bitcoin

Bitcoin software node provider Umbrel has released a new version of its app to expand it beyond Bitcoin services and even blockchain in general.

With version 4, Umbrel’s app store added 10 apps that provide various services, such as password storage, ad blocking, and torrent streaming.

Umbrel is a commonly used piece of software to run a Bitcoin Lightning Node on a Raspberry Pi. This means that users can run their own node without using space on their main computer while leaving the Pi on all the time if they wish. Until the last update, it offered a few bitcoin-related apps, including support for running a block explorer using node data and dedicated lightning apps.

The kinds of non-bitcoin apps now available on Umbrel aren’t new to Raspberry Pis; these were usually apps that developers installed directly on their Pis if they wanted it to perform a certain task, such as ad blocking.

What’s different is that once installed, Umbrel gives anyone a much friendlier way to download these services and access them through the Umbrel interface. This makes them more accessible to a wider audience.

Applications include Pi-hole, for blocking ads, SimpleTorrent, for streaming torrents, and Matrix, if you want to run your own mail server.

Someone can also access their own Umbrel node through the Tor browser. This provides a secure link from their phone or another computer wherever they are. This can currently be used to make bitcoin flash payments (with bitcoins stored on Umbrel) while someone is on the go – instant, non-custodial payments.

But this service will also work for new applications. For example, new apps include PhotoPrism, an app for storing photos and videos. Using Tor means the user can access this media from their phone.

Umbrel improves two of its biggest problems

There have been a few criticisms of Umbrel since it started gaining popularity.

The first is that Umbrel had a restrictive license that did not allow developers to modify its code and resell it for commercial reasons. The company is now adopting a new license, PolyForm Noncommercial License 1.0.0, which allows modifications as long as the software is not subsequently sold commercially.

Umbrel said, “TL;DR — if you don’t intend to sell Umbrel, our new license grants you the same freedoms as an open source license.”

The second is that Umbrel can dictate the bitcoin software supported by the service, which means there are fewer choices for users. In the blog post announcing the new upgrade, Umbrel said it plans to turn the current bitcoin offering into its own app for users to choose to use.

He also wants to allow other developers to create alternative bitcoin apps, so Umbrel users can choose from a range of options.

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